With the upcoming 2012 presidential election, voters are honing in on several key issues. Even a brief glance across the headlines of America’s newspapers shows that immigration is without a doubt one of the main topics. Immigration to the U.S. has been a consistently widespread trend since around 1820, and the intense debates regarding the issue are now coming to a pinnacle with the coming election.
One of the central conflicts plaguing the nation’s mutable immigration policy is the clash between federal and local governments over what kind of action to take. A program known as Secure Communities was introduced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (or ICE) in 2008. The program called for the arrest of all crime-causing illegal immigrants, regardless of the crime’s scope. This detainer extends the person’s holding time in jail by up to 48 hours, allowing custody to be transferred to ICE where they can initiate the deportation process.
Federal proponents of the bill, like ICE director John Morton and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, are now seeing that the major flaw of Secure Communities lies in its dependence on the cooperation from state and local authorities. This has been a particular source of trouble in Cook County, Illinois. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel informed the media in a press conference last month that he does not wish for the city’s police force to follow the Secure Communities guidelines, a sentiment echoed by many of the county’s officials.
Especially in the wake of Arizona’s notorious blitz on illegal immigrants two years ago in the form of Senate Bill 1070, local governments all over the country are retaliating against the stringent new measures. In addition to Cook County’s move, which has pervaded the news since Emmanuel’s July 9th announcement, places like San Francisco, Santa Clara County, Washington D.C., and Taos, New Mexico have refused to accept federal measures, even establishing decrees against jails allowing detainers for minor crimes in some cases.
Inevitably, White House officials have responded in kind with vows to try and make dissenting governments comply with Secure Communities. Admittedly, their accomplishments have not been small so far. The Obama administration has already racked up over 1.2 million deportations, 200,000 of them under the provisions of the 2008 act and boosted the deportation rate of criminal illegals by almost 90% in three years. The act now encompasses 3,000 localities and is expected to achieve national compliance next year.
Still, resistance continues to grow as well. California – a state that contends more than any other with immigration problems – approved a senatorial bill prohibiting detainers statewide, prompting Supreme Court debates over the legality of such unilateral policy decisions. As the most heavily-populated state in the country and certainly one of the bluest, California’s opposition to the federal mandate is sure, as TIME writer Adam Sorensen says, to put them “on a collision course with the Obama Administration.” <http://swampland.time.com/2012/07/16/obamas-next-immigration-battle-local-federal-authorities-on-collision-course-over-detention-requests/?iid=sl-main-mostpop1>
Luckily, these rigorous measures by the federal government will not directly affect legal maneuvers, like business immigration, which allow desirable workers from foreign countries to come into the United States and be allowed to work in various fields on temporary or permanent bases. At the same time, though, the Obama administration must ask itself how acts like Secure Communities will affect the U.S.’s international relations; after all, it may seem a tad unwelcoming for a country that was largely built by immigrants to take such a tough stance on the practice.
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