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Editorials: President Obama, Seize the Moment on immigration reform!

April 14, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas


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Photo by Alex Barth




 


In case you missed it, newspapers from across the country featured sensible and insightful editorials and opinion pieces about last week’s New York Times’ report that the White House continues to send signals that President Barack Obama intends to follow through on his campaign promise to address immigration reform in his first year in office.


 


We call your attention to an editorial from the Register Guard, a newspaper in Eugene, Oregon examining the challenges that President Obama faces for pursuing his promise to tackle immigration reform this year but that he is nonetheless bound by the urgent and moral imperative to reform our immigration system.


 


The president understands the resistance he will face. He was in the Senate in 2007 when a major reform bill collapsed, and he watched efforts to revive even its most benign provisions, such as a program to legalize high-achieving high school graduates, fall prey to partisan rancor…


 


But the president is right to proceed in a thoughtful, methodical manner with a plan that administration officials emphasize would not add new workers to the American work force. Instead, it would recognize the millions of illegal immigrants who are already working in the United States but are living in the shadows — subject to immigration raids, workplace exploitation and mistreatment in detention…


 


Obama understands that immigration reform can’t be built upon a one-sided strategy that pursues and punishes illegal immigrants, and divides and destroys families. It’s comprehensive, constructive reform that reaffirms this country’s values and achieves real results.


        Tackling immigration, April 10, 2009


 


Albor Ruiz, a columnist for the New York Daily News, describes how opponents of immigration reform are so out of touch with reality and the American public who, at the end of the day, want real and feasible solutions:


 


They said that President Obama would not touch the contentious immigration crisis this year with a 10-foot pole.


 


But they, the rabid anti-immigrant crowd, were wrong - again…


 


For those who consider anything short of deporting 12 million immigrants unacceptable, the President's commitment to reform that provides a road towards legalization is anathema. But as it has been shown time and time again, that's not the case for the majority of the American people who voted last November for change and sent packing many extremist anti-immigration candidates.


 


The truth is that the American people - from workers to business owners, from communities of faith to union activists - understand that a fair and compassionate immigration reform law is critical for the nation's economic recovery and even more so for the healing of its soul.


 


Fortunately, so does the Obama administration.


A President making good on his promise, April 13, 2009


 


The Arizona Republic offers a few ideas as to how President Obama should frame a much-needed overhaul of our immigration system:


 


He [President Obama] should start with this idea: Immigration reform is in the best interests of America.


 


That has to become - and remain - the main focus. It has to be so clearly articulated that the debate cannot be hijacked by those whose opposition crushed earlier efforts. Reform that addresses the multiple challenges of chaos on the border, the current illegal population, future labor needs and worksite enforcement will result in more security for the nation and more stability in its workforce.


 


It will reaffirm our national respect for law and order while demonstrating this nation's enduring commitment to human rights and human dignity.


 


The president should seize this moment: The time is right for reform. Some suggest that the anger and fear spawned by the recession make immigration reform too toxic now. But the deadly status quo is the real danger.


Obama should give Arizona the hard sell on immigration, April 12, 2009



Opinion leaders agree; there will always be excuses for why we cannot reform immigration or how we cannot reform it now, but the truth is that the current system does not respond to the realities of our country.  It does not address our economic, labor, or security needs. We need pro-immigrant advocates to make their voices heard and for leadership in Congress to roll up our sleeves, and give America the kind of comprehensive immigration reform that's long overdue.


President Obama says Yes We Can to Immigration Reform

April 09, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

Obama





 


 



Photo by January20th2009


 


Julia Preston of The New York Times reports that President Obama is planning to move comprehensive immigration reform forward this year:


 


While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.


 


Mr. Obama will frame the new effort — likely to rouse passions on all sides of the highly divisive issue — as “policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system,” said the official, Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.


Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.


 


The article warns that this will not be an easy ride and that the President needs to feel supported in order to move forward:


 


The White House is calculating that public support for fixing the immigration system, which is widely acknowledged to be broken, will outweigh opposition from voters who argue that immigrants take jobs from Americans…


 


Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.


