Sunday, January 31, 2010

The "Proud Racist": A Symptom of Deeper Problems

It has gotten a lot of press lately but does not appear to be fading away. As the L.A. Times reports,"[t]he controversy stems from a Jan. 16 anti-immigration rally in Santa Clarita; [Bob Kellar, a Santa Clarita City Councilman and former Mayor,] spoke and referred to a statement by former President Theodore Roosevelt that the United States has a place for only one flag and one language. Kellar said those remarks caused some people to accuse him of being racist, to which he replied: If believing in America causes people to think he's a racist, `then I'm a proud racist.'"  Check out a video here

Unfortunately, racism and nativism at some level influence the views of some people about immigration and affect the national immigration debate.  There are more Bob Kellars out there than we would like to admit.  But virtually any news reporter, columnist, and blogger who writes on immigration gets a sampling of muchg more blatant racist hatemail.  Check out the comments on many blogs or on many news stories on immigration if you want to get a sense of the racial sensitivities -- and, in some instances, raw hatred and racism -- in the discussion of immigration..

I would hope that we could turn down the volume on the hyperbole and dogma in the public discourse over immigration.  Only then can we engage in a much-needed constructive discussion of immigration reform.  Here are a few thoughts on how we might approach the issue of race and racism in discussing immigration reform.

In contemplating immigration reform, policy-makers and the public need to acknowledge that U.S. immigration laws and their enforcement have disparate racial and national origin consequences. This has been well-documented. It is rather obvious that the U.S. immigrations laws affect more people from Mexico than Denmark, from China than Iceland, from India than New Zealand, from the Philippines than Sweden. Importantly, many people of color from the developing world find it much more difficult than persons of European ancestry from the western world to come to the United States.

That is not to suggest that the current laws, as well as all changes to the immigration laws, which have disparate racial and national origin consequences, are per se racist. But it is to say that in formulating the laws the nation should be aware of the racial and national origin consequences of its immigration laws and reforms.

Because the racial impacts of the immigration laws and reforms often are clear, it is no defense to assert in advocating for tighter immigration laws and increased enforcement that that “we are not racist” but only focusing on securing the nation’s borders. Such appreciation and understanding of the racial and national origin impacts of the U.S. immigration laws is particularly important to Asians and Latina/os – U.S. citizens as well as noncitizens, who often feel nothing less than victimized by the current U.S. immigration laws and their enforcement.

Disparate treatment in immigration enforcement also must be recognized and remedied. The nation needs to do something to address the prevalent, and consistent, claims of racial profiling in immigration enforcement, especially but not limited to the American Southwest. This problem severely undermines the perceived legitimacy of the U.S. immigration laws and has certain communities convinced that the enforcement is arbitrary, unfair, and downright racist.

Part of the reason for the disparate national impacts of immigration enforcement is that the focal point of much immigration law is designed to deal with the “problems” associated with the U.S./Mexico border and migration from Mexico. Many Americans often forget, for example, that Detroit, Michigan is a major border crossing.

Moreover, race-based immigration enforcement by federal authorities effectively encourages vigilantes like the Minuteman to abuse immigrants and U.S. citizens of particular national origin ancestries. Such encouragement appears to have led certain state and local law enforcement officers to engage in like discriminatory conduct, as well as hate crimes by private citizens against Latina/os.

To help the U.S. immigration laws and their enforcement attain some degree of legitimacy among the public and noncitizens, as well as in the eyes of the world, efforts must be made to remove the taint of race from the law and their enforcement. In light of the deeply-embedded nature of racism in American law generally, as well as U.S. immigration law specifically, this task understandably is easier said than done. Still, this lofty goal, consistent with modern civil rights sensibilities, is worth shooting for in the long run.

Reforms should consider the racial- and nationality-based consequences before, not after enacting the reforms. Only then can Congress balance the relative costs (racial and otherwise) against the benefits of reform.


January 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

USCIS and Los Angeles Announce Immigrant Integration Partnership

225px-Antonio_Villaraigosa_portrait Director_swearing-in

Late last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new partnership to strengthen immigrant integration efforts in Los Angeles through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities. The initiative kicks off with a free citizenship information session and naturalization workshop on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center in Northeast Los Angeles.

