August 4, 2007
Asian Exclusion Laws
A bit of history on Asian Exclusion Laws
The discovery of gold, a rice shortage, and the recruitment of Asian labor led to the initiation of noticeable Asian migration in the nineteenth century, that in turn triggered a backlash against that migration. Examining the impetus and development of exclusion laws directed first at Chinese and eventually at all Asian immigrants reveals a sordid tale of racism and xenophobia that demonstrates the extremes to which the nation would go to keep out groups that simply did not fit into the prevailing image of community and true Americans.
Resistance to Chinese Laborers
Early on, the Chinese were officially welcomed in the United States. The simultaneous opening of both China and the American West, along with the discovery of gold in 1848, led to a growing demand for and a ready supply of Chinese labor. Chinese were actively recruited to fill needs in railroad construction, laundries, and domestic service.
By 1882, about 300,000 Chinese had entered and worked on the West Coast.
However, nativist sentiment eventual took hold, spurred by racial prejudice and economic competition. By 1853, anti-Chinese local ordinances and editorials were common throughout the West Coast.
Eventually, the Sinophobic sentiment prevailed, and any favorable views about the Chinese were overrun by a series of laws that first limited and then entirely excluded Chinese from the United States. By the end of the Civil War, Chinese immigrants were judged unworthy of citizenship. In amending the Nationality Act of 1790, that had limited citizenship through naturalization to “free white persons” (specifically excluding African Americans and Native Americans), Congress in 1870 extended the right to naturalize to aliens of African descent. But Chinese were deliberately denied that right because of their “undesirable qualities.”
The 1870 denial of the opportunity to naturalize was the first congressional step toward excluding Chinese and the first such limitation based on national origin beyond the subordination of African Americans. Five years later in 1875, responding to law-enforcement claims that Chinese women were being imported for prostitution, Congress passed legislation prohibiting their importation for immoral purposes. The overzealous enforcement of the statute, commonly referred to as the Page Law, effectively barred Chinese women and further worsened an already imbalanced sex ration among Chinese.
Responding to continued anti-Chinese clamor, the Chinese Exclusion Act of May 6, 1882 was enacted. The law excluded laborers for ten years, and effectively slammed the door on all Chinese immigration. It did permit a small quota for teachers, students, and merchants.
Legislation in 1904 extended Chinese exclusion indefinitely, marking the culmination of a thirty-five-year series of laws that, beginning with the 1870 naturalization act specifically barring Chinese, limited and then excluded Chinese immigrants.
The Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan
The early history of Japanese immigration differs considerably from that of the Chinese mainly because of the strength of the restored Meiji government. Unlike the decaying Chinese Qing dynasty (that fell in 1911), the Japanese government was able to negotiate mutually beneficial emigration treaties with the United States and to enforce its own emigration laws.
The Japanese opening to the West commenced with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and four U.S. naval ships in Tokyo Bay in 1854. Perry forced the Japanese to sign the Treaty of Peace and Amity, in which Japan agreed to open its doors to foreign trade. Not coincidentally, the first appreciable numbers of Japanese entered at the height of the Chinese exclusion movement. Agricultural labor demands, particularly in Hawaii and California, led to increased efforts to attract Japanese workers after the exclusion of the Chinese. In 1884, two years after the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese government yielded to internal pressures to permit laborers to emigrate to work on Hawaiian sugar plantations.
Like the initial wave of Chinese immigrants, Japanese laborers were at first warmly received by employers. By 1894, Japan and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to open travel, each promising the other’s citizens liberty to enter, travel, and reside in the receiving country.
At the turn of the century, unfavorable sentiment toward the Japanese laborers grew as they began to migrate to the western United States. After Hawaii was annexed in 1898, the Japanese were able to use it as a stepping stone to the mainland, where the majority engaged in agricultural work. Economic competition with white farm workers soon erupted.
After Japan’s crushing victories over China in 1895 and Russia in 1905, policymakers viewed exclusion as a means of controlling a potential enemy. Many Americans had regarded Japan as an eager student at the knee of the United States. But when the Japanese Navy defeated its Russian counterpart, American observers realized how powerful the “yellow” nation had become. America was so concerned about geo-political change that President Theodore Roosevelt helped negotiate the treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War and ceded Korea to Japan as a protectorate.
Japanese laborers were eventually restricted but not in conventional legislative fashion. Japan’s emergence as a major world power meant that the United States could not restrict Japanese immigration in the heavy-handed, self-serving fashion with which it had curtailed Chinese immigration. To do so would have offended an increasingly assertive Japan when the United States was concerned about keeping an open door to Japanese markets. To minimize potential disharmony between the two nations while retaining the initiative to control immigration, President Roosevelt negotiated an informal agreement with Japan. Under the terms of the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement reached in 1907 and 1908, the Japanese government refrained from issuing travel documents to laborers destined for the United States. In exchange for this severe but voluntary limitation, Japanese wives and children could be reunited with their husbands and fathers in the United States, and San Francisco would be pressured into rescinding a school segregation order.
Japanese immigrants unsuccessfully sought citizenship through naturalization as well. In Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), one Japanese immigrant took his claim to the Supreme Court, arguing that he should be regarded a “free white person” under the naturalization laws.
The Entry of Filipinos and Asian Indians
At the turn of the century, the United States was beginning its relationship with the Philippines as it was changing its view toward Japan. After the U.S. victory over Spain in the 1898 Spanish-American War, President McKinley concluded that the people of the Philippines, then a Spanish colony, were “unfit for self-government” and that “there was nothing left for [the United States] to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.
Ironically, the fact that the Philippines became U.S. colony meant that Filipinos automatically became noncitizen nationals of the United States. They could travel in and out of the United States without regard to immigration laws and were not subject to exclusion or deportation. When appreciable numbers migrated after World War I (when Chinese and Japanese workers could no longer be recruited), exclusionary efforts against them begin.
The advent of the twentieth century witnessed the entry of other Asians, such as Asian Indians, but in small numbers. Even though those seeking trade were among some of the earliest migrants to the United States, Indians had insignificant contacts with this country during the nineteenth century. Eventually, more migrated, primarily to California, and most found agricultural jobs.
Like the Chinese and Japanese before them, many Asian Indians fought for acceptance. Some sought to have laws discriminating against them overturned by the courts. Lower federal courts had granted them the right to naturalize on the grounds that they were Caucasians and thus eligible “white persons” under the citizenship laws of 1790 and 1870. But in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923), the Supreme Court reversed this racial stance, deciding that Indians, like Japanese, would no longer be considered white persons, and were therefore ineligible to become naturalized citizens.
Congress responded to continued anti-Asian clamor by passing the Act of February 5, 1917, that (including provisions aimed at southern and eastern Europeans) created the “Asiatic barred zone” by extending the Chinese exclusion laws to all other Asians. The zone covered South Asia from Arabia to Indochina, as well as the adjacent islands. It included India, Burma, Thailand, the Malay States, the East Indian Islands, Asiatic Russia, the Polynesian Islands, and parts of Arabia and Afghanistan. Only Filipinos and Guamanians, under U.S. jurisdiction at the time, were not included.
The 1924 Exclusion of Asians Ineligible for Citizenship
The reactionary, isolationist political climate that followed World War I, manifested in the Red Scare of 1919-20, led to even greater exclusionist demands. The landmark Immigration Act of 1924, opposed by only six senators, once again took direct aim at southern and eastern Europeans, whom the Protestant majority in the United States viewed with dogmatic disapproval. The sponsors simultaneously eliminated the few remaining categories for Asians. The act provided for the permanent exclusion of any “alien ineligible to citizenship.” Since Asians were barred from naturalization under the 1790 and 1870 laws, the possibility of their entry was cut off indefinitely. The primary target was the Japanese, who, while subject to the Gentlemen’s Agreement, had never been totally barred by federal immigration law until then. Now the message of exclusion to Japanese immigrants was reinforced in no uncertain terms.
