Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mañana for Immigration Reform

Jeffrey Kaye
Journalist and author
Posted: January 29, 2010 10:06 PM

A long-promised, bi-partisan U.S. Senate bill aimed at comprehensive immigration reform will be delayed until at least March, according to a lobbyist involved in negotiations over the content of the legislation. "The timeline originally was to have a bill by February," said Sonia Ramirez, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO. "Now I think they're shooting at having a detailed outline of the direction they'd like to go in the bill by the end of February." Once the outline is agreed on, she explained, lawyers will draft the text.

The on-again, off again timetable has disappointed immigration reform advocates. Sen. Charles. E. Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, who has been working on an immigration bill with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, indicated during the summer that legislation would be introduced last year "I think we'll have a good bill by Labor Day," Schumer, told the Associated Press last July. But it never materialized.

Before and after the presidential election, Barack Obama also promised that he would move on immigration reform. But a one sentence mention of the subject towards the end of his state of the union speech on Wednesday seemed more like an obligatory item on a to-do list than a rousing call to action: "And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system," said the President, "to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation." End of subject.

The following day at a press conference, when a reporter asked Schumer about plans for immigration reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) jumped in with instructions for the New York Senator: "Chuck, let's not get into any deadlines," he cautioned. ""You get into trouble by setting deadlines. It is something we're committed to do. And we'll do it as soon as we can." Schumer was obligingly vague about his plans. "We are making good progress," he said, explaining that he was having difficulty enlisting support from Republican ranks. "Now, I've said all along, even before last Tuesday with the Massachusetts election, that we have to have this bill be a bipartisan bill, two Democrats, two Republicans to introduce it. We're not there yet. We're still working on getting our Republicans." Schumer announced that he had met with former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs, whom he said, without elaboration "is changing his views on immigration." It was unclear what contribution, if any, Dobbs would make to the immigration debate.

The AFL-CIO's Ramirez indicated that she and other labor leaders are trying to reach a compromise with business representatives on a complicated section of the bill that would set guidelines to regulate the use of migrant workers on either a temporary or permanent basis. Labor organizations have supported a plan for a new Presidential commission to help establish criteria and calculate labor needs. Business groups have said that they would not accept a commission that could be politicized and not suitably responsive to "market forces." This issue may seem esoteric, but as legislative efforts to enact immigration reform move haltingly along, the ability of labor and business to agree on the fundamentals of migrant worker programs could make the difference between a viable bill and yet another failed effort to fix the broken system. The recently-introduced House immigration bill advocated most forcefully by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and championed by many reform advocates is widely seen as basically dead on arrival because of criticisms from the right that it is too migrant friendly.

Labor's Ramirez suggested that the commission proposal would not be a deal breaker. "In terms of creating a system--let's put the word 'commission' aside--that contemplates economic need and makes decisions on visas based on demonstrated need, that's attractive to us both [business and labor]. So I think there is lots of agreement on how to move forward." Ramirez said that labor would want to insist that migrant workers involved in "future flows" be assured worker protections and rights. Labor is also pushing to make sure that recruiters who bring in foreign workers are better regulated. But she made it clear that the commission idea was more of a subject for negotiation than a key demand. "It's about crafting a system," she said, "not calling it a 'commission.'"

Time is not on the side of immigration reformers. As the 2010 midterm elections approach, politicians on the fence are likely to be seen as loathe to embrace such a controversial issue. One influential senator, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has suggested a more wary piecemeal approach to immigration reform, rather than one big package. Breaking off chunks and dealing separately with the contentious issues of legalization, enforcement, and "future flows" of migrants may seem like a pragmatic short term approach to immigration but is likely to result in once again postponing the issue. And, if it's not going to be dealt with in 2010, it's almost certain to be ignored later on as politicos prepare for the 2012 presidential election year.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-kaye/maana-for-immigration-ref_b_442829.html

Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 census boycott and immigration reform

Immigration reform is critical but what are we willing to risk? Rivera suggests that undocumented immigrants boycott the 2010 census. Does a boycott hurt the community in the short term or long term? I am not sure how the loss of federal funds will impact the community in totality but loss of resources means loss of services. Boycotts have been successful in our country's past but is this the answer for undocumented immigrants -Courtney

Miguel Rivera is a polarizing figure. To some he is a brave and resourceful fighter for undocumented immigrants. To others he is a misguided figure who could cause the loss of billions of federal dollars to Latino neighborhoods that need it most. His idea is simple: boycott the 2010 Census. The goal is to put enough pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform by April 1, 2010, the deadline to turn in census forms.

http://beta.newamericamedia.org/2009/09/census-boycott-divides-immigrants.php

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Observe and Deport

Observe and Deport

BY ANDREW BECKER | MOTHERJONES.COM | APRIL 23, 2009

Salvador Rivera was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1979. At age 18, as he faced several arrest warrants, he adopted an alias and obtained a Mexican birth certificate. The ruse worked: When he was arrested by a Border Patrol agent in January 1998, Rivera assumed his false identity and was voluntarily deported to Mexico. Within days, he returned to the United States, reentering the country legally as a citizen.

A couple of years later, Rivera was convicted of drug possession and served a short jail sentence. Shortly after his release, the Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested him at a meeting with his parole officer. This time, Rivera asserted his American citizenship. Even after reviewing his original birth certificate and other documentation, an immigration judge denied his claim. The Immigration and Naturalization Service deported Rivera to Mexico in February 2001.

For the next few years, Rivera lived in Juarez, just across the border from El Paso. Back in the states, his family found an attorney to represent him and his case eventually made it to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. After a couple more years of legal wrangling, the federal government conceded that Rivera was in fact a citizen. In 2006, he was repatriated to the United States and the government agreed to pay $115,000 to cover his legal expenses. Writing for the majority, circuit court Judge Warren J. Ferguson acknowledged that Rivera "is no model citizen." However, he wrote, Rivera's criminal record and earlier attempt to conceal his citizenship could not alter the fact that as a United States citizen, he could not be deported.

As unusual as Rivera's odyssey may be, his case is also striking proof of what can go wrong when an American citizen gets caught up in the bureaucracy of the federal immigration system. And Rivera is not alone. As efforts to find, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants have ramped up (a record 350,000 people were deported last year), hundreds of American citizens have been at risk of joining the ranks of the deported. The immigration service insists it does not expel American citizens from the country. Yet tales like Rivera’s suggest that has done so more than it acknowledges.

