Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miami Herald Urges the DREAM Act

The Miami Herald, inspired by DREAM Act students, calls for passage:

Congress must pass DREAM Act

OUR OPINION: Current law punishes some of the nation's most talented immigrants
As the Obama administration and Congress look toward reforming immigration law to deal with the estimated 12 million people living in the United States without proper documentation, there's one fix that warrants immediate attention: the DREAM Act.

This proposed law, which has failed in Congress year after year, would give high-achieving children of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to stay in this country and go on to military service or college, paying in-state tuition and able to qualify for scholarships and other financial aid. It would provide a path to legal residency for young people who had no say where they should be raised.

Many of them don't speak their native language well or write it correctly, yet U.S. immigration policy now requires that they be deported. Some of these students arrived so young that they do not know they are undocumented until they apply for college and are asked to submit verification of their immigration status.

On Tuesday, about 500 such students from across the nation went to Washington to take part in a symbolic graduation ceremony to urge Congress to support the DREAM Act. A rally the same day at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus stressed the importance of tapping into the creativity of America's next generation. Faith leaders, business organizations, labor unions and civil- and immigrant-rights groups have come together to push for this sensible change in the law.

The case of Juan and Alex Gomez, students in South Florida whose Colombian parents were deported a couple years ago, stands out as an example of why the DREAM Act is needed. Juan is now studying at Georgetown on scholarship and Alex is studying and working in South Florida, thanks to a special temporary law that Congress passed to keep them in the country.

There are an estimated 65,000 such high-achieving students each year who hit a wall once they graduate from high school and find they can't go to college unless they are admitted as ''foreign'' students, paying exorbitantly high tuition. About 5,000 are in Florida. Click here for the rest of the editorial.

bh

June 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NY Times on Obama and Immigration Reform

New York Times editorial today:

A Way Forward on Immigration

President Obama and Congress members met privately at the White House on Thursday for their first major discussion of immigration reform. Immigration is just one unsolved national crisis among many, and it was hard not to suspect that the parties might use the meeting — which had already been twice postponed — to dampen expectations for a bill this year.

The meeting was more encouraging than that. It led to a persuasive show of unity among Republicans and Democrats. Both sides made the case for getting a comprehensive reform bill written and passed this year, or early next. Mr. Obama announced that the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, would lead a working group of both parties and houses of Congress to do that.

It now seems more likely than before that Mr. Obama is ready to lead the way, uniting problem-solvers in both parties out of a long-stalemated debate.

He’d better, because the alternative — another crashing letdown and the traditional exchanges of blame — is awful to consider. Expectations for reform have been steadily rising since the unprecedented Hispanic turnout and Democratic victories of last November. Those hopes have been given a dreadful urgency by the harsh enforcement regime of raids and deportations begun under the Bush administration, which have piled suffering onto hopelessness for millions of people, but not brought the country any closer to a solution.

Thankfully, a path forward is coming into view.

Give credit, too, to Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who assumed leadership of the immigration subcommittee from the ailing Edward Kennedy. In a speech the day before the White House meeting, Mr. Schumer laid out core principles that could be a solid foundation for a bipartisan immigration deal.

The speech was notably tough-sounding, but the principles were solid. Illegal immigration is wrong. The borders and workplace need tighter enforcement. Illegal immigrants must be required to register, learn English and pay taxes — or face deportation. But they should also be allowed to seek citizenship. The path back to a lawful system is through legalization and an improved, well-managed immigration flow. Click here for the rest of the editorial.

bh

June 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit Rejects One-Sided Hearing on Transexuals Asylum Claim

Sandra Hernandez in the SF Daily Journal (Download Delegating_Leads_to_Judge) writes about the interesting Ninth Circuit decision in the case of Edgar Lacsina Pangilinan, a detained transexual noncitizen who walked into an immigration courtroom and "listened carefully as a government attorney questioned her for hours about her asylum application. Pangilinan waited to tell her side of the story, of life in the Philippines, of abuse by police, and of a gang rape. But Immigration Judge Sean H. Keenan never asked. Instead, Keenan delegated the duty of developing the record to the prosecution, and then ordered Pangilinan deported." 

Based on due process concerns, the Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review and remanded the case.  Download 07-73603o[1]  Pangilinan v Holder, 08-71274 (9th Cir. June 1, 2009).

Hernandez notes in teh story that Immigrtaion Judge "Keenan denied 99 percent of the asylum cases that came before him over the past five years, according to a recent study by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse-based non-profit that studies government data."