As if to ensure that Asian American families would not proliferate, the 1922 Cable Act provided that if a U.S. citizen woman married an alien who was ineligible for citizenship, she would be stripped of her U.S. citizenship. The law complemented anti-miscegenation laws in many states.
The only Asians not affected by the 1924 Act were Filipinos, who remained exempt as nationals and who by then had settled into a familiar pattern of immigration. Before 1920, a few resided mostly in Hawaii; their presence on the islands helped establish conditions later conducive to a more substantial labor migration. They became a convenient source of cheap labor after Japanese immigration was restricted in 1908. Just as the Chinese exclusion law had encouraged employers to look to Japan, so the limitations on Japanese immigrants led to an intense recruitment, especially by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association, of Filipino laborers because of their open travel status as noncitizen nationals.
By the late 1920s, Filipino laborers began to look beyond Hawaii, where the demand for their labor was shrinking, to the mainland where the need for cheap labor, especially in agriculture, was growing. Many left Hawaii partly in response to employers’ recruitment efforts. Most Filipinos who had come to the mainland previously had been students. But in the late 1920s, laborers came to California predominantly to work on citrus and vegetable farms.
Most white racism directed at Filipino laborers sprang from the immigrants’ success at acculturation. They were resented largely for their ability to get jobs and even for their contact with white women. In many respects they were perceived as a greater threat to white laborers than their Chinese and Japanese predecessors had been. To white workers in California, the privileged immigration status of Filipinos did not change the fact that they were an economic threat who had the physical characteristics of Asiatics.
Calls for the exclusion of Filipino workers were warmly received in Congress, which welcomed any seemingly uncomplicated proposal that promised relief for the depression’s high unemployment. For policymakers, however, dealing with anti-Filipino agitation was not as simple as responding to earlier anti-Chinese, anti-Asian Indian, and even anti-Japanese campaigns. They could travel in and out of the country without constraint, so until the Philippines was granted independence, Congress could not exclude Filipinos.
An unlikely coalition of exclusionists, anti-colonialists, and Filipino nationalists managed to band together to promote the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. The law was everything exclusionists could hope for. When their nation would become independent on July 4, 1946, Filipinos would lose their status as nationals of the United States, regardless of where they lived. Those in the United States would be deported unless they became immigrants. Between 1934 and 1946, however, any Filipino who desired to immigrate became subject to the immigration acts of 1917 and 1924, and the Philippines was considered a separate country with an annual quota of only 50 visas!
World War II finally helped to usher in reforms to the Asian exclusion laws. In response to Japanese ridicule of China for supporting the United States—where the Chinese exclusion provisions were still in effect—Congress repealed the Chinese exclusion act in 1943. Similarly, in 1946, naturalization rights were extended to nationals of the Philippines and India—countries that were also U.S. allies. However, the national origins quota system that continued to severely restrict the number immigrant visas available to Asians was not repealed until 1965, when President Johnson followed through on President Kennedy’s push for a more egalitarian immigration system.
Resources: Making and Remaking Asian America through Immigration Policy (1993); Defining America Through Immigration Policy (2004).
August 3, 2007
New Law Review Articles
Kidane, Won. Committing a crime while a refugee: rethinking the issue of deportation in light of the principle against double jeopardy. 34 Hastings Const. L.Q. 383-446 (2007).
Nwabuzor, Ekwutozia U. Comment. The cry of the Colossus: Discipio v. Ashcroft, nonacquiescence, and judicial deference in immigration law. (Discipio v. Ashcroft [Discipio I], 369 F.3d 472, 5th Cir. 2004; and Discipio v. Ashcroft [Discipio II], 417 F.3d 448, 5th Cir. 2005.) 50 How. L.J. 575-608 (2007).
Immigration Law: A Practical Guide for North Carolina Practitioners. Foreword by John L. Pinnix; articles by Natalie Prescott, Michael Vastine and Saby Ghoshray; transcript and commentary by Alan L. Button; recent developments by Holli B. Newsome and Erin K. Pleasant; comment by Boris S. Abbey. 29 Campbell L. Rev. i-xii, 181-351 (2007).
