Thursday, July 31, 2008

Undocumented Migration Drops, But Why?

The Center for Immigration Studies, a research center that favors reducing legal migration as well as stemming illegal, has released a report that the number of undocumented immigrants has declined by 11.%. Researchers more favorable to comprehensive immigration reform do not deny a decline, but question the rate of decline -- and why. CIS insinuates that it is because of more vigorous enforcement at the border and at plants. More of the same should get even better results. Nativists on Capitol Hill have been waving the report around as vindication of the tougher strategy. Critics of the report admit tougher enforcement and the fear it has created in the immigrant community may play a part, but the major factor in the decline of undocumented migration has been the economy. Loss of work at construction sites has more to do with migrants' return to Mexico than plant raids. Also most of those leaving seem to be new arrivals that had yet to put down roots in the U.S. (See Washington Post article,)

The Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has offered a kind of "amnesty" to those undocumented aliens known as "fugitive aliens". These have received a court order of deportation but have ignored it and remained in the country. Their number may be more that a half of million. Whether such fugitives will take up the offer is questioned by immigrant advocates. While there is some advantages, these are so few that most "fugitives" will not be enticed. As it is, ICE's round-ups of fugitives has not been especially effective and generates more headlines because of its violation of the rights of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants during its raids. (See Washington Post article.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Immigrant Activists Demonstrate in Postville, IA

About 1500 demonstrators appeared in the streets of Postville, IA, to express their contrasting views on the ICE raids in May at a kosher meat-processing plant. The pro-immigrant group vastly outnumbered the nativists. But the protest had a quirky twist. Some Jewish activists were there also to protest the alleged labor and safety violations of Agriprocessors, the employer of the detained workers. (See NY Times article.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

PEW Hispanic Center on the Latino Vote

The Pew Hispanic Center released a poll of Latino voters on their preference in the presidential race. (See Chicago Tribune article.) Obama won hands down -- as he has in other polls. Pew, however, asked questions about whether Latinos would vote for a black -- they will -- whether there is any lingering resentment about Hillary Clinton's failed campaign which Latinos supported strongly -- there isn't -- and who's the most popular politician -- Obama. The survey hints at issue that might affect the election. On the question of race, some question whether any voter will be candid. Also McCain doesn't have to "win" the Latino vote, only cut into the margin of difference as George W. Bush did in 2004. None of those issues will be definitively resolved until after the election.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Murders in San Francisco Threatens Sanctuary Status

San Francisco is the quintessential "sanctuary city" in which all official business, especially law enforcement, is done without regard to legal status. A recent road-rage murder by an undocumented Salvadorean gang member has raised questions and calls for the Justice Department to take over. (See AP dispatch.) The accused had previous run-ins with the law, and critics claim that the city's sanctuary prevented authorities from turning him over for deportation sooner.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Immigrants and Employers

The Bush administration has taken a tougher line on enforcement of immigration law by threatening undocumented workers rounded up in ICE raids with criminal prosecution. (See post for May 24 and July 18, 2008.) It also has taken to bringing criminal charges against employers. The New York Times quotes in an editorial a California lawyer representing two companies: "The system is just as broken for employers as it is for immigrants." Only justice has not been equal. After the Potsville, IA, raids hundreds of immigrant workers were prosecuted for using false documents, while only three supervisors are being charged with any crime. (See Washington Post article.)

The Times observed that the business community that has benefited from the labor of undocumented workers had given tepid support to comprehensive reform til local and state governments started enacting or thinking of enacting laws that would penalize employers and deprive them of immigrant labor. Now the employers are aroused. Some of them deserve no sympathy, since they do exploit undocumented workers. Still, as the Times observes, honest and by-the-book employers need their own "path to get right and stay right with the law."