KJ

June 27, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Immigrants not prone to more crime, a Utah conservative think tank finds

An assessment of undocumented inmates in Utah's prison and county jails shows that undocumented immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than the rest of Utah residents, according to The Sutherland Institute. The number of undocumented immigrants has risen 57 percent between 2004 and 2008, but the number of undocumented state prisoners only increased 10 percent.  For the full report, click here.

ra

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ACLU Urges Regard for Civil Liberties as Comprehensive Immigration Reform is Considered

An ACLU statement on immigration reform urges the following:

  • Immigration reform must not create a national ID system. Calls for new and expensive electronic employment verification systems and biometric worker identification are thinly-disguised national ID requirements. It is unacceptable to force American workers to be fingerprinted or photographed in order to work. The intrusive verification regimes that have been proposed would rely on massive and inaccurate databases, undermine the privacy of American workers, lead to discrimination against those who look or sound “foreign” and impose new burdens on authorized workers. These systems neither prevent the hiring of undocumented workers nor resolve the nation’s immigration issues. They merely saddle taxpayers and businesses with enormous costs in a time of economic crisis.
  • State and local intrusions into immigration policy and enforcement should be halted immediately. State and local immigration regulation and enforcement leads to racial and ethnic profiling and undermines effective policing by discouraging immigrant communities from cooperating with the police. Cities and states cannot be allowed to supersede national immigration policy by enacting their own laws targeting immigrants. When President Obama was on the campaign trail, he applauded a court decision striking down one such law, saying: “Today’s ruling … is a victory for all Americans. The anti-immigrant law passed by [Hazleton, Pennsylvania] was unconstitutional and unworkable – and … underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform so local communities do not continue to take matters into their own hands.”  The president should act consistently with his principles and direct the Department of Justice to support the legal challenges against these unconstitutional state and local laws.
  • Reforms to our immigration laws should be fair and ensure that the constitutional guarantee of due process for every person is fully respected and vigilantly protected. All immigration programs and policies of the Department of Homeland Security must be subject to effective oversight and judicial review by the federal courts. Every person, including immigrants, must have an absolute right to go to court to enforce the law and the Constitution. The power of courts to promptly review the actual practices and policies governing implementation of any legalization program that Congress may enact is essential to upholding fundamental rights, enforcing the Constitution, ensuring the rule of law, and preventing bureaucratic abuses.
  • Any new legislation to reform our immigration system must address endemic due process failures embodied in current law. We must end unnecessary and unconstitutional prolonged detention of immigrants who pose no risk or danger; we must restore discretion to eliminate mandatory deportation laws that ignore U.S. citizen children and spouses; we must ensure effective judicial review as the cornerstone of due process; and we must repeal summary procedures that deny fair hearings to immigrants or fail to protect bona fide refugees.

ra

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Fund for Train Victim's Family

Earlier, I posted a story on the hate calls received by the family of DC train crash victim Ana Fernandez. A fund has been set up for the family. Click here for more information.

bh

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Immigrant Homebuyers Could Play Crucial Role in Housing Market Revival

Immigration Impact reports that the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released a new housing report which provides a rather grim analysis of the current housing crisis. Real home prices continue to fall and foreclosures continue to mount despite recent federal interventions. Because of job losses, decreased home prices, and tougher credit eligibility requirements, homebuyers are finding it more and more difficult to purchase homes. But, as the report notes, immigrants could be a key element to recovery.

KJ

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

State Department Agrees To Fair Issuance Of Passports To Mexican Americans

To settle a lawsuit filed last year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has agreed to implement new procedures designed to ensure the fair and prompt review of U.S. passport applications by Mexican Americans whose births in Texas were attended by midwives. Under the agreement, no eligible applicant should be denied a passport.

The procedural changes are the result of a settlement agreement following a class action lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights and legal organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, the international law firm Hogan & Hartson LLP, and Refugio del Rio Grande, Inc. "The new procedures agreed to by the government are aimed at restoring the core American values of fairness and equality to the ways in which it issues U.S. passports," said Vanita Gupta, staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program who worked on the case along with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "Citizens will no longer be denied a passport solely because of their race, ancestry or because they happened to be born at home with a midwife."

The settlement comes at a particularly crucial time. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which went into effect June 1, requires every American who wishes to exit or enter or the United States to have a valid U.S. passport or passport card. Previously, citizens needed only a valid U.S. driver's license to travel between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada. "For U.S. citizens who live in the Southwest, a passport is now as necessary as a driver's license," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director for the ACLU of Texas. "We are relieved that US citizens who work, shop, receive medical care, and have family on both sides of the border will no longer be in danger of losing their jobs, risking their health, or being separated from family members simply because of the circumstances of their birth."

