Monday, September 28, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

Wondering what's happened on immigration in the past week? Take a look here at the news on immigration from Monday, September 21 to Monday, September 28.

Time to celebrate! The Associated Press reports that, as of last week, the last families have left the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Texas. Hutto had been a medium-security prison until it was converted in 2006 into an immigration detention facility for families. This facility has been used to detain immigrant families - including pregnant women, young children, and infants - until lawsuits from ACLU and grassroots protests shut it down. Before the lawsuits, conditions in Hutto were appalling. Children were receiving no more than an hour of education a day. Toys and crayons were not allowed in the cells. Guards accustomed to dealing with adults with criminal convictions were now in charge of vulnerable children and their parents. Children reported that the guards would threaten to take away their mothers and transfer them to a different facility if they misbehaved.

To learn more about the human rights abuses at Hutto, watch this video (and see YouTube for parts 2 and 3):

According to ICE, the families held in Hutto have been deported, paroled, or released as their cases on immigration status move through the system. Families apprehended from now on will either be placed under supervision or detained at the much smaller Berks facility in Pennsylvania.

Ever since Lou Dobbs received an award two weeks ago from FAIR, a recognized anti-immigrant hate group, more people have been speaking out about whether he should be removed from CNN. This article describes the efforts of Democracia Ahora, an organization that has just launched a campaign called "Enough is Enough," to get CNN to rein in Dobbs. Democracia Ahora also released a report on Friday based on interviews with 100 Hispanic leaders. The vast majority of these leaders expressed concerns that Dobbs, through his frequent and incendiary remarks about undocumented immigrants, is creating a negative image of Hispanics in the United States.

As mark-ups on the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee continue into this week, a number of members of Congress are still speaking out on the need to make the health care system reasonably accessible to documented and undocumented immigrants. Twenty-nine Democrats signed on to a letter that strongly urges Congressional leaders to eliminate the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants in the Medicaid program. Representative Mike Honda, the original author of the sign-on letter, also called for the elimination of a provision creating a waiting period for legal immigrants to obtain credits to buy health insurance. A quote from the letter: "The unnecessary and burdensome waiting period has increased racial and ethnic health disparities, and thwarts the goal of health care reform. It is not only fiscally shortsighted, but also arbitrary and fundamentally unfair to deny health care coverage to legal immigrants."

Representative Honda has also written a second letter, which many of the same members of Congress have signed on to, opposing a provision in the Baucus bill in the Senate that bars undocumented immigrants from purchasing non-subsidized health insurance coverage.

The Des Moines Register has printed an article stating that many ICE arrests are not of criminals. This article explains how 67 percent of the people detained this year by Iowa's new ICE unit do not have any criminal background. Instead, they are being held on immigration charges, which are civil, not criminal, offenses. The article also provides some good background information on how ICE has created new programs that give the agency unprecedented abilities to intervene in local communities.

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