Tommy T Says: Let's Bomb Mecca!
Republican Presidential candidate and anti-immigrant zealot Tom Tancredo never ceases to amaze. On Tuesday, IowaPolitics.com (listen) recorded the following comments by Tancredo on the campaign trail: “If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina,” Tancredo said. “That is the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do. If I am wrong, fine, tell me, and I would be happy to do something else. But you had better find a deterrent, or you will find an attack.”
CNN reports that the Tancredo campaign stood by the candidate's assertion that bombing holy Muslim sites would serve as a good “deterrent” to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from attacking the United States.
Tom Casey, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, not known during the Bush years as being especially soft on terrorism,told CNN that Tancredo's comments were “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy.” This kind of controversy is nothing new to Tom Tancredo. He was widely criticized in 2005 for making a similar suggestion.
SEIU Inaugurates New Worker Blog
Today, the 1.9 million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched Just Work, a bi-weekly Huffington Post blog where real workers can discuss their daily struggles to balance work, afford life and participate in a more just society.
In the first Just Work blog, Paula Hall, a childcare provider in Spokane, WA, writes about how health and economic setbacks forced her family to redefine the American Dream. “A hard working family like ours shouldn’t have to lose everything because of a sudden illness or injury, not in the richest country in the world,” writes Paula. “But over time, our leaders have forsaken average American workers. For too many people, a winning lottery ticket is the best chance we have for financial security and retirement planning. We have put blind faith in the market and the luck of good fortune, and we have lost some of our dignity along the way.”
WHAT: Launch of Just Work, a bi-weekly Huffington Post blog
WHO: Paula Hall, Childcare Provider and SEIU Local 925 Member
WHERE: Huffington Post, Living Now
WHEN: Friday, August 3
About Just Work:
Just Work is a series presented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to give a voice to working people to discuss their daily struggles to balance work, afford life and participate in a more just society. SEIU welcomes submissions to Just Work!, Please send your story (700 words or less) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With 1.9 million members (many of whom are immigrants), SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union. SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today's global economy.
High School Superstar Student Facing Deportation
The ABA Journal reports that when Juan Gomez graduated from high school in Miami this year, everyone he knew expected great things of him. The 18-year-old reportedly is one of the most stellar students ever to attend Killian High—a popular football player, he also graduated among the top 20 in his 780-student class and earned near-perfect scores on his college admission tests. Now, however, Gomez is jailed in a Broward County detention facility, awaiting deportation to Colombia rather than the start of a new school year in an honors program at Miami Dade College. His crime: staying in this country illegally, with his parents and brother, who moved here when Juan Gomez was 2 years old, reports the Miami Herald. More than 400 teens have rallied to his cause, and are petitioning legislators in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., seeking their help with his case. Gomez is a "poster child for who we should NOT be deporting," writes Eric Krause, a Killian government teacher, in an e-mail to the Miami Herald. "Deporting a student who the entire Killian faculty would describe as one of the best our high school has ever produced is not the American way.''
The "Save Juan" campaign, http://actonadream.net/, founded by high school kids hoping to save to save their classmate Juan Gomez and his brother from deportation, has resulted in extensive media coverage, including a recent Time article.
Yale Law School Caught Up in Con Job Police: Green Card Scam Was Run From Law School
Although previously posted on this blog, this story is just to delicious for this Harvard Law alum to pass up again. Ralph Cucciniello has claimed to be several things in what authorities call a long history as a scam artist - a television producer, a psychologist, even a nursing home operator. But investigators say it took a phony affiliation with Yale Law School Cucciniello to really hit pay dirt. Posing as a law professor with an expertise in immigration law, they say, Cucciniello has scammed hundreds of undocumented workers from Ireland into thinking he could secure them a green card - for a $5,000 fee. Click here and here for stories.