Last year, the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonpartisan research group, found 278 people in 13 immigration detention centers around the country who said they would claim US citizenship to fight deportation. The study was conducted on behalf of the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the nation's 57 immigration courts, where removal, or deportation, proceedings are heard. Previously, the institute found 322 detainees with citizenship claims in 2007, and another 129 at six detention sites in 2006.

It is not uncommon for immigration detainees to make false claims of citizenship, and the Vera Institute and Department of Justice have not verified whether any of these 700 potential citizenship claims were valid. But Jacqueline Stevens, a political scientist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, says she has documented more than 160 cases of American citizens who have been detained or deported in recent years. "I've been stunned that the detentions and deportations have not caused more public outrage," she says. Few people care about the issue beyond civil rights advocates, she notes. She also speculates that "immigrant rights folks for good reasons don't want to pit citizens against noncitizens. They don't want to claim that US citizens have more rights than [noncitizens]."

In a recent Los Angeles Times story coreported and written by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), ICE maintained it does not detain or deport US citizens. (The INS became ICE in 2003 with the formation of the Department of Homeland Security.) Agency spokesman Richard Rocha said that immigration detainees face removal only if no evidence is presented to prove that they cannot be deported. At a 2008 congressional hearing on the issue of citizen deportations, another ICE official testified that the bureau "immediately releases individuals who are US citizens or who may have legitimate claims to derivative US citizenship." Jim Hayes, ICE's director of detention and removal, recently told the Associated Press that he was aware of only 10 cases of Americans detained on suspicion of being in the country illegally over the past five years. Citing privacy concerns, Hayes declined to elaborate on individual cases.

In internal memos obtained by CIR, Hayes wrote last year that immigration officers may make warrantless arrests of people who claim to be citizens or are unsure of their citizenship status only if the officers have reason to believe that they are in the country illegally. In her research, Stevens says, she has found that ICE screens jail and prison inmates by ethnic or racial background, singling out people of Hispanic descent for interviews or detention. The agency strongly denies that it targets suspected noncitizens based on their names or ethnicity. "Racial profiling is absolutely not tolerated, and we investigate any allegations of racial profiling aggressively and thoroughly," says Rocha. Officially, immigration officers initially assess whether someone may be a legal resident based on their personal documents, or lack of them.

As most Americans don't carry around passports or birth certificates, citizens who are caught up in immigration sweeps or imprisoned for other reasons may find it difficult to confirm their status. Verifying citizenship can be surprisingly difficult for immigration officials as well. The federal government does not have a database of citizens for officials to reference. Additionally, immigration lawyers note that some immigration officers who handle citizenship cases lack training or adequate knowledge of the law. Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who teaches at West Point, says that confirming someone's citizenship can be so complicated that asking deportation officers and other immigration officials to make such determinations is like "appointing someone to be a tax judge who has never filed a tax return."

ICE is not required to track when it arrests, detains, or deports citizens. Regardless, Americans should never be detained and deported, says Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chaired last year's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee's immigration and citizenship subcommittee. "There's no jurisdiction for the government to arrest or detain, or let alone deport, citizens. That's otherwise known as kidnapping," she says. Lofgren is still awaiting a detailed response from ICE on why or how the detention or deportation of citizens happens, but she says she believes the issue is on the Obama administration's radar. (Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano has signaled that ICE will shift its focus toward targeting employers who hire workers who are in the country illegally.)

The number of detained or deported citizens is relatively small compared to the number of immigrants deported in the past few years, but some of the cases have been particularly egregious. In March 2006, Ricardo Martinez, a resident of Mercedes, Texas, visited his dying grandmother in Mexico. When he tried to come back into the US in Laredo, Texas, a Customs and Border Protection officer suspected his passport was fraudulent, detained him, and handcuffed him to a chair, according to Martinez's attorney, Lisa Brodyaga. The officer also threatened him with eight months in prison if he would not admit he was Mexican. Afraid of the threat, Martinez, who was born in Texas, but spent most of his youth in Mexico and doesn't speak or read English, signed a paper claiming Mexican citizenship. He was sent back to Mexico, where he stayed for nearly two years. Martinez filed a civil lawsuit in 2008 seeking damages and a federal district judge to reaffirm his citizenship. He is back in the United States, but his case is pending.

Rennison Vern Castillo spent more than seven months in a Seattle-area immigration lockup in 2005 and 2006 after serving an eight-month jail term for harassing an ex-girlfriend. Though Castillo insisted that he was a citizen, an immigration judge ordered his deportation. He was released after an appeals board noted his military service and it was discovered that his name had been misspelled on immigration records.

Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, which is representing Castillo in a civil suit against ICE, says that last year his office found about a dozen people in immigration lockups whose citizenship claims proved to be valid. He suspects that there may be additional citizens who get deported because they don't have legal assistance, don't fight their cases, or don't realize that they actually are citizens. Immigration detainees have no right to an attorney, which Adams sees as a fundamental flaw that was compounded by the Bush administration's push to step up the rate of deportations. As a result, he says, ICE has locked up whomever it can get its hands on, infringing on the rights of citizens. "This is a classic example of where the government doesn't take seriously the almost sacred responsibility they have in not depriving people of their liberty," says Adams.

Read the story on motherjones.com.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Robert Jensen: How the Media Has Failed Us on Haiti

Over the weekend I attended a film screening of Aristide and the Endless Revolution, hosted by the Austin-based Third Coast Activist Resource Center and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. I would recommend seeing this film to those of you who are interested in knowing more about Haiti's history as well as the role the U.S. has played in Haiti over the years, particularly in the 2004 coup that ousted Aristide.

Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at UT, hosted a discussion following the film. There's video footage from the discussion that I will try to link to later if it's made public for whomever is interested. Jensen recently wrote this piece about Haiti and the media, which I think ties nicely to what Dr. Valenzuela posted below regarding Univision and the role the media plays in the (one-sided) perceptions we form as a result of news coverage.

Also: Ansel Herz, a former UT journalism student, runs a blog called Mediahacker and he's been in Haiti since September 2009 with the purpose of advancing media justice. He posts great videos and information about the present conditions in Haiti.

-Rocío

Update: Footage of the discussion can be found here.


Great television/bad journalism:
Media failures in Haiti coverage


By Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog / January 25, 2010

CNN’s star anchor Anderson Cooper narrates a chaotic street scene in Port-au-Prince. A boy is struck in the head by a rock thrown by a looter from a roof. Cooper helps him to the side of the road, and then realizes the boy is disoriented and unable to get away. Laying down his digital camera (but still being filmed by another CNN camera), Cooper picks up the boy and lifts him over a barricade to safety, we hope.

