Thursday, January 21, 2010

Plans to fast-track authorization for undocumented Haitians

Federal officials estimate that between 100,000 to 200,000 Haitians who have been living illegally in the United States will take advantage of the offer from the Obama administration for temporary legal status.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Secret Immigration Prisons

The above link posts to an editorial from today's NY Times. It discusses recent reporting on U.S. immigration prisons, and the attempt by our government to cover up the failings of this detention system.  You can also read the article that the editorial refers to by following this link.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Canada Considers Fast-Track for Haitian Immigrants

This story highlights the differences between the U.S. and Canada.  The Canadian government says it is looking into a plan to help fast-track immigration from Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that has crippled the Caribbean country.  This comes from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a conservative sometimes referred to as "Baby Bush." 

Tennessee Marine's Widow gives up fight to remain in U.S. with her child

This is a sad story.

A young woman marries a soldier via phone.  She was pregnant; he died a month later in combat in Iraq.  The widow, Robin Ferschke, understandably wanted to stay in the U.S. so her husband's parents could see their grandchild.  But DHS sees things differently.  Because Mr. and Mrs. Ferschke were married via phone, and thus their marriage was never consummated, it was not a real marriage.  Thus the government won't recognize it.  Never mind that she was PREGNANT when they got married.  I guess premarital consummation of the relationship, even when it leads to the production of a U.S. citizen, doesn't count. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Marine's widow who has been fighting immigration law to remain in the U.S. to raise her 1-year-old child has returned to Japan.

Robin Ferschke says her daughter-in-law, Hotaru Ferschke, and grandson, Mikey, returned to Japan on Jan. 4 so Hotaru could go back to work. A private bill that would grant Hotaru permanent residency in the U.S. has not made much progress in Congress because of the holiday break.

Hotaru married Sgt. Michael Ferschke of Maryville, Tenn., by phone in 2008 while he was stationed in Iraq and she was in Japan. He died in combat a month later.

The Homeland Security Department will not recognize the proxy marriage, saying it was not consummated - even though Hotaru was already pregnant with the couple's child.

New Calls for Immigration Reform from Idaho

NAMPA — A broad coalition of organizations met Thursday at the Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho in Nampa to show support of comprehensive immigration reform.

About 75 people attended the press conference, which was part of a week of action in all 50 states to urge immigration issues to the forefront in 2010.

The 50-state push is being organized by national campaign coalition Reform Immigration for America Now.

We're demanding comprehensive immigration now; it's far past its due date and we need to get it done," Will Rainford, the legislative advocate for the Roman Catholic Diocese and Catholic Charities of Idaho, told the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Representatives of other organizations who share the same stance, including the Center for Community and Justice, Idaho Hispanic Caucus, Idaho Peace Coalition, Interfaith Alliance of Idaho and Idaho Community Action Network, which is the lead agency in the local mobilization effort, joined Rainford.
With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, now is the time to push comprehensive immigration reform, Rainford said.

"The pressure is on right now for comprehensive immigration reform for this Congress. We'll be pressing in the next three to five months for reform now," he said.

Organizers said polls show that voters in swing districts support legislation that would secure the border, crack down on employers that hire illegal immigrants, and require illegal immigrants to register for legal immigration status, learn English and pay back taxes.

"Theres a handful (of swing districts) across the nation. (Idaho) Congressional District 1 is one of them," ICAN community organizer Leo Morales said "It's a key target. Something surprising for Congressional District 1 is in the amount of support for immigration reform — Idahoans really wanting to support a candidate that would support (comprehensive immigration reform)."

Polling organization BSG conducted 1,000 interviews nationwide with likely voters between May 9 and 12, 2009, as well as 500 interviews each in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, and California's 3rd District between May 27 and June 1, 2009.

The results showed that swing district voters are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports comprehensive reform legislation.

Organizers said reform would keep families together, bring employers and workers out of the black market and ensure a more equitable tax system for everyone.

Also at Thursday's event were several newly eligible voters who will register to vote for the first time. Many are recently naturalized and are eligible to vote in the 2010 elections.

"Latinos and naturalized immigrants played a significant role in the national elections in 2008, as well as in Congressional District 1's Canyon County," Morales said.

Naturalized U.S. citizens Sergio Castro of Fruitland and Mirella Silva of Boise signed giant voter registration cards at the press conference to demonstrate the voting power of immigrants.

Will the Haitian earthquake prompt an amnesty?

Buried in the White House pledge to support Haiti's recovery from a crippling earthquake with money and troops was the announcement that the government is halting the planned deportation of 30,000 illegal Haitian immigrants.
The step was supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as a way of helping the embattled island nation deal with a worsening humanitarian crisis. Now there is a movement afoot to grant the estimated 125,000 illegal Haitians in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  TPS is a program that grants immigrants from certain countries amnesty if they can't safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, war and other hardships. People from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan have already been designated for TPS.

President Obama has resisted the call for granting Haitians TPS in the past, but the time could be right for a change in policy.
  • "Mr. Obama should immediately extend [TPS] to Haitians so they can help their quake-stricken relatives at home," writes The Washington Post editorial board. They argue the move is overdue and should have been granted back in 2008 when the island was devastated by four storms in the space of a month.
  • Newsweek's Arian Campo-Flores notes that critics often say the problem with "granting TPS to Haitians is that it will encourage a massive influx of new immigrants." In reality, "TPS benefits only those who are already in the U.S., not fresh arrivals." She writes that Hondurans and Nicaraguans benefited from TPS after Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Salvadorans were granted the status after an earthquake in 2001.  "As destructive as both those tragedies were, they don't match the apparent scale of devastation in Haiti," she notes.
  •  The Los Angeles Times' Johanna Neuman thinks the TPS issue will have major implications on the overall immigration debate and the urgency could force Obama's hand too early. "Now, given the utter destruction of the country's already-limited infrastructure, political pressure is likely to grow even further on the administration to let the illegals stay."
  • Political pressure and other factors have convinced The Village Voice's Ward Harkavy that TPS for Haitians won't happen -- even though it should. "The Obama administration isn't showing much more heart than past U.S. regimes," he wrote.
  • "It's a kind of backdoor refugee system," NumbersUSA Executive Director Roy Beck tells the National Journal. Beck, whose organization advocates lower immigration levels, notes that some other countries that enjoy TPS status are no longer in flux -- yet remain on the list. TPS should be renamed "PPS," for permanent protected status, he says.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gardens of San Miguel

From today's Houston Chronicle Travel Section (photo by the Gringa):

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO — Seated on a wrought-iron bench in El Jardín, beneath laurel trees neatly clipped into living lollipops, I found myself in the mind's eye of San Miguel de Allende. El Jardín, the garden that lies at the heart of this centuries-old, picturesque town, records the pulse and celebration of life here. At times meditative, it's often charged with children's laughter, the chatter of old men, a throaty guitar or piercing trumpet in a mariachi band and, throughout the day, the comforting bells of Parroquia de San Miguel, the soft-pink-and-orange confection of a cathedral on the garden's south side.

