Fri, Jan 2 5:00 PM by Romona Paden
At the start of 2015, the state of California made a major step forward in the realm of immigration reform – it began allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for state driver's licenses. The state even went as far as to ensure that these immigrants were able to afford car insurance by authorizing them to purchase coverage through the government-established California Low Cost Auto Insurance program.
The California DMV expected a record number of applicants due to this new legislation, and the massive turnout did not disappoint. When California's Department of Motor Vehicles locations reopened on Jan. 2 after the holiday break, applicants were already lined up outside the buildings and eagerly awaiting the chance to obtain a valid driver's license. Those interested in applying were directed to do so at one of four specific locations, one of which was the Granada Hills DMV.
One applicant's story
As the Los Angeles Times reported, South Los Angeles resident Sonia Soriano was the first person in line at the Granada Hills facility, arriving more than 12 hours before it opened, accompanied by her husband and daughter. She emigrated to the U.S. from Sinaloa, Mexico, and has been living in California for several years, driving in fear of being pulled over or being part of an accident. Her 12-year-old daughter Kelya stood by her.
Soriano would have to submit fingerprints and pass the written driving test and vision exam before she could schedule a driving test to complete the process and earn her license. Unfortunately, despite studying thoroughly, she did not pass the written portion of the test. As she told the Los Angeles Times, she struggled with the traffic signal questions but plans to study hard over the weekend and return to try again on Monday.
A win for everyone
This new legislation is clearly a major victory for immigration reform activists and supporters, but it will also serve to benefit the entirety of California's population. Not only will it mean that more drivers will be properly insured, but it will also make the roads safer for all, as assemblyman Eduardo Garcia of California's Coachella Valley told the Desert Sun.
"It's exciting, certainly historic and a great thing for California," Garcia said. "Having properly trained, tested, licensed and insured drivers on our roads is not only important, it's a priority."
The California DMV expects that about 1.4 million undocumented immigrants will apply for driver's licenses within the next three years.
Tue, Dec 30 8:02 PM by Romona Paden
There's been much discussion lately on both sides of immigration reform about how well foreign-born individuals can fare in and contribute to the U.S. economy. A story published by the Tri-City Herald tells the case of Richland, Washington, resident Joe Gonzalez, which proves immigrants can do good in America's economic climate.
After Gonzalez's family immigrated to the U.S. from the village of Allende, located in Coahuila, Mexico. His father had a green card; however, he, his mother and his siblings did not. With little money and unable to speak English, the family worked as crop pickers, moving from Arizona to Idaho to Washington, for work.
But things started looking up for him once his family settled in the small Washington town of Mabton. Gonzalez graduated from high school and went to join the Air Force Academy, an unsuccessful endeavor that ended with him dropping out and returning to his hometown, where he married Delia, his wife of our decades.
Despite the disappointment that came with dropping out, Gonzalez went on to start his own business – American Electric. It started nearly two decades ago as a tiny operation with only three workers, and it has since grown to employ nearly 100 people. But the road to owning his own business was not an easy one. He trained to become an electrician, working as an apprentice and then a journeyman for more than a decade before becoming part owner of JRT Electric in 1995.
From that point on, Gonzalez knew what he wanted to do for a living and wanted to become a valuable part of his community. As Gonzalez explained to the Tri-City Herald, he was inspired by his love for the U.S. and the opportunities it opened up to him, and he wanted to name his company Patriot Electric for this reason (though it was already taken).
"Only in America would somebody get a chance to do what I've done," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez certainly does not take the opportunities he has been afforded for granted, and he gives back to the Lower Valley and Tri-City community by, among other ways, providing needy families with warm meals during the holidays.
Tue, Dec 30 7:34 PM by Romona Paden
When someone is at risk of deportation, it can cause huge anxiety and worry, which is why Obama's immigration reform action has allowed undocumented immigrants across the country to let out a big sigh of relief. However, those who have committed crimes are not eligible to apply for temporary protection from deportation. Such is the case with 103.7 The Fox radio personality James Shaman.
Shaman, who is an emcee at the Mason City, Iowa, radio station, has been an active voice when it comes to immigration reform. This may be due in part to the fact that he is facing deportation himself. The Canadian-born Iowan earned a criminal record when he was a young man. He has been protected from deportation by his permanent resident visa; however, when that expired three years ago, his green card was rescinded due to his criminal history. He has been on parole status ever since, continuously in fear of breaking even a minor law and being deported under the new laws.
"There's a whole lot more to immigration, and I'm not the only one that's dealing with this," Shaman said during his radio show on Dec. 29. "I don't even think I'm the only person in north Iowa dealing with this, there may be others. I consider myself rather fortunate that I have the means to speak aloud with my microphone and my radio station and let people hear about this."
While Shaman went on to express that he felt relieved to be able to have his story heard by others, the radio personality has a lot ahead of him. He's expected to appear at a hearing in Bloomington, Iowa, with federal immigration officials to find out if he will be sent back to his native country. If so, Shaman will leave his Mason City community, where he lives to be close to his daughter.
Despite the fact that he's facing possible deportation, Shaman knows he's lucky to be on parole, compared to the many who have been imprisoned while awaiting their hearings and trials.
"I consider myself rather fortunate because there are people who have been incarcerated for extended periods of time awaiting their trials," he said. "All this just because the immigration courts are so backlogged and that's why it's taking so long to get this issue resolved. I mean 3.5 years."
Tue, Dec 30 2:21 PM by Romona Paden
With immigration reform in the spotlight lately, there has been much debate across the nation about how immigrants affect the economy. Some may claim that such foreign-born residents drain funds; however, a study conducted in Minnesota shows that immigrants are actually making significant contributions to the state's economy.
The Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition, in collaboration with the Americas Society Council of the Americas, and the Partnership for a New American Economy, published a report revealing that immigrants have had a positive effect on the state economy. It found that immigrant purchasing power reached around $7.7 billion, and this population group contributed more than $22 billion to Minnesota's gross domestic product. Another $1 billion went to local and state taxes – money that is distributed for the benefit of all citizens.
Some people may argue that immigration reform initiatives allow more foreign-born individuals to take jobs away from non-immigrants. However, as Sarah Radosevich, policy research analyst with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and member of the coalition, told ABC-affiliated KSTP, that isn't a real issue.
"You know, on a case by case basis, that might be happening at the very micro level, but what the evidence shows, and this has been widely studied across the U.S., is that over time having immigrants here leads to more job opportunities for everyone," Radosevich said.
As she goes on to explain, many of the new jobs created by immigrant business owners are available right in the Twin Cities area. For example, entrepreneur and immigrant Abdirahman Kahin, who owns Minneapolis restaurant Afro Deli & Coffee, sees up to 600 customers each day, and the business has shown such success that he plans to open a second location, which will provide even more open jobs for locals.
Fri, Dec 26 1:40 PM by Romona Paden
Many people confuse permanent residency with U.S. citizenship, but these are two very different statuses that come with separate benefits. One may become a citizen by being born in America or having parents who were citizens at the time of birth, whereas a permanent resident holds a visa that allows him or her to live in the country indefinitely despite not being a citizen.
Permanent residents do not have all of the same benefits as those with U.S. citizenship. For example, they can work and live in the country, but people with this visa status may not vote in national elections. Permanent residents may also take advantage of the following benefits:
After obtaining a permanent resident care, you can use it to prove eligibility for a state-issued drivers license. You must bring the original copy of the permanent residency card in addition to any other documentation required by your state's department of motor vehicles, such as proof of address and birth certificate. You may also be required to pass a written test and prove your ability to drive through a behind-the-wheel assessment. Contact your local DMV for exact details about the drivers license application process.
Social security card
Immigrants can apply for social security cards when they apply for permanent residency through the U.S. Department of State. This involves filling out form "DS 230, "Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration" or the electronic version, "Immigrant Visa Electronic Application." Those who complete this process will receive a card with a valid social security number upon arrival in the U.S.
If you did not apply for a social security card as part of your visa application or failed to receive one upon arrival in the country, you must visit your local social security office to obtain one. You will need to bring the following documentation with you:
- Passport or permanent residency card
- Birth certificate
During your visit, a representative from the social security office will help you fill out the application. You will then receive your social security card within two weeks of processing.
Some forms of public aid
Even though you do not have U.S. citizenship, this type of visa status will allow you to take part in certain public aid programs as long as you meet each one's specific eligibility requirements. These may include:
- Supplemental Security Income
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Children's Health Insurance Program
Fri, Dec 19 11:32 AM by Romona Paden
On Dec. 1, just days after President Obama made his historic immigration reform announcement that protects about 5 million from deportation, thousands of undocumented immigrants in the state of Connecticut made appointments with the Department of Motor Vehicles. That's because the New England state began the first phase of its "Drive Only" license program at the beginning of December 2014.
Last year, a law was passed by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the governor that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. The first phase went into effect Dec. 1, allowing those interested to begin scheduling their appointments online to sit for the written driving test. Applicant will be able to take these tests at the start of 2015.
The aim of this change is to ensure that more of the drivers on the road – whether they have American citizenship or not – are properly registered and insured, as DMV spokesman Bill Seymour told CTNewsJunkie.
"It's going to bring more vehicles into compliance that are being driven out there," Seymour. "It has an effect on folks who have an accident or a crash and find that the vehicle involved wasn't insured. It helps keeps everybody safe on the roads."
While the DMV can't accurately predict the number of people who will be eligible to apply for the "Drive Only" program, the interest has proven to be immense. Nearly 5,400 people scheduled appointments, and a total of 33,000 visitors made their way to the program's webpage on the DMV site.
"That's huge," Seymour said. "We never get anything near that on any given day for anything. That tells us there's a lot of people looking at this information."
To accommodate the massive number of applicants, the DMV has hired additional staff and limited the number of driving tests to 700 each week – efforts to reduce wait times once an applicant begins the testing process. The DMV has also provided extra training to employees and reinforced its computer system to handle the onslaught of applications.
Connecticut is not the only state to implement this type of program. In January 2015, along with California, the Constitution State will join eight others that have programs similar to "Drive Only."
Those who pass the written test and receive a learners permit can take the driving test three months after gaining supervised practice behind the wheel in addition to completing eight hours of driving classes.
Tue, Nov 18 4:41 PM by Romona Paden
The Artesia, New Mexico, immigrant detainee facility has been the subject of great controversy since it opened in summer 2014. Here, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained hundreds of children and women prior to deportation, bringing to light the flawed U.S. immigration system and spurring protests from immigration reform activists across the country. Now, ICE has announced its plans to close the temporary shelter.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the agency confirmed on Nov. 18 that the family detention center in Artesia will close by the end of December. This center housed 231 children and 188 adults in addition to the U.S. Border Patrol trainees living in the dormitories of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Campus. Most of the detainees came from the Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in an attempt to escape gang violence and poverty. As acting ICE director Thomas Winkowski explained in a statement, the closing comes after a drop in the number of immigrants crossing the southwest border.
"ICE opened the temporary facility in Artesia in June as a critical piece of the government's response to the unprecedented influx of adults with children at the southwest border," Winkowski said. "Since then, the numbers of illegal migrants crossing into south Texas has gone down considerably."
What will happen to the detainees?
Any detainees still remaining in the facility – those who have not been deported yet – will be moved to two other family immigration detention centers located in Texas. One of these facilities will be a new detention center planned for the small city of Dilley, just outside of San Antonio. As Winkowski said during his statement, this center will be less isolated than the Artesia location, allowing detainees easier access to immigration attorneys who can help them obtain U.S. citizenship.
"With the opening of the Dilley facility, ICE will have the initial capacity to house up to 480 residents, but the ultimate capacity to house up to 2,400 individuals," Winkowski stated. "These facilities help ensure timely and effective removals that comply with our legal and international obligations, while deterring others from taking the dangerous journey and illegally crossing into the United States."
With this new detention center, ICE hopes to be better prepared for seasonal escalations in the number of immigrants who cross the border.
Mon, Oct 6 2:28 PM by Romona Paden
With recent court rulings come initiatives on the part of cities and counties across the nation to limit detention requests for those without American citizenship from the federal government.
In spring 2014, court rulings determined that immigration holds called by the federal government were not mandatory, spurring many localities to stop following such detention requests. With these holds, inmates who were booked on criminal charges and thought to be living in the country illegally can be held for an additional 48 hours under entreaty by the federal government.
According to The New York Times, the City Council of New York City made a proposal in the aftermath of this ruling. It stated that the Correction Department would not honor requests by immigration authorities unless there was also a warrant issues by a federal judge. The proposal also added that an immigrant without American citizenship could only be held if the criminal was convicted of a "violent or serious crime," whether or not a warrant was issued. Correction Department officers are barred from helping in the holding of immigrants unless the detention requests are valid and approved.
Other localities hopping on board
With New York City taking a stand and laying a precedent for the rights of immigrants, other communities are joining in. As the Los Angeles Times reported, jails across the country are now also refusing to keep inmates the extra days that allow the federal government the time they need to deport them.
In actual fact, some localities began putting limitations on immigration holds years ago, but the new ruling has spurred a nationwide trend of completely ignoring the federal detention requests that have led to thousands of people being deported from the U.S. in the past several years. According to the LA Times, about 250 law enforcement agencies now adopt policies that regulate – and largely ignore – federal detention requests.
Fri, Oct 3 1:30 PM by Romona Paden
A proposal in New York City would no longer honor detention requests issued by immigration authorities without a warrant from a federal judge. According to the New York Times, the proposal was announced by the City Council.
The proposal also adds that an immigrant may only be held if the individual has been convicted of a "violence or serious crime," even if a warrant has been issued. Officers from the Correction Department will not be allowed to aid in the enforcement of civil immigration laws unless it is to honor a valid detainer request, the source reported.
In addition, there would no longer be immigration officials stationed at Rikers Island, a jail complex that has long been an office location for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"By further limiting ICE's role in the detention and deportation of immigrant New Yorkers, we set the national standard for the treatment of our immigrant population," Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. "Families will no longer be needlessly torn apart by ICE's dragnet enforcement efforts."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he supports the legislation. He added that it will affirm New York's status as "a city of immigrants, where dignity and an individual's right to due process will be protected," the source reported.
Before introduction of the new legislation, New York City was already distancing its cooperation from federal immigration laws. According to the source, the city only honors detention requests without a warrant from a judge if an individual is accused of a felony or certain misdemeanors.
