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Yet more evidence that the public supports comprehensive immigration reform

April 30, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Eliseo Medina from SEIU and Wade Henderson from LLLCR

Photo by Maria Ponce, America's Voice

Today’s Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing kicked off the debate on comprehensive immigration reform for the 111th Congress.  That advocates on both sides have been gearing up for this debate has been much in the news.  But where does the American public stand on the issue? 

Two new polls released this week asked the public what they think we should do about undocumented immigrants. 

A New York Times/CBS News poll released on Monday (April 27)  contains a question to gauge public opinion on what to do about undocumented immigrants. 

The Times and CBS posed the question,

Which comes closest to your view about illegal immigrants who are currently working in the U.S.: 1. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs, and to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 2. They should be allowed to stay in their jobs only as temporary guest workers, but NOT to apply for U.S. citizenship; OR 3. They should be required to leave their jobs and leave the U.S.
(New York Times/CBS News Poll, April 22-26,2009, question 51)

A plurality, 44%, said that they favored allowing “illegal immigrants” to stay and to eventually apply for citizenship.  Another 21% thought they should be allowed to stay and work as temporary guest workers.  Looking at African Americans, the percentage who favor allowing undocumented immigrants to stay and work rises to 55%, with just 19% saying they should leave.

Today (April 30), ABC News and the Washington Post released the results of some questions (in a poll that is being released over time) on “hot button issues.”  This poll asked a less nuanced question about what to do with the undocumented:

Would you support or oppose a program giving ILLEGAL immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here LEGALLY if they pay a fine and meet other requirements?
(ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Hot-Button Issues, April 30, 2009, question 44)

A decisive majority, 61%, said they support giving “illegal” immigrants now living here the chance to stay.  The Post/ABC analysis notes that it is not only liberals and Democrats who favor this solution—70% and 68% respectively—but so do Republicans and independents (59% in both cases), moderates (63%) and conservatives (56%).

The two polls are consistent, with the Times/CBS polling showing 65% favor allowing the undocumented to stay in the U.S. and the Post/ABC poll showing 61% support.

Despite efforts to derail reform by the likes of Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and the other radio and TV personalities who have shouted “amnesty!” until they are blue in the face, the public still wants reasonable solutions to this problem.  The public is pretty much in the same place as it was two years ago, when it was being tested again and again by the mainstream media during the Senate immigration reform debate.  Back then, the public also favored allowing undocumented immigrants a chance to stay. You can find links to many of these polls here.  You can also find a summary here.

The politics of immigration reform seem more complicated because those opposed to reform are very loud.  But these polls tell us, again, that comprehensive immigration reform is not only good policy, but good politics.

Oh, and one more thing.  Here’s something that I wouldn’t want to see if I were going to gamble with my political career by following the immigration restrictionists: 

And support for a path to citizenship for illegals is 31 points higher among under 30s than it is among seniors, 73 percent vs. 42 percent.
(ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Hot-Button Issues, April 30, 2009)

To be sure, those under 30 years of age are going to be visiting the voting booth a lot more times in the years ahead.

With malice toward none

April 28, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

America is a nation of nations. We touch every nation and every nation touches us in return. This is our history, this is our tradition, this is the source of strength.
- Gen. Colin Powell USA (Ret.), at a citizenship swearing in ceremony on the National Mall, April 12, 2009.

Immigrants at swearing-in ceremony
Candidates for citizenship, listening to Gen. Colin Powell deliver the keynote address at
their citizenship swearing-in ceremony. Photo: Maurice Belanger

Before they become citizens, immigrants must study and take a test on U.S. History and Government. At the end of the process, assuming they’ve passed all their background checks and tests, they are sworn in by taking the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony that might be very simple or, in the case of a recent ceremony on the National Mall, might be part of history itself.

This year is the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, and the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission has been organizing a series of events to celebrate this milestone.  On Easter Sunday, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the Commission organized an event that featured a concert commemorating the 70th anniversary of the famous performance by contralto Marian Anderson, who sang before tens of thousands of people on the Mall after being denied a performance at Constitution Hall.  Mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves sang three songs from that historic performance, in a program that also included, among others, General Colin Powell reading Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

The program culminated with the swearing-in ceremony of 191 immigrants from 56 countries, from Canada to Argentina, and from Sweden to South Africa.  General Powell gave the keynote address to the candidates for citizenship, reflecting on the strength our nation derives by being open to immigrants from all nations.  He told the story of his own parents, immigrants from Jamaica, who watched their children succeed in ways they scarcely could have imagined. 

In the midst of the immigration wars, in which the airwaves are saturated with the vitriolic sound bites of the cable news and talk radio personalities who make their living by dividing Americans against each other, it was refreshing to be a part of this very important moment in the lives of this diverse group of people.  Such ceremonies, in which immigrants declare their allegiance to America, take place every day.  They may be less majestic than a ceremony on the National Mall, but in each we honor the commitment of a new group of immigrants as they become Americans by choice.


Starting the process of Immigration reform

April 24, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


The Washington Post featured an opinion piece by Georgetown Law dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, where he explains why beginning the discussion around immigration reform, even during an economic recession, makes sense. 


He points out that the economic downturn has caused less undocumented migration as fewer jobs means fewer people coming in search of work, and that this provides the opportunity to control the situation when there’s less pressure on the border. He then goes on to examine why legalization of the undocumented population is the responsible thing to do:


The most difficult part of a discussion on immigration reform is what to do about the 10 million to 12 million undocumented workers and their families living in the United States. The economic crisis is sure to fuel that same opposition: Why, it will be asked, should we give undocumented workers a legal status that permits them to compete for jobs with unemployed Americans?


Some of the short-term answers will be persuasive. A legalization program, by taking workers out of the shadows, will free up the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals who have already shown motivation and hard work in coming to the United States. Furthermore, a legal workforce will be better able to advocate for "legal workplaces," where employers comply with wage, safety and other labor laws.


A better answer focuses on the longer term. Comprehensive immigration reform should seek to accomplish two major goals: providing some form of legal status to undocumented workers who meet certain conditions (knowledge of English, payment of taxes, absence of a criminal record) and ensuring that we don't immediately see the build-up of a new undocumented population -- due to continued lax enforcement and the perceived likelihood of a future legalization program.

        Timing Immigration Reform, April 23, 2009


This is the voice of an academic writer and expert in the law who served as an advisor to President Obama’s transition team. He understands that our dysfunctional immigration system is a complex problem that requires thoughtful and pragmatic solutions. Comprehensive immigration reform will not happen overnight but nevertheless the process needs to start somewhere.


The longer our country delays reform, the longer we deny ourselves a legal immigration system that actually works and that responds to the economic and labor needs of our country; we delay sensible enforcement at the border that focuses resources on fighting crime, we delay access to equal labor right which in turn will empower all workers, we delay access to the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and the increased tax revenue of their work. More importantly, we delay the opportunity to show the world that we can remain true to our country’s values and traditions by choosing common sense solutions to our toughest challenges.



Legislative Update for April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Civics Lesson: Regular Order 

This is how it is supposed to work: The country faces a problem that may need a legislative fix.  The relevant committees in Congress having jurisdiction over the topic area hold hearings, gathering information from experts that will inform legislation.  After the hearings are done, a bill is drafted and the relevant subcommittee conducts a meeting to begin the amendment process.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), who is now Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee in the Senate, announced that he will begin hearings on immigration reform next week.  The first hearing, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How” will be held on April 30.

The witnesses for this hearing will include: J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police, Montgomery County, MD and currently the Director, Major Cities Chiefs Association; Alan Greenspan, Former Chairman, Federal Reserve; Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church (Longwood, FL); Doris Meissner, Former Commissioner, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; and Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union.

You should be able to listen in on the hearing by going to this page on the Judiciary Committee’s Web site and clicking on “Webcast.”


