Saturday, May 12, 2007
AAJC URGES SENATE TO PASS FAIR AND HUMANE IMMIGRATION REFORM
Washington, D.C. – The Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) applauds Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) leadership and commitment to moving the immigration debate from closed-door negotiation rooms to the Senate floor by next week.
AAJC urges the Administration and Senators from both sides of the aisle to move quickly to an open debate and passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that is workable and effectively addresses the problem of undocumented immigration.
“The proposals that have been put on the negotiating table by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and the Administration do not appear to have been made in good faith. They are pushing Congressman James Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) old bill with provisions that would criminalize immigrants who overstay their visas and anyone, whether they be faith leaders, doctors, teachers or community members, who provide humanitarian support to them. They are pushing a proposal that would slash family immigration and allow the Department of Homeland Security to throw in the trash hundreds of thousands of applications made by U.S. citizens for their children and siblings,” said Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of AAJC.
She added, “The time is now for Senate leaders to offer real solutions that acknowledge the importance of family-based immigration in building strong communities and a vibrant economy. Senator Kennedy and Senator Menendez are right to reject these extreme ideas and to fight for reform that seeks to solve the real problems of our immigration system.”
“The bill that Senate Majority Leader Reid intends to start with contains the right architecture and a reform of the family visa system that is effective and realistic. AAJC is committed to working with him to make the legalization process more workable and to eliminate the provisions that undermine our system of checks and balances and due process,” said George C. Wu, NAPABA Partners Community Law Fellow at AAJC.
The Asian American Justice Center, formerly known as NAPALC, is a national organization dedicated to defending and advancing the civil and human rights of Asian Americans. It works closely with three affiliates – the Asian American Institute in Chicago, the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles – and nearly 100 community partners in 49 cities, 23 states and Washington, D.C.
My friend Michael Olivas (Houston) alerts me to a new book by Vanessa A. Baird, Answering the Call of the Court, How Justices and Litigants Set the Supreme Court Agenda (UVA press, 2007) (for details, click here and here). Among other things, the new book lays out the legal strategy of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in LULAC v Wilson, the case in which the court held that California's Proposition 187 was pre-empted by federal law. Given all the state and local agitation on immigration in recent months, the book has modern relevance. It iss on my stack of summer reading.
Solana Larsen in NACLANews (here) has an interesting article on the anti-immigration movement mobilized its own forces. According to Larsen, the number of state and local anti-immigration groups in the United States has exploded, growing by 600% in the last two years. One-fourth of the new groups are chapters of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), the volunteer paramilitary group that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border, builds fences, and notes the license plate numbers of contractors who hire undocumented workers.
Larsen discuses the links between anti-immigrant groups and hate groups.
The Ninth Circuit in Gallarde v. INS (here) (May 11, 2007) issued an interesting ruling on Immigration and Nationalty Act 315. Here is the holding:
"For nearly ninety years it has been clearly established that aliens who seek exemption from compulsory military service - the draft - based on alienage will be forever barred from becoming United States citizens. Here, we are asked to decide whether this bar to citizenship applies to an alien who voluntarily enlisted in the United States Navy, sought discharge short of completing his enlistment term on the basis of alienage, and was honorably discharged. We hold that the bar does not apply."
The opinion was written by Judge Carlos Bea. The case involved a Filipino national who, after injuring his back and being denied a discharge on that basis, sought a discharge from the Navy on alienage grounds.
Friday, May 11, 2007
According to the Austin Statesman (here), an attempt to overturn a groundbreaking 2001 Texas law allowing certain illegal immigrants to receive cheaper in-state tuition rates at state universities all but died in the House late Wednesday. For more details, see Off the Kuff (here)
Friends and Colleagues:
We are excited to announce the national broadcast premiere of our documentary, SENTENCED HOME.
SENTENCED HOME airs this coming Tuesday, May 15 at 10PM on PBS as part of the Emmy-award winning series “Independent Lens”.
*Check your local listings for exact date and time in your area
Putting a human face on controversial immigration policy, SENTENCED HOME follows three young Cambodian Americans through the deportation process. Raised in inner-city Seattle, they pay an unbearable price for mistakes they made as teenagers. Caught between their tragic pasts and an uncertain future, each young man confronts a legal system that offers no second chances.
Thanks for your support!
David Grabias and Nicole Newnham
Sentenced Home Productions
4302 1/2 Melrose Ave., Suite B
Los Angeles, CA 90029
In a thoughtful Immigration Daily article, Frida Berrigan (here) writes "In order to craft truly effective, humane and "comprehensive" immigration reform, the president is going to have to do a lot more than show up in his shirtsleeves once in a while. He has to learn that the border is not a war zone, Mexicans are not combatants, and military contractors are not the solution."
