U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Border Enforcement, citizenship, Deportation, Immigration Law Leave a comment

U.S. Border-Enforcement Programs Target Immigrants Who Aren’t a Threat to Anyone
Border, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Deportation, Detention, Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Undocumented Immigration
by Walter Ewing

Since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, its immigration-enforcement agencies—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—have been officially devoted to the protection of U.S. national security and the prevention of terrorist attacks. However, the bulk of the work done by CBP and ICE on a day-to-day basis involves apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States. The highly punitive treatment of these immigration offenders serves no national-security purpose and is not an effective deterrent.
These are among the findings of a new report released by the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. The report, In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security, is based on data from the Migrant Border Crossing Study. During 2010, 2011, and 2012, a team of researchers from the United States and Mexico conducted survey interviews with 1,113 recent deportees about their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended by U.S. authorities, and being repatriated to Mexico. The surveys yield new insight into the conduct and consequences of U.S. immigration-enforcement programs.
The report highlights the pointlessly inhumane treatment of non-violent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. But one in particular is Operation Streamline, which is basically a mass trial for border-crossers that convicts between 40 and 80 people per hearing for “illegal entry”—a misdemeanor offense. A group lawyer is provided for defendants, but limited time and the challenge of representing scores of defendants at once have raised concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel in this setting is apparent from the survey interviews. When asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?” recent deportees answered as follows:
40% said they were instructed to sign the form admitting guilt and not fight the charges against them.
40% were informed that they have legal rights.
7% were told nothing or could not understand what was said to them.
2% were asked to report any abuses against them.
1% were checked for their actual legal status.
No one mentioned the prospect of being paroled while waiting for resolution of an immigration case.
As the report emphasizes, a first offense for unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence. But those who are convicted have a criminal record based solely on an immigration offense that will exclude them from legal residence or entry. If they are apprehended again, they will be charged with a felony for illegal re-entry and sentenced to a maximum two-year sentence. However, upon asking recent deportees what they understood about their sentence, only 71% mentioned that they would face some amount of jail time if they returned to the United States.
Operation Streamline accounts for much of the increase in deportations of “criminal aliens” in recent years, simply because of the rise in immigration offenders whose activities were previously considered administrative offenses. Criminal prosecutions for illegal entry increased from 3,900 cases to 43,700 between Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 and FY 2010. During the same period prosecutions for illegal re-entry increased from 7,900 to 35,800. Roughly 48% of all immigration prosecutions now come from illegal entry and 44% from illegal re-entry.
And yet, despite the harsh consequences, many of the people ensnared by Operation Streamline and other immigration-enforcement programs continue trying to return to the United States because that is where their homes are. As the New York Times noted in a recent discussion of the report:
“…about 60 percent of the respondents said they planned to try crossing the border again in the near future. The reasons were clear: of the 1,113 recently deported migrants who were interviewed at ports of entry and in shelters in six border communities in Mexico, roughly 300 of them had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.”
The report concludes that border security cannot be achieved by programs that punish non-violent immigration offenders. The authors call for a reexamination of why we as a nation allocate so many resources to imposing criminal sentences and punishments on people with no previous criminal history or who have committed only minor legal infractions. Moreover, we must make distinctions among different categories of criminal offenses and provide relief for people who have criminal histories purely because of immigration violations. Otherwise, we are needlessly destroying the lives and families of people who call the United States home.


