immigration

Updated Weekly: A very fine border line between cartels, immigration debate

UPDATE:  Case in Point - Speaking of the drug war on the border, a piece in The Hill today by Bridget Johnson is a perfect example of how the lines between "immigrant" and "cartel" are becoming blurred, and how violence on the border will have an effect on the immigration debate:

"Any steps that you take to curtail Mexican drug violence will help illegal immigration," said Bryan Griffith, spokesman for the Center for Immigration Studies, noting that though stepped-up enforcement may help, the violence itself may spur more northward journeys. "Generally, people come to the U.S. to find jobs," Griffith said. "If you have violence, there's more of a motivation."

And somehow doing nothing will not exacerbate violence?  This is to be expected from CIS, as it ignores the underlying problem:  consumption in the United States.  We need to be sure to keep immigration policy very separate from persecution of organized crime.  Countries in the entire region must work together to 1) combat consumption, 2) share intelligence and extradite traffickers, and 3) continue aiding each other to develop stronger economic institutions to end this vicious cycle of poverty, violence, and drugs.


T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told The Hill that officers continue to be subject to a "dramatic increase" in assaults, with 1,097 documented incidents in the fiscal year between Oct. 1, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2008. "Obviously, we're extremely concerned about the continued escalation of violence, which has been increasing every year for at least the past six years," he said...... While the completed border infrastructure has had a "negligible effect on border violence," Bonner said, "there appears to be a correlation between the fortification of the border and assaults on our agents."

As explained by Angelica Salas in the article, "By sealing off the border in this way, what you end up doing is giving [the cartels] more power," Salas said. "Their money- making is actually increased."  Violence will not be curtailed until the issue of organized crime is addressed through intelligence and legal channels, and the broken immigration is fixed by passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Although even this Bonner guy admits:  "As long as you have such strong demand [for drugs] in the U.S...then you'd have cartels trying to find a way in."

Weekly Update on Immigration: Obama Pressed On Immigration; Local Police Add Immigration Beat?; What's Happening in Mexico?

I. Obama Pressed on Immigration -  The latest news from this morning, the CHC is ramping up activity, and Simon explains how immigration reform can be used as a tool to improve the economy.

II.
Happening in Our Own Backyard - A friend of mine from Nashville shared with me that the Lt. Governor of Tennessee had not taken any action for or against the "English Only" provision that was voted on in TN shortly after January 20th.  The Lt. Gov. was in D.C. for the inauguration, and as he was driving home, having just heard the President's moving speech on the dream that is America, on moving forward, on how "We are One,"  that "I am my brother's keeper," and that we are not the "native" or "foreign," "black" or "white" states of America, but rather the United States of America, he began hearing anti-immigrant talk radio as he crossed the state of Virginia.  And it hit him - how could he come from hearing his President's inspired words, then go home and ignore what was happening in his own backyard?  And he got home to rally against the "English-only" provision, which failed.  This lesson applies to all of us.

Two years ago, in Prince William County, Virginia - a mere 30 minutes away from the home of our President, Congress, and federal Judicial Branch - the County Council decided it was a good idea to turn citizens and local police into immigration officers.  Now Montgomery and Frederick County in Maryland are following suit.  Following the GAO report on 287(g) that we discussed last week, NPR had a great interview with the Frederick County sheriff, Charles Jenkins - who is encouraging this policy - and our friend Frank Sharry, of America's Voice.  How can we say that we support our country, our President, and his values if we don't fight against these laws?

Sheriff Jenkins argues this initiative is in response to an "increase in crime involving people in the country illegally," but as indicated during the interview, of the 337 arrests of undocumented immigrants in Frederick County, only 12 of those individuals had actual criminal records, and only 9 participated in gang-related activity.  These individuals should be arrested and prosecuted for their offenses as part of the normal county policing efforts, but there is no reason to pinpoint "immigrants" specifically.  Data demonstrate that native-born individuals are 5 times as likely as foreign-born to have a criminal record.  This effort is not a strategy to go after actual criminals, it is an effort to turn community police into deportation agents, which has unintended consequences.  We recommend Sheriff Jenkins take a good look at the counties that have already had experience with the 287(g) program, and learn from it. 

In Prince William County, Chief of Police Deane warned the County Council of these unintended consequences:

1. Community policing efforts in minority communities will end.  Best practices in policing indicate that effective policing is based on trust.  This trust is undermined when communities - particularly minority communities - feel they, or their friends and family, are in danger of being deported or persecuted.   

2. Sharp rise in unsolved crimes and underreporting of crimes in the minority population.  As stated by Frank - there is a reason 95% of police departments choose not to participate in this program, it undermines their policing efforts.  If police are seen as "la migra" or immigration enforcement, as opposed to protectors and partners in the community, this is the expected result.

3. Crime rates among youth will rise.  These programs lead to feelings of persecution and marginalization, which translates to frustration.

4. Rise of vigilantism.  These programs cause greater "citizen activism" and embolden those with anti-immigrant feelings to feel more comfortable acting out on those feelings.

5. A more radical population.  These programs cause a greater rift between immigrants, minority communities, and those who are very anti-immigrant.  Chief Deane noted that eventually both sides become increasingly polarized and harder to deal with.

6. Perceptions of racism will increase.  The reputation and perception of life in that County changes, as we saw with the exodus of many Hispanics from Prince William.

7. Higher taxes, skyrocketing expenses.

Sheriff Jenkins believes that he is, "not spending an enormous amount of resources on this program. I am simply performing this duty as an extension of law enforcement duties."  But participation in 287(g) necessarily requires additional processes and resources, which will be felt in the county, as happened in Prince William.  In a time of economic crisis, Prince William County had to cut back on their 287(g) initiative because of the unforeseen amount of resources that went into it.  Sheriff Jenkins might want to take a look at this presentation by Chief Deane before the Prince William County Board over one year after the implementation of the 287(g) program:

III. Immigration and Latin America - President Obama wants to develop a renewed and more engaged relationship with Mexico and our other neighbors in Latin America, but given some of last week's events, one understands why it becomes difficult for these countries to trust the U.S. government - and Democrats in particular.  Last week during the vote in the Senate approving the Omnibus spending bill, the U.S. government sent mixed economic messages and backed out on a major commitment under NAFTA.  The bill that passed on Tuesday would end funding for the cross-border trucking program that was signed into law in 1993 as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Regardless of the success or flaws in this program, the bottom line is that the United States agreed to this pact, signed it into law, and is now going back on its obligations (it's reported that access to U.S. roads granted to Mexican trucks in NAFTA would be terminated).  Critics cite safety concerns, but a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy argues:

 

"During the cross-border trucking demonstration program's 18 months of operation, 26 carriers from Mexico -- with 103 trucks -- and 10 from the U.S. -- with 61 trucks -- crossed the border over 45,000 times without a significant incident," said spokesman, Ricardo Alday.

Mr. Alday adds, "Mexico would expect that at a time of global recession and economic distress, the U.S. would play by the rules, fulfill its international treaty obligations and ensure that bilateral trade is a level playing field, rather than erect trade barriers that undermine much-needed incentives to foster growth," predicting the action would increase consumer costs.  We can expect Secretary of State Clinton will have to address this issue while she's in Mexico next week.

This issue ties into immigration because Congress must come to the realization that we are indeed connected to the rest of the world, and to the Latin America region in particular.  As long as members of Congress like Sen. Byron Dorgan and others continue to use serious policy issues to do politicking, and as long as they scapegoat our neighbors for domestic problems, it will be impossible to have a political atmosphere that is rational and balanced enough to deal with major domestic problems, like the economic crisis and the broken immigration system.  This takes me to the next issue:

IV. Mexico is No Failed State- Much was said last week about reports and academic studies calling Mexico a "failed state."  First, let's return to our basic University level Theory of State and government classes:  a "failed state" is a term used by commentators to describe a state perceived as losing basic conditions of a sovereign government.  Per Noam Chomsky, these conditions include:

  1. Loss of physical control of its territory - Last I checked, not a single mayor or Governor in Mexico has ceded control to organized crime.
  2. Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions. - Again, President Calderon, the Judicial branch and Congress are still carrying on with daily business.  
  3. Inability to provide reasonable public services. - If anything, service providers in Mexico have improved, with new education and other service providers.
  4. An inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.  Considering the U.S. Secretary of State is visiting her counterpart in Mexico next week, and given Mexico's active participation in everything from the UN, to the OAS, to the upcoming Summit of the Americas, this is evidently not the case.

Let's stop demonizing a country that is in fact our second largest trading partner, with whom we share much more than a border and economic ties.  We share ideology, common goals, strategic benefits, the fact is we share a people and many aspects of culture and customs.

If Mexico were a failed state, we'd have to apply the same title to the U.S., given the events of 2007 that revealed unexpected shocks - primarily the implosion of the U.S. subprime market, which burst housing bubbles worldwide, slowed trade, and sent currencies into tailspins.