“We don’t know what happened to that little boy,” Cooper says in his report. “All we know now is, there’s blood in the streets.” (View video below or go here.)

This is great television, but it’s not great journalism. In fact, it’s irresponsible journalism.

Cooper goes on to point out there is no widespread looting in the city and that the violence in the scene that viewers have just witnessed appears to be idiosyncratic. The obvious question: If it’s not representative of what’s happening, why did CNN put it on the air? Given that Haitians generally have been organizing themselves into neighborhood committees to take care of each other in the absence a functioning central government, isn’t that violent scene an isolated incident that distorts the larger reality?

Cooper tries to rescue the piece by pointing out that while such violence is not common, if it were to become common, well, that would be bad -- “it is a fear of what might come.” But people are more likely to remember the dramatic images than his fumbling attempt to put the images in context.

Unfortunately, CNN and Cooper’s combination of great TV and bad journalism are not idiosyncratic; television news routinely falls into the trap of emphasizing visually compelling and dramatic stories at the expense of important information that is crucial but more complex.

The absence of crucial historical and political context describes the print coverage as well; the facts, analysis, and opinion that U.S. citizens need to understand these events are rarely provided. For example, in the past week we’ve heard journalists repeat endlessly the observation that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Did it ever occur to editors to assign reporters to ask why?

The immediate suffering in Haiti is the result of a natural disaster, but that suffering is compounded by political disasters of the past two centuries, and considerable responsibility for those disasters lies not only with Haitian elites but also with U.S. policymakers.

Journalists have noted that a slave revolt led to the founding of an independent Haiti in 1804 and have made passing reference to how France’s subsequent demand for “reparations” (to compensate the French for their lost property, the slaves) crippled Haiti economically for more than a century.

Some journalists have even pointed out that while it was a slave society, the United States backed France in that cruel policy and didn’t recognize Haitian independence until the Civil War. Occasional references also have been made to the 1915 U.S. invasion under the “liberal” Woodrow Wilson and an occupation that lasted until 1934, and to the support the U.S. government gave to the two brutal Duvalier dictatorships (the infamous “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc”) that ravaged the country from 1957-86.

But there’s little discussion of how the problems of contemporary Haiti can be traced to those policies.

Even more glaring is the absence of discussion of more recent Haiti-U.S. relations, especially U.S. support for the two coups (1991 and 2004) against a democratically elected president. Jean-Bertrand Aristide won a stunning victory in 1990 by articulating the aspirations of Haiti’s poorest citizens, and his populist economic program irritated both Haitian elites and U.S. policy-makers.

The first Bush administration nominally condemned the 1991 military coup but gave tacit support to the generals. President Clinton eventually helped Artistide return to power in Haiti in 1994, but not until the Haitian leader had been forced to capitulate to business-friendly economic policies demanded by the United States. When Aristide won another election in 2000 and continued to advocate for ordinary Haitians, the second Bush administration blocked crucial loans to his government and supported the violent reactionary forces attacking Aristide’s party.

The sad conclusion to that policy came in 2004, when the U.S. military effectively kidnapped Aristide and flew him out of the country. Aristide today lives in South Africa, blocked by the United States from returning to his country, where he still has many supporters and could help with relief efforts.

How many people watching Cooper’s mass-mediated heroism on CNN know that U.S. policy makers have actively undermined Haitian democracy and opposed that country’s most successful grassroots political movement? During the first days of coverage of the earthquake, it’s understandable that news organizations focused on the immediate crisis. But more than a week later, what excuse do journalists have?

Shouldn’t TV pundits demand that the United States accept responsibility for our contribution to this state of affairs? As politicians express concern about Haitian poverty and bemoan the lack of a competent Haitian government to mobilize during the disaster, shouldn’t journalists ask why they have not supported the Haitian people in the past? When Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are appointed to head up the humanitarian effort, should not journalists ask the obvious, if impolite, questions about those former presidents’ contributions to Haitian suffering?

When mainstream journalists dare to mention this political history, they tend to scrub clean the uglier aspects of U.S. policy, absolving U.S. policymakers of responsibility in “the star-crossed relationship” between the two nations, as a Washington Post reporter put it.

When news reporters explain away Haiti’s problems as a result of some kind of intrinsic “political dysfunction,” as the Post reporter termed it, then readers are more likely to accept the overtly reactionary arguments of op/ed writers who blame Haiti’s problems of its “poverty culture” (Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times) or “progress-resistant cultural influences” rooted in voodoo (David Brooks, New York Times).

One can learn more by monitoring the independent media in the United States ("Democracy Now!," for example, has done extensive reporting, ) or reading the foreign press (such as this political analysis by Peter Hallward in the British daily The Guardian). When will journalists in the U.S. corporate commercial media provide the same kind of honest accounting?

The news media, of course, have a right to make their own choices about what to cover. But we citizens have a right to expect more.





[Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009). Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at Source and on The Rag Blog.]

Haiti: Race, Colonialism, and Univision

Krikorian's comments on Haiti are incredibly offensive. Here's his actual quote:

"My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough…But, unlike Jamaicans and Bajans and Guadeloupeans, et al., after experiencing the worst of tropical colonial slavery, the Haitians didn’t stick around long enough to benefit from it. (Haiti became independent in 1804.). And by benefit I mean develop a local culture significantly shaped by the more-advanced civilization of the colonizers."



-Angela

Haiti: Race, Colonialism, and Univision
By Maegan la Mamita Mala
Vivirlatino Blog (January 25, 2010)


I watched pedazos of the Unidos Por Haiti telethon on Univision on Saturday night. According to Don Francisco, who hosted the event as part of his usual Sabado Gigante time slot, the event raised $50 million. While stars like Thalia, Alejandro Sanz, and Ricky Martin sang their hearts out, images of the aftermath of the earthquake played on a screen behind them. That screen was where most of the black faces were seen as Univision couldn't find one Afro-Latino to perform. While a lack of black faces is nothing new for Univision or for Spanish language television in general, the use of Haiti's faces and "races" if you will, demonstrates the huge issues that Latin America and Latinos still have with race.

