March 16, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Center for American Progress Action
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) has once again reiterated his vow to push strongly for immigration reform this year, stating that immigration reform can be part of the solution to our economic woes. Univisión reports on his recent speech at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Conference,
Senator [Reid] highlighted the contributions of the Hispanic community to the U.S. and stated that immigration reform is part of President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan.
“I have been firmly committed to immigration reform for a long time now, look no further than the angry messages and letters I receive to prove it”, said [Senator] Reid.
... [Senator] Reid confirmed that commitment still exists to continue working until passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes legalization for the estimated 12 million undocumented living in the country. “I remain hopeful. I am committed in offering this year comprehensive immigration reform that is strong, practical and fair”.
— Líder del Senado Habló de Reforma, March 12, 2009 (Translation by Katherine Vargas)
Immigration policy experts and advocates are echoing the chant of “yes we can” pass immigration reform, as we recently told online magazine AlterNet,
"The prospects for reform are very good if advocates continue to build power and make it happen," he [Doug Rivlin of the National Immigration Forum] told me. "The Obama administration can read election results."
The pieces that will move forward immigration reform are finally coming together. Leaders who are central to the effort to get laws and procedures fixed and legislation passed — including President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel— have acknowledged that addressing immigration reform is not just good policy, but also good politics.
March 16, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Just hours after being sworn in as the nation’s first Latina Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announced that she would suspend the Bush administration midnight regulations of the H-2A program. Advocates for farm workers have been warning that the regulatory changes would have weakened wage and worker protections for participants in the H2A agricultural temporary worker program, thereby threatening the rights and working conditions of all workers in U.S. agriculture. The New York Times reports,
The new rules cut the wages that many of these workers will receive and reduced the amount that growers had to reimburse these workers for their travel. They also eased administrative burdens by letting employers simply attest that they had met various program requirements.
Erik Nicholson, a national vice president of the United Farm Workers, applauded Ms. Solis’s decision, calling the Bush rules “some of the worst setbacks for farm workers in decades.” He added, “They meant worse wages and worse housing conditions for these workers and worse discrimination against American workers.”
The last-minute changes were an attempt by the departing administration rushing to make its mark and slap a band-aid solution on the program to satisfy certain constituents. The changes would have not only encouraged more abuse of workers, but it would also have made a flawed program even worse. Labor Secretary Solis commented announcing the suspension of the new regulations,
In December, Ms. Solis, then a California representative, condemned the regulations. “With many families already burdened by this bad economy,” she said, “our nation cannot afford these guest worker program changes. There is no question that the guest-worker program needs significant overhaul, but slashing wages and reducing basic rights for the most vulnerable workers in our country, especially hardworking Latino farm workers, is not the answer.”
— Labor Secretary Proposes Suspending Farm Rules, March 14, 2009
The time has come to examine midnight decisions in the light of day. We applaud the Labor Secretary’s swift actions to reverse these ill will H-2A rules and we encourage the Administration to do a thorough review of the past Administration’s immigration policies and programs that provide no real solutions but instead, aggravate the chaotic immigration situation. An overhaul of our immigration system that puts in place immigration laws that are realistic and enforceable, legalizes an often-exploitable workforce, responds to our labor and economic needs, keeps families together, and upholds our values as a nation will be the only long-term solution to our immigration problems.
March 12, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
By now, you should be pretty familiar with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and not necessarily for his outstanding performance in the FOX reality show but for community complaints about his orchestrated publicity stunts; the latest one involved parading shackled pre-trial detainees through the streets of Phoenix and into a segregated facility called “Tent City”. Locally and nationally, immigration and civil rights groups have firmly condemned Sheriff Arpaio’s antics and the abuse of his 287(g) agreement —the program that empowers local authorities to enforce federal immigration law — resulting in civil rights violations, racial profiling and excessive use of force, not to mention costly lawsuits.
Just hours before the formal presentation of 38,000 petition signatures *calling for a federal investigation of Sheriff Arpaio’s immigration enforcement actions, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will initiate an investigation. The Arizona Republic further reports,
The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil-rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office after months of mounting complaints that deputies are discriminating in their enforcement of federal immigration laws.
