Friday, December 28, 2007
Here are the top 10 immigration stories of 2007. It has been a very "interesting" year and limiting this list to 10 was very difficult:
1. The Failure of "Comprehensive" Immigration Reform
This summer, a group of Senators cobbled together an immigration "reform" package that had something for everybody as well as something to anger everybody. Even supporters held their noses when it came to some of the provisions. Well, in the end, it did not really matter. During the summer, “comprehensive” immigration reform failed on a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate.
There are a 1001 explanations for the failure of immigration reform. In the end, a desire for more enforcement approach carried the day. The focus on immigration enforcement continues to be a central focus of immigration policy in the presidential campaign. See below. Besides the ramping up of raids and immigration enforcement generally, the U.S. continues to extend the fence along the U.S./Mexico border. And the failure of immigration reform has deeply affected the immigration debate at the state and local level.
2. The Proliferation of State and Local Immigration Laws
Before and after the failure of immigration reform in Congress, the nation saw a spate of state and local laws designed to address the “problem” of immigration. Arizona, Oklahoma, and other states have gotten into the act. Arizona, for example, passed its own employer sanctions law. Cities and counties, including Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which saw its ordinance struck down after a lengthy trial, Farmer’s Branch, Texas, and Prince William County, Virginia, passed ordinances designed to drive undocumented immigrants out of town (such as, for example, by barring landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants). Anti-immigrant animus could be seen in the debates over many of the measures.
Despite the fact that such measures face stiff tests in the court, “they keep coming,”as they say.
3. The Increase in Immigration Raids
This year, the Bush administration commenced a series of highly publicized workplace immigration raids, including in New Bedford, Massachusetts, at Swift meat and poultry plants across the country, and in many other states. Many immigrants and others were deeply affected. For example, children -- including U.S. citizen children -- returned from school in New Bedford to find their parents in immigration custody.
Bottom line -- Even with record levels of deportations, 10.5-12 million undocumented immigrants continue to live and work in the United States.
4. Immigration as an Issue in the Presidential Race
Somewhat surprisingly, immigration emerged as a big time issue in the national race for the Presidency. Candidates rushed to be as tough as possible on immigration in the primary states of Iowa and new Hampshire.
Tom Tancredo carried the anti-immigrant banner for the Republicans and moved the immigration debate toward the enforcement end of the spectrum.
Oddly enough, the issue of immigrant eligibility for driver’s licenses -- primarily an issue for the states -- became a campaign issue. With few exceptions (including candidate Barack Obama), Democrats as well as Republicans ran – not walked – away from extending licenses to undocumented immigrants.
5. The Immigration Prof Blog Exclusive Interview with Barrack Obama
In August, the ImmigrationProf Blog ran an exclusive interview on immigration with Presidential candidate Barrack Obama. Senator Obama responded to each of our questions on immigration. None of the other candidates took us up on our invitation for a similar interview.
6. Lou Dobbs
Lou Dobbs continued his anti-immigrant rants on a near-nightly basis on his CNN show during 2007 and often made the news on his own accord. He certainly provoked much comment on to this blog! A “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl seemed to catch him in an “exaggeration” or two.
7. The Case of Border Patrol officers Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and Jose Compean
The case of Border Patrol officers Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and Jose Compean became a cause celeb among restrictionists and several members of Congress. Lou Dobbs talked about the case regularly on his CNN show. Ramos and Compean are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years in prison. The two Border Patrol officers were found guilty by a federal jury after a 2½-week trial on charges of assault, violation of civil rights, use of a firearm during a crime of violence, and obstruction of justice. The person shot was driving a van that was found to hold 743 pounds of marijuana. He tried to flee on foot back to Mexico across the Rio Grande when he was shot.
8. Elvia Arrellano Deported to Mexico
In August, Elvia Arellano, an undocumented immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her U.S.-born citizen son, was deported to Mexico. Arellano had just spoken at a rally in Los Angeles when she was arrested outside a church. Her 8-year-old son, Saul, lived with a U.S. family before moving to Mexico to be with his mother.
Arrellano became a symbol of the harsh impacts of U.S. immigration enforcement and an advocate for the fair treatment of immigrants.
9. LA 8 Case Dropped
After 20 Years, the infamous LA 8 case, which made its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, finally ended. See Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm., 525 U.S. 471 (1999), vacating and remanding, 119 F.3d 1367 (9th Cir. 1997); American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno, 70 F.3d 1045 (9th Cir. 1995); American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Meese, 714 F. Supp. 1060 (C.D. Cal. 1989), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Thornburgh, 970 F.2d 501 (9th Cir. 1991). The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) terminated the "L.A. 8" case. This came following the U.S. government’s most recent court defeat in January when Immigration Judge Einhorn terminated the proceedings, finding that the U.S. government violated of the noncitizens' constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights. The BIA dismissed the case at the request of the government, which agreed in a settlement to drop all charges and not to seek removal of either of the men in the future based on any of the political activities or associations at issue in this case.
Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, who had claimed that they were targeted for their political views, have agreed not to apply for citizenship for three years, and to have several judicial orders in the case vacated as moot.
Marc Van Der Houdt, National Lawyers Guild, and David Cole, Georgetown University Law Professor and volunteer attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, have represented the immigrants since the case began in 1987.
10. ICE Chief in Hot Water After Halloween Gaffe
With limited administrative and immigration experience, Julie Myers was a controversial choice to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE, of course, is regularly in the news and its immigration enforcement efforts often provoke controversy. Myers herself sparked controversy in 2007 at a Halloween party.
The Department of Homeland Security said at the time that it would investigate a Halloween costume party hosted by Myers and attended by a man dressed in a striped prison outfit, dreadlocks and darkened skin make-up, "a costume some say is offensive, the department's secretary said." Myers, host of the fundraising party, was on a three-judge panel that originally praised the prisoner costume for "originality." Myers later apologized for "a few of the costumes," calling them "inappropriate and offensive." She said she and other senior managers "deeply regret that this happened." A department photographer photographed Myers with the man, but the images were deleted after the costume were deemed offensive, ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said.
Between 50 and 75 people attended the party, which was a fundraiser for the Combined Federal Campaign, a federal government collection of charities. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff directed Myers to take an "administrative leave" while the department conducted an inquiry.
Despite the Halloween incident, Congress confirmed Myers' ICE nomination. Myers was initially a recess appointment and later re-nominated by President Bush. After the Halloween incident, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.