CIS: Noticias sobre migración
U.S. Immigration News
1. Vice President speaks on immigration at NY event
2. Senate immigration stalled by disagreement between labor, business (story, link)
3. Senators lean toward point-based immigration system
4. AZ senator says leaks damaging immigration talks
5. FL senator hires Democratic lawyer to draft immigration bill
6. GA Rep. says Republicans 'getting soft' on immigration
7. Border security benchmarks could sink amnesty plan
8. IL Rep. unsure about progress on amnesty
9. GOP says union to blame if amnesty plan fails
10. Study: Mexican New Yorkers more likely to live in poor households
11. Poll: Amnesty boosts GOP appeal to Latino voters
12. Some illegal aliens back in custody after surprise release
13. Judge to hear lawsuit on AZ driver's license ban
14. Judge tosses lawsuit over FL detention center
15. GA, national GOP diverge on immigration
16. OR Senate approves illegal alien tuition bill
17. CO immigration activists train to push amnesty
18. NC drops pink stripe for illegal alien driver's licenses
19. Some young illegal aliens may benefit from special victims visas
20. Advocates push for inclusion of same-sex couples in immigration talks
21. Weapon seizures double at Detroit border crossing
22. AZ activists hold vigil on second anniversary of fatal Border Patrol shooting
23. Illegal aliens protest ICE detention center in TX
24. Wounded Border agent recovering after deadly TX shootout
25. Intoxicated illegal alien leads police on chase (link)
U.S. Immigration News
Biden in NY: Reform immigration, keep expertise
The Associated Press, March 21, 2013
Vice President Joe Biden says it's a waste for the United States to keep sending highly trained professionals back to their homelands instead of reforming immigration and keeping them.
Biden spoke Thursday in New York City after being inducted into a hall of fame sponsored by Irish America Magazine.
He told a gathering of successful Irish-Americans that he wouldn't be vice president if his own struggling Irish ancestors hadn't been welcome 19th century immigrants, with their whole families.
Now, each year, Biden says tens of thousands of foreigners with U.S. graduate degrees are returned to their native lands.
The vice president says the immigration system must be "fixed."
Return to Top
Senators hit late snag in immigration talks
By Kate Nocera, Manu Raju, and Anna Palmer
Politico (DC), March 22, 2013
Senators in the Gang of Eight were moving closer Friday morning to a deal on sweeping comprehensive immigration legislation, but last-minute haggling between Big Business and Big Labor complicated efforts to finalize an agreement before the two-week Easter recess.
Sources familiar with the talks said Friday that labor officials with the AFL-CIO had proposed a plan to attract lower-skilled foreign workers into the U.S., and Republicans in the group appeared to be largely on board.
But sources said Friday that business officials — led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — balked at that approach, forcing the negotiators to reopen the talks.
"The Republicans have been pressured by business to get workers to bleed a nickel or more," Ana Avendaño, director of immigration at the AFL-CIO, told POLITICO. "We’ve just reached a point where business has gotten too greedy and they’ve gone over the edge. They are trying to hold up comprehensive immigration reform for $2.50 for waiters in Florida."
Business groups told Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham — two key GOP negotiators — that the labor proposal was unworkable, according to a business lobbyist familiar with the discussions.
Under the bipartisan outline of a deal the Gang of Eight reached in January, businesses would be able to hire lower-skilled immigrant workers when Americans were not available or willing to fill jobs.The outline calls for a program for immigrants to fill farm worker positions when Americans are unavailable. It would create a sliding scale based on the economy’s strength, allowing for more lower-skilled immigrants to enter the country in periods of job growth and for fewer foreign low-skilled workers when the economy is sagging.
The details remain difficult to resolve, but negotiators expressed optimism that they could move closer to a deal before the start of the recess.
"We’re close," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), after group members huddled Friday morning. "Nothing is ever agreed to until it’s all agreed to, but we’re close."
The goal of the senators is to finalize an agreement before they leave town, and that would allow aides to draft legislation over the break so the senators could formally introduce the bill when they return. They have already resolved a bevy of thorny issues, including the so-called pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million immigrants.
Under the agreement, there would be a 13-year timeframe for illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship, under a range of conditions, including new enforcement measures at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"They’re making a lot of progress," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told POLITICO. He said that the bill would be in the "short queue" of bills to bring to the floor, following action on gun control and water resources development.
As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) left the meeting he said he didn’t "have anything to report," but the gang was still working through details.
"No detail on immigration is minor. They are all important because you are dealing with people," he said.
Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Hispanic media that "about 90 percent of the issues, including the path to citizenship, are settled," and added that they were meeting "hours" a day to try and finalize an agreement.
Guest-Worker Visas Sticking Point on Immigration Rewrite
By Julie Hirschfeld & Kathleen Hunter
Bloomberg, March 22, 2013
Return to Top
Senators lean toward point-based immigration system, giving workers more of an edge
By Franco Ordonez
McClatchy Newspapers, March 22, 2013
Senators working on a comprehensive immigration plan are quietly talking about letting people into the United States by giving more weight to potential job skills and less weight to family connections than now exists – a departure from the current system and one sure to rile immigrant advocates while pleasing business interests.
The system would award points for a person’s various characteristics, and it would place greater emphasis than the current system on future immigrants’ ability to make long-term economic contributions.
The senators hope to introduce a bill next month, but before they can, they have to come to agreement on how to deal with the United States’ future flow of immigrants.
"Everyone focuses on what to do with those who are illegally here, but the real complicated thing about this bill is how to restructure future legal immigration and in a way that’s pro-American," said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and member of the bipartisan Senate group working on a deal.
Central to the discussion are these questions: Who should be allowed in? And how can another mass wave of illegal immigration be prevented? The answers will say much about the nation’s values and how Congress sees the United States’ economic future.
Dealing with future legal immigration is just one of the many thorny issues facing the so-called "Gang of Eight," a bipartisan group of senators who are writing immigration legislation. Other questions include when to declare a secure border and how to structure an undocumented immigrant’s path to legal residency and, eventually, citizenship.
For future immigrants, critics charge that so-called merit programs, which give preference to new immigrants with particular skills, split up families. An unskilled adult child or sibling from abroad might received fewer points than, say, a single person with a coveted background in engineering.
But the senators say they’re working to develop a plan that meets economic labor needs without dismantling the current family-based programs that have served as the core of the American immigration system for the past several decades.
"I think everyone recognizes that a 21st century legal immigration system has to have a heavier merit component," said Rubio, "but we also all recognize – I, for example, am in favor of a family-based system. So finding a right balance is what we’re trying to work through."
Rubio and other members of the Gang of Eight – Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – would not give specifics on how the new system would be implemented. They emphasized that nothing has been agreed upon.
