CNN is feeling the heat because of its primetime anchor – Lou Dobbs. New York Times headlines. Front page of El Diario. Blogs abuzz with news.
Using its four-hour documentary “Latino in America” as a political rallying cry, groups including Drop Dobbs and Basta Dobbs have been laying the pressure on the channel to stop allowing Lou Dobbs from broadcasting hate politics. One example of many: Dobbs falsely reported an explosion of 7,000 cases of leprosy in the United States in the past three years, and blamed Latino immigrants for the perceived increase, a statistic which was been thoroughly debunked.
Now America’s Voice has raised enough money (16,000 dollars!) to produce and air an ad, “Drop the Hate”, that urges CNN to drop Dobbs and his one-sided “news” show. Unfortunately CNN has refused to air the ad.
As America’s Voice puts it, “By refusing to deal with Lou Dobbs and his nightly tirade against immigrants, Latinos, and people of color, CNN is quickly losing credibility as the “Most Trusted Name in News.” As people become aware of the network’s one-sided coverage of immigration, they will start changing the channel.”
And the channel did change to MSNBC where the “Drop the Hate” ad aired on the Rachel Maddow show across Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC.
Today as expected, the Department of Homeland Security has announced an expansion of programs that deputize state and local police to enforce immigration law. Even though immigration is a federal matter, in the post 9/11 world, many believe that immigration enforcement should spread to a local level as an effective tool against terrorism. But in actuality, the programs create an environment of fear that discourage immigrant communities from cooperating with the police for fear of deportation, risking community safety in the process.
To date, the performance of the 66 participating agencies in these programs has been controversial. While the programs are meant to catch violent offenders, the bulk of those who have been caught include undocumented immigrants caught for minor or no offenses, which for a citizen would mean a citation at most or being let off. What’s been even more disturbing is the documented cases of racial profiling. As a Washington Post article reports,
Critics cited cases in which police conducted roadside stops and neighborhood sweeps aimed at Latinos and other ethnic groups, often arresting minorities for traffic and other minor offenses in pursuit of illegal immigrants.
The most controversial of the programs is the 287(g) program – notorious for its serious civil rights abuses and public safety concerns – but which according to the same article accounts for only a small fraction of the 135,389 illegal immigrants apprehended. The Department of Homeland Security made pledges to fix the program , leading to a new Memorandum of Understanding with participating agencies, that would ensure a focus on only serious and criminal offenders. But it “expects” rather than “requires” such a provision, thereby making cosmetic changes that would do nothing to stop local law enforcement committing illegal profiling under the cloak of federal immigration authority.
For the vast majority of immigrants that have been swept up into the programs, a whopping 94 percent were found by checks at local and state jails. Yesterday, we posted on the Secure Communities programs, a program that lets the police arrest someone on a traffic or other offense – even if the arrest is based on racial profiling – and then have their fingerprints checked against immigration databases during booking. When the fingerprint scan gets a “hit,” immigrants can end up getting carted off to an immigration detention center. Again, nothing is being done to keep local police from using arrests on minor charges as an excuse to get immigrants into custody. And a new report from the Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity proves just that – police in Irving, Texas began arresting Hispanics in far greater numbers for petty offenses once they had round the clock access to immigration agents to deport serious criminal offenders.
Judging from the poster child of these programs, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department in Maricopa County, Arizona, accounts for 20% of the nationwide arrests, allegations of racial profiling are not just hearsay. In an interview with CNN, Arpaio admitted that he judges undocumented people by “their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it”. And even though the administration has taken away his powers to enforce immigration laws on the streets, he is claiming he doesn’t need permission from the federal government and is planning an immigration raid to prove it.
It’s disappointing that the administration is not only pursuing programs that have proven to be unbeneficial, but is expanding these in a move that makes little sense for those who understand the underlying issues.
It always happens, after a sultry summer, fall invigorates us to start taking action.
Today, thousands of activists from labor, immigrant advocacy, civil rights groups, and faith-based communities are gathered in Washington D.C. to ask Congress to support immigration reform. It’s no coincidence that today is also the day that Rep. Luis Gutierrez will reveal principles of an immigration reform bill that will form the basis for a new approach to immigration. Calling on President Obama’s promise to address immigration reform, people are showing their support in large numbers. And they need your help.
On a related note, the Basta Dobbs campaign to dismantle Lou Dobbs anti-immigrant rhetoric from CNN, while having a major impact, is looking to intensify it’s efforts. While the National Council of La Raza is calling on you to stand up to the voices of hatred and advocate for reform. Interested?
