Last week, the mayor of Oakland, California, sent an urgent message to the city’s Hispanic community about an impending raid by the United States Border Patrol. Just as announced, more than 150 presumably undocumented people were detained the following day, except that it took place in neighboring cities and not in Oakland. Many others took precautions to evade the Border Patrol agents’ eager vigilantism. The Department of Justice responded angrily to the mayor’s alert, warning her that she would face consequences for having obstructed the immigration authorities’ operations. The response, or revenge to put it more clearly, came days later when Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued the state of California for violating the law with its sanctuary city policy.
The direct precursor to these events occurred weeks earlier, when California’s legislature and governor declared the entire state a sanctuary; that is, police and civil authorities would refrain from cooperating with the Department of Justice in its crusade against undocumented immigrants.
It is worth recalling that in 2012, the Obama administration sued the state of Arizona for exceeding its role by ordering police to arrest any person who looked as if he or she might be undocumented in order to hand that person over to the Border Patrol. The Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration. In its decision, the court clarified that constitutionally, immigration policy lies with the federal government, not the states. Strictly speaking, that would be the legal basis for the current lawsuit by Attorney General Sessions. However, more than one specialist has refuted the legality of the claims in the attorney general’s lawsuit.
There are several falsehoods in Sessions’ charge against California’s government, as attorney and frequent CNN contributor Raul Reyes wrote in an editorial for The Sacramento Bee. The claim that local police must cooperate with immigration authorities on their mission to identify and detain undocumented immigrants is one such example. If that were true, funds from the State of California would be directly paying federal forces, even though it is up to the federal government to pay them. Therein lies the legal debate.
At the political level, it can be argued that with the Republican Party’s decision to declare war on undocumented immigrants, the November elections are wide open for the Latino community to vote en masse against the Republicans. Indeed, this has happened in past elections. The problem is that in recent years, the Hispanic or Latino vote has been relatively insignificant at the federal level. It is quite probable that the Republican Party weighed the Hispanic votes against those of constituents favoring a much more restrictive immigration policy, among them millions of xenophobes who voted for the current president of the United States.
So as things stand, the only way to change the situation for those living without papers in the United States is for an increase in the number of voters who support undocumented immigrants to become sufficiently relevant in electing representatives who govern their country. That should be clear from the systematic refusal of legislators to adopt various proposals to reform the immigration system in recent years. Taking into consideration this refusal, which, in the end, is nothing more than racism in disguise, there is no other way out for those in the Hispanic community who hold the right to vote other than to exercise that right as many times as necessary.
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