Enforcement-only proponents rejoice

ICE officials rounded up 63 undocumented immigrants in the Detroit area in a five-day sweep, as of Wednesday. Internal enforcement has at least gained greater visibility if not actually stepped up in intensity since the spring's immigrants' rights demonstrations. But, and this may shock some people, most of those caught in Detroit this week were not Latinos but Eastern Europeans. See, if we had a fence across the border with Mexico, those pesky Albanians wouldn't have entered the country. 43 of those caught in Detroit now sit in jail, awaiting legal proceedings, while the rest returned to their homes but will still face deportation.

The most important part of the article, however, is this:

"But local immigration advocates said the recent roundups do not make a distinction between dangerous criminals and families who may be appealing deportation orders in other courts, or whose immigration status is in flux.

"'I have no problem with them picking up people who are here unlawfully and all their appeals have been exhausted,' said David Wenger, a Detroit immigration attorney who has clients who were picked up in earlier roundups. 'The problem is there's no discretion anymore. It looks like they are just trying to get numbers for statistics to report back to Washington.'"

Wenger makes a good point that goes back to the problem of having a black-and-white world view. Immigrants who still have venues of appeal left to them and who are involved in proceedings with the government should not be treated the same as those who have exhausted their appeals. They deserve to follow all legal processes before being deported. It's not an all-or-nothing situation. But the lack of discretion is unjust.

And this explains it:

"'People say they haven't really broken the law, but these people did violate the law. They're here illegally,' [ICE official] Baker said."

When our officials who enforce policy seem to ignore the specifics of that policy, we have a problem. For instance, one could repeat Baker's statement to argue that a jaywalker is a criminal just like a serial pedophile-rapist/murderer. Both broke the law, right?

But the oversimplified approach certainly mobilizes voters, even if public barometer Newt Gingrich thinks it's solely the political platform that helped California Rep. Brian Bilbray defeat Dem. Francine Busby in a special election for a House seat. (Randy "Duke" Cunningham had to vacate the seat after being convicted of accepting bribes.)

Bilbray says the message should be, "What don't you get about the word 'illegal'?" I think the question back to him is, "What don't you get about the law?" (Among other topics.) Let's put aside the fact that, according to Howard Dean (about as reliably unpartisan as Gingrich), the district in which Bilbray won is traditionally Republican and that Bilbray spent $5 million on the campaign. Let's concede, for the sake of argument, that differing policies on immigration were the only factors that determined this election.

Gingrich called Busby "pro-illegal immigrant and pro-amnesty", while Bilbray's campaign slogan was "Proven Tough on Illegal Immigration". Now, if the opponent in this campaign proves a wet noodle in terms of battling these charges, intended to make her look like a friend of criminals, then of course she'd lose. But that's not her platform. In fact, she's a bit on the conservative side of the immigration debate, according to her website.

She backs Rep. John McCain's plan "that will strengthen border security, increase penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and ensure that no jobs that Americans want are going to immigrant workers first." She also wants to put up a "Smart Fence" along the border. And, yes, she supports a guest-worker program. So where is that passionate law-breaker Bilbray and Gingrich describe? She doesn't exist. It's politics.

It's the same thing as the "pro life" versus "pro choice" debate. People who are pro choice are not "pro abortion". They don't want to run around aborting everyone and rolling around cackling gleefully in the uterine scrapings. They merely want to retain the freedom of choice women should have over their own bodies. "Pro life" is a misleading term. Either those folks should use "anti choice" or they should really be pro life and oppose the use of the death penalty and, you know, war -- and the unnecessary deaths of migrants in the Arizona desert.

Likewise, in the immigration debate, simplistic and weighted word choice can sway an election if not combated with accurate and precise language in an aggressive way. Perhaps, Democrats should take this Bilbray-Busby election not as a sign that the real will of the U.S. people is against comprehensive immigration reform, but rather as a wake-up call to start managing better campaigns to give voters a full and accurate understanding of the issues and the candidates.


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