Black and Latino are seen as mutually exclusive and are presented in one of two ways. If you watch the faux news shows like Primer Impacto and even the real news shows, Haiti is shown as violent and out of control with little historical or actual context. My mother, saturated herself with the coverage asked me why there wasn't more military intervention/control. Our own la Macha explored some of the issues with this, and I would add that the perception of the media, English and Spanish language is that Haiti wasn't colonized enough, meaning it wasn't made "white" enough. All people need to do, according to the Spanish language coverage is look to the other side of Hispaniola, to the Dominican Republic, where even Sammy Sosa has learned that whiter and righter and great pains are taken to separate the Dominican from the Haitian, the "white" from the "black" even though as I told my friend the other night there is only one letter difference between "rara" and "gaga", an Afro-Caribbean musical and religious tradition.

When the Haitians aren't criminalized on the Spanish networks, they are infantilized, also in racist and stereotypical ways. Take recent comments from the hate group masked as legitimate organization, The Center for Immigration Studies.

CIS Fellow David North has attacked the idea of waiving TPS fees for Haitian "illegals" who are probably struggling to send every extra penny they have back home right now. Last week North suggested that Haitian refugees would be best culturally absorbed by other Caribbean countries and any refugees accepted by the U.S. should be directed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which according to North, "have never lifted a finger to help America to resettle refugees."...Today, Krikorian is arguing against the U.S. taking in more refugees because "there are many countries poorer and more screwed-up than Haiti," despite the fact that he is generally opposed to accepting any refugees from even the most "screwed-up" countries. However, Krikorian hit a new intellectual low yesterday when he suggested that the reason Haiti is "so screwed up" (though apparently not screwed up enough), is because it's home to a "progress-resistant culture" that simply "wasn't colonized long enough".


Yes, that's exactly it. They needed to be broken down more, taught their place. Why does this remind me so much of what Pat Robertson said immediately following the quake.

And finally when the media isn't infantilizing the Haitian people, we return to Univision who resorts to "mammy"'ing Hatians. la doctora Nancy Alvarez of the show, Quien Tiene la Razon, where she refers to sex as "chaca chaca" (yes, I have seen the show), actually said that she felt a special connection to Haiti because her 'nana' (read nanny) was Haitian. Cuz well you know having a Haitian caregiver, a black woman taking care of you, a light skinned Latin American woman parents were privileged enough to afford a nanny is exactly like living her life or like the lives of so many of the Haitian people now.

Someone responded to a tweet VivirLatino posted saying that stereotypes are the least of Haiti's problems now and here is why I disagree : alot of the necessary outpouring of help being given to Haiti now has been given with no real context or sense of who Haiti is, who it's people are and why shit was so fucked to begin with. While watching the Univision telethon I heard Don Francisco say at least half a dozen times how "forgotten" Haiti was. This to me is like saying Columbus fucking "discovered" America. Haiti is not some mythical place that suddenly appeared in the Caribbean as the result of violent seismic shift. It has been for thousands of years, evolving, growing, surviving and beyond surviving over there and here, wherever your here is. If you never saw it before, you weren't paying attention.

VivirLatino is a daily publication published by 2 Mujeres Media, dedicated to featuring all the latest politics, culture, entertainment of interest to the diverse and influential Latino and Latina community in the U.S. They can be contacted at info@vivirlatino.com.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Public Continues to Back Comprehensive Immigration Reform

January 22, 2010
Public Continues to Back Comprehensive Immigration Reform
by Ruy Teixeira


There’s no doubt the politics of immigration reform are very complicated and that getting a bill through Congress will not be easy. But it’s important to be clear that the public is quite supportive of immigration reform, especially reform that is comprehensive and does not simply focus on punitive measures. This has been true of the public for some time and a new Benenson Strategy Group poll for America’s Voice demonstrates that it is still true today.

In the new poll, voters were asked about several aspects of comprehensive immigration reform. Perhaps not surprisingly, 89 percent supported increasing security on the U.S.-Mexico border and an identical number supported cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. But nearly as many—87 percent—also supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, provided they registered with the government and met requirements like working, paying taxes, and learning English.

Viewpoint: Reasons for the DREAM Act

Viewpoint: Reasons for the DREAM Act
By Jillian Sheridan


Daily Texan Editorial Board


Published: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Updated: Thursday, September 24, 2009
Yesterday, students here and across the nation rallied in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a federal measure that would afford undocumented students in the U.S. a path to citizenship. If passed, the act will benefit undocumented students who have graduated from high school or received a GED, lived in the U.S. at least five years, entered the country before the age of 16, compiled no criminal record and demonstrated “good moral character.”

Under the DREAM Act, youths who meet these requirements would be granted conditional permanent residency, an already existing form of legal residency that would allow them to legally drive, work and have access to federal aid.
Conditional permanent residency is re-evaluated after six years, and during the six years, students would be required to obtain a minimum of a two-year college degree or complete two years of military service. At the end of the six years, their cases would be reviewed, and — if they completed the college or military requirements without a criminal record — they would be granted lawful permanent residency. They would then be eligible to pursue U.S. citizenship.

Undocumented youths in America currently have no means by which they can work toward U.S. citizenship. Those moved to the U.S. by their parents before the age of 16 are left to choose between a life of constant fear of government attention and returning to a country they hardly know in order to undergo a lengthy and tedious application for legal admittance to the U.S., which can be denied.

Members of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national nonprofit organization that aims to improve border security, denounce the DREAM Act as “amnesty for illegal aliens.” They claim the act would provide an incentive for additional undocumented immigrants to enter the U.S.

This rationale is inane. The numerous undocumented aliens who have entered the U.S. in the past have not done so out of anticipation of their children one day finding success under the DREAM Act, nor will the many underprivileged and persecuted people who will seek entrance to our country need it as an incentive tomorrow.

The act simply allows those who were brought here without a choice, have lived here, been brought up through our education system and have proven themselves to be decent citizens an opportunity to work toward becoming official contributors to our society as educated citizens or members of the military.

Texas, especially, has much to gain through the DREAM Act. With a large population of undocumented immigrants, Texas will benefit from an influx of degree-holding citizens able to legally enter the workforce.

There is no reason to deny those whose only crime was being carried across the border a route to the full benefits this country offers. Congress would be wise to provide this reasonable path for them to find their way out of America’s shadows and afford them the benefits and responsibilities of full citizenship.

Corporate Responsibility

Reading the Opening Veins text, particularly regarding the economics of countries such as Haiti, makes me think about the corporate citizenship and responsibility in the world today. As the U.S. is a leader in many products, the author makes some interesting points regarding what a penny less for the sale of a product like sugar can do to an invested country, or what a country like the U.S. can do to those same economies when selling surpluses. World economics is fascinating to me, and I can see how the quest for the almighty dollar (or other forms of currency) can blind companies, or those who make the financial decisions. The lack of knowledge of what these decisions can actually do for the future of a country who is teetering on the edge of financial success or ruin is so great. I wish we taught more corporate citizenship at the university.




