Saturday, March 20, 2010

Luis Gutierrez Challenges President Obama to Step Up on Reform

From Hispanic News: Obama on Immigration: Then and Now: Obama has Failed Hispanics!

Luis Gutierrez

WASHINGTON (By U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez) March 17, 2010 — Three years ago, when I met with Senator Barack Obama in his Chicago office and we contemplated his possible run for the presidency, I was enthusiastic.

On that day, it was hard for me to imagine a time I would have to say no to Barack Obama when he asked me for support. But last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sat down with the president, and he asked us to vote for the health care reform bill -- a bill that denies immigrants the opportunity to purchase health care with their own money. It was one more in a string of disappointments for the Hispanic community, and today, I no longer find myself able to confidently say "yes" when President Obama asks me for his support.

I remember clearly the afternoon I sat down with Obama. In December 2006, he was preparing for a family trip, and the decision to run weighed heavily on his mind. As a progressive member of Congress from Illinois, I was excited and energized by the prospect of my Senator, and my friend, running for President. At the depths of the Bush presidency, the idea of a like-minded, forward-looking leader for our nation seemed almost too good to be true.

Senator Obama and I had been on the same side of many fights, and we had worked together on the issue that is most urgent to me -- comprehensive immigration reform. At that time, it would not have been unusual to see "Obama Marches for Immigration Reform" as a headline on this site. His record matched his rhetoric on this tough --and controversial-- issue.

I was the first Latino Member of Congress to support Senator Obama's candidacy. For quite a while, I was the only one. My Senator had passion when he told me that comprehensive immigration reform was the right thing for America. He had conviction when he said that, as President, he would make it happen. And I believe he spoke genuinely when he said it would be a fundamental priority as President.

After Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I was in the field from coast to coast promoting him. I promised the Latino community that --at last-- we had a candidate who would fight for us and for our causes.

Then, as a candidate, Senator Obama told packed auditoriums, "I think it's time for a President who won't walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular."

Then, he said, "I will make it a top priority in my first year as President - not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country. And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants. But because we have to finally bring those 12 million people out of the shadows."

That was then. This is now.

Now, for Latinos in this country --for anyone who cares about fair, comprehensive and humane immigration reform-- Barack Obama has delivered "change." It's been a change for the worse.

Then, candidate Obama said "I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country."

Now, the President defines "universal" as everyone but immigrants, who are denied even the opportunity to pay into the system, to demonstrate their commitment to a healthier America, to access care anywhere but the emergency room at the greatest expense to us all.

Then, candidate Obama brought thousands of Latino activists to their feet by promising action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, President Obama devotes one out of 71 minutes in the State of the Union to immigration.

Then, he said, "We cannot and should not deport 12 million people. That would turn America into something we're not; something we don't want to be."

Now, in his first year alone, the President has deported a record 387,790 immigrants, ordering ICE to remove 13 percent more undocumented immigrants than George Bush did during his last year in office.

Now, as American families continue to be separated, as immigrant workers continue to be abused by employers, as the need for a fair and sensible solution becomes more urgent every day, this administration's action on comprehensive immigration reform can fairly be summarized with one word: nothing.

As a Democrat from Illinois, as a member of Congress who believes in and admires President Obama, it genuinely pains me to say that the facts show that this President has done no more to solve our immigration crisis than George W. Bush.

I'm not the only one to notice. On March 21, tens of thousands of frustrated and impatient people will march on Washington to tell Congress and the President that they have not forgotten the promises that were made to them about immigration reform. They will gather from across the country as human rights activists, as labor activists, as religious activists, as hard-working men and women who deserve fairness on the job. They will come as children who refuse to be separated from their parents and students who demand access to the education they have earned. And they will rally as Latinos who for the most part have supported the Democratic Party and whose power helped turn states like Florida and Colorado and Nevada a bright shade of blue.

They have fought and marched and voted for a system that recognizes the value of immigrants, not one that exploits immigrants for cheap political gain. Our people deserve laws that don't stop at securing our border, but go further to secure our economy, protect our workforce and recognize the proud tradition of immigrants seeking the American Dream.