V. Congressional Hearing on Border Crime - It is important that all our advocates for immigration reform refute these claims as quickly as they refute attacks on our immigrant population because as long as Mexico and Mexicans continue to be seen as harmful to the U.S., immigration will continue to be equated to "Mexicans," "security," "terrorism," and other "hazards," as was evidenced during last Thursday's hearing of the House Subcommittee on Border issues.  At Thursday's hearing, Chairwoman Sanchez asked Mr. Alonzo Pena, the Homeland Security Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, whether all of Mexico was truly as dangerous as reports make it seem.  Mr. Pena responded that his family had just vacationed in Mexico, and that while the border region and specific areas are dangerous, tourist areas and the country in general remains safe:

"While there is violence in Mexico, it is not, and I repeat not, an indication of the government of Mexico's inability to maintain control," he said. "Rather it is an indication of President Calderon's success in confronting transnational criminal organizations in Mexico."

I left the hearing very concerned that "immigrants" continue to be bundled into "border threats" and "other hazards."   Organized crime is organized crime, many times carried out by U.S. citizens on both sides of the border.  Organized crime is one thing, immigrants are an entirely different phenomenon.  The Administration and specifically the Department of Homeland Security must separate "immigrants" and "immigration" from "gangs" and organized crime.  The ICE gang unit should certainly seek out and persecute gang members, but the ICE gang unit should not constitute all of ICE's work, nor can it serve as the foundation of ICE's ideology and priorities.

We saw progress in that both ICE and ATF agents finally recognized the harm U.S. arms are causing as they're being shipped into Mexico.  But not once was drug prevention mentioned throughout the entire hearing as part of the strategy to combat organized crime.  It took Congressman Al Green to remind the panelists that this is not a border problem, or a U.S.-Mexico problem, but a "transnational problem," and a "growth problem," due to the increase in drug use in the U.S. When none of the panelists were able to provide the number of ICE/ATF employees dedicated to "following the money trail" of organized crime, Mr. Green reiterated: the Government of Mexico has asked for our help on two fronts: control the guns, and control the money, and U.S. authorities have so far been unable to do either.

Congresswoman Kirkpatrick accurately noted, as long as we don't address the issue of drug consumption, there will be "no appreciable change" in this situation, we'll just continue with "spurts of arrests."   Instead of fanning fears of destabilization in Mexico, people like Sen.Cornyn of Texas should instead focus on what Texas can do and what they can do to stop the elements that are feeding this violence: guns and drug consumption.

VI. In Case you Missed It - A fantastic New York Times interactive map that shows immigration trends and data, and the Los Angeles Time graphic showing a decrease in arrests of undocumented immigrants along the border (while border violence is on the rise, so let's stop blaming the immigrants).  

VII. UPDATE: A very fine border line between cartels, immigration debate.

Banning Foreign Workers Is Bad Policy and Bad Politics, at a Bad Time

Following yesterday's news that a "hire American" provision added to the stimulus bill is forcing investment banks to rescind job offers made to highly qualified immigrant workers, some banks have indicated that they want to return the stimulus money, as the strings attached are actually very bad for the bottom line.  Also today, the Dean and Assistant Dean of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business explain why it's a terrible time to reject skilled workers: 

1. "Supporters say the law will help U.S.-born workers and stimulate our economy, but this is just wrong. The economy is not of fixed size, in which more foreign-born workers necessarily mean fewer U.S. workers. Productive foreign-born workers can help create more jobs here. Keeping them out damages us."

2. "Over 400 firms now face a sharply curtailed talent pool, precisely when they need visionary talent to rebuild amidst the world's most severe economic crisis in decades. Without the best talent, ultimately they'll create fewer jobs."

3. "There is also indirect, unforeseen damage that's beginning to appear in higher education.  If foreign-born students cannot legally work here after earning their degrees, fewer will enroll."

The bottom line is, foreign workers are needed if the U.S. is to remain competitive in a global, 21st century economy.  Data from the National Science Foundation reveal that in 2005, the foreign student population earned approximately 34.7% of the doctorate degrees in the sciences and approximately 63.1% of the doctorate degrees in engineering.  In 2005, foreign students on temporary resident visas earned 30.8% of the doctorates in the sciences, and 58.6% of the doctorates in engineering.  Not to mention, according to the Department of Labor and Congressional Research Service, the U.S. benefits from the intellectual property developed by foreign high skilled workers because their talent remains in the U.S. for the most part: Approximately 56% of foreign doctorate degree earners on temporary visas remain in the United States, with many eventually becoming citizens.  Adjustments from temporary visas to permanent status increased by 68% from 347,416 in 2003 to 583,921 in 2004. And it's estimated that by 2010, more than 50% of all employment-based workers would adjust from temporary to permanent status.  

