Another High Level Official Quits Working on Immigration Reform

Either the writing is on the wall in regards to immigration reform or people working on it are tired of never seeing their efforts come to fruition.

Immigration reform has been a long road to essentially nothing. In other words, there has been more talk than action and more saying than actual doing. It is not for the lack of having top-notch people working on the finer points of an immigration reform policy, nor is it because the idea is not a good one in many respects. After all, the immigration system as it stands today is badly broken and something needs to be done. But when will reform happen? This is a long, unanswered question.

And now, the same high-level people with the best of intentions to make changes to the immigration system have started resigning from their appointed posts. For instance, the former police chief of Sacramento, Arturo Venegas Jr., just recently quit trying to reform immigration laws. He is not the first person to quit, and the list includes some very well-known governors of large states.

Why are they quitting? They are quitting largely because they feel the Administration is wrong in supporting immigration enforcement policies that are making the process of revamping the system virtually impossible. It is much like trying to go uphill pushing a piano while a train is on the other side pushing back. You may get some sort of equilibrium for a short period of time, but ultimately the train will win.

Many of the people resigning from the process of fixing the immigration system hold the belief that Obama needs to suspend the Secure Communities program because it is arresting way too many wrong people. This has evidently been mentioned to the President and others on more than one occasion, with no appreciable results and no evident action.
And, when the time came for a final report on changes to the system, it did not include stricter controls for the police.

That prompted five members of the committee to quit; five members that were leaders in their fields of expertise, including policing, labor and the law. Where is this process going? That is one tough question and the five that quit could not come up with an answer that made any sense.

The Secure Communities program mandates that the FBI share fingerprint data for every individual locked up in local jails by Homeland Security. The idea behind this program is to capture illegal aliens that are dangerous criminals. What is happening instead is that illegal immigrants are being sent to jail for minor crimes. The statistics speak for themselves in this matter.

In 2010 there were 392,862 immigrants deported and 29 percent of them did not have criminal records. Put another way, 197,090 had zero convictions and 195,772 did have convictions, but how many of these convictions were for serious crimes? It seems the people being nabbed are those who may end up in a routine traffic stop or victims of a crime that had to deal with police over this incident.

Is there a backlash to this type of behavior from law enforcement and the government? Indeed there is, because now immigrant communities will no longer talk to the police to report crimes or offer tips. You only have to read the story about New York Governor Cuomo suspending that state’s participation in Secure Communities for that very reason to know it is a problem. New York’s police force had a hard time doing their job in the face of the immigrant community’s fears of being deported for no real valid reason.

Cuomo is not alone. Joining him in pulling out of the program was Illinois, along with Boston not wanting to continue to be a part of the program either. How many more states will take control of their jails and programs and say no to being in a program that goes contrary to what immigration reform is supposedly attempting to accomplish? And the bigger question – when will immigration reform ever come to pass?

Sally Odell — Rifkin & Fox-Isicoff, PA is an immigration lawyer in Miami with immigration law offices in Orlando and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit