Monday, November 30, 2009

Finally, a city that admits it wants more immigrants--

Cleveland Ohio has many charms, chief among this is the recognition that their immigrants are great for their economy.  It may be that years of being a post-industrial city have something to do with this.  It's not as if the city does not have a history of troubled race relations.  Whatever the reason, it's a relief to see folks being reasonable.

Cleveland attracts the world's best, just not enough of them

By Robert L. Smith, The Plain Dealer

November 30, 2009, 12:01AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The region's immigrant community, small in size, wields a mighty impact, according to a new national study.

Immigrants are responsible for about 7 percent of the Greater Cleveland economy, though they make up only 6 percent of the labor force, creating one of the few metro areas in America where immigrants contribute more to the economy than native-born workers. The region's immigrants are more likely than native-born residents to be working, are far more likely to start businesses and on average earn higher salaries.

Those details come from "Immigrants and the Economy: Contributions of Immigrant Workers to the Country's 25 Largest Metropolitan Areas," which is being released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute of New York through Policy Matters Ohio.

Researchers gauged the economic role of immigrants in the nation's 25 largest metropolitan areas by examining their earning power and their participation in the labor force. They found that, in most of urban America, immigrants contributed to the local economy in close proportion to their share of the population.

Only in metro Cleveland and Cincinnati did immigrants exhibit an "outsized economic impact," according to the study.

That's because metro Cleveland, like metro Cincinnati, tends to draw a select few.
Ohio's largest cities, hobbled by stagnant economies, are not attracting low-skilled immigrants in sizable numbers, researchers found. The cities do, however, lure immigrants sought by hospitals and research labs and engineering firms.

Thus do Northeast Ohio immigrants outshine immigrants elsewhere and outshine the locals.
"They're a relatively small community," said David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow at the Fiscal Policy Institute. "I think it's fair to say they're making an outsized contribution."
That insight could help to shape economic development strategies.

"We've got to really recognize what immigration means," said Piet van Lier, a senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio.

The perception of immigrants as low-wage job takers is largely inaccurate, especially in Greater Cleveland, van Lier notes. The study paints a portrait of highly skilled workers who create jobs or bring rare and needed skills to Greater Cleveland, which the researchers define as Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, a geographical grouping that excludes Akron and Summit County.
Local immigrants are 6 percent of the local labor force but make up 15 percent of the people in professional specialties.

While the region draws talent, it is not drawing enough, the study indicates. Cities with faster immigrant growth are faring much better in the new economy.

"I think that you can clearly see that economic growth and immigrant growth go hand in hand," Kallick said. "When immigrants do come, they do expand the labor force and fuel that future growth. There is a symbiotic relationship between immigration and growth."

A Case Study for Immigration Reform

This article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer examines the plight of Riverside, NJ, a community that established a series of harsh anti-immigrant ordinances in 2006.  These local laws punished anyone who hired or rented to an undocumented person.  A series of legal challenges ensued, and the borough council revoked the ordinances the following year.

But it was too late, as many in the community's Brazilian population had already left town, decimating local businesses and the local economy. Now the community is struggling to change its image as an unwelcoming community, and sees itself as a model for why comprehensive immigration reform is necessary.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Nativism Tax

This link will take you to an article form Slate on the cost of not insuring the undocumented.

How Immigrants Fare in Tough Economic Times

The link above will take you to a press release from the Migration Policy Institute about immigrants and the economy.  It discusses how immigrants tend to do more poorly than native-born workers in an economic downturn.  The link to the complete report can be found here:

Where America Stands on Immigration Reform

Something to think about while you're mulling over the possibility of immigration reform in 2010.  This is a great report by by Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center.  
Recently the Obama administration announced that it will push for legislation next year to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the administration will argue for what she called a "three-legged stool" including stricter enforcement, a "tough and fair pathway to earned legal status" for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., and a more efficient process for legal immigration.

How is the public likely to react to this new push? Since 2007 when the Bush administration failed in its effort to build a coalition in support of comprehensive reform, the issue has been relatively dormant. Pew Research polling has found significant public support for both tougher enforcement and the so-called "path to citizenship," but several factors suggest that the debate could be a difficult one.
First, if the experience of 2007 is any guide, opposition to setting up a process for undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship may be more intense -- even if less widespread -- than support for it. Second, the nation's economic situation is significantly worse than it was when the issue was debated in 2006 and 2007. Some Republican lawmakers reacted to Secretary Napolitano's speech by raising concerns about the competition for jobs posed by foreign-born workers. More generally, partisan differences on the issue have grown since two years ago, potentially making it more difficult to achieve a consensus in Congress. And third, as the debate over health care reform has shown, there is considerable public anxiety right now about the scope of the federal government's activities and its capacity to undertake major policy changes.

How Important is Immigration Reform to the Public?

Immigration has been a low- to mid-tier issue with the U.S. public for the past three years. In January this year, just 41% said that dealing with illegal immigration should be a "top priority" for the new president and Congress to deal with, down 10 points from January 2008 and 14 points from 2007, when Congress was considering legislation on the issue. Even among Republicans, who placed more significance on the issue than did Democrats, illegal immigration was not among their most important priorities.

Immigration also was not a key issue in the presidential election, other than for a brief period during the campaign for the Republican Party's nomination. Pew Research polling during fall 2008 found just 49% saying that immigration was a "very important" issue in their vote -- 11th on a list of 13 issues probed. By comparison 91% said the economy was very important, 80% said jobs, 78% said energy and 77% said this for health care.
Immigration was a low priority in the election not only for the public as a whole but for Latinos as well. Both before and after the election, Latinos surveyed by the Pew Hispanic Center rated immigration as significantly less important than issues such as jobs and education. In December, just 31% said it was an "extremely important" issue for the new president to deal with.

