Saturday, October 31, 2009
From Cesar Baldelomar of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
The language we use daily can cause either division or healing. In this case, individuals are using language to cause violence and perpetuate oppression. “Illegal Alien” is a derogatory and xenophobic term. It implies that an immigrant to the US is not a human being who deserves human rights, but rather some space alien-monster that should strike fear in the heart of white America and so should be eliminated at any cost. The “aliens,” like in the movies Mars Attack and Independence Day, are here in the US to invade and alter the comfortable lifestyles of many “citizens.” And, the vigilantes and neo-nazis (I refuse to capitalize the “n”) are the heroes during these times, since they defend the US from foreign invasion. Unfortunately, many today in the US still use alien and illegal when describing their fellow human beings. This dehumanizes the many immigrants who come from South and Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and several other locations to make an honest living. Click here for the entire post.
A reader just brought to my attention a very interesting article on the Huffington Post by Drew Westen (Emory) entitled "How Race Turns up the Volume on Incivility: A Scientifically Informed Post-Mortem to a Controversy." It discusses the often-subtle -- indeed frequently unconscious -- influence of race on the debate over immigration and immigration reform. Food for thought!
Friday, October 30, 2009
Asian American Civil Rights Groups Applaud Signing of Federal Hate Crimes Legislation
Measure Adds Categories to Hate-Crimes Protection and Expands Federal Involvement
LOS ANGELES and WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) applaud President Obama for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The new law expands the federal definition of a hate crime - which currently covers attacks motivated by race, color, religion or national origin - to include gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill also provides the U.S. Department of Justice with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions in investigations and prosecutions of hate-motivated violent crimes.
"Asian Americans have had first-hand experience with hate violence in the brutal murders of Vincent Chin and Joseph Illeto," said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of APALC. "As civil rights advocates, we have seen too many of our own community members be the target of hate motivated crimes and often not enough resources to ensure justice for the victims and their families. This new law provides more funding and tools to combat the spread of hate."
"After fighting for more than 10 years for enhanced hate crimes protections, we applaud the President for making this historic moment a reality," said Aimee Baldillo, director of programs at AAJC. "Passage of this law marks a significant forward for civil rights for all Americans, including those who are gay, lesbian and transgender as well those who are disabled.."
"Intolerance remains a deeply rooted problem in the United States," said Ismael Ileto, brother of Joseph Ileto, a Filipino American postal worker who was slain by a white supremacist in 1999. "As a community, we need to educate one another about hate crimes, but we must also build relationships and promote mutual understanding in order to eliminate hate crimes. We believe this new law, which we have championed for years, will make a difference in that work."
APALC and AAJC are leading organizations working on hate crimes issues.
Julia Preston of the N.Y. Times reports the very latest in the long and winding road of a case (which began in 1995) for Rody Alvarado, "a Guatemalan woman fleeing horrific abuse by her husband." The Obama Administration has recommended granting her asylum. "After 14 years of legal indecision, during which several immigration courts and three attorneys general considered Ms. Alvarado’s case, the Department of Homeland Security cleared the way for her in a one-paragraph document filed late Wednesday in immigration court in San Francisco. Ms. Alvarado, the department found, `is eligible for asylum and merits a grant of asylum as a matter of discretion.'”
Karen Musalo and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at Hastings College of the Law at the University of California represented Alvarado and has handled a number of other precedent-setting asylum cases on behalf of women, including the Matter of Kasinga (1996) which dealt with female genital mutilation.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It’s time for CNN to drop Lou Dobbs, the extremist cable host, from its network for his constant assaults on immigrants and Latinos in this country.
In contrast to CNN’s balanced news anchors, Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper, whose mantra is “Keeping Them Honest,” Dobbs constantly spews his xenophobic views on a regular basis. Maybe the charismatic Cooper can do us all a favor by keeping Dobbs honest?