RNC Report Gives House Republicans Cover On Immigration Bill, Activists Say

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

The call to “embrace and champion” immigration reform in the GOP’s new blueprint gives Boehner the legroom to ignore the Hastert rule and bring a bill to the floor. “Most Republicans get it,” says Sharry.
posted on March 18, 2013 at 3:21pm EDT

Immigration activists voiced their approval for the Republican National Committee’s new roadmap, a 97-page report on the future of the party, which calls on conservatives to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
Support from the Republican establishment for immigration legislation clears the way, advocates argued Monday afternoon on a press call, for Speaker of the Republican-controlled House John Boehner to bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to the floor without support from the majority of his party, skirting the unofficial “Hastert rule” that traditionally blocks such legislation from seeing a vote.
“The report this morning provides really important political cover for the Speaker to bring a bill to floor,” said Gary Segura, professor at Stanford University and a principal at the polling firm, Latino Decisions. “It may not convene the support of the majority of the party, but it would convene the majority of support of Congress overall.”
Because the RNC report, released Monday morning, highlights immigration reform as key to the future of the party, conservatives dissenters would “understand the need for the party to do it,” said Segura.
“We applaud the Republican National Committee for endorseing comprehensive immigration reform,” added Clarissa Martinez de Castro, a director at the National Council of La Raza. “It’s a solid step forward.”
Asked if the report should have specifically endorsed a pathway to citizenship — which 70 percent of Latino voters want included in new immigration legislation, according to a poll released Monday by Latino Decisions — Segura said the Hispanic community doesn’t need “lock-step conversion among all aspects of the Republican Party.”
“We’re pretty confident that we will end up with comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
“The RNC report signifies that Republicans have made a decision that the party needs to get this issue behind them,” he said. “At the end of the day, it will help them get a new hearing from many new voters who can’t hear them now because their tone and their policies have been so anti-Latino.”
Sharry acknowledged that “hardliners” in the Republican party will “continue to make stupid comments,” he said, citing pundits like conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. But the positions outlined in the RNC report, he said, make clear that “most Republicans get it.”


Seven Democratic Senators Push to Maintain Family Visas

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform, Processing of Applications and Petitions Leave a comment

Seven Democratic senators are asking a bipartisan group of colleagues to reconsider plans to eliminate some categories of family visas as the group finalizes a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
In a letter to the eight-member group, Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Al Franken (Minn.) praised the bipartisan effort but cautioned that the senators should maintain visas reserved specifically for foreign brothers, sisters and married children of U.S. citizens.
The Washington Post reported last week that the senators are planning to eliminate those categories to help clear a back load of 4.3 million family visa applications, while also making it easier for some foreign workers to enter the country. Those family members could still apply for visas but would need other qualifications such as work skills and English proficiency to increase their chances. Senate aides said no decisions have been finalized.

“This is very troubling,” the Democratic senators write in their letter. “Different types of family members can play an important role in each other’s lives, and for some Americans, a brother or sister is the only family they have.”
The letter is the latest push-back against the plan. In the House, two dozen members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote to the Senate group in support of the family visa program. Caucus Chair Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said family visas have long been a core part of the nation’s immigration system. She and other caucus members are scheduled to speak to some Senate members involved in the bipartisan immigration talks Thursday.
Currently, about two-thirds of visas are issued for family reasons, with 14 percent for employment reasons. Republicans have said increasing work visas will balance the country’s economic needs with family ties.
“Family-based immigration is important not only to individual citizens, but to the social and economic well-being of the country as a whole,” the senators wrote. “The available evidence suggests that family-based immigrants add to the economy directly and through their support of other working family members. Family-based immigrants bring vital skills and new ideas to this country, increase the likelihood of successful integration of new immigrants through family support networks, and over time show more upward mobility than any other immigrant group. In other words, family-based immigration should not be considered less important than employment-based immigration. Both are vital to our country’s future.”
The bipartisan Senate group of four Republicans and four Democrats is expected to unveil their bill next month, and it will include a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. The legislation is expected to serve as a template for a potential deal between Congress and the White House.
This post has been updated.


Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, immigration bill, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

Pitfalls ahead for senators’ immigration plan

By  and , Published: January 29

The release of a new bipartisan Senate plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and a policy address expected Tuesday from President Obama have launched dramatic new momentum on a long-stalled issue.

Now the hard part begins.

