Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Border Patrol Officer Indicted for Second Degree Murder



Photo courtesy of Alternet

A couple of weeks ago, a Border Patrol agent has, according to the Los Angeles Times, "for the first time been indicted on a murder charge after shooting and killing a Mexican national through the border fence." Here is a summary of the case.

On October 10, 2012, Agent Lonnie Swartz fired at least 10 rounds through the border fence into Nogales, officials said. At least eight rounds struck Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, who bled to death.  The agent claims that the teen was throwing rocks.

A grand jury handed up an indictment of second-degree murder: “Lonnie Ray Swartz, did with malice aforethought, and while armed with a P2000 semiautomatic pistol, kill” Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, the grand jury concluded.

The National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents agents, said it would mount a vigorous defense of Swartz. “It is unfortunate that after three years and after being investigated by multiple local, state and federal agencies and then returned to the field to work, Agent Lonnie Swartz is now facing criminal charges,” the union said in a message posted on its website.

AlterNet offers more details on the case.  The Border Patrol has been subject to criticism (and here, here, here) for its treatment of migrants.  Some claim that too many officers were hired too quickly, and without appropriate screening, as part of the rapid increase of border enforcement over the last twenty years.


Photo Courtesy of Hold CBP Accountable


October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

President Obama on the 50th Anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act


President Obama issued this statement on the 50th anniversary of the Immigration Act of 1965:

"Fifty years ago, at the foot of the Statute of Liberty, President Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The new, bipartisan law ended an unfair quota system, prohibited discrimination based on country of origin, and officially recognized our immigration system's role in reuniting families and attracting skilled workers, all of whom help fuel our economy. The Republicans and Democrats who came together to pass the INA were driven by a desire to expand opportunity for all, and to live up to our heritage as a nation of immigrants. They understood that immigration contributes to our economic growth by allowing hard-working, entrepreneurial individuals from around the world to pursue the American dream.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of this transformational law, we honor the courage of those who fought to make our system better. We celebrate the generations of immigrants who have shaped this country and helped make America great. And we recommit ourselves to fighting for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform legislation that meets the needs of the 21st century, grows the economy for everybody, and lives up to our highest ideals."

Yesterday, the White House held a special naturalization ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Act.

Immigration Anniversary Picture

 Photo Courtesy of White House Blog


October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Beyond Respectability: New Principles for Immigration Reform by Angélica Cházaro



Beyond Respectability: New Principles for Immigration Reform by Angélica Cházaro, University of Washington School of Law September 24, 2015 Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol. 52, 2015, Forthcoming University of Washington School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-34

Abstract: Current pro-immigrant reform efforts focus on legalization. Proposals seek to place as many of the eleven million undocumented people in the United States as possible on a “path to earned citizenship.” However, these reform efforts suffer from a significant and underappreciated blind spot: the strategies used to advocate legalization harm those to whom the path to citizenship is barred — such as those with prior deportation orders, prior criminal convictions, and those who have yet to arrive. The problem begins with rhetoric: in making the push for legalization, immigrant rights groups have deployed imagery of the undocumented as law-abiding, hard-working, and family-oriented — the ideal respectable candidates for an invitation into the protected sphere of citizenship. The flaw in this approach is evident in the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. While the bill would have provided additional safeguards for those who qualify for the path to legalization, it would have simultaneously rendered more vulnerable the millions of immigrants who do not qualify. For that latter group, the bill would have meant further criminalization of employment, increased border enforcement and deaths, and a cemented pipeline between local law enforcement, detention, and deportation.

This Article proposes that the push for legalization is responsible for the legislative bait-and-switch, which appears to fix a broken system by offering legalization to some, but in fact makes the system worse for many. To avoid that result, advocates should avoid prioritizing legalization, and instead address the systemic harms related to the category of “illegality.” Pro-immigrant advocacy and scholarship should be guided by the question, “Will this intervention increase or decrease the harms related to living without lawful status?” Such a strategy would move the focus away from an individual’s eligibility for citizenship and towards issues that confront the most vulnerable among the undocumented. By addressing those most harmed by “illegality,” new opportunities emerge for crafting reforms that dismantle immigrant vulnerability.


