Immigrant Advocates Band Together to Condemn Ashcroft's Ugliest Proposal Yet
Didn't I recently tell you guys that John Ashcroft was really starting to irritate me? When everyone was bashing the guy, there I was, waving my little elephant flag, telling everyone to leave him alone. So HOW does the Attorney General thank me? By introducing an ever-dumber series of proposals designed to turn our immigration law enforcement system into a police state.
Well, this time, the Attorney General's really taken the cake and pretty much anyone with even a fundamental understanding of the U.S. constitution is in an uproar. Attorneys and legal scholars across the whole political spectrum -- from the far "blame the system for everything" left to the far "blame the immigrants for everything" right -- pretty much agree that Ashcroft's call to empower local and state police with immigration arrest power sets a dark and ominous precedent.
Like most politicians with a tenuous grasp on the facts, Ashcroft does not appear to be motivated by an intent to cause harm. Instead, it seems he's letting public pressure to regulate our borders trigger knee-jerk proposals, ideas born from coffee break discussions and "why don't we...?" stream-of-consciousness meanderings from well-intentioned and, no doubt, bright minds more suited for the preservation and advancement of political careers than for the intelligent formulation of consistent national policy.
Basically, the concept goes like this: state and local police would be empowered to challenge the immigration status of everyday folks as they go about their ordinary enforcement activities. A person getting a speeding ticket, or whatever, would conceivably be subject to immediate arrest if he or she could not prove then and there that they were legally in the United States.
Hey, I don't know about you guys, but I don't walk around with my passport and naturalization certificate in my wallet, and I don't have a U.S. birth certificate. When I'm on Calle Ocho having a café cubano with my homies, I'm just another Jose. Picture this:
Me: Hey, Maddy, it's, Jose. I need you to come get me.
Maddy: What, your car broke down?
Me: No, I'm in Krome...you need to bring a G-28 and your bad ass immigration attorney hat. I am in detention.
Maddy: WHAT?! What are you doing in Krome?? [Laughing]
Me: It's not FUNNY, Maddy!! Would you please just get down here? There's this big, scary looking guy looking at me funny. I was driving down Calle Ocho, going a little too quickly, and I got pulled over. The cop was a real jerk; we got into it, next thing I know he's asking me for my green card. I tell him I'm a citizen, he says "prove it"...then he tells me I want a fast ride down Calle Ocho, he'll give me a fast ride down Calle Ocho...we did 90 with the lights on down Tamiami Trail and I'm in Krome courtesy of Mr. Ashcroft. OKAY, are you happy??
Hey, it COULD happen if ol' Johnny gets his way, and you KNOW you can picture the smirks at the guys at Krome... (-: Technically, the officer could only intervene in a traffic stop, not just pull you over without a reason, and they could only hold you until an immigration agent arrived to take custody, so my hypothetical is unlikely. I could probably convince the INS officer at the scene NOT to take me in, and he/she would probably be having quite the merry moment. But you get the picture.
Here's the deal, folks. We have an INS and we will soon have some other version of a federal immigration authority, most likely. This is not Nazi Germany and we are not walking around with armbands bearing the Star of David, or our gang colors, or whatever. When the streets of America are filled with people who have to stop and THINK, "Oh, NO, I left my PAPERS at home!" then we've lost sight of the big picture, we've taken a wrong turn at the Statue of Liberty, and we've abandoned all the lessons the founders of this great nation taught us. And as the immigrant advocates keep pointing out, it has taken years for the illegal alien population to trust local and state authorities. This proposal will destroy that trust overnight, and the price in terms of cooperation will be enormous.
The enforcement of our immigration laws is a federal responsibility and must remains so. Yes, we must address the weaknesses of our borders and airports and we must make our nation safer in this regard. We must also create systems to address illegal immigration more effectively and to streamline the legal immigration process. But turning our society into a snitch-based system where everyone must look over their shoulder will reduce us to a system which is repulsive to our national values. Want to see how such a system works? Visit Cuba, where each block has designated "observers" whose responsibility it is to see who is hanging with who and to report it to the government. One bad report and your world is upside down.
Mr. Ashcroft, bag the proposal. A properly funded and empowered federal immigration agency will, indeed, be up to the job. Thanks to years of improper training budgets, a spastic, politically-driven immigration law and regulatory history, and a dual mission impossible to fulfill, a disturbing number of today's INS officers lack a thorough understanding of the legal rights of aliens... What on earth makes you believe that local and state police officers will have a clue as far as immigration enforcement?
I often quote songs to make a point, and today I'll end by quoting myself:
"Resistance ain't an option with the neighbor's eye on you, enemigo de la patria* and your waiter gig is through"
* "enemy of the homeland"
"On the Island"
About The Author
Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site, www.usvisanews.com, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.