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Posts Tagged ‘comprehensive immigration reform’

The Administration is Saying the Right Things and Promising to “Always Be Listening”

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Last night, President Obama appeared on “Premio Lo Nuestro,” a Latin music awards show, and thanked Latino voters for coming out to vote in November (even if they didn’t vote for him). He also encouraged Latinos to keep coming out and making their voices heard, promising that he would “always be listening.”

This appearance follows the President’s announcement last week that he is still committed to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform this year. We hope that this is only one of many such appearances (to both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences) that will help garner political support for CIR.

Check it out:

In other encouraging news from the administration, Dora Schriro–special advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano for ICE and Detention and Removal–wrote on the USA Today blog yesterday promising to carefully consider the Amnesty International report that was released yesterday decrying immigrant detention standards in the United States.

Schriro acknowledged the sense of urgency needed in her review of detention standards and detainee treatment and promised that she and Secretary Napolitano were committed to “measurable, sustainable progress.”

All good news from the administration. I hope I can keep saying that more and more as time goes by.

Hold Fast to DREAMs

In legislation on March 27, 2009 at 4:10 pm
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, S. 729/H.R. 1751) is back.

Today, a bipartisan group* of lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill which would offer undocumented children who grew up in the United States a path to legal status and eventual citizenship through pursuing higher education.

As Representative Roybal-Allard said in her remarks as she introduced the bill, “The Act’s premise is simple and just: Undocumented students deserve the same opportunities as the 2.8 million others who graduate from this country’s high schools every year. We cannot afford to waste our investments in these talented, motivated young people who are products of our schools and our communities…the millions of high school students who comprise the Class of 2009 are mere months away from graduation. Among them are thousands of kids who have the potential to become doctors, lawyers and even members of Congress but face insurmountable legal obstacles. We have a moral obligation to remove these impediments so that all of our young people can accomplish their goals.”

The DREAM Act, which by providing a path to citizenship through pursuing education works to mend a gaping hole in the United States immigrats’ and children’s rights, is only one fix to a much broader problem. At FCNL, we believe the education portion of the DREAM Act should be a critical component of comprehensive immgration reform and we hope to see Congress work with the Obama administration in the coming year to pass humane CIR.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
For when dreams die
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
~Langston Hughes

* On the Senate side, DREAM was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (IL), Richard Lugar (IN), Russell Feingold (WI), Edward Kennedy (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Joe Lieberman (CT), Mel Martinez (FL), and Harry Reid (NV).

On the House side, DREAM was introduced by Representatives Howard Berman (CA), Joseph Cao (LA), John Conyersr, Jr (MI), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Devin Nunez (CA), Jared Polis (CO), Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA).

Alex Talks Immigration on Peace and Politics’ Podcast

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Last week, I met with Caroline and Maggie here in our office to talk about immigration on the Peace and Politics (FCNL’s intern blog) podcast.

Immigration is an issue which FCNL has worked on for many years. Ruth, our legislative secretary, has been at meeting after meeting on the Hill with other faith and secular groups to lobby for comprehensive reform in the last three Congresses, which–trust me–have not always been the prettiest discussions. But immigration is also not an issue which has received the most prominent profile here at FCNL.

In this podcast, I talk about where FCNL is now in its work on immigration, both what we’re working towards and what “small-fix” stuff we’re doing in the meantime.

Check it out:

TAKE ACTION: Thank Rep. Pelosi for Supporting Immigration Reform, Ending Raids

In legislation on March 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a strong stance against immigration raids and for humane, comprehensive immigration reform. Standing with hundreds of families in San Francisco’s Mission District, Pelosi made it clear as she has not before that she will make immigration reform a priority in the House.

Please thank Nancy Pelosi for her statements about immigration reform. Urge her to continue to use her leadership role in the House to ensure that Congress passes just and humane comprehensive immigration reform this year. Without her support, Congress will likely be unable to pass a bill which prevents the separation of families, creates a path to legal status for undocumented workers, protects workers rights, and respects due process and human rights for all persons.