Hispanics in the crosshairs

Opinion
Hispanics in the crosshairs
By William C. Kashatus
Philadelphia Inquirer (January 25, 2010)

On July 12, 2008, six white teenagers confronted Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, a 25-year-old father of three and an illegal immigrant from Mexico, in an alley in Shenandoah, Pa. Screaming racial slurs at him, the teens viciously kicked and beat him. He died in intensive care two days later.

Two of the six assailants - 17-year-old Brandon Piekarsky and 18-year-old Derrick Donchak - were acquitted of the most serious charges by a Schuylkill County jury, but they were charged with federal hate crimes last month. They could receive life in prison if convicted.

What makes the Shenandoah case even more disturbing is that three of the borough's police officers have been charged with obstructing the investigation into Ramirez's death. Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes are accused of helping the defendants dispose of crucial evidence, including the shoes used to deliver the final, fatal kick to Ramirez's head.

The Shenandoah case is not an isolated incident. It's part of a frightening national pattern of anti-Latino hate crimes in the United States, which has paralleled growing resentment of illegal immigrants. Hate crimes against Latinos have surged 40 percent nationwide since 2003, according to recent FBI statistics. (The statistics are thought to undercount total hate crimes, but nevertheless indicate real trends.)

Of the 1,347 victims attacked in this country because of their ethnicity or national origin in 2008, 62 percent were Hispanic. Though the most common offense was intimidation, there were at least nine murders and nonnegligent manslaughters. And convictions were rare.

Many of the hate crimes take place in towns like Shenandoah, where there has been a significant increase in the Latino population over the last decade, and where Hispanics are competing with white workers for jobs in a struggling economy.

Some of the towns are famous for having adopted harsh anti-immigrant ordinances. Hazleton, Pa., for example, approved an ordinance in 2006 making it illegal for individuals and businesses to aid undocumented workers, punishing landlords who rent or lease to them, suspending the licenses of businesses that hire them, and making English the city's official language. Similar measures targeting Hispanics have been passed in Riverside, N.J.; Palm Bay, Fla.; and San Bernardino, Calif. The measures echo the community-driven Repatriation Movement of the 1930s, which forced Mexicans to return to their native country.

Other towns have been hotbeds of white supremacist activity. Hemet, Calif., for example, was the scene of a vicious hate crime in November, when four reputed white supremacist gang members knocked a Latino man unconscious and then repeatedly stomped on him and kicked him in the head. The victim suffered permanent brain damage and has been placed in a long-term-care facility.

The same month, in Patchogue, N.Y., seven teens, six of them white, decided to "go fight a Mexican." They ended up attacking an Ecuadorean immigrant, who died of a fatal stab wound.

According to investigators, both attacks were random, unprovoked, and motivated purely by racial hatred.

Still other American towns have struggled with cases of racial intimidation. In Avon Park, Fla., Jose Gonzales, a U.S. citizen and mechanic, had his car and garage destroyed by an arsonist who spray-painted "F- Puerto Rico" on his house in September 2007. The first documented anti-Latino attack of 2009 occurred on New Year's Day, when a Vallejo, Calif., motorist was arrested for gunning his vehicle toward a crowd of Latino day laborers.

Latinos are inevitably the most convenient targets for such hate crimes. Illegal immigration is still a hot-button issue, and many of the most fervent immigration opponents are either unable or unwilling to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

Underlying this disturbing trend is the reality that the white establishment that once dominated education, business, and politics in this country is in decline. Latinos, meanwhile, are the fastest-growing segment of the population.

Instead of resenting Latinos, the white mainstream must learn to share power with them and other minority groups. It's the only way we can move forward as a nation and capitalize on the social, economic, and political benefits of our diversity.


WILLIAM C. KASHATUS is a professional historian and educator who holds a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Kashatus has written for the New York Times, Philadelphia Daily News, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among other publications. His previous baseball books include September Swoon: Richie Allen, the '64 Phillies and Racial Integration; Mike Schmidt; Connie Mack's '29 Triumph; and One-Armed Wonder: Pete Gray, Wartime Baseball and the American Dream.William C. Kashatus is an educator, historian and author.

Census Bureau News -- Race and Hispanic Origin of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WEDNESDAY, JAN. 20, 2010
Race and Hispanic Origin of the Foreign-Born Population in the United
States: 2007 -- This report from American Community Survey data describes
the race and Hispanic-origin composition of the foreign-born population in
2007 and compares it with that of the total and native-born populations. It
shows the foreign-born have a pattern of race and Hispanic-origin reporting
that is markedly different from the native population. Internet address:
http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-11.pdf

No news release associated with this report. Tip Sheet only.

Saving Haiti, Saving Community

I agree with Dr. Rodriguez, at the end of the day we are all humans. I really believe this article helps us remember this. Personally, speaking, a student of mine has a brother and sister in Haiti (they are fine, she was able to locate them), but the her the pain and anguish in her voice and to be torn over the fact that she was in the US and they were not able to be here was devastating to her in a sense she felt guilty, as we talked it just really hurt me inside that she was going thru this and trying to be strong and go to class. I want to believe that no one wishes ill will on those in Haiti, especially the children. But like Dr. Rodriguez explains we still have some really ignorant people out there who have not realized they are human as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saving Haiti; Saving Humanity

This statement by Dr. Rodriguez re-states what I had said in class the other night--that the lesson that we derive from Haiti is a sense of hemispheric or global connectedness and caring.

Angela

Saving Haiti; Saving Humanity
By Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez

Haiti is changing the way we look at life and the way we look at each
other as human beings. All but the insane and the bigoted amongst us
understand that the people of Haiti are our fellow human beings. The
mere thought of borders is a seeming anachronism. Who amongst us is
questioning the collective responsibility of humanity towards our
neighbors in need?

At this time, with 200,000 dead and 1.5 million homeless, compassion
abounds; what it means to be human and the meaning of humanity is on
full display as we all are struggling to do our part. Yet people are
beginning to ask the obvious questions: Why is it taking so long to
bring in the emergency supplies, the nurses the doctors and the food
and the water? Where are the ships? Where are the airdrops?
Unfortunately, other questions are creeping in: Why can the military
easily get in, but not those bringing in the medicines and the
antibiotics?

