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November 07, 2007

My Opinion piece in the Tennessean newspaper

Wednesday, 11/07/07

Protection is as vital as law enforcement


It's a brave new world in law enforcement since the failure of comprehensive immigration reform this past summer.

In the wake of Congress' incapacity to pass any immigration-related measure at the federal level, states and cities are now grappling with enforcement procedures on their own.

While several state and local law enforcement agencies have enthusiastically endorsed additional immigration enforcement opportunities in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the broader question at hand seems to be not only how to enforce U.S. immigration law, but how to protect the rights of the immigrant populations, documented or undocumented, targeted in these enforcement initiatives whose dominant language is not English.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, proposal for overcoming the language barrier would be to increase the number of bilingual law enforcement officers, both in ICE and in local and state forces. However, in their rush to purge the country of all "illegals," paranoid restrictionists have hastily enacted DHS programs such as the Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, which have increasingly intertwined immigration enforcement with local police and public safety officials.

More not necessarily better

The rationale of "more is better" crumbles in this case, because instead of having more effective enforcement tactics by federal officials who know and understand the intricacies of immigration law and can communicate these particulars to limited-English immigrants, there are just more law enforcement officials attempting to enforce a law that they cannot fully comprehend on a population with whom they cannot fully communicate.

Section 287(g) outlines a partnership between local and federal offices wherein designated local officers are permitted to enforce federal immigration law provided that ICE officials provide "sufficient" training (a five-week program) and supervision.

Required for eligibility in the program? U.S. citizenship, a background check and a drug screen. Not required? Foreign language capabilities, language instruction or incentives for officers who do choose to learn. Can you really blame these local police forces for turning a deaf ear to the language barrier issue?

Another option for overcoming the language barrier would be to (gasp) adhere to ICE procedures and allow detained immigrants access to legal counsel and contact with their consulate. While this is a policy in ICE handbooks on detentions, its enforcement seems to vary with location. The puzzle here is in why ICE would limit access to attorneys and consulate officials who can communicate with detainees, thus facilitating ICE's task.

While this option doesn't necessarily ensure that police and public safety officials overcome language barriers, it does provide some sort of avenue for communication between law enforcement and detained immigrants, and ultimately facilitates the legal process.

at; http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071107/OPINION01/711070419/1007/OPINION

Here is a reply to my opinion piece; apparently all those language schools in Switzerland were put to good use. Switzerland has four languages; Swiss, Italian, French and German;

"Tuesday, 11/13/07
Make immigrants here learn English

To the Editor:
I came legally to the U.S. in 1964, after a 2-year process of filling out on told forms and interviews at the American Consulate in Zurich, Switzerland.

All forms where in English and one requirement was to meet with a consulate officer to prove sufficient command of the English language.

This was in addition of an examination by a consulate-approved doctor and providing a work contract in America for a company that would be responsible for my conduct and me for five years.

My 6 year-old son was put straight in an English-speaking class, without any help of language assistance.

My question is why do Mario Ramos and others request that we all now learn the language of the immigrants? Should it not be the other way around?

Manny Moritz, Ridgetop 37152"

Posted by VisaLawyer at November 7, 2007 01:00 PM


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