February 27, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
As we reported yesterday, immigrant rights groups and immigrant communities from across the country have condemned ICE’s worksite raid resulting in the detention of 28 undocumented immigrants at a manufacturing plant in Billingham, Washington. The community called for clarity on the Obama Administration’s approach to immigration, enforcement and reform. A revival of the past Administration enforcement-only policy was unacceptable for a community that believed in the message of change of President Obama. Also raising these same concerns was Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who questioned the tactics of worksite raids at a congressional hearing yesterday with Secretary Napolitano. The Washington Times gives us a little insight into their exchange at the hearing:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who questioned Miss Napolitano on the raids, said the laws need to be enforced but said raids, including Tuesday's, have swept up legal residents and citizens as well.
"There is concern that Americans have repeatedly, in the past years, been held in some cases for 10 and 11 hours against their will, and it does not seem to comport with the requirements of the law or the Constitution," she said, asking the secretary to address that issue in her review.
And this was Secretary Napolitano’s response:
She said she had been briefed on the raid, but still has many questions.
"I want to get to the bottom of this as well, so I've already issued those directives to ICE to get me some answers," she said.
We are relieved to hear that Secretary Napolitano has ordered a review of this raid as well as ICE’s enforcement priorities and resources. This is a good sign that she understands that large-scale sweeps in workplaces might not be the most efficient use of resources nor are consistent with President Obama’s promise of reforming the system,
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said "these raids are not a long-term solution."
"Secretary Napolitano is conducting a thorough review of ICE, including enforcement," Mr. Shapiro said. "The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan."
(Illegals raid dismays Obama backers, February 26, 2009)
We will not deport our way out of our immigration troubles, a common sense and sustainable approach needs to be used in order to render a long lasting solution that stregthens equal opportunity and the rule of law, and that treats hardworking immigrant families with respect and dignity.
February 26, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
In case you didn’t hear, 28 workers, including three mothers, were chained, arrested, and taken from a factory in Bellingham, Washington as part of an ICE enforcement operation on Tuesday (news coverage from Washington state here, here, and here).
In a press release, Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Forum, called on the Obama Administration to be clear about what their approach to immigration, enforcement and reform would be:
The President and his team should say loud and clear how they are going to address immigration reform to strengthen the economy, protect workers, and reestablish the rule of law. We need to know when we can expect reform to be a priority and what the President will do in the mean time to make sure that immigration enforcement does not do further damage to our economy, erode civil rights, or continue the failed practices of the last Administration that played fast and loose with people’s legal rights. – Ali Noorani, “Bellingham, Washington Workplace Raid Creates Crisis for Obama on Immigration,” National Immigration Forum Press Statement, February 25, 2009
The raid is a potential public relations disaster for the President who one week ago told a national radio audience he is “very committed to making it [comprehensive immigration reform] happen” and just yesterday told Congress and America, in the context of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, “living our values doesn't make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger.”
After so many Latino and New American voters showed up at the polls to vote for Obama, after promises of changes to immigration policy and after countless recent reports that Bush-era immigration enforcement tactics are both financially and humanely costly, I CANNOT believe the administration is allowing this to happen.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, based in Chicago (the President’s hometown) said in a statement:
Despite the promise of change from the new administration, raids and deportations have not stopped. The enforcement-only approach has proven ineffective and has only caused business disruption, family separation and terrorized communities. It is a shame that at a time of economic recession, billions of dollars are being spent on arresting and jailing immigrants that do not pose any threat to this country.
We are better than this, and our nation deserves better than the continuation of a failed immigration policy that contradicts American values and civil liberties. Our community understands the federal government's pursuit of hardened, dangerous criminals and our country’s need to protect its borders. But the systematic demonization, detention, and deportation of peaceful immigrant workers and parents under the pretense of homeland security is an assault on our values as a country. At a time when messages of change and hope abound, we are left to wonder how change will come to these failed policies.
We are committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration…. [W]e need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. It’s a problem when we only enforce our laws against the immigrants themselves, with raids that are ineffective, tear apart families, and leave people detained without adequate access to counsel. . . . For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law. We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. They are our neighbors, and we can help them become full tax-paying, law-abiding, productive members of society.
