Feathered Bastard

Janet Napolitano's Final Solution for Undocumented Hispanics: More 287(g) Men

Ever since Janet Napolitano's nomination to be director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, some liberals and immigrant rights activists have held out hope that Napolitano would rein in the excesses of the department's 287(g) program and its worksite enforcement raids.

The New York Times trumpeted her as "the most powerful voice of reason in a state that continues to hatch some of the dumbest, cruelest ideas anywhere for getting tough on immigrants." (And to give her some due, she did veto some of the crazier anti-immigrant legislation.) Locally, many in the pro-immigrant community remain convinced that Janet will eventually do something to bring our foaming-at-the-jaws law dog Joe Arpaio to heel as he continues to abuse his 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Just yesterday, before a press conference to denounce Sheriff Joe's medieval 200 Mexican March, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox spotted an anti-Napolitano sign held by an activist and questioned why that person had brought it. Wilcox was an ally of Napolitano while Nappy was Governor, and she apparently believes she and others can convince Napolitano to act.

But in my view, Napolitano has never really been a friend to Hispanics and recent immigrants. As governor, she did precious little to try and curtail Arpaio's extra-constitutional activities, declining to even use her bully pulpit against the Bull Connor of Arizona. In fact, Nappy helped broker the 287(g) agreement between Arpaio and the feds while guv.  And when she was U.S. Attorney for Arizona, she looked the other way during and after the Border Patrol's now-infamous 1997 Chandler Roundup of undocumented migrants.

In her Senate confirmation hearings, Napolitano bragged about signing one of the toughest employer sanctions laws in the nation as governor, a law authored by none other than Mesa's neo-Nazi hugging state Senator Russell Pearce. One of Nappy's first initiatives as DHS director seeks to streamline the processing of "criminal aliens." She's followed this up with an "action directive" that seems almost seems ecstatic at the prospect of expanding the much-abused 287(g) program. It reads in part:

"The 287(g) program provides for agreements whereby federally trained and supervised state and local law enforcement officials can participate in the investigation, apprehension, and transport of unauthorized aliens. How many officers have been trained to date? How many agreements have been signed with state and locals to date and how many are ready to be signed? What is the current turnaround time to sign an agreement and what can be done to expedite more agreements? [Note: The emphasis is mine] How does this model compare in cost, effectiveness, and administration, to other forms of cooperation with these officials or entities? What are the strengths and challenges with jail model agreements versus task force model agreements?"

The expansion of the 287(g) program is Napolitano's "final solution" for the nation's "problem" of undocumented Hispanics. It will in effect become a national police force focused on removing as many Hispanics from the country as possible. American citizens of Hispanic descent, and Hispanics in the country legally can continue to expect to be harassed by law enforcement based on the color of their skin, or the sound of their last names, or the language that they're speaking. While doing so, local cops will ironically have a federal mandate

The only positive note is that Napolitano can be moved by criticism from the national press. Revelations that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been using fugitive team operations -- billed as manhunts for badass criminals on the lam -- to go after nonfugitives with no deportation orders against them, has forced Nappy to order a "review" of the program.

But for such reviews to turn into meaningful policy reforms, the press will have to dog Nappy like a blue tick hound after a raccoon. Because when it comes to immigration, the Director's heart is definitely not on the side of the angels.       

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