Obama to Push Immigration Bill as One Priority, April 8, 2009


 


So you are hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. The President needs your support to prove to Washington that the American public wants a real workable solution to our dysfunctional immigration system. Those who oppose humane immigration reform have shown in the past that they can be a very vocal minority; it is time for Washington to hear our voices and hear that we support a real comprehensive solution that will reduce illegal immigration, respect hardworking immigrant families, and reflect American values of fairness, justice and family unity. Tell the President: Yes you can Count on Me!


Visit: http://www.AmericasVoiceOnline.org/Leadership


 

People of Faith Bring Back Moral Heart into Immigration Policy Debate

April 08, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

 





Phot by Tinkernoonoo




 



 


 


“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the stranger.  The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you.  You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)


 


Following the teachings of these powerful biblical words, people of faith from across the country have acknowledged that their faith bestows the moral responsibility to treat all of their neighbors —regardless of their national origin — with dignity and respect, and that as people of faith they should speak up against hateful rhetoric, policies that keep families separated or rip them apart, and injustices that divide communities.


 


Faith communities from across the political and theological spectrum joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Family Unity Tour and held over 170 prayer vigils in February to call for fair and humane immigration reform.  They worked with Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and other Congressional leaders to hold almost 20 community meetings and interfaith services examining the impact of raids on families.  Now, they are celebrating the Easter and Passover season by visiting their local Members of Congress to voice their support for a just and humane immigration system; one that is consistent with America’s values and, quite frankly, God’s values. Our friends at America’s Voice’s provide more information on these visits on their website:


 


… hundreds of people of faith across the country are visiting their Representatives, who are home for Easter Recess, and telling them that [unjust immigration laws are not] right. They're asking for real immigration reform this year.


 


Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, or any other holiday this month, let's take a stand together, as people of moral conscience, for families across America. Watch our new video, send a fax to Congress, and share this with your loved ones.














Keeping families together isn't just a value for people of faith -- it's a human value.



It's a cornerstone of our society, and it's supposed to be a foundation of our immigration policies.


 


Congratulations to communities of faith for their courageous actions to bring back the humanity and moral heart to the immigration policy debate. They understand the need to reform our immigration system so it reflects our shared values of human dignity and family integrity.


 


 


 

New American Voters: Ready to show their growing political power

April 07, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas





 



 


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Photo by US Army Korea - IMCOM



 


During last year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, our country witnessed the growing power of immigrant and Latino voters as they turned out to vote in record numbers, redrawing the electoral map in critical presidential swing states (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, among others) and helping change the balance in Congress.


 


Further confirming the key role of these fast-growing voters, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) released an analysis of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) data on the increase in citizenship among Latinos and the growing power of the Latino electorate. The Associated Press reports:


 


Hispanics made up nearly half of the more than 1 million people who became U.S. citizens last year, according to a Hispanic advocacy group.


 


The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said the number of Latinos who became Americans in fiscal year 2008 more than doubled over the previous year, to 461,317. That's nearly half of the record 1,046,539 new citizens overall in 2008, a 58 percent increase from 2007.


 


The article points out that although this increase in citizenship is in part due to the steep increase in the price of naturalization applications (it went from $330 to $595 and many tried to beat the price increase), another key factor was the desire by Latinos to actively engage in the political process and public policy debate:


 


"Latinos who naturalize are eager to demonstrate their commitment to America by becoming full participants in our nation's civic life," said NALEO president Arturo Vargas, whose nonpartisan group works to improve the citizenship process and increase Latino participation in civic activities.


Almost 1 of 2 New Americans in 2008 was Latino, April 7, 2009


 


These New American voters — defined as immigrant U.S. citizen and the U.S.-born children of immigrants — share the same concerns as all American voters: the economic recession, the war in Iraq, access to healthcare, and other issues, but because of their personal connection to the immigrant experience, they also view immigration as a threshold issue.