For several years, federal officials have requested local and state law enforcement agencies to hold immigrant detainees for as many as 48 hours after they are due to be released from jail. The source reported that many of those who continue to be held at the request of immigration officials are then transported to federal custody and end up going in front of a judge of deportation proceedings.
Mark-Viverito's office said that federal detainer requests are voluntary and municipalities are not required to honor them. Other states including Rhode Island and Pennsylvania changed their laws to state that immigrant detainers should not be kept in jail without a legitimate reason.
Thu, Oct 2 11:44 PM by Romona Paden
President Barack Obama promised action on immigration reform during a speech on Oct. 2. According to Reuters, the president vowed he will take executive action at the end of 2014 that will reduce the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants.
Many Hispanic voters were upset with President Obama when he said that he will delay taking executive action on immigration reform until after November midterm elections. Some of those in the Hispanic community said they felt as though they weren't as important as getting votes.
Hispanic voters played a major role in helping President Obama win the White House in 2008 and 2012, and in order to maintain his legacy as a president of action, he said that he will do what he can to gain support from the U.S. public on immigration reform. The source stated that keeping Latinos on the side of Democrats is also essential for helping the party retain control of the White House in 2016.
The president spoke at an annual gala that is hosted by Hispanic lawmakers. According to the source, that is where he talked about frustration regarding immigration reform in the U.S. and said that Hispanic support is necessary in order to help reform last after his presidency ends.
"I know there's deep frustration in many communities around the country right now, and I understand that frustration because I share it," President Obama said in his speech at the gala. "But if anybody wants to know where my heart is or whether I want to have this fight, let me put those questions to rest right now: I am not going to give up this fight until it gets done."
In 2013, the Senate introduced a bipartisan immigration reform bill that was blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives. Following the shoot down of the legislation, the president promised to ease the deportations of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in the U.S.
Initially, the president said that he would take action by the end of the summer. However, when summer ended he instead announced that he was going to delay executive action because he didn't want to hurt Democrats in upcoming elections.
The source reported that much of the crowd at the gala embraced the president's stance on the issue and Representative Luis Guiterrez, D-IL, said that he hoped the president's remarks would be a positive sign of things to come.
Thu, Oct 2 12:57 AM by Romona Paden
Immigration advocates across the country are in search of lawyers who can provide assistance to children going in front of immigration judges. With more than 60,000 unaccompanied minors currently living in the U.S., many of whom ran away from their home countries to get away from violence, the federal government is stepping in to help pay for their legal representation.
According to USA Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Sept. 30 that it will spend $9 million in the next two years to help pay legal fees for 2,600 unaccompanied minors. The money from the government agency will be given to support programs that provide legal services to children who are apprehended at the U.S. border and want to apply for asylum so they aren't deported back to their home countries.
There were nine cities chosen for the program that will receive money from the Department of Health and Human Services. They include:
- Los Angeles
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Houston, Texas
- Arlington, Virginia
- Memphis, Tennessee
- New Orleans
Immigration advocates said the money was welcomed and will help support children who ran away to the U.S. in order to get away from gang violence in their home countries, the source stated. Most of the unaccompanied minors who have come to the U.S. are from Central American countries including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
"What they tell us is, 'I can't go to school any more because of the gang violence. They threatened me because I didn't want to join the gang,'" Gladis Molina, manager of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, told USA Today.
Immigrants are not typically given public funds for legal representation. However, children are not able to represent themselves in immigration court, so the government agency is making an exception. Many of the children who go in front of immigration judges say they are fearful for their lives, and news reports that some children are being killed after being sent back home are giving the children's fears credibility.
Thu, Oct 2 12:28 AM by Romona Paden
A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that Democrats and Republicans are upset over how the issue of immigration is being handled by politicians. According to the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of Republicans think the party is doing a good job when it comes to representing their views on undocumented immigrants. The poll found that 56 percent of Republicans do not think the party is doing well with representing the party's views.
Furthermore, 33 percent of the Republicans who responded to the survey said they think the lawmakers that represent their party are too willing to allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship and continue living in the U.S. It was older Republicans who were the most critical of how the party is handling immigration.
When it came to Democrats, 47 percent said they thought the party was doing a good job of representing their views on immigration and undocumented immigrants, while 44 percent said the Democratic party was not doing a good job.
According to the poll, 21 percent of Democrats said the party is too willing to give legal status to undocumented immigrants while 20 percent said lawmakers from their party are not willing enough.
More than half of Hispanic Democrats said they did not think the political party was doing a good job of representing its views on undocumented immigrants and how to handle the situation.
There were 2,002 adults survey for the Pew Research Center's poll between Sept. 2 and 9. When the poll was taken, the Democrats and Republicans who participated already knew that there would be no action taken by Congress regarding immigration. They were also aware of the surge in the number of unaccompanied minors who fled to the U.S.-Mexico border from countries in Central America including El Salvador and Guatemala.
Tue, Sep 30 11:55 AM by Romona Paden
After thousands of immigrant families were caught trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security said many of them failed to report to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement like they were told to do. According to the Associated Press, these undocumented immigrants were told to report to federal immigration agents within 15 days of being apprehended. Instead, officials said about 70 percent of those families have failed to do so.
The information was revealed during a confidential meeting at the Department of Homeland Security's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The source said immigration advocates attended the meeting as they were there to work on detention and enforcement policies.
The source said the total number of families who have been permitted to enter the U.S. after being apprehended at the U.S. border since October 2013 was not released. However, it is estimated that as many as 41,000 undocumented immigrants are living in the U.S. and have failed to appear at federal immigration offices.
A few hundred families have been deported and returned to their home countries, and approximately 1,200 family members have been sent to U.S. detention facilities. The source also reported that at least 860 people have been given a final deportation order, but only 14 of them have reported thus far.
Data from the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review found that approximately 25 percent of immigrants who are at risk of being deported don't show up for their court hearings. A spokeswoman from Immigration and Customs Enforcement said these numbers are an "approximate snapshot," and there is a large number of deportation cases that are still pending and others individuals who may still show up to their court hearings.
According to the source, immigration advocates argue that detention centers are punishing undocumented immigrants who may eventually win their asylum claims and be granted permission to remain in the U.S. Officials from ICE said it is important to encourage undocumented immigrants to report to federal agents so the government can possibly help them remain in the U.S.
Mon, Sep 29 12:06 PM by Romona Paden
House Speaker John Boehner said he believes he can convince the Republican Party to pass an immigration overhaul bill in 2015. However, according to Roll Call, he did not make clear exactly when he plans to schedule a vote because he first wants the country to establish stricter border security.
Boehner said one of the reasons an immigration bill was unlikely to pass earlier in 2014 was due to the influx of unaccompanied minors who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the last 12 months.
"We had a flood of children coming across the border once again proving that no good immigration bill can pass until we have real border security," Boehner said on ABC News' "This Week." "Big things in Washington take bipartisan majorities. The issue of immigration, only way to do it, and frankly the right way to do it, is to do it in a broad bipartisan way."
