Monday, December 21, 2009

The Story of María and José: Un Cuento de Navidad

Dear Readers,

I'm going to take Christmas holiday from the blog.  In the meantime, I'm re-printing a blog post that I first posted in 2006.  I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

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During the holiday season, I like to believe that people are more willing to put aside their differences and see one another as part of the brotherhood of humanity.

In this spirit, I am reproducing a chapter from Enrique Armijo's M.A. thesis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Enrique's thesis is based on fieldwork he completed with Inglesia Unida in Chapel Hill. The full citation for the except that follows is: Armijo, Enrique. 2000. Un Pueblo Nuevo: An Ethnography of a Hispanic Protestant Community of Faith. M.A. Thesis in Folklore University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As you read, bear in mind that Armijo presents each of the paragraphs in the original Spanish text first, followed by the English translation.

The Story of María and José: Un Cuento de Navidad


The chapter that follows this conclusion is a reading, written by the youth of Iglesia Unida during a church camp in 1997. It tells of a pregnant Mexican woman named María, her Tijuanan boyfriend José, and their trip to North Carolina to find work and a place to live. As with the stories of many of the congregation members at Iglesia Unida, their journey is an eventful one; along the way their truck breaks down, they stay in a shelter, and they are visited by an angel. Like the other expressions of the church examined in this thesis, the story reveals how local and universal themes form a dialectic that leads to deeper understanding and articulates the informed convergence between life lived and faith felt.

In reading the story, I ask that the reader resist applying a strictly cultural lens of interpretation that can fog the deeper spiritual understandings that an example like this can provide. Like the songs, sermons, prayers, activism, and development discussed earlier in this thesis, the youths’ narrative shows not only how its themes are particular to the context at Iglesia Unida, but also how universal—when informed by the experiences of the members—these themes of spirit, struggle, and redemption truly are.

Enrique Armijo, M.A.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
October 2000

CHAPTER 8

Un Cuento de Navidad
A Christmas Story
written by the children and youth of Iglesia Unida


Una joven llamada María se iba a casar con su novio que se llamaba José. José, originario de Tiajuana, vivia en San Diego y tenía su Green Card. En San Diego no había trabajo, y José (o Pepe, como ledicen sus amigos) decidió venirse a Carolina del Norte y buscar trabajo y un lugar donde vivir. Como ya no iba a poder cruzar la frontera para ir a ver a María, le tuvieron que hablar a un coyote para que la hiciera cruzar a ella y se pudiera venir a Carolina también.

Mientras juntaban el dinero, se les apareció un ángel. El ángel le dijo a María: "Eres muy dichosa, María. Vas a tener un bebé, tu hijo va a salvar el mundo.

A young girl named María was engaged to a guy named José. José was originally from Tijuana, but lived in San Diego and had his Green Card. In San Diego there weren't any jobs, so José (whom his friends called Pepe) decided to come to North Carolina to look for work and a place to live. Since he wasn't going to be able to run across the border to visit María any more, they decided to find a "coyote," to get her across the border so she could come to North Carolina as well.

While they were trying to get the money together to pay the "coyote," an angel appeared to them. The angel told María, "You are blessed, María. You will have a baby, and your son will save the world."

Un día les avisaron que era buena fecha para cruzar la frontera. Cuando iban en camino, el carro en que iban se arrunió y les pidieron mas dinero para completar el viaje. Como no tenían dinero ni para la gasolina, se quedaron esperando de que la familia les mandara una ayudita y tuvieron que pasar la noche debajo de unos árboles por varios dias. Y a María ya estaba notándosele el embarazo.

One day, they were told it was a good time to cross the border. When they were already in route, the car in which they were traveling broke down and they were asked to pay more money to complete the trip. Since they didn't even have money for gas, they had to wait, sleeping under some trees for several days, until the family could send a little more help. Maria's pregnancy was already becoming obvious.

Por fin les llegó la ayudita que esperaban, pero cuando llegaron a Chapel Hill, no encontraron nitrabajo, ni donde alojarse. José salió varias veces a buscar trabajo, pero en algunos sitios, el guardia deni lo dejaba entrar a hablar con la gente que estaba dando empleo. Pensaron que podíanquedarse en un parque, pero la policía los desalojó. Fueron a la iglesia, pero estaba cerrada; terminaronel "Shelter," pero solo se podían quedar unos días. María tenía miedo de decirle a nadie que iba a tener un bebé. Tenía mideo de ir al hospital, porque no tenía papeles.

At last the help arrived, but when José and María arrived in Chapel Hill, they couldn't find work or a place to stay. José went out to find work several days, but in some places, "security" wouldn't even let him in to talk to those in charge of hiring. They had thought they could stay in a park, but the police told them they had to get out. They went to a church, but it was locked; they ended up in the shelter, but they knew they could only stay a few days. María was afraid to tell anybody she was pregnant. She was afraid to go to the hospital, because she didn't have her papers.

Y fué así como nació el bebé de José y María: Tocaron en muchas casas, pues no querían regresar alque los mandaran al hospital. Fueron a la casa de Pablo, y Mario Alberto, y otras familiasconocidas, pero no había ni un rincón donde hacerles un lugarcito. Pasaron un par de noches en restaurantes y tiendas que habren 24 horas hasta que María ya no podía caminar más. Fue con gran alegría que recibieron la noticia de que una familia, que tiene una trailer pequeña, había movido a losniños al cuarto de los padres y les había acomodado un cuartitio. Y fue allí que nació el niñito, y lo acostaron en un cajón que rellenaron de ropita vieja.

And this is how José and María's baby was born: they knocked on many doors, because they didn't want to go to the shelter and get sent to the hospital. They went to Pablo's house and Mario Alberto's house and asked other families they knew, but nobody had any room to accommodate them. They spent a couple of nights in restaurants and stores that are open 24 hours, but at last María knew she couldn't walk any more. It was with great joy that they heard a family who lived in a small trailer had moved the children into the parent's room and had agreed to let them have the small room. And that is where the baby was born. They padded a drawer with old clothes and made him a little bed there.

Cuando nació el bebé, toda la gente del area se enteró (al menos los que no estaba demasiado ocupadossus regalos caros). Algunos oyeron música que sonaba como que ángleles estuvieran cantando. Otros siniteron grandes deseos de conocer a ese niñito que había nacido el 25 de diciembre, y lellevaron ropa abrigada, pañales, y algunos juguetes. Muchas familias se alegraron al ver que el niñosaludable, y se llenaron de esperanza, pensando que Dios de verdad estaba presente en estehumilde hogar. Alguien dice que se escuchaba como un coro que cantaba: ¡Gloria a Dios, paz en la tierra a los que creen en el Señor!

When the baby was born, everybody in the area found out. (At least, those who were not too busy with their expensive toys.) Some heard beautiful music that sounded as if angels were singing. Others felt they wanted to go and meet this baby, who was born on the 25th of December, and they took him warm clothes, diapers, and some toys. Many families were happy to see that the baby was healthy, and they were filled with hope, thinking that God was truly present in that humble home. Someone says that you could hear a choir that sang: Glory to God, peace on earth to those who have faith in the Lord!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

US at Mid-Century: Older, more diverse

The Press release and summary from the US Census Bureau:
The nation will be more racially and ethnically diverse, as well as much older, by midcentury, according to projections released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
     Minorities, now roughly one-third of the U.S. population, are expected to become the majority in 2042, with the nation projected to be 54 percent minority in 2050. By 2023, minorities will comprise more than half of all children.
     In 2030, when all of the baby boomers will be 65 and older, nearly one in five U.S. residents is expected to be 65 and older. This age group is projected to increase to 88.5 million in 2050, more than doubling the number in 2008 (38.7 million).
     Similarly, the 85 and older population is expected to more than triple, from 5.4 million to 19 million between 2008 and 2050.
     By 2050, the minority population — everyone except for non-Hispanic, single-race whites — is projected to be 235.7 million out of a total U.S. population of 439 million. The nation is projected to reach the 400 million population milestone in 2039.
     The non-Hispanic, single-race white population is projected to be only slightly larger in 2050 (203.3 million) than in 2008 (199.8 million). In fact, this group is projected to lose population in the 2030s and 2040s and comprise 46 percent of the total population in 2050, down from 66 percent in 2008.
     Meanwhile, the Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million during the 2008-2050 period. Its share of the nation’s total population is projected to double, from 15 percent to 30 percent. Thus, nearly one in three U.S. residents would be Hispanic.
     The black population is projected to increase from 41.1 million, or 14 percent of the population in 2008, to 65.7 million, or 15 percent in 2050.
     The Asian population is projected to climb from 15.5 million to 40.6 million. Its share of the nation’s population is expected to rise from 5.1 percent to 9.2 percent.
     Among the remaining race groups, American Indians and Alaska Natives are projected to rise from 4.9 million to 8.6 million (or from 1.6 to 2 percent of the total population). The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population is expected to more than double, from 1.1 million to 2.6 million. The number of people who identify themselves as being of two or more races is projected to more than triple, from 5.2 million to 16.2 million.
     Other highlights:
  • In 2050, the nation’s population of children is expected to be 62 percent minority, up from 44 percent today. Thirty-nine percent are projected to be Hispanic (up from 22 percent in 2008), and 38 percent are projected to be single-race, non-Hispanic white (down from 56 percent in 2008).
  • The percentage of the population in the “working ages” of 18 to 64 is projected to decline from 63 percent in 2008 to 57 percent in 2050.
  • The working-age population is projected to become more than 50 percent minority in 2039 and be 55 percent minority in 2050 (up from 34 percent in 2008). Also in 2050, it is projected to be more than 30 percent Hispanic (up from 15 percent in 2008), 15 percent black (up from 13 percent in 2008) and 9.6 percent Asian (up from 5.3 percent in 2008).

White Majority Safe for another 40 years

This is one census report that has to be comforting to the white supremacists.  I was personally hoping to see this change in my lifetime.  It looks like it will be here for my grandkids instead:
The country's financial meltdown and post-Sept. 11 immigration enforcement have slowed the growth of minority groups here. If those conditions remain the norm, whites would make up the majority of the population until 2050, eight years later than previously projected.

In addition, the Census Bureau last year predicted that the U.S. would hit the 400-million population mark in 2039. But if current migration patterns continue, the nation will not have hit that milestone by 2050.

The latest numbers, which supplement the 2008 National Population Projections, reflect four immigration scenarios -- high, low, constant and zero.

A falling immigration rate means a decreased vital workforce to replace the nation's baby boomers, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. "Young people bring new ideas, especially new people coming in from other countries," he said. "They're more globally aware of what's going on."

And, Frey said, the scenarios demonstrate that immigrants are an important part of the U.S. population, particularly in Southern California.

The nation is home to more than 308 million people, two-thirds of whom are non-Hispanic whites.

The latest projections, said demographics researcher John Pitkin, show "the stakes of immigration reform."

Pitkin said that if immigration continues to slow, it would affect planning and education. It also would mean fewer workers paying into Social Security and Medicare.

"The flow of immigration makes it more difficult to finance Social Security," Pitkin said. "It does slow down the economy a bit."

But it is hard to forecast immigration patterns, said D'Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center.

"In terms of thinking of the U.S. and what kind of country it is, it's important to realize that its racial and ethnic composition is changing," she said. "It's hard to say if the lower immigration flow will become the new normal."

Immigration Overhaul gets little attention from press, President Obama

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.),

This article from the LA Times reports on the immigration overhaul proposed yesterday by Luis Gutierrez.  Surprisingly, the announcement has gotten little attention here in DC--the Washington Post posted a story on its website on Tuesday evening from the Associated Press, but neither the Post or the NY Times featured a front-page story on the legislation.

What gives?  This could be the most important piece of domestic legislation introduced for debate in 2010.  And it's a slow time for news.  Shouldn't immigration reform get some attention? A word of support or congratulations from President Obama or Janet Napolitano?

Perhaps it's Christmas, but Rep. Gutierrez's proposed legislation, which is much more pro-immigrant than bills proposed in recent years, isn't getting the reaction that I would have expected.  That is to say, it's getting NO REACTION.

Here are the basics of the plan:
  • It suspends Operation Streamline (an euphemism coined by Bush's Michael Chertoff, to describe a program that files criminal charges against all border-crossers).
  • It improves detention conditions, by preserving family unity, avoiding unnecessary separations, and ensuring humane treatment of detainees.
  • It strengthens protection during enforcement activities, by making such activities subject to court review, allowing legal access and other services to detained immigrants, and repealing the 287(g) program, making the federal government the only enforcer of federal immigration law.
  • It prohibits the creation of a national ID card in the proposed employment verification system.
  • It makes a number of proposals to reduce the massive backlog in family and employment visa issuance (itself the primary source of "illegal" immigration in the country), leaning toward making more visas available to skilled workers who ought to be welcome in the U.S.
  • It makes a number of provisions to strengthen family unity, by allowing judges greater discretion in removal proceedings, for instance when a U.S. citizen child is involved. 
It all seems pretty reasonable, and certainly a step in the right direction.  

At this point, I'm concerned about our dear President.  He seems to have sold the farm on health care reform, and he's not acknowledging Gutierrez.  It leads me--a strong Obama supporter--to question what his goals are.  Is he here to protect the poor and working class?  Or is he Reagan-lite? 

If he and the Democratic Party don't stand up for these issues, who will?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Census Bureau Ready to Start counting

It appears that folks at the US Census Bureau are feeling confident that they're going to get a good count in 2010.  Let's hope so.

Jesus is the reason for the Census?


