Pearce Becomes Arizona Senate President

Arizona Legislator Russell Pearce has become the President of the Republican controlled state Senate.

This is significant for several reasons:

1. Pearce has largely taken credit for masterminding SB1070, Arizona's anti-immigrant legislation. He is of course being too modest, as he had plenty of help from both private prison lobbyists and Washington D.C. based lobbying firm ALEC.

2. He has vowed to take SB1070 national, by forming a coalition of like minded state legislators who have vowed to pass similar legislation and help repeal birth right citizenship, in their home states.

3. This will only increase the influence of Washington D.C. based group ALEC's influence on state, and national politics.  Pearce has worked hand in hand with this organization to draft legislation in the state. By virtue of their working relationship, as Pearce's influence grows in the state so too does the reach of ALEC.

This is evidenced by the fact, that all of the legislators who voted for SB1070 received generous handouts from Private Prison Lobbyists.

The Associated Press has more HERE:

Arizona Republican senators-elect on Wednesday chose illegal immigration hard-liner Russell Pearce to be the chamber's next president.

The Mesa Republican was chosen by lawmakers who held a closed-door reorganization caucus one day after Tuesday's general election added to Republicans' majorities in both legislative chambers.

Pearce has made a name for himself by passing anti-immigrant legislation in the state Senate:

Pearce also served as a co-chairman of the campaign for Proposition 200, a 2004 voter-approved law that denied some public benefits to illegal immigrants and required proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Last week, a federal appeals court struck down the citizenship requirement for voter registration.

With the gains made in the last election the GOP now has veto proof majority:

Republicans won three more Senate seats Tuesday, increasing their majority in the 30-member Senate to 21. They also added at least two additional seats to their current 35-member majority in the 60-member House and GOP candidates held leads in three other races.

If those leads hold, the Republicans would have veto-proof majorities in both chambers, although it is unclear if they need it. Republican Jan Brewer won a full term Tuesday and has often agreed with Republican lawmakers.

Ironically, the GOP has risen to prominence in the state, by hammering the federal government for being in the pocket of special interests.

In Arizona, it is hard to imagine the GOP taking such large shares of the electorate without the help of outside money flooding the election. Money taken from both D.C. based organizations and big corporations.

With a veto proof majority, the state GOP has set their sights on repealing birth right citizenship.  

One can only imagine what creative new ways, D.C. based organizations, lobbyists and big corporations can find to separate families and demonize children.

We will continue to follow this as it develops.

Alicia Menendez On Fox News Talking About Border Security

NDN Senior Policy Advisor Alicia Menendez was on Fox News morning show Americas Newsroom with Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sherriff to talk about Border Security.

Officer Babeu is a bit of celebrity these days, he had a staring roll in an infamous piece of campaign propaganda featuring Arizona Senator John McCain. For those of you who have not seen the ad Complete the Danged Fence, it is below.

Sherriff Babeu is presented as a law enforcement leader on the Fox News segment, however he has had far more experience as a politician.

During the segment with Alicia, he alludes to being from the East Coast, this is significant because it draws attention to who Paul Babeu was before he came to Arizona.

In a recent profile done in the Arizona Daily Star it was revealed that Sherriff Babeu, was born and raised in North Adams, Mass. and was elected to the City Council at age 18. The Sherriff, now 41, moved to Arizona after losing a Mayoral bid in his home town. The full profile can be read here, excerpt below:

But to some, including longtime Arizona law enforcement officials, Babeu is a pretender. Many officers question how 3 1/2 years spent patrolling Chandler's streets, plus a border deployment, qualify him as a national expert on border security, said Bill Richardson, a retired Mesa police officer who also worked for 10 years on a Drug Enforcement Administration task force in Pima, Pinal and other counties.

"It would be like a college freshman pre-med student who's had one anatomy class telling a veteran pathologist how to do an autopsy," said Richardson, who has followed Babeu closely since 2008.

Smuggling has long occurred in western Pinal County, but Babeu's claims of soaring violence have more to do with his own political aspirations than reality, Richardson said.