But that won't happen if these employees continue to feel like second-class workers and citizens, constantly discriminated against for being foreign-born.

In addition to foreign workers' contributions to higher education, skilled immigrants have long contributed to American jobs and standards of living because they bring ideas for new technologies and new companies.  And importantly, they bring connections to business opportunities abroad, stimulating exports and affiliate sales for multinational companies.  A perfect example is Alice Su

Su grew up internationally between China, Hong Kong, Belgium, and worked in Japan. She did her undergraduate work in finance and electrical engineering at Wharton. She worked for four years at consulting firm Bain & Co. and the International Finance Corp. (the World Bank's private-sector investment arm) in Hong Kong, before coming back to Wharton for her M.B.A. in 2007.  But we don't want her knowledge and know-how helping OUR companies figure out how to improve OUR economy.  No thank you. Please, let's not think outside the box here.

Many in the scientific community maintain that in order to compete with countries that are rapidly expanding their scientific and technological capabilities, the country needs to bring to the United States those whose skills will benefit society and will enable us to compete. The underlying problem of foreign students in graduate science and engineering programs is not necessarily that there are too many foreign-born students, but that there are not enough native-born students pursuing scientific and technical disciplines. 

The Real Problem With Foreign Workers is that the current immigration system is broken, for them as well.  We should be focusing on how to fix the current flawed immigration laws that can sometimes hurt and hold back skilled workers when they work for U.S. firms, rather than focusing on putting up walls to keep out the best and brightest for the sake of demagoguery. 

Weekly Update on Immigration: Posturing on E-verify and Immigration Policies That Bring Shame and Danger to Our Communities

I. Immigrants Bear the Brunt of Political Posturing Yet Again - It is no coincidence that this morning USA Today published an article citing "experts" alleging that undocumented immigrants would obtain jobs from the money provided under the economic stimulus.  It just so happens that the U.S. Senate is considering an omnibus bill today that could extend the electronic verification system known as "E- verify" through September of 2009, or longer (depending on passage of certain amendments).  The absence of data indicates that these "experts" are simply jumping in on the politicking to vent their anti-immigrant views and to try to persuade public opinion to favor renewal of the current e-verify, which has been determined to be ineffective and impractical.  The article cites that "pro-immigrant and business groups" call e-verify dangerous and ineffective, but fails to note that e-verify is also determined as such by legitimate research institutions, government agencies (GAO and Inspector General reports, etc.), Congress, and others.   These "experts" provide no methodology to support their contention that of all the jobs created under the stimulus, 300,000 construction jobs would go to "illegal immigrants."  

Funds go to the construction industry because it's among the hardest hit, not because it employs immigrants.  The numbers used by CIS are from 2005, long before - as reported just a few days ago, also by USA Today - the unemployment rate in the construction industry hit 21.4%, causing layoffs among largely Hispanic workers, thus contributing to the now 10.9% unemployment rate among Latinos.  Leaders of labor groups have openly stated that the construction industry is in a "near depression."  According to the White House estimate of the impact of the stimulus, 18.4% of overall job creation would occur in the construction industry, translating to about 678,000 jobs.  CIS believes that half of these jobs would go to undocumented immigrants, but provides no basis for this. Yes, most construction workers are minorities, but CIS leaps to a very fragile connection between minorities and legal status, given that most Hispanics/Latinos in this country are in fact not "illegals."

Moreover, CIS has no credibility.  As we have discussed before, CIS is a recognized hate group.  Second, it has lost credibility because it's always wrong.  It was wrong about everything from the GOP no longer needing Latino voters to its allegations of the "surge" of immigrants that would "flood" into the U.S. after the 2008 Presidential election. Not only are their assumptions flawed, they even contradict each other.  In July 2008, CIS alleged that a "homeward-bound" exodus of immigrants leaving the U.S. was happening, and a few months later, in October, it argued there would be a "surge" of immigrants that would "flood" the U.S. after the elections.  Neither has occurred.  Clearly, their "research" is full of discretionary "data" and assumptions come up as needed, when needed.

Lastly, CIS has said it itself: it is against both legal and illegal immigration.  Data actually suggests that immigrants (both legal and illegal) contribute to state economies, as indicated by IPC research in several states.