Currently, there are several visa categories for new, legal immigrants: family-based, employment-based, humanitarian cases and those allowed in under a diversity lottery.
The four Democrats and four Republicans have been meeting every day this week trying to work out about a half-dozen sticking points as they near a self-imposed deadline to introduce new legislation early next month.
Republicans would like to increase the number of employment-based visas, which is currently capped at 140,000 a year. And Republicans Graham and Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, a member of the House bipartisan immigration team, have both suggested they would be open to more restrictions on some family visas.
"My goal has been to create an economic-based immigration system going forward," Graham said this week. "That would mean we’d make decisions based on economic needs of the country, which our current immigration system does not."
The possibility of a point system has increased concerns among some advocates that business needs for immigrant workers would come at the expense of immigrant families.
A merit-based point system was part of the failed 2007 immigration effort in Congress. That proposal caused a furor as it would have replaced the existing family-based system with one that awarded specific points based on job qualifications, English skills and family connections, among other categories.
Those familiar with the current talks say the Senate plan is different than the 2007 version, though they won’t give specifics on how.
But advocates say reintroducing a point system like those used in Canada or Europe would only make an already complicated immigration system worse.
"Let’s just get back to the basics with this. Do you have a close family member who is already an American or a legal resident on their way to being an American?" said Lynn Tramonte, deputy director at America’s Voice, an advocacy group that supports comprehensive immigration legislation. "Do you have a work ethic that we want in this country? And if you do then that should be the criteria for you to get a shot at a visa."
Advocacy groups have been growing concerned that the Senate plan would eliminate the ability of citizens to sponsor their married adult children and siblings.
Under current law, these are the third and fourth categories of the family preference program, and they account for about 90,000 new permanent residents each year.
The first two categories for unmarried children and spouses would remain intact.
An estimated 3.4 million people are on the waiting list to get visas in the third and fourth category, including more than a half-million South Asians, according to the Washington-based advocacy group South Asian Americans Leading Together.
"It’s a lot of people who are waiting to join South Asian Americans and Asian Americans who live in this country," said executive director Deepa Iyer. "We do think that when someone becomes an adult child that they’re still part of your family. And I think American families believe that as well."
Iyer said family and economic needs are not mutually exclusive. Immigrant families pull resources together to start small businesses, strengthen community networks, and help newer immigrants integrate into society.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the needs of women and family in a new immigration plan, freshman Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii cautioned her Senate colleagues against increasing the number of employment-based visas at the expense of immigrant families.
"I don’t think that we should be setting up an either/or proposition because, of course, even those people who are the most highly educated and skilled immigrants, they have families, too," she said.
Return to Top
McCain: Media leaks damaging Gang of 8 immigration talks
By Jordy Yager
The Hill (DC), March 21, 2013
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday said leaks to the media have hurt the progress of the Senate’s closed-door talks on immigration reform.
McCain said the leaks are damaging because they don’t give the public the whole picture of how the negotiations are proceeding.
He is a member of the Gang of Eight senators involved in protracted discussions over an immigration deal that the group hopes will be completed by the end of the month.
"I’m not discussing what we’re discussing," said McCain to reporters gathered near the Senate’s subway.
"One of the things, frankly, that has hurt us, is the selective leaks that have gone on. It’s been very unhelpful to the progress we’ve been trying to make," he said.
"Sometimes the leaks are accurate. Sometimes they’re inaccurate. Sometimes they have to do with ongoing discussions we’re having. It never helps to have selective leaks on any issue that I’ve ever been involved in, until you get the final product and then everybody has a whole picture."
The other members of the group are Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
Leaks from the senators have been minimal and revealed only how the talks are developing, with little mention of the details.
Republicans have heavily criticized the White House's leak last month of a draft copy of the president's immigration proposal.
Earlier Thursday, Schumer told reporters that the group was meeting for several hours over the course of the day and had made significant progress.
A sticking point for the senators is how to deal with differing opinions on the number of high-skilled temporary guest-worker visas to grant.
Senators are considering raising the current cap on visas from 65,000, which does not include an additional 20,000 for immigrants with advanced educational degrees.
Another problem arose on Thursday when a spokesman for the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO said that the union does not support the Chamber of Commerce’s desire to increase the number of low-skilled guest worker visas that are granted. The union spokesman told CQ Roll Call that expanding the number of "W" visas would hurt American construction workers.
McCain said the Gang of Eight’s final proposal would not please everyone and that each side needs to compromise.
"I’m sure that whatever we agree to will not satisfy anyone, because we have to make compromises in order to get a broad bipartisan agreement," McCain said. "I’m sure that everyone will want something better."
Return to Top
Rubio hires immigration lawyer who imports workers for companies
By Neil Munro
The Daily Caller, March 21, 2013
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s top lawyer in the closed-door effort to draft a new immigration bill is a Democratic donor who earns his living by bringing foreign workers into the country on behalf of corporations and universities.
The lawyer, Enrique Gonzalez, is a partner at the nation’s largest immigration firm, whose future depends on the outcome of Gonzalez’s closed-door work.
Rubio hired Gonzalez in January, when he was a partner at the Coral Gables, Fla., office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy.
Gonzales’ LinkedIn profile describes his "skills & expertise" as "immigration law, H-1B, naturalization, citizenship appeals … [and] international law visas."
Fragomen’s website says the firm has "a diverse client base ranging from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies … [plus clients in] Colleges, Universities and Research Institutions, as well as in the energy, entertainment, hospitality (including cruise lines), health care and technology industries."
"We assist companies with all types of business immigration services, including a particular focus on corporate compliance issues (I-9 and E-verify), J-1 Exchange Visitor programs and H-2B visa issues [and] our vibrant individual practice encompasses investors (including EB-5), artists, entertainers and athletes, as well as a broad range of family immigration matters," the firm said.
Gonzalez cut his ties to the firm when he left in January, R. Blake Chisam, a D.C.-based Fragomen partner, told TheDC. "It was a clean break," he said.
From 2008 to 2012, Gonzalez also donated $6,950 to Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, who ousted Republican Rep. David Rivera from his Florida seat in 2012.
In January, Garcia applauded Rubio’s decision to join the "gang of eight" senators’ comprehensive immigration plan.
"I wholeheartedly welcome Senator Rubio’s and others evolution on this important issue, and welcome with them with open arms to join our cause. … What is most encouraging about their plan is the earned pathway to citizenship, which must be reasonable and begin quickly," he said in a statement.
Gonzalez did not contribute to any GOP candidates, according to the Open Secrets website.
A March 20 report by the Washington Post said Rubio’s pending bill would double the number of H-1b visas that companies use to hire low-cost high-tech workers, and allow universities to provide residency cards and work permits to an unlimited number of fee-paying graduate foreign students.