In the 2000 Census, I was impressed by the publicity campaign the US Census Bureau used to promote participation.  For Latinos, they used well-known Chicano folk artists with catchy slogans: Es Nuestro futuro. Hágase contar (It's our future.  Make it Count).

This year the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), have been distributing the poster on the left to more than 7,000 churches in an effort to raise awareness of the census among Hispanics. Most were printed in Spanish.

Luke 2:1-4 says Jesus was born during a census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Although historians question the accuracy of the account, Luke stated that everyone had to return to his ancestral town to be registered for taxes and that Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem.

Those of us who attended Sunday school are familiar with the story.   The problem is that some Christians think that it is inapproriate to use the image of Christ to advertise the Census.

The Census Bureau, which did not commission the poster, is staying out of the debate:
 "We work with people from all walks of life to get an accurate count, but we do not provide funding to partner organizations and play no role in the creation of material by private community groups," said Nick Kimball, a spokesman for the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau.

Monday, December 14, 2009

H 2-B or not to be: Why not let the market decide?

Following on this darn good article from the Houston Examiner, I want to once again propose that the only way to determine how many low-skill laborers the U.S. needs is to develop a temporary worker visa program.  Allow immigrants to "purchase" visas so they can work in the U.S. legally.  Unlike the H 2-B, I envision a visa program where immigrants are free agents, and not tied to any particular employer.  Then, let the market decide exactly how many workers the U.S. needs. 


There is always a great deal of clamor from opponents of immigration reform, but never as much as in times of economic recession. The complaints are focused on simplistic requests to control our borders and to protect the U.S. job market from foreigners allegedly taking away jobs from U.S. workers.

Unfortunately, most people's statements are made out of ignorance, as they are unaware of the actual depth of the problems, which include the reality of how much our economy depends on immigrant labor and the complexities of the immigration laws that currently exist.

For example, anti-immigrant proponents criticize the practice of hiring illegal aliens, contending that they should hire only lawful workers or make sure that foregn workers follow the law and get green cards. However, they are unaware of the difficulty that U.S. employers have in finding lawful U.S. workers for their manual labor and that depriving those U.S. businesses of immigrant workers, ultimately, can cause many businesses to collapse, creating a domino effect of damage on the economy.

That’s not just an opinion, but a proven fact, as was evidenced in Riverside, N.J., where a crackdown on illegal immigrants diminished the town’s population by 1/3 and left local businesses struggling to survive. (See: http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/17/smbusiness/illegal_immigration_dividing.fsb/index.htm)

Furthermore, anti-immigrant proponents are outraged by employers, who hire illegal aliens to mow lawns, build bridges, or tend to their agricultural needs. However, they falsely assume that there is a viable vehicle in the current immigration legal system for those employers to petition and obtain the lawful right to work for such employees. The truth is that there aren’t realistic workable options.

Finally, anti-immigrant proponents frequently complain that someone they know, who is an engineer, for example, “can’t get a green card, yet all of the people sneaking across the border get green cards easily.”

That statement couldn’t be more inaccurate. The process of obtaining lawful status for non-professional workers without university degrees is a very cumbersome, if not almost impossible process. Current immigration laws favor giving lawful status only to immigrants, who possess a university education.

The true irony in that practice is that it actually is harmful to the objective of protecting the U.S. job market.

By focusing on giving lawful status to only foreigners with university educations, it is essentially encouraging U.S. employers to give away the professional, higher paying positions to foreign employees. It saturates our job market with highly ambitious and well-educated foreign employees to compete with U.S. professionals.

As such, it makes more sense to expand the current immigration regulations to provide a more viable system for U.S. businesses to hire hard working immigrants to fill unskilled or non-degree requiring positions, such as in construction, landscaping, or housekeeping.

The only current means for obtaining lawful status for non-professional foreign workers is called an H-2B visa. It is a temporary visa, which allows the foreign worker to work in the United States for only 10 months out of the year. It also has to be renewed annually.

There are 4 serious deficiencies with that system:
  1. The expectation is that the H-2B worker will return to his or her country after completion of the 10 month visa.
  2. The employers have to petition for the worker each year, which costs them thousands of dollars in advertising and associated costs with no guarantee of actually getting an H-2B visa number for the prospective employee.
  3. The H-2B visa holder can only obtain the visa for a maximum of three consecutive years.
  4. Due to the fact that there are only 65K H-2B visas given out each year, the visas are almost always unavailable each year until the following fiscal year of October 1.
So, for example, if the employer’s temporary season is from February through November, he cannot file a petition prior to April 1 for an October 1 start date. After investing thousands of dollars in pursuing the H-2B for his foreign worker, he could discover that the petition he filed on April 1 for an October 1st start date was not one of the 65K selected for a visa that year.

Or, even if his H-2B petition is allotted a visa, his immigrant worker will only be issued the right to work for the two remaining months of the employer’s temporary season, October 1 through November.

Therefore, due to the logistical impediments in the current immigration system for unskilled or non-professional workers, it is almost impossible for employers to legally petition for and/or hire foreign workers, who do not possess university degrees. The H-2B system is not a workable, practical, or reasonable option for U.S. employers seeking to fill non-professional positions.

The resulting situation is that many employers are left with the inability to fill their many non-professional positions, which has put many businesses in jeopardy. Therefore, a critical solution for viable immigration reform is to increase or eliminate the annual limit of H-2B numbers and revoke the provision prohibiting H-2B holders from immigrant intent.

The allegations of the American public that these workers take away jobs from U.S. lawful workers is simply unfounded because both the H-2B nonimmigrant and the associated 3rd preference immigrant petitions already require completing a stringent test of the job market and payment of the prevailing wage, which is usually higher than what some employers actually pay U.S. workers.
Therefore, test of the job market required to obtain an H-2B visa is proof that the H-2B worker is not, in fact, taking a job away from a U.S. worker.

There are problems intrinsic in the H-2B visa system, which pose major issues to our economy and U.S. businesses. Reform, which accommodates the need for immigrant workers, is critical to prevent the failure of many U.S. businesses, which rely on skilled and unskilled immigrant workers to fill the many positions for which there are not enough U.S. lawful workers to fill. The truth of the matter is that if we were able to suddenly take every foreigner working unlawfully in the United States today out of the job market, the economy of most U.S. metropolitan cities would collapse.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez will introduce a bold Immigration Reform bill tomorrow (Dec. 15)

This from the Huffington Post: Gutierrez plans to unveil a bold and sweeping immigration overhaul tomorrow.  Finally!
Tomorrow, December 15, I will join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and my colleagues in the House of Representatives in introducing a progressive, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Every single day in America, families are being divided. Over the past year, I've traveled across the country with my colleagues conducting something called the United Families ("Familias Unidas") tour. In twenty-four cities across the country, we heard from families who were being ripped apart by the current system. We've heard stories from a father dying from cancer whose wife faced deportation. We've heard from American citizen children who are faced with choosing between their parents and a college education.

