Sunday, March 30, 2008

Legal Workers To Be Hurt By "No Match" Letters

The New York Times argues editorially that the "no match" that Homeland Security would have the Social Security Administration send to employers would have adverse consequences -- like job loss -- on significant numbers of American-born and legal alien workers. These "no match" letters are to inform employers that their employment record and the SSA's record are in conflict. Employers would have 90 days to rectify the discrepancy, otherwise the employee must be released. The original proposal has been stayed by a federal judge, since SSA's records are replete with error. It is estimated that as many as seventy percent of those "no match" letters will involve legal workers. The Times insists this is no time, with economy facing a serious down-turn, to be dumping millions of workers on the unemployment rolls.

The Associated Press reports that Gov. Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island has signed an executive order mandating that all state agencies and companies doing business with the state verify the legal status of its employees. He also allows the state police to cooperate with ICE.

Friday, March 28, 2008

ICE To Step Up Deportation Of Prisoners

More than 300,000 aliens, it is estimated, are in American prisons. Those who are undocumented and even those who are here legally with a green card will be liable for deportation after serving their terms behind bars. Now Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking for more money to quicken the pace of deportation. The funds would go to scouring the prison for eligible candidates and to training local jail personnel in processing deportation cases. (See NY Times article.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Economy Tops Immgration As Issue In Presidential Race

As John McCain wraps up the Republican nomination, immigration seems to recede as a big issue in the presidential campaign. The prospective GOP nominee is believed to be friendly to a comprehensive immigration reform, though of late he's been stressing fences and employment verification to appease the nativist right. But actually it's the economy and the free fall of financial markets that has pushed immigration aside as a burning issue. Even the nativist right now argues that the undocumented are more of an threat to the jobs of real Americans than to the security of the country. Employee verification is paraded as a bulwark against slave labor rather a way to punish the undocumented. States and localities have taken up the slack as the national debate disappears. Still there are attempts in Congress to quicken the anti-immigration cause -- e,g., the Shuler-Tancredo SAVE bill. But even that, which the Democratic leadership in the House is staving off, is meant more to get the representatives on record before the elections. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Friday In Phoenix: "Crucify The Illegals"

On Good Friday the immigrant-baiting Sheriff of Mericopa County let loose his deputies on the Hispanic community of East Phoenix. They stopped drivers for the slightest violation, giving an opportunity to check on immigration status. At least six undocumented were round up and held for deportation proceedings. Friendly immigration advocates tagged along to advise the apprehended of their rights. Some complained it was "racial profiling" of a whole neighbor. Joe Arpaio, the immigrant-bashing yet popular sheriff, responded that the deputies work every day and Good Friday is no exception. Neither does headline grabbing, it seems, stop to commemorate Jesus' crucifixion. (See NY Times article.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another New York Sex Scandal -- At CSI

New York seems to be replete with sex scandals. First one governor forks up $4000 for a hooker, and then his successor admits to fooling around. In Queens, NY, the culprit is an adjudicator for Citizenship and Immigration Services. An adjudicator is suppose to help applicants for green cards or citizenship through the maze of CSI's bureaucracy -- with discretionary power to move an application along or to kill it. The NY Times reports that one adjudicator tried to extort sexual favors from a young Colombian women. Only she recorded the tryst and turn the evidence over to the Times. Now the adjudicator has been suspended and faces criminal charges.

The incident , according to the Times, is not exceptional. CSI was accused of having more than 3,000 complaints against its employees and has a record on not getting after them. More than 160 were criminal complaints. A former investigator for CSI testified that corruption was widespread in the agency and the very nature of the work and the power it gives to low-level employees is enormous. It's easy for them to prey on nervous immigrant applicants.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

CSI Taken To Task By NY Times

The NY Times took the Citizenship and Immigrations Services to task on the occasion of director Emilio Gonzalez's imminent departure. An already creaky bureaucracy was made even more inefficient as it raised the fees for applying for citizenship by as much as two-thirds last August. Demand for citizenship was already pumped up by the immigration reform debate and the 2008 elections. Demonstrators shout in the streets, "Today we walk, tomorrow we vote." But the fee hike brought in a deluge of applications in the early summer.

