Feathered Bastard

Barack Obama Makes Joe Arpaio's Pal Janet Napolitano Point Woman for Immigration Reform, 287(g) Ignored

President Obama's remarks after the White House immigration summit today

While it was gratifying to see President Barack Obama's much-delayed summit on immigration take place today, and for the President to declare after the meeting that, "My administration is fully behind an effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform," the message was still one of "hurry up and wait," with nothing promised to alleviate the persecution and resultant suffering of the undocumented in this state or any other.

Sure, Obama's promise that this bipartisan group of legislative leaders, which included our own Senator John McCain, would "not put [immigration reform] off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now," sounded hopeful. That is, until he puts DHS honch-ess Janet Napolitano in charge of the effort.

"I have asked my Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security," said Obama after the meeting, "Secretary Janet Napolitano, to lead up a group that is going to be working with a leadership group from both the House and the Senate to start systematically working through these issues from the congressional leaders and those with the relevant jurisdiction."

Making Janet Napolitano your point woman for comprehensive immigration reform is akin to placing Michael Jackson in charge of Child Protective Services. That is, if Jackson were still among the living. Napolitano is essentially a Democratic nativist, whose sins are legion when it comes to the immigration debate.

As the Governor of a border state inflamed with hatred against Hispanics by those on the far right, she never once spoke out against the rising tide of racism, or those exploiting the issue. Instead, she helped bring the 287(g) program to Arizona, with Sheriff Joe Arpaio being its primary beneficiary. She also appeased Latino-bashing lunatics like J.D. Hayworth by sending the National Guard to the border with Mexico, and she OK'd Arizona's reactionary, employer sanctions law, despite knowing it was seriously flawed. She later bragged during her U.S. Senate confirmation hearing of signing same.

Napolitano is a knee-jerk former prosecutor who lacks compassion for the undocumented, much less concern for Hispanics (citizens and otherwise) who are being racially profiled under ICE's 287(g) program. She wants to save the 287(g) program rather than scuttle it. And she has failed to act against those clearly abusing the program, like Sheriff Arpaio.

If Obama is serious about the plight of the undocumented, then he needs to do something now to ameliorate the hardships faced by them daily. As normal ICE immigration raids have already been suspended nationwide, he should immediately end the 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to engage in the same sort of raids that ICE has already placed on pause. Barring that, he should direct Janet Napolitano to strip Joe Arpaio of his 287(g) authority, so he can no longer abuse the human and civil rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. 

Until the Obama administration acts on 287(g) or at the very least Arpaio, we can only view this immigration summit as a giant maybe. Meanwhile, the persecution -- as epitomized by the nine-year-old Phoenix girl who recently lost both parents in one of Sheriff Joe's immigration busts -- will continue unabated.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons