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The Do-Nothing Congress Heads Home

September 27, 2012 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

At the end of last week, the House and the Senate adjourned until after the election, making this one of the earliest adjournments prior to an election since 1960. In one of its last non-accomplishments before adjournment, the House considered an immigration bill—a bill to increase visas for STEM graduates—and failed to pass it. (More on that below.)

According to the New York Times, the 112th Congress passed 173 laws as of last month. By comparison, the 80th Congress, the Congress that President Harry Truman dubbed the “do-nothing Congress,” looks positively productive, passing 906 laws in its two years. To be fair, it is likely additional legislation will pass in a lame duck session after the November elections. Still not resolved are, among other things, income and payroll tax cuts that are slated to expire at the end of the year and steep, across-the-board budget cuts to defense and domestic programs that have been triggered by Congress’ failure to come up with a package of revenue increases and budget cuts to reduce the deficit. (The combination of the expiration of tax cuts and budget cuts are popularly called the “fiscal cliff.”) There is also the farm bill, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, a bill to save the U.S. Postal Service from default, and the list goes on. (Here is another evaluation of the 112th Congress, with charts and graphs.)

Continuing Resolution will keep Government Running through March

September 30 is the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. By that date, Congress should have wrapped up the process of allocating money to fund the various government agencies for the next fiscal year. This year, Congress failed to complete a single appropriations bill. (There are a dozen of them.) Instead, just before leaving town, the House and Senate passed a “continuing resolution,” which will give Congress until late March 2013 to make final decisions on the budgets of federal agencies for the fiscal year that will by then be half-way completed. The continuing resolution continues funding the government at fiscal year 2012 levels (with a minor increase).

Immigration and the Fiscal Cliff

On September 14th, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a report, “OMB Report Pursuant to the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012.” In it, OMB presented its preliminary estimates on the impact of “sequestration,” the automatic across-the-board budget cuts that will be spread out across all agencies on January 3rd, unless Congress comes up with a more rational approach to attain deficit reduction (or decides to postpone tackling the deficit altogether). The automatic cuts were included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and triggered by the failure of the so-called “super committee” to construct an acceptable alternative deficit reduction plan.

According to these preliminary estimates, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will lose more than $450 million, and Customs and Border Protection will lose more than $800 million. USCIS could lose more than $200 million, most coming from the Examinations Fee Account—that is, fees paid by immigrants to have their applications for naturalization and other benefits processed appear to be fair game for diverting to deficit reduction.

We are told that, with further refinement, the impact of sequestration on what OMB terms “mandatory spending” (in this case, spending out of fee collections, as opposed to appropriated “discretionary spending”) may not be as great as these estimates indicate. More detail will become available in the coming weeks.

House Considers and Fails to Pass STEM Immigration Bill

On September 20, the House considered a bill sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), H.R. 6429, the “STEM Jobs Act of 2012,” that would provide immigrant visas to foreigners who graduate from U.S. universities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and have a job offer in the U.S. in a STEM field. While there is broad bipartisan support to increase immigration levels for persons with education or skills in these fields, the Smith bill contained a controversial provision to eliminate the diversity visa program and reallocate its immigrant visas to STEM graduates. The bill was brought up under special procedures usually reserved for non-controversial bills requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. With the controversial provision, Smith’s bill failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote, and the bill became another non-accomplishment of the 112th Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (R-Calif.) introduced a similar bill, H.R. 6412, the “Attracting the Best and the Brightest Act,” which also provided visas for STEM graduates with STEM-related job offers, but did not take away visas from other parts of the immigration system. Lofgren’s bill, which was not considered by the House, also provided minor fixes within the family immigration system and included a provision that would sunset the new visa program after two years. A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate, the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act of 2012 (“BRAINS Act,” S. 3553).

With congress completing its regular season play without accomplishing much of anything in the immigration policy realm, what developments there are continue to come from the agencies, the courts, and the states.

DOJ Completes Investigation of Alamance County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office

On September 18, the Department of Justice announced that it had completed a two-year investigation of the sheriff’s office of Alamance County, North Carolina. In its release, the department said that its investigation found “reasonable cause to believe that [the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office] engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing against Latinos….” To remedy its “egregious pattern of racial profiling,” the department will require the sheriff’s office to commit to “long term structural, cultural and institutional change,” and it will “seek to obtain a court enforceable, comprehensive, written agreement remedying the violations….”