Although midwifery has been a common practice for more than a century – particularly in rural and other traditionally underserved communities – the lawsuit charged that DOS was violating the due process and equal protection rights of virtually all midwife-delivered U.S. citizens living in the southern border region by forcing them to provide an excessive number of documents normally not required to prove their citizenship. Then, even after the applicants supplied further proof of their citizenship, DOS responded by summarily closing their applications without explanation.

"Because DOS lacked clear standards, countless passport applicants were treated arbitrarily, said Lisa Brodyaga, the attorney for Refugio del Rio Grande. "With this settlement, applicants born with midwives are guaranteed the same full and fair consideration of their applications as everyone else. This is especially critical now given that the June 1st deadline of WHTI has passed."

The lawsuit also charged that the Department's practices were violating the Administrative Procedure Act, which was enacted as a safeguard against arbitrary and capricious government agency procedures. During the course of the litigation, several of the plaintiffs were granted passports even though they had been denied previously on the very same showing of evidence of citizenship.

Pending court approval, DOS will train its staff on how to fairly weigh all the evidence provided in passport applications and how to avoid improperly subjecting people whose births were assisted by midwives in Texas and along the U.S.-Mexico border to heightened scrutiny in reviewing their passport applications. All denials will be automatically reviewed by a three-member panel comprised of experienced DOS staff members, and if that panel also denies an application, DOS must communicate the specific reasons for the denial to the applicant. The applicant can then challenge the denial and ask DOS to reconsider its decision. Additionally, anyone birthed by a midwife who has filed an application for a passport between April 2003 and September 15, 2008 and, with a few exceptions, whose application was not expressly "denied," can re-apply for free. DOS will be setting up mobile units across the border on specific dates to assist those reapplying. DOS has also agreed to restrictions on a list it maintains of suspect midwives and other birth attendants, which it purported to use to justify its discriminatory policies. Importantly, DOS will not deny a passport application simply because the applicant's birth attendant or midwife is on the list. Furthermore, DOS will conduct regular reviews of the list to ensure that no one is included unless DOS has a reasonable, lawful basis to do so. These measures will help ensure that DOS does force passport applicants to take unnecessary measures to prove their citizenship and does not arbitrarily deny passports merely because the individual was born to a suspect midwife.

"We're very happy that we were able to come to an agreement with the government that recognizes every U.S. citizen's constitutional right to be treated with fairness and equality," said Adam K. Levin of Hogan & Hartson. "You can't deny basic rights to an entire group of U.S. citizens because their parents did not deliver them in hospitals." The attorneys working on the case include Gupta and Dennis Parker of the ACLU Racial Justice Program; Lucas Guttentag and Jennifer Chang Newell of the of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Robin Goldfaden, formerly of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Lisa Graybill of the ACLU of Texas; Levin, Thomas Widor, David Weiner and Melissa Henke of Hogan & Hartson; and Lisa Brodyaga of Refugio del Rio Grande, Inc

 A copy of the settlement agreement and notice about the court-approval process for this class action settlement is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/gen/40046lgl20090626.html

A copy of the complaint is available online at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/36669lgl20080909.html

Podcasts with individuals who were denied passports, community leaders in the Southwest, and attorneys who worked on the case are available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/gen/passports.html

KJ 

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Train Victim's Family Receiving Hate Calls

The anti-immigrant groups continue to show their lack of humanity and understanding for our fellow human beings. Their stupidity is also evident.

Jim Newell writes for NBC's Washington News:

The family of a woman killed Monday is dealing with more than just grief in the aftermath of Metro's deadliest accident in history.

The family of Ana Fernandez says they have been getting hate-filled telephone messages about whether or not Fernandez, a mother of six, was a legal immigrant.

Are there, truly, such people out there? They read a Hispanic last name, read that she had immigrated years ago from El Salvador, read all of this in an article about her death in a public transportation crash, and call her sister and six children to badger them with cable news-esque spittle about their deceased family member's immigration status?

They should know that this is not going to win their side much sympathy on Capitol Hill, if it ever considers immigration reform again.

By the way, they're legal.

"Right now, the whole family is in pain. She was here legally, and all her children are legal. They were born here."

bh

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

McCain Demanding a Guest Worker Program

Jeff Zeleny and Ginger Thompson write in the NY Times:

President Obama told a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday that Congress should begin debating a comprehensive immigration plan by year’s end or early next year, but Republicans said they would support a measure only if it included an expansion of guest worker programs.

Leading the call for that provision was Senator John McCain of Arizona, who told Mr. Obama he would have to take his “political lumps” and stand up to labor unions that oppose the idea. The president praised Mr. McCain for paying “a significant political cost for doing the right thing.”

In the State Dining Room, Mr. Obama met with about 30 lawmakers for the first substantial discussion on immigration since he took office. Mr. Obama named a group to work with Congress that will be led by the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona.