…Officials from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that they had begun the investigation, which will focus on whether deputies are engaging in "patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures."
Finally Sheriff Joe is receiving the attention he deserves! This is the first step for restoring adequate federal oversight of immigration enforcement actions, the article also points to the groundbreaking nature of the investigation,
An expert said it is the department's first civil-rights probe related to immigration enforcement.
The Justice Department frequently receives racial-profiling complaints against police departments, but investigations are rare, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh lawprofessor and racial-profiling expert.
"The fact that this has come to their attention and they have announced their intent to investigate is highly significant," Harris said. "It says there is enough there to be investigated. It's not an iffy case that (can be ignored)."
—Arpaio to be investigated over alleged violations, March 11, 2009
We welcome the DoJ investigation and hope that it will further push the Administration and Congress to address immigration reform. As long as our immigration system remains in its current dysfunctional state, local authorities (like Sheriff Arpaio) will continue to exploit the confusion for their own political and publicity goals.
*You can view videos from today’s press event presenting the 38,000 petition signatures at: http://www.americasvoiceonline.org/blog/entry/two_videos_from_todays_arpaio_event/
March 10, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Immigration news from last week focused on the misguided implementation of the 287(g) agreement — a program by which local law enforcement engages in enforcing federal civil immigration law. Independent reports, government reports and a House Homeland Security Committee hearing found that the program lacked adequate federal oversight resulting in enforcement priorities being out of whack. Unfortunately, despite concerns on the efficiency of the 287(g) program raised by advocates, Congress and the Government Accountability Office, some localities still believe that 287(g) is the way to go. Such is the case of Morris County, NJ, where local Mayor Donald Cresitello is pushing to allow local police to become deputized immigration officers even as Morris County authorities struggle to protect the trust of the immigrant community, the North Jersey Star Ledger reports,
Call it catch 287(g).
Morris County authorities are trying to reach out to Latino immigrants who are victims of domestic violence to protect them and prosecute their abusers. But a number of victims fear making complaints because they think they or the abuser on whom they are economically dependent will be deported.
[Prosecutor] Bianchi … pointed out illegal immigrants are key witnesses in crimes involving homicide and a variety of other offenses that are protected by his office.
In turn, advocates highlight the damaging effect in the community when local police perform two different – and at times, conflicting —duties,
Despite the assurances, Diana Mejia, a member of Wind of the Spirit, an immigration rights organization in Morristown, was not convinced 287(g) would not be a factor [in deterring victims to approach authorities].
"There is an environment of being afraid," she said. "People don't want to speak out about the way they feel. Honestly, we need to build again the community trust, and to build the community trust, we need to come back and have a relationship with the police and all the law enforcement -- and I don't know how that is going to happen because it's getting worse."
Sadly enough, we can point to specific examples where local authorities chose to be enforcers of immigration law instead of protectors of victims or witnesses of crime. A story in the Orlando Sentinel describes how Rita Cote was detained by Florida police when she made an emergency call to report that her sister was being violently assaulted by her partner. Instead of pursuing the domestic violence complaint and apprehending the alleged abuser, the police arrested Ms. Cote because she couldn’t provide proof of legal immigration status. As expected, advocates called foul:
"No one should have to remain in the shadows and in danger because they fear that their one call to 911 could lead to their deportation, rather than to their deliverance from violence," said Jeanne Smoot, public-policy director with the Tahirih Justice Center, a group in Falls Church, Va., that helps immigrant women in domestic-violence situations.
— Immigration groups seek release of mother of 3, February 26, 2009
Amidst criticism of the 287(g) agreement, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has called for broad review of the program and is drafting changes to “clarify the roles and responsibilities of local authorities”. In the meantime, localities are still implementing the enforcement program based on their own (misguided) interpretation while a few others are seeking to be part of this club, despite the financial burdens caused by multiple lawsuits and civil complaints.
