Sunday, November 30, 2008

Attitudes Changing on Immigration

The Washington Post, using pre-election polls, reports that anti-immigration sentiment played an insignificant role in the recent election in Virgina. The one candidate most identified with the issue was defeat. The Post deduced it was the same for most of the country, quoting an observation from the Wall Street Journal that of the 13 Republican House members to lose their seats in the electiont en had been members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, which was generally hot on throwing the undocumented out of the country. The Post also pointed to the recommendations of a Virgina state commission on immigration advising against stringent anti-immigrant measures and for extending some state benefits to the undocumented.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Phoenix Sweeps To Get Greater Scrutiny From Obana's Justice Department

The much publicized "crime sweeps" of Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio is likely to come under greater scrutiny under president-elect Barack Obama' nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder. Already the Justice Department is looking into allegation that the sweeps amount to racial profiling. It was initiated by a letter from Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. Immigrant and Hispanic advocacy groups have also filed lawsuits to stop the sweeps. Holder, when in the Justice department during the Clinton administration, was especially active in racial profiling cases. Stopping "America's toughest sheriff" from using his badger as a weapon against immigrants would be a good first step for the new president to acknowledge the overwhelming support Latino voters gave him in the election. It 's only a matter of justice and fairness. (See Arizona Republic article.) Maybe the Justice Department will also do something more about the treatment of those held in Sheriff Joe's jail.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Wind on Immigration

The furious wind that swept through some states over undocumented immigration during the presidential campaign seems to be subsiding. If the State of Virgina, a scene of site of the sharpest resentments and attacks on immigrants is any indication, a gentler wind is blowing. A state commission has put aside ideas for stiffer restriction and policies and will soon receive recommendation from the Democratic Governor, Timothy M. Kaine, to ease up and provid some benefits previously denied -- like in-state tuition to all graduates of Virginia's schools. (See Washington Post article.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Napolitano on Immigration

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, the expected nominee to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), has been characterized as "a moderate" on immigration. (See Arizona Republic article.) What does that mean? On immigration, a major responsibility of DHS, she has pleased some people and has angered others. Latinos in Arizona are not her greatest admirers. But for nativists nationally she is soft on immigration. Early she seemed sympathetic to comprehensive reform, to allowing the undocumented get drivers licenses, and spoke against "the fence". But since the collapse of comprehensive immigration reform, she seems to have shifted toward tougher border enforcement. The governor was first to ask for the national guard to assist in patrolling the border and seems to favor a continued role for it. (See Washington Post article.) She signed the toughest state legislation on employers-sanctions. But even these tough measures only perplex the nativists. Napolitano's call for the national guard came after a crime spree along the border, and some believe she signed the employers-sanction bill only to frustrate tougher measures from the Republican-dominated state legislature. The governor has taken on Maricopa County's anti-immigrant sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and took state money away from him and his raiders and vigilantes. Most observers believe she is qualified for the divergent priorities of DHS and probably reflects president-elect Barack Obama's own views. She may continue ICE raids, but direct them more at employer's. The nativists fear she would harness ICE in the neighborhood.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Arizona Governor Expected to be Secretary of Homeland Security

The Democratic governor of Arizona, Janet Nepolitano, is reported by a number of news services to be Barack Obama's choice to be new Secretary of Homeland Security. As a governor of a border state, she is well versed in immigration issues. Yet she was the first to ask for the use of the National Guard to help the Border Patrol police the border. She also has extensive experience as a federal prosecutor and so is aware of the criminal justice issues related to the border. Despite her support of stepped-up border security, she generally supports immigration reform similar to the Kennedy-McCain Bill . (See Washington Post article.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Secretary for DHS

Not much speculation has risen about Barack Obama's choice for the new secretary for the Department for Homeland Security. Still a new agency and beset by organizational problems, its mandate is immense, covering such a wide berth of responsibilities as seaport security and building "the fence". While the president elect had address a few specifics during the campaign, immigration was somewhat neglected. Eventually Obama will get around to immigration reform, but the choice of a new secretary will signal his priorities for the new agency and how far back behind economic recovery he pushes it. Still some things he can due early by executive order -- like slowing down the fence or stopping factory raids. (See Washington Post article.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama's Aunt Deied Deportation Order

Just before the election it was revealed that one of Barack Obama'a Kenyan aunts was living in Boston despite an order to leave the country. She had been denied asylum by an immigration judge and ordered deported. She was released to get her affairs in order, but did leave. There are a half million similar cases. To defy deportation places the immigrants in little danger so long as they do not call attention to themselves -- like get swept up in a workplace raid or stopped for a traffic violation. In Obama's aunt's case, a lawyer will take up an appeal. (See AP article.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Homeland Security Accused of Mistreating Undocumented Minors

A study by the Center for Public Policy Priorities has accused the Department of Homeland Security of mistreating unaccompanied minors it holds in custody for deportation. The charges include denying most legal representation, providing inadequate health care, and transporting children in shackles and even animal cages. DHS denies the report's accusations, but these come from interviews and direct observation. (See Washington Post article.)

