Monday, November 16, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

It's been a busy week for immigration news! Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and take a look at the news on immigration from Monday, November 9 to Monday, November 16.

First, and most importantly, Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday that the Obama administration remains committed to reforming the U.S. immigration system this Congress. Speaking at the Center for American Progress, Napolitano referred to immigration reform as a "three-legged stool" that "includes a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here." Click here for a related New York Times article and here for a video of her remarks.

Lou Dobbs, known for his incendiary remarks on CNN about undocumented immigrants, announced on Wednesday that he is leaving the network. As a New York Times editorial opines, without Dobbs CNN will return to being a more nonpartisan, less ideological source of information on immigration. Members of the Drop Dobbs campaign celebrated his departure.

Sholom Rubashkin, one of the former managers of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa that was the focus of a massive immigration raid in May 2008, has been convicted of 86 financial fraud charges. Rubashkin will likely face a prison sentence of hundreds of years - effectively a life sentence. The Postville community and the families directly affected by the raid continue to seek healing.

Washington, D.C. will become the newest city to participate in Secure Communities, an immigration enforcement program run by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Secure Communities will allow D.C. police to check the fingerprints of those held in local jails in order to identify undocumented immigrants. Those identified as undocumented immigrants by the system will then likely be placed in deportation proceedings. At FCNL, we maintain that federal immigration law should only be enforced by federal agents with the proper training and oversight.

The New York Times reported this morning that remittance flows between the United States and Mexico have actually reversed temporarily due to the economic recession. Relatives outside the United States are sending money to their family members who have recently become unemployed in this country. Remittances are an often-overlooked aspect of immigration - for many countries, the amount of money received as remittances is greater than the amount received from foreign direct investments. In these countries, remittances are often a source of economic stability.

Who, might you ask, is joining the chorus of people calling for immigration reform? The answer: The pope. Pope Benedict XVI said on November 9 that "people should not look upon immigrants as problems, but as fellow brothers and sisters who can be valuable contributors to society." He spoke on global migration patterns, development, and the unequal distribution of resources. And guess who agrees? Google's co-founder's mom has also spoken out, saying that immigrants contribute a wealth of new strengths and ideas to the U.S. economy.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to federal data, the number of arrests at the U.S. border has declined by more than 23% in the past year. This trend can be attributed to declining economic conditions and increased border enforcement, among other factors. However, this decline in arrests does not take away from the need to realign border enforcement with humanitarian values in a way that respects fragile environments, preserves religious sites, and integrates the concerns of border communities.

Here's something you may not have heard of in mainstream media: Last month, there was a 'quiet' immigration raid in Minnesota in which 1,200 undocumented janitors were fired from their jobs. Minnesota Public Radio reported this raid on November 9. While workplace raids have been significantly less common under the Obama administration, immigration enforcement actions like this one still force undocumented workers to stay in the shadows.

I'll leave you with a powerful op-ed written by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA). Representative Roybal-Allard commends Secretary Napolitano for the administration's commitment to detention reform, but maintains that Congressional action is still needed to ensure the humane treatment of immigrant detainees. Enacting her bill, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, would be a strong step in the right direction. She writes, "With the adoption of these reforms, America’s immigration jails—long a national embarrassment—will finally reflect our laws and our values."

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