The Week Ahead: May 2-6

Communications Associate

May 2, 2016


“I’m a person who believes that for the undocumented, we have to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve mass deportation that involves people the opportunity to get right with the law, to come in and earn a legal status while we fix the rest of legal immigration … Look, my name is Ryan, I’m here because the potatoes stopped growing in Ireland.”

–        House Speaker Paul Ryan during a town hall with students at Georgetown University, April 27


In Indiana and Elsewhere, Calls for Better Immigration Conversation Continue
Ahead of Indiana’s primary Tuesday, local voices are continuing the national call for a rational conversation around immigration that acknowledges immigrant contributions and treats them with human dignity.

It’s not the first time leaders have spoken up in a state where immigrants’ importance is growing.

At last week’s event, leaders added their voices to a chorus that spans IowaNew Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, GeorgiaAlabamaTexasMichiganSouth Carolina, Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Utah, OhioArizona and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, a broad coalition of faith leaders, refugees, veterans, pastors, teachers and students testified against an anti-refugee bill before a House subcommittee, which voted unanimously in favor of an amendment that would weaken the bill.

Time and time again, local leaders are showing leadership on immigration. While presidential candidates continue to travel the country, they would do well to take notice of the different narrative emerging from the states they’re visiting.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:


ASSOCIATED PRESS: AP Exclusive: Migrant Children Kept From Enrolling in School
May 2, 2016
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Candelario Jimon Alonzo came to the U.S. dreaming of becoming something more than what seemed possible along the rutted roads of his hometown in Guatemala’s highlands. This was his chance: He could earn a U.S. high school education and eventually become a teacher.
Instead, the 16-year-old spends most days alone in the tumbledown Memphis house where he lives with his uncle, leaving only occasionally to play soccer and pick up what English he can from his friends.
Local school officials have kept Jimon out of the classroom since he tried to enroll in January. Attorneys say Jimon and at least a dozen other migrant youth fleeing violence in Central America have been blocked from going to Memphis high schools because officials contend the teens lacked transcripts or were too old to graduate on time.
The Associated Press has found that in at least 35 districts in 14 states, hundreds of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been discouraged from enrolling in schools or pressured into what advocates and attorneys argue are separate but unequal alternative programs — essentially an academic dead end, and one that can violate federal law.
Instead of enrolling Jimon and the other minors in high school, their cash-strapped district routed them to an adult school in East Memphis that offered English classes a few hours a week. But before Jimon could even register, the state shut the GED and English-language programs over concerns that few students were graduating, effectively ending his chances for a formal education.
“I really wanted to study math and English when I got here,” said Jimon, who grew up speaking Spanish and the indigenous language Quiche. The teen is in the process of applying for permission to stay in the country permanently.
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POST & COURIER (South Carolina): House members work to delay decision on refugee registry bill
By Maya T. Prabhu
April 28, 2016
COLUMBIA — Blocking a bill that would require refugees to register with the state is personal for a Columbia lawmaker who serves as a sponsor for the man who saved his life in Afghanistan.
“I will put up thousands and thousands of amendments to make sure this bill doesn’t pass the House before (the last day of session),” Democratic Rep. James Smith said Thursday.
Smith, who served in the S.C. Army National Guard, said his interpreter — whom he declined to identify out of security concerns — saved his life in Afghanistan by notifying him of radio chatter from Taliban members, who planned to ambush him.
It took five-and-a-half years for his interpreter’s refugee resettlement to be approved.
Smith said tracking and investigating people like his former interpreter, who often are fleeing war in their home countries and have committed no crimes, is offensive.
Smith was part of a panel Thursday who heard testimony from more than 20 people who spoke against the bill, most of them from the church community. No one spoke in favor of the legislation, which would place refugees who are resettled in South Carolina on a registry with the S.C. Department of Social Services and require they be tracked by the State Law Enforcement Division.
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NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Even For Those Here Legally, High Stakes And Few Protections In Immigration Court
By Caitlin Dickerson
April 30, 2016
This story is part of NPR’s podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.
Inside a Newton County, Ga., superior courtroom, Shawn stood before a judge ready to enter a guilty plea.
A year earlier, police had found him with 4 ounces of marijuana, two digital scales and plastic baggies at his family home near Atlanta. His lawyer negotiated the deal to avoid the 10-year sentence Shawn could face if his case went to trial.
During the 2012 hearing, the judge fired off 47 questions to Shawn in quick succession.
Number 38 was this: “And do you understand that this court … is not dealing with your immigration status, but that entering a guilty plea could affect your immigration status?”
Shawn says the question surprised him — to his memory, immigration had not come up before. But court transcripts show he told the judge, “yes.”
This kind of confusion is common, which is why judges and lawyers now are encouraged to use explicit language, such as, “you could be deported.”
Later in the hearing, Shawn’s lawyer appealed to the judge for a more lenient sentence for his client: “He’s married, his wife is here. … He works full-time, gainfully employed as a tree-cutter. … So I want to impress upon the court that he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and that he otherwise — you know, this incident hopefully doesn’t define his life.”
But that’s exactly what would happen.
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