Congressional Republicans are exploiting a senseless crime to try to push through anti-immigrant legislation.
In the wake of the tragic murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by Francisco Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant recently released from the county jail, House and Senate Republicans have introduced a slew of bills.
The House has already approved one such law that aims to financially punish sanctuary cities such as San Francisco. Essentially, sanctuary cities are municipalities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Residents in these communities are concerned about rampant racial profiling of Latinos and the lack of trust in law enforcement among immigrants. President Barack Obama has signaled that he would veto the bill, since it ignores comprehensive immigration reforms.
Republican leaders have put forward other harsh proposals, too. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., introduced “Kate’s Law,” named after the murder victim, under which any deported undocumented immigrant who re-enters the United States would serve a minimum five-year prison sentence. At a time when the United States leads the world in jailing its population, especially African-Americans and Latinos, do Republicans really want to support a plan for mass incarceration of more brown bodies?
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Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has proposed counterpart legislation in the Senate that includes the punitive sanctuary city measure and “Kate’s Law.” Taken together, these laws represent harsh attacks on Latino immigrants in particular and Latinos in general.
For many Latinos, there’s little separation between the documented and the undocumented. In Latino communities, undocumented immigrants are not strangers. They are not marginal or isolated individuals. They are parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and grandparents. They are compadres, padrinos and madrinas. They are neighbors and co-workers. In short, we are familia. This explains why immigration reform has become a key issue for Latinos.
Democratic leaders have wasted no time in referring to the anti-sanctuary legislation as the “Donald Trump Act.” As long as Republicans remain mean-spirited and shortsighted, Democrats will continue to take advantage of the changing demographics in this country.
If Republican politicians ignore the Latino vote in pursuit of an anti-immigration agenda, they will be doomed again in the next presidential election.
Alvaro Huerta is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues.
©2015 Alvaro Huerta
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