Witnesses interviewed by the Justice Department said, among other things, that the Sheriff told his deputies to arrest motorists who appeared Latino for minor traffic infractions while letting white drivers off with a warning. Latinos were as much as 10 times more likely to be arrested by sheriff deputies than white residents.

In a statement, the Sheriff denied that his office had discriminated against Spanish-speaking persons “in any way, shape or form” and he asserted that the Obama administration was waging “war on local law enforcement.”

In response to the Justice Department’s findings, the Department of Homeland Security announced it is terminating the Alamance County 287(g) jail model agreement, and is restricting the sheriff office’s access to Secure Communities.

TPS for Haitians Extended

On September 21, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted a release announcing that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians who had been in the U.S. since prior to January 12, 2011. Haitians were first granted TPS in the wake of a January 2010 earthquake that made more than one million people homeless. For these Haitians, this will be the second extension of TPS, which would otherwise have expired in January 2013. As of this writing, the official notice with additional information had not been published in the Federal Register.

USCIS Announces Integration Grants

On September 17, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it was awarding approximately $5 million in grants to 31 immigrant service provider organizations that help immigrants prepare for U.S. citizenship. This year’s grantees are located in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

The agency’s immigrant integration grant program began in 2009 and has provided extra funding to a total of 132 organizations to support their naturalization assistance work. In the past, the program had received funding from Congress. Continued funding for the program is very much up in the air, and it will not be known whether Congress will allocate money for this purpose in the 2013 fiscal year until Congress completes its work on the Department of Homeland Security budget sometime in the spring of 2013. You can find more information and the list of recipients here.

In a related development, on September 24 the Migration Policy Institute announced the winners of its E Pluribus Unum awards, which go to organizations with exceptional immigrant integration initiatives. The three awardees this year each received a $50,000 prize. A Corporate Leadership award went to Citi, a financial institution that, among other things, works with non-profit and public-agency partners to reduce financial barriers to citizenship.

A Little Opportunity for an Engineer

The first handful of requests for deferred action for childhood arrivals have been approved, and one of the first to receive deferred action and a work permit is an engineer from Arizona. Carlos Martinez was nine when he was brought to the U.S. by his family 21 years ago. Since then, he graduated from a Tucson high school with a 3.93 grade-point average, got his B.S. in computer science from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in software engineering. Unlike most Americans, he did not find opportunity at the end of all that education, because he could not work legally. Instead, he has made money by doing yard work. Thanks to his new work permit, he will be able to start using that education. Read more about this story here.

Courts Allow Show-Me-Your-Papers Provision of Arizona Law to go into Effect

On September 18, Section 2B of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 took effect. That provision requires Arizona law enforcement officers to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of persons they stop, detain or arrest if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present. The implementation of the provision followed a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton on September 5 not to maintain the injunction against Section 2B. Advocates went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an emergency effort to reinstate the injunction, but on September 25, the Court rejected the request. Section 2B is now in effect.

The coalition that brought a lawsuit against Section 2B on discrimination grounds is exploring its legal options on the injunction. In the meantime advocates will be monitoring police, and will bring additional complaints if the provision leads to racial profiling by the police.

Arizona Re-affirms no Driver’s License for DACA Recipients

According to the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles has confirmed it will not issue driver’s licenses to recipients of deferred action for childhood arrivals. The decision may end up in court, as civil rights groups have pointed out that, in other situations, the state grants licenses to persons with federal work permits. Recipients of deferred action are given work permits by the federal government.

Summit to Explore Importance of Immigration to Midwest

On October 12, leaders from the business, faith and law enforcement communities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin will gather in Indianapolis for the Midwest Summit: Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America. In the Midwest’s broad-based economy and increasingly diverse population, immigrants are increasingly crucial to the region’s prosperity. The summit will explore topics such as the role of immigrants in the region’s economy, how communities of faith are being shaped by the arrival of immigrants into the region, and how the relationship between immigrant communities and law enforcement affects public safety of the broader community. You can find out more about the Midwest Summit on the event’s registration page.

Follow-Up: Chicago Passes Welcoming City Ordinance

On September 13, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits Chicago law enforcement from holding undocumented immigrants for the federal government except in certain limited circumstances. The “Welcoming City” ordinance, introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as part of his pledge to make Chicago the “world’s most immigrant-friendly city,” makes clear that undocumented immigrants will only be detained and held for federal immigration authorities if there already is a warrant for their arrest, if they have been convicted of a serious crime, or if they are otherwise a threat to public safety. The effort is part of the revolt taking place in cities around the country against Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program. (The Policy Update previously reported on Chicago’s “Welcoming City” ordinance here.)

