US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Immigration enforcement steps in the right direction

Father Tom Joyce CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

By changing the enforcement of immigration law, John Morton, director or Immigration and Custom Enforcement, is doing what President Obama had insinuated would be undemocratic. Despite requests from immigration advocates, Obama said in his speech in El Paso that he could not rightfully use his executive powers to change immigration enforcement under the Secure Communities program. But now Morton has written a memo telling his agents to change the way they enforce the controversial law.

The heart of the Secure Communities program was to get local jails to collect and send  fingerprints to the FBI. If any crimes or a previous deportation emerged, the one detained was to be turned over to ICE.

The memo from Morton admits the program has been flawed and directs agents not to flag victims of a crime, witnesses to one, or those who would have benefited by the Dream Act. He also sets up an advisory committee to help determine what to do about those swept up by minor violations, like driving with a license. (See Washington Post.)

Some immigration activists welcomed the memo, but other are skeptical. ICE agents are kind of righteous cops who don’t believe in giving law breakers a pass. The Los Angeles Times, while praising Morton editorially, noted there is widespread discontent among ICE agents. It is yet to be seen how wisely and widely agents will use their new discretion.

Meanwhile California contemplates joining Illinois, Massachusetts and New York in declaring their unwillingness to cooperate with Secure Communities.

In other immigration news, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas wrote in a New York Times Magazine article that it was easier for him to admit that he was gay during his high school years than it was for him to admit to friends and employers that he was undocumented.

Vargas said that he pursued his career at a journalist while concealing that he had been brought to the U.S. at 12 years old without authorization. He’s tired of the subterfuges he had to resort to and the fear of deportation that hung over him. Vargas shared the Pulitzer Prize given the Washington Post’s coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.