These are the kinds of programs that we need more of from the federal, state, and local governments.   Unfortunately, the need to promote the integration of immigrant sinto U.S. society often is lost in the discussion of immigration and immigration reform.


January 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

1001 Reasons to be Worried About Immigrant Detention: The Rise of the Private Prison/Industrial Complex

Tom Barry on America's Program has an interesting story on the growth of the private detention industry, which now controls much immigration detention.


January 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

German homeschoolers granted political asylum

This story generated much discussion (including many critical comments) on the Immmigration Profs listserve earlier this week.  I thought that the discussion was more interesting than the story itself.  The story:  "A German couple who fled to Tennessee so they could homeschool their children was granted political asylum Tuesday by a U.S. immigration judge, according to the legal group that represented them."


January 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Conference at LaVerne

On February 19-20, the University of La Verne College of Law will host an immigration symposium with clinicians, scholars, and practitioners who will grapple with a wide range of cutting edge immigration issues. In coordination with the live event, the University of La Verne Law Review is publishing a Symposium Issue on Immigration Law, and will be accepting submissions through February 1, 2010. The keynote speaker is Hiroshi Motomura (UCLA) who will talk on "What Is `Comprehensive Immigration Reform'?" Download Ils-flyer[1]



January 31, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yamashita Prize Nominations for Young Social Activist

UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Social Change (CSSC) at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) is now accepting nominations for the
2010 FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize.
The FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding young social change activist in California.  The award of $2,500 honors a person whose work transforms the existing social landscape and serves as a bridge between the academy and the community.  An awardee helps to build the capacity of community-based organizations and social movements to confront pressing issues by applying her/his academic expertise.  Simultaneously, she/he enriches academic scholarship by sharing the insights and knowledge produced from community engagement with the broader academic community.  The award is not limited to students, but an honoree's work should reflect a commitment to strengthening ties between the academy and the community.

Scholar activist Loan Dao was the 2009 recipient of the Yamashita Prize. In 1975, Loan and her family came to the U.S. as refugees from the American war in Vietnam.  From an early age she was involved in creating social networks and locally-based organizations that provided sites of healing and support for Southeast Asian (SEA) communities. During college, Loan volunteered as the prisoner’s liaison for the ACLU in Central Texas, documenting prison conditions, answering letters from inmates and bringing potential cases to lawyers’ attention.  After college, Loan worked as the Director of Huong Viet Community Center in Oakland, where she recruited local college students to mentor high school youth and assist in the development of research and programs. Now in graduate school, Loan’s dissertation research looks at social movements among Southeast Asian youth challenging the detention and deportation of SEAs in the U.S.  Between 2002-06 she used her academic expertise to help connect college, community, legal and policy organizations to form a multi-pronged response to the detention and deportation crisis affecting Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese refugee communities.  She helped form the Southeast Asian Freedom Network, which was the first national network of organizations to specifically address post-9/11 detentions and deportation practices in the U.S., and she has assisted numerous SEA families facing deportation in her role as researcher, expert witness and legal advocate. In addition to her advocacy and scholarship on detention and deportation issues, Loan has been active in providing disaster relief to the large Vietnamese population affected by hurricane Katrina. She co-founded “VietBAK” (Vietnamese Bay Area Katrina relief group) and she has made frequent trips to the Gulf Coast to help with rebuilding and relief efforts, provide translation, and advocate for more resources for Vietnamese communities along the Gulf Coast.  She recently completed co-producing a full-length documentary titled “A Village Called Versailles.” Versailles, a community in eastern New Orleans, was first settled by Vietnamese refugees and later ravaged by hurricane Katrina. The film recounts the empowering story of how people who have already suffered so much in their lifetime, turn a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance for a better future.

To read about other past recipients of the FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize, go to: .
The FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: Thomas I. Yamashita Prize uses a nomination system, where someone other than the nominee identifies the nominee, their contributions, and the kinds of expertise they bring to understanding how change works.  To download a nomination form, please go to .

Nomination due date:  Tuesday, February 16, 2010, by 5pm

(The Prize will be announced within four to six weeks after the deadline date.  An award ceremony will be held in the spring.)

