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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

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.

Obama Extends Liberian DED

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Thank you, Mr. President!

On Friday, President Obama extended Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for 12 months. This extension grants Liberians the temporary right to live and work in the United States.

Obama’s granting of Liberian DED is a welcome decision by immigrant and refugee rights groups.

Liberians were first given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1991 when Liberia was in the midst of a bloody civil war that was tearing the country apart. Liberian TPS was then extended each year until 2007, by which point the war had ended and democratic elections had taken place. President Bush, however, granted an 18-month extension (delayed enforced departure) due to the high unemployment rate and welfare circumstances in the country.

Bush’s extension was set to expire on March 31st.

Advocates have been pushing for another extension of Liberian DED because of the impact deportation would have on both communities in the United States and in Liberia. Many Liberians currently given status through DED have resided in the U.S. for nearly two decades. They own businesses, have families, and are an integral part of the communities in which they live. To deport Liberians now would rupture both families and local economies.

On the other side, Liberia still has an unemployment rate that soars at about 85% and many Liberians are dependent on remittances from family members in United States in order to survive.

Now, advocates will work to create a path to legal status for Liberians.

Thank you, Obama, for extending Liberian DED.

Obama Confirms His Commitment to Immigration Reform at Townhall Meeting

In legislation on March 20, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Yesterday, after meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to passing just and humane comprehensive immigration reform this year while speaking at a townhall meeting in Mesa County, California.

Check out the video:

Here’s the full text of President Obama’s Costa Mesa Town Hall meeting, from the LA Times blog:

THE PRESIDENT: I just met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today, which Congresswoman Sanchez is a member of — (applause) — to talk about this issue directly. As many of you know, during the campaign I was asked repeatedly about this, and I reiterated my belief that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, I know this is an emotional issue, I know it’s a controversial issue, I know that the people get real riled up politically about this, but — but ultimately, here’s what I believe: We are a nation of immigrants, number one.

Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three, that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers.

Since they can’t join a union, they can’t complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans. (Applause.)

So I don’t think that we can do this piecemeal. I think what we have to do is to come together and say, we’re going to strengthen our borders — and I’m going to be going to Mexico, I’m going to be working with President Calderón in Mexico to figure out how do we get control over the border that’s become more violent because of the drug trade.

We have to combine that with cracking down on employers who are exploiting undocumented workers. (Applause.) We have to make sure that there’s a verification system to find out whether somebody is legally able to work here or not. But we have to make sure that that verification system does not discriminate just because you’ve got a Hispanic last name or your last name is Obama. (Laughter.)

You’ve got to — and then you’ve got to say to the undocumented workers, you have to say, look, you’ve broken the law; you didn’t come here the way you were supposed to. So this is not going to be a free ride. It’s not going to be some instant amnesty. What’s going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. (Applause.)

You are going to — you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don’t get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally. (Applause.) But after you’ve done these things over a certain period of time you can earn your citizenship, so that it’s not — it’s not something that is guaranteed or automatic. You’ve got to earn it. But over time you give people an opportunity.

Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it.

So we’ve got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. (Applause.) That’s the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. All right. Okay. (Applause.)

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.”

Obama May Send National Guard to the Border

In enforcement, legislation on March 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Last week, President Obama began contemplating sending National Guard troops to the border to help stem drug-related border violence.

In 2008, the death toll along the US-Mexican border due to drug violence was 5,800. This year, 1000 people have already been killed.

Drug-related violence has escalated in recent years due to a rise of drug cartels and a militarized crackdown by the Mexican government. Some of this violence has “spilled over” onto U.S. soil, a fact which is not entirely surprising given that 90% of the cocaine consumed in the United States at some point passes through Mexico and 150,000 people are directly involved in the narcotics trade in order to meet US market demand.

However, from FCNL’s perspective, a further militarization of the border is not the answer to the growing problem of drug-related violence.

There are already over ten thousand Border Patrol agents working along the southern border and–after sending an additional 3,200 soldiers to the border last week–Mexico currently has over 45,000 Mexican soldiers working against the drug cartels.

The increase in military and police troops along the border has so far done little to nothing to stem the violence. In fact, the most recent State Department Human Rights Report cites that there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary civilian killings by the armed forces. A fact which, as the Huffington Post writes, “only adds to the horrors committed by the drug cartels.”

While Obama has specifically stated that he is “not interested in militarizing the border,” sending the National Guard to the border would be exactly that.

We believe that a civilian, not military, response would be the best way to deal with the current violence. And one positive thing is that it seems that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does too.

She’s heading to Mexico at the end of March to address the issue of drug violence and is carrying with her Leoluca Orlando’s model of empowering civil society to address cartels. As Orlando described it to Hillary when he brought down the mafia, his strategy is like a two-wheel Sicilian cart. One wheel is effective state, police, and judiciary system. The second wheel is civil society.