Already, people who oppose such immigration reform are criticizing her for her statements. Your words of support can help her continue to be a leader for comprehensive immigration reform.

Last Week: In Our Community (Mar. 16-23)

In community impact on March 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Immigration news and updates from Monday, March 16 through Monday, March 23.

Stop the Raids
In his blog “God’s Politics,” evangelical leader and activist Jim Wallis tells people that ending immigration raids is a matter of conscious.

End Immigration Raids, Cardinal Tells President
On Saturday, Cardinal Francis George called on President Barack Obama to end immigration raids and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. He said, “We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day.”

A Slippery Place in the U.S. Workforce
This article talks about the experiences of immigrants in Morristown, a small factory town in east TN, in light of the economic crisis. Covering the historical demographic changes of the area, to the anti-immigrants struggles spurred by ESL classes in the education system, to disparate access to career centers and additional job training, this article provides insight into how immigration can affect communities and the economy as a whole.

Martinez Heats Up Immigration Debate
Florida Senator Mel Martinez began heating up the debate over comprehensive immigration reform last week. A leading Republican voice for CIR, Martinez wants to get CIR done fast as he has plans to retire at the end of his term. He also seems to believe that other republicans have begun to see immigration as a human rights issue.

Immigration Agency Is Criticized Over Healthcare
After another death in immigration detention was reported last week, Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center have stepped up their critique of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) immigrant detention practices. The groups argue that deaths and other forms of substandard treatment are the result of “unskilled or indifferent staff, overcrowding, bureaucracy, language barriers and limited services available to detainees.”

The Competition for Low-Wage Jobs
This week the NY Times blog Room for Debate discusses how the current economic crisis affects both legal and undocumented immigrants. The blog brings together six differing perspectives, ranging from labor economists, anti-immigrant activists, migration policy experts, day laborer, and employment activists.

Ana’s Choice: Can Congress reform immigration law to make it more humane?
This article is a summary of larger piece published in the Winter 2009 issue of Ms. Magazine. It provides one of many feminist perspectives on immigration, focusing on family unity and a pathway to legal status.

Migrant Workers Sending Less Money to Latin America
This Wall Street Journal article discusses the decline in remittances being sent to Latin America due to the economic recession. Many Latin American countries depend on remittances sent from the U.S., Europe, and Japan and are likely to be hard-hit with this decline.

Cities and Counties Rely on U.S. Immigrant Detention Fees
These days, most local governments are having to cut their budgets. But many local law enforcement agencies have found a new source of income–immigrant detention. This article talks about how many South California jails are nearly able to pay for the entire cost of running their facility off of the income they make on housing immigrant detainees.

Follow-up: Obama and Hispanic Dems Meet to Talk Immigration

In legislation on March 20, 2009 at 7:58 pm

As a follow-up to my post this morning, I wanted to share with you all the Whitehouse press release on the meeting.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 18, 2009

Readout on the President’s Meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

The President had a robust and strategic meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today on the topic of immigration. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The President discussed how the administration will work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term. During the meeting, the President announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Calderon to discuss the deep and comprehensive US-Mexico relationship, including how the United States and Mexico can work together to support Mexico’s fight against drug-related violence and work toward effective, comprehensive immigration reform. Since their meeting in January, the President has repeatedly praised President Calderon for his extraordinary work to solve these challenges, which are important to communities and families on both sides of the border.

###

Quote from Rep. Gutierrez who attended the meeting:

“We came to the President today as allies and supporters, and in return he showed us that he remains committed to immigration reform that stabilizes our economy, secures our borders and keeps our families together,” said Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Chair of the CHC Immigration Task Force. “The President showed the CHC that, although it is very early in his administration, he understands that for the immigrant community it’s the 11th hour, and there is no time to waste. The Latino community supported President Obama overwhelmingly in the election, and they remain energized not only by his victory but also by his message of support for comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that a plan is forthcoming, and that we will see real change this year.”

