Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fighting for Family Unity: An Immigration Story from Denver

This story was shared with me by a Friend from Mountainview Friends Meeting in Colorado. The story told below is a moving individual account of a situation in which thousands of families in the United States find themselves.

The Friend has consented to the story being posted on the blog, but all names have been changed to protect their identity.


Guillermo Rodriguez is my daughter’s husband and father of my grandson. We discovered that he is ineligible to receive a visa under the current Immigration and Nationality Act. He was told that since he had unlawfully crossed the border more than once that he would have to wait 10 years outside the before applying for a waiver. The waiver is needed because he was unlawfully present in the United States. After 10 years, the Attorney General has the discretion to grant a waiver if Guillermo's spouse or son can show extreme hardship. If he had unlawfully crossed the border only once, he could have received a waiver.

Guillermo first entered the United States from Mexico in 1995, when he was 18 years old, to work in Oregon agriculture. Since he missed his parents and little brother, he went home for Christmas in 1997. He was intercepted at the border upon his return in 1998 and voluntarily departed. He then reentered and returned to work in Oregon. Shortly after coming to the Denver area in 1999, he met my daughter Sarah at work. They married and had a son. They applied for a change in status for Guillermo shortly after getting married. He was hoping to receive a visa, green card and social security number to better provide for his American family.

Guillermo and I traveled to Mexico to receive his visa at the American Consulate. We thought he would have to be gone 30 or 40 days in order to receive a visa. But we were shocked to learn that under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996,* Guillermo is now classified inadmissible along with Nazi war criminals, terrorist and those who have committed serious criminal offenses such as murder, drug smuggling and child abduction. For going home for Christmas and returning to his job of helping to provide food for the American table, our family must now be torn apart. He is permanently barred from the United States, unless after 10 years someone is very sick or dying. Then maybe a waiver would be granted.

Many US lawmakers talk about family values, but do not apply these values to our real world. Guillermo is a devoted and loving father. The family is inseparable. Guillermo is devoted to his Mexican family of origin and his American family. He was looking forward to taking his family to his parents’ home for Christmas and legally returning to the United States. As the grandfather to Guillermo’s son, I am heartbroken. My daughter and grandson have to move to Mexico in order to preserve family unity. I was so looking forward to being with my grandson as he was growing up. My other daughter, Jessica, was hoping that her baby son would have a cousin and good friend. Both sets of great-grandparents are having a hard time coping with this. We are all suffering the pain of separation caused by this Draconian law.

Everyone that hears this story cannot believe that such an anti-family law could be written in this country. This is cruel and unusual punishment not open to court review. The punishment is not for Guillermo alone. This punishment is for the whole family.

An American Consulate Officer told me that there are thousands of families in this situation. Please repeal Section 212 (a) (6) and related sections from the list of inadmissible aliens ineligible to receive visas. These sections refer to illegal entrants and immigration violators. Should they not receive visas if they otherwise meet all of the other qualifications for a visa? Unlawfully crossing the border more than once is just not in the same category as terrorism and serious criminal activity. Guillermo never misrepresented his status to an US official and admitted to his history. The law was made harsher in 1996. Sarah and Guillermo are young and knew nothing of this law change.

Please also allow applicants, who were previously found ineligible to receive a visa under these sections, the right to have their previous application for change in status reinstated with the American Consul with whom the application was filled. This repeal must have retroactive effect to help families caught in this unjust law.



Section 212(a)(9)(B)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that immigrants who have crossed the border undocumented only one time and have stayed for more than a year are subject to a 10 year bar of reentry from the date of the immigrant's removal from the United States. After 10 years, an immigrant under this section is eligible to apply for a visa as the spouse, son or daughter or child of a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident.

Whereas, Section 212 (a)(9)(C)(I) states that immigrants who cross the border undocumented more than one time and have been present in the United States for an aggregate period of one year or more are barred from reentry for a period of ten years. After 10 years the immigrant may appeal to the Attorney General to issue a waiver of ineligibility IF the immigrant can prove that their citizen or permanent resident spouse or child is suffering from extreme hardship.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community (Mar. 23-30)

Immigration news and updates from Monday March 23 through Monday March 30.

DHS Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids
This Washington Post article points out that delays in immigration raids may signal a policy change by the Obama administration. Since the Bellingham raid that took place in February, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has reviewed the investigations of every potential immigration raid to ensure that raids are properly targeting employers and being carried out in an authorized manner.

Phoenix Police Chief: Don't Just Treat the Symptoms, Fix the Problem
Washington Post's George Will has created a column on Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris. Unlike Arizona Sherriff Joe Arpaio, Chief Harris believes that "Washington's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform directly affects his ability to fight crime in Phoenix."

Immigrants Held During DCF Visit
Immigration officers now make arrangements with social workers to arrest undocumented immigrants. This article tells the story of Elida Arriaga, who was arrested while holding her 1-year old grandson on a routine visit with a state social worker.

Mentally Ill Detainees Held Without Contact: County Health Officials Say ICE Instructed Psychiatric Hospitals to Break State Law
According to the Daily Journal, federal immigration officials have held mentally ill immigant detainees in "a little known network of psychiatric hospitals in Southern California beyond the reach of their families and lawyers in apparent violation of state law."

Unpaid Wage Complaints on the Rise in NJ
An undercover investigation by the GAO found the "labor department's wage and hour division doing a poor job of helping the nation's most vulnerable workers." This Associated Press article shows that the number of wage complaints filed in New Jersey have grown significally over the past year, signifying that employers are paying less than minimum wage or denying people overtime and vacation pay.

Latinos, Blacks Losing Jobs at Faster Rate
This article reflects on the numerous ways the current economic recession is disproportionately affecting people of color.

Recession Batters Immigrants at All Economic Levels
Unemployment has a particular impact on immigrants--and their families thousands of miles away who depend on the money immigrants who work in the United States send home. This impact is not isolated to low-wage workers, however, even immigrants who received their masters or doctorate degrees in the US are currently struggling to find work.

A Year Without A Mexican
This article reflects on the damage caused by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa a year after the raid took place. Businesses run by or catered to Latinos shut down, landlords couldn't fill their rental units, churches struggled to fundraise enough money to support the 40 or so arrestees who had been released under electronic monitoring to care for their children while awaiting their court dates, and factories scrambled to keep even a single shift full. As a Catholic Charities worker said, "Is this how we enforce the law? Leave the churches and nonprofits to pick up the pieces?"