One reason for the relatively low profile of the immigration issue may be the very high profile of other issues, most notably the economy and health care reform, not to mention the war in Afghanistan. But the potential power of the issue was in evidence on Sept. 9 when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" at President Obama during his address on health care; that shout was in response to the president's statement that: "There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false."

Another reason for the low profile of the immigration issue could be that the flow of immigrants into the U.S. has slowed. According to Pew Hispanic Center analyses, migration from Mexico has dropped substantially over the past three years. At the same time, there is no clear evidence that migration out of the U.S. and into Mexico has risen during this time. And, of course, Mexico is not the only source of immigration into the U.S. So there are still many unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. -- approximately 11.9 million in 2009, according to the Pew Hispanic Center's senior demographer, Jeffrey Passel.

The Contours of Opinion

When Congress and the president abandoned efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007, public opinion was quite conflicted. A Pew Research poll found that, among those aware of the legislation, more people opposed (41%) than supported (33%) the bill being considered by the Senate, but a solid majority of 63% of the general public supported the bill's main objective to provide a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. At the time, support for this principle was bipartisan, with nearly as many Republicans as Democrats favoring it. And even when the provision was described as "amnesty," a majority still supported it -- though by a smaller margin of 54%-39%. Republicans were evenly divided on the question when the policy was described as "amnesty."

Pew Research has asked about the path to citizenship three times since 2007, most recently in April of this year when 63% again said they favored providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs. Unlike in 2007, there is now a substantial partisan gap, with 73% of Democrats but just 50% of Republicans in favor of the path to citizenship.
While favoring a change that would make it possible for many undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S., the public has also generally favored stronger efforts to enforce existing immigration laws. Majorities favor increasing penalties on businesses that hire undocumented workers, beefing up border security, and allowing states to check immigration status before issuing driver's licenses.
Underlying the public's attitudes about specific reform proposals is a set of contradictory and conflicted perceptions and attitudes about immigrants. Numerous polls over the past several years have found that the public generally respects immigrants for their strong work ethic, good family values and for the cultural contributions they make to American society. But at the same time, pluralities or majorities believe that illegal immigrants weaken the economy by using public services, failing to pay their fair share of taxes, not making enough of an effort to assimilate and, according to some surveys, contributing to the threat of terrorism and the crime problem. And, more generally, large majorities of the public continue to favor limiting the number of immigrants entering the country (73% in April of this year).

Yet, the public's appetite for enforcement-based solutions is not unlimited. Though most favor increasing border security, the public has been divided over the building of a security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Relatively few people say that deportation of illegal immigrants should have a high priority when asked to choose among different options for dealing with the issue. Indeed, just 13% of respondents in a June 2007 poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal said that deporting all illegal immigrants is a realistic and achievable goal.

The Prospects for Reform

President Obama campaigned on a platform that included a commitment to immigration reform in his first term. Whether or not he can build public support in pursuit of that goal depends on several factors that are difficult to forecast. The first is whether the sluggish economy and high unemployment will increase opposition to a policy that eventually leads to legal residence for millions of workers currently in the U.S. illegally. Anxiety about the job competition immigrants pose to American workers was important during the debate in 2006-2007, but polling during that period found significant majorities saying that immigrants generally take jobs American workers don't want, rather than taking jobs away from Americans (59%-30%, in a May 2007 CBS News/New York Times poll). How much that view has changed today will affect how well the Democratic Party, in particular, can hold together a coalition in support of reform.

A second unknown is how willing Republican Party leaders will be to support a cross-party coalition in the Congress. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney encountered criticism from conservatives within the GOP during their run for the Republican nomination for president. And, of course, President Bush was unable to unify his party around a comprehensive immigration measure in 2007, despite having made it a priority for his second term. Arguably, conservatives hold more sway within the party now than a few years ago. As noted earlier, public opinion on the issue has become more partisan over this period, with Democrats expressing greater support for reform than Republicans.
Finally, there is the role of Hispanics and Latinos themselves. In 2004, Hispanics gave President Bush 40% of their votes, and Republicans were optimistic that the party could make inroads into this growing constituency. But over the next few years, Latinos shifted in a Democratic direction and gave Barack Obama 67% of their votes (to 31% for McCain). Many observers argued that the tone of the debate over immigration hurt the Republican Party in the eyes of Latinos, and many within the party worry that another heated immigration battle could further damage the party with this important group of voters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lou Dobbs 2012? Bring it on

I'm not fan of Lou Dobbs, nor Sarah Palin for that matter, but I do think it would be a great idea to have one or both run for President in 2012.


It's just about time that the GOP had a day of reckoning with the far right, particularly the religious right, whom they have so long courted and extorted for their votes on election day.

This "news" broke earlier today, with the Fox network gushing: oh please!--do it, but the Examiner posted an op-ed piece decrying Dobbs as an unfit representative, even for a position in the senate. 

My point is this: Dobbs is a divisive character.  His candidacy would likely divide the party, and perhaps do so permanently.    That could be interesting.

Violence at Tea Party Protests

Tea Partiers took to the streets that Saturday to protest President Obama's promised immigration reform, which would include a path to citizenship for some immigrants. 

In Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Tea Partiers were met with counterprotesters from ANSWER -- an antiwar, pro-immigration reform group -- responding to the Tea Party folks with a  blaring, "Amnesty, yes. Racists, no," from a bullhorn. When two Tea Party activists entered their protest zone, a fight erupted as Tea Party and ANSWER protesters kicked and punched one another, then the fight allegedly spilled into the middle of a busy intersection.

Although there have been hundreds of peaceful protests about the immigration issue, this event can be seen as a symptom of the polarizing rhetoric that fueled them, and further reflects the political extremes that are in play today. 

According to the article linked here, the ANSWER protesters had described the Tea Party protesters as racists who needed to be stopped. The tensions, according to the report, were related to these accusations.

The degree to which the anti-immigration movement is engaged in the politics of race is an issue of heated debate today.  Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have explicitly linked many of the leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, such as the Center for Immigration Studies,  to larger issues of race and discrimination.  They also report that the anti-immigrant propaganda has many real-life consequences for immigrants, regardless of their immigrations status.

There is one more issue that I would like to point out about this protest and the fight that ensued--most of the Tea Party members are older white Americans.  They are being challenged by a younger multi-ethnic crowd.  One represents the America of the past.  The other represents the America of the future.  

Immigration Reform, Again

Another Op-Ed on Immigration Reform, this one from the LA Times:

If any one person embodies the complex politics of immigration reform, it is Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. As governor of Arizona in 2007, she signed one of the nation's toughest state immigration laws, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which imposed harsh penalties on businesses that knowingly employed undocumented workers. Now, as the nation's top immigration official, she will be asked to weigh in on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that law. The case comes before the U.S. Supreme Court as Washington once again revives efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.

At the time she signed the bill, Napolitano, citing the failure of congressional leaders to take action, insisted that "states like Arizona have no choice but to take strong action to discourage the flow of illegal immigration." Under the law, businesses that willfully hire illegal immigrants can be shut down temporarily or, for a second offense, completely -- a "business death penalty," as Napolitano called it.

"Arizona has taken the most aggressive action in the country against employers who knowingly or intentionally hire undocumented workers," she wrote. The measure was one of hundreds of immigration laws passed across the country, largely as a reaction to the stalemate over the issue in Washington.

The Arizona statute came under immediate attack from disparate groups rarely found on the same side of the table. Legal briefs opposing the law were filed by farmers, contractors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The opponents' key legal argument has been that immigration policy should be set by the federal government, not by state and local jurisdictions.

Now that she's exchanged her state hat for a federal one, it will not be surprising if Napolitano opposes the measure she made law. As a governor who grappled politically and fiscally with the consequences of a massive influx of illegal immigrants, she asserted the authority of her state. But that was then. Now, as the Obama administration's point person on the issue, Napolitano is likely to reflect the position her boss took as a candidate, supporting "comprehensive immigration reform so local communities do not continue to take matters into their own hands."

Napolitano's attitudes toward immigration have hardened over the years. First elected governor in 2002 with support from the Latino electorate, she opposed a 2004 Arizona ballot measure that sought to bar illegal immigrants from receiving some public social services. The following year, voicing skepticism about the effectiveness of Bush administration plans to improve fences at the border, she famously proclaimed, "You show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder." However, since becoming chief of the Homeland Security Department, the agency responsible for the border fence, she has promised to complete the unfinished portions and has stepped up immigration audits of employers.

Similarly, as officials from Napolitano's agency and the White House work with bipartisan congressional staff to prepare immigration bills that most likely will be introduced in December and January, the consistent theme has been toughness. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who as chairman of the Senate's immigration subcommittee will take a lead role in drafting legislation, has said that a bipartisan immigration bill is doomed "if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not believe that Democrats are serious about enforcement." Schumer even denounced use of the term "undocumented workers," suggesting that it conveys legitimacy and signals that the government "is not serious about combating illegal immigration."

In a speech this month laying out the need for reform, Napolitano emphasized a "three-legged stool" approach -- regulating the flow of immigrants, dealing with those who are already here, but beginning, she said, with "fair, reliable enforcement."

Immigration reform advocates trying to build momentum to produce a new law point to favorable poll results on immigration and a desire by both parties to be responsive to Latino voters. But proponents will face stiff obstacles, particularly if a bill includes provisions for what business lobbyists call "future flow" -- allowing employers to bring in foreign workers. Unions worry that without safeguards, imported labor will displace American workers.

The larger stumbling block will be the "tough and fair pathway to earned legal status," as Napolitano put it. It was the legalization aspect of her speech that garnered most news media attention, even though it basically restated President Obama's campaign pledge to bring "the millions of illegal immigrants in this country out of the shadows . . . [by meeting] a number of requirements -- including registering, paying a fine, passing a criminal background check, fully paying all taxes and learning English."

History shows that anti-immigrant sentiment is generally highest during economic downturns, and groups favoring immigration restrictions, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, are already citing high U.S. unemployment as a reason to oppose immigration bills. FAIR is joining with the "tea party" crowd that emerged during the healthcare debate, a loud and angry coalition that will be unswayed by the efforts of Napolitano, the Obama administration and their congressional allies to decorate immigration reform packages with law-and-order ribbons.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SF Chronicle Editorial on Immigration Reform

