On Thursday, February 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., please join NDN and a strong group of thoughtful presenters as we make the case for why Congress can, and should, pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform this year.
The panel will feature Simon Rosenberg of NDN, Rick Johnson of Lake Research, Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group, Janet Murguia of National Council of La Raza (NCLR), and Frank Sharry of America's Voice. Andres Ramirez, NDN Vice President for Hispanic Programs, will moderate the discussion. Lunch will be served at the NDN offices at 729 15th St, NW, between H Street and New York Avenue. Please click here to RSVP. More information on the panelists is below:
Simon Rosenberg is President of NDN, a leading progressive think tank and advocacy organization. Rosenberg has worked in national politics and the media world for more than 20 years. He started his career in network television, as a writer and producer at ABC News for five years, before working on the Dukakis and Clinton presidential campaigns. He has been a leader in creating a 21st century progressive movement, an influential champion of a new and more modern agenda for the nation, and an innovator in helping progressives use new tools and media to communicate with rapidly growing demographic groups such as Hispanics and Millennials.
Rick Johnson is a Vice President at Lake Research Partners, where he has designed, conducted and analyzed public opinion research for a number of clients. In addition, he has worked with candidates at all levels of the political process. Johnson joined LRP in 2004 after working for General Mills in Minneapolis and also has worked as an independent consultant providing distribution and competitive intelligence research to European confections companies, for Market Facts (now Synovate) creating new market research tools, managing their diary business and managing their joint ventures, and for the Gallup Organization.
Pete Brodnitz is a Principal at Benenson Strategy Group. Brodnitz brings almost two decades of research experience to his clients, ranging from heads of state on three continents to domestic political work at all levels (from nationwide to municipal and state legislative), to Fortune 500 corporate research and work with non-profits. Brodnitz has also conducted polling for Democratic-leaning issue advocacy groups such as the New Democratic Network (NDN), the Third Way Foundation, the Brookings Institution and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well corporate clients such as Google.org, Microsoft, Novartis, ESPN, and TIAA-CREF.
Janet Murguía has become a key figure among the next generation of leaders in the Latino community. Since January 1, 2005, she has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. Murguía's public service, which began as legislative counsel to former Kansas Congressman Jim Slattery, then in the White House from 1994 to 2000, ultimately serving as deputy assistant to President Clinton, is complemented by her extensive political experience having served as deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the Gore/Lieberman presidential campaign.
Frank Sharry is Founder and Executive Director of America's Voice, an organization he created to focus on communications and media as part of a renewed effort to win comprehensive immigration reform. Prior to heading America's Voice, Frank served as Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum for 17 years. The Forum, based in Washington D.C., is one of the nation's premier immigration policy organizations, and has been at the center of every major legislative and policy debate related to immigration for the past quarter of a century.
NDN and Twelve-hundred other groups delivered a letter to the Obama Administration outlining priorities in order to fix the broken immigration system - The letter stresses the urgency with which the new Administration should approach immigration reform legislatively and administratively, noting that efforts to address the many ills facing our immigration system have become the victim of gridlock in Washington for too long.
Hispanics and Immigration Reform Must be a Part of the Economic Agenda - A recent study on minorities and the economic crisis shows: 1) Hispanics are currently suffering a percent of unemployment much higher than that of their white counterparts, 9.2% in January, up from 8.9% unemployment in December 2008. 2) Even during a period of employment gains enjoyed by Hispanics from 2001-2007, poverty increased among Hispanics over the same period, which only highlights the low wages at which Hispanics tend to work. 3) Personal and family income has steadily declined for Hispanics. 4) Large disparities in health insurance coverage also persist. In 2007, 32.1% of Hispanics lacked health insurance coverage, compared to 10.4% of whites. 5) Additionally, Hispanic home ownership rate was only 49.7% for Hispanics in 2007, compared to 75.2% for whites.
NDN Participates in Pre-inaugural Day Events - Simon and Andres addressed approximately 100 Latino organizers, community leaders, and individuals interested in increasing the civic participation of Latinos from approximately 20 different states. Subsequently, Simon spoke at the "Latino State of the Union" conference, where he highlighted the importance of immigration reform as an essential part of any plan for economic recovery, "As long as the trap door of undocumented immigration remains, with 5% of the American workforce outside of the protection of U.S. law and U.S. minimum wage, we will not be able to achieve economic recovery."
NDN Praises U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller for offering amendment to help legal immigrant children.
A Race to the Bottom, A Broken Immigration System Has a Social and Economic Cost, too - According to a report just released by the Migration Policy institute, although the U.S. economy's nosedive has probably contributed to a drop in the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the United States, those already here will be less inclined to return home due to the manifestation of the economic crisis in the U.S. and abroad.
Yesterday, Al Punto, the Sunday morning political show on Univision - the network with the largest Hispanic viewership in the U.S. - featured the issue of immigration once again, as it does each week in one way or another. Immigration features prominently on the Spanish-language newscast each evening, and during Al Punto's interviews every Sunday because it is an issue that remains a top concern for Latinos, and to Americans in general.
