Immigration Advocates Fire Back at ICE


Activists want immigration head fired
Enforcement agency increased quotas for deportation.

Immigration activists are calling on President Obama to dismiss a top official at the Department of Homeland Security.

Their push came days after the Washington Post   reported that the federal government plans to increase deportations of illegal immigrants despite promises from Immigration and Customs Enforcement leader John Morton that only dangerous criminals will be deported.

The leaked memos also revealed that ICE still has quotas for capturing illegal immigrants even though Morton said that practice had stopped. Now the activists want Morton to go.

"This agency has gone rogue and is operating in clear opposition to the direction   President Obama has set," said Deepak Bhargava, who runs the nonprofit Center of Community Change, a lead organizer of the immigration rally in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Bhargava spoke on a conference call with reporters Tuesday that marked a shift in the activist groups' strategy. In recent weeks, they pressed Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, which may be less politically viable   than today's more targeted request.

"The President does not need Congress. He does not need the Republican Party to act ... and fire Morton," Maria Rodriguez, leader of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, added on the call.

-- Ambreen Ali,

Senators Schumer & Graham on Meet the Press re: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Sen. Graham: ...I will keep workin' with Chuck on immigration, but here's the effect:  immigration's tough, you don't have to ask anybody other than me to tell you that.  It is a tough, heavy lift - the President promised to pass an immigration reform bill in his first year, they've done almost nothing in the White House on immigration, we've been absorbed by health care, people are risk averse.  If a moderate Democrat got a phone call from the president - he wants you to come down to the White House and help him with immigration now - most of 'em would jump out the window.  That's just the truth.  I will continue to work with Chuck, but immigration is a heavy lift, we haven't done the things necessary to bring the body together and 16 Democrats voted against immigration reform - this idea that I would be the 60th vote on immigration climate change could not be further from the truth.  Tough sledding lies ahead because of the acrimony around health care...

Gregory:  Sen. Schumer, is immigration reform dead then? 

Sen. Schumer: I don't think so.  First, let's look at how desperately we need it: 15,000 people cross our border illegally every day, most of them take jobs from Americans.  And yet, at the same time, there are certain people we need in this economy to help us grow and we can't get 'em: engineers, doctors, farm workers - so the system is broken.  It lets the wrong people in, excludes the wrong people.  And so we need to fix it.  Now, Lindsay and I have worked for a year, we put out a framework that goes by what we think most Americans believe: most Americans are anti-illegal immigration and pro-legal immigration.  And we're real close, we're real close.  We do need a second Republican to come on the bill, and Lindsay's - to his credit and he's had a lot of courage to step forward here, I salute him - has always said we need that.  But I would plead with him, if we can get that second Republican, we have business and labor ready to sign on, we have all the religious community - not just the liberals but the evangelicals - we even have Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly saying positive things about our proposal.  I would urge that we try to get this done because it's so important for America. 

Sen. Graham:  I urge the president to write a bill and see if he can get another Republican, see if he can convince the 16 Democrats who voted 'no' last time...

Sen. Schumer:  Oh, he will.

Sen. Graham:  ...let him do some heavy lifting here on immigration.  Write a bill and send it to me, I'll be glad to look at it.

Sen. Schumer:  The president supported our framework, and he'll be right up front in helping us, we just need to move forward.

Sunday's Reform Immigration for America March

Sunday's march was remarkable: a beautiful day, a crowd of about 200,000 and speakers that were really fired up and ready to go. 

Earlier in the day, I'd appeared on MSNBC - first for a hit on the historic health insurance reform vote, and then for another hit on what was supposed to be health care but ended up turning to the subject of The Tea Party and the, well, partiers.  On Saturday, several protesters spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), called Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) a 'ni--er,' and called Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) a "faggot."  Charming, no? 

It becomes increasingly difficult for The Tea Party Movement (if it is, in fact, a movement, and not a phenomenon - a movement, afterall, has a clear direction) to conceal the blatant racism that motivates many of its members.  Sure, every group has a few bad apples or renogade mouth-runners, but Saturday's verbal bombs were part of an ongoing pattern of ugly language more telling than any of the "populist" rhetoric the Tea Partiers rely on. 

