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Helping a spouse become a U.S. citizen

Fri, Apr 18 3:31 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

How to help a spouse immigrate to the U.S.

Citizens of the United States can help their spouses or relatives become a lawful permanent resident by sponsoring their path to citizenship. Part of that sponsorship involves the citizen proving they have the financial means to support their spouse or relative when they come to the U.S.

Relatives who are eligible for petition include the husband or wife and children (married or unmarried) of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens who are over age 21 can petition for parents, brothers and sisters as well.

The U.S. citizen must begin the process by filing a Petition for Alien Relative document, or Form I-130. This form establishes the relationship between you and your relative or spouse. Applicants can review instructions for this form on USCIS's website or at their satellite offices in every state.

Once Form I-130 has been filed, the relative will be given a place in line with other immigrants who are waiting to come to the U.S. from that country or region, based on the same type of relationship. When the relative reaches the front of the line, and passes the required background checks and meeting admissions requirements, they maybe be able to immigrate.

Special consideration is given to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, including their spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21 and parents. There is no waiting list to bring these relatives to the U.S. Once their I-130 petition is approved the U.S. Department of State will invite them to apply for an immigration visa.

The combination of high demand and limits set by the U.S. government for how many people can immigrate every year means other, non-immediate relatives may have to wait several years to come to the U.S. When your relative reaches the front of the line, the U.S. Department of State will contact them and invites him or her to apply for an immigrant visa.

Man freed from immigration detention after daughter pleads with Pope

Tue, Apr 1 11:27 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Whether immigrants have a green card or not, even a small criminal offense can land them in immigration detention.

Many people who commit a minor criminal offense are generally allowed to return to their normal lives afterward and face the consequences in court. But immigrants, whether or not they have a green card, face much more daunting repercussions: extensive jail time and potentially deportation. Such is the case of Mario Vargas, who was arrested for driving under the influence in 2013 in Tennessee, where he was seeking work in the construction industry to support his family. He was taken into federal custody in early March 2014 and held in immigration detention.

According to the Associated Press, Vargas was in detention in Louisiana under a $5,000 bond. His wife, Lola Vargas, has been attempting to earn enough money to free him from jail, but she was already having trouble making ends meet to care for her family. That's when Vargas' daughter, Jersey, stepped in. The 10-year-old girl from Panorama City, Calif., traveled to the Vatican to speak to Pope Francis directly regarding her father's situation.

The whole thing was recorded and aired on television. While the Pope was not able to offer any help to the young girl, one of the family's relatives saw Jersey pleading with him on TV and offered to help pay the bond. Vargas was soon able to pay the $5,000 and was released from the detention facility on March 28.

Jersey's trip to the Vatican was a part of an organized excursion by a California delegation that aimed to implore the Pope to convince President Barack Obama to push immigration reform. She traveled with an older friend and 14 other advocates of reform who represent the kids of immigrants who live in constant fear that their parents will be deported.

ACLU fights a controversial law in Arizona

Fri, Mar 21 3:16 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The ACLU wants a controversial law in Arizona struck down

Currently there is a law in Arizona that denies bail to undocumented immigrants who have been arrested. Although this is a voter-approved law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has recently pleaded with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down that law. The ACLU, along with immigration activists across the country, believes this "no bail" law is unconstitutional and unfairly targets Latino immigrants who are being detained in jail before they have even been convicted of a crime.

The "no bail" law was approved by Arizona voters in 2006. Its implementation was just one of many methods employed by law enforcement officials in that state designed to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering Arizona. This controversial law was proposed by Republican Rep. Russell Pearce and denies bail to undocumented workers who have been accused of specific felonies, including sexual assault, aggravated identity theft and murder. Pearce is also the representative who, in 2010, introduced the infamous SB 1070 bill, also known as the "Show Me Your Papers" bill.

According to Arizona state attorneys, the "no bail" law was enacted to protect the citizens of the state by improving public safety and preventing undocumented immigrants accused of crimes from fleeing the country. The ACLU, however, strengthened their argument against that bill by contending that there is no evidence proving that immigrants pose higher flight risks than U.S. citizens. The ACLU believes that as a result of this law, Latino detainees are being unfairly held while other groups of people are permitted to post bond before their trial. The ACLU plans to continue the fight to have this law in Arizona struck down, although Arizona is not the only state with laws like this: Missouri and Virginia have similar laws.

Correcting 4 myths about immigration

Fri, Mar 14 12:57 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Some myths about immigration are corrected

Comprehensive immigration reform has garnered support from voters representing both political parties across the United States. However, there are still myths about immigration that exist, and correcting them is sure to gain more support for immigrants and their families who want to earn a path to citizenship. Here is some information to debunk these myths:

1. Myth: There are more immigrants in the U.S. than ever before
Actually, the greatest number of immigrants in the U.S. was recorded in 1900. Then, individuals born in other countries made up roughly 20 percent of the population! Today, that number is down to 12 percent. Since 2008 and the start of the recession, the number of undocumented immigrants in this country has dropped.

2. Myth: Immigrants have children in the U.S. so they can stay here
A common belief is that undocumented immigrants will have their children in the U.S., because then their offspring are automatically a citizen, and the parents will be allowed to stay in the country. These children are known as "anchor babies." The truth is that immigration judges will not keep the immigrant parents in the U.S. just because their children are citizens.

3. Myth: American workers lose jobs to immigrants
According to the nonpartisan group Immigration Policy Center, there is little proof that there is a connection between the number of immigrants and unemployment rates of native-born American workers. In reality, better education in the U.S. and an aging population are the two causes of the decrease in the number of Americans who are willing or able to take low-paying jobs that immigrants often perform. The amount of low-skilled American workers actually dropped by nearly 2 million between 2000 and 2005. The entire economy benefits from the labor immigrants provide by maintaining lower costs on foods and other goods that immigrants help produce.

4. Myth: Immigrants today don't want to become Americanized
This myth is disproved every year. For example, in 2010, nearly 500,000 immigrants participated in ceremonies to became naturalized citizens. There are many different obstacles for immigrants to become citizens, including securing employment, overcoming language barriers, paying naturalization fees, and taking a written citizenship exam. Completing all of these requirements is proof enough of an immigrant's desire to be a naturalized American citizen.

Health care coverage for undocumented immigrants debated in California

Fri, Feb 28 4:19 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Health care for undocumented immigrants in California is debated

A senator in California has suggested plans for a bill that would provide health care coverage for the nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants living in the Golden State. California has the largest number of undocumented immigrants of any state in the nation. Sen. Ricardo Lara is the Democratic senator who represents the areas of Long Beach and Southeast Los Angeles. His bill is called the Health For All Act, and it proposes to extend health care services to immigrants that are currently ineligible for coverage because of their undocumented status.

In California, undocumented immigrants are only provided with emergency and pregnancy services under California's Department of Health Care services system, known as Medi-Cal. If Lara's bill is passed, the state government would create an additional health care exchange for immigrants that would follow the same guidelines as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which currently prevents undocumented immigrants from earning coverage. Lara's proposed health care exchange would be funded by the state of California, and would not use any federal funds.

Lara explained that this bill would improve the health of immigrants in California, as well as save the state money. His goal is to ensure that everyone in California has equal access to health care services so the health of the entire state can improve. Lara is also looking to reduce the amount of overcrowding in emergency rooms and to lower the overall costs of health care in California. In a press release Lara said, "Excluding people from access to care hurts the overall health of our communities, and does not reflect California values."

California has already approved legislation that grants undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn driver's licenses, law licenses, and in-state tuition at public universities and community colleges. 

Immigrants find a place in a New York City bakery

Tue, Feb 25 5:26 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigrants find a place at Hot Bread Kitchen

A bakery located in New York City's Spanish Harlem is where immigrants from around the world bake bread together. Jessasmyn Rodriguez, the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, developed the idea for it after completing assignments for the United Nations Development Program in Central America and Mexico, where her interest in baking was sparked. Hot Bread Kitchen is a nonprofit training bakery where men and women from Morocco to Mexico form an eclectic group of people working toward a better life in a new country. Most of the people there have one thing in common, however – they all grew up learning how to bake traditional breads in their home countries.

In order to work at Hot Bread Kitchen, men and women have to be low-income and foreign-born. They also need to have desire for financial independence, which they can achieve at the kitchen through a baking career. Hot Bread Kitchen is a place where immigrants can take what they know about baking and combine it with language lessons. They can also learn about commercial baking as well as management techniques which can help them as they embark on a path to citizenship.

This kitchen is one of many new not-for-profit kitchens that also act as language training centers and commercial businesses. Other examples include La Cocina in San Francisco and Hope & Main in Rhode Island. Local food entrepreneurs and business owners in cities across the country have become aware of the skills and needs of immigrants arriving in the United States, and many have begun to collaborate with donors to provide new opportunities for less-advantaged populations.

At Hot Bread Kitchen, workers are paid for their time and skills from money that is generated from selling their products, as well as from private and corporate donations. Workers are also given assistance finding professional baking jobs after one year of working at the kitchen. 

Poll reveals that Latino immigrants have a better life in the U.S.

Mon, Feb 10 4:04 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Poll reveals Latino immigrants are happier in the U.S.

National Public Radio collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health to complete a poll on whether Latinos that come to the U.S. in search of a better life find it. According to research, Latinos are predicted to become the largest non-white racial group in the United States by the year 2050.

The researchers from the Harvard School said that this poll was an opportunity for Latino immigrants to discuss their lives and communities. Those Latinos that were born in other countries were asked why they immigrated to the United States, and the overwhelming majority of respondents answered that it was for a better life through a path to citizenship. The participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with more than a dozen different issues, and how they were addressed in their native country versus in the U.S. Issues included safety from crime, women's legal rights, quality of health care and schools, degree of personal freedom and opportunities available to get ahead. On most of the measures, the individuals involved said the situation in the United States was vastly better than in the country they emigrated from.

Some issues participants were asked to rate did not score higher in the U.S. than in other countries, including friendliness and openness of people, strength of families and acceptance of people of different races. But the majority of the answers indicated that the Latinos who came to the U.S. in search of a better life situation had found it. This poll also revealed that Latino children of U.S. immigrants are better off economically than their parents because of the children's access to better educational opportunities and more technology. Most Latino immigrants who were surveyed and are older than 30 were not high school graduates. However, the access their children have to technological resources allows those young people to develop their identity as an immigrant-American, learn more about their culture, and build social capital in a way their parents could not in their native country.

New Irish immigrants in the U.S.

Fri, Jan 31 9:24 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The number of Irish immigrants in the U.S. is rising

Irish immigrants have been contributing to the cultural landscape in the United States for hundreds of years. Many cities in the U.S. boast communities of Irish immigrants that have continued to grow over the past few decades. Recurring economic struggles in Ireland have prompted many Irish people to come to the U.S. in search of new opportunities, and they are drawn to these established communities because of the sense of unity and familiarity. Ireland has recently increased its controls on immigration, but rising rates of unemployment, reduced job opportunities and falling salaries has motivated many more people to immigrate to the U.S.

Some Irish citizens come to the U.S. as tourists but begin working and choose to remain in the country, which explains why statistics on the number of immigrants from Ireland to the U.S. are difficult to find. However, major American cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Boston have seen a sharp rise in the number of Irish immigrants arriving in the past few years. Ireland's Central Statistics Office has released a report indicating that more than 20,000 individuals moved from Ireland to the United States between 2010 and 2013, which is more than double the number of immigrants for the previous three years.

Many Irish immigrants report a strong sense of connection between the U.S. and Ireland because they have family members and friends in America. The majority of the individuals leaving Ireland are in their 20s and are highly educated, but end up in working-class jobs because the Irish networks in the U.S. often lead them to stay in their own community of Irish immigrants. Some are able to secure permanent residency in a green card lottery, and others are sponsored by their employer. Many Irish people who want to work on their path to citizenship arrive in the U.S. on student visas, and some are eligible to work in the U.S. for a temporary period of time, which allows them to acclimate to the culture and find a job related to their degree.

Illinois driver’s licenses issued to undocumented immigrants

Mon, Jan 27 4:08 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

New laws allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses

A new state law in Illinois has granted more than 1,200 driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, according to a spokesperson from the Illinois Secretary of State's office. These licenses fall under the Temporary Visitor Driver's License (TVDLs) category. That means they are legal documents permitting immigrants living in Illinois to drive whether they are on a path to citizenship already or not. Individuals like spouses or children of temporary workers, long-term visitors, and international students are some examples of immigrants that cannot receive a Social Security Number. These people used to be the only ones who were eligible for TVDLs. Under the new law, however, undocumented immigrants can now apply.

The licenses cannot be used as identification to purchase a firearm, board a plane or vote. Undocumented immigrants who have TVDLs must reapply as a new applicant after three years. In addition, their license looks slightly different from the standard citizen's license, as it has a purple stripe. Some applicants have been concerned that their undocumented status would be indicated on their new license, but that isn't the case. These cards can be issued to visa holders who are unable to obtain a Social Security number, so the colored stripe is the only distinction that indicates the license cannot be used as identification for anything other than driving.

The licenses cost $30, and more than 30,000 undocumented immigrants living in Illinois have applied for them. Just like applicants for traditional driver's licenses, undocumented motorists are required to pass a written, vision and driving test in order to receive the license, as well as obtain auto insurance. Currently, tests are available at 14 locations in Illinois, although by the end of January 2014, 36 locations will offer driving tests.

Advocates of this new law have argued that allowing undocumented immigrants to receive a driver's license will make the roads safer by requiring them to take a test and have auto insurance.

Refugees get help learning English in a sewing class

Fri, Jan 24 2:30 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

One advocacy group teaches refugee women English and basic sewing skills

Advocacy groups that work for immigration reform and to protect the rights of refugees in the United States approach their mission in different ways. One Kentucky-based group called Stitch aims to connect refugee women with English-speaking instructors to help them learn the basics of sewing. Stitch provides a safe place for women to learn a new skill and practice their English, as well as gain a sense of independence and confidence.

Founded in 2011, Stitch has seen more than 50 women complete the program. Many of these women come from Somalia, Cuba and Nepal and work in groups on different sewing projects. Volunteers help guide these women through the craft together. The students at Stitch are usually referred there by ESL instructors who have heard about the program. This is an excellent way for women to learn the language in a format they can use in the real world in an environment without judgment.

Many women in the Stitch program want to sew clothes that are native to their home countries, so the volunteers get a chance to learn about different styles of dress. Somali women have requested patterns for kaftans, and some Muslim students have sewn hijabs, or head scarves.

The women stay with Stitch for different lengths of time, depending on whether they find a job that prevents them from attending or if their skill level outgrows the classroom. Many women receive a sewing machine and a box of notions upon graduation to help further their skill and interest in sewing. Others who stay can make items that they can sell to support their families. Stitch is just one example of an advocacy group created to help make the lives of refugees in the U.S. better by giving them skills they can use to find a job and become self-sufficient.

Examining the practical effects of immigration reform

Fri, Jan 17 12:24 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

In the debate over immigration reform, the effect of proposed legislation on practical issues like drug smuggling is often overlooked.

The debate over immigration reform can get so heated, and involve so much rhetoric, that its practical effects can sometimes get lost in the mix. For instance, how would reform affect things like jobs, taxes and even drug smuggling?

Answers to many of those questions are unknown or have only been guessed at by legislators, researchers and advocates on either side of the issue. However, as the prospect of reform seems more immediate, many people are trying to develop a greater understanding of the impact of proposed legislation.

Immigration reform and the economy
The effect of immigration reform on the economy is one of the most contentious issues in the debate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses across America and is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the nation, has come out firmly in favor of passing immigration reform legislation in the quickest possible timeframe.

"We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted," Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donahue said in his annual speech on the state of American business, according to The Washington Times.

The fact that the largest coalition of American businesses is putting so much effort into the effort to reform the nation's broken immigration system seems to suggest that they believe it would be good for the economy.

Other areas immigration reform could impact
Drug smuggling – especially smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border – is another hot topic in the immigration debate. In an article for the Iowa State Daily, columnist Phil Brown points out that putting an end to drug smuggling is unlikely, if not impossible.

However, he goes on to say that by enacting common sense immigration reform measures the smuggling market could be depressed to an extent, further enhancing law enforcement's ability to combat illicit substance use and distribution in the U.S.

President expresses optimism about passing immigration reform in 2014

Fri, Jan 17 11:57 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

President Barack Obama recently met with Democratic Senators, telling them that he believes Congress will pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in 2014.

While many political analysts believe it is unlikely that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2014, President Barack Obama seems to think it is not only possible, but probable.

In a meeting with Democratic senators in mid-January, the president said that he believes House Speaker John Boehner understands the importance of passing reform legislation, and will push other members of his party to support a bill, or series of bills, to tackle the issue in 2014.

Democrats meet with president
After the meeting with the president, several senators spoke about the optimism expressed by the Commander-in-Chief. His promising take on the possibility of reform seemed to have invigorated party members, as many left the meeting expressing their reaffirmed belief that immigration reform could in fact be passed in 2014.

"[President Obama] predicted the House would pass something this year," Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who attended the meeting, told The Hill. "He said we're then all going to have a challenging conversation. He said it was more likely than not the House would do something."

Political necessity cited as main reason for optimism
In the nation's capital, the mood on the likelihood of passing immigration reform is still mixed, with people on both sides of the debate unsure how it will play out in the coming months. But several people, including many lawmakers, believe House Republicans will be forced to move on something due to the growing political influence of Latinos.

"I think our Republican colleagues realize that to be blocking immigration reform is not good for them," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who also attended the meeting with the president, told the source.

According to sources in both parties, it appears the most likely way forward on providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will be expanding access through already existing channels, such as H-1B visas and various other permit laws that are already on the books.

Graham defends Ailes’ immigration stance

Thu, Jan 16 1:35 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A new biography on Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has further inflamed the immigration reform debate.

The Fox News channel has often taken a harsh approach to immigration reform, calling a path to citizenship amnesty and advocating for stricter enforcement. But according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a new biography of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes unfairly portrays his stance on reform by painting him as being aggressively anti-immigration.

In a recent interview, Graham, who was a member of the "Gang of Eight" senators who helped put together the chamber's comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, defended Ailes. He says that Ailes is, in fact, in favor of immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Graham defends Ailes on immigration
Graham based his defense of Ailes on meetings the men had together throughout the reform debate. The controversy arose after excerpts from an upcoming biography on Ailes, "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country," by Gabriel Sherman, quoted Ailes as taking a particularly aggressive stance on immigration enforcement.

According to the book, Ailes told an associate that border security should be the utmost priority, even to the extent that he thinks the president should deploy Navy SEALs on the dividing line between Mexico and the United States to stop drug dealers who might try to enter the country. At the same time he talked about how many conservatives' views on immigration were "reactionary."

The quote itself reveals that Ailes has a somewhat nuanced view on immigration. However, his overall message is one many immigrants' rights supporters have understandably been upset about.

Graham, who has previously been critical of Fox News at times, especially when it comes to immigration reform, came to Ailes' defense because he thought the book was unfair and could have a negative impact on immigration reform going forward.

Racial profiling to be further limited by the Justice Department

Thu, Jan 16 1:12 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The Justice Department will soon announce further limits on racial profiling by federal agents.

United States federal agents will soon face stiffer requirements on the use of racial profiling in their investigations, including in immigration cases. The Justice Department recently announced that it will expand its definition of racial profiling to include religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation.

This new policy should have an immediate impact on immigration enforcement in particular, as the move was made in direct response to ongoing criticism from civil rights groups about the singling out of Latinos in immigration cases. Muslims will also likely face less scrutiny in national security investigations as a result of the new policy.

Putting an end to racial profiling
The move to end racial profiling in America began under former President George W. Bush, but the policy changes undertaken by his administration only applied to race, not religion or ancestry. And in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, much of that intended reform was put on the back burner.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has spoken out against racial profiling in the past, and this new approach, which he outlined in a meeting with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, falls in line with comments he's made during his tenure.

"Racial profiling is wrong," Holder said in a 2010 speech, according to The New York Times. "It can leave a lasting scar on communities and individuals. And it is, quite simply, bad policing – whatever city, whatever state."

However, the new rules will only apply to federal agents. The hope, though, is that the standard set on the federal level will quickly filter down to state and local authorities.

It is unclear when an official announcement will be made, as the Justice Department is still reviewing any possible new guidelines. Nonetheless, this imminent reform should be beneficial for immigrants, many of whom live under a cloud of fear of possible traffic stops and criminal investigations based solely on their national origin.

Prosecutors use greater discretion in immigration courts

Thu, Jan 16 11:18 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigration prosecutors are relying on greater discretion in deportation proceedings.

A recent report from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse shows that federal immigration lawyers are using increasing discretion when it comes to prosecuting undocumented immigrants. The report covered 83 immigration courts throughout the country, and found that more than 20 percent of case closures were a result of prosecutorial discretion (where prosecutors decide not to proceed with deportation due to a variety of reasons).

Increasingly, federal immigration prosecutors are considering factors like an immigrant's family situation (especially whether they care for children), the length of time spent living in the U.S., the age at which an undocumented immigrant came to the country, and whether there are family ties to the military when deciding whether to go forward with deportation proceedings.

Change in prosecutorial policy
This expanded use of prosecutorial discretion came after John Morton, formerly the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, laid out a new strategy in an October 2011 memo. Part of the reason for this new approach is an effort to clear backlogs in the nation's immigration courts. But it is also intended as a more humane approach to immigration enforcement by placing more of an emphasis on undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes or who don't have ties to their communities.

The new policy is partially responsible for a 10 percent decrease in deportations between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2012. That reduction has served to placate  immigration reform advocates to a small extent, but there is still plenty to do on the reform front. And these measures will likely only serve to inflame the debate, as anti-immigration groups have taken issue with this more liberal approach to enforcement.

There is also some concern that the greater use of prosecutorial discretion is as much a result of an overwhelming caseload as any other factor.

"A high PD [prosecutorial discretion] court closure rate may be a sign that inadequate review of cases is taking place before officials file an action in court seeking a removal order," the Syracuse researchers wrote in their report.

Think tank evaluates Republican principles on immigration reform

Wed, Jan 15 3:21 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Virginia Republican Robert Goodlatte recently laid out principles for a Republican immigration reform plan.

A recent report provided insight into how many undocumented immigrants could be able to earn citizenship under the Republicans' plan for immigration reform. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., estimates that between 4.4 and 6.5 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for citizenship as Congress ends up taking the step-by-step approach to reform favored by Republicans.

Estimates based on Rep. Robert Goodlatte's ideas
Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., has been a vocal opponent of the path to citizenship that was contained in the immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate in June 2013. However, he has been one of the most active House Republicans in developing an alternative to that legislation.

House Speaker John Boehner charged Goodlatte with leading the Republicans' efforts to draw up a policy on immigration reform that would be palatable to a broad coalition of legislators in their party. Under Goodlatte's current proposal, undocumented immigrants would be granted provisional legal status. Then, those immigrants who demonstrated they are eligible to apply for a green card through the system that is currently in place would be allowed to do so with the sponsorship of a family member or employer.

"We're trying to find a way to give the members of the House a way to see how all these things would work in our step-by-step approach," Goodlatte said in a recent interview on Telemundo. "And we think one way to do that may be to put forward a set of principles."

Based on those principles, the NFAP came up with its estimate of the number of immigrants who could be granted a path to citizenship. Part of the total number includes younger immigrants who would be allowed to apply for citizenship under some form of a DREAM Act.

President to turn to executive orders to further immigration reform

Tue, Jan 14 12:23 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

President Barack Obama is trying to further his agenda through a series of executive orders.

With Republicans in Congress seemingly blocking his every move, President Barack Obama recently announced that he would be looking to advance his agenda for 2014, including immigration reform, through a series of executive orders.

While the president has several policy goals for the coming year, immigration reform is at or near the top of his list, and it appears that he will be exploring every avenue to move the issue forward regardless of how Congress decides to act. He has already taken several decisive steps to ease the burden on undocumented immigrants, and with this recent announcement it appears the president will continue down that same path in the months to come.

Executive orders to change U.S. immigration system
So far, the president has halted deportations for people who were brought into the U.S. illegally when they were children, who care for children or who haven't committed a crime. Those sorts of common sense measures have already helped to change the immigration enforcement landscape, and the president will continue to explore other options.

Recently, the president also began allowing some undocumented immigrants who are related to U.S. service members to stay in the country.

Political fallout from executive orders
People on both sides of the immigration issue have criticized the president's recent spate of executive orders. Advocates for reform argue that he hasn't gone far enough, while those opposed to it say he has been picking and choosing which laws to enforce. That reaction has left the president in a difficult position where he is forced to engage in a delicate balancing act.

The president explained his process back in 2012, saying, "In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we've tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places," according to the Kansas City Star.

Local authorities take new approach to immigration, fighting crime

Mon, Jan 13 12:57 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

In many places, local police are trying to work with undocumented immigrants to keep their communities from being victimized.

The relationship between law enforcement and undocumented immigrants can be a difficult one, and it differs depending on the city or region of the country. One of the most vexing issues is the balance between enforcing immigration laws and making undocumented immigrants feel comfortable with talking to the police in their community.

Many immigrants don't report crimes they have either witnessed or been the victims of because they are afraid their citizenship status will be exposed. But in some places around the U.S., local authorities are reaching out to immigrant communities to ask for their assistance in reporting crimes, assuring them that they will be safe from deportation.

New Jersey police meet with immigrants
In Lindenwold, N.J., Police Chief Thomas Brennan recently spoke at a church that primarily serves the local Hispanic community. His message was that local authorities do not care about immigration status, their only concern is preventing crime and punishing offenders. To that end, he encouraged undocumented immigrants in the community to step forward and report crimes, even if they are not citizens of the United States.

Brennan's speech came in the wake of the recent murder of an undocumented immigrant. While investigating the case, police found that many crimes in the area were going unreported because people were afraid of deportation, and Brennan desperately wants to change that.

"Anyone's status with regard to immigration is not important," Brennan told the parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe, according to Philly.com. "Whether you are here legally or illegally, you're a member of this community and therefore deserve a right to be safe. … The important thing is we need your help. What we're hoping to accomplish today is to build some trust."

Similar approaches are being tried by police forces all over the country, including in the Pacific Northwest, where many local authorities have been taking this more conciliatory approach.

Immigration activists fighting for women’s rights

Mon, Jan 13 12:06 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Advocacy groups are fighting for women's rights in the US

Feminist organizations and immigrant advocacy groups across the country are working to mobilize women in an attempt to strengthen their fight for female immigrants' equality. Women and children comprise a majority of individuals coming to the U.S. that are working toward a path to citizenship, and they are often an overlooked population. Many of these advocacy groups are working to overhaul immigration reform laws because they believe that women's rights are not being addressed and immigrant families are affected.

Immigrant support organizations have reported that the visa system currently in place in the U.S. favors male-dominated industries like technology, and because more visas are available for individuals with more education and skills, many women are being overlooked for these opportunities. Oftentimes women cannot secure higher paid jobs in their country of origin, which limits them when they arrive in the U.S. and apply for a working visa. Because of this fact, most female immigrants rely on family-based visas and are added to the backlog of more than 4 million immigrants waiting for these documents that will lead them to a path to citizenship.

Women in Congress have collaborated to help change this trend by aiding female immigrants and helping provide a path to citizenship. Both Republican and Democrat representatives have worked together to write amendments to immigration reform laws that would place more focus on allocating visas to female-dominated industries. Other organizations are using different methods to rally U.S. citizens and women's advocacy groups through the use of online campaigns demanding Congress focus more on the rights of immigrant women. One of the main points that groups are fighting for is the availability of safe, secure work environments for female immigrants that will allow them to work toward citizenship for themselves and their families. Workplace safety has been a major concern for many women's groups, and the opportunity for female immigrants to contribute to their family as well as the U.S. labor market is very important across the country.

Americans’ food preferences are influenced by immigrants

Fri, Jan 10 6:03 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigration has influenced Americans' food preferences

The influx of immigrants into the U.S. has had many profound effects on U.S. culture. Employment trends, the education system and new laws have all seen changes, but one other major influence immigration has had is on the American palate. With changing demographics affecting consumption, food companies have been experimenting with new ways to introduce foods native to different countries that are familiar staples to many immigrants in the U.S.

According to international market research firm Mintel Group, sales of ethnic foods in the U.S. rose by $9 billion between 2010 and 2012, and they predict more than 20 percent in growth by 2017. In order to tap into the growing population of Latino and Asian consumers, U.S. food companies are producing items with hotter spices, different grains and textures, and fruit flavors. New packaging is being introduced into the marketplace as well to appeal to the diverse population and their differing appetites. According to studies, the sales of ethnic foods, from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern are expected to increase, continuing the trend that has been occurring for years.

Campbell's is adopting this trend, adding coconut and lemongrass to some of their soups. Mexican sodas are now found in most major food retailers, and Nestle is planning to produce a dulce de leche pie, made with a chocolate product popular in Latin countries. Integrating immigrant culture and foods into the American lifestyle has led to many reports that the U.S. palate is more open to exotic flavors and ingredients than ever before.

Multicultural neighborhoods, increased opportunities for international travel, and even TV shows showcasing cuisines from around the world have all contributed to the general acceptance of and demand for ethnic options. The influence of immigrants on the food in the U.S. is not limited to taste, however. A variety of foods native to the countries of many immigrants contain more fruits and vegetables, raising awareness of the importance of dietary health and wellness. Even cooking techniques are often more healthful, and are beginning to influence the younger generation of Americans.

Teach for America provides opportunities for graduates with Deferred Action status

Fri, Jan 10 12:52 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Graduates with Deferred Action status are recruited by Teach for America

Teach for America will begin recruiting eligible individuals who are living in the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status to join their corps of educators. This is in an effort to expand educational and career opportunities for immigrant college graduates.

Teach for America is a non profit organization founded  in 1990 that is based out of New York and works with recent college graduates to train them to become teachers. The program places young educators in rural and low-income neighborhoods and encourages a commitment to combating educational inequity in these areas. Teach for America's focus in this new initiative is to match immigrant graduates with communities that share their racial and ethnic backgrounds. The organization's studies have found that creating this connection between teachers and the children they are educating has a profoundly positive impact on learning and comprehension.

Many members of Teach for America believe these young graduates bring with them valuable life experience that will benefit them when connecting with the children they are assigned to teach. Their insight into the immigrant experience and their bilingual backgrounds are expected to add diversity to the ranks of the organization's members.

To be eligible for this opportunity, children brought to the U.S. by their parents before they were 16 years old must have been granted Deferred Action status, which means they received temporary relief from deportation and authorization to work in the U.S. from federal immigration officials. These individuals must also have earned a minimum GPA of 2.5 and must expect to receive their diploma by June 2014.

The act that provided protection from deportation for children of immigrants, called Deferred Action, was put into place almost one year ago, and in that time over 400,000 individuals have applied for and received that status. The largest group of young applicants have come from Mexico, followed by Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many of the applicants have strong English-speaking skills, and over half are considered to be bilingual.

Commerce Secretary backs immigration reform

Fri, Jan 10 11:58 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Secretary Pritzker recently spoke about the positive impact immigration reform would have on the American economy.

On Jan. 9, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker once again spoke of the need for immigration reform in the United States. While attending an event for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Pritzker told attendees and reporters that immigration reform was both a moral and economic issue, and passing common sense legislation could be a boon for the American economy.

Immigration reform's impact on the economy
One issue that Pritzker focused on was the potentially enormous positive impact immigration reform could have on the economy. Referencing the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate in June, Pritzker said she thought similar legislation could provide a $1.4 trillion boost to the American economy over the next 20 years.

In California alone, Pritzker says immigration reform could boost the economy by $7 billion "in the near-term," while creating 77,000 new jobs.

Foreign graduate students key to economy
One group Pritzker talked about extensively was foreign-born graduate students who are studying in American universities. She believes they can be key to American economic expansion, but under current U.S. laws many of them are forced to leave the country once they complete their degrees.

One aspect of the Senate reform bill included a way to encourage those students to stay in the U.S. after they finish school, and Pritzker believes that provision is a necessary component of any eventual legislation.

"It allows us to staple a green card to the degrees of graduate students, instead of forcing potential innovators and job creators to leave after being trained at our universities - a mind-boggling concept to me," Pritzker said during her speech at the Jan. 9 event.

Making an argument for immigration reform that is based on economics is one of many tactics that have been used by people on both the left and right side of the political spectrum. That could help make any potential reforms more palatable to both the general public and hardcore conservatives who have thus far been unwilling to budge on their opposition to reform.

Immigration affects how students learn English

Thu, Jan 9 2:06 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Educators are focusing on helping immigrant students learn English

Immigration reform is motivating educators to focus more of their attention on helping immigrant children learn English in the classroom. Studies have shown that non-English speaking children of immigrants are an important demographic for educators to spotlight because their understanding of the English language will impact their grades, career opportunities and their understanding of sociocultural expectations, including naturalization and assisting family members when applying for citizenship. English language teachers are using different methods to help these students' needs.

Cultural expression strengthens the learning environment
Allowing students to explore and express their ethnic identities helps to create a community within the classroom, which in turn helps children feel more comfortable asking for guidance from the teacher or their peers. Incorporating the culture and heritage of immigrant students into the learning environment helps to strengthen their language skills. By celebrating the differences of each student, a culture of acceptance and exploration can be maintained that emphasizes the respect of students' abilities, backgrounds, interests and dialects.

English as a second language (ESL) classes are beginning to place more emphasis on teaching the language that supports the students' other academic classes. Rather than focusing on traditional conversational English, effective ESL classes are adopting new curricula that will help non-English speaking immigrants succeed elsewhere in school. ESL teachers are encouraged to know the academic demands as well as the linguistic requirements students need to know to develop necessary skills in other academic fields, from biology to computer science.

Benefits of bilingualism
Studies are being done on the benefits of bilingual programs versus English-only language classes. There is evidence that helping immigrant students maintain their bilingualism will aid them in the future in the job market, where it is becoming increasingly valuable to be proficient in two or more languages. Helping students preserve their cultural identity through their language can also benefit them socially by helping them maintain their connection to their immigrant community and their country of birth.

Republicans to release paper outlining immigration reform principles

Thu, Jan 9 10:44 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Republicans and Democrats are preparing to work out an overhaul of the nation's immigration system in the coming months.

Immigration reform legislation has been stuck in the House of Representatives since the Senate passed its own bill in June 2013. The holdup has mainly been due to House Republicans, who refused to take up the Senate bill and have yet to put forward their own plan to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system.

All of that may soon change, however, as House Speaker John Boehner announced that he and other Republican leaders are drafting, and will soon release, a statement of principles on immigration reform known as a white paper. The upcoming white paper has lent hope to immigration reform supporters that a compromise can be reached sometime soon.

Coalition of Republican lawmakers working on proposal
Rebecca Tallent, a long-time Republican strategist who has worked on the immigration issue for years, and who Boehner recently hired to work in his office, has been reaching out to several Republican lawmakers in recent weeks in an effort to put together a plan that the entire party can get behind. Among them are House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R.-Fla., and Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

While there are still plenty of issues to be worked out, it appears the central idea of citizenship for undocumented immigrants, especially those who would qualify under a proposed DREAM Act, will be central to the debate. However, many Republicans in the House oppose any sort of path to citizenship.

Democrats await Republican proposal
Democrats in Congress appear to be both excited and wary of the impending Republican proposal. But the fact that the Republican white paper will at least outline a clear starting point for negotiations is a good first step in the push for immigration reform in 2014.

"Things continue to look better and better for immigration reform, and we hope to work with Republicans to get something real done," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.

White House and Congress look to mend ties in 2014

Wed, Jan 8 12:07 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The White House and Congress will look to bridge the legislative gap in 2014.

The disconnect between the White House and Congress has been a major storyline since President Barack Obama took office nearly five years ago. Both factions have been at odds with each other for most of that time, but the problems have been especially pronounced since Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 elections.

There may be no issue that more clearly reflects the divide between the Obama administration and Congress than immigration reform. And as the 2014 legislative session gets into full stride, movement on fixing the nation's immigration laws will likely be a telling sign for how the year will progress in Washington, D.C.

White House goes it alone
One way the White House has been dealing with its impasse with Congress is to issue executive orders on when the administration feels it has the legal right and ability to affect change. However, that power is very limited when it comes to immigration, since the responsibility to solve issues of border security and citizenship have traditionally rested with Congress.

But in preparation for another year of Congressional inaction, the White House is already talking about being judged not on what gets passed on Capitol Hill, but by the measures it takes on its own.

Still hope for immigration reform
Despite recent history, though, there is some hope that the White House and Congress can find common ground on the major issues of the day, including immigration reform. Some analysts just believe it's a matter of finding core principles that the two political parties can agree on, while ignoring the more contentious problems.

"The question is what are the core things that Republicans can't move away from, what are the core things that Democrats can't walk away from," Republican pollster David Winston told Businessweek. "That's part of the process of going back and forth."

Undocumented immigrants now the majority in several US cities

Tue, Jan 7 12:45 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Small towns across the U.S. are being revitalized by immigrant populations.

Immigration is such an enormous issue in America today that it can be easy to lose track of the effect that the nation's patchwork of laws have on small communities. From coast to coast, smaller cities and towns are dealing with an influx of undocumented immigrants, and because the rules can be so varied from state to state and even city to city, many places are simply unable to come up with a coherent strategy to work with these new, growing populations.

Small towns with large immigrant populations
In places like Mattawa, Wash., Mendota, Calif., and Sweetwater, Fla., undocumented immigrants now make up the majority of the population, or close to it, according to the Boston Globe. And that's a trend that can be seen throughout the country, where the U.S. census shows that immigrants without citizenship make up 20 percent or more of the population in more than 100 cities and towns, including New York City and Los Angeles.

The consequences of those shifting population numbers have had wide-ranging effects, both good and bad. Many immigrants have moved into communities that were suffering from dwindling numbers of residents and closed businesses. They have helped to reverse those trends, revitalizing many of the places to which they have moved.

On the other hand, the legal gray area these immigrants find themselves in inhibits them from being full members of their communities. Many of them are afraid to report crimes or take part in civic groups because they might be outed and brought to the attention of immigration authorities.

Other cities, like El Paso, Texas, find themselves inundated by immigration cases, which divert much needed city funds and cause a bureaucratic backlog. Congressional inaction on immigration reform has left many of these cities unable to come up with a viable strategy for handling their undocumented immigrant populations.

Opponents of SB 1070 win court battle

Mon, Jan 6 1:52 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Arizona's strict immigration laws are once again at the center of a legal battle.

Immigrants' rights advocates have long argued that those who back strict immigration laws did so at least partially due to racism. Now they'll have a chance to test that theory out, as U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has granted opponents of Arizona's strict immigration law, known as SB 1070, access to emails between state lawmakers and proponents of the legislation.

The law's opponents requested access to the emails because they believe SB 1070, and the people involved in passing it, violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. There is a belief that the law was deliberately intended to discriminate against Latinos and other minorities.

SB 1070
When it was passed in 2010, SB 1070 was the harshest anti-immigration measure in the country, and many other states used it as a model for their own legislation. However, the United States Supreme Court struck down many of the law's provisions, but did leave intact one of the most controversial – Arizona law enforcement officials can be compelled to check the immigration status of someone they stop lawfully if they suspect they are in the country illegally.

Debate over email access
SB 1070's supporters were up in arms over the judge's decision to grant opponents of the law access to the emails. They claim it is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Judge Bolton, however, saw it in almost opposite terms.

In her Dec. 11 ruling, Bolton wrote that there is nothing in the "law that protects from public view communications with public officials in their official capacity about a matter of public concern. Indeed, Arizona law makes all such communications available to the public under its freedom of information law."

The law's opponents will now sort through the emails looking for anything explicitly derogatory that was written about Latinos, or any other sign that the law was motivated by discrimination. If they find any such evidence, it would give them grounds to repeal SB 1070.

Latino groups band together to pressure Congress on immigration reform

Wed, Dec 11 11:55 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, a coalition of Latino organizations that work on issues like immigration reform, voter registration, and education and legislative policy issued a report card that graded both chambers of Congress on how they performed on immigration issues in 2013.

The Senate received a passing grade, getting a green check mark for its passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill over the summer. The House was given an "I" for incomplete after it failed to follow up on the Senate's success.

Putting Congress on notice
By issuing this report card, these Latino groups are letting members of Congress know that they will be graded on their votes on immigration issues in much the same way the National Rifle Association grades them on gun issues. That effort has been incredibly successful for the NRA over the years, and this new coalition is hoping to develop a similar level of clout on Capitol Hill.

The Latino coalition is also taking another tactic from the playbook of a right wing group that holds a lot of sway over Congress – Americans for Tax Reform. That organization's founder, Grover Norquist, gained a lot of fame when he got hundreds of lawmakers across the country to sign a pledge that they would never vote to raise taxes. Similarly, these Latino groups will be passing out pledge cards to members of the House that, if signed, would declare their commitment to immigration reform.

Organizations involved
According to the Digital Journal, the organizations involved in the report card and pledge drive include National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Hispanic Federation, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, NALEO Educational Fund, and Voto Latino.

They hope that by banding together, their collective pressure will be able to bring about change in a quicker, more efficient manner.

Immigration rules are changing for families of military servicemembers

Tue, Dec 10 12:05 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The rules are changing for undocumented immigrants who are related to members of the military or who want to enlist themselves.

While there are many problems with the nation's immigration system that are difficult for people to understand, the statute barring people from joining the military if they have spouses or children who are undocumented immigrants has received especially heavy criticism.

However, that requirement may soon be lifted, and it is just one of multiple steps that have been taken, or are in the process of being taken, that would loosen immigration laws for people related to military servicemembers.

Opening up enrollment
According to The Wall Street Journal, Beatriz Madiz wasn't allowed to enlist in the Marine Corps because her husband was an undocumented immigrant. It's the kind of story that has been seen again and again over the years. But two congressmen – Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. – are trying to stop that practice.

In response to a letter written by Coffman and Gutierrez, the Defense Department has begun a review of the policy, which should take approximately 60 days.

"We should not be excluding U.S. citizens from serving their country, and we should be protecting their families from deportation while their sons and daughters and spouses are off to war," Gutierrez told the Journal.

New Obama administration directive
With immigration reform advocates continuing to apply pressure to President Barack Obama and Congress, the president recently announced a directive that would allow undocumented immigrants who are closely related to military personnel to stay in the U.S.

The directive, known as "parole in place," should clear up the confusing circumstances immigration enforcement authorities have been operating under for years when it comes to handling undocumented immigrants who are related to military personnel. Those relatives will no longer have to leave the country to apply for U.S. citizenship, a process that often leaves them exiled for years.

Deferred action seen as temporary alternative to immigration reform

Tue, Dec 10 11:08 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

In New York City, immigrants' rights advocates have been scouring neighborhoods trying to sign people up for deferred action.

With comprehensive immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, many advocates are turning to a little-known option for keeping undocumented workers in the United States legally.

The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program instituted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in 2012, allows some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country for up to two years, while also granting them work eligibility. For many immigrants who are caught in a legal gray area, DACA is one way to continue living the American Dream.

What is DACA?
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security announced a change in the way the cases of some undocumented immigrants would be handled. Namely, the secretary made it possible for undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the country as children to apply for deferred action, which would grant them two more years in the U.S. as long as they met certain requirements. That deferred action is then subject to renewal after the two years is up.

Advocates promote DACA
In New York City, a group called Atlas: DIY, which works on social and economic causes related to undocumented immigrants, has been sending people out into the city to try to spread the word about deferred action.

So far, that effort has been running up against some roadblocks, as many undocumented immigrants are reluctant to register with federal authorities in the first place. Susan Pan, a legal fellow at Atlas, described the process of trying to get people to sign up as "chipping away at the ice," in an interview with The New York Times.

Nonetheless, as Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, also explained to the Times, "It's [DACA] the only game in town right now for undocumented immigrants, and we need to do everything to maximize participation in the program."

Rep. Mark Sanford talks immigration reform at town hall meeting

Mon, Dec 9 12:08 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., recently took part in a town hall meeting in Hilton Head where he discussed his views on immigration reform.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who was recently elected, finally held a town hall meeting to discuss immigration reform. The event, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 8, was one the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition has been lobbying for since Sanford took office.

Sanford meets with immigrants
About 200 people, most of them immigrants, showed up in Hilton Head to talk to Sanford about their everyday fears of deportation, or seeing a family member deported, and to urge him to work on fixing the nation's immigration system.

In response, the congressman reiterated his objections to the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate over the summer, arguing that it didn't address some of the most important issues, including temporary work visas. However, he did signal that he was ready to take a look at a step-by-step approach to reform, as is being advocated by many of his fellow House Republicans.

Sanford also pointed to the support he believes he has among voters in his district, saying that his position "represented the majority of the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina."

South Carolina immigrants speak out
Like many politicians around the country, Sanford has been the subject of a lot of criticism for his stance on immigration reform. At the recent town hall meeting, much of that criticism took the form of the effect that the nation's current immigration laws had on families.

"There is a collective consciousness of fear among students from immigrant families that their parents could be deported," Beth McCafferty, who is an ESL teacher in South Carolina, told Sanford at the meeting. "Families are broken. It's heartbreaking."

McCafferty was one of many people who told a similar story at the event. Sanford responded to those heartfelt pleas by discussing the need to reform the work visa system, as well as his openness to taking a look at the DREAM Act.

Arizonans fight for immigration reform to save their parents

Mon, Dec 9 11:21 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Arizona has long been an important part of the immigration reform debate.

Arizona has long been a key player in the immigration debate. As Congress gets set to adjourn for the year without having passed immigration reform legislation, its actions on the issue in 2014 will be heavily affected by some of the stories coming out of the Grand Canyon State.

Fighting to save her mother
Maria "Guadalupe" Arreola has been in extreme danger of being deported for almost a year now.

Arreola's daughter, Erika Andiola, who was brought to the U.S. without authorization at age 11, had been serving as a district outreach director for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema after receiving a work permit under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She spent her time there working on immigration reform, and became increasingly frustrated with the inaction she saw in Congress. But with her mother in peril, Andiola recently left that position to fight full-time to keep her in the U.S.

"Unfortunately for me, a year has passed and we haven't passed immigration reform and I became very frustrated," Andiola told the Arizona Republic. "I wasn't just a staffer there trying to make a career out of it."

Rep. Sinema has been one of the most active members of the House on immigration reform, fighting for a path to citizenship and a national DREAM Act.

Fighting for his father
Gabriel Zermeno, a member of the Arizona Army National Guard, has a similar story to Andiola's. He also serves his country under the threat of seeing a parent deported. In his case, it's his father, who has been living in the country without documentation for 30 years.

Zermeno's told the Arizona Republic that his fear of being overseas fighting for his country and finding out his father has been deported hangs over him on a daily basis, and it shows how current immigration laws can potentially tear families apart.

Evangelicals air radio commercials supporting immigration reform

Fri, Dec 6 12:15 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A group of Evangelical leaders is urging people to pray for immigration reform.

Immigration reform advocates have been trying many different techniques as they attempt to get Congress to act on legislation addressing the issue. But now, one group that favors fixing the country's immigration system is taking a novel approach: prayer.

A group of Evangelical churches will soon be airing radio commercial urging people to pray that House Speaker John Boehner will lead the charge to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress. News and Christian radio stations in many of the nation's largest markets, including Washington, D.C., will soon be broadcasting the commercials, which will emphasize the moral necessity of fixing the nation's broken immigration system.

Praying for reform
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of nearly a dozen Christian organizations and churches, has already spent more than $1 million this year on ads promoting its message, according to the Washington Post. And this latest effort is another step in its attempt to push Congress to pass broad immigration legislation, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"Our immigration system is broken and it is hurting everyone," Dub Karriker, senior pastor at the Christian Assembly Church in Durham, N.C., says in the ads that are running in that state. "Families are separated, employers can't find the workers they need, and the undocumented who want to get right with the law are told to get in a line that doesn't exist."

As with Pastor Karriker's commercial in North Carolina, the nationwide spots all feature pastors from the markets where they will be airing.

Boehner takes the brunt of the criticism
House Speaker Boehner, who is specifically mentioned in all of the ads as being the focus of the prayer efforts, has been the target of most immigrants' rights advocates throughout the reform debate. Evangelicals are one of the Republican Party's biggest bases of support, so the hope is that this kind of effort from within the GOP establishment will be more persuasive than if it had come from other organizations.

Evangelicals air radio commercials supporting immigration reform

Fri, Dec 6 12:15 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A group of Evangelical leaders is urging people to pray for immigration reform.

Immigration reform advocates have been trying many different techniques as they attempt to get Congress to act on legislation addressing the issue. But now, one group that favors fixing the country's immigration system is taking a novel approach: prayer.

A group of Evangelical churches will soon be airing radio commercial urging people to pray that House Speaker John Boehner will lead the charge to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress. News and Christian radio stations in many of the nation's largest markets, including Washington, D.C., will soon be broadcasting the commercials, which will emphasize the moral necessity of fixing the nation's broken immigration system.

Praying for reform
The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of nearly a dozen Christian organizations and churches, has already spent more than $1 million this year on ads promoting its message, according to the Washington Post. And this latest effort is another step in its attempt to push Congress to pass broad immigration legislation, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"Our immigration system is broken and it is hurting everyone," Dub Karriker, senior pastor at the Christian Assembly Church in Durham, N.C., says in the ads that are running in that state. "Families are separated, employers can't find the workers they need, and the undocumented who want to get right with the law are told to get in a line that doesn't exist."

As with Pastor Karriker's commercial in North Carolina, the nationwide spots all feature pastors from the markets where they will be airing.

Boehner takes the brunt of the criticism
House Speaker Boehner, who is specifically mentioned in all of the ads as being the focus of the prayer efforts, has been the target of most immigrants' rights advocates throughout the reform debate. Evangelicals are one of the Republican Party's biggest bases of support, so the hope is that this kind of effort from within the GOP establishment will be more persuasive than if it had come from other organizations.

Speaker Boehner’s new hire provides hope for immigration reform

Fri, Dec 6 11:16 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

A new hiring by House Speaker Boehner signals a renewed effort on immigration reform by Republicans.

Advocates of immigration reform in the United States were heartened recently when House Speaker John Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent to advise the Republican Party on immigration issues in 2014.

Tallent has a long history of work on immigration, having been on the staffs of two Republican congressmen – John McCain and Jim Kolbe – who have been particularly vocal about the need to reform the country's immigration system.

Change in position coming?
Over her many years in Republican politics, Tallent has worked on legislation that would include things like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. And now that Speaker Boehner has hired her as his special adviser on immigration issues there is hope that the party will move forward on reform with a more moderate approach.

One of the biggest obstacles to passing reform legislation has been the Republicans' uncompromising views on issues like the DREAM Act and allowing undocumented workers the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship. But those are both issues that Tallent has worked on in her time as an aide to McCain and Kolbe and in her previous position as the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Republican backlash
Immigration reform advocates are hoping that Tallent's track record means there will be a change in tactics among House Republicans, who have long derided citizenship for undocumented immigrants as "amnesty." But many of the more conservative members of the House Republican caucus reacted with anger to Tallent's hiring, describing it as a "slap in the face."

That kind of backlash from members within Boehner's own party likely signals that the movement toward reform will still face opposition. However, the simple fact that Tallent was brought on, and that her hiring was highly publicized, seems to indicate that there will be some heavy lifting done on the reform effort in the coming weeks and months.

Speaker Boehner’s new hire provides hope for immigration reform

Fri, Dec 6 11:16 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

A new hiring by House Speaker Boehner signals a renewed effort on immigration reform by Republicans.

Advocates of immigration reform in the United States were heartened recently when House Speaker John Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent to advise the Republican Party on immigration issues in 2014.

Tallent has a long history of work on immigration, having been on the staffs of two Republican congressmen – John McCain and Jim Kolbe – who have been particularly vocal about the need to reform the country's immigration system.

Change in position coming?
Over her many years in Republican politics, Tallent has worked on legislation that would include things like a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. And now that Speaker Boehner has hired her as his special adviser on immigration issues there is hope that the party will move forward on reform with a more moderate approach.

One of the biggest obstacles to passing reform legislation has been the Republicans' uncompromising views on issues like the DREAM Act and allowing undocumented workers the opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship. But those are both issues that Tallent has worked on in her time as an aide to McCain and Kolbe and in her previous position as the director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Republican backlash
Immigration reform advocates are hoping that Tallent's track record means there will be a change in tactics among House Republicans, who have long derided citizenship for undocumented immigrants as "amnesty." But many of the more conservative members of the House Republican caucus reacted with anger to Tallent's hiring, describing it as a "slap in the face."

That kind of backlash from members within Boehner's own party likely signals that the movement toward reform will still face opposition. However, the simple fact that Tallent was brought on, and that her hiring was highly publicized, seems to indicate that there will be some heavy lifting done on the reform effort in the coming weeks and months.

Congressional Democrats join hunger strikes

Thu, Dec 5 11:46 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Some congressional leaders are taking part in a 24-hour fast to show their support for immigration reform.

The long-running series of fasts that have been organized across the country, which are designed to bring greater attention to the issue of immigration reform, are entering a new phase.

As immigrants' right activists have started to end their three-week long fasts and protests, many of which took place in a tent located near the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., a new group has taken up their cause. In a show of solidarity with the activists, a group of politicians, including Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., have started their own hunger strikes.

Continuing a family tradition
For Joseph Kennedy III, the fight for immigration reform is a family tradition. His grandfather, the late Robert Kennedy, was one of the first national politicians to bring attention to immigrant rights' activist Cesar Chavez's 25-day hunger strike in 1968, when he did so during his run for president. And Joseph's great uncle, the longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, was a consistent supporter of immigration reform.

That makes Joseph's decision to take up the hunger strike where many of the protesters left off a matter of family legacy. While he will only go on the water-only diet for 24 hours – many of the protesters have been doing the same for days or weeks – he is using it as an opportunity to bring more publicity to the issue of reform.

"Immigration reform is something that's been important to my family," Kennedy said in a statement. "At this point, we need to get some movement on this bill and whatever we can do to try to break the logjam is important, so I want to be a part of it."

Kennedy was far from the only Democratic member of Congress to pledge to fast for a full day, though. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two representatives from Minnesota, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, will also go without food for 24 hours.

Female activists take on immigration reform

Thu, Dec 5 11:19 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Women's rights activists have become some of the most active advocates of immigration reform.

The push for immigration reform has been picking up allies from nearly all corners of American society. And now another group that has a long history of advocacy is joining the fight.

Framing immigration reform as a women's rights issue, feminist organizations have become some of the more vocal supporters of an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in recent months. Famous activists like Gloria Steinem have come out in favor of reform, and that kind of support is lending even more weight to the movement.

Women, children and families
While the immigration debate is often talked about in terms of legalities, enforcement, border security and economic impact, many women's rights advocates are trying to reposition the debate in terms of its real-world effects on families, especially mothers and their children.

"When you ask people what images they think of when they think of immigration reform, (it's) often men, scary looking, scaling the border walls," Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of We Belong Together, a national immigration campaign that focuses on women, told reporters, according to the Kansas City Star. "The idea that it's really women and children that are the majority of immigrants to the United States is completely lost."