Some pundits and political analysts will say that now is not the time to promote immigration reform. It's too controversial. It's too difficult. It could cost Democrats some seats in Congress, or distract the President from other initiatives.

But the truth is that our community and its leaders have now spent years waiting patiently at the back of the line of national priorities. We've asked nicely, we've advocated politely. We've turned the other cheek so many times that our heads are spinning.

Waiting, and hoping, doesn't make our borders safe. It doesn't keep families together. It doesn't strengthen our economy. It doesn't bring human beings out of the shadows so they can work harder and pay more taxes.

Only action now by President Obama and this Congress will bring fairness and justice to a system that is fundamentally unfair and unjust.

The need for comprehensive immigration reform is urgent. The proposals exist. The road to reform is clear. Then, as a candidate, Barack Obama said he was ready to travel that road. Now, as President, we need him to hold to that promise and begin the journey today.
bh

March 20, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

NY View on Schumer-Graham and March Update

From the NY Immigration Coalition

ON THE SCHUMER-GRAHAM IMMIGRATION BLUEPRINT & THE PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE

&

UPDATE ON MARCH 21ST MOBILIZATION FROM NEW YORK STATE

Statement by Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition:

“The bipartisan immigration reform framework laid out yesterday by Senators Schumer and Graham is a welcome opening for real movement on fixing our immigration system at last.  As the first bipartisan proposal on record in this Congress, it’s a critical step toward comprehensive immigration reform and should help unclog the bottleneck that has kept this issue unresolved for far too long.  It builds on the hard work that has already occurred in the House, where Representative Gutierrez has introduced a bill with nearly a hundred sponsors. 

“The senators’ publication of their op-ed, and the flurry of activity in the weeks preceding it, including an immigrant leadership meeting with President Obama, are significant accomplishments that are a direct result of the tens of thousands of individuals who have been mobilizing for a Washington rally on Sunday, March 21st.

"In the weeks ahead, a debate will take place about the details of proposed legislation.  We will work to ensure that the bill includes strong family unity provisions and major detention and due process reforms, among others.  And we will work to prevent further criminalization of immigrants and help design a constructive legalization program.  We are ready to roll up our sleeves to address these and other critical policy concerns, with hope and faith that Senators Schumer and Graham’s bipartisan leadership will help steer the debate in the right direction.  But in order to move the blueprint to its final legislative and political fruition, we also need the president’s leadership. 

“The president committed to helping move the debate forward when he met with me and other immigrant leaders last week and has since expressed support for the Schumer-Graham framework.  But as recently as yesterday, his own immigration official pledged to ratchet up workplace raids—targeting the very people for deportation that the Schumer-Graham proposal would legalize.  At some point, the president must bring his own agency’s actions into alignment with his stated commitment to real reform.  To highlight the need for his leadership, many of us will begin our March on Washington in front of the White House this Sunday. 

“There is no doubt about it:  fixing our immigration system will be a heavy lift—as will getting past Beltway gridlock—and like any great effort, it will require courage, determination, a certain risk-taking that might be out of step with the poll-taking climate that pervades DC, and a willingness to debunk the demagogues head-on rather than accommodate them.

“On Sunday, tens of thousands of people will gather on the Mall and demonstrate our passion, frustration, grief, and anger at the damage inflicted by our broken immigration system and the stalemate that has prevented Washington from arriving at real solutions.  Most notably, we’ll be demonstrating our faith in a vision for a better America, our hope that we can get past this environment that tears families apart, stymies the economy, keeps millions in the shadows, and betrays the very values our nation should uphold.

“To our members of Congress and our senators, we say:  join Senator Schumer, Senator Graham, and Representative Gutierrez to move legislation forward.

“To our president, we say:  you were carried into office on the promise of your vision.  Don’t let inside-the-Beltway gridlock destroy that promise.  Si se puede.  But we need you.”

# # #

“March for America” Mobilization at a Glance

The march is sponsored by the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign; the New York Immigration Coalition directs the New York State campaign.

# of New Yorkers participating in the March for America: 11,000+

# of buses leaving from New York: 210+

# of participating New York organizations/unions/faith groups*: 100+

Areas in New York sending buses to DC:

• Albany
• Binghamton
• Buffalo
• Hudson Valley
• Ithaca
• Long Island
• New York City
• Rochester
• Syracuse

New York City Council Members confirmed to march:

• Margaret Chin
• Daniel Dromm
• Mathieu Eugene
• Robert Jackson
• Melissa Mark-Viverito
• Ydanis Rodriguez

bh

March 20, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Rights Groups to ICE: Stop Raids for Census

New America Media reports that immigrant rights advocates have sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano asking them to immediately suspend all immigration enforcement activities through the end of the year in order to decrease fear within immigrant communities and encourage their participation in the 2010 Census. Questionnaires for the 2010 Census are due to arrive in the mailbox of every U.S. household between now and April 1. The letter, which was signed by more than 200 organizations nationwide, calls for the suspension of more than a dozen specific enforcement activities operated through DHS, including immigration raids on homes and workplaces.  Similar measures, the letter said, were pursued during the 1990 Census.

KJ

March 20, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Walmart Responds to Raid Rumors

Recently, rumors have been circulating by text message about possible immigration raids at Walmart  (for a report from one of our readers, click here). The following message, which has been forwarded to us by a reliable source, from Walmart addresses the apparently false rumors:

"These rumors about Walmart coordinating or supporting immigration raids in our stores are not true. These rumors are baseless and inaccurate. We think it’s unfortunate that such unsubstantiated rumors are spread. Walmart's stance on immigration reform is clear, we believe reform is needed. We are committed to working with all interested parties – lawmakers, employers, and consumers – to make comprehensive reform a reality."

KJ 

March 20, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Out4Immigration Contingent at March 21 March

Grassroots Group Organizes Local Actions and Resolutions in New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle for LGBT Immigrant Rights and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)

Media Contacts:
Amos Lim, Out4Immigration, 347-OUT-4IMM, Amos@out4immigration.org
Kathy Drasky, Out4Immigration, 415-606-2085, Kathy@out4immigration.org

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—March 19, 2010—A national immigrant rights march this Sunday, March 21 in Washington DC organized by Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) will have a large contingent of same-sex binational couples carrying signs calling for passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). They will also be demanding that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) includes these couples – in which one partner is an American citizen and the other is from another country – and their families. According to a Human Rights Watch report, there are an estimated 36,000 same-sex binational couples currently affected.

Several members from Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer, grassroots group with members all over the world will have a presence at the Washington march, but many of the group’s members have faced insurmountable hurdles in getting to the nation’s capital. As a result, the group has turned to more local actions to continue raising awareness about the need to fix a broken immigration system that blatantly discriminates against American gays and lesbians with foreign partners.

“It’s not easy when you and your family are shut out of equal rights at the federal level to legally stay in this country,” said Mickey Lim, Vice President of Out4Immigration.

“Many of our members have been forced into the exile. The only way they could stay together was to move to another country that would recognize their relationship. When this happens usually both partners are forced to give up careers and start over. A lot of our other members are separated from their partners. All their income goes to the few times a year they can actually be together. And, the so-called lucky binational couples that have found a way to stay together in America – they have often spent thousands on legal fees for work and student visas.”

In New York City, Out4Immigration member Todd Fernandez, who is also a human rights attorney, has been urging LGBT immigrant rights supporters to get on a bus leaving from Queens to head to the DC march on Sunday morning. At press time there may still be a few seats left. Contact Todd at CequalsIIR@gmail.com for details.

In San Francisco, Out4Immigration member Erik Schnabel has organized for the group to join local immigrant rights activists just back from the DC march on Wednesday, March 24. Participants are encouraged to meet at 4 pm at Justin Herman Plaza by the BART station for a march to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office at One Post Street for a rally scheduled to start at 5:00. Those interested in attending can contact Erik at erikschnabel@hotmail.com.

Another Out4Immigration member, Tom Tierney works with Fernandez and others on getting cities to pass resolutions calling for support of UAFA and LGBT immigrant rights. Within the past week, two more major US cities – St. Louis and Seattle – have joined San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and West Hollywood – in passing a resolution calling for civil rights for the LGBT community; particularly pertaining to immigration issues and reform.

