An Immigration Blueprint

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

April 16, 2013
By  (The New York Times)

 

Huge news from the scorched desert of immigration reform: germination!

At last there is a bill, the product of a bipartisan group of senators who have been working on it for months, that promises at least the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It is complicated, full of mechanisms and formulas meant to tackle border security, the allocation of visas, methods of employment verification and the much-debated citizenship path.

Twitter analysts spent all day Tuesday parsing just the 17-page outline that was unveiled ahead of the actual bill. There will be much to chew on in coming weeks, but it is worth a moment to marvel at the bill’s mere existence, and at the delicate balancing of competing interests that coaxed this broad set of compromises into being.

Without, however, celebrating too much too soon. The first part of the bill is a dreary reassertion of the doctrine that an insufficiently militarized border is the source of all our immigration problems — as if inefficiencies in the labor market and the ill effects of unjust laws can be fixed with more drones and fences. It throws $6.5 billion over 10 years at the southern border, and envisions the creation of a commission of border governors telling the Homeland Security Department how to spend more billions on “manpower, technology and infrastructure.”

Though foolishly costly, this border fixation will be tolerable as long as it is not fatal to the heart and soul of the bill: legalization for 11 million. The bill includes arbitrary benchmarks, or triggers, that have to be achieved before legalization kicks in. These cannot be allowed to justify delay in getting immigrants right with the law.

Here is where things get interesting. The bill gets around the “amnesty” stalemate by turning the undocumented into Registered Provisional Immigrants — not citizens or green-card holders, but not illegal, either. They will wait in that anteroom for a decade at least before they can get green cards. But they will also work, and travel freely. The importance of legalizing them, erasing the crippling fear of deportation, cannot be overstated.

That said, a decade-plus path is too long and expensive. The fees and penalties stack up: $500 to apply for the first six years of legal status, $500 to renew, then a $1,000 fine. If the goal is to get people on the books and the economy moving, then shackling them for years to fees and debt makes no sense.

The means of ejection from the legalization path, too, cannot be arbitrary and unjust — people should not be disqualified for minor crimes or failure to meet unfair work requirements. It should not take superhuman strength and rectitude, plus luck and lots of money, for an immigrant to march the 10 years to a green card.

Then there is the mere two years set aside for taking legalization applications, which is crazy: you cannot fit 11 million people through a window that small. The coming debate will be fierce. Lobbyists for business say there are far too few temporary worker visas. Advocates for families will lament the loss of visas for siblings and adult children. Environmentalists will not like giving Homeland Security unfettered access to all federal borderlands.

While there is a lot to worry about, our quick read of a fresh bill finds other encouraging things besides the opening of the pathway. It includes a good version of the Dream Act, to help young people who were brought here illegally as children speedily become citizens. It allows, amazingly, some deportees to re-enter the country to join their spouses and young children.

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 will not win prizes for brevity or eloquence. But it exists; it is a starting point, something to be nurtured and improved. It will be judged by how it unlocks the potential of the immigration system, now choked by inefficiency and illegality, with companies that scoff at the law and employees who work outside it. The system has gears that fail to mesh — business with labor, parents with children, the promise of America with the people who would fulfill it. Time to start repairs.

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Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

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

Rubio throwing support behind bipartisan immigration bill

By Vincent Bzdek, Updated: 

Look for Marco Rubio to throw his full support — and star power — behind the bipartisan immigration compromise bill that could be announced in the next several days. The question is, will his support for the far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s immigration system alienate the conservative wing of the party and damage Rubio’s chances at higher office, or will it help cement his position as a leading Republican candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination?

According to Politico, the Republican Florida senator is planning to promote the bill on political talk shows starting this weekend, and will reach out to conservative radio hosts and lobby for the plan on Spanish-language news outlets.

One Senate Democratic aide told Politico Thursday: “In poker terms, he has gone all in.”

Members of the so-called bipartisan “Group of Eight” said they are close to finalizing an agreement on the comprehensive proposal that is expected to include a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and could serve as the template for a deal between Congress and the White House.

The Post’s Paul Kane and David Nakamura reported just a couple days ago that Rubio appeared to be cautious about the proposal, anxious for plenty of hearings on the legislation.

“Senator Rubio has said from the outset that we will not rush this process, and that begins at the committee level,” said Alex Conant, Rubio’s spokesman. “The Judiciary Committee must have plenty of time to debate and improve the bipartisan group’s proposal. . . . Senator Rubio will be requesting that his Senate colleagues arrange multiple public hearings on the immigration bill. We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become.”

