comprehensive immigration reform

NDN Analysis on Deportations Picked Up by the Media

NDN's latest analysis on the Obama Administration's Immigration Enforcement Record got picked up by the media, here are some of the latest stories:

-Griselda NevarezAmid calls to halt deportations, progressive group defends Obama,  VOXXI, 4/10/14 (also running on La Opinión English home page)

-Laura MecklerNDN Defends Obama’s Deportation Record,  Wall Street Journal, 4/9/14

-María PeñaDemocratic group says the amount of deportations have decreased under ObamaLaOpinión, 4/10/14


Revisiting the Senate Vote on CIR in '06

In 2006, the US Senate voted 62-36 to pass S.2611: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. Of the 62 Senators who voted to pass CIR, 22 were Republicans:

Bennett (R-UT)*
Brownback (R-KS)*
Chafee (R-RI)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)*
Craig (R-ID)
DeWine (R-OH)
Domenici (R-NM)
Frist (R-TN)
Graham (R-SC)*
Gregg (R-NH)*
Hagel (R-NE)
Lugar (R-IN)*
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)*
McConnell (R-KY)*
Murkowski (R-AK)*
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)*
Specter (R-PA)*
Stevens (R-AK)
Voinovich (R-OH)*
Warner (R-VA)

Of those 22 Senators, 12 are still in office today, and 11 are still Republicans (think Specter). But the count is different this time around. Four years later, not a single one of these Republicans support CIR.

Progress on 3 Important Fronts - Drop Dobbs, Vitter-Bennett, 9500 Liberty

Just wanted to report in, quickly, on progress on three projects NDN is taking a leading role on right now. 

Drop Dobbs - Several weeks ago, along with more than a dozen other groups, NDN helped launched Drop Dobbs, a website and campaign designed to knock Lou Dobbs off CNN.   Tens of thousands have signed our petitions, watched our videos.  And the campaign itself has gotten a lot of notice.  Dobbs himself has addressed the campaign on the air, more groups are signing on, and some new steps will be announced soon.  The NY Times has a major piece by Brian Stelter today which is the most important press story yet generated on the campaign - be sure to check it out, and if you haven't yet please add your name to the petition today.

Defeating Bennett-Vitter - For NDN blog readers you know that we have been long talking about the day Republican leaders would mount a series effort to derail reapportionment and the census by challening the propriety of counting non citizens particularly in the reapportionment process in 2011-2012.  Well that day has come now, with Senators Bennett and Vitter attempting to put an Amendment on to the current Commerce appropriations bill which would add an 11th question to the census next year, in an attempt to get an accurate count of the non-citizens in the United States.  NDN has issued many statements, been up on the Hill, organized two press conferences this week with allied groups and in general helped organize a well orchestrated push back on this irresponsible effort that would undeniably cost the country a great deal of money, threaten the integrity of the census and reapportionment processes and almost certainly be found unconstitutional. 

For more on this important advocacy effort visit here, and also feel free to read some of the press stories this effort has also generated. Be sure to contact your Senator this week and ask them to vote no on Vitter-Bennett (the vote could be as early as Weds). 

9500 Liberty - Our favorite movie, 9500 Liberty received an extraordinary early review this week:

It’s a bitter human irony that we can be at our ugliest when we’re fighting for our most passionate verities, including democracy, freedom and the American dream. And it seems to happen most often in the politics of immigration.

Most of us are good people when we’re sitting around the dinner table. What happens to us as soon as we step up to the public podium?

If there’s one movie that shows the worst -- but also the best -- in that regard, it’s a documentary you’ve probably never heard of. As of now, it's unreleased.

Like many other independently made documentaries, “9500 Liberty” doesn’t have a distributor. That ought to change. So far, it has been on the festival circuit with forthcoming stops at the San Diego Asian Festival (Oct. 27), the San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki Theater (Oct. 29), and festivals in Virginia, Austin and St. Louis in November.

And it lit up the virtual nation of Youtubia when filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler posted their movie in progress.   In the summer of 2007, Park and Byler took their cameras to Prince William County, Virginia, where an explosive debate was taking place.

In response to the burgeoning influx of Hispanics, the local board of supervisors was considering legislation that would require police officers to stop and question anyone who gave them “probable cause” to suspect was an illegal alien.  The film follows the interaction within the board, out in the community and over the Internet, as the issue attracts increasingly inflamed and widespread debate.

And as we watch events unfold, we can’t help noticing this is all taking place in Manassas, the hallowed battleground site where another racially charged matter divided the political nation.

This postmodern version of civil war may not have the musketry and the spectacular loss of life of its predecessor. But it doesn't lack for absorbing drama. And a memorable cast of characters...

.....Even though the filmmakers’ political sentiments aren’t too hard to identify, there’s something to watch for viewers of any political stripe. “9500 Liberty” is local, yet powerfully American. And not unlike Marshall Curry’s excellent 2002 documentary “Street Fight,” which chronicled the stunning rise to power of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, it shows us politics where the rubber meets the road.

With an uplifting turn of events and some extraordinary acts of conscience, “9500 Liberty” is as dramatically charged as any fiction movie. And ultimately, it’s as powerful a booster of the democratic process as anything Frank Capra ever imprinted into our collective memory.

Those of you in SF this week are lucky - along with several other organizations we are cohosting a screening of 9500 Liberty this Thursday night, October 29th, at Sundance Kabuki.  I hope you will be able to attend, and see what I have called one of the best movies I have ever seen. 

Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census

Tonight's reports of the murder of a US Census worker will bring national attention to the emerging politics of the Census count, something that we've long been worried about at NDN. 

In August I posted the following about a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed which signaled the beginning of a new campaign by the right to disrupt the vital Census count next year: 

For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the Census, to be conducted next year, from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government (the primary purpose of the every ten year count).

Today the Wall Street Journal is running a well-articulated early salvo in this coming battle by John S. Baker and Elliot Stonecipher.  It starts off......

"Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.

Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of “loser” states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what’s going on.

In 1790, the first Census Act provided that the enumeration of that year would count “inhabitants” and “distinguish” various subgroups by age, sex, status as free persons, etc. Inhabitant was a term with a well-defined meaning that encompassed, as the Oxford English Dictionary expressed it, one who “is a bona fide member of a State, subject to all the requisitions of its laws, and entitled to all the privileges which they confer.”

Thus early census questionnaires generally asked a question that got at the issue of citizenship or permanent resident status, e.g., “what state or foreign country were you born in?” or whether an individual who said he was foreign-born was naturalized. Over the years, however, Congress and the Census Bureau have added inquiries that have little or nothing to do with census’s constitutional purpose.

By 1980 there were two census forms. The shorter form went to every person physically present in the country and was used to establish congressional apportionment. It had no question pertaining to an individual’s citizenship or legal status as a resident. The longer form gathered various kinds of socioeconomic information including citizenship status, but it went only to a sample of U.S. households. That pattern was repeated for the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The 2010 census will use only the short form. The long form has been replaced by the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Immigration Statistics Staff, told us in a recent interview that the 2010 census short form does not ask about citizenship because “Congress has not asked us to do that.”

Because the census (since at least 1980) has not distinguished citizens and permanent, legal residents from individuals here illegally, the basis for apportionment of House seats has been skewed. According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data (2007), states with a significant net gain in population by inclusion of noncitizens include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas. (There are tiny net gains for Hawaii and Massachusetts.)

This makes a real difference. Here’s why:

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members."

....You get the idea. 

We've been arguing, aggressively, that it is important for the Obama Administration to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform by March of 2010 (the count begins in April, 2010) in order to avoid what could become a very nasty debate indeed - in the middle of a very important election - about who exactly is an American.   To me the need to conduct a clean and accurate census, so essential to effective governance of the nation, is one of the most powerful reasons why immigration reform cannot wait till 2011, as some have suggested.

In launching along with 14 other groups this past week, I cited my own personal weariness with the summer's angry talk and the still all too virulent politics of intolerance.  We have long believed the debate over the Census would unleash the reactionary hounds, so to speak, and rather than letting them gain the upper hand in a debate over who we are and who we are becoming, it is essential now for reasonable people of both parties to stand, together, to prevent an angry few to hijack what is, in this case, a process so integral to the very functioning of our democracy. 

Next year is shaping up to be an extraordinary one in US history.

9500 Liberty - A Remarkable Film About Immigration Reform

Over the last few weeks we've been lucky enough to host a few screenings of a powerful new documentary film to be released this fall, 9500 Liberty.  It takes an indepth look at how the debate over immigration has played out in fast-growing and fast-changing Prince William County, Virginia, not far from us here in Washington, DC.  And while it is about immigration and how our nation's people are changing, it is also an extraordinary look at how a community comes together - or sometimes doesn't - to tackle common challenges.

We will be talking about this remarkable film more in the coming months, but for now watch the trailer below, or visit the website to learn more about 9500 Liberty.   And plan on finding time to see it when it comes out this fall.

Senator Kennedy and the Ongoing Battle for Social Justice

As our nation and world mourn the loss of Senator Kennedy, I'd like to honor this true American hero's contribution to the fight for social justice issues. Many of today's articles discuss the late Senator's commitment to reforming health care, and rightly so. But we must not overlook the fact that the Lion of the Senate did not limit himself only to this cause. He dedicated his public service career to the fight against all moral and social injustices. Here is one example of his work to reform our broken immigration system--an issue that touches the very core of who we are as a nation.

