Instead of Being a Leader, Napolitano Cops Out

A recent NPR interview of Obama’s new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano left me thinking that Obama’s administration will be known for doing nothing, other than sticking with the status quo on immigration: Continued round-ups and enforcement-only policies.

When asked by Madeline Brand, “We have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. What do you do about them?” How did Napolitano respond?

“Ultimately, that’s for the Congress to decide…”

Then Brand asked, “I’m hearing a lot of enforcement from you right now. What about the other side of it? What about the immigration part of it, and changing immigration policy to allow more or fewer immigrants in?” And Napolitano’s response?

“Again, that’s for the Congress to decide.”

When asked about round-ups and separation of families, Napolitano also avoided the issue, preferring to talk about “workplace enforcement,” which if it is the same as Bush’s administration will mean more round-ups and and separation of families.

Obama needs to use his bully pulpit to make change happen. He needs to order his people to make that change happen. Simply waiting for Congress to act will have us debating against the hate-mongers (Republicans and Dumbocrats like Heath Shuler).

At this point, it looks like Napolitano has proven me right. She indeed was a bad choice!

One response to “Instead of Being a Leader, Napolitano Cops Out

  1. As a former Chicana student activist, and a present day immigration attorney and strong proponent of legalization, my opinion is:

    It is obvious that the Obama administration is not going to work on pushing an immigration bill right now (economy in free fall, rising unemployment, etc.). It would be politically stupid to hand Republicans a bullseye that easily (“Obama is giving away American jobs in our time of need, blah blah blah…”).

    It has been clear to me ever since he hired Rahm Emanuel, who said outright that immigration reform won’t happen until 2012, meaning suck it up Latinos and vote for us again, and THEN you will get your immigration bill.

    That being said, there is an easy way to end the enforcement climate, that has the political benefit that it was used extensively by the Bush administration the entire 8 years: TPS, or Temporary Protected Status.

    TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible foreign nationals (without serious criminal histories) of countries designated by the executive branch. This status is granted to those who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. The authority to do this resides in, you guessed it, the Secretary of Homeland Security,

    During the period for which a country has been designated for TPS, TPS beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status. When the Secretary of Homeland Security terminates a TPS designation, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before TPS (unless that status had since expired or been terminated) or to any other status they may have acquired while registered for TPS. In other words, undocumented persons revert to being undocumented.

    President Bush’s administration designated Honduras and El Salvador for TPS in 2000. An easy way to take care of this mess is to look at the large populations of undocumented persons who do not currently have TPS (probably including Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries), and extend TPS. Instant lawful status and employment authorization, totally justifiable on the economic crises occurring in Mexico and other countries, and punting permanent status to a time in which it will be supported by the American public and politically feasible enough for Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration to swallow.

    Is is a perfect solution? No. But it could refocus enforcement efforts on criminals who are a threat to the public, and would leave working families who have established themselves here alone.