El Jardín offers an engaging snapshot of this well-preserved National Monument 6,400 feet above sea level in central Mexico: its warm and gracious people, 16th- and 17th-century architecture, narrow cobblestone streets flanked by high adobe walls pierced with magnificent doorways, art and crafts, sun-baked colors and near-perfect weather. A first-time visitor, I was as smitten by these irresistible charms as the thousands of ex-pats who call this city home.

But above all, I fell for the gardens of San Miguel. Public spaces for festivals and vendors quietly selling vibrant bouquets of dried flowers. Hotel and restaurant courtyards lush with palms, pomegranates and plumbago. Take-your-breath-away private gardens hidden behind stone and stucco walls. And El Charco del Ingenio, a 220-acre, wildly diverse botanical garden where I ogled cactuses and succulents.

Leafy looks

Shop San Miguel, but save time for the natural sights. Thanks to warm days and cool nights, flowers jump with crisp color. Fuschia bougainvillea simply glows. Pink cosmos and sunflowers melt away cares, and the morning glories are a heavenly blue.

The Sunday House & Garden Tour sponsored by the Biblioteca Pública gives visitors a peek behind the private walls of a rotating roster of more than 300 homes. With this huge selection you may be inspired by a sensible vegetable garden, artfully arranged collections of aquatics and low-water plants, or a hill-hugging tropical paradise.

My tour included Casa Kutt-Reinhart, home to avid art and plant collectors. The contemporary jewel is filled with American and Mexican paintings and folk art and enveloped by one of the largest gardens in town. Tropicals flutter in breezes in the rooftop terrace. Palms rattle in the lush courtyard, where orange trumpet blossoms cascade down the blue and purple walls. Just feet away striking vignettes of cactuses and succulents are composed in the dry garden.

Next stop: high-end drama. Only a visionary could tackle the vertical property of Villa el Cerrito, an exquisite house and terraced landscape handcrafted over five years. Winding paths curve through layers of tropical vegetation punctuated with blue agapanthus, orange clivia and other unexpected blooms. Sights along the way include a massive curtain of bougainvillea cascading down a stone wall; a Venetian bridge; a serpentine rose-clad arbor that terminates in a secret garden; an acoustically correct Roman amphitheater; and sweeping views of the mountains from a treetop patio with infinity pool. The gardens are on the library's rotating tour roster, but you can have them to yourself by renting the property through

Embellishment rises to cosmic levels at Casa de las Ranas (House of the Frogs). Visionary artist Anado McLauchlin and art historian Richard Schultz are surrounded by riotous color splashed on every inch of this magical place outside town. There's no missing the screaming purple wall at the entrance to this over-the-top celebration of life. Mirrors and mosaics sparkle inside and out, keeping company with folk art, cow skulls and Buddhas. Plumbago, roses and Mexican sunflowers are just a few of the bloomers framing a weed-free vegetable garden. Six dogs and four rescued burros also take refuge on these exuberant 2½ acres. The house and garden are on the library's revolving roster, but for more information, see

Among the natives

A few minutes drive from the city, El Charco del Ingenio has been kindling appreciation for Mexican plant and animal species for 18 years. You'll discover three habitats on your leisurely walk along the nature trails. The dry chaparral is a scrubland dotted with mesquite, a favorite Texas barbecue wood; huisache with yellow, fuzzy pompom blooms; Peruvia pepper tree, marked by gracefully drooping compound leaves; curiously shaped cactuses and grasses. Sheer cliffs, caves and pools highlight a canyon that supports a number of creatures and plants. The wetlands shelter migratory and residential birds. The hangerlike glass Conservatory of Mexican Plants houses cactus and succulent treasures. El Charco's exceptional prickly plant collections include 75 agave species. But there's also a startling 31 native ferns. And the wildflower season offers up pink, white and gold blooms May through October.

The garden is open sunrise-sunset daily, the conservatory 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is about $3 for adults. See for more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Catholic Case for Immigration Reform

Normally I would avoid touching the American Spectator, as I am loathe to put my hands on such rubbish.  Nevertheless, there are times when even this foul rag of a "news paper" puts something out worth reading, and this op-ed is a great example.

Basically, the author takes issue with so-called GOP "Christians" who are so vitriolic in their opposition to immigration reform.  It's the writing of someone who takes her faith seriously, and I commend the Spectator for publishing this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

36 hours in San Miguel

I can't resist re-posting these travel guides to SMA.  Here is a story on how to spend a weekend there.

Shocking News!

Iowa slaughterhouse manager pleads guilty to hiring undocumented workers and assisting them in their efforts to obtain fake documents.  Was he sent to a detention center?  Deported?  NO!  He was changed with one county of conspiracy to commit document fraud and is now free on bond.

Thank heavens our justice system is fair and balanced.

The Economic Impact of Immigration Reform

Help us?  Hurt us?  Regardless, it needs to be done.  Here's one more voice in the debate:

As the U.S. unemployment rate hovers at around 10 percent, a key question is emerging in the unfolding immigration reform debate: whether legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants will further erode the economy or speed its recovery. The answer is hard to pin down because of clashing conclusions in recently issued reports.

One study released Thursday and endorsed by pro-immigration groups said legalization would boost the economy. But a report issued in December by an organization that seeks tighter immigration controls said less-educated native U.S. workers will find it more difficult to land jobs if illegal foreign workers are given green cards.

The issue could set back immigration reform once again if the public perceives undocumented immigrants as a threat to workers who are citizens or legal residents.

That's not going to happen, some immigrant rights advocates claim, because most people support immigration reform. America's Voice, a pro-immigration group in Washington, released updated poll data Monday showing that even in a down economy a majority of surveyed voters support immigration reform.

According to the data, 55 percent of 800 polled voters agreed with the statement that the economic crisis ``makes it more crucial than ever'' that Congress deal with immigration reform vs. 42 percent who said this is not the right time for the issue.

U.S. Roman Catholic Church leaders set the stage for the economic dimension of the debate when they told a news conference in Washington Wednesday that those who argue against legalization because of unemployment are wrong.

``It's a red herring to say immigrants are going to take jobs,'' said John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on migration.
The question got a fuller airing Thursday when the Washington immigrant advocacy groups Center for American Progress and Immigration Policy Center highlighted the findings of a new report claiming that legalization would promote prosperity.

``We estimate that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years,'' the report, Raising the Floor for American Workers, said.
The report's author, Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said his research was based on the impact on the U.S. economy of the previous legalization in 1986 and was known as Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

That measure granted legal status to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants through a general legalization program, as well as to another 1.3 million people through a special agricultural workers program.

``Even though IRCA was implemented during an economic recession characterized by high unemployment,'' Hinojosa-Ojeda wrote, ``studies of immigrants who benefited from the general legalization program indicate that they soon earned higher wages and moved on to better jobs and invested more in their own education so that they could earn even higher wages and get even better jobs.''

