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Steve King predicts executive action would lead to impeachment

Mon, Jul 28 10:45 AM by Romona Paden

House Republicans are beginning to consider impeachment if Obama moves forward with executive action on immigration.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, made a bold statement on Saturday regarding President Barack Obama's potential use of executive action in relation to the immigration crisis. Effectively, King stated that if Obama chooses to use his executive authority to force comprehensive immigration reform into law, that House Republicans would bring impeachment trials before him.

King's objection seems to actually have little to do with potential reform of the immigration process and more to do with the undocumented immigrants already residing in America. While there have been varied and widespread discussions on both sides of the aisle regarding what is the best course of action, House Republicans seem staunchly against any sort of reform-oriented process. Indeed, it's been nearly a year since Obama's comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed quickly through the Senate, stalled in the GOP-led House of Representatives.

Many individuals in the Democratic Party have proposed that American lawmakers grant some of the benefits of citizenship to these undocumented individuals. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for example, has suggested strongly that Obama grant work permits and amnesty to any immigrant who isn't a felon. King indicated in an interview with Breitbart News, however, that this sort of executive action would surely lead to impeachment trials.

"From my standpoint, if the president [enacts more executive actions], then we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives," King said in the interview. "That's my position and that's my prediction."

King is not the only Republican currently speaking about the potential to impeach the president. Former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin recently published an article in Breitbart News calling for the president's removal. Palin also recently spoke out about the potential of bringing impeachment trials in front of Obama while speaking at the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado. Perhaps most alarming for supporters of the president's immigration efforts is that one of his own advisers, Dan Pfeiffer, has indicated that the threat may be real.

"I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying that they supported impeaching the president," Pfeiffer said at a breakfast put on by The Christian Science Monitor. "A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility."

Portland nonprofit receives federal funding to house immigrant children

Fri, Jul 25 11:27 AM by Romona Paden

A Portland nonprofit has recently received nearly $4 million to house immigrant children.

A Portland, Oregon-based facility, Morrison Child and Family Services, has received nearly $3.7 million in federal funding intended for use in providing unaccompanied immigrant children with housing and care. Morrison, a nonprofit that provides support for victims of traumatic events, has received this funding in installments across the 2014 fiscal year, with the most recent payout coming on July 11 and totaling $923,681, according to financial records from the Department of Health and Human Services. In total, Morrison will receive exactly $3,694,729 to aid unaccompanied immigrants in 2014.

This funding, though significant, is only the most recent in a series of grants made to Morrison by the federal government in past years. Since 2009, the family services center has received almost $16.5 million to house and provide care for these unaccompanied minors.

The funding, recently revealed through records taken from an online government database, has sparked questions from many people outside of Portland regarding the federal government's official stance on the relocation of these children. While Morrison has refused comment, deferring questions to the Department of Health and Human Services, department spokesman Kenneth Wolfe insisted in a written statement that no strain will be put on the community as a result of this housing.

"The impact of these shelters on the local community is minimal," wrote Wolfe. "HHS pays for and provides all services for the children through its network of grantees. This includes providing food, clothing, education and medical screening to the children. Children spend less than 30 days on average at the shelter and do not integrate into the local community."

While the nation at large has seen staunch disagreement regarding how to best handle the immigration crisis, Portland has emerged as a leader in support for the rights of immigrant children. Last Tuesday, July 22, residents of the city even held a welcome rally to show support for immigrant children who were rumored to be arriving.

Honduran president comments on unaccompanied child immigrants

Fri, Jul 25 10:43 AM by Romona Paden

The Honduran President spoke out on immigration this week.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and members of Congress are scheduled to meet with several leaders from Central American countries this Friday, July 25, to discuss the immigration crisis. Chief among the conversational matters to be discussed during the meeting in Washington, D.C., is how to handle the massive influx of unaccompanied immigrant children. Since October 2013, over 52,000 children traveling without parents or guardians have been detained while attempting to cross the Southwest border between the U.S. and Mexico.

One of the Central American leaders who will be in attendance, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, has spoken during several interviews about how he believes the United States should handle these children. As Hernandez indicated to Time magazine, he feels that America has a great deal of responsibility to navigate the situation, asserting that the demand for illicit substances stateside is one of the primary factors fueling the crisis.

"In the United States, many officials see the drug problem as basically one of health, as how much it costs to treat an addict and stop them getting involved. But for us it is life and death. That is the difference," Hernandez told the source. "This is a problem they generate, I repeat, because of the connection between the drugs they consume in enormous quantities in the United States that are produced in the south and pass through Central America, generating violence, generating this migratory flow."

In addition to discussing the impact that the drug trade has had on immigration out of Central America, Obama and the Central American leaders are expected to speak on the conditions migrant children are facing while being processed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The unprecedented influx of children has left officials scrambling to house them all, resulting in a call from the federal government to state Governors to take groups of children and provide them with shelter, food and clothing until more permanent arrangements can be made.

Sex trafficking law at the heart of immigration debate

Thu, Jul 24 11:15 AM by Romona Paden

A 2008 law regarding sexual trafficking has found its way to the center of the immigration debate.

Advocates and opponents of immigration reform alike have found themselves centering recent debates on a law that was passed in 2008, during the administration of President George W. Bush. The law in question, known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, was designed to provide safety and protection to immigrants (predominantly children) who had experienced the horrors of sex trafficking.

The reason for the current debate over the act, though, has little to do with sex trafficking. Current controversy focuses more on how the act categorizes and separates immigrants into two distinct groups: contiguous immigrants (those who come from Canada or Mexico) and non-contiguous immigrants (those from countries with whom America does not share a border). The law states that unaccompanied children who arrive here from Canada or Mexico must undergo a screening by border patrol agents. These agents, in turn, are allowed to send them back to their home countries immediately if no fear or persecution is indicated. 

Unaccompanied children arriving from non-contiguous countries, however, are to be automatically entered into deportation proceedings. This entails handing them over to the Department of Health and Human Services for processing with 72 hours of their arrival and scheduling a deportation trial. Arrangements are then made for these children to stay with family or friends in America (if possible) while they wait for their trial. With a backlog of over 350,000 cases, deportation trials can take years to schedule. Many of these minors never appear for their trials, having found an entrance into the country.

Proponents of immigration reform argue that the screenings undergone by contiguous immigrants are inadequate, and that border patrol agents immediately assume that Mexican children have no protection needs. Those in support of closing U.S. borders argue that the law is outdated, having been passed at a time when roughly 8,000 unaccompanied children entered the country each year. Since October 2013, over 52,000 unaccompanied migrant children have crossed into America.

The disagreement comes at an inopportune time for reform advocates, as it seems to be holding up Congress' decision regarding President Barack Obama's request for $3.7 billion to navigate the immigration crisis. Congress is set to take their summer recess in two weeks, and many fear that they may not make a decision regarding the funding or reform by then.

Massachusetts voters split on housing immigrant children

Wed, Jul 23 11:58 AM by Romona Paden

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has announced a plan to house immigrant children at military bases.

In a development that has mirrored national division regarding how to handle the recent influx of immigrant children, Massachusetts voters are split on Gov. Deval Patrick's proposition regarding housing the youths. Patrick announced last week that he would attempt to find housing for up to 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children at military bases throughout the commonwealth. His announcement came on the heels of a plea made from the federal government to state officials to provide a response to the immigration crisis in the form of housing for these undocumented individuals. Patrick indicated that the most likely facilities for housing the minors were either Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts or Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne, Massachusetts.

Response to Patrick's announcement from his constituents has been varied. According to a recent poll conducted by The Boston Globe, 50 percent of Massachusetts voters support the proposal, while 43 percent do not. The poll also showed that 39 percent of voters surveyed believe undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border should be offered asylum, while 43 percent are against allowing these individuals to stay in the country.

Patrick's decision, as he indicated in a statement released by his office, is motivated more by a desire to act morally than traditional political policy.

"There are practical, policy and political arguments not to shelter these children, and I have heard many of them," Patrick said in a statement. "We have consulted with the federal government to assure that they will meet all the children's needs and bear all the costs. We have consulted with refugee agencies to understand what the children's needs will be. And I have talked with faith leaders and searched my own conscience. I have come down where I have for two main reasons, love of country and lessons of faith. We are a great nation. Unlike any other superpower, America's power, to paraphrase a great man, comes from giving, not from taking."

The federal government is expected to carry the entirety of the cost for housing the children in Massachusetts. 

Graham, Cruz blame Obama for delays in immigration reform

Mon, Jul 21 5:37 PM by Romona Paden

Two republican senators are speaking out against Barack Obama regarding the immigration stalemate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has joined Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in chastising President Barack Obama for his handling of the immigration crisis. In an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Graham indicated that he feels the current stalemate over immigration is the fault of the president, but also that he believes the GOP-led House of Representatives must act soon if Republicans want to contend for the presidency in 2016.

"I blame Obama for this moment," Graham said on the show. "[If Congress doesn't pass immigration reform] our chances in 2016 are very low. The House should lead."

Graham is not the only member of Congress speaking out against the handling, or lack thereof, of the current immigration crisis. His comments were preceded earlier in the same day by statements from Cruz during an interview on "Fox News Sunday." Cruz, in responding to claims by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that Republicans were holding immigrant children "ransom" by refusing to act, tossed the same allegation at Reid and Obama.

"I'll tell you who is holding these kids ransom – Harry Reid and the president because their view is, 'Don't do anything to fix the problem,'" Cruz told interviewer Chris Wallace.

