Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Least Dangerous Game 

If you absolutely must go on a wild-assed ax-swinging cleaver-wielding murder spree, may we suggest that, as a matter of simple prudence, you confine your attentions to the immigrant community?
Imagine you are attacked and stabbed outside your workplace. What if you went to the police for help and they arrested you, not your attacker? This happened recently to a woman we'll call Ms. D, who was the victim of a stabbing. When she called the San Francisco police for help, the officers arrested her — the victim — based on her immigration status and turned her over to immigration agents. Her assailant went unpunished.

This real-life travesty is in danger of becoming a national phenomenon if anti-immigrant forces in Congress have their way.

Since Sept. 11 the Bush administration has pressured local police to divert their dwindling resources to immigration enforcement under the guise of "fighting terror." The Department of Justice, disregarding decades of legal precedent, has adopted the radical position that local police have "inherent authority" to arrest immigrants even if they have committed no crimes.

Moreover, the federal government has dumped immigration information into the National Crime Information Center database so that immigrants (like Ms. D, in San Francisco) who come into contact with local police will be arrested. Federal agents have also recruited local police for joint immigration-enforcement operations that have spread fear and distrust in immigrant communities. Even in cities like San Francisco that have "City of Refuge" ordinances barring police from acting as border-patrol agents, incidents are on the rise, as Ms. D's arrest illustrates.

It's about to get a lot worse. In December 2005 the House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 4437, "the Border and Immigration Enforcement Act") that would override local refuge ordinances and literally force local police officers to become the new faces of the border patrol. If it passes, word will spread quickly in immigrant communities that calling 911 may get you deported.

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