As has been well-publicized, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced his plans to begin Senate discussion the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year. On May 9, Senators McCain, Graham, Specter, and Martinez in a letter requested that Reid delay the discussion while they try to hammer out a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. Here is their letter to Majority Leader Reid. Download 050907_immigration_letter_to_senator_reid.pdf
A D.C. source tells me that the Republicans didn’t just ask Reid to delay the debate, they’ve actually threatened to filibuster and refuse to let the debate go forward. "Second, they’ve actually lined up supporters and sponsors of last year’s bill (like Martinez for example) to say that they will vote AGAINST their own legislation. In other words, they were for it, before they were against."
A federal judge (here) has refused to return to Massachusetts more than 200 illegal aliens arrested in a raid and shipped to Texas to await deportation. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns dismissed the case brought by the detainees, agreeing with the government that the court lacks jurisdiction over the case. Immigration agents arrested more than 360 mostly Central American women in a March 6 raid at a factory in New Bedford. Click here for more details.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Turns out the Mayor of Farmers Branch, Texas, is opposed to the anti-immigrant measure that his town adopted in November, placing the town at the forefront of anti-immigrant local efforts. Much of his opposition may be based on financial considerations, as Annabelle Garay of the Associated Press reports:
The mayor of the first city in Texas to forbid landlords from renting apartments to illegal immigrants is urging voters to strike down the ordinance.
It's the first time Mayor Bob Phelps has taken a public position against the measure, which was adopted in November and resulted in lawsuits and outcry from civil rights groups, residents, property owners and businesses.
Voters in this Dallas suburb on Saturday will become the first in the country to decide whether to repeal or approve a city ordinance banning apartment rentals to most illegal immigrants.
Phelps, former Mayor David Blair and former Cty Manager Richard Escalante all signed a letter Tuesday opposing the measure.
"The City should not waste millions of taxpayer's dollars to defend an ineffective ordinance that is likely never to become law," said the letter, which was an advertisement mailed by a group opposing the ordinance. "There are better ways to handle this situation and better ways to invest this money in our community." Click here for the rest of the story.
I had the opportunity to testify before the House Subcommittee on Immigration on Tuesday, in its hearing on family immigration. Click here for my full testimony.
I really appreciated the comments of the Democrats on the subcommittee who were there and asked questions (Lofgren, Conyers, Waters, Gutierrez, Berman, Jackson-Lee, Delahunt). They understand the importance that family reunification (including siblings and adult unmarried sons and daughters) brings to the country--socially, psychologically, and economically. They understand what family immigrants have meant to the country over the decades. Some Republican members talked about a "theoretical" or "hypothetical" ability of a single person to bring 200+ others into the country through "chain migration." Of course, they had no examples of anyone who has ever done this, and an exasperated Howard Berman, at one point noted that this isn't hypothetical, its "nonsense."
Today, I placed this op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune on the topic:
Abandoning family values
By Bill Ong Hing
May 10, 2007
The U.S. Senate's current attempt at immigration reform contains measures that strike at the heart of family reunification categories that have been the bedrock of immigration policy for decades and from which the nation has benefited economically and socially.
In an attempt to “deal with” the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country by a May 14 deadline, Senate Republicans are holding hostage a legalization plan unless legal immigration categories reserved for siblings of U.S. citizens and unmarried older children of lawful residence are eliminated. This represents a huge step backward from a compromise reached by the same body a year ago, which not only retained all family categories but added numbers and a method to reduce severe backlogs. Republicans now claim they want a new immigrant point system that would favor skilled immigrants and those with higher education.
Let's get something straight about family immigrants – especially the siblings and adult offspring. They enter and immediately go to work, helping to support the Social Security system while filling a range of jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded we would be short on workers now and into the near future because of the declining work force due to baby boomer retirements. It also doesn't take much more than a walk outside our doors to realize that many of these working class kinship immigrants are the ones who open small businesses (restaurants, groceries, light industry) that employ natives as well as other immigrants, often rebuilding rundown neighborhoods and inspiring the rest of us with their work ethic.
Beyond the obvious economic benefits of the current system, a thorough consideration of the benefits of the family-based immigration system must include the psychological and social values of such a system. The psychic value of family reunification is generally overlooked by empiricists perhaps due to difficulty in making exact calculations. Yet the inability to make such a calculation is no reason to facilely cast aside the concept or ignore the possibilities.
Perhaps as a first step in getting a sense of the unquantifiable values of family reunification, we could begin by thinking of our own families – including our siblings and older children – and what each one of our loved ones means to us. How less productive would we be without one or more of them? How less productive would we be, having to constantly be concerned about their sustenance, safety or general well-being? How more productive are we when we know that we can go home at the end of the day and enjoy their company or share our days' events with them?
In placing family immigration categories on the negotiating table, Republicans imply that there is tension by positioning family visas in opposition to employment-based visas. Of course, there is only tension if we choose to accept the premise that visas are a “scarce resource,” or if we insist on pitting the two types of visas as oppositional.
If instead we view the two systems as complementary ways of achieving and reflecting our goals and values as a society, then we don't have a problem of tension. In other words, if we use immigration to help our economy, to promote the social welfare of the country and to promote family values, then family and employment categories together can meet those goals.