Please send nomination forms and supporting materials to:

FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE: The Thomas I. Yamashita Prize
Center for the Study of Social Change
Institute for the Study of Societal Issues
University of California
2420 Bowditch Street, MC 5670
Berkeley, CA  94720-5670


January 30, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Robert Gittelson: Report on LA Immigration March and Rally

Robert Gittleson
has a recent report on an immigration rally a week ago in Los Angeles:

The events of last Saturday were simply amazing. We started off with a rally in front of the Van Nuys Civic Center. The crowds started arriving by about 9:30, even though the event wasn't scheduled to begin until 11:00.

We had a very uplifting rally. The rally was MC'd by my friend Raul Murillo, President of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional Los Angeles, who is a great public and motivational speaker. We had a very diverse group of speakers at the rally. Some of the highlights were the Rev. Leonard Jackson of the Mayor's office, who fired up the crowd, as well as Rosa Posada of the Union de Guatamaltecas, Pastor Bridie Roberts of CLUE LA, Diego Cap of CHIRLA"s day laborer project, and many more.

I read a prepared statement from Congressman Xavier Baccerra that was optimistic.

We marched over 1,000 strong to the Church on the Way, were we had one of the best panel discussions that I've seen on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), (if I say so myself). I deferred on being a panelist, although I did kick things off by welcoming the crowd, giving a few thanks, and mentioning a couple of things; first, I reminded everyone that the special election results from Massachusetts didn't necessarily mean much in terms of CIR, since we were never going to pass CIR on a straight up or down 60 vote democratic super-majority filibuster proof vote. This has always been a bi-partisan issue. Second, that when the discussion about CIR does heat up in earnest, that a lot of misinformation, propaganda, and spin would be heard from opponents of CIR, and that everyone needed to have the facts at their fingertips so that this issue could be discussed based on the facts. I explained that this panel of experts was there today to give them the real facts, which clearly do support CIR.

Pastor JIm Tolle, who moderated the panel discussion, is a special person. He connects with people from both sides of this debate, and is extremely clear thinking and uplifting. He's one of the good guys. Rep. Judy Chu spoke passionately and eloquently about her personal experience, being the daughter of immigrants, and started her discussion by tracing this issue back to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and built it from there. She spoke for about 15 minutes, and explained clearly the politics of this issue.

My fellow Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition member Juan Jose Gutierrez, (who along with Angelica Salas is probably the leading Hispanic advocate in Los Angeles in terms of being on the news every night commenting on this issue. Walking down the streets of L.A. with him is like walking with a rock star), gave an impassioned speech that fired up the crowd. I have dubbed it the "No Se Peude" speech. You will love it, as it basically speaks to your "enforcement now, enforcement forever" philosophy.

Rev. Alexei Smith of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles gave a low key but informational talk about the church's policy in favor of CIR. Angelica Salas made her usual great PowerPoint presentation, speaking alternately in English and Spanish, and might have been the highlight speaker of the panel. She is very good, and engaged the crowd, explaining how they can and should be involved. Bernie Wolfsdorf of AILA always prepares a great presentation. He started by going into both old and new testament arguments in favor of CIR, and then segwayed into a discussion about the factual numbers of ICE detentions, and brought it all together in a convincing argument for CIR.

Humberto Gomez, Executive Dir. of LIUNA rocked the house, speaking in Spanish, he discussed his having started in the fields in 1965, working at Cesar Chavez's side building up the UFW, and had the crowd alternately laughing and cheering for about 15 minutes.

Prof. Manuel Pastor made a very thoughtful PowerPoint presentation documenting his recent study that concluded that CIR would benefit the economy of CA. by over $16 Billion per year, and documented why the facts were so important to the economic arguments that favor this issue. Dr. Juan Hernandez also spoke in Spanish, and closed with a brilliant discussion of the politics of this issue, looked at from both sides of the aisle, and implored, (as did Angelica), the crowd to get involved, call the White House, and to be heard on this issue.

The event was very professionally taped by the church. Right now, I have the raw 1 hour 45 minute tape of the panel, but we are breaking it down into sub-10 minute chapters, so that we can post the presentations on YouTube. It is a very worthwhile discussion to watch.