This is the first of several editorials on Immigration Reform that I will be posting in full:
in reference to:
"The midterm congressional elections, a disappointed electorate and, most likely, more economic pain are all waiting for the country in 2010. And the Obama administration wants to tackle immigration reform? We'll see. For now, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has floated a trial balloon, challenging Congress to pass a bill next year. Of course, next year's not soon enough for an issue as crucial and necessary as immigration reform. But the odds of Congress passing any bill next year depend greatly on what Congress manages to get passed this year. Don't believe us? Just watch. If Congress completes the Herculean task of health care reform this year without making too many compromises, it might - might - have the stomach to take on another big, controversial issue like immigration reform. Then again, it might get bogged down by climate change legislation or the economy. If Congress doesn't pass health care reform, or makes too many compromises in order to pass any reform at all, it will lose its appetite for anything as divisive as immigration reform. If that happens, we may get a lot of bluster next year, but very little movement. This is because the political climate around immigration reform hasn't changed enough, despite Napolitano's insistence that it has. Yes, Lou Dobbs finally had to shut down his poisonous brand of anti-immigrant entertainment on CNN. Yes, America's bad economy has slowed illegal immigration to a trickle, and yes, both the Bush and Obama administrations have made high-profile moves to enforce immigration laws at the workplace and at the border. These are all positive changes. But they aren't enough. Two years after the last disastrous attempt at immigration reform, most Americans remain unconvinced that immigrants do, indeed, contribute positively to our economy and our society. And while immigrants certainly can't be blamed for last year's financial crisis, this year's recession and next year's still-high unemployment figures, Congress is going to find it very hard to ask Americans to be generous to those who entered this country illegally at a time when so many Americans are facing hard times themselves. If Congress can pass health care reform, and many Americans feel better and more secure about their coverage, the country might find immigration reform to be more palatable. But either way, we need reform, and we need it now. That's probably why Napolitano is talking about essentially the same reforms as former President George W. Bush: a "tough but fair" path to legalization for the illegal immigrants already here, ways to encourage immigrants to choose the legal option and stricter punishments. The first reform is the only pragmatic way of coping with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants we already have. They're here, and they're not leaving. It would be impossible, not to mention odious, to hunt them all down and deport them. So why not offer a path to legalization - one that acknowledges the seriousness of illegal entry but still allows hard-working people to join the mainstream, and the tax rolls, of American society? Reform would also give Congress the opportunity to make some badly needed changes to our legal immigration system. One of the major reasons people continue to stay in this country illegally is that the legal process for immigration is so difficult and time-consuming. Simplifying and streamlining the system we already have would be an easy way to reduce illegal immigration going into the future. There's never going to be a good time for immigration reform in a political sense. It will always encounter disruptive resistance from Americans opposed to anything - no matter how humane or practical - that offers a reprieve to people who entered this country illegally. But it is clearly in this nation's interest to align immigration laws with both reality and its economic and national security interests. The Obama administration is right to push for reform in 2010."
- The right time for immigration reform (view on Google Sidewiki)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Looking in to Vermont Dairy Farms Payroll Records

This article discusses the plight of Vermont dairy farmers who are being targeted by ICE officials looking for undocumented farm hands. It appears that the Feds have only subpoenaed payroll records from November 2008-November 2009.

The farmers are reported to be anxious about the subpoenas because they are "already suffering financially because of low milk prices."

I am very sympathetic for America's farmers, who like most working people, have been hurt by global agricultural markets. At the same time I cheer for ICE for going after payroll records instead of immigrants.

in reference to:

""I'm disappointed that this comes amid a crisis in dairy prices and at the start of the holiday season," said Leahy, D-Vt. "We have a broken system that does not work well for anyone, and especially for dairy farmers and the workers they need to keep their farms running. This is all the more evidence that we need workable reform of the agriculture visa system, and it can't come soon enough."The announcement from Dairy Farmers Working Together recommended that dairy farmers affected by the crackdown call the state Agency of Agriculture for assistance from an immigration attorney."
- The Associated Press: Federal immigration officials target Vermont farms (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dropping Immigration Charges against American Employers: This is why we have an immigration problem

This commentary is a based on a series of articles about the case Sholom Rubashkin, a manager of a kosher slaughterhouse who was charged with 72 counts of federal immigration violations, including harboring undocumented immigrants for profit, conspiracy to commit document fraud, and aiding and abetting document fraud.

The reasons for dismissing Mr. Rubashkin's immigration charges are this: he has been convicted for multiple counts of financial fraud, and his immigration convictions will not increase the time he serves in prison.

Hold on here--wasn't Rubashkin's Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa the largest single-site raid in U.S. history? Didn't federal agents find 389 undocumented workers at the plant?

Where is FAIR? Where are the "Help Save" groups? Where is the indignant outrage of the Tea Party movement?

I think it's important to remember in instances like this--a perfect example of American hypocrisy--that while Mr. Rubashkin is not being held accountable for his role in the immigration violations, those who worked for him are either deported or sitting in immigrant detention centers. He won't have to pay for his substantial crimes facilitating undocumented immigration, but the immigrants themselves will.

The federal judge who was willing to overlook these crimes was sending a clear message to him and all the employers in the U.S.: if you break these laws, it's not going to be worth our time and money try to convict you. And why should he?

It's so much easier just to blame the immigrants.
in reference to: The Associated Press: Immigration charges dropped in slaughterhouse case (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Secretary Napolitano on Immigration Reform

News from Farmingville

Follow this link to a fantastic report about community responses to Immigration in Suffolk County, Long Island.

Immigration Reform: further news

This article from the Merced Sun-Star outlines the importance of passing immigration reform legislation next year.  Democrats recognize that their historic majorities are likely to slip in the 2010 elections, especially their 60 seat filibuster-proof majority.

Even with the current numbers, reform is likely to be an uphill battle.  Nevertheless, it's a discussion that's long overdue.

Gearing up for Reform

Following the successes of last year, immigration advocates are planning to stimulate support for immigration reform by hosting house parties across the U.S.

in reference to: Immigrant advocates plan house parties for reform - San Jose Mercury News (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tea Party Group Chant: Columbus Go Home!

It seems like they didn't get the joke--he's asking Europeans to go home. 

9500 Liberty: New York Premier

Obama's bold step on immigration reform.

This editorial supports President Obama's decision to move forward quickly on the issue of immigration, but acknowledges that this will be a difficult battle.  It also offers the following aspects that the DMN would like to see in an immigration overhaul, and statistics from the America's Voice survey (conducted in May 2009):

Key elements we seek
•An expanded guest-worker program
•Easier employer verification of applicants' status
•Tougher sanctions for employers of illegal labor
•Improved border security
•A tough but clear route for illegal immigrants to gain documented status

Attitudes toward reform
58% strongly support measures similar to the administration's package
28% somewhat support
14% oppose
72% favor congressional action sooner, not later
27% oppose

Among Latino voters in 12 states:
82% say the immigration issue is somewhat or very important
87% say they would not vote for a candidate who favors forced deportation
75% say they are very likely to vote in the 2010 election
(SOURCE: America's Voice survey in May; margin of error: 3.1-3.5%)

Massachusetts to Craft Immigration Plan

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick urged state residents to avoid getting mired in "the usual debate" over illegal immigration as he charged his cabinet with the task of crafting a better plan for integrating all foreign-born residents into the state's daily fabric. And he wants it in 90 days.  The governor's address came at the unveiling of a State House report with 131 recommendations on ways to improve the lives of immigrants, the New Americans Agenda.  Immigrants make up 14% of the state's population.

