Weekly Immigration Update

Weekly Immigration Update: What Will the President Say Tonight? CHCI Policy Conference In the Midst of Health Care Debate

It will be interesting to see what President Obama says this evening given the tension and confusion surrounding the health care debate, turned immigration debate.  At the policy plenary discussion that launched the CHCI conference, on immigration reform, Sen. Bob Menendez hit the nail on the head when he said, "if we had passed immigration reform first, all these would have been moot points," referring to Mr. Joe Wilson's recent outburst and the anti-immigrant campaign that has taken the health care debate as their most recent tool through which to spew anti-immigrant propaganda.  NDN has long talked about these "immigration proxy wars" and made the case that immigration reform would have left a clear playing field for the rest of the items on the domestic agenda. 

Factually, what is included in the Senate health care bill in regards to immigrants is that a verification for eligibility for the exchange and other benefits would essentially be the same as those in existing law, i.e., proof of legal status, not citizenship (although even legal immigrants do have restrictions for certain programs, like Medicaid).  There has been much confusion on this by the employment of the term "citizenship" verification. As you all probably know there is an ocean of LEGAL status possibilities that lie between "illegals" and "U.S. citizens."  Sadly, these differences are not always understood, as we saw this week by the absence of an acknowledgement of legal immigrants during a White House press briefing, and even on news shows like that of Dylan Ratigan, who qualified those eligible as "American citizens," when in fact, "legal immigrants" who are not yet citizens are also eligible.  

But these are all semantics.  The bottom line about what has happened this week is that regardless of whether we want to be defined by race or by the issue of immigration on policy issues, we will be.  Those who seek to divide the country and foster hate against a certain sociological other will not go away, so they must be preempted and defeated.  As Sen. Menendez also stated at CHCI this week, "make no mistake about it, when they talk about 'those people', they are talking about you, about us."  And until we recognize this, we will have no progress.  For example, in the case of health care, from strictly a policy standpoint (not humanitarian or liberal, etc.) what if we DID cover the "illegals"?  What if we suddently acknowledged that "those people" are actually part of all of us? That their kids go to school with our kids and get sick the same as our children?  That they live next door? That they work in our offices?  Please read this analysis in Newsweek of what could actually be achieved if we made a conscious decision on the basis of a strategic, policy-oriented argument and covered "those people." 

The tone taken by the debate this week is - to say the least - disappointing considering that the election of President Obama was supposed to be a sign of progress in America's attitudes towards race. But, we saw this coming. We saw it in the old woman who expressed how "afraid" she was because Obama looked likely to become president.  And in the man who said he feared for his unborn children if Obama became president. We had a preview of this with the people who linked Obama to terrorism and terrorists, and in the suggestion that he was a foreigner and that he wasn't one of "us." All this did not suddenly disappear on November 4th last year, nor will it in a near future.  No doubt, there are some who genuinely disagree with some government policies, the problem is that in light of the tone taken by the debate right now, it is hard to know who is who. Those who genuinely do disagree with the president should discuss their opinions based on policy, not on codes that appear to carry racist implications. But there is certainly something ugly going on. And that needs to be discussed - and most importantly, confronted.  And the first major stand we can take on this front is to pass comprehensive immigration reform and take much of the air our of this balloon of hate.  

I close by highlighting that these negative attitudes do not discriminate on the basis of party - hate and fear mongerers are both Democrat and Republican.  On that note, I congratulate Sen. Judd Gregg who called this debate of immigration in the context of health care what it is - a "sideshow."  And acknowledged that doctors will treat whoever walks into an emergency room, regardless of legal status (which, by the way, taxpayers are paying for - and thanks to not including "illegals" in reform, will continue to pay for).  

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Weekly Immigration Update: Airport Workers Smuggle Immigrants; Latino Lawyers Can Do Much To Help; Antis Have Their Game On

Over Labor Day Weekend, news broke covering a series of airport workers in Puerto Rico who were helping undocumented immigrants enter the United States.  This once again highlights the flaws in an "enforcement-only" system, and showcases the need for a comprehensive strategy to fix the current broken immigration system.    

In other news, with E-verify becoming mandatory for all government contractors this week, Congress will have to decide on how it takes up this issue again as the program is scheduled to expire on September 30.  By dealing with this sub-issue through comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we could finally take this debate off the table.

