Saturday, December 27, 2008

Roping in Sheriff Joe

A new attempt is being made to rope in the maverick sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls out his deputies and volunteer posse for "crime sweeps' of heavily Hispanic neighborhoods. They'll stop anyone for the slightest infraction and, if he or she happens to be without papers, they're turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- almost 1,500 already. Those booked at Sheriff Joe's county jail, however trivial the offense, if they are without papers are also turned over to ICE. Sheriff Joe has a contract with Homeland Security. Many immigrant advocates have denounced this practice and have gone to court, charging "racial profiling". They have been joined by Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix and now by the Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board. They have asked Homeland Security to rescind Sheriff Joe's contract. He protests he's only doing his job faithfully and effectively. But since he mostly stops Hispanics and does his sweeps in their neighborhoods, his critics are asking federal courts to stop all sweeps. The Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board members, incidentally, are selected and appointed by the governor -- in this case, Janet Napolitano, the Obama nominee to be new Secretary of Homeland Security. (See Arizona Republic article.)
One Way Ticket Back to Mexico

ICE is not the only one's issuing one-way tickets back to Mexico. Many
immigrants, laid off their jobs or facing foreclosure, are returning to
their hometowns in Mexico for the holidays -- and intend not to come
back. The Washington Post reported travel agents have seen a jump in
one-way tickets (see posting on the blog for Dec.22, 2008). And the
Chicago Tribune hitch a ride in a Ford pick-up to Michoacan. "It's the economy.
Experts think the phenomenon is real, but not that large or permanent. It's just
one more indication of the slowdown in the movement to the north and its adverse
effect on the Mexican economy -- especially the reduces flow of remittances.

Citizenship Backlog Shrinking

The Washington Post reports that the Citizenship and
Immigration Services -- a notoriously inefficient and cumbersome
bureaucracy -- has reduced the waiting time for the swearing in as citizen from
18 months to 10. But editorially the paper felt that's no big deal.
USCIS had promise by this time to bring it down to 5 months. The backlog
is still enormous -- still almost a half million. The Post urges the new
administration and Congress to give USCIS more money, so that it can
speed the process and lift the burden of paying extravagant fees off the
backs of the applicants.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Travel by Hispanics Down

Mexicans and other Latino immigrants were wont to celebrate Christmas or Easter "back home". The kids are off from school and the used SUV could easily make the trip south. But the Washington Post reports that, for D.C. area and for the nation as a whole this, this is a bleak holiday southward travel. More Latinos in Washington are from Central and South America or the Caribbean and so fly back home. Travel agents reports holiday sales down significantly. They also report a new phenomenon -- purchasing one-way tickets. It's not so much the travelers don't intend to come back, rather they're telling the travel agents of their intention to sit out the U.S. recession back home. There are also reports that remittances and gift packages are down significantly.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Economy Vs. Immigration Reform

Both advocates for immigration reform and anti-immigration restrictionists have been floating opinion polls, but tweaking them to serve their purposes. The nativists warm that American workers will not tolerate loosening of immigration restrictions during a recession and growing unemployment. Immigration advocates, admitting that the economic doldrums will hamper some of their proposed reforms, nonetheless argue that the American public is accepting of comprehensive reform. A better argument the advocates make is that president-elect barack Obama r recently renewed interest in comprehensive reform and his selection to key positions have been of peoiple friendly to immigrants. But clearly immigration reform will take its place behind economic revival and only appear in 2010 at the earliest. (See LA Times article.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hispanic Chosen New Secretary of Labor

Rep. Hilda Solis (D, CA) is expected to be chosen President-elect Barack Obama's new Secretary of Labor. Her constituency now is East Side of Los Angeles and East L.A.. (See Washington Post article.) In her new capacity she would have cgreat influence on forming the labor aspects of any immigration reform -- such as the H-2A program for guest-workers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Latino Workers and the Recession

During the current economic downturn more than 160,000 Hispanic immigrants in the construction industry have lost jobs. A sign of the times. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study deduce from that figure and others reported by the Census Bureau and the Labor Department that significant numbers of Latino workers have disappeared from the labor market -- supposedly to return to Mexico. There is an irony here -- the number of Latino workers is growing, but at a greatly reduced rate. Still overall unemployment rate of Latinos -- 7.9& -- is significantly higher than the overall rate -- 6.1%. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