White House Steps Up Anti-Cartel Fight on Border
President Obama has released his plan to confront drug cartel violence on the southern border. Drawing on the resources of multiple federal agencies, Obama plans to send nearly 500 more federal officials to the border.

Sealing Off the Borders

As the administration commits to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year, radio talk show hosts and anti-immigrant groups are preparing their grassroots strategy. They hope to replicate their lobbying effort two years ago in which they literally shut down the Congressional switchboard and doomed immigration legislation.

Articles on the new Amnesty International report Jailed Without Justice--Immigration Detention in the USA:

NY Times- U.S. Immigrant Detentions Violate Human Rights: Report

NY Daily News- ICE Locks 'Em Up, Throws Away Key

Latin American Herald Tribune- Amnesty International Blasts U.S. on Immigrant Detention

SF Gate- New Report Blasts U.S. on Immigrant Detainees

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Administration Is Saying the Right Things and Promising to "Always Be Listening"

Last night, President Obama appeared on "Premio Lo Nuestro," a Latin music awards show, and thanked Latino voters for coming out to vote in November (even if they didn't vote for him). He also encouraged Latinos to keep coming out and making their voices heard, promising that he would "always be listening."

This appearance follows the President's announcement last week that he is still committed to pursuing comprehensive immigration reform this year. We hope that this is only one of many such appearances (to both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences) that will help garner political support for CIR.

Check it out:

In other encouraging news from the administration, Dora Schriro--special advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano for ICE and Detention and Removal--wrote on the USA Today blog yesterday promising to carefully consider the Amnesty International report that was released yesterday decrying immigrant detention standards in the United States.

Schriro acknowledged the sense of urgency needed in her review of detention standards and detainee treatment and promised that she and Secretary Napolitano were committed to "measurable, sustainable progress."

All good news from the administration. I hope I can keep saying that more and more as time goes by.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hold Fast to DREAMs

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, S. 729/H.R. 1751) is back.

Today, a bipartisan group* of lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced the DREAM Act, a bill which would offer undocumented children who grew up in the United States a path to legal status and eventual citizenship through pursuing higher education.

As Representative Roybal-Allard said in her remarks as she introduced the bill, "The Act's premise is simple and just: Undocumented students deserve the same opportunities as the 2.8 million others who graduate from this country's high schools every year. We cannot afford to waste our investments in these talented, motivated young people who are products of our schools and our communities...the millions of high school students who comprise the Class of 2009 are mere months away from graduation. Among them are thousands of kids who have the potential to become doctors, lawyers and even members of Congress but face insurmountable legal obstacles. We have a moral obligation to remove these impediments so that all of our young people can accomplish their goals."

The DREAM Act, which by providing a path to citizenship through pursuing education works to mend a gaping hole in the United States immigrats' and children's rights, is only one fix to a much broader problem. At FCNL, we believe the education portion of the DREAM Act should be a critical component of comprehensive immgration reform and we hope to see Congress work with the Obama administration in the coming year to pass humane CIR.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
For when dreams die
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
~Langston Hughes

* On the Senate side, DREAM was introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (IL), Richard Lugar (IN), Russell Feingold (WI), Edward Kennedy (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Joe Lieberman (CT), Mel Martinez (FL), and Harry Reid (NV).

On the House side, DREAM was introduced by Representatives Howard Berman (CA), Joseph Cao (LA), John Conyersr, Jr (MI), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Devin Nunez (CA), Jared Polis (CO), Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA).

Jailed Without Justice: A Human Rights Scandal

Yesterday, Amnesty International released its new report "Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA."

This report documents the horrific conditions of the United States' immigrant detention centers. It reports that immigrants frequently do not have access to legal council, their cases are denied judicial review, they live in substandard conditions being denied basic hygiene, cleanliness, and medical attention, and on average are held in detention for at least 10 months.

The most horrific part, as Keith Olberman of MSNBC news says, is that no one at DHS or ICE denies any of it.

Check out Keith's coverage on Amnesty's new report (coverage begins 1 min 23 sec into the clip):

For more information, go to "Immigration Impact: Guilty Until Proven Innocent in Immigration Detention"


NY Daily News- ICE Locks 'em Up, Throws Away Key: Immigration Becomes a Human Rights Scandal

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alex Talks Immigration on Peace and Politics' Podcast

Last week, I met with Caroline and Maggie here in our office to talk about immigration on the Peace and Politics (FCNL's intern blog) podcast.

Immigration is an issue which FCNL has worked on for many years. Ruth, our legislative secretary, has been at meeting after meeting on the Hill with other faith and secular groups to lobby for comprehensive reform in the last three Congresses, which--trust me--have not always been the prettiest discussions. But immigration is also not an issue which has received the most prominent profile here at FCNL.

In this podcast, I talk about where FCNL is now in its work on immigration, both what we're working towards and what "small-fix" stuff we're doing in the meantime.

Check it out:

Secretary Clinton Goes to Mexico

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Mexico today to discuss a wide range of issues regarding US-Mexico relations. At the top of this list will be the current border violence caused by drug cartels and arms trafficking into Mexico, but immigration will also be a key point of discussion.

Secretary Clinton will be in Mexico for two days, paving the way for upcoming visits by Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and (in mid-April)President Obama.

As I've posted before, let's hope Secretary Clinton remembers Leoluca Orlando's model of empowering civil society as the best model for addressing drug cartels and violence.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TAKE ACTION: Thank Speaker Pelosi for Speaking Out on Immigration Reform, Ending Raids

Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a strong stance against immigration raids and for humane, comprehensive immigration reform. Standing with hundreds of families in San Francisco’s Mission District, Pelosi made it clear as she has not before that she will make immigration reform a priority in the House.

Please thank Nancy Pelosi for her statements about immigration reform. Urge her to continue to use her leadership role in the House to ensure that Congress passes just and humane comprehensive immigration reform this year. Without her support, Congress will likely be unable to pass a bill which prevents the separation of families, creates a path to legal status for undocumented workers, protects workers rights, and respects due process and human rights for all persons.

Already, people who oppose such immigration reform are criticizing her for her statements. Your words of support can help her continue to be a leader for comprehensive immigration reform.