 


Immigrant bashing and the failure of Congress to fix the broken immigration system have fueled their desire to become U.S. citizens and make their voices heard.  They will be watching very closely how the new Congress and new Administration approach immigration: Will they come up with more excuses for inaction on immigration or will they confront the problem and offer viable and workable solutions to our immigration system?


 


 


 


 

Legislative Updates for April 7, 2009

April 07, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

DREAM Act introduced: On March 26, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) was re-introduced.  In the Senate, the bill number is S. 729, and was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), along with Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Harry Reid (D-NV).  In the House, the bill is called the American Dream Act, and was introduced by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), along with Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA), John Conyers (D-CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Lucille Royball-Alard (D-CA).  The bill would provide a path to legal status for young people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and who graduated from high school in the U.S.


More Senators and Representatives have signed on since introduction.  Among them: newly-appointed New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her co-sponsorship in this Press Release.


You can find information about the DREAM Act, including links to the co-sponsors and resources related to it, on this page of our Web site.


You can also find commentary on our blog, ImmPolitic, and in our Press Release.

Administrative Updates for April 7, 2009

April 07, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Enforcement Priorities: According to press reports, the Department of Homeland Security is in the midst of examining priorities for immigration enforcement. According to these reports, the Department will focus more of its attention on drug smugglers and dangerous criminals.  In the workplace, there will be less of an emphasis on apprehending and prosecuting ordinary workers, and more of a focus on employers.  As this Washington Post article makes clear, however, a shift away from worksite raids will bring some political fallout. Many Republicans, and some powerful Democrats, have insisted that ICE continue workplace raids.  In the current fiscal year budget, these members of Congress were successful in obtaining $34 million more for worksite enforcement than the Bush administration requested.


Read commentary on this issue on our blog, ImmPolitic.

Update on Congressional Hearings for April 7, 2009

April 07, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

State and Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws: On April 2, the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law and the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a joint hearing, “The Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws.” Witnesses at this hearing included a number of private individuals, professors, the police chief of Mesa, Arizona, and the President of the Police Foundation.  Links to all of the testimony can be found on the Web site of the House Judiciary Committee here.


Enforcement Priorities: On April 2, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing, “Priorities Enforcing Immigration Law.” Testifying were representatives of USCIS and ICE.  The hearing was called to examine whether ICE’s enforcement priorities are appropriate, and to examine the problems of E-Verify.  You can find the testimony of the witnesses, and the opening statement of the Chairman, David Price (D-NC), on the Web site of the Subcommittee.


U.S.-Mexico Border Violence: There have been more hearings on U.S.-Mexico Border violence. On March 24, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies held a hearing focusing on law enforcement response. Among the witnesses testifying were Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix, and representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. You can find links to the testimony, and the opening statement of Chairman Allan Mollohan (D-WV) on the Subcommittee’s Web site.


On March 25, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing, "Southern Border Violence: Homeland Security Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Responsibilities."  Testifying were government witnesses: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary, Department of State; and David W. Ogden, Deputy Attorney General.  You can find the testimony of these witnesses, as well as a video recording of the hearing, on the Web site of the Committee.

This Week in Immigration En Español

April 06, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

March 28 – April 3, 2009




 


This is the first of a weekly series of immigration news roundups featuring Spanish language media in the U.S.  For those of you who can’t read Spanish, this will give you a flavor for what is being covered.


 


During this week, immigration news in Spanish language media focused on current and future enforcement actions and enforcement policies.  It was fueled by reports that DHS is rethinking how it conducts home and workplace immigration raids, focusing enforcement operations on abusive employers and criminals rather than undocumented workers.


 


1.    EFE (One of the largest Spanish-language newswire services in the U.S.) reported on Tuesday about the release of 13 immigrant workers detained during the Bellingham, Washington raid in February and the article questioned whether this signals a potential shift in policy for how ICE conducts immigration enforcement. The article is appropriately titled: “For many, the Million Dollar Question is Whether a Moratorium on Raids will be issued”


 


Napolitano is very aware that she is in the unviable position of walking through a mined field.