It now looks as though Rubio wants to own the process now that he is preparing to sign off on the release of the bill this coming Tuesday. Yet he’s also still pushing for more hearings and a slower pace than Democrats and the White House want.

“Obviously, we’ll be informing the public, and we’ll want everyone to know everything that’s in the bill,” Rubio told Politico. “We want everyone to know as much of what’s in the bill as possible, and we will use every opportunity we have to communicate that.”

Many Republicans are unwilling to back any measure that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, so Rubio’s strategy carries some risks. Some Republicans have expressed openness to some form of legalization that stops short of a citizenship plan, but such a compromise would draw opposition from many Democrats and immigrant advocates.

His ability to bring conservative Republicans on board will be a real test of his leadership skills in the coming days and weeks.

 

 


Immigration reform- Getting there

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

“EVERY major policy issue has been resolved,” declared Charles Schumer, one of eight senators seeking to draft a bipartisan bill to reform America’s immigration system. The “Gang of Eight”, he continued, would unveil their proposal in days; it would putter through the Judiciary Committee this month, and reach the Senate floor in May. “We’re on track,” he concluded, in a television interview this week. If he is right, an issue that has dogged American politics for a generation, left 11m people in limbo and steadily undermined the Republican Party’s prospects, is on the verge of resolution.

Not everyone, even within the Gang of Eight, seems quite so confident. Marco Rubio, the group’s most conservative member, says reports of success “are premature”. At least one element of the bill, a scheme to admit agricultural workers on a temporary basis, has proved especially thorny to negotiate. Many Republicans are still averse to any reprieve for America’s 11m illegal immigrants, despite the dreadful showing this stance earned them among Hispanic voters at last year’s elections. But the momentum in favour of reform is clearly building.

Mr Schumer’s crowing was prompted by a deal on visas for low-skilled workers between the two pressure groups to which the gang had delegated the subject: the AFL-CIO, America’s biggest confederation of trade unions, and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which represents business. Bickering on this topic contributed to the collapse of the last big push for immigration reform, in 2007. This time the two sides have agreed on an elaborate formula which would hand out more visas when the economy is strong and fewer when it is weaker. Businesses would benefit from the admission of as many as 200,000 workers a year when times are good (and as few as 20,000 when they are not). The unions, meanwhile, are pleased with wording intended to prevent an influx of new labour from depressing wages or undermining workers’ rights. The main beneficiaries, naturally, would be the visa recipients, who would be allowed to change jobs and apply for permanent residence after a year—as they cannot do now.

The gang’s bill is expected to boost the number of visas for skilled workers too, especially in high-tech fields, and to make it easier for foreign graduates of American universities to settle in America. The senators are also rewriting the rules on the admission of seasonal farm labourers, a job largely filled by illegal immigrants at the moment, thanks in part to the cumbersomeness of the official scheme. They had hoped to win the approval of both growers’ associations and the United Farm Workers (UFW), the biggest agricultural union. But the two sides are at an impasse. The farmers had wanted to adjust the official formula for setting the guest workers’ wages; the union complained that they were trying to suppress wages in general.

Nonetheless, the dispute is unlikely to derail the bill, because the main concern of both sides is not regulating the future flow of new farm workers, but normalising the status of those who are already in America. The country’s 11m “undocumented” immigrants represent a huge pool of recruits for the unions and new hires for business. Although most of them work, their shadowy status exposes employers to legal penalties and the immigrants themselves to exploitation. The Gang of Eight has agreed that their bill will provide these unfortunates not only with some sort of formal legal status, but also with the chance to become citizens eventually.

Just how arduous that process is will be the main point of contention when the bill is unveiled. Republicans have long resisted anything that smacks of amnesty. Democrats, meanwhile, warn against any requirements that are so onerous as to exclude large numbers of the undocumented. The Gang of Eight has already agreed that most illegal immigrants will have to prove that they have worked, pay back taxes and pass both a background check and a test of civics and English, among other requirements, before they can become permanent residents and, eventually, citizens.

The path to citizenship can be long, argues Angela Kelley of the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think-tank, as long as it is wide. Many immigrants would struggle to prove their employment history, she notes, since those who hire them are breaking the law and thus tend to avoid much of a paper trail. By the same token, fees or fines that might seem lenient to a middle-class Republican primary voter would be unaffordable for many illegal immigrants. $10,000, for example, would represent over a third of annual household income for half of those in America illegally, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a pro-immigration think-tank.

