Sunday, June 28, 2009

Arizona Readies a New Batch of Anti-immigration Laws

The Arizona legislature ends its session on Tuesday, June 30, and is expected to send the governor a batch of anti-immigration bills -- e.g., charging the undocumented in the state with trespass, requiring local and state police to enforce federal law and instituting a check on undocumented children in schools. On this latter, the state has to provide education at the primary and secondary levels by the federal courts, but now their presence and progress will be noted by the school districts. Immigration advocates deplore the new assault on the undocumented, arguing it would lead to racial profiling. Even conservative municipal mayors and business leaders argue the new laws are too vague and impose too heavy burdens on local government. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NY Times Upbeat on Immigrtion Reform

The New York Times was upbeat on the recent meeting on immigration reform at the White House. The president expressed a firm desire for action this year and he brought Sen. John Mc Cain back to life on the issue. The paper even saw the caution on the guest worker program by McCain as itself an opportunity for real debate on comprehensive reform. The issue to be resolve now clearly is "future immigration flows". How are they to be managed? (See New York Times editorial.)

Recently, on the border in Arivaca, AZ, a group of maverick Minutemen -- Minutemen American Defense -- invaded a home looking, according to police, for drugs and money. They killed a man and his ten-year old daughter. They had devised a crazy scheme to protect the border by robbing drug dealers and using the money to watch the borders. (See New York Times article.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Obama Wants Immigration Reform Debated in Congress before the End of the Year

President Barack Obama, meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, asked for action on immigration reform before the end of the year -- at the latest, early next year. He has still set broad goals, but the most controversial is still "the path the citizenship". Rahm Emanuel, his Chief-of-Staff, feels the votes are not there yet. About forty Democrats from conservative districts -- :the blue dogs" -- are at best lukewarm, if not hostile. Republican votes will be needed. So the president announced a White House team, led by Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, to work with Congress.

The president sat next to Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) and praised him for bucking his party on immigration. But the senator raised another divisive issue -- the guest-work program. After a legalization and stronger enforcement that will be written in a bill as a kind of trade-off, there still will be the issue of a continuing demand for foreign workers. Business would be happy to expand the current program. But the unions want to restrict the use of the program in hard times and only allow it under strict restrictions in good times.They would change the program so that the worker would not be tied to one employer, would be allowed to bring his family, and after a time would be able to file for permanent residency. At no times would foreign workers be competitors to Americans. But McCain, after the meeting to reporters, insisted a generous guest-worker program was a deal-breaker. The onus of convincing the unions, he said, was on the president. (See New York Times article.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Obama Meets with Immigration Reform Advocates

President Barack Obama meets today with immigration reform advocates at the White House. The meeting is meant to give some push for legislation urgently demanded by Hispanic leaders. But some of the message is mixed. The Senate immigration subcommittee is wrapping up a bill that includes some features sure to rankle some reformers -- "a national system to verify work documents", with fingerprint of eyescan ID, to upset liberal Democrats; and a lukewarm attitude toward guest workers, a "non-negotiable" demand of business supporters . (See Wahington Post article.)

The White House is expected to stick to its promise of finding the elusive "pathway to citizenship" so it doesn't look like "amnesty". And the president is likely to push a more "compassionate" plan for security on the border and an e-verify upgrade that will capture more employers than desperate workers. Some of these things he's trying administratively already. Nor has he given up hope of recruiting some Republican support of a "bipartisan bill". Now the target is no so much John McCain (R, AZ), whose previous support did not impress his own party, but John Cornyn (R, TX) with a growing Hispanic constituency. Some Republicans do read the election results. Still important Democrats believe there is not likely to be an immigration reform passed this year. In part because of the crowded and already controversial issues before Congress, and in part because there doesn't seem to be the votes. (See comments of Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Luis Gutierrez in Washington Post.)

For the last few years hundreds of high school graduates visited the nation's Capitol for a graduation ceremony. Not uncommon, since thousands of high school seniors parade through the city each spring. This gathering was different -- made up of hundreds of undocumented students just graduated from American high schools. Since they are undocumented, their prospects for higher education and jobs afterwards are limited. The students came to demonstrate the unfairness and waste of talent in current law and to show support for the Dream Act. They held a mock graduation ceremony. (See Wahington Post article.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Arizona Proposes "No Trespass" Sign for Undocumented

