Monday, February 22, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

Hello again and welcome to this week's edition of In Our Community: Immigration News. Here are highlights from Monday, February 15th to Monday, February 22nd. Grab a cup of coffee and happy reading!

Electoral calculations are starting already and politicians on both sides of the aisle are taking note of growing Hispanic voting power. The Hispanic population in the United States is the fastest growing voting demographic. In the upcoming 2010 elections, politicians are going to need to take seriously the demands and concerns of immigrant communities. Two articles (available here and here) indicate that, in order to win votes, conservatives may need to shift from cracking down on the border to supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Recent polling shows that 82% of Hispanics feel strongly about immigration reform.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition, of which FCNL is a member, launched an immigration reform campaign last week by delivering hundreds of thousands of postcards to members of Congress. This article in the Miami Herald discusses why immigration reform is important to people of faith. As one faith leader says, "This is important to us Christians, not just because we are immigrants or sons or daughters of immigrants... We have been called to treat the foreigners among us justly and to love our neighbor.''

Protestors regularly gather outside the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, WA, to protest the harsh treatment and unnecessary detention of immigrants at this jail-like facility. The NWDC has become one of the largest detention centers in the country. It holds about 1000 immigrant detainees at a time, the majority of which have never committed a crime and are being held for immigration violations only. FCNL supports alternatives to detention for these immigrants as they wait for their cases to be heard in immigration courts.

It is still not clear how the Department of Homeland Security defines "criminal alien," which is the term most commonly used for immigrants held in jail-like detention centers. Some say that an individual must be convicted of a crime to be considered a "criminal alien," while others say they just have to be accused of or suspected of a crime. If this is the measure by which enforcement programs are being justified, some clarity is urgently needed. In addition, reports show that the vast majority of immigrant detainees are noncriminal or have committed minor crimes, not the serious ones that you would be led to believe. For more information on how immigrants end up in detention, see two recent fact sheets - available here and here.

Think that areas with significant immigrant populations are more vulnerable to crime? Think again. This interesting article in The American Conservative sets the record straight, demonstrating that Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age. Want to share this information with others? The Immigration Policy Center has a brief fact sheet breaking down the popular myth that immigrants are dangerous criminals.

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