It’s not quite summer, but the Riverside heat wave has already started.
Wild fires, the immigration variety, have erupted in cities and states across the nation.
The fires were lit by Arizona.
As a result, it was no surprise when the the immigration reform debate spread to the City of Hemet this week.
Actually, it was not the immigration debate which arrived in the small relatively unknown Southwest Riverside city. It was the anti-immigrant circus promoted by hate-based groups.
And like politicians in other places, the mayor of Hemet could not avoid the misguided temptation to grandstand for political purposes.
The Hemet Immigration Proposal
On Monday, Hemet Mayor Eric McBride proposed that the City officially endorse Arizona SB 1070.
For the wrong reasons.
According to McBride, violent crime has begun to creep across the Mexican border, and the United States needs to get a handle on it before an American is kidnapped.
He cited a kidnapping in Monterey, a city in Northern California.
Monterey is about 400 miles away from Hemet.
He could not cite any incidents over the course of Hemet’s 100 year history.
How The Hemet Immigration Proposal Is Flawed
As an immigration attorney in Hemet, I strongly oppose the mayor’s approach.
As I stated at a recent meeting of the City Council which addressed this topic:
First, the immigration situation in Arizona law is vastly different than in Hemet.
Arizona is a border state and has suffered some recent violent casualties due to drug trafficking. Hemet, on the other hand, is located about 150 miles from the nearest Mexico-United States border. It has not experienced any problems related to drug cartels from abroad.
In short, this is part and parcel of the logic of hate-driven politics.
Second, it is not clear if SB 1070 will ever be enacted.
The law is scheduled to go into effect later this year. Many legal challenges, based on constitutional issues, have been filed against Arizona.
Supporting a law, which might not be upheld by federal courts, is hardly a good idea. The Hemet mayor should wait for a final court ruling before jumping the gun.
Third, the Arizona law confuses true immigration reform with criminal drug-related activities.
By not distinguishing the issues, the law has created divisions in Arizona. Due to claims of discriminatory intent, Arizona is experiencing many protests and boycotts.
It is illogical for McBride to expose his city to the same type of divisions . . . especially when the legality of the law is not certain and Hemet does not have the same criminal problems as Arizona.
Moreover, the Arizona law was put together by persons with ties to hate-based organizations. These ties cause many to question to question the real goals behind SB 1070. When one adds the citizen vigilante watchdog provisions, such connections cast a negative light on the Arizona law.
The only plausible explanation for the mayor’s action, from my view as a Southern California immigration attorney, is political ambition.
By catering to an extreme fringe which despises all immigrants, the mayor is placing his personal agenda above the good of his city.
Immigration Reform: An Opportunity For Local Leadership
The mayor confuses the issues of violent crime and immigration reform. Even in pro-immigrant circles, there is no opposition to fighting violent crime and drug cartels. But SB 1070 does little, if anything, to combat crime.
SB 1070 is not directed to real immigration reform. The issues of immigration reform are too complicated to be reduced to a simplistic “kick them all out” solution.
As a family unification lawyer who assists immigrants with family visas, permanent residency, and naturalization issues, I have learned there are many mixed families tied to the immigration debate. Families where the parents have different country origins. Families where one parent is a U.S. citizen and the other is an immigrant, waiting to be gain lawful immigrant status.
These families are at risk for being torn apart by SB 1070. True immigration reform would not destroy families with reckless indifference.
In other words, true immigration reform is not hate-based legislation.
If Mayor McBride truly wants to help solve problems regarding immigration, he can meet me at my Hemet or Central Riverside law offices to rationally discuss how best to achieve this goal.
We could drive to a local coffee shop. I would tell him that drinking from the cup of racism is no solution for a divided public.
I’m more than willing to share my knowledge and expertise to carve out a new and better plan of action.
Maybe together we can put an end to the local fires.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics