Monday, October 26, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

From Monday, October 19th to Monday, October 26th, here is your one-stop-shop for summaries of immigration stories in the news. Happy reading!

First of all, let's celebrate, because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill just passed with even more money allocated for alternatives to detention than originally requested. The alternatives to detention program received $70 million, $6 million above the initial request. This money will permit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take vulnerable people - asylum-seekers, torture survivors, families, and others - out of immigration detention centers. Alternatives to detention are an effective, cost-efficient, and humane way to treat people going through immigration proceedings.

However, ICE is getting shaken up a bit - this week, a second high-ranking official left the agency. Cree Zischke has just left her job at the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning, only a few weeks after her boss, Dora Schriro, also left the agency. Schriro's report on U.S. immigration detention facilities, which was released on October 6, called for significant and immediate reforms to the detention system. It is concerning that Schriro and Zischke have left ICE at this critical moment when these reforms need to be implemented.

Another reason to celebrate: The DHS appropriations bill also included a provision that ends the "widow penalty." Before this bill passed, immigrants married to U.S. citizens faced an awful legal problem: If their U.S. citizen spouse died before they received their green card, they and their children would automatically be deported. Now, the DHS appropriations bill fixes that problem and permits grieving immigrant families to stay in the United States as they continue to petition for a green card.

Faith communities around the country continue to speak out in support of comprehensive immigration reform. In preparation for the introduction of Rep. Luis Gutierrez's (IL) upcoming bill on immigration reform, people of all faiths are speaking out about the need to fix the broken immigration system in order to welcome immigrants into U.S. communities. Police leaders from across the country have also called for fair and humane immigration reform, saying that these reforms would restore public trust in police enforcement and promote public safety.

Recognizing that undocumented children need to be supported in the public education system, the National Education Association and National School Boards Association jointly produced a report offering advice to schools with undocumented students. Undocumented children grew up in the United States and often don't even remember their countries of origin. This important guide will help schools meet the needs of undocumented students who are trying to integrate into U.S. education systems and communities.

The 2010 Census is around the corner, and Senator David Vitter (LA) has introduced an amendment in the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill that would seriously disrupt the Census process. He's trying to cut off financing to the Census unless it includes a question on whether the respondent is a U.S. citizen or not. Now, questions for the 2010 Census had to be finalized in March 2008, so Sen. Vitter is a little late on this one. However, if the Vitter amendment passes, it would cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. New studies on the questionnaire would have to be run, all the Census forms would have to be reprinted, trainings would have to be redone, and all the technology set up to process the Census would have to be altered. Not only would this cost the United States billions of dollars that could be better used elsewhere, but it would significantly delay the 2010 Census process and discourage immigrants from participating in the Census. Rep. Joe Baca (CA) introduced a bill to counter the Vitter amendment, and the New York Times put out an editorial called "How to Waste Money and Ruin the Census." Latino pastors in California have also come out against the amendment. Please join FCNL and others to encourage your Senators to oppose the Vitter amendment.

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