The New Americans Agenda recommendations include expanded English classes and job training for any immigrant who needs them.  The report also urged the governor to push for two steps that are sometimes considered controversial: extending in-state tuition at public colleges and driver's licenses for immigrants here without legal authorization. Most immigrants in Massachusetts are documented.  Nearly half are naturalized US citizens and more are legal residents; only about 1 in 5 are lack legal documentation.

These recommendations offer a remarkably pragmatic and humanitarian approach to immigrants.  It is also remarkable in that it attempt to meet the needs of immigrants as people who are contributing to the daily life of the state.

All (Immigration) Politics Are Local

This interesting article from Press of Atlantic City (NJ) underscores many of the important issues that Congress should address as it considers immigration reform legislation.  It is a report from the annual New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference.  The conference brings together local officials who govern New Jersey's many local communities.  New Jersey has been exceptionally welcoming for unauthorized immigrants:

The Governor's Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Immigrant Policy, assembled by Gov. Jon S. Corzine in 2007, released a report in March with more than three dozen policy proposals suggesting how to better integrate New Jersey's tens of thousands of undocumented aliens [sic]. The report drew attention for advocating allowing illegal aliens to drive legally and qualifying their children for in-state tuition rates.

Panel member Ronald Chen, the state's Public Advocate and chairman of
the governor's immigration panel, said Corzine promised him before the election he would create an Office of New Americans by executive order.

That office, in the Public Advocate's office, would help coordinate health and other services, Chen said, implementing the policy suggestions in the report.

Chen said the most successful towns developed relationships between community leaders and municipal employees who spend time in the communities, including police, fire and building department employees Others set up a program to let immigrants know what public services existed.
The report, more controversially, suggested the children of illegal immigrants qualify for in-state tuition rates. Chen said he heard stories of academically gifted children, who couldn't afford college, recruited by gangs. He said, "That was their available opportunity."
These proposals are a far cry from the opportunities and options of immigrants in other states, yet local officials were nevertheless frustrated by their lack of agency and funding to assist immigrants:

Higgins said the bottom line for towns is that they do not decide immigration policy - that's for federal government. Towns handle immigrants. "There are very few resources and little input from the state," she said. "Federal policies fail to take into consideration local concerns."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Immigrant Amnesty: "fightin' words"?

This article in the Christian Science Monitory highlights the continued hysteria in some segments of the U.S. population regarding the idea of amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

It appears that Janet Napolitano's suggestion that that the U.S. is ready to address immigration reform (emphasizing that the borders are now secure) may have been a bit premature:

Coming off a muscle-flexing summer of widespread protests and success in the off-year elections, the Tea Party coalition began its first major realignment Saturday, joining forces with anti-immigration reform groups in over 50 “Tea Party Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration” rallies across the US in places from Anchorage, Alaska, to Snead, Alabama.

Critics say the emerging Tea Party coalition reminds them of the mid-1800s Whig party realignment, as pro-slavery Southern Whigs aligned themselves with anti-immigration forces, leading to the formation of the Know Nothing Party and the eventual demise of the Whigs as Northerners formed the Republican party.

A similar dynamic (minus the slavery issue) could be at play today. A big question for conservatives has been whether the Tea Party energy can be captured by the Republican Party or whether the Constitutionally-minded political insurgency will ultimately hurt the GOP’s “big tent” strategy to incorporate moderates into a revived voting bloc.

But treated at first as a joke by many liberals, the Tea Party movement has slowly earned the respect of mainstream analysts as it’s proved effective at mobilizing critical independents and, some say, helping to change the dynamics of the 2010 Congressional elections.

As a result, immigration reform proponents are tempering their optimism in the face of protests like the ones that took place Saturday.

“What are the prospects for an immigration law to pass? In my view decent,” says Arian Campo-Flores in a Newsweek op-ed. “That may sound na├»ve, given the fact that unemployment has topped 10 percent and tea-party activists are feeling more energized than ever.”

We can only hope that the Tea-party supporters and their anti-immigrant minions follow the path of the Know-nothing party into the pages of history. For now, I'd like to see some solid research about what most Americans think about immigration reform and amnesty, and let that knowledge direct the actions of Congress rather than the nativist rantings of a group who can't stop looking to the past as a path to the future.

in reference to: Immigration reform pitch morphs Tea Party protests | (view on Google Sidewiki)

More on Health care Reform and Immigration from MPI

More analysis of health care and immigration.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dark Ages of PWC

I found this image on this website.  It's an interesting interpretation of events there.

Korean Student with a Secret

Another kid who could benefit from the DREAM Act:

Immigration & Health Care: Where reality bumps up against a stereotype

This article form today's Washington Post highlights some of the grim realities in the health care and immigration debates. In one sense, it would be "fair" to say that undocumented immigrants should not be able to received state funded health care. After all, the argument goes, why should they reap the benefits of being a legal member of society?

Let's put aside the obvious counter arguments for a moment, and consider the following types of undocumented immigrants. These are types based on people I have met:

Joel--25 years old and living in the U.S. for 4 years. He came to Pennsylvania when the rest of his family moved north. Like his mother, brother and sisters, he "waited in line" for 8 years for his papers, but unfortunately turned 21 before the U.S. government could get his family's immigration applications finalized. It did not matter that Joel had tried to do the process legally, he turned 21 and the law is clear that he cannot receive residency under his parents.