As many as 60,000 children from countries in Central America have fled to the U.S. in hopes of being granted asylum. After being apprehended at the border, many of the children are sent to relatives who live in cities across the country. From there the unaccompanied minors are given court hearings in front of immigration judges who determine if the children will be deported or granted permission to stay in the U.S.
Despite his previous confidence in Congress' ability to pass immigration legislation to repair the broken system in the U.S. in the last two years, Boehner has only brought a couple of votes to the floor of the House of Representatives. Roll Call said Congress voted to roll back executive actions taken by President Barack Obama to provide some undocumented immigrants relief from deportations.
During his interview on "This Week," Boehner added that he doesn't think President Obama should use executive action on immigration reform. Currently, the president plans to issue an executive action that could grant citizenship to thousands of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. It is expected to go into effect by the end of 2014 if Congress has not addressed the topic.
Mon, Sep 29 1:49 AM by Romona Paden
After approximately 60,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border after fleeing their home countries in Central America, many of them are due to appear in front of immigration judges to determine whether they can remain in the U.S. Although the children are granted the right to an attorney before going to court, there is such a high demand for attorneys that many cities are in a rush to train volunteer lawyers to help the children.
According to the Associated Press, there has been a significant surge in the need for attorneys, especially since several immigration courts have decided to fast-track many hearings. While it normally takes months for a child to go in front of a judge for an initial hearing, it now only takes a few weeks.
Children are not guaranteed a lawyer at the expense of the U.S. government, but having an attorney with them can help them remain in the country. The source stated that only 10 percent of children who didn't have representation with them in court were granted permission to stay in the U.S.
"We're doing pretty well on finding willing lawyers," Reid Trautz, director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's practice and professionalism center told the AP. "We've got to get them trained, we've got to get them matched to that child. It just takes time."
San Francisco and New York City are each providing $2 million in funds to find more lawyers to help children going in front of immigration judges, while the state of California is allocating $3 million to find attorneys for unaccompanied minors, the source reported. Thus far, approximately 800 immigration lawyers have volunteered.
Many of the children left their home countries to get away from violence, and one of the challenges that many volunteer lawyers are running into is getting the children to open up about their lives at home, according to the source.
Fri, Sep 26 4:53 PM by Romona Paden
Undocumented immigrant Francisco Aguirre is gaining the support of the Portland community after spending nearly a week in church. According to CBS News, the immigrant activist, who has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, has been staying at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon, and has promised to stay there until his immigration case is solved. He's currently at risk of being deported back to El Salvador because of an old drug conviction and a previous deportation.
Aguirre, the coordinator of a nonprofit in Portland that runs a day labor center, is also a father to two children who are U.S. citizens. He's disputing the drug charges against him and said that he was innocent, the source reported.
Aguirre is staying at Augustana Lutheran Church because federal officials don't typically venture into sensitive locations such as churches to arrest people. As a result, CBS said that churches across the country have opened their doors to undocumented immigrants who are at risk of being deported. It's becoming more common for undocumented immigrants to use churches as a place to go as Congress continually fails to address immigration reform.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales supports Aguirre, as do many churches and other local leaders in the area. According to the source, churches and local leaders cite his 10 years as an organizer for immigrant and labor rights and status as a family man as reasons that he should be permitted to stay in the U.S.
"Francisco Aguirre has been a community leader in Portland and an important voice on issues of equity and immigrant rights … I believe Francisco should remain in the United States, and in Portland, until his case can reach a humane conclusion," Hales said in a statement.
Aguirre was arrested for small-time drug dealing in Portland in December 1998, when he was just 19 years old. According to CBS, Aguirre argues the evidence used against him was fabricated and untrue. He claimed that what really happened during the incident was that he gave two homeless men a place to sleep. Those men also happened to have drugs. He also said that his lawyer gave him bad advice and he was unable to defend himself due to the language barrier because he wasn't able to speak English.
Aguirre's lawyer is currently attempting to get him a U-visa, a special document for violent-crime victims who help police investigate and prosecute cases.
Thu, Sep 18 4:40 PM by Romona Paden
Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City are banding together in an attempt to get legal immigrants U.S. citizenship. According to the Chicago Tribune, the initiative is called Cities for Citizenship and will allow the cities to expand their naturalization programs and give U.S. citizenship through a $1.1 million contribution from Citigroup.
The Center for Popular Democracy and the National Partnership for New Americans will coordinate the joint effort. The source stated that the goal of the initiative is to encourage cities across the U.S. to invest more in helping immigrants become U.S. citizens.
Cities for Citizenship was announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. The trio said that through naturalization, new citizens will have access to better jobs and academic scholarships. In addition to the benefits seen by the immigrants themselves, the cities will also see an economic boost.
According to The Wall Street Journal, giving U.S. citizenship to immigrants could add between $1.8 billion and $4.1 billion to New York City's economy, between $1 billion and $1.6 billion to Chicago's, and between $1.6 billion and $2.8 billion to Los Angeles'.
"Citizenship is a powerful poverty-fighting tool because it brings huge economic benefits to families and to communities," de Blasio said in a joint press release issued by the three mayors. "More than that, it helps keep families together."
Emanuel said his goal is to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the U.S. In the Windy City, nearly half of all new businesses are started by immigrants, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Garcetti added that immigrants play a major role in the nation's economy and said it was time to encourage their integration into U.S. culture without letting political issues get in the way.
Wed, Sep 17 5:08 PM by Romona Paden
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal announced that the city will offer support to unaccompanied minors who are currently undergoing deportation proceedings. According to a statement released by the City of New York, there are representatives available at the federal immigration court to address the needs of children who require assistance, especially those who have recently arrived in the city. New York is one of the busiest cities in the country when it comes to immigration hearings. It's where many unaccompanied children who are apprehended by border patrol officers are sent because they have family living there.
There are representatives from the Department of Education available to help the children and their guardians enroll the minors in school and provide information about programs available for English Language Learners, the statement said. The city is also placing representatives from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene outside of the federal immigration court so the minors can enroll in Child Health Plus, a state-funded public health insurance program. The health representatives will also help the children find other programs that they may be eligible for. The Health and Hospital Corporation will also be there to treat children who have been referred for medical and mental health needs.
"Connecting these vulnerable children to educational, health and social services is vital to helping our families and communities gain stability," Mayor de Blasio said. "These children have come here because they have families or sponsors in New York City, and it is our responsibility to assist them. States and municipalities must do all they can to help their immigrant communities – and we hope New York City's response helps model a more humanitarian approach at these dockets to provide these children with stability and safety."
All children in New York City have access to the following government services regardless of their immigration status:
- School enrollment
- After-school programs
- Public health insurance through Children's Medicaid or Child Health Plus, unless household income exceeds certain limits
- Free or low-cost primary and specialist health care services through the City's HHC Options program, unless household income exceeds certain limits
- Child and family welfare services through NYC Administration for Children's Services
- Homelessness prevention services through NYC Department of Homeless Services
- Literacy programs through NYC Department of Youth and Community Development
Fri, Sep 12 12:46 PM by Romona Paden
Days after President Barack Obama announced that he will wait until after November's congressional elections to act on immigration reform, chief of staff Denis McDonough spoke with Latino lawmakers in a private meeting. According to Politico, McDonough promised that the president will issue an order of executive action on immigration reform before the end of the year.