Democrats have maintained that Republicans are to blame for the unresolved issue after failing to act on the comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced into Congress last year. The bill was passed through the Senate and has remained untouched in the House of Representatives. As was indicated in Graham's comments, Republicans are aware that they need to act on immigration reform if they are to stand a chance in the 2016 presidential election. Immigration reform has become an increasingly hot-button issue as numbers of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. have risen dramatically. By the end of 2014, 90,000 undocumented and unaccompanied children are expected to cross the border, and early projections estimate nearly 145,000 will do the same in 2015.

O’Malley, Obama administration disagree on immigration

Fri, Jul 18 11:31 AM by Romona Paden

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and President Barack Obama have reached a disagreement.

Maryland Gov​. Martin O'Malley has traditionally been a strong ally of President Barack Obama and his administration. During Obama's bid for re-election in 2012, O'Malley raised over $1 million for the president's campaign and, numerous times, supported him publicly in the media. However, the two seem to have reached an impasse where immigration reform is concerned.

Last Friday, O'Malley, while speaking at a meeting of the Democratic Governors Association being held in Nashville, Tennessee, made it clear that he feels deportation of unaccompanied immigrant children is not in their best interests and that he does not support it.

"We are Americans, and we do not return refugee kids who find themselves on our doorstep back into war-torn or famine-racked places where they will face certain death," O'Malley told reporters. "I think we have to act like Americans."

Unfortunately for all parties involved, O'Malley's statements come in stark opposition to his actions. After having been called upon by the Obama administration to potentially house unaccompanied immigrant children in his home state, O'Malley raised objections to the opening of a federal shelter in Carroll County, Maryland. The shelter was to be built inside an old military building in Westminster. The building was spray painted with a misspelled and racist sentiment last week, perhaps validating O'Malley's claims that it is an unfit venue for hosting immigrant children. The Baltimore Police Department is investigating the graffiti as a hate crime.

O'Malley is considering putting in a bid for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016, and immigration reform is sure to be at the forefront of his campaign platform. Many political analysts believe that his outspokenness on the immigration issue is an effort to distinguish himself from other potential candidates. 

O'Malley has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform in Maryland, approving a state "Dream Act" that provided undocumented immigrants with in-state tuition at local colleges and allowed those individuals to obtain driver's licenses.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., advises GOP to pass immigration reform

Fri, Jul 18 10:50 AM by Romona Paden

John McCain has advised the GOP to move on immigration reform in order to win the White House.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke out recently at a "Politics on Tap" event co-hosted by CNN and The National Journal regarding his views on the 2016 presidential election. McCain urged the Republican Party to take action on immigration reform, stating that he believes it is integral to their defeat of Hillary Clinton, whom he feels to be the favorite in the 2016 race for the White House. McCain indicated how pivotal a topic he believes immigration reform will be in what should be a hotly contested election.

"We've got some very successful governors that have done very well in their states that I think once exposed to the American people could be very competitive," McCain said at the event. "I expect it to be very competitive, except if we don't enact some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, I do not see a way for us to really win a general election."

Indeed, immigration reform should be a defining facet of the next presidential election. A recent Gallup poll showed  that currently one out of six Americans believe that immigration reform is the most pressing issue facing the nation. That demographic (17 percent) is up dramatically from 5 percent in June and is the highest that the issue has ranked in Gallup polls in nearly a decade. Immigration reform has become a divisive issue in the last year as the GOP-led House of Representatives has refused to act on a comprehensive reform bill approved by the Senate. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of unaccompanied child immigrants are crossing into America after leaving their home countries.

McCain reiterated his sentiments near the close of the event, indicating that the Republican Party will only harm their odds of winning the presidency by waiting on immigration reform.

"I think as the 2016 presidential campaign gets closer that my colleagues will recognize … that we are marginalizing the Republican Party," said McCain.

Anti-Immigration protests met with pro-reform sympathies

Wed, Jul 16 5:39 PM by Romona Paden

Immigration protesters on both sides of the issue are making their voices heard.

While the nation waits for a response from Congress regarding President Barack Obama's request of $3.7 billion to stem the recent tide of undocumented immigrants, groups protesting the surge of undocumented individuals have begun to appear across the country. While this is somewhat unsurprising, an interesting dynamic has begun to unfold as anti-immigration protestors all over have found themselves met by equally vocal groups supporting comprehensive immigration reform and immigrant rights.

In Murrieta, California, last week, buses carrying undocumented immigrants and unaccompanied immigrant children to a federal holding area were forced to reroute after protesters blocked their way for hours. In Fontana, California, however, 40 individuals brought in on a Department of Homeland Security bus have been welcomed by the community with donations containing clothing, food and even toys for the children.

The same sort of parallel appears to be occurring in Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad has discouraged the federal government from sending any undocumented immigrants seeking a home while they wait for their immigration hearings. At the same time, Kathleen McQuillen, Iowa program director of the American Friends Service Committee, is leading a group that's outraged at the state's unwillingness to help immigrant children.

"It's a simple thing to begin to say, what's important in this world?" McQuillen told CNN.

These scenes of demonstrated disagreement are occurring all over the country as the federal government scrambles to find a solution to what has been labeled by many, including Obama, as a humanitarian crisis. In an eight-month period leading up to June 15, 2014, over 52,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the U.S./Mexico border attempting to enter the country, the vast majority of them being from Central America. It is estimated that by the end of the year that number will be nearly 90,000, leaving federal authorities at a loss for a solution.

Dramatic increase in concern over immigration

Wed, Jul 16 11:57 AM by Romona Paden

A recent poll shows immigration is in the forefront of many Americans minds.

The amount of Americans who cite immigration as the most important issue currently facing our nation more than tripled from June to July, according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll, conducted between July 7 and July 10, indicated that 17 percent of Americans currently find immigration to be the most pressing issue in the U.S., a number that has risen dramatically from 5 percent in June of this year.

Moving to the top of the list of issues facing the country, the immigration crisis has now eclipsed several frequently listed issues. Immigration is followed on the list of American concerns by dissatisfaction with the government (16 percent), the economy (15 percent), and unemployment and jobs (14 percent).

The rising concern over immigration is undoubtedly fueled by the increase in media coverage of the surge of Central American immigrants, many of them children, crossing into the United States in the Southwest. Authorities estimate that unaccompanied children alone will account for between 60,000 and 80,000 individuals entering America by the end of the calendar year. The result of the poll is also certainly influenced by President Barack Obama's recent request of $3.7 billion from Congress to be used to stem the tide of immigration. 

The results of this poll could be a strong indication of how candidates from both sides of the aisle will attempt to appeal to voters in the upcoming election season. For example, where national health​ care reform has typically been an immensely controversial issue for voters, Gallup's poll shows that it seems to be leaving the front of most Americans' minds. Health care was cited by 16 percent of Americans as the most important national issue in January. It then fell to 15 percent in April, 11 percent in May, 10 percent in June and 8 percent this month.

The Gallup poll only listed issues cited as the most important by at least 2 percent of the Americans surveyed.

Immigration activist detained by Border Patrol

Wed, Jul 16 11:17 AM by Romona Paden

A journalist was detained at McAllen-Miller International Airport on Tuesday.

One of the most high-profile undocumented immigrants in American history, Jose Antonio Vargas, was detained by Border Patrol agents Tuesday. Vargas, a celebrated filmmaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had spent several days prior to the detainment in McAllen, Texas, covering the recent surge of undocumented Central American children into the Southwest. He was attempting to board a flight to Houston at McAllen-Miller International Airport when Border Patrol pulled him aside after noticing his passport was from the Philippines. He was held in custody for the majority of the day before being released with instructions to appear at an immigration hearing in the near future.

Vargas, an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines, has made a career out of writing about and advocating for immigrants in America. He has been living in the U.S. without citizenship since 1993, though this detainment represents the first time he has ever been held by immigration authorities.

The move to detain Vargas puts federal immigration officials in a bit of an awkward position. Vargas has been very thorough in outing himself as an undocumented individual over the last few years, first doing so in a New York Times article and then later in an essay in Time magazine. His detainment and eventual release, if nothing else, offers reform advocates a compelling argument regarding the validity of deportation rationale as a whole.

"I was released today because I am a low priority and not considered a threat," Vargas told the New York Times. "I would argue that the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country are not a threat either."

Border Patrol officials indicated that Vargas was released once he failed to turn up a criminal record or anything that would indicate he is a threat to others. Vargas, whose upcoming documentary is appropriately titled, "Undocumented," has traveled to 43 states as a journalist in the last three years. He has been in America since he was 12 years old. When Obama offered Deferred Action for Child Arrivals in 2012, Vargas was too old for the cutoff age by a matter of months.

First group of undocumented immigrants deported

Tue, Jul 15 10:55 AM by Romona Paden

40 undocumented immigrants were deported to Honduras on Monday.

In the first large-scale deportation since the federal government's promise to begin acting in response to the immigration crisis, 40 Honduran individuals were returned to their home country. The group, which included both adults and unaccompanied children, had been being held in a U.S. detention facility in New Mexico. Though the flight to San Pedro is only roughly six hours, it undoes an incredible amount of effort on the part of these individuals, many of whom spent weeks or months making the journey from Central America to the U.S.

Though the move has received praise from those opposed to immigration reform, the reality of the matter remains that it has hardly made a dent in the population of undocumented immigrants currently being held. It is estimated that roughly 82,000 undocumented immigrants remain in America, with nearly 57,000 members of that group being unaccompanied immigrant children.

The Honduran government has been cooperative with the United States, desiring the return of their citizens. Last week, the Honduran president declared the situation a humanitarian emergency and laid plans for the arrangement of a fund dedicated to returning their residents.  According to Honduran first lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez, the group on the plane consisted of 18 mothers and 22 children, ranging from just several months old to 15 years of age. Hernandez expressed her concern at the high levels of children leaving Honduras.

"Clearly it worries us," Garcia de Hernandez told CNN, "because we have always spoken about ensuring the best interests of the children."

Regrettably, the best interests of the children seem to be one of the main motivators behind their decision to flee the Central American country. San Pedro Sula, the city where the plane landed, has developed such a culture of violence that it now has the reputation of being the murder capital of the world. This, paired with widespread gang recruitment from a young age, has influenced many of these individuals to leave in search of a better life in the United States.

Obama administration turns to governors for help with immigrant children

Mon, Jul 14 10:57 AM by Romona Paden

The Obama Administration held meetings with governors from multiple states on Sunday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell held meetings in Nashville with dozens of U.S. governors this Sunday, July 13. The meetings, which were private, were an attempt to gain support from the leaders of states that will be hosting thousands of unaccompanied children who've come across the border. Since October 1, 2013, more than 57,000 child immigrants have crossed into America. That number is anticipated to reach 90,000 prior to the end of the calendar year.

Unsurprisingly, Burwell experienced mixed reactions from the various governors with whom she met. Many of the Republican governors that she spoke with remained staunchly against any sort of amnesty for undocumented immigrants in America, particularly in their home states. Three of the most outspoken critics in this group were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad.

Brandstad, Christie and Walker, who have frequently dissented from the President's views on immigration, all believe that the Obama administration's plan to send unaccompanied child immigrants to stay with friends or family in America is misguided. Current law requires that children who cross into America alone from countries that don't share our border be turned over to HHS within 72 hours for processing.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper indicated his desire to aid the immigrant children, but to do so in an economical fashion.

"Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don't want to see another burden come into their state," Hickenlooper told the Associated Press. "However we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we've got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible."

While Burwell received a great deal more support from the governors of blue states, there was still concern regarding the bottom line of the situation. Many of these officials expressed worry regarding the cost to their state, particularly within the realm of providing public education and social services to these undocumented children.

Group of billionaires advocate for immigration reform

Fri, Jul 11 12:06 PM by Romona Paden

Three billionaires have written an open letter advocating for immigration reform.

Three of the richest men in America have co-authored an open letter to Congress in which they push for comprehensive immigration reform. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson, Nos 1, 2 and 8 on the Forbes Magazine ranking of the richest Americans, published a piece collaboratively in the Opinions & Editorials section of the New York Times on Thursday addressing the divisive issue.

Their decision to speak out on the issue comes at the same time that Congress is considering a proposal from President Barack Obama asking for roughly $3.7 billion in funding to attempt to resolve the unprecedented number of unaccompanied immigrants crossing into the Southwestern US. Republicans have shown hesitation at the president's proposal, citing fiscal concerns, while Democrats have largely supported the initiative. Since September 2013, over 57,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been detained crossing the border. That number is expected to exceed 90,000 by the end of 2014.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the three moguls' decision to unite and speak out is that they differ politically. Gates and Buffet, the two richest men in America, are decidedly Democrats, having donated to President Obama's campaign and numerous initiatives on the left side of the aisle. Adelson, who made his fortune owning a series of casinos, is a self-proclaimed Republican. The subtext of their letter is that those with political differences can still reach compromised agreements if willing to sacrifice some personal interest for the good of a larger group or entity. The three men wrote that no good can come from holding off on passing reform, which has stalled in the GOP-led House of Representatives.

"A Congress that does nothing about these problems is extending an irrational policy by default; that is, if lawmakers don't act to change it, it stays the way it is, irrational. The current stalemate – in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation's interests – is depressing to most Americans and to virtually all of its business managers. The impasse certainly depresses the three of us," the men wrote, indicating the damage that apathy and inaction will cause in the face of this pressing issue. 

Immigration budget draining rapidly

Fri, Jul 11 11:30 AM by Romona Paden

America's immigration budget is rapidly running out.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday that immigration officials and U.S. Border Patrol agents will soon exceed their budget if the rapid influx of young Central American immigrants into the U.S. continues. According to Johnson, the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border have driven up detention, transportation and overtime costs to a point well beyond sustainability, leaving officials and legislators scrambling to react. He was not ambiguous in his timeline, predicting that the Customs and Border Protection agency would be out of money by early fall, with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency running dry even earlier.

"At the current burn rate, ICE is going to run out of money at mid-August and we project CBP will run out of money in mid-September," Johnson told the committee.

This announcement comes at the same moment in which President Barack Obama has asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funding to help aid in dealing with the continued influx of unaccompanied child immigrants. More than 57,000 children have been detained crossing the border since September alone. By the end of the year that number is estimated to be north of 90,000.

Johnson urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve the budget, suggesting that not doing so would lead to repercussions outweighing the potential fiscal ones associated with approving Obama's plan.

"[If the budget is not passed] We will have to go to a harsh form of reprogramming that will take money away from vital homeland security programs I'm sure members of this committee care a lot about," Johnson warned. 

On top of urging the committee to approve Obama's request for funding, Johnson also urged lawmakers to revise a 2008 law that requires proper deportation proceedings for children whose home countries don't border the U.S. This move comes just shortly after a lawsuit filed on behalf of several immigration reform advocacy groups earlier this week, citing lack of attorneys for children in deportation hearings as unjust. 

Vigil held for migrant children in Murrieta

Thu, Jul 10 1:08 PM by Romona Paden

A vigil was held in Murrieta, CA to show solidarity for unaccompanied migrant children.

Over 100 people gathered outside city hall in Murrieta, California, on Wednesday evening to support and show solidarity for the unaccompanied migrant children who have been arriving in Texas. In a statement, members of the vigil referred to the unaccompanied immigrant children as refugees and expressed their desire for the people of Murrieta, Southern California and America as a whole to welcome them with compassion and understanding.

The peaceful vigil-holders were also met by a small contingent of anti-immigration protestors. A group of roughly five individuals arrived at the vigil, highly outnumbered, carrying American flags and occasionally yelling things such as "We speak English here." One of them wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "Border Patrol."

Nonetheless, the vigil was thought of as a success. A collection was taken up near the center of the group gathering food, clothing, money and other donations for the families of the migrant children. A couple from Guatemala, Elva and Angel Rosales, addressed the crowd in Spanish, telling parts of their story of coming to America. Their infant son was with them at the vigil, though Elva told the group of her other two children, 7 and 10 years old, who are currently being held at a detention center in Texas. Through tears, Elva thanked the group for their support and stated that she only wanted to be reunited with her children.

Fernando Romero, a member of the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, was present at the vigil and told the Press Enterprise that he hoped the demonstration could draw attention to the root causes of immigration.

"A lot of these children and family members are going to be turned around and sent back," Romero told the source. "There was no addressing of the reasons why these folks are coming here in the first place."

The vigil came only a few days after President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve a $3.7 billion emergency spending budget to aid in dealing with the rapid influx of unaccompanied Central American children into Texas.

Suit brought against US for not providing child immigrants attorneys

Thu, Jul 10 12:29 PM by Romona Paden

A lawsuit has been brought in front of three federal agencies regarding deportation hearings for children.

Several immigration reform advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the federal government Wednesday after the United States government continued to fail to provide legal representation to unaccompanied child immigrants facing deportation proceedings. Though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has provided representation for some individuals undergoing these proceedings, the lawsuit cites eight child immigrant plaintiffs who have not received representation during their trials.

The case presents an interesting dilemma considering the nature of the trials themselves. Deportation hearings are civil, not criminal, so the defendants are not actually guaranteed the right to legal representation. Many of the children never hire an attorney, due to a combination of socioeconomic factors, and end up showing up for their trials alone. The suit alleges that this occurrence, though technically legal, is unfair to the child immigrants, as they lack the emotional and intellectual capacities of adults and are typically unfamiliar with the nuances of the American legal system.

Ahilan Arulanantham works as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which was one of the groups that filed the suit on behalf of the child immigrants. Arulanantham, in speaking with the Los Angeles Times, furthered the sentiment that the children require representation for their hearings to be just and fair.

"Their ability to grasp what is at stake and even just perform the act of talking to a judge is virtually nonexistent," he told the source. "A 10-year-old cannot make legal arguments and cannot even make reliably accurate factual statements that a court can rely on in deciding that child's case."

The lawsuit has named three offices as defendants in the case: The Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department of Justice.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE, would only state that her agency refuses to comment on any litigation while it is still pending a verdict.

Expansion planned for Southern California’s largest immigration detention center

Wed, Jul 9 11:32 AM by Romona Paden

Reform advocates are protesting the planned expansion of Adelanto Detention Center.

In a move that's drawn stark criticism from immigration reform activists, a planned expansion of the Adelanto Detention Center, the largest immigration detention center in Southern California, was announced July 9. The Adelanto Detention Center is located in the desert, surrounded by barbed wire fences, and currently has the capacity to hold nearly 1,300 male detainees. The planned expansion calls for the addition of 650 beds and a wing for female detainees, bringing the capacity of the center to nearly 2,100.

Immigration reform advocates have begun to protest the planned expansion, claiming that the company that operates the Adelanto Detention Center has a record of neglect and a poor history of dealing with immigrants. Criticisms from these individuals also center on the fact that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is required by a federal quota to detain 34,000 undocumented immigrants a day nationally. Victoria Mena, a coordinator with the Defund Detention Campaign, expressed her frustration to Los Angeles NBC affiliate KNBC.

