March 31, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Gianni D.
Photo by Gianni D.
Two recent stories indicate that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is rethinking how it conducts home and workplace immigration raids. The anti-immigration groups and their Congressional allies see this as a sign that the Obama Administration is going “soft” on illegal immigration, where as supporters of immigration reform see it as a good sign that scarce enforcement resources will be directed at actual threats.
On Sunday, Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post reported:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.
A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute -- increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers… Another DHS official said Napolitano plans to release protocols this week to ensure more consistent work-site investigations and less "haphazard" decision-making.
The Los Angeles Times ran with a similar story on Tuesday:
The policy is in line with comments that President Obama made during last year's campaign, when he said enforcement efforts had failed because they focused on illegal immigrants rather than on the companies that hired them.
"There is a supply side and a demand side," one Homeland Security official said. "Like other law enforcement philosophies, there is a belief that by focusing more on the demand side, you cut off the supply."
There is ample evidence that DHS under the Bush Administration was telling Congress one thing and doing another. What they said they were doing was protecting homeland security by targeting serious violent criminals, known gang-members, child pornographers, child predators and the like using macho-sounding “Fugitive Operations Teams.”
In reality, they were going after whoever was easiest to catch, whoever happened to be around, and were even filling arrest quotas by doing drive-by sweeps of local 7-11s and other places immigrants congregate.
As the Washington Post and others reported in February, “Fugitive Operations Teams” is a bit of a misnomer. After a night of striking out, the Post reports, ICE officers were commended to cruise the local convenience stores (Conflicting Accounts of an ICE Raid in Md. (By N.C. Aizenman, February 18, 2009; Page A01):
The boss was not happy. His elite team of immigration officers had been raiding targets across Prince George's and Montgomery counties all night long in search of fugitive and criminal immigrants but had netted only a handful.
As the unit regrouped in its Baltimore office that frigid January morning two years ago, the supervisor warned members that they were well behind a Washington-mandated annual quota of 1,000 arrests per team and ordered them back out to boost their tally.
"I don't care where you get more arrests, we need more numbers," he said, according to one account in a summary of an internal investigation. The boss then added that the agents could go to any street corner and find a group of illegal immigrants, according to the summary, not previously made public.
This is consistent with reports on the mistargeting of enforcement resources uncovered by the Migration Policy Institute. Their report, released in February, Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE’s Fugitive Operations Program, found that:
…73 percent of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fugitive operations teams between the program’s inception in 2003 and early 2008 were unauthorized immigrants without criminal records.
Despite the National Fugitive Operations Program’s mandate to apprehend dangerous fugitives, arrests of fugitive aliens with criminal convictions have represented a steadily declining share of total arrests by the teams, accounting for just 9 percent of total arrests in 2007, down from 32 percent in 2003, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s own estimates. (MPI Press Release, February 4, 2009)
ICE has created tremendous bureaucratic incentives for fugitive operation teams to abandon focus on high-priority targets in favor of a shotgun approach of undisciplined home raids. ICE’s home raids have primarily led to the arrests of individuals who posed no risk to society and have come at a significant cost to immigrant families and to ICE’s own enforcement priorities
That bears repeating:
“individuals who posed no risk to society and have come at a significant cost to immigrant families and to ICE’s own enforcement priorities “
Then there is the much-heralded 287(g) program to enlist local police in enforcing federal civil immigration law – one of the favorites of the deportation-only movement. According to numerous sources, this program suffers from similar mission creep.
GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, discovered that the 287(g) program lacks oversight, is not targeting the serious violent offenders and fugitives it was supposed to target, and is probably violating people’s civil rights. As Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, said at the time of the GAO report’s release:
The report echoes the conclusions reached by others who have studied local law enforcement of immigration laws. The costs of these policies are enormous to communities' safety, civil rights, and pocketbooks. As Secretary Napolitano and her staff begin their review of immigration enforcement tactics, we urge them to consider the totality of evidence coming from the community and acknowledge the full scope of the problems presented by 287(g). We are confident that this administration will find a new way forward and advance policies that restore the rule of law and respect civil rights.
Reports from Justice Strategies and the ACLU of North Carolina, in conjunction with the University of North Carolina School of Law, echo the concerns that oversight, accountability, and the program’s basic mission were loosely defined and even more loosely implemented, to say the least.
So the opponents of immigration and of immigration reform bemoan the idea of targeting enforcement at real threats. They would prefer that resources are used as they are now: breaking down doors in the middle of the night to remove parents from families and indiscriminately rounding up suspected immigrants here without papers. And some television commentators have the temerity to call the “pro-enforcement.”