Critics say both measures would reduce wages and employment prospects for American middle-class college graduates.
Gonzalez is also a speaker at conferences organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which is a special-interest network for the nation’s immigration lawyers.
Rubio’s office did not respond to questions from The Daily Caller. However, in recent weeks he has said that he wants to protect U.S. workers, and has positioned himself for the 2016 presidential race as a champion of the middle class amid a rapidly changing, high-tech, global economy.
The immigration bill is being drafted by eight senators and their expert staffers, and is expected to be released after the Easter recess.
Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham, the chief drivers of immigration reform in their respective parties, each favor passage of a comprehensive bill that provides work permits and citizenship to at least 11 million illegal immigrants, and eventually to their foreign family members. They also want the bill to allow companies to bring in more foreign workers for tough agricultural jobs, low-status service jobs in hotels and restaurants, and high-status, high-skilled professional jobs.
Under current law, companies can bring in roughly 200,000 workers each year — or approximately one foreign worker for every six Americans who graduate from school or college.
The proposed law reportedly would add 60,000 to 85,000 H-1B visas, and an unlimited number of green cards for university post-grads.
Schumer’s top immigration aide is also an immigration lawyer, whose career will be shaped by the law he is helping to write. Leon Fresco previously worked at Holland & Knight, where he "represented corporations in … corporate immigration matters," according to EB5info.com, a website on immigration law.
Rubio joined the senators’ group after he dropped his own calls for the passage of several small-scale immigration reforms, and abandoned his demand for a so-called "trigger" that would freeze the awarding of visas and green cards until enforcement measures were actually implemented.
Return to Top
Paul Broun: Republicans 'Getting Soft' On Immigration
By Elise Foley
The Huffington Post, March 22, 2013
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Friday that his fellow conservatives are "getting soft" on immigration enforcement by expressing openness to the legalization of undocumented immigrants -- a move that he said would cause a massive increase in unauthorized immigration.
"I've had a long discussion with some of my members, who are getting soft on the issue," Broun said. "But Laura, until we secure the border nothing else matters. And if we start opening up discussion and showing folks from outside this country that we're going to legalize and give amnesty to other folks that come here illegally, all that's going to do is cause a flood. And that's going to create cost to federal government."
Ingraham asked the Tea Party congressman whether he, like other members of his party, might support legalization and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
"No I'm not, absolutely not," he replied. "These illegal aliens are criminals and we need to treat them as such. I'm not in favor of giving amnesty to anybody who has broken the law. I applaud what our Georgia legislature is doing in trying to crack down on this situation."
A key provision of Georgia's strict immigration law, modeled after Arizona's controversial SB 1070, was blocked by a federal judge earlier this week.
Broun's view used to be the mainstream position of his party, but its shift to the center on immigration reform has left many of those with his stance behind. The Republican National Committee endorsed comprehensive immigration reform -- without delving into many specifics -- on Monday, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that undocumented immigrants should be legalized and given the opportunity to become citizens.
Six conservative House members -- Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Trey Radel (R-Fla.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) -- voiced their support for Paul in a letter on Thursday, not exactly endorsing a path to citizenship but not entirely ruling it out.
"You noted Tuesday in your remarks to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that 'somewhere along the line, Republicans have failed to understand and articulate that immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability,' and that the Republican Party must embrace more legal immigration," they wrote to Paul. "We wholeheartedly agree -- and stand alongside you in your efforts."
Paul has argued his proposals for strict border enforcement, to be tracked yearly, would ensure a stop to future unauthorized immigration. A framework put forward by the so-called "gang of eight" in the Senate, which hopes to have a bill in early April, would similarly tie legalization measures for the undocumented to border enforcement.
Return to Top
Border Triggers Could Sink Immigration Deal
By Fawn Johnson
The National Journal, March 22, 2013
Republicans' insistence that border-security benchmarks be met before legalizing 11-12 million illegal immigrants could sink an emerging compromise measure that is expected to be unveiled in a few weeks.
The "Gang of Eight" senators negotiating a sweeping immigration bill are on track to unveil draft legislation at the beginning of April, according to congressional aides. Similarly, a bipartisan group of House members is honing its own version. The cornerstone of both measures is a mass probationary legalization of noncriminal undocumented immigrants.
Legalization is a significant concession from Republicans, who are reluctant to give breaks to immigrants who violated the law. They acknowledge, however, that mass deportation is not possible and that millions of illegal residents are bad for national security.
Conservatives are worried that once a bill passes, legalization will take the pressure off immigration authorities to stop further illegal entry and to find and deport those who manage to make it in without authorization. To keep that from happening, the negotiators are discussing a variety of enforcement-related benchmarks, or "triggers," that would need to be met before the population of undocumented immigrants can move toward citizenship.
But some lawmakers worry that forestalling citizenship in the name of border security may not be enough of an incentive for the authorities. After all, only half of legal immigrants in the country now go to the trouble of becoming U.S. citizens. Once the illegal population is given provisional legal status, they might not be clamoring as hard for government action that would allow them to become full-fledged citizens.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a leading voice for tea-party conservatives on immigration, has suggested that even the probationary legalization of illegal immigrants should wait until some enforcement mechanisms are in place. "We have to have enforcement triggers happen before anyone receives any kind of legal status," he said Wednesday. "Certain objective triggers that we can measure."
Labrador is walking a tightrope between the tea-party House members who follow his lead on immigration and the immigrant-friendly lawmakers with whom he is trying to strike a deal. The two groups don’t speak the same language. For hardcore conservatives, only tough enforcement benchmarks could give them enough comfort to support the legislation. "We cannot simply legalize 12 million people and enforce the laws later," Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday.
But Labrador’s suggestion is a deal-breaker for immigrant advocates and Democrats. "Whoever’s saying that, they’re trying to kill the bill before it even gets started," said Alison Reardon, legislative consultant for the Service Employees International Union, which represents thousands of immigrant workers. "We should continue to work to secure our borders, but there’s no way to do that and wait for legalization. Border security is an ongoing thing."
The Obama administration isn’t helping on this front, because it has been more aggressive than any previous administration in deporting and detaining illegal immigrants. Almost half of those in deportation proceedings have committed no other crimes.
Stopping the current flow of deportations is the top priority for the Latino and immigrant communities, who are closely watching Congress’s deliberations. "You’ll deport 1,400 people today. You’ll deport 1,400 people tomorrow and the next day and the next day until we do comprehensive immigration reform," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., at a hearing Tuesday where the Homeland Security Department’s director of immigration and customs enforcement, John Morton, explained the detention and deportation practices.