"To see that we're still building centers like Adelanto, to just comply with this quota, is really sad," Mena told the source. "We don't need more immigrant detention to fulfill the quota, what we need is to make smart, common sense immigration reform happen."

Perhaps most troubling, as Mena pointed out, is the 2012 death of a detainee who was being held at Adelanto. An internal investigation run by ICE's Office of Detention Oversight determined that adequate health care had not been provided to the individual in question.

Nonetheless, a spokeswoman for ICE, Virginia Kice, insisted that the expansion is simply in response to the current influx of undocumented immigrants into the Southwest.

"There's a huge number of people coming into our custody in Los Angeles," Kice told KNBC.

Mena, along with the Defund Detention Campaign and other reform advocacy groups, has launched a campaign asking the federal government to refocus its attention on reform instead of detention.

Los Angeles will no longer comply with ICE hold requests

Wed, Jul 9 11:02 AM by Romona Paden

The LAPD will no longer comply with ICE detainer requests.

In a move that's drawn mixed reactions from the American populace, the Los Angeles Police Department will no longer follow immigration detainer requests issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency without fair judicial review. The announcement of the new policy came on July 7 from Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose office also posted multiple times on Twitter regarding the new protocol to be upheld by the LAPD.

ICE hold requests occur after federal authorities cross check the fingerprints of locally arrested individuals with federal immigration databases. If they find a potential match and believe that the individual in custody may be an undocumented immigrant or have a warrant against them, agents can ask to have the person held for up to 48 hours. Historically, this time has given the federal agents a window in which they can pick up that individual and expedite them into deportation proceedings. Objections have been raised to this process across the country from immigration reform advocates who find the process unconstitutional. Garcetti indicated to the Los Angeles Times that he feels this process will be made far more fair through requiring a judicial review.

"The way it exists right now, you don't even have to go to a judge,"Garcetti told the source. "It's just an ICE office who says, 'Hold that person' - period. That no longer will be honored. Like most things, it will have to go through a judge."

According to data kept internally, the LAPD makes roughly 105,000 arrests each year and receive ICE detainer requests for nearly 3,400 of them. Los Angeles joins multiple other cities in California and across the country in ruling not to honor ICE detainer requests any further, much to the satisfaction of immigration reform advocates. Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, indicated that the move is one based in reluctance to offer differential treatment to any arrested persons simply at the request of the federal government.

"The idea of the government calling and saying, 'Hold him another 48 hours for this specific purpose,'" Soboroff told KNX 1070 News Radio. "To me, I would like not to do that."

Obama requests $3.7 billion for immigration crisis

Tue, Jul 8 1:45 PM by Romona Paden

President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the immigration crisis.

White House officials reported on Tuesday that President Barack Obama will be asking Congress for approximately $3.7 billion to better respond to the rapid influx of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. The majority of this money would reportedly be used the processing of the thousands of individuals who are currently awaiting notice for deportation hearings in detainment centers across the Southwestern United States. According to CNN, this would include processing immigrants who have already arrived, aiding Central American countries in responding to the outpouring of their residents, prosecuting smugglers and providing a better standard of care for the child immigrants currently in federal custody. Since October 2013, over 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border into America.

Republicans have already widely voiced their disapproval of President Obama's request. Following a speech last week in the Rose Garden in which Obama brought the issue to light, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he thought Obama was looking for a "blank check" to resolve an issue that was the result of his leniency regarding immigration policy.

To further complicate things, Obama is headed to Texas this Wednesday. Texas has quickly become fixed as the center of the immigration debate given its proximity to the border. In a move that has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, Obama is not planning to visit the border areas of the state during the one day that he is there. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been at the forefront of that criticism.

Following a failed run at the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2012, Perry may look to use the immigration debate as a springboard for his candidacy. His home state of Texas has spent over $500 million this decade in attempting to stop undocumented immigrants from crossing its borders.

President Obama has invited Perry to a private meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, though Perry did not immediately respond.

Victory for immigration advocates in Arizona

Tue, Jul 8 11:33 AM by Romona Paden

An executive order from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has been overturned.

Proponents of immigration reform won a considerable victory in Arizona  July 7 when an appeals court in Arizona overruled an executive order from Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer had ordered that driver's licenses be denied to undocumented immigrants who have received work permits through President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Child Immigrants program. These individuals, known as "Dreamers," often need driver's licenses to use their work permits as many employers require them as a condition of employment.

DACA was announced in June of 2012, and took effect that August. DACA was aimed at immigrants who entered the United States as minors and were younger than 30 years of age in August 2012. It provided the individuals meeting these requirements with protection from deportation for two years as well as employee authorization documents (EADs).

The ruling, which came from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, explained that the immigrants in question were being harmed by unequal treatment by the state of Arizona. This decision also represents the end of a litigation battle that spanned more than a year. Last year, Arizona expanded its law to also ban licenses for any immigrants who had been granted deferred action from deportation. Most who benefited from that decision were allowed immunity from deportation because of negative humanitarian situations in their home countries, such as sexual abuse, domestic abuse and human trafficking.

Many supporters of reform, including Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, have suggested that the ban Brewer proposed, which came on August 15, 2012 (the exact same day DACA went into effect) was a result of her distaste for President Obama.

"This policy was motivated by a political relationship (between) Gov. Brewer and Obama, and she had no good reason and no basis in the law to do this," Pochoda told the Associated Press.

Brewer's proposal is no longer in effect, though she has indicated that she intends to appeal the ruling. 

Sen. Harry Reid speaks out on immigration reform

Thu, Jul 3 3:21 PM by Romona Paden

Harry Reid spoke regarding immigration reform this Wednesday

Hispanics in Politics sponsored an event July 2 that featured a brief series of comments and a question and answer session with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The event took place in downtown Las Vegas. Reid spoke on a number of issues pertaining to immigration, perhaps most notably his beliefs on any capacity for immigration reform to be passed through Congress before the year's end. Despite his support for comprehensive immigration reform, Reid seemed very aware of the low potential for any sort of reform to pass through the Senate this year.

"It's gone until next year," Reid told NewsMax. "Maybe we'll get something in the lame-duck session."

Nonetheless, Reid did discuss the various ways in which the fight for immigration reform can continue to be pushed forward, indicating that President Barack Obama had been in touch with him last week before officially announcing that he would use his executive authority to attempt to institute reform measures. This announcement came from Obama after the comprehensive immigration reform bill that was approved by the Senate nearly a year ago had been continually stalled in the House of Representatives. Speaking of the stalled bill, Reid indicated his disapproval for House Speaker John Boehner's refusal to hold a vote on the issue. Reid also said that Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican who supports reform, did not put enough pressure on Boehner to influence having a vote. He did make clear that some good might come from the Republican's stubbornness in the form of missed votes come election season. Democrats will undoubtedly await seeing if his prediction manifests itself. 

In closing his speech, Reid was sure to reinforce the value of immigrants to America, speaking specifically of the fiscal benefits of passing reform. He claimed that giving paths to citizenship to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in America could push roughly $1 trillion into the struggling U.S. economy.

Federal government launches new immigration ad campaign

Thu, Jul 3 11:12 AM by Romona Paden

A new ad campaign seeks to highlight the dangers of immigration

In response to a dramatic surge of undocumented immigrants entering the Southwestern United States, the federal government has launched a new ad campaign targeted at highlighting the potential dangers of immigration. The campaign, which is budgeted at over $1 million, is aimed primarily at Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Ideally, the initiative will be able to dissuade people from soliciting potentially dangerous services from "coyotes" or smugglers. 

What's being referred to as the "Dangers Awareness Campaign" is expected to spread its message via the use of hundreds of billboards and roughly 6,500 pre-recorded public service announcements on local television channels and radio stations in the target nations. The campaign was announced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. He made his intentions regarding the recent uptick in immigration concise and clear during a press conference on Wednesday in Mission, Texas, near the Rio Grande River.

"We have to stem the flow," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press.

Customs and Border Protection insist that the campaign is being launched with the intent of reducing risk on all sides. Since October 2013, over 52,000 unaccompanied child immigrants have been detained crossing into America. Perhaps even more upsetting is the fact that during that same period 226 immigrants have died making the passage. For many, the gravity of this situation was driven home when the body of a Guatemalan boy was found just a mile from the Rio Grande earlier this week. He had allegedly been traveling from his home nation to Chicago to attempt to find his brother.

Each of the advertisements in the campaign will feature a sort of mini-storyline regarding immigration and then end with the words, "They are our future. Protect them." Though the messages will vary in form, they are all expected to highlight the dangers of the smugglers, or "coyotes," who offer to take undocumented immigrants into America, albeit for a lofty price tag. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Jaime Ruiz elaborated on this at Wednesday's press conference.

"We want a relative that is about to send $5,000, $6,000 to a relative in El Salvador to see this message and say 'Oh my god, they're saying that the journey is more dangerous,'" Ruiz told the AP. "We try to counter the version of the smuggler."

Protesters reroute buses carrying undocumented immigrants

Wed, Jul 2 11:57 AM by Romona Paden

Protesters in Murrieta, CA forced 3 buses carrying 140 undocumented immigrants to reroute

Buses carrying undocumented immigrants were forced to reroute to San Diego, California, after protesters blocked their path, making it impossible for them to enter the Border Patrol processing center for which they were headed.

The protests took place in the town of Murrieta, California, where the immigrants were scheduled to arrive Tuesday morning. The initial intention had been to process the immigrants at the Border Patrol center, assigning them case numbers and running background checks on them before releasing them to await their deportation hearings. The buses, however, were greeted by protesters led by Murrieta's mayor, Alan Long. Waving American flags and holding signs, the anti-immigration protesters blocked the road until each of the three buses was forced to head an additional 60 miles south to San Diego.

