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Opinion Roundup: It's Time for President Obama to Take Action on Immigration

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The two-year anniversary of DACA/deferred action was last Friday, providing a reminder of just how important DACA has been to more than half a million DREAMers and why it’s so important that such relief be extended to other immigrants who qualify for the Senate immigration bill.

At La Opinión today is an editorial calling on President to take action — because he made a campaign promise to pursue immigration reform and because Congressional inaction has brought us to this point:

Nevertheless, now Congress itself is the one forcing Obama to take measures to expand Deferred Action and help the parents of the Dreamers and undocumented immigrants who for years have done honest work and fulfilled all their obligations. Likewise, local police departments must stop immigration enforcement activities, which have led to abuse and unnecessary deportations.

It’s time for action. It’s time to do the right thing. The majority of Americans think that it is necessary to overhaul immigration laws in a way that recognizes the complexity of this issue, and not just deport people according to the House of Representatives’ immigration agenda….

During his 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama made a pledge to Latinos on immigration. Today, there is a national pledge to provide at least minimum stability to millions of working families. This is not because a promise was made, like the one made to Hispanics; it is because this reflects the feelings of the great majority of Americans, who demand positive actions that are not limited to deporting people.

This is a key moment to demonstrate presidential leadership, knowing that in the short term, there may be a political price to pay. However, showing courage by doing the right thing will, in addition to benefiting the nation, yield political rewards in the long and medium term, both for the Democrats and for President Obama’s legacy.

Steve Benen at MSNBC reminds us that when Obama takes action, the difference between the Democratic Party as one that is tolerant and inclusive of immigrants, versus the Republican Party, which wants to deport them all, will be clearer than ever:

Taken together, though, what McConnell, Perry, and other Republican leaders have done is position the GOP as a fiercely anti-immigration party, which is pretty much the opposite of what party strategists and pollsters told them would be smart.
As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, after the 2012 elections, the party endorsed an “autopsy” commissioned by the Republican National Committee that said the party had to take a more constructive approach to immigration or pay the penalty of a massive demographic shift.
Confronted with the possibility of becoming the most aggressively anti-immigrant party Americans have seen in a generation, leading Republicans have embraced the label with shocking enthusiasm.
When President Obama announces his own executive actions on immigration, be sure to keep this in mind.

And a New York Times editorial emphasizes the fact that there is so much Obama could do with his executive powers to reform the immigration enforcement system.  A number of localities in the US infamously abuse their enforcement powers with practices that racially profile Latinos, creating deportation dragnets that separate hardworking families.  Reining in this abuse is well within President Obama’s power:

The Department of Homeland Security needs to get control of its enforcement machinery to make sure that its actions in the field match the priorities set in Washington, focusing resources on public-safety and national-security threats, not the workers and families trapped in the failed system. The goal is the smart and lawful use of discretion. Easy to say. Not so easily done.

The problem is that Homeland Security has farmed out that discretion — strewn it, actually — across the country, among state and local law enforcement agencies whose officers may only dimly recognize, or not care about, the dangers of an indiscriminate immigrant dragnet. Through programs linking local law enforcement with federal agencies, the administration has vastly increased the numbers of low-priority minor offenders and noncriminals it sweeps up. And it has failed to police its own agencies and employees to ensure that its own rules and priorities are followed.

Two examples may serve to suggest the outlines of the larger problem:

The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, an advocacy organization, has been raising an alarm over what it says is unchecked racial profiling by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents working with local police to raid businesses and homes and other places Latinos gather. Using vans equipped with mobile fingerprint readers, they have been sweeping up Latinos who pose no threat and shouldn’t be high-priority targets.

Those who complain — or who try to assert their civil rights in disputes with employers — are often subject to retaliation by ICE and put on a fast track to deportation. The advocates make a strong case that any new program to defer deportations must include workers involved in disputes over civil and labor rights. Employees who have been exploited or are the victims of unconstitutional policing need to be free to expose these abuses without fear, for the protection of all workers.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a sheriff, Terry Johnson of Alamance County, is on trial this month, accused by the Justice Department of rampant racial-profiling abuses against Latinos. Two retired supervising deputies testified at the trial that Sheriff Johnson had told officers not to give Latino drivers traffic citations, but to take them directly to jail. Starting in 2007, Sheriff Johnson was a partner in the federal 287(g) program, which trains local officials as immigration agents. The government revoked that agreement in 2012. As with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., an inveterate immigrant victimizer whose 287(g) authority was belatedly curtailed, Sheriff Johnson seems to be a prime exhibit of the dangers of outsourcing immigration authority to peace officers who don’t get the memo, or heed the Constitution…

Get-tough immigration enforcement has in many ways passed the limits of usefulness and good sense. Mr. Obama’s recent directive to the Homeland Security secretary to review the enforcement of immigration laws and make them “more humane” embodies that belief. Those words are welcome, coming from the top. But they have to find a way to reach the bottom, where immigrants, police officers and sheriffs live.