Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Last Week: In Our Community

Immigration news and updates from Monday July 6 through Tuesday July 14.

Last week saw a number of developments regarding immigration reform. I'll try and recap them here as well as cover the usual array of national news.

Sen. Charles Schumer of NY announced plans that he will introduce an immigration reform bill by Labor Day of this year. This follows another recent announcement of his 7 principles of immigration reform that he says will guide his bill. FCNL deeply appreciates Sen. Schumer's commitment to introducing and passing comprehensive immigration reform. However, we remain concerned about the primary focus on enforcement.

On Wednesday of last week, the Council on Foreign Relations issued a new report on US immigration policy urging the passage of comprehensive immigration reform for economic, foreign policy, and national security reasons. While we were pleased to see important provisions included in the report (such as upholding family reunification, supporting a path to legal status, alternatives to detention), we were also concerned about the report's advocacy of using the flawed E-Verify system or a biometric identification system, employer sancions, increasing the number of Border Patrol agents, and expanding 287(g) agreements. We also were concerned about the emphasis on getting immigrants into the military.

In other news, the New York Times is reporting that "surging caseloads and a chronic lack of resources" is taking a toll on the nation's immigration judges. In a study conducted by Georgetown University, immigration judges from accross the United States left comments stating that they were overwhelmed and disheartened by the "volume of cases with insufficient time for careful review, a shortage of law clerks and language interpreters, and failing computers and equipment for recording hearings."

An NY Times editorial also announced disappointment at President Obama's decision to expand the 287(g) program, which allows local law enforcement to act as federal immigration agents. The Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to improve the program's oversight as the program has been plagued by "reports of racial profiling and abuse." But this decision by the administration comes as a disappointment of many, including many police chiefs and sheriffs.

The federal government is also paying $880,000 to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by he family of Roxanna Brown, a 620 year old woman who died at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. The detention center officials have acknowledged that there was no overnight medical oversight on the night that she died. According to AP, "the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle agreed to the settlement in exchange for dismissal of all claims."

Yet another report came out about the practice of shackling pregnant immigrant women held in detention as they give birth.

So a mixture of the good and the bad. I think all these news and reports show us that we are moving foward. But we need to continue to work to hold members of Congress to their values of justice and equality.

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