The blueprint unveiled by senators Monday amid warm bipartisan unity settled some of the most difficult questions that have bedeviled efforts to change immigration laws, particularly by endorsing a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. But it left unanswered dozens of key questions, all of which must be meticulously negotiated in the coming weeks under competing political pressures. And nobody thinks that will be easy.

“We still have a long way to go,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday, while calling the broad framework a major breakthrough.

“A first step in what will continue to be difficult — but achievable,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The politics for passage are quite treacherous, with a number of key Republicans already labeling this latest iteration of immigration proposals as amnesty for the nation’s 11 million illegal residents. But even before the group of four Democrats and four Republicans can focus on the persistent GOP opposition, they must translate their broad statement of principles on the issue into a detailed bill that can withstand intense legislative scrutiny.

That means tackling a number of extremely difficult issues by the end of March, when the group has said it hopes to draft a bill. A bipartisan group is also working on legislation in the House, but most proponents believe legislative action will start in the Democratic-held Senate.

For instance, the Senate plan calls for offering illegal immigrants the chance to quickly achieve probationary legal residency, provided they register with the government and pay a fine and back taxes. But it does not outline how large a fine or how long the applicants would have to pay off their taxes.

“I think the question is, how broad will the road to citizenship be?” said Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We have to make sure that it’s not so expensive and onerous that it doesn’t leave millions of people in limbo for an extended period of time.”

More critical to the coming debate is the senators’ requirement that illegal immigrants could not seek a green card — the first step to full citizenship — until the U.S.-Mexican border is secure and other enforcement measures are in place. The measures include a system for employers to verify the legal status of workers and a new way to track legal visa holders.

But the framework is silent on how federal officials would certify that the border is secure. It envisions the creation of a commission of governors, attorneys general and others living along the border to “make a recommendation regarding when the bill’s security measure outlined in the legislation are completed.” But it is not clear whether that recommendation would be considered advisory or would by law allow those with probationary status to seek permanent residency.

The commission, which would probably include immigration hard-liners elected to statewide office in recent years in Arizona and elsewhere, has already emerged as a potential flash point, making immigrants’ advocates and some Democrats deeply nervous.

President Obama is expected Tuesday to unveil his own immigration reform proposal, which would not include such a delay and which otherwise supportive Republicans are warning could sap bipartisan backing for the effort.

“All these things must happen before — before — there’s a path to a green card,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Fox News on Monday, in one of a series of interviews Rubio has been conducting to sell the senators’ plan to GOP opinion makers.

Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she was concerned that the proposal placed too much emphasis on border control.

She also questioned another key plank the Republicans had required: that illegal immigrants would be sent to the back of the green card line behind those who had legally applied for residency.

“It’s really not appropriate to create a group of second-class non-citizens,” she said. “Do people realize how long the lines are? The lines are 10 years and sometimes two decades. Putting someone behind the 30-year line is not going to work.”

Another potentially tricky issue is what is known as “future flow” — how many new legal visas to give out and in what fields.

On Monday, Schumer called that issue “one of the shoals upon which the good ship ‘Immigration Reform’ has floundered” because it pits big business — which wants access to cheap labor — against the unions, which seek to require businesses to hire Americans.

Schumer said the AFL-CIO has been quietly meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to work out an agreement that would link future immigration flow to unemployment rates. But details need to be fleshed out.

Dozens of other similar pitfalls abound.

The senators call for withholding federal benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid, from illegal immigrants who have met the demands to live and work in the country. But immigrant advocates question how, then, will often low-income immigrants get access to affordable health care?

The senators are silent, too, about whether same-sex partners would be eligible for the same benefits as married couples, a divisive question within more socially conservative portions of the immigrant community.

Obama will probably call for addressing the issue in his Las Vegas speech.


Reid predicts the Senate will pass immigration reform

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law Leave a comment

Reid predicts the Senate will pass immigration reform

By Noam N. Levey

10:06 AM PST, February 3, 2013

WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he is optimistic the Senate will pass immigration legislation, suggesting Republicans will have no choice but to join the push for a sweeping overhaul.

