Monday, November 23, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

As we prepare for Thanksgiving and gather our loved ones close, let's look forward to a new season in which all families, including immigrant families, can stay together. Immigration reform could be around the corner, but only if momentum keeps building. Take a look at the news on immigration from Monday, November 16 to Monday, November 23. Happy reading!

The Senate has started its final debate on the health care reform bill, which it hopes to pass before the turn of the year. However, the Senate version of the bill restricts health care for immigrants in ways that the House version does not. The House version allows undocumented immigrants to use their own money to buy into the health insurance exchange, if their employers do not cover them. The Senate version does not have this option. Neither would permit undocumented immigrants to receive federal subsidies on their insurance. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are upset at the Obama administration for supporting these restrictions - which reduce access to health care - and they're not afraid to voice their frustrations. Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants with life-threatening conditions are being turned away by public hospitals that can no longer afford to serve them.

The Reform Immigration FOR America campaign organized a telephonic town hall with Representative Luis Gutierrez last Wednesday and it was a huge success! Representative Gutierrez was joined by Representatives Nydia Velazquez and Raul Grijalva on a conference call with thousands of people across the country. Rep. Gutierrez restated his commitment to passing humane immigration reform this Congress. He plans to introduce his progressive bill on comprehensive immigration reform this December. Click here to listen to a recording of the campaign's conference call.

The economic recovery hasn't advanced as far as anyone would like and immigrants - just like everyone else - are feeling the pinch. The Migration Policy Institute's new report actually suggests that many immigrant workers have been affected more deeply by the recession than native-born workers. Labor unions have been speaking out in favor of immigration reform, recognizing that improving working conditions for immigrant and low-wage workers will benefit everyone in the long run.

One component of immigration reform that would support workers' rights and economic growth is the creation of a reasonable pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, rising application fees may soon stand in the way of those seeking to come out of the shadows. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is experiencing a major budget shortfall and may increase application fees - again - in order to cover costs. Since 2007, a green card application has cost more than $1000 and a citizenship application costs $595. If fees rise again, many immigrants will be unable to overcome this barrier as they seek to integrate more fully into U.S. society by regularizing their legal status.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced plans to audit 1,000 more companies suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants. Following the dismissal of 1,200 janitors in Minnesota in what the Minnesota Public Radio called a 'quiet' immigration raid, this announcement by ICE points to a new enforcement trend. Comprehensive immigration reform would enable undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, ensure that their rights as workers are protected, and reduce incentives for disingenuous employers to exploit their workers. Let's be proactive by reforming the system, instead of ramping up enforcement.

The New York Times has published an excellent editorial on how children in immigrant families are suffering under the current broken immigration system. These children often endure long separations from one or both parents. These separations damage children psychologically, drive them into poverty, and negatively affect their academic performance. They are not well-supported by the current system, as they try to integrate into U.S. society. This is not an issue "out there" but one right at the doorstep. The United States is built on immigration, and the U.S. government would be doing a tremendous disservice to society as a whole by failing to integrate immigrant children into mainstream society.

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