But a report issued this month by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which backs tighter immigration controls, said many of the immigrants who legalized their status under IRCA did so fraudulently.

Another report from the same group, released in December, said less-educated unemployed and underemployed U.S. workers likely will have a tougher time finding a job if undocumented workers are legalized.

NJ Legislature Denies In-state Tuition for the Undocumented

Well, this is a disappointment.  Full article from the Philadelphia Inquirer linked above.

How You Can Help Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2010

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Detained Immigrants Raise Safety Concerns about Boston's Gillette Stadium

This is a great example of unnecessary hysteria about a couple of undocumented immigrants who were hired to shovel snow before the playoff game between the New English Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.

First of all, let's set the record straight: undocumented people work everywhere, especially in those jobs that demand hard labor and little pay.  This article makes it seem like Boston is in a state of shock and surprise that some of the people that the vendor hired to provide people to shove snow had the nerve to hire undocumented people.  Let me fill you all in on something: that's precisely the reason why agencies hire subcontractors: so they can make public statements expressing their shock and surprise that an undocumented person was allowed to do the work.  It's a bait and switch: Gillette Stadium gets the benefit of the cheap undocumented labor, and someone else gets the blame.

This little report is an account of public theatre, and I would like to add that all parties played their roles very well.  Bravo.
The detention of dozens of immigrants on their way to a temporary job at Gillette Stadium this week has touched off a firestorm in Foxborough, as town officials raised safety concerns for tomorrow’s playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.

Paul Feeney, who chairs the town’s Board of Selectmen, sent a memo yesterday to Town Manager Andrew Gala in which he cited “potential security problems’’ for the game.

He demanded answers about the immigrant workers’ identities, legal status, and criminal records, questioning whether any of those apprehended were on a terror watch list.

“My ultimate concern is that no one knows the true identity of various workers that have been hired to perform work in Gillette Stadium, which by its nature is also at risk of potential coordinated attacks and terrorist activities,’’ he wrote.

A spokesman for Gillette Stadium said the Boston-area vendor responsible for hiring the workers was terminated after the incident. Any vendor hired, said the spokesman, Stacey James,, is required to ensure its employees can legally work at the stadium.

“They are expected to follow the law,’’ said James, who did not name the vendor.
In an interview yesterday afternoon, Feeney said he is awaiting answers from Gala and Police Chief Edward T. O’Leary.

“There are too many questions that I need answered before I can determine whether or not a problem exist for this Sunday,’’ he said.

Gala could not be reached for comment.

Foxborough police and Gillette Stadium officials insisted that the games are safe and that every worker and fan is patted down before setting foot in the stadium. Bags are also searched.

James said every worker who enters the facility is under stadium supervision during the time he or she is there. And, he said, “before every event there is a complete sweep of the stadium by State Police and stadium police. ’’

“The safety of our fans is al ways our highest priority,’’ said James.

O’Leary said Foxborough and Gillette Stadium officials have “a consistent program to ensure the safety of [the] fans’’ attending events at the stadium. He would not say what, if any, extra measures his officers will take tomorrow.

“I know that people who are working for the stadium are screened as closely as the fans,’’ said O’Leary.

In a search for fugitives from deportation, agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency pulled over dozens of immigrants in Foxborough who were apparently on their way to shovel snow at Gillette.

ICE officials have not confirmed that the workers were working at the stadium, but Guatemala’s consul in Rhode Island told the Globe they were en route there to shovel snow.

The road stop put Gillette Stadium in the spotlight, with questions over the legal status of temporary employees at the complex and about the responsibility of companies that hire subcontractors to verify their workers’ legal status.

The incident was part of a routine operation by federal immigration officials seeking specific fugitives, some with criminal records, who had been ordered deported.

Nine men from Guatemala living in Rhode Island were detained and are facing deportation. Seven of them were held in Bristol County Jail. Five of them allegedly reentered the country after being deported and were referred to the US attorney’s office for criminal prosecution.
Federal officials did not release the names of the detainees.

Forty-nine others, many from Guatemala, were also questioned and released on orders to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine their legal status.

Steve Kropper, cochairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform, which favors stricter controls on immigration, said Gillette Stadium should hire only subcontractors that can prove that they check employees’ legal eligibility to work, given the high unemployment rate in Massachusetts.
“I demand that contractors verify their employees are citizens, and I’m sure that costs me more,’’ said Kropper, who owns a company. “It’s easy to do.’’

Kropper said, however, that he doubted that the existence of illegal immigrants would create a serious security breach.

Paul Mortenson, a member of the Board of Selectmen, also has questions. “Uniformed officers have to have their credentials checked going into the games,’’ he said, “[and] one would hope that the temporary workers might also be vetted.’’

The stadium found a crew to remove the snow, but it was unclear whether its members were among those questioned and released by federal authorities.

O’Leary, who said his officers assisted Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the operation, said safety at Gillette Stadium was never an issue.

“None of the people had any outstanding criminal matters in the Commonwealth,’’ he said. “And based on my observation of over 25 years of managing large stadium events, I don’t perceive the stadium practices as dangerous. They are very prudent in terms of ensuring security.’’

He said the stadium follows a “best practices’’ guide that includes restricting certain vehicle access on event day, patting down fans, and checking packages. The methods have been certified by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Feeney said he is awaiting word from the police chief and the town manager before deciding whether to take action. The five-member board has the authority to revoke event licenses.
“The goal, he said, “is to have a nice, safe event’’ tomorrow.

Health Care and Immigration: the LA Case

According to this op-ed by Tim Rutten in today's LA Times, the health care reform bill being negotiated in Congress might leave Los Angeles County far worse off than it is today, because of the Senate version's treatment of immigrants.  He argues that combining immigration reform with health care reform would be more effective way to approach this situation.

Whatever their final shape, the healthcare reforms being negotiated by Democratic members of the House and Senate represent the most consequential piece of social legislation Congress has considered in half a century.

Californians, however, have a bigger stake in the outcome than other Americans -- and residents of Los Angeles County perhaps the biggest stake of all. In fact, if the final bill most closely resembles the one passed by the Senate, the county will be left far worse off than it is today.

The problem stems from the Senate bill's treatment of immigrants.

Both the House and Senate bills propose establishing insurance exchanges and giving low-income people subsidies to purchase coverage. The Senate, however, would limit participation in the exchanges to U.S. citizens. The House would allow legal immigrants who aren't citizens to buy through the exchange, but would deny them federal subsidies. Neither version makes any provision for undocumented immigrants.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate's approach will leave 23 million American residents without health insurance, and about 7 million of those people will be undocumented. The House version allows 18 million people to go without coverage, of which roughly 6 million will be undocumented immigrants.

