February 10, 2007
One Reason for the Administration's Support for Immigration Reform?
Thanks to Carpetbaggerreport (here) for digging up this report from National Review’s Mark Krikorian:
According to a congressman’s wife who attended a Republican women’s luncheon yesterday, Karl Rove explained the rationale behind the president’s amnesty/open-borders proposal this way: “I don’t want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas.”
Kirkorian finds this statement offensive. I do too but for other reasons, I bet.
For the Raw Story analysis of Rove's comments, click here.
NCLR (Cautiously) Supports Guest Worker Program
In an op/ed in the Sunday Washington Post (here), Janet Murgia, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, expresses cautious support for a proposed guest worker program (although she studiously avoids referring to "guest workers") as part of comprehensive immigration reform. She sees the path to citizenship available to temporary workers and the requirements that they be paid the "prevailing wage," as making this program different from past exploitative ones. Given past experience, I am far less confident that either of those parts of the proposal will be honored in their entirety.
The Issues Facing U.S. Expatriates: Brazil
We have tended to focus on immigration to the United States in our postings. there is much chatter on the net about U.S. citizens setting up residence in other countries. For example, click here for news groups discussing the issues of foreigners settling in Brazil.
Feinstein Intervenes on behalf of Border Patrol Agents
Sen. Dianne Feinstein intervened Friday in the cases of two Border Patrol agents who are imprisoned for shooting an alleged Mexican drug smuggler and who have become a cause celebre for anti-illegal immigration GOP politicians, conservative media and activists.
The California Democrat, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote letters to three top administration officials -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin -- asking for specific information about their agencies' involvement in the case.
Feinstein is the first prominent Democrat to become involved in the case of the border agents, and her office said she has secured the agreement of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to conduct a committee investigation. She said Leahy is open to a hearing on the matter.
Border Patrol agents Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were convicted last March and sentenced Oct. 9 for the 2005 shooting of an alleged drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who had driven a van loaded with 743 pounds of marijuana from Mexico to Texas. The agents shot Aldrete-Davila as he tried to flee back across the border with Mexico, then hid evidence of the shooting and failed to report it, according to the evidence presented at their trial. Compean received a 12-year federal prison sentence, and Ramos 11 years and one month. Click here.
New Blood for Industrialized Societies
There was a fascinating exchange of ideas on the political economics of immigration at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. More than 140 million people live outside their countries of birth, with illegal immigration being the most rapidly growing form of human migration. Developed economies, particularly in the EU and US, face new challenges as well as opportunities in managing their immigration policies. Participants debated the issues that surround this thorny subject, which is growing in importance. Participants included Dennis J. Snower, President, Kiel Institute of World Economics, Germany; John G. Evans, General Secretary, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, Paris; Neil Kearney, General Secretary, International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation, Brussels; Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Member of the European Parliament, Brussels; Luc Cortebeeck, President, Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, Belgium; Ben J. Verwaayen, Chief Executive Officer, BT, United Kingdom.
More on Immigrant Detention
It seems that immigrant detention has been in the news constantly since the 1996 immigration reforms. The latest involves a controversy over a new facility for immigrant families in Texas.
Responding to complaints about conditions at the nation’s main family detention center for illegal immigrants, federal officials threw open the gates on Friday for a first news media tour of the the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Center, is operated for the government by the Corrections Corporation of America, under a $2.8-million-a-month contract with Williamson County, Texas. It is named for a founder of the company, which runs 64 facilities in 19 states.
According to the N.Y. Times (here), federal officials portrayed the privately run converted prison, open since May, as a model facility “primarily focused on the safety of the children.” Once all the barbed wire comes down, Gary Mead, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, said, “it’s going to look more like a community college with a very high chain-link fence.”
Among other things, critics have complained about the prisonlike conditions, the food and the limited amount of schooling and recreation provided for children. Inside the fluorescent-lighted corridors, plastic plants had been hurriedly installed and some areas repainted, lawyers for some detainees said, and officials acknowledged that pizza was on the lunch menu for the first time. The detainees could not be interviewed.
Here are some more stories on the Hutto detention center courtesy of Dan Kowalski.
