« Subcontracting Dictatorship | Main | Jeb's Vote Suppression Redux »

August 12, 2004

Bush's Quiet War on Immigrants

Two big changes in policy this week translate into a major assault by Bush on undocumented immigrants.

First, he announced new policies "on the border", meaning within 100 Miles of the border, where any person arrested by a border agent on suspicions of being undocumented can be deported without a hearing:

Advocates for immigrants said they feared mistakes would be made when hastily trained border agents decide who should be deported and who should not. Complaints about improper deportations have already been reported at some airports and seaports.

"We're very concerned that we may see the mistaken deportations of refugees, citizens and other legitimate visitors," said Eleanor Acer, director of the asylum program of Human Rights First, an advocacy group. "For refugees, it could be a life or death sentence."

The civil liberties concerns are bad enough here, since this is deportation without proving illegal status, but the larger problem is that we are essentially deputizing military justice over nearly 100,000 square miles of territory.

But this is just an add-on to a new policy to deputize every emergency room as an INS agent. Congress allocated $1 billion to ease the financial burden on local hospitals caring for poor, undocumented workers, but now the regulations attached to the money require inquiries into legal status for every patient-- a move guaranteed to deter immigrants from bring sick kids in for help:

Marcela G. Urrutia, an analyst at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, said: "We are extremely concerned about this requirement. It will deter Latino communities from seeking emergency care. That could lead to serious public health problems, including the spread of communicable diseases.''

Janelle R. Howard, a spokeswoman for Carondelet Health Network, with hospitals in Tucson and Nogales, Ariz., said: "Our emergency rooms see a lot of undocumented immigrants, including some picked up in the desert. But as a Catholic institution, we have never asked about their immigration status. It's our mission and philosophy to treat all without distinction.''

The Bush administration is big on allowing Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions as respect for their faith. Will the administration also allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to report immigration status with similar respect?

The upshot of both rules is a major swing toward militarization and expanded police intrusion into broader corners of our life and an escalated assault on immigrants. Bush talks sweet words about helping the status of immigrants, but his policies are just a slow destruction of immigrant lives.

Posted by Nathan at August 12, 2004 07:54 AM