October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interpreter Crisis in Immigration Courts


David Noriega for BuzzFeed reports that "Interpreters across the country are refusing to sign on to a new contract to service U.S. immigration courts, citing what they call unacceptably low pay and poor working conditions." For more on this story, check out this blog post by interpreter Tony Rosado. 

The contract dispute may leave immigration  courts in the hands of less skilled interpreters. That may, in turn, cause significant problems for lawyers and clients alike. As Noriega documents, it's a particular concern for asylum seekers.


October 6, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Open Letter from the International Research Community

We, researchers and educators dedicated to advancing understanding of forced migration, express our concern about the on-going global forced migration crises and the inadequate response to the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

Recognizing and reaffirming every human being’s right to seek asylum, we hereby:

  • call on governments to develop refugee determination processes that are timely, fair and treat every claimant with dignity;
  • call on governments to refrain from violent policies and practices that aim to “deter” people from crossing their borders;
  • call on governments to proactively seek out creative solutions, such as temporary documents, to facilitate transnational family sponsorship and family reunification;
  • call on governments of wealthy countries to substantially increase the number of refugee resettlement spaces;
  • call on refugee-hosting communities and governments to facilitate access to basic social services for asylum seekers and refugees;
  • call on individuals, the private sector and governments to provide more funding to support forced migrants and refugee-hosting areas, particularly in the poorest countries; and,
  • call on local, national and international policy-makers and service providers to base discretionary decision-making on evidence and humanitarian considerations.

CLICK HERE if you are interested in signing on to this letter.


October 5, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fusion Poll: Young people far more liberal on immigrant rights than most GOP presidential candidates

Should Immigration Require Assimilation?


Image from Wikipedia (The Melting Pot)

In Should Immigration Require Assimilation? in The Atlantic,  Tom Gjelten excerpts part of his new book, A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story dealing with immigrant assimilation.  He  poses the question as follows:  Every year, unique people—each with their own cultural history—become new citizens of the United States. Must they leave their own heritage behind?

The alleged failure of assimilation of immigrants has often been offered at various times in U.S. history as a rationale for restricting immigration.  Samuel Huntington in his controversial book Who Are We?  The Challenges to America's National Identity (2005)  contends that the large wave of immigration has not fully assimilated into American social life but behaves as a separatist bloc of sorts -- maintaining a separate language, culture, religion, work ethic, etc.  Click here for criticism of that kind of approach to immigration through the lens of Latino Americans.


October 5, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

50 Year Anniversary of the Immigration Act of 1965: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing into law of the Immigration Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Cellar Act), which often is celebrated as a shining achievement of the civil rights era because of its much-publicized elimination of discriminatory restrictions on immigration from Asia.  But as Professor Jane Hong reminds us in this op/ed in the Los Angeles Times, there also were some adverse impacts on Latino immigrants of the 1965 Act:

"As the standard-bearer against communism seeking to consolidate support in Vietnam, the United States had attracted international criticism of its racist policies that it could ill afford. In a nod to U.S. interests in the decolonizing world, Congress opened the gates to Asians (as well as to Africans and eastern and southern Europeans) more widely, abolishing Asian quotas and the national origins quota-system as a whole in favor of a preference system based on skills and family relationships.

For Latinos, by contrast, Hart-Celler made the U.S. less accessible. Before 1965, immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries was largely unrestricted. It was Hart-Celler that brought Latino immigration from the Western Hemisphere under numerical limit for the first time."

As I have written  in a chapter in Jack Chin and Rose Villazor's new book on the Immigration Act of 1965, I agree with Professor Hong.  Despite the significant anti-discriminatory improvements to the American immigration laws, the Immigration Act of 1965 also made less well-known changes to the law that are unworthy of celebration. Intentionally discriminatory at their core, the changes in fact are wholly inconsistent with the extension of civil rights to racial minorities in the United States.

Specifically, the 1965 Act added a new, although considerably more sophisticated – and less visible – form of racial discrimination than the national origins quotas system, to the modern American immigration laws. The Western Hemisphere ceilings for the first time in U.S. history capped immigration from Mexico and all of Latin America.  Rather than unintentional, or reluctant, racial discrimination, Congress admitted its discriminatory goals and enthusiastically backed those reforms with an express hope of significantly restricting the number of Latina/o immigrants coming to the United States. The legislative history of the 1965 Act makes it clear that some members of Congress feared that, absent bold new restrictive steps in the Immigration Act of 1965, Latina/o immigrants might well overrun American society.  this might be described as the anti-Latina/o underside of the Immigration Act of 1965.