This is a crisis. It's a crisis of human and civil rights, it's a crisis of our economy and our workforce, and it's a crisis of national security. This is why we cannot wait any longer. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 is a solution that we, as a nation of immigrants, can be proud of.

We've waited a long time for this -- a workable solution to our immigration crisis.
We've waited for laws that don't stop at securing our border, but go further to secure our economy, protect our workforce and recognize the proud tradition of immigrants seeking the American Dream. We've waited for it to be taken up by this Congress and our President. And the time for waiting is over.
Our bill will be presented before Congress heads home for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year.

CIR ASAP prioritizes the best of what our nation values: family, civil rights, economic opportunity and diversity. It is the product of months of collaboration with human rights advocates, labor organizations, and members of Congress. Already, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have endorsed it as a solution to both stem illegal immigration and promote legal migration that will protect and strengthen our nation's economic and national security.

During the campaign, Barack Obama made a commitment to push for real, comprehensive immigration reform. As President, he's reaffirmed that promise to the nation and to me personally. I'm also very encouraged by the support of Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid. I intend to work with them and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to make sure that promises made to the American people are promises kept.

We are a proud nation of immigrants from around the globe, and with this legislation, we will be able to once again be proud of our immigration laws. I don't think you will find too many people who would tell you that our current immigration system is working. Everyone, regardless of their position on this issue, agrees that the system should be overhauled.

The American people elected us to solve problems like this - and that's exactly what we're going to do.

House Democrats Ready to Unveil Ambitious Immigration Plan

House proponents of comprehensive immigration reform are set to unveil an ambitious bill Tuesday that calls for a pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants, family reunification policies and another push for the controversial AgJOBS program, which would grant temporary immigration status to undocumented farm workers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Immigrants and Higher Education

This article from today's Washington Post examines the role of mentors who help shape the lives of immigrant kids on their path to educational attainment.

The Nerve! Yet another instance of Congressional Hypocrisy

Okay, I shouldn't be surprised because Republicans don't stand for ANYTHING, so when they have an issue they oppose and they want to do it on principle, they have to feign belief in something:

If there is one thing that the movement for comprehensive immigration reform can learn from the congressional fight for health care reform, it's that Republicans will distort the facts and delay in order to block the change Americans need.


They'll even resort to feigning support for policies and programs that they've historically opposed -- like Medicare -- and then reverse course and file amendments to privatize it.
Given this track record, it should come as no surprise then that members of the anti-immigrant (and anti-worker) Immigration Reform Caucus are now trying to co-opt a "pro-worker agenda" in a ruthless effort to push their extremist mass deportation agenda and block the smart, practical immigration reform American workers need.

Thanks to a new report released today from America's Voice Education Fund, a closer look at the voting records of these members show them to be some of the most consistent opponents of legislation that would benefit American workers.

Despite the hype, the op-eds, and the continued pandering to a small minority of anti-immigrant voters, these leaders have no interest in supporting working families; no interest in raising standards or wages for working people who struggle everyday to provide for their families. In fact, these so-called champions of the American worker have taken every opportunity to make life harder for working families.

As the report shows, SEIU gives 95 percent of these phony reformers an "F" grade for their anti-worker voting records. Of the 87 Members of the House of Representatives who received an "A" grade from the extremist anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in the 110th Congress:
· 94 percent voted against the Employee Free Choice Act
· 93 percent against Equal Pay for Women
· 83 percent against Extending Unemployment Compensation
· 68 percent against Increasing the Minimum Wage
· 82 percent against Providing Parental Leave for Federal Employees

From someone who has fought for workers' rights -- organizing workers from California to Texas to Florida and to New York -- it's shameful to watch these members wear such a false veil of reform -- fanning the flames of hate and fear against immigrants while championing policies that are bad for workers at every level.

As wages plummet, unemployment grows, and the middle class continues to shrink, working families need bold policy solutions that lift wages, create quality jobs and build our economy for the long term. Comprehensive immigration reform is a critical part of that road to recovery. The only way we can truly turn around declining working conditions in America is to get undocumented immigrants out of the underground economy, into the system and on an equal playing field with all workers. Only then will we be able to restore economic fairness and raise wages and living standards for everyone.

After years of failed piecemeal solutions and enforcement-only traps and tragedies, we face an unprecedented opportunity to re-build our immigration system so that it strengthens our economy, supports working families, and restores the rule of law for the long-term. This is the time to get it done right so that all workers -- American and immigrant -- can unite their strength to end the exploitation and worsening labor standards. Done right, immigration reform will lift wages and labor standards for all workers and be a tremendous boon to our economy at a time when we most need it.

So to those false prophets of reform, we say: not this time. We will not allow any more costly, piecemeal measures that threaten to harm all workers and jeopardize the smart, long-term reforms we need. In the comings months, diverse labor unions will join with concerned American workers across the country to make our voices heard. We will not be silenced until immigration reform is passed in Congress and signed by President Obama. Only then will we have won this race for all U.S. workers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Latino Youth Challenges

Follow this link to a video examining the challenges of Latino youth in America.

Between Two Worlds: Young Latinos Coming of Age in America

Graphic

This report from the Pew Hispanic Center  includes this opening paragraph:
Hispanics are the largest and youngest minority group in the United States. One- in-five schoolchildren is Hispanic. One-in-four newborns is Hispanic. Never before in this country's history has a minority ethnic group made up so large a share of the youngest Americans. By force of numbers alone, the kinds of adults these young Latinos become will help shape the kind of society America becomes in the 21st century.
 The report goes on to explore the attitudes, values, social behaviors, family characteristics, economic well-being, educational attainment and labor force outcomes of young Latinos. Based on a new Pew Hispanic Center telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,012 Latinos, the report is supplemented by the Center's analysis of government demographic, economic, education and health data sets.

The report provides a mixed picture of the lives of these young Americans. Young Latinos are satisfied with their lives, optimistic about their futures and place a high value on education, hard work and career success. Yet they are much more likely than other American youths to drop out of school and to become teenage parents. They are more likely than white and Asian youths to live in poverty. And they have high levels of exposure to gangs.

What does all this mean?  If these young men and women are our future, and they clearly are, then I think it should be a national priority to ensure their success.  No one benefits from a large population who cannot succeed.  This means we need policies in place to help Latino youth succeed in school, prevent early parenthood, and to have opportunities so that they can become productive citizens.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Arizon Law May Sweep Undocumented Parents when they Apply for a Legal Child's Benefits

Things seem to get more and more complicated, our laws simply do not reflect the realities of the immigrant experience.  An important fact that is often overlooked is that there are rarely clean lines between "documented" and "undocumented" in average immigrant families.  Some families may all be documented and yet have a small child who was born after the family's paperwork was submitted and thus not included in the legalization process, for instance.  This article points out that a new Arizona law will make things very difficult for undocumented parents of legal children (typically citizens) who are attempting to get services for their kids:
PHOENIX, Ariz.—Pastors, community activists and immigrant rights groups are trying to mitigate fears caused by a new Arizona law that forces state employees to report undocumented immigrants asking for federal and state benefits.

Last Wednesday, the Arizona Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit asking for a stay on the law’s implementation filed by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. The suit questioned the way the law was created. In the next two weeks, the association will decide whether or not to file the challenge again in a lower court.  But another court challenge might be in the works.

“MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) and I are ready to file a lawsuit in the event there’s a denial of benefits that shouldn’t have been denied, or a prosecution of an employee who shouldn’t have been prosecuted,” said civil rights attorney Daniel Ortega.

HB 2008 took effect Nov. 24 and requires state employees to file a report with immigration authorities when they find out someone applying for a benefit is in the country illegally. Employees could face up to four months in prison for failure to report.

"We're going to continue enforcing state and federal law like we've been doing," said Department of Economic Security (DES) spokesperson Steve Meissner. "Failure to produce documents is not admission that you're in the country illegally."

DES administers several of the benefits impacted including food stamps and health care insurance. While Meissner said the new law doesn’t change much, applicants will now have to sign a sworn statement that the documents they provide are true.

If applicants say that they are in the country illegally or provide evidence to that effect, state employee will have to file a report with the Office of Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).

Other agencies like the Arizona Department of Administration have asked for a legal opinion on the matter from the Attorney General’s office.


The new law, however, does not affect access to emergency health care, police or firefighters. .
Carlos Galindo, host of a Spanish radio show on Radio KASA, is using his talk show to provide accurate information about the new requirements.

“We’re going to educate people, because they need to know they have rights,” said Galindo. He is trying to send a clear message that U.S. children are entitled to benefits regardless of the status of their parents; and people can still apply for their U.S. children without having to reveal anything about their own immigration status.

Magdalena Schwartz, a pastor at the Disciples of the Kingdom Free United Methodist church, says she has been receiving non-stop calls from immigrant families who are afraid to take their children to doctor’s appointments. She worries that the policy will have the greatest impact on American children, whose parents are afraid to apply for basic things like health care insurance, food stamps or even immunizations for fear of being reported to ICE.

“We are trying to help people by giving them the right information so their children are safe,” said Schwartz.

Among them is Jazmin, a 24-year-old undocumented woman who is afraid of taking her one-year-old to the doctor. Jazmin, a victim of domestic violence, is also trying to apply for a special visa to adjust her status but feels trapped.

“This benefits are not for me, they are for my children,” said Jazmin, who was able to get help from a local church.

Meanwhile, supporters of the new law are skeptical of claims that it is creating unnecessary fear among immigrants.

“I don’t believe that rhetoric. That’s what they always said,” says Valerie Roller, a member of Riders U.S.A., a local organization that opposes the legalization of undocumented immigrants. “But the emergency rooms empty for a while and they’re filled again,” said Roller, who does not believe the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants should be entitled to citizenship.

Supporters of the bill argue it follows the will of Arizona voters who in 2004 approved Proposition 200, aimed at denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants. The impact of that initiative was limited to five programs by an Attorney General’s decision.

“Nothing changed, this is what the voters wanted,” Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro said. “We’re going through difficult economic moments in Arizona. We’re having to cut from so many different areas. It’s only correct to make sure that people that apply and receive benefits are qualified to do so,” he said.

Montenegro says he has looked into concerns that the new law may affect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens.

“It is not aimed to affect the parent if they are applying for the child, unless the parent is aiming to receive the benefit,” said the representative who voted in favor of the law.

Patchwork Policies for Immigration Control

This essay from today's NYTimes argues for the need to take immigration control out of the hands of local municipalities and into those of federal officials:
States and localities have been taking immigration enforcement into their own hands out of frustration over Washington’s failure to enact comprehensive reform, over misguided and ineffective federal enforcement of existing rules and over a sense that America has lost control of its borders. Numerous states and towns have enacted harsh laws seeking to regulate the employment of undocumented workers, and, in some instances, keep them out of housing.

The troubling result is a growing patchwork of punitive statutes bound to spawn unfairness to businesses and employees while undermining the federal government’s proper authority over immigration.
 
The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to consider a challenge to Arizona’s immigration law. Before deciding, the justices have asked the solicitor general, Elena Kagan, to provide the views of the Obama administration. This is a chance for the court to weigh in against the improper splintering of national immigration policy, and Ms. Kagan should urge the court to seize that opportunity.
At issue is a problematic ruling last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The ruling upheld Arizona’s state-based employer sanctions law, which provides for the suspension or revocation of business licenses when firms are found to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
The state’s approach may not sound unreasonable. But like the more extreme Hazleton, Pa., ordinance struck down by a federal judge in 2007, the Arizona scheme has a crucial legal flaw. It usurps the federal government’s right to set immigration policy.

Arizona has broad authority to regulate companies doing business within the state. But that authority does not include the right to penalize firms for immigration violations that have not been determined by the federal government nor to impose penalties vastly harsher than Congress intended when it created the current employer sanctions system more than 20 years ago.

When the Hazleton decision was handed down, then-Senator Barack Obama hailed it as a “victory for all Americans” that underscored the need for national immigration reform. In that same spirit, President Obama should now want the Supreme Court to grab the Arizona case to vindicate the nation’s interest in having uniform immigration policies, and to stop the spread of local laws that can make achieving real worthwhile national reform harder.

The Arizona statute was signed into law by Arizona’s former governor, Janet Napolitano, who now leads the Department of Homeland Security. But that awkward fact should not prevent the administration from taking a principled stance in favor of Supreme Court review.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Napolitano reaffirms committment to Immigration Reform in 2010

DHS Head Janet Napolitano is making the rounds again, and she's still talking immigration reform in 2010.  Below is a news article published earlier today, along with responses form politicians and immigrant advocates.

Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, and reiterated her comitment to work with Congress to push for comprehensive immigration reform in early  2010.

DHS Secretary updated committee members with her department's progress over this past year and emphasized that immigration enforcement is a necessity, but that enforcement alone is not a solution for a broken immigration system.

"We can no longer perpetuate a status quo that is unacceptable for workers, employers, law enforcement, faith leaders, and America as a whole. We must seize this moment to build a truly effective immigration system that deters illegal immigration, provides effective and enduring enforcement tools, protects workers from exploitation and retaliation, and creates a tough but fair path to legalization for the millions of illegal immigrants already here," Secretary Napolitano said.