Law enforcement officials in New York and Connecticut are scrambling to find all his victims and answer a nagging question: How did a scam artist who once was in the federal witness protection program secure office space in one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, as well as a school identification card and e-mail address? "The word went out in the Irish community all across the country that there was this attorney at the Yale Law School who had found a loophole in the immigration laws and could get you a green card quickly," said Inspector Timothy Reardon of the New Haven State's Attorney's Office.
Immigrant of the Day: Saint Frances Cabrini
Saint Frances Cabrini (1850-1917), founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, patroness of immigrants, was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized. Born in Lombardy, Italy, the youngest of thirteen children, she was fired with missionary zeal as a little girl, through family reading of the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. She gave up sweets because she would also be without them in China, where she aspired to go.
Cabrini earned a teacher’s certificate and applied to two Orders having missionary houses, but was rejected for reasons of health. Reluctantly, at the request of her bishop, she tried to save an orphanage and make of its staff a religious community, but after six hard years the work collapsed. And Frances, by then thirty years old, initiated her own missionary community with seven of her associates from the orphanage. Bishop Scalabrini suggested they work with Italian immigrants, especially in the United States, as the Congregation of Saint Charles which he had founded was doing; but Mother Cabrini’s heart was set on China. She asked counsel of Pope Leo XIII. “Go not to the East,” he told her, “but to the West.”
Founding schools, hospitals and charitable works of every kind, Cabrini would cross the ocean thirty times, bringing bands of young Italian Sisters to North and South America. Explaining why she did not accompany some Sisters on a boat excursion she wrote, “I admit my weakness, I am afraid of the sea. And if there is no very holy motive in view, I have no courage to go where I fear danger, unless sent by obedience. For then, of course, one’s movements are blessed by God.”
In 1909, Mother Cabrini became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and in 1910 she was named superior general for life over the order she had founded.
Mother Cabrini died at sixty-seven, suddenly and alone in one of her Chicago hospitals, while preparing Christmas presents for 500 children.
In 1946, Pope Pius XII canonized her, the first American to become a Saint. In 1950, the Pope named her "the patron saint to immigrants."
McCain No Longer Favors Legalization
Jennifer Talhelm of the Associated Press writes:
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain on Thursday backed a scaled-down proposal that imposes strict rules to end illegal immigration but doesn't include a path to citizenship.
The move away from a comprehensive measure is an about-face for the Arizona senator, who had been a leading GOP champion of a bill that included a guest worker program and would have legalized many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. It failed earlier this year.
"We can still show the American people that we are serious about securing our nation's border," McCain said in a statement, adding that the new bill would "provide an essential step toward achieving comprehensive reform in the future."
McCain's immigration position has been a campaign liability among Republican voters and hurt his efforts to raise money. Other GOP presidential candidates, fellow Arizona Republicans and immigration opponents throughout the country have loudly decried his position. Click here for the rest of the story.
The Possibility of Piecemeal -- Not Comprehensive -- Immigration Reform and Immigration Raids
Julia Preston writes in the N.Y. Times about some of the pieces of immigration reform legislation percolating in Congress, including the Dream Act (which opponents apparently have dubbed the "Nightmare" Act): "When a broad immigration bill failed in the Senate in June after a vitriolic national debate, many legislators said the issue was dead, perhaps until President Bush left office. But already some of the less contentious pieces of the bill are returning to life."
At the same time, the L.A. Times reports that federal officials are planning a new crackdown on illegal immigrants. In the coming days, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a rule outlining how businesses must respond when they receive notice that there are discrepancies in a worker's tax records. Many businesses simply ignore such notices now. Under the new rules, employees would have a limited time to contact the Social Security Administration to correct the information, or face termination. The rule would transfer more responsibility for enforcement to companies — part of a Homeland Security effort to break through the complacency that some officials say the corporate world has about illegal workers. The discrepancies detected in Social Security employment records can sometimes flag illegal workers on the job. However, the planned crackdown has provoked concern because many of the errors are benign: misspellings or incorrect birthdates in records of citizens or legal immigrants. There are errors in the records of an estimated 12.7 million U.S. citizens alone, and workers rushing to correct these discrepancies could swamp Social Security offices, much as new travel regulations have paralyzed government passport facilities this year. And businesses are complaining about bearing the burden of enforcing a flawed immigration system.