Several outlets also covered the Hispanic National Bar Association's annual convention in Albuquerque, NM this past week.  I attended as a panelist to discuss immigrant rights.  Many judges, including Chief Judge for the U.S. Circuit in NM, Martha Vazquez, agree that the current broken immigration system is one of "de facto criminalization" of immigrants.  

Latino lawyers can do much to help advise immigrants of their rights, and they can do much to help advocate for reform. However, we have serious obstacles to overcome in having more Latinos - particularly Latinas - represented in the profession, as illustrated by an HNBA study. 

And today Simon highlights a very disturbing and concerted anti-immigrant campaign.  These videos are extremely well done; while the arguments are factually incorrect and based on no empirical evidence, the ads are incredibly effective.  Clearly these guys are elevating their game in preparation for a fight.  What are you doing to prepare?

Weekly Immigration Update: Immigrants are Vital to Economic Recovery

A new study published by the CATO Institute has findings on immigrant productivity and concluded that the focus on repelling immigrants does more harm than good to the U.S. economy; the report was covered by the Wall Street Journal and by Walter Ewing, published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  According to WSJ:

"Increased enforcement and reduced low-skilled immigration have a significant negative impact on the income of U.S. households," write Peter Dixon and Maureen Rimmer, the study's authors. "In contrast, legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households...a program that allowed more low-skilled foreigners to enter the U.S. workforce lawfully would put smugglers and document-forgers out of business," explain the authors. "It would also allow immigrants to have higher productivity and create more openings for Americans in higher-skilled occupations."

Using a dynamic economic model that weighs the impact of immigrants on government revenues and expenditures, the study seeks to quantify the benefits of comprehensive immigration reform versus the enforcement-only approach. It finds that legalizing the entry of more low-skilled immigrants would result in economic gains of about $180 billion annually to U.S. households. A focus on more enforcement alone would not only result in an annual net economic loss of around $80 billion, say the authors, but fewer jobs, less investment and lower levels of consumption as well. "Modest savings in public expenditures would be more than offset by losses in economic output," says the report. 

In other news, the Asian-American Community flexed more muscle this week in the fight for immigration reform, covered by various news outlets. 

More Advertisers Drop Glenn Beck - More companies came out this week opting out of being associated with his xenophobic dinner theatre.  Hopefully the next step is: Glenn Beck off air.  Join in to "Stop the Race Baiting." Next - we Drop Dobbs and Limbaugh. 

Other headlines this week:

Immigration Reform is NOT Health Care Reform

White House Reiterates Commitment to Fixing the Broken Immigration System - let's keep on it!

White House Meeting on Immigration/NDN Backgrounder on Immigration Reform

Jorge Ramos: La Promesa

Only Three Fifths of a Person - More Deaths in DHS Detention

Weekly Immigration Update: Immigration Reform at NCLR Conference; 9500 Liberty Screening; and Discussion Tomorrow


Last week we blogged from NCLR, discussing the impact immigration reform impact the opportunities available to young people, and the role reform could play in encouraging young Latinas particularly to seize these opportunities.  

Also at NCLR, Gov. Tim Kaine delivered a moving - fully bilingual - address, showing that a person is no less "American," or hard working, or deserving, just because they are fortunate enough to know more than one language.  He touched on a number of topics, ranging from Health Care to the Judge Sotomayor nomination, but when he discussed immigration reform, he emphasized:

I also want to reiterate that the President is committed to comprehensive immigration reform—it’s needed, and the wheels are already in motion.

Given that those wheels are in motion at the national level, we will be hosting a discussion tomorrow about the policy and politics of immigration reform - don't miss it, RSVP here

We ended last week gearing up for tomorrow's discussion by hosting a select screening with the filmmakers of 9500 Liberty, Annabel Park and Eric Byler.  This powerful documentary takes you through the journey of a community that was torn apart as it became a microcosm of the national debate over immigration, one year before the national elections. 