There may be a middle ground between the two sides of the issue. DHS can certainly up its enforcement game, particularly on the border, while it is drafting rules for legalizing the illegal population. Once a bill passes, the immigration-enforcement agencies can also be directed to hold off on any new detentions of illegal immigrants who might qualify for probationary legal status. That generally would not affect activities along the border because very recent illegal entrants to the United States would not qualify for legalization in any case.
It all comes down to the optics and the details. Will the bill's enforcement provisions be tough enough to satisfy conservatives? Will the legalization provisions be generous enough to satisfy civil-rights and immigration-reform groups? If the answer to both questions is "yes," the legislation will pass. If not, it will make for an impressive political showdown.
Return to Top
Progress on Immigration Reform Leaves Rep. Gutierrez Elated and Wary
By Kawme Holman
PBS, March 21, 2013
This week, the Republican National Committee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Speaker of the House John Boehner all have endorsed bipartisan work in Congress toward comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
But Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., still worries.
"I'm not sleeping because I'm thinking about what [more] needs to be done," said the 10-term Democratic congressman from Chicago. "There are other more nefarious forces out there."
Gutierrez has made securing a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented residents living in the U.S. -- most of them Hispanic -- a personal mission. Now that he's closer than ever to the goal, he's not letting up on his image as a tireless, vocal firebrand widely considered the preeminent voice for immigration reform in Congress.
He's led rallies against the deportation policies of President Barack Obama and challenged Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders who support immigration reform to push harder and faster for a comprehensive bill.
But Gutierrez now says the November election may have done for the cause what all his years of hectoring the political class could not.
"I said this before the election. Everybody said, what's going to change, Luis? What's going to change if we vote for Barack Obama? All these deportations, people getting arrested," Gutierrez said in an interview with PBS NewsHour. "I remember saying, oh, I'm working for Obama. I'm gonna make sure he gets elected because the victory is going to be so huge he's going to be indebted to Latinos."
Latinos voted overwhelmingly for the president and other Democrats, and that changed the calculus of Republicans as well, Gutierrez said. "That vote was so huge and numerous that Republicans, who had always wanted to either take this [immigration reform] off the table or -- many more -- who were our allies, our partners" could now support comprehensive reform, he said.
Working closely with Republicans, as he did several years ago during the last run at comprehensive immigration reform, Gutierrez is part of a small group in Congress quietly fashioning a bill.It's allowed the liberal former Chicago city council member to forge new bonds despite ideological differences.
"There are a lot of wonderful personal relationships that are being developed across the aisle between people who politically have nothing else in common, who come to this issue, this 'public policy matter,' [they] you would say, so that it would be drained of any emotion, right? - from a different perspective. I see it as a civil rights issue, as a human rights issue," Gutierrez said.
As the economic, political, and practical advantages of immigration reform get voiced by both parties, he believes potential obstacles to passing a final bill continue to fall away. And he says he's less worried than before about one such pitfall -- the demand by some conservatives that undocumented residents not be allowed to become U.S. citizens but only legalized residents."I start from the premise that never again will we allow America to let there be a permanent second-class anything. We had a civil war over that," Gutierrez said. "We're not going to revisit it now. We're not gonna allow a permanent subclass of Americans."
Predictions are that immigration bills in the House and Senate will be unveiled formally after next week's Spring congressional recess. Legislation could arrive on the president's desk before summer's end.
But some advocates worry something they can't see now, such as the grassroots "anti-amnesty" movement that scuttled public opinion support for a law six years ago, could arise again.
Gutierrez says it's what keeps him from sleeping well.
"There are days when I say to myself, 'wow, we have fought against forces in this nation who have just said no -- vehemently -- to anything that isn't they-should-pack-up-and-leave," he said. "I just can't believe that they're not organizing somewhere getting ready and I'm being lulled into a false sense of where we're at."
Return to Top
GOP: Unions to blame if immigration reform fails
By Anna Palmer and Kate Nocera
Politico (DC), March 21, 2013
An immigration reform bill hasn’t even been unveiled, but key Republican lawmakers are already singling out unions as the reason why a deal could fail.
The GOP offensive taps into long-simmering disagreement between the business community and unions over how to handle visas for low-skilled workers, which was one key reason why comprehensive immigration reform failed in 2007, the last time the issue was debated seriously in Washington.
Sen. Marco Rubio told POLITICO the guest worker program is key to his supporting immigration reform.
"I don’t think it’s any secret that in the past, unions killed immigration reform," Sen. Marco Rubio said. "I think because of pressure from some of their members, they’ve at least publicly changed their stance on this. But I don’t think they are doing cartwheels over this."
Republicans are walking a fine line on immigration reform, trying not to alienate their base while hoping to attract millions of Latino voters that supported Democrats in the 2012 election.
An immigration package without a guest worker program is almost guaranteed to fail.
"I’m not going to be a part of a bill that doesn’t create a process so people can come temporarily to work if we need them," Rubio said. "They can’t undercut American workers, but if we don’t have a system for foreign workers to come temporarily when we need them, we’re going to have an illegal immigration problem again."
Unions take issue with Rubio’s position that they aren’t working in good faith to find a compromise for how visas for low-skilled workers should be regulated.
AFL-CIO’s Ana Avendaño said that Republicans trying to cast unions as the reason for immigration reform to fail "reek of desperation."
"It is their last gasp of trying to rewrite the rules of future flow to undermine the wages of local workers," Avendaño said, arguing that constituents and the Latino population wouldn’t be swayed by Rubio’s argument that a plan for low-wage workers held up citizenship for 11 million people.
But Rubio is hardly alone. Other Republican leaders on immigration reform like Rep. Raul Labrador are also sounding the alarm against unions. An amendment that President Barack Obama backed in 2007 would have stripped out the guest worker provision and was one of the issues that thwarted immigration reform happening last time. Republican opposition to immigration reform at the time was well-documented.
"It’s the labor unions who do not want a guest worker program that’s viable, that’s functional," the Idaho Republican said. "They’re fighting right now in the Senate to make the guest worker program so unwieldy, so expensive that no one will use it."
He added: "There’s no way that a Republican would vote for immigration without a workable guest worker program. I think the unions know that, and if you see any break apart in this immigration reform thing that we’re doing, it’s going to be because the unions and the Democratic senators are unwilling to do what the American people want because they are willing to put the labor unions ahead of the American people."
The push against unions comes as the so-called Gang of Eight senators appear to be closing in on a deal for immigration reform.
The disagreement over how to handle visas for low-skilled workers has been brewing for months. Senators tasked the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December to come to an agreement over how to deal with the so-called future flow piece.
The two groups had been meeting for weeks but failed to come to a compromise. Despite putting out a list of principles, the two sides were unable to put more details together and decided to work with the Senate negotiators instead.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez acknowledged at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Tuesday that it was a "thorny issue."
