The politics of immigration

Father Tom Joyce CMF| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois has written the Department of Homeland Security that it is dropping the state's participation in the Secure Communities program (see previous post for more on this program). The governor seems to agree with critics who argue that the program is wrecking havoc in immigrant communities by deporting non-criminals, rather than targeting criminals for deportation as intended.

The reputedly more immigrant friendly Barack Obama has used the program, started under President George W. Bush, and the mantra of “securing the borders’ to stave off Republican and Tea-Party hardliners on immigration. Now that the president is in the race for a second term, he’s mindful that Hispanic votes helped him carry Florida, Nevada, and Colorado in 2008. The same states will be needed for reelection in 2012.

So Obama is being more active in cultivating that crucial vote. He supported the Dream Act and has been meeting with community leaders and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, promising to push favorable legislation even in a more hostile Congress. Even the oft-critical Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D, IL) came away from Hispanic Caucus meeting “optimistic.” Perhaps Obama will move to shore up his Hispanic support for 2012.

But, as the action of Gov. Pat Quinn indicates, the states are losing patience. The Illinois state senate also has passed its own version of a Dream Act. While not giving a path to citizenship or scholarships from tax revenues, it still will make life easier for undocumented students. Perhaps following the governor’s lead, the state legislature is contemplating a Smart Enforcement Act that would monitor carefully the cooperation of local law enforcement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Other states are interested it both measures.

On the other hand, some states continue pushing forward with bills similar to Arizona’s SB1070. Georgia’s is particularly harsh.

But even in states where anti-immigrant sentiment is strong, many are having second thoughts, including business and community leaders in Utah and Arizona (see previous post). (Utah’s law is now being challenged in federal court.) A similar alliance in Florida is making the Republican dominated state government to slow down and rethink Arizona-style measures.

Notwithstanding the impatience of the states or the renewed energy of the president, real progress for the immigrant will probably come through the courts.