The DREAM Act, as of this writing, now has 21 sponsors in the Senate.  38 Representatives are sponsoring the House version.  You can check on progress with co-sponsors by going to our DREAM Act legislation page.  Click on the links that say “List of Co-sponsors.”  You will also find links to materials about the DREAM Act produced by colleague organizations, including a report released this week by the College Board, “Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students.”  This report makes the case that the untenable status of these students is a humanitarian and civil rights issue, as well as an economic one, and debunks the myths that undocumented students limit opportunities for others.

Administrative and Legal Update for April 23, 2009

April 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

E-Verify and Federal Contractors 

On April 17, the administration announced that it was postponing until June 30, implementation of a requirement that companies awarded federal contracts use the E-Verify electronic employment verification system. The rule requiring the use of E-Verify was first published on Nov. 14, 2008, and went into effect on Jan 19, 2009. The delay will give the new administration time to evaluate the regulation issued just prior to the Bush administration’s departure.  A notice was posted in the Federal Register by the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Supreme Court Rules on Treatment of Immigrants While Appealing Deportation 

An appeal of a deportation order, if it even gets into the federal courts, may take years.  In many cases, immigrants are deported before their appeals have run their course.  The Courts of Appeals have come down differently on whether and by what standards immigrants should receive stays of deportation during their appeals process.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on the issue.  The Court decided that judges should consider the consequences of deportation when considering a stay of deportation for an individual appealing a deportation order. 

Under the Court’s ruling, while it will be possible to have deportation delayed, the Court set new standards that will make it harder for some immigrants to obtain a delay while their cases are being considered.  You can read more information on this Press Release from the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Two Immigration-Related Pulitzer Prizes

April 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Sheriff Joe provides fodder for a Pulitzer 

There has been a lot of advocacy over the past several weeks focused on holding the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, accountable.  The Sheriff’s misdeeds have come to light in part thanks to the investigative reporting of two reporters from the East Valley Tribune (Mesa, AZ)—Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin.  These two reporters shared the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Sheriff’s office and its “focus on immigration enforcement and how it endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety.”  You can read the series of articles, Reasonable Doubt, here.

Photographer documents disaster in Haiti 

Another issue on which there has been a lot of advocacy over the past several weeks is Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Haiti.  The Pulitzers touched this issue as well.  Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell won the Pulitzer Prize in the category of breaking news photography “for his provocative, impeccably composed images of despair after Hurricane Ike and other lethal storms caused a humanitarian disaster in Haiti.” 

See his photographs here.

The Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center put out a Press Release about the prize, noting that Farrell’s photographs powerfully make the case that Haitians should not be sent back to Haiti at this time.

Recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Haiti, and told reporters that the administration is considering granting TPS to Haitians in the U.S., so that they can continue to send money home to help that nation recover from the storms of last year.

No Southern Hospitality for Latinos: SPLC reports on Discrimination, Abuse in the South

April 21, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


Photo By ToniVC


Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Alabama – the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement—released the report “Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South documenting the real life impact of failed immigration policies and anti-immigrant climate for Latinos in the South.


 “Dixie” is now home to the fastest growing population of Latinos in the country, many of them lured by the manufacturing and construction jobs created during the economic boom of the 1990s and 2000s. Unfortunately, these immigrants are confronted with increased hostility as they fill low-wage jobs in the South. Accordingly to the Under Siege survey, Latinos face a very dire situation: despite of living and working in the community they are essentially beyond the protection of the law, extremely vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and the victims of racial profiling by police and other civil rights abuses.


Among the key findings of the report:


·        Out of those surveyed, 42% had not been paid for work they performed and in New Orleans, 80% reported wage theft.


·        Overall, 32 percent of Latinos surveyed reported on-the-job injuries. Among those injured on the job, only 37 percent reported that they received appropriate treatment.


·         Latinos — regardless of immigration status —were consistently subject to discrimination and racial profiling. Like African Americans during the height of Jim Crow, many Latinos in the South live in constant fear of being unfairly targeted by the police as they go about their daily lives.


