As the countdown to Arizona’s SB1070 law draws nearer (July 29th), and Congress continues to skirt the issue of immigration reform, a number of excellent stories have emerged from the news on our broken immigration system. A shocking story on CNN reveals how every day, Americans are wrongfully deported because of a broken system, and many worry the problem could get worse. They interview one such U.S. citizen who was wrongfully deported to Jamaica in 1999 and finally able to return ten long years later. And even though he knew was a citizen, he was given a deadly choice – stay in detention indefinitely and fight your case, or leave and gain your freedom. Laws like SB1070 will only suck more U.S. citizens into the deportation pipeline, just like in this case, denying adequate due process to many.
On ABC, a 10 part special series “Out of the Shadows” illustrates the constant struggle of 10 undocumented immigrants and their impact on America. In the first of the series, Mohammad Abdollahi, an undocumented Iranian immigrant comes bravely forward, arrested after staging a sit-in in Arizona to persuade Senator John McCain to support the DREAM Act. Mohammad is gay, and faces deportation to Iran, a country where homosexuality is a capital crime. If he doesn’t gain asylum, he could face real danger in the country he barely knows as home. Stay tuned for more stories.
So what is Congress doing about the broken immigration system. We got to hear a few of their thoughts at Netroots Nations, a large gathering of progressive bloggers, non profits and filmmakers mobilizing the online space for good. An impressive line up of speakers included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Most everyone spoke of the difficulty of passing immigration reform in an election year, but with more stories like these coming to the fore, maybe Congress will realize the ramifications of our broken immigration system on the ideals we hold dear, due process, fairness, and justice. Because when we deny due process to some, we put all of our freedoms at risk.
Immigration reform was a strong theme at Netroots Nation and Restore Fairness was on some excellent panels. Presenting with some other incredible films, Restore Fairness screened at the Immigration Screening Series alongside Speaking in Tongues, a film on language and its importance at breaking down barriers between ourselves and our neighbors, and Not In Our Town, focusing on the murder of a 37-year-old Latino immigrant Patchogue, New York. A lively discussion on race, immigration and pluralism followed. Restore Fairness was also on a distinguished panel with other immigration advocates – “Crimmigration Under Obama: Pushing back against the “enforcement-only” immigration regime”. Immigration enforcement under the Obama administration has continued almost unchanged from the Bush administration even as Department of Homeland Security officials have promised to reform the immigration detention system. A growing collaboration between local police and immigration enforcement is being encouraged, its worst manifestation seen in Arizona’s SB1070. And despite moving away from massive workplace raids, the agency has continued home and business raids under the radar. All in all – overall levels of deportation have actually increased under President Obama. Meanwhile, legislative reform is stalled in Congress. Watch it here.
As July 29th approaches, the state of Arizona is ill prepared for the consequences of SB1070 which will likely include many due process violations, racial profiling and an even more broken immigration system.