Yesterday's show highlighted the bipartisan support that can be drawn on the issue of immigration. The first segment consisted of an interview with U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to discuss their opinion of President Barack Obama's agenda coming into office. Rep. Sanchez quickly named immigration reform as one of the top three issues she believes President Obama should move on first (along with the economy and the war in Iraq). She mentioned that she has already spoken with White House staff to discuss how to move on immigration this year, and reiterated her belief that immigration reform is imperative in order to help the economy and secure our borders. For her part, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen was more skeptical about reform passing this year, although she recognized that President Obama is in a great position to launch reform because "the American people are on his side" - polling data has consistently shown that the American people want a solution to the broken immigration system - and that the popularity enjoyed by President Obama would certainly help efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It's noteworthy that Rep. Ros-Lehtinen stated that while she might not agree on many issues with President Obama, she is on his side when it comes to immigration reform and would work with Rep. Sanchez and others in order to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The show's third segment consisted of an interview with U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid. Jorge Ramos began the interview by asking, "Barack Obama promised the Latino community that he would move comprehensive immigration reform within his first year, is there the political will to do this in the first year?" The questions denote the sense of urgency for reform felt among Latinos. Reid pointed out that in addition to addressing interior and exterior enforcement, future flow, path to citizenship, etc., any bill for comprehensive (CIR) would also include the Dream Act. This is great news, but Jorge Ramos pressed on, "As you know, this is very important for the Hispanic community; when will CIR pass?" Sen. Reid answered, "I hope that we can get it done in September, and I feel confident that we can get this done. I've spoken with John McCain," and "Sen. McCain has reiterated his commitment to providing Republican support," for the legislation. It's interesting that Sen. Reid noted, "Now we're 59 Democrats, and we need 60 votes," alluding to the new political landscape in the Senate, a landscape that requires less Republican votes for the bill than was required when legislation for immigration reform was presented in 2007. Now if we can only make sure all Democrats share the President's view and the Democratic platform for immigration reform.....Ramos ended the interview by thanking Sen. Reid and reiterating, "And we'll be checking in with you on the progress of immigration reform."
One reason why the economic recovery plan matters to immigration reform - There's been much written debatein major publications about whether the economic recovery plan is causing tension between Congress and the incoming Obama administration. With Obama not even in office yet, a major concern of mine: if the alleged tension is true, I hope this doesn't cause major rifts that could damage discussions for an overhaul of the current - broken - immigration system.
Another Example of the Broken Immigration System - Even Tim Geithner'scleaning lady couldn't keep her status in check. Again, we need to fix the current broken system that is so impossible to manage, which is why people fall out of status. And as for Mr. Geithner's appointment - this guy is going to have to help solve the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression...this whole cleaning lady controversy - let's keep our eye on the ball, people.
Debate in Congress this week - The House is set to vote on legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) this week, and the Senate Finance Committee will also take up companion legislation. This bill includes provisions that would eliminate the existing five year waiting period LEGAL immigrant children must endure before qualifying for coverage. We agree this requirement only threatens the well-being of already eligible children, but this debate hasequally important political implications. I know many thought SCHIP could serve as a "mini victory" before going for the "big enchilada," comprehensive immigration reform, but I disagree. Time and time again, this Congress will try to take action on major domestic policy issues, and time and time again the issue of how these programs deal with the undocumented will come up (even though this bill deals only with legal immigrants), so the best way for Democrats to tackle this challenge is to clear the table - fix the root of the debate, a broken immigration system, and then we can actually make progress on the rest. Most of theconstituency that both Dems and Reps now admit they need to win elections - Latinos and immigrant communities - are unfortunately not monitoring the SCHIP debate, they want to be able to stop having to walk around with their passports in hand for fear of being stopped for no reason other than their appearance. That is the reality we live in. This tone will change to a great extent if Democrats seize the opportunity CIR affords them.
Everyone expects Republicans to try to bring up the old anti-immigrant mongering, but right now the Hill is actually buzzing due to Democrats that oppose eliminating this waiting period. By going for SCHIP first, if it fails, Democrats have put themselves in a position that makes them seem divided (see Sen. Baucus), opened the door for more immigrant hate-mongering, they have taken up their time "preempting" potential Republican attacks on the bill instead of leading the debate and dictating a new agenda, and lost political capital and energy that is going to be needed if CIR legislation is introduced. And if the bill passes, they have still invested political capital that will be needed for CIR, and if Republicans actually "get it" and shift their tone to an immigrant-friendly one, then that opens the door for Republicans to start making their way back among Latinos and immigrants - while certain Dems oppose this bill. Until CIR passes, there will continue to be bickering over immigrants and "illegals" on every single policy issue that hits the floor. And even if SCHIP passes, state and local governments are still left with the unfunded mandate of having to act as immigration agents, which will not stop until we have fixed our broken immigration system.
It's the economy stupid - The San Antonio Express had a piece by Hernan Rozemberg this week on why immigration reform is on the "back burner." The article accurately posits that anti-immigrant forces will argue that, "hard economic times" will impede making reform politically feasible. We argue that the broken immigration system exacerbates economic problems because - as stated by Rep. Hilda Solis - it affects all workers, not just immigrants.
The economic crisis will not be solved in two months, or in one year. And in one year, when legislators have to go back to their districts to campaign - what are they going to campaign on exactly? What major achievement? It's not likely that a tangible result like peace in the middle east, or a complete economic turnaround, or a major overhaul of the education system will be achieved in a year, but fixing the broken immigration system can happen in one year. It is a major issue, recognized by the general public as a "problem" that needs fixing. SHCIP, Equal Pay...these are all necessary and worthy achievements, but they are not recognized by voters as one of the top five major issues on their mind.
The piece also states, "Other leading national immigrant advocates said in the past week they'll wait patiently while Obama takes care of the economic mess, but they're not willing to let the crisis push the issue aside," which worries me. Again, those of us for CIR should be advocating that immigration reform is one tool to begin to solve the major economic mess! This issue cannot wait until the economy turns around in two or five years.
Rozemberg adequately points out that the anti-immigrant voices will echo Roy Beck - a prominent member of the white supremacist hate network as reported by SPLC - shifting their focus away from the "illegal" argument (because they now see that Americans don't blame the immigrants), to "protecting American workers from competing for jobs with unauthorized immigrants." And we have to preempt this strategy. Our mistake in 2007 was responding to these PR stunts as opposed to anticipating them. The truth is:
- 12 million people are currently working outside the system - these people contribute to all our lives and the lives of all Americans will benefit from bringing them out of the shadows.
