Outraged over Arizona’s new law that will inevitably lead to racial profiling and civil rights issues, the Washington D.C. City Council has introduced two bold bills that counter Arizona’s SB1070, both of which have been met with unanimous approval from Council members.
In the first one, the Council sponsored a (non-binding) bill that encourages all businesses in the state to boycott Arizona by cutting off business with it as long as the harsh legislation continues to be implemented. The bill introduced by Councilman Michael A. Brown also calls on the D.C. government to divest themselves of any Municipal bonds issues by Arizona and to not participate in any conferences held in the state. The move to boycott the state of Arizona is not unique to D.C. but has been carried out by many other City Councils including those of Hollywood, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland and Boston. The City Council’s of New York and Los Angeles are considering similar measures against Arizona to protest the bill that has caused so much controversy in the past few weeks.
The second bill, introduced in Washington D.C. by Council members Phil Mendelson and Jim Graham is called the “Secure Communities Bill of 2010″ and is a much more aggressive measure aimed at the federal government’s Secure Communities program. This bill, also unanimously supported by the Council, is groundbreaking as it prohibits D.C. Metropolitan police from sharing information with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secure Communities Program. The Secure Communities program enlists local law enforcement to collaborate with immigration authorities by providing them with all identity and fingerprint information pertaining to anyone that is arrested by the local police. Washington D.C. became a part of the Secure Communities Program last November, but now police won’t be allowed to co-operate with ICE. In a statement made yesterday, Council member Mendelson, the bill’s main author said-
Contrary to its name, the Secure Communities program makes the public less safe by creating fear and mistrust of the police and undermining community policing…I’m proud that so many of my colleagues are joining me in introducing this bill to offer a strong counter-statement to the one recently made in Arizona.
Stressing that immigration enforcement was a federal issue, Phil Mendelson expressed his reservations for the Secure Communities program, saying that it often led to racial profiling by allowing police to conduct an immigration check on person even before they had been found guilty of a crime.
The “Uncover the Truth” campaign brings to light the ways in which collaborations between federal immigration and local police, carried out through the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs have become notorious for racial profiling and misuse by local police, in addition to providing precedents for legislation like that recently introduced in Arizona. Led by the The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the campaign gets local groups to question collaborations between immigration and local police and hold lawmakers accountable through press conferences, community forums, reports, vigils and discussions. Speaking about the legislation introduced in the D.C. Council, Sarahi Uribe of NDLON hoped that other City Councils would follow suit and blamed Secure Communities for the “disaster in Arizona.”
Not to be left far behind in the battle against inhumane and unjust immigration policy, New York City Governor David A. Paterson announced that he was considering setting up a “Special Immigration Board of Pardons” to review cases of New York immigrants who are facing deportation based on minor criminal convictions. In this path-breaking move, Gov. Paterson has said that the board will consider the cases on an individual basis, distinguishing major offenses from major convictions. Gov. Paterson said that he was motivated to rectify a system that was “embarrassingly and wrongly inflexible” in deporting people without discretion or consideration of their families and specific circumstances. At present there are only a few such cases pending, but once the panel is set up, they are expecting hundreds of petitions for pardon.
Inspired by the case of Qing Hong Wu, a 29-year-old man, who despite living in the U.S. since age five, faced deportation to China because of a minor infraction he committed when he was a teenager, Gov. Paterson decided to do his bit to restore fairness into immigration policy in New York. Speaking on Monday at the Court of Appeals he said-
To be sure, there are some individuals whose crimes are egregious or who pose a threat to public safety. And they are justly removed from the United States. But there are others for whom the situation is far less clear. For them, our national immigration laws leave no room to consider mitigating circumstances. But in New York, we believe in rehabilitation. And we believe in renewal. And we believe in second chances.
Attributing Gov. Paterson’s timing to a general critique of harsh immigration laws and even harsher enforcement, a New York Times editorial compares it to Arizona’s new law-
Mr. Paterson has shown courage and common sense at a time when the national debate about immigration shows little of either. His move was unconnected to the radicalism in Arizona, which just passed a law making criminals of every undocumented person within its borders, and greatly empowering the police to arrest people they suspect are here illegally. But it inevitably calls to mind the bad example of Arizona.
It is heartening to know that lawmakers and leaders in different parts of the country are engaging in the pressing issue of immigration, and making use of their authority to take a stand against laws like Arizona’s SB1070 that attack the fundamental rights and dignity of residents of this country. We only hope that continued pressure will put an end to the law, so that the people of Arizona can go about their daily lives without constant fear of being harassed.
Photo courtesy of nbcwashington.com