"What he's very skillfully doing, much like (Joe) Arpaio and (State Sen. Russell) Pearce, is he's creating fear or fanning the flames of fear, that the undocumented are the root cause of crime in Arizona," Richardson said. "In fact, they are not."

He has had far more experience as a politician then as a law enforcement officer.

His ability to spin a story is on display in this segment

Sherriff Babeu starts the segment by bemoaning the lack of federal support for the border. Going so far as to say that in a time of need the federal government is actually suing the state instead of sending troops to the border. He then claims that President Obama is playing political games with our national security.

There are a couple of things wrong with this logic: As Alicia mentions in the clip President Obama is sending an unprecedented amount of resources to the border. This is a fact, just ask  The Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HERE.

Sherriff Babeu's other assertion that in a time of need, the federal government is suing the state is the worst kind of political spin. The federal law suit has nothing to do with border security and everything to do with SB1070.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has admitted that SB1070 has nothing to do with border security. So saying that the President is playing political games with national security while making an erroneous connection between the federal government lawsuit against SB1070 and Arizona's Border security is a little hypocritical.

It is entirely possible to work towards securing the border, and file a lawsuit against an unconstitutional state law.

But I digress...

When asked if the border is in fact safer, he recounted a single instance when his deputy encountered border violence, as an example of out of control violence. To be fair he never answered one way or the other if violence was down on the border.

Crime is down along the border, in fact this is well established by the FBI:

Further evidence can be seen here Arizona Violent Crime Down, Except Under Tough Anti-Immigrant Sherriff

The full clip can be seen below. <



Purdum on Palin

Todd Purdum drops ten thousand words on Sarah Palin in the latest Vanity Fair, and they hit pretty hard.  The profile is anything but flattering, and casts an image of Palin as a cagey, egocentric, aggressive politician characterized by a deep mistrust of others and a very informal relationship with the truth.

Purdum's new reporting focuses on her record as Governor of Alaska-- a tenure dominated by personality conflicts and a bulldozer approach to getting what she wanted. Her record in Alaska was a pretty clear predictor of her behavior on the campaign, and Purdum concludes that John McCain could have learned everything he needed to make a better decision if he had done a more careful review of her gubernatorial record.

A few gem quotes from the article:

This sort of slipperiness—about both what the truth was and whether the truth even mattered—persisted on questions great and small...

In every job, she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived...

More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy”—and thought it fit her perfectly.

The whole epic article is worth a read.

Polling Immigration

Publish Date: 

Executive Summary (PDF) | Full Poll Results (PDF)


In each of these four states, voters:

  • Overwhelmingly support what has been called Comprehensive Immigration Reform, including a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants.
  • Have a positive view of undocumented immigrants, believing that they have come here to work and seek a better life, are not taking jobs from American citizens and are not interested in receiving public handouts.
  • Blame the federal government and business for the broken immigration system, and do not blame the immigrants themselves.   

In each of the four states, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is performing significantly better now than U.S. Sen. John Kerry did with Hispanic voters in 2004. The findings of these four polls are consistent with other public polling and election data, showing that: 

  • The public has already embraced Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a pragmatic and effective way of fixing the broken immigration system.  
  • The issue of immigration remains an important issue to voters, particularly Hispanics, and Democrats and Barack Obama are more trusted to handle the immigration issue than U.S. Sen. John McCain and the Republicans.
  • John McCain has been unable to distance himself from the recent collapse of the Republican brand with Hispanic voters.
  • The dramatic swing of Hispanic voters to Senator Obama in Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada with a total of 46 electoral votes has helped turn these previously red states, all critical to Bush’s narrow victory in 2004, into competitive swing states this year.
  • But in each state, 14 percent to 20 percent of the Hispanic electorate remains undecided, which translates into a two percent to six percent of the statewide vote in each state – a percentage significant enough to tip dead even states into one camp or the other.

These findings suggest that in these states:

  • Embracing Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a pragmatic, effective way to fix the broken immigration system can be a winning issue for candidates and elected officials.  
  • Immigrants are not “the problem.”  The broken immigration system is.  Efforts to “blame the immigrants” will not work as the public has a very positive view of the undocumented immigrants themselves and the contributions they are making to America. The Republican Party’s own mismanagement of this issue in recent years confirms this finding. 
  • The Hispanic vote may very well determine the Presidential winner in these four states. Given how close the election is, this may determine the outcome of the Presidential race itself. 

A final note on terminology: Different groups and individuals use the term “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” to mean very different things. In these polls, we asked: “Would you support or oppose a comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens border security, sets up an employment verification plan, establishes serious criminal penalties for employers that hire illegal workers, creates a new visa program for 200,000 workers annually, substantially increases the number of family visas available for the immediate relatives of legal immigrants, and grants illegal immigrants conditional legal status for six years and then a path to permanent residency and citizenship if they meet certain requirements?”

NDN has a history of fighting for immigration reform. NDN has demonstrated its commitment to achieving a sensible immigration system, in part, by spending record sums in media campaigns designed specifically to counter anti-immigrant campaigns. Similarly, as a cornerstone of NDN’s Hispanic Programs, NDN has regularly hosted forums with members of both chambers of Congress.

For more information on NDN’s work and analyses on Hispanic issues and electoral and demographic trends, please read our May 30, 2008, report, Hispanics Rising II, as well as last year’s article in Mother Jones, The 50-Year Strategy.

The Battle for Hispanics is Joined

For more than two years Hispanics in the United States have been subject to the most racist attacks that we've seen in the American public square in many years. It has been a shameful episode in our history, and something I am proud that NDN has been a leader in fighting these past few years.

As Peter Leyden and I wrote recently in our article, The 50 Year Strategy, Hispanics - along with the emerging Millennial generation - are one of two new demographic groups that were not a major part of our 20th century politics, but are poised to reshape politics in the 21st. And I think we will look back on this week as the week in 2008 that Hispanics were transformed from a community villified by many elected leaders and members of the media to one of the most sought after communities in American politics, a condition that I believe will now be the way Hispanics are treated for the remainder of this critical election year.

I offer four observations about this emerging, and historic, battle for the Hispanic community:

The rise of Hispanics is changing the American electoral map - The nationalization of the Presidential race takes off this week with Super Duper Tuesday now just six days away. As the Presidential goes national now, the candidates of both parties will be forced to speak to Hispanics, the fastest growing part of the American electorate, the largest minority group, and a group heavily concentrated in five of the most critical general election swing states in 2008 - AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV (see NDN's recent report Hispanics Rising for more on this). Given the likely 2008 electoral map it is not an overstatement to say that Hispanics may hold the key to the Presidency in 2008.

Seven of the Feb. 5th states have heavily Hispanic populations - AZ, CO, IL, NJ, NM, NY and CA, the big prize. So when you add in the Nevada Democratic Caucus, it is fair to say that never before in American history will Hispanics have had such influence in picking a nominee for President than in 2008.

As of this morning both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have released new Spanish-language ads in Feb. 5th states. Obama and his surrogates are now playing hard in the Southwest this week, having released a new Spanish-language phone banking tool, and are now invoking a storied and revered family in the Hispanic community - the Kennedys - into the campaign to counter the power of the Clinton name. Both parties will debate over the next two nights in Southern California, one of the most heavily Hispanic regions of the country. The debate is sure to provide interesting insights into the state of the immigration debate. (Reminder: Romney and Huckabee have called for the forced removal of the 11-12 million undocumenteds).

This modern approach to the growing Hispanic population was pioneered by Republicans, specificially George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, something they brought to the national Republican Party from Texas and Florida. In the 2004 Presidential campaign, this modern strategy helped the GOP win those five critical general election states - AZ, CO, FL, NM, NV - all won by Clinton in the 1990s - whereas the Kerry campaign simply did not run a serious Hispanic campaign or adequately target these regions. The GOP was working off of a 21st century strategy in this case, the Democrats a 20th century one. And using this modern stategy the GOP doubled their market share with Hispanics in just two elections, and used it to win the Presidency twice.

Interestingly, the positions of the two parties has been largely reversed in recent years. Both Obama and Clinton are now running fully engaged Hispanic campaigns; both support comprehensive immigration reform and have treated the new immigrant population with respect; the Democrats fielded the first serious Presidential candidate of Hispanic descent; they put their Convention in the Southwest, a nod to this new map; and gave a heavily Hispanic state, Nevada, a privileged place in its nominating process; and all Democratic candidates participated in the historic Univision debate in Miami, the first debate in American history conducted largely in Spanish. At a strategic level Democrats have discovered the power of the Hispanic vote and the new map it brings. For them there is no going back.

The Republicans, however, through their recent racist rhetoric and demonization of Hispanic immigrants, have abandoned the modern strategy Bush brought them. Last year they blocked the bi-partisan Senate immigration reform bill, after blocking it in the House in 2006; they were very late to accepting the Univision debate invitation and skipped most of the major non-partisan Hispanic conferences widely attended by the Democrats; their Hispanic immigrant chairman Mel Martinez resigned this year over his Party's approach to Hispanics; and they all but skipped the NV Caucus. This is a very different picture, and one, as Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has pointed out, that may cost their Party the Presidency in 2008 and beyond.

In the Democratic Primary Clinton is leading with Hispanics, and deservedly so - Despite powerful labor endorsements for Obama in NV, Sen. Clinton won the Hispanic vote there 68-24%. An incredible performance. She also leads in available polls in this community by a similar margin in the upcoming Feb. 5th states. Hillary's strength with Hispanics comes from two sources. First, there is great fondness for the Clintons in the Hispanic community. In the Clinton Presidency, jobs were much more plentiful and there was little national racist anger towards their community. For Hispanics, things were simply much better when Bill Clinton was in charge. Second, Senator Clinton has made speaking to Hispanics a priority in her campaign from day one: Her campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle is Hispanic; she has the most respected Hispanic strategist in the nation, Sergio Bendixen, running her Hispanic campaign; she has received support from most of the major leaders of the Democratic Hispanic establishment, including Senator Bob Menendez, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros; and despite her waffle on drivers licenses, she has held the line on comprehensive immigration reform. I fully expect her to receive a strong majority of the Hispanic vote on Feb 5th - and if it happens, she clearly deserves it.

Obama has been late to mount a credible campaign in the Hispanic community, but is now fully engaged - One of the great strategic mysteries of this incredible campaign has been the Obama campaign's late engagement in this community. Until a few weeks ago it was hard to even determine if Obama had any Hispanic effort at all. But that was yesterday, and today the Obama campaign - perhaps because of their performance in NV - has become fully engaged. They have ads up on the air; they continue to gain key endorsements (Reps. Gutierrez, Becerra, and Linda Sanchez); Obama and his surrogates are spending a lot of time in the Southwest prior to Feb. 5th; and the campaign now has a very potent weapon in the revered Kennedy name, an endorsement that may cut into the huge advantage HRC has with older Hispanics.

One of the most interesting things to watch for on Feb 5th is what happens with younger Hispanics. As we know, Obama has soared with younger voters, and the Hispanic population is very young. These young Hispanics were a critical driver of the large pro-immigrant rallies and demonstrations in the Spring of 2006. There were many stories about students organizing themselves for these rallies through text messaging campaigns on their cell phones. Will this younger Hispanic vote turnout and go Obama? How will the perception of intolerance the Clintons have shown towards African-Americans cut with this group, a generation much less accepting of intolerance of any kind? Will Obama's new and intense Hispanic campaign in the Hispanic community be able to, in just a week, cut into HRC's big lead?

We will find out next Tuesday.

The McCain factor. Of all the candidates the GOP could have nominated, Senator McCain has the greatest capacity to repudiate the recent racism of the GOP and mount a serious campaign in the Hispanic community this fall. He is from the Southwest and has a long history with Hispanics: He was a powerful advocate for immigration, even attaching his name to a bill with the liberal lion Ted Kennedy, a bill that became the framework for all immigration reform legislation these last three years. If he goes on to win the Republican nomination it will do a great deal to hush the more exteme elements of his party that are demonizing immigrants, and it will show that the Republican Party has come to embrace the assimilation of the undocumented population. His position will allow him to run a fully engaged campaign in the Hispanic community, making it likely that we will see more money spent and more attention given to Hispanics in the 2008 general election than ever before in American history. From this critical vantage point I've always believed McCain to be the strongest GOPer the Democrats could face - we already saw the potential impact of McCain's relationship with Hispanics as it was their votes last night that delivered Florida. 

But as this post below reflects, what is also true about John McCain is that in 2007, at a critical moment in the debate over the immigration bill that he was the primary author of, he did not stand and fight - he cut and ran. Spooked by his reception in the GOP primary at that time, McCain simply walked away from the Senate immigration debate in 2007. And his abandonment of the bill at that critical juncture was perhaps the single most important factor in the collapse of the Senate bill last year. So while it is true that McCain has a strong history on this issue, and in this community, the story of his advocacy of immigration reform and on behalf of Hispanics is as much one of cowardice as it is courage.

So, whatever the outcome of this coming campaign, let us all mark 2008 as the year Hispanics officially became a potent force in American politics.

Keep People in Their Homes

A decade of reckless deregulation, mismanaged regulation and equally reckless private mismanagement has now brought the American and global economies to a crisis point. Investment banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions have borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars to sink into securities widely recognized to entail extraordinary risk, passing that risk along to millions of Americans whose retirement plans, pension funds and money market accounts found their way into funds set up by such mismanaged financial titans as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and AIG. Through it all, the White House, Treasury and Federal Reserve have practiced their own reckless regulatory mismanagement, allowing the gradual accretion of the biggest financial house of cards in history. Now it has caught up with them and the rest of us, and those who let it happen are asking taxpayers to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to clean up this mess.

This crisis is far from over, and its effects are still spreading. We need a broad plan that will actually work to restore financial and economic stability. But those who have had little or no hand in it – America’s taxpayers and most Members of Congress – should not be steamrolled into giving a blank check to those in the Administration who failed to head off this crisis. First, the check they want us to write is unlike any ever written before during financial crises. When Washington last took over the failing assets of private institutions, during the savings and loan bailout, taxpayers first took over the institutions themselves and then sold the assets, while the regulation of the remaining S&Ls was tightened and reformed to preclude another round of the same problems down the road. This time, Congress is being told that it must use taxpayers’ money to buy up the degraded assets of hundreds of financial institutions while they continue operating as private entities and without any guarantee of regulatory changes that will prevent it from happening the next time. That’s a bad bargain and terrible policy.

Second, it’s doubtful that the plan will even work in its own terms. If the Paulson Treasury plans to buy the deteriorating securities at their current, low market values, it may help the institutions holding them to avoid further deterioration, but it won’t reduce the losses they’ve already taken. Consequently, this bailout cannot actually lead us out of the crisis – unless the Treasury plans to pay these institutions above-market prices for the tanking securities they now hold, which would produce the largest direct transfer of money from taxpayers to shareholders and executives ever seen.

Third, the plan does not address the forces which continue to drive this crisis. At the base of the pyramid scheme that has infected our financial markets – underneath the credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations created with borrowed money to “guarantee” mortgage-backed securities created with more borrowed money, in a housing market swollen by a historic bubble — lies the only real assets in the picture, the mortgaged homes of tens of millions of Americans. On that critical score, the Administration plan offers nothing. The only way to stop the cascading financial crisis consuming not only investment banks, investment funds, mortgage lenders and insurance companies, but also pieces of most Americans’ retirement security, is to stabilize the housing market from which all of the rest arises. The Treasury and the Administration propose to use taxpayers to bail out the institutions which speculated in the securities based on that market. Given the system’s current precarious position, a bail out of some kind cannot be avoided. But our government owes at least as much attention to homeowners facing foreclosure. If the Treasury and Fed had been willing to spend $85 billion on loans to strapped homeowners, as they did to AIG last week, the crisis might never have crested into the conditions that now require a system-wide bailout.

