Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's Becoming?

The older I get, the more I realize that some problems (but certainly not all) will tend to work themselves out.

Take immigration for instance.  When I look at the future of America, I see a new generation of voters.  These young women and men are growing up in more diverse neighborhoods and accustomed to the American that's becoming.

Then I happen to stumble on articles like the one linked above.  It outlines how "Fifty-four members of Congress, mostly Republicans, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama praising the 287(g) program that allows specially trained state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law." It goes on to say that President Obama has been to soft on "aliens."

Isn't that great?

If  you read this blog very often, or even scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll see that I really disagree with the use of local law enforcement for issues that aren't, well for lack of a better word, local law enforcement.  So why does this article make me chuckle?

It's simple: it's obvious that the folks fighting immigration and all of the other alleged social "ills" that are defining the American that's becoming are part of an agenda that's dying.  Literally.  Within 30 years, who do these people think are going to be voting?  Are they daft enough to truly believe that immigrants and their native-born children are truly going to be pushed back to their ancestral homelands?

Perhaps they do.  For now I'm content allowing them to have their little fantasy of white America.  But that's not the America of today or tomorrow.  It's gone. And in the next few decades when these immigrant, gay and otherwise marginalized groups come of age and start voting, who do you think they're going to vote for?

That's the America, the one where the GOP of the early 21st Century is a museum relic, is the one that I'm looking forward to seeing.

It is time to start talking Immigration Reform?

From the Gardian Newpaper (UK):

Latinos need more than lip service

Families are being torn apart by America's broken immigration system. President Obama needs to show leadership and fix it
Barack Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's awards gala
Barack Obama greets supporters at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's gala. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty
I'm not talking the first 100 days here, but sometime during his first term, Obama should revive interest in comprehensive immigration reform.
(Get to work on immigration, 7 November 2008)

When Barack Obama won two-thirds of the Latino vote a year ago, he did so without making immigration reform a major part of his election campaign. At a time when the economy teetered on the verge of disaster, it seemed enough to know that he favoured a pathway to citizenship to bring the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country "out of the shadows" and endorsed a guest worker programme. Like the rest of the nation, we focused on other issues – and then we voted for him in bigger numbers than the general population.
 But because so many of our friends, family members and neighbours are affected, the long-delayed overhaul of the dysfunctional immigration system is never far from our minds. So when, earlier this year, Obama said that the issue would dominate his fall schedule, Latino groups nationwide rejoiced. The broken system that carried out inefficient and sometimes cruel workplace and neighbourhood raids, that kept an administrative backlog the size of Delaware and that tore families apart would at last get the attention it has desperately needed for years.
But ever since August, when Obama, in the midst of economic woes and a healthcare war still going on, announced that he was pushing immigration reform back to 2010, it has seemed like a distant dream – especially because next year's midterm elections in Congress promise to be brutal.

The question hangs ominously in the air: Why would a president whose approval ratings have recently slipped and whose party must face comeback-hungry Republicans in a battle to hold House and Senate seats, and who has already taken one divisive, Sisyphean task – healthcare reform – take on another?

Quite simply, because it's the right thing to do. As I wrote in my post-election column a year ago, it makes economic sense, something we could certainly use right now. But let me add one more reason – a humanitarian one.

I recently interviewed families who had been forced apart because of immigration issues. In one case, an undocumented mother who had been brought to the US as a baby was denied legal residency – though her parents had been granted it – because of a technicality that she appealed four times. One month before she was to graduate nursing school, Cristina Ramirez was picked up at her southern California home at 8am and dropped off with nothing but her cell phone in Tijuana, Mexico at 2.30pm. She spent the next 18 months living in the dangerous city while negotiating the labyrinthine immigration system to get back to her four kids and US citizen husband.

In another case, I spoke to a father of two whose undocumented wife had been deported but who had chosen to go into hiding rather than return to Nicaragua on his own deportation order. As US-born citizens, his kids were entitled to stay. But because of his illegal status, they would virtually be forced to leave with him or be left behind with relatives if he honoured the order.

Ronald Soza – who had fled Nicaragua's political turmoil and tried unsuccessfully to get legal status through a special law favouring political prisoners from that country – was in tears as he recalled the heart-wrenching decision to remain with the kids rather than have the three join his wife. "This is their country. They are both intelligent and great students and here, they can finish their education and be somebody," he said, in tears. "In Nicaragua they'd simply have no future."

