May 27, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court is historic and an inspiring American story. If she is confirmed, she will make history, becoming the first Hispanic and first Hispanic woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Her story, like the President’s story, is a compelling American story. Rising from a humble background in the Bronx to overcoming huge obstacles and achieving success, she has become an inspiration for young Latinas to pursue their American dream.
While some praised her momentous nomination others have responded with cynicism, arguing that Judge Sotomayor’s nomination might be an effort by President Obama to appease Latinos while putting immigration reform on hold. Congressional newspaper The Hill writes:
President Obama’s decision to nominate federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court may help him delay a thornier challenge: what to do with millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States… Hispanic lawmakers have been pressing Obama to deliver for a key demographic that helped put him in office, with immigration reform the top priority.
“There is just no way it’s going to happen this year. It’s just fantasy,” said Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank that opposes legalization of illegal immigrants.
—Court pick could buy time on immigration, May 26,2009
The message from the opposition to immigration reform is clear: immigration reform is simply a political pay-off to a substantial new voting block that helped put the President and his party in office. Indeed, responding to the negative rhetoric of the immigration debate, Latino and immigrant voters turned out in record numbers to vote for change. They helped turn Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia from toss-up to solidly behind the President. The 2008 elections changed the political landscape.
But, contrary to Mr. Krikorian’s portrayal, immigration reform is not a narrow agenda item of concern only to immigrants or Latinos. In poll after poll, 60% of the American people favor immigration reform that gets undocumented immigrants into the system and on a path to citizenship.
So the President should not confuse nominating Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court with the need to do what the majority of Americans want him to do on immigration.
Gebe Martinez, political columnist at Politico cautions of the political risks of inaction on immigration reform:
But as Democrats celebrate Obama’s court move, which underscores Latinos’ political clout, the president is being warned not to assume that this nomination lessens the pressure to meet other demands from the Hispanic community, chiefly on immigration.
Latinos said Tuesday they still expect the president to keep his pledge to deliver a comprehensive immigration reform plan by the end of the year…
“I am not going to view one [development] in any way relieving the need or the attention on the other,” said Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) “We need to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform based on the merits of sound economic policy.”
So even among Latinos, who welcomed the nomination of the first Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court, her selection will not change the urgency for an overhaul of our immigration system. The New York Times also picked up on the theme of the risk of assuming that the nomination will placate Latinos’ demand for reform:
And yet, a defensiveness could also be found. Many Hispanics seemed eager to warn Democrats that a single nomination — of a judge whom most Americans are still getting to know — might not be enough to win unending Hispanic loyalty come Election Day.
Some of those interviewed said Hispanic appointments mattered less than issues affecting them directly, like immigration and the economy.
– For Hispanics, Court Pick Sets Off Pride, and Some Concerns, May 26, 2009
The President should not take for granted the support of the immigrant vote, because it is not an unconditional support. As a recent poll from America’s Voice shows, immigration is a threshold issue for Hispanic voters and they expect President Obama to keep his campaign promise of moving forward with reform.
On Monday, June 8, the President takes the next step in making good on that promise by convening a high level summit of Senators and Congressional Representatives from both parties at the White House to discuss how to move forward on immigration reform. Combined with progress and momentum already building on Capitol Hill, this is a very good sign that immigration reform is being taken very seriously at the highest levels of government and that all of us – including opponents of reform like Mark Krikorian – had better get ready.