The truth of the matter is that, despite its decidedly pro-civil rights reputation, the Immigration Act of 1965 represents one of the first major changes to the immigration laws in American history that demonstrates an unmistakable intent to cap immigration from Mexico, as well as all of Latin America, to the United States. In so doing, the law established a sturdy foundation from which the modern American immigration enforcement state has evolved, with its glaringly disparate racial impacts on Latina/os.

Specifically, the Immigration Act of 1965 set the stage for the creation and implementation of a virtually unbroken series of restrictive U.S. immigration laws and enforcement measures directed primarily at Latina/os that remained in place for the last third of the twentieth century. With broad public support, those measures have been expanded dramatically in the early years of the new millennium and have resulted in record numbers of removals of immigrants from the United States – now running in the neighborhood of 400,000 a year, an increase of more than ten-fold in the last twenty years. Not coincidentally in light of the disparate focus and impacts of the modern removal machinery, the new enforcement measures year after year have yielded record numbers of removals of Latina/os.

In the five decades since passage of the 1965 legislation, U.S. immigration law and its enforcement have slowly but surely built on the anti-Latina/o roots of the law. As a result, immigration enforcement has progressively focused – some would contend almost exclusively – on limiting migration from Mexico to the United States. The transformation of immigration law has been so complete that many Americans today -- including Donald Trump and his supporters -- firmly believe that curbing Mexican immigration is what U.S. immigration law and border enforcement should be all about.   Indeed, one might claim that, over the last 50 years, the United States replaced the Chinese exclusion laws of the 1800s with something akin to the Mexican exclusion laws of the twenty-first century.

By re-allocating opportunities for lawful immigration from Latin America to Asia – and diminishing legal discrimination in admissions against Asian immigrants while expanding discrimination against Latina/os, the Immigration Act of 1965 transformed the relative mix of Asian and Latina/o immigrants legally coming to the United States. The Act, on the one hand, contributed to a surge in legal immigration from Asia, which historically had been stunted by discriminatory laws as well as the long travel distances from Asia to the United States. On the other hand, by placing an artificial ceiling on legal migration from Mexico wholly disconnected from the great (and increasingly unsatisfied) demand for immigration, the legislation simultaneously spurred the growth of a large – and consistently expanding – population of Mexican immigrants unauthorized by the U.S. immigration laws from being in, and subject to removal from, the country. These two dominant trends in immigration to the United States in turn contributed to noticeable changes in the racial demographics of American society in the post-1965 period, the public’s view of immigration and the need for enforcement, and ultimately the overall direction of U.S. immigration law and its enforcement.

Changes to the racial composition of the overall population helped to provoke the public’s sporadic outbursts of venom directed at immigrants and frequent demands for reform, as well as heightened enforcement, of the U.S. immigration laws. The new racial demographics of modern immigration also fueled the demands for a variety of changes to the immigration laws that would transform – some observers might contend that the conscious intent was to “whiten” – the racial demographics of the flow of immigrants to the United States. One well-known (and rather blatant) example of such efforts is the “diversity” visa program that Congress added to the immigration laws in 1990, which at its core was designed to facilitate greater migration to the United States from Europe. In the end, those legal maneuvers in combination greatly limited legal immigration from Mexico to the United States.

Click here for a NPR radio report on the unintended consequences of the Immigration ACt of 1965.


October 3, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

From Undocumented to DACAmented: Impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Three Years Following its Announcement

This report, Caitlin Patler and Jorge A. Cabrera, From Undocumented to DACAmented: Impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program Three Years Following its Announcement (UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, 2015), explores longer-term impacts of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)  program, which was initiated in August 2012. It assesses the health, well-being, and educational and socioeconomic status of DACA recipients in comparison with undocumented youth who do not have DACA status.

Announced by the Obama administration in June 2012, the DACA program offers eligible undocumented youth and young adults a reprieve from deportation and temporary work authorization.4 An estimated 1.7 million young immigrants are eligible for this program. DACA is administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which began accepting applications in August 2012. DACA requires individuals to re-apply every two years and is revo-cable at any time.

