Immigration Reform: a Voice of Reason

Immigration reform: a voice of reason

Amidst a toxic, confusing climate of a Washington on the verge of “immigration reform”, a climate in which some “immigration reformers” find themselves pondering the possibility of supporting national identification cards, increased enforcement and very punitive approaches to legalization, the voice of Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) sounds, well,…. strange.

This is the same climate in which President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano just announced the “Si Se Puede” of their continued and increased support for one of the most heinous Bush-era immigration policies: 287G, the program that facilitates the racism, humiliation, profiling and generalized injustice of local law enforcement officials like Arizona’s nototorious Joe Arpaio.

Announced in the late Friday haze and buzz preceding the confirmation hearings of centrist former corporate lawyer and ex-prosecutor Sonia Sotomayor, the Obama Administration’s continuation of the dreaded program heard nary a complaint from most immigration reformers. Such silence around programs that will jail more migrants provide an empty echo chamber amplifying the voice of Polis. A member of Congress calling for the reform of an immigration detention system that’s killing, sickening and unjustly jailing tens upon tens of thousands of people? Yes, it’s true.

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Polis should be commended-commended loudly for his courage in saying things most of his Congressional peers, most “reformers” and the Obama Administration are unwilling to include as part of the the legalization and enforcement-centric approaches that some call “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” There are tens of thousands of detainees for whom CIR will only mean more crowded, filthy and deadly living conditions as even more and more enforcement measures are added to a immigration system that has caused the exponential rise in Latino detention, to the point where the number of Latinos-mostly immigrant Latinos- has surpassed the number of African Americans in federal prison.

So, given the lack of political will do anything around detention except support a CIR that will jail even MORE migrants,Polis’ John the Baptist-like lonely voice in the wilderness of Washington is refreshing. His gumption and character are to be commended. Visiting detention facilities should be mandatory for any and all “reformers”. I think that if we could have some people become “detainees for a day” as part of their in service training, some would push as vociferously for real detention reform as they do for legalization and the increased enforcement that will jail more of those families, more of those children that Polis is concerned about.

Roberto Lovato
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Roberto Lovato is a contributing Associate Editor with New America Media. He is also a frequent contributor to The Nation and the Huffington Post and his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Der Spiegel, Utne Magazine, La Opinion, and other national and international media outlets. Roberto has also appeared as a source and commentator in the New York Times, the Washington Post and Le Monde and in English and Spanish language network news shows on Univision, CNN, Democracy Now and Al-Jazeera. Lovato was also featured on PBS, where he made a recent appearance on Bill Moyers Journal and was featured in an hour-long PBS documentary,‘Latinos 08’ Prior to becoming a writer, Roberto was the Executive Director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), then the country's largest immigrant rights organization.