May 21, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Shuya Ohno
The President expressed his firm commitment for the DREAM Act - bipartisan legislation that will benefit talented immigrant kids who attend college or serve in the military—during the recent El Piolín interview at the White House (previously featured in our blog: http://www.immigrationforum.org/blog/display/this-week-in-immigration-en-espanol2/)
When the famous Los Angeles DJ asked the President what his views on the DREAM Act were, the President responded:
“As you know, I am a big supporter of the DREAM Act…There are also young people who cannot take advantage of [education resources] not through any fault of their own but because when they were brought in at the age of 5 or 5 their parents didn’t have the right papers. As I have said very clearly, they are for all practical points American children, and they will stay here but we have a choice, either they stay here and stay uneducated or they can take advantage of an education, and I think that’s the right choice”
You can listen to the full President’ interview at: http://www.univision.com/content/audio.jhtml?cid=1935514&channelName=Los%20Angeles&_requestid=155392
In addition to the President, the Vice-President also expressed his commitment to humanitarian immigration policies that bring immigrants out of the shadows and integrate them into our communities. The following post was featured in Underground Undergrads, an online portal for immigrant students who promote the DREAM Act and narrates the encounter between DREAMer Fabiola Inzunza and the Vice-President
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Posted by Fabiola Inzunza
First and foremost, thank you for the great vibes and wishes I received after I announced I would be meeting with Vice-President Joe Biden. They really helped me get pumped and most importantly, pushed me to be vocal about our issue. The following is a long summary and I am happy to answer any further questions.
The meeting took place at 10am in a Los Angeles hotel. About ten to fifteen people were in attendance and they came from various organizing backgrounds such as labor (EFCA), marriage equality (from the Courage Campaign) and advocates for universal health care. I believe I was the only student present and to my knowledge, the only advocate for immigrant rights/Dream Act.
We were initially told by staff that the purpose of the meeting was simply a meet and greet with a photo opportunity and it was only scheduled to last about 15 minutes but we ended chatting with him for about an hour before he had to leave.
During that one hour, everyone got a chance to take a picture with him and then ask questions. The first question was about LGBT issues abroad and to a lesser extent, about marriage equality. The Vice-President gave a substantial answer about equal treatment abroad among other things. The second question was about universal health care.
Time ran out after that and he was being encouraged to finish the meeting by his staff. I felt disappointed that I did not have the courage to just speak up in front of all the other organizers. I thought about the unique opportunity I had before me, and how many people would be disappointed if I didn't at least try. Before I could open my mouth, the third question was being asked and my heart sank. I guess the person asking the question either got stuck asking the question or never finished asking it, so there was a moment of silence and I took the chance.
Given the level of my excitement and my growing concern of not being able to ask anything, my voice was unusually loud and clear. "Mr. Vice-President!" I almost shouted. I then went into automatic pilot, as if I've done this a million times over. I stated the issue, gave some numbers and economic stats, and then talked about my own peers at UCLA. I disclosed my efforts as a leader on the issue and also as an advocate for issues students care about as the Southern California Regional Director of the California College Democrats. I was in the process of asking him "the question" when he stopped me mid-sentence. "The answer is YES," he stated. I responded by saying that I knew he was a supporter of the DREAM Act when he was a Senator and was well aware that Obama was a co-sponsor at one point, but that my question was more of a when and how.
He began to talk about his background to the group. He said that with an Irish Catholic background he understood that immigrants of the past came to this country due to religious persecution and that now, we are looking at a surge of immigrants because of economic dislocation. He said, "No one comes to this country leaving their family, culture and everything they own, only to be hated and treated poorly here, they come for jobs. It's a matter of survival."
He then went on to talk about the importance of international relations, decreasing poverty abroad, etc. He gave the group the big picture. He then came back to specifics. "If it were up to me and Barack, we'd have something out by the end of year. We hope to."
It was the answer I expected. I don't know what else I could have gotten out of it, and I must admit, I may have romanticized the situation through my own anticipation and thus felt disappointed. As he was walking away, I decided to approach him and pull him aside. I asked him if I was allowed to give him anything and he said he didn't see why not. So I handed him a copy of Underground Undergrads (I had previously written a personal note in it), a letter from Kevin Prada and a Support the Dream Act button. I explained a bit of what they were, and he promised to read them on the plane back home. I hope he did.
He then asked me to thank everyone who was doing this work, for putting it on the radar. "Thank you so much for the work you do, really. Thank you" Feeling a bit better, I walked away wondering about how that meeting could have possibly contributed to the movement.
A few hours later at UCLA, I found out one of our IDEAS members' sister had gotten deported that day. She is 17.