In Monmouth County, NJ, a statewide coalition of immigration advocacy and civil rights groups is pushing back against the County’s intended enlistment in the 287(g) program. In their online sign-on petition, advocates stress how enrollment in the program is counterproductive and fiscally irresponsible,
Across the country, the 287(g) program has proven to be a costly and counterproductive initiative. Its many problems include the high unanticipated costs for local jurisdictions, deteriorating relations between police and the communities they are entrusted to protect, racial profiling of local residents, and numerous lawsuits over resulting discrimination.
Sheriff Guadagno attempts to justify the program by stating that her concern is “the safety of Monmouth County residents,” yet study after study disproves the myth that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes. In fact, Guadagno’s own 287(g) application to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicates that a mere 1\% of the average jail population in Monmouth County jail is foreign born. Yet despite this, and the fact that local enforcement screens for immigration status when someone is charged with an indictable offense, Sheriff Guadagno plans to invest valuable resources on a failed program with a high human and economic cost. Indeed, studies have proven that 287(g) programs have the effect of deterring victims from coming forward and reporting crimes to proper law enforcement officials.
Unless leadership in Washington provides a clear roadmap on how it’s going to deal with our immigration troubles, pressure to shift the responsibility of immigration law enforcement to local governments will continue to rise.
March 09, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
As reported earlier, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) has launched a national listening tour to hear testimony from families who have been impacted by the failed policies of our immigration system. The “Family Unity” tour will visit 17 cities including Phoenix, El Paso, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Orlando among others. During Saturday’s prayer event at St. Anthony's Church in San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) joined fellow Members of Congress to denounce immigration raids and deportations that have tear families apart and to call for an overhaul of our immigration system. The San Francisco Chronicle reports,
Pelosi, who has said securing U.S. borders is a top priority, used the forum to call for a comprehensive immigration program that recognizes the broad contributions immigrants have made to the fabric of the country.
"Our future is about our children," Pelosi told a crowd of mostly Latino families at St. Anthony's Church.
No matter if those families arrived two days ago or centuries ago, Pelosi said "that opportunity, that determination, that hope has made American more American."
She said, "Taking parents from their children ... that's un-American.
—Pelosi: End raids splitting immigrant families, March 8, 2009
We applaud Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her leadership in supporting the CHC’s efforts bring light into the shameful consequences of not fixing our dysfunctional immigration system — including the approximate 5 million U.S. citizen children who risk being left behind if their parents are deported.
Meanwhile, in San Bernardino, California, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) provided insight into the principles behind this national tour, as reported by the San Bernardino Sun,
Spearheaded by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., the tour is meant to show the effects of the nation's immigration policy.
Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, urged attendees in Ontario to sign petitions asking for comprehensive immigration reform.
We will go from city to city, church to church and present the president with no other alternative than to listen to the majority's voice," Gutierrez said.
—Tour tries to put face on deportation, March 7, 2009
Joining these efforts to emphasize the urgency and moral imperative for immigration reform, is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who recently wrote an Op-Ed piece in El Diario/La Prensa – the largest Spanish language newspaper in New York – calling for an immigration policy that is “based on reality” and asking leadership in Washington to not use the recession as another excuse for not addressing our immigration troubles,
“One of the most important steps that Washington can do to promote economic growth in the long term is to fix our broken immigration system …[to] fully recover the state of our economy would require a national immigration policy that is based on reality, not on politics.
…An immigration policy based on reality means abandoning the misguided idea that we can deport the 11 million people who live here without visas. Not only would it be impossible, it would destroy many families and it would worsen our economic recession.
… We can not allow for the economic recession to pose as another excuse for inaction on immigration. As the Obama administration confronts the many current challenges, we hope to work with the President and Congress to create an immigration system that would strengthen our economy, protect our borders and honor our values” (Translated)
—Una Política Migratoria Basada en la Realidad, March 9, 2009
Laurels to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the CHC and Mayor Bloomberg for putting politics aside and calling for a solutions-approach to our immigration woes. We hope that their colleagues in Congress and the Obama Administration would soon follow suit.