Cloe--11 years old. She was born two years before her father's application for her mother and sisters was finalized. The staff at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico told her parents that her application would not be processed with the rest of her family, and that she would have to wait an additional 8-10 years "in line." It didn't matter that her family's options were to live in the U.S. without her or live apart from her father while he worked in the U.S. So her family did what I think most families would do--they brought Cloe to the U.S. as an undocumented resident to wait out the 10 year period, which as stretched to 14 years.

Marta--23 years old and mother of Maria, 18 months. Marta crossed the border illegally 2 years ago to join her husband, who is also undocumented. She realized that she didn't want to live in Mexico and raise her daughter alone, so she joined her husband (who is a legal resident of the U.S.) and gave birth to her daughter who is a U.S. citizen.

In each of these cases, the "illegal alien" is not a criminal, deviant, or even a threat. They are all contributing to a productive life in the U.S., and each has been caught in a tangle of the mess that is our immigration system. Does it make sense to prohibit these people from getting health care when they need it? I don't think so.

In fact, these stories point to the fact that even when people do have access to a path to entering the U.S. with authorization, the system is so convoluted and rule-bound that it defies logic.

When doing research with predominately white Americans on issues of immigration, those who oppose it have managed to demonize the undocumented. They've had a lot of help form the "Help Save" movement, to be sure, but they're not thinking of immigrants as people. When we consider moving forward on immigrant or health care, the people should be the first consideration, not their status.
in reference to: Immigration looms as sticking point in health-care legislation - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Further Hints that Immigration Reform is on the Horizon

The White House continues to intimate that Immigration Reform is soon to be on the table. David Axelrod, a senior advisor to President Obama, today said that he envisions legislation that could create a path to citizenship for the estimate 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.

Axelrod also reiterated Napolitano's statements of a few days ago, namely that the U.S. borders are now secure, thus the conditions have been met for comprehensive reform.

In addition, Axelrod said that the U.S. must "hold accountable and responsible the 12 million people who are here illegally," stating that before they can seek legal authorization, the undocumented will have to "pay a fine and a penalty" in addition to meeting other yet unnamed requirements in order to "get in line to earn citizenship."

Violent Criminals Deported, then set free

This article from The Dallas Morning News points out a really dilemma for supporters of deportation of violent offenders: in many cases, and for many years, these people have been deported to their home counties, where they are set free.

It seems odd to me that anyone would see this as a preferable solution to keeping the offenders here to serve their time. I understand that it's expensive to jail someone (although most people don't seem to see this as a problem, from the rates of incarceration in the U.S.). But it seems wrongheaded to send people home without serving their time, particularly when the reality is that a good number of them will try to re-enter the U.S.

Because these offenders have been deported BEFORE trial, it is entirely possible that the only thing they are guilty of is being in the U.S. without authorization. It just might be a good idea to find out for sure before we start shipping them home.

Here is a list of the crimes committed by immigrants who have been deported before trial in Dallas:

An investigator with the Dallas County district attorney's office found nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants who were not tried for crimes they were accused of. He said most were deported by immigration officials before they could stand trial. But many were never arrested. The cases go back to 1991 and don't include all cases in the DA's office.

Murder 128

Attempted murder 18

Manslaughter 16

Negligent homicide 3

Child abuse 409

Sexual assault 54

Aggravated assault 307                                                                                                          
Aggravated robbery, kidnapping, other 49

in reference to: Hundreds in Dallas County deported before their trials | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Breaking News for Dallas-Fort Worth | Dallas Morning News (view on Google Sidewiki)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lou Dobbs's "Reality" Show

Lou Dobbs To Host Immigration Reality Show
This article is satire.  I don't usually post satire here, but when I read this I thought, "that sounds plausible.  Sad, but plausible." 

My feeling is any satire that good desires a second look.  Enjoy.

When Vigilantes Rule

This article about the Frederick county, Maryland, police arrest of a woman (apparently because she "looked illegal" highlights one of the dangers of the 287(g) programs, which enlist local law enforcement to take on the responsibilities of apprehending people who may be in the country illegally.

The problem with the program, as demonstrated here, is that police may be tempted to start picking up unsuspecting Latinos simply because the "look illegal."

Thankfully for Roxana Orellana Santos, the woman recently apprehended in Frederick County, there are Civil Rights laws that prevent this type of profiling. Sadly, Frederick County may have to pay the price, and a hefty one at that, for their indiscretion.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Whispers of Immigration Reform

The Obama administration is sending out subtle messages that Immigration Reform legislation will soon be on the horizon. Taking cues from the anti-immigration movement, Janet Napolitano today announced that DHS had made substantial improvements, including a big decline in the number of illegal border crossings.

Those of you who follow this issue will recall that the most vitriolic opponents of immigration reform have long stated that there should be no move on amnesty or any legislative reforms "until our borders are secure."

Napolitano's statement can be seen as a preview of what's to come, and a signal to anti-immigrant forces that we're ready to move forward, DHS has met their goals.

Of course, the anti-immigrant movement is about much more than border security. One stipulation that Napolitano cannot meet is the demand that the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants be forced to leave the country and the stand in the imaginary line (that does not exist) before re-entering legally.

The point here is that no matter how secure our borders, the nativist element in the U.S. will not be satisfied unless they see the nation moving toward being less diverse. We all know that's not going to change, but how to negotiate this so that reform is possible is going to be the challenge of immigration reform and probably the hot topic of 2010.

in reference to:

""We have, I think, attained basically control between those ports of entry," she said, noting the impact of increased border patrols, fence construction and a new security initiative to combat smuggling."
- U.S. meets immigration reform benchmarks: Napolitano | U.S. | Reuters (view on Google Sidewiki)

Lost and Found: The Story of a DREAM Act Student

This is an amazing video documenting the story of an undocumented student at UCLA.  For more information about the DREAM Act, please see this link.