For Dan Kowalski's take, see http://www.ijjblog.org/2007/02/hell_in_hutto.html
February 9, 2007
Asylum for Victims of Domestic Violence
In the February 11, 2007 NY Times Magazine, Alex Kotlowitz has an exxcellent article on the evolving law of asylum for battered noncitizen women. It is entitled "Asylum for the Worlds Battered Women." According to the article, lastt fall, a United Nations report denounced the extraordinary number of women who are victims of domestic violence - and for whom protection from the authorities is often nonexistent. In some nations, like Bangladesh and Ethiopia, the U.N. found that as many as 6 of every 10 women interviewed had been beaten or sexually assaulted by their husbands or partners. The report called for better protection for abused women, but it didn't address how first-world nations like the United States should treat those women who manage to escape their abusers and flee their countries. Should victims of domestic violence be eligible for asylum, a protection that has traditionally been preserved for those persecuted as a result of political turmoil? this is the issue discussed in the article. Download nyt_magazine_207.pdf
More Deaths on the Border
From the N.Y. Times (here): Three illegal immigrants were shot to death, three were wounded and others were missing Thursday near Tucson after gunmen accosted them as they traveled north from the Mexican border, the authorities said. The shootings came a day after gunmen in ski masks and carrying assault-style rifles robbed 18 people who had illegally crossed the border 70 miles to the south, near Sasabe. On Jan. 28 a man driving illegal immigrants from the border several miles from the scene of Thursday’s killings was ambushed and shot to death as the immigrants fled.
Baseball Star Albert Pujols Becomes U.S. Citizen
Major League Baseball star, Albert Pujols became a U.S. citizen after a ceremony at a St. Louis courthouse. Born in the Dominican Republic, Pujols plays for the St. Louis Cardinals and has won an NL MVP award, a Gold Glove and a World Series. He added a perfect 100 on his U.S. citizenship test to his resume. Pujols’ wife, Deidre, arranged to have about two dozen relatives and friends watch U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber swear in Pujols. Click here for more on Pujols.
Bishop Criticizes Local Ordinance
When Dallas' Catholic Bishop Charles Grahmann spoke at a "Mass for migrants and refugees" recently, he smote the Texas city of Farmers Branch with the New Testament story of a family fleeing from King Herod.
"I often wonder if Joseph, Mary and Jesus would find a place in Farmers Branch," he said. "They would probably be told they would have to find another place."
The bishop was referring to a new city ordinance - still tied up with legal challenges and facing a referendum - that would make it illegal to rent an apartment to anyone who could not prove that he or she was in this country legally.
The bishop's comments stunned some of those leading the fight for the ordinance. They are Catholic and did not appreciate his message. Click here.
Human Trafficking Lawsuit Brought by Yale Students
Yale Law School's Workers' and Immigrants' Rights Advocacy Clinic filed a complaint today in a Connecticut labor trafficking case. The New York Times (here) and NPR (here) stories. here is the Clinic's press release. Download press_release_lawsuit_alleging_human_trafficking_and_forced_labor_in_connecticut_aguilar_v. Imperial Nurseries.pdf
The founder of the Borderlife Project and a professor of sociology at the University of Texas-Pan American, Chad Richardson has published two sociological studies of the Rio Grande Valley, Batos, Bolillos, Pochos, and Pelados (1999, UT Press) and the recently released On the Edge of the Law: Culture, Labor, and Deviance on the South Texas Border ( UT Press). For an interesting article about Richardson's research, click here.
Only in Texas? Proposal to Open Texas Prison in Mexico
A Texas lawmaker thinks it may be time for Texas to set up its own prison in Mexico. After all, he figures, the inmates would be closer to home and they're going to be deported anyway when their sentences are complete, so the move would save taxpayers money. "The plusses are that it's a heck of a lot less expensive to build and staff prisons down there," Sen. Craig Estes said. "They would be Texas quality and they'd roughly cost about half." A hidden side benefit? "I would hope some people might look at it as economic development in some areas of Mexico that desperately need it," he said. Click here for the full story.
Query what "Texas quality" is when it comes to prisons.
Thanks to Texas correpsondent Cappy W for the story.