“It’s about building a coalition from the ground up,” says Tierney, who also spearheads Out4Immigration’s weekly letter writing campaign to Congress at Change.org, which leads the national effort to gain more co-sponsors for the UAFA (H.R. 1024, S. 424). The legislation calls for the addition of three simple words to US immigration law “or permanent partner” wherever the word “spouse” appears. This would “fix” the part of the broken immigration system that affects same-sex binational couples.

The letter writing campaign has been especially effective – there are now 121 UAFA co-sponsors, more than any other immigration bill. Last week, Rep. Rick Larsen [D-WA-2], added his name to the growing list of representatives eager to end immigration discrimination.

“It’s easy to get involved in the letter writing campaign or to get your city or state to sponsor a resolution from wherever you are,” says Tierney. “Just visit the Out4Immigration website and get started.”

For more information:
Out4Immigration: http://www.out4immigration.org

Reform Immigration for America: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/

The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:HR01024:@@@P

The Uniting American Families Act (S.424): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:SN0424:

Change.org Out4Immigration Letter Writing Campaign: http://www.change.org/actions/search?search=lgbt+immigration+rights

2010: C=IIR Campaign: http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?&mimid=G3800TCTJ68C9LDLP6P9XQP6FM2G3FB9&cid=1394

Human Rights Watch Report: Family Unvalued: Discrimination, Denial, and the Fate of Binational Same-Sex Couples under US Law: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2006/05/01/family-unvalued
___________

Out4Immigration is an all-volunteer, grassroots organization dedicated to raising awareness about the discrimination same-sex binational couples face under current US immigration law and the difficulties they encounter in keeping their families together legally in the United States. For more information, visit Out4Immigration

bh

March 19, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

AFSC Disapponted with Schumer-Graham

Create Peace, Justice with Humane Immigration Reform

AFSC Seeks Clear Path to Legalization, End to Militarization, Raids, Detention Jails

PHILADELPHIA  (March 19, 2010) – The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Quaker peace and social justice organization, is deeply disappointed in the immigration  blueprint  tying legalization to failed border policies, workplace raids and criminalization of immigrants released by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and praised by President Obama.

Instead of more of the same ineffective policies that further militarize the border and divide more families, AFSC urges Congress and the Obama administration to utilize the following seven principles to guide reform.

They are:

· Adopt economic policies consistent with human rights and trade justice

· Protect all workers’ labor rights

· Create a clear, workable path to residency

· Respect immigrants’ civil and human rights

· Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border

· Support family reunification

· Ensure immigrants access to services

AFSC recommends these values based on its years of work with families who are forced to migrate due to unfair trade policies; with workers exposed to exploitation, and with those arrested, detained and deported without access to counsel or a fair trial.

“The Schumer-Graham plan would violate core values consistent with a democratic society,” says Christian Ramirez, national coordinator of AFSC’s immigrants’ rights programs.”We must choose to respect the human rights and dignity of immigrants and thus protect the future of all in the U.S.”

For more information on AFSC’s immigrants’ rights programs, visit www.afsc.org,

bh

March 19, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The $285 Billion Nonsolution: The Cost of Deportation

A new Center for American Progress report details the severe consequences of a deportation-only immigration policy on the nation's economy and the drain on the federal treasury.

It has been almost three years since Congress tried to reform the nation’s broken immigration system. Since then, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have each greatly increased spending to deploy new enforcement strategies, but enforcement alone has not worked. The inherent dysfunction of our immigration system has deepened and the public call for solutions has amplified.

Instead of heeding the public’s demand that the immigration system be repaired, immigration restrictionists call for deportation of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, or “deportation through attrition,” which means making life so miserable for the undocumented and their families, that, in theory, they would simply get up and leave.

Seeking to turn the irresponsible deportation rhetoric into real dollars, a new report by the Center for American Progress, “Calculating the Costs of Mass Deportation of Undocumented Immigrants,” details what it would cost to find and apprehend, detain, legally process, and transport the almost 11 million undocumented people and maintain current enforcement levels at the border and interior for five years. The price tag is staggering: $285 billion.

The deportation alone would cost $200 billion, on top of the $85 billion that would be required to maintain the current enforcement strategy for five years.