Lou Dobbs & Public Opinion

There is a lot of commentary, mostly celebration about Lou Dobbs' departure from CNN.

What I like about this Op-Ed is that is points out how corrosive anti-immigrant rhetoric can be. It's not that I have any problem with a person having a differing opinion from my own-quite the contrary. But Dobbs and others like him have made a reasoned discussion of immigration nearly impossible, so riddled are these conversations today with fear-mongering and conspiracy theories.

If we look at Dobbs as an example, we don't have to worry about his so-called foreign "invasion." We are our own worst enemy.
in reference to:
"“Unfortunately,” he said, “these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than by rigorous, empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion.”Mr. Dobbs couldn’t have phrased a more apt criticism of himself. He calls himself Mr. Independent, but he is far closer in style and method to the right-wing ranters who mold the facts to shape the argument on television and on AM radio, where Mr. Dobbs still has a show. Mr. Dobbs’s CNN program has long been a nesting ground for untruths and conspiracy theories: fretting over a nonexistent, immigrant-borne leprosy epidemic; questioning President Obama’s citizenship; issuing dark warnings about the “North American Union,” a supposed plot to strangle United States sovereignty. It’s hard to pinpoint how much damage these kinds of ideas have done to the national discussion of illegal immigration, but they have been corrosive. Solutions have withered as many politicians parrot the central myth that people desperate to seek new lives in the United States are an affliction to be feared, not an opportunity to be engaged, future Americans who could enrich the country as immigrants always have and will."
- Editorial - A Farewell to Lou - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Anchor Lou Dobbs Leaves CNN

It appears that the months of protesting Lou Dobbs and his inflammatory style have finally paid off--he stepped down last night at the end of his show so that he can "pursue new opportunities."

While this is clearly a victory for the activists who worked to "Dump Dobbs," what role he will play in future media outlets is uncertain. A logical choice would be the Fox network, that has made a reputation trafficking dubious information that is passed off as "news."

For now, those involved in the immigration debate can sit back and know at least for a short while Dobbs will not be gracing the television airwaves.  He will maintain his radio program with CNN radio.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Immigrants and Healthcare from the Migration Policy Institute

The following link and abstract are from the Migration Policy Institute's "latest news" site.  You can download the entire article following the link below.

Immigrants and Health Care Reform: What's Really at Stake?
By Randy Capps, Marc R. Rosenblum, and Michael Fix
Health care reform proposals under consideration in Congress that would exclude many legal immigrants from core benefits and impose new verification requirements would have important spillover consequences for taxpayers and other health care consumers. In a new report, MPI's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy offers the first-ever estimates of the size of uninsured immigrant populations in major immigrant-destination states, the number of immigrant workers covered by employer-provided plans, and the share of immigrants employed by small firms likely to be exempted from employer coverage mandates. The report, based on MPI analysis of Census Bureau data, also examines health coverage for immigrants by legal status, age, and poverty levels.
Download Report | Press Release

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Guide for Undocumented Students

The link above will take you to the National Council of La Raza's Keeping the Dream Alive: Resource Guide for Undocumented Students.

No Immigration question on the 2010 Census

The Senate voted down the "Vitter Amendment" --a brazen political stunt that would add questions about one's immigration status on the 2010 census. It was an ridiculous idea, one that would have delayed the census AND increased costs (does anyone else out there wonder WHY Republicans have no problems spending money frivolously in instances like this?).

Although no one is talking about timetables for immigration reform, it continues to rumble beneath the surface. How it will take shape is another question. My hope is that Democrats will be able to ignore the anti-immigrant extreme and push forward with a reasoned debate. One thing that the health care debate has made clear: it is still possible to get things done IN SPITE OF the wackos.

in reference to: Census Dodges a Bullet but the Immigration Issue Remains - Up Front Blog - Brookings Institution (view on Google Sidewiki)

Health Care and Immigration

Well, they finally did it--the House passed a health reform bill that -- if it becomes law--will mark a major shift in America's safety net. But the passage of this bill into law could hinge on immigration language. The Hispanic caucus has told the President that if the language in the bill does not insure the undocumented, many in their membership will not vote for it.

This seems completely insane politically. No advocate of immigrants' rights wants to see the undocumented left out, but it's also hard to make an argument for killing a bill that will benefit so many Americans.

My suggestion: leave the immigration issues to rest until you take up immigration reform next spring. If you lose healthcare, you have NO CHANCE of reforming immigration.

in reference to: Health Care Bill Could Hinge on Immigration Language - Political Hotsheet - CBS News (view on Google Sidewiki)

U.S. to ID departing foreign visitors

DHS is finalizing a project that would collect fingerprints or retinal scans from ALL foreign travelers at U.S. airports as they leave the country.

The idea here is to determine who is leaving the country, and possibly, to determine who is still here (and overstaying a visa). The article does not mention a to scan and print the visitors who leave by car, boat and train. It also does not address the issue of who is entering the country. It would seem logical to do this at entry and exit, no? I mean, do we really care if an alleged terrorist leaves, or enters, the country?

This is a costly program and most airlines have opposed it.

in reference to: DHS readies plan to track foreigners flying from U.S. - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Underground Undergrads:UCLA's Undocumented Immigrants Speak Out

As part of an ongoing series of conversations on international migration, Migration Projects @ Mason is pleased to announce a book talk and DVD presentation of Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrants Speak OutKent Wong, Director of UCLA's Center for Labor Research and Education and Mantias Ramos, UCLA graduate and immigration rights activist, will discuss the DREAM Act, an important piece of legislation designed to ensure that all students have access to higher education.  The event will be held on Thursday, November 12, 2009, 1:30-2:30pm at the Johnson Center Cinema at George Mason University's Fairfax Campus.