Immigrant Governator Criticized for Comments About Immigrants and Immigration
In "Latinos lob a few words at governor Leaders label remarks on immigration, heard on tapes, as offensive," Anna Gorman in the L.A. Times (here) reports that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's off-the-cuff comments in recently released audio recordings about illegal immigration and the unwillingness of Mexicans to assimilate into American society have drawn angry responses this week from Latino community and political leaders. "I made an effort," the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger told aides last April in conversations that touched on assimilation. "But the Mexicans don't make that effort." The governor also used an expletive to disparage the 1986 federal law that granted asylum to more than 2 million illegal immigrants.
A recent study (here) discussed in the Christian Science Monitor also touches on issues of immigrant assimilation. US workers may be significantly less literate in 2030 than they are today. The reason: Most baby boomers will be retiring and a large wave of less-educated immigrants will be moving into the workforce. This downward shift in reading and math skills suggests a huge challenge for educators and policymakers in the future, according to a new report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
Restrictionists could read this study as supporting immigration restrictions and increased border enforcement. However, a more sensible response to the report, as well as the Governor's fears about lack of immigrant assimilation, would be to facilitate integration and assimilation, as suggested in the 1990s by the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform headed by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Investment, for example, in expanded English as a Second Language programs, which often are overenrolled in many cities, makes more sense than spending billions on border enforcement measures with little, if any, likelihood of success.
The Human Impacts of the Swift Raids
A couple articles makes one pause in evaluating the effectiveness of last decembers immigration raids at the Swift meatpacking plants.
The Washington Post (here) ran an article "Immigration Raid Leaves Texas Town a Skeleton" by Sylvia Moreno discussing the impacts of the December 12 immigration raid on the town of Cactus, Texas. On Dec. 12, hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents clad in riot gear and armed with assault rifles descended on the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in a coordinated raid of six of the company's facilities nationwide. The operation was the government's largest single work-site enforcement operation ever. The plant in little Cactus -- a town better known in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and in the department of Quiché, Guatemala, where workers came from, than in Texas -- was the largest one raided. Almost a quarter of the 1,282 suspected illegal immigrants arrested in the raids were removed from the Cactus plant.
The article begins with this description:
The streets of this small, isolated city in the Texas Panhandle are virtually empty nowadays, and "For Rent" signs decorate dilapidated trailers and shabby 1940s-era military barracks that just weeks ago were full of tenants. Sales of tortillas and other staples are down. Money wire transactions to Central America have mostly dried up. The "Guatemalas," as local residents call them, are almost all gone, and so are a significant number of Mexican nationals. An estimated 12 to 18 children are now living with only one parent since the other was arrested in a massive immigration raid at the biggest employer in town.
In "Lockdown in Greeley" in The Nation (here) by Marc Cooper (February 26, 2007 issue], a similar report comes from Greeley Colorado.
On the northern edge of this frozen-over city of 90,000 halfway between Denver and Cheyenne, Swift & Co.'s beef processing plant squats like a windowless concrete bunker alongside the snow-covered railroad tracks. The winter air hangs heavy with the stench of animal waste. And the three strings of barbed wire atop the chain-link fence that girdles the facility give the hulking complex all the appeal of some forsaken, remote prison. Nevertheless, the steam snaking high and gently from the plant's smokestacks has for several decades served as a beacon of hope and promise for thousands of immigrants, mostly Mexican, who have come north looking for a better life.
Now critics of the raids--workers, union reps, clergy, community leaders, policy analysts and lawyers--wonder what the high-profile sweep accomplished other than to traumatize a few hundred Latino families and to cost Swift an estimated $30 million in lost production. If anything, it starkly reveals, once again, a federal immigration policy completely detached from economic and social realities and a Bush White House incapable of moving ahead with much-promised reform. "What has changed because of all this?" rhetorically asks Francisco Granados, a Greeley businessman and volunteer providing relief services to the affected families. "Nothing. Nada. The whole system is set up to make you lie."