"We cannot fix our broken immigration system without a future flow program or we will confront the same problem in 10 or 15 years," said the Illinois Democrat, who is a long-standing proponent of immigration reform. "I’ve already agreed to a [guest worker program] in 2005. When I went to see Sen. McCain in 2002 and as I left his office … he said ‘Oh Luis, remember you Democrats are going to have to figure out a way to allow future flow, and guest workers, that’s going to be your challenge as you leave here. And I said he needed to figure out a way to get Republicans to want to let everybody stay. And today, those are the two things we’re still challenged with."
Unions and immigration reform proponents argue that Republicans are unfairly characterizing the role future flow played in the downfall of previous immigration reform efforts.
"It’s a complete revisionist history to say the labor movement brought down the 2007 immigration bill," Avendaño said, arguing that the bill was hemorrhaging support at the end.
Frank Sharry, founder of America’s Voice, blamed the downfall of the bill on a revolt of the right.
"The conservative media was in full-throated opposition. They wanted to give Bush and establishment Republicans a bloody nose," Sharry said. "Were there divisions on the left, yes. Did it demobilize us to an extent, yes. Was it the major reason we lost, not even close."
Return to Top
Mexican New Yorkers Are More Likely to Live in Poor Households
By Kirk Semple
The New York Times, March 21, 2013
People of Mexican descent in New York City are far more likely to be living in poor or near-poor households than other Latinos, blacks, whites or Asians, according to a study to be released on Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds of the city’s Mexican residents, including immigrants and the native-born, are living in low-income households, compared with 55 percent of all Latinos; 42 percent of blacks and Asians; and 25 percent of whites, said the report by the Community Service Society, a research and advocacy group in New York City that focuses on poverty.
The rates are even more pronounced for children: About 79 percent of all Mexicans under age 16 in New York City live in low-income households, with about 45 percent living below the poverty line — significantly higher percentages than any other major Latino group as well as the broader population.
While the Mexican immigrants enjoy exceptionally high rates of employment, their salaries are not sufficient to support young families, the study’s authors said.
"Immigrant Mexicans appear to be having great difficulty making ends meet as they start families here," said the study, which sought to assess socio-economic trends among young people of Mexican origin in New York City. "Incomes that might support one individual on their own or in a shared household are not enough to support a family."
"The result could be a cycle of poverty that will pass down from generation to generation," the authors warned.
The study defined low-income households as those making below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is equivalent to about $38,000 for a family of three.
The study was commissioned by the Deutsche Bank Foundation following the publication of an article in The New York Times in 2011 about extraordinarily low educational achievement among Mexican immigrants in New York City. The foundation has also started an initiative intended to improve the educational and economic achievement of the Mexican population in New York City, with an emphasis on children and their families.
The study reaffirmed The Times’s statistical and anecdotal findings about low educational achievement among first-generation Mexican immigrants. Based largely on data from the American Community Survey, the report did not try to analyze the legal status of its focus populations.
The researchers identified what they called "a promising sign" for the city’s growing Mexican population: about 67 percent of all native-born Mexicans between 16 and 24 living in the city were enrolled in school, a higher percentage than Puerto Ricans (54 percent) as well as native-born Dominicans (64 percent), native-born blacks (60 percent) and native-born whites (64 percent), though lower than native-born Asians (78 percent).
Still, even this finding was cast in shadow by more bleak data: Mexican youth who have left school — native-born and foreign-born alike — have considerably lower levels of educational attainment than their peers, with more than half lacking a high school diploma.
"The fact that native-born Mexican young people are less likely than other Latinos (and other racial/ethnic groups) to attain high school diplomas and enroll in college is extremely troubling," the report said.
The authors concluded their study by recommending policy initiatives that would provide more educational and social support for Mexican children, families and low-wage workers, including increasing access to job training and English-language programs and raising the minimum wage, something that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers are hoping to achieve.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The full report is available at:
Return to Top
Immigration Reform Boosts Republican Appeal To Latino Voters, Poll Shows
By Jannell Ross
The Huffington Post, March 21, 2013
Warnings about the Republican Party’s future have been dire since the November elections. Find a way to attract minority voters –- particularly the nation’s fast-growing Latino population -– or face losing the White House and down-ballot races for decades.
An analysis of a poll released this month by the independent polling firm Latino Decisions found that neither Republicans nor Democrats should rest easy.
In a hypothetical election match-up between a Republican candidate who supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants against a Democrat who opposes citizenship, 61 percent of Latinos who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 said they would would choose the Republican, according to the poll. Another 43 percent of Latino Obama supporters said they would become more likely to consider or vote for a Republican if the party plays a major role in comprehensive immigration reform. In fact, 41 percent of Obama’s Latino voters have already cast a ballot in favor of a down-ticket Republican seeking federal, state or local office, the poll found.
The possible good news for Democrats and undocumented immigrants is that even Latinos who identify as Republicans seem prepared to insist on comprehensive immigration reform. About 64 percent of Latino Republicans described comprehensive immigration reform as "very" or "extremely" important, according to the Latino Decisions analysis. And nearly 70 percent of Latino Republicans said they wanted an immigration plan with a clear pathway to citizenship.
Bipartisan groups of senators and House members are working on comprehensive immigration reform. This week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), kind of, sort of endorsed immigration reform.
Latino Decisions interviewed 800 Latino registered voters via landline and mobile phone in every state from Feb. 15 to Feb. 26. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
Return to Top
Some immigration detainees back in custody weeks after surprise release
By Gustavo Valdes
CNN, March 21, 2013
After months in an immigration detention facility, Hector Adame was so surprised when guards said he could go that he didn't believe them.
"They had to shout (the news) at him so he would leave," his wife, Victorina, said this week.
The family soon learned that Adame -- who had first been arrested on a drunk driving charge -- was one of more than 2,000 immigration detainees federal authorities released last month in a controversial move that officials said would cut costs as forced budget cuts loomed.
But the construction worker's joy at being released was short-lived. Now, the undocumented immigrant is back behind bars. So are more than two dozen others, according to federal officials.
"The 28 individuals were brought back into ICE custody after either violating the terms of their supervision or after the agency discovered information not available during an initial review of their case," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said in a written statement. "ICE will continue to review the terms of the release for the individuals as part of its routine practice and will reconsider conditions as necessary."
Adame was detained again after an arrest for driving without a license, his wife says, adding that she thinks authorities targeted him because they wanted to send him back to the detention facility.
"They were waiting for him," Victorina Adame says.
Debate over the decision to release detainees resurged this week at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, where some lawmakers accused the country's top immigration official of releasing detainees for political reasons.
"This release is a recipe for disaster that is irresponsible and unjustified," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia who chairs the committee. "Ultimately, these nonsensical actions demonstrate the inability and lack of desire on behalf of the administration to enforce the law even against illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes."