Another issue bound to provoke debate in the Senate is the policing of America’s borders. The Gang of Eight has agreed that security must get tighter before any illegals can receive green cards (the document conveying permanent residence), to prevent a wave of new immigrants seeking to exploit the reforms. In fact, security on the Mexican border is already fearsome, and unauthorised crossings are at their lowest levels in decades (although the weak economy on the northern side and declining birth rates on the southern one also play a part). Moreover, it is impossible to seal such a long and rugged frontier completely. That leaves Democrats fearful that Republicans will set an unreasonable standard, and Republicans suspicious of a Democratic fudge. A possible solution, suggests Ms Kelley, is to set objective goals, in terms of miles of fencing built, numbers of border-patrol agents deployed, and so on.

Immigration advocates seem confident that these hurdles will be overcome, because the political logic in favour of a deal is so strong. They point to the many Republicans who have moderated their opposition to immigration reform since the elections. Rand Paul, a libertarian senator with a big tea-party following, recently made positive noises. Eric Cantor, the number two in the Republican hierarchy in the House of Representatives, has dropped his opposition to a scheme to give green cards to certain illegal immigrants brought to America as children. The involvement of Mr Rubio, another darling of the tea party, gives the initiative credibility on the right. It is telling that opponents of reform have taken to complaining less about the substance of the proposals and more about the haste with which they are being pursued.

The overwhelming majority of the Senate’s 53 Democrats and two independents are expected to support the reforms, leaving only a handful of Republican votes needed to reach the 60 vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. At the very least, the four Republican members of the Gang of Eight are likely to support their own bill, along with a few other moderates. The mechanics in the House are more complicated: its Republican majority includes many fierce opponents of any leniency towards illegal immigrants. But the Republican leadership, says Jeff Hauser of the AFL-CIO, will not want to be seen as sabotaging the reforms. In the end, he predicts, they will allow a vote on any bill the Senate produces, in the expectation that it will pass mainly with Democratic support. Shepherding an immigration bill through Congress may be a daunting task, but snuffing one out is beginning to look more daunting still.


Former INS Chief Talks Politics of Immigration Reform

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

BY: KWAME HOLMAN

The fence that stands on the United States-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz. Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/ The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Doris Meissner sometimes gets accused of taking a pro-Democratic view in her current work as senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, which calls itself an “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit” analyzer of migration issues worldwide.

But Meissner, a former official in the Clinton administration, ends up talking a lot about politics when the subject is potentially landmark immigration reform legislation now gathering steam in Congress — a plan she said offers more benefits than deficits for the United States.

“This is now an issue of politics. The issues have been out there for a long time. This is an issue of coming to a political meeting of the minds,” Meissner told the NewsHour this week in her office eight blocks from the White House.

The importance of politics in the effort to make fundamental changes to the nation’s immigration policy comes as no surprise to Meissner, whose job it is to understand millions of Latino legal residents and the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States who could gain a path to citizenship under the proposal.

Meissner agrees with the prevailing analysis that Latino voters swung heavily toward President Barack Obama and other Democrats in November in large part because of a perceived anti-immigrant bent of former Gov. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

“Those of us working in this field have known for a long time the potential of the Latino vote being a pivotal election-changing vote has always been there,” she said. “But it has been one of those population groups that’s had lower voting rates.”

Polls show that Latino voters were energized by the Democrats’ support for immigration reform and the feeling that Republicans opposed it.

“We’re talking about U.S. citizens. They don’t have a stake in immigration reform in a way that people illegally in the county do, but they do have a stake in immigration reform because they are characterized as bad people in this political fracas, as people who somehow don’t have a right to be here and that has been deeply offensive to Latino voters,” Meissner said.

Meissner — who was commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now Immigration and Custom Enforcement) for most of President Bill Clinton’s two terms — said the actions of Latino voters suddenly turned immigration reform from “an issue that had been a complete third rail into the issue that both parties could come together on.”

And Meissner said the swing toward support for immigration reform extends to traditional Republican constituencies, notably in mid-Western and Southern states that have seen substantial increases in Latino immigrant residents in recent years.

“I think what’s going on now in the Christian right and the evangelical world is extraordinarily influential. Because evangelicals and those churches and pastors have taken up this issue of welcoming the stranger and the values in the Bible that believers should be following. They have really embraced this and they are doing very savvy and sophisticated media campaigns in states around the country that are heavily influenced by the evangelical vote, explaining why immigration reform, why citizenship for people who are in the country illegally is consistent with religious belief and the values of those churches,” said Meissner.