All of this to say that while sitting in the MSNBC studio, listening to the anchor out of New York through my IFB dedicate much of our segment to a movement that, in reality, is not very large, my brain synapsed to this: we have 200,000 people coming to march in Washington, DC - some who travelled on 16 hour long bus trips- so that they could express their frustration with a broken immigration system in a peaceful and respectful way and we're dedicating our time and energy to talking about people who are straight-up hateful?!  What sense does that make?  In as much as it's time for the Republican party to denounce the tea partiers, it is time for them to turn their attention to the serious business of joining Democrats in reforming our immigration system.  Senator Graham (R-SC) has already stepped up.  Who will be next? 

The speakers, most notably Rep. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Senator Menendez (D-NJ), did a great job of connecting the average American's life - the food we eat, and the garments we wear - to the work and sacrifice of immigrant America.  For those of us who are first or second generation Americans, the speeches were heavy with the weight of our debt.  We have each come to this wonderful country from somewhere else, and that journey from there to here, buoyed by the strength to leave and begin anew is a powerful reminder of how and why we must continue this push for real reform.  The bravery of those who have come before us should remind us, as President Obama did last night, that we as a nation "are still capable of doing great things."

Senator Menendez introduced this video from President Obama.  Needless to say, the crowd went wild.

White House Holds Immigration Meetings

Immigration took center stage today as President Obama met with Senators Schumer and Graham about their legislation, and with Comprehensive Immigration Reform Advocates. You can read about it here, here and here.

Katie Connolly at Newsweek does a good job of summing up the political realities, especially as it relates to our 21st Century Electorate findings:

The political strategy of attempting immigration reform this year is curious, especially after the epic health-care-reform drama of the past year. Why would Democrats want to pursue such a hot-button, culturally divisive issue this year? They're already looking like they'll have a pretty depressing performance in the polls this November. Surely they'd want to shy away from championing an issue so easily demagogued by Fox News? Do they really want to get into the inevitable fight with organized labor over guest workers in an election year, especially when, after the Citizens United ruling, union dollars will be more valuable than ever? Surely they're not that self-sabotaging.

But maybe there is strategic political wisdom in bringing immigration to the fore. It's the sort of issue that could energize two key demographics for Democrats: young people and Hispanics. Both groups played important roles in propelling Obama to victory in 2008, and both are showing signs that they're not motivated to turn out this fall. Putting immigration reform in the headlines could change that.

Today's meetings are an important indicator that President Obama and his administration remain committed to Comprehensive Reform - even if the legislative timeline is uncertain.

Obama praises Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes


Obama and FunesThis Monday, President Obama met with President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador to discuss trade, security, the environment - the three central elements of the administration's agenda for Latin America.  President Obama commended President Funes for taking bold steps to "break down political divisions within the country and move it forward with a spirit of progress" and for his "pragmatic and wise approach to the situation in Honduras".

In his remarks following the meeting, President Obama commented that the positive relations between the countries is partially due to the 2 million Salvadorians working in the United States and sending remittances back to their country, stating that the ties "provide an outstanding foundation for continuing cooperation" between the two countries." President Funes replied, stating the need to generate more jobs in El Salvador because when "people have better jobs, health, and education, they will be able to remain in [their] countries and have a better life." 

Obama also suggested interest in a multilateral project between the United States, Brazil, and El Salvador to pursue measures that would expand biofuels and energy development, which would benefit all three countries.  He also touched on regional security issues, primarily surrounding drug trafficking and gangs, emphasizing the commitment to be supportive not only in addressing the symptoms, but also the root causes of the issues.  The President closed by stressing that the relationship between the United States and El Salvador is one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, a sentiment echoed by President Funes in his remarks.

President Funes commended President Obama's new vision of how to deal with the hemisphere, and particularly Central America.  President Funes closed by saying that he hopes to have a strong alliance and strategic, equal partner in the United States.



Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

As part my introduction to the NDN world, and in anticipation of our Friday event, Simon tasked me with reading Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050.  You can imagine my excitement.  I mean, what's sexier than demography?  And yet Kotkin has a knack for making complex and data-heavy concepts accessible and - don't mock me - exciting. 

Kotkin begins with an introduction to America's current and forthcoming demographic shifts (in diversity of age, ethnicity, race and country of origin) and then delves into an unapologetically optimistic analysis of how those shifts -particularly America's youthfulness - will transform our shared future and allow America to maintain its place as a world leader.  On a local level, Kotkin explores migration within America, and examines how suburbs and city-centers will change to accommodate such growth, as well as the green technology critical to sustaining a population that needs to learn to do more with less.  That last bit might sound daunting, but here's Kotkin's main point, offered like a reassuring parent or partner:  we'll do what we need to do, as we've always done, and we'll be great.  We should be aware of the possible pitfalls, but we shouldn't worry.  In fact, we should step back and marvel at America's unlimited potential. 