- The undocumented who are already here do not compete for American jobs, those who are employed work because they take jobs Americans will not fill, for wages Americans would not accept, outside of U.S. labor laws. The economic crisis has also created many illegal immigrants - many have come into the country legally, and in hard economic times have lost their job or work less hours and thus cannot afford the ridiculous fees charged by USCIS to renew or change their status.
- Whoever argues, "temporary worker programs or visa programs would only have more immigrants in the U.S. competing for U.S. jobs," completely misses the problem. The reality is that: 1) visa programs are limited, but the current limits are unrealistic and do not meet business demands (hence 12 million undocumented). Whether we take action to accept legal immigrants or not, they will come, let's accept that. The question is: do we want them coming in legally, or illegally? 2) In hard economic times businesses might be particularly predisposed to hire workers who will work for less, and have no rights. Let's work out a system that is amenable to American workers and helps meet labor demands in specific areas - the reason we have a broken system to begin with is that we are never forward looking, we've always tried to fashion a law that meets our "ideal" as opposed to meeting reality, which is why the 1986 and 1996 laws have not worked.
Roy Beck said Obama would, "commit political suicide" if he tried to legalize millions of unauthorized workers with so many Americans out of work - that's also what everyone (including Democrats) said after he came out in favor of drivers licenses for the undocumented in the 2008 Primaries, remember? The bottom line is: the American people want Congress to solve problems. And the broken immigration system is a problem.
President-elect Obama met with President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon. Click here to see NDN's statement on yesterday's visit. The statement released by Obama spokesman, Robert Gibbs:
"President-elect Obama underscored his commitment to working with Congress to fix the broken U.S. immigration system and fostering safe, legal and orderly migration. He expressed his strongly held view that immigrants should be treated with dignity and that the immigration debate should not be a vehicle for vilifying any group, and that our two countries need to work more effectively to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the United States."
Mexico Human Rights Comission Speaks Out Again - This time, the CNDH (initials in Spanish) spoke out against the border fence during a tour of the border, explaining that a fence does not deter immigration, and criticized Mukasey's recent decision to strip immigrants of any semblance of due process during immigration proceedings (see below).
Still No Commerce Secretary - There are many rumors regarding potential appointees - I think the thought of Federico Pena as Secretary of Commerce sounds excellent. Not only does Secretary Pena - member of NDN's Hispanic Advisory Board - enjoy a wealth of executive experience, he is a community and business leader, he's pragmatic, respected, and most importantly, he is an ally in the fight for immigration reform. Secretary Pena has acted as advisor to Barack Obama on this issue, and has submitted four key points for immigration reform.
Immigration reform legislation affords opportunities - In 2008, Republicans lost 3 of the 5 seats in the Senate opened by retiring members. In 2010, Republicans must defend 16 incumbents and 3 open seats, while Democrats have to defend 15 incumbents and two open seats. Passing comprehensive immigration reform in order to solve the very broken immigration system affords Democrats an enormous opportunity to demonstrate a solid achievement as they battle for these Senate seats in states that do not clearly favor either party. The seats up for grabs:
Jeb does not go to Washington - Jeb Bush had been mentioned as a contender for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, but this week he announced he is in fact not going to run for U.S. Senate in 2010. One can only speculate as to Mr. Bush's reasons for not running, but I have the feeling a major factor is discontent with what the Republican brand currently stands for - or lack thereof. In part it is a shame because he might have followed Sen. Martinez's moderate Republican voice in the Senate, and like Martinez, supported immigration reform. Bush governed one of the states with the largest Latino populations in the country, and as husband to Columba Bush - an immigrant from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico - is inclined to be more sympathetic to immigrants than most of his colleagues. On the other hand, given the Democratic win in Florida during the 2008 Presidential, maybe this paves the way for Democrats to make new inroads into what used to be the Republican solid south.
Someone else who won't be seeking reelection - U.S. Sen. Kit Bond announced this week that he will not seek re-election in 2010. The Republican party is also losing U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez (Florida) and Sam Brownback (Kansas). These retirements provide Democrats - and those in favor of CIR - major openings (both Bond and Brownback acted as voices against immigrants and immigration reform). Missouri voters have been unpredictable in statewide elections lately. They handed Democrat Jay Nixon an easy victory last year in the governor's race, then backed Republican John McCain in the presidential election. Two years prior, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, managed to win her seat by a slim margin.
Friends in high places - President-elect Obama officially introducedthe new DNC Chair, Gov. Tim Kaine, last week - good news for pro CIR advocates. A little known fact about Gov. Kaine, of Virginia, is that he began his career in public service outside of the U.S., as a missionary in Honduras. He is still fluent in Spanish. Virginia has suffered among the highest number of anti-immigrant policies and legislation at the state and local level, but Gov. Kaine has remained committed to respecting the rights and humanity of immigrants in Virginia, arguing for comprehensive immigration reform, and ending divisive and ineffective tactics in Virginia.
George is schizophrenic on immigration - Since early December, NDN reported on President Bush's recognition that not passing immigration reform was among his biggest disappointments. He repeated the same idea yesterday during his final interview as President, adding that the GOP must be "compassionate and broad-minded," in order to return from its 2008 electoral defeat, and the President highlighted that the immigration debate was particularly harmful because those opposed to reform made it appear that, "Republicans don't like immigrants." At the same time, he turns around and strips immigrants of their rights through the Attorney General's last major act in office:
GTMO for Immigrants - On Wednesday, Michael Mukasey ruled that aliens have no constitutional right to challenge the outcome of their deportation hearings based on their lawyers' mistakes. This effectively scraps a 15-year old precedent set in a case referred to as the Matter of Lozada, which stated that while "aliens" have no 6th Amendment right to counsel, Lozada recognized their right to effective assistance under due process. This is absolutely abominable, and we hope Eric Holder's first act in office is to reverse this ruling. NDN and other major organizationswill be interested in seeing whether Mr. Holder is asked about his position on this issue during confirmation hearings.