ICE officials have said the move was made because the agency was preparing its year-end budget and had to take the $85 billion in forced government-wide budget cuts, known as sequestration, into account.
And they stressed that detainees released were non-criminals or low-risk offenders without serious criminal histories.
This week, ICE Director John Morton maintained that the measure was necessary to cut costs.
"The agency is asked to do far more than Congress could appropriate or could rationally appropriate to the agency. We are in a situation where there are 11 million people on average who are here unlawfully. The agency has resources to remove about 400,000 a year, which is less than 4% and it is why at the end of the day, I think, bipartisan efforts to come to some level of comprehensive immigration reform is the thoughtful way out," he said this week. "The agency is never going to be able to detain and remove everybody as a matter of budget nor does it make sense as a matter of policy."
Morton said the detainees that were released were not dangerous, and that he had to find some way to make ends meet.
"I did not want to rob Peter to pay Paul," he said. "My view is that we need to maintain the operations of the agency."
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, criticized that explanation.
"Now, I've counted six times you have said you didn't want to rob Peter to pay Paul," Gowdy said. "I don't want Peter or Paul to rob one of our fellow citizens because you guessed wrong on who to release."
Meanwhile, Victorina Adame says she and her five children are left looking at pictures of her husband in their South Carolina home, wondering when they'll see him again and whether he'll be deported to Mexico.
Return to Top
Judge to hear Arizona immigrant driver's license ban suit
By Tim Gaynor
Reuters, March 22, 2013
Lawyers will ask a federal judge on Friday to prevent Arizona from denying driver's licenses to young illegal immigrants granted temporary legal status by the federal government in the southwest state's latest court clash over the Obama administration's immigration policies.
Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix last November against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and two state transport department officials on behalf of five immigrants from Mexico who qualify for deferred deportation status under President Barack Obama's program.
The suit challenges the legality of an executive order issued by Brewer in August that denied young migrants licenses, saying that the federal government program did not give them lawful status or entitle them to public benefits.
The lawyers say that Brewer's order is preempted by the federal government's authority to regulate immigration and violates the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. They will seek to have the measure enjoined while the case is pending.
"We want the judge to block the governor ... from continuing to discriminate against these students," said Victor Viramontes, national senior counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that brought the suit.
The court battle is the latest for Brewer, a Republican who has become a major antagonist of Obama's Democratic administration and its immigration policies.
About 40 states and the District of Columbia have confirmed that they are granting driver's licenses or plan to do so for undocumented youths who received a short-term reprieve from Obama under the program in June.
'DEFENDING ARIZONA LAW'
While Republicans in some states have opposed drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, only Arizona and Nebraska have said outright that young immigrants are not eligible.
Under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, immigrants who came to the United States as children and meet certain other criteria can apply for a work permit for a renewable period of two years. They also can obtain Social Security numbers.
An estimated 1.7 million youths are potentially eligible for the program, of whom about 80,000 live in Arizona. As of mid-February, about 200,000 applicants nationwide been granted deferred action, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
They are considered to be lawfully present during that period, although they do not have full legal status. But Brewer maintained that the president's policy did not "confer upon them any lawful or authorized status and does not entitle them to any additional public benefits."
Her spokesman, Matthew Benson, said state law requires individuals to have "federally authorized presence" to qualify for a license, and Obama's action did not amount to that.
"Governor Brewer is intent on defending Arizona law, and is confident the court will uphold the state's action," Benson said.
Brewer signed a controversial bill cracking down on illegal immigrants into law in 2010, setting up a clash with the Obama administration. The law's centerpiece that requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop if they suspect they are in the country illegally was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
The hearing comes as Obama is pushing Congress to pass him a bill overhauling the U.S. immigration system, granting millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, as well as tightening security on the Mexico border.
Bipartisan groups in both chambers of the U.S. Congress are close to completing work on a draft bill.
Return to Top
Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against Pembroke Pines Over Southwest Ranches Immigration Detention Center
By Heather Carney
The Sun Sentinel, March 22, 2013
City officials and residents who opposed an immigration detention center breathed a sigh of relief this week.
A judge ruled out the federal court case filed by Corrections Corporation of America against the city, essentially moving the issue back to state court.
"They thought they had a case and they don't," said Commissioner Jay Schwartz.
Now the city can focus on its state lawsuit against CCA that will determine if the city is legally required to provide water and sewer services to that area, the city's legal counsel said.
The battle over that land, located in Southwest Ranches, goes back nearly two years when the site became the front runner for a $75 million, 1,500-bed immigration center.
Last June, ICE officials announced they were scrapping plans to build the center in Southwest Ranches.
The town and CCA blame that on Pines' decision not to provide water and sewer to the site, which they say the city is legally required to provide.
But Pines disagrees.
City officials voted to refuse water and sewer to the site last March and shortly after filed a state court case to determine if it is obligated to provide those services.
"We are unsure of what our rights are," said Schwartz. "So on advice of counsel, it was recommended we file a declaratory action."
But the next day, CCA filed its lawsuit in federal court delaying the state case.
"We had to spend money to defend ourselves which is an absolute waste of resources," said Schwartz.
U.S. District Judge William Zloch made note of CCA's hasty federal lawsuit in the court order and said that the issue should be handled in state court.
Zloch also said that arguing the same issue in both federal and state court is a waste of judicial resources and could result in different, inconsistent rulings.
CCA's attorney, Leonard Samuels, would not comment on the case Thursday.
Pembroke Pines and Southwest Ranches residents who publicly opposed the site said they were "delighted" with the ruling.
"As we've said all along, [it] is not needed and is an immense waste of taxpayer money," said a news release sent out by the residents.
On top of this case, Pembroke Pines also faces a lawsuit from the town of Southwest Ranches that claims Pines breached its contract with the town concerning the development of a civil detention facility.
On Tuesday, Pines argued that the judge dismiss the case. The judge has yet to make a decision.
Return to Top
Ga., national GOP diverge on immigration issues
By Jeremy Redmon
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 21, 2013
Georgia’s Republican state lawmakers are seeking to crack down further on illegal immigration even as many national GOP leaders are softening their stance.
National Republicans began recalibrating their positions after President Barack Obama won reelection last year with about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. Now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is proposing a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
Yet in Georgia, Republican legislators are seeking to expand on the stringent immigration law they enacted in 2011. They are weighing new legislation aimed at blocking illegal immigrants from getting a variety of public benefits, including state driver’s licenses and homestead tax exemptions.
The reason for the state-national disconnect is simple, said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University: Republicans have been tremendously successful in Georgia and are sticking with what has worked for them. The GOP dominates Georgia’s congressional delegation and controls the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the state Legislature.