The meeting was likely scheduled when Latino lawmakers expressed their disappointment over the president neglecting to take action before midterm elections. President Obama was originally expected to make an announcement on his plans for executive action at the end of the summer, but instead announced that he will wait.
The president reportedly decided against taking executive action before the elections to help Democrats who are running win so the party can retain control of the U.S. Senate.
According to Politico, Latino lawmakers felt the timeline they were given by McDonough wasn't too different from the pledge that President Obama made when he announced his decision to delay executive action. However, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said they felt better about the future of immigration reform after the meeting with McDonough.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said that lawmakers were able to express their frustrations with the issue during the meeting.
"As I told the chief, I said I for one need constant reassurance," Grijalva told Politico. "I don't want to go down this path come November and then, for some other reason, find that the immigrant community and the Latino community get thrown in the heap again."
Politico reported that the specifics of President Obama's plan were not discussed in the meeting, although McDonough did promise that the president will go as far as his authority will allow him to repair the nation's broken immigration system. The president will also reportedly take action regardless of the results of the upcoming election.
"The president understands the depth of the broken immigration system that we have and he's bound and determined to make sure that we fix it because it's impacting our economy, it's impacting our job growth, and it's a humanitarian issue that's impacting families across the country," McDonough said in a statement to reporters.
Wed, Sep 3 2:38 PM by Romona Paden
As members of Congress returned to Washington, D.C., after a month-long break to visit to their districts, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said immigration reform may be at the top of the chamber's agenda in early 2015. According to The Hill, Speaker Boehner said discussing immigration in Congress will depend on whether President Barack Obama uses executive action to address the issue.
Speaker Boehner said if the president wants to start the process of making the U.S. border more secure, then Congress will be more inclined to take up immigration reform in a responsible manner. The speaker previously stated that he would not tackle immigration reform in 2014 due to the surge of unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border since October 2013, The Hill reported.
In addition to the number of children crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, Republicans also said President Obama's threats to use executive action on immigration reform are another reason why Congress won't take up the issue. According to the source, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pointed out several instances in recent years when Speaker Boehner broke promises regarding immigration.
In the meantime, President Obama and his administration are determining the next steps for addressing immigration and the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. According to the source, a resolution regarding executive action was due to be released at the end of summer, but the White House issued a statement on Sept. 2 indicating that the president's resolution would likely not come by then.
Some Republicans who are against immigration reform warned that they would prevent any upcoming budget discussions if President Obama chooses to act on his own, The Hill reported. However, Speaker Boehner said the government needs to be funded from the end of September through the beginning of December and he expects a continuing resolution to be passed.
Thu, Aug 28 4:05 PM by Romona Paden
Some Republicans in Congress have warned the White House that they will work to shut down the government if President Barack Obama chooses to use executive action to address the country's immigration crisis. According to The Hill, the White House issued a statement that threats of a shutdown won't stop the president and his administration from coming up with a solution for immigration reform.
"The president is determined to act where House Republicans won't, and there is strong support for that all across the country," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told the Des Moines Register that Republicans would not hold back against the president if he chooses to given millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. amnesty and a pathway to citizenship.
"If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear," King told the source. "I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that."
Sen. Marco Rubio,R-Fla., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,R-Ky., reportedly said that Republicans in Congress would consider stopping upcoming budget discussions if President Obama uses executive action on immigration.
Earnest also addressed last year's incident when Republicans voted to shut down the government over the economy, according to The Hill.
The statements by Republicans came after news broke that the White House was considering increasing the number of green cards available for high- and low-skilled immigrants who come to the U.S. to work. The Hill reported that a proposal currently being considered by President Obama would double the number of available green cards to nearly 800,000.
The President is scheduled to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to discuss available options, including executive action.
Wed, Aug 27 1:05 PM by Romona Paden
Following a vacation in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, President Barack Obama returned to Washington, D.C. Now that he's back in the nation's capital, immigration advocates from around the country are calling for him to issue executive action to address the country's immigration crisis.
President Obama announced in June that he planned to take action on the matter before the end of summer, and now that the season is almost over, supporters of immigration reform want him to make a move.
According to The Hill, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement on Aug. 22 that he did not know if the president had discussed the issue with his cabinet members.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., told the source that he believes there will likely be additional discussion [of what?] among members of Congress, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He added that nothing of the sort was scheduled before Congress left for its August break.
"I think the president's going to take action on all those levels," Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., told The Hill. "He's going to take broad, expansive action that the law allows him to take."
Depending on the decision of President Obama, as many as 4 or 5 million immigrants could be affected, the source reported. Gutiérrez said he thinks President Obama may expand the 2012 deferred deportation program and also let up on immigration restrictions that are hurting those who work for farmers and other businesses.
Technology companies are encouraging President Obama to increase the number of visas available so they can continue to recruit highly skilled immigrants from overseas. Members of the Obama administration recently met with business leaders to discuss this topic, although a final resolution has not been announced.
President Obama will be back in Washington, D.C., for one week. According to The Hill, he will visit Estonia and Wales in early September to meet with allies to discuss the conflict with Russia. The White House did not say if the president would make an announcement about immigration reform before he left.
Mon, Aug 25 12:18 AM by Romona Paden
Thousands of unaccompanied, undocumented minors are starting the school year across the U.S. after the Department of Education recently released a fact sheet stating that the children are entitled to an education regardless of their citizenship status. According to the Associated Press, children who are detained at the U.S. border with Mexico are almost never immediately returned to their home countries, allowing them to remain in the U.S., where they can receive an education.
As many as 90,000 children who arrive at the U.S. border from Central American countries will be caught by Border Patrol agents and then sent to detention centers where they will either be released to their families who live in the U.S. or receive an immigration hearing. The AP reported that in 2013, fewer than 2,000 children were sent back to their home countries. So far in 2014, more than 58,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"They almost never go home," Gary Mead, former director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office that was responsible for finding undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. "It's not a process that ultimately ends in easy resolutions or clear-cut resolutions."
There are as many as 30,000 pending child immigrant cases in court systems across the U.S., according to the AP. However, the children who are in this country need an education, as these cases can take years before a final decision is made.
As the children wait, they're often enrolled in nearby schools so they can learn English and basic education skills such as math, geography and history. Fox News Latino reported that hundreds of children who arrived in North Carolina after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from Central American countries recently started school. The children go into the classrooms with the feeling of starting a new life and are often happy to have the opportunity to do so.
Thu, Aug 21 11:51 AM by Romona Paden
Officials on the Boston City Council have approved the Trust Act, which will limit police from being able to hold suspected undocumented immigrants without a criminal warrant. According to the Boston Herald, the Trust Act is just one of many ordinances that are being implemented nationwide in order to increase protection for immigrants.
"Mayor Walsh supports the Trust Act to uphold the rights of immigrants and to maintain public safety, family unity and due process in our city," Kate Norton, a spokeswoman for Mayor Walsh told the Herald. "With the signage of a local Trust Act, we send a clear message to the immigrant community that they have a friend and an ally in Mayor Walsh, (Police) Commissioner (William B.) Evans and the city of Boston."
Norton added that the improved relationship between police and immigrants will hopefully lead to an increase in the reporting of crimes. Previously, it was believed that immigrants were too afraid to report crimes out of fear that they too would be deported.