This is yet another example of why Congress and the Administration can't be centrists on the issue of immigration.  As long as Comprehensive Immigration Reform is not enacted,  domestic policy and items like the omnibus will continue to get caught in the crossfire and held up over immigration proxy wars and political posturing.  This demonization of our community has to stop.

II. Immigration Policies That Bring Global Shame on the U.S. and Put Us At Risk - Another ember kindling the hatred against Hispanics is a little-known program called "287(g)," named after the section of immigration law that contains it. The 1996 immigration law ("IIRIRA")brought 287(g) into being, authorizing the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to train local officers to perform functions of an immigration officer.  This week GAO presented testimony before Congress once again pointing out concerns about the inefficiency and dangers in this program, in addition to the fact that it is an unfunded mandate.  GAO concluded that the program lacks key internal controls: guidance on how and when to use the program authority is non-existent or inconsistent, there are no guidelines on how ICE officials are to supervise officers in participating agencies, and there are no performance measures to track and evaluate progress toward meeting the program objectives - probably because GAO also found that program objectives have not
been documented in any materials.  These findings are serious, and the investigation also concluded that 287(g) participation has led to documented violations and racial profiling.  Racial profiling, stopping motorists because they "look illegal" can't be accepted in the America that elected Barack Obama as president - a president that speaks about how we are all one, how we are all our brother's keeper.  

More than a "program," I see 287(g) as a symptom of a larger disease; it is an expression of the disease of hate and demonization of Hispanics that has spread across the country. It is telling that 287(g) came into being in 1996, but the first 287(g) agreement didn't come into being until 2002 - that means that for six years we had undocumented migration, but no one felt it necessary to send police after immigrants.  But all that changed after 9/11.  The desire to seek out and scapegoat immigrants for all our ills took hold as the far right, anti-immigrant talk show hosts and narrative flared.  From 2002-2008, we saw the number of 287(g) agreements balloon to 67, in 29 states. 

Although the GAO did not track the amount of resources a state diverts away from fighting actual crime when it decides to shift its energy to acting as immigration police, there are plenty of other reports documenting the increase in the number of criminal investigations that languish unsolved as police decide to instead stake out U.S. residents or citizens of color to make sure they're "legal."  This lack of attention to criminals and particularly to organized crime could not come at a worse time.  We are definitely facing a war against drug traffickers at the border.  And this war is not only the responsibility of the Mexican government, the U.S. must decide to fully engage its resources - DHS, FBI, DOJ - to find and pursue the drug buyers and suppliers in the U.S. - the ones providing Mexican cartels with business.  Therefore, the unintended consequences of 287(g) go far beyond the serious offense of racial profiling, we are putting our communities at risk by irrationally and unjustly changing the priorities of our first responders.  The priority should be to keep our communities safe and pursue criminals. Immigrants do not threaten our lives and our safety, criminals and drug traffickers do. With limited resources, let's keep our eye on the ball.   

For more information, check out an IPC fact sheet on 287(g) partnerships, and a report by Justice Strategies.

III. More on the Economics of Immigration - Scientists fear that the broken immigration system and the troublesome visa system will drive foreign students to other countries.  Business Week reports that some data shows skilled immigrants are actually leaving the U.S. as debate over programs like the H-1B visa intensifies. And a very interesting article in Nashville, TN reminds us of an important lesson: Tennessee has actually used immigration to bolster its economy since the era of Reconstruction.

IV. We Can't Stress the Importance of the 2010 Census enough - The GAO presented assessments of Census methodology at House and Senate hearings last week, and warns that at this moment, the bureau is behind schedule.  Moreover, the accuracy of the 2010 Census remains threatened by computer problems and untested methods the Census Bureau plans to use for conducting the count, according to testimony by Robert Goldenkoff, director of strategic issues for the GAO. And we can't forget that the Congressional Black Caucus has been calling for a very involved President in the development of the Census.  If they work together, the CHC and CBC can carry a great deal of influence on this process to the benefit of minority communities.  

V. The Race for Rahm's Seat - Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley won the Democratic special primary election to contend for Rahm Emmanuel's seat on April 7.  On immigration, Quigley noted, "I sponsored a measure with Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado to create an immigrant protection ordinance in our Cook County system."  This is another race in which we have a pro-CIR Democratic candidate against an anti-immigrant Republican candidate.  In this case, the Republican is Rosanna Pulido, director of the Illinois Minuteman Project (I know, go figure).  We'll keep a close eye on this one. 