Weekly Immigration Update; from NCLR

Chicago, IL - The Annual Conference of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) started off with a bang on Saturday.  President Janet Murguia delivered an impassioned speech on the state of Latinos today and called to all of us for action on the various fronts discussed at this conference - Health Care, Education, Civil Rights, Immigration Reform, and Leadership building.  When one advocates for one issue, it is easy to forget that there is a spectrum of other concerns that affect the Latino community in equal measure.  While the Hispanic community at NCLR reminds us of these other issues at the forefront of Hispanic voters' minds, there is a unifying thread - concern for demonization and de-humanization of Hispanics.  That is how immigration is linked to all other issues - in conversations with activists from all areas, immigration remains a threshold issue for everyone.  With this audience, a candidate for public office could have an impeccable tax, health care, or education proposal, but if the idea is that certain people cannot have access because they are "foreign" (even if they are legal immigrants), the buck stops there. 

Sen. Dick Durbin renewed his call for passage of the DREAM Act, that could change the lives of so many young people here in Illinois who have gone to school - high school and often college - only to be kept in waiting of the promise of DREAM.  It is a hopeful sign that Sen. Durbin will similarly serve as a loud voice for comprehensive immigration reform - DREAM and all the other pieces - as legislation hits the Senate floor this Fall.

Valerie Jarret spoke yesterday of the importance of passage of health care reform for this community, in addition to education reform and immigration reform, as well as diversity in our Supreme Court and throughout the government so that "government reflects the population it is governing."  She tied all these issues together as they are all needed to achieve the promise of a level playing-field for all in this new age of Obama.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, delivered a riveting speech that drew a standing ovation from the NCLR attendees.  Herself a woman of many "firsts,"  she focused on the role of Latinas, highlighting the challenges we face in preparing our young women, but also emphasizing how far we have come, for example, as Latinas are now the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs.

Secretary Hilda Solis also spoke at the midday "Latina Brunch," delivering inspiring words on the importance of keeping faith in oneself as women and as workers who provide this country with so many riches - tangible and intangible. 

During the Latina Panel in "The View" format, Maria Cardona, Leslie Sanchez, and Lori Montenegro discussed issues of most importance to our gender and demographic.  Hands-down, the most important concern was that of young Latinas' self-image.  As the group and demographic with the highest rate of high school dropouts and teen-pregnancies, we face a generational crisis with our Latina millenials.  As Lori correctly indicated, the two issues (education/teen-pregnancy) are necessarily correlated with the vision these girls have of themselves.  If they do not envision opportunity, a career, or self-improvement, it will not happen.  I would argue that immigration reform ties directly into this issue because if a young immigrant woman (whether legal or illegal) feels that she is somehow not deserving or simply not eligible to attend the same schools or pursue the same ambitions as her "native" counterparts, she will act accordingly and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Even native born American Latinas can be affected if their own immigrant or first generation family instills these beliefs.  But regardless of whether these Latinas are legal immigrants, undocumented, or first or second generation, the impact of their decisions extends to our entire society.  Particularly at this time of economic crisis, we need our population to be the most prepared, the most educated, the most motivated, and the most innovative.  And the absence of major reforms to our immigration system is one of the most obvious obstacles holding us back as a nation.   

Weekly Immigration Update: Hate Crimes, Sotomayor, 9500 Liberty Trailer, and the Current State of the GOP


1. This week:  Congratulations to the Senate for passing the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. 

2. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings and all the discussion surrounding this “wise Latina” led to a great deal of political theatre on the part of Republican Senators.  We have more on that, and on what’s coming up next. 

Judge Sotomayor was asked about immigration briefly during the hearings as Senator Durbin asked her to comment on how changes in the immigration courts have affected federal courts.  

A great piece by Frank Rich on Sotomayor and the GOP’s evident decline is reminiscent of NDN's writings on the end of the GOP's "Southern Strategy", which you can read more about here.  Rich writes: 

Yet the Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent…

…Southern senators who relate every question to race, ethnicity and gender just assumed that their unreconstructed obsessions are America’s and that the country would find them riveting. Instead the country yawned. The Sotomayor questioners also assumed a Hispanic woman, simply for being a Hispanic woman, could be portrayed as The Other and patronized like a greenhorn unfamiliar with How We Do Things Around Here. The senators seemed to have no idea they were describing themselves when they tried to caricature Sotomayor as an overemotional, biased ideologue…

…When Tom Coburn of Oklahoma merrily joked to Sotomayor that “You’ll have lots of ’splainin’ to do,” it clearly didn’t occur to him that such mindless condescension helps explain why the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation is bolting his party.

Click here for NDN's analysis of the State of the Modern GOP.

3. Local enforcement of Federal Immigration Law 

9500 Liberty Trailer released - Just a few miles from Washington, D.C (and many miles from the Mexican border), Prince William County, VA became ground zero of local law enforcement of immigration laws, and an example of how these policies divided a community.  On the one hand, we saw a xenophobic County Council Chairman and a group of residents attacking anyone who "looked" foreign, and on the other hand we had a County Police Chief and county residents who warned us of the impact such divisive and ineffective policies could have.  To take us through the journey of local politics, racial profiling, and two communities up in arms, filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler have completed a documentary entitled 9500 Liberty.  Check out the trailer of the film here.  As writer John Grisham stated, "9500 Liberty makes it clear that when we, as a nation of immigrants, debate the immigration issue, we are defining our very identity as Americans." 

Enforcement does not equal Rule of Law – As long as the federal government does not fix the very broken federal immigration and nationality act, localities will continue to take matters into their own hands, as demonstrated by this lawyer, who seems to be making a bundle from state and local governments under the auspicies of fighting “illegals.”  Is this the best use of your taxpayer dollars? 

Mr. Kobach is on a dogged campaign to fight illegal immigration at the local level, riding an insurgency by cities and states fed up with what they see as federal failures on immigration. As these local governments have taken on enforcement roles once reserved for the federal government, he is emerging as their leading legal advocate…

And with the Obama administration indicating that it will put off an overhaul of immigration until late this year or beyond, the courtroom campaign for tougher rules is likely to expand as cities and states remain the main battleground for shaping immigration policy. 

…Lawyers who have confronted Mr. Kobach in court say the cases he pursues would cover the country in a patchwork of local immigration rules that are contrary to federal law and costly to defend.

“These laws divide communities, stereotype Latinos, burden businesses and trigger needless and expensive litigation,“ said Lucas Guttentag, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

…Mr. Kobach lost a suit against Kansas to block a statute allowing illegal immigrant students to pay in-state tuition rates in public colleges. But he won a similar case in California; it is now before that state’s highest court. And he helped Arizona defend a statute that cancels the business licenses of employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants; it was upheld by the federal courts.

Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, praised Mr. Kobach for empowering local governments by helping his city craft “a masterful ordinance that at the end of the day will have a great effect on this country of eliminating illegal immigrants.”

The recently elected mayor of Valley Park, Grant Young, was more guarded, noting that the town of 6,500 had paid some $270,000 in legal fees.

4. Speaking of Enforcement – Check out this Sunday’s Op-ed by Lee Hockstader in the Washington Post, “Immigration’s Sideshow.” 

5. Anti-immigrant Campaigns Don’t Pay – Famously anti-immigrant Sen. Ensign falls eight more points in the polls.  No silver bullet there. 

Weekly Immigration Update: More Evidence of Bipartisan Support for Immigration Reform, Urgency of Reform & 287(g) Debate

More Evidence of bipartisan support for immigration reform - On yesterday’s Al Punto, Newt Gingrich expressed his support for fixing the broken immigration system and – importantly – he recognized how it is unsafe and unrealistic to either deport 12 million people or have them remain in the shadows.  He also recognized the need to take on the issue of future flow of workers.  If we do not control the flow of workers expressly, we will suffer the consequences yet again of not having realistic laws that respond to the economic need for people ranging from foreign professionals and unskilled workers.

Jorge Ramos
Now as you know President Barack Obama promised that during his first year in office he would sign a bill that would have a comprehensive immigration bill in the United States, during his first year.  Would you help him? Would you help him achieve this goal?
Newt Gingrich

Absolutely, look I believe as a matter of national security we have to control the border.  I believe it is impossible to control the border without an effective guest worker program and I believe that we should recognize the honest reality that there are millions of hardworking people who are willing to work hard, willing to pay taxes, even to become part of the American system. And we should not lock them away into illegality. So I do think it's possible to design this program, I'd be very eager to reach out and work with President Obama on developing some program like that.

