Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Secure Communities Plus New Laws Mean More Problems for AZ

Just in time for ICE's newest program, "Secure Communities" to be headed Arizona's way, the police in Arizona are talking about how they might not recognize the Matricula Consular, the ID that Mexicans use in place of a driver's license, whether they are legal or not. The article, Police in Ariz. may stop accepting Mexican ID card, discusses how people who show this identification are likely to be, as one presumes, charged with a crime, and brought to jail.

The new program called "Secure Communities" that ICE is implementing will come with a new set of problems. Basically, the program will target "criminal aliens" by linking up various law enforcement and immigration databases to be accessed when a person is in police custody. The new and existing laws and policies would give the police cause to arrest, detain, and check the databases on the suspect, and since undocumented immigrants would then have charges against them that they wouldn't otherwise have had, they will more likely be face the consequences of being labeled "criminal aliens".

With a focus on "criminal aliens," any sort of crime might cause one to be held in a detention center and perhaps deported. This problem is described in The Criminal Alien Problem of Secure Communities:
Secure Communities follows ICE’s broad definition of criminal alien to include any noncitizen convicted of an offense. Falling within Secure Communities’ priorities are “individuals who have been convicted of other offenses,” so broad to presumably include all misdemeanor violations or immigration violations. While this broad sweep approach to securing communities will certainly capture immigrants who do represent a threat to public safety, it extends the immigrant crackdown deeper far deeper into the immigrant community, legal and illegal, and will likely result in widespread personal, family, and community insecurity.

AZ Senator Russell Pearce has submitted a revision to the statute on drivers' licenses (SB1337) that would make it a class I misdemeanor to not have a license, which would allow the police to arrest the suspect. He's doing this obviously to further criminalize undocumented immigrants and to make it so the police can arrest them simply for not having a license. It would be interesting to find out if Pearce has had any influence on the recent discussion by the police on the Matricula Consular question.

There are various laws that are created and/or mis-interpreted to further criminalize undocumented immigrants. For instance, Pearce is also trying to push a bill that would make undocumented immigrants law-breakers just by being in Arizona- they're calling it trespassing. There have also been laws passed or attempted that make job soliciting a crime. In addition, the MCSO has continued to arrest undocumented immigrants and charged them with conspiracy to smuggle themselves across the border.

Wouldn't this Secure Communities be perfect for Arpaio to abuse even if 287(g) is taken away from him? After all, during MCSO's sweeps, they are specifically stopping people for traffic stops (real or imagined, including "improper use of horn"). It is clear that no matter what their tools, they have a clear goal of going after undocumented immigrants, as exemplified in these two quotes:

"The hotline is part of an expanded immigration enforcement plan Arpaio unveiled. In another part, about 160 sheriff's deputies, cross-trained to enforce immigration law, will saturate Valley cities and roadways to find and arrest those who are here illegally, the sheriff said. The deputies now have broad powers not only to question people about their immigration status during traffic stops, but also if they commit even a minor infraction, such as littering." (Source).

"Although the details are still being worked out, Arpaio did not rule out the possibility that deputies could use their expanded authority to question people about their immigration status during traffic stops and infractions as minor as 'spitting on the sidewalk.'

'Any time we come across an enforcement action and we find there are illegals present, then we will put our federal authority hat on and we will arrest them,' Arpaio said. 'I will do anything I can to fight this illegal-immigration problem, and this is one more step." (Source).

Clearly "criminal alien" will mean nothing different from "illegal alien", or to us, "undocumented immigrant" because anyone without papers could be categorized as a "criminal alien". The criminal alien term will be used to make the general public feel that the right people are being deported. However, just as previous ICE raids have been purported to target dangerous criminals, they have in fact caught in their nets mostly people without criminal records. Now, creating more people with criminal records will justify various actions against the undocumented community.

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