Every year tens of thousands of students who have grown up in the United States and graduate from U.S. high schools face uncertain futures due to their undocumented status.  The DREAM Act, bipartisan legislation introduced to Congress in March 2009, seeks to reform current immigration law that keeps the children of undocumented immigrants from gaining legal residency and limits their access to the life-changing opportunity of undergraduate education.  Also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, passage of this legislation would initiate two major shifts in how this population is treated under the law: It would permit students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status, and to ulitmately secure permanent status and eligibility for citizenship after attending collges or serving in the miliary. The legislation would eliminate penalties incrurred by states that provide in-state tuition regardless of a students' legal status.

Our speakers wil not only address the significance of the publication of Underground Undergrads, which chronicles the challenges and triumphs of young people striving to achieve an education under teh most desperate circumstances, but will speak to broader questions of immigration reform, including: What are the potential pitfalls of linking miliatary service to acces to legal status?  And how might thte growing concensus about the necessity of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented students be expanded to include the millions of undocumented workers crucial to our economy? Please join us and our speakers engage these and other important issues in a timely and critical discussion.

If you have any questions, please contact Debra Lattanzi Shutika at George Mason University.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Poultry Processing Film fined after immigration raid

This article from today's Baltimore Sun discusses a settlement between Federal Prosecutors and House of Raeford Farms. Raeford Farms was raided a few months back, and subsequently fined 1.5 million dollars for hiring undocumented workers.

I highlight one aspect of this settlement--the perpetrators, two plan managers, will avoid criminal records if they complete probation.

I'm all for giving non-violent offenders a second chance. I also strongly oppose the practice of incarcerating people without just cause. But I do think it inherently unfair that these two managers --who are now convicted criminals--should be able to walk away from this incident without criminal records.

It further reinforces the fact that U.S. immigration laws and enforcement turn a blind eye to those who hire the undocumented, while the immigrants are left to pay the costs for our broken system.

in reference to:

"The deal will also let two indicted managers at the poultry company's Greenville, S.C., plant avoid criminal records, provided they enter a probationary program."
- Poultry firm fined $1.5 million after immigration raid, monitoring -- (view on Google Sidewiki)

Driving without English?

We've all read about the hazards of driving while Latino (or African American), but is it possible to be ticketed for not speaking English? According to the Dallas Morning News article, it is. In fact, 39 drivers were ticketed in a 3 year period. Hmm, I guess we don't want to habla espanol in Tejas these days.

The point here is not so much that this is just completely ridiculous--which it of course is--there is not official language and it is NOT illegal to speak a language other than English. However, this report points to a serious issue--if this can happen in Dallas, where there is a robust Latino population, what does it say about the rest of the U.S.?

Last year, a woman was beaten by police in Prince William County, VA when she was pulled over and refused to sign her ticket. She did not speak English, and tried to communicate with the officer that she did not want to sign something she could not read or understand.  This article raises a larger question:
what is happening to immigrants and foreign visitors in the U.S. when they encounter our law enforcement officials and cannot effectively communicate in English?
in reference to: Dallas police ticketed 39 drivers in 3 years for not speaking English | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court seeks opinion on Ariz. Immigration Case

At issue is whether federal immigration law prevents states from imposing their own penalties on businesses that employ undocumented immigrants. This case has been filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the state of Arizona after it passed a law in 2007 that imposed penalties on businesses that hire undocumented workers.

This could be an interesting case in several ways. First, it could halt much of the local legislation that has been enacted in jurisdictions across the U.S. That could be good news for immigrants across the nation, many of whom (even those with full authorization to live in the U.S.) have been unfairly discriminated against because they look Latino. Secondly, it could send a clear signal that U.S. labor law, which is set up to shelter employers who violate immigration laws, should continue as per precedent.

I'm no fan of punishing immigrants when the people who hire them are allowed to violate the law with impunity. However, the attempts to address our immigration problems locally has simply failed. It should be interesting to see what comes of this.

in reference to: UPDATE: US High Court Seeks Opinion On Ariz Immigration Case - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, November 02, 2009

The New Faces of Day labor

This article from the Las Vegas Sun discusses a recent trend at day labor centers: the appearance of U.S. born workers.  The idea  of Americans forming a cue along Latinos in a Home Depot parking lot generates a 21st Century Grapes of Wrath image.  This is where we are.  The economy is that bad.

But the fact that we're likely to see Anglo faces among the brown "loitering" outside our convenience stores.  Perhaps now we can rethink the idea of local day labor centers.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

5 Misconceptions about the Land of Opportunity

This article from today's Washington Post highlights a few false impressions that many Americans have about the U.S. being a land of opportunity, including one about immigration.

You'll note that I changed the title to "misconceptions" from "myths."  The folks a Brookings have my undying respect, but they should know the difference between a myth (a type of sacred narrative) and misconception (belief not supported by data or "facts").

Mexican Soldiers find tunnel under U.S.-Mexico border

The secret tunnel discovered near the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico. The secret tunnel discovered near the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo: AP

Whispers of a secret tunnel running under the border between the U.S. and Mexico have lived for decades in the folklore of the two countries.  Earlier this week, Mexican authorities actually found the makings of a tunnel from Tijuana.  Mexican soldiers discovered a sophisticated but incomplete tunnel running under the border into the United States and arrested six people in the process of digging, the army said.  I point this story out because of who discovered it, apprehended the diggers, and essentially shut it down: the Mexican Military.  The story concludes:
Tunnels under the US-Mexico border of varying degrees of sophistication have been found in different areas of the border, including one found in Nogales, Arizona, in June, and large sophisticated tunnels in the Tijuana area in 2008 and 1993.