Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Concerned? So Are We.

Shouldn't immigration quotas be a thing of the past, abandoned to the judgment of historians?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn't think so.

This agency, which is part of Homeland Security, is responsible for enforcing immigration laws. But there's a catch. John Morton, the director of ICE, has stated repeatedly that ICE's goal is to track down and deport "dangerous criminals." Recently, it has become clear that Morton's statements are disconnected from the reality of immigration enforcement on the ground.

This internal ICE memo, leaked by the Washington Post, indicates that ICE is trying to arrest and detain as many people as possible - not just dangerous criminals - in order to meet quotas.

The explanation goes like this: Last year, ICE detained 387,000 people and this year the agency has received a budgetary increase. So, in order to justify the increase in funding, ICE has set a goal of detaining at least 400,000 people in 2010. (ICE later withdrew the memo but declined to offer a public explanation for why it had originally been issued.)

This is backwards reasoning. Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on expensive and ineffective enforcement programs. You can't deport your way into a reasonable immigration policy.

ICE has a serious and urgent question to answer. Who does the agency focus on - "dangerous criminals" or simply people who look "foreign"?

ICE should offer clarifications, immediately, on how the agency's goals align with its methods.

In addition, oversight of ICE's local enforcement programs should be established. Asking ICE to police itself would be unreasonable. Therefore, Congress should pass detention reform bills - S. 1549, S. 1550, and H.R. 1215 - which would ensure adequate protections for U.S. citizens, green card holders, and all who are unfairly punished by harsh and discriminatory ICE policies.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

FCNL Joins More Than One Hundred Thousand Supporters to March for Immigration Reform

Change takes courage and faith. On Sunday, March 21st, more than 100,000 supporters of humane immigration reform gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, to send this urgent message to Congress. This rally, which attracted news coverage from New York to California, brought together people from all corners of the country to stand in solidarity for immigrants' rights.

From day laborers and union organizers, to children whose parents had been deported, to people of faith striving to welcome the stranger, to students whose lack of papers prevents them from attending college, all came together with one unified message: Immigration reform can't wait.

Recently we've seen President Obama meet with Senator Schumer (NY) and Senator Graham (SC) to discuss immigration reform. We've seen an op-ed outlining the bipartisan Senate bill, which has not yet been introduced. We've seen a Senator Reid commit to make time on the Senate floor for a debate on immigration reform. But we haven't yet seen the political will - the courage - to take the critical next step.

As Representative Gutierrez (IL) said at the rally, "Justice for immigrants cannot wait. It cannot be delayed because of the fears of politicians."

Now is the time for bold leadership. Now is the time for the introduction of a humane and just immigration reform bill in the Senate. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.

Couldn't make it to DC? Check out this video from Democracy Now. And take a look at these photos, taken by FCNL's Rebecca Sheff, of the many thousands of supporters who made the trek to DC for this historic day.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Schumer and Graham Write Op-Ed, Thousands of Immigration Advocates March on DC

Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) wrote an op-ed together yesterday, which provides broad outlines of their bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate. The bill proposes reforms including stringent border and workplace enforcement measures, the creation of a national biometric ID card for both U.S. citizens and immigrants, and a legalization program for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

The White House responded to the op-ed with a statement from President Obama, saying, "I pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform." Senator Reid also issued a statement saying he is committed to bringing this bill to the floor when it is ready.

While draft language on the Senate bill has not yet been released, at FCNL we support the CIR ASAP bill, which was introduced in the House in December 2009. This bill protects family unity, provides a workable legalization program, and protects immigrants' civil and human rights. To urge your representative to support this bill, send a letter today.

Meanwhile, many thousands of immigration advocates have started the trek to Washington, DC, to rally on Sunday afternoon. Individuals whose loved ones have been deported, who have been denied fair wages, whose children cannot attend college because they lack papers, will all converge on the National Mall to say that the time for immigration reform is now.

Don't miss it! We hope you can join us and tens of thousands of supporters this weekend. Si se puede!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Change Takes Courage and Faith

Don't miss out on the action! Over 100,000 supporters of immigration reform will gather this Sunday, March 21st, on the National Mall to witness the urgent need for immigration reform. Grab a friend, grab a sign, and join us!

Last week, President Obama met with Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), who are working together to draft a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate. However, negotiations are ongoing and immigrant families cannot wait any longer. The time for immigration reform is now.

As people of faith, we can't sit by as the broken immigration system rips apart families and communities. Join us in Washington DC to urge Congress to pass just, humane immigration reform.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

We have a busy week ahead of us here in Washington! In this post, you'll find some updates from last week and - more importantly - previews of this week's events! Grab your coffee cup and let's get started.