Gonzalez had promised with the new revenues to speed up the application process to five month It now drags along for 14 to 16 months. Much of the fault is due to faulty planning on CIS's part, but the real culprit is the way Congress expects to pay for the naturalization process -- through fees from applicants. There are better ways to do, as was the case in the past. As a consequence of CSI's mismanagement, many people who got in line and played by the rules -- as the nativist clak demanded -- may miss their opportunity to cast their first vote in November.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

ICE Culls California Prisons

Immigration and Custom Enforcements (ICE) has a program to train prison personnel to scan the papers of inmates as to their immigrant status. Not all states or local jurisdictions cooperate. Now ICE has initiates an intensive search for the undocumented in the California prisons. (See LA Times article.) More than a third of those incarcerated around Los Angeles have previously been deported but re-entered the country illegally. This is the soft target ICE is now going after.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Border Jumpers Pushed Out To Sea

The crack-down by the border patrol and the perils of crossing the Arizona desert is pushing more and more migrants to try entering the country by sea. The number of apprehension in waters around San Diego or on its beaches have risen. The sea route is twice as dear as the desert and just as dangerous. (See NY Times article.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where Has All The Summer Help Gone?

The falling value of the dollar, you would think, is good news to summer resort owners. Europe is too dear for Americans and the U.S. is a great bargain for Europeans. But when they all go off to Cape Cod, they just might find the hotels and restaurants shuttered. Resort owners have a new problem -- they can't find good help. It seems the failure of immigration debate of last summer to provide adequate numbers of foreign temporary workers -- so-called H-2B workers -- shatter their expectation of what should be a booming summer.

Provision for temps was to be integrated into a comprehensive measure. That's where the Hispanic Caucus in Congress says it belongs. Since the Republicans hold that the Dream Act can't be broken off and voted separately -- only fence and more enforcement -- the Caucua is holding summer temps hostage to get movement for comprehensive immigration reform.

This is hurting the summer resorts. Now Homeland Security and the Labor Department must administer the law strictly -- allowing only 66,000 foreign workers in temporary, half of which are for the summer. Last year more than twice that number were admitted. On Cape Cod there were 5,000 foreign temps, but this year only 15 will be allowed. Resort owners are looking everywhere for suitable replacements and finding few. The problem affects other seasonal businesses as well -- gardening and the circus.

The Save our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act had admitted additional H-2B workers. Extra quotas brought in chamber maids from Jamaica, cooks from Eastern Europe, gardeners from Mexico and the like -- all working without fear of ICE. But the bill expired at the end of September and the number of permissible foreign temps reverted to 66,000 -- split evenly between summer and winter. Now even some friendlies of immigration reform in Congress, whose districts included resorts on the East and West coasts, are pleading with the Hispanic Caucus to let up and allow legislation to go foreword -- at least to cover this summer. (See NY Times article.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Latino Soccer In Jeopardy

Prince William County, Virgina, has passed some of the stiffest anti-immigration local ordinances in the country. As a consequence, the Washington Post reports, it's killing Latino Soccer. Many of the undocumented players have left teams and many undocumented spectators are afraid to go to games. The Prince William league has dwindled from 80 teams to less than 50 as players and teams flee to friendlier counties in the Washington area.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hate Groups Turn Against Hispanics

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has over the years taken on the job of watchdogging hate groups in the U.S. Each year it issues a report -- Year in Hate -- and this year has featured the growing activities of "nativist extremists" against immigrants, especially Mexicans. It quotes the FBI as to the growth of hate crimes -- racially, ethnically and religiously motivated crimes -- against Latinos. Also it describes some of their excessive rhetoric and conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, some of their nonsense has gotten in to respectable print and debate.

SPLC does not just quote figures, but also points a finger and names names. It lists the prominent hate groups and individual leaders. Most of these are small and obscure. This year, however, it has listedits among the hate groups FAIR -- the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform -- because of some early association with white supremacy and continuing hostility toward the undocumented. Naturally, FAIR has screamed the designation is unfair. As an opponent to the comprehensive immigration reform proposals of last summer, it won a mantle of respectability as a leading opponent. Its word was respected in the media and quoted in Congress. So SPLC's tagging FAIR as a hate group is quite controversial.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

U.N. Report Faults U.S. Immigration Policy

An investigator for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council -- known as a "rapporteur"-- has faulted U.S. immigration policy as violating international law and human rights conventions. Specifically, he pointed to the raids and detention policies. The rapporteur, Jorge Bustamonte of Mexico, used strong language -- on detention, for example, he says, the U.S. "overuses" it and holds people too long, and on raids it creates fear in immigrant communities. He is not without suggesting alternatives -- e.g., on detentions using angle bracelets. U.S. representatives found his report "disappointing" and full of inaccuracies and misstatements. (See NY Times article. Also see LA Times article.)