March 07, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
We call your attention to two newspaper articles in Florida this week. One is an editorial that ran March 6 in the Fort Myers News-Press arguing forcefully for immigration reform. The other is a news item from March 5 in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale about the continuation of Haitian deportations. They paint an interesting picture in contrasts.
The News-Press editorial charts a middle ground, calling for an enforcement-centric approach to immigration, but also calling on its readers to contact Members of Congress to demand immigration reform.
“We have failed to adopt sensible, enforceable rules for admitting newcomers to what we proudly call a nation of immigrants.
We need reform because we need immigrants - legal immigrants with rights and hopeful futures, admitted under a fair system, energetically enforced for the sake of American security and sovereignty. But we need to admit our hypocrisy.
We rightly insist that immigrants and employers obey the laws, but we still do not adequately enforce those laws.
Border security has improved but is still far from tight. Workplace raids have increased, but employers have not been held seriously accountable for hiring illegal workers.
Too many Americans, including consumers, benefit from the illegal employment of people from impoverished countries willing to work in the shadows for low wages.”
If you read the whole piece, you can see the editorial board is really struggling with this issue. They repeat myths like “we make illegal immigration attractive with a no-questions-asked policy on health care, education, food stamps and other benefits.” Umm, immigrants in the country illegally haven’t been eligible for food stamps or most benefits beyond K-12 education and emergency medical care for more than a decade, and the unintended consequences of too many questions create red tape that makes some U.S. citizens ineligible for these services in the process.
And the editorial makes a nod towards “enforcement-first,” an approach that hasn’t been working for two decades and which is hard to distinguish from mass-expulsion. But the thrust of the editorial is that it is time for the American people to demand reform that includes a sensible legal immigration system, a way for most of the people here to become legal, and enforcement to make sure everyone is playing by the new set of enforceable rules.
“Now is a good time for a new administration to renew the attempt to fix this broken system. Experience suggests that Obama will have to put enforcement first. But liberalization is essential, too.
Urge our leaders in Washington to act.”
—Let's get honest about immigration, March 6, 2009
Over on the Atlantic/Caribbean coast in Fort Lauderdale, in the Miami Metroplex, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran a short news piece on deportations to Haiti.
“Days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, advocates wrote to him and the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, asking that they stop deporting undocumented Haitians and allow those already here to stay legally.
The answer arrived Tuesday: No, for now.
“At this time, DHS intends to continue to coordinate the removal of Haitian nationals to Haiti,” wrote Susan Cullen, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Policy and Planning.”
—U.S. will continue to deport Haitians, March 5, 2009
It is unfortunate that the Department of Homeland Security does not see fit to extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitian nationals given the economic conditions and natural disasters that have devastated that Caribbean nation. It is also, unfortunately, nothing new given America’s approach to Haitian immigrants over the years, despite the best efforts of advocates and Congressional leaders like Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL).
However, the reaction unleashed on the message board of the Sun-Sentinel is not just unfortunate, it is startling. Let’s be clear, I don’t think most people troubled by legal and illegal immigration are racists, however, many of the most vocal anti-immigration advocates surely are. And when the immigrants in question are black, Katie bar the door!
The article quotes Randy McGrorty, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Legal Services in Miami, about his impressions of the Haitians in his community:
They're bright people. They're fair people…I remain optimistic the policy will change once they understand the need for change.
Which elicited this comment in the paper’s comment board from a chatter subtly named “Deport Them” of Miami:
Dude, what are you smoking???? All the haitians that I've come across, which is alot, are morons. They have no brains. It's like they left it at haiti or something. They are rude, inconciderate, selfish, and nasty people. They take dead peoples names and make it their own so they can continue to live here illegally. There's a reason why their country is in hell, and they are the reason for it. Good people, my behind.
A chatter named “Common Sense” adds:
Haitians are not fit for a Western civilized culture. Anyone who has been around them knows and understands what i'am saying. This is not a racist comment just fact!