 


The [immigration] raids which caught thousands of fugitive immigrants under the Bush Administration has brought the public scolding of religious, community and civil rights leaders.


 


…But as polarized as the country is when it comes to immigration, these raids have also become the cause célèbre of conservative groups who demand rigid actions against illegal immigration.


 


…In the meantime, DHS is currently reviewing policies related to the arrest, detention, and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Anonymous sources at DHS told the press that in the next few days or as soon as this week, DHS will issue guidelines on how to redirect its enforcement focus towards employers who illegally hire undocumented immigrants. If this is true, this would mean a 180 degree change in policy as DHS will target its enforcement action towards businesses and not undocumented workers.


 


…”This is about smart and effective immigration enforcement, the approach that has characterized immigration enforcement until now has not made any indent on the dysfunctional immigration system” said Doug Rivlin, spokesperson of the National Immigration Forum.


 


"Instead of random and arbitrary raids, ICE should focus its scarce resources on the true dangerous criminals that threaten our national security. These are very complex issues and [Secretary Napolitano] has to find the perfect balance” he stated.


Para muchos, la pregunta del millón es si habrá una moratoria a las redadas, March 31, 2009. Translated by Katherine Vargas


 


 


2.    La Opinión (the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S. based in Los Angeles, CA) described the inhumane conditions suffered by hundreds of immigrants at a detention facility in California with a story headlined “Without Showers, Water, Mail nor Lawyers.”


 


They [detained immigrants at the facility] do not have access to soap, potable water, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, a change of clothes or even showers


 


…It is a shame that immigration officials treat immigrant detainees as if they were animals”, criticized Ahilan Arulanantham, Director of the Immigrant Rights Project of the ACLU.


 


In response, Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE sent a written statement stating that


 


Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has ordered a comprehensive review of all detention practices in the country…DHS and ICE are committed to offering a safe and humane treatment to all detainees.


Sin Duchas, Agua, Correo ni Abogados, April 3, 2009 Translated by Katherine Vargas


 


3.    Prensa Asociada (Associated Press) reported in Spanish on the negative consequences of Washington’s inaction on immigration reform.  Namely, that there is greater pressure (and confusion) on local governments to enforce federal immigration laws.  The headline is “Concerns of Water Access for the Undocumented.”


 


Hundreds of undocumented migrant workers in the Collier County agricultural town have been greatly affected by the local Water and Sewage Department’s new regulations which restrict access to potable water to only those with valid identification. Barbara Mainster, the Director of Redlands Christian Migrant Association highlighted the dire consequences of such regulations and noted that this stresses the need to enact comprehensive immigration reform.


Preocupa Acceso de Indocumentados al Agua Potable, March 31, 2008


 


As long as Leadership in Washington evades their responsibility to fully address our immigration problems through comprehensive immigration reform, we will continue to hear more reports about the overburdened detention system, a lack of direction on immigration enforcement actions at the local level and confused agencies who failed to fulfill their primary duty to ensure public safety.


 


 

Did you see the two detention stories in USA Today today?

April 02, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

In the same issue of USA Today, we have the Associated Press reporting on immigrant detention conditions, while Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, defends the current detention system for immigrants in a letter to the editor.  It is a curious juxtaposition.


 


AP reports:


 


Immigrants held by the federal government are being detained in a squalid basement where conditions are foul-smelling and dirty, a civil rights group said in a lawsuit.


 


Upward of 200 detainees are at times crammed into temporary holding rooms in the basement of a downtown federal building, with as many as 60 immigrants in each room, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement late Wednesday.


 


Then in his letter responding to an earlier USA Today editorial which raised questions about immigration detention policies that have seen U.S. citizens detained, Rep. Smith writes,


 


Individuals who broke our laws to come here illegally will not automatically comply with our laws after they are caught and ordered to leave. We cannot afford to pretend they will…The U.S. immigration detention system works and serves a useful purpose.