Long had encouraged residents of Murrieta to take issue with elected officials in response to plans to transport immigrants from Texas to California. Holding centers have been overwhelmed across the Southwest as immigration numbers continue to rise. Already this year, over 50,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been apprehended crossing into America, and the number is expected to rise considerably. This 50,000 represent more than double the total number from three years ago.

While the protesters in Murrieta didn't seem to be met with any strong contingent of reform advocates, Juan Silva, a resident of nearby Chula Vista, seemed to disagree with them. He indicated that there may have been some confusion regarding the three buses, which were carrying predominantly families and unaccompanied children. Silva said he heard initially that the bus was carrying drug traffickers, and was surprised to find out it was actually full of children.

"I don't think people in that town should be against little kids," Silva told Fox News. "We're not talking about rapists. We're talking about human beings. How would they feel if it was their kids?"

Death of Guatemalan boy reinforces perils of border crossing

Tue, Jul 1 2:54 PM by Romona Paden

Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, 11 years old, was found dead this month just south of Texas.

The dangers that so many immigrants face when they cross from Central America into the United States were sadly reinforced this week, as a Guatemalan boy was found dead roughly a mile from the border between Mexico and South Texas.

Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez was 11 years old at the time of his death. Officials believe that he was left behind by a "coyote" he had paid to take him across the border and then succumbed to exposure. Though his body was discovered several weeks ago (on June 15), he was not identified until the end of the month. He had left his home in Huehuetenango, Chiantla, Guatemala to come to America. Huehuetenango is known as one of the poorest regions in the entire Western Hemisphere, having roughly one-third the wealth per capita of Mexico.

As an unaccompanied child, Gilberto was part of a rapidly growing subset of Central American immigrants. Already this year over 52,000 unaccompanied children have been taken into custody after being apprehended crossing the U.S. border. Many of them flee their home countries due to immense poverty and gang violence, and are coming to America in search of a better life. Earlier reports have also indicated that rumors are currently circulating in Central America that changes in immigration policy will now allow children arriving in the U.S. to stay indefinitely.

The surge in unaccompanied immigrant children has become so pronounced so quickly that President Barack Obama has labeled it an "urgent humanitarian situation." On Monday afternoon, Obama announced that he would no longer wait for the GOP-led House of Representatives to vote on the long-stalled comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The bill was put through the Senate last year and has been a point of political contention leading up to the declaration that Obama would be using his executive authority to expedite it

Authorities are attempting to work with the Guatemalan consulate to have Gilberto's remains returned to his family.

Zuckerberg’s group sends strong message to Republicans

Wed, Jun 25 11:19 AM by Romona Paden

Mark Zuckerberg has a message for Republican opponents of immigration reform

Mark Zuckerberg, the technology mogul best known for his creation of Facebook, is becoming more and more active in politics these days. Recently he's been using the immigration reform advocacy group that he started, FWD.us, to make clear to Republicans that the time to act on immigration reform is now.

While the comprehensive immigration reform bill before Congress has largely stalled in front of the GOP-led House of Representatives, reform is  an increasingly personal subject for Republicans as election season once again approaches. Zuckerberg and FWD.us used this reality to their advantage this past week when they released the results of a poll conducted through an affiliate of theirs, the Council for American Job Growth.

The poll focused on 10 swing districts with incumbent Republican representatives. In those districts, FWD.us and the Council for American Job Growth attempted to measure the ways in which voter loyalty to those incumbents would be affected when voters were shown pro-immigration advertising. This advertising centered on the negative results of not passing immigration reform and linked those results to the incumbent Republicans.

The results of the poll were significant. After voters read a sample piece of the advertising, the study showed vote shares for the Republican incumbent dropping 6 percent overall and 7 percent among Independents, whose votes hold considerable value in swing districts. Kate Hansen, a spokeswoman for FWD.us, explained that these results could very well be indicative of electoral repercussions this autumn.

"The data makes clear that there are real electoral consequences for Republicans in these districts, because voters tie them to their own party's failure to take action on passing reform legislation," Hansen said in a statement.

While representatives from FWD.us and The Council for American Job Growth refused to answer questions regarding whether they intended to run these sort of advertisements closer to election time, they certainly have the capacity to do so. FWD.us alone has spent millions on advertising in 2014.

Democrats propose representation for unaccompanied migrant children

Wed, Jun 25 10:38 AM by Romona Paden

VIVA would bring legal representation to immigrant children.

A bill was proposed by a group of Democratic U.S. representatives on Monday that, if passed, would offer legal representation to unaccompanied migrant children in America. The group is led by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and three Democratic women from Southern California: Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Karen Bass. As Jeffries explained, the four Democrats believe that undocumented immigrant children arriving alone in America should be entitled to legal representation to guarantee that they can navigate the deportation proceedings properly and fairly.

"It is a fantasy to believe that they [undocumented immigrant children] have a fair shot in immigration proceedings without counsel," Jeffries said at a news conference.

The bill, known as the Vulnerable Immigrant Voice Act of 2014, or VIVA, comes at an interesting moment in the immigration debate. Many proponents of immigration reform believe the defeat of Eric Cantor, House Majority leader, in his primary eliminated the best chance to pass the current comprehensive reform bill. The bill has been stalled for nearly a year in the House of Representatives. Cantor, a Republican, was thought by many to be the most likely route to building support for reform on the right. Ultimately, he was unable to take a firm stand on either side of the immigration debate and lost his primary election to David Brat, an economics professor strongly against any form of amnesty. Meanwhile, unaccompanied minors continue to cross into the U.S. from Central America, with officials predicting the total number to top 90,000 by the end of the year.

VIVA has drawn early criticism from those against reform, as it mimics a clause in the original reform bill that also aimed to provide legal support for some immigrants, particularly children. Jeffries and his group, however, maintain that their bill is in the best interests of the nation, not just those of immigrant children. According to Jeffries' group, the timely immigration proceedings that would result from passing VIVA could save over $2 billion annually by eliminating the need to house and feed these children for extended periods prior to their hearings.

Montana immigration law ruled unconstitutional

Tue, Jun 24 11:03 AM by Romona Paden

A federal judge in Montana has found Legislative Referendum 121 unconstitutional.

A judge in Montana ruled this week that a law approved by voters in 2012 was, in fact, unconstitutional. The law, Legislative Referendum 121, attempted to limit the amount of money spent on undocumented immigrants by denying them any sort of federal income, such as a government job or access to a federally subsidized assistance program.

Ultimately, Legislative Referendum 121 called for the creation and enactment of a very large database. The database in question was to hold information regarding the citizenship status of Montanans, and would be checked whenever an individual applied for either a government job or a federally subsidized program, such as welfare, unemployment or assistance for victims of crime. Were the person in question a citizen, nothing would happen. Were they an undocumented immigrant, however, their information would be handed over to local and federal immigration authorities.

The referendum had initially experienced a great deal of support, being voted in by a landslide in 2012 as nearly 80 percent of Montana voters were in favor of it. However, It was never enforced after being passed into law because it was met with an almost instant challenge from an immigration advocacy group. That December, the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, led by Shahid Haque-Hausrath, who serves as an immigration attorney in Montana, sued to block the law. 

Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena, Montana, presided over the case. He ultimately ruled that the law violated the constitution based on the fact that it provides its own definition of what an undocumented immigrant was, which is not based in federal law.

After the ruling, John Barnes, a spokesman for Attorney General Tim Fox, did not offer much concrete information in regard to whether or not their office would bring an appeal. 

"We have a period of time in which to make a decision on appealing," Barnes said, speaking to USA Today. "It is premature at this point as to whether or not we're going to appeal."

Obama’s approval ratings drop in midst of immigration debate

Mon, Jun 23 11:16 AM by Romona Paden

Obama's approval ratings drop in wake of immigration crisis.

President Barack Obama's approval ratings have taken a considerable hit over the past few weeks, largely because of the ongoing stagnation surrounding the immigration crisis in the Southwestern U.S. Gallup, an agency that provides data-driven news and polling, reported on Friday that approval of Obama's handling of the immigration crisis had fallen to 31 percent. In contrast to this, the same poll reported that 65 percent of people surveyed indicated that they disapproved of Obama's immigration policies at this point in time.

This poll was also conducted nearly a year ago by Gallup, in August 2013. The percentage of people surveyed who indicated that they disapprove of Obama's immigration policies has climbed 10 percent in that timeframe, rising from 55 percent to 65 percent. This disapproval rate represents the single largest percentage of respondents unhappy with Obama's immigration policies since the poll's inception. The 31 percent approval rate is the lowest the Gallup poll has measured since 2010, during Obama's first term.

Approval of Obama's immigration policies has fallen relatively steadily over the last year across all party lines. The president has become a target for both sides of the aisle, receiving criticism from Republicans for appearing soft on amnesty while also being critiqued from the left for not yet using his executive authority to push the comprehensive reform bill through. That bill, which passed through the Senate nearly a year ago, has stagnated in the GOP-led House of Representatives.

Currently, 60 percent of Democrats approve of Obama's stance on immigration, compared with 25 percent of independents. Further, only 8 percent of Republicans currently approve of the president's immigration policies, with an astounding 90 percent of Republican respondents indicating disapproval. While there is almost certainly no course of action that will appease all sides, advocates of immigration reform continue to hope that Obama will use his executive authority to push the reform bill into law.

Honduran first lady vows to retrieve child immigrants

Fri, Jun 20 5:04 PM by Romona Paden

The Honduran first lady will travel to America to collect migrant children.