The border guard accused of shooting an undocumented man as he fled capture ended in a hung jury. (See blog for Feb. 28, 2008 and NY Times article.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Immigrants Sue To Vote

About a million immigrants were waiting in December for Citizenship and Immigration Services to process their applications for naturalization in time for them to participate in the Novembers election. But the cumbersome CIS bureaucracy promises the best they can do is 12 to 18 months. So advocacy groups in New York City went to court, suing the Bush administration to step up the process and get them the vote by September 22. (See NY Times article.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Border Rxpenses

A common complaint about undocumented immigrants is that they cost municipalities too much to provide services -- schools, emergency care, police, etc. Much of the complaint is exaggerated and much is misplaced. In many municipalities away from the border it is merely good social policy -- and the law -- to provide education and health care in its limited circumstances. But along the border it is somewhat different. The presence of the undocumented, even when they're passing through, create enormous costs, especially in enforcement and detaining the undocumented who caught and held for deportation. A recent study by the University of Arizona and San Diego State University (See NY Times article.) reports that the federal government does not fairly reimburse states and municipalities for the cost of participating in enforcement. Apparently it's more attractive to squander millions on fence that don't work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More Repressive Laws Proposed

Don't take much solace in the fact that the presidential candidates are reputed to be immigrant-friendly. John McCain has been drifting to the right has been highlighting enforcement and the Democrats have generally avoided the subject. The defeat of the "grand compromise" opened his eyes to the need for border security first.

Now a group of Republican Senators are proposing a package of repressive measures that seemingly stop short only of allowing ICE to shoot the undocumented down in the street. Crossing the border without authorization will cost two years in prison, cities that restrain their police on immigration enforcement will get docked federal aid, etc. (See LA Times article.)

Things are not much better over in the House. Many freshman Democrats come from traditionally Republican districts where immigration is a touchy issue. Experts are now schooling them in their re-election bid to watch their words and talk up enforcement. Some are very active in supporting the SAVE Act (Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement). No need to say more about the tenor of the bill.

Most see the package of Senate bills as unlikely to go forward in the Senate. But there is real concern about the new kind of "Blue-dog Democrat" -- who favor lower tax and more spending cuts, as well as tougher immigration enforcement. Observers think the GOP Senate strategy is meant to push McCain further toward enforcement. All this posturing guarantees immigration, while less than Iraq and the economy, will be a significant issue in the general election.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Steel Curtain On The Southern Border

A NY Times editorial describes the fence as "a steal curtain " from San Diego to Brownsville. If ever completed it will give a false security and no real resolution to our immigration problems. Besides the fence already is not working. The Times argues that, if ever completed, we'll sit behind our wall doing nothing, while the desperate workers will find ways to cut through it. They are doing so already in Arizona and it's not only the mischief of the migrants and their coyotes. The much touted "virtual fence" is developing glitches. Some because Homeland Security is rushing the job to please Congress. And there is also a stench of political favoritism around. The fence has been routed through nature reserves developed at public expense but skirts the golf courses of the affluent. The fence is a political fig leaf meant only to cover the reluctance to seek real longer term solution

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Latino Youth Vote

An AP analysis of the Latino vote stresses the growing importance of the youth vote. About 400,000 Hispanics become of voting age this year, and most are registering to vote. Already motivated by last year's demonstration and the anti-immigrant rhetoric, they seem motivated to use that new franchise by the Clinton-Obama race. There are already five million eligible Hispanics voters between 18 and 27 years old, and their numbers will grow rapidly. There is a sense that the 2008 presidential election is a watershed for Hispanics. They tend to be turned on more by Barack Obama, since they look at issues more broadly than just immigration. But have no doubt, immigration is as big an issue with them as with other Latinos. They took the anti-immigrant outcry personally, as a slam against all Hispanics.

Mitt Romney was undone in his campaign for the Republican nomination because he got tagged as "a waffler". He change positions he took as governor of Massachusetts that differed from conservative GOP orthodoxy. His intent was to endear himself as the candidate of the right. McCain, on the other hand, ran from behind as the consistent one, calling his campaign bus "the Straight Shooter Express". Even now he claims to be the paragon of consistency against either Clinton or Obama.

Well. as Al Smith use to say, "Let's look at the record." The New York Times does that and finds enough flip-flopping to bring his credentials as Mr. Consistency into doubt.

