January 6, 2007
Haitians Pray for Reform
Haitians gathered Friday at Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church to pray for a change in federal immigration policies after new political leaders -- Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and a Democratically controlled Congress -- assumed power.
''People in my church are being deported and leaving families behind. Those without legal status cannot work or provide for their family, and they can't send their children to school. We need justice,'' said the Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary, Notre Dame's administrator.
The morning prayer service attracted at least 800 people, some of whom held copies of deportation orders. here.
Always Read the Fine Print
It seemed like a perfect formula for good publicity: A national sweepstakes would award a $25,000 United States savings bond to the first American baby born in 2007, courtesy of the toy chain Toys “R” Us and its Babies “R” Us division. Instead, after disqualifying a Chinese-American baby girl born in New York Downtown Hospital at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, the toy company finds itself caught in the glare of the immigration debate, stumbling over the nation’s new demographic realities. The baby girl, Yuki Lin, was an American citizen from the second the ball dropped in Times Square, where the Toys “R” Us flagship store draws thousands of shoppers from around the world. But like 6 out of 10 babies born in the city — including at least two others born in Brooklyn about the same moment — she has immigrant parents. And according to the contest’s fine print, the chain decided, she was ruled out because her mother was not a legal resident. Click here for the NY Times story by Nina Bernstein in the fallout.
A HAPPY POSTSCRIPT CNN reports (click here) that, after coming under fire for denying a Chinese-American infant a $25,000 prize in a New Year's baby contest because her mother was not a legal U.S. resident, the Toys "R" Us company said that it had reversed its decision.
January 5, 2007
US/Mexico Social Security Agreement
A confidential 2004 agreement between the United States and Mexico could require Social Security to pay billions of dollars in benefits to Mexicans who paid payroll taxes in this country, according to a senior citizens' group that forced the document's disclosure. The Social Security Administration insists that the agreement — which has yet to be signed by President Bush and sent to Congress for consideration — would cost the retirement and disability fund a relatively scant $105 million annually for the first five years. But the TREA Senior Citizens League, an offshoot from a group of retired military personnel, and some members of Congress contend the agreement opens the door to paying benefits to millions of Mexicans who have worked illegally in the United States, as well as their dependents, even if they now reside in Mexico. Clisk here for the Houston Chronicle story.
Controversial Immigration Professor
For a story about the controversy surrounding immigration Professor Kris Kobach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, click here.
"Rocky" Blasts Border Fence
Sylvester Stallone defended boxing, praised the hard work of Mexicans and dished out some jabs against U.S. plans to build a wall on its southern border, as the 60-year-old actor visited Mexico City to promote his sixth "Rocky" film.
In "Rocky Balboa," an MGM Pictures release, the aging scrapper is running a restaurant when a computer-simulated bout inspires him to put the gloves back on. In one scene, his character defends his restaurant's immigrant cooks and waiters against slanderous comments.
"I support Mexicans who work in my country," he said, adding that the United States depends on the hard work of Latinos to keep running.
In comments to Mexican media later, Stallone criticized plans to build 700 miles of fence along the border as an immigration-control measure. Such a fence was "crazy" and "ridiculous," he said, arguing that nations should be able to interact without being divided by walls. Click here.
Thanks to Cappy White for this story.
Ex-Nazi Guard Ordered Deported
An immigration judge has ordered the deportation of an 81-year-old man who admittedly served as an elite SS Death's Head guard during World War II Nazi operations, the US Justice Department announced.
Under the order issued Wednesday by Immigration Judge Jennie Giambastiani in Chicago, Josias Kumpf of Racine, Wisconsin, could be removed to either Serbia, Austria or Germany. The Justice Department said in a news release Thursday that Kumpf chose Germany.
Peter Rogers, a Pittsburgh lawyer representing Kumpf, said he would appeal the ruling within 30 days as required.