In the speech that follows, Senator Kennedy reminds us that, as Americans, we are fundamentally a nation of immigrants:

We cannot turn our backs on our heritage as immigrants. Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. They are our past, they are our present, they are our future.



More on the Health Care Debate and Immigration Reform

Yesterday I wrote a few points drawing clear distinctions between the debate for health care reform and for a fix to our broken immigration system.  To complement the arguments, here is a great piece on "Four Health Care Debate Takeaways For the Immigration Reform Fight."  Essentially: 1) folks won't stick to the issue, 2) you have the same Congressional targets for passage, 3) the Minutement will act as the militia de facto, and 4) we must not waver, we must have courage.  

NDN Backgrounder: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Yesterday, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), led a White House meeting with key groups and stakeholders to discuss immigration policy. 

For anyone interested in learning more about this important issue we've assembled the following set of background material:

Key Arguments:

Beck Loses Advertisers, Dobbs Should be Worried, Simon Rosenberg, 8/14/09 - Rosenberg presents at Netroots and discusses the implication of advertisers withdrawing from purchasing air time on the Glenn Beck show on Fox. 

The Coming Battle Over the Census, Simon Rosenberg, 8/10/09 - For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the 2010 Census from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government.  We argue that it is important for the Obama Administration to pass Compehensive Immigration Reform by March of 2010 (the count begins in April, 2010) in order to avoid what could become a very nasty debate about who should be counted.

Sotomayor, Hispanics, and the Martinez Resignation, Simon Rosenberg, 8/7/09 - Rosenberg offers initial thoughts on the way the Senate Republicans handled the Sotomayor vote and how that contributes to the alientation Hispanics feel towards the GOP.  Highlights the significance of the only minority Republican Senator fleeing the national Republican Party.

Making the Case for Passage of Immigration Reform This Year, Simon Rosenberg, 6/16/09 - Rosenberg lays out the basic foundation for why Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform. This summary is a good introduction for those wanting to learn the fundamentals of this issue.

Making the Case: 7 Reasons Why Congress Should Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this Year,Huffington Post, Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/09 - Rosenberg argues that the answer to whether Congress can pass reform this year is "yes."

A Responsible Immigration Policy - A Series of Essays from NDN

Hispanics Rising II, Updated May 2008 - NDN's commentary pertaining to the impact of the growing Hispanic electorate on national elections, key data and projections that support the argument that whoever wins the Hispanic vote can maintain a hold on national elections.  

On Obama, Race, and the End of the Southern Strategy, Simon Rosenberg, 1/4/08 - Rosenberg discusses the impact of the figure of Barack Obama, as America undergoes one of the most significant demographic transformations in History.  As such,liberating American politics from the pernicious era of the Southern Strategy, based on the exploitation of race, should be one the highest strategic priorities for left-of-center politics.

Can Democrats Seize the Opportunity The Immigration Debate Offers Them?, Simon Rosenberg, 12/11/07 - Rosenberg explains how embracing comprehensive immigration reform will allow Democrats to draw a bright line distinction with the GOP on an issue where the Democratic position has majority support of the American people and of a deep and broad national coalition.  Takin on CIR shows Congress can work to solve vexing national problems; drives a deep wedge in the GOP coalition; and makes a major overture to Hispanics, who are the key to a permanent 21st century progressive governing coalition.


NDN Poll in Battleground States on Immigration, 9/2/08

Polling of Swing Districts, America's Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, 2/19/09

Recent Polling on Immigration,  America's Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, 6/2/09 - Since a previous America's Voice poll in November, Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Stratagey Group finds that support for comprehensive reform has been stable (and high), but increasing numbers of voters see the economic benefit of passing comprehensive immigration reform. The poll is consistent with NDN polling by Bendixen & Associates in its affirmation of overwhelming public support for immigration reform.


Politics and Policy: What to Expect from the Immigration Debate, Simon Rosenberg, Ali Noorani, and Tamar Jacoby, 8/4/09

NDN Forum Immigration Reform: Politics, Public Opinion and Legislative Prospects,   Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, 6/16/09. Please click here for video of Simon Rosenberg's presentation; please click herefor video of Andres’ presentation.

NDN, America's Voice, NCLR Team Up to Reiterate the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year, 2/19/09

“Immigration Reform and the Next Administration,” NDN Event at the Democratic National Committee Convention in Denver, CO, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Marco Lopez, Frank Sharry, Janet Murguia, 8/25/08 

NDN Bicameral Event for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Rep. Gutierrez, Rep.Lofgren, Sen. Reid, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Menendez, 3/3/07 

To stay up-to-date, follow us on the NDN Immigration Weekly.

Only "Three-Fifths of a Person" - More Immigrant Deaths Uncovered from Under DHS

At a border conference recently Secretary Napolitano stated, "Our job is to enforce the laws that we have now, to do it intelligently, to do it with well-trained professionals who are well-supervised," but in enforcing current immigration law, DHS is violating the highest law of all - the Constitution of the United States. 
Until due process applies to immigration courts, DHS should seriously revisit this policy. 

