Obama administration appoints new public advocate, but is it enough?

The Department of Homeland Security has appointed a public advocate to handle complaints and questions about immigration enforcement policies.  But does it matter?

The immigration policies of the United States are a subject near and dear to my heart.  As a child, I was an undocumented immigrant who got a path to citizenship with the amnesty of the 1980’s.  Since then, I have been moved to work with people currently in the same situation.  It has been heartbreaking.

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Regardless of where you fall on the issue, most sensible people can agree that our immigration policies today are riddled with loopholes, inconsistencies and downright unfairness.  Experts estimate that we currently have about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, making deportation unfeasible and Mitt Romney’s “self deportation” a cruel joke that would have catastrophic effects on the U.S. economy.  (How about a day without immigrants in every city Mitt Romney visits? Presidential campaign over).  Although the public is consistently told that Homeland Security and Customs efforts are targeted towards criminals, that is simply not the case, as I have seen with my own eyes time and time again.

So while the Obama’s Administration’s announcement on Tuesday of senior ICE adviser Andrew Lorenzen-Strait to this new liaison position seems like a sign of good will, it remains to be seen whether it’s going to make any difference for the thousands of people living in fear or caught up in a nightmarish detention system.

Despite big hopes for the Obama Administration, immigration activists (including me) have been disappointed as deportations have been ratcheted up to levels unprecedented even in the Bush Administration. Still, recently ICE officials have been announcing policy reforms, outlining when prosecutors could use discretion and urging that resources be focused on deporting immigrants with criminal records or repeat immigration offenses (even that criteria merits discussion, but we’re so not there yet). DHS officials earlier this year recommended closing more than 1,600 deportation cases involving non-criminal illegal immigrants and reviews are ongoing across the country. The liaison will help the public understand how the policy is implemented, field complaints and, as he puts it, “facilitate a two-way dialogue.”

I think we need more than a chat. Yes, I know we need to get through this election before we can deal with this issue in earnest, but we as Latinas have to hold this administration accountable for practices that destroy our communities, strike fear in our people and tear families apart. Appointing a liaison is nice, but it’s laughably small when what we need is comprehensive reform that helps everyone who is here become productive, safe and protected members of the society we came here to help build.

What do you think about this new appointment by the Obama administration? Do you think we need comprehensive immigration reform?


Image via Nevele Otseog/Flickr