“I think the American people are ready for us to do this,” Mr. Obama said, “but it’s going to require some heavy lifting. It’s going to require a victory of practicality, common sense and good policy making over short-term politics.”

The last time Congress considered sweeping immigration legislation, in 2007, Democrats and some Republicans pushed a three-part agreement that would have essentially provided legal status to the millions of people living here illegally, strengthened enforcement of immigration laws and expanded guest worker programs.

In April, the nation’s two largest labor unions, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and its rival, Change to Win, joined together to promote a comprehensive plan but said they would oppose giving employers more power to bring in foreign workers. That agreement led business groups, a stronghold of Republican support, to leave the coalition.

Mr. McCain, speaking to reporters outside the White House on Thursday, said an immigration overhaul had a fresh urgency because of the surge in violence along the border with Mexico. But he said a guest worker program must be part of any immigration bill.

“I would expect the president of the United States to put his influence on the unions in order to change their position,” Mr. McCain said. As he left the White House, he said Mr. Obama needed to show leadership, saying, “That’s why he was elected president.”

Mr. Obama made no commitments in the meeting, administration officials said, but noted that all options were on the table, including a guest worker program.  Click here for the rest of the story.

bh

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Immigrant of the Day: Maria Martinez (El Salvador)

The Caucus: The Politics and Government blog of the N.Y. Times reports on our Immigrant of the Day, Maria Martinez, who came to the United States from El Salvador six years ago to rejoin her mother, a poultry worker in rural Virginia. An undocumented immigrant scheduled for deportation on August 27, Martinez, with two former teachers, visited lawmakers in Washington D.C. to discuss immigration reform on the same day that President Obama raised the issue with congressional leaders (which Bill Hing reported on yesterday).

In 1990, an earthquake devastated El Salvador and Martinez’s parents left to find work in the United States. Her mother, Olivia, was afforded temporary protected status. In 2003, Olivia Martinez paid  smugglers to bring her daughter to the United States. Three years later, she applied for legal status for Maria. Earlier this year, she was notified that the U.S. government had denied the petition.

Maria Martinez knows that her lobbying for immigration reform probably will not help her individually.  However, her circumstances should be a reminder that any delays in immigration reform will have real consequences on real people like Maria Martinez.  Patience may often be a virtue but undue delay unquestionably is not.

KJ

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

President Wants To Start On Reform This Year

After the President met with Congressional leaders today, he indicated that he wants to start on comprehensive reform this year and finish things up in 2010 before the mid-term elections. Here are his remarks. Following those remarks are the comments of others.

Obama THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We have just finished what I consider to be a very productive meeting on one of the most critical issues that I think this nation faces, and that is an immigration system that is broken and needs fixing.

We have members of Congress from both chambers, from parties, who have participated in the meeting and shared a range of ideas. I think the consensus is that despite our inability to get this passed over the last several years, the American people still want to see a solution in which we are tightening up our borders, or cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages -- and oftentimes mistreat those workers. And we need a effective way to recognize and legalize the status of undocumented workers who are here.

Now, this is -- there is not by any means consensus across the table. As you can see, we've got a pretty diverse spectrum of folks here. But what I'm encouraged by is that after all the overheated rhetoric and the occasional demagoguery on all sides around this issue, we've got a responsible set of leaders sitting around the table who want to actively get something done and not put it off until a year, two years, three years, five years from now, but to start working on this thing right now.

My administration is fully behind an effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. I have asked my Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Janet Napolitano, to lead up a group that is going to be working with a leadership group from both the House and the Senate to start systematically working through these issues from the congressional leaders and those with the relevant jurisdiction. What we've heard is through a process of regular order, they would like to work through these issues both in the House and in the Senate.

In the meantime, administratively there are a couple of things that our administration has already begun to do. The FBI has cleared much of the backlog of immigration background checks that was really holding up the legal immigration process. DHS is already in the process of cracking down on unscrupulous employers, and, in collaboration with the Department of Labor, working to protect those workers from exploitation.

The Department of Homeland Security has also been making good progress in speeding up the processing of citizenship petitions, which has been far too slow for far too long -- and that, by the way, is an area of great consensus, cuts across Democratic and Republican parties, the notion that we've got to make our legal system of immigration much more efficient and effective and customer-friendly than it currently is.

Today I'm pleased to announce a new collaboration between my Chief Information Officer, my Chief Performance Officer, my Chief Technologies Officer and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to make the agency much more efficient, much more transparent, much more user-friendly than it has been in the past.