VI. And in case you missed it - the "Top 10 Immigration Issues From 2008."

Weekly Update on Immigration: Making the Case for Immigration Reform

On February 19, NDN convened a public forum that made the case for why Congress should pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this year.  Joining NDN 's Simon Rosenberg were  Rick Johnson of Lake Research, Pete Brodnitz of Benenson Strategy Group, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Frank Sharry of America's Voice.  

It was a powerful event. For those of you who were unable to watch the video live, or review the compelling package of data and presentations that were part of the event, I encourage you to visit:

"Making the Case for Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year,"
Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 2/19/09

"Immigration08: National Survey and Swing District Polling on Immigration ," 
Lake Research Partners,11/13/08
Polling sponsored by America's Voice and Immigraiton08 found - yet again - that a large majority of voters broadly support Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  The data here demonstrates how voters understand that common sense solutions that help the economy and fix the broken immigration system are a win-win. 

"Attitudes Towards Immigration Reform in Swing Districts,"
Benenson Strategy Group, Updated: 1/27/09
This polling performed in congressional swing districts found that support of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform both increases a candidate's ballot support and improves the public perception of him or her on key qualities and attributes. It's telling that candidates associated with support for comprehensive reform were perceived more favorably than candidates supporting enforcement-only.

"NDN Statewide Polls on Immigration,"
NDN and Bendixen & Associates, 9/10/2008
Similar to the polling done in swing districts, this poll conducted in four battleground states - CO, NM, NV, and FL- found overwhelming support for comprehensive immigration reform. The data here also shows that while the anti-immigrant minority may be loud, it remains a very small minority, with most voters blaming the U.S. government for the broken immigration system - not the undocumented immigrants. 

Taken together, these presentations and reports are essential reading for anyone working on this issue.

We cannot forget that we also have a moral imperative to pass national immigration reform.  Click here to read more about the perfect storm that is being fostered by the consistent immigration debate at local and state levels, leading to dramatic increases in the number of hate crimes and hate groups.  

A Perfect Storm?

Today, MSNBC featured a story on the growth in hate groups and increas in hate crimes.  Since the year 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 54%, adding up to 926 such groups across the country.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) contends that this growth is due almost entirely to the exploitation of the immigration issue by these groups.  Statistics show that these groups are mainly targeting Latinos.  The piece states that the combination of an economic crisis, a rapidly changing demography (it is estimated that by 2042 most of the U.S. population will be of a "minority", and this will happen by 2023 among 18-year olds), and the first black President have served to stir the storm of hate crimes and hate groups - a storm that "only knowledge and understanding" can eliminate.  Let's hope this small percentage of our population starts becoming more informed, and more accepting of the demographic reality of 21st century America.  See the video, with coments by John Amaya from MALDEF and the SPLC, dedicated to tracking such groups.

Weekly Update on Immigration: Event Recap, The Deportation Era, and It's All About Juan

I. "Making the Case for Passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year" - And our message is going global.  NDN, America's Voice, NCLR, and experts from Lake Research Partners and Benenson Strategy Group teamed up last week to articulate the arguments as to why President Barack Obama and Congress need to pass immigration reform legislation (CIR)this year.  Reporters from around the world were able to participate in our event via live webcast, and a prominent Mexican periodical, El Financiero, covered our event.  Click here to check out the speakers' presentations. The full video will be on our blog this Wednesday.

II. The Deportation Era - There was ample news coverage over the week of the report published by the Migration Policy Center, demonstrating that after seeing its budget soar to $218 million last year, the federal program responsible for tracking down and finding "criminal aliens" yielded 72,000 arrests, 73% of which had no criminal record.   The New York Times published an Editorial this weekend on this pervasive inefficiency (and racial overtones) in enforcement:


Of all the noncitizen Latinos sentenced last year, the vast majority - 81 percent - were convicted for unlawfully entering or remaining in the country, neither of which is a criminal offense.  The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals - violent thugs, financial scammers - to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down ... workers.

III. Speaking of Enforcement Gone Bad - This Times Editorial also mentions the issue of severely overburdened immigration judges.  As it stands, judges simply are not equipped to properly deal with this "immigration crackdown" and inaction with respect to the rest of the broken immigration system, as reported by Jennifer Ludden.