By emphasizing the more human aspects of the immigration debate, and discussing how a lack of citizenship can lead to broken homes, these female activists are hoping to put a more sympathetic spin on an issue that is often dealt with in broad generalizations.

Domestic workers
As immigration reform legislation has worked its way through Congress, and found itself stalled in the House, making it easier for immigrants who work in the science, technology and agricultural sectors to get work visas has been a major topic of discussion.

However, one major group of immigrant workers that has largely been ignored are those who work in domestic settings, many of whom are women. According to Steinem and other female activists, that outlook needs to change if the issue of equality for immigrants is to be addressed honestly.

Filipinos in the US may get temporary protected status

Wed, Dec 4 12:39 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Natives of the Philippines who are living in the U.S. may get temporary protected status as a result of the effects of Hurricane Haiyan.

In the wake of Hurricane Haiyan, which hit the Philippines with devastating force in November, immigration reform advocates and a group of U.S. senators are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant temporary immigration status to Filipinos who are currently living in the U.S.

Temporary protected status
Temporary protected status is granted to foreign nationals after natural disasters or civil war. If granted in this case, it would allow Filipino students and tourists who have valid visas, as well as those who are living in the U.S. without documentation, to stay and work in the country for a designated period of time.

"It's meant to help people who are in the U.S. and whose conditions in their home country prevent them from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately," Claire Nicholson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told the Los Angeles Times. "It allows them to stay in the U.S. and work until they can safely return home."

While the Philippines government has yet to formally apply for temporary protected status for its citizens, 20 U.S. senators recently signed a letter asking the DHS to grant that right. And with an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Filipinos currently living in the U.S., according to Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, that move would allow them to work and send money home to friends and family who have suffered from the hurricane and its after-effects.

And as Aida Rivera, Pennsylvania chairwoman of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, told Philly.com, there would be other positive effects as well. Namely, it would allow freedom of travel, even for Filipinos in the U.S. with expired visas, allowing them to go home and bury the dead and help surviving victims without worrying about not being allowed back into the country.

Federal judge rules that the president’s uncle can stay in the US

Wed, Dec 4 11:58 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

A federal court judge recently issued a ruling allowing the president's uncle to stay in the country.

Recently, the issue of immigration reform hit particularly close to home for President Barack Obama. His uncle, Kenyan-born Onyango Okech Obama, was on the cusp of being deported from the Unites States after living in the country without documentation since 1970. But on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a Boston federal court judge ruled that he should be allowed to stay in the country.

Why Onyango was allowed to stay
Onyango, who is the half brother of the president's father, first came to the U.S. in 1963 on a student visa. That visa expired in 1970, and since it wasn't renewed, Onyango has been living in the country ever since. Most recently, he has been working as a grocery store manager in Framingham, Mass.

However, there is a specific provision in U.S. immigration law that allows immigrants who have been living in the country since before 1972, and who have exhibited "good moral character," to apply for a green card. Judge Leonard Shapiro, who presided over the case, cited that provision in his ruling, adding that Onyango had paid his taxes and been a good neighbor in his time in the U.S.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer based in Cleveland, told the Los Angeles Times that the judge had ruled properly under the law, pointing out that Onyango's relationship to the president had nothing to do with the decision, saying, "The law is so clear-cut that it wouldn't matter who he is related to. All you have to do is behave yourself and have been here since 1972."

While this case ended with a positive result, it further serves to highlight the difficulties many undocumented immigrants face every day. Fortunately for Onyango, his case fell under a statute that virtually guaranteed he'd be able to stay in the country. 

King County decides not to hold immigrants for low-level offenses

Tue, Dec 3 12:47 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

King County, which is home to Seattle, recently decided to stop enforcing certain ICE requests.

The issue of federally requested holds on immigrants who are arrested for low-level crimes has been one of the most contentious in the immigration reform debate. In one major metropolitan area, the County Council has decided to deal with the problem by no longer honoring requests by federal authorities to hold such prisoners.

Seattle moves to amend immigration holds
In a 5-4 vote on Monday, Dec. 2, the Metropolitan King County Council, of which Seattle is the county seat, decided that local authorities would no longer be required to follow certain directives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. The change in policy will not affect anyone arrested for more serious crimes, like sexual assault or burglary, but it will allow local law enforcement officials leeway in detaining immigrants.

The council issued a statement saying that the new policy will "limit harsh impacts of the federal government's misguided enforcement policies," according to Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO.

Nurturing trust and saving money
The council's decision should have a wide-ranging impact on immigration enforcement in King County. John Urquhart, the county sheriff, cited the fact that it would allow for more effective crime prevention and enforcement because undocumented immigrants would no longer have to fear deportation when reporting criminal activity.

Shankar Narayan, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, went even further, telling the Seattle Times that, "In a place like King County, with lots of immigrants, the community really is eyes and ears for the police … Even if it's perceived that there's the possibility that local cops are entangled with immigration enforcement … then police lose those eyes and ears."

The new policy should also save money. According to a March 2013 study by Katherine Beckett, a researcher at the University of Washington, the county and local cities spent nearly $2 million per year honoring the ICE requests.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the midst of DREAM Act debate

Tue, Dec 3 12:05 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A policy dispute in New Jersey is making waves in the immigration reform community.

New Jersey has one of the largest immigrant populations of any state in the union, and a recent decision by its Republican governor, Chris Christie, will have an impact on many people who are living there without documentation.

Christie accused of "flip-flop"
During his run for re-election earlier this year, Christie said that he supported legislation that would grant in-state tuition privileges to undocumented immigrants, a law commonly referred to as the DREAM Act. That support was a big part of the reason Christie was able to garner 50 percent of the Latino vote in the November election, according to HispanicBusiness.com.

However, Christie has also signaled his disapproval of a version of the DREAM Act that is currently working its way through the state legislature. He informed the Democrat-controlled body that he would not sign the legislation as it is currently written, citing the fact that it guarantees financial aid to undocumented college students along with other measures that he feels grant them too many privileges. The legislature declined to make Christie's suggested amendments, which has led to a stalemate between the two sides.

That apparent change in attitude on Christie's part led the Star-Ledger to accuse him of "flip-flopping" on the issue in an effort to secure the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Christie responds to accusation
The issue of whether Christie is positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016 is one that has been brought up numerous times during his tenure as governor, but he has consistently denied that those political prospects represent any sort of motivation for him.

In an interview he gave on Monday, Dec. 2, Christie addressed the controversy by saying, "I didn't support any particular piece of legislation, and I still support tuition equality," according to a transcript of the interview. "Here's what I don't support: I don't support tuition aid grants in addition to in-state tuition rates; never said that I did, and don't as we stand here today."

Candlelight vigil marks the end of a month-long hunger strike

Mon, Dec 2 11:14 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

California farm country has one of the largest undocumented immigrant populations in the country.

The push for comprehensive immigration reform is taking place all over the country, from Washington, D.C., to the West Coast. The Central Valley of California, which is home to one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the country, has been an important front in the reform battle.

On Sunday, Dec. 1, Fresno State University, one of that region's most important cultural hubs, was the site of the latest gathering of immigration reform advocates. Local faith leaders and a group affiliated with the Fast for Families organization, which led a series of hunger strikes across the country in November, came together in Fresno to hold a candlelight vigil promoting the need for immigration reform legislation.

Nationwide hunger strike
The event at Fresno State also marked the culmination of a month-long hunger strike that had been taking place in the Central Valley and in cities throughout the country. Participants were hoping to put pressure on Congress to pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Faith leaders from across the U.S. have also joined the cause, with many of them engaging in at least partial fasts to show their solidarity with the reform movement. They have combined that effort with a letter-writing campaign where they tell stories of congregation members who live in fear of deportation.

"A lot of congregation members are undocumented citizens or documented citizens who have friends that are undocumented, you just break bread with people every day, work with people and you see the overwhelming need," Christopher Dreedlove told Fresno ABC affiliate KFSN.

Candlelight vigil
Sunday's candlelight vigil took place at Fresno State's Peace Garden, and it included about 100 people who took part in prayers, songs and chants. Organizers and participants all stressed that immigration reform should not be thought of as a political or economic issue, but a moral one.

The Obamas visit with Fast for Families hunger strikers

Mon, Dec 2 10:30 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

A group of hunger strikers have set up in a tent near the Capitol.

On Friday, Nov. 29, President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle lent further credibility to the hunger strikers who are protesting congressional inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. The first couple visited a group of them who have set up shop near the Capitol building.

In his discussion with two of the organizers of the hunger strike – Eliseo Medina and Dae Joong Yoon – the president reiterated his desire to see an immigration reform bill passed. Many of the protesters have gone without food since early or mid-November, and one of the issues the president addressed during his time at their tent encampment was the health of the hunger strikers.

Not if, but when
Most of the president's remarks were made out of earshot of members of the press, but the White House released a statement outlining most of what he said in his time with the protesters.

"It is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon," the president told the strikers, according to the statement. "The only thing standing in the way is politics, and it is the commitment to change from advocates like these brave fasters that will help pressure the House to finally act."

Fasts gaining momentum
The president and his wife were the latest in a long line of dignitaries, including Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, to visit the heated tent near the Capitol where the hunger strikers have installed themselves. Known as "Fast for Families," the group has been raising awareness of the issues facing undocumented immigrants with a hunger strike that has seen many of its members go without any nourishment other than water.

The length of the hunger strike prompted both of the Obamas to inquire into the health of the protesters, with the president suggesting some of them hand over the torch and take a break, one protester told the Los Angeles Times.

Strict immigration laws in Alabama ruled unconstitutional

Tue, Nov 26 1:04 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Seven provisions of Alabama's strict immigration law were recently struck down.

When the state of Alabama passed one of the harshest immigration laws in the country in 2011, known as House Bill 56, immigrants' rights activists, local businesses and even the federal government were up in arms. But on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama weighed in on a settlement between the state and the federal Justice Department, accepting a pact that eliminates the law's most controversial provisions.

History of the law
When it was signed in 2011, Alabama's immigration law was considered the toughest in the country. It made it a crime for businesses to hire undocumented immigrants, required legal immigrants to carry documentation with them at all times and even had a "show me your papers" provision, which allowed police to detain people during traffic stops for the purpose of checking their citizenship status.

Not surprisingly, those measures, along with several others in the law, were met with anger by people not only in Alabama, but throughout the country. Legal challenges immediately followed, with the most powerful one coming from the Justice Department. Now, after two years of negotiations, a federal district judge has upheld a settlement that was reached by federal authorities and the state that strikes down most of the law.

Settlement details
The settlement bars the enforcement of those three controversial provisions, along with four others, putting Alabama more in line with the rest of the country when it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants.

The seven provisions were deemed unconstitutional because they conflicted with federal immigration law and undermined federal immigration enforcement efforts. One of the most prominently cited examples of those conflicts was the undue burden that would be put on federal and state agencies charged with enforcing the nation's immigration laws, diverting resources away from policing more dangerous criminal activities.

President responds to heckler during immigration speech

Tue, Nov 26 12:28 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

During a fundraising trip to San Francisco, the President took the time to speak about immigration reform.

President Barack Obama spent the early part of the week of Nov. 24 on the West Coast doing some fundraising and addressing the immigration reform debate in Congress. The most notable moment of his tour came when a heckler at one of his speeches raised the issue of deportations, and the president's answer spoke to the deeper issues at hand.

"Use the executive order!"
During an event in San Francisco's Chinatown, where the president spoke to a large gathering about the battle for immigration reform, he was interrupted toward the end of his remarks by a heckler. The man, an undocumented immigrant from South Korea who was unable to attend his grandfather's recent funeral due to his immigration status, yelled for the president to use his executive order powers to halt deportations, telling him that he had the power to do so.

"Actually, I don't," the president replied, according to ABC News. "And that's why we're here."

As security personnel moved to escort the man and some other hecklers off the premises, the president waved them off, and used the remarks as an opportunity to address his insistence on working through Congress.

"The easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve," he said. "For those of you who are committed to getting this done, I am going to march with you and fight with you every step of the way."

Willing to compromise
The president also used the opportunity to reiterate his openness to a piece-by-piece compromise on immigration reform legislation, a process House Republicans have deemed necessary to get anything done. Using a Thanksgiving metaphor, he said that he was willing to carve up the turkey as long as it all gets done and the core principles of reform are addressed.

New poll indicates continued public support for immigration reform

Mon, Nov 25 11:41 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

A new poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans are in favor of immigration reform.

According to a recent poll conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, 63 percent of Americans are in favor of creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

That public support stretches across a broad swath of the American public, with solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents all voicing their belief that such a change should be made to existing law.

Poll results
There were several interesting findings presented in the PRRI report. Overall, support for immigration reform could be found in all parts of the country across almost every group that was surveyed.

Residents of key electoral states like Florida, Ohio and Arizona all showed support for the measures, with about 60 percent of the people in each of those states saying they were pro-reform. That sentiment was echoed by people who identified themselves as Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical.

One of the most interesting findings was that the public is fairly evenly split, and slightly leaning against, an emphasis on heightened border security, especially considering that pending legislation would require a $46 billion investment in more border security guards and fencing over the next decade.

Popular approval should pressure Congressional action
As polls continue to show that a growing majority of the country is in favor of immigration reform, it will be harder for Congress to ignore the issue. The PRRI poll comes on the heels of a renewed effort by both Obama Administration officials, including the president himself, and private lobbying groups to force some sort of legislative action as soon as possible.

The president is spending the early part of the week of Nov. 24 on the West Coast, where he will be holding fundraisers and speaking about immigration reform. Among the topics on his agenda will be a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Facebook CEO continues his push for immigration reform

Mon, Nov 25 11:23 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the immigration debate as a way of providing more people with a chance at the American Dream.

By framing the debate as a civil rights issue, immigration reform advocates have been able to change the context of the discussion over legislation to fix the country's broken system. On Nov. 24, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took up that baton in an interview he gave to ABC's Sunday morning news program "This Week."

Zuckerberg's quest
The 29-year-old billionaire recently founded the group FWD.us, which is dedicated to reforming the U.S. immigration system, and he has been especially focused on the issue of providing a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. By framing immigration reform as a civil rights issue, Zuckerberg is hoping he can rally the support of people who might otherwise be on the fence about many of the issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform.

When he was challenged on his civil rights assertion, Zuckerberg told the ABC interviewer, "There are a lot of misconceptions about that. A lot of them [immigrants] came here because they just want to work. They want to help out their families and they want to contribute."

That sort of humanitarian approach is the kind of argument that helped deliver equal rights to other previously marginalized groups like African-Americans and LGBT individuals, who now enjoy more equal protection under the law.

Zuckerberg talks "dreamers"
The Facebook CEO also spent time discussing his belief that immigration reform could help fill the void of talented and qualified science and math professionals in the country. One group he pointed to was so-called "dreamers" – undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

By passing the DREAM Act, he argued, those children could come out of the shadows and use their intelligence, education and talent to become part of the workforce. Thus, those children, many of whom come from humble beginnings, could become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, helping to fuel the American economy.

Planned game at University of Texas draws condemnation

Fri, Nov 22 12:39 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Austin, Texas was the sight of a recent immigration controversy.

The state of Texas was once again the center of the immigration reform debate recently, as a student group at the state's flagship university in Austin planned, and then was forced to cancel, a campus game that was viewed by many as offensive.

Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at UT, tried to organize a variation of tag called "Catch an Illegal Immigrant." The game would have had students wear signs labeling them as an "illegal immigrant," and anyone who turned them into the YCT group would have received a $25 gift certificate.

Garcia's defense
For his part, Garcia responded to the controversy by telling The Dallas Morning News, "If we held a forum, if we did something more politically correct and held a forum or a panel discussion, we'd get about five to 10 people to show up. But if we did something like this, everybody's talking about it."

Immigrant groups and Democrats up in arms
Not surprisingly, the announcement of the game, which was to have taken place on Wednesday, Nov. 20, drew a loud and rapid negative reaction. According to the Morning News, Democratic State Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa was one of many people who led the charge against Garcia's plan, calling it deplorable and saying that students at UT were owed an apology.

"This style of hatred and fear is not the type of leadership Texas deserves," Hinojosa said in a written statement.

Anger over the proposal by Garcia, who was also a field director for Greg Abbott, a former Republican candidate for Texas governor, rose to the extent that hundreds of students, many of them undocumented immigrants, showed up to a rally to denounce the event. The rally, which took place on the same day the game was supposed to have been held, even drew the attention of actress America Ferrera, herself a child of immigrants.

Speaker Boehner indicates openness to immigration reform

Fri, Nov 22 10:46 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

There is still a lot of uncertainty about the path forward on immigration reform.

After recently stating that immigration reform legislation had no chance of passing through Congress by the end of the year, and signaling his overall skepticism on the issue, House Speaker John Boehner changed his tune slightly on Thursday.

On Nov. 21, Rep. Boehner held a news conference to address immigration reform where he not only spoke of the need to get some sort of legislation passed, but praised President Barack Obama for indicating that he was open to compromising with Congress.

Boehner's press conference
At the press conference, Boehner made several comments that should be encouraging to advocates for immigration reform. He reiterated a sentiment he expressed during the 2012 election season that reforming the immigration system is a necessary step forward for the country, while also offering praise for the president's recently stated position that he was open to a step-by-step process.

"Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not," Boehner said at the news conference Thursday. "I have made clear, going back to the day after the last election in 2012, that it was time for Congress to deal with this issue. I was encouraged that the president said that he wouldn't stand in the way of step-by-step immigration reform."

Path forward still unclear
While Boehner's comments certainly seem to make Congressional action on immigration reform more likely, how exactly that is going to happen is still far from clear. The president has said multiple times that he is willing to address the issue in the gradual manner that House Republicans prefer. But he has also said he won't do that if the process doesn't address the major problems with the system, a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants among them.

House Republicans, on the other hand, have also stated their desire to deal with immigration reform. Although, they have offered very few specifics on how to go about that process.

USCIS announces new upgrade to the E-Verify system

Thu, Nov 21 1:25 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A recent enhancement to the E-Verify system is intended to ensure that Social Security Numbers are not being misused, and that workers are fully documented.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a major enhancement to its E-Verify program that should significantly decrease the incidences of identity fraud.

E-Verify upgrade
On Nov. 18, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, released a statement detailing the E-Verify enhancement, which uses a new safeguard to "lock" any Social Security numbers (SSNs) that have apparently been "stolen, borrowed, purchased or otherwise misused … and prevent further abuse of the compromised number in E-Verify records," according to the announcement.