Those are words we hope President Obama and his team will remember.
February 25, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
USA Today reports that the Department of Homeland Security now estimates that there are only 11.6 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, that’s down from an estimated 11.8 million a year ago. At that rate, 200,000 fewer undocumented immigrants fewer per year, by 2067 we won’t have any immigrants in the country illegally – a mere 58 years from now!
That assumes no increase in unauthorized immigration in the meantime, which for many years was estimated at a net increase of 500,000 people annually.
So is it enforcement that has led to the decrease in the population of immigrants here illegally? According to the article, the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group opposed to legal and illegal immigration, thinks so. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which issued the report on which the USA Today article is based also thinks so.
But a much more plausible explanation is “it’s the economy, stupid.”
The overall number of immigrants and the level of illegal immigration are leading economic indicators. When the economy is doing well and jobs are plentiful, demand for immigration goes up. When the demand for immigration is more plentiful than the supply of visas – as has been the case in America for decades – the population of undocumented immigrants rises.
According to the report, this is the first year that the estimated population of undocumented immigrants has declined this century. Meanwhile, the level of spending on enforcement has gone up by astronomical sums each year. Also today, the government announced that the overall size of the U.S. economy shrunk for the last four quarters, economic contraction not witnesses since 1991. Hmmm.
So, it’s the economy, stupid. And if we want to maintain this level of decline in the number of undocumented immigrants, we have to maintain this level of decline in the U.S. economy…for the next 58 years. Now that’s really stupid.
Rather than wait until 2067 to eliminate the population of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., we could massively step up deportations. That isn’t going to happen, despite the very few vocal – bordering on hysterical – people who would actually want to see that happen.
A much better and more likely solution is to get those here illegally into the legal system, make sure they have rights, are paying their full boat of taxes, and that their employers are playing by enforceable rules that are being enforced. Combine that with an immigration system that lets people come with a visa, rather than a smuggler, within reasonable limits and we can put our immigration system on a legal footing and our economy on a much more stable footing.
Or we could hope for a dire economic recession that lasts until 2067.
February 24, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Congress returns this week, after a week off for Presidents' Day recess. Here is where we stand so far with immigration legislation.
E-Verify: The battle over whether or not to turn the electronic worker verification program now known as E-Verify into a mandatory nationwide no-work list re-surfaced on the stimulus package. House Appropriations Committee member Jack Kingston (R-GA) offered an amendment to make receipt of money from the economic recovery package contingent on using E-Verify. It was approved by voice vote in the Committee, and remained in the House version of the bill. Despite efforts by Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in the Senate, mandatory E-Verify was not a part of the Senate bill. It was stripped out of the final version in the House/Senate conference.
The E-Verify issue will be back soon. It will be up for reauthorization in March, when the omnibus spending bill passed last year expires.
Obama on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Even though at the moment President Obama is busy putting out a lot of fires, he hasn't forgotten about comprehensive immigration reform. He has been on some very highly-rated Spanish-language radio shows talking about the issue, noting in an interview with El Piolin on February 17 that "we have to get started working on it now." Read more on our blog.
Senate Immigration Subcommittee Membership: After the election, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who is fighting brain cancer, stepped down from the Immigration Subcommittee in the Senate because he wants to focus his energy on health care reform. Senator Charles Schumer of New York will take over as Chair of the Subcommittee. You can read more in our Press Release.
Other members of the Immigration Subcommittee are listed here.
Children's Health Insurance: In the accomplishments category: on February 4th, the President signed into law a reauthorization of the State Child Health Insurance Program. In that program, the federal government partially reimburses states for costs of providing health insurance to uninsured children. The legislation signed on February 4th expanded coverage, and included a provision-the Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act-that gives states the option to cover legal immigrant children. Up to now, states providing health care to uninsured legal immigrant children were not eligible to receive federal reimbursement in the child's first five years of legal residency in the U.S.
You can read President Obama's signing statement here.
States may now receive federal reimbursement for covering uninsured legal immigrant children-provided they act to do so.