In an era of promoting family values, proposals to eliminate or greatly reduce family immigration categories are out of place. What values do such proposals impart? What's the message? That brothers and sisters are not important? Or that once children reach a certain age, the parent-child bond need not remain strong?
Eliminating such categories institutionalizes concepts that are antithetical to the nurturing of family ties, that ignore the strong family bonds in most families, and that should be promoted among all families. Indeed, the proposals send a strong anti-family message.
Family reunification categories have been the foundation of immigration policy since the national origins quota systems of the 1920s and reaffirmed in the 1965 legislation that eliminated racial preferences. In 1981, the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy concluded that “the reunification of families serves the national interest not only through the humaneness of the policy itself, but also through the promotion of the public order and well-being of the nation. Psychologically and socially, the reunion of family members with their close relatives promotes the health and welfare of the United States.”
There is a reason that the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlights the unity of the family as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Our families make us whole. Our families define us and human beings. Our families are at the center of our most treasured values. Our families make the nation strong.
Here is the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund's analysis of the STRIVE Act, the comprehensive immigration reform legislation by U.S. Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). In MALDEF's view, STRIVE "is a long-awaited and positive step toward reforming our broken immigration system."
The Board of Immigration Appeals issued a precedent decision in In re T-Z- (here), I&N Dec. 163, Interim Decision #3564 (BIA May 9, 2007). Here are a couple of the headnotes:
(1) An abortion is forced by threats of harm when a reasonable person would objectively view the threats for refusing the abortion to be genuine, and the threatened harm, if carried out, would rise to the level of persecution.
(2) Nonphysical forms of harm, such as the deliberate imposition of severe economic disadvantage or the deprivation of liberty, food, housing, employment, or other essentials of life, may amount to persecution.
The case involved a husband and wife from China. There is nothing especially new in the ruling but it is noteworthy that the DHS keeps appealing in these cases.
In "Immigration Overhaul May Hit Farms Bid for Easier Path to Citizenship for Agricultural Workers Faces Setback," David Rogers on Wall Street Journal On-Line (here) offers an interesting analysis of the interests of farmers in legalization (and a stable labor force) and immigration reform.
JMC wrote the other day about how the Fort Dix terrorist indictments might help to derail immigration reform. I think that she is quite right. Interestingly, Roger Simon on The Politico (here) emphasizes an important point about the Fort Dix plot. In "On neighbors and fences," Simon wrote the following:
I was shocked to learn Wednesday that of the six men who were recently arrested for planning a terrorist attack on Fort Dix, not a single one came from Mexico. What is going on here? I have been listening for months to presidential candidates from both parties talk about the need for "border security," including bigger and better fences along our border with Mexico, in order to prevent another terrorist attack on this country.
Good points Roger!
MIRIAM JORDAN in the Wall Street Journal On-Line (here) reports on a new Univision citizenship drive. The story begins:
Backed by the largest Spanish-language broadcast network in the U.S., a massive campaign by Latino media and grass-roots groups to spur millions of eligible Hispanic residents to become U.S. citizens is showing results that could influence the agenda and outcome of the 2008 election. More than eight million green-card holders -- that is, legal permanent residents -- are eligible to become U.S. citizens, and the majority are immigrants of Latin American origin, according to U.S. government data. Now, Univision Communications Inc. is using its considerable clout with the Spanish-speaking community in the U.S. to turn this latent voting bloc into an active and potentially potent force. The citizenship drive, which is about to go national, could help turn Latinos into a key electoral constituency in several states.
After California's Proposition 187 in 1994, followed by welfare and immigration reform in 1996, naturalization rates spiked. We might see a similar spike as a response to the Sensenbreener bill, the spring 2006 marches, and the continuing controversy over immigration reform. Stay tuned!
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is co-counsel in a class action lawsuit that will be filed in U.S. District Court later today against the Los Angeles Police Department for the excessive actions against peaceful march participants taken at MacArthur Park on May 1. At a press conference this morning, MALDEF regional counsel Annabelle Gonzalves will discuss the case. Here is the MALDEF press release, Download macarthur_park_suit_release_41007.doc, and complaint, Download complaint_final.pdf
Among other things, MALDEF will renew the call to California Attorney General Jerry Brown to conduct his own investigation or provide bilingual investigators to whom members of the community would be more willing to speak.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
The Washington Post (here) reports that a federal judge in El Paso, Texas judge threw out an immigration fraud indictment against a former CIA operative, drawing accusations from Cuba and Venezuela that the White House had manipulated the legal system. Luis Posada Carriles, 79, a fierce opponent of Fidel Castro, was accused of entering the U.S. illegally and was detained in May 2005. Authorities said he later lied about how he entered the country when he sought to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Cuba and Venezuela also want Posada extradited for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. The judge's ruling Tuesday did not involve the extradition requests.
In throwing out the fraud indictment, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone said the government manipulated Posada's naturalization interview. She said the government's Spanish-to-English interpretation of the April 2006 interview was "so inaccurate as to render it unreliable as evidence of defendant's actual statement."
Click here for a copy of Judge Cardone's order.