Ana Rosalinda de Hernandez, the first lady of Honduras, announced on Wednesday June 18 that she would be traveling to America to collect undocumented child immigrants native to her country. The children in question have entered the U.S. as part of a recent surge in immigration that has seen over 50,000 unaccompanied youth cross the Southwestern border since October of 2013. Of those 50,000, it is estimated that approximately 13,000 hail from Honduras. In order to support the logistics of the recovery of these children, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has delegated a commission of transportation, immigration and foreign affairs officials to travel with the first lady.

The current influx of immigrants, particularly unaccompanied children, has been dubbed an "urgent humanitarian crisis" by President Barack Obama, who has enlisted the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in navigating the situation. The children who have been apprehended by border patrol authorities are being held in detainment centers across the Southwest. These centers are typically repurposed warehouses or military bases where the children are made to wait until they can be advanced through the deportation processes. One such center, which is located in in Nogales, Arizona, currently holds over 900 migrant children, predominantly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 

Children arriving in the U.S. who have family here in the country have often been released to the care of those individuals. In these situations, the children are given instructions to appear in front of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office within 15 days of their discharge. Though Hernandez's plan is well intentioned, many immigration experts, such as Lenni Benson, a professor of law at New York Law School, believe the odds of her returning to Honduras with these children to be low.

"I know of no international law, immigration law or family law that would let a national government take a child away from their parent," Benson said to Newsweek. "I think it's political, I think it's compassionate political. What country wants to say it's losing its youth. 

Texas increases border patrol presence

Thu, Jun 19 3:56 PM by Romona Paden

A 'surge' in Texas to increase border patrol presence.

In a move that officials have been referring to as a "surge," authorities in Texas have increased their security presence at the shared Mexican border in an effort to decrease the flow of undocumented immigrants pouring into the Southwestern state. The decision, which was announced by Gov. Rick Perry, Lit. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus late on Wednesday night, represents sovereign action on the part of Texas in a matter that many would classify as federal.

The initial plan for the surge specifies that it will continue through at least the end of the year, and longer if necessary. In the bills current form, it authorizes the state to spend up to $1.3 million every week to fund the anti-immigration efforts. Gov. Perry explained that he feels it improper for the state to stand by and wait for federal resolution that could take an undefined period of time.

The move has drawn criticism from others in Texan politics; a recently launched online petition has already collected signatures from over 4,500 individuals who feel as though this legislation should be called back to drafting and reworked prior to being enacted. There certainly exists a silver lining here for proponents of immigration reform; if states begin to push their own legislation in response to immigration, then the federal government may be forced to act more quickly on the matter. 

Perry explained that he felt he was doing the residents of Texas no favors by waiting for a federal solution that he believes is long overdue. In a statement from his office, he emphasized that he felt the need to act sooner than later.

The move comes in response to one of the most pronounced periods of undocumented immigration in the nation's history. More unaccompanied immigrant children are crossing into America from Central American countries than ever before, and the Border Patrol has reported making over 160,000 arrests since Oct. 1, 2013 on the Southwest Texas border alone.

Immigration reform advocates protest in Milwaukee

Thu, Jun 19 3:12 PM by Romona Paden

Immigration protests occurred in Milwaukee on Thursday

Protestors blocked the garage doors for over two hours on Thursday at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office located in downtown Milwaukee. The protesters, members of a group known as Voces de la Frontera (Voices of the Frontier), were acting in response to recent immigration raids that took place in Wisconsin's largest city, in which 49 individuals were arrested and now face legal action including deportation.

Though city officials and members of ICE have insisted that the individuals who were arrested all were criminals of a dangerous nature, the protesters maintain that many of those now facing deportation were guilty only of entering the country illegally. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, who serves as the executive director of Voces de la Frontera, stated that the protest had much more to do with prohibiting ICE from carrying out more raids than reacting to the ones that had already transpired.

"This is a pragmatic action, not a symbolic one," Neumann-Ortiz told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel."We're literally shutting down ICE."

This protest comes not only in response to the immigration raids in Milwaukee, but also as part of a larger campaign known as "Not One More." The Not One More campaign has been organized by the National Day Labor Organizing Network to protest deportation as the comprehensive immigration reform bill in front of the House of Representatives continues to be stalled. This organization, among many others, has been putting pressure on President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to force that comprehensive reform bill into law.

Representatives from ICE maintained that the earlier raids were targeted at improving safety in Milwaukee and nothing more. Ricardo Wong, field office director for Enforcement and Removal Operations, reiterated this sentiment when speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"[the removal of criminal immigrants from Milwaukee] has an immediate and tangible impact on our communities," Wong told the source. "By focusing our resources on the most egregious offenders, we ensure the very best use of our resources while immediately improving public safety in our neighborhoods."

Unaccompanied immigrant children begin to reach to New York City

Wed, Jun 18 4:09 PM by Romona Paden

The surge of unaccompanied immigrant children into America is now being felt in New York.

As the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed last year by the Senate has stalled in the House of Representatives, criticism centering on border security has arisen from opponents of reform. Due to a combination of factors including increased gang violence and poor economies in their home countries, unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied children have crossed into America. Many of these children have also cited hearing rumors in Central America that changes in U.S. policy would now allow for children to stay in America indefinitely. To offer perspective, 13,625 unaccompanied children came across the border in the 2012 fiscal year. At this point in 2014, over 42,000 unaccompanied immigrant children have already entered the U.S. This represents a tripling in figures since 2012, and there appears to be no sign of the numbers thinning anytime soon.

While the majority of this effect is being felt in the Southwest, the children are entering the country in such vast numbers that the effect is now being felt as far north as New York City. Process for dealing with most of these children, so far, has been to detain them briefly until relatives in America can be located. Once the geography of their relatives has been determined and the child has been processed by the Department of Homeland Security, they're put on a bus to their relatives' location and instructed to appear at a deportation hearing several weeks later. Naturally, many of these unaccompanied children's relatives live in areas with dense immigrant populations, so a great deal of them are sent to major metropolitan areas such as New York.

There is not yet data available regarding exactly how many of the undocumented children have been sent to New York City. According to Anne Pilsbury, the director of Central American Legal Assistance in Brooklyn, though, the influx has been very noticeable

"All of a sudden it went from a trickle to more like a river," Pilsbury told The New York Times.

Michelle Obama comments on immigration crisis

Wed, Jun 18 2:11 PM by Romona Paden

Michelle Obama reiterated her support for immigration reform recently.

Michelle Obama, speaking at a swearing-in ceremony for newly naturalized citizens on Wednesday, spoke to the value of immigration in shaping America as a nation. Her words, no doubt, we're not only intended for the new citizens in attendance, but for a far larger audience. 

"In many ways it is because of – not in spite of – our immigrant population that we grow stronger every single day," she said.

President Barack Obama has fallen under fire as of late from both ends of the political spectrum. As more and more unaccompanied children and undocumented immigrants pour across the southern border of the United States than ever before, Republicans have criticized the president's lack of action in securing the borders. Meanwhile, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate last year has stalled in the GOP-led House, bringing pressure from the left for Barack Obama to use his executive authority to expedite its passing.

The ceremony being presided over by the First Lady involved the formal granting of citizenship to 50 individuals from over a dozen countries, and took place in the National Archives Rotunda. Standing near copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence, Michelle Obama reiterated her and her husband's support for immigration reform and attempted to explain the stagnation. 

"Today, here in Washington, folks are still debating whether or not to fix our immigration system, even though just about everyone agrees that it is broken," she said as the ceremony drew to a close. "I want you all to know that my husband has made this his top legislative priority because, at the end of the day, this fight isn't just about principles, it's about real people."

Indeed, immigration reform seems to be near (if not at) the top of the presidential agenda. With hundreds of unaccompanied children crossing our borders each day, Vice President Joe Biden is set to meet with high-ranking officials in Central America this Friday to discuss possible courses of action.

New York Senator looks to bring immigration reform to state level

Tue, Jun 17 11:05 AM by Romona Paden

While the House of Representatives shows no signs of voting on the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed through the Senate last year, a senator from New York is taking matters into his own hands. The "New York is Home" Act, introduced recently by Democratic State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, would grant many of the privileges of citizenship to noncitizen residents, including the right to vote or run in elections at the state, but not federal, level.

In order to qualify for the legal status the act would grant, a noncitizen resident would have to prove that they had lived and paid taxes in New York for at least three years. If an applicant was successful, the legal status they received would also entitle them to Medicaid, professional licensing, eligibility for a driver's license and tuition assistance.

"Nearly 3 million people in the state of New York currently reside here and make New York their home, but can't fully participate in civic, political and economic life," Rivera said.

The bill is ambitious, to say the least. Though several other states have made it possible for noncitizen residents to receive in-state tuition or other tuition assistance, no state has ever attempted to introduce a non federal immigration bill, let alone one this comprehensive. Michael Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, echoed this sentiment in a statement to Businessweek.

"It's mind boggling," Olivas said. "I don't think there's ever been a serious attempt to codify so many benefits and opportunities."

The bill faces a tough path if it's going to pass. Critics of the proposition have been quick to point out that it violates federal authority over citizenship statutes. However, Peter Markowitz, a professor of law residing in New York who helped draft the bill, insists that the bill is entirely legitimate.

"The very nature of our dual-sovereign federal structure," he told Bloomberg Businessweek, "is that New York gets to decide who are New Yorkers." 

Biden to discuss migrant children during trip to Central America

Mon, Jun 16 12:06 PM by Romona Paden

Joe Biden will speak with Central American leaders regarding the immigration crisis.