Perhaps this meeting is one of those once in a lifetime moments you take with you your whole life. It's not everyday a Dreamer gets the chance to speak directly with people like our Vice-President. I hope it inspires people to know that at least I had a seat at the table that one time, for one hour and that he listened and he cared. It was a true honor to have met Vice-President Joe Biden.
This post is available at: http://undergroundundergrads.com/2009/05/meeting-vice-president-joe-biden.html
*For more information about the DREAM Act and weekly updates on the legislation visit: http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/DREAM/index.htm#wu
May 20, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
More Motion and Movement towards Immigration Reform
El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles during a November 08 Press Conference in Washington
Today’s Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing, titled “Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done” showed that Senator Schumer is serious and deeply committed to working on an effective solution to our immigration system. The Associated Press reports:
Contending that U.S. borders are more secure than ever, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday it's time for the White House and Congress to overhaul immigration laws to stem the number of people coming into and living illegally in the U.S.
"We can pass strong, fair, practical and effective immigration reform this year," said Schumer, D-N.Y.
President Obama plans next month to meet with a small bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders to discuss immigration with the intention of beginning debate on the issue later this year, according to an administration official who requested anonymity because the White House was not ready to announce the meeting. Schumer was expected to be among those attending.
At a hearing on border security Wednesday, Schumer cited reports from the Customs and Border Protection officials saying that the number of people arrested as they tried to cross U.S. borders illegally has dropped.
Schumer said that the number of people captured along the border with Mexico between Oct. 1 and May 15 was down 27% from the same period the previous year. Along the U.S-Canada border, the number was down 13%.
—Sen. Schumer: Revamp Immigration Laws, May 20, 2009
You may or may not agree with Senator Schumer that border security is at an all time high, but clearly he is trying to make two points about immigration reform:
1) We cannot delay immigration reform, as some have suggested, until some magical border security metric is achieved – the so-called “enforcement first” approach adopted by many opponents and some proponents of reform;
2) We can’t let the fact that unauthorized migration is low right now delay immigration reform because, soon enough, we will be creating jobs in this country and if we still have an inadequate legal immigration system to meet that demand for visas, we will see unauthorized immigration rise again.
Also don’t miss the important news that the President is convening a bipartisan meeting of Members of Congress from both chambers at the White House early next month. This important announcement reaffirming that Washington is moving forward on the immigration reform debate was also covered by Politico:
President Barack Obama is inviting members of Congress to the White House for a June 8 meeting to highlight immigration reform, an administration official confirmed to POLITICO Wednesday.
"The meeting will be an opportunity to launch a policy conversation that we hope will be able to start a debate that will take place in Congress later in the year," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
—Obama Sets WH Immigration Reform Meeting for June 8, May 20, 2009
Back to Senator Schumer’s hearing, it was attended by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the full Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, and Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The hearing featured an array of local law enforcement and border security experts who discussed security at the border and ports of entry. Here’s a highlight from El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles:
I will point out, that as a member of the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force, I know there has been much work completed on a comprehensive strategy to deal with the issues involved in immigration reform. It is difficult to engage in law enforcement and criminal justice contemporary practices when members of the community are afraid to step forward for fear of deportation. It is clear that comprehensive reform is needed and necessary and will ultimately address issues important to law enforcement. …
There is a significant difference between immigration enforcement, particularly as it relates to undocumented immigrants, and criminal law enforcement, which is independent from immigration issues.
—Testimony of Sheriff Richard Wiles, May 20, 2009
As today’s events and the White House announcement show, there is motion, movement, and progress towards reform and Congress and the Administration are taking important steps towards fulfilling the President’s promise to fix our immigration system.
May 19, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Assertions have been made on the other side of the immigration debate that immigration doesn’t matter to Latinos, and therefore politicians have nothing to fear by supporting mass expulsion of people (who are mostly Latino).
Our friends at America’s Voice released a public opinion survey on May 18th that sheds some light on this proposition.
The research firm Bendixen & Associates was employed to interview 800 Latino voters (in English and Spanish) in 13 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
These voters were asked how important the immigration issue was to them and their families. 82% answered that immigration was “very” or “somewhat” important. (59% said it was “very” important.) The most important reason cited by those who think the issue is important: “It’s a personal issue. It affects someone in my family or my friends.”