These mortgages are at the root of the crisis. It’s their mounting defaults driving down the overall housing market which has brought venerable banks like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Before Congress leaves this week or next, it should enact legislation that either provides a mechanism for direct loans to people to avoid foreclosure or allows them to renegotiate their mortgages. This single step will keep untold numbers of people in their homes, help stabilize the housing market, help contain the crisis at one of its critical origins, and thereby help shore up the financial system. Paired with a program to provide more liquidity to financial institutions and an orderly way to write down their failing holdings, this step could finally take us past this crisis.

Even so, only a small share of the costs of this historic mismanagement are apparent today. This financial shock, on top of the housing and energy shocks that preceded it, have almost certainly pushed our economy into recession. That will further reduce the value of the assets held by tens of millions of American through their pension funds, retirement accounts, money market and mutual fund investments. The squeeze will be hardest on the rising numbers of Americans who will also lose their jobs. The need to help these people and millions of others keep their homes is urgent, then, for a host of economic and social reasons.

When Congress returns in December or next year, it will find itself with far fewer resources to finance badly-needed new initiatives in health care, climate change and tax policy. One urgent order of business, however, will be entirely within its capacity: adopt and apply strict and appropriate transparency, capital and other regulatory standards to all financial institutions. And the politicians who hailed the hands-off attitude that enabled this crisis to fester and break out, and who now blame greed instead of their own negligence, must be held accountable.

Amidst Having No Identity and No Agenda, the GOP Attacks Immigrants Again in Economic Stimulus Debate

This image was the headline on the Huffington Post website, until our post on "The Star Spanglish Banner" took its place for most of the day, and it goes very well with a piece in the Washington Post today by  Manuel Roig-Franzia.  As Republicans have a national meeting this week, they search for their misshapen identity.  In the meantime, since they have nothing else to propose and know nothing other than the exploitation of racial fear and hate, they decided to issue a statement claiming that the stimulus bill would help undocumented immigrants:

The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants......The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who do not have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks.

What this statement does not say, is that the stimulus steers checks to TAXPAYERS, it's not aimed at "illegal immigrants." In fact, the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid clarified, "This legislation is directed toward people who are legal in our country.  It is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff." said Sen. Reid, D-Nev. "This bill has nothing to do with anything illegal as far as immigration. It creates jobs for people who are lawfully in this country."  Not just U.S. citizens pay taxes - many legal immigrants under Temporary Protected Status or other programs file taxes, purchase homes, and get credit, so they would be eligible for a return.

Instead of trying to create a new "boogieman", the GOP should be thinking about how to be more inclusive - and inclusive does not mean having one member of one minority in a prominent position in your Party.  Some Members of Congress still - for reasons that I will probably never understand - think it is somehow out of line to repudiate racist/divisive attacks like Rush Limbaugh's.  At least Phil Gingrey took one step in the right direction by not shying away from repudiating some of the latest offensive attacks, namely by Limbaugh against our President:

"I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach," Gingrey said. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position..."

Lastly, and more importantly, aside from whatever Republicans do or don't do, this statement tying the immigration debate into the stimulus debate exemplifies a greater trend that Simon and NDN have predicted will occur with the entire domestic agenda until immigration reform is passed:

"That the debate.....has immediately become a debate about immigration should be a clear warning to the Administration and Congress that progress on many important domestic priorities this year may get caught up in the debate on how to best fix our broken immigration system. It is our belief that rather than having a series of tough and contentious proxy fights [with Republicans and with Democrats] on immigration, our leaders should recognize that passing comprehensive immigration reform this year will not only help fix our badly broken immigration system - a priority of many Americans - but may also be the key to unlocking bipartisan progress on a whole range of other domestic and security related issues." 

Hispanics and Immigration Reform Must be Part of the Economic Agenda

Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and others, released at the end of 2008, show disturbing data on the impact of the economic crisis on minorities, and I hope Tim Geithner is up to speed on this information and keeps minorities in mind as he helps map the course for economic recovery.  We hope Geithner's confirmation hearings over the next few days will pass to a speedy confirmation so that he can get to the business of governing "for all Americans," along with President Obama.