The reason for the increase in such ordinances may be due to recent lawsuits in many places across the U.S. showing that cities, counties and states may be liable for violating immigrants' constitutional rights when they are arrested without probable cause, the Herald reported.
According to the Boston Globe, the Boston Trust Act highlights a shift in the 2006 Secure Communities program. The goal of Secure Communities is to find undocumented immigrants who are guilty of crimes and deport them back to their home countries.
A total of 170 cities have adopted measures to prevent police from holding immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. without undergoing the proper process of being recognized by the federal government.
Jails in Iowa recently began denying federal requests to hold suspected undocumented immigrants without a warrant.
Wed, Aug 20 11:16 AM by Romona Paden
As many as 22 jails in Iowa are refusing to hold immigrants in jail without a court order. According to the Associated Press, county jails are not accepting requests from federal immigration authorities who want to bring in detainees for traffic violations or other state and local infractions because they are suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
It's common practice for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to bring detainees to county jails, and in the past, local authorities have mostly complied without being given a court order signed by a judge.
"They have resulted in the illegal imprisonment of countless individuals – including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Latinos in particular – often without any charges pending, sometimes for days or weeks after they should have been released from custody," Erica Johnson, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa's immigrants' rights and racial justice advocate told the AP.
There were nearly 3,000 people held in Iowa jails during 2012 and 2013, researchers at Syracuse University found, and 63 percent of those being held on ICE detention requests had no criminal record.
The AP reported that the ACLU of Iowa recently sent letters to sheriffs in 99 counties to inform them that they are not required to accept suspected undocumented immigrants unless there is a court order from a judge to do so.
After receiving the letters, 22 sheriffs told the organization that they will no longer accept detainees. Among the counties refusing ICE retainers are Linn, Sioux, Story, Pottawattamie and Johnson.
Polk County is also refusing to hold suspected immigrants in jail without warrants. In 2012 and 2013, Polk County held 488 immigration detainees, more than any other in the state.
The Associated Press also reported that Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy told jail officials to no longer honor federal requests as of early June.
Mon, Aug 18 1:07 PM by Romona Paden
Officials from the White House recently began talks with business leaders to discuss the immigration crisis and President Barack Obama's possible use of executive action to address the issue. According to Politico, President Obama was going to use his authority to take executive action on delaying deportations for the country's undocumented immigrants and to make changes to federal enforcement of immigration policies.
Leaders from businesses including Intel, Cisco and Accenture have played a major role in the immigration debate. The technology giants, including those in California's Silicon Valley, have offered the government a range of options for fixing the broken immigration system. Politico reported that this has included recapturing unused green cards and making changes to current work authorization programs.
"The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it's important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions," White House Spokesman Shawn Turner told Politico. "The meetings were in keeping with the president's commitment to do whatever he can, within the constraints of the law, to address the immigration issue."
Representatives from other businesses including Oracle, Microsoft as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also attended a meeting on Aug. 1. It was during that meeting that technology leaders raised issues about providing the spouses of immigrants who are in the U.S. on work visas with the ability to work and also on making changes for dual-purpose visa applications, according to the source.
President Obama hasn't verified whether he will use executive action on immigration, mostly because the House of Representatives recently voted to bring a lawsuit against the president for overstepping his authority and using executive action in the past.
There has been no word on if and when President Obama and the White House will take action on immigration as the source suggested that timing for upcoming key Senate races in states such as Arkansas, North Carolina, Alaska and Louisiana.
Mon, Aug 18 12:06 PM by Romona Paden
The debate over immigration doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon, and as the gridlock between the two major political parties continues, it's America's agricultural industry that will suffer significantly. There are more than 20,000 farms in the U.S. that employ more than 435,000 immigrants each year.
Thousands of seasonal immigrant laborers are employed in states like California and Florida every year. Places that is dealing with a great deal of fallout from the inaction in Congress are states like South Carolina and Ohio.
"Because we're not a border state, it's definitely harder to get people over this far from the border to work," Chalmers Carr, the owner of the East Coast's largest peach grower, South Carolina's Titan Farms, told McClatchy DC News. "2006, 2007, even 2008, we had a very robust economy and there were not enough farmworkers then."
He added that there simply aren't enough immigrant laborers to help with the orchards, despite South Carolina being a state that saw its Hispanic population rise by almost 150 percent between 2000 and 2010.
Many of the immigrants who have spent the last several decades working in fields across the U.S. are getting older. However, their younger relatives are unable to pick up where they left off because of the political tensions in Washington, D.C., that are making the descendants of these immigrants hesitant of picking up where they left off out of fear of being deported.
Farmers are often attacked by anti-immigration supporters for not hiring Americans, but the farmers argue that Americans aren't willing to do the work that needs to be done in the fields, leaving it up to the nation's immigrants.
"About 5 percent of the agriculture jobs needed, you'll get American workers for … You've got a choice to import your food or you can import your labor to harvest your food," Carr told McClatchy DC News.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Partnership for a New American Economy plans to run an ad encouraging Congress to act on immigration, according to The Des Moines Register.
The ad will run in farm trade publications, at state fairs and be seen at other venues in America's heartland. It depicts a Texas farmer who was forced to destroy some of his crops because he couldn't find the workers he needed to harvest them, the Des Moines Register reported.
Thu, Aug 14 3:03 PM by Romona Paden
As President Barack Obama mulls over the possibility of taking executive action to address the country's immigration crisis, the Economic Policy Institute released information on the myths that have been associated with undocumented immigrants and the U.S. economy. Here are a look at five effects immigrants have on the economy:
- The report by the Economic Policy Institute found that less than half of the country's immigrants are Hispanic or Latino. According to the research, 18 million of the more than 40 million immigrants living in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority of undocumented immigrants in the country are Hispanic, most of whom came to the U.S. in 2008. The report noted that there are just as many undocumented immigrants from South and East Asia as from Central America, and there were more undocumented immigrants from Canada and Europe who fled to the U.S. than from the Caribbean.
- Immigrants in the U.S. contribute 14.7 percent to the U.S. economy but only make up 13 percent of the population. The Economic Policy Institute reported that immigrants account for 16 percent of the country's labor force, including 18 percent of small business owners.
- There is a stigma that immigrants only have low-wage jobs, however, the Economic Policy Institute found that that statement is false. There are almost as many immigrants working higher paying jobs as any other occupation. What many people don't realize is that 46 percent of immigrants have some sort of college education, again refuting the idea that they are uneducated and are only employed in lower paying jobs. Also, immigrants are part of the lower-, middle- and upper-classes. Undocumented immigrants do not take jobs away from Americans, contrary to the argument presented by those against providing these individuals with a pathway to citizenship. The organization found that although some evidence suggests immigrants may take jobs from Americans in the short run, once the economy adjusts to new immigrants this is no longer the case.
- The Economic Policy Institute's report stated that there are several costly consequences to deporting undocumented immigrants. First, transporting these individuals back to their home countries costs money. Second, while undocumented immigrants sometimes benefit from government programs, they also give back to the economy by spending the money they earn from work and the programs from which they receive assistance.
Thu, Aug 14 2:21 PM by Romona Paden
Undocumented minors in New York City went in front of the most lenient judges in the country on Aug. 13. According to the New York Post, the children stood in front of Judge Frank Loprest, who grants asylum to 88 percent of the cases he hears.