“Things are looking really good,” the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” “Republicans can no longer stop this. They’ve tried it; it hasn’t worked.”

A bipartisan group of senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – last week unveiled a blueprint for comprehensive legislation that would tighten border security and set up a path for illegal immigrants to get citizenship.

U.S. immigration law: Decades of debate

And several leading GOP lawmakers have noted that the party, which lost heavily among Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election, must take action on the immigration issue.

But many conservatives, particularly in the House, remain leery of allowing the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally to become citizens.

Other issues important to Democrats – such as giving the foreign partners of gay and lesbian Americans a family preference in the immigration system – also remain major partisan stumbling blocks.

Reid brushed that issue aside. “If they’re looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one, but the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed,” he said.

The Senate leader also was bullish on prospects for passing new gun control legislation, another one of President Obama’s top priorities for his second term.

But the veteran lawmaker – who has won the backing in the past from the National Rifle Assn. – would not commit to a key goal of gun control advocates: limits on the size of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Reid would only say: “I think that’s something we definitely have to take a look at.”

Looking ahead to the next round of budget negotiations, the majority leader continued to insist that any more efforts to reduce federal deficits must include new tax revenue.

Republicans, by contrast, are insisting on only spending cuts.

“The American people are on our side,” Reid said. “The American people don’t believe in these austere things. We believe that the rich should contribute. We believe we should fill those tax loopholes, get rid of them, I should say. And that’s where we need to go.”


Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Deportation, DREAM Act, Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

 

Senators hope to approve bipartisan immigration reform within months

By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News

February 7, 2013, 8:44 am NBCNews.com

A bipartisan group of senators formally unveiled an immigration reform framework that they hope the Senate could

pass “in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion” by late spring or early summer.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday on Capitol Hill, five of the eight members of a bipartisan working group

announced the contours of their agreement, which would shore up America’s borders and provide an eventual path to

citizenship for undocumented workers.

“We still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan grouping is a major breakthrough,” New York Sen. Charles

Schumer, a Democratic member of the group of eight, said Monday afternoon.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, set an ambitious goal of translating the statement of principles released

Sunday evening by the senators into legislation by March. He said the Senate would try to approve the legislation for

consideration in the House by the end of spring, or early summer.

The major development involves the pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers that would be established

under the Senate plan. Conservatives have resisted similar proposals — even when they were proposed by President

George W. Bush — and labeled them as “amnesty” for individuals who entered the United States illegally.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that Americans “have been too content for too long” to allow many undocumented

workers to provide basic services “while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.”

“It is not beneficial to this country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows,” added McCain, whose own

experience on the issue of immigration provides an instructive example of why immigration reform has been so

elusive for Congress.

McCain had long been one of the most vocal advocates of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, but

tempered his opinions in recent years amid conservative scrutiny. As he was fighting off a conservative primary

challenger in 2010, McCain appeared in a television ad saying it was time to “build the danged fence” — a reference

to the proposed fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is favored by a number of Republicans.

The senators’ announcement on Monday comes a day before President Barack Obama was set to make a major

policy address on Tuesday in Nevada on the topic of immigration. While Obama had not been expected to outline

any formal legislation during his remarks, lawmakers from both parties will carefully parse the president’s words for

their impact on the immigration debate. Schumer said that he had spoken to the president about the Senate

framework, and that the president was “delighted” by it.

Obama himself had vowed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, but his efforts were

stymied. That failure invited a degree of consternation from the Latino community during last year’s presidential

campaign, even though Obama had taken executive action to halt the deportation of individuals who were illegally

brought to the United States as children.

(That order, made by Obama last summer, sought to effectively enact much of the DREAM Act, a piece of

legislation that failed in the Senate as recently as 2010, when some Republicans who’d previously supported the law

flipped, and voted against it.)

