How the Immigration System Failed One Day

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary What happened to one lady in 2011 gives a whole list of reasons why our current immigration system is a mess. Angelica Davila, a resident of northern Pennsylvania and a U.S. citizen, was stopped by the Northern Regional Pennsylvania police one night for failing to have her headlights on. It should have gone no further than Davila receiving either a warning and maybe a traffic ticket. But it went much further. The police instead inquired about Davila’s immigration status. Unfortunately, because the Pennsylvania police are enrolled into the federal Secure Communities program, they have no real guide on what to do about stopping people whom they think might be undocumented. To show that she was not an undocumented person, Davila produced a driver’s license, a permanent resident card (at the time she was a legal permanent resident), and an insurance card.

The police investigation went further. They questioned her on whether she was an undocumented person even though Davila had produced evidence to show she was not. So they arrested her on the mere suspicion that she and a fellow passenger were undocumented. This was racial profiling—they only did this because she is Latino. They contacted U.S. immigration, which provided erroneous information that Davila was undocumented. It would only be hours later that U.S. immigration would correct itself, and Davila was let out of jail. But the damage was done, and now Davila, with legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the Pennsylvania police and U.S. immigration for such abuse of authority. I hope Davila wins big on this one. The fact that U.S. immigration could get its information so wrong is one good reason why I have no confidence in the U.S. government national identification registry, and why such a registry is not a good idea to begin with. Davila’s case is in fact far from being the only one where the government got the information wrong and nearly harmed an innocent U.S. citizen.

This is not the only time the U.S. immigration system has failed not only legal permanent residents but U.S. citizens as well. There are plenty of examples where the Secure Communities program put innocent people in jail, and where people were stopped, questioned and jailed for being Latino. There have been too many days where the whole immigration system has failed innocent people like you and me. I now hear U.S. President Barack Obama saying that he will definitely reform the immigration system. We have heard this before, and I can care less about all the speeches he has made, and all the promises he has made. Nothing changed in his first term, and I am not convinced that much will change in his second term either. The only exception was the deferred immigration action program he initiated in 2012 in a tight presidential election, but that is it. I personally do not care how many Latinos he has invited for his inauguration, nor how many Latinos he has appointed to official positions in the federal government (interestingly enough, former U.S. President George W. Bush appointed more Latinos in his eight years in office). What I care about is true immigration reform that will benefit reuniting families and will make the system fair. That has yet to be seen.

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