A majority of respondents (64%) believe that “discrimination against Hispanics in the United States has increased because of the negative tone and the rhetoric of the immigration debate.”
The poll also had questions to gauge how this concern about immigration and the negative tone of the immigration debate would translate to the to voting behavior.
Would you consider voting for a candidate for the United States Congress who was in favor of forcing most illegal immigrants to leave the country or would you not consider voting for such a candidate?
A whopping 87% of these voters said they would not consider voting for such a candidate. And 75% of these respondents reported that they were “very likely” to vote in the next Congressional election.
Source: America's Voice
So, immigration doesn’t matter to the fastest-growing segment of the electorate? You should take a pass on that kool-aid.
As we reported in an earlier blog post, the public is also supportive of comprehensive immigration reform. The National Immigration Forum has a new backgrounder on public opinion and immigration reform. You can get the backgrounder, Change and Continuity: Public Opinion on Immigration Reform, here.
May 19, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
AgJOBS re-introduced: On May 14th, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) re-introduced the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS), S. 1038 with 16 co-sponsors. This legislation, a product of compromise between farm workers and growers and introduced in the last several Congresses, contains a path to citizenship for undocumented farm workers who have performed agricultural work and will continue to do so. It also will reform the H-2A seasonal agricultural guest worker program. In the House, this bipartisan bill was introduced as H.R. 2414 by Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA), Adam Putam (R-FL), and 25 other co-sponsors.
You can find an outline of the bill on the Web site of United Farm Workers here:
Senator Feinstein, in introducing the bill, laid out a persuasive case for saving American farms by fixing the untenable situation that the agricultural workforce is in today. Her Senate floor statement can be found here:
You can find out if your Senators or Representative have signed on to the bill, and obtain other information about AgJOBS, on our AgJOBS legislation page here:
The Forum’s statement following re-introduction of AgJOBS can be obtained here:
Senate Immigration Subcommittee to hold second hearing on immigration reform: On May 20th, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), will be chairing another hearing in his subcommittee about immigration reform. This one focuses on border control. The hearing, titled “Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done," will feature two panels. The first will consist of agency witnesses. The second will include the Mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas; the Sheriff of El Paso County, Texas; and Douglas Massey, a professor at Princeton University who has written critically of U.S. border enforcement policy. The witness list also includes former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth. Mr. Hayworth is a victim of what we might call attrition-through-espousal-of-enforcement-only, which has led to a reduced population of immigration hard-liners in Congress over the last three election cycles. He is currently a radio talk show host.
You should be able to listen to the hearing, and obtain testimony when it is available, by going to the Web page of the hearing:
May 19, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
On May 7th, the Administration released more details about its Fiscal Year 2010 budget request to Congress.
In a press release from the Department of Homeland Security, five budget priorities for the Department were listed, two of them having to do with immigration. Within those priorities, some of the requests being made include:
Additional resources to carry out the Department’s Southwest border security initiative targeted at drug, cash, and weapon smuggling associated with Mexican drug cartels. The budget requests an additional five Coast Guard cutters and two patrol planes, 44 Border Patrol agents, 65 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, 349 ICE agents, analysts and investigators, 68 pilots, and 20 marine personnel.
$112 million to strengthen employment eligibility verification systems (a 12% increase);
80 new ICE Secure Communities personnel to target and crack down on criminal aliens.
The budget also “designates” $139 million to expedite the application process for new legal immigrants.
Some additional details are provided in testimony of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano before Congressional appropriations committees. In the testimony, Secretary Napolitano explains that the additional request for E-Verify is “primarily for monitoring and compliance activities, as well as IT-related business initiatives to improve system use.” E-Verify’s growth “will increase the need for monitoring and compliance activities to protect employees from discriminatory practices, safeguard privacy information, and enhance program efficacy.”