The new feature resembles the protections credit card companies use to prevent theft and fraud. By using a combination of algorithms, analysis and detection reports, USCIS can track misuse and disable a SSN it thinks is being used fraudulently.

In the announcement, Mayorkas noted that the new measure is another step in the agency's determination to strengthen "E-Verify's ability to combat identity fraud," describing the development as, "yet another significant safeguard for E-Verify users [that] could assist employees who have had their Social Security numbers stolen or compromised."

When the new system detects the use of a locked SSN, a "Tentative Nonconfirmation" (TNC) notice is sent out, and the person who used the disputed number can contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. At that point, an SSA officer will review the case, and if the TNC is found to be in error it will be converted to "Employment Authorized" status.

Impact on immigration reform
This newest development could help push immigration reform legislation closer to passage, since the enforcement of illegal activities has been a major sticking point in the debate.

Congressional Republicans have made border security and the enforcement of existing immigration laws their top priorities in the reform process. So measures like this newest USCIS initiative could help sway them toward compromising on other aspects of comprehensive legislation.

Disagreement in the immigrant community about a path to citizenship

Thu, Nov 21 11:08 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

For many immigrants, it's the ability to freely travel back and forth to their home country that is more important than full legal citizenship.

The current debate over immigration reform has taken many twists and turns, with politicians, advocacy groups and protesters on all sides of the issue constantly arguing over the best path forward. But recent developments coming out of the immigrant community itself may be some of the most transformative when it comes to determining how the U.S. government will reform the immigration system.

Not all undocumented workers set on citizenship
While a path to citizenship may be the most important issue in the reform debate for many in the immigrant rights movement, there are some within that community who could see a compromise that doesn't necessarily grant them full legal rights.

According to The New York Times, many undocumented workers are more concerned with having freedom of movement than they are with gaining full citizenship. Understanding that Congress might not be willing to include that provision in immigration reform legislation, those workers envision a compromise that would allow them to get a driver's license and have the ability to freely leave and re-enter the U.S. as the kinds of steps that could be taken to reach an agreement.

Glendy Martinez, a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant who is originally from Nicaragua, and currently lives and works in Houston, hopes to be able to visit the three children she left behind in her home country.

"So many people back there depend on those of us who are here," Martinez told the Times. "It would be such a help if we could work in peace and go back sometimes to see our children."

Other immigrants split over citizenship
Not all immigrants agree with that view. At the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., a group of 13 men who have legal permanent resident status recently wrote a letter to Congress saying that a path to citizenship for undocumented workers puts a stain on those who have lived in the U.S. legally and followed the required path to citizenship.

President willing to take gradual approach to immigration reform

Wed, Nov 20 12:45 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The president says he is now willing to take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform.

With immigration reform legislation stalled in the House, and Republican leaders stating their unwillingness to move forward on a comprehensive solution, President Barack Obama recently said that he would be open to taking a step-by-step approach to the issue.

President changes his tune
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the president talked about immigration reform in an interview at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council. In response to House Republicans' insistence that the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate over the summer was not acceptable, the president said that he would be willing to take the more gradual approach favored by the opposition, as long as it ended up accomplishing the same goals.

"If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like," Obama told the gathering of business executives. "What we don't want to do is simply carve out one piece of it … but leave behind some of the tougher stuff that still needs to get done. … We're not going to have a situation in which 11 million people are still living in the shadows and potentially getting deported on an ongoing basis."

House Republicans reaffirm their stance
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., took the stage at the conference soon after the president left. In his own remarks, Ryan reasserted Republicans' belief that there wasn't enough time left in 2013 to get immigration reform done.

Conservative lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have described the 13-year path to citizenship measure contained in the Senate bill as "amnesty," a stance that is making the passage of any comprehensive reform extremely difficult. And that has raised the anger of reform advocates.

"Despite months of backroom discussions and promises, we have yet to see House Republicans' proposal on a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans," Lynn Tramonte, deputy director of America's Voice, an immigration advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., told the International Business Times. "The ball is in House Republicans' court."

Protesters hunger strike for immigration reform

Wed, Nov 20 12:15 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Philadelphia was one of the early sites of a series of hunger strikes that are intended to spur congressional action on immigration reform.

Hunger strikes and fasts have been used to further political and social causes for centuries. From the early Christians to Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., swearing off eating has proven to be an effective form of nonviolent civil disobedience, and now immigration reform advocates are using the idea to bring greater attention to their cause.

Californians engaging in a different kind of diet
California has long been known for its health and fitness fads. But when a group of protesters in the state began a hunger strike recently, their motivation had nothing to do with losing weight. Instead, they were attempting to pressure California lawmakers into passing immigration reform measures through Congress.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is the third-most powerful member of the House Republican caucus and he has been one of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., has joined in that opposition, and now both of them are the targets of the hunger strikes.

Hunger strikes spread across the country
The strikes, which began in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before coming to California, were initiated by the immigration reform organizations CASA in Action and America's Voice, along with several religious groups and unions. And, according to the MintPress News, the plan is to spread the hunger strikes to other areas of the country, including Omaha, Neb., and Phoenix.

Known as "Fast for Families," the hunger strike operation is intended to be a 40-day action that will pressure Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S. and the federal DREAM Act, before the end of 2013.

"We will not stand for politics as usual when families are being torn apart. We are prepared to risk and put our bodies on the line until Congress puts all 11 million aspiring Americans on the path to citizenship," organizers said in a statement.

New documentary further humanizes immigration reform debate

Tue, Nov 19 12:04 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

A new documentary sheds further light on the nation's broken immigration system.

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, immigration rights activist and self-declared undocumented immigrant, has made a documentary about his experiences, and he recently announced that he has sold the rights to CNN Films.

Vargas' story
In the movie "Documented," Vargas tells the story of how he was brought to the U.S. illegally as child from his home in the Philippines. Growing up in California, he was ushered through the system with the help of friends, family, teachers and school administrators, eventually getting a driver's license and gaining entrance to college before becoming a reporter for The Washington Post.

Vargas began filming just before he announced his status in an editorial for The New York Times, spending the next two years documenting everything he went through as he worked toward gaining U.S. citizenship. He also incorporated stories of other undocumented immigrants, many of whom would benefit from the federal DREAM Act, which is currently stalled in Congress, along with other immigration reform legislation.

"It is imperative that we remind people what is actually at stake and that we humanize as much as possible a highly political, highly partisan issue," Vargas said in a statement. "A film to me has the potential to not only change policy but to change people's minds and hearts."

Vargas has turned his attention from journalism to the immigration reform debate full-time. Along with the working on the documentary, he also heads up Define America, an advocacy group that is planning a campaign around the film's release, which is set for the spring of 2014. Vargas also hopes to screen the film in theaters in states like Texas that are grappling with the nation's broken immigration system.

One of the most affecting scenes from the movie is an interview with Vargas' mother, who he hasn't seen in 20 years, in the Philippines. He had to send the camera crew there without him since he wouldn't have been allowed back into the U.S. due to his undocumented status.

Congressional “detention bed mandate” draws criticism

Tue, Nov 19 11:11 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Many undocumented immigrants find themselves in legal limbo after being sent to detention facilities.

Arrests of undocumented immigrants have been on the rise over the past several years, and part of the reason for that is a little-known congressional directive called the "detention bed mandate."

With the mandate, Congress has dictated that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has to fill the nation's approximately 34,000 beds, which are spread out over 250 immigrant detention facilities. That has led to thousands of immigrants who don't have criminal records being locked up for weeks, months or even years, often without the opportunity to appeal or contest their confinement.

Questions about detention policy
At the Department of Homeland Security's detention center in Henderson, Nev., the story is all too familiar. In one case, Michael Martinez, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, went to his local police department to begin the citizenship application process. Instead, according to the Las Vegas Sun, he was arrested and taken to the detention facility.

"I work and I pay taxes. I care for my family," Martinez told the Sun. "Then, when I start to try to legalize my status, I'm detained. So I'm not working, and meanwhile the government is paying to lock me up. Now, if they deport me, who will take care of my wife and son, who are U.S. citizens? They'll be public charges. It makes no sense."

This sort of detention policy, which is widely criticized by immigrants' rights advocates and legal professionals, has served to highlight the need for immigration reform. Along with possibly violating the rights of undocumented immigrants, the practice costs U.S. taxpayers more than $2 billion a year, according to NPR.

Even Janet Napolitano, former secretary of the Homeland Security Department, describes the mandate as "artificial," telling NPR that, "We [the U.S.] ought to be managing the actual detention population to risk, not to an arbitrary number."

Republicans’ inaction on immigration reform could cripple the party

Mon, Nov 18 11:41 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

The long-term effects of Republican refusal to tackle immigration reform are just beginning to be felt.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently announced that comprehensive immigration reform legislation would not be passed in Congress by the end of 2013, and that delay could end up hurting the Republican Party for decades, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

By comparing Boehner to two former U.S. presidents – Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson – whose policies on minority groups scarred their parties for years, the Chronicle showed how inaction by Republicans could cost them the Latino vote for the next several decades.

Unflattering comparison
While Lincoln and Johnson are revered by many, they each passed major legislation granting rights to African Americans that would impact their political parties for years to come - an entire century, in Lincoln's case.

When Lincoln, a Republican, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an edict that freed all of the slaves in the United States, on Jan. 1, 1863, it began to right what many consider to be the greatest wrong in American history. {be more explicit about what the Emancipation Proclamation is here, as immigrants may not have the background knowledge that we have} But it also cost his party the vote of a large block of Southerners – who became known as "Dixiecrats" – for more than 100 years afterward. That only changed in the mid-1960s, when Johnson, who was a Democrat, helped usher the Civil Rights Act through Congress. That legislation granted African-Americans full legal rights, but also turned those same Dixiecrats back to the Republican Party, a voting trend that still holds to this day.

Failing to learn lessons from an election
The Financial Times also delved into the potential political ramifications of Republican inaction on immigration reform, referencing the recommendations of a fact-finding committee organized by the party after it lost the 2012 presidential election. The committee declared that Republicans had to act on reform or risk losing the Latino vote for at least a generation. Nonetheless, House Republicans seem to be ignoring that advice.

Republicans’ inaction on immigration reform could cripple the party

Mon, Nov 18 11:41 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

The long-term effects of Republican refusal to tackle immigration reform are just beginning to be felt.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, recently announced that comprehensive immigration reform legislation would not be passed in Congress by the end of 2013, and that delay could end up hurting the Republican Party for decades, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

By comparing Boehner to two former U.S. presidents – Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson – whose policies on minority groups scarred their parties for years, the Chronicle showed how inaction by Republicans could cost them the Latino vote for the next several decades.

Unflattering comparison
While Lincoln and Johnson are revered by many, they each passed major legislation granting rights to African Americans that would impact their political parties for years to come - an entire century, in Lincoln's case.

When Lincoln, a Republican, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an edict that freed all of the slaves in the United States, on Jan. 1, 1863, it began to right what many consider to be the greatest wrong in American history. {be more explicit about what the Emancipation Proclamation is here, as immigrants may not have the background knowledge that we have} But it also cost his party the vote of a large block of Southerners – who became known as "Dixiecrats" – for more than 100 years afterward. That only changed in the mid-1960s, when Johnson, who was a Democrat, helped usher the Civil Rights Act through Congress. That legislation granted African-Americans full legal rights, but also turned those same Dixiecrats back to the Republican Party, a voting trend that still holds to this day.

Failing to learn lessons from an election
The Financial Times also delved into the potential political ramifications of Republican inaction on immigration reform, referencing the recommendations of a fact-finding committee organized by the party after it lost the 2012 presidential election. The committee declared that Republicans had to act on reform or risk losing the Latino vote for at least a generation. Nonetheless, House Republicans seem to be ignoring that advice.

FWD.us works toward immigration reform

Mon, Nov 18 11:05 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's organization, FWD.us, has taken a new approach to immigration reform advocacy.

The push for immigration reform has been coming from all corners of the political and business worlds, but one particular group is probably operating with a bit more funding than the others.

FWD.us, founded and paid for by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and several other technology industry heavyweights, has been actively pursuing a revamp of the country's immigration system, and it has been doing so by using some of the deepest pockets in the entire lobbying and advocacy industry.

Backing politicians
Instead of spending a lot of time, money and effort on specific issues in the immigration debate, like a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S., FWD.us has focused much of its energy on backing political candidates who are sympathetic to the cause. That approach, while different from the work of most immigration reform groups, has served an important purpose, giving political shelter to legislators who might otherwise have been afraid to take on a controversial issue like immigration reform.

However, with immigration reform legislation now stalled in the House of Representatives, FWD.us is starting to change its strategy, recently announcing a round of television and Internet ads that will be covering the air and digital waves throughout the last several weeks of 2013.

Change in tactics
The delay in passing legislation to fix the immigration system has led FWD.us to branch out into several new areas of advocacy. The new ads, which are non-partisan, feature quotes from President Barack Obama and other political leaders criticizing the delay in passing meaningful reform.

FWD.us also recently announced the hiring of Bebo executive Darius Contractor to be the organization's new chief technology officer. He will work with groups of programmers to push for public support of immigration reform, including the expansion of the H-1B visa program.

FWD.us works toward immigration reform

Mon, Nov 18 11:05 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's organization, FWD.us, has taken a new approach to immigration reform advocacy.

The push for immigration reform has been coming from all corners of the political and business worlds, but one particular group is probably operating with a bit more funding than the others.

FWD.us, founded and paid for by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and several other technology industry heavyweights, has been actively pursuing a revamp of the country's immigration system, and it has been doing so by using some of the deepest pockets in the entire lobbying and advocacy industry.

Backing politicians
Instead of spending a lot of time, money and effort on specific issues in the immigration debate, like a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S., FWD.us has focused much of its energy on backing political candidates who are sympathetic to the cause. That approach, while different from the work of most immigration reform groups, has served an important purpose, giving political shelter to legislators who might otherwise have been afraid to take on a controversial issue like immigration reform.

However, with immigration reform legislation now stalled in the House of Representatives, FWD.us is starting to change its strategy, recently announcing a round of television and Internet ads that will be covering the air and digital waves throughout the last several weeks of 2013.

Change in tactics
The delay in passing legislation to fix the immigration system has led FWD.us to branch out into several new areas of advocacy. The new ads, which are non-partisan, feature quotes from President Barack Obama and other political leaders criticizing the delay in passing meaningful reform.

FWD.us also recently announced the hiring of Bebo executive Darius Contractor to be the organization's new chief technology officer. He will work with groups of programmers to push for public support of immigration reform, including the expansion of the H-1B visa program.

Vice president speaks at naturalization ceremony

Fri, Nov 15 12:49 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Vice President Biden delivered a speech at a naturalization ceremony in Atlanta where he continued to push for immigration reform.

Vice President Joseph Biden delivered the keynote address at a naturalization ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 14. There, he expressed his disappointment in House Speaker John Boehner's declaration earlier in the week that comprehensive immigration reform legislation has no chance of passing through Congress by the end of the year.

Biden makes pitch for immigration reform
Biden made his remarks in front of 104 newly naturalized citizens and their families at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. Along with expressing his frustration with Boehner, Biden urged the immigrants who had just received citizenship to help advocate for immigration reform.

"Don't pull up the ladder behind you when you come on board," Biden told the crowd, according to CNN. "There are millions of people who are already acting as decent Americans that deserve a chance, that deserve a path, to earn their way … so reach back, help as you move on, and don't be afraid."

Biden highlights economic positives of immigrants
In his speech at the ceremony, Biden not only focused on immigration reform as a moral issue – relating an anecdote about how his mother told him not to treat the Queen of England any differently than he would anyone else, because everyone is equal – he also spoke to the economic and social benefits immigrants bring to the country.

"Studies show that, for example, if those 11 million people are let out of the shadows, the GDP of the United States will grow by an additional 5.4 percent over the next five years," Biden said. "Another $1.7 trillion will be added to the economy. Social Security will be more solvent, not less solvent."

Biden took advantage of the opportunity to speak in front of a friendly audience to continue making the pitch for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. It was part of a campaign by the Obama administration to refocus national attention on the issue.

President tries to refocus congressional attention on immigration

Fri, Nov 15 11:49 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

The president is hoping that congressional and public exasperation over the health care law don't get in the way of immigration reform.

Amid the political turmoil surrounding the problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama attempted to refocus congressional and public attention on immigration reform.

Health care issues no excuse
At a press conference on Thursday, Nov. 14, where the president mainly spoke of the ongoing efforts by his administration to fix the issues associated with the rollout of the new health care law, he also took time to speak to the immigration reform legislation that is stalled in the House of Representatives.

"There is no reason for us not to do immigration reform. When you've got a law that makes sense, you shouldn't look for an excuse not to do it. I am going to keep on pushing to make sure it gets done… If people are looking for an excuse not to do the right thing on immigration reform, you can always find an excuse: We've run out of time. This is hard. The list goes on and on," he said.

The president has come under increasing pressure for glitches in the HealthCare.gov website, the main portal to the new health insurance exchanges. And Republicans have been hammering him over that topic while putting off immigration reform, which is a much more sensitive topic with their party.

Others line up behind reform
House Republicans' resistance to pass immigration reform legislation has come in the face of mounting pressure from across the political spectrum. Even Grover Norquist, who heads up the conservative organization Americans for Tax Reform, chimed in on the side of fixing immigration.

"Immigration reform is important to American economic growth. It is about creating new businesses and jobs and raising our standard of living," Norquist said in a statement. "It is the most important legislation that the House and Senate could pass this year."

Norquist joins a growing coalition of conservative leaders who are calling for the House to take up reform as soon as possible.

Democratic Senator expresses confidence on immigration reform

Fri, Nov 15 11:14 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., still believes an immigration reform bill can pass through Congress before the end of the year.

Despite assurances from House Republicans that comprehensive immigration reform has no chance of happening in 2013, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Nov. 14 that he still thinks legislation is possible this year.

Gang of Eight
Schumer was part of the "Gang of Eight" senators who came to a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform over the summer, passing a bill that has been stalled in the House for months. A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants was one of the keystones of that compromise, and that has been the biggest obstacle to reform in the House.

Nonetheless, Schumer believes that if Congress doesn't pass a reform bill by the end of 2013, it will definitely happen early in 2014. As evidence for his optimism, Schumer cited the practical concerns of the election cycle, noting that Republicans would have to realize it's in their best interest to get something done on the issue.

"They have to do something, and the Republican leadership in the House knows that – Speaker Boehner knows that," Schumer told reporters. "At the same time, they can't do it without Democrats."