I would also mention that on Tuesday of this week, our coalition called a Press Conference to denounce Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar, (who I have dubbed "Bob the Racist"), for his anti-immigrant remarks at a Minuteman rally that were caught on YouTube. By now, I'm sure that you must have heard about it. Tons of media attended our press conference, and I had hoped that this attention would demonstrate the divisiveness that racism brings to this already divisive issue. See

 Unfortunately, the city council decided to sweep this under the rug, and Kellar, far from backing down, had doubled down by declaring that he stands by his words. In the wake of all of this press coverage of the racism that exists here in SoCal, the L.A. County Supervisor for that district, Mike Antonovich not only ignored this issue, but went on record against Manny Pastor’s work, calling it meaningless and insignificant in the press the other day. Now, our coalition, far from backing down, has called a press conference for Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors Office, demanding that at minimum, Antonovich denounch the anti-Latino racism that has been well documented to exist in his district, (in addition to the Santa Clarita Fiasco, his district attracted a lot of recent attention for the mandatory e-verify ordinance in the City of Lancaster).

We are also demanding action by the City of Santa Clarita, as Bob Kellar clearly violated that city’s own “Code of Ethics.”


January 30, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Saga of Postville Continues: Trial date set for Agriprocessors in child labor case

 The trial for Agriprocessors Inc. related to violations of child labor law has been set to begin May 4. A number of Agriprocessors officials "face 9,211 charges related to employing underage youth, requiring them to work more than eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week, requiring them to operate power-driven machinery and exposing them to dangerous and poisonous chemicals."  After a federal immigration raid of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa in May 2008, Iowa state officials conducted further investigations before brining the child labor charges.


January 30, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Immigration Insights from the Heartland

Two recent immigration publications in the Iowa Law Review attracted our attention:

Jenny Roberts, "Ignorance Is Effectively Bliss: Collateral Consequences, Silence, and Misinformation in the Guilty-Plea Process" analyzes the issues in a case (Padilla v. Kentucky) before the U.S. Supreme Court that "will decide if it matters whether a criminal defense lawyer correctly counsels a client about the fact that the client faces deportation as a result of a guilty plea."

In a student note, Cassie Peterson published "An Iowa Immigration Raid Leads to Unprecedented Criminal Consequences: Why ICE Should Rethink the Postville Model." Here is an abstract:  On May 12, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) conducted what was then the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history. The raid took place in Postville, Iowa. ICE arrested 389 employees, convicting 297 of them for fraud-related offenses. This marked a significant shift in immigration-enforcement policy toward criminalizing what were previously administrative violations. Critics faulted the Postville model, which included a patterned plea agreement, for being too secretive and improperly expediting the criminal process. These critics feared that ICE violated the detainees’ due-process rights. This Note considers whether there were due-process violations and what the significance of a shift toward criminalizing immigration offenses means for unauthorized workers—and all other persons—living in the United States.


January 30, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Chapman Law Review Symposium: Drug War Madness: Policies, Borders, and Corruption

Yesterday, I traveled to Southern California to attend the 2010 Chapman Law Review School Symposium on “Drug War Madness: Policies, Borders, and Corruption.” The conference brought together an impressive group of speakers with a variety of diverse insights on drugs, borders, and national security.

The keynote speaker at lunch was former (2005-09) Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, now senior of counsel with Covington & Burling and co-founder of a risk management and security consulting firm. Chertoff talked about narcoterrorism and the increasing interrelationship between drug dealers and political insurgent movements around the world. He claimed that Colombia’s FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) was now working with political and other groups around the world, from South America to Europe. Chertoff predicted that, in the future, it would be difficult to distinguish drug traffickers from political insurgents. In discussing recent events in northern Mexico, Chertoff mentioned that the drug cartels were engaging in similar strategies as certain Islamic terrorist groups -- beheadings, kidnappings, and torture -- with the same intention – to terrorize the population.

Chertoff mentioned several security issues that were of interest, with some of them still needing to be addressed:

1. The Problem of Ungoverned Space:  The United States must attempt to deal with the problem of “ungoverned space” in nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and parts of North Africa and South America.  The problem occurs when governments cannot control parts of their territorial jurisdiction, which then can become safe havens for terrorists.

