Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Madison Council to Mahoney: stop reporting immigrants!

The Madison Common Council voted unanimously last night to issue a resolution condemning Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney's practice of reporting undocumented immigrants he arrests to federal immigration authorities.

The resolution is non-binding, meaning Mahoney doesn't have to adhere to it. In fact, the Sheriff has gone on record saying he won't change his tactics, insisting it helps him to determine if an undocumented immigrant is a criminal elsewhere.

Still, critics of this practice say that it does more harm for authorities than good.

Because of deportation fears, "Immigrants and Latinos are scared to call 911 when they see crimes around them or even when they are harmed," said one supporter of the resolution, Fabiola Hamdan.

The resolution passed by the Madison Common Council encourages Mahoney and other local law enforcement to continue reporting undocumented immigrant criminals to the feds if the crime they commit is a felony. For lesser crimes, the council would like Mahoney to hold back on reporting these people.

The Council's decision to voice its concern is a direct repudiation of a recent anti-immigration law passed in Arizona in late April. The law is controversial because it allows state law enforcement officials the right to detain a person based on personal suspicions rather than reasonable cause, and to hold them until proof of their citizenship is presented. Such a law would undoubtedly lead to racial profiling, a problem that existed in Arizona just days before the law was even passed.

There's no doubt that a serious immigration problem exists in our country, and that it needs to be dealt with. But much of the fear surrounding the debate is rooted in covert racism, with many believing all immigrants (especially Hispanic ones) are job-stealers, violent criminals, and anti-American.

If people want to be serious about immigration reform, they need to look at the root causes of why immigrants are trying to enter the country illegally. One of the main causes is that businesses hire undocumented immigrants at below the minimum wage, doing so illegally and without documentation in their own records (that is, under-the-table). If we want to curb illegal immigration, we should start there -- the focus should be on those businesses, not the individuals that simply want a better life.

Too often, those on the right blast immigrants in ways that make you wonder, "Do conservatives think they are sub-human?" Immigrants formed the backbone of this country for centuries, a tradition that must be respected.

The Madison Common Council is right to condemn the practice of reporting undocumented immigrants, especially if they're non-violent offenders, to the federal government (an action that isn't even required of Mahoney to do). The Council recognize that immigrants aren't trying to take hold of our country, but rather are trying to be a part of the greatest nation on earth.

If we're to condemn such motives, then we are condemning the very reason our ancestors came over to this country to begin with. And if that's the case, then I want no part of it.

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