New reasonable immigration policy angers the usual bigots

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It’s like Pavlov’s dogs and the dinner bell. Someone proposes an immigration policy that doesn’t treat all undocumented immigrants as criminals or dirt, and the anti-immigrant contingent, or the We Hate Meskins movement, sits up and barks.

Yesterday’s immigration policy announcement by the Obama administration — it is suspending deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants who pose no threat to national security or public safety — has loosed the dogs of random racial prejudice and xenophobia, right on schedule. Conservative news outlets and blogs are up in arms over the policy change, regurgitating the usual objections and racist code words that appear whenever someone suggests that immigrants may not be subhuman, or, God forbid, deserve that a modicum of reason be applied to their individual situations. Some critics are even throwing around the term “treason” to describe the new policy.

Here’s a less heated version of what’s going on: the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is directed to take action against undocumented immigrants who are convicted felons or — the all-purpose phrase used by all governments to get rid of unwanted people — threats to national security. It turns out, however, that agents from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), a part of DHS, have been picking up and deporting immigrants with no criminal records, or, at worst, arrests for things like jaywalking or not using turn signals. For more details, read this report about ICE’s overzealous arrests, prepared by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

What the White House wants to do is to stop deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants who have no criminal records and are considered “lower priority” because they are attending school, were brought here as children, have family in the military or have primary responsibility for other family members’ care. Those immigrants could be given work permits and allowed to stay in the U.S. The White House says it wants to see ICE focusing more on cases involving serious criminal acts.

What may seem to many a reasonable policy is widely viewed on the right as ... well, you name it: a socialist power grab, a usurpation of Congress’ authority, a sell-out of American workers (who really, really want that roofing, leaf-blowing or Slurpee-machine-operating job), and, of course, the perennial favorite, a threat to (yawwwwn) national secur ... Zzzzzzz.

Huhh?! Where was I? Oh yeah, the immigrant bashers’ usual gripes. It’s always interesting how deep the fear and hatred of Spanish-speaking immigrants runs in some people. You would think that a new policy that focuses on serious felons, gang members and the like would be right up the
enemigos de los Inmigrantes’ alley. But no.

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