Ross D. Franklin/AP
In a this Dec. 14 photo, protesters hold up signs calling for the removal or resignation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, during a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting, in Phoenix.

Top 10 immigration stories for 2011

Guest blogger Kevin R. Johnson selected the 10 immigration events with the widest impact in 2011 – and Arizona's people, places, and laws featured prominently.

It has been an exciting immigration year. I reviewed the ImmigrationProf blog postings for the year and came up with my top 10 immigration and immigration-related stories in the United States.

1. Supreme Court to review Arizona’s S.B. 1070

The US Supreme Court has decided to review Arizona’s controversial immigration law known as S.B. 1070. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction barring implementation of four core provisions of the Arizona law, including the section that would require local police to verify the immigration status of anyone they had a “reasonable suspicion” of believing is undocumented. Opponents of the law have claimed that its implementation would, among other things, increase the racial profiling of Latinos.

2. US Department of Justice finds that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff Office violated civil rights of Latinos and immigrants

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been dubbed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but he has been criticized on many occasions for violating the civil rights of Latinos and immigrants. Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice issued a detailed report finding, based on a thorough investigation, that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona had engaged in a pattern and practice of “unconstitutional policing” and violated the civil rights of Latinos and immigrants in police stops and the conditions of detention. Read the report documenting the violations. It is troubling that such lawlessness could go on for so long.

3. Obama administration sets another deportation record

The Obama administration, pursuing its “enforcement now, enforcement forever” deportation policy set another removal record for the fiscal year of nearly 400,000. Last year's record-setting number of removals made the list of top immigration news stories for 2010.

4. The Obama administration unveils “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines and promises to review all open removal cases to ensure that they are priority cases

Provoking criticism from advocates of greater immigration enforcement, the Obama administration issued new prosecutorial discretion guidelines. In a surprising move, the administration also called for the review of hundreds of thousands of removal cases to see if they deserve priority treatment under the new guidelines. Implementation has been spotty with many undocumented immigrants uncertain of where they stand.

5. Alabama passes toughest state immigration law: Georgia, South Carolina also follow Arizona’s lead

Consistent with its checkered civil rights history, the Alabama legislature in June passed what its supporters claimed was the "toughest" state immigration law in the United States, no small feat with state after state seeking to earn that “honor.” Georgia and South Carolina also have Arizona-like immigration laws, which have been subject to legal challenge. The US government's challenge to the Alabama law is pending in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

6. "Secure Communities" program remains controversial

The Obama administration has championed the Secure Communities program, which, it says, targets, criminal offenders for removal. Some state and local law enforcement agencies have resisted participation. Controversy ensued when the administration announced that Secure Communities was not a “voluntary” program. In any event, while the program has boosted removal numbers, most of those removed appear to have been guilty of low level criminal offenses (traffic violations, etc.).

7. Failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform

It is hard to say that it is news but, for another year, Congress has failed to enact comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama has registered his support for reform but Congress does not appear to want to get around to it until the next elections. President Obama promised to pass comprehensive immigration reform his first year in office. The failure of comprehensive immigration reform also made the top news stories for 2010.

8. Congresswoman shot in Tucson

Last January, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as well as US District Judge John Roll and five others, were shot in a murderous rampage by a deranged gunman in Tucson, Arizona. Although not really immigration news, the killings occurred in a state that had for years seen overheated political rhetoric over immigration. Miraculously, Congresswoman Giffords is recovering well from the shooting.

9. Anti-immigrant activist convicted of murder

Anti-immigrant activist Shawna Forde was convicted of murdering an Arizona father and daughter in a home invasion robbery that turned horribly bad. Prosecutors claimed that Forde sought money to support her anti-immigrant political activities. She was convicted and given the death penalty. The mainstream media paid little attention to this case.

10. Death on the US/Mexico border continues

This is not really news because nobody seems to be paying any attention. But, due to heightened enforcement along the US-Mexico border, migrants continue to die horrible deaths in deserts and mountains in the region. This story also made the top immigration news for 2010.

--- Kevin R. Johnson is dean and professor of law at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. He is an editor of  ImmigrationProf Blog.

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