Immigration advocates and civil rights activists reacted to Napolitano's words.
The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“In her testimony today and in recent speeches, Secretary Napolitano makes clear her intentions to put the Administration’s muscle behind the effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation in early 2010.
"As [former INS Commissioner] Jim Ziglar and [former Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Policy at DHS] Stewart Verdery made clear yesterday, relying on enforcement measures alone amounts to putting a band-aid on a clean fracture. In order to significantly reduce illegal immigration, restore respect for the rule of law, and replace the chaos and exploitation of the status quo with the control and regulation of an orderly system, we need comprehensive immigration reform – the only practical and lasting answer.
"We are encouraged by the Administration’s continued commitment to advancing immigration reform next year, as well as Senator Leahy’s remarks and the work of other Congressional champions such as Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) who are gearing up for early action in 2010. It’s long been time for politicians to set aside partisanship and do what’s right for the country by enacting a lasting fix to this important problem.”
The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.
"Today Secretary Napolitano reminded Congress that she is counting on them to act on immigration reform so her Department can keep America safe. She recognized that as long as 12 million people remain outside of the system, the harder it is to achieve control over immigration and enhance security.
 
"Secretary Napolitano was clear in the urgent need for legislative action on immigration, as stated in her opening remarks: “We must seize this moment to build a truly effective immigration system”. She knows that with every day that Congress delays fixing our immigration laws, the task of providing effective law enforcement and national security becomes more difficult.
 
"We also welcome remarks by Senator Leahy, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who acknowledged that most border and immigration enforcement benchmarks have been met but that enforcement alone “will not by itself solve our Nation’s immigration problems”. This sentiment has been echoed by national security experts, who in a press conference yesterday, stated that regardless of security achievements, the bottom line is that without immigration reform, the Department of Homeland Security is restricted from operating in a well-functioning system that controls immigration and secures the border.
 
"We expect strong leadership from the Administration and from Congress to move past rhetoric into concrete action. Americans are counting on their elected leaders to solve the country’s challenging problems. That means transforming our broken immigration system into a system that works, that treats immigrants fairly, puts the undocumented on a path to citizenship and enhances national security by directing our enforcement resources in ways that protects this country from harm.
 
The following is a statement from Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Center:
 
"Secretary Napolitano is looking forward, but her opponents are looking backwards to tired old tactics that haven't worked (...) She is drawing upon her experience to move forward, but that entails a shift in thinking and comprehensive immigration reform. We can all agree that the current system isn't working, but some offer solutions while others offer the same old ideas."
 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Migration, Public Opinion and Politics

A new nook on the influence of Public Opinion and Politics on immigration policy reforms.

Migration, Public Opinion, and Politics
A publication of the Migration Policy Institute and Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Public perceptions and media coverage of immigrants and immigration policy are powerful forces in shaping the immigration debate. Understanding public opinion on immigration, how this impacts the political debate and how it affects reform prospects is critical in designing a strategy to advance thoughtful, rational and effective immigration and integration policy.

This volume explores a critical policy issue that has often been underestimated in the migration policy debate: the media and public opinion. This volume contains expert analysis of how our publics perceive immigration and immigrants-from their effects on the job market, to their impact on culture and society, to their prospects for integration. It assesses the forces that are shaping how our publics perceive immigration and immigrants. The authors also highlight patterns and trends in how political leaders speak about immigration. The volume ranges more broadly as well to examine how public opinion and political debates about issues such as globalization, economic crisis and demographic change affect the immigration debate. The work is deeply informed by the Council's transatlantic perspective.

The book focuses in particular on three case studies: the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The volume includes chapters analyzing public opinion and media coverage of immigration issues in each country. Additional chapters propose strategies for unblocking opposition to thoughtful, effective immigration-related reforms.

This book is the third major product of the Transatlantic Council on Migration. It is a result of the deliberations and thinking of the Transatlantic Council on Migration, which brings together leading political figures, policymakers and innovative thinkers-pollsters, political consultants, journalists, community organizers and politicians-from the USA and Europe.

The Transatlantic Council on Migration is an initiative of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC and its policy partner the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Its work is supported by numerous foundations and several governments. The Council is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community. Council members include leading politicians and policymakers from both sides of the Atlantic.

Top 10 Migration Issues of 2009 from the Migration Policy Institute





Photo by Benny Lim
1.
The Recession's Impact on Immigrants (pictured above) - The recession that began in the United States two years ago and spread to most other parts of the worlds has had a deeper and more global effect on migration than any other economic downturn in the post-World War II era. Among the immigrants most affected are those in North America, Asia, and Europe.
2.
Enforcement Tactics Shift in the Obama Era — But What About Immigration Reform? - In the absence of congressional action on any broad immigration reform, the election of President Barack Obama was expected to lead to changes in US immigration policy at the executive level.
3.
Buyer's Remorse on Immigration Continues - The global recession has caused countries that once welcomed foreign workers by the tens and hundreds of thousands — particularly Spain — to rethink generous immigration policies as unemployment rates have risen.
4.
What the Recession Wasn't - Some speculated that increasing unemployment could prompt thousands of immigrants to head home and citizens of hard-hit countries to assault immigrants for taking "their" jobs and causing other problems. However, no country in 2009 has seen a mass exodus of immigrants due to the recession, and immigrants have not been systematically attacked.
5.
Recession Prompts Some Governments to Cut Immigrant Integration Funding - Commitments to immigrant integration have proved hard to keep in Spain, Ireland, and some US states as governments reexamined their recession-battered budgets in 2009.
6.
Canada Bucks the Trend and Keeps Immigration Targets Steady - Despite the highest unemployment rate in nearly a decade, Canada chose to leave untouched its long-standing points system and the number of immigrants admitted for permanent residence.
7.
The World Is Talking about Climate Change and Migration - Discussions about climate change and migration ramped up in 2009, in large part due to a number of conferences and reports surrounding the highly anticipated United Nations (UN) Climate Change conference in Copenhagen.
8.
More Countries Entering into Post 9/11-Era Information-Sharing Agreements - Over the past year, long-standing discussions and negotiations have resulted in several new information-sharing initiatives that seek to boost security while facilitating travel for legitimate travelers.
9.
Some Relief for Immigrants in the Developing World - South Africa, Brazil, and Costa Rica — all destinations for migrants from the region — sought to make the lives of immigrants a little better in 2009.
10.
Asylum Seekers Unnerve Governments - As violence flared from Afghanistan to Iraq to Mexico this year, hundreds of thousands fled over land and by boat in search of safety. Asylum seekers' main destinations — Europe, Australia, and Canada — were not new, but the governments in these countries took a harder line in 2009.

Manager Pleads Guilty in Mississippi Immigration Raid

This report from ABC News details that guilty plea of Jose Humberto Gonzalez, a manager at Howard Industries who admitted to knowingly hiring undocumented workers.  Although I'm very pleased that prosecutors are FINALLY going after employers, this report seems to indicate that Mr. Gonzalez was a fall guy--a middle manager who got scapegoated.  It seems highly unlikely that Mr. Gonzalez was the sole perpetrator here.