Here are a few otherschoice additions:
“Uncle Tom” of Lakeland: get those useless pieces of garbage out of our country. they aren't even here legally. it's a no brainer. heck, get rid of ALL the haitians and this state of ours will be drastically improved. the only thing they can do efficiently is spread AIDS and speak that monkey talk. they are more like primates than human. animals. the best thing for haitai is drop a bomb on it. soul less animals.
“Flagrante Delicto” who chats via AOL: What do you expect from a country where the majority don't even have a 6th grade education? They are lucky enough to get to ride in the back of a dump truck, let alone drive it.
“Reality” of Miami (responding to another’s comments): Tina, you are either Haitian or have never experienced Haitians destroying your life. They are destroying the quality of life in South Florida. They are dirty, uneducated, violent and poor. Why should we let them be here and suck our system as they commit crime. We don't want them in our neighborhoods anymore. If you love them so much, invite them to stay at your house!
And if you are not Haitian and feel left out of this hate festival:
“Kumar” of Free Soil, Michigan: The Miami Cubans are racists with over-inflated senses of self-worth. The rest of this country wishes they would all float back to Havana.
“Super Gator” of Miami: Not saying Cubans or Haitians are pieces of cake, most are actually pieces of something else, but I think if we're going to deport anybody, I think we should deport Muslims/Arabs/anything in between. Send 'em all back on one large magic carpet.
My, my my. Granted, people say some crazy stuff on newspaper chat boards, but when people think they are essentially anonymous, they also speak their minds. When Lou Dobbs, Mark Krikorian, Willard T. Fair, or any of the other leaders of the opposition to immigration reform speak, we should ask them how they can stand shoulder to shoulder with the people making these comments and still sleep at night.
Peel back the layers of the anti-immigration onion and you find a lot of bitterness, and like an onion, it will make you cry.
March 05, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
The General Accountability Office (GAO) the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, released a report Wednesday that is highly critical of the program known as 287(g), a program by which local law enforcement engages in enforcing federal civil immigration law – in other words, the law that has turned some local police into ICE agents. On the same day, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing to address the worrisome findings of the report.
For immigration advocates, the notion that the program was misguided and wrongfully implemented was already old news. They have warned the public time and time again about the lack of federal oversight of the program, thus allowing enforcement cowboys – like reality star Sheriff Arpaio — run loose. The Charlotte Observer reports,
[The report] was created to address serious crimes, such as gangs and narcotics smuggling... But some local law enforcement agencies nationwide have used the program – known as 287(g) – to deport immigrants for minor crimes such as speeding. ..
“We could have told them that a long time ago without having to go through the cost of the report,” said Angeles Ortega-Moore, executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte.
“The intention was to grab hard criminals, but the unintended consequences were they were really targeting minor traffic offenders.”
— Deportation program nets minor offenders, March 5, 2009
Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research group had an insightful analogy about these efforts to combine civil immigration and criminal enforcement in their latest report on 287(g) agreements:
“Residing in the US without proper documentation is a civil immigration violation, but it is not a crime. Imagine if the IRS empowered local police to check the tax records of every person stopped for a traffic violation to see if their filings have ever violated civil tax laws. If the police started filling our jails with people who might have made a mistake on their tax filings, citizens would be outraged. Yet under 287(g), people are jailed when their civil immigration status is in question."
So instead of targeting dangerous criminals as originally indented, local law enforcement agencies decided to shift their valuable resources to chase after bystanders, immigrant workers and traffic speeders?
Add to these concerns the eroding trust of the community who as a result of this dual role of the police— one day fighting crime, another day acting as immigration officers —might be afraid of contacting the police when they are victims or witnesses of a crime.
Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, a witness at the hearing, emphasized the idea of community security as reported by The Washington Post,
Police Chief J. Thomas Manger warned members of the House Committee on Homeland Security that the program could severely undermine trust between police and immigrant communities.
"Public safety increases when people have trust and confidence in local police forces," Manger said. "The bottom line is local law enforcement needs to work closely with our immigration authorities, but we cannot do their job for them."
