[lg policy] Benign Neglect as Immigration Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 20 13:37:32 UTC 2009

Benign Neglect as Immigration Policy
By George H. Wittman on 6.19.09 @ 6:07AM

The Obama Administration has found a new way to handle the problem of
illegal immigration. It is ignoring the entire matter politically.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has decided that the
best way to deal with the negative aspects of this sensitive issue is
to leave the subject in the hands of local officials, city, state and
federal. Out of sight, out of the media, out of mind, she seems to

There is a continuing fear expressed by various Latino groups, among
others, that illegal immigrants are harassed by local law enforcement
personnel. In the mind of these associations, the fact that these
individuals are suspected of being here in the United States illegally
is not adequate reason to abridge their "civil rights" by seeking to
determine if they are.

Harassment, by the way, means that often immigrants are stopped by
police for apparently minor infractions, and are held on that charge
while being checked through ICE (acronym for the Department of
Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm). This is
not a uniform circumstance. Border states such as California, Arizona,
New Mexico and Texas have towns and cities that differ widely on local
laws in regard to informing ICE of their police contact with possible
"illegals." Napolitano's Department of Homeland Security stays as far
away as possible from becoming involved in these discontinuities.

Within local law enforcement, depending on the judgment of the
officer, there is also often a wide range of application of the same
local laws. The Latino community in California, the Southwest,
Florida, and elsewhere with large Hispanic immigrant populations has
the ability to apply considerable local political pressure to protect
"immigrant rights" of those who are documented or undocumented. Local
law enforcement responds accordingly.

Secretary Napolitano's logic appears to be that the more local
officials are tasked with the major portion of the burden of dealing
with the presence of illegals in their communities, the less negative
political fallout will occur on the Washington scene. Her entire
approach to illegal immigration is to do everything possible to
nullify the broader political effects of the legal and security
aspects of ultimately millions of people pouring into the United

What is particularly curious is that Napolitano went to great trouble
when she first took on her new assignment to de-emphasize countering
the foreign-sponsored terrorist aspects of her job while making a
priority of the economic and social impact of the growing problem of
the "undocumented." Apparently that approach now has been relegated to
local domestic concern.

Placing the weight of enforcement of the first phase of illegal
immigration laws on local police is theoretically not inappropriate --
although it does conspicuously add to their workload. Local cops are
the ones best acquainted with their communities. A relatively quick
assessment of non-English speakers by local law enforcement can
differentiate between those with community ties and those without.

The legally ticklish problem of "profiling" is a matter in which Sec.
Napolitano does not want to become involved. Better leave that hot
button issue to the people on the local level. She knows full well
that cops "profile" suspects in many ways during their everyday
assignments. Of course they are going to be attracted first by people
of Mexican or Central American background. It's perhaps unfortunate,
but these nationals make up the core of illegal entrants.

The pro-immigrant groups believe that asking non-English speakers to
prove they are in the U.S. legally is discrimination – an infringement
of their civil rights. In reality there is an ethnic based effort to
encourage immigration, legal or illegal, from Mexico and more modestly
from Central America. And this fact is what Janet Napolitano wants to
avoid commenting on, to say nothing of acting on.

It is fallacious to argue that today's massive influx of
Spanish-speaking immigrants is comparable to various European
migration waves of the past. The time element and discrepancy in
numbers, actual or relative, is overwhelming. The fact is that today's
Hispanic immigrants actually seek to shift their socio-cultural
heritage north to the U.S. rather than assume the language and
socio-cultural environment that already exists here and on which this
nation was built.

This was not a problem with the same Latino immigrants several decades
ago. The difference is the current carefully organized sense of
entitlement that encourages the view among primarily Mexican
immigrants of their historically justified political right -- rather
than a perception of privilege resulting from the generosity of
American spirit.

Assimilation has been the bedrock of immigration to the United States
for generations. Giving local law enforcement the responsibility of
first line control of determining illegal entry has serious
operational advantages. However, allowing federal responsibility to be
diminished in order to avoid political blame is self-serving to the
point of obstruction of the intent of homeland security.

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