·         Latino immigrants in locales with 287(g) programs said their willingness to speak to police has been affected by the 287(g) agreement with ICE. [287(g) agreements let local police enforce federal civil immigration law and the jurisdictions with these agreements are concentrated in the South]

Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South, April 21, 2009


The survey’s findings generated strong support by the labor community. The Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, Eliseo Media, responded to today’s report, stating that this was “a wakeup call for America” to pass immigration reform.


"Thanks to widespread misconceptions, reinforced by right-wing propaganda, Hispanic workers-regardless of their immigration status-face workplace discrimination, hounding by law enforcement and are too often attacked by extremist hate groups. They too often know little if anything about how to exercise their legal rights to protection or how to stop being cheated out of wages or the denial of basic health and safety protections.


"We are judged by how we respond to discrimination of one neighbor by another so today's report should serve as a wakeup call that these despicable acts will continue until we pass comprehensive immigration reform."

        SEIU Press Release, April 21, 2009


Unless the federal government offers a clear direction on immigration and immigration enforcement, rogue agents will continue to exploit the chaos of our dysfunctional immigration system. We need to reform our immigration system so we can put all workers on an equal footing with equal access to labor rights and protections. In that way, unscrupulous employers cannot take advantage of the vulnerability of some workers and we will be able to put an end to this cycle of abuse and discrimination.



Squeezing the numbers to justify inaction on immigration reform

April 17, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


Photo by Capsicina


On Tuesday, the Rasmussen Reports released data from their latest national telephone survey on immigration, which states that voters don’t rank immigration as a priority issue. Bonnie Erbe, the host of PBS’ To The Contrary (who also happens to write from time to time for the Center for Immigration Studies, the anti-immigration advocacy organization founded as the research arm of FAIR ) wrote a blog entry on the US News & World Report commenting on the results of this survey. This is what she had to say:


Sixty-six percent (66%) of likely voters nationwide say it is Very Important for the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration….


Seventy-four percent (74%) of U.S. voters continue to believe the federal government is not doing enough to secure the country's borders…


I agree with all of that.  This is why I try to make it clear in all of my communications that our approach (comprehensive immigration reform) is the better approach if you want security and want to eliminate unauthorized immigration.  It takes pressure off of the borders by allowing migrants to enter with a visa, not a smuggler (within reasonable limits tied to our economy), puts people through a vetting process, brings honest hard-working immigrant families forward for legalization and protection of rights while weeding out serious, violent criminals; it targets enforcement resources at bad-actor employers, smugglers, and bad guys and targets border security measures at real threats, which will actually make us more secure.


She goes on to say:


An even more dramatic gap appears on the question of legalizing the status of those immigrants now in the country illegally. Voters nationwide are evenly divided on the question of whether it is even somewhat important: 48% say it’s important, and 45% say it’s not.


So the greatest imaginable horror known to civilized man, legalization, or AMNESTY! is something a plurality (almost a majority) of voters think is important (given that most people in the poll don’t think immigration as an issue is important overall).  I’ve never seen such a low number supporting legalization, but it has a lot to do with how the question is asked.  “Amnesty” is not liked, legalization is liked a bit more, having people go through a process that includes fines and various forms of symbolic or real restitution is favored by very, very strong majorities.  In fact, “getting people into the system” is seen as the most effective method of enforcement by a lot of voters because they think immigrants don’t want to be legal and that it is some form of punishment.


Erbe leaves this part out from her polling analysis:


Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters say U.S. immigration policy should welcome all except those who are criminal or national security threats. Thirty percent (30%) disagree, and 17% are not sure.


I don’t think we can realistically expect to enact a policy that welcomes everyone who is not a criminal or national security threat without limits, but in the abstract, the American people want to.




Seventy-four percent (74%) of U.S. voters continue to believe the federal government is not doing enough to secure the country's borders, even as President-elect Obama has named a new secretary of Homeland Security who is opposed to a border fence.

Poll: Immigration Amnesty Is Unpopular Outside the Beltway, Pols Remain Clueless, April 16, 2009


Note, these are Rasmussen’s words (from a December poll), which imply 1) that voters think that a border fence is important to securing our borders (the border fence is a laugh line in any focus group I have ever seen; people think the Great Wall of Chihuahua is a joke and not a serious approach) and 2) that people have any opinion what-so-ever of Napolitano (Rasmussen says: “In a poll reported earlier this week, 30% of voters had a favorable opinion of Janet Napolitano. Forty-three percent (43%) didn’t know enough about the Arizona governor to have an opinion of her”).