The only company executive indicted in the nation's largest workplace raid on illegal immigrants pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy.

Jose Humberto Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one charge of a 12-count indictment that alleged he knowingly hired illegal immigrants at Howard Industries, where he was personnel director.  Prosecutors would not discuss details of the plea agreement.

More than 600 were arrested in the August 2008 raid on Howard's plant in the south Mississippi town of Laurel. Gonzalez, 45, was the human resources manager at the sprawling facility, which makes electrical transformers.

Several illegal immigrants have been convicted of identity theft and deported.
Gonzalez, wearing a dark brown suit, said little during the hearing other than responding to the judge with yes or no answers.

The court docket was backed up, so U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett conducted plea changes for two other men in unrelated cases at the same time as Gonzalez. That left Gonzalez standing before the judge next to a shackled crack dealer in a red prison jumpsuit.
 
Gonzalez refused to comment as he left the federal courthouse holding hands with his wife.
Gonzalez attorney, P.K. Holmes of Arkansas, passed out a written statement saying Gonzalez is prohibited from commenting on specifics of the case even though he wants to and "accepts responsibility for his actions."

He faces up to five years on the conspiracy charge. Sentencing is March 31.
As part of his plea, Gonzalez admitted to elements of the conspiracy, including hiring workers "regardless of concerns about their lawful status."

In December 2005, many workers fled the plant as rumors spread of a coming raid. Gonzalez "was summoned to the plant" to call workers and reassure them there was no raid and to tell them to come back to work, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaines Cleveland told the court.

Lou Barletta is running for Congress

 Hazleton's anti-immigrant mayor, Lou Barletta, is running for Congress.  Guess what he decided to *not* mention when announced--that's right, immigration.

It's a curious choice for a man who based his reputation on alienating the mainly Dominican immigrants in his hometown.  These immigrants were guilty of reviving a dying downtown district and bringing in new businesses and jobs.

My question is whether Mr. Barletta will be able to actually stand for something.
Lou Dobbs' favorite mayor, Hazleton's Lou Barletta, announced today he's going for a rematch against northeastern Pennsylvania Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa.

Barletta made national headlines with his efforts to drive illegal immigrants from his city, an economically struggling community on the edge of the Poconos, even going to federal court to defend city ordinances that allowed him to fine landlords who rented to illegal immigrants and employers who hired them. He was a frequent guest on Dobbs' now-defunct TV show.

In what may be a sign of the changing times, Barletta didn't even mention immigration in today's announcement. Instead, he focused on the economy.

"We need sane, sensible policies to restore our economy and encourage it to grow, create good jobs, and guarantee retirees’ pensions and benefits," he said.

Last year when he ran for Congress against a much-better funded Kanjorski, Barletta lost 52%-48%. But he outpolled Republican presidential candidate John McCain by six percentage points in Pennsylvania's 11th congressional district. President Obama won the district with 57% of the vote.
While there are plenty of indications that next year will be a better one for Republicans, Barletta faces an uphill battle. Money, for one thing: As of Sept. 30, Kanjorski had more than $800,000 in his campaign treasury. By contrast, Barletta still had more than $263,000 in debts from the last campaign. The mayor said he's looking forward, not back. "We're going to raise money for the campaign in 2010, not to retire the debt," Barletta told reporters on a conference call.

There's also competition within the GOP. Local businessman Chris Paige is also campaigning for the Republican nomination and is attacking Barletta on his signature issue. Paige says Barletta's plans to crack down on illegal immigration will mean a national ID card and higher taxes. "Don't forget that any government powerful enough to round up and deport 14 million people is anything but a small limited government," Paige writes on his website.

NJ Fugative worked for Homeland Security.

This is worthy of The Onion, but it's really an AP article.  It appears that a Georgia Homeland Security office hired a fugitive from NJ despite the fact that she was listed in a nationwide alert.  Hmm.  Maybe the folks in Georgia should make a point of perusing those notices.

NEWARK, N.J. — Prosecutors don't understand how a fugitive wanted in New Jersey worked for the Homeland Security Department in Georgia despite a nationwide alert for her arrest.
     Tahaya Buchanan was sought on a 2007 indictment on charges of staging the theft of her Range Rover.
     Paul Loriquet (LOR'-ih-kay) of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office says the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Atlanta was unaware of the 39-year-old's status even after Buchanan was arrested in July during a traffic stop in which police noticed the warrant.
     Immigration spokeswoman Ana Santiago tells The Star-Ledger of Newark she did not have information whether the office regularly checks its employee list against national criminal warrants.
     A Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman in Washington said Wednesday she couldn't immediately comment.
     Buchanan pleaded guilty to one charge of insurance fraud on Monday and faces three months probation.

The Latest from Pat Buchanan

Ah, the memories.  Pat Buchanan running for president.  Back then, there seemed to be a lot more sanity in the U.S.  When Pat proposed a border fence, he got laughed off the stage.  Today, sadly, much of his twisted approach to immigration is take seriously.

This op-ed appeared in the San Jose Mercury-News.  Here Mr. Buchanan argues that "halting immigration would be an instant stimulus package."  Okay, forget the fact that "halting immigration" is not really possible, is there merit to the rest of his argument, that American citizens want to scrub toilets and flip burgers?

It's a down economy, so maybe.  But the larger point here is what his argument represents--that somehow this service-oriented economy where a worker can slave away full-time with no benefits and at minimum wage--is a goal toward which we should aim.  Really?  Is that the best you can think of for the future of America?

There are days when I despair the state of our nation.  I wonder if we'll ever be able to escape the burden of debt that George W. Bush heaped upon us when he led us into war with Iraq.  I despair when I hear Republicans say we can't afford to invest in the education of our children or health care, but we "can't afford" to not sink ourselves further into debt in Afghanistan.

In many ways, I think the immigration debate is not really about immigration, it's about a persistent fear that white America is going to have to deal with the reality of a browning America. This aside, I can't believe that so many Republicans think that working low-skilled, dead-end jobs is really the way to fix our economic problems.  The fact that Buchanan states this with no sense of irony says so much about how things have changed since the 1980s, and how much damage has been done to our expectations as a result.

Immigrant Workers vs. Walmart (satire)



Immigrant Workers Vs. Wal-Mart


Take a Bite out of Crime: Reform Immigration

This op-ed essay in La Opinión considers the link between homeland security and immigration law, pointing out that in order to keep the homeland secure, law enforcement needs to focus on criminals, not immigrants.  Just as alarming is the increase in human rights violations that are related to the U.S.'s lack of consistent responses to immigration violations. It reads in part:

The issue has become more urgent as weeks and months have passed. Just yesterday, a series of security experts, including former immigration commissioners, border area police chiefs, and others concerned with law and order, indicated that reforming immigration laws can only help them improve security and focus their resources where they should be: on fighting crime.

