On Tuesday, President Obama announced Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Sotomayor could be the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court. Predictably, attacks and slurs from the Right are already flying. Regardless, Sotomayor would be an excellent choice for the Supreme Court, signaling to Latino/as that the White House is aware of our need for more representation in government.
Reporting on Sotomayor's nomination, the Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar notes that, while the choice doesn't push the envelope in terms of liberalness, it does indicate that Obama was "willing to stand up to unfounded criticism of Sotomayor as a far-left liberal." Interestingly enough, President George H. W. Bush originally nominated Sotomayor for the district court, and her life reads like Many GOP-adored tales of hard work leading to success.
Which leads one to wonder why are they attacking Sotomayor's nomination with such vitriol, by painting her as a "radical, judicial activist/scary Latina feminist/underqualified diversity pick"? As Michelle Chen reports for RaceWire, Sotomayor has a reputation for "principled independence suffused with real-world experience" and the GOP's squawking is a typical barrage of "hypocrisy, shrill animosity and racist code words."
Sotomayor describes herself as a "Newyorican," which is someone who has been born in New York City from parents hailing from Puerto Rico. While her nomination sparked controversy as to whether or not one can technically "immigrate" from Puerto Rico, there is no denying the country's colonial history. Many see Sotomayor's nomination as a success story for immigrants. She certainly does.
New America Media's Roberto Lovato writes that despite the GOP's desire to overlook Sotomayor's uplifting and quintessentially "American" story, the Republican party would do well to use this opportunity very carefully. Sotomayor's nomination provides an opportunity to draw a line between the GOP that bled Latino/a votes due to their immigration stance and what they hope to become. According to Lovato, Sotomayor—and we—should view the confirmation hearings as "nothing less than a trial to determine whether the GOP is ready to make restitution for its role in a number of judicial and political wrongdoings perpetrated in the Bush era."
But it doesn't seem that the Republican party is very concerned with the Latino/Hispanic vote, let alone common decency, judging by the desperate moves of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant himself. In an attempt to clean up the state deficit, Schwarzenegger would "eliminate four programs that provide money and food to more than 100,000 legal immigrants," many "elderly and disabled." This action will hurt many people who are a vital part of our social fabric.
Daphne Eviatar, writing for the Center for Independent Media, reports on the perversely-named "Secure Communities" initiative, in which ICE officals are quoted defending a program that aims to deport those ticketed for so much as a red light. Under this soon to be expanded program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to deport "tens of thousands" of immigrants in 2010. Under the Secure Communities initiative, even a legal immigrant could be deported if accused and not able to hire or enlist legal representation.
Secure Communities "represents a new comprehensive approach to remove all criminal aliens held in the United States prisons and jails." Even the phrase "criminal aliens" conjures up visions of hooded creatures with sinister intent…and maybe dangling antennae. Little is required to sweep an immigrant into the detention system and classify them as "criminal." It can be nothing more than an overstayed visa, or being profiled at a 7-11 by ICE officials looking to make quota. It's all part of a thriving detention industry: DHS projects a budget for new detention centers, including the needed number of arrests (400,000 are planned for next year) to fund and staff said centers. As a result, arrests are made for any infraction, imagined or real, the beds are filled, the lawyers can't be afforded and aren't provided, workers and family members are deported, the budgets justified, the checks cut, and the detention center industry looms larger every day.
In Deportation While U Wait, RaceWire's Michelle Chen reports that ICE has found a way to further expedite the process. "At one downtown Los Angeles courthouse," Chen writes, "Officials have found an efficient way to cut through the red tape: kicking people out of the country without waiting for a decision from the judge." If there is a previous deportation order in their records, ICE rules on their own and deports the man or woman. But we should be careful to rush to judgment as often, "what looks on paper like a justifiable deportation often masks the nuances of individual hardships and structural problems that limit immigrants' ability to press their legal cases."
In the Colorado Independent, Erin Rosa reports that the Obama Administration is moving forward with plans to end the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which funds local jails and state prisons to house undocumented immigrants. Rosa notes that Colorado "netted $3.1 million from the program last year, and $3.3 million in 2007." The White House defends the move by saying the resources can "better be used to enhance federal enforcement efforts."
There are many people waiting to see those "enhanced" efforts in the shape of legislation. There is hope these efforts will improve the quality of peoples' lives, not DHS's budget. Many people who harbor those hopes demonstrated in Postville, Iowa in memory of the ICE raid that shattered the community a year ago. Lynda Waddington writes of this year's difference in attitude for the Iowa Independent. In 2008, emotions were raw and more anger was expressed, but this year, there was "a specific focus and call for comprehensive immigration reform."
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