One body that seems to get the attention of the Department of Homeland Security is the business community that bids for federal contracts. All contractors were to be required to use the E-Verify system to check on the immigrant status of their workers. The system itself is controversial because it depends on a Social Security data-base that is often incorrect. But under protest from groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, DHS has modified the requirement. Contractors who provide more than $100.000 of services to the federal government would be bound and only for new programs. Previously the requirement extended to all contracts over $3,000 and to all the company's workers. The new regulation is seen by some critics as a way to preclude any action by the new Obama administration to cancel the program. (See Washington Post article.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"The Fence" -- Not Much o a Deterrent

Homeland Security keeps at the task of putting up "the fence", hoping to have most of it done by January. But it's proving to be not much of a deterrent. Border-crossers are devising all kinds of make-shift ladders to scale even 18 feet high barriers. Arrests by the Border Patrol for unauthorized crossings have declined by 18% over the last year-- no thanks to the partially built fence. Rather it's the sad state of the economy that most credit for the decline. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Latinos Plan Post-Inaugural Rally

Immigrant rights groups met in Washington to plan a rally on the Mall the day after Barack Obama is inaugurated. The crowds will ask the new president to stop immediately the workplace raids and to start on legislation to speed the reforms he promised in the campaign. Much of what will be asked requires Congressional action -- legalization to provide the undocumented a path to legalization and citizenship, a revision of the visa quota system to promote family reunification, and a guest-worker program. Still the immigrant advocates point out that Obama can do much by executive orders -- to stop the workplace raids and to speed up the visa and citizenship application process. (See Washington Post article.)

The FBI reported that hate crimes against Latinos/Hispanics grew 40% between 2006 and 2007,- as generally assumed, because of the anti-immigrant sentiments aroused by the immigration debate. (See Washington Post article.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Brain Waste" -- Immigrant Professionals

There have been jokes over the years about Ph.D.s from Nigeria driving taxis in New York City or MDs from South America walking dogs for the rich and famous in Los Angeles . Now the Migration Policy Center has released a report on college-educated and professional immigrants that quantifies the phenomenon -- there are 1.3 million such immigrants in the country not practicing the profession for which they were educate. The Los Angeles Times calls it a "brain waste", especially at a time when their services sorely are needed, The Times points out that more than a third of Californians are Latinos, yet less than 6% of doctors and nurses are. That places a heavy burden on the medical system in providing effective health care. Much of the problem is due to the difficulty for immigrant professionals to get credentials. It's not impossible, but standards are high, tests are complex, and the process is costly and time-consuming. The immigrant professionals are discouraged and often have to take menial jobs or jobs below their qualifications to survive. The Migration Policy Center urges a national policy to streamline the certification process with programs to enhance English skills and provide support.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-Mortem on the Hispanic Vote

After every election "experts" stir the entrails of the successful candidate's vote to determine its make-up. One conclusion shoutng loudly from the Obama victory is that the Hispanic vote went overwhelmingly for him, contributing significantly to wins in four states -- Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Immigration was up front for many Hispanic voters, but in the last days they were spurred as much by the downturn in the economy and so went to the polls in droves. (See AP analysis.) This should position Hispanic organizations and immigrant advocates to press the new president to move quickly on immigration reform. Obviously, that will have to wait till after dealing with the financial crisis and the need for an economic stimulus. It will compete for attention with other issues that impact on the Hispanic community -- health care and education reform.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Deporting Uninsured Immigrants

Undocumented aliens have a right to emergency care in the ERs of hospitals, but not to sustained care. Because these patients are without insurance, the cost of sustained care must be absorbed by the hospitals. As a consequence, many hospitals have taken to "repatriating the patient" -- that is, hiring an ambulance plane and shipping the patient back home. The New York Times (see posting for August 5, 2008) had publicized the practice and uncovered a number of abuses. Many repatriations are voluntary, but others have been done involuntarily. Some American citizens have been wrongly repatriated. The New York Times printed a lengthy follow-up report on the problem with specific case studies.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

USCIS to Have Major Overhaul

The Washington Post reports that the Bush administration has approved an IBM-led consortium to plan a drastic makeover of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. USCIS has long been known as among the most antiquated, dilapidated, and inefficient federal agencies. This was evident over the last year as thousands of immigrants sought to become citizens. The overhaul will not come cheap. The first stage will cost nearly $500 million and eventually, if Congress approves, as much as $3.5 billion.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kosher Plant Files for Bankruptcy

The ICE raid at Agriprocessors, Inc, an Iowa kosher meatpacking plant, netted over 300 workers who were undocumented aliens. But it also netted a host of problems for Agriprocessors -- charges that it violated state labor and wage laws, a federal indictment for the manager, a campaign to get it decertified as a kosher plant. Now comes an attempt by management to stave off foreclosure by filing for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (See NY Times article.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Mexicanization of the Hispanic

There is an amusing scene in the movie El Norte. A Guatemalan village elder is schooling a young couple for their journey to the United States by teaching them to swear. Black out and the next scene begins with a stream of curse words from the Mexican truck driver who has given the young couple a lift. Since Central Americans, especially Salvadorans, have streamed into Los Angeles -- living, working, schooling and worshiping in the same neighborhood as Mexican immigrants -- they have had to adapted not only to the Anglo way of doing thing, but also to the Mexican. The adaptation has been necessary to get and hold jobs. But it hasn't been easy. This is especially true of mixed marriages -- a Central American to a Mexican -- and of their children -- e.g., the "Salvi-Mexicans". Often it is a question of how one speaks or what word one choses. Some Central Americans go along to get along; others resent to additional pressure to assimilation and regret the loss of their distinctive culture. (See LA Times article.)