Renee Feltz

Renee Feltz is co-author of the award-winning investigative project The Business of Detention and a co-producer of

Recent Articles

A Double Standard on Racial Profiling

Critics of Arizona's immigration-enforcement law have praised the federal government for stepping in, but racial profiling already happens under its watch.

Angel Castro at the scene of his arrest for a traffic infraction. The original charges were dismissed, but Castro still faces deportation. (Courtesy of Erik S. Lesser/Southern Poverty Law Center)
Come Nov. 1, the Department of Justice will once again spar with Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona over her state's controversial immigration-enforcement law, SB 1070 -- this time before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel is set to decide whether to lift a lower court's block on key parts of SB 1070, including a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of anyone they have "reasonable suspicion" is here unlawfully. Critics, who say the provision could lead to racial profiling, have applauded the federal government for stepping in to defend civil liberties and asserting its constitutional authority to regulate immigration. This show of authority, however, vanishes when it comes to addressing abuses that occur under the feds' existing partnership with local police. The 287(g) program, named after a section of law passed in 1996, currently deputizes local law-enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law, including more than 1,100 officers in 26...

A Piece of the Dream

Obama's poll numbers with Latino voters are plummeting. Passing the DREAM Act is the surest way to stop the slump.

Students pushing for passage of the DREAM Act on Capitol Hill. (Flickr/DreamActivist)
Latino voters -- the fastest-growing group of swing voters in the country -- are a key constituency both for Democrats and the Obama administration. But Latino voters are increasingly disillusioned by President Barack Obama's failure to deliver on comprehensive immigration reform even as Arizona and other states take matters into their own hands. That could help spell doom for the Democrats in the upcoming midterms and in 2012. "There is major frustration with the failure of the president and both parties in Congress to move anything forward that would provide humane relief," said Gabriela Villareal, policy coordinator for the New York Immigration Coalition's 200 member organizations. But the Obama administration has a good solution waiting for it, one that appeases Latino voters but is more politically feasible than an overarching reform bill and still provides real relief to at least a segment of the undocumented population. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (...

The Anti-Arizona

As other states get tough on immigration enforcement, D.C. bucks the trend.

Supporters of D.C.'s ban of the Secure Communities program at City Hall. (Stokely Baksh)
Two weeks ago, Arizona passed the nation's strictest immigration law, SB 1070, which requires local police to demand proof of citizenship if they suspect a person is undocumented. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton condemned the measure, saying it would get in the way of federal programs designed to target, "identify, and remove criminal aliens." One of these programs, Secure Communities, is already in place in seven Arizona counties and more than 150 other jurisdictions nationwide. It operates by enlisting states to run arrest data from local jails against a federal database of immigration records. ICE agents then use the system to deport people living in the country illegally and legal residents with criminal convictions. The program has been expanding -- in just the past year, 20 states have signed on -- but on Tuesday it hit a roadblock in the nation's capital. D.C. City Council members voted unanimously to introduce a bill that would make the...

Detention Retention

President Obama has tried to split the difference between comprehensive immigration-reform advocates and law-and-order types. But for immigrants in detention, not much has changed since the Bush era.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., is operated on contract by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the country's largest private prison firm. (AP Photo/Kate Brumback)
Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez recently emerged from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holding cell in Maricopa County, Arizona, with her arm broken and her hand covered in blue ink. She had been booked for forgery at a Phoenix jail, where six officers twisted her arm after she resisted putting her fingerprint on what she thought was a form that would deport her to Mexico. Garcia-Martinez spoke only Spanish, the form was in English, and she believed that after 19 years in the United States, she had a good case for staying in the country, despite her lack of documentation. Her forgery charge stemmed from a California driver's license she showed to an officer who asked for identification while telling her not to post yard-sale signs on city property. But the license wasn't a forgery; it was just expired. The charges were dropped. Garcia-Martinez's treatment while in custody was unusually harsh, but her experience of being harassed and detained on a flimsy pretext has been...