It’s amazing to me how Dobbs blames immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, for everything that’s wrong with this country. From crime to disease, from the recession to the so-called erosion of American values, according to Dobbs, immigrants or what he calls “illegal aliens” appear to be the source of this country’s problems.
While everyone has the right to his or her own opinions, not everyone has a right to their own facts. Dobbs claims, for example, that undocumented immigrants account for one third of the total U.S. prison population. When journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! questioned this figure, countering that only 6 percent of the total prison population consists of non-citizens (which includes undocumented immigrants and others), Dobbs appeared unfazed about reporting false information to support his views toward immigrants.
In addition to crime, Dobbs constantly fabricates and exaggerates the extent that undocumented immigrants play in the spread of disease in this country. Dobbs claims that immigrants pose a danger to this country by spreading diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and leprosy without providing scientific research to support his claims. For example, according to Dobbs, undocumented immigrants cause 7,000 cases of leprosy every 3 years in this country. Contradicting this claim, television journalist Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes found that only 7,000 cases of leprosy have been reported during past 30 years in the U.S., without any direct link to immigrants. When questioned by Stahl on 60 Minutes, Dobbs seemed unconcerned about the gross discrepancies between his statements and the facts.
When it comes to the economy, undocumented immigrants, according to Dobbs, have wreaked havoc on this country’s financial stability. While it’s one thing to blame corporate America for outsourcing jobs to foreign countries and to hold the federal government accountable for free-trade policies that endanger the middle-class in this country, it’s quite another thing to hold undocumented immigrants responsible for America’s economic ills.
How in the world can an undocumented immigrant who works in a service-oriented job that most Americans avoid due to the low wages and social stigma associated with so-called immigrant jobs, present a threat to America’s economic prosperity? Instead of attacking Lehman Brothers and the Republicans’ reckless deregulation policies for hurting the American economy, Dobbs and fellow conservatives act like it’s the Garcia brothers and their willingness to work in this country’s most dangerous and lowest-paying jobs that best explains the current economic meltdown.
Apart from linking undocumented immigrants to the United States’ current problems related to crime, disease and the recession, Dobbs and other conservatives assert that recent immigrants threaten the social fabric of this country.
For example, the late political scientist Samuel Huntington of Harvard University famously wrote an essay titled “The Hispanic Challenge,” where the distinguished professor unabashedly portrayed Mexican immigration in particular as one of the biggest threats to the “Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream.”
It’s maddening to see that, in a time where many people claim that we live in a so-called post-racial society, especially with the election of Barack Obama to the presidency and successful appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to Supreme Court justice, that powerful public figures like Huntington and Dobbs can spew their anti-immigrant views without internal pressures from reputable institutions like Harvard and CNN, respectively.
Shame on them all.
Just like the Civil Rights Movement for the black community, it’s incumbent upon the growing Latino community, especially those of Mexican descent, along with individuals who value a society free of discrimination and exploitation, to help remove Dobbs from his privileged position at CNN.
CNN is not a public or democratically elected institution, where we have a constitutional right to vote for who speaks on behalf of this organization. We can, however, put pressure by boycotting the corporations who underwrite Dobbs’ anti-immigrant views through advertisement dollars.
Those corporations whose advertisement dollars keep Dobbs on the air are guilty by association and don’t deserve the tremendous purchasing power of the Latino community.
Fortunately, an ongoing effort led by community leaders and a coalition of pro-immigrant advocacy groups, such as bastadobbs.com, are currently engaged in a campaign to stop Dobbs from spreading more hate and fear against honest, hardworking people in this country.
In short, the time has come for those who believe in a more just and humane society to work together toward sending Lou Dobbs to where he belongs: Fox News.
Originally Published: Daily Bruin (UCLA), October 29, 2009.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently issued a Fact Sheet for the public charge exclusion. Download Public_charge_fact_sheet
The exclusion is interesting because it exudes class-based discrimination, something generally not exhibited so brazenly in American law. For much of its history, despite the stated ideal that it openly embraces the “huddled masses” from the world over, the U.S. government has not been particularly open to poor and working people seeking to migrate to the United States.
