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President delays meeting with Members of Congress on immigration reform

June 15, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

President Obama was expected to meet with Members of Congress to begin the discussion about comprehensive immigration reform on June 17th.  The President has postponed that meeting.  The postponement is a disappointment, given the momentum that has been building for immigration reform, and given the expressions of readiness by key members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who last week in this article put immigration reform in the top three major issues Congress must do this year, along with health care and energy/global warming.  Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who Chairs the Immigration Subcommittee in the House, reacted to the delay (this is the second postponement), by saying that the President “has to do more than say, ‘I’m for it.’ It’s essential for him to put some personal effort into this.” 

More on reaction to the postponement of the White House meeting can be read on this blog post.

Update on Appropriations bills

June 15, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On June 12th, the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security for the government’s Fiscal Year 2010. Related to immigration, the bill funds: 

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement at $5.4 billion ($30 million below the President’s request and $439 above the Fiscal 2009 allocation.  Included in the total is $200 million for Secure Communities; $1.5 billion for identifying dangerous criminals and prioritizing these individuals for removal; and $74 million for alternatives to detention ($10 million above the administration’s request).

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at $248 million (not including receipts and expenditures from the Immigration Fee Account, which accounts for most of the USCIS budget).  This is $116 million below the administration’s request, and $110 million above the 2009 level.  $100 million was allocated for refugee and asylum applications for which there is currently no charge and which are currently paid for by surcharges to the fees of other applications.  (The administration asked for $206 million.)  Military naturalization costs will be paid for by the Department of Defense.  $112 million was allocated to operate and improve E-Verify.  $11 million was allocated to expand immigrant integration and outreach to new Americans (the administration asked for $10 million).

  • Customs and Border Protection at $10 billion ($82 million below the administration request and $147 million above the 2009 level). Among other things, this allocation includes: $692 million for Southwest Border investments for Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology ($24.5 million less than requested); $3.5 billion for 20,019 Border Patrol agents, (including 44 new agents) of whom over 17,000 will be based on the Southwest Border.

Both CBP and ICE will receive tens of millions of dollars related to drug interdiction efforts, including efforts to intercept south-bound gun runners.

A summary of the Committee-passed Homeland Security appropriations bill can be found here:

The House Appropriations Committee has also approved the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for Commerce, Justice and Science.  In the Department of Justice, that bill includes $1.5 billion for law enforcement along the Southwest border.  A summary of that bill can be found here:


Reuniting Families Act introduced

June 15, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On May 20, the Reuniting Families Act, S. 1085, was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), along with Senators Gillibrand (D-NY), Kennedy (D-MA), and Schumer (D-NY).  The purpose of the bill is to update the family-based immigration system, which has not been updated in 20 years.  In those 20 years, demand for visas in many categories has so out-paced the number of visas available, that some family members have to wait years or decades to enter the U.S. 

Among other provisions, this bill would re-classify the spouses and children of legal permanent residents so they would be treated the same as “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens (for which there is no wait for a visa).  It increases the percentage limit for the admission of immigrants from any one country (from 7 to 10 percent).  The bill would also allow the continuation of a petition for immigration status for an immigrant spouse or child even if the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident petitioner dies before the immigrant visa is granted to the spouse or child.  In addition, the bill would waive certain bars to admission, and it would “re-capture” visas that should have been allocated to family members in past years but for processing delays that caused the opportunity for a visa to expire.

The bill text can be found on line here:

A summary of the bill, provided by the Asian American Justice Center, can be found here:

A similar bill, H.R. 2709, was introduced in the House by Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) and 55 co-sponsors.  In addition to the provisions included in the Senate bill, this bill includes provisions to allow permanent partners to gain immigrant visas.

Text of H.R. 2709 can be found here:


Smoke and Mirrors: Assessing the impact of immigration on the unemployment rate

June 09, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno



Today, the editorial writers at the Des Moines Register tackle the age old question: Do immigrants take jobs away from native-born workers?


This question has been posed time and time again— particularly during tough economic times —but, as the Iowa flagship newspaper points out, the perception does not match the facts.