Commentary on New Naturalization Test
Steven Lubet wrote an interesting commentary on the new natz test that appeared on Salon.com. Here's an excerpt:
With much fanfare, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service recently announced the introduction of a redesigned naturalization test. Trumpeted as a great improvement over the old examination, the new format will "focus on the concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship." Some critics and immigrants' rights advocates have complained that the new citizenship test is too demanding, asking questions that nearly all Americans, whether native born or naturalized, would be hard-pressed to answer. But the degree of difficulty is not the only problem.
The pilot test and the approved answers (as posted on the USCIS Web site) are riddled with misinformation, inaccuracies and outright errors. As many as 19 of the 144 questions are flawed. They either are woefully ambiguous, or accept simplistic answers that are factually wrong, or exclude answers that are clearly correct. While none of the individual mistakes is earthshaking, the wrong answers will mislead earnest citizenship applicants who use the pilot test as a study guide. It will distort the constitutional understanding of thousands of would-be Americans, and actually penalize those who are the most serious students of the Constitution.
Let's start with the second question, which gets the whole test off on the wrong foot constitutionally. Pilot question No. 2 asks, "What is the supreme law of the land?" The sole allowable answer is "The Constitution." That is only partially right, however, because it excludes at least two other correct answers. Anyone who has read Article VI would know that the supreme law of the land includes the "Constitution, and the laws of the United States ... and all treaties made ... under the authority of the United States." True, the Constitution might be called the most supreme of the supreme, but it's still only one-third of the triad. Someone might answer quite correctly with either of the other two answers and still be marked wrong. Or worse, someone might foolishly decide to take the "concept" concept to heart and provide a more conceptual answer -- like, say, "The supreme law of the land is the law that judges in every state shall be bound by, even if the Constitution or laws of that state are to the contrary." That moderately profound response would presumably be counted wrong, even though it is lifted from the language of Article VI itself.
For the rest of the piece, click here.
January 4, 2007
More on the Politics of Immigration Reform
After years of stalemate and partisan divide over immigration, supporters of a major overhaul yesterday said they have hopes that this could be the year that Congress finally passes comprehensive legislation.
Yet while prospects are buoyed by the shift in control of the House and Senate today from Republicans to Democrats, and the support of President George W. Bush, the supporters say potential pitfalls lie ahead and there is a relatively small window of opportunity.
"We have the best chance we've had in the seven years that I've been working on this issue," said John Gay, co-chairman of the business-backed Essential Worker Immigration Coalition.
"I still put the odds of success at just a little better than 50-50. Some of the barriers have been cleared, but new barriers are going to come up," he said. "It's a complicated issue. We don't know how Democrats are going to act in the majority, and we don't know how Republicans are going to act in the minority." Click here.
In an article by Spencer Hsu, the Washington Post reports that, as the White House and Congress prepare to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, U.S. officials have concluded that they lack the technology and resources to handle the millions of applications for legal residency that could result from the changes and that several efforts to modernize computers have gone astray. Immigration officials have said for years that it is critical to update an antiquated, paper-based application process before the government grants a new path to citizenship for as many as 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States or creates a temporary-worker program, as senators and the Bush administration propose.
Although not surprising, the story raises troubling issues. With all of the focus on immigration and national security after 9/11 -- and infusion of resources, why can't we get basic computer systems on track?
Click here for the full story.
January 3, 2007
Bill Dahl has written some thoughtful -- and spiritual -- poetry about immigration reform. Here are a few of his poems.
TITLE: Immigrace-un: This poem is being published by Immigration Law Weekly on January 8, 2007. It will also be published by www.theooze.com on February 1, 2007 and Hispanic Vista next week. http://www.theporpoisedivinglife.com/porpoise-diving-life.asp?pageID=263
TITLE: I Hear The Words: This poem is dedicated to the students and their families of Santa Ana, CA. It contains photos of some of them. Just click and read and the pages change automatically. http://www.billdahl.net/poemsRead.php?poem=37
TITLE: What Can I Do? This poem has been published by Spirituality For Today at http://www.spirituality.org/is/138/page09.asp.