In the next 90 days, USCIS will launch a vastly improved Web site that will, for the first time ever, allow applicants to get updates on their status of their applications via e-mail and text message and online. And anybody who's dealt with families who are trying to deal with -- navigate the immigration system, this is going to save them huge amounts of time standing in line, waiting around, making phone calls, being put on hold. It's an example of some things that we can do administratively even as we're working through difficult issues surrounding comprehensive immigration.

And the idea is very simple here: We're going to leverage cutting-edge technology to reduce the unnecessary paperwork, backlogs, and the lack of transparency that's caused so many people so much heartache.

Now, we all know that comprehensive immigration reform is difficult. We know it's a sensitive and politically volatile issue. One of the things that was said around the table is the American people still don't have enough confidence that Congress and any administration is going to get serious about border security, and so they're concerned that any immigration reform simply will be a short-term legalization of undocumented workers with no long-term solution with respect to future flows of illegal immigration.

What's also been acknowledged is that the 12 million or so undocumented workers are here -- who are not paying taxes in the ways that we'd like them to be paying taxes, who are living in the shadows, that that is a group that we have to deal with in a practical, common-sense way. And I think the American people are ready for us to do so. But it's going to require some heavy lifting, it's going to require a victory of practicality and common sense and good policymaking over short-term politics. That's what I'm committed to doing as President.

I want to especially commend John McCain, who's with me today, because along with folks like Lindsey Graham, he has already paid a significant political cost for doing the right thing. I stand with him, I stand with Nydia Velázquez and others who have taken leadership on this issue. I am confident that if we enter into this with the notion that this is a nation of laws that have to be observed and this is a nation of immigrants, then we're going to create a stronger nation for our children and our grandchildren.

So thank you all for participating. I'm looking forward to us getting busy and getting to work. All right? Thank you.

Angie Kelley: Center for American Progress: Clarity by the President that the debate will start the end of this year and will likely be completed by early next year or before the mid-term elections.  Both chambers need to be full engaged.  Schumer has pointers in providing how to guide the framework of the debate.  Both chambers need to move on the issue at the same time if we want to realistically pass CIR. 

CHRLA: Field was waiting for this moment to see leadership moving on CIR.  Pressure that the field built brought us to this moment.  We’re hopeful that we got our message to the White House about how important CIR is to the community.  26,000 calls into the White House.  1,000 calls to members of Congress by today.  11,000 faxes via America’s Voice. 

Congressman Gutierrez:  Thanks everyone, great job today.  Meeting did not happen without field pressure.  Hispanic Caucus called for the meeting.   Moved the date from next year to this year.  We need to reach out to Harry Reid in the Senate to make sure that he understand how important this issue is.  Keep the field activated.  Blah, blah, blah.  Need big activities.  Tell Obama your story so he can tell your story.  We’re going to win this one!

Frank Sharry:  Very important that today’s NY Times that so many are saying that it can’t happen; economy too sour; issue is divisive; he’s got too much on his plate.  But today, we have commitment from the White House.  Congratulations to all from all the work that’s going on!

Next steps, we need to target Congress in the next few months to get all 278 votes!

bh

June 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Emanuel: Votes Not There for Reform This Year

Michael Shear and Spencer Hsu write in the Washington Post:

Just hours before President Obama hosted lawmakers for a discussion on immigration at the White House, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel conceded that Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill do not have the votes to pass a comprehensive reform bill.

"If the votes were there, you wouldn't need to have the meeting. You could go to a roll call," Emanuel told reporters during an hour-long breakfast.

About 20 senators and House members met with Obama at the White House this afternoon for the discussion in the State Dining Room. Aides to the president said the meeting was intended to "launch a policy conversation by having an honest discussion about the issues and identifying areas of agreement and areas where we still have work to do."

The president is expected to announce administrative actions that the White House has already taken to chip away at the issues, including a modernization of computers that allow people to quickly see their immigration status. Officials said the White House hopes to begin the more controversial debate over a comprehensive approach to address illegal immigration later this year.

But Emanuel offered reporters a more realistic assessment, saying that while it is "not impossible" to get immigration reform done this year, it is more likely to be pushed off.

"It's not impossible to do it this year," he said. "Could you get it in this year? Yes. I think the more important thing is to get it started this year."

Responding to a question about the political implications for Democrats of delay, Emanuel said, "It's better that it happens politically. It's also better that we continue to focus on improving the economy."  Click here for the rest of the story.

bh

June 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Letter to President Obama

As we and the media have widely reported, President Obama is meeting with Congressional leaders today to discuss immigration reform. Here is a letter from National Latino Congreso urging the President to move forward on reform.