It has perhaps seemed logical to assume that the willingness of many foreigners - particularly those here illegally - to work for low pay takes jobs away from Americans. But it turns out that having a large number of recent immigrants in a location doesn't necessarily correlate with a lot of native-born workers being unemployed, based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.


One of many examples in the report: Recent immigrants make up 8.4 percent of the population in the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii), but just 2.8 percent of the population in the East North Central region (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin). Yet, the regions had similar unemployment rates of 10.8 percent in the Pacific region and 10 percent in the East North Central region as of March 2009.

Another example: In New Jersey, recent immigrants account for 7.3 percent of the population, but in Maine they are just 0.8 percent. Nonetheless, the states' March unemployment rates respectively were 8.3 and 8.l percent.

Don’t Let Fear Distort Immigration Policy, Jun      


By the way, the report quoted in this piece was done by the Immigration Policy Center and it is titled Untying the Knot. The report analyzes data from the Census Bureau and finds that there is no clear relationship between the number of recent immigrants in a particular locale and the unemployment rate among native-born whites, blacks, Latinos, or Asians in that locale.


Restrictionists will continue to scream “they’re taking our jobs” and they will continue to oppose any proposal that offers a solution-based approach to our immigration troubles. But these perceptions are debunked by leading economists like Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and economic studies that highlight the important role of immigration in our economic growth.


Instead of following our worst instincts, we need to live up to our values and arm ourselves with the truth. Comprehensive immigration reform will get all workers into the system; regularized and protected by labor laws. Reform will level the playing field, improve the wages and working conditions for all workers and it will increase the tax revenues for all levels of government.


Extra! Extra! From Coast to Coast, Campaign Sparks Movement for Immigration Reform

June 04, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


Hundreds of grassroots advocates from coast to coast are gathering together in Washington, D.C. this week to unite forces and launch the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign. The Campaign calls for an American solution to an American problem by reforming our immigration system to a system that upholds our values, restores the rule of law, and responds effectively to the economy and labor markets.


The Campaign kicked off on Monday with over 40 local launch events all across the country. From New York to Seattle, to Nashville and Omaha, advocates had a clear message to the country: The time is now to reform our immigration system, for families, for workers, for the economy and for security. Here are a few highlights of these local launch events, for a more comprehensive list of news coverage visit:


§         Atlanta, GA: Associated Press


Representatives from labor, faith, business and immigrants' rights groups gathered Monday outside the Capitol to launch the Georgia arm of the national Reform Immigration FOR America campaign.


``This is for us to start rallying and for us to start getting the debate going in local cities and communities before members of Congress from both parties start meeting next week to discuss immigration reform,'' said state Rep. Pedro Marin, a Duluth Democrat who is one of few Hispanic state legislators.

Activists Seek Immigration Reform, June 1, 2009


§         Las Vegas, NV: Las Vegas Sun


Supporters of immigration reform gathered on the steps of the Lloyd George Federal Building on Monday for the Nevada launch of a national campaign to reform American immigration law…


“What we need to do is put parties aside, put political philosophy and differences aside and really sit down and identify the issues that are out there and come up with common-sense solutions,” said Alex Garza, a businessman and member of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.

Immigration Advocates rally for system Overhaul, June 1, 2009


§         New Bedford, Massachusetts: South Coast Today

New England immigrant advocates are launching a second campaign for comprehensive reform, vowing the time is ripe for the federal government to enact measures that failed to pass Congress two years ago.


"It is different this time," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. With a new president, a "more progressive" Congress and a "broader, stronger and more unified" coalition of immigration reform advocates, the stage is set for reform that will create a path to citizenship for the country's estimated 12 million undocumented workers, Millona said.

Advocates push for Immigration Reform, June 2, 2009



On Wednesday, a press conference inaugurated the 3-day national summit with the participation of almost 800 grassroots advocates representing more than 35 states. The conference featured a diverse array of leaders from civil rights, labor groups, business, progressive organizations, faith groups and immigrant and ethnic rights groups.


You can view a full video of the press conference here.


Here are some snippets from the conference:


§         New America Media


The Reform Immigration FOR America campaign announced its plan to garner enough votes to pass what it says are needed changes in U.S. immigration policy.

