From our Restore Fairness blog. As human rights groups focus our attention on those affected by Arizona’s harsh immigration law (SB 1070), we begin to sympathize with the racially oppressed and the numerous accounts of deportation. Cuentame, a Latino political advocacy non-profit, attempts to shift our focus by filming a direct enforcer of the law – Arizonan police officer Paul Dobson. Dobson’s testimony in the video feels like a confession for all officers, as we learn that SB 1070 has been unjustly silencing them, too.
In the short time since Arizona passed SB 1070 into law, it has become one of the strongest and most controversial symbols of our nation’s debate on immigration. SB 1070 requires the police to stop anyone that has a “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented but once enacted, it is believed that may well lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and a breakdown of trust between police and the communities they protect. But SB 1070 is also emblematic of the frustration that many have with our broken immigration system, a sign that states have decided to take immigration into their own hands as Congress remains in a deadlock over immigration reform. The latest catalyst for this debate - a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice brought against the state of Arizona and SB1070 on July 6th, 2010.
Analysis over the implications of the lawsuit are rife in the media. Many are looking at the lawsuit and its potential for setting a new precedent with regards to the tussle between the federal government and state laws around immigration. Previous precedent shows a tendency for federal courts to side with the federal government on cases when states and cities pass laws that conflict with federal immigration law. An article in the Wall Street Journal traces this precedent back to laws in the 1880s aimed at limiting Chinese immigration. While the dispute could go either way, some analysts hold that that the federal court could only block sections of the law, while allowing some others to be enforced.
There is probably some short term pain politically given how popular the law is…But considering the demographic changes the country is undergoing, long term, there is a lot of upside in advocating for Latinos and comprehensive immigration reform.
While the Obama administration is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, the Democrat party has continued to play safe so as not to alienate the large electoral base that supports the Arizona law and other enforcement heavy approaches to immigration. On the other hand, many Republicans, who support the law and an enforcement heavy approach, continue to emphasize a secure border-then reform approach, a rhetoric that leads to little progress on the issue. Republicans such as Senator John McCain, who previously argued for comprehensive reform, have abandoned their support of an immigration overhaul in the face of resentment and anger from within the party as well as from anti-immigrant groups such as the Tea Party Movement.
A New York Times story this week reported that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is planning to return the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division to its historical mission: protecting the civil rights of Americans. According to the article, the new attorney general is committed to a revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly, including housing, employment, lending practices, and voting rights.
The plot thickens, as they say. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been linked to a decision within the Bush Administration to conceal a still-unidentified CIA program from Congress. The New York Times has the story:
The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.
The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.
Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.
Leon Panetta was sworn in as Director of the CIA on February 20, 2009. Why did it take four months for subordinates to inform the CIA Director of an on-going program? While intelligence and Congressional officials have said the unidentified program did not involve the CIA interrogation program and did not involve domestic intelligence activities, the exact nature and purpose of the program remains unknown.
Intelligence officials have said the program was started by the counterterrorism center at the CIA shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year. It remains unclear whether the program was conceived by the intelligence community or by the Vice President's office.
The liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is to release this 30 second spot calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate how the Bush Administration arrived at the decision to institute torture as an instrument of state policy.
In addition House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pressing the case for the creation of a special "truth commission" to investigate the interrogation of terror suspects during the Bush administration. While several House committees already are examining the issue, the Speaker suggested "it might be further useful to have such a commission so that it removes all doubt that how we protect the American people is in a values-based way."
The San Francisco Democrat said she is open to holding potential witnesses, including former government officials, harmless from prosecution for cooperating with the commission, but only in a limited way. "I don't think you take immunity off the table," she said, suggested immunity could encourage cooperation. But Speaker Pelosi stressed immunity "should not be granted in a blanket way."