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What Self-Deportation Looks Like

February 1, 2012, 5:54 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Immigration March in AZ against SB1070As immigration policy took center stage in the Floriday primary this week, Presidential candidates debated “self-deportation” as an answer to legitimate questions of how they would handle the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living and working in the country.

Adam Serwer at Mother Jones explains how this innocuous-sounding phrase is actually code for cruel policies designed to harm and harass immigrant families until their hardship becomes too great to stay in the country.

The most prominent examples of this degrading approach are the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama, which have come into the news for the ways they violate the civil rights of their residents, criminalize religious charity, and cause untold economic damage.

One of the key architects behind these laws is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose endorsement Mitt Romney proudly touts. So it’s no surprise to see elements of the self-deportation strategy cropping up in the Sunflower state.

A recent change in food-stamp eligibility requirements by Kobach-ally Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has led to thousands of Kansas kids being denied the nutrition assistance they were relying on. That’s a rather conspicuous policy change for a governor who claims that reducing child poverty is his number-one goal. Conveniently, the change only applies to children (legal citizens) of undocumented immigrants.

The administration denies any anti-immigrant animus, but they don’t seem troubled by 2,000 children of immigrants losing nutritional benefits that keep them from going hungry in their state.

For “self-deportation” proponents, of course, this is exactly the goal. In fact, many anti-immigrant activists want to go even further and roll back the 14th Amendment such that these kids can’t qualify for assistance in the first place.

Presidential candidates may want voters who care about immigration reform to believe that their “self-deportation” policy proposals aren’t harsh and anti-immigrant, but the reality is simply the opposite. If developments like this in Kansas portend the future, putting like-minded people in federal office could do real harm to millions of families.

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