Indeed, the success of this push in the Senate may well hinge on Republicans’ willingness to go along with a plan

that gives undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, an influential House

Republican, already labeled the Senate framework as “amnesty” in a statement on Monday.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/28/16741007-senators-hope-to-approve-bipartisan-immigration-reform-within-Page 2 of 2 07/02/2013 09:44 AM

House GOP leaders were otherwise mum on Monday toward the Senate proposal, though top Republicans have

previously expressed a preference for tackling immigration in a piecemeal manner.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the eight-member group and a favorite of conservatives, has worked to

gather conservative support for the proposal. He said at Monday’s press conference that while no one is happy about

the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, “We have an obligation and need to address

the reality that we face.”

The other factor weighing upon Republicans involves their poor performance among Hispanic voters — a bloc that is

growing in importance in a variety of key battleground states — during last fall’s election.

“The Republican Party is losing support of our Hispanic citizens,” McCain said Monday in a nod toward a variable

that could convince more GOP lawmakers to support this bipartisan proposal. But, McCain noted, “We’re not going

to get everybody onboard.”

In the meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to “do everything in [his] power as the

majority leader to get a bill across the finish line.”


Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

Posted on by Ruby Powers in citizenship, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends Leave a comment

 

The Miami Herald

Path to citizenship best way to reform immigration

BY THOMAS WENSKI
Miamiarch.org

Now that the elections are over, perhaps a new bipartisan consensus can be forged to finally fix our broken immigration system.Both Democrats and Republicans can read the demographic tea leaves — in the last election the president’s perceived support for immigration reform gained for him wide support from both Hispanic and Asian voters. Lawmakers in both parties have made strong statements about “fixing” immigration in 2013.This is good news. Of course, any immigration reform legislation would need to address the legal status of the 11 million undocumented in our nation. But instead of providing this population a chance to earn their citizenship, some in Washington are suggesting that these immigrants should receive legal status but not an opportunity to become citizens.

They propose something like President Obama’s administrative action to grant “deferred departure” to the “Dreamers” — those who were brought here without legal status by their parents. In other words, these policy makers would extend protection from deportation and perhaps work authorization, but would not provide this population an earned path to citizenship.

An earned path to citizenship for the undocumented, supported by the U.S. Catholic bishops and a strong majority of the American people, does not have to mean an “amnesty”. Reasonable requirements for permanent legal status and a chance at citizenship — such as paying a fine and any back taxes still owed or learning English — would in fact be gladly embraced by these immigrants who remain in illegal status not because they want to but because legal remedies are not available to them.

A bill introduced in the last Congress by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Hutchinson, R-Texas, modeled somewhat after the DREAM Act would not provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants. A similar proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida never put in bill form, would have done the same thing. Both proposals essentially addressed a situation that was already partially addressed by President Obama’s deferred action last year.

And like President Obama’s measure their proposal still leaves this population in limbo — with a quasi-legal status but no chance to upgrade to citizenship.

Even President Obama has given credence to the idea of legal status but not citizenship. In his first press conference after the election, he used the term “path to legal status” to describe a potential legalization program for the 11 million. It might have been a slip of the tongue, but words matter in Washington.

While perhaps better than no status, such an arrangement risks creating in our country a permanent underclass of persons who would never enjoy the rights of U.S. citizens. The lingering social costs of another era’s Jim Crow legislation show us that this is not the way to go. A path to citizenship is the best way to ensure that immigrants integrate fully into American society by allowing their civic participation and assuring them of access to full due process rights. It is, after all, the American way.

If the administration and Congress are serious about fixing our broken immigration system, they should fix it correctly, and not create more problems. A path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the centerpiece of any immigration reform effort this year. A path to citizenship offers immigrants the opportunities and freedom that are the essential components of the American dream. Both the party of Jefferson as well as the party of Lincoln should be able to embrace that.

Thomas Wenski is Archbishop of Miami.


© 2013 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/16/v-print/3185886/path-to-citizenship-best-way-to.html#storylink=cpy

 


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