More Evidence Pointing to the Urgency of Fixing the Broken Immigration System – A few stories this week that continue to prove our argument:  it is easy for policy-makers in D.C. to forget that “issues” are a living, breathing reality for many, to lose track and see them merely as “agenda items” that can be programmed and re-scheduled according to their convenience.  However, the fact is that immigrants and U.S. citizens cannot wait, they suffer the impact of our broken immigration system day in and day out.  By comprehensive reform we mean not only adjusting the status of those currently undocumented, we mean fixing the broken immigration court system, fixing the inhumane, unorganized, and unguided system of detention, and fixing the costly, bureaucratic application and naturalization processes at USCIS.   
Mentally ill immigrants have little hope for care in detention
Dallas immigration court’s backlog hits 10-year high

Congratulations to Kalamazoo! – In Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Chief of the Kalamzoo Dept. of Public Safety has issued an order prohibiting police from asking about immigration status during traffic stops or in connection with non-violent crimes under the new policy issued by DHS this week in regards to the 287(g) section of immigration law allowing local police to enforce immigration law.  It will be interesting to see how this new policy plays out.  I have been very critical of the 287(g) program as it stood in the Bush administration because of all the evidence pointing to the ways in which it was abused for racial profiling and to terrorize communities.  I appreciate DHS is attempting to improve the program, however I am very concerned by the fact that 66 new agreements were just entered into under the new rule issued by DHS.  Regardless of the good intentions of our federal agency, the reality is that minority communities do not know the minutiae of these regulations and only understand that police are now “la migra” (in their view), so I am wary of the real-world impact these agreements will have – regardless of what DHS intentions might be.

And I leave you with “A Bipartisan Blueprint For Immigration Reform” by Jeb Bush, Mack McClarty and Edward Alden:


From the Los Angeles Times
A bipartisan blueprint for immigration reform
The U.S. needs to create a system that responds to labor market needs, provides more effective enforcement and offers a fair way to deal with those living here illegally.

By Jeb Bush, Thomas F. McLarty III and Edward Alden
July 13, 2009

Our immigration system has been broken for too long, and the costs of that failure are growing. Getting immigration policy right is fundamental to our national interests -- our economic vitality, our diplomacy and our national security.

In the report of the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations' Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy released last week, we lay out what is at stake for the United States. President Obama has made it clear that reform is one of his top priorities, and that is an encouraging and welcome signal.

Immigration has long been America's secret weapon. The United States has attracted an inordinate share of talented and hardworking immigrants, who are enticed here by the world's best universities, the most innovative companies, a vibrant labor market and a welcoming culture. Many leaders in allied nations were educated in the United States, a diplomatic asset that no other country can match. And the contributions of immigrants -- 40% of the science and engineering PhDs in the U.S. are foreign-born, for example -- have helped maintain the scientific and technological leadership that is the foundation of our national security.

But the United States has been making life much tougher for many immigrants. Long processing delays and arbitrary quota backlogs keep out many would-be immigrants, or leave them in an uncertain temporary status for years. Background and other security checks are taking far too long in many cases. Other countries are taking advantage of these mistakes, competing for immigrants by opening their universities to foreign students and providing a faster track to permanent residency and citizenship.

The persistent problem of illegal immigration has also soured many Americans on the benefits of an open system. The presence of nearly 12 million illegal immigrants has diminished respect for the law, weakened labor rights, strained our relations with Mexico and other nations and unfairly burdened public education and social services in many states.

In a post-9/11 world in which the U.S. must be able to thwart terrorist plots by extremists attempting to come here from abroad, illegal migration also creates an unacceptable security risk. Illegal immigration reflects both the inadequacies in our enforcement regime and the failure to provide enough legal channels to meet, under normal economic circumstances, the demands of the U.S. labor market.

Congress and the Obama administration should move ahead on three fronts: reform the legal immigration system so that it responds more adroitly to labor market needs and enhances U.S. competitiveness; restore the integrity of immigration laws through more effective enforcement, especially at the workplace; and offer a fair and orderly way to allow many of those currently living here illegally to earn the right to remain legally.

There are two objections to pushing ahead with such measures now. First, with a deep recession and unemployment nearing 10%, encouraging more immigration seems to make little sense at the moment. That is why the U.S. needs a more flexible system that is responsive to changes in the economy. Family reunification remains a basic and valuable goal, but employment-based immigration and temporary-worker programs should be allowed to fluctuate with economic cycles, rather than being subject to rigid quotas. That means numbers should go up when the economy grows but fall during recessions.

