Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"We can't let Arizona come to San Francisco"

So says county Supervisor Eric Mar. Notables gathered on City Hall steps this morning to denounce the County's inclusion in a Department of Homeland Security program that automatically vacuums up the fingerprints of everyone booked by local law enforcement and funnels them to immigration authorities (ICE). That's Sheriff Mike Hennessey speaking, backed on the left by Renee Saucedo from the Day Laborer Program, Eric Quezada from Dolores Street Community Services, Supervisor Mar, the Labor Council's Tim Paulson, and Supervisor David Campos.

Last Wedsnesday, Hennessey told the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Essentially this guts San Francisco's sanctuary ordinance in terms of criminal justice ..."

He has written to the Attorney General asking that San Francisco be allowed to opt out of the program.

This seems unlikely and the result will be big changes:

Under San Francisco’s current "City of Refuge" ordinance, local law enforcement officials refer individuals who are booked on felony charges, or have a history of felony charges, and are foreign born and have previous deportation orders or ICE holds.

But now everyone who gets arrested will be fingerprinted and referred to ICE, not through human intervention, but through a fingerprint database that connects to similar databases in Canada, Mexico and within Interpol.

... This fundamental change in policy means that any time anyone is booked in San Francisco, they will be fingerprinted and automatically reported, including folks charged with misdemeanors, such as minor drug possession, low level financial crimes and misdemeanor battery.

San Francisco Bay Guardian

What the Feds are doing amounts to removing any presumption of innocence -- whether of being out of immigration status or as regards the crime individuals were booked for -- from consideration by an agency, ICE, that can jail and deport people pretty much at will. That should be a stunning development, but panic about immigrants has enlisted far too many of us in this vain search for "security."

ICE's main response to concerns about the program seems to be that "it's biometric" and that the agency's staffing is not adequate to enforce deportation of everyone caught up in its web. So people are going to be caught in a dragnet in order to pump up ICE's budget demands? Seems likely.

Mayor Gavin was notably absent this morning. He's running for statewide office, so he's pro-mass deportations this week.
This morning the New York Times reported what it calls a new "Generation Gap Over Immigration."

Cathleen McCarthy, a senior at the University of Arizona, says immigration is the rare, radioactive topic that sparks arguments with her liberal mother and her grandmother.

"Many older Americans feel threatened by the change that immigration presents," Ms. McCarthy said. "Young people today have simply been exposed to a more accepting worldview."

... In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition -- leading protests on Monday at Senator John McCain’s offices in Tucson, and at the game here between the Florida Marlins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of "live and let live," are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.

This article seemed very true to me. For my Boomer generation, immigration was something you studied in history. It came right before World War I and consisted of pictures of crowded urban tenements and sweatshops full of European migrants (maybe even your grandparents). Maybe you were exposed to the melting pot theory of history. But whatever immigration was, it was in the past.

Immigration reforms since 1965 have opened up the country to people from Asia and Latin American, while business' appetite for cheap labor has drawn a flood of undocumented persons eager to work. This is a different society and some older people are having trouble adjusting.

The analogy to gay marriage leaped to mind while reading the New York Times story: do we just have to wait for some people to die off in order for panic about immigrants, about different people and cultures, to recede?

Actually, I think there is evidence that things aren't quite that bad. Immigration panic hit its peak in California in the mid-1990s -- since then, though there are certainly places where the generational fault line is a chasm, the acute panic has receded. The same people who rallied at City Hall today would have spoken out in the 1990s -- they did in fact -- but there would have been a lot more heat, a lot more fear. The new generation coming along ensures we can't go back to that.


Anonymous said...

The nation's people cannot flourish without laws. Illegal immigrants are just that: illegal. Our ancestors came here under an immigration sytem. The current one is broken and needs to be fixed. Close the border and enforce the hiring laws. Then we can discuss policy. Otherwise, the American way of life is doomed.

Rebecca Gordon said...

"Our ancestors came here under an immigration system."

Actually, several systems: continental migration, imperial conquest, the slave trade, and for more than a hundred years of US history, wide open borders. "Illegal alien" is a historically new concept, one rooted in a racial and national quota system that was only partially dismantled in 1986.

Sarah Lawton said...

My Mayflower ancestors didn't exactly seek prior permission from the Wampanoag Confederacy to enter and settle the lands of southeastern New England. I think that makes me a beneficiary and descendant of illegal aliens.

DCThrowback said...

Young people don't understand why immigration is bad because young people are stupid.

They also voted for Obama, which explains a lot. They can be snookered, and they are/were.

This ICE thing is a great idea - either it scares folks straight or they get recorded in the system as being illegal. Obviously, ICE is a government agency and is completely slowed down by bureaucracy, but like the piece mentioned, hopefully they use this to increase their budgets and increase enforcement. The taxpayer is sick of the high cost of immigration.

RE: the last two commenters, between 1920 and 1965 we had a moratorium on immigration, which allowed those from other cultures to assimilate into ours.

Currently we invite an underclass into our country, have them stagnate wages, live totally separate from the rest of America and then say how diverse we are because we have a Salvadorean restaurant 4 blocks from our condo. Well, that may work for you, but it doesn't work for the rest of productive America who sees what the results are: poor test scores about immigrant offspring, the "diversity-recession" where illegals were sold houses they couldn't afford and the violent crimes committed by many in this underclass.

We have not taken the time to assimilate them properly and they don't really care to be assimilated. Keep your Mayflower and Indian jokes to yourself. This isn't 1763 or 1895. It's 2010 and citizens of this country have a right to secure borders and law enforcement without being called nativists.

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