Immigration on the Campaign Trail

Last week, President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, appeared separately at a candidate’s forum in Miami sponsored by the Spanish-Language television network Univision. On September 19, Mitt Romney was pressed for his views on immigration, to which he responded without specifics. Mr. Romney was critical of President Obama for not living up to his promise to fix the immigration system. However, the candidate would not reveal his plan other than to say that he would “put in place an immigration reform system that resolves this issue.” (Read more here.)

President Obama’s appearance at the event the next day gave moderators a chance to challenge him for his failure to keep his promise on comprehensive immigration reform. The president admitted that “my biggest failure so far is that we haven’t gotten comprehensive immigration reform done.” He asserted that, going forward, strong public pressure on Congress could bring about reform. (Read more here.)

Currently, the president has a sizeable lead among Latino voters. A September 17 ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll shows the president with a 62% to 20% lead over Romney among Latino registered voters.

Immigration Reform Integration & Citizenship States Immigrant Students Smart Enforcement Priorities State&Local Enforcement Workforce

Value of Citizenship: PhotoBlog to Celebrate Citizenship Day

September 17, 2012 - Posted by Guest

On Citizenship Day, we celebrate the U.S. Constitution and those who have become citizens. New and Old American Citizens have been celebrating Citizenship Day side by side since Congress declared the first “I am an American Day” in 1940. Historical footage from the 1940’s shows gigantic balloons and parade floats making their way through the New York City streets and a crowd of over a million people gathering in Central Park to welcome New American Citizens and celebrate “I am an American” Day together. In 1952 President Truman, changed the name of the day to Citizenship Day and forty years later Congress requested that the day expand to Constitution Week, running every year from September 17-September 23rd.

Currently, there are 8.5 million immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for citizenship. They come from around the world. The top five countries of origin for immigrants who are eligible are Mexico (31%), Philippines (4%), Dominican Republican (3%), Cuba (3%), and India (2.8%).

And they live across the United States. The states with the highest percentage of eligible immigrants living there include: California (28.6); New York (11.7), Texas (10.8), Florida (9.3); Illinois (4.3); New Jersey (4.2); Massachusetts (2.3); Washington State (2.0); Arizona (2.0); and Virginia (1.7).

For these facts and others about eligible legal permanent residents click here.

It is as true today as the first Citizenship Day that immigrants want to be part of America. Today, many aspiring citizens are taking the steps to become sworn-in New American Citizens—in fact 694,193 legal permanent residents became New American Citizens in 2011. This is lower than historical surges in 2008 when over 1 million New Americans naturalized but much higher than naturalization in the 1950’s when less than 120,000 immigrants naturalized each year. (Source: US Naturalizations 2011)

However, many barriers stand in the way of an eligible immigrant becoming a New American Citizen.

Barriers include:

    Information-Not knowing how or where to get information.
    Cost-The application fee is $680 and legal services can be as much as $3,000. One survey of Ya Es Hora citizenship workshop participants found that two out of every five eligible aspiring citizens delayed filing their applications due to cost.
    English Language Skills-Many aspiring citizens need help learning English before they can pass the citizenship exam. It’s difficult to learn a language as an adult and waiting lists for classes are long.
    Time-Between multiple jobs and child care it can be hard to find the time. (Inspiring story how worksite and technology support can help.)

But if aspiring citizens can navigate the process there is economic payoff. Citizenship has incredible value.

The Migration Policy Institute’s report, Economic Value of Citizenship for Immigrants in the United States, suggests there is evidence that New American Citizens will earn a wage premium of 5%. They note this premium may be larger for women and Latino immigrants.

But what is 5%?

Well, it’s a nickel added to every dollar earned.

You might say, “That’s just pocket change!”

But if you earn $10/hour and if you do a day’s work (8 hours) that’s $ 4 Extra Dollars.
You might say, “Who cares? There’s more than that under my !”

But over a week (5 days), that’s $20, or $80 a month, which over a year adds up to approximately: $1,000 dollars.

And that’s a lot of nickels over just one year!

All those nickels are then invested by an immigrant in:

  • Education!

  • Homeownership!

  • Consumption!