February 8, 2007
Queers and Immigration
QUEERS AND IMMIGRATION: A VISION STATEMENT
[**See letter below to endorse statement. www.queersforeconomicjustice.org ]
Two of the most divisive issues in the United States today are those concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer rights and immigration. There is little discussion of how immigration is also an issue for queer people, and even less analysis of the structural similarities between queer and immigrant struggles. Queer immigrants are marginalized or invisible at the intersection of two identities. As a whole, more complex family structures -- such as those of binational same-sex couples and extended families -- are completely absent from the larger struggle for immigration reform. The immigrant advocacy movement places undue emphasis on heteronormative relationships and conceptions of normality in an effort to gain basic citizenship rights. The mainstream LGBTQ rights movement tends to focus on those immigrants who are partners of US citizens. This leaves out the predicament of, for instance, single people and/or those who do not define themselves within conventional relationships like marriage or conjugality. Both movements are depriving themselves of the power and strategic insights that LGBTQ immigrants can provide. We, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gender-nonconforming people and allies, stand in solidarity with the immigrant rights movement. With this statement, we call for genuinely progressive immigration reform that helps LGBTQ immigrants.
We recognize that many in our community live as queers and immigrants and we are taking this opportunity, at a historic moment for both groups, to articulate our analysis of the immigration debate. We call for an end to the stigmatization of queer individuals, the recognition of our varied, unique, and flexible kinship networks, the end of the restrictive and dangerous criminalization of migrant and queer communities, and an immigration reform package that puts progressive labor reforms into practice.
The 2006 elections provided mixed results for our communities. Even though anti-LGBTQ ballots were being passed around the country, Arizona voters defeated a measure that would further stigmatize LGBTQ people (Proposition 107). Nationally, voters rejected anti-immigrant candidates running for Congress. Sadly, draconian anti-immigrant amendments were approved at the state level in Arizona (Propositions 100, 102, 103, and 300) and Colorado (Referendums H and K). These measures will have a severely negative impact on the lives of LGBTQ immigrants, virtually nullifying the positive gains of the election. We are strongly against states initiating laws that have detrimental effects on both queer and non-queer-identified people. There are many problematic aspects of these bills; we focus on a few main issues to highlight the injustices perpetuated by them:
We call for an immediate repeal of the HIV ban and bar on travel and immigration. The bar forces several immigrants to hide their HIV status and into criminalization. Moreover, the HIV bar is an unscientific public health measure because it perpetuates the stigma about HIV/AIDS. In many cases, the mandatory immigrant visa-related HIV test at the time of the adjustment of status application is the first diagnosis of HIV for an immigrant who may not be subsequently offered counseling or treatment options. The ban is ostensibly designed to keep the virus out, but it only penalizes HIV positive people, many of whom are already in the country. Moreover, immigrants are often infected in the US. The ban defines them as public health risks instead of ensuring their access to health care.
Under the current ban, waivers are offered on the basis of qualifying familial relationships. The ban does not offer waivers for non-conjugal relationships/kinship networks/same-sex partnerships and perpetuates the traditional devaluing of non-heteronormative bonds. We call for the reinstating of individual hardship waivers that would allow an individual to self-petition for humanitarian reasons or reasons of public interest-similar to those in place before the 1996 reforms which instituted the familial relationship requirement.
Policing the Border
The proposal for a national wall along the 20,000 mile border between US and Mexico is economically unsustainable and takes away from programs like education and public assistance. A wall would expand the existing police state and harm inflicted upon immigrants entering at the border. As the National Immigration Forum has reported, increased surveillance only results in increased desperation as migrant workers face injury, exploitation by coyotes, and the increased possibility of dying: "From January 1995 through March 2004, more than 2,640 migrants died. In the last four years there has been on average more than one death per day. A record 460 migrants lost their lives this past year compared to 325 in 2004, according to the U.S. Border Patrol." Clearly, spending on border security drains much-needed resources from US society and is not effective. These same resources could be used to strengthen social services for all within the US and to improve the economies of countries that send immigrants. Paradoxically, the demand for the wall comes with an increase in demand and need for immigrant labor in the US (Mexicans form 40% of California's agricultural labor force). It heightens anti-immigrant sentiment among US citizens and only extends the exploitation of immigrant labor.