Watch Rep. Jared Polis stand up for detention reform and then support Amnesty’s effort or our effort to protect the human rights of immigrants and even citizens locked up in detention centers across the U.S.
Image courtesy of www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org
Although no final word from the Department of Homeland Security has emerged regarding Sheriff Arpaio’s authority to enforce immigration law, Arpaio himself has been all over the media circuit, insisting that he will continue to prosecute undocumented immigrants with or without an agreement. Immigration law is prosecuted at the federal level and local police have no authority to enforce it other than through special programs, the most notorious of which is the 287(g) agreement.
In this interview with Rick Sanchez from CNN, Sheriff Arpaio is caught red-handed, admitting that he uses tactics that could well be classified as racial profiling.
SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime — how do you prove they they’re not illegal?
ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.
SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?
ARPAIO: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.
Annoyed at being caught out, he then goes on to say that he is tired of the “race card” and that there have been barely any complaints against him – seeming to forget the 2,700 lawsuits that have been filed against him. One of the lawsuits filed by the ACLU on behalf of Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto, siblings who are U.S. citizens is a shocking example of what’s really going on. This happened in Maricopa County under Sheriff Arpaio’s jurisdiction.
As the siblings drove into a gas they noticed an officer speaking with two Latino-looking men in handcuffs. Asked to leave the parking lot for disturbing the peace, they said they would but asked the deputy for his badge number. As they pulled out, Sheriff’s vehicles descended on them, with officers jumping out of their vehicles and raising their weapons. When they finally proved they were U.S. citizens they were let go of, without any explanation, or apology.
Reports and testimonies have consistently shown the rampant allegations of discrimination and racial profiling that accompany programs that deputize state and local police with the power to enforce immigration law. And contrary to the objective of the program, a GAO report found that participating local police were removing immigrants for minor violations instead of curbing serious violent offenders. In Arpaio’s county, FBI statistics show that violent crime has increased by 69% since he shifted his focus to immigration.
Encouraged by various cancellations of 287(g) agreements, advocates were disappointed today to hear the news that Nashville would continue its agreement – although in a modified form. An investigation conducted by the Tennessean showed that of the roughly 3,000 people deported during the program’s first year, about 81 percent were charged with misdemeanors ad half were caught during traffic stops. But the proof didn’t seem enough.
With more and more evidence of the lack of benefits in the program, we wonder when the lesson will come through that immigration enforcement should remain in the hands of federal immigration authorities so our communities can be safer for all of us.
The immigration community is revving up to counteract race and immigration based hate politics.
In my last post, I spoke about the pervasive problem of racial and religious profiling. The Rights Working Group has decided to do something about it with the launch of the Racial Profiling: Face the Truth campaign today! Profiling affects a broad range of communities, including Native American, African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities. Not only is it a humiliating and degrading practice, but it belies the very values that America stands for. With over 45 organizations including us supporting the campaign, as well as Congressman Conyers and Senator Feingold from both houses committed to enacting legislation to ban racial profiling, we have hope for success.
Meanwhile, America’s Voice have launched the Drop the Hate, Drop Dobbs campaign asking CNN to drop Dobbs’ show which paints an ugly picture of race-baiting, fear, and intolerance. They are fighting back with an amazing TV ad and need contributions to make it air! So go on and do your bit.
In Washington, the Detention Watch Network is gearing up for its annual conference (yes, we will be attending and presenting a workshop on strategic communications) to mobilize folks around detention issues. A little birdie also told us it will be the space to launch their latest campaign (more on that later!). Can’t help but quote from this editorial in the New York Times.
While Ms. Napolitano and her team promise to make detention a “truly civil” system, they show no interest in reforming the corrupt mechanisms that feed it.
Many feel that Dobbs has a long history of promoting hate and ethnic and racial division. Among some of Dobbs more outrageous claims are the idea that “the invasion of illegal aliens” who carry leprosy is threatening Americans’ ‘”health.”
Dobbs calls himself an “advocacy journalist,” but he doesn’t even live up to that ambiguous standard. Good journalism enhances the discussion of serious topics, but Dobbs helps to undermine and debase that discussion, routinely infusing it with misinformation and fear. And when it comes to issues like immigration, he has more in common with birther Orly Taitz than with Anderson Cooper.
The website comes on the heels of Dobbs scheduled radio show as a leading voice for the annual rally sponsored by the anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).