  • Small Business!

Suddenly, all those nickels created by New American citizenship are adding up to make an incredibly valuable impact for Families & Local Economies.

On this Citizenship Day, we honor the 694,193 New Americans who became Citizens last year and we work to reduce barriers for the 8.5 million eligible legal permanent residents who have yet to reach citizenship.

To learn more how to become a citizen click here or to learn more about policies related to citizenship and immigrant integration click here.

Integration & Citizenship Naturalization

Immigration Policy Update: The Political Season

September 14, 2012 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

It’s the Political Season

On September 12, the House Judiciary Committee, Chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), held a hearing, “The Obama Administration’s Abuse of Power.” As one can infer from the title, the hearing served as an opportunity, just weeks before the election, for Republican members of the Committee’s majority to raise questions about a number of the administration’s policies they dislike.

The thrust of the hearing, to put it bluntly, was to express frustration that the President is using his executive authority to go around the obstructions of a do-nothing Congress. In fact, Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.) expressed regret that the Committee was wasting its time rather than trying to tackle problems the country faces in the few remaining legislative days before the election.

Among the issues raised was Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, with Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) referring to it as “de facto amnesty” and Steve King (R-Iowa) asserting the President was manufacturing immigration law “out of thin air.”

The sad thing about this hearing and others like them is that the members of Congress who arrange them actually think anyone is paying attention outside of the few lobbyists and advocates on both sides who attend the hearings. At this stage in the presidential race, people are looking to the candidates for clues as to where they stand on issues people care about. No one really cares if Elton Gallegly or Steve King is alarmed about President Obama’s deferred action policy.

Another problem with this hearing is that the President’s policies were being portrayed as contravening the will of Congress. “Congress” is not monolithic, however, and in fact the administration’s deferred action policy is very popular among many members of Congress, as it helps so many of their constituents. The popularity of the policy is the reason immigration hardliners in Congress are unable to stop it.

On the positive side, there won’t be many of these overtly political hearings, as Congress will be in session only a few more days before the election.

On September 11, a hearing (lacking in political shenanigans) was held by the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security titled, “Eleven Years Later: Preventing Terrorists from Coming to America.” Time in that hearing was taken almost entirely by several administration witnesses reporting on the progress of their agencies in preventing terrorists from entering the U.S. You can obtain the written testimony from the Homeland Security Committee’s Web site.

Appropriations Choices Postponed as Congress Considers Continuing Resolution

The House and Senate have agreed not to engage in a budget battle that might result in a government shutdown just weeks before the November election. Instead, Congress will pass a “continuing resolution” that will carry over Fiscal Year 2012 funding levels (with a small increase) into the first six months of Fiscal Year 2013. The current funding levels are set to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, but this agreement would push that timeline back to March 2013.

This funding deal is not unusual, especially in an election year. It will enable members of Congress to leave town on schedule for their reelection campaigns, and it leaves Congress with one less battle to be faced in a lame duck session after the election, during which Congress must decide what to do about the extension of expiring tax cuts and whether to postpone pending across-the-board cuts in defense and other discretionary spending required by a budget deal passed in the summer of 2011 (but not taking effect until January of next year). You can view the House Appropriation Committee’s draft of the continuing resolution here.

National Immigrant Integration Conference

The 5th Annual National Immigrant Integration Conference begins next week in Baltimore. On the agenda are tracks on immigrant education, fostering economic success, citizenship, and on particular communities. The heart of the conference kicks off on September 23 with an address by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Plenary sessions cover topics ranging from successful citizenship models to the role of government in promoting integration.

To find out more and to register, see the Conference Web site.

Follow-up: The Decline of Russell Pearce and a Shift in Focus on Immigration

As we reported in our last policy update, the author of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, Russell Pearce, failed in his attempt to return to the Arizona Senate after he was removed from office in a recall election. The Arizona Republic reported on September 9 that Mr. Pearce was out of step with a growing number of Republicans in the state who favor a more sensible approach to immigration, “one that includes a guest-worker program and letting undocumented immigrants gain legal status.” Among other reasons, Republicans have faced pressure from business leaders who are concerned that the state’s hard line on immigration has damaged Arizona’s reputation and hurt its economy. Bob Worsley, the Republican candidate who defeated Pearce in the Republican primary election, said the new approach "is a significant shift away from what looks like a hard-hearted, harsh-enforcement police state versus being sensitive to a multicultural population that we have with some compassion and keeping families together.”