We, who are often labeled “anti-enforcement,” see targeted enforcement as an encouraging sign that this President and this Administration are more concerned with actual security than in headlines and scaring immigrants willy-nilly.
Our communities deserve targeted enforcement to make us safer, regardless of the political spin the opponents of immigration reform hope to put on it.
March 26, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has joined forces with Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and several other Republican and Democratic Representatives to reintroduce the Development, Relief and Education for Aliens Minors Act or DREAM Act. The DREAM Act is an important component of comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a path to citizenship to immigrant students who have been raised in the U.S., graduated from a U.S. high school, have stayed out of trouble and attend college or serve in the military.
Ruben Rumbaut, a sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine who has been studying immigrant children since the 1960s accurately called these students the “1.5 generation”; highly bilingual and high achievers, working to “make good” in the eyes of parents who made substantial sacrifices on their behalf. They have been beating the odds all of their young lives.
These hard-working individuals were brought to the U.S. when they were just children and call America home, are deprived of achieving their full potential because they are punished for a decision they had no control over. Ignoring their situation and ignoring the inadequacies of our outdated immigration system will not resolve our immigration problems.
As our country seeks ways to rehabilitate our economy, we should keep in mind the many young and talented individuals who are already living in the U.S. and who could be part of the skilled and educated workforce of the future that will help us compete in the global economy.
Today’s introduction of the DREAM Act is additional proof that Congress is getting ready to work on immigration reform. We applaud these courageous Members of Congress who have set partisan wedge politics aside and are ready to engage meaningfully to find a practical and fair solution to our immigration troubles.
March 24, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Danny.Hammontree
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has joined the effort to persuade President Obama to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) — temporary protection from deportation for nationals of a country in which environmental or political events have occurred which make it temporarily unsafe to deport them — to Haitians while Haiti recovers from multiple disasters. The petition, available online on the NAACP website, states:
Recent devastating environmental disasters from which Haiti has not recovered, continuing violence, and unstable political conditions pose a serious threat at this time to the personal safety of anyone forcibly repatriated to Haiti. Last year's storms and hurricanes killed hundreds and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Fifteen percent of Haiti's already fragile economy was destroyed, the equivalent of eight to ten Hurricane Katrinas hitting the United States in the same month. Haitian deportees face hunger, homelessness, and grave threats to their security.
Furthermore, granting TPS to Haitian refugees would help Haiti recover, as Haitians in the United States could obtain work permits and would increase the already significant flow of remittances to their family and friends back home. Haitians who receive that aid are more likely to stay and rebuild Haiti. Many depend on those remittances for their very survival. That flow of dollars is among the best foreign aid that the United States can provide, and it costs taxpayers nothing. Strengthening Haiti’s economy will be the only sure way to ensure that more Haitians will not risk their lives on a perilous oversea journey to the United States. Granting Haitians TPS would also directly assist Haiti's nascent democracy in its efforts to recover from these conditions, stabilize the country's economy, rebuild its political and economic institutions, and provide a future of hope for Haiti's people. TPS would be extended only to those Haitians currently residing in the United States, so any concerns about a mass exodus to the US are unfounded.
The Obama Administration has granted an extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians. DED provides Liberians the temporary right to live and work in the United States and it was first granted in 1991 as a result of the widespread civil war in Liberia.
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by CJ Sorg
Conservative syndicated columnist George F. Will provides insight on the current conditions at the border from a local law enforcement perspective. His syndicated column —published in the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Post, Arizona Daily Star among others — featured Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris, firmly emphasizing that any long-term solution to security and anti-smuggling efforts must include reforming immigration, as it will help weaken smugglers benefiting from the chaotic immigration situation,
…Harris says, “The answer is not in Phoenix. The answer is in Washington.” We know how to close a border, says Harris with acid dryness — “ build a wall” and deploy “machine gun nests.” But, “I personally think that is stupid.” For now, however, the United States “has turned immigration policy over to Mexican thugs.”
But “don’t give me 50 more” officers to “deal with the symptoms.” Rather, says Harris, who was raised in a rough Phoenix neighborhood, give me comprehensive immigration reform that controls the borders, provides for whatever seasonal immigration the nation wants, and one way or another settles the status of the 12 million who are here illegally — 55 percent of whom have been here at least eight years.