"If they are on a path to success, they don’t want to move in a different direction," Black said. "That’s the usual way you do politics."
But like the rest of the nation, Georgia is quickly becoming more diverse. So Republicans here could be taking risks by sticking with a hardliner approach to illegal immigration, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.
Georgia’s Hispanic population, for example, has more than doubled since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics now represent 9 percent of the state’s population.
Georgia Republicans, Bullock said, are "concentrating on the short-term gains versus the long-term needs. Longer term, Georgia is going to become a majority-minority state."
In 2011, the Republican-controlled state Legislature passed comprehensive legislation aimed at driving illegal immigrants out of the state. Supporters said it would help protect Georgia’s sovereignty and its taxpayer-funded resources. Critics called it divisive and unconstitutional.
Once the law passed, a coalition of civil and immigrant rights groups sued in federal court to scrap parts of it. Most sections survived; one that did not would have punished people who harbor or transport illegal immigrants in Georgia.
Now, people on both sides of the debate from 2011 are feeling a sense of déjà vu as the Legislature grapples with another round of immigration bills.
The measures that are at issue — one written by the House and one by the Senate — were originally introduced to fix some unintended consequences of the 2011 law. Both seek to clear massive backlogs in processing professional license renewals, problems stemming from the law’s requirement that applicants prove their legal status each time they renew.
But House members decided to try to do more with their bill, HB125. They added language aimed at blocking illegal immigrants from getting Georgia driver’s licenses and homestead tax exemptions.
Those elements soon ran into resistance. It turned out that the driver’s license provision would have put the state out of compliance with a federal anti-terrorism law, called the REAL ID Act. That’s because it would have let applicants submit copies of citizenship documents by mail, fax or online. The homestead exemption provision raised alarms among critics who foresaw delays in processing requests from thousands of Georgia taxpayers.
Wednesday, a Senate committee stripped the added provisions from the House bill . Thursday, a House committee responded by inserting them into the Senate’s bill, SB160 — after ensuring compliance with the REAL ID Act by requiring applicants for state licenses to show up in person and present original documents.
The different bills are likely headed to a smaller conference committee, where legislators from both chambers will seek a compromise.
Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, who supports the House’s provisions, said the newly revised SB 160 would clarify and tighten parts of the immigration law he authored in 2011 and codify existing state practices involving driver’s licenses.
"We are just making sure that the laws that we have passed in the past are being implemented properly," he said, "and the whole purpose of those laws was to protect taxpayer dollars."
About two dozen activists demonstrated against the House provisions outside the state Capitol Thursday, waving signs stating "No More Anti-Immigration Laws" and "Stop Hate. Stop HB125."
Appearing at the demonstration, state Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, joked about the disconnect between state and national Republicans over illegal immigration.
"What are these people going to be doing when the federal government does immigration reform?" he said. "They are going to be out of a job."
Return to Top
Senate approves Oregon immigrant tuition bill
By Jonathan J. Cooper
The Associated Press, March 22, 2013
The Oregon Senate voted Thursday to allow some young illegal immigrants to pay resident college tuition if they were brought to the United States as children, sending the measure to Gov. John Kitzhaber who has promised to sign it.
The Senate's approval in a 19-11 vote comes 10 years after the measure was first proposed. Immigrant-rights advocates erupted in cheers the moment the bill passed, their applause echoing through the Capitol as they congratulated each other, hugged lawmakers and posed for photos.
"I can't believe it finally happened," said Karla Castaneda, a junior at Parkrose High School in Portland whose family immigrated illegally when she was 4. "Hope is with me. I know I will be able to go to college."
Critics said the state shouldn't be subsidizing a college education for people who violated the law and won't be able to work in the United States.
"Some of these folks who believe in the Constitution and believe in the rule of law need to be represented today," said Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican who voted against the measure.
At least 14 other states allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. Colorado's Legislature approved a similar bill this month, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he'll sign it.
Illegal immigrants in Oregon pay college tuition at the rate charged to nonresident students, which is about $20,000 more than the cost for Oregon residents.
Starting next school year, the measure would allow students to qualify for in-state tuition if they've attended an Oregon high school for at least three years and lived in the United States for at least five. They'd also have to sign an affidavit swearing they'll apply to legalize their immigration status as soon as they are eligible.
Illegal immigrants can't legally work in the United States, but proponents say President Barack Obama's push for a federal immigration overhaul could create a pathway to citizenship for many. They say children have no control over the decision to immigrate without legal documents.
"It is just plain wrong to hold hostage the future of kids and young adults because of choices their parents have made," said Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office estimated that the bill would increase the state's revenue by $335,000 over the next two years and by an additional $1.6 million between 2015 and 2017. The Oregon University System estimated that 38 illegal immigrant students would take advantage of the resident tuition rates during the next two years and 80 more students would take part in the two years after that.
Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, said he was skeptical of the numbers and expected many more illegal immigrants to enroll.
"Many of the people that we represent have a lot of angst about this bill," Whitsett said. "Many are angry about what they perceive to be the inequity represented by the concept of this bill."
Illegal immigrants would not be eligible for state or federal financial aid, and they'd be subject to the same university entrance requirements as other applicants.
"They're not asking for guarantees. They're not asking for commitments. They simply want a chance," said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who first proposed the measure in 2003.
Return to Top
Immigration activists board buses bound for training on pushing reform
By Nancy Lofholm
The Denver Post, March 22, 2013
Immigration activists from around the state boarded buses bound for Pueblo early Friday for a weekend of training in ways to be more effective proponents of immigration reform.
"We are demanding fair, humane immigration reform," said Eddie Soto with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, the group organizing the bus event.
The bus that left Grand Junction with about a dozen activists, a load of soft drinks and a bullhorn, was to make stops in Glenwood Springs and Eagle to pick up more activists. Another bus was planned to pick up reform advocates in northern Colorado communities.
A rally was planned at the Justice for All Center in Denver Friday afternoon before the buses head to Pueblo where 150 activists are expected to gather.
Soto said the activists will return to their communities with ideas about how to organize events that will bring pressure on policy makers to make meaningful changes in immigration laws.
The bus trainees range from 15-year-old high school students to attorneys and architects, Soto said.
Nelly Garcia, a recent college graduate with hopes of gaining legal status as a "dreamer," an undocumented immigrant brought into the country as a child, said she was on the bus Friday so she could organize rallies on the Western Slope.
"Not only for change for students like me," she said. "But for whole families."
Return to Top
NCDMV drops pink stripe for immigrant driver’s license
By Bruce Siceloff and Anne Blythe
The News Observer (NC), March 22, 2013
After weeks of protest from civil rights lawyers, immigrant advocates, Democrats and religious leaders, the state Division of Motor Vehicles revealed Thursday that it has removed an unpopular pink stripe from the design of driver’s licenses that will be issued, starting next week, to young immigrants in a federal program that postpones their deportation for two years.
