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Felipe Matos

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Meet Cecilia Muñoz's "Collateral Damage"

Posted: 11/01/11 06:44 PM ET

Cecilia Muñoz, President Obama's primary aid and spokesperson on immigration policy, has come under intense criticism from the Latino community. Some have even called on her to resign because she repeatedly calls the non-violent, non-criminal immigrant majority of people that the Obama Administration deports "criminals" and "collateral damage." For me, these people designated "criminals" by Muñoz and the Obama Administration are more than "collateral damage." The majority of them are productive members of our community; They are members of Muñoz's community; They are people like my friends, Juan and Carlos.*

Juan and Carlos came from Colombia when they were 9 and 6 respectively; both were detained for 4 months in one of the Obama Administration's immigrant prisons in South Florida. These two brothers were detained due to an unsuccessful asylum petition their parents made on their behalf that caused them to get a deportation order. They had committed no crime, had no criminal record and were students in good standing. Carlos was still a minor when he was detained. As a result, he had to repeat his senior year in high school. After being transferred to a jail in Louisiana where they were only fed bread and water, Juan and Carlos were finally released. Since being released, Juan must wear pants, regardless of how hot the Florida sun gets. He does so in order to hide the ankle bracelet that the Obama Administration forces him to wear.

These are just a couple of concrete examples of how the Obama administration continues to further criminalize our community. The most disturbing part is that by putting Ms. Muñoz out as the primary spokesperson for policies she herself would have rejected when she was an immigrant rights activist, the Obama Administration is trying to put a friendly face on immigration policies that are losing President Obama's re-election campaign friends that are Latino voters. Her previous role as an advocate for immigrant rights who worked with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has been giving the Obama administration credibility to explain the unforgivable. But that's now ending as Muñoz and the Obama Administration find themselves with a gigantic credibility gap that's more than 1 million deportees wide and too many tragic stories deep.

It's ending because the Latino community understands the human cost of family separation and the deportation of young people. In our community, they are more than "collateral damage"; they are our parents, cousins and peers. As a former immigrant rights advocate, Ms Muñoz understands well the cost of policies such as SCOMM or the massive deportations. She is not the victim in this scheme. Carlos and Juan and the hundreds of thousands of immigrants labeled "criminals" by Muñoz and persecuted, jailed and deported by the Obama Administration are.

This is why there is growing Latino criticism of Muñoz; This is why Presente.org has started a campaign to ask Ms. Muñoz to denounce SCOMM and to set the record straight about the people they are naming and deporting as "criminals." Like the majority of those who find themselves caught up in SCOMM and other failed Obama Administration immigration policies that Muñoz defends, Carlos and Juan are not a danger to society in any way shape or form. Despite this, they were jailed and almost deported even after the promise that the Administration made to stop deporting DREAM Act eligible youth.

The Latino and immigrant community has been criminalized and targeted for several years. As a Latino, I find the Obama administration's public relations move to use Cecilia Muñoz, a former immigrant rights advocate, as the spokesperson for their worst immigration policies despicable. As an organizer that has witnessed first hand the devastating effects of policies like SCOMM, it disturbs me to watch someone who I once respected now being used to legitimize the criminalization of the community that she once fought for. I hope Ms. Muñoz comes back to being a voice for us instead of being someone who defends the indefensible.


*The names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals at risk of being persecuted, jailed or deported.

 

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