The piece delves into the complexity of the situation in Phoenix, often simplified by newspaper headlines,
[Chief Harris] is weary of explaining that this is one of America’s safest large cities, with declining rates of violent crime and property crime, even though it has one of the nation’s highest rates of home foreclosures. Unfortunately, there are the kidnappings
….There were 368 reported kidnappings for ransom here last… It is difficult to know how many kidnappings occurred there or here: Many are not reported because it can be dangerous to do so. And because they are settled before there is time to report them
… But some of the people become pawns in horrific transactions. A person in the United States might pay, say, $2,500 to have someone smuggled into the country, and then might receive a phone call: Pay another $5,000 and we will stop raping or torturing — do you hear the screams? — the person you want.
The conservative writer goes on to explain that the kidnapping problem is not caused by a high criminality rate in the city but by the lucrative business of human smuggling,
In any case, law-abiding citizens here are rarely at risk. Most of the kidnappings are drug smugglers and human traffickers preying on one another.
Phoenix’s familiar sorts of crimes have not much to do with most of the city’s immigrants, legal or illegal. They commit a smaller percentage of the crimes (10 percent) than they are of the city’s population (24 percent). But the lurid crimes that are giving this city an unmerited reputation as dangerous represent the seepage of the Mexican cartels into his city.
— Immigration reform key to troubles along the border, March 21, 2009
We cannot allow coyotes and smugglers to further exploit our dysfunctional immigration system to finance their illicit transactions. We need a system that regulates immigration efficiently and responds to the labor and economic needs of our country; a system where immigrants are allowed to come vetted and with a visa rather than uninspected and with a smuggler.
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
If there is such a thing in the immigration policy world, we are in something of a lull. That is about to end.
The President and Congress have not yet begun a debate on a specific proposal, but there has been a lot of organizing, both around the country and among members of Congress, to remind the administration that comprehensive immigration reform is critical. In recent days, the President has reiterated his view that immigration reform is on his agenda.
President Speaks on Immigration Reform in California: On March 19, President Obama was in Southern California conducting a “town hall” meeting. There, he was asked about immigration reform. The President said that he believes we have to get control of our borders “at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. That's the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take.” You can see a video clip of the President addressing this issue and a transcript of what he said on the Web site of America’s Voice.
Obama meets with CHC on Immigration: The town hall meeting in California followed on the heels of a meeting between President Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. There was just one thing on the agenda for that meeting: immigration reform. The meeting went very well, we are told, and the President made it clear he understands the need to act this year. A CHC Press Release discussing the meeting can be found here. The White House perspective on the meeting can be found here. You can read the Forum’s Press Release on the meeting here.
Congressional Supporters of Reform Organize; Leaders Express Support: Over the course of this month and into April, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have been conducting a “Family Unity Tour”, meeting with local communities around the country to document the harm caused to American families by the broken immigration system. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to President Obama on March 17, pressing for comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Democratic leaders of both the House and the Senate have reiterated their commitment to immigration reform. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has repeatedly expressed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. In a recent speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for example, he said, “I am committed to offering this year comprehensive immigration reform that is strong, practical and fair.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now fending off attacks from cultural conservatives for her expression of support for comprehensive reform and for ending ICE raids. (You can learn more about attacks on the Speaker, and what you can do about it, from America’s Voice.)
Positive Measures: At the same time as the President and various constellations of Members of Congress have been expressing support for immigration reform, small positive reforms are being introduced. Recently, for example, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a bill to crack down on immigration fraud perpetrated by notarios. Text of the bill can be found here.
Another example is H.R. 1024, introduced by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and others and S. 424, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others. This bill would treat the permanent partners of citizens and permanent residents the same as spouses of citizens and permanent residents for immigration purposes.
We expect more positive measures will be introduced soon, and we expect that the President will make his views known more specifically in the near future.
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
U.S./Mexico Border Violence: Violence on the U.S./Mexico Border has been in the news, and Congress has been conducting hearings on the issue. On March 12, the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing, “Border Violence: An Examination of DHS Strategies and Resources.” Testimony from that hearing, in which there were government witnesses only, can be obtained on the Web site of the Homeland Security Committee. Also on March 12, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held a hearing, “Money, Guns, and Drugs: Are U.S. Inputs Fueling Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border?” The Chairman of that Committee, Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), noted that 90% of the guns confiscated from Mexican organized crime originated in the United States. More information here.
The Forum’s Press Release on the issue is here.
There is more to come: On March 25th, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will conduct a hearing, “Southern Border Violence: Homeland Security Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Responsibilities.”