In many cases like Soza's, the parents bear great responsibility for putting themselves and their kids in a questionable situation. But so should the US, which has never come to terms with the fact that its demand for cheap labour makes dangerous, illegal border crossings attractive and its immigration system has never successfully dealt with foreign workers. Obama has the opportunity to change that now. He should take it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Press Release: Migration Projects @ Mason

Press Release
A study by George Mason University researchers has found that a majority of residents in two Manassas neighborhoods express deep-seated anti-immigrant sentiments, though fewer than half say immigration has affected them personally.  They survey, which included life history interviews, was conducted from Spring 2008 to Summer 2009 to attain an in-depth understanding of the forces inciting a local movement to adopt legislation to "crackdown" on illegal immigration in Prince William County.

Forty-six percent of those surveyed indicated that immigration had had either no effect on them personally or has had a positive effect.  A total of 79 percent stated that they like their neighborhoods and 56.9 percent said that they planned to stay in their neighborhood in the next five years.

Yet, 53 percent of the residents in the Weems and Sumner Lake neighborhoods surveyed stated that the U.S. should take decisive action to deport illegal immigrants, and/or blamed them for depleting local resources such as health care and education.  Some expressed strong anti-immigrant sentiments as indicated by the statements: "The place is being barraged with Latinios....Everywhere you go, there are swarms of them," and, "Can I send them on a bus and load it up until they all speak English?"  Others were more moderate in their sentiments, citing the issue of immigrants having entered the country illegally as a key concern.  Researchers also found that some neighborhood residents were involved in community activities aimed at minimizing neighborhood conflicts around issues of immigration.

Interviews were conducted in selected neighborhoods revealed that Census tract data and press accounts to have become home ot both white, native-born Americans and Latino immigrants in the preceding decade.  The survey employed an in-depth sampling strategy, the ethnosurvey, which requires in-person interviews at randomly selected street addresses.  The survey produced 104 responses for face-to-face interviews of approximately one hour in which residents were asked their opinions on a number of neighborhood quality of life measures.  These findings were followed by 21 life history interviews that were taped and transcribed verbatim.

Researchers Carol Cleaveland and Debra Lattanzi Shutika are examining the discrepancy between the perceived high quality of life for most residents, and the expression of strong anti-immigrant sentiments.  One explanation, the researchers note, might be the patterns of residency--in particular the use of residential property to house large groups of men.  Neighbors believed that the men had been recruited for the construction industry, which had flourished prior to the recession.  Sixty-six percent of those interviewed complained of overcrowded houses, and 59 percent stated that too may cars are parked on streets as a result of this overcrowding.  Fifty-three percent said tha some homes in their neighborhood were poorly maintained.  Seventy percent cited foreclosures as a problem in their neighborhoods.

Obama Announces the End of the HIV Travel Ban

President Obama announced the end of the the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals, noting that the decision to do so was  "rooted in fear rather than fact."

Opposing Lou Dobbs

Is someone trying to kill Lou Dobbs?

Apparently, he thinks so.  Dobbs recently reported an incident where his wife was shot at in front of his home.  Dobbs claims that pro-immigrant groups have been after his hide for his vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric, which has been linked to hate groups.  That aside, was this a true attempt on  Dobb's life or (more accurately) his wife's life?

NJ State police don't seem to think so.  Apparently, Dobbs lives in an area where hunters frequent, and the troopers tend to think that this was a hunting accident.  If it wasn't, the alleged murderer wasn't a very good shot.  The officer noted that the bullet struck the "'apex of the house, near the roof,' high above a standing person."

New Publications from the Migration Policy Institute

The following abstracts and links (all from MPI) will take you to three new publications from the Migration Policy Institute.

Learning by Doing: Experiences of Circular Migration
By Kathleen Newland, Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, and Aaron Terrazas
Increasingly, policymakers are considering whether circular migration could improve the likelihood that global mobility gains will be shared by migrant-origin and destination countries alike — as well as by migrants themselves. This MPI Insight examines the record of circular migration, both where it has arisen naturally and where governments have taken action to encourage it.