The situation is critical. Arrests of undocumented immigrants fell on the southern border by 23% during the fiscal year that just ended, but migrant deaths increased due to the risky crossing and the smugglers’ tactics.

The violation of civil and human rights in the enforcement of current immigration policies in a legal framework that no longer works has become—more than concerning—cause for alarm.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Struggles of the Second Generation

This is an outstanding feature on the lives of second generation immigrants in the D.C. area. 

Public wants Immigration Reform Even if Politicians do not

This editorial from the San Diego Tribune points out an important, often overlooked, aspect of the political debate on immigration: most Americans see this as a national priority, even if our lawmakers do not.

The reasons why they do not are varied, but most seem reluctant to wade into what would obviously be a message political debate. Throw in the anti-immigrant forces who have been known to make this debate about anything but common sense, and it's understandable why lawmakers avoid the issue.

But this discussion is long overdue. Let's hope that its time has come.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Cuba-US migration talks delayed until February 2010

Although the bilateral immigration talks between the U.S. and Cuba were highly anticipated, they have been pushed back until February because of scheduling concerns. With each side blaming the other for this delay, it seems that hopes of a reconciliation may be difficult.

in reference to: Cuba-US migration talks pushed back until February - washingtonpost.com (view on Google Sidewiki)

Forensic Audits taking the Place of ICE Raids

There are days when I think that we will have a shot a real immigration reform next year.  The rise in forensic audits by the IRS is the reason for that hope.  For years now I have blogged that enforcing immigration does not have to include the drama of the immigration raid.  In fact, I think that is the most counter productive way to manage our immigration violations.  Unless, of course, your goal is the make a big media splash and placate the rabid anti-immigrant lobby, proving that your agency is "doing something."

I have long proposed that the more effective way to go about this is to ferret out the employers who hire and therefore lure immigrants into our system without authorization.  The employers are the ones who directly benefit from the current system, and they are the most likely perpetrators of abuse of their highly vulnerable workforce.  But aside from the inherent justice of this approach, sending in the IRS will serve two important functions: 1) it will scare the pants off even the most egregious immigration violator and 2) the employers will have to pay fines.  Lots of fines.  And let's face it, no one wants to be on the bad side of the IRS.

Why do I think that this approach will be more effective?  I see things this way:  employers are hiring undocumented employees.  They need the labor, and like the benefits of not paying adequate wages and benefits.  Once this system becomes costly to the employer, they will be less likely to engage in the practice.  However, they will still need the workforce, and will be more likely to support a short-term worker visa program, or other alternatives, to fill their labor needs.  This, I hope, will encourage a more balance discussion on immigration and reform.

The quote below is a excerpt from the Contra Costa Times. 

Today, those high-profile raids have been replaced with a quieter but more expansive arm of immigration enforcement: The forensic auditor.

"Being an employer, it's like getting a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. You panic," said Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. "It's a real frightening deal for employers."

Most audits are invisible to the public, and land with a softer impact than a raid, but they are common enough to worry some employers.

Federal agents this month are probing more than 150 California businesses and 1,000 nationwide, the latest in a surge of civil inspections that began in the spring.

"They were selected because we received leads or intelligence indicating there might be problems with their workforce, and these businesses might have (connections) to public safety and critical infrastructure," said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

The inspections typically begin with a phone call and are followed by visits from auditors with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, who ask to review the I-9 forms that all employees must fill out to verify their identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

"A lot of people in business now know a company who's had an I-9 audit," said lawyer Dan Brown, who was a policy director at ICE during the Bush administration. "They are more nervous and taking the threat more seriously."

Along with the threat of fines and a tarnished reputation, many companies face the added costs of attorneys to navigate the conflicting demands of the government and the company's own bargaining agreements with union workers.

Targets range from brand-name firms to small companies, but ICE will not identify them unless employers are dealt a fine. Among the industries targeted because they are part of the nation's "critical infrastructure" are those involved in the food supply chain, officials have said.

That means investigations are hitting California farmers, who are widely known to employ tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants but whose operations were largely untouched by immigration enforcement for years.

Before this year, when ICE visited a farm, dairy or packing plant, the agency was typically looking for one immigrant who was wanted by law enforcement, said Cunha, whose group advocates for Central Valley farmers.

Some food businesses are now finding that the government wants to review their entire workforce, including longtime employees they know from church or family functions. The audits are hardest for older farmers who still use carbon paper and punch-in time cards and have not transitioned into the digital age of record-keeping, Cunha said.

"There's so much confusion. No education has been done," said Cunha, who brought his concerns to ICE's director at a meeting last month in Washington, D.C. "I don't just blame this administration, but this is the one that's doing the audits with no education."

The inspections are a way of enforcing immigration law without launching disruptive and controversial raids, said Philip Martin, a professor in labor and agricultural economics at UC Davis. It's unclear if the new focus will be prolonged, he said.

"We don't know how it's going to play out," Martin said. "Workplace enforcement was never a terribly high priority."

Brown said the Obama administration's push for more employer audits marks a significant shift and has already caused companies across the country to fire employees who do not have the right paperwork.

"The use of I-9 inspections kind of tailed off in the late 1990s and then really tailed off after 9/11," said the former ICE official. "There was a bigger focus on homeland security and terrorism concerns rather than vanilla immigration enforcement."

Brown said some officials had not considered civil inspections effective because the audits were time-consuming and the fines too small to be taken seriously by corporations.

"With the Bush administration's focus on criminal investigators, I think probably a lot of employers didn't feel impacted by that," Brown said.

Fine amounts increased by 25 percent last year, so companies penalized for the first time must pay $375 to $3,200 for each unauthorized worker. ICE this year has issued final orders demanding companies pay almost $800,000, an increase from the less than $200,000 collected from a total of eight cases the year before.

Still, most of the nearly 2,000 companies audited this year will not end up being fined. Of the more than two dozen Northern California businesses investigated this summer, only one is likely to face a fine, Kice said.

"The vast majority were actually subsequently found to be in compliance," she said.

Lou Dobbs is no longer sufficiently anti-immigrant

Poor Lou Dobbs. First he loses his job because he unloads on immigrants. Now he's losing friends because he's not anti-immigrant enough.

We live in a strange world.

According to the article linked here, The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has dropped its support for Dobbs because he no longer sufficiently hates undocumented immigrants.

Apparently, Dobbs is serious about his future bid for a political position, and has quickly shed his more onerous anti-immigrant rhetoric. When he appeared on Telemundo recently, he mention not once, but two times that the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. need a path to citizenship.

So what gives? Dobbs is a turncoat? Hypocrite? Aliens have stolen the real Dobbs and left us with a thinking changling?

I think it could be all of the above, and I'm hoping the aliens (and I do see the irony here) keep the "real" Dobbs. But I doubt they'll like each other.
in reference to: Lou Dobbs Loses Support of Anti-Immigration Group -- Daily Intel (view on Google Sidewiki)