There is also $10 million requested for USCIS for immigrant integration. This will allow “USCIS and the Office of Citizenship to work across the Federal Government and with state and local governments, U.S. businesses, non-profits, academia, and faith-based organizations to support effective integration efforts across the country. USCIS will provide grants to community-based organizations for citizenship preparation programs; facilitate English language learning through improved web resources; build volunteer capacity by developing a training certification framework for volunteers and, promote citizenship with integration messages at the workplace, among federal agencies, and the general public.”
ICE has published a Fact Sheet about its budget request. Among the additional new budget initiatives mentioned in this fact sheet are:
$12.4 million for a Detention Facilities Inspection Group to “expand the number and scope of independent inspections on ICE detention facilities.”
$11.6 million for state and local law enforcement support to allow for permanent staff for the Office of State and Local Coordination to oversee outreach activities for the ICE ACCESS program.
$22 million for Detention and Removal Operations modernization.
$20.4 million to address deficiencies in the Division of Immigration Health Services infrastructure, and to begin design and development of an electronic health records system for detainees.
The Department of Education is making a request for $75 million for its English Literacy/Civics Education State Grants program, a $7.1 million increase. This money helps “States and communities provide limited English proficient adults with expanded access to high-quality English literacy programs linked to civics education.”
May 18, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Church gathering after Postville raid, May 17, 2008. Photo by Shuya Ohno
Immigration news en español commemorated the May 12th anniversary of the ICE raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. At the time, it was the largest workplace immigration raid in the history of our country — netting over 300 immigrant workers —and for many, a shameful example of enforcement policies gone bad: prioritizing the prosecution of workers and bread winners over the prosecution of criminal employers violating child labor and other labor laws.
The reintroduction of AgJOBS—legislation that will stabilize labor markets in the agriculture industry and provide a path to earned citizenship for eligible farm workers— also made the news. Articles described the reaction of groups who welcomed the reintroduction as an important part of the broad immigration reform debate to take place in Congress this year.
1. EFE: This article, titled “Faith groups and advocates ask for reform during the first anniversary of Postville raid”, looks at the humanitarian cost of the Agriprocessors raid and the collaborative work by immigrant rights and faith advocates to use Postville as an example of why it’s so urgent for Congress to reform our immigration system.
The Catholic Church and pro-immigrant advocates renewed their call for comprehensive immigration reform, on the eve of the first anniversary of Postville (Iowa) raid…
“We recognize and support the right and responsibility of the government to enforce its laws. Nevertheless, we strongly believe that raids do not fix our immigration challenges” said Bishop John C. Wester, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“It’s important that we use this date as an opportunity to signal a change in discourse on immigration, one that includes comprehensive reform and strong enforcement of our labor laws” said Mark Lauritsen, Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union”.
Vigils and rallies have been scheduled in cities in many states including California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, New Jersey, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
—Iglesia y Activistas Piden Reforma, May 11, 2009
2. La Opinión: Good news also marked the end of this week, as newspapers reported that a year after the Postville raid, 20 former Agriprocessors workers received temporary legal status under a law that protects crime victims. La Opinión reports,
The first group of women and children arrested last year at the plant have been granted U-visas by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing them to legally live and work in the country for four years. They can apply for green cards in the third year.
Sonia Parras-Konrad, an attorney involved in the case, said the visas are a big step in the search for justice and compensation for the immigrants. These people have been exploited, have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.”
—20 undocumented workers receive U visas in Iowa, May 16, 2009
3. La Opinion: An article reporting on the reintroduction of AgJOBS points to the new political context and the prospects of passage of this important legislation that would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented farmworkers.
Yesterday, Republican and Democrats members of Congress introduced a new version of AgJOBS, a bill that if approved and signed by the President would allow for hundreds of thousands of farmworkers … to obtain work authorization and eventually permanent residency for them and their families.
A similar proposal died two years ago, in a Congress dominated by the Republican Party within a political climate marked by anti-immigrant hostility.
Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers said, “This is the third time we introduce this proposal but this time around there’s a good chance the bill be approved”. In addition to have a President that has pronounced his commitment to the Hispanic community to support immigration reform, soon the Senate will have a coveted filibuster proof Senate. The union labor leader highlighted that Republican Congress member Adam Putnam of Florida, who introduced the new AgJOBS bill in the House is a very influential legislator. “Up to now, Putnam has obtained the support of 7 members of the Republican party”.