Please contact Nancy Pelosi today and urge others in your community to thank her as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

UFCW States that the New CIS Report Demonstrates a Complete Lack of Knowledge About the Meatpacking Industry

A recent Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)--an independent "think tank" that promotes restricting immigration and has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a nativist group--report claims that harsh immigration enforcement tactics, like the raids on the Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in 2006, have contributed to a rise in wages and improved working conditions.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) refutes this claim, stating that the report has flaws in both the manipulation of its data and its historical analysis of the meatpacking industry.

Read the press release below.

For Immediate Release: Media Contact:
March 19, 2009 Scott Frotman 202-466-1537


UFCW cites serious flaws in group’s analysis of historical industry data and finds its conclusion about Swift raids absurd

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the largest meatpacking and processing union in North America, released the following statement today in response to serious flaws in a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) regarding immigration enforcement efforts at meatpacking facilities:

“Mark Twain once noted, ‘Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.’ This new report by the Center for Immigration Studies is a case study in the misinterpretation and manipulation of data to reach a totally biased and flawed conclusion.

“The report demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the history of the meatpacking industry. Throughout history, immigrants from across the globe have helped strengthen the U.S. meatpacking industry by organizing around increased wages and improved industry standards.

“During the 1980’s, consolidation, mergers and company induced strikes helped drive down wages. Employers forced workers onto the streets to fight unacceptable concessions.. During the strikes, companies aggressively recruited strike breakers—who were not immigrants but individuals who came from the decimated farm industry—to cross the picket lines. Many of these workers soon realized that the jobs were too difficult, particularly at the wages companies were offering, and they left the industry. But the damage was done. Ever since that time, the UFCW has been fighting to rebuild wages and standards for these jobs.

“In the case of Swift, the UFCW had negotiated wage increases prior to the raid. This fact disproves CIS’ central argument that wages and benefits increased as a result of a change in workforce at the plant.

“In addition to these historical inaccuracies, the CIS report fails to address the devastating impact that the Swift raid had on thousands of workers –both immigrant and native born. In the aftermath of the raid, the UFCW documented numerous examples of racial profiling, U.S. citizens harassed and detained by armed agents and a sheer disregard for the constitutional rights of

“The UFCW filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of these raids and formed a commission to examine the ramification of ICE raids, including Swift. A report documenting the commission’s findings will be made public in the next few months.

“The raids at Swift, and across the country, have done nothing to protect workers or to raise standards in our industries. They have done nothing to address our broken immigration system.. They have been a complete travesty of justice.

“If our immigration system is going to work for the benefit and betterment of our nation it is critical that our laws are upheld. That applies to both immigrant workers and government agents. If the last eight years have shown us anything, it is that enforcement-only strategies do not work. Yes, we need enforcement, but to truly reform our immigration system, we need to
address trade relationships, workforce needs, family unification, legalization, workers’ rights and living standards, and 12 million undocumented individuals suspended on the edge of hope. And we need to do it in a comprehensive manner.

“The enforcement-only stance routinely endorsed by CIS is a short-sighted view that fails to take into account our larger national interest. It is as if they worked backwards on this report. They started from their rigid immigration stance and tried to make the facts fit their view. The problem is that it doesn’t add up. It is basically 16 pages of unproductive scapegoating, cherry picked quotes, and historical misinterpretations.

“The irony is that if you take an objective look at the data being presented, free of the author’s slanted view, it makes a pretty clear and compelling case for comprehensive immigration reform.

“There is the saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. Well, you can seek out a respected journalist to write a report for the Center for Immigration Studies, but at the end of the day you end up with the same old, tired, anti-immigrant extremist drivel.”

# # #

The UFCW represents 1..3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries.

To read more about CIS's flawed analysis, see Immigration Impact- New CIS Study: Easy Answers and Half-Baked Solutions


Immigration Policy Center- Press Release: CIS Report Gets Diagnosis Right, Cure Wrong

Last Week: In Our Community (Mar. 16-23)

Immigration news and updates from Monday, March 16 through Monday, March 23.

Stop the Raids
In his blog "God's Politics," evangelical leader and activist Jim Wallis tells people that ending immigration raids is a matter of conscious.

End Immigration Raids, Cardinal Tells President
On Saturday, Cardinal Francis George called on President Barack Obama to end immigration raids and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. He said, "We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day."

A Slippery Place in the U.S. Workforce
This article talks about the experiences of immigrants in Morristown, a small factory town in east TN, in light of the economic crisis. Covering the historical demographic changes of the area, to the anti-immigrants struggles spurred by ESL classes in the education system, to disparate access to career centers and additional job training, this article provides insight into how immigration can affect communities and the economy as a whole.

Martinez Heats Up Immigration Debate
Florida Senator Mel Martinez began heating up the debate over comprehensive immigration reform last week. A leading Republican voice for CIR, Martinez wants to get CIR done fast as he has plans to retire at the end of his term. He also seems to believe that other republicans have begun to see immigration as a human rights issue.

Immigration Agency Is Criticized Over Healthcare
After another death in immigration detention was reported last week, Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center have stepped up their critique of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) immigrant detention practices. The groups argue that deaths and other forms of substandard treatment are the result of "unskilled or indifferent staff, overcrowding, bureaucracy, language barriers and limited services available to detainees."

The Competition for Low-Wage Jobs
This week the NY Times blog Room for Debate discusses how the current economic crisis affects both legal and undocumented immigrants. The blog brings together six differing perspectives, ranging from labor economists, anti-immigrant activists, migration policy experts, day laborer, and employment activists.

Ana's Choice: Can Congress reform immigration law to make it more humane?
This article is a summary of larger piece published in the Winter 2009 issue of Ms. Magazine. It provides one of many feminist perspectives on immigration, focusing on family unity and a pathway to legal status.

Migrant Workers Sending Less Money to Latin America
This Wall Street Journal article discusses the decline in remittances being sent to Latin America due to the economic recession. Many Latin American countries depend on remittances sent from the U.S., Europe, and Japan and are likely to be hard-hit with this decline.

Cities and Counties Rely on U.S. Immigrant Detention Fees
These days, most local governments are having to cut their budgets. But many local law enforcement agencies have found a new source of income--immigrant detention. This article talks about how many South California jails are nearly able to pay for the entire cost of running their facility off of the income they make on housing immigrant detainees.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama Extends Liberian DED!

Thank you, Mr. President!

On Friday, President Obama extended Liberian Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for 12 months. This extension grants Liberians the temporary right to live and work in the United States.