You can read our press statement about ICHIA and shifting politics of the immigration debate.
February 24, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Action Directives: Earlier this month, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a series of "Action Directives," where she asked the various offices and agencies to provide a review of existing strategies and programs. The Directives focused on the Department's primary missions. A Directive on Immigration and Border Security focuses on: Criminal and Fugitive Aliens (including a review of the Secure Communities Program, the Institutional Removal Program, Fugitive Operations Teams, the Electronic Travel Document Program and the 287(g) program); Legal Immigration Benefits Backlogs; Southbound Gun Smuggling; National Guard deployment on the Border; Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens; Immigration Detention Facilities; and Electronic Employment Verification. Agency staff were to report back to the Secretary on February 20. The reports will be used to determine whether Department resources are being used in the most efficient manner. For more information, read the Secretary's Action Directives on the DHS Web site.
DHS Appointments: On February 23, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Press Release announcing the appointment of John Morton to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Esther Olavarria as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy. Esther Olavarria was for nearly 10 years Senator Edward Kennedy's chief counsel on immigration, and as such has been central to efforts to enact comprehensive immigration reform. John Morton has more than a decade of experience on immigration and criminal matters at the Justice department. Both appointees are veterans of the last round of immigration reform negotiations in the Senate and understand the complexities of the issue.
MPI Reports: The Migration Policy Institute has been examining the immigration functions in the Department of Homeland Security and issuing reports with recommendations for making some changes. The first report, Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE's Fugitive Operations Program, notes how the program, established to remove fugitive aliens who pose a threat to the community, has instead focused on removing undocumented immigrants with no criminal record. DHS and Immigration: Taking Stock and Correcting Course, issued on February 11, makes recommendations for the three immigration agencies within DHS, as well as for administrative steps that may be taken without the need for legislation to change the overall direction of immigration policy and coordination.
February 24, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
No, this is not about the government agency. Since last year’s election, the anticipation of change has brought a renewed sense of hope and a renewed energy among activists around the county. There are more local players getting involved, coalescing into more local coalitions that include immigration advocates, faith-based groups, local businesses and labor organizations.
Prayer Vigils around the Country: During the Congressional recess, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition organized more than 130 prayer vigils around the country to press Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. You can find out more about the Interfaith Coalition on their Web site.
In the Halls of Congress: During the debate on E-Verify in the economic recovery package, we received reports from friends on the Hill that pro-immigrant voices were heard. That is great news, of course, but we are only as effective as our last phone call, so please continue to respond to action alerts, share them with your friends and let Congress know that we will hold them accountable for their actions (or failing to take action) on immigration reform.
Dogging the restrictionists: The antics of Maricopa County, Arizona’s Sheriff-turned-reality-show-entertainer Joe Arpaio have recently drawn more focused attention from pro-immigrant groups around the country. Earlier this month, he marched immigrant detainees, in shackles, to a “tent city” surrounded by electric fence. America’s Voice has launched a petition to stop Arpaio, who already has 2,700 lawsuits filed against him. They are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Arpaio for civil rights violations. Sign the AV petition: Click here. You can also find on this page links to other resources on Arpaio and what is being done about him. The Forum issued a statement on Arpaio’s stunt, as well as a press release applauding members of the House Judiciary Committee for calling for an investigation of Arpaio.
Recently, “The Coalition for the Future of the American Worker,” one of the front groups spun from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) launched an ad attacking Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has been a champion of immigration reform in Congress. FAIR, and its sister organizations the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA, are the subject of a new Southern Poverty Law Center report, The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance. The Southern Poverty Law Center is an organization that has been tracking the operation of hate groups in the U.S. for nearly three decades. In recent years, anti-immigrant groups have gotten on to their radar screen, as the immigration debate became more vitriolic. You can obtain the report on SPLC’s Web site.
February 24, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Over the President’s Day congressional recess, after some long, sleepless hours of debate on the $787 billion federal stimulus package, Members of Congress were back home in their states explaining their votes on the stimulus package and restating their stance on various issues like the economy, healthcare, the war in Iraq and — in some cases — immigration.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) used his home visit to Boaz, Alabama, to reiterate his opposition to immigration reform, as reported by The Gadsden Times,
“Shelby also was brought into immigration, a leading concern in Marshall County. He chastised such leaders as President Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain, former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore for being “soft on immigration.” His answer is “enforce the (existing) law.”