The Los Angeles Times reports that deportation cases are overloading the local immigration court. The volume has easily doubled over the last two years, yet only two judges were added to the court since 2000. The situation is similar around the country. The overload raises questions about the kind of justice the undocumented are getting.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nashville: Npt so Friendly to Immigrants

Nashville maybe a "y'all come down" city. But not for immigrants. The city and county have signed an agreement with ICE to enforce immigration laws. But the locals do so with a fervor and insouciance embarrassing even to ICE. The NY Times reports of an incident of a pregnant undocumented woman arrested for driving without a license -- a misdemeanour in Tennessee usually let off with a citation. She was hauled in, and when she went into labor was shackled to her hospital bed and guarded. The only concession was a release from her shackle at the time of delivery. In a royal snafu she was parted from new born the first few days while her misdemeanour was heard in court. Only after that was she united with her child. ICE's policy is not to separate a nursing mother from her child. Critics believe this case demonstrates the dangers of having local police enforce immigration law.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fewer Deaths at the Border

The Border Patrol reports a decline in deaths of those trying to sneak across the U.S.-Mexican border. The decline has been substantial in the Arizona desert. (See Arizona Republic article.) The number of fatalities is still high -- 256 over nine months. The reasons for the decline are varied -- stepped-up enforcement, the economy, fear of the coyotes or the hardships of the desert. But one new element is the fact that many undocumented workers are staying put because of the economy rather than return home for short visits.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Citizens Sue Sheriff Joe

U.S. citizens who were stopped in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "criminal suppression sweeps" have joined a suit charging racial profiling. Maicopa sheriff's deputy has stopped and detained them for fours during the sweeps, he only reason they they looked Mexican. The plaintiffs were born here and are American citizens. Still it's a long-shot that they'll make their case, since it is hard to discern the intent of the deputies. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McCain Before LaRaza

John McCain took his turn speaking before the convention of the National Council of La Raza in San Diego. He reiterated his priority for border security over other aspects of immigration reform. He chided Barack Obama for his tepid support of a comprehensive reform, but the LA Times noted that he misrepresented the Democrat's position. McCain was well received, though many would prefer that he revert to his earlier position on comprehensive reform. (See LA Times article, Also see Arizona Republic article.)

Mericopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio conduct another of his "criminal round-ups" of Mesa, AZ, -- this time without informing the local police. At a press conference -- there can be no sweep without the press -- America's "toughest sheriff" responded to criticism with anger and sarcasm. (See Arizona Republic article.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama to La Raza

Barack Obama followed John McCain before the National Council of La Raza at its annual convention in San Diego, looking for crucial Hispanic votes. While the Gallup Poll has him comfortably ahead of McCain, the swing states of Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado are not yet in his pocket. There Hispanics may be the swing vote. McCain held to his "border security first" policy, but also addressed other concerns of Latinos -- most notably, their success as small business entrepreneurs. So Obama not only renewed his support of "comprehensive" reform, but also spoke to the needs of small Hispanic businesses -- especially the burden of providing health care insurance to employees. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rough Justice in Waterloo

The NY Times editorially blasted ICE and the Bush administration for the rough justice handed down to the undocumented workers rounded up at a kosher slaughtering house in Potsville, IA, They were herded into a livestock exhibition center in Waterloo, where the U.S. attorneys charged many with the felony of using false documentation. From the beginning lawyers protested the swift justice, but now a legal interpreter charges that many of those who plead to a felony did not really understand what was happening. (See posting for July, 11, 2008.)

The city of Escondido, in northern San Diego County, has given up trying to drive out the undocumented through sanctions on landlords or employers. Now it will charge them directly as a "public nuisance" -- for messy garbage cans, illegal parking, leaving abandoned cars in the back yard and the like. The police are checking all arrested or motorists stopped for traffic violation to check on immigration status. Those caught up in the net are turned over to ICE for deportation. (See LA Times article.)