This new CAP report details the severe consequences of a deportation-only policy on the nation’s economy and the drain on the federal treasury. Using publicly available data, the study analyzes the costs and steps that would be required to carry out such a program—from point of arrest through transportation out of the country.

The report adopts conservative assumptions for key variables to ensure that the estimated program and spending requirements are realistic and not overstated. The findings are not just sobering; they prove that a deportation-only immigration strategy would be the height of folly. How much is $285 billion?

• $922 in new taxes for every man, woman, and child in this country.

• It would pay 6.7 million Americans’ salaries for a year.

• Enough to hire 1 million new high school teachers and pay their salaries for five years.

On the other side of the equation, we know that legalization of undocumented immigrants would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion in GDP over 10 years—through increased consumer spending, higher tax receipts, and other related factors. A deportation approach, by contrast, would have the cumulative effect of draining $2.5 trillion over 10 years from the U.S. economy. That is a $4 trillion swing in GDP depending on which policy approach we adopt. This report shows how deportation is not a solution. The answer lies in a tough, fair and practical comprehensive immigration reform that serves our national economic and security interests and values.

KJ

March 19, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on TPS for Haitians

From the World Today:

Haiti’s government estimates that the country will need $11.5 billion to rebuild after the devastating earthquake in January. Although it’s been a terrible tragedy it has also provided a rare opportunity for Haitians who are living in the United States illegally. The federal government is allowing undocumented Haitians to apply for temporary protected status – or TPS. It will allow them to get jobs, go to school, and come out of the shadows. The World’s Katy Clark recently met some Haitians in the Boston area who were applying for TPS. Click here for access to the podcast.

bh

March 19, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Unintended Precedents

Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations has an article in the American Prospect about how the abuse of immigration laws in the aftermath of 9/11 has had ripple effects for much of the U.S. legal system as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Javaid Iqbal, one of the post-9/11 detainees.

KJ

March 19, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Senators Outline Immigration Reform Proposal, President Voices Support


160px-ObamaBarack

Today, in the Washington Post, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) offered a blueprint for immigration reform. Their framework, welcomed by President Obama in a statement released today, rests on (1) ending illegal employment through "biometric" Social Security cards; (2) enhancing enforcement; (3) managing the flow of future immigration to correspond to economic realities, including low- as well as high-skilled workers; and (4) creating a fair path toward legalization for undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The devil will be in the details but we will wait and see.

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Count Me In! Tacos for Justice/Tacos para Justicia!

Truckicon
"Tacos Para Justicia" is a grassroots fundraising, promotional strategy for pro-immigrant reform proposals in congress. Loncheros participate by donating $.50 to $1 to the Immigrant Justice Advocacy campaign for every coupon redeemed; Initially, 1 million coupons were distributed in February in the Los Angeles media market. Other markets may join later. Coupon give a 10% discount on a vendor described “Menu Justicia” item to a customer at participating restaurants. The Goal is to raise $250,000 to fight for immigration reform.

You gotta love it!  And you know that the Minutemen are steaming.

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Trail of Dreams

Hdr_main
Here is a message from the Trail of Dreams:

I just watched a powerful video about four brave students who are walking 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. to demand solutions to our failed immigration system. They've faced intense anti-immigrant sentiment, including the KKK. I’ve signed up to support them as they move into the final leg of their journey. Please watch the video and add your voice too! http://trail2010.org/action/?ref_by=1667-27680

As they walk along their "Trail of Dreams,” Juan, Carlos, Gaby and Felipe are calling upon our nation’s leaders to ensure that young people like themselves, and all immigrants, have the chance to realize their potential and fully participate in society. These students are taking a courageous stand on behalf of millions of others who suffer under our failed immigration system. Please stand with them as they take their message to Washington. It only takes a moment: http://trail2010.org/action/?ref_by=1667-27680

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

March Forward for Reform This Sunday

From the Center for American Progress:

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Marches Forward
Marching for a Stronger America this Sunday in Washington, DC
The legislative campaign to enact comprehensive immigration reform marches forward. President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to press ahead this year during a recent meeting with anticipated bill co-sponsors Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). And outside of Congress there is growing recognition that immigration reform is needed and is politically beneficial to both parties, who need the support of the growing Latino electorate.