Because nearly 30% of all Californians -- as opposed to just 11.1% of all U.S. residents -- were born in another country, the statewide implications become a little clearer. Moreover, a UCLA study found that 20% of the 5.3 million Californians without health insurance in 2007 were not U.S. citizens. In other words, if something close to the Senate version of reform passes, at least 1 million residents of this state will be denied coverage. (The recent economic collapse and the consequent double-digit unemployment doubtless have pushed these numbers up.)

Narrow the focus to L.A. County and the picture becomes much bleaker. This county has more uninsured residents than any other local government in the country -- somewhere around 3 million, according to the best local estimates. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has long been deeply immersed in the healthcare issue, likes to point out that "if Los Angeles County's uninsured were their own county, they'd be the third-largest county in the United States."

It's a safe bet that the majority of those people are immigrants, because health officials say that 40% of all the patients treated at county hospitals are undocumented. In recognition of that fact and of the hospitals' legal and ethical responsibilities to treat the uninsured ill and injured -- regardless of their immigration status -- Washington currently subsidizes their care at facilities, like L.A. County's, with "disproportionate" numbers of such patients.

As the result of efforts by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the House reform bill reduces those federal payments only modestly, while the Senate version deeply cuts them. If the bill that ultimately emerges from the negotiations follows the Senate's prescription, L.A. County's millions of uninsured immigrants -- whatever their legal status -- will be denied the ability to obtain health insurance and the county will be on the hook for their hospital bills.

From this vantage point, that's not much of a reform.

Waxman, who is one of the House negotiators, is said to be working hard to protect those hospitals that could be hurt by the Senate approach. It seems increasingly likely, though, that the compromise bill is going to leave the county's health system worse off than it is today -- the House version marginally so; the Senate approach disastrously.

More farsighted participants in this process already are arguing that to make a real difference -- particularly in California -- these changes in the healthcare system need to be followed by comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the nation's 12 million undocumented residents, something else President Obama has promised. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made that point in a news conference this week.

Another UCLA study released this week examined the aftermath of Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty for some 3 million undocumented immigrants and found that the benefits to the economy were striking. Using that as a benchmark, the researchers concluded that if the currently undocumented population was allowed to regularize its status, it would add $1.5 trillion to our gross domestic product over the next decade.

Thus, immigration reform would go a long way toward paying for healthcare reform -- if we can summon the political will to accomplish both.

Authorities investigating human trafficking raid on US territory's immigration office in American Samoa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — Law enforcement agents in American Samoa have raided the U.S. territory's Office of Immigration seeking evidence of human trafficking in a case that could involve victims from China, the Philippines and South Korea, authorities said.

The agency is suspected of helping to illegally bring Asians into the South Pacific territory through neighboring Samoa, Lt. John Cendrowski of the Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement said in a search warrant that was executed Thursday.

It's possible that hundreds of victims were brought to American Samoa from May to Dec. 15, Cendrowski said. Many were women apparently being used by a prostitution ring that is plaguing the South Pacific, while the men found work in warehouses, restaurants and stores, he said.

One man from China who is now under protective care as a human trafficking victim told investigators he paid $20,000 to get to American Samoa via Samoa, Cendrowski said.

Upon arrival in Pago Pago, the victim didn't undergo immigration clearance. Instead, immigration officers waived him through and he was taken to the safe house and given a local immigration card, making him a legal resident of the territory, Cendrowski said in court documents.

The man also told officials he didn't take any tests or fill out any paperwork to obtain the documents provided to him.

"This is not the first time we had heard this type of story," Cendrowski said in the affidavit. "In our ongoing investigation into human trafficking, we have heard from different Asian races on how they were 'recruited' to come to American Samoa in order to earn a better living."

After arriving, they were ordered to pay additional fees for their plane trips, identification cards, driver's licenses and housing, he said.

"These fees would be taken out of their pay, if they were paid at all," Cendrowski said.

About 20 law enforcement officers, including one FBI agent, were involved in raids at the main immigration office in Utulei village and a smaller office at Pago Pago International Airport. They carted off large plastic bins and a cabinet filled with immigration documents.

No charges have been filed in the case, but any defendant could be prosecuted in territorial court.

The case could also go before federal court in Hawaii or Washington, D.C. if any defendant is alleged to have violated federal law. There is no federal court in American Samoa, which has a population of about 65,000.

Immigration Reform 2010? Mexico doesn't think so

At least Mexico's ambassador to the U.S. doesn't think so. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said that a amnesty would be the most unlikely solution, but also advocated for a worker visa program, coupled with a "regularization process (or earned legalization) involving fines, would be a more likely workable solution.

in reference to: Mexico Says Immigration Reform Unlikely in 2010 - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Are Sherrif Joe's Days Numbered?

It appears that Maricopa County Sherrif Joe Arpaio's strong-arm tactics are not limited to immigrants. A federal grand jury is investigating him for possible abuses of other powers, namely investigating local officials who disagree with him.

This is not surprising, as megalomaniacs often have issues with dissent.

in reference to: Grand jury investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Opponents of Immigration Gear up for upcoming debate

Immigration reform is far down on Washington’s “to do” list, after healthcare reform, the Afghanistan war, and job creation. But outside the Beltway, in America’s community centers and protest venues, you’d think someone had already pushed the hot button to bring this always-simmering issue to a boil.

Though the Obama administration and the Democrats who control Congress are not expected to take up immigration reform until later this year – and possibly not till the midterm elections are over – both sides are already rallying their grass roots in anticipation of a fight that, some say, could make the great immigration debate of 2007 look like a playground spat.

The end of 2009 saw opponents of reform organizing dozens of anti-immigration “tea parties,” while pro-reform groups coordinated thousands of strategy sessions with local activists across the country.

Both sides feel a fresh sense of urgency. Those who oppose immigration reforms that would legitimize some of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States say reform makes even less sense now that the recession-racked US economy is losing jobs and has a 10 percent unemployment rate. Those who favor a path to legalization for illegal immigrants and a more open-door immigration policy see the most opportune political climate in years, with a Democrat-controlled White House and Congress.

For its part, the Obama administration appears to have begun laying the groundwork – increasing border security and law enforcement – to move soon on reform legislation.
But public positions on the issue have, if anything, become more complicated since the 2007 debate on immigration reforms proposed by President Bush.

“This issue is one that Americans have seen a lot more of – moving from the national stage to state and local communities,” says Pete Brodnitz, principal partner at Benenson Strategy Group, a consulting firm that conducts its own polls.

“Americans have a more knowledgeable and nuanced opinion than they did a few years ago,” says Mr. Brodnitz. “They understand that the issue is really complicated and not lending itself to easy solutions.” Benenson’s most recent poll in June found that 86 percent of American voters given details of comprehensive reform want Congress to pass a plan.

Other polls show a slightly less rosy picture. A Pew survey from April found that the proportion of Americans who favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – if they pass background checks, pay fines, and have jobs – has risen since 2007, up from 58 percent to 63 percent. But it also showed that partisan differences have grown: Democratic support for reform has jumped from 62 to 73 percent, while Republican support for reform has fallen from 56 percent in 2007 to 50 percent in June.
In some states, conservative activists are mobilizing to try to stop immigration reform before it gets going. On Nov. 14, more than 50 “Tea Party Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration” rallies took place across the country.