Other issues getting in the way
At the same time, other legislative battles have overtaken immigration reform on the political agenda. The major problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, congressional wrangling over budgetary issues and hearings related to the leaking of National Security Agency documents have all become pressing issues, drawing attention away from fixing the immigration system.

Schumer acknowledged as much, telling the Washington Times, "It would be nice if we could get something done this year – I wouldn't rule it out – but I think all the fuss about Obamacare, all the problems that have occurred, have made it less likely to do something now, [because] my guess – [Republicans] may not want to go off that message."

Speaker Boehner won’t allow House to take up immigration bill in 2013

Thu, Nov 14 12:44 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Speaker Boehner cited problems with the Affordable Care Act as one reason why the House would not be able to get to immigration reform in 2013.

House Speaker John Boehner is taking a stand on comprehensive immigration reform, and it appears that he will be eliminating any chance of the legislation coming to a vote by the end of the year.

Boehner's objections
Speaking to the idea of combining a House bill with the immigration overhaul measure passed by the Senate over the summer, Boehner told reporters, "The idea that we're going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And frankly, I'll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill."

Instead, Boehner wants to take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform, which he describes as a more common-sense strategy. One of the major holdups is the idea of paving a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the United States.

He also cited the limited time left in the current legislative session and other priorities, including the Affordable Care Act and ongoing budget negotiations, as other reasons why immigration reform would be put off until 2014.

Immigrants confront Boehner
The tension over Boehner's statements was heightened even further when he was confronted by two young undocumented immigrants. One of them, 17-year-old Carmen Linda, asked Boehner how he would feel if his family was torn apart.

According to The New York Times, in response, Boehner told her, "I'm trying to find some way to get this thing done. It's, uh, as you know, not easy, not going to be an easy path forward. But I've made it clear since the day after the election it's time to get this done."

As of now, it appears that the most likely timing for the House to take up immigration reform legislation will be in early 2014, before the midterm elections get into full swing.

Colorado leading the way in granting rights to LGBT immigrants

Tue, Nov 12 1:56 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Colorado is among the leading states in the nation when it comes to granting rights to undocumented LGBT immigrants.

While a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system has been front page news lately, one thing that has been lost in the discussion is the status of LGBT undocumented immigrants and their legal rights.

According to an analysis by the Williams Institute, 30 percent of the nearly 1 million LGBT immigrants living in the United States are undocumented. That means they are caught in a no man's land of double minority status, hindering their ability to live and work in the country.

Colorado attempts to remedy situation
Colorado is one state that is working to bring many of those undocumented LGBT immigrants out of the legal shadows. Despite being a state that doesn't allow gay marriage, it responded to the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act by almost immediately enabling same-sex couples to sponsor their undocumented partners for citizenship or a green card, as long as they have a marriage certificate from another state that allows the practice.

"What that means is that if you live in a state that does not recognize marriage equality like Colorado, the federal government will still recognize immigration benefits in Colorado," Bryon Large, an immigration attorney in Aurora, Colo., told the Public News Service.

After the Supreme Court ruling, U.S. immigration officials began recognizing marriage licenses from states where the practice is allowed, instead of focusing solely on the couple's place of residence. That has opened up opportunities for couples in places like Colorado, which only performs civil unions, to grant the full rights of marriage to LGBT immigrants.

"Being able to sponsor a partner for citizenship has been a longstanding part of who we are as Americans," Mindy Barton, legal director of the LGBT Community Center of Colorado, told the Service. "So being able to have equal treatment of gay and lesbian spouses is vitally important to being able to achieve full equality."

Top House Republican says immigration reform unlikely in 2013

Mon, Nov 11 12:59 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

In a recent speech, the president criticized House Republicans for not moving faster on immigration reform legislation.

Despite pressure from dozens of groups across the political spectrum, it is beginning to look more and more likely that the House of Representatives will not be taking up an immigration reform bill by the end of 2013. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority whip, told immigration activists who were staging a sit-in at his office that the House would not be able to address the issue in the little time remaining before the end of the year.

Running out of time?
With four months having gone by since the Senate passed its bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, the argument that there wasn't enough time to pass comprehensive immigration reform seems to be holding little water among political analysts, groups who have lobbied in support of the legislation and the voting public.

Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the delay, saying, "Obviously, just because something is smart and fair and good for the economy and fiscally responsible and supported by business and labor and the evangelical community and many Democrats and many Republicans – that does not mean that it will actually get done. This is Washington after all."

Next year?
With any action this year looking unlikely, people on both sides of the debate are looking to early 2014 as the next window where they might be able to get sweeping immigration reform legislation passed. However, there is even skepticism over whether that will be possible, with national elections approaching later in the year.

One Republican lawmaker who is actively working on immigration reform legislation is Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. His proposal focuses on tightened border security and finding a way to get the nation's nearly 12 million undocumented workers "right with the law," Diaz-Balart told The New York Times.

"I'm as optimistic as I've ever been about the chances of getting this [immigration reform] done in this Congress," he went on to tell the Times.

Veterans Day celebrations include push for immigration reform

Mon, Nov 11 11:51 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigration reform was a hot topic on Veterans Day.

Veterans Day 2013 provided yet another opportunity for activists to highlight the important role of immigrants in the nation's past, present and future.

Veteran and immigrant becomes advocate for reform
In New York City, Francisco Lema, an Ecuadorian-born veteran of the Iraq war, has turned his attention to the immigration reform movement. In part due to his desire to serve his country, and in part because he has family members who are undocumented immigrants, Lema has been advocating for reform by holding prayer vigils outside the Staten Island office of Republican Rep. Michael Grimm.

"When I went to the military I was just a permanent resident. I always loved this country, so I wanted to serve. To me it was like giving back something to this country," Lema told the New York Daily News.

Lately, Lema has been one of a group of activists, led by the umbrella group Faith in New York, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, who have been holding the vigils three days a week in front of Grimm's office in the hope that it will pressure the congressman to vote in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bill now stalled in the House. They will mark Veterans Day by gathering in the same spot.

Minnesota veterans and immigrants show their support
A group of veterans and immigrants between the ages of 15 and 99 gathered in St. Paul, Minn., on the eve of Veterans Day to show their support for the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to enlist in the military. They were joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who also supports passage of the bill.

Veronica Zhinin, of Minneapolis, now 17, was 5 years old when her parents brought her from Ecuador to the United States. She plans to graduate next spring from South High School. "My dream is to serve in the U.S. Navy," she told the Star Tribune. "I want to be a hero."

Veterans Day celebrations include push for immigration reform

Mon, Nov 11 11:51 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigration reform was a hot topic on Veterans Day.

Veterans Day 2013 provided yet another opportunity for activists to highlight the important role of immigrants in the nation's past, present and future.

Veteran and immigrant becomes advocate for reform
In New York City, Francisco Lema, an Ecuadorian-born veteran of the Iraq war, has turned his attention to the immigration reform movement. In part due to his desire to serve his country, and in part because he has family members who are undocumented immigrants, Lema has been advocating for reform by holding prayer vigils outside the Staten Island office of Republican Rep. Michael Grimm.

"When I went to the military I was just a permanent resident. I always loved this country, so I wanted to serve. To me it was like giving back something to this country," Lema told the New York Daily News.

Lately, Lema has been one of a group of activists, led by the umbrella group Faith in New York, 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, who have been holding the vigils three days a week in front of Grimm's office in the hope that it will pressure the congressman to vote in favor of the comprehensive immigration reform bill now stalled in the House. They will mark Veterans Day by gathering in the same spot.

Minnesota veterans and immigrants show their support
A group of veterans and immigrants between the ages of 15 and 99 gathered in St. Paul, Minn., on the eve of Veterans Day to show their support for the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to enlist in the military. They were joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who also supports passage of the bill.

Veronica Zhinin, of Minneapolis, now 17, was 5 years old when her parents brought her from Ecuador to the United States. She plans to graduate next spring from South High School. "My dream is to serve in the U.S. Navy," she told the Star Tribune. "I want to be a hero."

Major religious groups show support for immigration reform

Fri, Nov 8 12:19 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Major religious institutions are getting behind the push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Federal lawmakers are being lobbied by a broad swath of constituents who want to see the nation's immigration system fixed. And you can add religious groups to that collection, as leaders from both the Catholic and Evangelical Christian movements have started to weigh in with their support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Archbishop of New York joins the fray
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has added his voice to the chorus of advocates who want to see the House of Representatives pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill before the end of the year. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Dolan called the issue "a matter of great moral urgency," further underlining the human costs of congressional inaction.

"As a moral matter … our nation cannot continue to receive the benefits of the work and contributions of undocumented immigrants without extending to them the protection of the law," Dolan wrote. "Keeping these human beings as a permanent underclass of workers who are unable to assert their rights or enjoy the fruits of their labor is a stain on the soul of the nation."

Evangelical organizations also pushing for reform
Catholic bishops aren't the only religious group in the country who are throwing their support behind immigration reform.

Evangelical Christian organizations, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, have been strongly advocating for comprehensive changes to the nation's immigration system, one of which would be a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers living in the U.S.

Even white evangelicals, the most skeptical religious group on the issue of reform, according to the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project, have shown support for immigration reform. More than 60 percent of them now believe that undocumented workers should be allowed to stay in the country as long as there are certain conditions attached.

Activists stage sit-in to pressure lawmaker on immigration reform

Fri, Nov 8 11:43 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Bakersfield, Calif., was the site of the latest protest in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

The heat is being turned up on lawmakers who have refused to back comprehensive immigration reform, including Rep. Kevin McClatchy, R-Calif., the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives. Around dusk on Wednesday night, Nov. 7, about 100 female activists began occupying McClatchy's Bakersfield, Calif., office in an effort to get him to sign a pledge to allow a vote on the immigration reform bill currently pending in the House.

Putting the pressure on
McClatchy has been one of the leaders of a block of conservative House Republicans that has refused to take up the bill, which would clear a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in the United States.

The protesters want McClatchy and the rest of the House to approve H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. And in order to get him to do so, they occupied his office for nearly 12 hours, prompting the local police to show up and, eventually, the legislator himself, who made an appearance around midnight.

One of the women at the sit-in, Lupe Larios, released a statement through the United Farm Workers contending that the protesters did not get the response from McClatchy that they had been hoping to hear.

"We appreciate Congressman McClatchy taking time to come meet with us, but he said that with only 13 days remaining in the 2013 congressional session, it is not realistic to address immigration reform," Larios said in her statement. "As one of his constituents and a voter, we don't want to hear more excuses as to why it can't be done this year."

McClatchy's response
Mike Long, a spokesman for McClatchy, released his own statement criticizing the protesters for disrupting the activities and services of the congressman's office. Instead of a comprehensive reform package, McClatchy is in favor of reforming the nation's immigration system through a series of smaller measures.

Activists stage sit-in to pressure lawmaker on immigration reform

Fri, Nov 8 11:43 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Bakersfield, Calif., was the site of the latest protest in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

The heat is being turned up on lawmakers who have refused to back comprehensive immigration reform, including Rep. Kevin McClatchy, R-Calif., the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives. Around dusk on Wednesday night, Nov. 7, about 100 female activists began occupying McClatchy's Bakersfield, Calif., office in an effort to get him to sign a pledge to allow a vote on the immigration reform bill currently pending in the House.

Putting the pressure on
McClatchy has been one of the leaders of a block of conservative House Republicans that has refused to take up the bill, which would clear a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in the United States.

The protesters want McClatchy and the rest of the House to approve H.R. 15, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. And in order to get him to do so, they occupied his office for nearly 12 hours, prompting the local police to show up and, eventually, the legislator himself, who made an appearance around midnight.

One of the women at the sit-in, Lupe Larios, released a statement through the United Farm Workers contending that the protesters did not get the response from McClatchy that they had been hoping to hear.

"We appreciate Congressman McClatchy taking time to come meet with us, but he said that with only 13 days remaining in the 2013 congressional session, it is not realistic to address immigration reform," Larios said in her statement. "As one of his constituents and a voter, we don't want to hear more excuses as to why it can't be done this year."

McClatchy's response
Mike Long, a spokesman for McClatchy, released his own statement criticizing the protesters for disrupting the activities and services of the congressman's office. Instead of a comprehensive reform package, McClatchy is in favor of reforming the nation's immigration system through a series of smaller measures.

Immigration rally takes place in Chicago

Thu, Nov 7 12:12 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Chicago was the site of the latest major rally in support of immigration reform.

Chicago police issued more than 100 citations to protesters for blocking traffic at a Nov. 6 immigration reform rally downtown, according to the the Chicago Tribune.

The protest, which was dubbed the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights rally, drew hundreds of loud yet peaceful demonstrators to the area of Clark Street and Congress Parkway in Chicago's Loop, where the regional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building is located.

Blocking traffic to make a point
The demonstrators, many of whom were affiliated with labor unions and immigrant rights organizations, set up in a busy part of downtown during rush hour, blocking traffic in the area for about 45 minutes before they were removed by police.

The timing of the rally was intended to be disruptive, which led to increased public exposure, further highlighting the issues at hand. It also garnered the attention of several local politicians, including Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno (District 1).

"This is personal for me," Moreno, whose grandfather earned a Purple Heart in World War II but received a "non-citizen discharge" from the Army because he was born in Mexico, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's also a matter of just changing terrible policy," he added.

Immigration and deportation reform
Demonstrators made their point through speeches and by carrying signs. Many of the people at the rally told stories of family members who had been deported by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), breaking apart their families. Speeches and signs referenced the number 2 million, which is the number of people that will have been deported by the Obama administration by early next year, according to organizers of the event.

The police allowed the demonstration to go on for awhile before intervening, warning protesters to disperse several times. They did eventually clear the streets, writing 121 citations as they did so.

Gubernatorial elections telling when it comes to immigration policy

Thu, Nov 7 11:34 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Election results in the Garden State will likely have an important effect on the national immigration reform debate.

Tuesday, Nov. 5, voters in two states – New Jersey and Virginia – went to the polls to decide who their governor would be, and the results in both races could have a major impact on immigration policy going forward.

In both New Jersey and Virginia the election outcomes were heavily influenced by Latino voters. According to The New York Times, that should show legislators in other states, and those who aspire to office, that their views on immigration reform will go a long way toward determining their political fate.

Latino voters make noise in New Jersey
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was re-elected in a landslide victory, with substantial help from the state's Latino population. Christie won half of the Latino electorate, an 18 percent improvement over his first run for governor four years ago. And much of that success is attributable to his open-minded stance on immigration reform, a view that is likely to resonate with his Republican colleagues across the country.

"I think the national party is going to draw inspiration from what Christie did," John Feehery, a Republican strategist, told the Times. "The bigger lesson is you can't just go to Hispanic communities six months before an election and say, 'Hey, I need your vote.' I think immigration reform fits into this."

Latinos decisive in Virginia
Virginia's gubernatorial race was much closer, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe edging out his Republican rival, Dennis Cuccinelli, by a mere 55,000 votes. Gary M. Segura, who interviewed Hispanic voters in Virginia on the eve of the election as part of his job as the head of Latino Decisions, a polling organization, estimates that 35,000 of those votes came from Latinos.

Cuccinelli barely made an effort to woo Latino voters during his campaign, and it was one of the major reasons he ended up losing. It's yet another lesson that should have national ripple effects in next year's election cycle, as well as in the current immigration reform debate in Washington, D.C.

Labor unions join campaign for immigration reform

Wed, Nov 6 12:54 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Labor unions will be airing more than $1 million worth of TV ads in support of immigration reform over the next several weeks.

These days, it seems that almost everyone is getting in on the push for overhauling the U.S. immigration system. The AFL-CIO, which is the largest labor federation in the country, is set to air more than $1 million worth of television ads targeting Republican congressmen who blocked a rewrite of the nation's immigration laws.

Union taking sides
The ads will focus on Republican-represented districts with large Latino populations, according to Businessweek. And, in an effort to reach Latino voters directly, the ads will be broadcast in Spanish. House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, whose Bakersfield, Calif., district is 36 percent Hispanic, and who worked to impede comprehensive immigration reform, will be among the legislators who will feel the brunt of the union's offensive.

"The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. "Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a road map to citizenship and workers' rights."

Other House Republicans who will see the ads aired in their districts include Buck McKeon and Gary Miller of California, Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton of Colorado, Joe Heck of Nevada, Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Daniel Webster of Florida. English language versions of the ads will appear in the Washington, D.C., metro area as well.

Support for immigration reform continues to grow
The AFL-CIO is just the latest major group to get behind an immigration overhaul, increasing pressure on those in Congress who are reluctant to make changes to citizenship requirements and privileges, with one of those being the institution of a national DREAM Act.

But as this support continues to build, and Latino voters are made increasingly aware of their elected representatives unwillingness to work toward comprehensive changes to the system it will be extremely difficult to keep delaying immigration reform.

White House continues to push for immigration reform

Tue, Nov 5 1:12 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

President Barack Obama will continue advocating for immigration reform when he stops in New Orleans on Nov. 8.

With the debate over government spending on the back burner for the time being, President Barack Obama has made immigration reform his top policy objective. To further that effort he is spending much of early November courting business leaders, legislators and constituents in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of measures that would revamp the nation's immigration system, including a path to citizenship.

Nov. 5 meeting
The president began his latest immigration push by meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and CEOs from some of the largest corporations in America on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

The hope is that by getting the heads of those companies – which included Motorola, Lockheed Martin, State Farm and McDonalds – to help advocate for immigration reform, they would be able to convince conservative legislators and voters that a solution to the issue would benefit everyone.

The president also emphasized how important immigration reform is to continuing U.S. economic growth, especially considering the nation's reliance on immigrant labor.

New Orleans visit
The president will continue his campaign on Friday, Nov. 8, with a stop at the Port of New Orleans, which is also a major hub for the Department of Homeland Security. There, according to the Times-Picayune, he will speak about the importance of exports to the country's economic engine, while also further highlighting the role of immigrants in producing goods that the U.S. can sell overseas. And he will continue to push Republican leaders to join him in passing an immigration reform bill.

"The President is willing to work with people on both sides of the aisle to get this done," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a press conference. "It's good for business, it's good for our economy as a whole and it is the right thing to do. We believe it is time for the House to follow the Senate and take action."

With these latest efforts, the path to fixing the country's immigration system appears to be getting a little bit smoother.

The uncertain future of the green card lottery

Mon, Nov 4 1:24 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

The green card lottery, which might soon become nonexistent, won't award you millions of dollars, but it will take you one giant step closer to gaining citizenship.