Data show that minority workers have fewer employment opportunities, lower wages, or both as compared to their white counterparts. As a result, they tend to have lower incomes and slower income growth.  And because minorities are less well suited than white families to save and build an economic cushion, hard economic times place them in tougher conditions sooner than is the case for white families.

Hispanics are currently suffering a percent of unemployment much higher than that of their white counterparts, 9.2% in January, up from 8.9% unemployment in December 2008.  In addition, the unemployment rate for Hispanics rose faster than for any other group, increasing by 3.1% from December of 2007-December of 2008, while the unemployment rate for whites rose by 2.1% and for blacks, 2.9%.

Even during a period of employment gains enjoyed by Hispanics from 2001-2007, poverty increased among Hispanics over the same period, which only highlights the low wages at which Hispanics tend to work. In 2007, 8.2 percent of whites lived below the poverty line, up from 5.4 percent in 2000, but well below the 21.5 percent of Hispanics who lived below the poverty line in 2007.

Lastly, personal and family income has steadily declined for Hispanics.  From 2001-2007, family incomes for whites were about 30 percent greater than for Hispanics and that gap has increased over time.  Hispanics' median family income declined by an average of 0.5 percent per year from 2000, the last full year before the last recession started, to 2007, the last year for which data are available, falling to $38,679 from $39,935, or by a total of $1,256 (in 2007 dollars). In comparison, whites' median family income fell at a much lower rate of just 0.003 percent per year, for a total decline of $12 between 2000 and 2007, to $54,920 from $54,932 (in 2007 dollars).

Large disparities in health insurance coverage also persist.  In 2007, 32.1% of Hispanics lacked health insurance coverage, compared to 10.4% of whites.

Additionally, Hispanic home ownership rate was only 49.7% for Hispanics in 2007, compared to 75.2% for whites.  While the annual average increase of homeownership was greater among Hispanics, many were also victims of bad-actor lending companies and they ended up purchasing high-cost mortgages, as opposed to market rate mortgages.  Nearly 29% of home purchase loans made to Hispanics in 2007 were high cost, as opposed to only 11% for whites.

We encourage Secretary Geithner and President Obama to show courage and leadership in developing an economic stimulus and economic recovery that addresses these discrepancies and includes financial literacy for minorities.  In addition, we encourage President Obama to take the lead on fixing our broken immigration system in order to help stem this economic crisis.  As long as the trap door of undocumented immigration remains, we will not be able to achieve economic recovery.  It is vital that Congress and the Administration realize that as long as we continue the race to the bottom fostered by our broken immigration system, we will not achieve economic recovery.

NDN Praises U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller for Offering Amendment to Help Legal Immigrant Children


NDN President Simon Rosenberg today applauded U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller for offering a successful amendment that will give states the option of providing health insurance to children of legal immigrants through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Rockefeller offered the amendment during the Senate Finance Committee's consideration yesterday of a bill to expand the overall CHIP program.   

Rosenberg also praised Committee Chairman Max Baucus and other Finance Committee members who voted in favor of the amendment.

"For those interested in fixing our broken immigration system, the sensible resolution by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday is a welcome sign and a clear signal that progress can be made this year. For the last three years, the arguments of a few, deeply out of touch with popular sentiment, have held the immigration debate hostage, preventing progress on what Americans consider to be one of our most important national priorities."

Rosenberg continued, "In poll after poll, Americans rank fixing our broken immigration as one of their top priorities. Few blame the immigrants themselves. Most believe that any serious effort to fix the broken immigration system must include the offering of legal status and a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants already here. The American people understand that leaving five percent of our workforce and their families living in the shadows, outside the protection of American law, easy prey for exploitation, with no chance to live the American Dream, is an affront to our core values, and something that cannot stand. It is for this reason that there is such a deep and intense desire in the public to fix the system now."

"The sensible resolution of this first debate in the new Congress over how to best treat the immigrants among us is a hopeful sign that leaders of both parties will be able to come together later this year and pass a comprehensive approach to fixing our badly broken immigration system. In the coming weeks, I urge the full Senate to pass this critical legislation," Rosenberg said.

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