August 2, 2007
Impacts of Arizona's Prop 300 on Undocumented College Students
The Arizona Republic reports that "Nearly 5,000 people in Arizona have been denied in-state college tuition, financial aid and adult education classes this year under a new state law [Proposition 300] banning undocumented immigrants from receiving those state-funded services. The figures are spelled out in a new Joint Legislative Budget Committee report and give the first snapshot of how many people applied and were rejected from accessing state-subsidized programs because of their legal status." The following report summarizes figures from the report. Download arizona_report.pdf. See page 7, column 2, and p. 8 for the information titled "Public Programs Eligibility Report." The document sets out how many people were denied in-state college tuition, financial aid and adult education classes as a result of Prop 300. The numbers add up to 4,727 (while the news story states that Prop 300 affected "nearly 5,000 people").
Chinese migration and Mexico: a (very) quick history
Today's NYTimes has an column by Eduardo Porter discussing the complex globalization of the world's drug trade, through the lens of the recent case involving Zhenli Ye Gon. Zhenli Ye Gon is an immigrant -- born a Chinese national, he immigrated to Mexico, where he became a citizen a few years ago. But one of the most interesting part of the column was Porter's quick discussion of this history of Chinese immigration to Mexico. Porter writes:
For at least a century, successive Mexican governments have been wary of China. Chinese immigration to northern Mexico in the earlier part of last century was often met with violence. In 1911, troops loyal to general Francisco Villa massacred 250 Chinese in Torreón. In 1921, president Alvaro Obregón passed a law barring future immigration of Chinese workers. In 1931, thousands of Chinese were expelled from the country. Until recently, Mexico’s economic ties to China were tenuous, at best. A decade ago, Mexico imported merely $1 billion worth of Chinese products....The saga of Mr. Ye Gon suggests that this rivalry is now extending into the most insatiable consumer market in the world.
The full column is here.
Restrictionist Law Prof in it for the Bucks?
Law Prof Kris Kobach (University of Missouri-Kansas City) worked with Hazleton, PA to craft and defend the anti-immigrant ordinance that was struck down last week by a federal judge. In recent days, he has been seen on television, as well as quoted in the newspapers, railing about about how an "activist" judge thwarted Hazleton's efforts (some would just say that the judge was doing his job and faithfully applying the law).
I always figured that Kobach was readying himself for his next political campaign. He currently serves as the chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, and in 2004, he ran as the Republican Party candidate for Congress in Kansas. The Pitch reports, however, that
"Thus far, [Kobach's] losing effort [for Hazleton] has been pretty lucrative. Last summer, Hazleton supporters created the “Small Town Defenders” fund, an online effort to raise money from citizens around the country to pay for the city’s defense. Since then, the fund has garnered plenty of media attention (Kobach has even promoted the effort on his Sunday-evening talk show on KMBZ 980) and raised approximately $300,000.
According to a story published today by the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader newspaper, Kobach has received a big chunk of the legal-fund cash. The Times-Leader reports that the Kansas lawyer has been paid $115,210 for his services.
New Immigration Books
Budde, Rebecca Mexican and Central American L.A. garment workers : globalized industries and their economic constraints 2005
Cultural issues in criminal defense / Linda Friedman Ramirez [editor]. 2nd ed (2007).
Goodwin-Gill, Guy S The refugee in international law / Guy S. Goodwin-Gill and Jane McAdam. 3rd ed 2007
Kells, Michelle Hall & Héctor P. García : everyday rhetoric and Mexican American civil rights 2006
Hitting Back At Talk Radio
From Immigration Daily (www.ilw.com):
The best way to counter anti-immigration talk radio is to boycott the show advertisers. The Hispanic News Political Action Committee has established a national boycott of talk radio sponsors http://bluedogs.us/boycott_talk_radio_sponsors.htm to remove their support for anti-immigration rants. Using the corporate lever to strike back at the anti- immigrationists is smart politics.