Obama's granting of Liberian DED is a welcome decision by immigrant and refugee rights groups.

Liberians were first given Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1991 when Liberia was in the midst of a bloody civil war that was tearing the country apart. Liberian TPS was then extended each year until 2007, by which point the war had ended and democratic elections had taken place. President Bush, however, granted an 18-month extension (delayed enforced departure) due to the high unemployment rate and welfare circumstances in the country.

Bush's extension was set to expire on March 31st.

Advocates have been pushing for another extension of Liberian DED because of the impact deportation would have on both communities in the United States and in Liberia. Many Liberians currently given status through DED have resided in the U.S. for nearly two decades. They own businesses, have families, and are an integral part of the communities in which they live. To deport Liberians now would rupture both families and local economies.

On the other side, Liberia still has an unemployment rate that soars at about 85% and many Liberians are dependent on remittances from family members in United States in order to survive.

Now, advocates will work to create a path to legal status for Liberians.

Thank you, Obama, for extending Liberian DED.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama Confirms His Commitment to Immigration Reform at a Townhall Meeting

Yesterday, after meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to passing just and humane comprehensive immigration reform this year while speaking at a townhall meeting in Mesa County, California.

Check out the video:

Here's the full text of President Obama's Costa Mesa Town Hall meeting, from the LA Times blog:

THE PRESIDENT: I just met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today, which Congresswoman Sanchez is a member of -- (applause) -- to talk about this issue directly. As many of you know, during the campaign I was asked repeatedly about this, and I reiterated my belief that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, I know this is an emotional issue, I know it's a controversial issue, I know that the people get real riled up politically about this, but -- but ultimately, here's what I believe: We are a nation of immigrants, number one.

Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three, that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers.

Since they can't join a union, they can't complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans. (Applause.)

So I don't think that we can do this piecemeal. I think what we have to do is to come together and say, we're going to strengthen our borders -- and I'm going to be going to Mexico, I'm going to be working with President Calderón in Mexico to figure out how do we get control over the border that's become more violent because of the drug trade.

We have to combine that with cracking down on employers who are exploiting undocumented workers. (Applause.) We have to make sure that there's a verification system to find out whether somebody is legally able to work here or not. But we have to make sure that that verification system does not discriminate just because you've got a Hispanic last name or your last name is Obama. (Laughter.)

You've got to -- and then you've got to say to the undocumented workers, you have to say, look, you've broken the law; you didn't come here the way you were supposed to. So this is not going to be a free ride. It's not going to be some instant amnesty. What's going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. (Applause.)

You are going to -- you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don't get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally. (Applause.) But after you've done these things over a certain period of time you can earn your citizenship, so that it's not -- it's not something that is guaranteed or automatic. You've got to earn it. But over time you give people an opportunity.

Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can't have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it.

So we've got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. (Applause.) That's the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. All right. Okay. (Applause.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Follow-up: Obama and Hispanic Dems Meet to Talk Immigration

As a follow-up to my post this morning, I wanted to share with you all the Whitehouse press release on the meeting.

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 18, 2009

Readout on the President’s Meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus

The President had a robust and strategic meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today on the topic of immigration. The meeting lasted approximately one hour. The President discussed how the administration will work with the CHC to address immigration concerns in both the short and long term. During the meeting, the President announced that he will travel to Mexico next month to meet with President Calderon to discuss the deep and comprehensive US-Mexico relationship, including how the United States and Mexico can work together to support Mexico’s fight against drug-related violence and work toward effective, comprehensive immigration reform. Since their meeting in January, the President has repeatedly praised President Calderon for his extraordinary work to solve these challenges, which are important to communities and families on both sides of the border.


Quote from Rep. Gutierrez who attended the meeting:

"We came to the President today as allies and supporters, and in return he showed us that he remains committed to immigration reform that stabilizes our economy, secures our borders and keeps our families together," said Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez, Chair of the CHC Immigration Task Force. "The President showed the CHC that, although it is very early in his administration, he understands that for the immigrant community it’s the 11th hour, and there is no time to waste. The Latino community supported President Obama overwhelmingly in the election, and they remain energized not only by his victory but also by his message of support for comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that a plan is forthcoming, and that we will see real change this year."

To read more about the meeting, see the Boston Globe article "Obama Talks Immigration."

Obama and Hispanic Dems Will Meet Today to Talk Immigration

This morning, Hispanic democrats will have their first meeting with President Obama since he came into office in January.

Immigration will be at the top of the agenda.

After the failure of immigration reform in the last two Congresses, as well as the upcoming midterm elections in 2010, Hispanic lawmakers are hoping to get a bill passed before members begin revving up their 2010 campaigns.

They've already started their own campaign to garner support by going on a 17-city listening tour of the country, gathering people's stories about raids and family separation.

But they don't plan to introduce any legislation until they talk to Obama and find out what the Whitehouse is thinking.

From what I've heard, the Obama administration is still planning to follow through with their campaign promise of getting comprehensive immigration reform in the first year. But I look forward to finding out more details on that after today's meeting.

For more information, go to The Hill's article "Obama, Hispanic Dems to Huddle on Immigration."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama May Send National Guard to the Border

Last week, President Obama began contemplating sending National Guard troops to the border to help stem drug-related border violence.

In 2008, the death toll along the US-Mexican border due to drug violence was 5,800. This year, 1000 people have already been killed.

Drug-related violence has escalated in recent years due to a rise of drug cartels and a militarized crackdown by the Mexican government. Some of this violence has "spilled over" onto U.S. soil, a fact which is not entirely surprising given that 90% of the cocaine consumed in the United States at some point passes through Mexico and 150,000 people are directly involved in the narcotics trade in order to meet US market demand.

However, from FCNL's perspective, a further militarization of the border is not the answer to the growing problem of drug-related violence.

There are already over ten thousand Border Patrol agents working along the southern border and--after sending an additional 3,200 soldiers to the border last week--Mexico currently has over 45,000 Mexican soldiers working against the drug cartels.

The increase in military and police troops along the border has so far done little to nothing to stem the violence. In fact, the most recent State Department Human Rights Report cites that there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary civilian killings by the armed forces. A fact which, as the Huffington Post writes, "only adds to the horrors committed by the drug cartels."

While Obama has specifically stated that he is "not interested in militarizing the border," sending the National Guard to the border would be exactly that.

