Monday, February 1, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

With the State of the Union and the release of the federal budget, this week has been a busy time for folks in Washington, DC. With that, take a look at the news on immigration from Monday, January 25 to Monday, February 1. Happy reading!

The State of the Union was this past Wednesday and if you stuck around until the end, you heard President Obama put in a brief word on the need to keep working to fix the broken immigration system. Here, Immigration Impact bloggers offer their own interpretation of the speech. In response, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (IL), the author of the CIR ASAP bill to comprehensively reform the immigration system, wrote a powerful op-ed piece calling on Congress to take action.

Here at FCNL, we're urging you to do your part to advance President Obama's vision by organizing a prayer vigil in your community this February. By standing together in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors, we can show that we still believe that immigration reform can't wait. Take a look at the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's planning guide to coordinate your own prayer vigil today!

On Monday, January 25, DHS Assistant Secretary John Morton spoke at the Migration Policy Institute about his plans to overhaul the immigration detention system. Morton is working to create a civil detention system that would replace the jail-like model that currently detains over 30,000 immigrants a day. While we welcome the administration's commitment to reform, we urge Assistant Secretary Morton and his team to work diligently to determine who really needs to be held in detention facilities and who can be released.

As Victoria Lopez writes in the Arizona Daily Star, the immigration detention system lacks transparency and accountability. Many facilities, like this one in Georgia, are run by private prison corporations, which lack the training and oversight to manage a population of civil immigrant detainees. In Colorado, protestors and our friends with the American Friends Service Committee gather regularly outside the Aurora detention facility.

Detention reforms will become all the more important as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) expands their Secure Communities program throughout the country. This program, which checks fingerprints in local jails against an immigration database, is meant to capture high-level criminals who are in violation of immigration laws. Instead, Secure Communities ends up focusing primarily on nonviolent offenders, who get caught in the net and may then be detained and deported. Nationally, Secure Communities accounts for about 40% of the immigrants held in jail-like detention centers that are known for human rights abuses.

The United States and the international community continue to respond to the disaster in Haiti by providing emergency humanitarian relief. The extreme devastation has left people across the country wondering, What more can we do? An op-ed in the Washington Post opines that the U.S. government should accelerate visa processing for Haitians who have family members in the United States. Many of these visa applicants have been waiting four years or more to reunite with their loved ones.

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