Last Tuesday, Cecilia Muñoz, President Obama’s White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, appeared on national television defending the indefensible: the Administration’s enforcement-only immigration policies. These policies have devastated Latino and immigrant communities throughout the United States. During an interview on “Lost in Detention,” a PBS documentary, Ms. Muñoz defended the controversial program S-COMM, which allows local police to share information with immigration.
As a former advocate for immigrant rights, Ms. Muñoz understands how S-COMM has exponentially increased fear in immigrant communities. This, in turn, has caused mistrust and a lack of cooperation between local communities and law enforcement agencies. This is confirmed by police chiefs and elected officials such as the Governors of Illinois, Massachusetts and New York. In these states, voters have demanded to opt out of S-COMM. Recently, the Warren Institute at the University of California-Berkeley released findings from a study on S-COMM that revealed the very disturbing fact that 93% of those arrested under S-COMM were Latinos even though only 77% of the undocumented immigrant population in the US is Latino.
This alone should be enough to make Ms. Muñoz reject any claim that S-COMM is good for this country. It is even more disturbing to hear a defense of S-COMM from someone who made her career defending the rights of immigrants. During her tenure as vice-president at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), we would continuously hear her calling Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s rampant enforcement of immigration a “reign of terror.” Yet, she is now the main spokesperson for a program that allows local police officials like Arpaio to massively racially profile Latinos in 1,595 jurisdictions.
Ms. Muñoz did not just defend S-COMM. She also defended an immigrant detention and deportation system responsible for untold abuses of human and civil rights. She specifically said that more than 50% of individuals deported were “criminals” and that the administration is seeking to stop low priority deportations. It’s hard to believe that “there must be” 400,000 new undocumented threats to society each year. To assert so is to racially and ethnically profile Latinos by itself. Yet this is what Ms. Muñoz wants us to believe.
It’s important to set the record straight about a particular talking point that Ms. Muñoz uses multiple times regarding the number of high priority detainees. According to ICE’s own numbers, only 22% of immigrants deported during 2011 would be deemed high priority. The other 78% were captured and jailed for non-violent crimes or traffic violations. What we need to observe here is a sickening attempt to further criminalize a community whose only purpose has been to fight for the American dream. The 400,000 quota is a shameful fact that Ms. Muñoz almost seemed to boast about during her interview in “Lost in Detention.”
Who are the people they are calling criminals? A person driving without a license in a state as a misdemeanor? Or is it a mother crossing back over the border so that she can once again hug her children?
The other 45% of deportations that Ms. Muñoz could not justify as “criminals” she simply called “collateral damage,” a euphemism that comes to us from war. She said, “There will be parents separated from their children. We don’t have to like it…”
Before I take another step forward, I feel obligated to mention a personal story. A few days ago my friend, Shamir Ali, texted me with the message,” ICE got me.”
Shamir came from Bangladesh to the U.S. when he was 7-years old. He grew up in Palm Beach, FL. Like any other boy, he went to school and dreamed of going to college. He was not able to finish his Associates Degree because of the out-of-state fees Florida charges people who can’t prove their residence.
ICE took him to an immigrant jail for “non criminals” in South Florida called Broward Transitional Center. Shamir is only one example out of thousands that were trapped by the enforcement system in this country. Ms. Muñoz has said that the administration will start a process of reviewing 300,000 deportation cases and yet when organizers from Florida Immigrant Coalition asked for Shamir to be released based on John Morton’s July memo suggesting the release of low priority detainees, local ICE Field Director, Marc Moore, denied the request.
Ms. Muñoz continues to claim that the administration is listening to concerns from the community. However, she conveniently omitted anything the community has actually said.
In 2007, when I first got involved in the immigrant rights movement, Ms. Muñoz used to be one of my iconic images of leadership in the Latino community. We need her old voice back in this moment of crisis where so many attacks are happening. We want Ms. Muñoz to stop defending the indefensible S-COMM and side once again with her community in denouncing it. Presente.org is responding to community demands that Muñoz use her position to support immigrants being devastated rather than support those devastating immigrants.