The Paper of South Texas has an interview with Richard Dominguez, whose comic book character El Gato Negro (The Black Cat) fights a bizarre list of bad guys in Deep South Texas. Social worker Francisco Guerrero grew tired of watching the way criminals preyed on the weak and innocent in the Rio Grande Valley. Inspired by his grandfather, who had been a masked Lucha Libre wrestler and crime fighter, Francisco donned the costumed identity of El Gato Negro to become the Batman of Deep South Texas, a figure who would soon be feared by drug smugglers and human traffickers all along the southern tail of the Texas-Mexico border. Fourty-six-year-old Richard Dominguez, a Dallas cartoonist and storyboard artist, dreamed up the idea for El Gato Negro more than 20 years ago after a trip to South Texas. Dominguez made his way to The Rio Grande Valley last week to celebrate the New Year with his wife’s family in Pharr. He took time to sit down with The Paper of South Texas to explain exactly how the Rio Grande Valley’s very own crime fighter, El Gato Negro, was born. Click here for the interview.
Thanks to Texas correspondent Cappy White for this tip!
UK Debates Globilization and Immigration
Headlines ahead of the New Year portrayed a country of job seeking-Britons brushed aside by Bulgarians and overrun by Romanians.
"See EU soon," wrote the Sun. "You can't stop us coming," portended the Daily Mail — two newspapers that have made fretting about immigration and its effect on Britain a mission.
While the prospect of masses of Romanians and Bulgarians storming the shores of Britain on Jan. 1 was unlikely, as veteran EU members have not fully opened their labor markets to the newcomers, such worries stem from events of the past few years.
After the last EU expansion in 2004, when Poland and nine other nations joined, Britain was one of a handful of EU nations that opened its doors — and saw a flood of more than half a million newcomers taking jobs as builders, food servers and clerks in London and across the country — confounding official reassurances.
Should countries like Britain want hundreds of thousands of Polish migrants? Many economists say yes, because they make labor markets more efficient and create economic growth. But workers — and politicians — see competitors who keep salaries low.
The British fears about potential Romanian and Bulgarian emigres is part of a wider debate about globalization: Is economic freedom ultimately to everyone's benefit? Click here.
New Colorado Immigration Law
A new Colorado state law went into effect on January 1 that toughens requirements for employers to check identification to assure they don't hire illegal immigrants. There is confusion about the law, who must follow it and what employers must do to comply, said Helga Grunerud, executive director of Hispanic Contractors of Colorado. Employers who hire illegal immigrants can face fines of $5,000 for the first offense, and $25,000 for each subsequent one. The law requires employers to copy identification documents presented by those they hire, and keep the copies on file. They must also "affirm" that they examined the documents, haven't falsified them or knowingly hired an undocumented worker. For the full Denver Post story, click here. We will keep you apprised about any news about the Colorado law and its enforcement.
Immigration and the Texas Legislature
The Houston Chronicle has a story about how with Congress failing to enact comprehensive immigration reform, illegal immigrants are poised to become one of the hottest issues before the Texas Legislature. The story begins:
They work as maids and busboys. They build homes and highways. They bone chickens on the way to market. They are worth billions of dollars to the Texas economy, but as members of the working poor they also are a drain of hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers. They are the 1.4 million illegal immigrants that the federal government estimates live in Texas.
Click here for the full story.
The intro to the story reveals one of the problems in how many people look at the economic impacts of immigration. Immigrants work and contribute to the economy. We as a society benefit economically from those efforts. Many immigrants, including many undocumented, also pay state and local and federal taxes. They ARE taxpayers. We must look to the benefits to the economy and the tax coffers to appreciate the full economic benefits of immigration.
Who Cares About How We Treat Immigrants?
For commentary about the implications of the treatment of immigrants in terms of American democracy, click here. Immigration law and policy often agree with a frequent commentator to posts on this blog, Horace, that the interests of immigrants should not be considered in formulating immigration law and policy as well as its enforcement.
January 2, 2007
Work Ethic or Something Else?
Today on All Things Considered, NPR ran a story about a restaurant owner in Illinois who say that his business has needed Mexican workers to fill out their work force since the mid-to-late 1990s. From the report:
Larry Blankenbaker says that wages are not responsible for these changes in employment. Instead, he suspects a more complex and systemic problem is to blame: an eroding work ethic. For the first time in five years, he recently filled a cook's position with a native-born American. The new employee lasted only two weeks.
