How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Skeptical reaction to Obama's second-term immigration reform promise

One impressive thing about President Obama's recent pledge that he'd try to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in his second term if reelected, made during a televised interview with the Spanish-language Univision network, is the seemingly bipartisan nature of the unhappy reactions that skeptics have been posting online.

During a network interview Friday, Obama said: "I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term. I want to try this year. The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it, and I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it."

A good intention perhaps, but much of the online reaction since has tended to bring up where the road paved with good intentions leads to. During Obama's first term, immigration reform efforts like the Dream Act have failed while enforcement-based policies like the controversial Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program have stuck, contributing to record deportations.


L.A. County inmates released to ICE, by the numbers

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county participates in the federal 287(g) program.

Crowding, violence and allegations of civil rights abuses are among the reasons the embattled Los Angeles County jail system is under federal investigation. But the county has also faced criticism in recent years in some circles for its federal-local partnerships with immigration authorities.

Sheriff Lee Baca a supporter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial Secure Communities enforcement program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration officials. The county has also long participated in a smaller voluntary federal-local partnership called 287(g), in which deportable inmates are identified and released post-conviction to immigration officials.

How many L.A. County inmates are released to ICE? The 2011 numbers are found buried in new report on the county jail system from an independent justice expert, which among other things recommended closing the Men's Central Jail downtown because of violence problems.


Report: 'ICE did not clearly communicate...the intent of Secure Communities'

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Immigration officials may not have intentionally misled lawmakers or the public about the controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, but their communication strategy was a mess, according to an investigation by Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

The OIG investigation was requested last year by California's Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from San Jose, after states and local jurisdictions trying to withdraw from the federal fingerprint-sharing program began learning they could not. It's one of two new OIG reports related to Secure Communities, the other addressing the program's operations.

The communications analysis is perhaps the most interesting of the two, among other things examining the Secure Communities memorandums of agreement, called MOAs, which states and jurisdictions signed after the program began rolling out in late 2008.


'TRUST Act 2.0' would limit local cops' cooperation with Secure Communities

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In August, after the federal government rescinded state contracts related to the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, those states that at the time were trying to opt out of the controversial fingerprint-sharing program seemed to have little choice but to comply.

But there's another option, at least according to a California state legislator who is retooling a bill from last year to allow for another kind of out: Restricting how law enforcement agencies hold immigrants for deportation at the request of federal immigration officials.

The yet-to-be-introduced California bill is a retooled version of the TRUST Act, a measure approved last May by the state Assembly that would have allowed the state to renegotiate its contract with the feds and allowed local jurisdictions to opt out of Secure Communities if they wanted to. It had begun moving through the Senate when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton sent a letter to state governors terminating the contracts, whose language did not suggest the program was mandatory.


A legal basis for mandatory S-Comm? Read the federal memo

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An October 2, 2010 federal internal memo made public today shows that immigration officials were long ago bracing itself for legal challenges to their position, recently affirmed, that states' participation in the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program is mandatory. And that they were doing so even as confusion continued among states and local jurisdictions, several of which believed that participation was voluntary and could be discontinued.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo was released today on an immigration advocacy website, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The memo lists and analyzes legal statutes as to whether the agency's plans to roll the program out nationwide by 2013, with mandatory participation, violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.