We believe that a civilian, not military, response would be the best way to deal with the current violence. And we hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does too.

She's heading to Mexico at the end of March to address the issue of drug violence and we're hoping she'll remember Leoluca Orlando's (a man she once suggested should get the Nobel Peace Prize) model of empowering civil society to address cartels and crimes syndicates. As Orlando described it to then First Lady when he brought down the mafia, his strategy is like a two-wheel Sicilian cart. One wheel is effective state, police, and judiciary system. The second wheel is civil society.

"If only one wheel rolls, the cart goes around in circles. For the cart to move forward both wheels need to spin at the same pace."

Militarization has been tried before. More troops won't bring more peace. We hope Obama will look to alternative approaches like the Orlando model to deal with the drug violence on the border.

See The Huffington Post's article "Hillary Clinton and the Drug Cartel Violence in Mexico."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Labor Secretary Solis Suspends Bush's Midnight Farm Rules

Just before President Bush left office, his administration introduced a set of rules which would make it both easier and cheaper for agricultural employers to hire temporary migrant workers. Now Friday, the day that Secretary Solis was officially sworn into office, she has gone about setting things right again.

The Bush rules cut wages temporary migrant workers would receive for their labor, as well as lowered the amount employers had to contribute toward migrant travel costs.

The rules were deeply criticized by labor, farm worker, and immigrants' rights groups, as they would further exploit the work of H2A visa holders and take jobs away from U.S. workers. Critics of the H2A guestworker programs (like FCNL) challenge the fact that guestworker programs often cause employers to make permanent jobs temporary. Moreover, the guestworker program binds a worker's visa status to a single employer, giving the employer power over the worker and thus increasing the liklihood of exploitation.

The Bush rules only made things worse.

At FCNL, we applaud Secretary Solis for taking this first step in suspending the farm rules and upholding both immigrant and labor rights.

For more information, see the NY Times article "Labor Secretary Proposes Suspending Farm Rules."

Last Week: In Our Community (Mar. 9-16)

Immigration news and updates from Monday March 9 through Monday March 16.

I try and keep the number of annotated articles that I highlight down, but there is too much good stuff out there.

VIDEO: Clips from the CHC Family Unity Tour in Los Angeles

This clip documents one of many stops the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has made over the last month to listen to stories about family separation and to campaign for comprehensive immigration reform.

Deportation Fears in Morris County Hamper Efforts to Probe Domestic Abuse

The local police department in Morris County is currently trying to reach out to members of the Latino community who are victims of domestic violence. Morris County, however, has a 287(g) agreement which allows local police to act as federal immigration agents. Because of this agreement, victims of domestic violence fear coming forward about domestic abuse for fear of deportation.

Immigrants Face Long Detention, Few Rights: Many detainees spend months or years in U.S. detention centers
A computer analysis conducted by the Associated Press shows that most people being held in immigrant detention centers have no criminal record. And while ICE says that the average stay in detention is about 31 days, AP's analysis shows that most are held much longer than that, and with few rights.

Where Education and Assimilation Collide

This NY Times article explores how even schools which have overcome great divisions caused by histories of segregation and oppression are facing a new challenge--how to properly integrate non-native English speakers into the education system. Taking a close look at the educational, social, and political climate of Prince William County, this article uncovers the struggles many communities face in trying to carry out a just education system in a climate where schools lack funding and are forced to "teach to the test."

As Clocks Wind Down, Liberians Wait and Pray

Annie Yonly has lived in the United States since 1985. She's a registered nurse, owner of two houses, and mother of U.S. citizen children. According to census data, she's even lived in MN longer than 25% of Minnesota's population. But each year she wonders whether she'll have to return to a country which she fled nearly 25 years ago during the outbreak of civil war. This year, she's worrying more than ever. Two weeks before Liberian Temporary Protected Status is set to expire, there is still no word from the Obama administration as to whether it will be extended.

Many Congresspersons are also working to stay deportation for Liberians in coodination with the Liberian government. To read the press release, click here.

Priest's Video Contradicts Police Report
A local priest who became concerned about increased reports of systemic racial profiling, intimidation, and discrimination in his small town East Haven was arrested after videotaping the actions of police in a local convenient store. The police report states that the officer arrested the priest because he saw a "unknown shiny, silver object" in the priest's hand and felt threatened. However, the video that was recovered from policy custody by the priest's lawyers shows that the police knew the priest only had a camera and was documenting their actions.

Immigrants Didn't Cause Your Problems
This opinion piece offers what the author calls a "tough love" message to people who blame undocumented immigrants for the current economic crisis.

In a City Filled With Lawyers, Many Immigrants Fighting Deportation Go It Alone

Manhanttan has one of the highest concentrations of lawyers in the world. Yet hundreds of New York's immigrant residents are currently in detention without legal representation. Robert Katzmann, a federal judge on the Second Court Circuit, is organizing and educating lawyers to work on immigrant cases.

Widows Face Deportation Under Immigration Law
Current U.S. immigration law requires that widows be deported if their citizen spouse dies before their immigration application is approved. As this article states, "Immigration officials maintain they are simply enforcing the law, but some advocates say it's a cruel injustice to spouses who were following U.S. immigration law and suffered the loss of a husband or wife."

Interactive Map: Immigration Explorer
This interactive map put together by the NY Times allows you to see how each county in the United States has been affected by immigration over the last century.

Room for Debate Blog: A new series on immigration
The NY Times Room for Debate Blog has started a new series on immigration. Each Sunday readers and specialists will discuss various immigration topics. This week, it focused teaching English to speakers of other languages in the public school system.

Workers Without Borders
This NY Times opinion piece explores a different way to address immigration--a transnational labor union. By focusing on labor enforcement rather than immigration enforcement, this author argues that we could have a system which would meet the need for migrants in our economy and also ensure that employer exploitation of immigrants does not undercut wages for other workers.

Family's Tragedy Shows Why Immigration Reform Is Needed

This article tells the story of Sandra Zabaleta, an undocumented worker from Guatamala, who currently faces the trauma of burying her husband, being deported, and having to choose between leaving her son in foster care or taking him with her back to Guatamala where she doesn't know if she'll be able to make enough money to support them both.

Operation Panty: Donate Women's Underwear for Women in ICE Detention
As I've blogged about before, immigrants held in detention are given uniforms, but not underwear. It is not seen as a necessity. So many women wear the same underwear for days or even weeks while they wait for family to send them extra pairs. This blog has started a campaign to get underwear for female detainees.

More immigration articles:
The National Imperative to Imprison Immigrants for Profit

Congresswoman Calls for Humane Treatment of Immigration Detainees

Why Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio Must Go--And Soon

Hard Return: Rise in Fast-Track Deportations Raises Concerns

Failing Families: Immigration Enforcement Policies Unfairly Hurt Many Children Who Are Citizens

U.S. Urged to Bar Local Police on Immigration

Friday, March 13, 2009

Keep the Border Patrol ON THE BORDER

The Port Townsend Peace Movement (which includes many dedicated Quakers and FCNL supporters) has made a documentary about the activities of the Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula. The full documentary is a powerful representation about how immigration enforcement can tear apart and instill fear in our communities.

Check out the trailer:

For more information, see www.bpfree.org

In particular, if you live on the Olympic Peninsula and have had a direct personal experience with the Border Patrol, Border Patrol Free Zone is collecting information and facts on all Border Patrol activities to document abuse and other civil liberties violations. Please document your story here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

E-Verify Amendment Tabled in Yesterday's Senate Debate Over Omnibus

Last night, the Senate voted to table Senator Sessions amendment (attached to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, S.Amdt. 604 to H.R. 1105) to extend the E-Verify program for six years with a vote of 50::47.

The E-Verify program, which I talked about extensively during debate of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (S. 1 and H.R. 1), is extremely problematic due to database errors, exorbitant costs, backlogs, and worker intimidation.

I was a bit disconcerted that the amendment was only tabled by a difference of 3 votes--seven democrats joined all the republicans in voting against the tabling motion--especially considering that if it had not been tabled, it likely could have derailed the entire Omnibus bill. I think this demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do, as this is obviously not an issue divided strictly along party lines.

Despite the defeat of the Sessions amendment, the Omnibus still extends the E-Verify program until the end of FY2009.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Holds Hearing on Border: "Secure Border Initiative--Its Impact and Evolution"

"$3.6 billion dollars. "

That's how Chairman David Price (NC) began his opening remarks at the hearing I attended to yesterday on the Secure Border Initiative.

"That's what Congress provided in the past three years to the Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology (BSFIT) account, targeted at securing around 6,000 miles of land border as part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI)....Today we will take stock of this program. How is it progressing? Is it working? Are we spending enough or too much?"

The subcommittee members and those testifying seemed to measure the notion of progress with very different strides.

Some members, like Ranking Member Rogers, believe there are "unacceptable" delays in development of Border Patrol along both the northern and southern borders. Others--quite shockingly to me--believed we should look to Israel's development of the Jericho Wall for technology and manning tips.

On the other side of the spectrum, members like Congressman Rotham (NJ) seemed dismayed that the Chief of U.S. Border Patrol could not report whether the border wall actually stemmed or deterred the flow of undocumented migration. The witnesses also could not tell Chairman Price what percentage or to what extent the increase in "effective control" over the last few years has related directly to the building of the border wall and physical barriers vs. increased number of agents, the economy and a downturn in immigration to the United States, etc.

Overall, I felt the hearing ended without any sort of conclusion as to the effectiveness or progress of the Secure Border Initiative. In many ways, I felt the witnesses were trying to defend the use of their increased funding by pointing out that effective enforcement has dramatically risen during this time. However, they were also repeatedly reiterating that the wall itself was not enough, so as to stay off the record as saying the wall was the solution.

The one ray of light in the hearing was when Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (who recently introduced the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, H.R. 1215) asked a question about what is being done to ensure that children and others are being well treated at the Border Patrol stations. While she did not press the witnesses much on the multiple reports of abuse and human rights violations, it at least placed the issues on Congressional record.

Urgent Action Needed for Haitians

Earlier today, someone left the following comment here on the blog:

"As a Quaker living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, I ask that FCNL give particular attention to the request that the 30,000 Haitians now under final deportation order from the US be granted Temporary Protected Status. They qualify for this status as their nation is under the protective care of the UN peacekeepers and they suffered drastic damage to their crops last year and are now facing famine. President Preval of Haiti has asked for this measure. Can Friends stand with the people of Haiti in this troubled period?"

I couldn't agree with this comment more. FCNL doesn't work much on refugee issues because there is a large, coordinated coalition of providers here in DC that does excellent work on the issue.

But the case of Haitians is one that needs urgent attention. As the article that I posted last week points out, deadly mudslides, hurricanes, and famine propelled the president of Haiti to request Temporary Protected Status for the 30,000 undocumented Haitians living in the United States that are scheduled for deportation. The idea of such relief is that it would give Haiti time to rebuild its communities and infrastructure before placing 30,000 jobless and homeless people in its midst.

Deportations were halted briefly last September while President Bush reviewed President Preval's request, but were resumed again in December when the request was denied.

Now, the situation is more dire than ever. These deportations are separating families that have been living in the United States for over 15 years. Meanwhile, the situation in Haiti has worsened so much that the Coast Guard has intercepted hundreds of Haitians trying to escape Haiti and come to the United States.

President Obama and Secretary Napolitano need to take action and stop deportations to Haiti. This is a matter of human rights.

Here is what I'm hearing should be done from my colleagues in the DC refugee rights coalition:

DHS Secretary Napolitano is meeting with South Florida Members of Congress today (early afternoon) to discuss policy toward Haitians. We’ve been told DHS and the White House need to hear from more of us. So we are asking people to call DHS and the White House to demand an end to deportations to Haiti and review of the Bush Administration’s decision to deny Haitian’s TPS:

Ø Leave a message on the DHS public comment line at (202)-282-8495

Ø Leave a message on the White House public comment line (202) 456-1111

Here are some suggested talking points. Please improvise and use your own words:

“My name is ______ from __(your organization)___. I’m calling to ask that you immediately stop deportations to Haiti.

· This is a matter of life and death.

· Continuing the discriminatory treatment of Haitians has no place in the new Administration.

· Haitians deserve and more than qualify for Temporary Protected Status.

· Show your leadership. Do the right thing and stop the deportations now.”

We are happy to share additional background materials if it is helpful to you. Thank you for making these calls, and for all that you already do!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community (Mar. 2-9)

Immigration news and updates from Monday March 2 through Monday March 9.

Pelosi: End Raids Splitting Immigrant Families
On Saturday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined hundreds of families in the Mission District of San Francisco to call for an end to raids which tear apart families. To the crowd she said, "Taking parents from their children...that's un-American." She also called for comprehensive immigration reform as the solution to the broad immigration problems in the United States.

Revisions Could Prompt Arpaio's ICE-Program Exit
After the Congressional hearing on the 287(g) program last week, Sheriff Joe Arpaio issued a statement saying that he would withdraw from the program if the federal government tried to implement oversight and regulations that would limit him to only arresting immigrants with serious criminal records. Arpaio has consistently been accused of using racial profiling as a means to identify undocumented immigrants, a frequent problem with the 287(g) program that regulations are meant to deter. Yet Arpaio states, "I like it [the program] the way it is now."

U.S. Must Shield Its Child Citizens
Does the United States support intentionally orphaning the children of non-criminal immigrants? This article explores the fears and struggles of the some 3.1 million citizen children in the United States who have at least one undocumented parents. As the law stands now, judges to not have judicial discretion in cases where initiating removal proceedings would separate families or perhaps even orphan children. Immigrant families are then left with the choice to either bring their citizen children to a country where they will have fewer opportunities, or leave them in the care of the foster system. The Child Citizen Protection Act recently introduced to Congress would change this.

GAO Report- DHS: Organizational Structure, Spending, and Staffing for Health Care Provided to Immigrant Detainees
This GAO report examines the quality of health care provided to immigrants detained by the Department of Homeland Security. Overall, they found that the provision of health care was not uniform across all ICE facilities and there was a lack of data concerning organizational structure and oversight, spending, and staffing.

Who's Running Immigration?
This NY Times editorial asks who is in charge of immigration under the current administration? Despite the fact that President Obama campaigned on comprehensive immigration reform and said that raids "terrorized" communities, a number of recent events have demonstrated that the new administration is so far maintaining the status quo as they prepare for immigration reform.

Many Immigrants Still Till the Land of Opportunity
This article tells the story of immigrants who make their living tending gardens in the United States. It provides an interesting perspective into the life of many immigrants in the United States.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What Makes Communities Safe? Debunking the Myth of "Sanctuary Cities"

In my post yesterday, I discussed the 287(g) program, an agreement between state/local law enforcement agencies and ICE that allows deputized police officers to enforce immigration law.

While I talked about the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing in which the GAO submitted testimony regarding the lack of oversight of the 287(g) program and two law enforcement officers submitted contrasting views of the program, today I wanted to follow up on an issue that is frequently brought up when I talk about 287(g) programs: so-called "sanctuary cities."

A "sanctuary city" is a city that follows strict community policing policies, or perhaps even passed a state or local "separation" ordinance, ensuring that police officers investigate a crime regardless of a person's immigration status. In reverse, such "separation" practices ensure that immigrants feel comfortable reporting crimes to the police without fear of deportation.

The logic behind such ordinances is that immigration law is extremely complex, and as I said yesterday, not until 1996 were there even statutes allowing federal immigration agencies to deputize immigration enforcement to state and local law enforcement agencies.

Most immigration violations (all of which are federal) are civil, not criminal, offenses. This means, that to charge someone with an immigration offense, the officer actually has to see the person commit the civil offense--much like a speeding ticket in which the officer must catch you speeding.

While legally this is complicated by presence in the United States being a "positive right," the point of a "sanctuary city" or a separation ordinance is to ensure that local law enforcement's energy is focused on keeping communities safe and NOT on checking peoples' status.

Now, I want to make clear that state and local police officers have ALWAYS had the authority to arrest someone suspected of criminal activity--regardless of their immigration status--and report that person to ICE. It's only that programs like 287(g) go further by allowing/asking law enforcement to go after what one colleague of mine describes as "windex-wielding hotel maids"--i.e. not exactly the "criminal" that makes our streets unsafe.

In turn, amounting evidence shows that law enforcement officers in non-sanctuary cities spend more time (and money) looking into immigration status than carrying out the warrants of arrest for people who have truly made our communities unsafe.

"Sanctuary cities," however, have received a lot of negative attention from anti-immigrant advocates. Some members of Congress have even proposed cutting off funds for cities which engage in sanctuary or separation practices. They argue that these cities provide "sanctuary" for foreign-born criminals.

As I pointed out above though, this is a myth that is absolutely not true.

For more information on the "myth" of sanctuary cities, check out Immigration Impact's new report "Debunking the Myth of 'Sanctuary Cities: Community Policing Policies Protect American Communities. "

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What Makes Communities Safe? A Review of Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Law Through the 287(g) Program

Yesterday, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing (a recorded video of the hearing is now available) entitled "“Examining 287(g): The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration Law.”

The highlight of the hearing was the release of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report "Immigration Enforcement: Controls over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Should be Strengthened" which emphasizes the lack of oversight Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has over its locally deputized officers in the 287(g) program.

The 287(g) program was created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA, pronouced ir-ah-ir-ah), forming agreements which would allow local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. But while the program was formed in 1996, no local law enforcement agency had applied for the program until after September 11th. The first program was then finalized in 2002 and today there are 67 287(g) agreement programs operating in 23 states.

The intent of the program was to provide local officers with the power to go after high-level criminals. Given that immigration law is extremely complex--many people consider it a legal equivalent to tax law(!)--delegation of authority was statutorily limited to a select number of officials who underwent a five-week training in immigration law and were subject to ICE's supervision.

However, the GAO report points out that:
  1. The program lacks key internal controls
  2. The program objectives have not been laid out or documented in program-related materials
  3. Oversight on how (and when) to use immigration authority has been inconsistent
  4. The structure of ICE's supervision of 287(g) programs has not been developed or defined
  5. Consistent data collection, documentation, and reporting requirements have not been defined
  6. Performance meters used to evaluate program progress are virtually non-existent
And most importantly, over half of the 29 state and local law enforcement agencies reviewed and interviewed by GAO for this report had documented complaints and concerns about 287(g) authority being used to apprehend, detain, and deport immigrants who had committed minor violations like speeding or running traffic lights, and/or to apprehend and detain in a manner consistent with racial profiling.

Among the other witnesses at the hearing were Sheriff Chuck Jenkins from Frederick County, MD and Police Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, MD.

Sheriff Jenkins testified that they had no problems with the 287(g) program, arguing that it is "a strong and effective tool in safeguarding our national security at our borders." He also said that he believes "existing fear or distrust of law enforcement is generally cultural based, as most countries where immigrants originate from do have corrupt governments, corrupt and abusive law enforcement, which is all that they have been exposed to in their lives."

Meanwhile, Police Chief Manger--who is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA)--believes that the 287(g) program undermines trust, confidence, and cooperation between police and immigrant communities. He testified that through his experience, he concurs with what the MCCA has written:

"...without assurances that contact with police would not result in purely civil immigration enforcement action, the hard won trust, communication and cooperation from the immigrant community would disappear. Such a divide between the local police and immigrant groups would result in increased crime against immigrants and the broader community, create a class of silent victims and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing future terroristic attacks."

Police Chief Manger also noted Latinos are disproportionately targets of crime and in urban areas with large Latino or immigrant populations, programs like 287(g) would be destructive to community safety.

A similar report put out by Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research group, said that "comprehensive immigration reform, which Congress has failed to pass, should be the goal of the Obama administration... The 287(g) program 'amounts to a local and state bailout of the failed federal immigration enforcement business.'"

Links to media coverage of the GAO report and yesterday's hearing:

NY Times- Report Questions Immigration Program

Wall Street Journal- Immigrant Busts Faulted

Associated Press- House Panel Scrutinizes Immigration Program

Gannett Washington Bureau- Federal Immigration Officials Chided for Lax Control Over Local Police

Obama Officially Commits to Reform Defense Contracting

Okay, so this is not exactly related to immigration, but I do work for the Quakers so I can't help but celebrate just a wee-bit here too (and I do plan to bring it full circle by the end of the post...I promise).

Today, President Obama joined a bi-partisan group of Congresspersons dedicated to reforming defense contracting. He has officially committed to this cause and rejected the false choice between "securing this nation and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars."

According to a GAO report last year, cost overruns in major defense projects totaled $295 billion. That's a lot of wasted money. But we over here at FCNL have been saying that for a long time, and we've been saying a lot more about military spending too.

But now--to bring this full circle after all and perhaps prove my obsession with immigration issues--I can't help but wonder: Will Obama's commitment to reform defense contracting also include no-bid contracts and contracting abuse by defense companies on projects regarding immigration like the southern border wall or immigrant detention centers?

House Votes to Extend Religious Worker and Doctor Visa Programs

Yesterday, the House passed a measure (H.R. 1127) which would extend special religious worker and rural doctor visa programs until the end of fiscal year 2009. Both programs were set to expire tomorrow (March 6) with the rest of the continuing resolution package.

The non-ministerial religious worker program enables up to 5,000 religious workers--missionaries, counselors, teachers, instructors, etc--to enter the United States each year.

The rural doctor program waives regular J-1 visa requirements, allowing foreign-born graduates of U.S. medical schools to work beyond two-years after graduation if they work in underserved rural areas of the United States (the J-1 visa requires that foreign-born medical school graduates leave the U.S. within two years after graduation).

Neither of these bills are controversial and received broad bi-partisan support. However, advocates attempts at extending the programs for five years failed due to the broader fight over immigration and the extension of the E-Verify/Basic Pilot program.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community (Feb. 23-Mar. 2)

Immigration news and updates from Monday February 23- Monday March 2.

Given that I've posted a number of updates on the Bellingham raid (to access these updates click here, here, here, or here), I'll just include a list of news articles without annotations.

Bellingham Raid
Immigration Officials Raid Bellingham Plant
28 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Bellingham Raid
Obama Administration Conducts First Immigration Raid in Bellingham
Raid on Illegals Dismays Obama Backers

Officials, Advocates Question Immigration Raid
Bellingham Immigration Raid Raises Protests
Napolitano Orders Review of WA Raid

Concerns Arise Over Fast-Track Deportation Program
This article focuses on the federal government's increasing practice of deporting immigrants without a hearing. Attorneys, advocates, and judges all have concerns about this practice because many immigrants are deported without knowing their rights or the future consequences of their deportation.

Obama Can't Afford to Ignore Immigration
This International Herald Tribune article argues that even in the midst of recession, Obama can't afford to set back immigration reform. The author argues that to come out of the recession, the U.S. needs to boost service, construction, and agricultural industries.

Haitians Look for Shift in Immigration Policy
Haitian immigrants are looking to the Obama administration for a reversal of the Bush administration's resumed deportations to Haiti. After deadly mudslides and hurricanes hit Haiti last year, the Haitian government requested that the U.S. offer "temporary protected status" to Haitians living in the U.S. The Bush administration halted deportations while they reviewed the request, which they later denied. Many Haitians now fear being torn apart from their U.S. families. Protests against U.S. policy towards Haitians also took place last week.

Liberians in Limbo
Since they were granted temporary protected status (TPS) in 1991 after fleeing civil war, Liberian refugees have been making a life, and a community, in the United States. Now, eighteen years later, thousands of Liberian refugees are being forced to voluntarily leave the U.S. or face mass deportation on March 31. This article discusses the history and politics of the "TPS" category, which is in desparate need of reform.

U.S Immigration Policies Brings Global Shame on Us
This article discusses the global media attention--and shame--garnered by Sherriff Joe Arpaio's tactics in handling immigration. Next to news articles abroad on President Obama's speech before Congress were articles talking about the "inhumane," "discriminatory," and "humiliating" treatment of immigrant detainees in the United States.

ICE Program Shifts Immigration Costs, Abuses
"We can make a person disappear," an ICE official said. This article discusses the problematic programs of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has extraordinary powers under civil immigration law.

Immigration Not Local Police Duty
This editorial discusses how the 287(g) program--a program which gives grant funds to local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws--does little to reduce crime, the program's orginial selling point.

Other news articles:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee- ADC Requests DHS Civil Liberties Investigation of Operation Frontline

Atlanta Journal Constitution- Immigration Rally Focuses on Families

Immigration Impact- Obama Assures Mexican President He's Committed to Immigration Reform

Associated Press- Calderon: US Should Fix Economy, Then Immigration

The Washington Post Magizine- A College Student Fights Deportation

Seattle PI- Washington Activists Fights Immigrant Detention Center

AP Texas News- Deported Infant Case Back in Court

San Francisco Chronicle- Court Takes Case on Rights of Immigrant Defendents