H-2A Changes: A Cheap Shot at Workers

The New York Times' editorial has condemned the proposed changes in the guest-workers program, H-2A, as a cheap shot against workers -- both native and immigrant. (See posting for December 12, 2008.) The need to attract temporary agricultural workers has led the Bush administration to relax requirements for visas. The Times, labor and immigrant advocates claim these changes will not help workers -- or most growers for that matter. They deny the rights of U.S. citizens and legal aliens by by-passing the requirement to recruit first in the local job market, and also they refuse for opportunity for current undocumented workers, who may have worked here for years and developed not easily replaceable skills. A better answer to the need of guest-worker in agriculture would to AgJobs, a program agreed between growers and farm-worker advocates that was part of the comprehensive reform in the Senate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bush Administration to Publish Changes in the Guest Workers Program

Changes in the H-2A guest worker program are to be published shortly by the Bush administration
and go into effect two days before Barack Obama is to be inaugurated. The Labor Department claims these changes will streamline the recruiting of workers. There had been a serious drop-off in agricultural workers last summer. But the changes seem to please no one. Many farmers do not participate in the H-2A program because of its bureaucracy and so are responsible for the wide use of undocumented workers. The new regs allow for a relaxation of the requirements to seek U.S. workers first and they allow for a reduction in wages and the obligation of employers to provide amenities, such as housing. Immigrant and labor activists strenuously denounce the changes, but agree with agricultural interests that they miss the real need -- that of legalizing the state of the undocumented workers already in U.S. fields. (See NY Times article.) California is the largest agricultural state and employs 40% of farm workers, yet few farmers use the H-2A program. (See LA Times article.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

ICE's Boss Hired Illegals

Shocking headline -- that the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, one of whose main jobs is to keep America free of" illegals" -- had them cleaning his house. Actually he didn't" hire" undocumented workers, but rather contracted a cleaning firm to do his house. Some of the workers they sent were undocumented wh evaded the scrutiny of the Secret Service. Not as brazen as the ICE boss in New England who knowingly hired an undocumented Brazilian woman to clean house for years; and it was known to her colleagues who warned her against it. It only goes to show that the presence of the illegals is so pervasive, because we need them and want them. Now let's be fair to them. (See Wagington Post article.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jamiel's Law on Los Angeles Ballot

Jamiel Shaw was a promising high school football star in Los Angeles till shoot down by an undocumented Central American gang member. The killing stirred a controversy about LA's practice of not inquiring into immigration status -- known as Special Order 40. (See posting for April 4, 2008.) Jamiel's father has led a campaign to overturn the policy and allow the police to arrest gang-bangers here illegally. The LAPD and immigrant advocates have opposed the law, since they fear it could to extend so far as to amount to racial profiling. The LA order already allows the police to work with ICE in criminal cases involving the undocumented. Rebuffed by the City Council, proponents of Jamiel's law have gather enough signatures to place it as a referendum measure on the May municipal election ballot. (See LA Times article.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Border Patrol Jumps to Over 18,000

The Associated Press reports that the Border Patrol now exceeds the number of new recruits promised by President George W. Bush in 2006. There are currently more than 18,000 agents. Many have just been recruited or have less than two years on the job. That raises suspicions as to how effective the new recruits will be. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, no friend of the immigrant, is skeptical. Immigrant activists along the border have long complained about the excess of violence by the Border Patrol and the level of corruption in it. The Government Office of Accountability had questioned the ability of the agency to absorb so many new agents.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Developed World Needs Migrant Workers

The UN's International Organization for Migration reports that, even in the current economic slow-down, the rich, developed countries will need foreign workers. (See Washington Post article.) Not only will they need high-skill workers to pick up the slack in the professional workforce, but also low-skill workers for jobs native workers will not do. Already there are 200 million migrant or foreign worker throughout the world -- an estimate 45 million in North America. The report sees demand only growing as native population grow declines and baby-boomers retire.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Napolitano at Homeland Security

The nomination of Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona, to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) and so take responsibility for immigration issues has gained mixed reviews from immigration advocates. A NY Times editorial praises the appointment and suggests how she could go about promoting true immigration reform. A LA Times article suggests her history as governor makes for some ambiguity in what she'll be doing. Actual reform will have to come through the Congress, where quick passage of at least the DREAM Act is expected. Still administratively, as the NY times editorial suggests, she can do much good. Napolitano is seen by her friends as "a realist" in Arizona -- e.g., signing the employers' sanction bill lest the state legislature came up with something worse. Others will await her performance at DHS skeptically.