immigration

Racism for Ratings?

Cable news seems to be multiplying blatantly racist shows, as opposed to shutting them down.  By accident I happened to catch some of the new "Ed" show, 6pm time slot on MSNBC and was less than happy to see the man who almost had to resign for recommending the U.S. bomb Mecca - Tom Tancredo - on with him to discuss immigration reform of all things.  I mean, even Fox news no longer has Tancredo on.  Mind you, one thing is to have a healthy debate and someone on the show who opposes reform, but Tom Tancredo does not know healthy debate. He is no opponent of immigration, he is a proponent of hate and mass destruction.  Lest we forget his campaign ad equating immigrants and Hispanics with "Islamic terrorists."  On the bright side, bring him on - keep bringing on the Tancredos out there - there will be no better tool to pass CIR.  As Simon has said before, anti-immigrant positions don't deliver politically.  Hence Tancredo was at 1% favorability among  Republicans during his vie for his Party's nomination.   His anti-immigrant stance and hatred towards other cultures is not popular.  He did so poorly in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination and in his own district, that he didn't even attempt to run for re-election in 2008.  A post on Kos pretty much expresses the same reaction to seeing Tancredo on the air, re-posted below.  So we are left with the question? Is Ed going to be MSNBC's Lou Dobbs?  Don't networks want to report actual news stories, or riveting educational pieces as opposed to serving as a space for bigoted individuals to air their frustrations? 

Ed Schultz: Why Tancredo?
by ademption

Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 06:43:22 PM PDT
This diary is about the new Ed Schultz show on MSNBC called "The Ed Show" which airs at 6 pm EST in place of the 1600 Penn Ave hosted by David Schuster. I have watched the Ed Show since its inception and for the most part I've enjoyed it. The Ed Show's main focus is topics related to the middle class. For instance, one day he discussed the rising costs of healthcare and had Senator Wyden of Oregon to discuss his healthcare plan. Another day, he discussed the EFCA and had a union guy as a guest. On Wednesday, he talked with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on how to fix the education system. Until today, I liked Ed's topics and guests.

Unfortunately, today's show I think Big Ed may have jumped the shark with his invite of Tom Tancredo to appear on his show.

ademption's diary :: ::
Now I understand that immigration is a very divisive issue, even among Democrats. I also gather from today's show that Big Ed does not support comprehensive immigration reform like Obama. That's fine. We as progressives can't always agree on everything. I can understand Ed Schultz wanting to discuss the topic of immigration and even invite a guest that shares his viewpoint on the topic. But I cannot accept his choice of guest to discuss the issue tonight.

Tom Tancredo was the absolute wrong choice to discuss immigration. I can't understand why a professed progressive like Ed Schultz would give a divisive figure like Tancredo a platform for his show. Does Big Ed recall his insane remarks about bombing Mecca? His likening Miami, Florida to be a third world country? Tom Tancredo is so radioactive that even he and Karl Rove had a falling out. That is how much of a cretin that Tancredo is. I am absolutely flabbergasted that Tancredo was even invited on a so called progressive show. I don't even think that Fox News has Tancredo on the air anymore. Maybe I'm wrong, but I haven't even heard about Tancredo since the Republican primaries in 2007. I thought that he had fallen off the face of the earth until I watched the Ed show today.

I know that the Ed Show has gotten really decent ratings in his first week on MSNBC. But I don't think that having Tom Tancredo on his show helps. I am so offended by Ed Schultz having Tancredo appear as a guest that I am seriously considering not watching the show ever again. And again, I like the show. But having Tancredo appear really touched a nerve. I'm not only writing my concerns on Dailykos, but I'm going to let MSNBC know as well.

For those who watched Big Ed during his regular timeslot at 6 pm or his guest stint on Countdown at 8 pm EST, do you think it was appropriate for Ed Schultz to invite Tom Tancredo to appear on his show?

Illinois Voters Send a Message - Another Vote for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Election Results in Illinois 5th Congressional District Represent Another Win for Comprehensive Immigration Reform - Cook County commissioner, Mike Quigley will travel to Washington as early as Thursday to prepare to take over the 5th Congressional District seat formerly held by Rahm Emanuel.  He obtained a major victory yesterday, defeating Republican Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel by taking 70 percent of the vote with 94 percent of precincts reporting.  Pulido is not only extremely anti-immigrant in an incredibly diverse district, she was the state director of the Illinois Minutemen Project.  By contrast, Mr. Quigley is a staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, and has stated:

He'll stand up to the extremists in Congress who try to use immigrants as scapegoats and whose harsh policies would divide spouses, parents and children. Mike will fight for the rights of families to stay united here in America.

Voters clearly favor solution-oriented reformers over mass-deportation hardliners, and they send one more vote for comprehensive immigration reform to the House of Representatives. 