To read more about the meeting, see the Boston Globe article “Obama Talks Immigration.”

Obama and Hispanic Dems Will Meet Today to Talk Immigration

In legislation on March 18, 2009 at 1:51 pm

This morning, Hispanic democrats will have their first meeting with President Obama since he came into office in January.

Immigration will be at the top of the agenda.

After the failure of immigration reform in the last two Congresses, as well as the upcoming midterm elections in 2010, Hispanic lawmakers are hoping to get a bill passed before members begin revving up their 2010 campaigns.

They’ve already started their own campaign to garner support by going on a 17-city listening tour of the country, gathering people’s stories about raids and family separation.

But they don’t plan to introduce any legislation until they talk to Obama and find out what the Whitehouse is thinking.

From what I’ve heard, the Obama administration is still planning to follow through with their campaign promise of getting comprehensive immigration reform in the first year. But I look forward to finding out more details on that after today’s meeting.

For more information, go to The Hill’s article “Obama, Hispanic Dems to Huddle on Immigration.”

Last Week: In Our Community

In community impact, enforcement on March 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Immigration news and updates from Monday February 23- Monday March 2.

Given that I’ve posted a number of updates on the Bellingham raid (to access these updates click here, here, here, or here), I’ll just include a list of news articles without annotations.

Bellingham Raid
Immigration Officials Raid Bellingham Plant
28 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Bellingham Raid
Obama Administration Conducts First Immigration Raid in Bellingham
Raid on Illegals Dismays Obama Backers

Officials, Advocates Question Immigration Raid
Bellingham Immigration Raid Raises Protests
Napolitano Orders Review of WA Raid

Concerns Arise Over Fast-Track Deportation Program
This article focuses on the federal government’s increasing practice of deporting immigrants without a hearing. Attorneys, advocates, and judges all have concerns about this practice because many immigrants are deported without knowing their rights or the future consequences of their deportation.

Obama Can’t Afford to Ignore Immigration
This International Herald Tribune article argues that even in the midst of recession, Obama can’t afford to set back immigration reform. The author argues that to come out of the recession, the U.S. needs to boost service, construction, and agricultural industries.

Haitians Look for Shift in Immigration Policy
Haitian immigrants are looking to the Obama administration for a reversal of the Bush administration’s resumed deportations to Haiti. After deadly mudslides and hurricanes hit Haiti last year, the Haitian government requested that the U.S. offer “temporary protected status” to Haitians living in the U.S. The Bush administration halted deportations while they reviewed the request, which they later denied. Many Haitians now fear being torn apart from their U.S. families. Protests against U.S. policy towards Haitians also took place last week.

Liberians in Limbo
Since they were granted temporary protected status (TPS) in 1991 after fleeing civil war, Liberian refugees have been making a life, and a community, in the United States. Now, eighteen years later, thousands of Liberian refugees are being forced to voluntarily leave the U.S. or face mass deportation on March 31. This article discusses the history and politics of the “TPS” category, which is in desparate need of reform.

U.S Immigration Policies Brings Global Shame on Us
This article discusses the global media attention–and shame–garnered by Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s tactics in handling immigration. Next to news articles abroad on President Obama’s speech before Congress were articles talking about the “inhumane,” “discriminatory,” and “humiliating” treatment of immigrant detainees in the United States.

ICE Program Shifts Immigration Costs, Abuses
“We can make a person disappear,” an ICE official said. This article discusses the problematic programs of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has extraordinary powers under civil immigration law.

Immigration Not Local Police Duty
This editorial discusses how the 287(g) program–a program which gives grant funds to local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws–does little to reduce crime, the program’s orginial selling point.