Once before Arizona tried to combat undocumented immigration by hanging a "no trespass" sign for the undocumented immigrant. But then-Gov. Janel Napolitano vetoed it. The Arizona Senate resurrected the bill, which is now being considered by the state House. The new governor will sign a bill if it comes through. The new proposal would authorize police in the state to inquire about immigration status if they have any suspicion someone is undocumented. Immigration advocates protest this is an invitation to "profiling" all Latinos and to police harassment. In effect, the bill makes every undocumented immigrant in Arizona liable to prosecution for trespass -- "criminalizing" them according to immigration advocates. Whether the law will stand up to court scrutiny is doubtful. But while it wends its way through the courts, Latinos in Arizona will be subject to endless Sheriff Joe's "sweeps". (See Arizona Republic article.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Immigration Advocates To Meet with Obama as Reform Seems to Recede

At Friday's Hispanic prayer breakfast President Barack Obama re-pledged himself to comprehensive immigration reform that provides "a pathway to citizenship" for the 12 million undocumented in the country. He also said he would meet with congressional leaders and immigration advocates at the White House next Thursday, but hope for action seems to be receding. The president's plate is already full with health care reform and climate control legislation tying up Congress through the summer, not to mention Guantanamo and the Middle East. The Los Angeles Times reports that nothing may be done till after the 2010 elections. Even now, notwithstanding the majorities of Democrats in both houses, there seems to be little appetite to move quickly. The Senate leadership on the issue is absent -- Sen. Edward Kennedy because of health and Sen. John McCain who is AWOL. In the House the weak link are the "blue dog" Democrats -- about 40 members from conservative districts who were either silent on, or hostile to, legalization. But advocates of reform are not without powerful support. The Democrats still strongly favor comprehensive reform and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants action this year. If the issue hangs on into next year, the legislators will then become reluctant to face the electorate having favored "a path to citizenship" -- especially for the "blue dogs". That could be obviated by taking a harder line on border security and workplace enforcement -- no one welcomes that direction. Still there is no prospect that things will be better after 2010, since traditionally the party in power suffers in off-year elections. A delay might give Obama an opportunity to solidify his gains among Hispanic voters and his chances for reelection in states like Florida, Colorado and New Mexico -- perhaps even in GOP bastions like Texas and Arizona -- by thumping the issue. But the fate of 12 million undocumented should not be held in the balance for electoral politics.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama Dragging His Feet On Immigration

President Barack Obama has twice canceled meetings with congressional leaders and immigration advocates on immigration reform. At the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast he renewed his commitment to seek comprehensive immigration reform, but in rather general terms.(See Associated Press article.) He also promised to sit down for a Whitre House conference on reform this Thursday-- including even opponents to his views. The New York Times editorially chides the president for his "inaction" and complained he's taking too long. The paper also thinks congress, especially the House, should get cracking and calls for Sen John McCain to step forward to extract the GOP from the grasp of the nativists. Still it urges the president and Home Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to move now to curb the "corrupt policing" of immigration as represent by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Two youths -- the case of a third is still pending -- tried in the beating death of a an undocumented immigrant during a drunken brawl were left off with simple assault rather than more serious charges like third-degree murder. They will spend six-months behind bars. (See New York Times article.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Report Finds Immigration Courts Overwhelmed

Three years ago the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a private service to lawyers on court records, warned that the immigration courts were seriously overburdened. Congress responded by increasing the number of judges by 40, but the Bush administration only added four. There are now 234 judges. A new report by TRAC finds the situation even worse today. In 2008 the courts heard 351,477 cases, with almost half still pending at the end of the year. It also found that the judges had to make do with little staff assistance -- one lawyer clerk to three judges. This overcrowding leads to delays for those challenging deportation or seeking asylum. Often the immigrants are held in detention. (See New York Times article.)

One reason for ineffective action against drug smuggling has been a turf war between the Drug Enforcement Agency and Homeland Security. Now the Obama administration is extending enforcement powers over drug smuggling to ICE. (See New Yoek Times article.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Immigration Scam: Storefront Churches

New York State has aggressively gone after immigration scams and has come up with a source of deceit -- the storefront church. The reverends, usually self-ordained and leading minuscule congregations, offer their services to obtain green cards for congregants -- of course, with cash in the amount of $6,000 to $10,000 to cover costs. The immigrants usually see neither a green card nor their cash back. Since they're here illegally, they have been too afraid to go to authorities. The scam artists even threatens to turn them in if they complain. The New York Times tells of a case in Queens, NY, and how the state is responding. The victims were too believe the word-of-mouth news of a quick fix to their immigration woes and never thought a man of the cloth would lie and cheat them.