These sorts of conversations are happening all over the United States, as reasonable voices are raised against the narrow focus on harsh enforcement. On October 12, leaders from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin will gather for a “Midwest Summit” in Indianapolis focusing on what immigrants and immigration means to the economies and communities of the Midwest. There have been similar gatherings of business, faith, and law enforcement leaders who have come together to discuss forging a new consensus on immigrants and America. Summits have been held to date in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Atlanta, Georgia. You can read more about these events on the Web site of Forging a New Consensus.

Border Patrol Agents Fire on Crowd on Mexican Side, Killing One

The latest in a series of fatal shooting of Mexicans by U.S. Border Patrol agents occurred on September 3 in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. According to the agents, they were patrolling by boat, attempting to stop a swimmer in the Rio Grande, when they were attacked by rock throwers on the Mexican side of the border. However, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News, witnesses said that the agents were being heckled from the Mexican side by a group that believed the agents’ boat would drown the swimmer. The shooting was unprovoked, according to the witnesses.

The excessive use of force by Border Patrol agents was the recent subject of a documentary series that aired on the PBS series, “Need to Know.” The documentary raises questions about accountability within the Border Patrol. This latest shooting will raise more questions.

Enforcement Statistics Released

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics released it summary of Fiscal Year 2011 immigration enforcement statistics. The report includes enforcement actions at the border and in the interior of the U.S. Here are a few highlights:

  • Last year, the Border Patrol apprehended 340,000 individuals. This is the lowest number since 1971, and a strong indication that fewer people are trying to cross the border illegally.

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained a record 429,000 individuals in its detention system last year, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year.

  • There were a total of 392,000 removals, up from 385,000 the year before. The number of returns (generally, of persons apprehended at the border and not put through formal removal proceedings) was at its lowest since 1970—323,500. The number of removals exceeded returns for the first time since 1941 (according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics). This is partly due to the fact that there were fewer people apprehended at the border, so fewer to return. (Persons who are formally removed face future immigration consequences, such as bars to re-entry for a period of time, while persons who are retuned may come legally to the U.S. without penalty.)

The latest enforcement statistics add to the difficulties of politicians who like to claim that the Obama administration is not interested in immigration enforcement. These politicians just don’t have the data to back up their assertions. You can obtain the enforcement statistics here.

Operation Streamline Paper Released

The story on immigration enforcement statistics, above, notes there were fewer returns in 2011 than in any year since 1970. As mentioned, part of the reason is due to the decline in apprehensions at the border. Another reason is that many persons who are apprehended while crossing the border illegally are arrested and placed into the criminal justice system in a program paradoxically called “Operation Streamline.” In this program, persons crossing the border are not returned immediately. Instead, they are put into criminal proceedings before a federal judge, sentenced, and incarcerated for several months. Only after all that are they deported. The program has greatly increased the cost for handling persons who cross the border illegally. It has also added tremendously to the caseload of prosecutors and federal judges on the border, and has resulted in a decline in prosecutions of more serious crimes. You can learn more about this wasteful program in a new paper released by the National Immigration Forum, which you can download from our publications page.

The Forum’s paper on Operation Streamline is one of several reports issued this week examining how immigrants are routed into and treated within the criminal justice system. Grassroots Leadership issued a paper focusing on the role of private prisons in Operation Streamline, the ACLU of Texas released an abstract of a forthcoming report on prisons that hold incarcerated non-citizens, and Justice Strategies published a report on privately operated federal prisons for immigrants.

Follow-up: Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

Another issue Congress will leave until after the election is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. As we have previously reported, both the House and the Senate passed different version of the VAWA reauthorization this past spring. The House version would weaken protections now in current law for immigrant victims of domestic violence. House and Senate leaders have so far failed to reconcile their differing versions of the bill.

On September 12, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (Republican) and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (Democrat) published an Op Ed in Politico urging Congress to move forward with the bill without the provisions harmful to immigrants. You can read their Op Ed by clicking on this link.