Vice President Joe Biden is extending a planned trip to Central America by adding a stop in Guatemala later this week. The move comes in response to the current immigration crisis unfolding across the Southwestern United States, in which the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the border has surged exponentially. The additional stop, which will occur Friday, will involve Biden meeting with the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as high-ranking officials from Honduras, to discuss what course of action to take regarding the unaccompanied migrant children. These three countries have had some of the highest rates of children crossing into America during the recent rise in immigration.

According to a senior official, " Our [the Obama administration's] top priority is to manage this urgent humanitarian situation. The entire U.S. administration is engaged in addressing the situation, in making sure these children are housed and fed and receive medical treatment, but at the same time also realize the crucial importance of stemming the tide of migration."

Critics of the Obama administration's immigration policy say that it has encouraged the rise in migrants crossing the border by offering a false hope. Programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows amnesty from deportation for immigrant children who pursue education or a military career in the U.S., are frequently cited by critics as overly permissive.

The Obama administration, Biden included, has maintained that this is a misperception, and that the recent spike in immigration can be attributed to the poor economies and violent conditions of many Central American nations. Regardless of the cause, there appears to be no end in sight regarding unaccompanied immigrant children crossing into the U.S. Almost 50,000 children have already been detained by border patrol agents this fiscal year. That number is already more than twice the amount from the past year and it will, in all likelihood, continue to grow.

Arizona Attorney General demands federal government end immigrant transfers

Mon, Jun 16 11:18 AM by Romona Paden

Arizona AG Tom Horne is threatening legal action against DHS and the federal government.

On June 5 Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne called on the Department of Homeland Security to discontinue its transportation of illegal immigrants from Texas to Arizona, as well as explain the motivation behind its actions. In a letter to the DHS, Horne stated that he would offer federal officials a "reasonable amount of time" to end this practice (or, at least, its involvement with the state of Arizona), but threatened legal action if they refused his request.

For the past two weeks, the DHS has been transporting immigrants apprehended near the Texas-Mexico border to a holding facility in Nogales, Arizona. These actions come in response to a considerable rise in the amount of undocumented individuals crossing into the U.S. from Central America. It has been indicated that the arrangement in Arizona is to be a temporary one until less impermanent living facilities can be opened in the Southwest, but very little regarding the rationale of detaining these individuals has been revealed by DHS.

As federal authorities have continued to transport hundred of families, many of them with children, into Arizona space is running low in holding facilities. Many families have simply been brought to bus stations and told to report to an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office within 15 days. As these instances have become more frequent, criticism has surfaced regarding a lack of preparation or foresight. In his letter, Horne expressed his concern and demanded something be done as soon as possible.

Horne's letter went on to object to the process of apprehending immigrants and moving them 1200 miles into an entirely different state. He referred to the actions of the DHS as both 'inadvisable and irresponsible', being sure to reemphasize that no explanation had yet been handed down to state authorities. 

Though state statute prevents Horne from suing the federal government directly, his office is looking into which course of action would be most effective should the DHS refuse to cease these immigrant transports.

Growing push from veterans for immigration reform

Fri, Jun 13 4:46 PM by Romona Paden

Veterans are making their opinion on immigration reform heard.

A group of veterans gathered in Washington, D.C., this Thursday to hold a press conference in which they voiced their support for comprehensive immigration reform. The group, known as Veterans for Immigration Reform or Vets4Reform, used the conference to present a paper they had collaboratively authored entitled "On the Front Line: Impacts of Immigrants on Military Force Readiness". The paper outlines the powerful and positive effect that immigrant soldiers have had on the United States military, a motive for supporting reform that these individuals have experienced firsthand.

Veterans have come to be one of the most vocal demographics in advocating for an expedited solution to the immigration crisis. This is not entirely surprising once the numbers are brought into consideration. Approximately 12 percent of all living veterans are immigrants or the children of immigrants, and in 2013 65,000 active military personnel were immigrants. Those 65,000 individuals comprised 5 percent of American active enlisted military that year. The founder of Veterans for Immigration Reform, Brett Hunt, blogged on the group's website regarding his take on the matter.

"Those men and women [immigrant soldiers] came from places like Mexico, Honduras and Vietnam and chose to defend our country," wrote Hunt. "They were part of a great tradition that dates all the way back to the Revolutionary War of immigrants taking up the charge of defending their adopted homeland. I have a duty to get their back and ensure that our country does right by them."

While Hunt and these veterans are certainly not alone in their support of immigration reform, many suggest that the issue may have hit a wall for the remainder of the year. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who may have been the best chance reform advocates had at pushing the stalled immigration bill through the GOP-led House, lost his primary election this week to Dave Brat, an economics professor from Virginia who has campaigned as staunchly anti-amnesty.

Victories for reform advocates coming at the county level

Fri, Jun 13 2:08 PM by Romona Paden

A growing number of counties will no longer ICE holds.

Advocates of immigration reform were dealt a small victory Friday as two counties in different parts of the country ruled that they would no longer honor immigration hold requests. Up until this point, these requests were issued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and had a very direct impact upon any undocumented immigrant being held in local custody.

Effectively, if ICE determined that a person being held in local custody was unauthorized to be in the U.S., they would issue a request to local authorities asking them to detain the individual until ICE could come and retrieve them. The issue that arose from this was that there existed a very real chance that the individual being held by local authorities was arrested unconstitutionally. If the authorities held them in detainment until ICE could pick them up, there would be no legal proceedings and thus no review of the validity of the initial arrest.

Napa County in California and Hennepin County, the most populated county in Minnesota, announced this week that they will no longer honor such requests. Though complying with the requests was never mandatory on the part of the local authorities, many precincts had fallen under scrutiny for the practice following the 2012 federal trial of Maria Miranda-Olivares in Oregon.

Miranda-Olivares had been arrested for violating a restraining order and was refused bail by officials due to an ICE hold. Miranda-Olivares entered a guilty plea to one of her charges and was sentenced to 48 hours in prison, but she was handed over to ICE prior to finishing her sentence. A federal judge ultimately ruled that the state had violated her rights. That ruling, though only directly involving Miranda-Olivares, proved to be a watershed victory for reform advocates by pushing for intervention of ICE detainments at the county level.

Napa joins at least seven other California counties to announce their refusal of all future ICE holding requests, and Hennepin joins its neighboring county, Ramsey, in ruling against the process.

Disagreement over living conditions of unaccompanied immigrant children

Thu, Jun 12 11:59 AM by Romona Paden

Nogales, AZ mayor Arturo Garino approves of the facility in which unaccompanied immigrant children are currently housed.

Following a tour of the converted warehouse in which nearly 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are being held in Nogales, Arizona, Mayor Arturo Garino indicated his approval of the facility. His comments come on the heels of relatively widespread criticism from immigration reform advocates who believe that the unaccompanied minors are being treated unfairly and are entitled to better accommodations. Speaking to the Associated Press, Garino offered his thoughts on the space.

"The warehouse is very nice comparing to a lot of what I've heard, I'm very comfortable with it," he said.

The majority of the criticisms regarding the housing for these children have been centered on the impermanence and overcrowding of the situation. The warehouse was a rushed solution as immigrant children pour into the Southwestern United States at rates higher than ever before. In 2009, unaccompanied children apprehended by border patrol agents while crossing into the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras numbered 3,304. This year, the same demographic numbers over 48,000 and is expected to keep growing.

It is projected for the warehouse to be a temporary processing center where immigrant children will be held for several days, vaccinated and inspected for health issues prior to being sent to more permanent centers across the Southwest. The longer term facilities are designed to hold the individuals for up to four months while they complete the immigration process or, far more likely, prepare to be sent back to their home countries.

While Garino made it clear that he felt the conditions were appropriate considering the nature of the emergency, he did also indicate his understanding that most other scenarios would warrant more reasonable accommodations.

"This process of having close to 1,000 [children] in there, for anyone else it would be a nightmare. But for border patrol, they're doing a pretty good job," Garino said in an interview with radio station KTAR.

The AP reported that, as long as the problem persists, immigration officials intend to continue transporting undocumented children to Arizona.

Pressure begins to mount on Obama following Cantor loss

Thu, Jun 12 11:10 AM by Romona Paden

Pressure is building on President Obama to use his executive authority on the immigration bill.

The majority leader of the Republican-led House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, lost his primary on Tuesday, falling in a very unexpected upset to economics professor Dave Brat. Cantor had failed to take a strong position on one side of the immigration debate, leaving him labeled indecisive by voters from both camps regarding the issue. Though Cantor had made statements appealing to both proponents and opponents of reform, he was thought to be one of the best chances reform advocates had of getting the pending immigration bill pushed through the House.

Following Cantor's defeat, many immigration reform supporters quickly voiced the opinion that immigration reform stood no chance at passing, at least for the year. This, however, may not be the case. Pressure is beginning to mount from advocates, aimed toward asking President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to pass the bill into law. 

Of course, Obama has to show some degree of caution in considering the use of his presidential influence to expedite the bill. As of last month, the president had indicated that he would wait to use his power until the House had been given full opportunity to act on the bill prior to their legislative recess in August. As pressures mount from the left, however, it seems that many Democrats not only want Obama to act, but fully expect him to. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D, Ill., made this notion clear.

"Immigration reform is not dead. It might just be moving to the White House for action if none comes from this House," Gutierrez said on the House floor while commenting on the Brat victory.

The weeks remaining prior to the legislative break the House of Representatives will take in August are considered the last plausible window for the bill to pass. If the House doesn't reach a decision by that point, the pressure on Obama to take executive action will be considerably greater than it is now.