The proposed wall is also detrimental to Native Americans and indigenous peoples. There are 26 federally recognized Native American tribes that live between Mexico and the US. These tribes are currently allowed to move freely in the border region; the wall would drastically change their way of life. Immigrants follow a travel cycle dependent upon work demand. This cycle would be interrupted by a wall and increased security by forcing them to stay in the US when it may be in their best interests to travel back to their country of origin. The construction of a wall would be counterproductive, increasing rather than reducing undocumented migration into the US.
The current definition of family in immigration law is limited to parents, spouses, and children. This definition also implies a heterosexual family structure. Unfortunately it is very restrictive because it leaves out most of the family structures in which LGBTQ immigrants live. Partners in same-sex binational couples, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews, and other extended family members are not considered eligible under this narrow definition (if recognition is granted, such as in the case of siblings, the time it takes to obtain a family-based visa is so long that it is equivalent to not having the benefit at all). As a result, the broad universe of non- heteronormative family units created by LGBTQ immigrants is automatically excluded from receiving immigration benefits. Both the LGBTQ and immigrant rights communities need to work towards expanding their narrow definitions of "family" in order to better serve all immigrants, including LGBTQ immigrants.
Applying for asylum based on sexual orientation is the only way for some of the most vulnerable LGBTQ immigrants to legalize their status. Currently, those who apply for asylum based on sexual orientation must do so within a year of entering the country. This disproportionately affects LGBTQ immigrants since many of them are unaware of the asylum provision or are recovering from torture and persecution. Many LGBTQ immigrants are affected by homophobia and transphobia in their day to day lives. This leads to isolation and lack of access to information and resources and delays their applying for asylum based on sexual orientation. We call upon removing the one year deadline for applying for political asylum. Moreover, the category of aggravated felony is being expanded to include offenses such as shoplifting and prostitution; this expansion only applies to immigrants. Individuals charged with aggravated felony are barred from any immigration relief including asylum. This is unjust and only a way of keeping more people from applying for immigration relief.
Harboring is the act of protecting or in any way assisting an undocumented immigrant. Harboring provisions appear in both the House and Senate Bills and target individuals and organizations that provide assistance to undocumented immigrants with financial aid, food, housing, and other basic social services. Currently individuals--friends or partners--who live with undocumented immigrants and immigrants who overstay their visas for any significant length of time are targeted under harboring provisions. US citizen partners of many foreign nationals, who are often denied legal relationships with their partners, could be targeted and prosecuted under harboring provisions and face fines, asset seizure, and imprisonment. We oppose efforts to criminalize those who assist the immigrant community, their families, and loved ones through harboring provisions.
Guest Worker Programs
The guest worker program provisions create a two-tiered system that divides our communities into "better" and "worse" immigrants depending on how long they have been in the country and what kind of work they do. It establishes hierarchies among immigrants based on their income potential and class categories. Under the guest worker program, employers may underpay and/or mistreat low-wage, temporary workers who cannot seek redress for fear of being left without employer sponsors. The program allows work-visa holders in supposedly more prestigious industries to gain citizenship more quickly. Such programs undercut and divide the labor rights movement in the U.S. by making it impossible to regulate immigrant workers' rights. This hurts US workers, especially those with fewer skills and low income. Moreover, the proposed guest worker program calls for mandatory HIV testing, making it the only non-immigrant visa worker program that actively discriminates against immigrants by requiring them to take an HIV test. We support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and call for it to be extended to immigrants, especially since an LGBTQ immigrant may lose his or her ability to live in the U.S. if fired for sexual or gender identity.
We demand genuine legalization and opportunities to adjust status for all undocumented immigrants. We believe that the current immigration system is broken and in need of repair. To that end, we demand the following:
· Enact genuinely progressive immigration legislation at the state level that respects the human rights of immigrants. We call for all states to opt out of the Real I.D. Act, reinstate in-state tuition fees for undocumented immigrant students, and not pass legislation that will disallow undocumented immigrants from accessing public benefits. Proposed legislation would allow for greater collaboration between local police and immigration enforcement officials. We are against such collaboration because turning police officers into immigration officials would further jeopardize the already fragmented relationship between police and immigrant communities.
· Repeal the HIV ban immediately.
