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Tuesday Must Reads

May 20, 2008 - Posted by Mario Moreno

Looking at today’s clips, we came across a few stories that everyone should check out.  First up is the Los Angeles Times editorial on the recent revelations about immigrants in detention.  The Times editorial said, in part:

ICE maintains that few people actually die in detention centers, and that may be true, but it doesn’t account for people such as Castaneda, who die after leaving custody. And then, ICE isn’t exactly forthcoming on the subject. When Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) asked the agency for a list of the dead, it told her no. She obtained one from the New York Times. Lofgren has introduced HR 5950, the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act, a bill that would require Homeland Security to establish mandatory standards for basic healthcare in all detention centers. It also would require the department to report deaths to the inspectors general of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice within 48 hours….Mandating humanity shouldn’t be necessary, and Homeland Security could do this on its own, but it won’t, so this bill is needed. Our treatment of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, shouldn’t include watching them die. – “Immigrants detained to death,” Los Angeles Times editorial, May 20, 2008.

A response to the Washington Post and New York Times stories on immigrant and asylee deaths in detention by Julie Myers, assistant secretary of DHS for ICE, appeared in today’s Washington Post.

Must read number 2 (and 3) comes from the Houston Chronicle.  Local columnist Lisa Falkenberg calls our attention to a recent announcement from the Department of Homeland Security that in the case of an emergency evacuation for a natural disaster in Texas, the Border Patrol will use checkpoints to check the immigration status of every evacuee. 

Take a moment to recall the chaos.

The claustrophobic caravan of cars, trucks and SUVs creeping along a highway evacuation route-turned-prison with hundreds of thousands — by some estimates, millions — of men, women and children trapped in the steamy confines.

Recall the overheating engines, gas tanks bled dry, pumps tapped out. I’m still haunted by the image of one woman who carried the limp body of a toddler in her arms as she ran from car to car in search of water.

Now take those memories of the 2005 evacuation before Hurricane Rita and add another obstacle: a Border Patrol checkpoint at which each and every car would be stopped, drivers questioned, suspicious vehicles searched while those behind languish in the logjam.

That’s the plan, announced last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in the event of a hurricane evacuation of the Rio Grande Valley. – “Evacuation hurdles are a threat to all,” Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg, May 20, 2008.

Sometimes America’s enforcement zeal to deal with the reality that we do not have adequate legal immigration channels is silly, as when House Republicans attached an anti-illegal immigration rider to a Native American Housing Bill.  Sometimes it is just a huge overreach, as with the “No work list” addressed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial below.  This one sounds down right deadly.  Qué negocio!!  What craziness!!

Must read number 3 also comes from the Houston Chronicle, which ran a story today about a new Texas study that asks the question: “If we got rid of all immigrants in the country that are here illegally, what would be the damage to our economy?”  The answer, according to the Perryman Group, is that the economy would lose $1.8 trillion in annual spending.

These are just some of the findings from a study done by the Perryman Group, a Waco-based economic analysis firm, whose work was commissioned by Americans for Immigration Reform, a group spearheaded by the Greater Houston Partnership.

Houston’s business community is trying to revive the politically charged immigration reform debate that has stalled in Congress. It plans to raise $12 million by December to fund a campaign for reform and thus far it says it has raised about 10 percent of that goal in pledges.

The government has recently increased enforcement, with raids at work sites and plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But getting rid of all undocumented immigrants would hurt, not help the economy, Charles Foster, an immigration attorney and chairman of Americans for Immigration Reform, said Monday.

“If you do that, you would have serious economic upset,” Foster said.

He said immigration reform needs to give employers a method of hiring immigrants legally.

“We need comprehensive reform that looks at our needs and addresses those needs,” said Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman Group, which examined data for 500 sectors of the economy, Census Bureau surveys and other data to arrive at its conclusions. – “Price put at $1.8 trillion,” by Jenalia Moreno, Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2008.

Finally, we missed a gem of an editorial last week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which joined the chorus of those looking at various proposals to mandate national use of the experimental government database known as E-Verify and saying, like many Members of Congress, “Wait a second; It does what??!!??”

One House bill would expand nationwide a pilot program, E-Verify, having employers use the Social Security database to verify legal status. It supposes bringing more than 7 million employers online over four years, requiring a one-time verification of an estimated 160 million existing workers and all new hires at a rate of 50 million to 55 million a year.

Unfortunately, this bill also supposes that an agency currently underfunded, understaffed and trying to deal with a crushing backlog in claims is suddenly going to become an effective arm of immigration enforcement.

Three words: Not gonna happen. Not without exorbitant costs to the federal budget and not without undermining a Social Security Administration that is facing the retirement of 77 million Baby Boomers.

Oh yes, the database also has a reported error rate of 4.1% that will ensnare workers who are here legally. In all likelihood, businesses will cut these employees loose rather than patiently wait for resolution. – “Permission to work, sir,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, May 16, 2008.

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