Among the many issues under discussion in the debate over immigration reform is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery. Some legislators who are working to overhaul the nation's immigration system want to see the lottery abolished, but there are others who view it as an integral part of that system.

What is the green card lottery?
Every year since 1995, 50,000 immigrants have been randomly selected to receive citizenship through a green card, or permanent resident visa. It's a free online application process, which makes it as easy as possible to apply.

Unfortunately, the registration period for the 2015 green card lottery recently came to a close. But that just means you can start preparing now to apply next year, assuming it remains in place in the event of comprehensive immigration reform.

In order to be eligible, you must have either the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma or have spent two of the past five years working in a qualifying occupation. If you want to find out if you fit the criteria, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online Database.

Ensuring diversity
By only allowing immigrants from countries that don't have large populations within the U.S. to apply – there are 19 nations from which immigrants are not eligible, all of them with large communities already in the country - the lottery is an effective way of making sure there is a highly diverse cultural environment in the U.S.

As was pointed out in a recent article in Businessweek that cited several academic studies, greater diversity tends to lead to more innovation and higher profits at companies that hire people with a wider range of cultural backgrounds. That ability to drive the nation's economic engine is yet another reason it's crucial to ensure people from a multitude of countries can earn U.S. citizenship. 

Supreme Court rulings bring couples out of the shadows

Mon, Nov 4 12:27 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

California is leading the way in affording greater rights and freedoms to gay couples where at least one partner doesn't have a green card.

Changes to both the nation's immigration laws and the statutes governing gay marriage are opening up a world of possibilities for couples across the United States. And California, which is leading the way in affording greater legal rights to gays and immigrants, offers many examples of how these new developments are making life for gay immigrants in America a happier, more fulfilling and more equal experience.

Marriage brings business out of the shadows
For years now, Alfred Cheung, of San Francisco, has been operating his tech company, which designs and sells software intended to help government and nonprofit organizations, in the regulatory shadows. That's because he's in the country without a green card.

But with the Supreme Court's 2013 rulings that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California's ban on gay marriage, Cheung was free to marry his boyfriend of six years – which, according to SFGate.com, he did in October – and that will also help pave his way to full citizenship.

A native of Hong Kong, Cheung has long been afraid to promote his business and find new investors because of the legal gray area within which he had been living. Now, though, he is excited about being able to grow his operation without having a legal cloud hanging over his head.

Marriage frees couple from fear
According to a study from UCLA, there are an estimated 36,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. with one of the partners in the relationship being foreign-born and with that person waiting to get a green card as the spouse of a citizen. One such couple is Tom Knutson and Phan Datthuyawat of Sacramento, Calif.

The recent Court rulings also cleared the way for them to marry, which was of immediate concern because Knutson is suffering from pancreatic cancer, and Datthuyawat hasn't visited his mother in Thailand in 10 years. Now they can make better arrangements for Knutson's care, and Datthuyawat will finally be able to see his family without worrying about not being let back into the country upon his return.

Immigration proving to be tricky issue for Sen. Marco Rubio

Fri, Nov 1 3:23 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents are Cuban immigrants, recently changed his mind about immigration reform.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been among the most active legislators in the immigration reform debate, helping to shepherd the Senate's sweeping immigration overhaul measure to passage over the summer. But recently he has made an about-face, and is now backing away from the comprehensive reform strategy he helped craft.

A change in tactics
Rubio helped craft a compromise between Senate Republicans and Democrats that would have initiated an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws if it had been approved in the House as well. But that chamber has stalled the bill, instead arguing that immigration should be addressed one issue at a time.

When Rubio was part of the Senate compromise, he saw a steep drop in support from members of the so-called Tea Party – a loose coalition of very conservative voters. Now that Republicans in the House have effectively killed the Senate bill, Rubio has changed his earlier stance, recently saying that he agreed with the approach of his colleagues in the House.

That 90-degree turn has led many people to question his motives, while at the same time his former conservative backers seem to be distancing themselves from him because of his earlier support for a comprehensive approach.

Controversial issue keeps Rubio on the ropes
Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, appears to be trying to position himself for a run for national office in 2016, according to the National Journal. In order to do so, he is trying to appease both the far right and more centrist factions of the Republican Party.

However, that approach appears to be backfiring to some degree. More extreme conservatives refuse to forgive him for supporting a bill that included amnesty and a path to citizenship for people who are in the country illegally, and moderates are souring on him because of his change in positions on immigration reform.

Immigration reform is dividing the Republican Party

Thu, Oct 31 2:00 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Immigration reform is pitting Republican lawmakers against each other.

Now that the government shutdown has ended, and budgetary issues have been moved down the road, immigration reform is once again front and center in the political debate. And for Republicans in Washington, D.C., that debate has recently evolved into one that could split the party

Conservative groups advocating for reform
A broad coalition of politically conservative groups, including business executives, prominent pundits and evangelical leaders, are pressuring federal lawmakers to pass immigration reform legislation. But with many Republicans in Congress resisting such efforts, there is a struggle going on within the party's ranks that could lead to a major schism, according to The New York Times.

Many of those conservative groups are threatening to withhold donations to any Republican legislator who hinders the immigration reform process, and that could be just the kind of threat that inspires action.

"I respect people's views and concerns about the fact that we have a situation in the United States where we have millions of undocumented immigrants," Justin Sayfie, a lawyer from Florida who helped raise money for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign last year, told the Times. "But we have what we have. This is October 2013. And the country will be better off if we fix it."

Three House Republicans join the effort
According to USA Today, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Fla., Jeff Denham, Calif., and David Valadao, Calif., have all joined House Democrats to support an overhaul of the nation's immigration law similar to the one passed by the Senate over the summer. However, with 218 votes needed for passage in the House, and 186 Democratic co-sponsors, the three Republicans who have joined with them still aren't enough to ensure the bill's success.

The debate over whether to handle reform in one sweeping bill or in a step-by-step fashion is still raging in the capital, but with these latest developments, momentum appears to be rapidly shifting in favor of some sort of major reform, including a path to U.S. citizenship for people who are in the country illegally.

Ellis Island reopened

Tue, Oct 29 9:51 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Ellis island reopened

In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast, causing many historical sites, including Ellis Island, to be temporarily shuttered. But on Oct. 28, 2013, the former immigration hub was reopened to the public for the first time since the storm. As visitors arrived, they were able to witness history firsthand.

Ellis Island
Located just off the southern tip of Manhattan, Ellis Island was the primary point of entry into the U.S. for many immigrants between 1892 to 1924. During that time, the island acted as a processing center for immigrants coming into the country, in an era when the U.S. allowed a higher quota of immigrants.

Immigration slowed during World War I, and Ellis Island was used as a military base and hospital. However, in 1921 the island welcomed 560,971 immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted the United States' total immigration quota to 164,000, ending the mass immigration period in America. 

The foundation
When visitors go to Ellis Island, they can look for the names of those who passed through its gates. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., works to maintain the island and the Statue of Liberty. They offer genealogy services and develop exhibits on the island. 

Reopening
Though the island has not fully recovered from Sandy, and the more than 1 million historical photos are still in storage, the island was still reopened Oct. 28. David Luchsinger, superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which includes Ellis Island, wanted to open the site on that specific date because it was 127 birthday of the Statue of Liberty.

"It feels wonderful to be able to welcome visitors again," he told The New York Times. "It's overwhelming."

The majority of the building's structure was stable during the storm in 2012. However, the flood surge sent water streaming into the basement, where most of the historical artifacts were kept. Workers moved more than two-thirds of the the site's inventory before the storm. 

How to file a fee waiver request

Mon, Oct 28 6:00 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

How to file a fee waiver request

Filing various forms with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be expensive, since most require a fee. USCIS is largely funded by immigration form fees. However, if you cannot afford to pay the fee, you may request a waiver. 

The waiver
If you are unable to afford the fees required to file various immigration forms, you may fill out the I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.  When you've determined that you are eligible, file the form and fill out the supporting documentation in English. This waiver has detailed instructions you need to follow, which can be found here. After you have completed the steps, send the form to a USCIS office. The fee waiver request cannot be sent online. 

Eligibility
Eligibility for the fee waiver depends on your income and how many people you have in your household. If you are living below the 150 percent poverty line – as specified by the Department of Homeland Security – you are eligible. The line takes into account your income in proportion to the size of your household. 

You are also eligible if you are going through a period of financial hardship. A prolonged medical illness that leaves you or a family member in the hospital is an example, as it is an unexpected expense. 

You can also qualify for a Request for Fee Waiver form if you are receiving a means-tested benefit. Like the 150 percent poverty line, the means-tested benefit is where a person's individual income or resources determines the amount of relief he or she receives. When filing the request, provide proof you have been receiving a means-tested benefit. 

Household
You can file the I-912 for other members in your family as well. However, the information included should pertain to them, and the form will require their signature. 

When determining the size of your household, you must include your spouse, any children under the age of 21, and any legal wards or parents who are living with you. If another person is staying in your home, and you provide 50 percent or more of the money he or she needs to live, you may include him or her in your count. 

Republican backs immigration reform bill

Mon, Oct 28 11:26 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Republican backs immigration bill

In an attempt to push immigration reform forward in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., has joined House Democrats to craft a new bill that addresses the issue. Denham is the first and only Republican to join a group of 185 Democrats working on the bill, which will provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

"We can't afford any more delays," Denham said in a statement. "I support an earned path to citizenship to allow those who want to become citizens to demonstrate a commitment to our country, learn English, pay fines and back taxes and pass background checks."

The bill
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act more or less mirrors the bill passed by the Senate in June. It offers a path to citizenship, and includes Denham's ENLIST Act, which would allow certain qualified immigrants to join the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Denham went on to say that the bill "makes securing the border a requirement, not a goal, and puts measurable benchmarks in place to be verified by independent sources to ensure that our border is secure." 

The countdown 
There are only 19 legislative days left in the 2013 congressional year, and advocates for reform are worried that a bill won't be passed in that time. Democrats who are working on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act hope to bring more Republicans in on the effort. 

"Immigration reform is an issue that transcends party, region, and industry – it affects the totality of the American family. I am glad Rep. Denham is supporting a solution the majority of Americans agree is necessary," Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told CNN. "The question now is whether more Republicans will join the 185 Democrats who have signed this bill."

Republicans, including Rep. John Fleming, R-La., have not hidden their dissatisfaction with the bill. Fleming believes the President will only enforce the parts he favors. 

DREAM Act trials and triumphs

Fri, Oct 25 1:03 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

DREAM act gives participants hope

Since the DREAM Act was passed by the federal government in June of 2012, stories have been circulating of participants' hardships and triumphs. The DREAM Act gives children of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to work toward a visa without fear of deportation. Participants must complete college in the U.S. or commit to military service. 

Jose
According to USA Today, Jose Patino received word through the mail that he had been accepted into the DREAM program. The 24-year-old Phoenix resident celebrated with his family. The next day, he got his work permit, which he believed would help him get a job in engineering.

Patino graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, but with no legal papers he could not apply for jobs in his field. Instead, Patino worked in construction to make ends meet. When he received the permit, he applied for engineering jobs. However, Patino's permit only lasted two years, and most companies did not want a temporary worker.

Patino is still struggling to find a job, and his story struggle is not uncommon. The two-year time period is a complication many employers do not want to handle.

Terrance
According to SF Gate, Terrance Park has lived in the U.S. since his parents snuck into the U.S. he was 10. The California DREAM Act allowed Park to apply for financial aid when it was time to attend college. The legislation gave students who were brought into the U.S. illegally before their 16th birthday, and who attended school on a regular basis and met in-state residency and GPA requirements, the opportunity to apply for college financial aid benefits.

While the California DREAM Act helped Park afford school, the national DREAM Act is what will make or break his future. Park has been accepted to a biostatistics graduate program at Yale. The two years he would be afforded under the national DREAM Act would allow him to complete the program. 

President is willing to compromise on immigration reform

Fri, Oct 25 11:42 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

President Obama willing to compromise

President Barack Obama gave a speech on Thursday, Oct. 24, calling on Congress to pass immigration reform. The president had been a supporter of one major overhaul, like the bill that passed the Senate earlier this summer, but in his speech on Thursday he expressed a willingness to consider Republican proposals to work on reform in separate pieces. 

Reform approaches
Back in June, Senate legislators passed a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants. The bill included other changes, like increased border protection, as well, wrapping immigration reform into one package. However, it was held up in the House of Representatives. Some Republican leaders in the House worked on a piecemeal approach to reform as an alternative to the Senate proposal. But until his recent speech, the president had only shown support for a single major overhaul of the system.

In his address, he said he was willing to work on smaller pieces of legislation, as long as they created a path to citizenship.

"If House Republicans have new and different additional ideas on how we should move forward, then we want to hear them. I'll be listening," Obama said. 

Effects of the shutdown
When the government shut down in early October because lawmakers could not agree on budget issues, immigration reform was put on the back burner. Since the Congress has made some progress, the president has been pushing Congress to refocus on reform. 

"I just believe this is the right thing to do," Obama said. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the shutdown battle has put some Republicans on edge. Many do not feel comfortable working with the president, and would rather he remain out of the picture during negotiations.

"He has zero credibility," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told the Times. "If he wants to be helpful on immigration reform, he has to do what he has been doing for the past five years, which is nothing."

Diaz-Balart as been working on a bill that would increase border security and allow some immigrants without legal status to pay a penalty before eventually applying for a visa. 

Tips on passing the US naturalization test

Thu, Oct 24 5:15 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Taking the naturalization test

Children who go to elementary, middle and high school in the U.S. are required to study American history and government. When permanent residents apply for U.S. citizenship, they have to take a civics test to determine their knowledge of those subjects. One might assume that students who grew up taking American history and government classes would easily be able to answer the questions on the immigration civics test. However, according to USA Today, when asked in a telephone poll, only 65 percent of natural-born Americans answered the required six out of 10 questions on the test correctly. The Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University in Cincinnati commissioned the telephone survey in 2012.

Results 
Passing a civics test that only 35 percent of Americans who were polled failed might seem daunting. But there are a few encouraging things to remember. If you are applying for U.S. citizenship, you have time to study. USA Today also noted that the telephone poll did not give participants time to brush up on their knowledge. 

Another reason not to be scared by the poll results is that American's don't feel they need to know the information on the test. 

"The citizenship candidates who have decided to file their application for naturalization and begin their life in the United States, they want it really bad," Christopher Bentley, a USCIS spokesman told USA Today. "That said, it is stuff that people would have learned in Civics 101 class."

Studying
There are plenty of resources to help you prepare for the naturalization test. Hop online and take pretests to get a feel for the questions. Then begin studying. Quiz yourself every day and you'll start to see an improvement on your test score.

Also, note that the naturalization test requires you to answer six out of 10 questions correctly. These questions are taken from a list of 100 possible choices. There are three categories of questions, including American government, American history and integrated civics. 

FWD.us to host hackathon for DREAMers

Thu, Oct 24 10:49 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Hackathon pairs DREAMers with mentor

This past spring, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg helped form the FWD.us group. FWD.us is an advocacy group comprised of men and woman in leading positions in the technology fields. They support causes in immigration reform and education. In November, FWD.us will be holding a hackathon, which will give people involved in the DREAM program a chance to be mentored by leaders from the tech industry. 

The hackathon
A hackathon is a large event where participants spend multiple days focused on computer programming. The FWD.us hackathon aims to show lawmakers the kind of talent within the immigrant community. 

FWD.us stated on its website that, "Members of the tech community are keenly aware of the critical contributions immigrants—and particularly DREAMers—are already making to our economy and our country. This Hackathon is a way to make those contributions more tangible by connecting DREAMers… with some of the most innovative product design and engineering talent in Silicon Valley." 

The event will be held on Nov. 20 and 21. 

DREAMers
Children brought into the U.S. illegally by a parent have a path to U.S. citizenship through the DREAM act. To participate, those eligible must fill out an application, If it is accepted DREAMers must graduate from a college in the U.S., or join the military. Children involved in the program are generally referred to as DREAMers. 

FWD.us
FWD.us was formed by leaders in the tech community who want to ensure the country remains competitive in the global economy. To do this, they support efforts in immigration and education reform that can help intelligent, talented people become a part of the country's workforce.

According to the Washington Times, Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields have been lacking the skilled workers they need to keep growing. Not enough college students are graduating in STEM subjects to fill the available positions. Allowing skilled immigrants access to visas will fill empty positions, strengthening the economy. 

Boat crash survivors released from ICE custody

Wed, Oct 23 3:58 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Four boat crash survivors released from ICE custody

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 15 people in custody after their boat capsized off the coast of Miami on Oct. 17. Four women died when the vessel, which was apparently used for smuggling, overturned, and the survivors were detained while the incident was being investigated. 

The crash
U.S. Coast Guard crews found 15 survivors clinging to wreckage early in the morning. The group was found near the 25-foot boat, which capsized approximately 7 miles from Miami. The survivors, including the boat's captain and crew, were taken into custody and charged with attempted smuggling and returning to the U.S. after deportation. 

Four men released
Four of the survivors were released from custody. The men were all Haitian nationals, and will be witnesses in the impending criminal investigation. Since the accident, Haitian activists had called on ICE to release the survivors, or at least their names, so that their families can be notified. Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for ICE,  told the Miami Herald that information could not be released.

Haitian immigration
Since the Haitian earthquakes in 2010, the U.S. has maintained an immigration policy where that country's residents cannot be deported unless they have a criminal record. Despite the federal order, Haitian immigrants have been held in custody, and their released has been a slow process. According to the Miami Herald, this most recent incident surprised activists.

"Haitians are getting released, it's just taking a long time," Randy McGrorty, executive director of Catholic Legal Services, told the Miami Herald, "I am perplexed as to why they are keeping them so long. This [release] was pretty quick."

The four men were released on Oct. 22. According to the Miami Herald, they do not qualify for Temporary Protected Status, which was the allowance given to Haitians after the earthquakes. However, according to the Washington Post, cooperating with law enforcement in the crash investigation may help them earn eligibility to work in the U.S.

"We'll do our best to assist them in their transition to life in South Florida," Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, told the Washington Post.

How to obtain a green card through your job

Wed, Oct 23 2:28 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

obtain a green card through your U.S. job offer

Many people who enter the U.S. in order to work end up obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. However, if you received a job offer in the states, you may apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card. There are several paths to a green card, and right one for you depends on your circumstances.

Job offer
If an American business has offered you permanent employment in the country, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. In this case, your employer must have labor certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. This certification allows them to hire foreign workers on a permanent basis. If your employer has this, he or she can file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. 