On average, 50 percent of undocumented immigrants are granted asylum during their deportation hearings, and the only other judges in the country allow undocumented immigrants to stay more than Loprest are his colleagues five who also reside in New York City.
The source reported that 80 percent of asylum seekers have been granted their request in New York City since 2009. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of those who requested asylum in Houston. About 40 percent of those seeking asylum in Los Angeles are granted it, the New York Post reported.
"They are very empathic," Noemi Masliah, a New York immigration attorney, told the New York Post when discussing the judges. "They listen carefully to the evidence. It's as if they feel like they are saving a life when they grant cases."
More than 63,000 children have arrived at the U.S. border since October 2013. After Border Patrol agents detain unaccompanied minors at the border they are then released to family members who live in the U.S. Once they're with family, the U.S. gives them a court date near the location they're then living.
New York is often a destination for many of the undocumented minors, who are also more likely to be granted asylum by the city's judges.
The Immigration Task Force was created to stop the expedited hearings and give the children arriving from countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador assistance. This task force was created just as the expedited hearings were beginning in New York City.
Through the task force, children and their families will be given free resources designed to increase their chance of being granted asylum, the Latin Post reported.
The goal of the task force is "to ensure that all children are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation regardless of their status," Letitia James, a New York public advocate, told the Latin Post.
Mon, Aug 11 11:14 PM by Romona Paden
President Barack Obama is inching closer to using executive action to deal with the nation's immigration crisis. According to a recent article by NPR, the president has two viable options: deferred action and granting parole to undocumented immigrants.
President Obama took executive action in 2012 when he signed the DREAM Act into law. It deferred deportations for young people who were brought to the U.S. as undocumented children and never became citizens. NPR stated that the reason President Obama deferred deportations for undocumented children two years ago was because of Congress' inability to pass immigration reform or funds to deal with the children who were arriving at the border.
According to NPR, President Obama told the media he is ready to take his own measures to address the immigration crisis.
"I promise you the American people don't want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done," he said at a press conference.
One of President Obama's possible options includes deferring deportations for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have arrived at the U.S. border. There have already been 600,000 people who were able to take advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was enacted in 2013. In order to reach additional undocumented immigrants, President Obama could expand the program, which would help keep families together, according to NPR.
President Obama's second option for acting on the immigration crisis is granting parole to the undocumented immigrants. This is referred to as "parole in place," and doesn't require immigrants to be sent back to their home countries to undergo processing at a U.S. consulate.
This option would be more beneficial to spouses of American citizens who are currently required to leave the U.S. for as long as 10 years before being allowed to re-enter.
There are limits to President Obama's executive authority. NPR stated that he cannot issue green cards and citizenship, but he can provide temporary relief from deportations for those who currently live in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants.
Many immigrant activist organizations across the country have started a campaign called #GoBigObama encouraging him to use executive action to address immigration.
Mon, Aug 11 4:09 PM by Romona Paden
Immigrant advocacy groups are encouraging Congress to reject the portion of the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviation National Emergency Act that would fail to given unaccompanied minors immigration hearings. According to the Los Angeles Times, an immigration reform law has yet to be approved by Congress, and both parties have expressed the country's need to address the issue in a humane way.
Those who do not want a change made to the legislation argued that removing the immigration hearings would mean children lose their right to due process. The LA Times said that the children who would be sent back would possibly be returning to dangerous conditions in their home countries.
Former President George W. Bush signed the bill into law in 2008 in order to fight back against human trafficking. The source said that the law requires unaccompanied minors who are taken into custody at the Mexican and Canadian borders to be given a screening within 48 hours and sent home immediately.
The law is different for children who come from countries that don't border the U.S., which is the case with approximately 57,000 minors who have been apprehended since October 2013 coming from Central American countries such as Honduras and El Salvador.
A bill that was agreed to by both Democrats and Republicans was proposed before Congress left for its fall recess in early August. It would remove the protections given to children who come from countries that don't border the U.S. As a result, the LA Times reported that Border Patrol agents would be given the authority to investigate a child's case and determine if he or she should be given an immigration hearing or ordered to return home.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that she cannot support the legislation because it is more about speeding up the process of addressing the issue rather than taking a stand for those who have fled their home countries, according to the source.
It was recently reported that President Barack Obama may take executive action on the immigration crisis if Congress fails to do so after returning from August recess.
Fri, Aug 8 5:43 PM by Romona Paden
In the midst of the immigration crisis, President Barack Obama has acknowledged his consideration of using executive action that could lead to a delay in deportations for undocumented immigrants. According to MSNBC, there is a political firestorm that could result from such action and dramatically change the landscape of Congress following the midterm elections that will be held in November.
President Obama took executive action on immigration in 2012 when he helped thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as DREAMers, remain in the country without the fear of being deported.
The source reported that if the same measure were to be taken this time around, then upwards of 8 million undocumented immigrants may be granted permission to stay in the country.
President Obama reportedly said that he has no choice in regards to immigration other than to do something himself because of Congress' inability to draft and pass any legislation.
"While they're out on vacation I'm going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress," President Obama said in a statement.
Taking executive action may also lead to consequences for the White House. Republicans in the House of Representatives have already taken the necessary steps to sue President Obama for overstepping his authority and also took away his power in expanding or renewing Deferred Action for Children Arrivals.
Despite saying that the President has gone beyond his limitations as ruler of the free world, House Republicans then said that President Obama should act on his own if he wants something done about immigration.
There have already been 2 million deportations under the Obama Administration, MSNBC reported. While the U.S. only has the resources to deport 400,000 undocumented immigrants each year, the administration has also said that it doesn't want to tear families apart anymore than what's already been done.
Thu, Aug 7 4:56 PM by Romona Paden
A new poll by Reuters found that Americans are concerned that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are posing a threat to the country's beliefs and customs. According to Reuters, 70 percent of Americans have this attitude toward those individuals who arrived in the country without proper documentation.
Reuters reported that 45 percent of those who participate in the poll said that the number of immigrants who are permitted to enter the U.S. should be lowered, while 38 percent said the number should stay the same. Only 17 percent of respondents to the poll said that more legal immigrants should be allowed to enter the U.S.
After Congress failed to come to an agreement about what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, President Barack Obama is considering taking executive action and issuing work permits to 5 million of those individuals while also delaying certain deportations.
Despite Congress not passing any immigration legislation before its August recess, 45 percent of those polled said that they did not believe President Obama should act on his own.
According to Reuters, if President Obama chooses to act on his own regarding immigration then those who lean toward the Republican side of the political spectrum may be more likely to vote in November. Republican lawmakers have accused President Obama of Using excessive executive action, and voted to file a lawsuit against him. The suit stated that he stepped over the line and abused his authority with certain pieces of the Affordable Care Act.
Billy Roy from Manchester, New Hampshire, told Reuters that neither Congress nor President Obama needed to act on immigration.
"It doesn't matter," he told the source. "Enforce the laws that we have here now."