Our economy needs more immigrant labor than current lawful caps (and bureaucratic competence) allow. Larry Blankenbaker's experiences supports this view.
But I also think we need to be properly skeptical of the sorts of "work ethic" claims that Blankenbaker makes. These same sorts of claims have been used to support discriminatory hiring practices throughout recent history. They also obscure the degree to which bone-grinding poverty and uncertain legal status render individuals vulnerable to exploitation. Jennifer Ludden's full report is fairly cognizant of these complexities, which are a necessary part of the very complicated immigration debate.
New Immigration Books and Article
Bosniak, Linda. The citizen and the alien: dilemmas of contemporary membership Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2006.
California. Legislature. Senate. Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development. Reforming U.S. immigration: implications for California: an informational hearing 
Deaux, Kay. To be an immigrant. New York, N.Y. : Russell Sage Foundation, c2006
LeMay, Michael C.Guarding the gates: immigration and national security. Westport, Conn. : Praeger Security International, 2006
Robertson, Shari, Well-founded fear [videorecording] / produced and directed by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini. [New York, N.Y.] : Epidavros Project, c2000
Rosenberg, Clifford D.Policing Paris: the origins of modern immigration control between the wars. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 2006
Lipman, Francine J. Taxing undocumented immigrants: separate, unequal, and without representation. 59 Tax Law. 813-866 (2006). (This article was previously published in the Harvard Latino Law Review).
Bulgaria and Romania Join the EU
The Jan. 2007 issue of Migration Information Source is out. Click here to see the issue. The feature story is on the expansion of the European Union. On January 1, Bulgaria and Romainia became the newest members of the European Union (EU), bringing the EU's population to 493 million. For the two newcomers, membership will bring immense rewards in terms of economic growth, trade, cultural exchange, and global diplomatic clout. For the existing Member States, especially the 15 "old" EU states who were members before 2004, the arrival of Romania and Bulgaria heralds yet another round of anxieties about a different sort of impact: the movement of people. Worried about the potential of being overwhelmed by workers moving from poorer, new Member States to richer old ones, the treaties governing the accession of new members have a "transitional" clause that allows existing Member States to restrict the free movement of "accession" workers for up to seven years.
Will North America ever consider a labor migration arrangement like that in the EU?
A New Year's Resolution
This blogger recently spent time visiting family over the holidays in La Puente, a small working class city in the San Gabriel Valley. According to Census 2000, La Puente is over 83 percent Hispanic. There is a thriving Mexican immigrant community there. A local grocery story could easily have been transplanted from Tijuana. Spanish is the primary language for conducting business. La Puente has the problems of crime 9burglary, drugs, etc.) found in poor and working communities. But it gemnerally seems peaceful. Other parts of the greater Los Angeles area are not, however. The LA Times local news seemed filled with stories of gang violence and Black/Latino conflict in areas like South Central and the Harbor Gateway; click here for an example. Whatever one thinks about immigration, we should do our best to try to address its consequences. Immigrants -- many of them Latino -- live in our communities. We should consider ways to minimize conflict and build trust among different groups. It is not an answer to interracial conflict to simply claim that the borders should be shut and that "they should go home." The spring of 2006 saw Latino immigrants and citizens protest the Sensenbrenner bill's "tough on immigrants" approach to immigration reform. Future Immigration reform will more likely be more moderate and balanced. And it is likely that we will continue to see Latino immigrants in the United States. In the coming year, we as a nation should resolve to do what we can do to promote peaceful relations between all people, including immigrants, who live in our communities.
America's Pastime? Immigrants in the News
Canadian Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins has been named Major League Baseball's Most Valuable Player in the American League. Canadian Consul General Kim Butler met Justin earlier this year while throwing the ceremonial first pitch to him at a Twins-Blue Jays game. Butler sent congratulations to Justin Morneau on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Twins' first game of the 2007 season is scheduled for April 2.