· End the one year deadline for applying for asylum
· End the heightened policing and criminalization of immigrant communities, including the increased militarization of the border, the construction of any wall around the US-Mexico border, and/or the use of city and state government agencies to enforce federal immigration law.
· End the indefinite and mandatory detention of non-citizens and ensure the safety and self-determination of all people, regardless of national origin, race, gender or sexuality. Detention is particularly harsh for LGBTQ and HIV positive detainees. Rape, harassment, abuse, and denial of HIV treatment/hormone therapy are some of the routine forms of hardship that LGBTQ people face in detention.
· Strengthen labor laws and protections for all workers, native and foreign born, and end guest worker proposals that would continue the exploitation of many low-wage workers.
· End penalties imposed upon service providers and family members of undocumented immigrants.
· Repeal the Real I.D. Act, which creates a national database and makes it more difficult to obtain legal identification, thus causing hardship for thousands of people who cannot obtain identification. In addition, we demand that the Federal government not penalize states that opt out of the Real I.D. Act by, for instance, withdrawing support for educational programs. This Act is particularly hostile to transgender people who can be penalized and deported if birth records do not match current IDs. The national database is also worrisome for transgender workers who may not be open about their transitions at work.
· Eliminate the high-income requirements for immigrant sponsors.
· Eliminate the 3 and 10-year bars for so-called unlawful presence.
· Support efforts to create and affirm the broader definitions of family and kinship patterns in which LGBTQ people already live. Currently, LGBTQ US citizens and Green Card holders cannot sponsor their partners for immigration. The Uniting American Families Act would allow them to do so. We urge the passage of the Uniting American Families Act. But this is only a first step in the direction of the expansion of the definition of "family." A truly fair immigration system should recognize all families in our LGBTQ and immigrant communities, including non-immediate relatives and non-traditional families of our choice. We call for the end of immigration reform based on the notion of conjugality and instead support efforts to broaden definitions of "family" and end inequality.
· Support legalization for all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. End the criminalization of immigrants by preventing the expansion of deportation criteria and increased penalties for minor offenses.
As LGBTQ people (both immigrants and non-immigrants) we would like to express our disappointment with President George W. Bush. In addition to promoting the Federal Marriage Amendment, he has given in to the radical elements in his party and backed down on his commitment to immigration reform by choosing to focus on enforcement. The LGBTQ community is once again let down by lawmakers who are playing with our lives.
The undersigned are coming out as LGBTQ immigrants and allies in support of genuinely progressive immigration reform. Our natural allies are the LGBTQ and immigrant rights communities and we are eager to work with you towards achieving social justice for all. We will insist that both movements' strategies address the intersection where we live and love and struggle.
List of Endorsing Organizations as of 1/26/2007:
The Audre Lorde Project
85 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217-1607
Phone: (718) 596-0342
Fax: (718) 596-1328
Chicago Area Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Immigrants Alliance
c/o Yasmin Nair
Phone: (773) 784-3216
Filipinos for Affirmative Action
310 8th Street, Suite 306
Oakland, CA 94607
Immigration Equality, Inc.
40 Exchange Place, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10005
Phone: (212) 714-2904
Fax: (212) 714-2973
Love Sees No Borders
P.O. Box 60486
Sunnyvale, CA 94088
Fax: (413) 502-4758
National Center for Lesbian Rights
870 Market Street, Suite 370
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 392-6257
Fax: (415) 392-8442
Queers for Economic Justice
16 W. 32nd St., #10H
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 564-3608
Fax: (212) 564-0590
** ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ **
January 26, 2007
To Whom it May Concern,
We are contacting you from the Immigrant Rights Project at Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ). QEJ is an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming (LGBTQ) people committed to promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation.
We recognize there is a marked lack of LGBTQ voices in the current immigration debate. Congress and the nation are presently looking toward measures of immigration reform and we recognize that several agencies are working organizationally to influence the outcome of these reforms.
We are taking this opportunity to insert LGBTQ perspectives into the national debate over immigration. LGBTQ immigrants face their own specific concerns and obstacles within the immigration process for a number of complex legal and social reasons. Attached you will find a queer and transgender vision statement on immigration outlining some of these concerns, as well as certain demands for reform which we believe to be inclusive and fair for all immigrants to the United States.
