Monday, October 19, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

Immigration was all over the headlines last week! Enjoy these snippets of the news from Monday, October 12 to Monday, October 19. If you have the time, you can also take a look at the post just below, which is the first installment of Stories from Detention, a six-week series that I'll put up every Friday between now and Thanksgiving.

If you only read one item this week, be sure to read Representative Luis Gutierrez's (IL) principles on comprehensive immigration reform that he just released on October 13th. These principles outline the progressive bill that he is expected to introduce sometime in the next few weeks. Click here for my original post about how these principles match up with our priorities, and check back soon for FCNL's statement in response to the principles. I'm looking forward very much to the introduction of this bill.

So if you thought Halloween was all fun and games, think again. This week, Target, Walgreens, and Amazon were selling "Illegal Alien" costumes, complete with an orange jumpsuit, a space alien mask, and a fake green card. The jumpsuits have the words "Illegal Alien" stamped across the chest. I am shocked and surprised - it is irresponsible of these corporations to offer such offensive costumes. Congratulations to CHIRLA (the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles) and other pro-migrant organizations for petitioning these companies to stop selling this costume. Please speak out if you see these costumes for sale in your local stores.

There was a significant achievement for the border this week: members of the House removed a provision in the DHS Appropriations bill that would have allocated federal money to build 300 miles of pedestrian fencing on the US-Mexico border. Lawmakers claimed that the provision would be "wasteful spending." Also on the border, kidnappings of migrants have become more frequent, a concerning trend for those seeking economic security and a better life in the United States.

However, there's another amendment to watch out for: Senator David Vitter (LA) has introduced an amendment in the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill that would add a question to the Census about immigration status. FCNL opposes this amendment. The Census was intended to count everyone, not just citizens. If this amendment passes, it would discourage participation in the Census, resulting in a less accurate count of the U.S. population, and it would cost billions of taxpayer dollars to change the Census questions now. We urge the Senate to vote down this amendment.

At the Port Isabel detention center in Texas, 49 immigrant detainees have begun a hunger strike to protest the slow processing of their cases. The United States will detain more than 440,000 immigrants by the end of the year, and 84% of them will not have legal representation. Check out next week's post of Stories from Detention to learn more about how immigrants in detention are denied their right to a fair day in court.

Immigrants seeking to reunite with their loved ones often have to wait years, or even decades, to bring their spouses and children to the United States. Now, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that children waiting to join their parents have to re-apply for visas all over again if they turn 21 before their original visa application is processed. So, if I were to apply for my child to join me when she was 15 years old, and she then waited in line for 6 years and turned 21, she would have to go to the end of the line and start all over again. Families who are separated for this long experience severe emotional and financial hardship. The solution lies not in forcing people to wait in line for years on end, but in adjusting the family-based immigration system so people seeking to immigrate legally to the United States can do so in a reasonable time frame.

October 15th was the last day for counties to re-sign their agreements with DHS, under the 287(g) program, which allows local police officers to enforce immigration laws. This program has caused widespread racial and religious profiling, most visibly in the case of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. When police officers focus their efforts on harassing immigrants, they do not spend enough time dealing with real safety and security concerns in their communities. In addition, immigrants (particularly women) in unsafe situations may hesitate to call the police if they think they could be deported for reporting domestic violence, for instance. Unfortunately, as the National Immigration Forum blogged, these renewed agreements do not create enough oversight to prevent discrimination from occuring.

I'll leave you with some good news. The National Association for Evangelicals has come out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. Their resolution lends strength to the faith-based perspective on the need for reform now. A couple of different media sources are also musing on the need for reform. For The Hill's perspective, click here.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming Gutierrez bill!

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