Second, some argue that this formula repeats the mistake of the 1986 reform law, which did nothing to stop illegal immigration. But the circumstances now are very different. In 1990, the U.S. had fewer than 3,000 Border Patrol agents. Today, there are almost 20,000 agents, a near doubling in the last four years alone. The Department of Homeland Security is also investing heavily in surveillance and other technologies to increase control over the borders.

Electronic verification -- which did not exist in the 1990s -- will soon allow for quick and accurate verification that an employee is authorized to work here. Our task force recommends that employers who use these systems faithfully be rewarded, while companies that persist in hiring illegal immigrants should face tougher sanctions, including criminal penalties and the possibility of civil actions. This will substantially reduce the ability of illegal immigrants to find work in the United States.

In part because of such measures, illegal immigration to the U.S. has fallen to its lowest levels since the mid-1970s. When the economy recovers, those numbers are likely to rise. But Congress and the administration have an opportunity now to develop and put in place an immigration strategy for the recovery by offering new legal paths for immigration and temporary work, along with tough enforcement of the law.

We urge Congress not to keep reprising the stale debates over enforcement-first versus comprehensive reform. U.S. national interests will not be served unless both are priorities. Our group, which includes Democrats and Republicans, shows that a consensus is possible. It's time to get on with the job.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former White House Chief of Staff Thomas F. McLarty III are co-chairmen and Edward Alden is director of a Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy.

Weekly Immigration Update (con.): E-verify controversy, Al Franken, and CIR Recommended by Task Force for Economy, Security

E-VERIFY - DHS reported today that starting Sept. 8, the E-Verify system, an online tool that checks a worker's Social Security number and immigration status, will be mandatory for all  contractors and subcontractors and their employees assigned to federal contracts.  Moreover, these contractors and subcontrators now have to run all employees - not just new hires - though the system.

Soon after the announcement, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to the FY10 Homeland Security appropriations bill offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions that would make the soon-to-expire – and increasingly criticized – E-Verify program permanent.  

A lesser-known provision was inserted by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to permanently authorize the EB-5 visa program, which enables foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in the United States to obtain a green card (yes, a fact unknown to most Americans is that you CAN buy a legitimate green card…if you can afford it).  

The Senate also voted 54-44 to adopt an amendment from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), that would require the department to build up to 700 miles of fencing along the Southwest border (because those taxpayer dollars have been SO well spent until now) – nice way for those Republicans to “cut back unnecessary spending.”  

AL FRANKEN – WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM? – Yes, with Franken in the Senate Dems now have 60 votes.  Yes, Democrats have the votes, but many are still missing the backbone to fix the broken immigration system.  While Franken is exemplary in his support of immigration reform, this is still not the case for many of his colleagues. 

The vote on the e-verify amendment presented the first break between Franken and the Senior Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (Dem leadership and Franken voted against the amendment, Klobuchar voted in favor).  It is these kinds of New Dems who will have to be whipped into shape (figuratively) to recognize the urgency and need for immigration reform.  

HOW TO CONVINCE THEM? – Many of us who study the issue of immigration on a daily basis are fully aware of the economic and social net benefit that reform will bring to all Americans.  Luckily, today's developments coincided with the release of a bipartisan task force report that said overhauling the nation's immigration system and giving millions of undocumented workers a path to legal citizenship is critical to America's national security and economic interests.  Comprehensive legislative changes should be "a first-tier priority for the Obama administration and Congress," said the report, released by a Council on Foreign Relations task force led by former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and Thomas (Mack) McLarty, who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff.

The authors of the report essentially reiterated what I wrote in my Weekly Update on Monday:  "The United States, a country shaped by generations of immigrants and their descendants, is badly mishandling its immigration policy, with serious consequences for its standing in the world," the report said.

Among other things, McLarty disputed the notion that giving undocumented workers now in the country a path to citizenship would be akin to giving them amnesty. They would have to first pay fines, learn English, assimilate and wait behind current applicants, McLarty said.