2. Law Enforcement Measures Addressing

-- Financing of terrorist activities

-- Monitoring communication

-- Monitoring and regulating travel

-- More secure travel documents

-- Better terrorist lists. Chertoff mentioned that the lists had improved with U.S. government’s access to airline databases.

-- Biometrics, including finger printing.

--  Increasing the physical security of the borders.  Chertoff acknowledged that terrorists tend to use airline travel currently to come to the United States but he stated that they could try land border crossings in the future. For that reason, as Secretary of DHS, he supported the increased fencing along the U.S./Mexico border and doubling the size of the Border Patrol.

Chertoff concluded his remarks by emphasizing that drugs and political movements are increasingly intertwined and that this will create more work for lawyers as the legal rules of engagement are worked out.

Besides the keynote, the conference had three panels of speakers.  Associate Dean Tim Canova welcomed the group with some introductory comments in the morning and was followed by Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, which has been critical of U.S. drug policies.

The first panel was on U.S. Drug Policy and Alternative Paradigms. Among others, it included the former Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson. Among the interesting tidbits offered by this panel was the admission by a former senior DEA supervisor that he had been involved in bringing Humberto Alvarez-Machain from Mexico to the United States, an act that resulted in years of litigation, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and an arrest warrant issued against the DEA agent in Mexico.

The second panel was on “Cross Border Flows: Drugs, People & Trade.”   The moderator of the panel was Ernesto Hernández (Chapman) who offered some theoretical background about the meaning of the border.  My talk was entitled “It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.)."  It focuses on how immigration, at its core motivated by economic opportunity and the desired access to U.S. labor markets, really should be viewed separately from the "drug war" and the "war on terror."

Jennifer Chacón (UC Irvine) discussed the increased use of criminal immigration prosecutions by the U.S. government in immigration enforcement and expressed concerns over (1) the efficacy of this strategy; (2) whether the resources devoted to it were efficiently being used: (3) the potential for burnout among the U.S. attorneys, federal public defenders, and judges processing the mass of immigration prosecutions; and (4) the dehumanizing procedures being employed in prosecuting the cases. Ruben García (California Western) discussed a group of drug war casualties who are often ignored, the hundreds of women who worked in the maquiladoras who have been killed in Ciudad Juarez over the last 20 years. His remarks reminded me of the more general issue of the regular deaths on the U.S./Mexico border, with thousands of Mexican migrants having died trying to cross since the early 1990s. Today, about one person a day dies trying to cross.

The last panel was on “Narcoterrorism, Organized Crime, and Political Corruption.”

In sum, the “Drug War Madness” conference was well-organized, provocative, and interesting. The audience asked great questions and was obviously intellectually engaged.  The Chapman Law Review and Chapman University School of Law should be proud.


January 30, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The HR Immigration Pocket ReferenceTM

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and Immigration Solutions Group, PLLC (ISG) have released their co-published book, The HR Immigration Pocket ReferenceTM to help human resource professionals better understand immigration rules. Available online ( the book will not only enable HR professionals to save time and effort, but will also help companies save money by avoiding penalties for noncompliance with government immigration regulations.


January 29, 2010 in Books | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Oakland Sues Over Notario Fraud

Kelly Rayburn and Matt O'Brien write for the Oakland Tribune:

The city sued an Oakland company Thursday in Superior Court, alleging the firm ripped off immigrant families by fraudulently representing itself as a service to help people seeking legal residency in the United States.
Oakland-based American Legal Services cost families "many thousands of dollars" and, in some cases, "prejudiced their clients' opportunities for immigration status," the city said. The company is headed by Musa Bala Balde and Irene Penaloza Balde , the lawsuit said. The Balde's live in Alameda.

City Attorney John Russo called the company a "menace to some of the most vulnerable" people in the city.

"American Legal Services is an outlaw company here in Oakland that has based its business on swindling the families of immigrants who are seeking legal residency in America," he said.

The lawsuit asks for restitution for the victims, punitive damages, an injunction and civil penalties of up to $8.2 million. Attempts to reach the Baldes at home and their business were not successful.