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX) and his predecessor Dick Armey (R-ND) are advocating for immigration reform from the right. And Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is one of the lawmakers on the left who has already introduced an immigration reform bill in the House with dozens of co-sponsors. The time has come for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to step up and support legislation that reflects our goals for a program that is tough, fair, practical, and will strengthen our economy. We know that comprehensive immigration reform will add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years.

Two upcoming events—a march on Sunday and the premiere of a documentary film series on Wednesday—remind us of the enduring will of the public to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that is fair and practical.

Tens of thousands of people will march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on March 21 to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Immigrants and their supporters will travel across the country to ask President Obama to keep his campaign promise to enact reform and to urge Congress not to play politics with an issue that affects every American—legal and undocumented. They will march for a stronger America that respects families and workers, furthers business growth, and heightens national security.

Please join us in the March for America in Washington, D.C. on March 21.

bh

March 18, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Symposium Issue: Immigration Policy in the US: What's Next?

The Albany Government Law Review symposium issue, "Immigration Policy in the US: What's Next?" is now available online.

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Facing Deportation

For each person detained in immigration actions, an estimated additional 3.5 people are directly affected. Those affected are mothers, fathers, children and spouses. An estimated 35,000 people were placed in detention proceedings during 2008, many of them through the efforts of local law-enforcement agencies that partner with the Department of Homeland Security to detain and remove illegal aliens. That means immigration proceedings disrupted an estimated 122,500 lives in the U.S last year.

The purpose of the Facing Deportation website is to tell the stories of those left behind when an undocumented immigrant is put in custody and to explain how the system works. This site is a professional thesis project completed by Eileen Mignoni in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Guest Post: Scott Bittle -- Listening to Immigrants, Instead of Talking About Them

For a people who pride themselves on being "a nation of immigrants," Americans have enormous difficulty seeing them clearly. The trends have been going on for some time: one in 10 Americans is now foreign-born, and more and more immigrants are settling beyond the traditional "gateway states" into parts of the country that haven't  traditionally had many immigrants.

In surveys, most Americans say they have contact with immigrants in their daily lives. We should know immigrants. They're here, and they're playing an  ever-larger role in American society. But you wouldn't know from our  overheated public debate, where you'd think we were discussing strangers, or worse, archetypes. Immigrants are discussed as if  they're all heroes, heirs to a noble tradition and key to a brighter future, or all threats, risks to our jobs and security. We talk "about" immigrants much more than we talk "to" /them. Perhaps that's one reason why this issue has remained stalled for so long. We're flying  blind.

With major demonstrations set for this weekend, and immigration reform groups insisting the Obama administration do something, it's worth revisiting what immigrants themselves say about their lives. Here's  four things policymakers ought to know about immigrants before they act, all taken from Public Agenda's pioneering survey of immigrants, 

A Place to Call Home: What Immigrants Say Now About Life in America.   We asked both legal and undocumented immigrants about their lives in America. These points aren't always part of the immigration debate –  but they should be. 

Immigrants say they fit in quickly. More than three-quarters say it took fewer than five years for them to feel comfortable in the United States, and nearly half said it took less than two years. Significant numbers (45 percent) came here without being able to speak English, and more than half still consider their language skills fair or poor. But they're trying: strong majorities say they're taking English classes. 

They believe discrimination against immigrants is real, but it mostly happens to "the other guy." Immigrants believe there's discrimination against them – six in 10 say there's at least some in society. But only about one in 10 say they've experienced a great deal of  discrimination personally. Mexican immigrants are more likely to  believe there's discrimination in society, but they're no more likely to experience it themselves. 

Their views on illegal or undocumented immigrants are almost the mirror image of the general public. The Gallup poll finds that most Americans, about 63 percent, believe illegal immigrants cost the taxpayers more in services than they bring in by taxes in the long run. When we asked the exact same question to immigrants, we found the  reverse: 57 percent of immigrants told us illegal immigrants end up becoming productive citizens in the long run.  But immigrants, like the public, aren't a monolith on this question, and their answer depends on their own background. Younger immigrants and Mexican immigrants are more likely to say undocumented immigrants become productive citizens, while older and Asian immigrants are less  likely to believe this.

