Monday, June 18, 2012

Prosecutorial Discretion and Code Words from the Noisy Far Right

President Obama’s announcement last Friday, June 15th, 2012, concerning “Prosecutorial Discretion” relates to a policy change for deportation proceedings for thousands of undocumented children.  This action is another indication that the problem of undocumented immigrants will not be solved by inaction, which describes the current approach of Congress. Inaction summarizes the tone of the “Immigration Solution” that was set by the Tea Party and the extreme (and noisy) radicals of the far right.

In summary, the idea of inaction is that by not addressing the problem and making life miserable for over 11 million people without documents, the majority will self-deport, thus leaving only a handful that our courts would need to deport through legal means. Instead, our courts are swamped. This newly announced policy by President Obama has received widespread support by many thoughtful and reasonable people.

At the same time, the air and cyber waves are flooded by negative reactions in this highly polarized and politicized environment. Many of the exaggerated criticisms regarding what this new policy represents are so outlandish that responding would be a waste of time both for the writer and the reader. A careful review of this policy suggests that the changes the new policy represents may have only minimal impact for the majority of millions of innocent undocumented children and young people (Napolitano Memo) The new provision applies only to those facing deportation proceedings. The broadest impact of the President’s announcement is symbolic, bringing the discussion into the heart of the current election cycle.

So as the debate continues to heat up, let me offer a starter list regarding code words from the noisy far right, and invite your additional suggestions:


  • Amnesty. Reductionist language for anything other than deportation, whether self-deportation or forced.
  • Illegal. Reductionist language, defining people based only upon their lack of documents due to our broken immigration system.
  • Taking jobs. The presumption that American citizens are out of work because of “illegal immigrants.” A more careful analysis of our economic problems does not support this simplistic answer to our economic woes.
  • Immigration Reform.  Often refers to "toughening" the laws instead of addressing the current dilemma faced by millions.
  • Wait in line.  Typically means, "go back home." The problem? For most there is no line to get in, and there's no "home" to go back to.
So, what other "code words" need to be added to this list?  Your input is welcomed!

At the same time, your continuing prayers on behalf of so many marginalized children and young adults are needed more than ever. May this debate bring our nation's leaders to the only reasonable, moral, and Christian answer to this problem—genuine comprehensive immigration reform without further debate or delay.

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