Sign-On Letter to Oppose Ensign Social Security Amendment
Please support the following organization sign on letter from our friends at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) in disapproval of Senators who supported the Ensign amendment which could have forced many naturalized citizens to lose their social security benefits
Sign-ons are requested by August 10, and can be submitted to Kara Ryan at NCLR: email@example.com - 202-785-1670.
Click here for a list of how Senators voted.
We are writing with deep concern to ask you to explain your support of an amendment that Senator Ensign offered on July 19, 2007 to the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007 (HR 2669), which narrowly failed on a procedural vote. While it may have been framed as a restriction of Social Security benefits to undocumented immigrants -- who are already ineligible for such benefits -- its impact would largely be felt by U.S. citizens, especially those who have been naturalized for years. This amendment reaches far beyond the already harmful restrictions previously proposed by Senator Ensign that were rejected by the Senate in 2006, and far beyond the provisions initially included on a bi-partisan basis in the Senate's 2007 comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The amendment is so extreme that it would terminate Social Security benefits for U.S. citizens who are currently relying on them, by retroactively disqualifying contributions they made to the system decades ago. We are alarmed and outraged that you would support such an amendment.
As a general matter, it is unwise and unfair to prevent U.S. citizens and lawfully residing immigrants from obtaining the full benefit of the contributions they have made over the years to the social security trust fund. The Ensign amendment you voted for would not only have violated this principle, but it would have done so to an extreme degree. The amendment states that "no quarter of coverage shall be credited ?. to an individual who is not a natural born United States citizen, unless the Commissioner of Social Security determines ?that the individual was authorized to be employed in the United States during such quarter." Although the other restrictions in the Ensign amendment focus on individuals assigned an SSN after the bill's enactment, the potential undoing of work history credited to anyone other than a "natural-born US citizen" would apply regardless of when they obtained an SSN or when they may have retired. This would require SSA to identify which account holders are foreign-born and to re-inspect the work history of all foreign born recipients to determine the work authorization status for each and every quarter already credited to their accounts. This process would ensnare tens of millions of current U.S. citizen and legal immigrant Social Security account holders, including elderly retirees, persons with disabilities, and U.S.-born spouses and children receiving survivors benefits.
The implications of this amendment are extraordinary. Every foreign-born person (think Madeleine Albright, or Henry Kissinger, or every refugee from the Second World War, Southeast Asia or Cuba) would have to prove their immigration status for past qualifying quarters in order to receive?or continue receiving?Social Security benefits. Immigrants who have been U.S. citizens for decades, and whose work histories date back to the era before computers, would have their eligibility for benefits placed into doubt, and would be put through an extraordinary bureaucratic tangle to prove their eligibility for a program that they contributed to throughout their working lives.
Many Senators noted the ugly tone of the immigration debate in June, and took pains to say that their concern was with illegal immigration, not those here legally and certainly not those who are U.S. citizens. However, it took less than a month for legal immigrants, naturalized citizens, and their U.S. born spouses and children to come under attack. While we are pleased that the Ensign amendment will not become law, we are deeply concerned that you supported it. We ask you to explain your vote to the ethnic, faith-based, civil rights and other constituencies represented among the undersigned.
Idaho Clinical Program Criticized for Immigration Representation
I want to express my strong support for the University of Idaho Law School's clinical program for its great work in representing undocumented immigrants in immigration and removal proceedings. I'm proud of the fact that clinical programs that I've been a part of since 1979 and now at UC Davis continue to provide this vital representation to those who are among the most in need of assistance.
The Associated Press reported the following:
A former Canyon County commissioner and vocal foe of illegal immigration says instructors and students at the University of Idaho Law School are breaking the law by offering free legal representation to people who face deportation or other immigration proceedings.
