Record Deportations an Immoral Stain on US
October 21, 2011
By Pedro Rios
Program Director, American Friends Service Committee – San Diego
Obama Administration officials this week touted their high record numbers of deportations – nearly 400,000 last fiscal year – as “smart and effective” law enforcement. It is neither.
Rather it reflects a precipitous loss of moral ground by a Washington political elite that has lost touch with the political realities of communities for which it is supposed to be representing.
In fact, in state capitols and cities around the nation, increasingly officials are questioning the Administration’s immigration policies for its lack of transparency, enforcement-only dogma, and disregard for local community safety. Earlier this year several governors and state legislatures, including the California Assembly, withdrew their support from such controversial operations as the deceptively named “Secure Communities” program.
Throughout San Diego County, these policies are causing irreparable harm to relationships between local police departments and the immigrant community. In Escondido, for instance, it was through Secure Communities that a woman was recently turned over to immigration officials after she reported being the victim of domestic violence. How can anyone fathom trusting a police agency that will further victimize someone reporting a crime against them? The anti-immigrant rhetoric and heavy-handed enforcement is generating a risky wedge between the Escondido Police Department and those they have sworn to protect and serve.
Based on our decades of work with immigrant communities and our current programs to help families find work and feed their families, we are dismayed by the federal government’s repressive operations against migrant communities.
When armed agents descend on communities, breaking in doors, handcuffing mothers, arresting workers and deporting students, the consequences are devastating; families are torn apart, creating terror and trauma for those impacted and hampering attempts to build reliance on local authorities.
Furthermore, while awaiting deportation many immigrants are detained in a for-profit prison system that rakes in billions of taxpayer dollars in exchange for detaining those immigrants, often under inhumane conditions.
During the past decade, three million immigrants went through the hodgepodge of 350 facilities in the immigration detention system. Tonight, thousands of innocent people who only want to work and feed their families will sleep in a detention cell.
The AFSC has always operated from the Quaker belief that all of us, wherever we were born, equally deserve dignity and respect. This belief in equality has not always been popular. But it has sustained our support of immigrants and their families since 1924, when US immigration policies set strict quotas on Italians, Eastern Europeans and others and excluded Asian immigrants.
After decades of work with immigrant communities, we remain convinced that all people have the right to be treated with dignity, and the right to earn a living. We urge the Obama Administration to show its respect for these common values, halt the deportations immediately, end mandatory detention, and work with Congress to craft just and humane immigration policies. These are the reforms needed that will result in truly “safe and effective” communities.
Pedro Rios is Director of the US/Mexico Border Program of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego. The American Friends Service Committees serves migrant communities throughout San Diego County. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org