Hillary Clinton speaks out against opponents of immigration reform

Wed, Jun 11 12:45 PM by Romona Paden

Hillary Clinton took time on her book tour to advocate immigration reform.

Hillary Clinton took some time away from her book tour this Tuesday to speak out against opponents of immigration reform. Clinton was in Chicago giving a speech to The United Fresh Produce Association and The Food Marketing Institute as part of promotion for her new book, "Hard Choices", which was released in stores this Tuesday.

She offered strong words on the matter, stating that those who oppose reform are "scared because there is a small minority of people in public life and those they represent who don't seem to understand one of our strongest and most important attributes is that we are still a nation of immigrants."

Clinton, whom many believe will run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, was speaking at the request of Stuart Resnick, the founder of Wonderful Brands (which owns the two aforementioned food companies). Resnick made clear during his discussion that the food production and agriculture industries are typically supportive of reforming immigration policy in America. Clinton took the opportunity to express her desire for an expedited solution.

"I hope that the Congress can get around to doing it this year," Clinton said, stating that America would be stronger if reform passed

These remarks came just before House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary election loss to Dave Brat for the nomination to the House of Representatives in Virginia's seventh district. Cantor, who struggled to take a firm stance on either side of the immigration issue but had expressed an openness to some compromised, partial solution. This was thought of by many as the best chance Democrats had at successfully negotiating reform in the GOP-led House. His likely successor, Brat, is more staunchly opposed to immigration reform, and the odds seem quite low that he will show flexibility on the issue once in office, considering the importance that his anti-immigration reform stance he has had during his campaign so far.

Cantor loss hurts potential for immigration reform

Wed, Jun 11 11:03 AM by Romona Paden

Eric Cantor's loss could be bad news for immigration reform.

In what Politico is calling "one of the most stunning losses in modern House politics," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.,  lost to economics professor Dave Brat in the congressional primary for Virginia's 7th district. Cantor, who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2001, has served for over 13 years.

Though Cantor raised nearly 10 times ($2 million) the amount that Brat was able to acquire (roughly $200,000) during the most recent fundraising cycle, the money was not enough to keep his seat. As many have already pointed out, his undoing very well may have been his unclear stance on immigration reform, one of the most consistently debated and divisive issues our nation has been presented with over the past few years.

Cantor struggled to gain footing with voters on either side of the issue during his election, opting instead for a riskier middle ground that may have cost him the race. For example, Cantor responded to  criticism from Brat by distributing mailers stating that he was against giving "immigrants "free ride" but, all the while, his campaign insisted he was advocating for reform.

Regardless of the motivation for Brat's victory, the loss of Cantor may very well mean that immigration reform will not pass in 2014. The comprehensive reform bill passed through the Senate has been held up for nearly a year now as Republicans have refused to vote on it. Cantor had supported some aspects of the bill and had shown interest in partial solutions. Brat, who has referred to the bill as "amnesty" for immigrants, will very likely not support the same sort of compromised resolution if he ultimately wins the congressional seat.

In the interim, pressure from Democrats is expected to mount considerably on President Barack Obama to use executive authority to act on the bill. Following Rep. Ralph Hall from Texas, who is 91 years old, Cantor is only the second incumbent to lose during this primary season.

Rise in immigration sparked by Central American rumors

Mon, Jun 9 11:45 AM by Romona Paden

Rumors in Central America may be driving the influx in immigrants arriving with children.

The unprecedented rise in families and unaccompanied children arriving in the Southwestern states of the U.S. may be fueled by rumors circulating throughout Central America. According to the Los Angeles Times, many of the recent immigrants have alleged that the motivation for their trip was a rumor suggesting that parents who arrived in the United States with a child would be allowed to stay indefinitely.

As the numbers of immigrants crossing the border has risen at an extreme pace, immigration officials and the Department of Homeland Security have struggled to quickly design a course of action.   Resultantly, many arriving families have been dropped off at bus stations and instructed to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office near their ultimate destination within 15 days. News of this policy, the result of an expedited approach to resolving the situation, has fueled these rumors in Central America, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. Dan Kowalski, an immigration attorney in Austin, Texas, explained that smugglers may be furthering these rumors in order to convince more immigrants to enlist their services in crossing the border.

"Desperate migrants from Central America may cling to any slim reed of hope. This false rumor of a 'new opportunity' is leading some to embark on a dangerous journey. They have no idea what they're facing. The smugglers are milking this situation for all it's worth," Kowalski told the source.

Perhaps even more urgent is the amount of children arriving without parents. Over this past weekend alone, more than 1000 unaccompanied immigrant children (UICs) were transferred from southern Texas to a makeshift holding facility in Nogales, Arizona, where they await further processing. These UICs are expected to remain in Nogales for up to three days before being transferred to facilities designed to host them for up to 120 days, though speculation remains as to what will ultimately be done to resolve the fate of these children, some of whom are as young as 1 year old.

Following protests, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., promises to speak with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Monday

Fri, Jun 6 10:18 AM by Romona Paden

Mark Amodei (R-NV) has promised to speak with John Boehner regarding immigration reform.

Protests broke out at the offices of over 25 members of the United States House of Representatives this Wednesday. The protests centered on the lack of action yet taken by the House, which has a Republican majority, to vote on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate over a year ago.

Despite protesters at each site demanding the exact same thing (that representatives urge Speaker of the House John Boehner to end the stagnant holding period that the bill has faced as of yet), the results they received were considerably varied. In Nevada, for example, crowds gathered at the offices of both Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. While the demonstration outside of Heck's office actually ended with five proponents of reform being cited for misdemeanor trespassing charges after refusing to disperse, Amodei seemed much more receptive to the crowd.

When protesters arrived at Amodei's office he was engaged in another meeting, but he invited them in and offered to meet with them following his prior engagement. The congressman and the demonstrators apparently spoke briefly before Amodei promised them that he would speak with Boehner regarding the matter this coming Monday.

Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, is integral in determining whether or not a floor vote will be held for the immigration reform bill. He's been heavily criticized by advocates of immigration reform for not taking a firm enough stance on the issue or pushing the bill through the House quickly enough. Amodei has indicated, however, that the tide may be beginning to turn in favor of Republican support of the immigration reform bill.

"I'm hopeful. My sense – and I could be wrong about this – but I think there are 165 to 180 people in the Republican conference that will be open minded to this and support it," Amodei told the Reno Gazette Journal. Hopefully a clearer picture will emerge for all parties following Amodei's discussion with Boehner on Monday.

Jeh Johnson renews non-deportation policies for over 500,000 ‘dreamers’

Thu, Jun 5 11:09 AM by Romona Paden

DACA renewal will allow over 500,000 individuals to continue to work and live in the USA

More than half a million individuals who have been approved for enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be allowed to renew their standing in the program for two years, the Obama administration announced Thursday. The announcement came from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who also announced that DACA will continue to accept applications from qualifying individuals who have not yet enrolled in the program.

The program was first introduced in August of 2012 and has since granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation to more than 560,000 individuals, according to the Department of Homeland Security's website. Beneficiaries of the program have come to be colloquially referred to as 'dreamers' in reference of their search for a better life. Johnson echoed his rationale for the renewal by explaining the circumstances surrounding these individuals' decisions to enter the country.

"Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who first crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult lawbreakers," Johnson said in a statement.

The program has had exceptionally high acceptance rates, taking in more than 96 percent of individuals who have applied for amnesty so far. Initially, the program required applicants to have entered the country before the age of 16, to have been under the age of 30 by June 15, 2012, and to have some demonstrable level of educational attainment, such as enrollment in school or a GED. Approved individuals will be able to apply for renewal if they have not departed the United States after August 15, 2012, have remained in the U.S. since their most recent approved DACA request, and have no felony or severe misdemeanor charges on their records.

County votes to fund healthcare for undocumented immigrants

Thu, Jun 5 10:27 AM by Romona Paden

California's Alameda County is making moves to ensure healthcare for undocumented immigrants.

California's Alameda County, located near the Bay Area, took an unprecedented step June 3 as its voters approved legislation to fund healthcare for undocumented immigrants. This measure, targeted at individuals whose citizenship status excludes them from state or federal healthcare coverage, is expected to raise over $100 million annually to fund clinics for immigrants.

"Our elected officials, our constituents and our health authority see healthcare as a basic human right, to be provided regardless of immigration status," Alex Briscoe told Reuters. Briscoe currently serves as director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, which services Oakland east of San Francisco and Berkeley.

The measure passed in a landslide with the final margin coming in at nearly 3 to 1. This result is somewhat unsurprising, as healthcare for undocumented immigrants has been a continually pressing issue in California as that demographic grows. Reuters estimates that 2.6 million individuals (roughly 7 percent of the state populace) in California are undocumented immigrants. In the past year, emergency room and other hospital-related expenses for these individuals cost the state over $600 million.

This legislation is not, however, a permanent solution to the issue of funding healthcare for undocumented immigrants. The measure calls for a tax increase of 0.5 percent beginning in 2019 and extending through 2034. Ideally, public officials will be able to use those 15 years to enact a more permanent and thorough solution.

While the passing of this bill does denote a landmark moment in the conversation regarding undocumented immigrants residing in America, it's worth noting that it will not come close to resolving the issue in California. As evidenced by the May 23 stalling of a California State Senate measure to include immigrants in state healthcare programs, intervention in these matters may need to be delivered from a higher level. As the population of immigrants grows, proponents of immigrant rights will undoubtedly continue to pressure Congress for more comprehensive immigration reform.

Helping a spouse become a U.S. citizen

Fri, Apr 18 3:31 PM by Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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 Romona Paden

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."

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