 


So the senior Republican in charge of U.S. immigration policy is proud of the immigration detention system, which has expanded faster than any other incarceration system in our history, including the expansion of incarceration associated with the war on drugs (and we know how well that’s working out).


 


Rep. Smith discounts the probability of U.S. citizens being wrongly detained, essentially arguing that because immigrants lie, we need to hold all people until they can prove they are citizens (a deft reversal of “innocent until proven guilty”).


 


He also says USA Today’s editorial “ignores the fact that immigration detention is critical to enforcing U.S. laws.”  True enough; there is a need to detain and deport some people, especially violent, hardened criminals who pose a threat to the community.


 


But even if you want hardened criminals to serve hard time under duress, it seems we are giving the same treatment to people fleeing religious, ethnic, political or racial persecution and violence awaiting their asylum cases to be heard (in our horribly backed-up judicial system, which Rep. Smith also helps oversee).


 


The Associated Press goes on:


 


Detainees end up in the basement for a range of reasons. Some are in the country illegally, while others arrived with a visa and overstayed, or are claiming asylum. Some are felons fighting deportation after completing prison terms.


 


The holding rooms typically contain one or two non-private toilets, one sink and no soap or sanitary products, the ACLU said, and conditions are foul-smelling and dirty.


 


ACLU attorney Marisol Orihuela said sometimes women who are menstruating are denied sanitary supplies and some immigrants were denied access to their medicine.


 


"The conditions are absolutely horrid and inhumane," Orihuela said.


 


Rep. Smith, with as much of a straight face as we can muster, we wish you plenty of good luck in defending America’s immigration detention system, the status quo of detention conditions and procedures, and the underlying immigration laws that the system is meant to enforce.  Like the jobs many immigrants have themselves, Rep. Smith’s job of defending the current system and fighting efforts to reform it is probably one of the hardest jobs in America.

Congress to Examine Civil Rights implications of 287(g) program

April 01, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

ask joe


Photo courtesy of America’s Voice






Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the controversial 287(g) program for local enforcement of federal immigration laws.  The hearing, titled “The Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws” led by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) comes as a response to a 38,000 petition signatures calling for a federal investigation of Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Arpaio’s infamous immigration enforcement actions.


 


Sheriff Arpaio has become the country’s most notorious user of the 287(g) program not because of how effective the implementation of the program has been (after all, Maricopa county has the nation's highest number of unserved felony warrants) but because of the reported civil rights violations and racial profiling of the Hispanic community residing in his county. More recently, Sheriff Arpaio has been fighting tooth and nail to defend his participation in a Fox reality channel, as many accuse him of spending precious taxpayer money to feed his appetite for publicity. CBS 5 reports,


 


You saw him on camera for only two minutes, but it's not Sheriff Joe Arpaio's acting skills that has landed him back on TV. This time, only on CBS 5 News Arpaio's defends his Fox reality show…


 


Arpaio would not say how much money his office spent supplying volunteer posse members and deputies. "We don't know, because we don't keep track," Arpaio said.


 


CBS 5 wanted to know what the normal cost to catch a fugitive, compared to catching one on TV? Arpaio says he doesn't know, his office never keeps track of that cost. "Even if we did spend a few bucks what difference does it make," he said. "We did get the bad guys off the street."


 


Arpaio said about 400 fugitives were caught. That's reason enough for him to consider going Hollywood once again.


 


"If you don't surrender you might be on the national television," he warned others.


        Arpaio Defends Reality Show, March 30, 2009


 


Hmm, I don’t know about you but  would I rather have my local sheriff chasing after dangerous criminals rather than chasing after Hollywood cameras.


************


 


 


Our friends at America’s Voice will be delivering your suggestions for questions that Congress should ask during tomorrow’s hearing. You can submit your questions at: http://americasvoiceonline.org/AskCongress


 


You can visit their site for a live blog of the hearing:


http://americasvoiceonline.org/blog



 

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