While the Obama administration has spent the past year discussing its plans to reform our broken immigration system, it is the day to day actions that, at times, draw a stark contrast to the hope and promise of a new strategy on U.S. immigration. The nomination of Stephanie Rose to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa seems like a mixed signal to immigration reformers. Rose’s 12-year career in the U.S. Attorney’s office was most notably marked by her role as lead prosecutor on the largest (and most controversial) immigration worksite enforcement in U.S. history.
While the basic premise for the criminal prosecutions Rose oversaw has subsequently been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and individuals have stepped up to both defend and protest her nomination, only one thing is clear—in Iowa, in particular, her name has become synonymous with one of the most controversial and, for many, painful episodes in U.S. immigration history.
The NY Times reports today:
In supporting the prosecutor, Stephanie Rose, Mr. Obama is following the recommendation of Senator Tom Harkin, the Democrat from Iowa who is an important ally—especially in the health care debate because he is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
However, the administration has done more than just accept her, they have endorsed her. A White House spokesperson said:
As U.S. attorney, Stephanie Rose will be a great advocate for the people of Iowa. The president strongly supports her nomination.
It’s debatable whether Rose could have changed the course of the much-criticized process, yet it’s fair to ask what she learned from her experience prosecuting the Postville cases and more importantly, whether she would do it again.
David Leopold, President-elect of AILA said in the NY Times,
Does she stand by those tactics? … Would she engage again in this type of prosecution of scores of undocumented workers guilty of nothing more than civil immigration violations?
As we look back on Postville more than a year later, we note the damage inflicted on the local community and economy and we watch as the owners and managers of the Postville plant are finally prosecuted. While the administration struggles to find new tactics for worksite enforcement that are less punitive and makes commitments to immigration reform, the optics of the Stephanie Rose nomination are unavoidable and unfortunate.