A suit has been entered in federal court to stop deportations of the plaintiffs' parents until there is comprehensive immigration reform. The kids argue that, if the parents are deported, they twould have to go with them. As U.S. citizens, that's depriving them of their constitutional rights. (See Washington Post article.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Hitch in Immigration Reform -- Worker ID Cards

An old idea has perked up its head again in the immigration reform debate -- universal worker ID cards. By "universal" is meant that all workers -- native and immigrant that are in the job market -- will have to carry them. Since the idea smacks of an internal passport -- and the idea was first floated when Americans roundly condemned the "pass-books" black had to carry in apartheid South Africa -- it was very unpopular and easily dismissed. But since 9/11 Americans have accepted many requirements to show identity -- at airports, at the Canadian border -- unheard of in quieter times.

This is the idea of Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), chair of the Senate immigration subcommittee and expected to be principal author of new immigration legislation. The card would afford, so the theory goes, a surer way for employers to check on the status of their workers. To avoid discrimination it would be universal. It would also give the government a better fix on who is cheating. So far most employers don't like. They argue it would be cumbersome and costly. Civil libertarians argue it could lead to "big brother" intrusiveness, and labor unions fear it as a vindictive tool that can be exploited by unfriendly employers. Immigration activists have been divided on ID card before and are likely to be divided again. (See LA Times article.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jobs and Immigration Reform

With the jobless rate at a 25 years high, the debate on immigration reform will turn much on the issue of jobs. Do the undocumented take jobs away from American workers? Especially in these hard times? Immigration advocates argue "not really" because the undocumented and American workers are not competing for the same jobs. There has been not stampede in these hard times of out-of-work Americans to chicken plucking jobs or busing tables. Perhaps on construction sites. Still opponents of reform use the stark total -- over 9% official unemployment -- to shore up an exclusionary argument. But the job market is more nuanced than aggregate numbers. There some jobs that are unattractive to even the jobless. A more credible argument the opponent of reform use is that the very presence of the undocumented in the workforce brings down all workers wages. But advocates argue more persuasively that going after greedy employers looking for cheap labor or bring the undocumented out of shadows to demand fair treatment would be more effective and lasting. Still there is conflicting evidence on the impact of the undocumented on employment. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Arizona Proposal to Criminalize the Undocumented

Republicans in the Arizona Senate have resurrected a proposal to make undocumented aliens in the state liable to arrest for "trespass". There would be criminal penalties attached. Also the proposal would prohibit any interference with the transfer of immigration information from local jurisdictions to federal. Finally, it would allow citizens to sue local jurisdictions for not cooperating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. A similar bill had previously been vetoed by Janet Napolitano as governor. The proposal was also opposed by many local enforcement agencies because it would take away from real law enforcement. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Sees Comprehensive Immigration Reform "This Year"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev) has promised comprehensive immigration reform will pass the Senate this year. Since he and Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY), chair of the Senate immigration sub-committee, are strong advocates of legalization and family reunification, it is expected the bill coming onto the Senate floor will be very favorable to undocumented immigrants. Action in the House will only follow a Senate vote. Whether Sen. Reid is being overly optimistic is a legitimate question. The legislative calendar is already crowded. Priority goes to health care and climate control. In addition there are the nomination of a supreme court justice, appropriation bills, a massive transportation bill, closing Quantanamo and other security issues. But Reid insists that immigration comes right after health care and energy. President Barack Obama meets with congressional leaders and advocacy groups June 17th. Whether this is merely a gesture to quiet immigration reformists or a real step toward action remains to be seen. (See Washington Post article.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Immigrants Restore Right to Appeal becuse of Ineffective Representation

One of the last hour executive orders sign by President George Bush was to deny the constitutional right of immigrants facing deportation to appeal because of bad legal representation. The immigration courts, which are administrative and under the US Justice Department's management, had allowed such appeals. Immigrants also have the right to appeal to federal courts. The Justice Department rescinded the order, returning practice to the previous status, and initiated a review of the issue. In federal courts, however, immigrants will not enjoy a right to appeal because of poor representation. The argument often delays deportation, even if it does not eventually succeed. (See New York Times article.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

ID Cases against Undocumented Tax-payers Appealed

The prosecutor of Weld County, Colorado, had pursued undocumented immigrants in Greeley by checking through income-tax preparation papers for identity theft. At least seventy have been charged and about 1,400 could face the same fate. Two state judges rejected the prosecutor's argument because federal taxes are a matter for the fed. But he insists the evidence came from tax preparers, not IRS records. So he is appealing. (See Washington Post article.)

Monies sent back home by Mexican immigrants have dropped sharply in April compared to the same month a year ago -- by 18%. For the first months of 200o they have drop 8%. No mystery why this is. Mexicans, immigrants and non-immigrants, are hurting because of the recession. The rate of remittance is also used by experts, friendly and hostile, to estimate the level of undocumented migration into the U.S. (See Washington Post article.)