Immigrant rights continue to stir unrest among state law enforcement, employers and local politicians.
The ACLU of Northern California’s 2011 report “Costs and Consequences: The High Price of Policing Immigrant Communities” marked the following trends about immigration in California:
· California is home to about 24% of the nation’s undocumented immigrant population.
· Immigrants compromise more than a third of California’s workforce, and contribute a third of the state’s Gross Domestic Product.
· Almost half of California’s children have at least one immigrant parent.
As Californians share the state’s resources, work and live side by side, these statistics demonstrate the amalgam of citizens, law enforcement and policy makers with both legal and non-legal immigrants.
One of the main let downs for pro-immigrant activists was the defeat of the Dream Act. This would have granted conditional legal status to undocumented college students, graduates and military members who arrived here before age 16, according the University of California’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. After the proposal’s setback, UCSD’s Wayne Cornelius told CSIS “I don’t see a Congressional coalition capable of withstanding theanti-immigration forces anytime in the foreseeable future.”
Local governments have started supervising immigration themselves in order to crackdown on illegal residents. Inland Empire cities including Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee and Norco, for example began requiring all businesses to check the legal status of new workers through E-Verify in January, according to The Los Angeles Times. E-Verify is “a free online database run by the federal government that allows employers to determine the immigration status of their workers,” the Times reported. “Employers that refuse risk having their business licenses revoked.”
But in addition to monitoring municipal businesses more closely, local officials have been creating ways to probe possible illegal immigrants through public safety measures.
Cornelius, from UCSD, emphasized the increase in law enforcement on immigrant circles to CSIS last December:
“In many cities and counties, for example, local police have assumed anaggressive immigration enforcement role that will not be surrendered easily,” he said. “Our most recent survey of migrants from Jalisco found that more thanone-quarter of them had been stopped by police and interrogated about theirimmigration status within the last twelve months.”
Last week, American Civil Liberties Union California notified sheriffs across the state concerning the oversight of law enforcement in immigrant communities, including recommendations to minimize security risks and the costs of public safety. According to the ACLU of Northern California, local police and sheriffs will be more effective when immigrant community members feel safe reporting crime.
The ACLU of Northern California’s 2011 report was attached to the letter.
The report emphasizes that detainer practices on the roads and immigration screening programs increase the likelihood of racial profiling. The report also attended to concerns about local municipalities that create immigration reform, saying, “They have adopted policies and practices limiting officers from inquiring into immigration status, impounding vehicles, and holding individuals on federal immigration detainers without reimbursement.”
ACLU-NC continues that such practices “preserve public safety resources for real crime fighting.”
Policy makers in Washington might be too distracted to oversee the extent to which local governments are taking it upon themselves to enforce immigration laws. But local ordinances only solve short-time decision-making process for businesses and law enforcement in last-minute decisions tied to immigration. More often, such decisions treat people poorly through profiling and withholding opportunities for future citizenship. Immigration reform will only start to turn in a positive direction when federal and local governments streamline effective measures to both protecting the nation’s safety while adhering to the nation’s model of equality and justice.