Borders Immigration Reform Integration & Citizenship Interior Enforcement States

Immigration Policy Update for September 7, 2012

September 07, 2012 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Injunction on Show-Me-Your-Papers Provision of S.B. 1070 Lifted by Court

On September 5, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton decided not to maintain the injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Arizona S.B. 1070 section 2B, the “show-me-your-papers” provision that requires Arizona law enforcement officers to make a “reasonable attempt” to determine the immigration status of persons they stop, detain or arrest if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is unlawfully present.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that this provision should not be enjoined prior to the implementation of the law. The Supreme Court handed the case back down to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which remanded it to Judge Bolton, who issued the original injunction. Judge Bolton did not immediately lift the injunction, but instead heard arguments against section 2B based on the Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Fourth Amendment. Her most recent ruling concludes that, even on the new grounds not considered by the Supreme Court, she would not ignore the Supreme Court’s direction that it is pre-mature to enjoin the law before harm from the law’s implementation can be shown.

In a separate order, the Judge told the U.S. Department of Justice and Arizona that they have 10 days to work out language that will be used to lift the prior injunction, after which time she will lift the injunction.

In a separate issue brought by advocates last month, the Judge issued an injunction against enforcement of a provision of the Arizona law that would make it illegal to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In her ruling, the Judge noted that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined analogous provisions of the Alabama and Georgia laws (which the Forum reported on in our last policy update).

Advocates have promised to monitor the implementation of Section 2B of the Arizona law, and to take the state back to court if they find it is being implemented in a discriminatory manner.

States React to Deferred Action Policy

On August 30, the California legislature sent to the governor a bill that specifically authorizes the state of California to issue drivers licenses to persons who obtain relief from deportation through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

This bill puts California at the other end of the spectrum from Arizona, where Governor Jan Brewer (R) issued an executive order mandating state agencies to “conduct a full statutory, rule-making and policy analysis and … initiate operational, policy, rule and statutory changes necessary to prevent Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility … for any … state identification, including a driver’s license….” The order also applied to “any taxpayer-funded public benefits.”

In the wake of Governor Brewer’s proclamation, other states followed suit. In Nebraska, Governor David Heineman (R) issued a statement saying that “[t]he State of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver’s licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants….” Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant (R) also issued an order to state agencies banning them from providing benefits to DACA recipients. Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) issued a letter expressing strong disagreement with the deferred action policy, but in Texas persons who obtain work authorization may obtain a driver’s license good for the term of the work authorization.

Regarding driver’s licenses, each state has its own rules, but in many states, someone with work authorization from the federal government may obtain a driver’s license. (Read more on this blog post from the Immigration Policy Center.)

In reaction to California’s legislation, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California is preparing legislation that would deny federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services Program (COPS), operated by the Department of Justice, to states that provide licenses to DACA recipients. If the bill is introduced in Congress, we will let you know.

Administration Announces DACA Recipients Not Eligible for Health Care Benefits

On August 30, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issue an amendment to an interim final rule governing eligibility for the Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) to stipulate that recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will not be eligible to enroll in the plan. PCIP is a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that establishes a high-risk health insurance pool program so that uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions might gain access to health insurance. In the amended interim rule, HHS stated that it is changing its definition of “lawfully present” for purposes of access to certain health care benefits to exclude DACA recipients. The rule amendment states that the new definition of “lawfully present” (excluding DACA recipients) will also be incorporated in the rules governing the Affordable Insurance Exchanges, due to be established in 2014. This means that DACA recipients will be excluded from purchasing insurance on the insurance exchanges, and from potential eligibility for health insurance subsidies from the government.

Separately, the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services sent a letter to State Medicaid Directors informing them that DACA recipients are not eligible for Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) under the CHIPRA state option (in which states have the option to provide Medicaid and CHIP eligibility to children and/or pregnant women who are “lawfully residing” in the United States and otherwise eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.

To read an article on the government’s action, click here.

Immigrant Integration Conference Begins September 22

The 5th Annual National Immigrant Integration Conference begins on September 22 in Baltimore, Maryland. In its five years of existence, this conference has become a valuable resource for immigration service providers, policy experts, advocates, and government officials who focus on the various aspects of immigrant integration. Individuals from across the country come together at this conference to learn about the best practices in teaching English to speakers of other languages, reaching out to immigrants eligible to naturalize, dealing with newcomer/established resident tensions, and many other topics.

This year’s conference will run on seven tracks, summarized briefly here:

  • Educating immigrants, spanning the full education continuum from pre-kindergarten to adult education, addressing critical issues from the perspectives of practitioners, students, advocates and researchers.

  • Economic Success for Immigrant Youth and Adults, which will explore a range of approaches being taken to unleash the energy and economic potential of immigrants and their children.