Buried in the American psyche is the deep and enduring fear that, unless strong defensive measures are put into place and aggressively enforced, poor immigrants will come in droves to the United States, overwhelm the poorhouses, and excessively consume scarce public benefits that many believe should be reserved for U.S. citizens. Responding to that fear, U.S. immigration law has long provided that “[a]ny alien . . . likely at any time to become a public charge”—even one otherwise eligible for an immigrant or nonimmigrant (temporary) visa—cannot be admitted into the United States. See Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) § 212(a)(4)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A). The INA further provides that the receipt of public benefits within five years of entry also may result in the deportation of an immigrant. See INA § 237(a)(5), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(5). Over time, Congress has significantly tightened the public-charge exclusion and, since major reforms in 1996, it has been most vigorously enforced.
As amended, the Immigration & Nationality Act currently requires the State Department consular officers to consider the following factors in applying the public-charge exclusion to each and every noncitizen seeking entry into the United States: the noncitizen’s age, health, family status, assets, resources and financial status, and education and skills. INA § 212(a)(4)(B), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(B). Put differently, a prospective entrant must establish that he or she is and will continue to be a member of a particular socioeconomic class—most definitely not poor or likely to ever become poor—to lawfully migrate to the United States. In this way, the U.S. immigration laws enforce a kind of caste system restricting access to the proverbial “land of opportunity,” with certain socioeconomic classes barred from entry.
To this dubious end, the law requires that each prospective immigrant secure a well-heeled sponsor in this country willing to “agree[ ] to provide support to maintain the sponsored alien at an annual income that is not less than 125 percent of the Federal poverty line . . . .” INA § 213A(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(a)(1). Sponsors, with the resources necessary to make this substantial income commitment, must submit legally enforceable “affidavits of support,” which obligate the sponsor to reimburse the government if an immigrant somehow accesses public benefits. INA § 213A, 8 U.S.C. § 1183a.
The U.S. government routinely invokes the public-charge exclusion as grounds to deny immigrant and nonimmigrant (temporary) visas to the United States to noncitizens from the developing world. For well over a century, the exclusion in one form or another has made it especially difficult for poor and working people from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to lawfully enter the United States.
In 1996, Congress toughened the public-charge exclusion by significantly tightening the affidavit-of-support provisions to expressly make the affidavits legally enforceable in courts of law. The unmistakable intent was to make it more difficult for noncitizens of modest means to migrate to the United States. The very same year, Congress stripped lawful immigrants, even those who had paid taxes, of eligibility for several major federal public-benefit programs. Generally speaking, immigrants – both legal and undocumented -- remain ineligible for most major federal benefits programs.
As the existence of the public-charge exclusion suggests, the fear that immigrants might overconsume scarce public benefits if the nation is not exceedingly careful remains prevalent. Consider California’s watershed Proposition 187, a law passed overwhelmingly by the Golden State’s voters in 1994, which would have denied almost all public benefits, including an elementary- and secondary-school education, to undocumented immigrants. Concern with the socioeconomic class of today’s immigrants bolstered by deep-seated anti-Mexican animus, combined with legitimate concerns about immigration control, contributed to a landslide (2-1) vote in support of the measure. Proposition 187 served as a model followed by many other states and localities that passed laws directed at regulating immigration and immigrants.
Although judicial intervention prevented the bulk of the initiative from ever going into effect, the passage of Proposition 187 unquestionably signaled to Congress the widespread public discomfort with immigration, specifically with undocumented immigration, and public benefit receipt by immigrants. Not long after, Congress in 1996 passed a welfare-reform bill that achieved the bulk of its fiscal savings by denying legal immigrants access to many federal-benefit programs (undocumented immigrants had previously been ineligible for those programs) and increased funding for greatly heightened enforcement measures along the U.S.–Mexico border.