National Latino Congreso

“Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible. With such a policy we can turn to the world and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
President John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants

June 24, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC  20500

Honorable President Obama,

We, the undersigned organizations, representing thousands of immigrant families, write to commend you for meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss prospects for immigration policy reform.  We urge you to tackle this issue swiftly and substantively.

We understand how difficult it is to undertake the task of reforming our deeply broken, inhumane and wasteful immigration policy of today.  However, we believe that it is critical that a responsible solution be enacted both promptly and thoughtfully. In this regard, we urge you to make sure that the following be included in an immigration reform agenda:

1. A mandate to fully process all legal permanent residency and naturalization applications within six months from date of filing.

2. The creation of a federal immigrant integration policy dedicated to support local and state governments in managing the challenges of changing demographics as a result of migration.

3. The creation of a totally new adjustment of status program designed to allow all undocumented immigrants already residing in the U.S. to apply for legal permanent residency status in an expeditious and fair manner.

In the very immediate term, we encourage you to continue to take administrative actions that will provide relief to immigrant communities as well as peace of mind to employers who depend on immigrant workers. Specifically, we urge you once again to use your executive authority to do the following:

1. Suspend all work-place and residential raids which are solely motivated by the mere suspicion of a lack of immigration status.

2. Stop the sending of so called “Social Security No Match Letters,” which have been used by employers to unfairly subjugate immigrant workers and dissuade them from asserting workplace rights.

3. Terminate all existing cooperative agreements on immigration policy enforcement between ICE and local law enforcement agencies.

While we believe that thorough and profound changes in immigration reform are urgently needed, we also encourage you to actively support the passage of limited scope legislative reform initiatives intended to fix specific areas of our current immigration policy framework that contribute to ensuring the stability, integrity and unity of families. In our opinion, advancement on pieces of limited-scope legislation does not contradict advancement towards truly new immigration policy architecture.

We are leaders of Latino and immigrant-led community based organizations that are dedicated to serving and advocating for immigrant communities and committed to restoring due process and civil rights for everyone in our society.  The role of immigrants and immigration policy continue to be very contentious topics in our country, largely due to the fact that these issues have been taken hostage by political forces propelled by racism and xenophobia who blame immigrants for all of the social and economic ills that millions of U.S. households have been experiencing over the past few decades.

We recognize that the source of most Americans’ dwindling quality of life is not immigration but the dismantling of the social contract between government and its citizens and the implementation of an economic model that has concentrated wealth into fewer hands. Given this context, we believe you have a decisive role to play in order to move us all towards a new national framework inspired by rationality, humanity, and justice. In our opinion, these are values that have been missing so far from our national policy and legislative deliberation about immigrants and immigration policy reform.

In times when we are tempted to turn against immigrant communities, as we have been doing since at least the early 1990’s, we have to remind ourselves of the basic promises of our nation. The forever relevant words in our declaration of independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” must be kept in mind now more than ever. Unfortunately, given the way we have treated immigrant communities in recent years, it is clear that many of our so called leaders have forgotten about the foundational values of our nation.

The lack of political will to reform our broken immigration policy in a way that is in sync with our tradition as a nation of immigrants, as well as with the interconnected world in which we now live, has led to a countless number of abuses against immigrants, particularly against Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. The sooner we can count on a new, truly inclusive, humane, visionary and functional U.S. immigration law; the sooner we will begin to correct the conditions that fuel anti-immigrant sentiments throughout the country.

Finally, we would like you to keep in mind that while conventional wisdom considers immigration as a domestic policy issue, it is an area of public policy deeply affected by events outside our borders. In the case of Mexico, Central American and Caribbean countries, and the rest of Latin America, the profound social and economic asymmetries that exist between them and the United States of America, continue to be leading factors that push millions of people towards emigration. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the urgent need to combine public policy responses in the area of immigration with brand new policy initiatives in the area of international trade and economic development. By simultaneously moving forward in these two fronts, we will eventually bring about a humane equilibrium between domestic immigration policy and international migration.

We thank you again for taking leadership to reform immigration policy and for taking into consideration the views of the Latino immigrant community. We look forward to working with you to move ahead with just, humane and realistic immigration reform as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