—Immigration Program Stirs Clash Of Views, March 5, 2009
We applaud Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) for initiating efforts to assess the efficiency of the program. As I mentioned during an interview with California newspaper La Opinión, a thorough review of the program is urgently needed but this might not be enough…
"Pensamos que se necesita no sólo una revisión exhaustiva del programa, sino un compromiso por parte de la administración del presidente Obama sobre la dirección de las políticas migratorias en este país, para asegurarnos de que este tipo de programas no operen de manera errónea", dijo Vargas.
El DHS falla en objetivo de sus arrestos, March 5, 2009
(Translation: We need not only a comprehensive review of the program but also commitment by President Obama to provide clarity on his Administration’s immigration policy, so we can avoid these programs that are so often wrongfully implemented.)
March 05, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Omnibus Appropriations: As you may recall, the best Congress could manage last year for funding the government this year was a bill to fund most agencies through the first six months of the fiscal year, ending this month. Congress is now in the middle of passing another “omnibus” appropriations bill (where funding for several agencies is wrapped up in one big package). That bill will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30). The House has already passed its version. Among other things, the bill contains $730 million for English language Acquisition (through Fiscal Year 2010) and nearly $68 million for “integrated English literacy and civics education” services is earmarked from the pot that goes to state Adult education grants. The existing E-Verify and Employment-Based fifth preference programs are extended until the end of the Fiscal Year. (They would otherwise expire this month.) In a separate action, the House voted to extend to the end of the Fiscal Year two additional programs: religious workers visas and visas for doctors in underserved areas and to provide doctors for underserved medical areas. The Senate may take that bill up separately or may add it in to the omnibus.
The Senate is considering the omnibus, and may vote on it on Thursday. Technically, failure to adopt the omnibus and sign it into law by Friday, March 6 would lead to a government shutdown or a series of resolutions to keep the government limping along until the Omnibus is completed.
Detention Conditions: On February 26, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced H.R. 1215, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act. The Act would give ICE’s detention standards the force of law. It would also provide special protections for unaccompanied minors. You can read more about the bill in Rep. Roybal-Allard’s Press Release.
Text of the bill can be found here.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing on health services for ICE detainees on March 3. Although ICE has plans to detain 100,000 more immigrants, witnesses from ICE said they were not asking for additional funds for health services.
March 05, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
State and Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws: On March 4th, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on ICE’s “287(g)” program, to determine whether the program has been targeted as intended—to remove non-citizens who might pose a danger to the community. This program, named for the provision of law which authorizes it, allows state and local police agencies, under contract with ICE, to enforce immigration laws as specified in Memorandums of Agreement between the participating local agencies and ICE.
Among others, the Committee heard from a witness from the Government Accountability Office, which released a report on 287(g) earlier this year. GAO found that ICE lacks controls to ensure that the program is being used as intended. In fact, GAO found that 4 of the 29 state/local program participants it examined used the program to pick up individuals for minor infractions. (Speeding was named as an example.) The report is available here.
Also testifying were representatives of two police agencies in adjacent Maryland counties, representing opposing views. Chief Thomas Manger, of Montgomery County, represents a jurisdiction with a large foreign-born population. In his testimony, he expressed the concerns of the Major Cities Chiefs, an association of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada. All of the testimony, as well as a recording of the hearing, is available on the Homeland Security Committee’s Web site.
You can read the Forum’s statement on the hearing in our Press Release.
The President’s Budget for 2010: On February 26th, the President released an outline of his budget for Fiscal Year 2010. More details remain to be released (in April). In the section on the Department of Homeland Security, the budget document mentions that ICE will get $1.4 billion, and $110 million will be spent for the expansion of E-Verify. Without specifics, the document says that the budget “supports strengthening the delivery of immigration services by streamlining and modernizing immigration application processes.”
For the Justice Department, the budget includes funds to expand the Community Oriented Policing program and $145 million to strengthen the Civil Rights Division. There are additional funds to support “law enforcement and prosecutorial … efforts to investigate, arrest, detain, and prosecute illegal immigrants and other criminals” (but no details on what that means).