Weekly Immigration Update: Fourth of July - Why Immigration Reform Is Our Patriotic Duty, Now

This Fourth of July weekend the Statue of Liberty – the most recognizable symbol of the “American Dream” – was once again made fully available to visitors.  It is now as before, "From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome," as Emma Lazarus once wrote in a poem now engraved inside the monument.  Sadly, this is not the reality faced by most immigrants today (regardless of whether they are “legal” or “illegal”) – particularly Mexican and Hispanic immigrants.  We can only hope that the spirit of the founding fathers and the spirit that led us to erect a “Statue of Liberty” prevail in Washington, D.C. in the coming months, and an entire overhaul of the U.S. immigration system is enacted.

In the same patriotic spirit, this weekend, 237 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen were sworn in to become American citizens in Iraq. They are from 59 countries, mostly Mexico, the Philippines and Iraq. As he gave the keynote remarks of the ceremony, Vice President Biden noted that caring for troops abroad and at home is the “sacred obligation” of this nation. Yet many of the soldiers dying for our country today, many of those who were sworn in this weekend, come from “mixed status” families and – in addition to the stress caused by their professional responsibility – have to worry about adjusting their own immigration status or the possible deportation of a loved one.  This added stress will continue until the passage of immigration reform legislation.  

According to the military, with this ceremony, roughly 3000 service members will have become naturalized citizens. But what of the service members who are legal residents but not yet citizens? They remain in waiting.  U.S. legal residents who are not yet citizens and happen to be of Mexican origin can take a bullet – as Americans – because of, and to defend, the American ideals that they believe in but ironically they cannot take a seat at a desk in an agency of the federal government to fight for those same freedoms in a different capacity.  I think our founding fathers would be appalled if they witnessed such a double-standard.

And what of soldiers' families? It is a sad irony that in addition to the fight these soldiers endure on the field, they must also suffer the lack of due process often afforded to their families by the country they serve; or have family that cannot come out of the shadows; and if they have family that is “doing things right” and “waiting in line” to be joined with them legally in the U.S., they must endure years of being processed through an unfairly costly and unfairly broken immigration system.   

In his speech, Vice President Biden invoked the Statue of Liberty’s famous inscription:

 “Give me your tired your poor,” very accurately adding, “to be honest I’m not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I’m having a hard time because I don’t see them in terms of tired, poor or huddled.” If I had to write an inscription, he added, "I would say give me your best, your brightest and your bravest. Give me your warriors your heroes who will enhance our great nation and strive to keep her free."

The key to understanding the immigration issue is the last point - immigrants are of all colors, from all creeds and all regions, and they are everything from agricultural workers, to service employees, to some of the most talented lawyers, scientists, and entrepreneurs in the world.  To America’s great fortune, many would like to be here.  Additionally, all the polling data demonstrates that a resounding majority of American voters side with immigrants on the need to fix the broken immigration system.  Only 3% of voters polled in swing states blamed immigrants for the problems caused by the broken immigration system – while over 2/3 blamed the U.S. Congress and federal government (presumably for its inaction on this front).

At a time when our economy has shrunk over 5%, we need the best and the brightest here; we need them to create jobs here to help us through this economic crisis. 

Biden went on: “There’s always room for more Americans, always room for more Americans. It’s the lifeblood of our country.  You know, over 50 countries represented here today, men and women, black and Asian, Hispanics.”

Per the press pool:
Biden went on to recount a story from when he was in Kosovo. Milosevic had just capitulated, he said, and he had a Kosovar driver who was “very proud to drive a United States Senator around.”  They headed out over a rutted and muddy road, and they saw a lot of construction. “America, America” the driver said, pointing to all the construction activity.  Then at a checkpoint they came upon a female colonel, a black captain, a white sergeant and a Hispanic private, Biden said. “And I pointed and I said, no – there’s America, that’s America and until you understand it here, you’ll never be free.”

Unfortunately there are many in our country today and in the halls of Congress who still do not understand Vice President Biden’s point.  Just last week, 50 Democratic members of Congress voted for an amendment for greater enforcement of the overwhelmingly discredited E-verify program in appropriations legislation.  If their interest is rule of law, then we hope they recognize the need to step up and fix the broken immigration system.

As President Obama stated on July 4, the spirit of our founding fathers is one that, “we are called to show once more. We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time.”  He went on to say that, “Meeting these extraordinary challenges will require an extraordinary effort on the part of every American. And that is an effort we cannot defer any longer.”  Unfortunately, of all the challenges he mentioned – health care, climate change, the economy, even dependence on oil – not once did he mention the broken immigration system that affects so many millions of Americans today.

