Blog & Updates
Policy Update for July 9, 2010
July 09, 2010 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
Congress will be returning from recess next week after the 4th of July week holiday. Since the last update, there have been no new policy developments from Congress. In fact, a recent headline in the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call proclaimed, "Senate is Legislative Graveyard" [subscription required]. Some enterprising Washington souls are even offering tours for tourists, pointing out the headstones of prominent pieces of legislation that have died this year. (OK, just kidding on that last bit.)
There have, however, been plenty of administrative developments.
Department of Justice Files Suit Against Arizona
On July 6th, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of Arizona's SB 1070 law. In a release explaining its actions, the Department asserted that the Arizona law "unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s authority to set and enforce immigration policy." While acknowledging that “Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration," the Attorney General noted that setting immigration policy is a federal responsibility. "[D]iverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety."
The Police Chiefs of Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona's largest cities, are supporting the Justice Department's lawsuit, asserting that the Arizona law will interfere with their responsibilities to keep their communities safe. Jack Harris, Chief of the Phoenix Police Department, said in his declaration that, once SB 1070 becomes law, he is "very concerned that victims and witnesses will be afraid to call police for fear of deportation."
The next step is for a judge to decide whether to issue a temporary injunction, in which case the law will be prevented from being implemented while the case is in the courts. It is now scheduled to take effect on July 29.
This Justice Department release contains links to the complaint and various declarations (including those of the law enforcement agents mentioned above) submitted in support of the lawsuit.
The Forum's statement on the lawsuit can be found here.
The Forum has a new resources page related to the Arizona law, with links to information regarding the law, reactions to it, boycotts, and other information and Web sites put up by colleague organizations. You can find it here.
President Delivers Speech, Meets with Advocates
Last week, the President gave an address on comprehensive immigration reform at American University here in Washington. In his speech, the President touched on our history of immigration and noted that "the politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter the country, and on what terms, has always been contentious." That contentiousness is made worse, "by the failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken system." He described how the system is broken, and what must be done to fix it including, for undocumented immigrants, creating "a pathway for legal status that is fair, reflective of our values, and works."
It is unlikely that the speech will rouse lawmakers to action. The President acknowledged that the immigration issue has been "used to divide and inflame" people, and that "the natural impulse among those who run for office is to turn away and defer this question for another day, or another year, or another administration." What the President did do, however (and he should do it more often) was to make an eloquent case for immigration reform. To the extent that the American people were listening, hearing the President describe how the problem can be solved is something that is much needed.
A few days before the speech, the President met with immigration advocates, who urged him to intervene to block the implementation of the Arizona law and to press Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. You can read more about that meeting in this release from Reform Immigration FOR America and in this "readout" from the White House.
On June 29, the President met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on comprehensive immigration reform. You can read more about that in this "readout" from the White House.
Napolitano touts accomplishments on border security, progress in application processing: DHS Secretary Napolitano has also been speaking on immigration and immigration reform. On June 23, she delivered some remarks and answered questions at an event organized by the Center on Strategic and International Studies in Washington, "Securing the Border: A Smarter Law Enforcement Approach." In her remarks, she reviewed the administration's efforts to increase border security. Read the remarks here. There was an accompanying fact sheet put out by DHS, "Fact Sheet: Southwest Border Next Steps."
On June 24th, Secretary Napolitano traveled to Denver to speak at the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). In her remarks, she reviewed administrative changes that have been made at USCIS to speed application processing and to increase opportunities for immigrants and others to get information from USCIS. She also spoke of reforms at ICE and of the administration's continued support for comprehensive immigration reform. A brief summary of what was covered in the Secretary's remarks can be found here.
On June 9, DHS Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton sent a memo to employees announcing a new reporting structure for the agency to align them around ICE's "two core operational responsibilities." Three new directorates have been established. Homeland Security Investigations, to be run by James Dinkins, will include the offices primarily concerned with criminal investigations. Enforcement and Removal Operations, to be headed by James Chaparro, will include the offices primarily concerned with civil immigration enforcement. There is also a Management and Administration directorate. In his memo, Morton said that the "realignment" does not eliminate any of ICE's existing offices; it just changes the reporting structure. For more details on the makeup of the new directorates, you can obtain the memo here.
Senator Robert Byrd Passes Away
Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, passed away on June 28. Byrd began his career in the Senate in 1958, and was the Senate's longest-serving member. As such he was the institutional memory of the Senate. For many years, he headed the Senate's Appropriations Committee and at the time of his death chaired the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Appropriation's Committee. West Virginia's governor, a Democrat, will appoint a replacement for Byrd. It is unclear how long the new Senator's term will be.
Fiscal Commission Gets Deficit-Cutting Idea: Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Earlier this year, the President set up the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to come up with ideas for balancing the federal budget. On June 30, the Commission met in a public forum to hear ideas from 90 organizations and individuals. Among the ideas delivered to the commission: the boost to the economy and resulting boost in tax revenues that would follow the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. There was testimony from our own Grisella Martinez, as well as testimony from a representative of the Immigration Policy Center, and from Marc Rosenblum of Migration Policy Institute.
Stephen Colbert Takes UFW Up on the Offer
On July 8, Arturo Rodriguez, President of the United Farm Workers appeared on Comedy Central's Colbert Report, to talk about UFW's campaign "Take Our Jobs," a Web site where Americans can sign up to be placed in an agricultural job. The Web site tests the idea that undocumented workers are stealing American jobs by offering those jobs to Americans. By the end of the interview, Colbert offers to be the fourth American to sign up so far. You can view the video here.