Weekly Update on Immigration: Yes We Can! Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009

I. Signs That Immigration Reform is On Track - Last week I previewed the meeting held between President Barack Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Immigration, Simon provided NDN's Backgrounder on the issue, and Andres recapped for us what occured during the meeting and afterwards at a townhall meeting in Costa Mesa.  The CHC meeting was declared an important step forward for immigration reform by those who participated.  Immigration reform was the sole issue discussed, which demonstrates the level of importance this issue holds for Hispanics, as well as the commitment on the part of Members of Congress and the President to pass reform.  Dan summarized the coverage of these steps  towards movement on CIR, and NDN's thoughts on the same:

1. The San Francisco Chronicle:

After the hour-long meeting, the Latino leaders pronounced themselves pleased, saying they had gotten the president's pledge that he would move forward with a plan for "comprehensive immigration reform" this year. Caucus chair Nydia Velazquez of New York had this to say: "The President made clear to us that he is a man of his word. He clearly understands the consequences of a broken immigration system. We believe that under his leadership we can finally provide some dignity to the thousands of families that are living in the shadows and in fear."

Pro-immigrant Democratic strategists were also calling the confab a success. "It's an exciting day," said Simon Rosenberg of NDN. And given the magnitude of Obama's other legislative challenges, he predicted: "The White House is going to realize that passing comprehensive immigration reform is one of the easier things he can do this year."

2. Major Mexican Publication, El Excelsior: "Immigration Reform Takes on Greater Importance." This piece reports that President Obama has set immigration reform as a "national priority," and quotes Simon's political outlook on issue (translation):  Democrats promised passage of CIR this year, and it is an issue that could help them secure the electoral gains achieved in 2008 among Hispanics, while Republicans need this issue to sue for peace with the Hispanic community; "oppose CIR this year, and watch your chance to win national elections again evaporate for a generation or more," said Simon.

As Andres pointed out, the President continued to outline his position at a townhall in Costa Mesa:

"We are a nation of immigrants, number one. Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three, that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers. Since they can't join a union, they can't complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans."

Importantly, the President also announced that he will be visiting Mexico to discuss this and other issues with President Calderon.  

As President Obama puts Immigration Reform back on the agenda, a realization suddently hits folks: maybe our biggest menace is not immigration?  Maybe illegal immigrants aren't our worst nightmare? As articulated in this op-ed by Lawrence Downes.

II. Immigration and Public Opinion - As Kos discussed a recent statement by Congressman Steve King - "the overwhelming majority of Americans who support enforcement of our immigration laws, border security and no amnesty for illegal immigrants" - he lays out all the evidence, including NDN polling, that disproves such a statement, and reiterates: Immigration Bashing Isn't the American Mainstream. 

III. Would You Stop a Hate Crime In Progress? - This hidden camera experiment found that most would NOT intervene.  What would you do?

IV. In Case You Missed It - Sheriff Arpaio appeared on Al Punto yesterday - the Univision Sunday morning political program.  On the recent DOJ investigation and Congressional hearings to investigate his methods, he does not fear criticism.  He feels Chairman Conyers, "...only reads the New York Times editorials..." and doesn't know what it's like to be sheriff. When challenged by Jorge Ramos on the increase in crime in Maricopa County despite his "tough" enforcement efforts, and the increasing number of pending criminal cases, he argues crime has actually dropped, and that he has support of Hispanics in Arizona. 

Congressional Hispanic Caucus to Meet with President Obama

As highlighted by KOS, Roll Call, and The Hill, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will meet tomorrow with President Barack Obama.  Immigration reform is expected to be one of - if not the - issues of top priority discussed.

In anticipation of the meeting tomorrow at the White House with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NDN is re-releasing its basic backgrounder on the recent history of the immigration reform debate.  You can find it and download it here.

Simon Rosenberg and Andres Ramirez, VP of Hispanic Programs at NDN, are available for comment on the background and future of the immigration debate.  Simon is also available to discuss the issue on television news programs tomorrow.  Contact Dan Boscov-Ellen: 202-384-1226.

Simon stated, quoted by Kos:

Our broken immigration system is a national disgrace, yet another terrible vexing governing challenge left over from the disastrous Bush era. Legitimate workers have a hard time getting legal visas. Employers knowingly hire and exploit undocumented workers. Our immigrant justice system is a moral outrage. And of course, the scapegoating of the undocumented migrant has become the staple for right-wing politicians and media, giving them something to rail against as the rest of their agenda has collapsed all around them. It is long past time to fix this broken system and replace it with a 21st century immigration system consistent with traditional American values and the needs of our modern ideas-based economy.

For links to other reference materials including a great deal of recent polling on immigration, click here.

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.

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