“If only one wheel rolls, the cart goes around in circles. For the cart to move forward both wheels need to spin at the same pace.”

Militarization has been tried before. More troops won’t bring more peace. We hope Obama will look to alternative approaches like the one that Secretary Clinton is suggesting.

See The Huffington Post’s article “Hillary Clinton and the Drug Cartel Violence in Mexico.”

Last Week: In Our Community

In community impact on March 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Immigration news and updates from Monday March 2 through Monday March 9.

Pelosi: End Raids Splitting Immigrant Families
On Saturday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined hundreds of families in the Mission District of San Francisco to call for an end to raids which tear apart families. To the crowd she said, “Taking parents from their children…that’s un-American.” She also called for comprehensive immigration reform as the solution to the broad immigration problems in the United States.

Revisions Could Prompt Arpaio’s ICE-Program Exit
After the Congressional hearing on the 287(g) program last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a statement saying that he would withdraw from the program if the federal government tried to implement oversight and regulations that would limit him to only arresting immigrants with serious criminal records. Arpaio has consistently been accused of using racial profiling as a means to identify undocumented immigrants, a frequent problem with the 287(g) program that regulations are meant to deter. Yet Arpaio states, “I like it [the program] the way it is now.”

U.S. Must Shield Its Child Citizens
Does the United States support intentionally orphaning the children of non-criminal immigrants? This article explores the fears and struggles of the some 3.1 million citizen children in the United States who have at least one undocumented parents. As the law stands now, judges to not have judicial discretion in cases where initiating removal proceedings would separate families or perhaps even orphan children. Immigrant families are then left with the choice to either bring their citizen children to a country where they will have fewer opportunities, or leave them in the care of the foster system. The Child Citizen Protection Act recently introduced to Congress would change this.

GAO Report- DHS: Organizational Structure, Spending, and Staffing for Health Care Provided to Immigrant Detainees
This GAO report examines the quality of health care provided to immigrants detained by the Department of Homeland Security. Overall, they found that the provision of health care was not uniform across all ICE facilities and there was a lack of data concerning organizational structure and oversight, spending, and staffing.

Who’s Running Immigration?
This NY Times editorial asks who is in charge of immigration under the current administration? Despite the fact that President Obama campaigned on comprehensive immigration reform and said that raids “terrorized” communities, a number of recent events have demonstrated that the new administration is so far maintaining the status quo as they prepare for immigration reform.

Many Immigrants Still Till the Land of Opportunity
This article tells the story of immigrants who make their living tending gardens in the United States. It provides an interesting perspective into the life of many immigrants in the United States.

Obama Officially Commits to Reform Defense Contracting

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Okay, so this is not exactly related to immigration, but I do work for the Quakers so I can’t help but celebrate just a wee-bit here too (and I do plan to bring it full circle by the end of the post…I promise).

Today, President Obama joined a bi-partisan group of Congresspersons dedicated to reforming defense contracting. He has officially committed to this cause and rejected the false choice between “securing this nation and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.”

According to a GAO report last year, cost overruns in major defense projects totaled $295 billion. That’s a lot of wasted money. But we over here at FCNL have been saying that for a long time, and we’ve been saying a lot more about military spending too.

But now–to bring this full circle after all and perhaps prove my obsession with immigration issues–I can’t help but wonder: Will Obama’s commitment to reform defense contracting also include no-bid contracts with defense companies and contracting abuse on projects regarding immigration like the southern border wall or immigrant detention centers?

Cocktails and Criticism: Deepak Bhargava Responds to the Bellingham Raid

In enforcement on February 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Yesterday, Deepak Bhargava wrote a moving response to the Bellingham raid on the Center for Community Change’s blog.

Bhargava wrote first of his opportunity to meet with President Obama last week during a cocktail reception for progressive leaders at the Whitehouse. He was pleased at that time with the response he received from Obama regarding comprehensive immigration reform.

Like most of us, however, he was disappointed when he received a call 10 pm on Tuesday night–just as Obama’s address to the nation was finishing–that the first worksite raid under the Obama administration had taken place.

And also like most of us, he was pleased by the quick response of Secretary Napolitano and the Whitehouse to call for an investigation of the raid and publicly state that such enforcement tactics are not the Obama administration’s immigration strategy.

What I would most like to point to you all, however, is the part of the blog where Bhargava asks “What lessons might we draw from this whole experience?”

He responds:

First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

I think these are important lessons for us all to consider as we move forward in our work for a more just and equitable society. The campaign is over and now it is time for us to create the change that we believe in.


More Posts on the Bellingham Raid

*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.