Written by: Mo Goldman, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

October 18, 2011: A day that will live in U.S. immigration infamy.  ICE proudly boasts the news that in Fiscal Year 2011 the U.S. deported a record number of individuals (396,906). On PBS Frontline: Lost in Detention, Maria Hinojosa exposes the deplorable immigration detention conditions and widespread abuse, along with how President Obama’s policies and Secure Communities have been an unmitigated failure.  Meanwhile on CNN, we watch the Republican presidential candidates play a game of “who will build the biggest border fence” and debate who did or did not hire undocumented immigrants (for the record, Perry won that argument).  But, all this doesn’t matter to Cesar Adan Hernandez Montoya.  Cesar doesn’t have time to focus on debates or television.  He has to worry about himself and his family.  He has been held for 60 days in detention without bond.  Time is ticking for Cesar and his future in the U.S. Cesar has a dream to go to college and be a role model and mentor to young kids in his community.  For now that dream is on hold.

Hope and Change!  Hope and Change!  Change.  Well, one out of two isn’t bad, right?  And it hasn’t really been change for the better.  The Department of Homeland Security has continued the record number of deportations in an effort to meet that magic number of 400,000 deportations per year.  Remember, if they don’t come close to their numbers they may lose the appropriations from Congress.  According to ICE, nearly 55 percent of those removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.  This means that nearly 45 percent of those removed were non-criminals like Cesar, who committed only civil immigration or other minor violations.  So why should we care about Cesar and other non-criminals facing removal?  They’re just a number right?  If President Obama shows that he’s tough on enforcement perhaps that will convince the Republicans to join him in passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Back to CNN to see what the Republican candidates think about our current get-tough policy:

“I say we build a border fence along the entire border!”

“I say we build a double border wall along the entire border!”

“Well, I say we build an electrified fence along the entire border and…I’m just joking!”  The crowd at the debate laughs along with Mr. Cain.  Apparently electrocuting Mexicans is humorous.

Hope is lost and what we are witnessing is change for the worse.

Hope is lost? But what about that memo that John Morton published on June 17, 2011?  The memo that called for a greater exercise of prosecutorial discretion, along with providing detailed criteria for ICE agents and attorneys to determine whether deportation cases are a low priority.  And how about that letter from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that called for the review of 300,000 pending cases?  Apparently the ICE office in Michigan may have overlooked or ignored that memo and policy change.  Apparently they aren’t the only ones.  When asked about review for low priority cases, most immigration attorneys are receiving a similar response, “we are awaiting guidance” on how to proceed.  Although Secretary Napolitano’s announcement was made public in August, it appears that no procedures or protocols have been provided to the ICE rank and file.

On PBS Frontline, Cecilia Munoz, an adviser to President Obama on immigration, blames our current crisis on a broken system of laws.  She states that the president is enforcing the law of the land.  She says that the solution to this problem is immigration reform.  Yes, that would be the solution Ms. Munoz if both political parties could work together.  However, the reality is that they are not working together and you have the power to shape policy and ensure that your enforcement priorities are being followed by the people on the ground.  You can stop deporting 180,000 non-criminal individuals.  You can make a difference in the lives of many and keep families together.  You can make that simple call that could save Cesar from being deported to a country he hardly knows.

October 19, 2011: A rally was held for Cesar in front of ICE Headquarters in Detroit.  Soon we will find out if Cesar is going to remain in the U.S. to fulfill his dreams or become another number included in the FY 2012 year-end removals.  Perhaps his impending removal will be halted and we will see the start of a new day and life for Cesar.  A day that won’t be as infamous as yesterday.  A day that will bring him hope and change.