Other news articles:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee- ADC Requests DHS Civil Liberties Investigation of Operation Frontline

Atlanta Journal Constitution- Immigration Rally Focuses on Families

Immigration Impact- Obama Assures Mexican President He’s Committed to Immigration Reform

Associated Press- Calderon: US Should Fix Economy, Then Immigration

The Washington Post Magizine- A College Student Fights Deportation

Seattle PI- Washington Activists Fights Immigrant Detention Center

AP Texas News- Deported Infant Case Back in Court

San Francisco Chronicle- Court Takes Case on Rights of Immigrant Defendents

*UPDATE* While the President Addressed the Nation

In community impact, enforcement on February 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm

While testifying before Congress yesterday, Secretary Napolitano vowed that she would “get to the bottom” of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in Bellingham, Washington. As the Washington Times reported, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official stated that “the secretary is not happy and this is not her policy.”

In further developments, Whitehouse spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Washington Times that “these raids are not a long term solution.” I was also pleased to hear him say that “The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan.”

This is one of the first statements from the Whitehouse signaling that they plan to follow through with their campaign promise of pursuing comprehensive immigration reform during the first year in office.

It appears that Obama does still get it. But we need to make sure that his “getting it” turns into actual policy.

TAKE ACTION TODAY
Ask your Congressperson to contact President Obama and Secretary Napolitano and encourage them to stop the raids.

While the President Addressed the Nation

In community impact on February 25, 2009 at 5:32 pm
[POST UPDATED] For the latest update on the Bellingham raid, click HERE.

Last night President Obama addressed the joint chambers of Congress laying out his administration’s priorities for the next year. The entire speech focused on the economy, but emphasized energy, healthcare, and education as the top three areas of focus–all issues that I strongly support.

I was disappointed, however, that President Obama failed to mention immigration even once during his address.

I was even more disappointed that on a day when he calls for the U.S. to take responsibility for its future once more, for its people to join in rebuilding their country, the first worksite raid of the Obama administration took place in Bellingham, Washington.

In their usual militarized and heavy-handed fashion (including the helicopter), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided Yamato Engine Specialists arresting 28 undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

As it appears now, they are attempting to charge these individuals with identity fraud, which–unlike “unlawful presence” or “entry without inspection” –is a criminal offense. This is the same tactic ICE piloted in Postville, Iowa last summer, a tactic that’s legality is currently being reviewed by the U.S Supreme Court.

But the first worksite raid of the Obama administration is especially disappointing given that during the campaign last summer Obama said:

“When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working, and we need to change it.”

At that moment back in July, he seemed to get it. Yet the raid that took place yesterday was no different, three mothers with young children were among those arrested.

And I can’t say that Obama doesn’t get it now. As I posted last week, when he was on the radio show El Piolín por la mañana, Obama clearly spoke of the need for immigration reform precisely in light of the current state of the economy.

I think he does get it. But as his address to the nation last night showed, it is not currently a priority of the Obama administration. This is problematic for two reasons:

  1. Without reform, raids like that the one that took place yesterday in Bellingham will continue to terrorize our communities, tearing mothers from their children, separating families, placing hardworking members of our communities in detention centers with inadequate standards, and even placing further strain on local economies.
  2. By not prioritizing humane immigration reform, immigration will continue to be a divisive issue used to derail critical initiatives of the administration like healthcare and education.

As we’ve seen in congressional debates over SCHIP and the Recovery Act, immigration has been an issue which almost causes their failure. What will happen in a debate over universal healthcare if we have not already rectified the status of undocumented immigratants? What about education when hardline anti-immigrant advocates say they don’t want money going to schools if it will fund ESL programs?

How will we move forward in what is best for our country without finding a way to include and recognize core members of our communities?

I wish Obama would answer that. Even President Bush left the Whitehouse saying one of his biggest regrets was that he did not push for immigration reform first, before social security reform. I don’t want the Obama administration to leave with such regrets. I want change.

But I can say that I am left hopeful by the continued and growing efforts of communities around the country to speak out on the issue of immigration. As we saw last week, over 150 communities nationwide held prayer vigils calling for Congress to act on humane immigration reform. And in April, another national grassroots effort will take place in the form of “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” in-district visits with Congresspeople.

May theirs be the winds of change that move us forward.