(Economy, immigration on Shelby's agenda, February 21, 2009)
So basically, the Senator —who by the way is also making headlines today because of his past questioning of President Obama’s citizenship —believes that the only way out of our immigration problems is through a mass expulsion of some 12 million people from the United States. Never mind that this system of deportation has already seen the parents of 100,000 U.S. citizens removed from the country in the last ten years. Never mind that a single worksite raid in Iowa cost taxpayers over $5.2 million, only to deport 50 workers from the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants. At this rate, we have a very long (and expensive!) way to go.
Existing law, the Senator should be reminded, includes waiting times of up to 22 years for legal visas, only 5,000 permanent low-skill worker visas per year for the entire country, and immigration quotas that haven’t been significantly updated in more than 20 years.
Joining Senator Shelby in his rhetoric-first/solutions-later mantra is Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who tried time and time again to insert counter-productive immigration provisions into the economic stimulus package. Congressional Quarterly reports that,
“Earlier this month, Sessions tried again, pushing an amendment to the stimulus bill that would have extended E-Verify for five years and made it mandatory for employers getting stimulus money.
Sessions’ amendment was never called up for a vote, and similar language in the House version of the stimulus bill was rejected in conference.”
(Lawmakers Squabble Over Extending Authorization of E-Verify Program, February 20, 2009)
E-Verify, the government’s experimental system to verify a worker’s eligibility for work has a long track record of problems, which many times disqualify naturalized and U.S.-born citizens from working. Instead of offering constructive solutions for our economic woes, Senator Sessions opted to offer further distractions for a speedy economic recovery. At the end of the day, Sen. Sessions’ colleagues essentially ignored him and were able to keep the focus where it should have been in the first place — stimulating the economy.
People are weary of band-aid approaches to fixing our immigration system, or even worse, politicians like Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions who want to maintain the current state of immigration chaos. Expecting that we can deport our way out of this problem is not a solution, it’s a sound bite.
February 20, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
The conventional wisdom among many in the media is that the President of the United States won’t touch the controversial issue of comprehensive immigration reform anytime soon. The economy is in deep trouble, opportunity for immigrant and non-immigrant families is drying up, immigration traffic on the border has slowed, and we have had several years of bruising debate with the opponents of immigration reform succeeding in thwarting it.
Well somebody ought to tell that to President Obama. He’s been talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform a lot lately, including on two of the highest rated radio programs in the country, the nationally syndicated Piolín Por la Mañana with Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, and Chicago’s El Pistolero, with Rafael “El Pistolero” Pulido,both carried by the Univision radio network. As we reported yesterday, the President told El Piolín on Tuesday,
“[W]e’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform…[We] need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months. (President Barack Obama, interviewed by Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, February 17, 2009)
That will come as good news to Ruben Navarrette, Jr. One of the (very) few Hispanic nationally syndicated columnists, he writes columns and editorials for the San Diego Union-Tribune and a weekly column for CNN.com. In his latest CNN.com column, Navarrette advises the President to “serve up his plan for immigration reform.”
While squeamish political strategists will tell you that it is never a good time to grab hold of such a thorny issue, Obama has some capital now. He should spend some of it on fixing the broken immigration system.
In doing so, he would avoid repeating a mistake by his predecessor. In one of his final interviews as president, George W. Bush said that he should have pursued immigration reform at the start of his second term instead of tackling the challenging issue of shoring up Social Security.
Besides, the political picture is only likely to get more complicated as the months pass. The more controversial the legislation, the less likely it is to get done in an election year. So if Obama doesn't put a plan on the table this year, it'll push the debate into 2011.
Close observers know that Navarrette is no open-borders zealot and is a strong proponent of enforcing current law and speeding up deportations. When it comes to immigration, he has made a point of poking his finger in the eye of some of the most prominent Latino civil rights groups and pro-immigrant advocacy organizations, like the Forum.