—Presentan la Ley AgJOBS otra vez, May 15, 2009
Pressure is mounting for Congress to act and reform our obsolete laws. Lessons of the past have taught us that deportation-only policies have an intolerably high humanitarian and economic cost while doing little to resolve our immigration challenges. Congress is beginning to line up the fundamental elements of a comprehensive reform package and they will be counting on the American public to show strong support for common sense solutions to our immigration mess.
May 13, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
Photo by Roger Smith
One reason we need immigration reform is so that our elected representatives in Washington can get beyond their fixation on using immigration as a wedge issue. Today, as part of credit card reform legislation in the Senate, Louisiana Senator David Vitter (R) offered an amendment to bar immigrants in the country illegally from obtaining credit cards.
He couched it in terms of preventing “illegal aliens” and terrorists from getting credit cards, but the overreach of the proposed amendment is illustrative of how some politicians approach immigration politics: I don’t care how many citizens and legal immigrants are affected if it gets my point across on illegal immigration, they seem to be saying.
To wit, Sen. Vitter’s amendment would bar companies from issuing credit cards unless one of the following four forms of ID were presented:
1. A “REAL ID” compliant driver’s license or government ID card;
2. A Social Security card;
3. A photo ID issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS); or
4. A valid passport issued by any country.
However, note that:
· #1 does not exist yet.
· #2 is a rare document these days (and one of the most easily forged documents issued by the U.S. Government anyway).
· #3 is also a rarity in the world of immigration documents. Few documents carry pictures and there is no single government issued document that says you are here legally or not.
· #4 – most Americans do not hold passports, and allowing the use of any country’s passport would do nothing to limit terrorists from obtaining credit cards (let alone undocumented immigrants).
The Vitter amendment would require credit card companies to check applicants against a national terrorism watch list. This would mean making the terrorism watch list public (or at least much more public than it is now) and giving any terrorist the chance to do their own vanity search. Furthermore, the list is notorious for its inaccuracy, excluding the names of terrorists known to the government and including literally millions of names, many of them inaccurately or erroneously listed.
Word from a source in the Senate says that the U.S. Department of the Treasury weighed in on the Vitter amendment and indicated it would require each and every applicant for a credit card to do so in person.
The Vitter amendment failed 65-28.
Please, please, please support immigration reform this year so that our elected representatives can spend less time twisting themselves in knots and bending over backwards to invoke ever more punitive immigration-related rules that end up hurting everyone, whether an immigrant or not.
May 12, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo Credit: Univision Radio
During this week, headlines in Spanish-language media featured the reaction by the Hispanic community to the Shenandoah, PA jury decision on the tragic death of Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez, the Supreme Court groundbreaking decision on immigrant identity-theft charges, and the immigration-related provisions in the President’s proposed budget calling for strengthened border security and increasing funding for immigrant integration programs and improving immigration application processing.
For the purpose of this posting, I will highlight two notable pieces: El Piolin’s visit to the White House and his radio interview with President Obama where they discussed immigration and a column in Los Angeles based newspaper La Opinion commenting on the prospects of immigration reform in the new Administration and the important role that the immigrant community plays in making sure that Congress delivers.
1. Univisión Radio/El Piolín: El Piolín por la Mañana is one of the highest ranking morning radio shows in Los Angeles (in any language) and on May 7, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo visited the White House to interview the President. El Piolín has been extremely active in his advocacy for immigration reform —in 2006, he called on his hundreds of thousands of listeners to march in support of immigrant rights —so not surprisingly Piolín asked the President about his commitment on immigration reform. This was the President’s response:
“I think we are making progress [on immigration reform], I met with leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and I reiterated my commitment to immigration reform”
The President confirmed that he is working very closely with House Representatives Luis Gutiérrez from Illiniois, Nydia Velásques from New York and Senator Bob Menéndez from New Jersey on a new project that will legalize undocumented immigrants who live and work in our country.