Importantly, DACA is not a formal legal status, nor does it offer a path to permanent residency or citizenship. This study assesses DACA’s impacts on the educational and socioeconomic trajectories and health and wellbeing of young adults in Southern California.

The report compares individuals who received deferred action from deportation and subsequent work authorization through the DACA program with similarly situated undocumented youth who do not have DACA status. In total, we surveyed 502 young adults, including 452 DACA recipients, and 50 undocu-mented youth who had not received DACA. The survey took place two years after DACA’s initiation, with the goal of exploring the longer-term impacts of the program.

Findings from this study indicate that DACA recipients have experienced some educational and economic gains. However, they still tend to work in low-paying jobs, and report difficulty paying bills and accessing health insurance. In addition, both DACA recipients and non-recipients report increased worry about the deportation of undocumented family members. Our findings suggest that existing policies related to health, education, employment, and immigration may not go far enough in meeting the needs of immigrant youth.



October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

DHS to Create Filipino WWII Veterans Parole Program



The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is creating a parole program to allow certain family members of Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans to receive parole to come to the United States. This parole program was announced in November 2014 by President Obama and Secretary Johnson as part of the executive actions on immigration and is detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015. The program may enable these eligible family members to provide support and care to their aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.


Parole, as provided for under the Immigration and Nationality Act, gives DHS discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to permit individuals to come to the United States for a temporary period of time based upon urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit. Parole does not give the individual any permanent right to remain in the United States.


USCIS reminds customers that they cannot apply at this time. Any applications received before the program is implemented may be denied. We will inform the public when the application process is in place. Register to receive email updates.



October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. must welcome Syria's oppressed LGBTI refugees


Neil Grungras is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration (ORAM), an international organization that recently launched a petition calling on the U.S. to reserve 500 slots for LGBTI refugees.  His op/ed on CNN.com notes that, every day, ORAM continues to hear from dozens of LGBTI refugees from around the world, but especially in the Middle East

"For these refugees, the 11th hour has passed. Now is the time for the U.S. to act -- and to act boldly. LGBTI refugees, among the world's most vulnerable populations, need the U.S. to welcome them. They need Americans to stand up for them and for the U.S. to be the place they call home. This is why it is imperative for the U.S. State Department and President Obama to reserve 500 slots for LGBTI refugees in 2016. Those who succeed in escaping the inferno of Syria and Iraq still face the direst circumstances in surrounding countries. The 500 slots, about one-half of one percent of the overall U.S. resettlement quota for 2016, would have an enormous impact on the lives of LGBTI refugees -- especially Syrians -- desperately attempting to, against all odds, be resettled to safety."


October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on the Immigration Act of 1965

The celebration of the Immigration Act of 1965 continues.  A series of op-eds on the Act written for the Zocalo Public Square project in conjunction with the Houston Chronicle and the Smithsonian offer historical perspectives (Erika Lee), policy perspectives (Douglas Massey and many others), and sociological perspectives (Richard Alba and Nancy Foner). 



President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965 into law fifty years ago tomorrow, October 3, 1965.  For a book-length exploration of the Act, check out Jack Chin and Rose Villazor's new book, The Immigration Act of 1965:  Legislating a New America (Cambridge University Press, 2015).


October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigrant Stories Project of the University of Minnesota


Immigrant Stories is a research and archiving project operated by the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota. The IHRC began the project in 2013 in order to collect and preserve the experiences of the United States’ newest immigrants and refugees. Immigrant Stories helps immigrants, refugees, and their families create digital stories- short personal videos with images, text, music, and audio- about their experiences. Since 1965, students, teachers, community members, and researchers from around the world have consulted the IHRC Archives to study immigrant life in the United States.

Click here for a series of immigrant stories, all of which are incredibly interesting and informative.

Hat tip to Erika Lee.


October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

A State-by-State Map of Where Immigrants Came From


U.S. migration patterns changed plenty from 1850 to 2013. An interactive map that is making the rounds on the web, created by the Pew Research Center, visualizes these shifts by showing the origin of the dominant immigrant group in each state for every decade during this time period. The map is a part of a comprehensive report on past and future immigration trends, the main point of which is to highlight the impact of the Immigration Act of 1965. But the map reveals the events, policies, and trends before and after 1965 that shaped the waves of U.S. immigration.