However, he clearly understands that expectations are high among those most concerned with immigration reform. The last several years have been brutal on immigrant communities who feel the slowing economy severely, have witnessed unprecedented raids and neighborhood sweeps, and record levels of deportation and incarceration.
Furthermore, 10 to 11 million Latinos – many immigrants and most concerned with the immigration issue -- voted in November (up from about 3 million in 2004). They decidedly shifted towards the Democratic Party and President Obama, which caused the President and his party to win Nevada, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado and which played a significant role in his winning Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.
So the pressure on the Obama Administration to deliver on comprehensive immigration reform is significant, and here at ImmPolitic, we have to agree with Ruben Navarrette when he says,
Guess what, Mr. President. That time is now.
February 19, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
It is hard to argue that our immigration enforcement priorities make sense. Over the past several years, we have seen an explosion of raids, detention beds, boots at the border, and enforcement of every kind against immigrants in the country illegally. But what is the result? For the most part, we are arresting, jailing, and deporting immigrant family members who have committed no crimes beyond violating immigration regulations. These people are assets to our economy and communities, not threats to them.
Worse than ineffective or economically counterproductive, enforcement that is poorly targeted and wasteful sometimes does actual damage to public safety.
This was the theme of Executive Director Ali Noorani’s speech in late January to the National War College. It was coauthored by the Forum’s Senior Legal Advisor Brittney Nystrom as is available on the Forum’s website:
“Indisputably, there are individuals who misuse America’s immigration system for nefarious purposes. Measures to deport or exclude foreign nationals who pose a potential threat to our national security have a legitimate place in any immigration system and wise and deliberate use of immigration authority can increase the security of our country. However, this proper intention of separating the few individuals who wish to do us harm from the many who seek only safety or to work or reunite with their families has been badly distorted.”
– Ali Noorani, “Assets or Enemies: Securing our Nation by Enforcing Immigration Laws,” Speech to the National War College, January 27, 2009, http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/AliNooraniWarCollegeAddress09-01.pdf
Want some recent examples of this distortion of enforcement priorities? The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun are reporting on ICE enforcement teams in Maryland. They were supposed to be going after serious criminal immigrants, but finding few, decided to pick up whoever was easiest to get.
Shortly before federal agents arrested 24 Latinos outside a Fells Point 7-Eleven in January 2007, the acting field office director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Baltimore told a deputy "to bring more bodies in," according to an internal ICE report.
The roundup at the 7-Eleven occurred after the official told that deputy "to go back out to make more arrests, as the quantity of arrests that were made that morning was unacceptable," said the report. It appears to contradict previous statements by ICE officials that the agents were taking a drink break Jan. 23, 2007, when they happened to be approached by Latino laborers who thought they were contractors in need of workers.
Wednesday, the Pew Hispanic Center released a report on skyrocketing federal incarceration rates for Hispanic men, mostly due to simple immigration violations:
In 2007, Latinos accounted for 40% of all sentenced federal offenders - more than triple their share (13%) of the total U.S. adult population. The share of all sentenced offenders who were Latino in 2007 was up from 24% in 1991, according to an analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Moreover, by 2007, immigration offenses represented nearly one-quarter (24%) of all federal convictions, up from just 7% in 1991. Among those sentenced for immigration offenses in 2007, 80% were Hispanic.
But it isn’t Hispanic men that are changing; rather it is the number of folks being criminally prosecuted for simple immigration violations that is going up.
Among sentenced immigration offenders, most were convicted of unlawfully entering or remaining in the U.S. Fully 75% of Latino offenders sentenced for immigration crimes in 2007 were convicted of entering the U.S. unlawfully or residing in the country without authorization.
Also Wednesday, the University of North Carolina School of Law and the ACLU of North Carolina released a report on how local police in the state are implementing 287(g), a program to work with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration law. In the name of immigration enforcement, the report found public safety may be jeopardized and that local authorities may be violating federal law in implementing the programs incompletely.
Law students reviewed the program and produced a 152-page report that says it encourages officers to target Hispanics for arrest and discourages immigrants from reporting crimes.
