Rep. Martina White's war on Philly's brown residents
Pity Rep. Martina White.
She lives in a city where police cannot — without a warrant — turn over undocumented immigrants with no criminal convictions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to hold, detain and possibly deport.
A city, moreover, which acknowledges the ugly truth about SCOMM and PEP — that is, that: 1) the programs rely on racial profiling, wherein anyone who seems like they could be undocumented and doesn't have documentation law enforcement deems acceptable or credible is turned over to be held by ICE — regardless of whether they turn out to be citizens or lawful permanent citizens, and sometimes even after its been proven they're citizens; 2) the programs prevent undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes committed against them, or that they are witness to, for fear of being held, detained and deported if they report; 3) the majority of people detained and deported by ICE have no criminal convictions.
As Philadelphia Magazine's Joel Mathis reported on Friday, White, the representative for Philadelphia's 170th legislative district, announced Wednesday that she plans to introduce a state bill that would require police to report "undocumented" immigrants to ICE, even in places like Philadelphia where an executive order explicitly prevents local law enforcement of warrantless holds.
"Under this legislation, if a law enforcement officer of a municipality has reasonable cause to believe that an individual that is being arrested is not legally present in the United States, he shall immediately report the individual to the appropriate United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office within the Department of Homeland Security," White wrote.
But in White's simplistic construct of right and wrong, white and brown, that's not enough. She also wants to make sure municipalities that refuse to hew to SCOMM'/PEP's deeply problematic and racist processes, become liable for any "damages" that can be attributed to undocumented folks. What damages does she mean? Burglary and assaults can certainly be held to incur damages, but the term is so vague as to allow free reign those who want to punitively force a municipality to change its policy. Is an undocumented person who gets a job "damaging" the chances of someone else applying for a job? Is an undocumented family that paints their home a color a neighbor doesn't like and thinks reduces his own property value inflicting "damage?" Is a family of undocumented folks whose citizen children take slots at special admission schools, inflicting "damage" to the children of citizens who don't gain admission?
If this seems like nitpicking, understand that the vague "reasonable cause" wording of SCOMM has enabled law enforcement and ICE agents to hold people and run their fingerprints simply based on whether they were at a Home Depot parking lot where day laborers gather, or on the basis of what car they were riding.
Given the current tenor of Republican discourse, the out-and-out anti-immigrant bent of White's bill is likely to make her, at least temporarily, a state GOP fave. But what people like White (and too many in the state GOP) seem to forget is — to quote the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. By 2020, the U.S. voting pool will "include almost 6.6 million new Hispanic and almost 1.6 million new Asian adults who have turned 18 and become eligible to vote, as well as 2.1 million newly naturalized Hispanic immigrants and an additional 2.1 million newly naturalized Asian immigrants who will have recently gained voting eligibility for the first time," according to Partnership for a New American Economy.
People like Donald Trump, nationally, and Daryl Metcalfe and White, regionally, are going to be remembered as having politicked for profoundly unjust, xenophobic and racist laws by just those millions. History, you see, isn't kind to those who tie public service to bigotry.