Immigration and Race: Demography is Destiny (continued) - This week The Atlantic and Ron Brownsteintalk about race. Brownstein goes into detail on how Democrats' efforts to pursue the vote of minorities paid off in 2008:
"The biggest source of Hispanic population growth is not immigration, but from the children of recent immigrants. And, by definition, they are voting citizens once they turn 18."
The Atlantic has a very interesting piece, "The End of White America?" While I agree with the article's general premise that the future will belong to those who can navigate what we at NDN consider a new racial construct of America, I disagree that we live in a "post" racial America. The Atlantic piece also weaves in the role of race in pop culture, is it "cool" to be white? Will other ethnic groups grow to be considered more "American" now? The article explores how the role of race has changed as our demographics have changed - you no longer need to be "white" to be included, incorporated into society, to be able to run for office or to be a Hollywood star. An excerpt:
Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we're approaching a profound demographic tipping point....those groups currently categorized as racial minorities-blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians-will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023.......it's now very cool and in to have multicultural friends. Like you're not really considered hip or 'you've made it' if you're rolling with all the same people."
People should be recognized as individuals, not for their color or creed (and as Obama said, we're all muts anyway). At the same time, we're not there yet. Just because we're in a new, very exciting, stage of the racial construct of America, does not mean that we are "post" racial.
Hence the current case before the Supreme court trying to do away with the landmark Voting Rights Act is absolutely preposterous. The act ended literacy tests and other state measures that had kept blacks from the polls, and now helps ensure that all minorities are ensured the right to vote. Obama's election reflects an enormous advancement in race relations, but voting, particularly in the South, remains significantly polarized. Exit polls from the Nov. 4 presidential election show whites in many Southern states heavily favored John McCain to Obama. In Texas, 73% of whites favored McCain, in Georgia, 76%, and in Alabama, 88%. Nationally, the percentage of whites for McCain was 55%.
The Wall Street Journal joins the White Supremacist groups who have changed their strategy from openly demonizing Hispanics to arguing that "population control" is needed and that overcrowding - largely caused by "immigrants" - is the reason we have a climate change problem. Now the WSJ joins the chorus by blaming us (Hispanics) for the economic crisis, namely the Latino members of Congress, Joe Baca and the CHC. Deplorable.
Muslims and Hispanics - Victims of racial profiling. Thanks to the Bush fear mongering machine, we are "suspect" just by virtue of being in a room. After an American family who happens to be of Muslim faith was detained last week due to overzealous passengers who thought they "posed a threat" because of "suspicious" remarks (yeah, I'm sure it was the remarks), DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton calls for a hearing to look into the way these people were treated when detained.
U.S. to collect immigrants' DNA - Beginning on Friday, the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from people arrested and detained for suspected immigration violations (which are not criminal, immigration violations are civil). Key word: SUSPECTED, previously the government only obtained DNA from persons convicted of certain crimes.
Setting the Record Straight - Great, updated version of IPC's fact sheet on the myths of immigrants and criminality released this week. Keep it handy.
In case you missed it - The GAO released a report on USCIS’s processes for screening individuals applying for permanent residence, and found vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, like backlogs and improved collaboration with FBI in the case of FBI checks.
In a new Huffington Post story by Sam Stein on the GOP's now infamous Magic Negro song, I offer this observation:
"The core play in the GOP playbook for 44 years has been the magic negro
playbook," said Simon Rosenberg, head of Democratic organization NDN
and one of the most well-versed party figures on racial politics. "They
don't have another play or another playbook. Whether it is Willie
Horton, or welfare queens and tax and spend, or the way they have dealt
with immigration... they don't have a play in their playbook that
doesn't start with the exploitation of racial divisions... They are
going to have to reject 44 years of GOP politics in order to have any
chance in the 21st century America."
That a major candidate for RNC Chair could produce this song, at this time, in this year, is yet another example of why for the GOP theirs is A Long Road Back, a topic I covered in a recent essay on our blog. Their recent success as a national Party was built on an approach towards race that spoke to a different racial reality in America, an American one where could get away with magic negro songs, and much much worse of course. But that America - a white/black, majority/minority America - is now an historic relic, and is in the process of being replaced by an America that has 3 times as many minorities as it did just 44 years ago, and is on track to be majority minority by 2042 (for more on this historic demographic transformation see here). But for many in the GOP, including ones who might become their Chairman, they know no other politics than this Southern Strategy era politics, a politics that has been rejected once and for all by the American people of today's America.
It is important that the leaders of the GOP have begun to confront its shameful racial past. But their problem has no simple or easy fix. It will require a complete refashioning of their politics around a very different set of 21st century demographics and a much more tolerant understanding of race in America - and a complete and utter repudiation of much of their domestic agenda for the past half century. Which is major reason why I think their road back is such a long one - many of their leaders came to power by becoming expert in this kind of politics; it is the core play in their playbook; it is the foundation of their domestic agenda; and they know little else. Their old Southern Strategy dogs aren't going to learn new tricks - for the GOP they will have to slowly, over time, replace their anarchronistic leaders with ones schooled in the modern governing challenges, modern media and technology and modern demography of our day. The process of watching this generational replacement take place will be one of the most interesting political stories of the next 10-20 years, and of course has become all the more necessary in the age of Obama.
How many reading this blog are aware that of the hundreds of Republicans in the Senate and House, just 5 are technically minorities - 4 Cuban-Americans from South Florida and a new Vietnamese-American from Louisiana? No African-Americans, no non-Cuban Hispanics. In a nation now one-third minority the Washington Republicans remain 98 percent white and deeply out of touch with the emerging and much more complicated racial construct of our day.