Oakland's lawsuit is part of a growing effort among cities and legal groups across the country to halt the widespread practice known as "notario fraud," in which consultants purporting to have legal expertise prey on unsuspecting immigrants and sometimes end up ruining their chances of remaining in the United States when applications for changes in immigration status are rejected.

"They're placing people in jeopardy of deportation," said Allison Davenport, an attorney with the Oakland-based Centro Legal de la Raza, which worked with Russo's office on the case. "People go in for a consultation to talk about their case, and then they're being told, 'Sure, it's no problem.' "
One of the alleged victims in the Oakland case said he went to American Legal Services in hopes of obtaining green cards for himself and his wife. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his immigration status.

The man, a 56-year-old construction worker, has children who are citizens -- including one who had just turned 21 when he went to American Legal Services. Sometimes undocumented immigrants are able to earn residency when they have a citizen child age 21 or older.

The man said he paid the company about $7,000, believing the firm could help his family. When the company asked for another $10,000, he said he'd had enough.

"I said, 'No mas,' " he said. " 'That's it. I'm not giving you another penny.' "

He subsequently spent more money trying to straighten the matter out. Because he had applied unsuccessfully for a change in his immigration status, he is now on the government's radar and faces a deportation hearing this spring, he said.

The city based its lawsuit on his family's experience and the experiences of five other families, officials said. Russo said the families are mostly Latino and Arabic.

"Given the patterns we're seeing, we're concerned there could be hundreds of victims of this particular racket," he said, "and that this is a very widespread problem in Oakland."

California allows people to work as immigration consultants but prohibits those consultants from advertising themselves as attorneys when they are not and requires them to follow a number of rules designed to make it clear to consumers what they can and cannot do.

Daniel Torres, an attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which also worked with Russo's office, said American Legal Services tricked families both with its name, which suggests it employs legal experts, and through an aggressive advertising campaign that touted its immigration services on fliers distributed throughout immigrant neighborhoods. Click here for the rest of the story.


January 29, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Running for the Hills on Immigration Reform

Kevin Johnson noted Tom Barry's criticism of President Obama on immigration reform. Ruben Navarrette piles on with this op-ed for CNN:

Thirty-seven words. In this week's State of the Union address -- which was more than 7,000 words long and lasted longer than an hour -- all President Obama devoted to the issue of immigration reform was 37 measly words.

Here they are: "And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

It's disappointing that Obama didn't spend more time on this pressing issue -- but not surprising. Even though, elsewhere in the speech, Obama reminded Democrats in Congress that "the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills," this White House spent the first year in office running for the hills on immigration reform.

In fact, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once referred to the issue as the real "third rail" of American politics. You touch it, you die.

Every immigration reform advocate in the country -- including many Latinos -- should be disappointed in Obama. Many of them bought the fairy tale that a Democratic president would magically be more committed to immigration reform than a Republican one. And they expected Obama to make good on the promise he made, while addressing the annual meeting of the National Council of La Raza in July 2008 as a candidate, to treat comprehensive immigration reform as "a top priority in my first year as president." Obviously that didn't happen. Clickhere for the rest of the piece.


January 29, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama on Immigration: A Failing Grade for the First Year?

Tom Barry on Border Lines
is pretty darn critical of the Obama administration's first year "accomplishments" on immigration.


January 28, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

More on the State of the Union Address

As Kevin Johnson noted earlier, President Obama made a passing reference to immigration reform in his address last night. Here's a reaction from the Asian American Justice Center:

Asian American Justice Center Will Continue to Work With the President and Congress to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year

WASHINGTON — Statement of Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

We want to applaud President Obama for calling on Congress to pass health-care reform, a jobs bill and legislation to end the "don’t ask, don’t tell" military policy. We also note that he called for continued work to reform our immigration system this year. In his address, President Obama made clear his ongoing commitment to immigration reform noting "we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."

We need strong leadership from the president to get workable legislation this year. As is the case with many of the initiatives the president included in his speech, it is smart economic policy as well as the right thing to do. 

Estimates point that one in every 10 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is undocumented. Giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship could inject up to $1.5 trillion of GDP into our struggling economy over 10 years, a new study predicts.