We invite your organization to sign on to this vision statement and join us as allies in our struggle. Please respond with your support for the vision statement no later than February 8, 2007.
Immigration Policy Analyst
Queers for Economic Justice
16 W. 32nd St., #10H
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 564-3608
Fax: (212) 564-0590
Lawsuit Challenges Naturalization Delays
Civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit today against the federal government for its practice of indefinitely delaying citizenship applications in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes and regulations.
“There is no point in calling our legal process a path to citizenship, if the government puts up a roadblock to keep you from reaching the goal,” said Cecillia D.Wang, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We are taking legal action today to reaffirm the promises made to so many patient, hardworking immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens and fully participate in our democracy.”
The first of its kind in Northern California, the lawsuit seeks to enforce federal laws that expect the government to decide a citizenship application within 120 days of the naturalization test. Many of the named plaintiffs have been waiting for several years, a clear violation of the law.
The plaintiffs, long-time legal permanent residents of Northern California, have met all the legal requirements for citizenship, including passing their immigration interview and clearing criminal record checks, but have not been granted citizenship due to a so-called “FBI name check,” a process that has taken years to complete.
“I was excited when I passed the interview and the immigration officer told me that I would get a final response, at the latest, in three months. It has been over two years and still no word,” said 25-year-old Sana Jalili who has two American-born children. She immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was 15.
The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of Northern California, the Asian Law Caucus, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, all jointly filed the lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco today.
“This lawsuit deals with the government’s recent attempts to evade the law: moving the unreasonable delay earlier to skirt the letter of the law while still violating people’s due process rights,” said Sin Yen Ling, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “Our lawsuit specifically addresses the issue by arguing for a time limit within which the government must complete the ‘name check,’ regardless of the stage at which the check is conducted.”
Todd Gallinger, legal counsel with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, added: ““The Council on American Islamic Relations’ Bay Area Chapter (CAIR-SFBA) alone has received more than 65 cases, mostly from people of Middle Eastern or South-Asian origin. Other civil rights groups are also reporting a disproportionately high number of persons affected among the American Muslim community. Regardless of whether these delays are due to discrimination or incompetence, they are illegal and must be corrected.”
“The government’s failure to process naturalization applications in a timely manner creates terrible hardships for people like Abdul Ghafoor, who has been unable to bring his wife and four young children to the United States for the last several years” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. “We are bringing this lawsuit because of the impact on family integrity and civic participation for important members of our community.”
Defendants named in the lawsuit include the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, among others.
The case is Zhang v. Gonzales.
For a copy of the complaint go to www.aclunc.org or www.asianlawcaucus.org
Arizona County to Enforce Immigration Laws
Sheriff Joe Arpaio received the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' blessing on Wednesday to train up to 160 officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
Arpaio said the officers will be used to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants and turn them over to the federal government.
A small but growing number of law enforcement officials in the United States have asked for similar training. Critics contend that local officers doubling as immigration agents could undermine public safety by making immigrants reluctant to report crimes and could lead to racial profiling. Click here.
English Now the Official Language of Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville's city council has voted to adopt English as its official language, following similar moves by several smaller cities around the country.After months of debate, the city's Metro Council voted 23-14 on Tuesday to approve the measure requiring all government communications to be in English, except when multilingual communications are required by federal rules or are needed "to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare." Click here for the story.
A Report on (More) Deaths on the Border
In the mid-1990s, the U.S. government’s deterrence approach to immigration control militarized the U.S.-Mexico border, closed off major urban points of unauthorized migration in Texas and California, and funneled hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants through southern Arizona’s deserts and mountains. As a result, immigrant deaths along the border have increased dramatically. Experts estimate that the bodies of 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants have been found along the Southwest border since 1995. According to one expert, this border “has been more than 10 times deadlier to migrants from Mexico during the past nine years than the Berlin Wall was to East Germans throughout its 28-year existence.” In an policy brief (here), Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith, M.Melissa McCormick, Daniel Martinez, and Inez Magdalena Duarte summarize their report for the Binational Migration Institute at the University of Arizona.
For the latest death toll figures (about 3000) from Operation Gatekeeper south of San Diego, california, click here.