“Two hundred seventy nine votes, 218 in the House; 60 in the Senate,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Reform, referring to the number of votes needed to send legislation to the desk of President Barack Obama. Obama’s signature, in effect, would be the 279th vote, and should the vision of the coalition hold sway, the legislation would introduce dramatic changes in U.S. immigration policy.

Key concerns include family reunification, the harshness of enforcement raids, border security, and effective means to address undocumented workers. There are an estimated 12 million immigrants in the country.

Coalition bows to press Congress and Obama for Immigration Reform, June 4, 2009



§         New York Daily News


The group's leaders described "a new political reality" made up of "a united labor movement and a President committed to comprehensive reform," as well as unprecedented voter mobilization and turnout in immigrant communities last November.

The also point to polls showing support for reform from at least 60% of American people, and the practical impossibility of deporting 12,000,000 people.

Finally, a National Push for immigration reform, June 4, 2009


§         National Journal


They said Obama promised as a presidential candidate to advance immigration reform legislation this year -- and they are holding him to that pledge.


"From the Latino community's perspective, a promise is a promise," Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said during a news conference to kick off a national campaign for immigration reform.


The coalition, which includes labor, immigrant and religious groups, expects comprehensive immigration reform legislation to be introduced in Congress this fall and enacted by February, said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

Latino groups vow to keep pressure on immigration, June 4, 2009


There’s growing momentum for moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform this year. Strong support from new and diverse allies who are joining the battle for immigration reform and a new campaign to lift the voices of those who want a solutions-based approach to our immigration problems will help support President Obama and ensure that his promise to push for comprehensive immigration reform become legislative reality.


The Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America is Underway

June 04, 2009 - Posted by Ali Noorani

On June 1st, the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America launched in 44 cities and 20 states.  Over 220 organizations have endorsed the Campaign so far—labor organizations, businesses, community organizations and faith-based organizations—all committed to helping fix the broken immigration system in a way that restores stability, order, and responsibility. 


Today, nearly 800 organizers and leaders from faith, labor, business, and community groups in 41 states continue to meet in Washington in an immigration reform summit.  What are they asking for?


They want to replace the chaos of illegal immigration with the control and regulation of an orderly system.  They want minimum wage and labor standards to be effectively enforced, families to be reunited, all workers to be legal, and safer communities.  They want an end to an era of immigration irresponsibility, an era in which the system has been so broken that rules are widely ignored.


The Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America is based on three elements:


First of all, America voted for change and for leaders to tackle and solve tough problems.  The broken immigration system is a symbol of Washington’s inability to face tough problems.  The Campaign is part of a resurgent “can-do” American spirit.  It’s time for leaders to tap in to that spirit and do what a majority of Americans want done—fix our immigration system. 


Second, the Campaign has a plan that represents a departure from years of failed attempts to enforce the unenforceable laws of our broken immigration system.  The Campaign has a plan that will work in the interests of the American people.  It is a plan that will bring our immigration system under control once and for all; establish order at the border; focus law enforcement resources on criminals, not workers and parents; and generate billions in new tax revenues. 


Third, and most importantly, fixing our immigration system will help fix our economy.  With so many workers vulnerable to economic uncertainty, it is critical that minimum wage and labor standards are effectively enforced; that all workers are able to work legally; that all employers and workers are paying their fair share of taxes; and that bad actor employers who violate laws are targeted for enforcement.  Legalizing workers will increase their wages, spending, and tax contributions, which will have benefits across the economy.


The organizers gathered in Washington today represent the core constituencies that will be engaged going forward—faith, labor, community, and business.  Organizing these constituencies, along with local elected officials, law enforcement and others will be key to winning the 279 votes we need for comprehensive immigration reform: 218 Representatives, 60 Senators and one President.


By working together, we can end this era of profound immigration irresponsibility.

Campaign launch press conference

Photo: Old and new allies joining the battle for immigration reform: Speakers for the June 3rd National Press Club kickoff of the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America. Left to Right:  Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO; Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center; John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress; Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR); Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum; Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA); Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU, also representing the Change to Win labor federation); Robert J. Dolibois, Executive Vice President of the American Nursery & Landscape Association (representing the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform).

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