Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sheriff cracks down on immigrants

This is an opinion piece written by Davin, from the Committee for Immigrants' Rights. please spread this around.

Sonoma County sheriff scorns immigrants with new program

Last week, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department stepped up its immigration enforcement, announcing its implementation of “Secure Communities,” a program directed by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. This new program sends the fingerprints taken electronically by jail staff at booking to the ICE databases.
Implementing Secure Communities raises the question of what our sheriff has been doing before this program was initiated? One would suppose that our jail was already reporting undocumented felons to ICE, felons being the bad guys this type of program is supposed to weed out.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Secure Communities was able to identify 111,000 criminal aliens nationally in its first year, 100,000 of them charged or convicted for level 2 and 3 crimes — level 1 being the most serious. Unfortunately, what the numbers tell us is vague because “traffic offenses” also constitute level 2 crimes and the majority of police work takes place around traffic stops (a special thanks to the new Santa Rosa police chief for pointing this out).

Locally, 90 percent of those whom the sheriff hands over to ICE fall under the realm of these lesser crimes, so to think that one could be deported for driving home without a license after picking the lettuce that is in our hamburger seems a little absurd.

Many law enforcement agencies, including the retired chief of police from Los Angeles, William Bratton, have pointed to the fact that when local and federal agencies collaborate in this fashion, the ability to get immigrants to cooperate in investigations or even report basic crimes is greatly hindered. And that isn’t good for any of us.

Due process in deportation hearings is extremely limited, with mandatory (no-bond) detention for persons with minor offenses, virtually no discovery of the government’s case, no right to confront the accuser and highly restricted right to challenge evidence obtained by violation of constitutional rights. With the broad use of biometric databases of immigrants, our government has created what conservatives fear: an overbearing state that takes away the most basic freedoms.

The Department of Homeland Security wants the Secure Communities program to be the national norm by 2013. But deportation is a cruel and harsh punishment for these minor violations of law, punishments of whole families and not merely the person who committed the misdemeanor.

The legal immigration system is broken. The vast majority of people who are present illegally are workers, contributing by their labor and their purchasing, and their contributions should not be scorned by subjecting them to these disproportionate punishments for small violations.

Too many of our neighbors, students, ball players, prom queens, loved ones, friends, workers and leaders run the risk of losing it all, and we as a whole run the risk of failing our future by creating a permanent second class of people. What the sheriff is doing is an indignity to the community of hard-working immigrants, people of faith and all who believe that love, life and the pursuit of happiness should be a goal attainable for all.

Davin Cardenas is on the Coordinating Council of the Committee for Immigrant Rights, Sonoma County, which will be taking part in the annual Caesar Chavez march and rally on March 21 in Santa Rosa. A vigil and “fast” is planned at the corner of Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue from March 17 through March 20.

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