As it stands, racial profiling is apparently encouraged as a part of "enforcement." One law proposed in Montana would apparently encourage average citizens to file claims against employers they "believed" were employing undocumenteds.  Here in the D.C. area - in Baltimore - a group of ICE officers who were behind their "mandated" quotas of arrests thought it would be ok to just scout a 7-11 for Hispanics and call it a day:

New Tools and Bad Enforcement - In case you hadn't seen this, Texas sheriffs have erected a series of surveillance cameras along the Rio Grande and connected them to the Internet so that your average Joe can be a "virtual Deputy." John Burnett reports on NPR:

Thousands of people are now virtual Border Patrol agents - and they're on the lookout for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants..... Robert Fahrenkamp, a truck driver in South Texas, is one of them. After a long haul behind the wheel of a Peterbilt tractor-trailer, he comes home, sets his 6-foot-6-inch, 250-pound frame in front of his computer, pops a Red Bull, turns on some Black Sabbath or Steppenwolf, logs in to www.blueservo.net - and starts protecting his country.   "This gives me a little edge feeling," Fahrenkamp says, "like I'm doing something for law enforcement as well as for our own country."


With hate crimes already rising against Hispanics at record levels, this "program" really does not help bring communities together to solve crime, or anything else.  It is to be expected that this site will invite extremists to participate in virtual man-hunts.  The people logging in are no "border agents," they undergo no background or criminal check, no psychological profile exams, no training. And to top it off, the website provides no detailed or intelligent information.   A typical description of "what to watch for," includes: "During the day watch for subjects on foot carrying large bags. During the night time hours watch for activity involving lights."  This is no description of drug traffickers, it could be a Mexican just coming home from visiting family, or crossing illegally, but let's not hide his program behind the guise of "fighting border crime".  Let's call a spade a spade - this is a case of Texas sheriffs wanting help in keeping the "illegals" out, not criminals.  If the intent were to keep criminal activity away, then we should begin by re-visiting Texas gun laws, the laws that allow guns to flood into Mexico and play a role in all that "border crime." 

The New Political Economy of Immigration - In this interesting piece written by Tom Barry of the Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP), he analyzes the political and economic reasons behind the change in the narrative on immigrants and immigration since September 11.  First, by being depicted as more "dangerous," second, by discussing immigration in a vacuum, rather than addressing it as the complex socio-economic issue that it is, there are market forces that have become invigorated due to the immigrant "crackdown," and he argues they have "given rise to an unregulated complex of jails, detention centers, and prisons that create profit from the immigrant crackdown."

IV. Gallup Briefing focuses on Mexico - Click here to review Gallup's latest analysis of escalating violence in Mexico related to the drug trade and public opinion.

V. The Real Economics of Immigration Reform - Workers are workers, are workers.  In case you missed it, check out this piece by Cristina Jimenez, which breaks down the "bottom line" on how the economics of immigration should reframe the debate on the policy in this area.

VI. Obama Continues to Reach out to Hispanics - During this interview with El Piolin, the radio show with the most audience nationally, Obama explained his economic policy to Spanish-speaking listeners, and reiterated his commitment on other fronts, such as immigration reform.

VII. Watch out for the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - If you look at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) "Morning News," it looks pretty harmless, just a series of clips from major newspapers.  Is it intended to throw off those people who don't happen to know that it is a member of the hate network founded by John Tanton?

VIII. Census Offers a Look at the Make-up of the Nation's Immigrants - This New York Times piece by Sam Roberts provides a broad overview of the Census findings released last week.

IX. It's All About Juan - If you've ever wondered why immigration advocates work so tirelessly on this difficult issue, just look at Juan.  No, not a "Juan Perez" a real Juan - Juan is a Georgetown University student who deserves CIR.  Read his story, featured in the Washington Post.

UPDATE: NDN, America's Voice, NCLR Reiterate the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year, the Message Goes Abroad

In keeping with our "new tools" theme, reporters in Mexico made use of our new live webstreaming capability and were able to watch our conversation on "Making the Case for Passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year."  Our case is crossing borders, as a journalist from one of Mexico's most respected newspapers, El Financiero, writes in this piece.  The article elaborates on the two key points made by the speakers: 1) Immigration reform is vital in order to help revive our economy, and 2) legalizing those currently outside of the protection of American labor law will only help bring them into the system and generate greater revenue for the U.S. Treasury.

NDN, America's Voice, NCLR Team Up to Reiterate the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform This Year

Yesterday at NDN we heard from several experts, advocates, and strategists on the issue of immigration reform.  NDN President Simon Rosenberg was joined on a panel by Rick Johnson of Lake Research, Pete Brodnitz of Benenson Strategy Group, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Frank Sharry of America's Voice.  Andres Ramirez, Vice President, NDN Hispanic Programs, moderated the discussion. 