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
H-2A Regulations to be Suspended: On March 17, the Department of Labor published a notice in the Federal Register stating the administration’s intent to suspend regulations guiding the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program for nine months. Just before relinquishing the reigns of government, the Bush administration issued regulations for the temporary worker program that effectively lessened worker protections for agricultural workers. Those regulations went into effect on January 17. The Bush administration regulations are being litigated by United Farm Workers and other groups. In the place of the Bush administration’s regulations, the Department intends to substitute the old regulations that were in place prior to January 17th. There is a 10-day comment period. For more information, see Farmworker Justice’s Press Release.
Detention Conditions: In the past week, there have been two more reports issued on conditions in immigration detention. One was issued by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), “Dying for Decent Care: Bad Medicine in Immigration Custody.” That report can be obtained on FIAC’s Web site. The other report was released by Human Rights Watch, “Detained and Dismissed: Women’s Struggles to Obtain Health Care in United States Immigration Detention.” That report can be obtained from the Web site of Human Rights Watch.
DOJ Launches Investigation of MCSO: On March 10, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division sent a letter to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of the Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Office, noting that the Justice Department is opening an investigation of the Sheriff’s Office regarding allegations of national origin discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and for other reasons. For more information, read the Forum’s Press Release on this issue.
March 23, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
After issuing numerous less-than-credible research reports that blame immigrants for global warming and the financial crisis, the Center for Immigration Studies —the anti-immigration advocacy organization founded as the research arm of FAIR,— issued a report focusing on the impact that the 2006 worksite raids on Swift & Co. meatpacking plants had on the labor conditions of the plant’s workers. Strangely enough, the findings of the report highlight the benefits of a legalized workforce: better wages and better working conditions for workers, the same argument used by pro-immigrant organizations as they advocate for legalization for 12 million or so undocumented immigrants. The Washington Independent reports on the irony,
Although CIS advocates the crackdown on illegal aliens through raids such as these, the report actually makes a persuasive case for the legalization of many currently undocumented immigrants –- what many anti-illegal immigration groups and their supporters call “amnesty.”
Among the findings of the report are that meatpacking workers work in difficult and dangerous conditions; workers have seen a 45 percent decline in their wages and standard of living since 1980; the meatpacking plants returned to full capacity within five months of the raid; and at the four facilities about which researchers were able to obtain information, wages and bonuses rose on average eight percent after the raid.
While CIS claims this supports the efficacy of workplace raids, Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center, notes that the same data could just as easily be used to support a program for legalization of undocumented workers. It would also suggest the need for raising wages at the meatpacking plants – something that United Food and Commercial Workers was already trying to do before the plants were raided.
The CIS report argues that the rise in wages was a direct result of the workplace raids but they forgot one minor detail: the union was already working on the wage increases before the raid. Here’s what UFCW — the union representing Swift’s workers — had to say about this report, as published on Immigration Impact, the blog of the Immigration policy Center,
A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies is a perfect illustration of the misinterpretation and manipulation of data to reach a totally biased and flawed conclusion-and clearly demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the history of the meatpacking industry.
[T]he UFCW has been fighting to rebuild wages and standards for these [meatpacking plant] jobs...At Swift, the UFCW had negotiated those wage increases before the raid even took place. So there goes CIS’s central argument, collapsed like a flimsy house of cards.
CIS also fails to address the devastating impact that the Swift raid had on thousands of workers -immigrant and native born. After the raids, the UFCW documented numerous examples of racial profiling, U.S. citizens harassed and detained by armed agents and a total disregard for workers’ constitutional rights.
—New CIS Study: Easy Answers and Half-Baked Solutions, March 19, 2009
Instead of falling for FAIR/CIS’s deportation-only strategy, pitting workers against each other, we should be looking for solutions that move the country forward, together. As long as there is an underground economy that benefits from exploitable workers, the rights of all workers will be destabilized. Legalizing immigrant workers will even the playing field, strengthen the bargaining power of hard-working employees, and will improve labor conditions and wages for all workers, native and immigrant workers alike. This is yet another reason why we need immigration reform now.
March 20, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Steve Rhodes
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become the target of conservative media attacks after her remarks during a CHC “Family Unity” tour prayer event in San Francisco where she spoke out against ICE’s immigration raids, stating that they are against America’s values as they take parents away from their children and instill fear in the immigrant community. Despite being bombarded by nasty comments by Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, Speaker Pelosi remains firm on her stance in support of immigration reform and she is not afraid to repeat her statements, as seen during a conference on border issues by the U.S.- Mexico Chamber of Commerce, Congressional Quaterly reports,
A comprehensive immigration bill may or may not happen in 2009, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says lawmakers shouldn’t wait to put the brakes on enforced deportation measures that many say have gotten out of control.