My advice to them? As you remake your Grand Old Party look to Lincoln - not Nixon - for your inspiration. And good luck. The nation will be better off with a 21st century Republican Party rather than the failed, disgraced and intolerant one we have today.
Update: For fun check out how our A Long Road Back argument was addressed and discussed at the conservative website Townhall the other day.
Wed am Update: The debate rages on. The WaPo weighs in with an editorial today, and the Politico reports that "'Magic Negro' Flap Might Help Saltsman."
Fri am Update: Paul Krugman chimes in today with a very good column that echoes some of these themes.
The Minnesota race continues, but don't hold your breath - Democratic candidate Al Franken got a boost on Friday in his bid to unseat Sen. Norm Coleman. On Friday, the state's election oversight board recommended that each of the state's 87 counties review absentee ballots initially rejected as invalid, and submit amended vote tallies that include any ballots found to be wrongly rejected. The thing is, the board does not have the authority to require counties to conduct such a review, so it would be up to the candidates to issue legal challenges to force the issue should any county decline to re-examine the legitimacy of the disputed ballots. The Secretary of State projects that more than 1,500 absentee ballots could be found to have been improperly turned away, and if this turns out to be the case, Al Franken would have to win a relatively small plurality of those ballots to overcome the razor-thin lead held by Coleman following a hand recount of votes cast in the Senate race.
Judiciary Loses Its Lion - In case you missed it, Sen. Ted Kennedy stepped down from his post on the Committee on the Judiciary. It will be interesting to see who will start to throw their hat in the ring to succeed Sen. Kennedy, and whether that person can - and will - follow Sen. Kennedy's example in the area of immigration reform.
Tough Week for DHS: 1) DHS Programs caught midstream in the transition - Among them, the controversial SBInet border security system, construction of it is scheduled to begin in March 2009 in Arizona. After being known in Congress for cost overruns, malfunctions, gaps in management, and miscommunication with Congress, Alice Lipowicz reportson the challenges ahead for SBInet advocates.
2) A perfect example of the broken immigration system: the cleaning service used by DHS Secretary Chertoff to clean his house had undocumented immigrants working there. What better example of how broken our immigration system really is, and the urgent need to fix it. At least the Secretary didn't "knowingly" hire "illegals," as did Lorraine Henderson, an employee of Customs andBorder Protection (emphasis added) - Ms. Hendersonreportedlywas recorded warning her cleaning lady to be "careful" to not get caught. Who said DHS didn't care? A former FEMA employee who was sentenced earlier this year for identity theft, with which he funded shopping sprees, has been handed five plus years in federal prison.
3) Detention center in Rhode Island will get no more detainees, pending an inquiry into the treatment, and subsequent death, of a Chinese engineer in that detention center. 4) A judge's denial of DHS's request for a mid-January decision in the case involving DHS's rulepertaining to no-match letters means that President-elect Obama inheritsthe prolongued legal dispute over the current administration's push to pressure employers to fire undocumented workers. It is highly unlikely that an Obama administration would pursue the current flawed DHS rule. In his platform, Pres-elect Obama has proposed an effective verification system as a part of comprehensive reform.
5) TWIC Delays Upset Workers - U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and their contractor, Lockheed Martin, had a great many truckers and port workers upset at them as the workers' new biometric Transportation Worker Identification Cards - which they must possess by Dec. 30 in order to be able to work - were delayed. Some workers in Baltimore reported to TSA on several occasions to pick up their TWIC cards and were turned away due to the volume of people ahead of them.
6) A GAO report released this week on the planning and execution improvements needed for the US-VISIT program.
What Immigration Reform does NOT look like - This week President Bush announced regulatory changesto the H-2A agricultural guestworker program that remove important protections for workers and make it easier for employers to bring in foreign workers. Once again, this is amnesty for unscrupulous employers, not reform.
Utah Guest worker program to be implemented - The state legislation, SB81 has received ample criticism, and could very well face challenges in the coming weeks and months, prior to its implementation.
Henryk Kowalczyk's Huffington Post must-read post on why the Immigration debate is about so much more than just immigration.
Census Updated American Community Survey - The U.S. Census released its 2008 community survey this week, and reiterates the trend mentioned before: immigrants and minorities are moving awayfrom cities and becoming a larger part of the population in suburbs, etc.
New Tools in Immigration, too - the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the New York University School of Law (NYU) launched a project called "State Responses to Immigration" as a joint effort to provide a free, searchable data tool designed to generate information on all immigration-related bills at the state and local level across the nation.
Hate Crimes - Sadly, another Ecuadorian man was killed in New York by a group of men who viciously attacked him. Jose Sucuzhanay's homicide is under investigation, and it is helping gather civil rights leaders from accross the country to address the spike in hate crimes against Latinos. Mexicans at the U.S.-Mexico borderalso report an increase in hate crimes and agression based on nationality and ethnicity. We see an important social turning point, immigrants - Hispanic ones in particular - fight back against discrimination. In Tennessee, legal immigrants who had their documents unlawfully taken from them are filing suit.
New IPC Report - The Immigration Policy Center has compiled a major report on minority and New American voter data, as well as motivating issues in the 2008 election cycle. The report also explores the outlook for immigration reform.
Employers need education on the effects of immigration, too - According to the latest survey released by Manpower, a private Human Resurces firm, 62% of the 4,804 employers in Mexico who were surveyed described themselves as not particularly concerned with the impact of emigration on the Mexican labor market, the remaining 38% does believe that emigration can have a harmful effect on the Mexican economy and cause a potential "brain drain," as well. An estimated 8 million 5 hundred thousand Mexicans work outside of Mexico.