Granting amnesty will create competition for the millions already out of work, says Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has 250,000 members and is preparing to barrage Congress with e-mails and phone calls. “Flooding the market with more wage-suppressing labor is not the answer.”

Four days after the antireform “tea parties,” Hispanic immigrants and their supporters jammed themselves around an oak table at the Central American Resource Center in downtown Los Angeles, paying rapt attention to a speaker phone.

“There is no more time to wait,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois, through the speaker phone. “We have Democratic majorities in the US House and Senate. President Obama made a campaign promise of major immigration reform in his first year in office.”

It was one of 900 “house parties” held nationwide Nov. 18, and attended by more than 50,000 immigrants to discuss reform strategy. They are the front line of an immigration reform movement that has been quietly smoldering since 2007 and has begun to mobilize again.

“This movement never dropped off the radar, as many people seem to think,” says Robert Gittelson, a reform advocate affiliated with Fair Immigration Reform Movement. The 2006-07 rallies brought thousands of immigrants onto the streets of Los Angeles and other cities, but they failed to get Congress to pass reform.

In a Nov. 13 address, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sketched the Obama administration’s strategy to get reform passed this time. Ms. Napolitano talked about a “three-legged stool” being “a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here.”

Napolitano was laying the groundwork for reform, observers say. She was making the case that the US has significantly improved its enforcement actions through border security (including the construction of a 600-mile fence along the US-Mexican border and an increased border patrol force), increased arrests of gun smugglers, a crackdown on employers of illegal workers, and progress in eVerify, a voluntary program for companies to screen the residency status of potential employees.
Such actions, along with the bad economy, have reduced illegal entry into the US since 2007, Napolitano said. These changes should “change the immigration conversation,” she suggested, helping the US move on to address the inefficient legal immigration system and the status of millions of illegals already here.

“We need Congress to create the legal foundation for bringing the millions of illegal immigrants in this country out of the shadows,” Napolitano said, adding that the US should “require them to register and pay taxes they owe, and enforce the penalties that they will have to pay as part of earning legal status.”

Public sentiment sharpens
But many observers, even those who support some kind of reform, feel the time is not ripe.
There’s a sharpening sentiment in favor of restricting immigration, says Joseph Nevins, a political scientist at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who has studied illegal immigration and the US-Mexican border. He points to “birthers” who question President Obama’s citizenship, as well as Rep. Joe Wilson’s shout of “You lie!” in response to Mr. Obama’s assertion that healthcare reform would not insure unauthorized immigrants, as evidence of a deep-seated skepticism that may be hard to overcome.

“At a time of deep economic downturn, and with anti-immigrant sentiment strongly in the air, the present-day possibilities of passage of any legislation aimed at reducing the repressive laws and exclusion endured by immigrants are daunting,” says Professor Nevins.

UCLA Study finds that legalizing the undocumented would help the economy

No surprises here--if we legalize our undocumented workforce, we create system where wages have to increase and bolster our tax base. 

From the L.A. Times
Even during the ongoing recession, immigration reform legislation that legalizes undocumented immigrants would boost the American economy, according to a new study out of UCLA.

The report said that legalization, along with a program that allows for future immigration based on the labor market, would create jobs, increase wages and generate more tax revenue. Comprehensive immigration reform would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years, according to the report.

"If we are going to create a solid recovery with good wages, we have to fix this hole that we have at the bottom of the labor market," said the author, Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor with the UCLA Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. "This is not about bringing in a lot of workers. This is about your neighbors and if we are better off where everybody in the economy has the ability to fight for their families and to contribute more to the economy rather than staying in the shadows."

Hinojosa-Ojeda based the study in part on surveys done after 1986 legislation that resulted in the legalization of nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants. Those surveys showed that immigrants who became legal moved on to better-paying jobs and became more educated, resulting in more spending and more tax revenue. That legislation was passed during a similar economic downturn, he said.

The study, being released today, comes shortly after a renewed commitment by the Obama administration to back legislation this year that would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The study is being released by two Washington-based immigrant rights organizations, the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress.

Hinojosa-Ojeda also projected that the economy would benefit from a temporary worker program, by raising the GDP by $792 billion. And the economy would suffer if the U.S. deported all illegal immigrants, which he acknowledged was an unlikely option. Mass deportation, he concluded, would reduce the GDP by $2.6 trillion over 10 years.

Immigration reform advocates said linking economic recovery and immigration reform seems counterintuitive, but the report shows that they are closely connected.

"You can't build a strong, robust economy on top of a broken immigration system," said Angela Kelley, vice president of immigration policy and advocacy for the Center for American Progress. "In fact, if you fix our immigration system, it makes our economy stronger and more robust."

But Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman said that even with legal status, many immigrants would continue to work in low-wage jobs, meaning their tax revenue wouldn't make much of a difference to the economy. Also, legalization would flood the labor market and drive down wages rather than increase them, he said.

Mehlman said those supporting amnesty know they have a difficult sell because of the state of the economy.

"They are trying to portray this as an economic shot in the arm," he said. "But I am not sure the American public is going to buy it."

Catholic Bishops come out in favor of Immigration Reform

There are days when I truly believe the Church has lost its way.  Those of the days when a beautiful homily turns into a diatribe about abortion, when I hear evangelicals touting how going with God means economic prosperity (I guess they missed that speech by Jesus when he said it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God; Mark 10:25).

But I digress.

This week the U.S. Congress of Catholic Bishops announced they will lobby for immigration reform in 2010.  Their reasons?  They are following Christ, and looking after the needs of the poor, the sick, the friendless and the needy.

Imagine that.

Launch Web sites, post card campaign
Urge Congress to act for reform as soon as possible
Migration should be driven by choice, not necessity

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 6, announced steps to push for the enactment of immigration reform legislation in 2010. Bishop John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, bishop of Albany, New York, and chairman of the International Policy Committee of the USCCB, made the announcement.

 “It is our view, and that of others, that the American public, including the Catholic and other faith communities, want a humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system, and they want Congress to address this issue,” said Bishop Wester.
Steps announced by Bishop Wester include:
  • The launch of a nationwide postcard campaign under the Justice for Immigrants campaign, with 1.5 million postcards already ordered;
  • The launch of  two Web sites, a new Justice for Immigrants Web site with tools for parishes (, and the National Migration Week Web site, which provides other resources (; and
  • A nationwide action alert asking for Congress to enact immigration reform as soon as possible.
Bishop Hubbard, chairman of the International Policy Committee, spoke to the root causes of irregular migration and how the long-term and humane solution to the problem is integral human development.

“The first principle of the U.S. bishops with regard to immigration is that migrants have the right not to migrate---in other words, to be able to find work in their own home countries so they can support their families in dignity,” he said. “Migration should be driven by choice, not necessity.”