Closing the Distance: How Governments Strengthen Ties with Their Diasporas
Edited by Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias
This book explores how developing-country governments have institutionalized ties with emigrants and their descendents. It offers an unprecedented taxonomy of 45 diaspora-engaging institutions found in 30 developing countries, exploring their activities and objectives. It also provides important practitioner insights from Mali, Mexico, and the Philippines. Contributors include: Kathleen Newland, Director, Migrants, Migration, and Development and Refugee Policy programs, MPI; Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, Associate Policy Analyst, MPI; Patricia A. Sto. Tomas, Chairman, Development Bank of the Philippines and former Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, Government of the Philippines; Badara Aliou Macalou, Minister of Malians Abroad and African Integration, Government of Mali; and Carlos González Gutiérrez, Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento, Calif., and former Executive Director, Institute of Mexicans Abroad, Government of Mexico.

Hometown Associations: An Untapped Resource for Immigrant Integration?
By Will Somerville, Jamie Durana, and Aaron Matteo Terrazas
Hometown associations, the organizations that immigrants create for social, economic development, and political empowerment purposes, play an important – and underexamined – role in immigrant integration. Though policymakers focus chiefly on the associations’ development potential, this MPI Insight recommends cooperative interventions to strengthen their immigrant integration capacity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gutierrez says immigration reform "can't wait"

Follow this link to Congressman Gutierrez' interview on NPR's Tell Me More, broadcast earlier today.

LAPD wants to fight crime, not immigration

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, who is ending his seven years as chief of the LAPD, said Tuesday the LAPD must stay out of the business of collaring illegal immigrants if it wants to keep solving crimes. He urged his eventual successor to continue a three-decade-old policy known as Special Order 40. It prohibits officers from stopping people solely to determine whether they are in the country illegally. He said,
"My officers can't prevent or solve crimes if victims or witnesses are unwilling to talk to us because of the fear of being deported."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

San Francisco to remain a Sanctuary City for Immigrant Youth

Three Cheers for San Francisco--

Undocumented youths arrested on felony charges in San Francisco would have to be convicted before police could turn them over to federal immigration officials under a new policy approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors voted Tuesday to overturn an existing ordinance that allows police to hand over juvenile illegal immigrants after they have been arrested on felony charge.

The supervisors' 8-2 vote is enough to override an expected veto from Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Immigration questions on the 2010 Census

More on this debate here. It appears that reasonable people do see the folly in this quest.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

JUSTICE for Immigrant YOUTH

A social movement to protect immigrant youth in San Francisco.

Fairfax Co. VA to initiate "Secure Communities" Program

Fairfax County, Virginia officials are pushing local law enforcement initiate a new federal program to automate fingerprint checks on suspected undocumented immigrants in county jails. "Secure Communities is not a 287(g) program, which essentially an agreement that local law enforcement will hold and turn over suspected criminal immigrants.

The focus will be on identifying criminal aliens who have been convicted of Level 1 crimes, which include major drug offenses and violent offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping. ICE agents plan to interview inmates using video teleconferencing equipment in the county's Adult Detention Center.
in reference to:
The focus will be on identifying criminal aliens who have been convicted of Level 1 crimes, which include major drug offenses and violent offenses, such as murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping. ICE agents plan to interview inmates using video teleconferencing equipment in the county's Adult Detention Center.
- Fairfax gearing up for federal illegal immigrant checks at jails - Virginia Politics - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Census 2010: The Citizenship Question

Two republican senators (Vitter of LA and Bennett of UT) have proposed an amendment to a spending bill that will bar funds being used for the Census if it doesn't ask about a person's citizenship status. The measure would require a change that would cost millions of dollars--and a reprint of 425 million census questionnaires-- and possibly threaten the accuracy of the count.

This seems like one more GOP measure to waste money. Has anyone else noticed that they have no problem ignoring budgetary issues if they want to push a partisan issue like this?

On the upside, this type of political maneuvering could force congress to consider immigration reform sooner.
in reference to: Lawmakers Battle on Census Question - (view on Google Sidewiki)

PWC agrees to abide with new ICE rules

New ICE rules governing the implementation of 287(g) programs, those aimed at allowing local law enforcement to apprehend undocumented immigrants.  The new ICE rules require local law enforcement to focus on those who commit the most violent crimes and drug offenses.  The changes are intended to standardize the program after a U.S. Government Accountability Office report concluded that some of the agencies in the program had overstepped their authority:
The new agreement adds a provision that says all local agency personnel are bound by federal civil rights laws and puts penalties in place for agencies that fail to follow the agreement. It requires ICE to do background checks on all Prince William police officers participating in the immigration enforcement unit. 
Undocumented immigrants who commit less serious crimes, such as larceny, burglary and fraud, and have never come in contact with ICE before, will "most likely" be released after serving their sentence and will have a federal court date.  ICE may hold them, however, if resources are available.