The American Immigration Law Foundation Becomes American Immigration Council
Name Change Reflects Broader Role in Immigration Arena
October 29, 2009
Washington D.C. - Today the American Immigration Law Foundation announced a name change to accompany a more ambitious mission for the organization. The new name, American Immigration Council, reflects the expansion of the organization to assume a larger role and greater involvement in the immigration policy, education, and exchange communities. It is also recognition that the organization has grown both in size and stature over the last five years as our program work has expanded beyond the courtroom and into the halls of Congress and the public square. The American Immigration Council will continue to serve existing constituencies, but will expand its reach to new partners and programs.
"Our new name and identity more clearly reflects our growing mission to serve an expanding field of immigration advocates," said Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director. "The American Immigration Council is structured to provide more room at the table for diverse parties interested in immigration. The Council will form an umbrella under which we will build additional partnerships while continuing the success of our existing programs."
The American Immigration Council is also introducing a new brand identity and website, AmericanImmigrationCouncil.org, which unifies its four key programs: Immigration Policy Center, Legal Action Center, International Exchange Center, and Community Education Center.
This change represents another step forward in the evolution of the organization, founded almost 25 years ago. The American Immigration Council, which has positioned itself as one of the foremost experts in immigration law, policy, education, and exchange programs, will continue its mission of honoring our immigrant past and shaping our immigrant future.
For more information contact: Wendy Sefsaf at 202-507-7524 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gustavo De La Vina, the former U.S. Border Patrol chief, has died at age 70 in the Balkan nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he worked as a private advisor. De La Vina joined the Border Patrol in 1970 at the Eagle Pass, Texas, port of entry. He rose through the ranks to become deputy El Paso sector chief, San Diego sector chief and the Western regional director. In December 1997, he was promoted to chief of the Border Patrol, the first of Mexican American descent, and remained in the post until he retired in 2004.
De La Vina implemented Operation Gatekeeper, a controversial border operation in the San Diego area that militarized the border and resulted in many deaths while also reducing migrant traffic in urban areas. After his promotion to patrol chief, he created the Border Safety Initiative to warn would-be immigrants of the dangers of border crossings and searches for immigrants in distress in deserts.
The L.A. Times obituary offers more details about De La Vina.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
New America Media reports that more than House Democrats who support comprehensive immigration reform signed a letter reminding President Obama of his administration's commitment to overhaul immigration. The letter was clearly meant to nudge the White House toward engaging an issue it has allowed to languish. The letter expressed House Democrats' “commitment to fix our broken immigration system” and cited “strong support for moving forward on fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform this year." One of the signees, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, is gearing up to introduce a major immigration reform bill as early as next month.
A new report from the Department of Homeland Security:
This report presents estimates of the legal permanent resident (LPR) population living in the United States on January 1, 2008. The LPR population includes persons granted lawful permanent residence, for example, “green card” recipients, but not those who had become U.S. citizens. The estimates are shown for the total LPR population and the LPR population eligible to apply to naturalize by country of birth, state of residence, and the year LPR status was obtained. Data for the estimates were obtained primarily from administrative records of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The methodology used for the 2007 estimates is similar to that used in previous DHS estimates (see Rytina, 2008 and 2009).
In summary, an estimated 12.6 million LPRs lived in the United States on January 1, 2008. One-half obtained LPR status in 2000 or later; one-quarter became LPRs during 2005-2007.
During the Presidential campaign and early in his administration, President Obama has claimed that he supports comprehensive immigration reform. So far, all we have seen from the administration is "enforcement now, enforcement forever." A supporter of immigration reform, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) hopes to move immigration to the top of the President's agenda. Gutierrez explains on NPR why he thinks comprehensive immigration reform cannot wait. He also talks a bit about his proposal, which, among other things, would include a commission that would study possible immigration reforms to match labor market needs.
Yale Law School's Immigration Clinic reportedly will file suit today on behalf of ten New Haven residents against the U.S. government for the alleged violation of constitutional rights during immigration raids in New Haven in June 2007. Federal agents lacked search warrants and allegedly arrested people solely on the basis of race.