"Prison" for immigrants? - A note in Dubois, Pennsylvania's Courier Express discusses expansion plans for a privately run "federal prison for illegal immigrants." According to the story, the prison is under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My first question is: why are any immigrants going to prisons as opposed to detention centers? Or is this a case of criminals who are serving sentences and are found to be in the country illegally? I feel like important details were left out of the story, but if non-criminal aliens are somehow being held in prisons then we have a major issue.
The Impact of the 2008 Elections on Immigration, continued: 1. "Firewall" wins -Saxby Chambliss (R) won the runoff election in Georgia against Jim Martin (D) for the Senate. The runoff was widely covered by Timeand Chambliss was even on Halperin's "Five Most Important People in American Politics Right Now Who Aren't Barack Obama." In addition to the political considerations, a win by Jim Martin would have meant a key vote in the Senate for immigration reform. Now Chambliss and the Republican party are touting this "big win." This seat would have meant a huge win for Democrats, but it's important that Democrats put up such a fight in Georgia. Vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-reformSaxby Chamblissand Jim Martin couldn't have more different views on immigration and in their approach to governing - Chambliss has been politicking, selling himself as a "firewall to prevent Democratic excess," while Jim Martin had presented himself as the man who would provide a "bridge" to the change promised by President-elect Barack Obama, and that change includes immigration reform.
2. Reality sets in, in VA - Per a pieceby Anita Kumar in the Washington Post, the Virginia Panel on Immigration is changing its ways, from the hard-line stance to more productive and realistic proposals. After seeing the hard-line anti-immigrant Republican candidates lose congressional elections all over the state, the members of this commission have apparently realized that the anti-immigrant positions they formerly took to score what they considered to be political points just don't work. The panel has shifted its focus from fighting illegal immigration to working with the ever-growing population of immigrants. Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who served on the commission and is staunchly anti-illegal immigration, noted "I can't totally disagree that some people are leery of the issue, because maybe it wasn't the wedge issue that some thought it would be," Gilbert said. The new recommendations provided by the panel to Gov. Tim Kaine include shortening the Medicaid residency requirements for certain qualified immigrants, offering in-state tuition to immigrants who meet specific criteria and creating an immigration assistance office. The commission also proposed increasing the number of English classes and creating a plan to address the needs of foreign-born residents and urged the federal government to compile more complete immigration statistics, increase the number of visas for foreign workers and pass comprehensive immigration legislation.
A Post op-ed also discusses the significance of this change in tone in Virginia in more detail: "....reform is as needed as ever. Only the federal government can get the job done, and the political climate may be more favorable than last time around." Of the 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the United States, 250,000 to 300,000 live in Virginia, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. The U.S. Census Bureau says an additional 440,000 people in Virginia are not U.S. citizens but are in the state legally.
3. More Immigration Losers - The Wall Street Journalremarks: the GOP hardliners have to face the reality that immigration reform is not unpopular. This Opinion piece notes Virgil Goode's loss to Tom Perreillo - which became official this week. For the second straight election, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegal immigration into a wedge issue lost their election. Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D. Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. In addition to Goode, joining them this year were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney (Florida), Ric Keller (Florida)and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) - all Members of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizing the undocumented and advocating for things like mass deportation and denying citizenship to U.S. born children of undocumented persons.
4. GOP Immigration Strategy Goes Down in Flames - El Paso newspaper citing the most recent poll conducted by America's Voice and Lake Research.
5. Jeb Bush Readies to Woo Hispanics- In an interview, most importantly, Bush said his party must embrace the nation's changing demographics:
"We can't ignore large segments of our population and expect to win," Bush said. "We can't be the ‘old white-guy' party. It's just not going to work, the demographics go against us in that regard...". "Among Hispanic voters, I think we need to change the tone of the conversation as it relates to immigration. In Florida, we've not participated much in the chest pounding and the yelling and the screaming. I mean, it just drives me nuts when there are substantive policy differences that we can show mutual respect on, but the tone needs to change. And I think we need to recruit more candidates who share our values in the Hispanic community. In Florida we've done that."
This provides a window into the strategy Jeb will use if he runs for Senate.
Intelligence Report: Anti-immigration Leader at Heart of White Nationalist Scene for Decades - This reportjust released by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) details more precisely what SPLC has been reporting for some time: John Tanton, the architect of the modern anti-immigration movement and founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been at the heart of the white nationalist scene for decades, working with racist intellectuals, Klan lawyers and even Holocaust deniers. Speaking of which, the "think tank" of the hate network funded by Mr. Tanton, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) appears in this article on alleged "Green Card Marriage Fraud." While there is little data to substantiate the alleged incidence of fraud in marriages between one U.S. citizen and one non-citizen, even one case of fraud is unfortunate. In this regard, we thank CIS for furthering our argument for CIR - so long as the immigration system is broken and so long as there are insufficient legal channels for those currently living in the United States, or those wanting to come here, people will continue to find ways outside of the system to come here. So let's get a law passed that provides for a realistic number of visas, a speedier green-card process through employment and family, and additional realistic legal channels for permanent residence.
Outlook on Napolitano- A New York Times Editorialon the role Gov. Napolitano could play in achieving Comprehensive Immigration Reform as DHS Secretary. This op-ed makes many of the arguments NDN has posited on the inadequacy of "enforcement-only", and makes a compelling argument for the urgency of CIR:
How badly have [enforcement-only] efforts failed? Since Congress passed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, instead of comprehensive reform, 32 tunnels have been discovered under Arizona's border with Mexico, according to research by The Arizona Republic's Sean Holstege. That's more than all tunnels previously found in Arizona. Drug cartels finance tunnels, but transporting people into the country illegally has become so lucrative that drug smugglers increasingly are mixing their cargo. If the U.S. had a process to legally bring in needed foreign workers and legalize the current undocumented population, the reduction in the Border Patrol's workload would allow border law enforcement to focus on drug smuggling. There's reason to hope the new Congress will act on that simple reality.