Sister Rita Mary Harwood, a Sister of Notre Dame and Secretary for Parish Life and Development in the Diocese of Cleveland, spoke about support for immigration reform in Ohio, where nearly 300,000 postcards will be distributed throughout the state.

“In the end, to stand with those who are frightened, alone or in danger; to educate, to speak with and for, and to pray---this is the message of the Gospel and the work of the Church,” she said.

Sister Mary Beth Hamm, justice coordinator of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Philadelphia, outlined what her religious order and other orders are doing to support immigration reform.

Bishop Wester concluded that the Church will work to make sure that legislators act on this issue in the near future.

“We remain committed to moving immigration reform as soon as possible,” he said. “We hope to make sure that our federal legislators are committed to that goal as well.”

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Remembering Robert Salcedo, and what it means for U.S.-Mexico Relations

Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo, a school board member in El Monte, a suburb of Los Angeles, was kidnapped and murdered over the Christmas holidays while visiting family in Mexico. Salcedo, 33, is believed to be the first U.S. elected official killed in Mexico’s narco war.

His death in Gomez Palacio, Durango state, also brings home the horrors of the drug-fueled violence down south to the can-do, immigrant-friendly communities of California; this is the first time a prominent and admired Mexican American who had no known ties to the drug wars.

According to reports, Salcedo and his wife, a native of Gomez Palacio, were out at a bar with friends on Wednesday, December 30.  Armed men stormed into the place around 2 AM, and hauled off six men, Bobby among them. Their dumped bodies were discovered the following morning.

There have been cries of shock and outrage, Salcedo's relatives, colleagues and classmates have called on the U.S. to act in response to this killing.

New Year's Resolution #1: Reform Immigration

From a great op-ed by Ruben Navarett:

San Diego, California (CNN) -- It's time again for New Year's resolutions, especially if Congress and the White House really plan to reopen the explosive immigration debate in 2010. Whether or not they do depends on which part of the political carnival you're looking at.

This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama administration is discreetly laying the groundwork to tackle immigration reform early next year.

According to the article, senior White House aides have privately assured Latino immigration activists that President Obama will throw his support behind legislation in Congress to provide a path to earned legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.

But last week, the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has been offering some private assurances of her own. Pelosi, the article says, has told fellow Democrats not to worry about having to address immigration reform until the Senate acts first.

By passing the buck to "the world's greatest deliberative body," Pelosi is probably hoping that deliberation will become dithering and delay. Then the House can duck the volatile issue altogether. It's the politics of self-preservation. Concerned that voters would react negatively to any talk of legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, Pelosi is obviously trying to preserve her job by protecting vulnerable Democrats.

Nonetheless, let's assume that, whether Pelosi wants it to or not, the immigration debate is poised for a comeback in 2010. Surely, we can all -- Republicans and Democrats, natives and immigrants -- improve on our performance from the last time this issue was on the agenda, back in 2005-2007.
In 2008, neither Obama nor GOP presidential hopeful John McCain broached the topic. There was no chance to draw contrasts since both supported comprehensive reform over the "enforcement only" approach. And each worried that an honest discussion would alienate part of their base -- organized labor for Obama, law-and-order conservatives for McCain.

In 2009, despite promising Latino groups that he'd tackle the issue of immigration reform in his first year in office, Obama pushed back the deadline when he discovered that he had other things to do. Instead, the president focused on issues that he really cares about -- education, global warming, and health care.

In 2010, let's resolve that the debate not be so polarized, and that the participants move off their "all or nothing" stance and become more willing to compromise. Both sides have to know going in that they're not going to get everything they want, but as they focus on the few things they absolutely can't live without and surrender the rest, they may be able to make a deal.

Let's resolve that we'll have an honest discussion this time around, one that accepts the hard facts of life about illegal immigration -- that it's a self-inflicted wound -- that American communities bring it upon themselves when parents raise young people who shun the dirty and distasteful jobs and when employers respond by hiring illegal immigrants to do them.

Let's resolve that, this time, we'll get rid of the ugliness and have zero tolerance for the racism, nativism and xenophobia which have, unfortunately, been ingredients in this stew since Benjamin Franklin ignorantly popped off about German immigrants in the late 18th century.

And let's resolve that we won't just surround ourselves with people who agree with us so we can reaffirm what we already think and discount other points of view. This time, let's listen to the other side, challenge what we believe in, and try to understand where our opponents are coming from -- if only to gain a better understanding of why we believe as we do.

Democrats need to resolve to stand up to their benefactors in organized labor who refused to go along with a guest worker plan because, they claim from their fantasy world, U.S. workers would love to pick peaches, milk cows, clean horse stalls, pick the meat out of crab shells, or do any other kind of unpleasant job if only immigrants hadn't gotten to the bottom of the barrel first.

Meanwhile, Republicans need to resolve to -- as Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, advised in a speech to a Latino group in 2007 -- "tell the bigots to shut up" and resist the temptation to make the entire debate about preserving culture, language and current demographics by finding new and innovative ways to keep out one ethnic group or another.

It could help break the ice if immigrants resolved to be more like Americans by assimilating, learning English, obeying the law, adopting customs, and jumping through all the necessary hoops to become U.S. citizens, register to vote, and uphold their civic responsibilities.

While we're at it, Americans should resolve to be more like immigrants by shedding their sense of entitlement, rediscovering a work ethic, and showing empathy for those who -- whether we like to admit or not -- bear a striking resemblance to the immigrant ancestors staring back at us from black-and-white photos in the family album.
Remember those photos. We owe it to the memories of those brave souls to finally get this debate right. This year, let's resolve to make it so.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Health Care in Mexico (San Miguel de Allende)

This article reprinted from the American Chronicle examines the realities and misconceptions of health care options for Americans who relocate to Mexico. It is written by Carol Schmidt and Norma Hair, two expats whom I met while doing fieldwork in San Miguel a few years ago.

In the midst of the US debates over health care reform, many are examining the health care system of Mexico, claiming that it is far superior to that of the US, and that it is luring thousands of US citizens to Mexico because they can't afford health care in the US.

In some ways those claims are true, and at the same time this publicity is a simplistic politicization of a complex reality.

This oversimplification is also being used by those who want to expand US Medicare coverage into Mexico for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of US citizens who have already moved to Mexico.

Hundreds of thousands more of retiring baby boomers are predicted to move to less expensive Mexico because their retirement savings have been devastated by the global economic crisis. If Medicare coverage were extended into Mexico, those numbers might be even higher.

From almost eight years living in San Miguel de Allende, authoring two popular books on moving to Mexico, fielding thousands of questions on all aspects of Mexican living on my website,, and experiencing many aspects of the US and Mexican health care systems personally, I would like to present a more complete picture of Mexican health care.

I and my coauthors Norma Hair and Rolly Brook devote 40 pages of our latest book, The Best How-To Book on Moving to Mexico, to health care issues. We note that the three biggest worries those considering moving to Mexico have are: what to do about health care, will it really be cheaper, and will I be safe.