 They're happy here, and they're mostly here to stay. More than seven in 10 immigrants we surveyed would "do it all over again," and just as many say they plan to make the United States their permanent home.  Strong majorities rate the United States as better than their birth countries on factors like earning a good living and having a trustworthy legal system. But economic pressures are weighing on immigrants, just like everyone else, and fewer say they'd do it all over again compared to the last time we surveyed immigrants in 2002.

The bottom line is, this is decidedly not a disaffected group. Whatever challenges they face in America, it's not enough to turn them off. We could, I suppose, avoid dealing with immigration policy this year –  our political system has an impressive track record of failing to deal with difficult problems in recent years. But we can't avoid dealing with the immigrants themselves. To craft a just and practical policy,  we need to at least try to see America through the immigrant's eyes. That's true whether you favor an open door or a higher fence. Because  whether you want to embrace immigrants or push them away, you need to  understand them first.

Scott Bittle is the Director of Public Issues Analysis at Public Agenda and the lead author of “A Place to Call Home: What Immigrants  Say Now About Life in America,” prepared with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The full report can be found at: http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/immigrants./

March 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Film: Sugar

70084156
Here is a movie for you baseball and immigration buffs -- Sugar.  Here is a synopsis:  After he catches the eye of a scout while playing in his native Dominican Republic, baseball prospect Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) is recruited to play in the minor leagues in the Midwest, where he has difficultly adapting both on and off the field. As much a story about the promise of the American dream as it is about America's national pastime, this film dramatizes the hard lessons learned when hope and reality clash.

The film sounds like it is inspired by the book Away Games: The Life and Times of a Latin Baseball Player by Marcus Bretón and José Luis Villegas, which tells the story of MLB star Miguel Tejada and scores of other Dominican baseball p[ayers.

KJ

March 18, 2010 in Books, Film | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March 21 DC Event Will Attrack 100,000 Families for Immigrant Rights

From Breakthrough:

Dear Supporter,
 
Breakthrough has been advocating for just and humane immigration reform through our innovative campaigns including a cutting edge video game ICED: I Can End Deportation, a moving interactive game End Homeland Guantanamos, and our most recent, a powerful and incisive video Restore Fairness.

Change requires courage. That's why more than a 100,000 families, workers and advocates are Marching for America this sunday in Washington D.C. to make sure 2010 is the year for immigration reform.

Feeling the heat, the President has had three meetings with community leaders and Members of Congress last week stating "my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering and I will continue to be their partner in this important effort."

Join us on this momentous occasion. Let our collective strength ensure 2010 as the year of immigration reform.

When: Sunday March 21st, 2010.

Where: The Mall between 7th and 14th Streets, Washington D.C.

What time: Interfaith vigil at 1pm, March from 2-5 pm.

Thank you,
The Breakthrough Team

bh

March 17, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Napolitano Halts Funding for "Virtual Fence"

Tom Diemer of Politics Daily reports:

The building of a "virtual fence" along the U.S.-Mexico border has come to a virtual halt -- by order of the Obama administration.

The Department of Homeland Security, citing delays and cost overruns for the project, has decided to shift $50 million in economic stimulus funds set aside for the "fence," to other purposes related to border security.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she would freeze work on the five-year plan to mount sensors and other surveillance gear along stretches of the 2,000-mile border. Two pilot projects in Arizona will apparently remain in place and actual fencing along several hundred miles of border will also stay.

"Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost-effective way possible," Napolitano said in a statement. "The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border . . . has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines." Click here for the rest of the story.

bh

March 17, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Criminal Immigration Prosecutions DOWN!

The latest case-by-case data collected by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse show that the rate of criminal immigration prosecutions the government reported during the first three months of FY 2010 is down by 8.8 percent compared to quarterly figures for last year. If the prosecution pace continues at this rate for the rest of FY 2010, the number of criminal prosecutions will reach only 83,722 as compared with 91,899 during FY 2009. Driving this decline is a sharp 24 percent drop off in criminal prosecutions for illegal entry (8 USC 1325), a crime for which those convicted are rarely sentenced to any significant time in prison.

KJ

March 17, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)