Wed, Aug 6 2:01 AM by Romona Paden
Erika Andiola, an undocumented immigrant and activist, spoke to Republican Rep. Steve King at a fundraiser in Iowa on Aug. 4. According to CNN, Andiola is a part of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and wanted to confront King about his vote against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The DACA program permits delays in deportations for young people who are brought to the U.S. without the proper documentation. President Barack Obama enacted DACA, but Republicans in the House of Representatives argued that because of the legislation, more than 60,000 children this year alone have fled to the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes of entering the U.S.
Andiola reportedly offered King her papers for him to tear apart, however, he countered her statement by saying that it's not something he does. CNN reported that King then said he was talking about drug smugglers when he made the comment stating immigrants have "calves the size of cantaloupes."
The woman explained her situation to the congressman by stating she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by her mother when she was 11 years old. Her mother was attempting to leave an abusive relationship, CNN reported. Andiola has already been in the U.S. for 27 years.
"And so it's OK then to violate the law?" King responded to her statement. "I'm really sorry that you come from a lawless country. I hope that you can have a happy life. But please, do not erode the rule of law in America."
Andiola is raising awareness about undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and has been doing so since she worked for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and received her deportation deferral in 2013.
"We're trying the best way possible to be accepted by this community … to be able to work here, to become Americans," Andiola told CNN. "A lot of us grew up as Americans but we're not accepted as one."
According to The Washington Post, Republican Rep. Rand Paul was also in attendance at the restaurant but got up from his seat and left when Andiola approached him.
Tue, Aug 5 2:08 PM by Romona Paden
President Barack Obama is considering taking executive action in order to deal with the immigration crisis. According to CNN, the possibility of using his authority to bypass Congress and use his own solution on how to deal with the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. is becoming a more likely scenario.
Congress left for its August break without finding a solution to address the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied children who are flocking to the U.S. border from Central American countries as El Salvador.
More than 2 million people have been deported or sent back to their home countries since President Obama took office, but some Republican legislators don't think he's taken enough action to increase border security.
According to CNN, President Obama doesn't want to continue with deportations and hopes to appeal to the Hispanic-American population.
Although the Senate passed legislation in 2013 that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the bill was rejected by the Republican-led House of Representatives. Had it passed through Congress and been enacted into law, undocumented immigrants would have been required to register with the federal government, apply for legal status, learn English and pay a fee before officially becoming American citizens.
Since Congress has been unable to pass a comprehensive bill that pleases both sides of the political spectrum, President Obama asked the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security to help him with the matter, according to CNN.
Republicans remain divided on how to approach the immigration issue in the U.S. as they want to be more appealing to Hispanic voters, but most feel that allowing undocumented immigrants, even those who were brought here as children, should not be permitted to become citizens.
President Obama said that unless something is done by Congress in the next few months then he will have no choice but to do something about immigration on his own, the source reported.
Mon, Aug 4 4:10 PM by Romona Paden
The House of Representatives spent time before leaving for its month-long break to pass a bill that would provide financial assistance to those patrolling the U.S. border. According to Voice of America, the bill also addresses the increasing number of children who are fleeing to the U.S. from Central America.
Despite the Republican-led chamber approving the legislation, the Senate, which is led by Democrats, will likely not consider holding a vote on the bill.
The White House criticized the House for spending the time to create a bill that would not be considered by Senators and that does not address the issue of unaccompanied minors who are detained at the U.S. border in a humanitarian way.
President Barack Obama said that he would veto the legislation had it been sent to his desk from Congress as it would have led to the possible deportation of hundreds of thousands of young children who arrive at the U.S. border each year, the source reported.
The blame game continued when Republicans suggested President Obama was at fault for the 57,000 children from countries including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who arrived unaccompanied at the border and expected to receive a pathway to becoming American citizens.
Voice of America reported that the border issue won't go away once Congress comes back in the fall, and President Obama will need to reorganize funds so food and shelter can be given to the children at the border.
According to the source, President Obama already requested $3.7 billion from Congress in July to provide temporary housing for the children, hire more immigration judges and increase border security.
The Associated Press reported that $35 million of the funds House Republicans approved would go to the National Guard and efforts to return the unaccompanied minors back to their Central American home countries.
"The American people expect us to do our jobs," Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told the AP. "We have both a border and humanitarian crisis to deal with, and they expect us to take action now."
Fri, Aug 1 3:01 PM by Romona Paden
Congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate left for their August break without reaching an agreement on immigration. According to CNN, House Republicans didn't vote on a $659 million emergency response bill that would provide funds to address concerns about the number of immigrants coming to the border from Central America.
A $2.7 billion plan developed by Senate Democrats responding to the surge in immigrants coming to the U.S. failed by 60 votes.
President Barack Obama recently asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding. The source reported that the money would have been used to increase border security while also speeding up processing time for the thousands of individuals, including children arriving on their own, who come to the border from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
A vote was expected on the bill drafted by the House of Representatives, however, it was canceled after a meeting between Republicans was held. Those leaders then reported to CNN that a vote would not be held on the border bill until it had the support needed to be passed to the Senate.
Despite bringing a lawsuit against the president for his use of executive action regarding health care at the end of July, House Speaker John Boehner suggested the president use that same action to get emergency money to address the border issue.
"There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries," a statement by House Republicans said.
Boehner said that Senate Democrats were pushing for an immigration solution so a pathway to citizenship could be granted to the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., the Associated Press reported.
Mon, Jul 28 10:45 AM by Romona Paden
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."
Fri, Jul 25 11:27 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jul 25 10:43 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jul 24 11:15 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 23 11:58 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Jul 21 5:37 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jul 18 11:31 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jul 18 10:50 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 16 5:39 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 16 11:57 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 16 11:17 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Tue, Jul 15 10:55 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Jul 14 10:57 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jul 11 12:06 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jul 11 11:30 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jul 10 1:08 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jul 10 12:29 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 9 11:32 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jul 9 11:02 AM by Romona Paden
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."
Tue, Jul 8 1:45 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Tue, Jul 8 11:33 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jul 3 3:21 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jul 3 11:12 AM by Romona Paden
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."
Wed, Jul 2 11:57 AM by Romona Paden
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?"
Tue, Jul 1 2:54 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jun 25 11:19 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jun 25 10:38 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Tue, Jun 24 11:03 AM by Romona Paden
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."
Mon, Jun 23 11:16 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jun 20 5:04 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 19 3:56 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 19 3:12 PM by Romona Paden
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."
Wed, Jun 18 4:09 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jun 18 2:11 PM by Romona Paden
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.
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."
Mon, Jun 16 12:06 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Jun 16 11:18 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jun 13 4:46 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jun 13 2:08 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 12 11:59 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 12 11:10 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jun 11 12:45 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Wed, Jun 11 11:03 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Jun 9 11:45 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jun 6 10:18 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 5 11:09 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jun 5 10:27 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Apr 18 3:31 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Tue, Apr 1 11:27 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Mar 21 3:16 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Mar 14 12:57 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Feb 28 4:19 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Tue, Feb 25 5:26 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Feb 10 4:04 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jan 31 9:24 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Mon, Jan 27 4:08 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jan 24 2:30 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jan 17 12:24 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Fri, Jan 17 11:57 AM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jan 16 1:35 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jan 16 1:12 PM by Romona Paden
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.
Thu, Jan 16 11:18 AM by Romona Paden
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.
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Wed, Jan 15 3:21 PM by Romona Paden
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.