Monday, September 14, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

Here are highlights of the news on immigration from Tuesday, September 8 to Monday, September 14. Enjoy!

If you read only one article on immigration from this week, read the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a Chinese immigrant with a history of mental illness who was detained in solitary confinement, without representation by a lawyer, for a year and a half. Ms. Jiang fled China in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized. She was detained despite having no criminal record. Her hardship, as the article mentions, could have been avoided if immigration courts had the same standard protections for persons with mental disabilities as all other courts. As it stands today, there is no procedure for establishing mental competence in immigration cases, and the courts are not required to provide persons with mental disabilities with legal representation. For immigrants in detention, the experience of being detained can itself be traumatic. For those who already face mental health issues and receive little or no treatment in detention, the experience can be devastating. Read this letter asking Attorney General Holder to provide protections in immigration courts for individuals with mental disabilities.

A New York Times article on Mustafa Salih's plight puts a human face on the bureaucratic backlog which causes many immigrants to wade through the legalization process for years before gaining citizenship. As the article reports, Salih immigrated to the U.S. in 1991, became a legal permanent resident four years later in 1995, and has been waiting since then to become a citizen. He and 150 of his peers who belong to the same mosque in Falls Church, VA, are in a sort of bureaucratic limbo in which it is unclear why they have not yet been granted citizenship. The article raises questions as to whether this bureaucratic backlog unfairly prolongs the wait time for Muslim applicants, many of whom have been told that they must wait indefinitely until an unspecified "background check" has been completed. To date, Salih has waited eighteen years to become a U.S. citizen.

In the aftermath of the May 2008 raid in Postville, IA, in which 389 workers were arrested and detained, and eventually deported, a Jewish organization in Postville seeks to move forward. The organization has crafted a postcard to be sent to the meatpacking plant at which the raid took place. The message: to improve working conditions, communications, and consumer confidence in the coming year.

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the Haiti Action Committee are calling for support in their quest for Haitians to receive Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States. TPS is a temporary provision that would permit Haitians to remain in the United States for a limited time as their country rebuilds from the 2008 hurricanes that devastated its communities, infrastructure, and economy. The humanitarian crisis in Haiti would only be aggravated by the deportation of Haitians currently residing in the United States.

In terms of legislative updates, we have some new cosponsors on board! Senator Al Franken (MN) and Representative Laura Richardson (CA) have signed on as cosponsors for the Uniting American Families Act (S. 424, H.R. 1024). Representatives Steve Cohen (TN), Edolphus Towns (NY), Bobby Scott (VA), George Miller (CA), and John Lewis (GA) have each signed on as cosponsors for the Reuniting Families Act (H.R. 2709). Even though health care reform will be the primary issue addressed in Congress this week, support for components of comprehensive immigration reform is building.

Will Coley and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center have put together a series of short documentaries on the challenges and successes for immigrants seeking to learn English. In this video, volunteer teachers speak about their passion for teaching English as a second language and their respect for the determination that they see in their students. The primary value of this video, as I see it, is its ability to demonstrate how learning English does not have to be a one-way assimilation tactic. Instead, it can be a rich cultural exchange that benefits both teachers and students alike. As one of the volunteer teachers in the video says of her students, "I value you, who you are, and what you have to teach me, and I think it can only lead to better things."

1 comment:

  1. The story of Xiu Ping Jiang just breaks my heart and makes my blood boil.

    Thank you for posting.