The Immigration Crystal Ball - NPR is doing a great job focusing on border and immigration issues, Jennifer Ludden explores how enforcement priorities may change under President Obama and why"Immigration Experts Expect Fewer Workplace Raids."There's also a great deal of debate over whether immigration reform will happen, and when: 1) an interesting blog by Roberto Lovato, 2) A Dallas Morning News post by William McKenzie posits "Why Immigration May Go Forward," while a John Riley article in Dallas Morning News argues that immigration reform "Takes backseat to the economy."
No one really knows, all we can do is educate and advocate. The bottom line is that President-Elect Obama has demonstrated a commitment to immigration reform - he has spoken about this issue as a priority, and here'show he'll go about it.
The Economy and Immigration - And why should immigration and the economy be considered separate priorities, exclusive of each other? At NDN we've discussed why there is opportunity for immigration reform to form part of a new plan for the economy. In a post this week, Jeff Cornwall of Belmont University also posits that immigration may be part of the answer to give the economy an entrepreneurial boost:
Most studies find that immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurs or self-employed than the population as a whole. The Philadelphia Business Journalreports on yet another study that adds more support....Current policy makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. legally.
In a different post, Jaya Ramji-Nogales writes about one of the effects of the economic downturn on immigrants:
The "Lou Dobbs" effect; as xenophobic vitriol and resulting anti-immigrant sentiment has increased, so has violence against immigrants or those who appear to be immigrants. Add that to an economy in free-fall, and the result may be highly combustible.
Number of Undocumented Immigrants Continues toFall - According the Center for International Trade of University of Texas at San Antonio, 1.3 million, or 11% of undocumented immigrants have returned to their home country this year. A right wing website similarly reports a dramatic decline, the difference is in the causes to which the decline is attributed. The UT study correctly attributes the decline to the economic crisis and a decrease in the supply of jobs, combined with increased raids and workplace enforcement. The nativist website draws a very incorrect and very dangerous conclusion: that "illegal immigrants" started heading home "immediately" after the failed attempt at CIR in the Senate in Summer of 2007, which is completely false. The first evidence of undocumenteds leaving began earlier this year, during late summer and Fall of 2008, in response to the economic crisis,as opposed to a bill in Congress. As we move forward, and as President Obama works with Congress to pass immigration reform, we have to be very careful to fight back against that 10% of people in the U.S. who will be spreading misinformation such as this.
Immigration Changing Course, A Story that Needs Telling - The Miami Herald has begun a series on the course of immigration, "It's an important story for a country built on immigration and yet often ambivalent about its impacts. Over a generation, new arrivals from Mexico, the Caribbean and throughout Latin America have reshaped this country. Nowhere is that more the case than in South Florida, where millions of legal immigrants and nearly one tenth of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States have settled."
Hate Crimes Changing Political Climate - On Tuesday, activists called for investigation of Suffolk hate crime statistics. This is the beginning of what we hope to be an ongoing PR campaign to encourage victims to report hate crimes, and to encourage law enforcement to crack down on such criminal activity.
El Universal reports an increase in remittances to Mexico over the last month, with immigrants taking advantage of the recent devaluation of the peso. Remittances rose 13% compared to October of 2007, coming to a total of about $2.4 billion. This is the first rise in remittances after 14 months of a consecutive decline. Even though they rose from last October, remittances are still less than they were in January of this year. And the AP reports on Philadephia's growing immigrant community.
In an interview with ABC News, looking back on his presidency, George W. Bush said that one of his biggest disappointments was the failure to pass a comprehensive bill on immigration reform, and regrets the tone taken by many in his party on this issue:
"I firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the
true nature of America as a welcoming society," he said. "I fully
understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate
took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is
that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their
Updates from our last report on the Elections and Immigration: Georgia's Senate Race just two weeks away - The runoff election will take place on December 2 and early the voting period began on Monday in many of the state's counties. Saxby Chambliss and Rep. Jim Martin - the Democratic challenger - are battling voter fatigue, they have to persuade supporters to come out again to vote. A Democratic win in Georgia would be yet another severe blow to the GOP in a state considered a stronghold for them. For immigration advocates, a win by pro-CIR Jim Martin would mean another win for those of us working for immigration reform.
Begich Defeats Convicted Sen. Ted Stevens in Alaska - Senator-elect Begich (D) defeated Stevens by 3,724 votes, a margin of more than 1 percentage point, putting Democrats closer to the 60 seat mark in the Senate. While Stevens has concededthis election, in Minnesotathe candidates are still fighting in out. Election officials began a recount yesterday in the race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. So far Coleman leads Franken by 216 votes out of 2.9 million cast.
Obama picks scholars to develop immigration plan - Alexander Aleinikoff, Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center, and Mariano Florentino Cuellar, professor at Stanford Law School will lead the policy working group designated for immigration. Click here to read some articles by Dean Aleinikoff, and here to read more about Florentino Cuellar. In addition, it's looking more and more like Gov. Janet Napolitano will take on the important position of DHS Secretary. In the meantime, Julie Myers is officially no longer at ICE, and John Torres will take the helm through the end of this administration. And according to Adfero Group, these are the 10 most important jobs to be filled at ICE.
New Bedford Factory Targeted in Raid to pay $850,000 in overtime- The owners of the factory settled a class action lawsuit this week, agreeing to pay 764 current and former workers $850,000 owed in overtime.