“Federal law states that anyone who aids and abets an illegal alien in remaining in the United States is committing a felony,” Robert Vasquez told the Lewiston Tribune.
Monica Schurtman, a UI professor and supervising attorney for the Tribal Clinic, laughed off Vasquez’s criticism.
“That’s really funny,” she said. “What we try to do is assist our clients in a well-established legal system to remain legally in the United States.”
Schurtman said the immigration aspect was added to the clinic in 2000 when she saw immigration as a growing concern in the state. Click here for the rest of the story.
Catholic Perspectives on American Law
It seems that there is much discussion of religion and immigration lately. Professor Michael Scaperlanda's new co-edited book Recovering Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law has a chapter (chapter 15) by him entitled "Immigration Law: A Catholic Christian Perspective on Immigration Justice. Michael credits this book project as being conceived at an AALS annual meeting in San Francisco a few years back.
The Coming of the Mega-Immigration Law Firm?
Big news in the Big Apple is that immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy has signed the biggest new downtown lease in a 2007 that’s widely hailed as one of lower Manhattan’s strongest years ever. Immigration law historically has been practiced in small firms. One wonders whether we are trending toward big firm immigration practice. With the increasing complexity of immigration law, as well as the growing awareness of its importance as a field, we may see more big firm immigraion practice in the future. Might immigration law follow the model seen in the emergence of larger plaintiffs' side securities law firms?
Thanks to Peter Spiro for the tip!
Iraqi Refugees Arrive in Michigan
Niraj Warikoo of the Free Press writes (July 31):
The first group of Iraqi refugees coming to Michigan is expected to arrive Wednesday morning in Detroit, according to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.
Six refugees — five of them part of one family — will touch down at Detroit Metro Airport on a flight from New York City, said Belmin Pinjic, head of refugee services at Lutheran Social Services.
The family of five will stay with their relatives in metro Detroit, he said.
They are Chaldean, Iraqi Catholics, and fled Iraq in 2003 to Turkey. The parents had been harassed by the government of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, said Lutheran spokeswoman Barbara Lewis. Click here for the rest of the story.
Open Season on Immigrants, Legal and Not
As one prominent advocate for immigrants said to me recently, one can only only echo what was once said about Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no shame, sir?” Now that immigration reform has failed in Congress, it appears to be open season on immigrants, legal and not.
Consider a few examples.
The House Judiciary Committee pulled from its agenda HR 1071, to allow immigrants who lost a spouse or a parent in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to become legal permanent residents. The legislation sparked stiff opposition from lawmakers who want to limit immigration, and panel members agreed to allow the issue to become part of the broader debate.
Over the past few weeks, anti-immigrant legislators in the U.S. Congress are misrepresenting the issues, and attempting to undercut legal immigrants' access to programs that address health, education, housing, and even hunger. Instead of fixing the broken immigration system when they had the chance, these legislators are pursuing a path that would harm immigrant families - taking health care away from children. During the debate on the immigration bill, these legislators were claiming that their concern was with undocumented immigrants, not those here legally. But now they seek to prohibit legal immigrants families from accessing critical programs in times of need.
And the claim that is "open season" on immigrants is not just figurative. According to a Hill.com news story, "[Rep.] Tancredo introduced [an] amendment to the appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice to force the release of [two former Border Patrol agents] Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean." As Immigration Daily (www.ilw.com) states,
The issue is one of principle - if people get convicted and then are commuted by a pardon, how is justice served? If former BP agents Ramos and Compean are freed, the message to all Border Patrol agents is that the rule of the law does not apply to the border. The fault in the result of this particular case lies with our penal system. It is too harsh with extremely high sentences being handed down, often disproportionate to the crimes being committed. Congress should change sentencing guidelines for all convictions and reduce the punitive consequences for crimes so that punishment is fairly meted out to all and that true justice is served. However, the President should not pardon the convicted former agents because (1) to do so would be to make an exception in one isolated case and (2) the folks pushing hardest for relief are no friends of the President.