Meissner also notes the states immigrants have moved to have seen decreases in their own native populations, leaving many towns to rely on the new immigrants.

“Let’s look just at the pragmatic side of that, which is that the evangelical movement’s fastest-growing group are immigrants and Latino immigrants. So they’re finding this in their own churches, they’re finding in their own congregations people who do not have legal status. And they’re confronting the hardships that that creates in their church community. That’s powerful,” she said.

But even if the political stars seem to continue to align for immigration reform, Meissner can imagine at least two scenarios that could impede the legislation – governors may balk at the costs of applying legal status to millions of undocumented people, or the sheer size of the undertaking.

“It’s the quintessential devil in the details. The sweep of this kind of a bill is enormous. If a bill like this passes, this is going to be a project for our country for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond. This is [a] very substantial set of changes,” she said. “So any of the particular features of it could — because it then involves so many constituencies, so many political interests — could bring it to unravel.”


Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in ‘Pieces’

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

By David M. DruckerPosted at 4:56 p.m. on April 3

Goodlatte040313 445x292 Goodlatte: House Could Overhaul Immigration in Pieces

Goodlatte, the Judiciary chairman, is a key player in the effort to get immigration legislation passed in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte on Wednesday floated the possibility that the House could eschew a comprehensive approach to overhauling the nation’s immigration system in favor of a step-by-step legislative strategy.

Discussing the matter during an online telecast with Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt, the Virginia Republican appeared committed to most aspects of an immigration overhaul currently being discussed. Goodlatte said legislation must be passed to address the millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., fill the need for more high- and low-skilled workers in the high technology and agriculture industries and to upgrade border security.

But Goodlatte, who runs the key committee of jurisdiction in the House for immigration legislation, said Republicans have “definitely left [the] option open” to addressing those and other issues through multiple bills, rather than one comprehensive piece of legislation that includes every component. He praised the bipartisan working groups in the House and Senate that are attempting to reach an agreement on comprehensive legislation.

“Whether we take pieces of this and then put them together later on, or whether we pass something that’s more broad-based remains to be seen, but it’s just going to be what the will of the House will be, this needs to come from the bottom up,” Goodlatte told Stirewalt. “It’s not how fast or slow you go; it’s getting it right.”

 

Goodlatte, who once worked as an immigration attorney, said hearings on the immigration overhaul have been ongoing, as have weekly briefings with members and staff to educate them on the issues.

There has been some speculation that GOP leaders might bypass committee hearings to avoid Democratic attempts to cause Republicans political problems during any extended debate over immigration. But knowledgeable GOP sources maintain that there is virtually no way that strategy would be adopted on an issue as sensitive and potentially explosive as immigration, particularly in light of Speaker John A. Boehner’s guarantee to switch gears from the last Congress and move major legislation through “regular order.”

It’s unclear if all three committees of jurisdiction will get a crack at the eventual immigration legislation or set of bills, but Goodlatte’s Judiciary Committee was described by one GOP sources as a “lock” to exercise oversight of the overhaul.

Goodlatte praised Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for his demand that the Senate engage in a methodical approach to considering a comprehensive immigration rewrite. Rubio, a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” that is currently crafting a bill, has urged the majority Democrats to allow the Senate whatever time is required to fully vet and amend the legislation his group produces. Goodlatte suggested that he favors a similar process in the House.

“Marco Rubio is well to say let’s make sure we are completely and carefully examining this. They should do that over in the Senate and hold additional hearings after they have a product. We are definitely going to be doing that in the House,” Goodlatte said. “It’s my hope that we’ll be producing legislation in the House very soon.”


