Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

Hello again and welcome back to your local source for immigration news! We're still digging out after more than 40 inches of snow fell in DC last week. To catch us up a bit, here are highlights from Monday, February 8 to Tuesday, February 16. Happy reading!

The faith community continues to push for comprehensive immigration reform, delivering tens of thousands of postcards to members of Congress and coordinating prayer vigils across the country. More than 100 faith events will be held in February, from South Carolina to Washington State. The Interfaith Immigration Coalition has made available an organizing guide so that you, too, can gather your community together to raise awareness about the need for reform.

Without comprehensive immigration reform, the broken immigration system creates headaches and difficulties for employers and employees alike. Two new articles - available here and here - document the challenges facing foreign farm workers, who would benefit directly from a comprehensive reform bill. Workers, compelled out of economic necessity to immigrate without the proper documents, face poor working conditions and low wages. Employers, under pressure to increase wages and fulfill Labor Department rules, struggle to keep their businesses viable. The one thing they all agree on? The time for reform is now.

Workers aren't the only ones suffering - families divided by immigration laws face serious hardships in raising their children. This heartbreaking article from the New York Times documents the life of Elizabeth Encalada. Her husband, an immigrant from Ecuador, was ordered back to his home country. He then killed himself upon learning that he would be unable to return to the United States to reunite with his family. The family visa system is clogged with applications, compelling families who play by the rules to turn to desperate measures.

The Immigration Policy Center has released a special report, "Many Happy Returns," on how remittances can help Haiti recover and strengthen the U.S. economy. Many of this country's immigrants send a large chunk of their earnings back to their families and communities in their country of origin. On the surface, it might seem like this money is just disappearing from the U.S. economy, but really, it boosts U.S. participation in the global economy.

A federal judge asks whether it's worth the cost of prosecuting non-criminal immigrants, and a new report by TRAC indicates that the majority of immigrants held in detention centers by ICE have never been convicted of any crime. Even though ICE claims to focus on non-citizens who pose a real threat to public safety, the numbers tell a different story. ICE's director, John Morton, says, "This isn't a question of whether or not we will detain people. We will detain people, and we will detain them on a grand scale." Morton's comment leads us to ask, "But why?"

But don't let me leave you with a rhetorical question - ask the government yourself! The Department of Homeland Security has created an "Open Government" website and they want your input. From now until March 19, you can submit ideas and questions to DHS about how to increase transparency about how the agency manages the immigration detention system.

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