These questions are being asked as despair turns into chaos and the
human instinct for survival is also clearly on display on our nightly
news. The desperate search for sustenance is described as
out-of-control rioting. And we are not supposed to ask questions;
simply contribute.

As a society, we are trained by governments and media not to see the
bigger picture, yet it is becoming difficult not to see a bigger
picture emerge. These questions were swirling and bothersome,
especially during this past weekend as the world celebrated Martin
Luther King’s birthday. They were also swirling as 20,000 people
descended upon Phoenix this weekend to protest the racial profiling
policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All these events seemed unrelated, yet
they were clearly connected.

The crisis in Haiti is actually a crisis of humanity; it is becoming
obvious that assisting humanity and destroying humanity are two
radically different ideas. They are two ideas that seemingly have been
fused over the past decade. Since Sept. 11, 2001, as a society, we
have been goaded into believing that militaries are instruments of
justice and that the U.S. has the inherent and God-given right to go
to war with anyone it pleases.

During this past decade, former president George W. Bush, publicly
championed this bifurcated “You’re either with us or against us”
society. To be able to maintain that clear demarcation, bigger
militaries were needed as was the need to protect “our borders.”
Sadly, the current president, while more intelligent and a clearer
speaker, has one-upped his predecessor, championing the notion that
war is also an instrument of peace.

Wrong! War is the embodiment of evil. It destroys, it dehumanizes, it
takes innocent lives, it depletes the world’s resources, it
contaminates and it empties nations’ coffers. As Martin Luther King
often noted, whenever money is spent on war, it is money not being
spent on fighting poverty or on remedying the ills and injustices of
society. And as this particular tragedy edges toward permanent crisis,
where will the money to rebuild Haiti come from?

Why can’t the world marshal its resources to faster assist Haiti –
because the United States and its partners are still in the midst of
two senseless wars? Lest we kid ourselves, wars are hyper-expensive.
Our bloated military is virtually useless in times of humanitarian
emergencies for obvious reasons; they are overstretched and are
trained to kill and destroy, not to save and build. They are not an
emergency humanitarian response team, though it would be great if they
were. Even after Katrina, one would have thought that the nation or
world would be prepared for future crises. That ships were not fully
equipped, staffed and fueled means we in fact learned nothing from
Katrina. The only thing we have learned is that leaders of both
parties are willing to fight an extremely costly permanent worldwide
war. There is no money for such an endeavor, yet the frenzied military
buildup continues, constantly searching out new enemies and theaters
of war. Its justification also continues; demonization and
dehumanization; those we are fighting are less than “us.”

This is the same justification that Sheriff Arpaio and his supporters
use. It permits the building of bigger walls. It permits the
militarization of “our borders” and also permits human beings –
struggling to survive – to be categorized as “illegal aliens.” It
permits racial profiling and police to act as hunter battalions.

After Haiti, how can we as a humanity continue to view the instinct to
survive as a crime? Illegal aliens, indeed!


Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at: XColumn@gmail.com


Column of the Americas
PO BOX 85476
Tucson, AZ 85754

ARCHIVED COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS
http://web.me.com/columnoftheamericas

Take Action: National Geographic Show Fosters

Take Action: National Geographic Show Fosters
Hatred and Violence Towards Immigrants

Formerly neutral world news organization National Geographic, with corporate cosponsor CSX, launched a new cable television show entitled "Border Wars", detailing daily border agent battles with drug smugglers, human traffickers, and undocumented immigrants.

The promotions for this new show, as well as the show itself, have managed to recklessly imply that the U.S. and Mexico are at war, that the U.S.-Mexico border is a terrorism hot spot, that undocumented immigrants are the terrorists attempting to infiltrate this country, and that U.S. border agents are our soldiers ensuring national security and justice.
These implications are false and dangerous.

What "Border Wars" will not show you are fleeing immigrants being shot, immigrant children being separated from their families, and immigrants being forced to return to lives that include poverty, violence, and despair. That is the reality of the U.S.- Mexico border.

The astounding insensitivity of "Border Wars" is compounded by the show's website which allows browsers to simulate being a border agent "on the line", promoting violence toward immigrants and vigilante justice.

This show fosters prejudice, hatred, and violence toward all immigrants, regardless of legal status, that lead to hate crimes like the deaths of Luis Ramirez in Pennsylvania and Raul and Brisenia Flores in Arizona. "Border Wars" should not be allowed to influence its 2.9 million viewers in this manner.

If you would like to contact National Geographic about "Border Wars" to express your disappointment and outrage, you may do so here:

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/contact



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Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Raising the Floor for American Workers
The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
by Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda January 2010

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/01/pdf/immigrationeconreport.pdf

To see C-SPAN discussion, see here.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Executive summary
The U.S. government has attempted for more than two decades to put a stop to unauthorized
immigration from and through Mexico by implementing “enforcement-only” measures
along the U.S.-Mexico border and at work sites across the country. These measures
have failed to end unauthorized immigration and placed downward pressure on wages in a
broad swath of industries.

Comprehensive immigration reform that legalizes currently unauthorized immigrants and
creates flexible legal limits on future immigration in the context of full labor rights would
help American workers and the U.S. economy. Unlike the current enforcement-only strategy,
comprehensive reform would raise the “wage floor” for the entire U.S. economy—to
the benefit of both immigrant and native-born workers.

The historical experience of legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control
Act, or IRCA indicates that comprehensive immigration reform would raise wages,
increase consumption, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue. Even though
IRCA was implemented during an economic recession characterized by high unemployment,
it still helped raise wages and spurred increases in educational, home, and smallbusiness
investments by newly legalized immigrants. Taking the experience of IRCA as a
starting point, we estimate that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least
$1.5 trillion in cumulative U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. This is a compelling
economic reason to move away from the current “vicious cycle” where enforcement-only
policies perpetuate unauthorized migration and exert downward pressure on already low
wages, and toward a “virtuous cycle” of worker empowerment in which legal status and
labor rights exert upward pressure on wages.

This report uses a computable general equilibrium model to estimate the economic ramifications
of three different scenarios: 1) comprehensive immigration reform that creates a
pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants in the United States and establishes
flexible limits on permanent and temporary immigration that respond to changes in
U.S. labor demand in the future; 2) a program for temporary workers only that does not
include a pathway to permanent status or more flexible legal limits on permanent immigration
in the future; and 3) mass deportation to expel all unauthorized immigrants and
effectively seal the U.S.-Mexico border. The model shows that comprehensive immigration
reform produces the greatest economic benefits:

* Comprehensive immigration reform generates an increase in U.S. GDP of at least 0.84
percent. Summed over 10 years, this amounts to a cumulative $1.5 trillion in additional
GDP. It also boosts wages for both native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers.