October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Years on from Lampedusa Tragedy, Reflecting on Mediterranean Deaths

Tomorrow, October3, Italy’s Mediterranean island of Lampedusa will observe the second anniversary of a tragedy that took the lives of 368 migrants. Most of those who died had fled Eritrea and were attempting to sail to Europe via Libya. In sheer numbers, that tragedy has been surpassed several times in the 730 days since rescuers brought survivors to Lampedusa, whose name has become synonymous with the fatal passage of migrants from Africa and the Middle East seeking new lives in Europe. Single day death tolls of 400 or more fatalities have occurred several times in each of the last two years. The International Organization for Migration's research unit today calculates that in the two years since the October 2013 tragedy, another 6,584 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, deaths of migrants seeking to get to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean have been on the rise in 2015.





October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Top 10 Ways to Support Undocumented Students

10 ways

Today, Education for Fair Consideration (E4FC) released our newly updated Top 10 Ways to Support Undocumented Students. This resource, edited by E4FC's Training & Community Relations Manager Jose Arreola, now reflects new or revised policies in place for undocumented students in 2015; provides a more comprehensive view of what it means to be an ally to undocumented students; and offers additional resources to help you immediately put these 10 tips to practice.

This resource is meant to be used by educators, school administrators and allies who work closely with and are interested in better supporting undocumented students. Whether you're a long-time champion of undocumented students or a new educator just learning how best to support this population, there will be something useful in this resource for you.



October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Borders Should Be Checkpoints—Not Roadblocks—to Migrants

Legal Immigration to the United States

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs), also known as green-card holders, are persons lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States who have the right to reside, work, study, and own property in the country. They may serve in the U.S. military and apply to become U.S. citizens once they meet eligibility requirements. Close to 1 million people received green cards in 2013, a 4 percent drop from 1.03 million in 2012.

The annual inflow of LPRs has ebbed and flowed with changes in U.S. immigration policy and processing backlogs. There are four main pathways to gain LPR status: family sponsorship, a job offer from a U.S. employer, humanitarian reasons, and selection via a green-card lottery. The immigrant-admission system prioritizes family-based immigrants, followed by employer-sponsored immigrants and those who arrive as humanitarian migrants. A total of 55,000 green cards are reserved for the lottery, known as the Diversity Visa program. Click here for an interactive chart showing the annual number of new LPRs between 1820 and 2013.

Using data from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, this Migration Policy Institute Spotlight provides information on foreign nationals who were granted LPR status during fiscal year (FY) 2013, focusing on the type and broad class of admission, major countries of origin, and geographic distribution within the United States.


October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Fiscal Year Means U Visas Now Available

Today is the first day of fiscal year 2016. It has a lot of implications for the immigration world, but I'll note just one: 10,000 U visas just became available.

Many who were eligible for U visas last year were unable to get them because the allotment ran out by December 14, just two months into the 2015 fiscal year.

Eligible individuals who could not get a visa last year likely received deferred action. But today is their day to dust off that Form I-765 and try again.


October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigrant of the Day: RIP -- Vo Phien, Refugee who preserved the wartime literature of Vietnam


This Los Angeles Times obituary recounts how, when the Communist forces pushed into Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War, Vo Phien worried that his country’s past was about to be erased. Books would be burned, history lessons rewritten, entire cities stripped of their names. Fearful of what was to come, he resolved to collect and preserve literary treasures, essays that had appeared in newspapers and magazines, books that might soon be banned, even diaries. What emerged years later, after he landed in America as a refugee with little more than his wife and teenage daughter, is a volume of Vietnamese writings that otherwise might have vanished.

Vo, a prolific writer himself who worked for the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Assn., died Tuesday in Santa Ana. He was 89, though in Vietnamese culture he was considered to be 90 based on the lunar calendar.

Among Vietnamese Americans, Vo is considered one of the diaspora’s towering literary minds, someone with an eye for the melancholy of the era, a writer who captured the rich detail of the culture, Vietnamese village life and the war itself. But it was the exhaustive collection “Van Hoc Mien Nam, Tong Quan,” an overview of South Vietnamese literature from 1954 to 1975. The book featured the work of more than 200 authors and documented the period’s artistic and literary movements. Its 1999 debut was followed by six other books exploring genres such as poetry and plays.


October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)