America Para Todos, Houston, TX
Asociacion Guatemalteca Americana, Miami, FL
Agencia ALPHA, Boston, MA
Asociation of Mexicans in North Carolina, Greenville, NC
Asociacion Salvadorena en los EUA, Houston, TX
Association of Salvadorans in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Bay Area Guatemalan Action, Oakland, CA
Brazilian Immigrant Center, Allston, MA
CARECEN, Los Angeles, CA
CARECEN, San Francisco, CA
Casa Guanajuato, Chicago, IL
Casa Para Inmigrantes Mary Johanna, Hempstead, NY
Comite Centromericano de Emergencia, Revere, MA
Centro Guatemalteco Tecun Uman, Brooklyn, MA
Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan, Queens, NY
Centro Presente, Somerville, MA
Centro Romero, Chicago, IL
Chelsea Collaborative, Chelsea, MA
Club Francisco Villa, Chicago, IL
Club Leon Cardenas, Chicago, IL
Club Taji Ciudad Hidalgo, Chicago, IL
Club Morelia, Chicago, IL
Coalicion por los Derechos y Dignidad de los Inmigrantes, Cincinnati, OH
Comite Bolivariano, Chicago, IL
Comunidad Garifuna Guatemalteca, Bronx, NY
Comite Guatemalteco de Justicia y Paz, Cincinnati, OH
Comite de Unidad Guatemalteco de Nevada, Las Vegas, NE
Comite en Union de Salvadorenos, Newark, NJ
CONAFRAGUA, Bronx, NY
Confederation of Mexican Federations, Cicero, IL
Coalicion de Organizaciones Guatemaltecas, Miami, FL
CRECEN, Houston, TX
Dominican Development Center, Roslindale, MA
Durango Unido en Chicago, Chicago, IL
Erie Neighborhood House, Chicago, IL
Federacion de Clubes Michoacanos en Illinois, Chicago, IL
Federacion de Clubes Unidos Zacatecanos, Chicago, IL
Federacion de Clubes Zacatecanos del Sur de California, Los Angeles, CA
Federacion de Clubes Guerrerences en Illinois, Chicago, IL
Fundacion Jalisco U.S.A., Los Angeles, CA
International Migrants' Development Fund, Washington, DC
Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en Lucha, Houston, TX
Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL
Federacion de Oaxaquenos de Medio Oeste, Racine, WI
Fundacion Salvadorena de Florida, Miami, FL
Guatemalan Association of Latin America, Miami, FL
Garifuna Heritage Center for Arts and Culture, Bronx, NY
Grupo Cajola, Morristown, NJ
Grupo Cultural Garifuna, Bronx, NY
Guatemalecos Unidos para el Desarrollo, Palisades Park, NJ
Guatemalan Unity Information Agency, Miami, FL
Guatemalan Unity Information Agency, Los Angeles, CA
HADAS, Houston, TX
Heartland Workers Center, Omaha, NE
Hermandad Mexicana, Panorama City, CA
Hermandad Mexicana, Oxnard, CA
Hermandad Mexicana, San Diego, CA
Hermandad Mexicana, Las Vegas, NV
Hondurenos contra el SIDA, Bronx, NY
La Comunidad, Inc., Everette, MA
La Voz de Guatemala en New Brunswick, Highland Park, NJ
La Voz de los Abajo, Chicago, IL
Latinos Progresando, Chicago, IL
Latinos Unidos de Massachusetts, Everette, MA
Latino Policy Forum, Chicago, IL
Mexicanos Sin Fronteras, Manassas, VA
Movimiento de Inmigrantes Guatemaltecos en los EE.UU., Chicago, IL
Mujeres Latinas en Accion, Chicago, IL
Mundo Maya Foundation, Los Angeles, CA
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, New York, NY
Organizacion Negra de Centro America, Bronx, NY
Organizacion Guatemalteca Maya Quetzal, West Palm Beach, CA
Proyecto Hondureno, Boston, MA
Raices de Nuestros Ancestros, Bronx, NY
Red Por La Paz y el Desarrollo en Guatemala, New York, NY
Salvadoran-American National Network, San Francisco, CA
Solidaridad Humana, Hempstead, NY
Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee, WI
Salud Latina/Latino Health, Chicago, IL

bh

June 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ICE Directive to Release Immigrants Charged with Minor Criminal Charges

Some undocumented immigrants swept up on minor charges such as fishing without a license won’t face federal detention. Instead, they’ll be released on their own recognizance under an Obama administration directive to a Nashville, Tenn., sheriff who charged 6,000 people with immigration crimes over the past 2-1/2 years.

The 'release on recognizance' order by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security – could affect at least some of the 66 US law enforcement jurisdictions that are part of a controversial program which, in essence, deputizes local police to act as de facto immigration agents. The directive, made earlier this month, is the result of overcrowding in federal prisons, but also ties into a broader, ongoing review of the program, known as 287(g), and its impact on immigrant communities.


For the full story, click here.


ra

June 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Border Underground Tunnels Set a New Record

"Tunnel Rats" Border Patrol have recently discovered sixteen border tunnels used for smuggling people, weapons, and drugs.  For the full story, click here.

ra

June 25, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Schumer Says Reform Will Happen This Year

Jessica Brady writes in Roll Call:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) maintained Wednesday that Congress will tackle comprehensive immigration reform this Congress, and perhaps even this year.

