After signing a controversial $600 million border security bill last week, President Barack Obama is drawing fire from immigration reform advocates and anti-immigrant conservatives alike. While the former argue that the new security measures are a step backwards for comprehensive immigration reform, the latter say the bill does too little to secure our borders.
Arizona’s SB 1070 was a challenge to the federal government’s ability to resolve the immigration issue, and the Obama administration took a strong stood against it. The border security bill is almost certainly a demonstration of the administration’s might. But for what, and at whose expense?
The further right the president moves on immigration, the more absurd the opposition’s tactics become. Anti-immigration activists are now directing their ire towards the unborn children of immigrants. Meanwhile, immigration activists in Arizona are butting heads with an increasingly vocal gang of Tea Party members and have yet to see any positive change as a result of the federal lawsuit.
Obama gets an F
At The American Prospect, Adam Serwer argues that Obama’s immigration policies have failed the reform movement, and that they have also failed to bring anti-immigrant conservatives into the fold:
…While President Obama talks like an immigration moderate, in practice his actions are those of an unapologetic immigration hawk who has tightened border security without fulfilling his promise of immigration reform. […] On matters of border security, the administration is doing just about everything a Republican might do in his place, which means that Republicans have had to go to even greater extremes just to provide an excuse for not going along.
The extremist crusade against the 14th amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., is just one example of the lengths to which some conservatives will go to defy an administration whose immigration policies are already remarkably conservative.
Exposing the myth of the “anchor baby”
True to form, those calling for a repeal of the 14th amendment are now outdoing one another in an effort to appear even more extremely anti-immigrant. This week’s “terror baby” threat has eclipsed last week’s “anchor baby” threat, as some conservatives claim that pregnant immigrants are not only coming to the U.S. to give birth, but to raise their American babies as terrorists.
Robin Templeton of GritTv and Seth Hoy of AlterNet jumped on the issue this week. Both argue that, in far too many cases, the citizenship of an immigrant’s children has little bearing on whether or not she stays in the country, let alone become a U.S. citizen.
Templeton drives the point home by citing the case of Fatoumata Gassama, mother of six U.S. citizens, who fled Senegal to escape genital mutilation and is now faced with deportation. If deported, Templeton writes, “She will have no choice but to return with her children…including her four daughters, who would almost certainly be subjected to the same torture from which their mother sought refuge in the United States.”
The “anchor baby” threat is just the latest in a long list of sensational and unfounded claims put forth to demonize immigrants. According to the anti-immigrant contingent, we are at risk of losing jobs to immigrants, losing social services to immigrants, and even being criminally victimized by immigrants. Propagating such baseless misinformation is a common tactic, as most may remember from the health care reform debates.
Checking in on Arizona
Meanwhile in the nation’s anti-immigrant epicenter, Arizona, Tea Partiers are enjoying their heyday, and immigrants’ rights activists have yet to see any positive change resulting from the federal lawsuit against SB 1070.
As Naima Ramos-Chapman reports at Colorlines, gun-toting tea party activists kicked off the week with a border rally headlined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who advertised some of his own immigration solutions including “a pre-emptive strike to hunt down immigrants on the Mexican side of the border.”
Arpaio’s apparent disregard for Mexico’s sovereignty notwithstanding, his anti-immigrant zeal is nothing new. As Aura Bogado reports for Mother Jones, the sheriff tormented immigrants for years before SB 1070 became a hot topic, indiscriminately rounding up people of color and jailing them under such poor conditions that many have left prison severely injured, while others have died.
On top of that, federal prosecutions of immigrants in Arizona are at a record high this year. According to Elise Foley at the Washington Independent, newly released data shows that immigration cases made up 84.5 percent of prosecutions in Arizona.
That’s good news, no doubt, to Arpaio. Maricopa county ranks among the highest in its prosecutions of non-criminal immigrants. Such findings are harder for reform advocates to swallow, particularly in light of Obama’s repeated assurances that his immigration measures primarily target criminals. The divide between Obama’s promises and the reality of the situation on the ground is glaring, and anti-immigrant forces know it.
In Arizona, for instance, both the state legislature and Governor Jan Brewer remain defiant even in the face of the federal lawsuit against SB 1070 (which itself challenged the president’s resolve on immigration reform), and have since passed or introduced other anti-immigrant bills, in addition to several currently in the works -- Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez at Ms. has a good breakdown of recently passed and pending anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona.
Curbing Arizona’s reach
But while numerous states have come out in support of SB 1070, many copy-cat bills have already failed in other states. Many more are likely to meet the same end.
Suman Raghunathan at YES! Magazine suggests that states are broadly rejecting Arizona—thereby demonstrating that the intense anti-immigrant sentiment currently dominating the media belongs to only a small faction of extremists. Raghunathan furthermore argues that it is actually the anti-immigrant movement that is failing.
Given the highly-criticized events at the federal level, such as the signing of the new border security bill and the expansion of the Secure Communities program, Raghunathan’s position is optimistic, to say the least. But maybe, at this point in the game, the immigration reform camp needs a little optimism.
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