The Texas GOP just doesn't get it - theTexas State Legislature will see several bills related to illegal immigration this session - "Advocates for a crackdown on illegal immigrants, apparently undaunted by their failures in the last Legislature, have filed a slew of bills for the upcoming session that are even stronger in tone and approach." The GOP is allegedly panicked about their lack of support among Hispanics, but Texas Republican legislators don't seem to get it. The bills go beyond the usual, one is for English-only, another would require public schools to check the citizenship of their students. Another would require illegal immigrants to be banished to self-described "sanctuary cities." Author Leo Berman, R-Tyler said, "The federal government is requiring us to give free education and health care to illegals," Mr. Berman said. "It's the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our nation." Another bill filed for the 2009 session allows police to check people's immigration status under "reasonable suspicion" that they might be illegal immigrants - really. Another refuses birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to parents who are here illegally.
On the flip side, a bill by Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, prohibits cities from restricting landlords on who can rent homes from them - a direct criticism of Farmers Branch's efforts to keep illegal immigrants from renting homes there. Another bill would create a task force to fight human trafficking. "The reality is that these problems can only be solved in Washington, D.C.," said Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas. "Even if every immigration-related bill passed in the Texas House, it would be wholly ineffective at dealing with the larger issue of how we align our immigration policy with the needs of our labor force. And that's what's driving illegal immigration." I wholeheartedly agree - and so far I've heard many doubts as to whether immigration reform will even be addressed by the 111th Congress.
Will Reform Happen in 2009? - Well, Congress should do so - after the 2006 midterm elections two years ago, congressional job approval was 26%. In this week's Gallup poll, Congressional approval is now at at 19%, with a 74% disapproval rating. Polling dataconsistently shows that immigration is not the third rail of politics - it's not that people are against reform, if you take the time to ask, people are against the broken immigration system and they want it fixed. Two-thirds of all voters support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Patience is not a virtue when it comes to immigration reform - how much longer can we wait?Obama is facing pressure from immigration advocates and from voters, particularly mixed-status families, to pass reform. Many articles posit that Latinos "may" question Obama on immigration - I disagree, Latinos will question Obama on immigration.
As reported by La Jornada, "the Latino vote is not a blank check...it represents the aspiration for change, social and economic justice for Latinos." Hopefully President Obama will work with Congress to fix our very broken immigration system, and fight against the few who confuse reform for "open borders." The Americas Policy Program attempted to explain how the two camps are "retrenching" on the issue of immigration reform, but their explanation merits comment - their article argues that opponents of reform argue that CIR can't happen during a time of economic downturn for fear "we'll lose jobs." The unemployment rate has increased for many reasons that have nothing to do with immigration policy. All data demonstrates that undocumented immigrants perform jobs that Americans don't want, and by legalizing those without papers, we would be bringing them out of the shadows and improving wages for all, thus increasing wages across the board and fostering a more productive consumer base. The economic crisis is no argument against reform, if anything, CIR can be used as a tool to help improve the economy. The article says proponents of reform are arguing that the new administration "owes" the Hispanic/Latino electorate, i.e., they should pass it because we want it. Not really - while the Democratic party can certainly expect a backlash at the polls for not fixing the broken immigration system, it will come not only from Latinos, but from all the voters who currently feel Congress has not delivered solutions. Yes, Hispanic voters will be watching to see whether Obama "keeps all his promises," and you can bet he won't feel the love next time at the polls if he does not, but CIR shouldn't pass just because Latinos want it, it should be passed because from a policy and a political standpoint, the right and the best thing to do is to pass it in 2009.
Instances of Mistreatment of Children under CPB and ICE custody - A study released by the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) found that more than 43,000 undocumented, unaccompanied children have been mistreated while in custody and denied access to representation by Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and then transported home unsafely. The story was alsoreported by Latin American press, with reports of children being caged, neglected, and denied medical care.
Read the signs - A CQ article from this week makes some good points, but slightly misread the polling data from Lake Research, saying the issue of immigration has "cooled" - hardly. As Hispanics are being attacked and ostracized throughout the country, a more accurate point in the story that should be highlighted: "Hispanics could blame Democrats for immigration inertia, or feel that implicit campaign pledges weren't honored." A post-election poll by Lake Research Partners for America's Voice found that Hispanics turned their backs on the GOP - even though President Bush and Sen. John McCain , R-Ariz., both favored comprehensive legislation - because of perceptions that Republicans blocked the immigration overhaul in 2007 and used inflammatory rhetoric in the process. And Hispanics will only continue to determine candidates' political fate based on this important issue, as Robert Paral and Associates have reported - the 2008 election results demonstrate that, "even in states where the Hispanic community is relatively small, they can tip those states, they can be kingmakers if the other groups are evenly balanced." Paral expects the Hispanic vote to be the pivotal swing in future elections too, as more Hispanics register to vote, not only in traditional immigrant-receiving states, but also in states with fewer immigrants, such as New Hampshire, Connecticut, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
E-Verify not Ready for Prime Time - According to the ITAA, the final rule published this week requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to screen workers and new hires through the E-Verify system each year will put significant new burdens on those employers at least in the short term.
Immigration authorities need to release the guidelines they use in deciding 'stipulated removal' cases - In the last few years, the number of illegal immigrants in detention who waived their right to plead their case to remain in the United States has shot up from 5,500 in 2004 to 35,000 this year. In all, nearly 100,000 people have agreed to leave the country under "stipulated removal." Not surprisingly, troubling reports have surfaced of immigrants who say they were encouraged to self-deport without knowing that they had valid legal claims to remain in the U.S. and to have a hearing before a judge. Immigrants' rights groups are suing the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, demanding they divulge their procedures for informing detainees of their rights. The department, which has made only half-hearted attempts to comply, should be made to do so.
Querétaro, Mexico gets appropriation for immigrants - The lower chamber of the Mexican Congress approved 704 million pesos to support immigrants returning to 10 states of the country, 50 million of this sum will go to the state of Querétaro.
UN Trade Chief sees up to 6 percent drop in migrant remittances in 2009 - Migrant remittances, a vital source of income for poor countries, could decline by up to 6 percent next year due to worsening economic conditions around the world, the U.N.'s trade chief said last Friday.