Investment
Investors and entrepreneurs looking to develop an enterprise in the U.S. that helps create jobs may also apply for a green card

Self-petition
If you don't have an employer who can petition for you, you can file for yourself by meeting two conditions.

Those two conditions are:

  • You have been granted a National Interest Waiver. The idea behind this waiver is that you have extraordinary skills that will benefit the U.S. 
  • Similarly, there is an O-1 visa, which is for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. Like the National Interest Waiver, individuals who qualify have incredible talent in their field. You must be internationally recognized as an authority in a particular area of specialization, including arts, sciences and athletics.

Special job categories
You can be eligible for a green card if you have one of these positions: 

  • Afghan/Iraqi Translator
  • Broadcaster
  • International Organization Employee
  • Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
  • NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
  • Panama Canal Employee
  • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Religious Worker

If you are applying, and have held one of these jobs, you must also file an I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. 

How to obtain a green card through your job

Wed, Oct 23 2:28 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

obtain a green card through your U.S. job offer

Many people who enter the U.S. in order to work end up obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. However, if you received a job offer in the states, you may apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card. There are several paths to a green card, and right one for you depends on your circumstances.

Job offer
If an American business has offered you permanent employment in the country, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. In this case, your employer must have labor certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. This certification allows them to hire foreign workers on a permanent basis. If your employer has this, he or she can file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. 

Investment
Investors and entrepreneurs looking to develop an enterprise in the U.S. that helps create jobs may also apply for a green card

Self-petition
If you don't have an employer who can petition for you, you can file for yourself by meeting two conditions.

Those two conditions are:

  • You have been granted a National Interest Waiver. The idea behind this waiver is that you have extraordinary skills that will benefit the U.S. 
  • Similarly, there is an O-1 visa, which is for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. Like the National Interest Waiver, individuals who qualify have incredible talent in their field. You must be internationally recognized as an authority in a particular area of specialization, including arts, sciences and athletics.

Special job categories
You can be eligible for a green card if you have one of these positions: 

  • Afghan/Iraqi Translator
  • Broadcaster
  • International Organization Employee
  • Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
  • NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
  • Panama Canal Employee
  • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Religious Worker

If you are applying, and have held one of these jobs, you must also file an I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. 

Protection for abused immigrant spouses, parents and children

Mon, Oct 21 4:03 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Stop domestic violence

Being in an abusive relationship is frightening. Getting out of one can be terrifying. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, be sure you know your rights as an immigrant in case you need to get out of an abusive situation. 

The facts of abuse
Domestic violence doesn't only refer to physical harm, it is a general behavior pattern developed to exhibit power over another person in a relationship. This could be something as small as the abuser telling you you can't talk to another guy. He will use tactics like shame, guilt and ridicule to lower your self-esteem. Frequently, when you are feeling guilty, he then lifts you up and makes you feel like he is there for you. 

If you feel that your spouse or partner is abusive, it is important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. 

Immigration protection
A battered parent, spouse or child may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This means that if you are the parent, spouse or child of a person with U.S. citizenship who is abusive, you can file for a visa without the knowledge of the abuser. You don't have to worry about being alone without documentation. You're safety and security is protected. 

How to file
If you meet the requirements that are listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant status and all supporting documents. The form must be filed with the Vermont Service Center. If your petition is approved and you are not a legal resident of the U.S., you may be placed under a deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the country. The bottom line is, you do not have to worry about deportation if you are fleeing an abusive relationship. 

Protection for abused immigrant spouses, parents and children

Mon, Oct 21 4:03 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Stop domestic violence

Being in an abusive relationship is frightening. Getting out of one can be terrifying. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, be sure you know your rights as an immigrant in case you need to get out of an abusive situation. 

The facts of abuse
Domestic violence doesn't only refer to physical harm, it is a general behavior pattern developed to exhibit power over another person in a relationship. This could be something as small as the abuser telling you you can't talk to another guy. He will use tactics like shame, guilt and ridicule to lower your self-esteem. Frequently, when you are feeling guilty, he then lifts you up and makes you feel like he is there for you. 

If you feel that your spouse or partner is abusive, it is important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. 

Immigration protection
A battered parent, spouse or child may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This means that if you are the parent, spouse or child of a person with U.S. citizenship who is abusive, you can file for a visa without the knowledge of the abuser. You don't have to worry about being alone without documentation. You're safety and security is protected. 

How to file
If you meet the requirements that are listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant status and all supporting documents. The form must be filed with the Vermont Service Center. If your petition is approved and you are not a legal resident of the U.S., you may be placed under a deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the country. The bottom line is, you do not have to worry about deportation if you are fleeing an abusive relationship. 

The countdown is on for immigration reform

Mon, Oct 21 10:15 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Republicans frustrated with the president

According to NBC News, there are fewer than 25 working days before lawmakers leave Washington for the holidays, giving urgency to advocates pushing for immigration reform.

The clock is ticking
If the House of Representatives fails to pass any immigration reform bills before the new year it will be harder to do so afterward since lawmakers will be busy campaigning for reelection. According to USA Today, most will not want to work on such a hot issue if it means potentially losing votes. In the face of waning momentum for change, activists have been beseeching members of the House of Representatives to come together on legislation by Thanksgiving, or mid-December at the very latest. 

Republican House leaders have been working on a piecemeal approach to reform, which includes smaller bills aimed at specific reform measures. Of the proposed ideas, five have cleared committees. House Speaker John Boehner could hold a series of immigration votes for these bills. 

At odds
Though time constraints are an obstacle for immigration reform passing this year, another factor that may stall them are the current relations between Democrats and Republicans. According to Fox news, Republicans feel that the president was unwilling to negotiate during the fiscal crisis, leaving many of them less willing to work with him on immigration reform. 

"Immigration reform is going to be a lot harder to accomplish than it was three weeks ago," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped pass the Senate immigration bill, told Fox News Sunday.

Rubio also argued that the president is "trying to destroy the Republican" party. Despite the frustration Republicans feel, lawmakers all agree that immigration reform is necessary. Whether change comes from a sweeping reform movement or smaller bills targeting individual issues, both sides continue to discuss possible solutions. 

"There will definitely have to be a cooling off period," said Marshall Fitz, the director of immigration policy for the progressive Center for American Progress. "It certainly feels like the fever has not broken."

Conservative group heads to Washington to support immigration reform

Fri, Oct 18 10:13 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Conservatives head to Washington to support immigration reform

Ever since an immigration reform bill passed through the Senate in June, conservatives and liberals in the House of Representatives have been at odds over how to proceed on the issue. House Speaker John Boehner has not brought the bill to the floor. A bipartisan group has been working to push the bill forward, but many Republicans have chosen to tackle immigration reform through a piecemeal approach instead. However, a group of about 300 conservative activists from around the country hope to change that. 

Making a pitch
According to USA Today, this group of conservatives will arrive at Capital Hill on Oct. 28 to meet with Republican lawmakers. The group plans to speak on behalf of immigration reform. They believe that they can better connect with GOP leaders as they share many of the same ideals. 

"I'm not an advocate of open borders. I'm not an advocate of blanket amnesty. I just see (undocumented immigrants) who are hurting and want to contribute to their family … and the system is not working for them," Jeremy Hudson, a pastor whose Fellowship Christian Church operates in House Speaker John Boehner's Ohio district, told USA Today. 

The meeting is not meant to be a rally or demonstration, rather a way to keep the immigration reform conversation going and to appeal to Republicans in the House.

Attendees
The group of 300 is made up of conservatives from many different backgrounds, including farmers, pastors, police officers and business owners. The group conducted a similar fly-in in June to push for the immigration reform bill to pass in the Senate. 

According to Dairyherd.com, Rancher Terry Jones of Idaho will be making the trip. The 70-year-old recently sold his dairy herd after having trouble finding legal workers. 

"I was getting too old to fuss with finding the labor," Jones said. "We're not here wanting to break the laws. Heavens to Betsy, we've got stewardship of the land and our animals, employees we want to treat right and pay a fair wage to. But the government is just interested in … who's going to get the credit, who's going to get the votes." 

Immigration next on the list

Thu, Oct 17 3:24 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Obama calls for immigration reform

At the end of the 16-day government shutdown, President Barack Obama addressed Congress and spoke about what he thought should be the next item on the national agenda. In that Oct. 17 speech, he named immigration reform as one of the top three legislative priorities facing Congress. 

Reform story
In June, the Senate passed a bill that would make sweeping changes to the country's immigration system. When the bill went to the House of Representatives it did not get put up for a vote. Some Republican legislators joined bipartisan talks to work through the bill, while others chose to compile a series of smaller bills in a piecemeal approach to reform. When Congress failed to agree on a budget, the government shut down all essential functions until a budget agreement could be reached. Now that the shutdown has ended, many hope immigration reform will return to the forefront of the national debate. 

The president hopes that reforms will be passed before the end of the year. 

"The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do," Obama said of the Senate immigration reform bill. "And it's sitting there waiting for the House to pass it. Now if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let's hear 'em. Let's start the negotiations."

Held back
Before the shutdown, House Republicans maintained that they would not pass the Senate bill unless a majority of their caucus agreed. According to ABC News, House speaker John Boehner has held fast to an unwritten "Hasten Rule," under which legislation must have the support of the majority to be brought to the floor. Immigration advocates pointed out that he has broken his own rule several times with other legislation. 

Fiscal responsibility
Before immigration reform is tackled, Congress must pass a budget plan. Part of the Oct. 17 agreement to lift the dept ceiling and reopen the government was that appointed negotiators design a budget by mid-December. 

Immigration next on the list

Thu, Oct 17 3:24 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Obama calls for immigration reform

At the end of the 16-day government shutdown, President Barack Obama addressed Congress and spoke about what he thought should be the next item on the national agenda. In that Oct. 17 speech, he named immigration reform as one of the top three legislative priorities facing Congress. 

Reform story
In June, the Senate passed a bill that would make sweeping changes to the country's immigration system. When the bill went to the House of Representatives it did not get put up for a vote. Some Republican legislators joined bipartisan talks to work through the bill, while others chose to compile a series of smaller bills in a piecemeal approach to reform. When Congress failed to agree on a budget, the government shut down all essential functions until a budget agreement could be reached. Now that the shutdown has ended, many hope immigration reform will return to the forefront of the national debate. 

The president hopes that reforms will be passed before the end of the year. 

"The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do," Obama said of the Senate immigration reform bill. "And it's sitting there waiting for the House to pass it. Now if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let's hear 'em. Let's start the negotiations."

Held back
Before the shutdown, House Republicans maintained that they would not pass the Senate bill unless a majority of their caucus agreed. According to ABC News, House speaker John Boehner has held fast to an unwritten "Hasten Rule," under which legislation must have the support of the majority to be brought to the floor. Immigration advocates pointed out that he has broken his own rule several times with other legislation. 

Fiscal responsibility
Before immigration reform is tackled, Congress must pass a budget plan. Part of the Oct. 17 agreement to lift the dept ceiling and reopen the government was that appointed negotiators design a budget by mid-December. 

Arizona rallies attempt to end deportation

Thu, Oct 17 10:54 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

protesters meet in Phoenix

As immigration reform was put on the back burner while Congress attempted to reach a budget agreement that would end the shutdown, activists still hoped to incite change. In order to show that reform is still an important issue, activists held a series of rallies on Oct. 14 in two different Arizona cities. 

Civil disobedience
According to the International Business Times, immigration reform activists congregated outside the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Ariz. Those gathered chained themselves to a fence outside the facility to protest the deportation of illegal immigrants who are held there. Their actions were meant to block vehicles from entering or leaving the building. 

"Even with the government shut down, the deportation machine keeps running,"  Marisa Franco, a campaign organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told the IBTimes. "Keeping our families together is essential to our community, even if tearing them apart is still seen as an essential aspect of the government."

Rally for change
According to Arizona Central, later that same day, protesters met outside the Phoenix offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.The plan was to prevent buses carrying detained immigrants from leaving the facility. However, when protesters arrived, the parking lot was empty and the building was apparently deserted. The Department of Homeland Security in Arizona usually keeps buses in the back of the facility for the purpose of transporting detainees to detention centers in Eloy and Florence. 

Since Oct. 14 was Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, phone calls to the office were not answered. Police stood watch as the rally went on, but no one was arrested. 

Call on the president
Protesters at both events called on President Obama to end the deportations through executive order. Pew Research Center data shows that in 2011, 392,000 illegal immigrants were removed from the country. In fact, the Obama administration has already deported more undocumented immigrants than the George W. Bush administration did over the course of its eight years in office. That is one reason why 59 percent of Latinos polled by Pew disapproved of how the president has handled deportation. 

Arizona rallies attempt to end deportation

Thu, Oct 17 10:54 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

protesters meet in Phoenix

As immigration reform was put on the back burner while Congress attempted to reach a budget agreement that would end the shutdown, activists still hoped to incite change. In order to show that reform is still an important issue, activists held a series of rallies on Oct. 14 in two different Arizona cities. 

Civil disobedience
According to the International Business Times, immigration reform activists congregated outside the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Ariz. Those gathered chained themselves to a fence outside the facility to protest the deportation of illegal immigrants who are held there. Their actions were meant to block vehicles from entering or leaving the building. 

"Even with the government shut down, the deportation machine keeps running,"  Marisa Franco, a campaign organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told the IBTimes. "Keeping our families together is essential to our community, even if tearing them apart is still seen as an essential aspect of the government."

Rally for change
According to Arizona Central, later that same day, protesters met outside the Phoenix offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.The plan was to prevent buses carrying detained immigrants from leaving the facility. However, when protesters arrived, the parking lot was empty and the building was apparently deserted. The Department of Homeland Security in Arizona usually keeps buses in the back of the facility for the purpose of transporting detainees to detention centers in Eloy and Florence. 

Since Oct. 14 was Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, phone calls to the office were not answered. Police stood watch as the rally went on, but no one was arrested. 

Call on the president
Protesters at both events called on President Obama to end the deportations through executive order. Pew Research Center data shows that in 2011, 392,000 illegal immigrants were removed from the country. In fact, the Obama administration has already deported more undocumented immigrants than the George W. Bush administration did over the course of its eight years in office. That is one reason why 59 percent of Latinos polled by Pew disapproved of how the president has handled deportation. 

Taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a citizen

Wed, Oct 16 1:02 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Taking your Oath of Allegiance

You've been in the U.S. with your green card for at least five years. You've applied for citizenship and taken the test. Now USCIS has approved your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The next and final step is to schedule your naturalization ceremony. 

Types of ceremonies 
There are two types of ceremonies honoring the taking of your Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. – a judicial ceremony and an administrative ceremony. In a judicial ceremony, a court takes you through the oath. In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the oath.

If you are participating in the administrative version, you will receive a packet welcoming you to citizenship and taking you through the day. That packet will come in the mail.

You will also receive a notice giving you the date and time of your ceremony. If you cannot attend at that time, return Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to a local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and an explanation as to why you cannot attend the scheduled naturalization ceremony. 

Before heading off on the day of the ceremony, be sure you have filled out the questionnaire on Form N-445. 

At the ceremony
Once you've arrived, you should check in with a USCIS officer and hand in the N-445 questionnaire. You will then hand in your permanent resident, or green card, identification. In its place, you will receive a naturalization certificate. Finally, you will take the Oath of Allegiance, which officially seals your citizenship. The oath can be found in your ceremony welcome packet.

Certificate
Now you've taken the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen. Take a moment to appreciate how far you've come. You will receive your certificate of naturalization. Carefully review the details to be sure all the information is correct. With this certificate you can apply for a passport, register to vote and update your social security record. 

Taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a citizen

Wed, Oct 16 1:02 PM by Eleanor Gaskin

Taking your Oath of Allegiance

You've been in the U.S. with your green card for at least five years. You've applied for citizenship and taken the test. Now USCIS has approved your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The next and final step is to schedule your naturalization ceremony. 

Types of ceremonies 
There are two types of ceremonies honoring the taking of your Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. – a judicial ceremony and an administrative ceremony. In a judicial ceremony, a court takes you through the oath. In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the oath.

If you are participating in the administrative version, you will receive a packet welcoming you to citizenship and taking you through the day. That packet will come in the mail.

You will also receive a notice giving you the date and time of your ceremony. If you cannot attend at that time, return Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to a local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and an explanation as to why you cannot attend the scheduled naturalization ceremony. 

Before heading off on the day of the ceremony, be sure you have filled out the questionnaire on Form N-445. 

At the ceremony
Once you've arrived, you should check in with a USCIS officer and hand in the N-445 questionnaire. You will then hand in your permanent resident, or green card, identification. In its place, you will receive a naturalization certificate. Finally, you will take the Oath of Allegiance, which officially seals your citizenship. The oath can be found in your ceremony welcome packet.

Certificate
Now you've taken the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen. Take a moment to appreciate how far you've come. You will receive your certificate of naturalization. Carefully review the details to be sure all the information is correct. With this certificate you can apply for a passport, register to vote and update your social security record. 

Not all legal permanent residents become citizens

Wed, Oct 16 10:18 AM by Eleanor Gaskin

Not all apply for citizenship

The process of naturalizing in the U.S. takes time and effort. According to the New York Times, there are many factors that lead green card holders not to apply for U.S. citizenship. In fact, 40 percent of immigrants with permanent residency never apply to naturalize. 

Main reasons
One of the many reasons green card holders avoid applying for citizenship is because of the requirements of the application. In most cases, the person applying has to have lived in the country for five years. He or she must give proof of residency through tax forms. There is also a $680 application fee, which to many is enough to hold off in and of itself. Part of the citizenship test is an assessment of English proficiency. For those with a shaky knowledge of the language, this becomes a major point of stress. The other part of the test has to do with U.S. history. 

"I haven't become a citizen because I am terrified of not passing the exam," Maria Jimenez told the Wall Street Journal. 

Jimenez is a legal permanent resident working for a nonprofit organization in California. Like many before her, she has remained a resident without taking the next step to citizenship

Other factors
Some immigrants who hold a green card choose not to naturalize for reasons outside of the daunting requirements. Some countries don't allow their citizens to acquire a second nationality. Immigrants must then face a difficult decision to give up citizenship in their home country or decide not to naturalize in the U.S., their new home. Others feel that by becoming a U.S. citizen they are giving up a part of themselves. 

"I would feel that if I get the American citizenship, I would feel a little less Italian," Jonathan Wajskol, an Italian graphic designer who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago told the Times. 

Missing out
The 40 percent of legal permanent residents who don't become citizens miss out on several benefits, including the ability to vote. Like Wajskol, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, many immigrants have an understanding of American politics and want to be involved. 

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