• The temporary worker program generates an increase in U.S. GDP of 0.44 percent. This
amounts to $792 billion of cumulative GDP over 10 years. Moreover, wages decline for
both native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers.

• Mass deportation reduces U.S. GDP by 1.46 percent. This amounts to $2.6 trillion in
cumulative lost GDP over 10 years, not including the actual cost of deportation.2 Wages
would rise for less-skilled native-born workers, but would diminish for higher-skilled
natives, and would lead to widespread job loss.

Legalizing the nation’s unauthorized workers and putting new legal limits on immigration
that rise and fall with U.S. labor demand would help lay the foundation for robust, just,
and widespread economic growth.

Linda Ronstadt Calls Joe Arpaio "a Sadistic Man"

I'm just posting this. Hope that the event went well.

Angela



Linda Ronstadt Calls Joe Arpaio "a Sadistic Man," Will Participate in Anti-Arpaio Human Rights March Saturday, January 16

By Stephen Lemons in Feathered Bastard
Tue., Dec. 29 2009 @ 3:36PM

Tucson native Linda Ronstadt joins the fight against Joe this January 16

In a conversation this morning via phone, Tucson native and rock legend Linda Ronstadt denounced Sheriff Joe Arpaio's reign of tyranny in Maricopa County and promised to march alongside thousands of activists planning to converge on Phoenix this Saturday, January 16 for a National Day of Action, which will include a walk to Arpaio's jails and a rally and concert afterwards.
The Grammy-winning recording artist, whose career has spanned four decades and multiple genres, said she was moved by the situation in Arizona and Arpaio's abuses of power to participate in the demonstration, which is being organized in large part by the California-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza's Puente Movement.

"He's a sadistic man," said Ronstadt of Arpaio. "He doesn't have great respect for the law. I come from a police family. My brother was the chief of police in Tucson for many years, a real law man...He was the one who made me understand that when the law is unevenly applied or badly applied, it weakens all law. That's what's very concerning about Sheriff Arpaio."
Ronstadt, who maintains a home in Tucson where she lives part of the year, cited Arpaio's raids against the undocumented, his mistreatment of prisoners in his custody, and the deaths in his jails as reasons for criticizing him. She also blasted Arpaio's police state tactics against those who speak out against his iron rule.

"Any of us could be snatched off the street without a warrant because of the way Arpaio is applying the law," noted Ronstadt. "He's had people go and arrest Republicans that have opposed him...They have these trumped up charges, and then later on they go, `Oh well, I guess we weren't right about these charges.' By then the damage is done and people are terrified of him. That's what happens in places...where they have dictators."

The lady once dubbed the Queen of Rock described at length her deep roots in southern Arizona. Her paternal grandfather Fred Ronstadt was born in Mexico and emigrated to the U.S. during the 19th Century to apprentice at wagon making. (The Ronstadt family name is German, she said, and is indicative of the European settlers who migrated to Mexico and intermarried with locals.)

Fred Ronstadt later owned a large hardware store in downtown Tucson, which closed in the 1970s. Linda Ronstadt grew up eating tamales during Christmas and singing family songs in Spanish. She eventually turned these songs into an album she released in 1987 called "Canciones De Mi Padre," or "Songs of My Father," a huge commercial success for her.

Ronstadt said she's always considered herself to be Mexican-American. This family history and her ties to the state give Ronstadt further motivation to join the protesters against Arpaio in mid-January.

"I have a couple of dogs in this fight," she stated. "I love Arizona. I've always been very proud of being from Arizona. I don't want this awful man to make me ashamed that I'm from this state or that I'm from a law enforcement family. I don't want to be ashamed of that. I want to be proud of that. He's making me ashamed of it. I'd like for him to stop. I'd like for the people of Maricopa County to wake up and see what they're doing, because there are going to be repercussions from this. Eventually there will have to be some action taken if they keep returning [Arpaio] to office, a boycott or a strike."

Of particular concern to Ronstadt is the treatment of the undocumented and Arizona's prison industrial complex, which she sees as intertwined. She perceives the prison lobby as yet another lobby like "the beer industry or the gambling industry," which makes enormous profits from the criminalization of the undocumented. For the prison industry, someone like Arpaio is a godsend, Ronstadt contended.

Ronstadt said she's also been to the Arizona-Mexico border and to the Arizona desert with individuals working with organizations like No More Deaths. She decried the current economic situation which forces Mexicans to risk death in the desert for the hope of survival in the U.S.

"They're contributing in tremendous ways to the economy up here," Ronstadt commented of Mexican migrants, "and to the labor force. And people are taking advantage of them, and then treating them like dirt, and throwing them back over the border.

"I've held a woman in my arms crying and sobbing at the border because she wanted to get back to her children. She was willing to do anything she had to do to get back across the border and get back to her child, like any good mother would."

The result of this situation, asserted Ronstadt, is a "permanent underclass" that "has to resort to crime to survive." The solution must include a pathway to legalization for the undocumented.

"There has to be some kind of a fair way for them to get citizenship or work permits," she told me. "These are decent, hardworking people who want to live fully in the limits of the law. They don't want to live outside the law. That's much more difficult. They're here. It's a fact. We're not going to keep them out. So we have to figure out how to make it legal for them [to be here]."

Unlike many pro-immigrant activists, Ronstadt declined to criticize the Obama administration's policy towards America's estimated 12 million undocumented, claiming that Obama has his hands tied by Congress and cannot "wave a magic wand" over the issue. She also dismissed concerns that her participation in the march would make her a target for right-wing and nativist attacks.

"You have to stand up for what is right, otherwise bad stuff just overwhelms the whole process," she insisted. "You have to stand up and say, `This is wrong.' I'm going to stand in solidarity with these people. They have a right to have humane treatment."

On January 16, Ronstadt is expected to join UFW icon Dolores Huerta, and Rage Against the Machine/One Day as a Lion frontman Zack de la Rocha, in a walk from Phoenix's Falcon Park to Arpaio's jail complex near Durango Street and 35th Avenue. There, organizers intend to march around the jails, then end with a rally that will include a performance by the Tejano act Little Joe y La Familia.

