Obama administration loosens the deportation net 8/25-8/21

21 Aug

Check out our updates to The Curious Ostrich!
Dear readers – In our effort to help you always keep your head up, we have expanded our Sources and Resources sections. Take a moment to check out the offerings at the various news sites that we collect articles from and learn how to get more involved in advocacy efforts through the organizations listed in our Resources section. Starting this month, we will be featuring guest bloggers to add to the conversation about immigration and health beyond what’s in the weekly media.

Dream Act students cheer Obama’s immigration enforcement policy, Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2011
Fewer Youths to Be Deported in New Policy, New York Times, August 19, 2011
Some Deportations Halted for Gay Immigrants, The Advocate, August 20, 201
The Obama administration’s new deportation policy has the potential for immediate relief to many of the 300,000 individuals currently caught up in the US deportation net. Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security will review and “stay” the deportation cases of youth, students, individuals with partners (including same-sex) or children, victims of domestic violence, relatives of military personnel and those who recently entered the country. While unclear how it may affect future deportation cases, the New Times reports that the policy will “make it less likely that the government will begin [deportation] proceedings in the future against people who have no criminal records and pose no threat to national security.”
In addition to providing relief to these individuals, the policy holds symbolic value for all undocumented individuals. Diverging from the current national narrative, which paints undocumented individuals as criminals and threats, the Obama administration has finally taken concrete action to affirm that undocumented immigrants not only are not criminals, but have full lives in the US, are pursing important activities, from higher education to raising citizen children, and should not be expelled from the country.
Unfortunately, a federal policy that protects some immigrants from being expelled does not establish full rights to live here with the protections of citizenship. As the policy is implemented in the coming months, many questions remain about the future of the US immigration system and the millions of immigrants stuck in it.

How will the policy affect enforcement programs, such as Secure Communities? Not only are Scomm and SB1070-like laws the mechanism that unleashed such a wide deportation net in the first place, the program and state-level laws continue to expand. If enforcement continues, the new deportation policy is unlikely to reduce fear in immigrant communities or increase trust in law enforcement or other government agencies, both of which risk the mental health of communities and their ability to seek life saving public safety and health-promoting social services. Therefore, despite the relief to current and future immigrants, without changes to enforcement programs and the detention process, individuals will continue to be caught up in the net, regardless of whether or not they eventually are released from it. This is cold comfort. Fortunately, efforts continue to challenge Scomm and state laws. The policy provides an opening to assess current enforcement programs.

Can the policy galvanize support for comprehensive immigration reform? This policy was undoubtedly created because of the perseverance of immigrant rights advocates, particularly the brave protest of undocumented youth. It remains to be seen whether or not it is the President’s political gesture to Latino voters or a new step towards increasing support for a path to citizenship. The coming months will provide critical opportunities for everyone who cares about immigrants’ rights to put pressure on the President and Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform.

In other news:
Immigrant deaths along Ariz. border drop 38%, US Today, August 16, 2011
Data indicates that this year there have been fewer immigrant deaths on the US border. There is no agreement as to the reason behind this change. The Border Patrol cites a corresponding increase in apprehensions and publicity campaigns to deter desert crossings. Human rights advocates say that it is more complicated and may be related to a reduction in number of individuals attempting to cross.
New Mexico hero who saved girl says he’s illegal, AP, August 19, 2011
This example of heroism is attracting national attention, demonstrating the lawfulness of undocumented individuals and providing an important example to counter the stereotype of undocumented criminals.
Foreign Students in Work Visa Program Stage Walkout at Plant, New York Times, August 17, 2011
Foreign students protested at a Hershey’s factory in Pennsylvania this week over exploitive working conditions. The J-1 visas are meant to provide foreign students with a travel and cultural experience to learn more about the US. They certainly got more a lesson about the reality in the US than they had bargained for.

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