Last Thursday, President Obama met with Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) and Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), who are working together to draft a bipartisan immigration reform bill in the Senate. This high-profile meeting was met with cautious enthusiasm by immigration advocates, who are pressing Schumer and Graham to release a blueprint of their bill before the much-anticipated immigration rally this Sunday.

Following the meeting, President Obama issued this statement: "Today I met with Senators Schumer and Graham and was pleased to learn of their progress in forging a proposal to fix our broken immigration system. I look forward to reviewing their promising framework, and every American should applaud their efforts to reach across party lines and find commonsense answers to one of our most vexing problems. I also heard from a diverse group of grassroots leaders from around the country about the growing coalition that is working to build momentum for this critical issue. I am optimistic that their efforts will contribute to a favorable climate for moving forward. I told both the Senators and the community leaders that my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort."

Senator Schumer remains "optimistic" about advancing immigration reform while Senator Graham sees difficulties in hyperpartisanship. Schumer and Graham are on the search for a second Republican cosponsor of the bill, and they continue to seek a compromise between business and labor leaders about the future of worker visas. We encourage these senators to put pen to paper and share their plan for immigration reform publicly in the near future.

We have learned that Schumer and Graham's proposal for immigration reform may include a biometric national identification card. All U.S. citizens and green card holders would be required to carry this card, as would immigrants with other statuses. This is a concerning development that would raise all sorts of privacy and profiling concerns. We hope that clarification on this proposal comes swiftly.

A final vote on the health care bill is expected by the end of this week, but what's in it for immigrants? Immigrants' access to health care remains a hotly contested issue in the House. In the current version of the bill, undocumented immigrants cannot obtain health insurance even if they are willing to buy an individual plan with their own money. Advocates are hard at work trying to improve access and lift the 5-year bar for Medicaid, in which legal immigrants have to wait five years before they are eligible for the Medicaid program. It is unreasonable to expect anyone, regardless of their legal status, to wait 5 years for health care.

Immigration enforcement hit close to home this week. On Thursday morning, several simultaneous raids in Maryland resulted in 29 people being taken into custody by federal immigration agents. ICE claims that the raids are intended “to ensure that employers are held accountable for maintaining a legal work force.” However, raids, even when conducted in a humane manner, unfairly punish employees while letting employers off the hook.

So, what's in store for us this week?

It's not too late to register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Christians from across the country will gather in D.C. this weekend to discuss immigration reform, refugees, and displaced peoples. Join us for workshops, discussions, and advocacy training, as well as a day of lobbying on Monday, March 22nd!

The Reform Immigration For America campaign, in coordination with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, is organizing a huge immigration rally on March 21st! Over 100,000 people are expected to gather to witness the urgent need for immigration reform. We hope you can join us on the National Mall on Sunday afternoon!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

As the snow melts in DC and the cherry blossoms are on the verge of appearing, we're renewing our efforts to urge Congress to support immigration reform. To get the latest updates, just keep on reading! Here is your news on immigration from Monday, March 1 to Monday, March 8.

We've been working to drum up support for the CIR ASAP bill (H.R. 4321), a bill which proposes humane reforms for the immigration system. This bill would help keep families together, allow undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, and protect immigrants civil and human rights. We just got another cosponsor, putting the total at 94! Let's try to break 100. You can help push reforms forward by contacting your representative today!

You may have seen advertisements about the Census, and we're encouraging everyone to participate. In order to make sure that communities get fair representation and federal funds, it is important to get an accurate Census count. Please talk to your neighbors to check if they're filling out their forms!

Prepare to be scanned, weighed, and valued: Congress may soon expand the reach of the controversial E-Verify program, which would check the identities of new employees against a national database in order to confirm their immigration status. However, E-Verify raises concerns about accuracy, privacy, and fairness. Expanding workplace enforcement is no substitution for real immigration reform, which would allow workers to come to the US legally in line with the real needs of the US economy. Marc Rosenblum has more in this opinion piece.

The Obama administration is working on overhauling the immigration detention system and advocates are cautiously supportive of this initiative. However, the majority of detention facilities are run by private contractors, not the federal government. How will these contractors be held accountable? Watch this video to learn more.

Meanwhile, thousands of immigrants - the vast majority of whom are non-criminal - continue to be detained and deported without access to a fair trial. Minnesota Public Radio reports on one man's struggle to remain in the United States so he could support his children. Spoiler alert: This story, unlike many others, actually has a happy ending!