Our book analyzes all three concerns in depth before moving into an overview of various retirement areas in Mexico, how to make the move, and what it will be like to live in Mexico.

The health care section notes that Mexican doctors and hospitals can be just as bad or just as outstanding at those in the US, and you have to plan carefully for your medical needs just as you do in the US.

The advantages: you can get quicker care by specialists often trained in the US, often English speaking, for much lower prices. A general practitioner may charge from $2.50 to $25 USD for an office visit. A specialist's rates can be $40-60 USD and you get a full hour of caring attention, often the same day you call.

A house visit may be $10-25 USD by a general practitioner (though a tourist in a luxury hotel may be charged $90 USD for an emergency house call).

A hospital room may be $75-100 USD a night in a private Mexican hospital. Friends who have had heart attacks have been charged $3,000 for three days and nights of emergency care and stabilization, and another $3,000 for an overnight angiogram procedure in a major hospital. An echocardiogram, stress test, or Doppler cardiovascular exam may be $135 at a heart institute. A colonoscopy or an MRI may be $400 USD, ten times less than the same procedures in a US hospital.

Knee replacement surgery by internationally trained Mexican specialists may be under $6,500 USD a knee, compared to $40,000 or more at a US hospital.

If you utilize one of the General Hospitals, the basic emergency visit may be as low as $6 USD. If you require specialized services (such as the four hours of cardiac observation, x-rays and echocardiograms, and IV medications that I have required three times at a General Hospital), the rates for a low-income US retiree may be about $50 USD.

A brief interview by a social worker determines your ability to pay if you are not covered by the Seguro Publico government insurance program. Setting a broken bone may result in a total charge of about $200 in a Mexican General Hospital for a US citizen.

And if you have joined IMSS, the Mexican Social Security system for about $300 USD a year for those over age 60, your charges will be zero at an IMSS facility, including for your medications.

The disadvantages: Not every foreigner can qualify for IMSS--first you have to have a residency visa such as an FM3 or FM2, not the 180-day maximum FMT tourist permit. There is an exam on pre-existing conditions, and full coverage is phased in over three years.

Not all cities have excellent IMSS hospitals, and the clinics where you have to be seen first can be crowded with lengthy wait times (unlike the immediate care you get at a private hospital).

The drug coverage may be meaningless--the facilities often don't have many drugs available when you need them.

But if you are able to get in, and you have fulfilled the waiting periods for pre-existing conditions, and you are in an area with an excellent IMSS hospital, this can be a superior alternative to US medical insurance.

However, IMSS is already overloaded trying to care for Mexico's population, and the crush of new US members is an added burden.

Every time you visit many Mexican doctors, it is as if you are there the first time--no records may have been kept. (On the other hand, most US doctors do not have the time under insurance pressures to spend perusing your records anyway.)

You are responsible for keeping your own medical records--you will be given your own x-rays and test results to keep and to bring with you to future doctor and hospital visits.

You can walk into medical laboratories in most areas and order your own cholesterol tests and other blood work to keep track of your own health, no doctors' prescription necessary.

Most US drugs that require prescriptions are over the counter in Mexico, at a lower price. Serious pain medications and psychiatric drugs still require a doctor's prescription.

In weighing the pros and cons of having something like knee replacement surgery done in Mexico where I would have to pay all the charges out of pocket, or in the US where Medicare would cover most of it, I took into consideration the transportation costs of going back and forth to a US hospital from my central Mexico home in San Miguel de Allende.

I knew that it would take many visits before finally getting a hospital date in the US, not the speedy process of Mexico, and that the transportation and housing and restaurant costs would mount up, not to mention the copays.

Mexican hospitals encourage a member of the family to stay with a patient throughout a hospital stay, a cot or sofa provided for that purpose. That reduces the expenses of the person who accompanies you to a Mexican hospital.

Of course it also reduces the charges of the hospital, which expects the relative to perform routine assistance like feeding, bathing and pillow fluffing.

I determined it would be cheaper overall to have my knee replacements in Mexico rather than return to the US where Medicare would pay a large part of the $40,000. I was very pleased with both knee replacements, which went smoothly, and two years later I am as active and pain-free as I was before arthritis struck.

If I'd had family in the US who could have provided me a place to stay during the numerous exams and appointments and the therapy time afterward, that decision might have been different.

Just as in the US, smaller rural hospitals may not have the facilities to provide the excellent care of a big city hospital. Problems such as a shortage of a rare blood type could lead to death in a small rural hospital, in the US as in Mexico.

Could a pilot project to bring Medicare coverage to US citizens living in Mexico work? Several organizations are campaigning for this expansion to happen.

At this same time, there are great concerns by conservatives in particular in the US over Medicare overall, with calls for it to be privatized and made smaller.

At the same time there is an effort to offer Medicare coverage to those ages 55-64 as part of health care reform.

Adding another program to expand Medicare coverage into Mexico is a political tinderbox, considering what polls show many US citizens think about anything that could be conceived as helping Mexico.

Many US expatriates living in Mexico find that the attitude toward them back in the US is, "Love it or leave it, and you left, so don't expect any help from us."

The fact that many Mexican doctors and hospitals are not used to keeping accurate and detailed records that would be sufficient for Medicare documentation is a serious problem for any pilot Medicare project in Mexico.

A few of the major hospital chains such as the 22 Angeles hospitals might be able to meet Medicare requirements, though resistance might be encountered on the part of some Mexican doctors and hospital staff, already overburdened by their own country's health care needs.

And then there are concerns by many in the US that all government programs in Mexico may include some form of corruption, so that no money will be awarded for any pilot program in Mexico.

As an example, the $1.4 billion Merida project to provide US support to Mexican efforts to fight the drug cartels has been thwarted and delayed at every step. Only a very small percentage of the funds have actually been spent in the two years since the project was approved.

These are a few of the realities and complexities of health care in Mexico for US expatriates, and for the possibility of a Medicare pilot project to help US citizens already living in Mexico.

 For more information read The Best How-To Book on Moving to Mexico and the forums at You may contact the author at

Anti-Immigrant politician considers challenge NY Gov. David Paterson

Most anti-immigrant politicians appear to be opportunists.  Take Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart.  He used the anti-immigrant movement to forward this political career.  It worked in 2007, and we in Northern Virginia are still paying the price for his manipulation of his fellow citizens for personal gain.

But will being anti-immigrant work in 2010? 

Steve Levy, a suburban politician known for his anti-immigrant stance said earlier this week that he is considering a run for the NY Governor position.  The question remains whether his anti-immigrant position, that seems to have served him well on the local level, will be a benefit or detraction as he expands his potential constituency.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Steve Levy, a suburban politician whose opposition to illegal immigration has brought him national attention, said Sunday he was weighing a primary challenge to Gov. David Paterson.

   Levy, the Suffolk County executive, said he had formed an exploratory committee, creating the potential for a three-way race to lead the Democratic Party's state ticket.

   Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is widely considered to be weighing a run for governor, though he has not publicly announced his intention to run.

    Levy said his exploratory committee was "to test the waters."

   "But I've got a great deal of interest to take the skill set I've developed here in Suffolk County and apply them to the state at a time of potential fiscal collapse," he told The New York Times.

   Levy said potential opponents would not factor into his decision on whether to run. He said he was looking to highlight his skills in managing Suffolk County to demonstrate his ability to handle state government.

    Levy was elected as Suffolk County's executive in 2003 after serving in the state Assembly. He was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 1985.

   Levy signed a law that required contractors doing business with the county to certify their employees are in the country legally. He also supported efforts to get day laborers off street corners and backed doing raids aimed at overcrowded houses where Latino workers live with their families.

   He is co-founder of a national group called Mayors and Executives for Immigration Reform.

   Levy has raised nearly $4 million for his possible campaign, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed in July. Paterson has about $5 million. Cuomo has raised about $10 million.

   Paterson's campaign did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on Sunday.

In-state Tuition for the Undocumented: The NJ Debate

 NJ is the most recent state to consider allowing undocumented immigrants the opportunity to study and pay in-state tuition rates.  It makes sense logically--undocumented immigrants pay local taxes, especially when they own homes.  Why should the be prohibited from benefiting from a system they contribute to?  Similarly, the reality is that immigrants who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. are not going anywhere, regardless of what happens with immigration reform.  Doesn't it make sense to allow these residents--undocumented or not--to reach their potential?  I would prefer an immigrant population that is educated and fully engaged in our republic. 

TRENTON - A bill to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities cleared committees in both houses of the Legislature yesterday after several hours of impassioned debate.

"It is a matter of simple fairness that students who have grown up in New Jersey, graduated from high school in New Jersey, and are the future of New Jersey, be given the simple dignity of being able to go to college here as well," said Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D., Camden), a sponsor.
Eleven states allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, which in New Jersey can be half the cost of out-of-state rates. Advocates in New Jersey have been working to advance legislation on the issue since at least 2002.

The bill would allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition if they attended a New Jersey high school for at least three years, graduated or received the equivalent of a high school diploma from a New Jersey high school, and submitted an affidavit to the college or university stating they had applied to legalize their immigration status.

The bill was released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, voting 7-4, and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 8-6 later yesterday.

Gov. Corzine has said he would sign the bill if it was approved by the Senate and Assembly. Proponents are pushing for the measure to be approved during the legislative session because Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie, who takes office Jan. 19, has said he opposes the bill.

Among those who testified on the bill yesterday were several high school and college students.
One student, who declined to reveal his name, said he came to the United States from Colombia with his parents at the age of 8, a decade ago. He said he hoped to study biomedical engineering to help soldiers returning from wars missing limbs, or children born without limbs. He graduated from high school last year, he said, and while he has been accepted into several colleges, he cannot afford to pay for college at out-of-state rates.

"I am a living testimony for how hard we are willing to work," he said. "I want to make a difference in this world, not just work a low-wage job every day. Some of my friends gave up in school because they thought there was no point."

A 16-year-old who identified himself as "Christian" said that when he realized how large an impact his immigration status would have on his future - on his ability to get a good job and education and even to drive - he started acting out.

"I can't have a dream anymore," Christian said. "I will have to do what my dad does, make minimum wage. It's really hard for us."

Opponents of the bill argued the state should not condone illegal immigration and cannot afford to extend in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

"My colleagues need to realize that New Jersey is broke before voting at the last minute to grant another giveaway that legal and hardworking families cannot afford to provide," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R., Morris). "This proposal is disrespectful to those families who play by the rules, but just squeak by sending their children to college with hopes of a better future. We should be focused on helping these families, not adding to their burden."

Former State Sen. Richard J. LaRossa also opposes the bill. He said undocumented was a euphemism for illegal.

"Do we really want to do anything else to encourage more illegal immigration into New Jewey?" he asked. "In-state tuition would only encourage more illegals to remain outside the law."

Some proponents argued it was wrong to punish students for decisions made by their parents. "This is not about remittances, this is not about lawbreaking," said Cid Wilson, vice chairman of the board of trustees to Bergen Community College, which for years has taken a "don't ask-don't tell" policy with regard to immigration status. "They came here because their parents brought them here."

Proponents also emphasized an analysis by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services that found that offering in-state tuition to illegal immigrants would not have an impact on the state budget, while opponents questioned the analysis.

"This country is based on immigrants and the American dream," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), who voted in favor of the bill. "We are not giving anything away. We are just making it equal for students to be able to achieve education."

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Tactic for Advocates of Immigration Reform

In and attempt to raise awareness of the need for comprehensive immigration reform, four immigrant students set out on foot from downtown Miami on Friday, starting a four-month walk to Washington to protest "the Obama administration’s lack of action on legislation granting legal status to illegal immigrants."  Three of the students are undocumented, and thus risk being apprehended in route to Washington.

Although the students would like to see a major immigration overhaul, it's also clear that this group would benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act:
The students in Miami said in a statement that they decided to begin their walk because they had a “deep desire and need for complete citizenship” after they reached dead-ends in school or work because of their lack of legal immigration status. The protesters include Carlos Roa, 22, who was 2 years old when his parents brought him here from Venezuela, and Felipe Matos, 23, sent from Brazil by his mother when he was 14. They say they support proposals in overhaul bills that would open a path to citizenship for students who came to this country illegally when they were young.

Feds Charge Recorde Number of Immigration Crimes in 2009

According to this article, the U.S. Justice Department filed nearly 92,000 immigration-related criminal cases in the federal courts in 2009. These cases accounted for more than half of all new federal prosecutions in the country, according to Justice Department data maintained at Syracuse University.

Texting as a tool to warn immigrants about raids

In an attempt to counteract the racial profiling practiced by the Phoenix Police under the supervision of Chief Joe Arpaio, Lydia Guzman, director of the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Respect/Respeto, is the trunk of a sophisticated texting tree designed to alert thousands of people within minutes to the details of the sweeps, which critics contend are an excuse to round up illegal immigrants.

The practice has raised issues of free speech versus becoming an accomplice after a crime:
Andy Hessick, a constitutional law professor at Arizona State University, said sending warnings to people who might be subject to racial profiling would likely be considered free speech. But sending messages with the specific intent of warning illegal immigrants to help them avoid arrest could be akin to being an accomplice after a crime.

David Hudson Jr., a First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said the messages are protected free speech because they are merely letting people know what Arpaio is doing, similar to publicizing DUI checkpoints and speed traps or flashing your headlights when police are nearby.

"That is not unlawful," he said. "It's the conveyance of truthful information."

Today ends the Immigration AIDS ban

This is 22 years past-due, but nonetheless something to celebrate in 2010.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year!

Dear Readers: 

I would like to wish you a happy and healthy 2010.  I'll be back blogging this week.