Building on the great work by these organizations over the last few years, and the creation of the Immigration08 campaign, the meeting consisted of a vibrant - and very timely - discussion during which the panelists reiterated the reasons why our economy and American values require passage of comprehensive legislation to fix the broken immigration system this year.

NDN would like to thank America's Voice, NCLR, Lake Research Partners, and Benenson Strategy Group for their hard work and partnership on this issue.

Video of the event will be posted next week.  For additional information, please refer to the final slide in this presentation, which will take you important work completed by each of the participating organizations.

As NDN mentioned during the event, we are making the speakers' presentations available below.  Presentations in order of appearance: 

Simon Rosenberg, NDN

Rick Johnson, Lake Research Partners

Pete Brodnitz, Benenson Strategy Group

Additional Resources:

NDN - www.ndn.org
The Immigration Proxy Wars Continue, by Simon Rosenberg, 2/13/09
An Updated Analysis of the Hispanic Vote 2008, by Andres Ramirez, 11/13/08
NDN Polls on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Battleground States, 9/10/08
Hispanics Rising II, 5/30/08
Can Democrats Seize the Opportunity the Immigration Debate Offers Them? by Simon Rosenberg, 12/11/08

America's Voice - http://www.americasvoiceonline.org
www.immigration2008.org What the 2008 Elections Mean For the Future of Immigration Reform, by Frank Sharry, 1/28/09
A Prescription for Comprehensive Reform
The Facts About Immigration

NCLR - www.nclr.com
http://www.wecanstopthehate.org/
NCLR Position on Immigration Reform
NCLR Immigration Information
NCLR Immigration Basic Fact Sheet

The Real Economics of Immigration Reform

After President Obama's discourse today on how to help working Americans through this crisis, I thought it appropriate to reiterate points we have made on the economic arguments for immigration reform.  And I highly recommend this piece in the American Prospect on "The Real Economics of Immigration," by Cristina Jimenez:

...Immigration reform is a tougher sell in a recession. That's the blunt observation Wall Street Journal
columnist Gerald Seib recently offered: "Pushing any kind of
immigration reform, particularly one that includes a path toward
legalization, is a lot harder in an environment in which Americans are
losing jobs."

Yet the political difficulty predates the Wall Street collapse and
job-loss figures. For years, there has been little analysis of how a
path toward legalization would increase the positive economic
contributions of undocumented immigrants. Instead, conservative critics
have found willing partners in the media and government to turn
immigration reform into a zero-sum game, a war of us-versus-them in
which every job performed by an "illegal" must have been stolen from a
more deserving American.

The politics won't change until the real economics of immigration reframe the debate.

Here's a reality check: Consigning undocumented workers to a
precarious existence undermines all who aspire to a middle-class
standard of living........
By complying with tax law, many immigrants have made it clear that they
are willing to help build a new middle class through cooperation.
Contra the myth of immigrants as economic parasites, tax dollars from
undocumented immigrants are an integral part of our national economy,
funding programs like unemployment benefits that support a large number
of Americans in a time of economic crisis. This money is more
indispensable than ever. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that
undocumented immigrants contributed nearly $50 billion in federal taxes
between 1996 and 2003. Ironically, it's easy for undocumented
immigrants to document their earnings; a passport and proof of address
are all they need for a tax-identification number.....

The Small Business Administration finds that immigrants are nearly 30
percent more likely to start a business than non-immigrants and that
they represent 16.7 percent of all new business owners. In New York
City, the borough of Queens -- the most diverse county in the nation --
remains the leading source of job creation in the city. According to
the Center for an Urban Future, three zip codes in Queens had
employment growth of more than 80 percent in the past decade, adding
66,000 immigrants from 2000 to 2005....

Nancy and Carlos live with the constant threat of deportation,
surviving between hope and trepidation as best they can. "We need to
hide like criminals, and we go to work in fear, hoping that God brings
us back home. You know, we will do any work to survive," Nancy
insisted. Some jobs that paid $10 an hour just a few months ago now pay
only $4 an hour.

Yet Carlos sounded unfazed by the recession. "We have our savings;
the difficult times have taught us that we need to save for
emergencies," he told me. "We pay our taxes; our son makes online
monthly payments to the IRS because we get paid cash."

A path to legalization for millions of people like Carlos and Nancy
is a cost-effective path to short-term stimulus and long-term recovery.
We cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

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