“All of the fundamental building blocks are in place to pass comprehensive immigration reform this session and, even possibly, later this year,” Schumer, the No. 3 Democratic leader, said during a speech before the Migration Policy Institute.

Schumer, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, outlined key principles that must be part a reform bill, including strong enforcement of illegal immigration, an employer-based verification system and a direct path to citizenship.

The Democratic Conference vice chairman, who will join a group of lawmakers at the White House on Thursday for a summit on immigration, underscored “the intensity for solving this problem once and for all” this year. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has similarly suggested that immigration must be tackled sooner rather than later.

“I have no doubt that President Obama has an unyielding commitment to achieving comprehensive immigration reform,” Schumer said. “And I truly believe that his leadership will be the critical difference in getting us over the hump this time around.” Click here for the rest of the story.

bh

June 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Arizona Towns Hold Vigil on Immigration Reform Tonight

From the Border Action Network:

Four AZ towns hold "Now is the Time" vigils to push for reform

What: Vigils in four Arizona towns to call on Arizona Senator John McCain and other participants of the White House Immigration Reform meeting to push for immigration reform this year.

When: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 from 6:00-7:30pm

Where:

Tucson -Senator McCain's office at 407 W. Congress St.

Douglas -Corner of 5th St and Pan American Highway (Co-sponsored by Humanitarian Border Solutions, Episcopal Border Ministries and Frontera de Cristo)

Sierra Vista -St. Andrew Apostle Church, 800 Taylor Dr.

Nogales - La Casa del Viejo at 665 Morley Ave.

Who: Border Action Network and its Human Rights Committees throughout southern Arizona.

Why: On Thursday, June 25 at 2:00pm EST, key members of Congress will join the President at the White House for a meeting that is expected to create a roadmap for legislative action on comprehensive immigration reform in 2009.  The evening before this important meeting, members of Border Action Network in Tucson, Douglas, Nogales and Sierra Vista, Arizona are gathering to hold a "Now is the Time" vigil for Arizona Senator McCain and other meeting participants.

bh

June 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Iraqi Refugees Resettled into Poverty

From Mary Ann Zehr of Education Week:

How U.S. schools are supporting Iraqi refugee children is one bright spot in a report released today by the International Rescue Committee called "Iraqi Refugees in the United States: In Dire Straits." The report is based on interviews with Iraqi refugees and people who support them in Atlanta and Phoenix.

The authors of the report met Iraqi parents in those cities who were frustrated with their own situation but hopeful about the prospects of their children. The report's authors talked with Iraqi students and educators at the DeKalb International Student Center in Atlanta and the Montebello Elementary School in Phoenix. They met a 21-year-old Iraqi refugee, Ahmmed, who had resettled in May 2006. He was a senior this school year at Washington High School and set to graduate at the end of the school year.

But the report's authors found that many Iraqi adults were facing very bleak circumstances.

Many Iraqi newcomers have not landed secure jobs. The refugees are running out of resources (they are eligible for federal assistance for only eight months), and many are facing eviction and poverty. Some were tortured in Iraq and continue to experience emotional effects from such trauma. Many are war widows with children who have little work experience.

The report recommends that Congress reform the refugee resettlement program by appropriating emergency funds to prevent evictions and to extend the amount of time for federal assistance. It suggests that the aid that refugees receive should be made uniform nationally; now the level of financial support differs dramatically from state to state. It says that refugees should be better prepared in orientation before they come to the United States in what to expect. In addition, the report calls for a comprehensive review of the refugee resettlement system to determine how it should be overhauled.

It also provides an update of the numbers of Iraqi refugees who are being resettled in the United States. So far in 2009, 4,941 Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the United States. In the calendar year of 2008, the United States received 14,860 Iraqi refugees, up from 2,597 in 2007.

bh

June 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Corporate-Owned Papers Near the Border More Likely to Run Anti-Immigrant News and Views

Lee Drutman on AlterNet has a fascinating story on news reporting on immigration:

 "[P]olitical science professors Regina P. Branton of Rice University and Johanna Dunaway of Louisiana State University examined 1,227 immigration news stories and opinion pieces that appeared in 95 English-language California newspapers between March 1, 2004, and March 1, 2005, coding all coverage as negative, neutral or positive. They found that those papers closest to the U.S.-Mexico border tend to provide the most negative news and opinions on immigration. And being corporate-owned makes the papers even more anti-immigrant in their coverage." (emphasis added).

The study offers some interesting reasons for the one-sided reporting on immigration in the border press.  The bottom line is that it sells papers.

KJ

June 24, 2009 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)