I allude in the title to Article I, Sec. II of the original U.S. Constitution (before the 14th amendment providing equality under the law came into being) because today, the New York Times uncovered additional deaths of individuals who were held under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention.  I would like to think that this absence of humanity at ICE persists because many of the DHS officials there are remnants of the Bush Administration.  DHS officials report that these deaths were "missed," the way you'd fail to notice a new hair do, or forget to pick up dry-cleaning.  Not only is the enforcement system itself appalling, more infuriating is DHS's completely unacceptable response.  If I were a family member of that person who was left to die and then "forgotten," DHS would have a wrongful death suit on their hands (at least). 

But most of those detained do not know the legal system, and do not have the resources to effectively fight back, and so they often lose their lives in the attempt.  As Rep. Zoe Lofgren has pointed out, it is unacceptable that in the United States of America, that prides itself on its humanitarian, inclusive values, and "justice for all," ICE detention centers are something out of a "gulag" or dark ages. 

Let me explain how "justice" works in the immigration enforcement system:  first, a person - any person mind you, even U.S. citizens - can have their door knocked down one fine day and get taken in by ICE (because unless you happen to carry your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport in your pocket, you have no proof of citizenship).  Once you are taken in and accused of a violation to immigration law, many are kept for days or weeks on end while they await a hearing.  Because infractions to the INA and immigration laws are a civil penalty, not a crime (contrary to popular belief), if you are detained for an immigration violation you have absolutely no right to a lawyer.  If you cannot get one, tough luck.  Similarly, you have no right to a translator.  So if you don't know to ask for one, if you cannot find one or hire a translator in order to understand the charges against you - again - too bad, you will be processed without being able to understand the charge against you.  How is THAT for due process?

So once you are convicted of an immigration offense that you probably didn't understand, whether you violated the law or not, you are sent to one of these detention centers, where approximately 104 individuals have died since 2003.  That might not seem like a large number, but the fact that many died after needing and requesting medical attention repeatedly means that ICE detention procedures as they stand often amount to manslaughter.  And this is no exaggeration - the fact is that according to the law, detainees have no enforceable rights.  ICE has acted in such a way that has resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, but those people have no due process rights under current law. 

And unfortunately, this epidemic of mistreatment and deaths in detention is not isolated to immigration detainment centers.  Immigrants (and U.S. citizens) when held for immigration violations are sometimes placed in ICE detention centers, but because of overcrowding, they are often moved to local, state and federal prisons.

According to the Department of Justice, there are Bureau of Prisons facilities, privately managed "secure" facilities, and community corrections facilities.  Our focus on detention might begin to explain why our prisons are also the most crowded in the world.  The U.S. has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world, with 750 inmates per 100,000 persons.  Of those incarcerated, "white" inmates make up about 57% percent of the prison population, while "blacks" make up 39% and "Hispanics" are 32%.  However, the prison system has a disproportionate effect on minorities.  Only approximately 118,000 inmates are white, while approximately 81,000 are black and 66,583 are Hispanic.  Although African-Americans constitute 14 percent of regular drug users, they are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56 percent of persons in state prisons for drug crimes.  Many justice experts have found that the increase in the incarceration rate is the product of changes in penal policy and practice, not changes in crime rates. 

But as I said earlier, the important distinction is that people who violate only immigration law are not criminals.  And thus, they should not be in prisons or similar establishments.  I encourage enforcement of laws and of immigration law, but an immigration law that is functional, fair, and that is in line with our Constitution and our principles.  I do hope President Obama takes this opportunity to reverse much of the damage caused by the 1996 revisions to immigration law and to create a new, realistic, fair, and enforceable immigration law. 

Home From Netroots Nation

Just got home from Netroots Nation.  It was a very good event this year.   It had very little tension.   Calm.  Workmanlike.  In part a reflection of how this is the first gathering of the netroots since the historic 2008 elections, which rid the country of the force that in many ways brought the netroots to life, the failed conservatism of the early 21st century.  Amazingly 2000 or so people attended, as many as last year.  And Pittsburgh was a wonderful host city, pretty, clean, impressive.

NDN had a strong presence this year.  Not only were we a major sponsor of the event, but we managed a panel on the coming Millenial Age with Mike Hais; offered a screening of the incredible film about immigration, 9500 Liberty; participated on a panel about race, Beck and Dobbs; and I was fortunate enough to address the whole gathering in the moments before President Clinton's remarkable speech on Thursday night (NN has already loaded the Clinton speech up, and you can watch it here). 

A big Saturday night shout out to Raven Brooks and the whole NN team for pulling off another great gathering.  I, like many others, already have NN 2010 in Las Vegas July 22-25 on my calendar.

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