“ICE raids that break up families, just kicking in the door in the middle of the night, taking a parent away, that’s just not the American way,” Pelosi said Thursday, at a conference on border issues hosted by the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
…. Pelosi took some heat from conservative pundits for expressing such sentiments … But Thursday, Pelosi stuck firmly to her position, urging immediate action even in the absence of a comprehensive package.
“We need this comprehensive reform, and we need it soon,” Pelosi said. “And we need to stop those kinds of ICE raids in the meantime.”
— Pelosi Stands Firm on Immigration Overhaul, March 19, 2009
We applaud the Speaker’s courageous statements. She understands that aggressive workplace raids are inconsistent with our nation’s values of family unity and due process. Enforcement alone will not address the problems with our current immigration system, we need a comprehensive and realistic approach that secures our country but also remains true to our nation’s deepest values.
If you would like to thank Speaker Pelosi for her leadership and support for immigration reform visit: www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/Courageous
March 19, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Iceman9294 The wheels are in motion for the Obama Administration and Congress to start fixing our broken immigration system. In the last few weeks, we have heard encouraging signs from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel that immigration reform will be addressed in 2009. We are now hearing it again from President Obama himself (this time in English!) during a Town Hall meeting in Costa Mesa, CA. The full transcript is available on the Los Angeles Times blog, “I [have] reiterated my belief that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, I know this is an emotional issue, I know it's a controversial issue, I know that the people get real riled up politically about this, but -- but ultimately, here's what I believe: We are a nation of immigrants, number one. Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers. Since they can't join a union, they can't complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans. After describing why the current status quo is unacceptable and detrimental to the rights of all workers, President Obama continued to emphasize the urgency for reform and the need to do it in a comprehensive way, So I don't think that we can do this [immigration reform] piecemeal. I think what we have to do is to come together and say, we're going to strengthen our borders…. So we've got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. That's the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. —Full text of President Obama's Costa Mesa Town Hall meeting, March 18, 2009 The Town Hall statements were given just hours after President Obama met with the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to only discuss immigration. As reported by Congress Daily, the meeting focused on sharing an agenda and plan for moving immigration reform forward in 2009, "The president made clear to us that he is a man of his word. He clearly understands the consequences of a broken immigration system," said Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y. "President Obama has committed to working with us as we continue to lead on this issue, and serve as advocates for the immigrant community." … A congressional aide said Obama committed to work with the Hispanic Caucus and "start the process" of holding meetings and forums on immigration reform within the next few months. …"The great thing is that the political space is there," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. He said there is "a moral, political and economic" reason for Congress to take up immigration reform this year. Washington cannot duck this issue. The drumbeat for immigration reform is growing increasingly loud and leadership is taking the first steps toward developing a broad strategy that will solve a problem the American people want solved.
Photo by Iceman9294
The wheels are in motion for the Obama Administration and Congress to start fixing our broken immigration system. In the last few weeks, we have heard encouraging signs from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel that immigration reform will be addressed in 2009. We are now hearing it again from President Obama himself (this time in English!) during a Town Hall meeting in Costa Mesa, CA. The full transcript is available on the Los Angeles Times blog,
“I [have] reiterated my belief that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform.
Now, I know this is an emotional issue, I know it's a controversial issue, I know that the people get real riled up politically about this, but -- but ultimately, here's what I believe: We are a nation of immigrants, number one.
Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers.
Since they can't join a union, they can't complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans.
After describing why the current status quo is unacceptable and detrimental to the rights of all workers, President Obama continued to emphasize the urgency for reform and the need to do it in a comprehensive way,
So I don't think that we can do this [immigration reform] piecemeal. I think what we have to do is to come together and say, we're going to strengthen our borders….
So we've got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. That's the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take.
—Full text of President Obama's Costa Mesa Town Hall meeting, March 18, 2009
The Town Hall statements were given just hours after President Obama met with the entire Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to only discuss immigration. As reported by Congress Daily, the meeting focused on sharing an agenda and plan for moving immigration reform forward in 2009,
"The president made clear to us that he is a man of his word. He clearly understands the consequences of a broken immigration system," said Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y. "President Obama has committed to working with us as we continue to lead on this issue, and serve as advocates for the immigrant community."
… A congressional aide said Obama committed to work with the Hispanic Caucus and "start the process" of holding meetings and forums on immigration reform within the next few months.
…"The great thing is that the political space is there," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. He said there is "a moral, political and economic" reason for Congress to take up immigration reform this year.
Washington cannot duck this issue. The drumbeat for immigration reform is growing increasingly loud and leadership is taking the first steps toward developing a broad strategy that will solve a problem the American people want solved.