In general, in the immigration arena, the increased allocation for enforcement-related programs (E-Verify, for example) seems to be on auto-pilot, indicating that a new direction in immigration policy has yet to be outlined.
On the other hand, there are other signals in the budget that are positive. The Labor Department will get more money for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for the Wage and Hour Division, and for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs—all offices that enforce worker protection laws. While these components are not directly immigration related, increased enforcement against unscrupulous employers is thought by many to be a better approach than worksite raids targeting workers.
Homeland Security Oversight: On February 25th, Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security. In her prepared testimony she gave the Committee an update on her Action Directives (mentioned in a previous update). You can watch the hearing on the Committee’s video archive here.
March 04, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues his crusade to undermine efforts to fix our dysfunctional immigration system. Like many other restrictionists, he is quick to show what he is against — against providing health care for legal immigrant children, against speedy economic recovery with new burdens on businesses and workers through mandatory use of the flawed E-Verify program— but what solutions is he for?
The closest answer comes from a series of opinion pieces sent to newspapers around the country, all with a “fear your immigrant neighbor” framework. In The Washington Times last month, Rep. Lamar Smith, after an extensive comparison of immigrant workers to burglars, wrote:
E-Verify … [is] a sure way to protect jobs for U.S. citizen and legal immigrant workers alike, and ensure their jobs aren't stolen by illegal immigrants.
…E-Verify immediately confirms 99.4 percent of work-eligible employees. …Congress should not just extend E-Verify; it should mandate the program for all businesses with more than five employees and make it permanent. —Smith: Keep E-Verify System, February 8, 2009
At first glance, one might believe all the functional benefits from mandatory implementation of E-Verify. Unfortunately for Rep. Smith, a close examination of the program discloses an inconvenient truth. Jim Harper from the CATO Institute, a public policy research institute, exposes the reality behind these numbers:
[T]he DHS mantra of 99.5 percent accuracy was debunked long ago. The government doesn’t actually know the status of the 5.3% of workers that the system bounces out, an issue the Christian Science Monitor explored last summer.
I examined the numbers in detail here, also last summer. The 0.5% error rate that DHS acknowledges is the known error rate. Others bounced out of the system DHS assumes to be illegal aliens. This is almost certainly wrong, and the program is denying legal workers the ability to earn a living, as the Christian Science Monitor reported.— The Washington Times and Debunked Statistics, February 27, 2009
Despite multiple reports documenting the shortcomings of E-Verify - including an independent study commissioned by USCIS highlighting the high error rate of E-Verify database, a GAO report identifying vulnerabilities to employer fraud and misuse, and a CBO report estimating a decrease in federal revenues by $17.3 billion over 10 years due to the number of workers leaving the formal economy and working in the untaxed underground economy – some Members of Congress continue to push for a program that is not yet ready for primetime.
In a recent opinion piece for Politico, Rep. Smith argues that immigrant advocates are engaging in “stealth legislative efforts” to allow immigrant works to keep working at “the expense of American workers” (Diligence helps resist stealth amnesty, March 2, 2009).
Yet he fails to address the unintended consequences to legal workers by the mandatory implementation of E-Verify. Again, Jim Harper provides insight into the troublesome impact of expanding this employment verification program:
“[W]e must consider the error rate in federal government databases. In December 2006, the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General estimated that the agency’s “Numident” file—the data against which Basic Pilot checks worker information—has an error rate of 4.1 percent. Every error resulted in Basic Pilot’s providing incorrect results
At that rate, 1 in every 25 new hires would receive a tentative nonconfirmation. At 55 million new hires each year this rate produces about 11,000 tentative nonconfirmations per workday in the United States — a little more than 25 people per congressional district, each day of the working week, all year long.” — Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification: Franz Kafka's Solution to Illegal Immigration, March 6, 2008
During these tough economics times, the country seeks leadership from Congress to get back on our feet, create more jobs and stimulate the economy. Expanding a program that would cost U.S. citizens and legal workers their jobs is not only an impractical band-aid solution to our immigration troubles, but it would further slow our economic recovery.