Posted on August 30, 2010

The Administration’s Cognitive Dissonance on Immigration

Adam Serwer, Washington Post, August 30, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is indignant that the State Department submitted a report to the United Nations Council on Human Rights with a paragraph on her state’s new immigration law. She’s accusing the administration of “submitting the duly enacted laws of a state of the United States to ‘review’ by the United Nations” and of “internationalism run amok.” And she’s charging that it’s hypocritical to single out the law while at the same time taking credit for “sophistication and breath of [the United States’] anti-trafficking efforts.”

It’s a stretch to characterize the report as seeking international approval of domestic law. It merely acknowledges that the Arizona law “has generated significant attention and debate” and that it “is being addressed in court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law.”


The administration signaling concern over whether the Arizona law violates human rights standards is somewhat at odds with its own record of strict enforcement. During Obama’s presidency, the number of deportations has grown to higher levels than those seen during the Bush administration. The administration has also expanded the “Secure Communities” program to every county along the Southwest border, much to the frustration of immigration-rights advocates. “Secure Communities” resembles the Arizona law in that it mandates that anyone arrested–not convicted, but arrested–by police have their identifying information forwarded to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, where their immigration status can be checked. According to immigration rights activists working with the federal government’s own numbers, most of the immigrants deported through the “Secure Communities” program were either non-criminals or low-level offenders. {snip}

All of this makes clear that the administration isn’t anywhere near as squeamish about deporting illegal immigrants as it is about pushing through some kind of comprehensive immigration reform package. The federal government opposes SB 1070 not because of a concern about human rights, but because the Arizona law unconstitutionally preempts the federal mandate to set immigration laws. {snip}


[President Obama’s report to the United Nations Council on Human Rights can be downloaded as a PDF file here. The Arizona law is mentioned briefly on page 23.]