One only need look at the massive backlog in legal visa applications that would reunite families to see the system is broken. Families should be together. Immigrants with family support are better able to pool their resources to buy homes and start job-creating businesses. Our broken system only encourages massive illegal immigration. We must replace it with one that provides a steady, manageable flow of legal immigration that puts families back together, rather than keeping them apart. 

In 2009, 1.1 million Asian-owned firms provided jobs to 2.2 million employees and had receipts of $326.4 billion. Asian American immigrants are eager to do their part to help turn around the economy.  

We will continue to work with the president and Congress to make this long-awaited priority a reality.


January 28, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Protection Through Integration: The Mexican Government's Efforts to Aid Migrants in the United States

A new Migration Policy Institute report, Protection Through Integration: The Mexican Government's Efforts to Aid Migrants in the United States, details the activities of Mexico's Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME) in a first-ever attempt to map the expanding range of IME programs. The MPI review makes clear that Mexico has moved beyond traditional consular protections to deliver an array of civic, health, education and financial services to its migrants, 96 percent of whom live in the United States. These tasks have traditionally been carried out by migrant-receiving countries.

Along these lines, americas Society and Council of the Americas has just launched its Hispanic Integration Hub, an online destination to present and promote private-sector experiences of effective integration efforts. The website includes video and testimonials from business and community leaders about the efficacy of immigrant-targeted worker development programs.


January 28, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Obama on Immigration Reform in the State of the Union

"And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system -- to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nations."

President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address,  Jan. 27, 2010.

The President made this statement toward the end of the address last night.  It does bookmark the issue but in the context of a lengthy speech did little to make it seem like a priority of the administration.  I think that it is an exaggeration but Sandip Roy on Huffington Post suggests that President Obama "killed [immigration reform] gently, with a pat on the head."


January 28, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sign-On Letter for Matter of Saysana on Mandatory Detention

From the NYU Immigration Clinic

A letter to Attorney General Holder has been drafted, requesting that his Department abandon, overturn, or otherwise cease applying a 2008 BIA decision, "Matter of Saysana."  The Saysana decision expanded the scope of mandatory detention to noncitizens with removable offenses committed prior to 1996, who have had *any* kind of contact with the criminal justice system since then, including arrests where all charges were dismissed, arrests for non-removable offenses, or even traffic stops.  Matter of Saysana sweeps into mandatory detention individuals with old convictions who by definition have been in this country for over ten years, and who have not committed a removable offense in that time.

This letter grew out of 2nd Circuit habeas litigation by the Immigrant Defense Project and the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, litigation which seems to be at a crossroads after the government experienced the most recent series of losses in the courts.  We hope to use this time to apply even more pressure to the Department of Justice to abandon Saysana, by demonstrating the enormous amount of opposition to this expansive use of mandatory detention.

Any organization wishing to see and sign on to the letter should contact Meredith Fortin at   Please supply contact information for your organization (Name, title, email address, and mailing address) as we plan to add that information for each signatory.

Please let us know by THURSDAY, JANUARY 28th, AT NOON if you are willing to sign on.

Thank you for your support.

Meredith Fortin and Jorge M. Castillo


January 27, 2010 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Immigrant Detention Reform in the Works?

Immigration Impact reports that "Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton, outlined his vision for immigration detention reforms which he hopes will mark his time and tenure at ICE. In particular, Morton emphasized the need for detention facilities that are designed specifically for immigration detention purposes as opposed to converted prisons. His vision is to redesign facilities to look like civil detention centers rather than criminal jails."

Better late than never, I guess.


January 26, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

What the Bible REALLY Says about Immigration

There are both religious and non-religious people on both sides of the debate over comprehensive immigration reform. While one does not need to be religious in order to advocate for the rights of immigrants, religion is very important for many people involved in the debate. That being so, it is important to have an accurate view of what the Bible really says about immigration. In Immigration Policy Center's latest Perspectives on Immigration, Bruce and Judy Hake, an immigration attorney and Certified Roman Catholic catechist, respectively, debunk restrictionist arguments and show that the Bible actually does support a generous attitude towards immigrants and immigration. Indeed, it mandates it. The Immigration Policy Center's Perspectives on Immigration are thoughtful pieces written by leading practitioners, academics and researchers who bring a wide range of multi-disciplinary knowledge to the issue of immigration.


January 26, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack (0)