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On Deportation Policy, Immigrants Must Listen to Rep. Gutierrez, Not Lamar Smith and Scam Artists

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Luis GutierrezThe Obama Administration’s announcement that it will bring its deportation practices in line with common sense law enforcement priorities has generated the predictable outcry from mass-deportation advocates, who incorrectly have characterized the sensible policy announcement as a “backdoor amnesty.”  However, the wildly exaggerated rhetoric of immigration opponents combined with unsavory scam artists (notaries who pretend to be lawyers and unscrupulous lawyers who pretend to be helpful) who prey on the hopes of immigrants has led to confusion over the implications of the policy for individual immigrant families.

As a result, longtime immigration reform champion U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is teaming up with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the United We Dream Networks and other local organizations to embark on a nationwide education campaign to highlight the opportunities and limits of the policy announcement and to ensure that immigrant families don’t fall victim to those seeking to exploit the hopes of desperate immigrants for profit.  At yesterday’s press conference announcing the new education campaign, Rep. Gutierrez praised the policy announcement from the Obama Administration but warned, “There are scoundrels out there.  There are people who prey on our immigrant community.  This is not amnesty.  This is not a program you sign up for.  Don’t be fooled.”

As Mark Brown at the Chicago Sun-Times noted: 

There is no legalization program, despite how the policy change has been portrayed by its opponents, and therefore no reason to be paying for anything, Gutierrez warned.

“There are scoundrels out there. There are people who prey on our immigrant community. This is not amnesty. This is not a program you sign up for. Don’t be fooled,” he said at a press conference at the headquarters of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which had joined him in pressing Obama to back off his administration’s heretofore heavy emphasis on deportations. 

By scoundrels, Gutierrez was referring to the predators who have historically played immigrants for suckers whenever a change in federal immigration law created an opportunity, although I’m sure he also feels that way about some of the conservative voices who would want you to think Obama has thrown the borders wide open.

As you can imagine, we share the concerns.

The immigrant community should listen to Luis Gutierrez, not Lamar Smith and the scam artists he’s enabling. This policy announcement is an important step forward in bringing humanity and common sense to our nation’s enforcement practices, but it remains limited in scope. Those seeking to take advantage of this announcement – whether scam artists seeking financial profit, or Lamar Smith and his allies who are seeking political profit – should stop exploiting it for their own benefit. Fortunately, the new education campaign from Rep. Gutierrez, ICIRR, and other advocates should go a long way towards setting the record straight and ensuring the new policy is implemented fully and fairly.