As we like to say, “torture numbers and they’ll confess to anything.”  But in this case, Erbe – who is very well respected and thought of as a feminist, Democrat and ground-breaker in journalism – is torturing a slanted poll to come to some very weak conclusions.


If you see her, ask Bonnie how that “poll” last Election Day in November turned out and why so many anti-immigration Members of Congress were looking for jobs afterwards.



Tax Day: Do you know your numbers on the economy and immigration?

April 15, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

tax day

Photo by Number Stumper



Anti-immigration pundits (read Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck) and anti-immigrant groups have continued to manipulate numbers to perpetuate negative perceptions of immigrants, exacerbate economic security concerns and further their restrictionist agenda. Today, America’s Voice is testing how much we trust these numbers through an “immigration tax day quiz”, a quiz that tests our knowledge of the economic impact of immigration reform. The quiz was also featured on the Daily Kos, some of the questions include:


  • America spends more to crack down on immigrants than to monitor Wall Street. Washington’s priorities have been way out of whack for the last 8 years, but this one is particularly striking. What are the budgets for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), respectively? 


You can take the quick tax day immigration quiz at:


You could also cheat and read key facts behind immigration reform based on estimates by independent institutions like the Congressional Budget Office, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the U.S. Department of Labor. As it turns out, the sooner we get people into the system, paying taxes, and protected by US labor laws the better it is for all workers and all employers who want to play by the rules.  No wonder the two major U.S. labor union federations, AFL-CIO and Change to Win, joined forces to push for immigration reform.  They realize that legalizing undocumented workers would be an effective way to preserve and advance workers rights.

Labor Unifies to Support Immigration Reform

April 14, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

Construction workers

Photo by DRP


A powerful and unified ally – organized labor – has come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform.  Today’s New York Times reports that for the first time, the country’s two biggest labor federations (AFL-CIO and Change to Win) are working together to support comprehensive immigration reform. Julia Preston and Steve Greenhouse from the New York Times report,


A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials said they agreed with Change to Win leaders that, with more than seven million unauthorized immigrants already working across the nation, legalizing their status would be the most effective way to protect labor standards for all workers.


“We have developed a joint strategy with the approach framed around workers’ rights,” said Ana Avendaño, associate general counsel of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

Immigration Accord by Labor Boosts Obama Effort, April 13, 2009


This is huge.  Labor is the authentic voice of working class Americans and their support for reform will be critical to Congress debating and passing a bill starting later this year.


Continuing the trend of editorials  supporting President Obama in calling on Congress to begin crafting an immigration bill, the New York Times congratulates the Administration for setting aside divisive politics and understanding that reform of our immigration laws is urgently needed. The editorial also welcomes the “calmer voices outlining smart reform” referring to the labor’s unity announcement:


The ingredients of reform are clear: legalization for the 12 million, to yield bumper crops of new citizens, to make it easier to weed out criminals and to end the fear and hopelessness of life in the shadows; sensible enforcement at the border that focuses resources on fighting crime, drugs and violence; a strengthened employment system that punishes businesses that exploit illegal labor; and a future flow of workers that is attuned to the economy’s needs and fully protects workers’ rights.


…We expect to hear more from Mr. Obama soon. It will take courage to defend the wisdom and necessity of fixing the immigration system. It will take even more courage to engage in the serious fight to do so. It is what the country needs and what American voters elected Mr. Obama to do

Immigration Reform and Hard Times, April 13, 2009


We are heartened by the news that both the President and labor recognize that our immigration problem needs to be confronted head-on.  Congress must act.  Our current system allows workers to be exploited by unscrupulous employers, which in turn undermines labor conditions for all workers, native and immigrant alike. Reform of our immigration system is needed to even the playing field for all workers and guarantee labor rights.

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