The report also says that in many cases local agencies are failing to comply with the terms of the agreements they made with the federal government.
For example, the agreements require agencies to have a complaint procedure for immigrants who feel they have been wrongly detained. But the researchers found no evidence of a complaint system in any of the counties they studied.
We could add the Migration Policy Institute’s report that ICE is increasingly going after non-criminal immigrants who are easy to catch, not criminal immigrants who are important to catch.
Ali Noorani’s speech to the National War College makes the point that the more we are spending on dumb enforcement, the less we can spend on enforcement that would actually make us safer or which would lead to the deportation of serious criminals.
The real threat to our security comes if we cannot see the difference between threats and assets when it comes to our immigration system and the enforcement thereof. An immigration enforcement system based on accountability, transparency, and human rights is within our grasp. By leading our nation to a 21st century immigration system, President Obama can restore our reputation as a beacon of hope the world over, secure our borders, and protect our communities.
– Ali Noorani, “Assets or Enemies: Securing our Nation by Enforcing Immigration Laws,” Speech to the National War College, January 27, 2009, http://www.immigrationforum.org/images/uploads/AliNooraniWarCollegeAddress09-01.pdf
February 18, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Despite all the political talk that has been focused on the stimulus, a steady movement has been growing under the radar of most pundits, quietly turning the tide in the immigration debate. Change is coming and those in leadership in Washington who ran away from common sense solutions to our immigration troubles are about to find out that they will need to face the problem head on.
Leading the effort in this change is President Obama, who in less than a week visited two popular Latino radio stations to talk about his agenda and his commitment to the Hispanic and immigrant community.
On the first radio interview with popular Chicago Deejay “El Pistolero,” the President reiterated his support for a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system:
“What…[c]ontinues to be a priority for the country is comprehensive immigration reform that provides not only better security on the borders and more effective sanctions on employers but also provides a path to citizenship for those who have been living here and are committed to becoming US citizens…Let’s evaluate the laws that are working and the laws that are not working. Let’s take into account some of the strains that are being placed on families…” (Interview of the President by “El Pistolero”, Radio, February 12, 2009)
Yesterday, by phone with Los Angeles-based and nationally syndicated Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo, the President stressed that time is of the essence for immigration reform:
“…we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform…[We] need to get started working on it now. It's going to take some time to move that forward, but I'm very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months. (Interview of the President by Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, Radio, February 17, 2009)
As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, a new approach to immigration is coming to Washington. Further evidence of this appears in the latest remarks by White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel- as reported by Spanish language newswire EFE, referring to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), recently signed by the President.
“The expansion of SCHIP to immigrants' children represents "an advance" on what the Obama administration plans to do on behalf of immigrants during the next four years.
“…the inclusion of benefits for immigrants’ kids in the face of opposition from some Republicans indicates that in the debate over immigration, “the arrow has begun to point in a different direction.” (Obama Brings 'Change of Course' on Immigration, Top Aide Says, February 6, 2009)
If Members of Congress think they can hide from the immigration issue, here are a few news articles that should be greeting them at home during this congressional recess. Diverse faith groups, more and more, are joining together through prayers and vigils across more than 100 cities nationwide. They are calling on the new Congress and the new Administration to — as described by Jeremy Shaver from the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado — “demonstrate the courage to pass immigration policies that uphold and protect the dignity and human rights of all”.
§ North Carolina: Raleigh joins national vigil for immigration reform, (News & Observer, February 16, 2009)
§ Texas: From Dallas church, people pray for 'humane and just' immigration reform (Dallas Morning News, February 16, 2009)
§ New York: Interfaith church vigil calls for immigration reform (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, February 17, 2009)
§ Colorado: Faith calls together crowd for immigration vigil (Aurora Sentinel, February 16, 2009)
§ Nebraska: Bishops take on immigrant policies (Omaha World, February 16, 2009)
§ Idaho: Vigil will focus on immigration (Idaho Press Tribune, February 16, 2009)
Members of Congress can run from DC all the way to their home districts and back, but they cannot hide from the needs of the country. Their obligation is to find a common sense solution to overhaul our obsolete immigration system.