The Clinic contends that the raids were retaliation of the Board of Aldermen’s approval two days earlier of the Elm City Resident Card, an ID card provided to city residents regardless of immigration status.
On June 6, 2007, ICE agents raided eight apartments and homes, detaining 29 New Haven residents; only five were the intended targets of the raids. An immigration judge previously dismissed removal propceedings against some of those arrested, finding that the raid constituted an "egregious" violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
An independent analysis of the Census concluded that a senate proposal to count only United States citizens when reapportioning Congress would cost California five seats and New York and Illinois one each. Texas, which is projected to gain three seats after the 2010 census, would get only one. The proposed change would spare Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania the expected loss of one seat each. Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina would each gain a seat. If every person regardless of immigration status is counted, as the Census is currently run, then Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Utah would gain one seat each and Texas would get three. For the full story, click here.
Latino tempers flared this week with news reports out of New Mexico that an Anglo hotel owner -- who sounds something like Clint Eastwood's character in Gran Torino -- "marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel. The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names. No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark."
The outrage may well be justified. But do not forget that it was not that long ago that Spanish names were Anglicized in the public schools and that to speak Spanish in many public schools was a punishable offense. English-only laws remain popular with much of the public.
A comprehensive report issued today by the AFL-CIO, American Rights at Work and the National Employment Law Project finds that the federal government’s immigration enforcement in recent years – including a heavy reliance on raids and often inadequately trained enforcement agents – has severely undermined efforts to protect workers’ rights, to the detriment of immigrant and native-born workers alike. Drawing on several case studies from across the country, the report offers an unprecedented analysis of how the division between labor and immigration enforcement has eroded, and a blueprint for how the new administration and federal agencies can restore the balance.
ICED OUT: How Immigration Enforcement Has Interfered with Workers’ Rights builds on a growing body of research that points to a decline in workplace protections – and details how the dramatic increase in immigration enforcement agents, arrests and prosecutions of immigrants in the U.S. has repeatedly taken precedence over labor law enforcement. Drawing on case studies from across the country – including California, Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Florida and Oregon – the report examines a series of alarming incidents between 2005 and 2008 in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has:
1.taken enforcement action at the behest of employers, their surrogates, and other police agencies;
2.conducted immigration-focused surveillance in the midst of labor disputes;
3.conducted enforcement action with full knowledge of an ongoing labor dispute;
4.engaged in subterfuge to carry out enforcement actions; and
5.directly interfered with the administration of justice by arresting workers on the courthouse steps.
In 2008, the report notes, ICE made 6,287 (5,184 administrative; 1,103 criminal) arrests for immigration offenses at workplaces, and only a small fraction of its arrests (2.1 percent) were of employers or employers’ agents. In August 2009, ICE reported having enrolled 63 agencies and trained 840 officers in a program to assist in identifying undocumented immigrants. However, the GAO recently criticized ICE for inadequate oversight and training under the program, and it has frequently been cited as contributing to racial profiling. “Focusing on raids and other types of immigration enforcement without regard to enforcement of labor and employment laws does not address what is really sustaining illegal immigration—the virtually unfettered ability of employers to exploit immigrant workers economically,” said Ana Avendaño of the AFL-CIO organization, a co-author of the report. In 1998, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the then-named U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS, now ICE) and the U.S. Department of Labor established a firewall between immigration and labor law enforcement, with the purpose of reducing economic incentives for hiring unauthorized workers, limiting abusive treatment of workers, and promoting jobs for legal, authorized U.S. workers. The MOU provides guidelines for when cooperation between workplace and immigration enforcement agencies is appropriate, and when it is not. For example, when workers complain about wage and hour violations, the MOU stipulates that DOL should not conduct reviews of work authorizations or inquire about the immigration status of complainants. to work on reconstruction efforts in Texas after Hurricanes Ike, shared his personal story.
The report make specific recommendations for the Obama administration and several federal agencies on how to restore the proper balance between immigration and labor law enforcement.