I have no doubt of the President’s genuine desire and commitment to passing immigration reform, but I do hope that his calls to action and his call for an “extraordinary effort on the part of every American,” will ring again for immigration reform.  Because unlike the other reforms mentioned, immigration reform will serve as an immediate net gain to the U.S. economically, culturally, and to a great extent, the moral authority of America depends on it.  

Make no mistake – immigration reform is urgent.  The broken immigration system affects all Americans.  If there is any doubt on anyone’s mind as to the urgency of reform, I would only highlight the fact that hate crimes against Hispanics (the group the media has associated the most with “illegal immigration”) have risen 40% over the past four years.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that that the number of hate groups targeting Latinos and immigrants has increased by 54% since 2000.

These are not just statistics:
- Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old immigrant, was brutally beaten to death in July of last year by a group of teenagers in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania (several with a criminal record) who got off with a ridiculous 6 month sentence.  Friends of Ramirez have been told to get out of Shenandoah, "or you're gonna to be laying effin next to him." Ramirez was married to a native-born American and left a 1 year old daughter. 

- November 8, 2008, in Suffolk County, New York, 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero was going to visit a friend to watch a movie when he was brutally attacked and beaten to death for no apparent reason.  Originally from Ecuador, he had lived in this country for 16 years. 

- Less than a month later, two Ecuadorean brothers were assaulted by three men yelling anti-Latino slurs in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. One of the brothers, a business man who had lived in the U.S. for ten years, died as a result of his injuries. 

- Most recently, a Hispanic 9 year old girl and her father were brutally gunned down in front of their wife and mother by Minutemen followers who broke into their home in the middle of the night and claimed the family was part of a “Mexican gang.”

This is not a side of America that can be tolerated, much less encouraged by mainstream media and our own community.  And inaction on our part enables this kind of intolerance.  Hate has always been present. But passage of comprehensive immigration reform will undoubtedly take much of the air out of the growing balloon of hate and some of the most shocking displays of racism that we have seen in a generation.

It is not an option; it is a necessity for all Americans - for our soldiers, for our teachers, for our families, for our scientists, for our friends.  Make no mistake about it; fixing the broken immigration system is an urgent national challenge.  And to the naysayers, I repeat the words of President Obama on Independence Day: 

These naysayers have short memories. They forget that we, as a people, did not get here by standing pat in a time of change. We did not get here by doing what was easy. That is not how a cluster of 13 colonies became the United States of America.

We got here by doing the right thing, by fighting for a legacy greater than ourselves. 

Weekly Immigration Update: Republican Leaders Get Immigration Reform

One of NDN's main arguments for passage of immigration reform legislation this year (CIR) is the fact that: 1) the broken immigration system is a major national problem, 2) voters want a solution to fix it (particularly Hispanic voters) and 3) it is a legislative achievement within easier grasp of this Congress and Administration than other issues given the history of bipartisan support on this issue (lest we forget that a bill did pass the Senate in 2006, under Republican control).  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated this last point on yesterday's Meet the Press. President Obama has reiterated his commitment to getting immigration reform passed - hopefully all Democrats in Congress will move just as quickly to get this done this year.  Clearly there is no political or policy-oriented argument not to that can stand the test of scrutiny.

[Emphasis added]

MR. GREGORY:  Let me just spend a moment talking more generally about the future of the Republican Party.  I spoke to a prominent Republican this week who said the problem for Republicans is that they have failed to take stock of what happened last year in the election. They have failed to take stock of the demographic changes in the country.  Who are the leaders of this party and what are the issues that bring it back to power, Senator?


MR. GREGORY:  Is Sarah Palin also a leader of this party?

SEN. GRAHAM:  Absolutely.  I think Huckabee, Palin, Mitt Romney, John McCain--because he's the most recognizable public, public figure as a Republican, because he ran for president with a good approval rating--congressional leaders.  A guy like me who'll try to find common ground on the issue on immigration.  You know, one thing long-term about this party, the demographic changes in this country are real.  We lost ground with Hispanic voters because of the way we behaved and the things we said on immigration.  Obama won younger voters because of the image he projected and his positive agenda….


Syndicate content