McCain is drifting righ and trying to assuage conservative Republicans -- even on immigration. He hasn't given any indication to retreat on a pathway to citizenship of some of the other positive features of his reform proposals made in alliance with Senator Ted Kennedy. But has taken to speaking only about enforcement and border security, arguing that once are borders are secure the nation can turn to doing something about the presence of 12 million undocumented. He still does insist we just can't turn them out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Immigrants Push Back Against ICE Raids

Immigration and Custom Enforcement has stepped up it raids seeking "fugitives" or those who have ignored a deportation order and have stay in the country. But once entry to a residence is given to ICE, it has the right to check every one's papers. As a consequence, 40% of the detentions on these raids is "collateral", that is of someone other than the one whose name is on the warrant. The raids has created much fear in immigrant communities, so much so immigrants are now beginning to push back. They are devising strategies and organizing networks to monitor the movements of ICE. Sometimes it's merely printing and distributing card outlining what few rights an undocumented has -- like not opening the door when ICE comes knocking, asking for a lawyer. Some of the new tactics are more aggressive, like telephone trees to warn of ICE's presence in the neighborhood or shadowing ICE on its raids. Once women's group in Los Angeles calls themselves "Madres Contra Redades". (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Davis Leonhardt writes an excellent review of the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. and of its more recent manifestations in the failed campaign to reform immigration law. (See NY Times article.) He argues that immigration has often been raised in elections -- especially in the days of the Know-Nothing Party -- but presidential elections have never turn on it.Though the three candidates vying for the presidency this year are somewhat sympathetic to reform, Leonhardt the problems of immigration will be with the next president as he/she moves forward with a new Congress. He also raises the problem of continued migration. Demographics tell us we will need the new workers in only a few years. That means fences and more border patrol are of no great utility. And such measures as employer sanctions, which Homeland Security is aggressively pushing or even a pathway to citizenship are not long-term solutions. Where Leonhardt's analysis fails is in not going into the "bush factor' driving Mexicans al norte. It is a wonder that, in view of America's historic ambiguity toward the immigrant-- nativism on the one hand and the welcoming Statue of Liberty on the other -- the problem will be with for a long time.

The deadiliest corner in Hispanics neighborhoods might not be the site of drive-by shootings. Perhaps it's the nearby entrance to the parking lot of Home Depot where day laborers gather to pick up construction jobs for $10 an hour. The rate of fatalities of Hispanic workers in the construction industry is on the rise and higher than for whites or other minorities ding the same work. And since much of it is among undocumented workers, the suspicion is that the real number is underreported. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Identity Politics: The Black And Brown Vote

Barack Obama has tried to rise above being "the black candidate' and even above a merely Democratic candidate. He claims to be best qualified to bring all Americans together and prides himself on his success in bring Democrat and Republican together in the Illinois state senate. The Clinton campaign has thrown cold water on at lease one aspect of that "uniting".

Sergio Bendixen, the Latino pollster for Hillary Clinton, was quoted in January that Hispanics will not support a black candidate. This led to charges of introducing "identity politics" into the race for the Democratic nomination. James Traub (NY Times Sunday Magazine) takes off from that point to reflect on whether Latinos do or do not support blacks for office and whether they will or will not in the choice between Obama and Clinton. The press and experts had generally conceded the Hispanic vote to Clinton, as was demonstrated in the California primary and the Nevada caucuses. But they also saw a generational grape emerging, younger Hispanics going for Obama. Texas will tell on Tuesday how the standard wisdom holds up.

Traub's essay, however. is more than a reflection on the Democratic race. He goes further into the issue of "identity politics". There is undoubtedly some of it. Blacks, after fretting over Obama's credential as a "real black', have sung overwhelmingly toward him. In part it's racial pride; in part Obama sounds like their preacher. But many blacks are also attracted by the fact that he is drawing support across the board and seem to be the hope of unifying people beyond race, gender, income -- as Traub puts it, "he speaks a transnational, indeed nonracial language."

Why are Hispanics loyal to Clinton? If indeed they have been for many reasons. Bendixen believes in part because they won't vote for a black candidate. They are liable, then, to drift to the Republicans, who are on the verge of nominating a candidate more sympathetic on immigration. Traub doesn't entirely buy that. The wounds the GOP gave themselves through their nativism precludes an drift. Besides, Hispanic and black have been bitterly divided in primaries before, only to come together in the general election. Again Traub underscores the growing significance of the Hispanic vote. While he sets aside idealistic notions of a"black-brown coalition" founded on their mutual suffering as seen in Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition, he notes that black leaders, despite real competition for jobs and housing, continue to be responsive to Hispanic grievances. This is out of their memory of their own people's suffering. Traub seems to feel that Barack Obama's approach is the way to go.

This is not an endorsement of Obama over Clinton or, for that matter, over McCain. Traub's essay raises issues that have to be addressed in the election and after -- especially with the growing power of the Hispanic voter. For both the elections of 2008 will be a crossroads.