Arizona, both to slow illegal immigration and strike at the coyotes that trade on smuggling immigrants, had had some success at hurt the smugglers where it hurts -- their money. But now it seems the coyotes -- a nasty lot, but not dumb -- have devised alternates to routing the money. (See Arizona Republic article.) The smuggling of undocumented immigrants is unquestionably one of the worse features of the immigration crisis on the border. The coyotes system arose out of the desperation of immigrants to get here and from the needlessly harsh barriers this country has raised against a poorer neighbor. Since the coyotes are not in it for humanitarian purposes, they strike a hard bargain with the border-crossers. Payments are high, and if the migrants don't pay in full, they are often held hostage til they do. Coyotes are known to abandon crossers, even to kill them, if the border patrol gets to close. Gangs of coyotes are known to fight each other over over control of migrants much as their cousins the drug smugglers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

McCain Wooes Latino with Ad

The NY Times has a watch on advertising in the presidential campaign. One recently by John McCain released in the west with its rich lore of Hispanic votes links Hispanic military service to his own.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Legal Interpreter Questions Justice at Potsville, IA

A legal interpreter, Professor Erik Camayd-Freixas of Florida International University, faulted the legal process after the ICE raid recently in Potsville, IA. (See posting for May 24, 2008.) He charged that many of those detained did not understand that they were being charged with felonies and that prosecutors rushed proceedings. (See NY Times article.)

The Times also described the responds of St. Brigid's Catholic Church in Potsville after the raids.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

McCain and Obama Go Courting the Latino Vote

The presidential candidates are courting the Latino vote aggressively though it looks like Barack Obama, according to a Gallup poll, is winning hands down. John McCain repeated to The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULA) earlier this week his preference for border security first. Obama made much of this shift, while the GOP tried to argue Obama was nowhere to be seen in last year's Senate debate on comprehensive reform. Now they do it all over again before The Council of La Raza this week end. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Employers Fight Back On Immigration

Aroused by the stepped-up ICE factory raids and the growing number of state and local legislative measures to get at the hiring of undocumented workers, the business community has also been aroused to push back. It is organizing more effectively to stop state laws by lobbying legislators and renew effort to slow down ICE by rallying local politicians as allies. The major business networks had generally supported comprehensive reform last year. Now that enforcement is getting to them personally and the need of immigrant workers looms large, business leaders are aggressively stepping up their efforts -- e.g., against the Bush administration to use the E-Verify. (See NY Times article.)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Fence Won't Work

The NY Times in an editorial ("False Victory at the Border") argues that the fence won't work to discourage the migration of Mexico's desperate poor to the U.S. Basing its view on a study of the University of California, San Diego, it notes that 90% of undocumented interviewed were not, and would not, be deterred by the fence. Only a comprehensive reform that would address the presence of 12 million undocumented, the Times argues, would make for an effective and compassionate protection of the border. The reasoning is good and perhaps as much as the country could bite off now. But the real "push" factor, namely the poverty of so many in Mexico, is not addressed. Legalize 12 million and the borders will still be porous and busy as usual. The Times doesn't address that because it's editorial policy is wedded to an economic internationalism founded on "free trade". It has supported NAFTA and has chided Barack Obama for suggesting a re-negotiation. Still, for now, what the Times says the country should hear.

Friday, July 4, 2008

McCain in Mexico City: More Fence

John McCain's brief hunt for Hispanic votes in Colombia and Mexico was dominated by the release of the FARC hostages. But in Mexico City few noticed that he reasserted his priority for security of the borders over comprehensive reform. He promised more fence first. (See Arizona Republic article.) It didn't seem to go down well with Mexicans, though his renewed support for the North American Free Trade Agreement -- at least by the conservative Calderon administration -- and his praise of the stepped-up campaign against the drug cartels were better received. Still it's quite a stretch between a visit to Tepeyac and the hearts of Latino voters. The Gallup poll puts McCain substantially behind Barack Obama -- 59% to 29%. The Republican candidate, most commentators suggest, will need about 4o% of the Latino vote to win -- about what George W. Bush got in 2004. (On the differences between McCain and Obama on Latin America see the Washington Post.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ICE Must Report Deaths

A report by the inspector general of Homeland Security recommended that Immigration and Custom Enforce which has responsibility over detention and deportation must report all deaths of immigrants held in detention to his office and even to states. (See NY Times article.) In May some deaths of immigrants while in detention and often after they has asked for help pointed up to the woeful and negligent health care provided to detained immigrants. (See post for May 5, 2008.)