This type of standardization is long overdue.  While it would be preferable if ICE were in charge of immigration issues, and local law enforcement were in charge of local crimes.  Short of that, this is a step in the right direction.

Costumes for those who want to be Illegal Aliens

This article reviews several costumes that spoof being an illegal "alien."  Apparently, Target offered this costume on-line, until consumers expressed outrage.

I think there are two ways of reading this: one is obviously offensive, and supports the idea that undocumented immigrants are strange, dangerous, and scary.

The other really spoofs the idea that there is such a thing as an illegal alien.  In this sense, the costume points out that the idea of an illegal alien is just silly--the only aliens are the ones that are dreamed up by conspiracy theorists and UFO chasers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Census Prep: Are we Ready?

The Census is probably the most important non-partisan examination of immigration in America. To be effective, people need to be counted. This article highlights the fact that many U.S. cities are concerned that there will not be a good count next year.

The factors that contribute to the count are diverse, but 2010 will be unique because of home foreclosures that displace residents, and increase hostility toward immigrants, which discourages participation in the census.

A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found the following:

Pew's review of preparation efforts in 11 major cities, which had undercounts of residents in 2000 of up to 1.5 percent, found only five cities had committed public funds to census outreach - Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Phoenix and Baltimore. Even when cities had allotted funds, most were at sharply lower levels compared to 2000, due to the recession that has made state budgets tight.

Los Angeles faces difficulties of finding many of its residents who are now living in foreclosed houses and recreational vehicles, or "doubling up" with friends and relatives in single-family homes. Yet the city's $770,738 budget for outreach work is about half the amount it had in 2000.

Chicago, which missed an estimated 32,000 residents in 2000, spent nearly $1.3 million in city funds a decade ago; this year, it has allocated no money.

Philadelphia, the nation's sixth largest city, has been particularly slow in getting preparations under way, although officials insist they can catch up. A decade ago, the city set aside $200,000 for the census effort, but it has no such funds this time. Philadelphia also has not yet put in place a city outreach committee - unlike many other major cities - and has been relying on some support staff from the Census Bureau's regional offices.

Other cities with no public funds for census outreach include Atlanta, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

in reference to: Cities lag in preparations for high-stakes census - (view on Google Sidewiki)

DHS Reshapes its Immigration Program

The program, which deputizes local law enforcement to act as immigration agents, has been reshaped to encourage local police to apprehend potentially undocumented residents who have committed major crimes, with special focus on those who have already been incarcerated.

The agency has reined in local police units that target illegal immigrants at large, as these widespread sweeps to apprehend the undocumented are believed to use the law to justify racial profiling. Most prominently, the DHS scaled back the authority it had given to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to Arpaio. His operations in the Phoenix metropolitan area had led to charges of racial profiling and three federal investigations.

The Obama administration has made these changes to signal that they are serious about enforcing immigration laws against undocumented immigrants who are dangerous, but are also intent about upholding civil rights.

It is not clear that the switch in focus will limit racial profiling, however.

Omar C. Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, cited a report last month by the University of California at Berkeley School of Law as evidence that the administration's shift to jail checks would encourage some local police to arrest and book more minorities so their immigration status could be determined once they were behind bars. That study found that police in Irving, Tex., working with a separate ICE program, increased arrests of Hispanics for minor offenses by nearly 150 percent between April and September 2007.

"Focusing on jail programs as opposed to these [investigative] task force programs doesn't eliminate the serious problems we've seen with profiling," Jadwat said.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Iowa Meatpacker Manager on Trial for Immigration Violations

It's rare for American citizens, even those to knowingly violate immigration laws, to be held accountable for their actions. This article reports that Sholom Rubashkin is going to trial for a variety of charges, including 72 immigration violations.

Taking the Wrong Path toward Immigration Reform

As we consider how to reform immigration, one question is whether or not the U.S. should continue 287(g) programs, which allow local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents. The article linked here clearly argues against this, with good reason.

Immigration enforcement deserves the full attention of the federal government. It is a federal issue, but more importantly, it's clear that local immigration enforcement leads to corruption and potentially institutional abuse of immigrants on the local level. I also think that many of these laws are thinly veiled attempts to legitimize racism.