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Bloggings on Immigration Law

Roger Algase

Right wing global warming deniers are also making the weather hot for immigration.

For the past week, much of the capital city area of the country with the world's largest economy, most powerful military, and, according to what every school child is taught, most advanced values, has been sweltering without power in triple-digit heat, causing widespread suffering that would be an embarrassment to most third-world countries. Meanwhile, large parts of Colorado have been burning from uncontrollable wildfires. 

An Associated Press article, reprinted in the Huffington Post on July 4, states:

"But since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now."

"So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the US were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida."

It is. of course, true that evidence for man-made global warming (and isn't it time to drop the euphemism "climate change"?) is still being hotly debated among scientists (no pun intended). But global warming needs to be discussed and taken more seriously. A good friend of mine, who has long experience and great expertise in environmental issues, has suggested that life on this planet may be in danger of being extinguished in only a few centuries because of global warming, not thousands, or millions, of years as many people think.

It would be far beyond the scope of this blogging to offer definitive opinions on controversial scientific issues. But global warming needs to be mentioned and widely discussed.This is something that one of America's two political parties, controlled by corporate money, categorically refuses to do. Nor have the corporate dominated media generally been willing, despite some exceptions, to cover this issue in much detail.

However, global warming denial is only one facet of the right wing's war on science. Evolution, which has been accepted by all thinking people for more than a hundred years, is still under attack from the radical right. And it is not only science which is being targeted. Other self evident facts, such as that government regulation is often necessary to protect the public from corporate abuse, are taboo among Tea Party and other right wing ideologues.

In the wake of last week's storm and ongoing power outages in the Washington DC area, the Washington Post ran an article pointing out that the utilities have been unwilling to spend money to locate their cables underground, where they would be protected from devastating storms. At the same time, the utilities have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbyists and campaign contributions.

More than a million people in the area who have been sweltering in the record heat, without electricity, for the better part of a week, are not only victims of the natural weather. They are also suffering because of the political climate.

Why is this relevant to immigration? Because immigrants have been exposed to a great deal of extreme weather too - especially in Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. They not only have to deal with local storms and conflagrations, but also with destructive nationwide weather patterns, also known as Secure Communities, Section 287(g) and E-verify. 

Occasionallly a fire brigade will come along to throw some water on the flames of right wing anti-immigrant hate, as Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy did by joining three more liberal Justices in throwing out one part of Arizona's: Achtung! Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Hand over your papers immediately!") SB 1070 immigration law ("AWSIP") last week. President Obama did the same by announcing that students who would have been eligible for relief from deportation if the DREAM Act had survived a Republican filibuster threat in the Senate will be granted temporary administrative relief.

But while the fire fighters are dousing a few of the flames with water, they are also throwing gasoline on others. The Supreme Court left one of the worst features of Arizona's AWSIP law intact last week, one which directs police to check the immigration status of, among others, people pulled over for suspected traffic violations. Many other states now have a green light to enact similar laws.

Meanwhile, President Obama is continuing to stoke the flames of anti-immigrant prejudice by deporting almost 400,000 people a year, a record number. As America's right wing ideologues try to take the country backward in time to a 19th century era of scientific ignorance, laissez-faire government, extreme income inequality, denial of union rights, no social safety net, discrimination against women, lifestyle and religious minorities, denial of voting rights, and legalized racial bigotry, the weather for millions of immigrants is also growing hotter.

More about rearranging deck chairs on the immigration Titanic, by Roger Algase

June was a month of great promise for immigration, or so it seemed. First, President Obama instructed the Department of Homeland Security to issue a memo (not an "executive order") putting much of the DREAM Act, which had been defeated by a Republican filibuster threat (and five Democratic Senators who failed to vote for cloture) into temporary effect. Of course, we do not know exactly when the affected DREAMer's will actually be able to apply for relief, but not to worry - help is on the way. 

Even more exciting was Chief Justice Roberts' decision to join the liberal majority in throwing out much, but by no means all, of Arizona's SB 1070 Achtung! Wo sind Ihre Papiere? (AWSIP) anti-Mexican immigrant hate law. There are many interesting legal issues raised by both the president's initiative and the Supreme Court majority's ruling which some of my colleagues are exploring thoroughly, and there is no need for me to try to add anything to their important and valuable comments. 

However, what would happen if President Obama's DREAM initiative were suddenly cancelled? And what would happen if the federal government were to announce that it will fully cooperate with enforcement by the states of the part of Arizona's law that was left standing, and will encourage many more states to adopt similar laws?

Or, even worse, suppose that a Republican Congress and president, using the Supreme Court's reaffirmation of the doctrine of federal supremacy over immigration enforcement, enact a law far worse than even the original Arizona statute (or the one in Alabama), making every day of presence in the US without legal status a separate federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison?

Never happen, you say? Go back and read HR 3447 which was passed by the Republican House of Representatives in late 2005 under Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner. but, fortunately, never made it to the Senate. At least, that is how I read that bill, which would also have made it a felony for any American to give "assistance" (a tip? - a car ride?) to anyone who had violated even the most trivial or technical immigration regulation (a felony as well - you guessed it).

If that bill had passed, no one could have argued that it was unconstitutional under federal pre-emption. (Maybe there would be a 10th Amendment states rights argument? Justice Scalia's dissent in the Arizona case might no doubt prove helpful on that score.)

But, sarcasm aside, there could be some very rough seas ahead for the ship of immigration rights, if the Republicans win in November. And it is not as if they have made any secret about what their plans for the future of immigration are. Romney has already announced that Obama's DREAM initiative would not survive Romney's first day in office. He would "rescind and replace" it. Rescind we can understand. But replace? With what? An updated, and possibly even harsher (if that were possible) version of HR 3447?

Having already established my record as a forecaster by making totally (and fortunately) wrong predictions about last week's two major Supreme Court decisions - at least I had plenty of company - I will now make another prediction: The Republicans will win the White House and both Houses of Congress this fall - and perhaps by a comfortable margin, as happened in Wisconsin's recall election.

How do I know this? The answer is simple. Just follow the super-pac money. There is no way that the Democrats can possibly win in November if they are outspent 4-1 or 5-1, as they surely will be - witness Obama's desperate pleas for money to former big Democratic donors who are now turning a tin ear to him. This year's election is guaranteed to be the most corrupt, one sided election since the 19th century - or maybe even including the 19th century. The Democrats will not have a chance.

Immigration supporters, we are on the Titanic. Get ready for the iceberg. Let's enjoy arranging the deck chairs of DREAM and the SB 1070 victory (such as it is) while we still can. There will not be much lime left. But wait - maybe there is some reason to hope - my last predictions were way off. Maybe this one will be too.

About The Author

Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.