Four key points on why business and labor reached a deal on immigration

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

by Sandra Lilley, @sandralilley
2:56 pm on 04/01/2013
The recent agreement between labor and business groups on a guest worker program for low-skilled labor has really carved a space for the Senate to proceed with an immigration reform bill, mainly because it did what no other talks succeeded in doing in years past.
“The agreement is huge,” says Ana Avendaño, Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action for the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest union, which recently reached the agreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The momentum is unstoppable; and we have no doubt we are going to have an immigration bill,” adds Avendaño.
Here are four reasons why.
Agreement on visa number increase
“First, what is significant is the way both groups have reached an agreement on how to structure the number of visas,” says Kristian Ramos, Policy Director for the New Policy Institute’s (NPI) 21st Border Initiative. ”In 2007, one of the reasons legislation died is that business had one number and labor had another,” Ramos explained, adding, “the fact they were able to come to terms on numbers was pragmatic, clever and an indication these guys are serious.”
Under the deal proposed by the groups, a “W Visa program” could go into effect on April of 2015, and it would allow employers to petition for lesser-skilled foreign workers for jobs in construction, as well as janitorial or retail services. The program would start at 20,000 visas, then go up to 35,000 the next year, 55,000 the next, 75,000 the following and continue until 200,000.
Independent Bureau to determine immigrant labor needs
A second reason labor and business agreed to this, says AFL-CIO’s Avendaño, is because determining what sector of industry needs additional workers will be determined by a new entity, the Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research. This is an independent, non-partisan group of experts, such as demographers and economists, who will study and determine labor needs. ”Congress on the House side is currently responsible for setting the number of visas, and the cap hasn’t changed in more than a decade,” says Ramos.
“Right now we don’t even know who is here on work visas or when people leave,” adds Avendaño. ”This will bring transparency, and it will be scientific – there is a shortage of elder care workers, you address it, same with nannies or other positions,” she adds.
Guest worker visa not limited to one employer
For workers themselves, the third reason is one of the most important. Unlike now, immigrants under this proposed guest worker visa will not be limited to one employer. “This is a huge change; as long as employers held the power, it was impossible for workers to exercise their rights to fair pay or expose worker violations,” says Avendaño. “Portability is a big deal for labor,” adds Ramos. In addition, guest worker wages must be equal to those of U.S. workers, so this will not undercut the wages of current employees.
Workers request own green cards
And last but certainly not least, a fourth component on this deal is that workers will be able to self-petition for a green card after one year, and will not be dependent on employers. ”The creation of an entire new visa system is a significant undertaking,” says Ramos.
For immigration reform advocates such as Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, this agreement between labor and business is “a historic breakthrough.”
“This breakthrough significantly increases the likelihood of reform with a new roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants,” said Sharry.


Outrage after ICE officers detain undocumented immigrants bringing their kids to school

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

by Alessandra Hickson
1:22 pm on 10/20/2012

Members of the Latino community and immigration activists are calling for the resignation of the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit after officers stopped and detained two undocumented immigrants as they dropped their children off at school.
Both immigrants, from Mexico, were followed by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement as they left their homes in southwest Detroit on Tuesday morning. Both men had their children in their vehicles. One of the men, Jorge Hernandez, says he was pulled over by agents in unmarked cars just across the street from his four year-old daughter’s school. He claims he was threatened with arrest in front of his wife and son.
“I was very scared,” said Jorge through an interpreter to The Detroit News. “My children were saying, ‘Don’t take my dad away.’”
Hernandez and his wife went into the Manuel Reyes Vistas Nuevas Head Start Center and stayed there until members of the Alliance for Immigrations Rights & Reform Michigan were able to help them. The other man, Hector Orozco Villa, told immigrant advocates he was detained by agents near the elementary school of two of his children, Cesar Chavez Academy, a few blocks from the Head Start center. Orozco Villa remains in the agency’s custody. Parents and children in the predominantly Latino neighborhood were alarmed by the agents, according to the New York Times.
On Wednesday, more than 100 people from Latino and church groups, including Hernandez and state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, rallied outside the Cesar Chavez Academy on Waterman Street. Demonstrators called for ICE Enforcement Director Rebecca Adducci to resign.
According to The Detroit News, ICE national director John Morton pledged in October 2011 that agents would no longer patrol around schools or stop residents on their way to drop off or pick up their children. Parents and school officials feel that ICE has broken it’s promise.
“It is very alarming to me to have this happen during the rush hour of people taking their children to school,” said Rep. Tlaib to the New York Times. “We are really worried about the impact on these United States citizen children.” Many of the children of both Hernandez and Orozco Villa were born in the United States.
But ICE says they’ve done nothing wrong.
“After a thorough review of facts, the arrest of a priority target today in the Detroit metro area adhered to, and was in full compliance of, the stated policies and procedures of the agency,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the agency. “This includes ICE policy regarding enforcement actions at or near sensitive locations.”
According to immigration officials, Orozco Villa was arrested because of a criminal conviction in 2008 for driving under the influence and he had also returned to the United States after being formally deported, which is a felony.
For now, immigration activists and Latino residents continue to press for answers and dialogue.


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.


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