  • African American and Pan-Immigrant Communities, designed to equip participants with the tools necessary to create thriving communities and organizations among African Americans and diverse immigrant groups.

  • Active Citizenship, designed to provide legal and community service providers, researchers and academics a space to share legal best practices, resources, tips for citizenship advocacy and new technologies.

  • Receiving Communities, will explore approaches for engaging everyday Americans as an important element of ensuring success in immigrant and refugee integration programming.

  • We Are America, will explore issues of identity, culture, national pride and generational conflict through the perspective of immigrants themselves in an effort to share how they may be used as assets for integration.

  • Promoting Integration: The Refugee Perspective, will focus on the intersection between refugee integration compared with the experiences of other immigrant populations and how advocates across the immigration spectrum can collaborate more effectively.

More details on the agenda, including the plenary sessions and the distinguished speakers who will address the conference, are available on the Web site of the conference. If your work focuses on any aspect of immigrant integration, this conference is not to be missed. You can register here.

Democratic Platform Starkly Contrasts with Republican on Immigration

Earlier this week at the Democratic Party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Democrats released their party platform. The immigration planks sharply contrast with their Republican counterparts. Among other things, the platform includes support for comprehensive immigration reform “that brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows” and that “creates a system for allocating visas that meets our economic needs, keeps families together, and enforces the law.” It also praised the president for “temporary relief for youth who came to the United States as children, through no fault of their own, grew up as Americans and are poised to make a real contribution to our country.”

The DREAMers referenced in the above quote received more than passing mention in the party platform. Benita Veliz, a DREAMer from Texas, was given time on the convention floor to address the delegates and tell her story on September 5 (see video). On the concluding night of the convention, Senator Richard Durbin introduced President Obama just before the president's acceptance speech. He is the Senate sponsor of the DREAM act and made more than a mention of it during his time on the convention floor. President Obama also mentioned the DREAMers in his acceptance speech.

You can find the entire platform here.

Russell Pearce Loses Primary

As you may recall, Russell Pearce, the father of Arizona’s anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 and former Arizona Senate President, was booted out of office last year in a historic (for Arizona) recall election. (We reported on that event in this Policy Update.) Pearce, a Tea Party favorite, lost no time in launching a comeback attempt. On August 28, he faced his first test in his effort to regain a seat in the Arizona Senate. It was a test he didn’t pass. Pearce lost his primary to Bob Worsley, a moderate Republican. The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent. Pearce gained a national reputation for his anti-immigrant legislation and became a darling of the anti-immigrant movement. Unfortunately for him, the people of Mesa’s Legislative District 25 didn’t want him to represent America’s immigration hardliners. They wanted someone to represent them. According to the Arizona Republic, Worsley went in to the primary with the unanimous endorsement of the Mesa City Council, and had the backing of the political establishment in the majority Republican district.

This may be another sign of change coming about in post-S.B. 1070 Arizona. Arizonans are tiring of the rhetoric that has made their state seem like a “mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” On the other hand, as in his recall election, Pearce’s primary campaign was plagued with gaffes, which undoubtedly magnified his personal unpopularity. (You can read about some of those gaffes here.)

We look forward to other tests of the changing tide in Arizona.

Rep. Smith Complains ICE gets More Credit than Due on Removals

On August 24, Rep. Lamar Smith released a statement alleging that the administration was cooking the books on its removal statistics. He alleges that removals resulting from the Alien Transfer Exit Program (ATEP) should be counted as returns, and not removals. ATEP is jointly run by the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Through this program, persons who are apprehended crossing the border illegally are transported to a different port of entry and released back into Mexico. The point is to disrupt smuggling rings; the persons removed cannot (without a lot of effort) go back to the same smugglers to bring them back into the U.S.

Smith’s complaint, essentially, is that a different sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security should be getting credit for those particular removals. The overall numbers, however, don’t change. So, what’s the point? Rep. Smith and other immigration hardliners are fond of saying that this administration does not care about immigration enforcement. The problem they face is the data, which shows that this administration has presided over record deportation and border enforcement levels. By questioning ICE’s numbers, perhaps Rep. Smith is attempting to create some confusion as to whether the enforcement statistics are as robust as they seem. It’s not clear, however, that anyone is paying attention to this very esoteric argument over which sub-agency gets credit for sending people across the border.

Immigration Reform Integration & Citizenship Interior Enforcement States State&Local Enforcement

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