“My goal is to introduce a bill this year”, emphasized President Obama. He mentioned that his initial plans had been delayed due to the current economic crisis. “I have been occupied with other issues, like the creation of new jobs … but my commitment is still firm”.
The goal behind immigration reform is not to “improve the live of immigrants, the goal is to improve the live of everyone in America”
stated the President.
—Obama Reafirmo su Compromiso, Apoyará una Reforma Migratoria, May 7, 2009 Translated by Katherine Vargas
2. La Opinion: This opinion piece by activist and political analyst Ricardo Moreno titled “Winds of Reform” points to the winds of reform that are blowing again in Washington and the pragmatic approach that the new Administration is taking on immigration policy, the writer calls on the immigrant community to harness this renewed energy and through the power of advocacy, pressure Congress to move forward on immigration reform.
The winds of immigration reform are blowing again. Many positive signs show the existing political will to face this issue before the end of this year…
Until now, leaders in Congress and Administration officials have talked in very general terms about immigration reform but they assure that in one way or the other, 12 million undocumented immigrants will be legalized and border security will be strengthened. In other words, they are seeking to solve this issue in a pragmatic and politically balanced way…
In the meantime, pro-immigrant groups tried to revive the strength of past immigrant rallies through the mobilizations of May 1st... I have always supported mobilizations but the marches shouldn’t be an end in themselves, they should be yet another element in the fight for immigration reform.
We need to recognize the President’s true intention to take on the issue as a moral issue that surpasses all political diatribes, but the reality is that despite his good intentions he needs the Senate and the House to approve a law that he can sign…
The fight for immigration reform will not be won only by marching on the streets…it will be won by convincing a majority in Congress that this is a social justice issue…We need to write to Congress, meet with our Congressional representatives in their districts and in Washington. We can march but we can also advocate, so we can avoid having these winds blow in the opposite direction.
—Vientos de Reforma, Ricardo Moreno, May 9, 2009 Translated by Katherine Vargas
May 07, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
On Thursday, April 30, the Senate Immigration Subcommittee held its first hearing to consider how to fix the immigration system. The topic, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?” Witnesses presented compelling testimony from a range of perspectives—faith, business, labor, law enforcement, and civil rights.
The first panel consisted of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; J. Thomas Manger, Police Chief for Montgomery County, Maryland (also speaking on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs); Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, and a member of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; and Jeff Moseley, President and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership in Houston, Texas.
Greenspan noted that in this economic crisis, immigration has slowed, but that he hoped that Congress will reform the immigration system by the time this crisis fades. He talked about the role undocumented immigrants have played in the U.S. labor force, accounting for 1 in 6 new workers from 2000 to 2007. He also devoted much of his time speaking of the need for high-skilled immigrants to our economy.
Chief Manger told the Senators that one compelling reason for comprehensive immigration reform is that “t is tremendously challenging to deliver police service to a community of people who are afraid to have any contact with the police.” He went on to list a host of problems arising from our broken immigration system that police agencies must deal with.
Dr. Hunter gave one of the most eloquent testimonies I have heard concerning the hardship caused by the broken immigration system. He told the Senators that, “[t]he need for comprehensive immigration reform is to create a path that will help people do the right thing.”
Mr. Mosely talked about the hardship imposed on business due to the broken immigration system. He noted that the legal channels for both low-skilled and high-skilled immigrant workers are insufficient for the needs of our economy, and the fact that there are 12 million undocumented persons here is testament to that fact. Even with unemployment up at the moment, the idea that removing the undocumented would make jobs available for American workers assumes “…that an unemployed worker in New York's financial sector would be willing to relocate to do agricultural work in California or construction work in Houston….”
A second panel consisted of Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, representing the labor view; Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presenting the civil rights perspective; and Doris Meissner, formerly Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and now Senior Fellow with the Migration Policy Institute. The one witness testifying against sensible reform was Kris Kobach of the University of Missouri Law School and formerly with the Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft.
All of the testimony, and a recording of the Webcast, is available here: