Monday, January 11, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

Welcome back to your local source for immigration news and updates! Since the holiday break, there's been a lot to report so grab your cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy. Here is your news from Monday, January 4 to Monday, January 11. Happy reading!

It's been a mixed bag this week for the Department of Homeland Security. Starting on January 4, 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) changed its policies on asylum-seekers. People who enter the United States and demonstrate a credible fear of persecution or torture will now be automatically considered for parole, instead of detention. Holding asylum-seekers for months or even years in jail-like detention facilities has been proven to aggravate post-traumatic stress disorder, so this policy change is an important step in the direction of reducing our nation's dependence on detention.

However, the New York Times and ACLU have revealed a shocking story in which immigration officials had actively tried to cover up details about some of the 107 deaths in immigration detention since October 2003. Records show that one detainee was held in isolation for 13 hours with a head injury before treatment was sought, and another was deprived of prescription painkillers for a broken leg. Both died, yet the agency's main concern was apparently not how to prevent their deaths but how to avoid unwanted publicity. See this video from the New York Times for details.

The inhumane treatment of immigrant detainees indicates the real and urgent need for immigration reform. Rep. Luis Gutierrez's has introduced the CIR ASAP Act of 2009, a bill that would reform the immigration system to keep families together, protect workers' rights, and promote immigrants' human and civil rights. FCNL urges you to contact your representative and ask them to cosponsor this bill. This bill offers practical solutions for the broken immigration system, which will hopefully be incorporated into the final immigration bill passed by Congress.

The Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress have introduced a new report, which finds that legalizing undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion for the U.S. economy over the next 10 years. While some are understandably hesitant about reforming the immigration system during a recession, this report indicates that immigration reform would actually help promote economic growth. Immigrant workers would be better positioned to contribute to the economy, and the U.S. government could direct resources away from enforcement and towards the public's urgent needs. For more information, check out the Immigration Policy Center's top 10 resources of 2009.

In fiscal year 2009, the number of federal prosecutions reached an all-time high, due in large part to a flood of immigration prosecutions. Immigration prosecutions started climbing after the 1996 immigration laws were passed, and then prosecutions skyrocketed under the Bush administration. Now, immigration prosecutions make up 54% of federal filings. If immigrants had reasonable legal avenues to come to the United States and integrate into their communities, then the government wouldn't have to devote so many resources to these prosecutions.

Four immigrant students are taking a bold step - several thousands of bold steps, as a matter of fact. These students have embarked on the Trail of Dreams, a 1,500-mile walk from Florida to Washington, DC. Their goal is to promote the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students who came to the United States as children to pursue an accelerated path to legal status and eventual citizenship. To support them on their journey, visit the Trail of Dreams website.

I'll leave you with a surprising tidbit: a clip of Lou Dobbs on the Bill O'Reilly show. If you listen carefully and brush past their anti-immigration rhetoric, you'll find that they're actually stating their support for a workable, non-punitive legalization program. They also support family members joining their loved ones in the United States through the legal visa system. Who knew these two could be so liberal?

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