A year later, Obama’s State of the Union still ignores immigrants – as raids and deportations continue

Posted February 4, 2010

Did anybody watching Obama’s state of the union address catch the part where he rolled out comprehensive immigration reform? To save you the trouble of re-reading the transcript: no. Nobody did – because he didn’t say anything. Again.

(I happened to be on my way to the second-run theater that night, and only saw a few minutes, while waiting for some egg rolls to smuggle into the movie. The next day when I read the transcript, I saw that he covered immigration in all of 36 words, or about 1/10 the length of the original children’s book version of the movie I saw, “Where the Wild Things Are.”)

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After Obama’s first presidential address, I wrote about his failure to mention immigration reform, even as dozens of immigrants were deported by local and federal police. It seems like this year’s sequel is more of the same.

Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez introduced a bill last year that has significant concessions to some main demands of immigrants and immigrant rights activists, with whom the Democratic congressman met over the past year: a path to citizenship, reducing obstacles to documentation, repeal of the terrible 287(g) “poli-migra” law that makes local cops into immigration officials.

Unfortunately, it also includes some bones thrown to corporations and the right wing, like beefed up border security and E-Verify, that continue the Bush (and now Obama) era policies that connect immigration to the “war on terror.” Without a reinvigorated movement for immigrant rights, these parts of the bill (which are very similar to Obama’s SOTU promise “to secure our borders and enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation”) are likely to be stripped – if the bill is considered at all.

Either way, Gutierrez has now said he is fed up with Obama and with his own previous stance of “progressive patience” and has set a deadline of March 21 for attention to the issue – just this side of the congressional recess in April.

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Meanwhile, in the real world outside of Congress, the actual immigration policy of the Obama administration continues – just like last year. A big part of that policy in the past several years has included workplace and home raids. Just this week, on that front:

In Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, Edward Hersch crashed into a van driven by Jose R Crespo-Gradio. Hersch was cited for speeding – while Crespo-Gradio and eleven others in the van were arrested a non-moving violation: living on the wrong side of the border. They are currently facing deportation.

In Obama’s own neighborhood on Monday, “dozens of members of street gangs who were in the United States illegally were arrested in a four-day immigration operation across Virginia and the District of Columbia… Thirty-two of the 36 arrested had been convicted of crimes ranging from robbery to embezzlement to drug dealing… 30 were men and six were women. They came from 16 different nations, including countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Caribbean and Africa.”

(I happen to be aware of a few large criminal organizations located in the Northern Virginia and DC area – which, ironically, have operations everything from robbery to embezzlement (and far worse things, like military occupation) in more than 16 different nations throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Caribbean and Africa.)

Immigration officials were careful to note that in DC “the operation was not a job-site sweep… There was no busting down of doors and the suspects surrendered without any incidents.” Such a distinction is important to make since that kind of behavior is common, as in last month when Immigration Customs and Enforcement broke down doors at numerous homes in South Philadelphia taking 30 suspected undocumented immigrants into detention.

Meanwhile, ICE has undertaken a major sweep of human traffickers in the Houston area – and mass arresting their victims in the process. John Morton, a top ICE official noted that “these companies didn’t treat their passengers as persons, but rather as commodities to be bought and sold.” In total contrast to the inhumanity of the smugglers, militarized federal agents “used a battering ram and knocked the security-gated front door to one side of the building off its hinges. Once ICE had cleared the buildings and loaded the suspected illegal immigrants into vans, animal control officers brought out pit bulls that were held behind the front office.” They even had a military helicopter involved.

Nationwide, Morton’s claim that ICE is fighting these bad guys who treat humans like commodities is even more hypocritical, considering that the agency has 186 secret detention centers that can be used to “disappear” and warehouse people. ICE contracts with dozens of private corporations – here’s the roster from a meeting last Fall.

These deportees join over 200 already deported in the operation, code named “Night Moves.”

For many immigrants, a desperate (and sometimes suicidal) path to citizenship and income has been enlistment with the military. In fact, one of the first US casualties in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez, had originally migrated from Guatemala illegally. This week Eugenia Galdos of New Jersey, whose enlisted son Christian E. Bueno-Galdos was killed last year while enlisted and trying to help her achieve permanent resident status, found she may be deported anyway. What a country.

These kinds of actions – alongside the proposed $6 billion border wall – demonstrate again and again that the real agenda is to keep the migrant population in constant fear. As horrifying as the ongoing raids are, they cannot realistically remove 12 million people – especially people so crucial in keeping the basic economy of the country functioning. But they are able to keep those parts of the economy functioning with a maximum of profitability for the corporate elite by terrorizing the most vulnerable workers.


One response to “A year later, Obama’s State of the Union still ignores immigrants – as raids and deportations continue”

  1. Isaac Avatar

    I was thinking that there was no news from Maricopa County, Arizona – under Sherriff Joe Arpaio, a national hotspot for the cruelest anti-immigrant measures. But, it turns out that 12 people were deported this week from the Phoenix area, after a “routine” traffic stop. Under the 287(g) laws, local agents like Arpaio’s goons can easily profile Latinos, check their ID and deport them.