Of particular note is how Kotkin's views defy the panic and paranoia of those who suggest that America grows at its own peril.  Kotkin views our growth and corresponding diversity as an asset that will "drive our economic resilience." In this way, The Next Hundred Million is the ultimate antidote to the far Right's assertion that Latinos and immigrants are changing America for the worse. 

If Kotkin's book is as spot-on as it seems, then I have seen a snapshot of the future, and I gotta say:  it looks pretty good.

Wash Post Has Good Piece On Immigrants, Health Care Debate

The Washington Post has a very good piece this morning by David Montgomery for anyone wanting to learn more about the debate over covering immigrants in the various health care bills.

Watch or Drop by Tue for "How Hispanics Are Shaping Census, Reapportionment"

On Tue, lunchtime, NDN is co-hosting an event with America's Voice,"How Latinos Are Shaping Census 2010 and Reapportionment.   At the event we will be releasing a major new report with a lots of information about US Hispanic population growth and how it is effecting American politics. 

To learn more, get the coordinates for watching live, or to RSVP visit here.

See you Tuesday.

Bush Advisor Pleads WIth the GOP to Embrace Immigration Reform

Michael Gerson revisits one of our favorite subjects today on the op-ed page of the Washington Post:

Now hearings are beginning on another immigration reform bill, with a legislative debate likely to ripen in 2010. For Democrats -- pledged to comprehensive reform but weighing union opposition to a temporary-worker program -- the immigration debate will be difficult. For Republicans, it may be an invitation to political suicide.

Some conservatives dismiss electoral considerations as soiled and cynical. They will make their case, even if that means sacrificing Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and . . . Indiana. Yes, Indiana, which had supported Republican presidential candidates for 40 years before Obama captured it on the strength of Hispanic votes. This is a good definition of extremism -- the assumption that irrelevance is evidence of integrity. In fact, it is a moral achievement of democracy that it eventually forces political parties to appeal to minorities and outsiders instead of demonizing them. The scramble for votes, in the long run, requires inclusion.

By 2030, the Latino share of the vote in America is likely to double. Some Republicans seem to be calculating that this influence can be countered by running up their percentage of support among white voters. But this is not eventually realistic, because non-college-educated whites are declining as a portion of the electorate. And it is disturbing in any case to set the goal of a whiter Republican Party. This approach would not only shrink the party, it would split it. Catholics and evangelicals, who have been central to the Republican coalition, cannot ultimately accept a message of resentment against foreigners. Their faith will not allow it.

In considering illegal immigration, many talk appropriately about the rule of law. But there is also the imago dei -- the shared image of God -- that does not permit individual worth and dignity to be sorted by national origin. This commitment does not translate simplistically into open borders and amnesty. It does mean, however, that immigrants should not be used as objects of organized anger or singled out for prejudice and harm. If Republicans head down this dreary path, many could no longer follow.

Which is why the departure of Martinez is unfortunate. Most elected Republicans bring serious arguments and good motives to the immigration debate. Fewer leaders, however, are willing to confront the extremists in their midst. And now one more of those principled leaders is gone.

I offered my own thoughts on the Martinez departure in this recent essay.   And of course we agree with Gerson - it is time for the GOP to sue for peace with the Latino community, and there is no better way for them to work closely with the Democrats to pass CIR next year.

9500 Liberty Opening Night: An Incredible Success

Last night was 9500 Liberty's Opening Night in the D.C. area - at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival - and the movie was entirely sold out.  It was not only a proud night for Annabel Park and Eric Byler, the filmmakers, but for all who lived through the terrible fight on immigration in Prince William County, and for those of us who are directly or indirectly affected by the anti-immigrant sentiments seen on screen.  As highlighted by Annabel in an interview with News 4, the film shows how, "There was a lot of misinformation - and at times it felt like it was a kind of hysteria." On that note, Eric Byler noted, "The same kind of politicized hysteria is now a national approach to issues like health care and climate mirrors what we saw in Prince William County - in fact many of the same people are involved."  

Click here to check out the News 4 interview with Annabel and Eric prior to the show.

There is no doubt that the film's message speaks to debate that is happening nationally on a slew of issues, and it will resonate with communities all over the country.  If you'd like to see a very comprehensive 45 minute clip of the film and speak with the filmmakers at the next NDN screening, please contact me at:


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