Man, we need comprehensive immigration reform we can all live with.
The city’s plans to step up cooperation with federal authorities in efforts to deport illegal immigrants is garnering new debate in the 2009 mayoral contest.
Latino advocates have pressed candidates to distance themselves from Mayor Bill White’s request that Houston be allowed to participate in two federal programs that, at least within the confines of the city’s jails, would put police officers in the immigration enforcement business.
While each of the four major candidates generally opposes diverting too many resources to immigration enforcement, they all support the thrust of the city’s new effort to screen jail inmates and turn over suspected illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Those positions could upset Latino activists in light of a recent Houston Chronicle story showing that only a small percentage of illegal immigrants processed for deportation in a similar Harris County program had committed serious felony crimes. The divide could be on display at a mayoral forum today.
“This has an impact on cooperation with law enforcement, reporting of crime, and folks participating in the census,” said Marc Campos, a political consultant who, with City Councilman James Rodriguez, helped organize the Houston Area Latino Summit Mayoral Debate. “I don’t think anybody has demonstrated that doing this is going to have a significant reduction in … crime. If you let them implement this, what’s next? What other kind of policy will creep in?”
I am not enamored by the current 287(g) talk of the candidates. I do not support any 287(g) type of program unless it is clear-cut. As it stands, as long as court entities want to spend the money to convict jay walkers and speeders, then the Feds will deport the very ones that these candidates were saying they do not want to target. No Mayoral policy or order will stop local police from targeting the undocumented by pursuing flimsy and/or petty charges. So, it is time for these candidates to realize this fact and come up with a new line on 287(g).
On its surface, the 287(g) program sounds reasonable. Why not deport undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime? Unfortunately, the program has not been effective, and the cost – societal as well as financial – of targeting those who were convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors is high. I agree with Stace: This program needs improvement, and it needs clearer guidelines on how and when it is to be used. David Ortez and John Coby have more from the debate, in which Locke was declared the winner by a panel of undecided Latino voters.
UPDATE: Muse has a writeup as well.