Ronstadt said she helped garner the inclusion of Little Joe y La Familia in the event, calling them, "one of my favorite acts in the music business." She left open the possibility that she might join them in song at the end of the march.

"It depends on whether or not we have time to rehearse," Ronstadt explained. "I've never performed with [Little Joe]...but if I can, I'll get up and sing a song with him. I just want to go, to show up and show my [opposition to Arpaio]. He's not a good lawman. He's breaking the law and making the law weak. People in Maricopa County need to realize this."

Tags: Linda Ronstadt, MCSO, NDLON, Puente, Salvador Reza, Sheriff Joe Arpaio\

Mexico Says Immigration Reform Unlikely in 2010

January 8, 2010
Mexico Says Immigration Reform Unlikely in 2010

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:48 p.m. ET

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico's ambassador to the United States said Friday he expects immigration reform is unlikely to pass in that country in 2010 because of unemployment and midterm elections.

In an unusually frank assessment, Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said Mexico will continue its quiet, ''under the radar'' lobbying for a reform that would benefit the estimated 11.8 million Mexicans living in the United States. A large percentage are undocumented.

''It's not that it is unachievable. It is possible, but it will be difficult,'' he told a news conference. ''And this year, especially, the conditions ... will be particularly difficult.''

''If the (U.S.) economy grows, but there continues to be the unemployment and the job losses that occurred in the United States in 2009, it is politically impossible for the Republicans or the Democrats, as much as they might be interested ... to put an integrated immigration reform on the table,'' Sarukhan said.

Sarukhan also said past pronouncements on the issue by Mexico may have done more harm than good.

''Having spoken about it publicly at times in the past ... has done a great deal of damage to our countrymen and our allies in the United States,'' he said.

Sarukhan said a general amnesty that would automatically legalize undocumented migrants ''cannot be the solution,'' because ''the radical conservative wing in the United States would immediately mobilize to torpedo it.''

He said a more realistic goal is a program of temporary work visas and a ''regularization process'' -- presumably, what has been called ''earned legalization'' involving fines or other qualifying factors.

Sarukhan said chances for reform may depend on how much political capital the administration of President Barack Obama has left after the divisive debate over health care.

Daniel Hernandez Joseph, director of overseas citizen protection services for Mexico's Foreign Relations Department, told reporters that anti-immigration rhetoric ''has permeated in (U.S.) society'' and that anti-immigration groups in the United States currently ''feel empowered.''

Hernandez Joseph also said preliminary estimates indicate that 396 people assumed to be Mexican citizens died trying to cross into the United States last year, up from 340 in 2008.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Politico.com story on immigration bill

Tough road for immigration bill

By JOSH GERSTEIN | 12/15/09 5:10 AM EST

Immigration reform advocates are launching a concerted drive this week to make sure their issue doesn’t get the election-year sidestep from Congress and a White House already wrestling with complex and far-reaching legislation on health care, climate change and regulating Wall Street.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and more than 20 other Democratic House members are scheduled to introduce legislation Tuesday that would allow millions of illegal immigrants to legalize their status in the United States.

“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our president,” Gutierrez said in a statement previewing the announcement. “The time for waiting is over. This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the new year.”

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are expected to introduce an immigration bill in their chamber early next year. Advocates want the Judiciary Committee to take up the issue by February.

“In terms of the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is not dealing with climate or financial regs,” said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. “You could have a floor debate later in the spring. ... It’s also something that has bipartisan support, as opposed to anything they’re talking about now.”

However, some congressional analysts see rough sailing ahead for the legislative effort on immigration, particularly as midterm elections approach.

“They can introduce the bill, but it’s going to have a very difficult time with all of the other agenda items,” said James Thurber, director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. “We have lots of Democratic seats in trouble in the House, and this particular issue is an issue that doesn’t play very well in some of those Blue Dog districts. I think the leadership will be very careful about pushing it, and the president will also.”

A representative for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes the Senate can take up the issue “in the first half of next year.”

During a trip to Mexico in August, President Barack Obama said he was “confident” Congress would ultimately pass an immigration overhaul, but he indicated action on such legislation would have to wait for lawmakers to complete their work on health care, energy and regulating the financial markets.

“That’s a pretty big stack of bills,” the president noted. “When we come back next year, we should be in a position to start acting [on immigration]. Now, am I in a position to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult.”

Since that time, health care reform legislation has slipped past a couple of deadlines imposed by Obama. And while the severe recession turned attention away from immigration reform, the relentless focus congressional leaders are now promising on job creation could actually undercut support for legalization of illegal immigrants.

“At a time where the unemployment rate is 10 percent, I believe it’s not responsible to invite or allow illegal workers to take jobs that should be available to American citizens and legal immigrants,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said last week.

When the last major push for immigration reform died in the Senate in June 2007, the unemployment rate stood at 4.6 percent, according to the Labor Department. Now it’s more than double that.

“In my opinion, [reform] will be even more unpopular than last time,” Thurber said. He called arguments that legalization will benefit the economy “very hard” to make. “People don’t see it.”

However, immigration reform proponents insist they can overcome any new resistance created by increased unemployment and the perception that illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans.

“It will certainly confuse the debate a lot more, but at the end of the day, what we have to understand is that fixing this system will be good for American workers,” Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

“If you have a situation where you have an unemployed auto worker in Detroit, it’s unlikely that that worker is going to move across the country to take a job at minimum wage somewhere where an immigrant was fired. It’s just not going to happen. That’s not reality,” Medina said. “But if we wind up in a situation where we legalize everyone and we take away this profit motive of some of these bottom-feeding employers who hire undocumented workers, I think standards are going to improve for everyone. That’s the argument that we’re going to be making to the Congress.”

While Gutierrez has repeatedly expressed impatience with the White House’s restrained approach to immigration reform, his action Tuesday can be seen as fulfilling Obama’s promise to begin a debate on the issue this year. Obama aides said they welcomed the move but declined to commit to the specifics of the House Democrats’ plan.

“We welcome any constructive contribution to this important debate,” one White House official said.

Aides said they did not know of any events or interviews Obama planned to mark the bill’s introduction. However, officials noted that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently made a speech outlining the administration’s commitment to reform. In addition, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke are expected to address the issue in speeches on Wednesday.

“The most important thing that can be done is that Cabinet secretaries, whose time sheets are signed by the president, start getting out there and talking about the need for reform,” Noorani said. “While the president is appropriately focused on the economy and health care, his key Cabinet leadership is setting the table for immigration reform by doing these kinds of things.”