The new design reverts to the color scheme of a standard license, with added language in red letters that says: "LEGAL PRESENCE / NO LAWFUL STATUS" and "LIMITED TERM."
A DMV spokesman refused Thursday to discuss or even address the criticism of the original design. He said the change made it easier for the DMV to produce the new licenses more efficiently. The standardized design will be similar to those of other licenses issued for limited duration to groups such as visiting students and agriculture workers.
"From our perspective, we wanted to make sure this design would allow for ease of implementation," said Mike Charbonneau, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. "By state law, any temporary license must bear a distinguishing mark on the face. So we’re following the letter of the law in the most efficient way possible."
The license will be available for teens and young adults who were brought into the United States illegally as children, or stayed illegally after their visas expired. State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata announced in February that they would qualify if they have received work permits in the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Like the federal work permits, the state licenses will expire in two years.
More than 16,500 teens and young adults in North Carolina have received the deferred-action federal work permits. Immigrants and civil rights lawyers initially cheered Tata’s announcement that they would qualify for state driver’s licenses, starting Monday.
Weeks of protest
But the praise turned to protest when critics assailed the original pink-stripe design, similar in color to a pink banner on the federal work permit. They said the striped license would open immigrant drivers to racial profiling and other discrimination. They invoked the Holocaust, when Nazis marked Jews with yellow stars.
DMV did not announce Thursday that the license had been redesigned. A facsimile of the new, pink-free version was distributed with guidelines for young immigrants who will visit DMV offices across the state, starting Monday, to apply for driver’s licenses.
The federal I-766 employment authorization card or work permit issued for deferred-action participants is marked "Category C33." The N.C. Attorney General’s Office said in January that the C33 card establishes "legal presence" in the state, meeting DMV’s requirement for legal residency.
State and federal officials say the deferred-action program establishes that the immigrants have legal presence in the United States during the two years their deportation is postponed. But the program does not change their long-term, "lawful status" as illegal immigrants.
The pink stripe brought North Carolina a wave of national attention.
Rabbi John Friedman of Durham’s Judea Reform Congregation said he had heard from Jewish leaders across the country who warned that North Carolina was becoming a state with a reputation similar to Arizona, which has been greatly divided over immigration.
"I don’t think these licenses have anything to do with the Holocaust, and I’m not saying anybody is a Nazi," Friedman said Thursday before hearing that DMV had removed the pink stripe. "But it cannot help but remind Jews of the yellow stars."
Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation, said the new license design was an improvement.
"We’re happy the Department of Transportation decided to take off the pink border," Pinto said. But he questioned the need to include language stating the driver has "legal presence" but "no lawful status."
Tata’s decision in February was affirmed by the Republican governor, Pat McCrory. But a group of freshman Republicans in the General Assembly disagreed. They filed legislation to put a moratorium on issuing the licenses.
One of the sponsors, Rep. Mark Brody of Monroe, said Thursday that he still disagreed with Tata’s decision. But he said if the state issues the licenses, it should be respectful of the recipients.
"I know the Hispanic community was pretty upset," Brody said. "Everybody needs to be treated with respect."
Return to Top
Young Immigrants, Seeking Deportation Reprieve, Find Unexpected Relief
By Kirk Semple
The New York Times, March 22, 2013
When Angy Rivera, an illegal immigrant, was a young girl in New York City, she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. He was eventually convicted and imprisoned, but only recently did Ms. Rivera find out that her cooperation with investigators had qualified her for a special benefit: a visa for victims of serious crimes.
Many young illegal immigrants across the country have similarly learned in recent months that they could be eligible for little-known visas that would allow them to put years of worrying about deportation behind them, immigration lawyers said.
These discoveries have come about as an unintended consequence of an immigration policy adopted last June by President Obama that allows young illegal immigrants, under certain conditions, to apply for the right to remain in the country temporarily and work.
The policy, called deferred action, has spurred hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to seek legal help, often for the first time in their lives. During these consultations, many have learned that they are candidates for other, more-permanent forms of immigration relief, like special visas for crime victims.
More than a dozen immigration lawyers around the country —from private practice, advocacy organizations and university law clinics —said that as many as a quarter of the young immigrants who have consulted with them about deferred action since last summer appeared to be eligible for visas or other relief.
"This whole time I had been in the system already and no one had said anything to me or my mom," said Ms. Rivera, 22, who was born in Colombia and entered the United States on false immigration documents when she was 4. "It was out of the blue for me."
The unexpected visa eligibility for so many young people highlights a defining facet of illegal immigration and of the debate over immigration reform. Many illegal immigrants are so fearful of contact with the authorities, or thwarted by language and economic barriers, that they live in a kind of isolation that often prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities or services that they are entitled to under the law.
It is a measure of this isolation that not even Ms. Rivera knew that she was a candidate for a special visa — even though she is an immigration activist and writes a popular online advice column for young illegal immigrants.
She found out about her eligibility for the crime-victims visa, called a U visa, only last fall when she met with a lawyer at Atlas: DIY, a nonprofit group in New York City that works with young immigrants.
Her lawyer, Lauren Burke, said advocacy groups and government agencies had not always done an adequate job of informing illegal immigrants about their rights under the nation’s complex immigration laws.
"The onus is on the immigrant for him or her to find out the information," Ms. Burke said. "But if you say, ‘I need immigration help,’ you are exposing so much about yourself and putting yourself at such risk."
Deferred action allows recipients to work legally and live openly without fear of deportation. But it must be renewed after two years, and the program could be canceled by President Obama or his successors. As a result, illegal immigrants would generally prefer to obtain a green card or a visa that would open the door to permanent residency.
Federal officials insisted that they were being vigilant against false claims, which can result in criminal charges and deportation. Still, some opponents of more lenient policies have contended that deferred action and other immigration programs might tempt some illegal immigrants to commit fraud in order to qualify.
More than 438,000 people have applied for deferred action, and more than 411,000 have been scheduled for fingerprinting and photographs for background checks, the second step in the process. By some estimates, as many as 1.7 million people could be eligible for the reprieve over the life of the program, which is open to people who meet certain conditions, including that they entered the country before they were 16 and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
Federal officials said they had not detected a recent jump in applications for the special visas. Immigration lawyers explained that many people who are eligible are first applying for deferred action — which is generally easier to obtain — then turning their attention to the special visas, so any increase would not be apparent for several months.
Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the wave of immigrants seeking legal help for the first time and discovering their eligibility for some kind of relief was "one of the very good things" to emerge from the deferred action policy.
Many of the young immigrants who have sought help for deferred action were victims of crimes or were abandoned, neglected or abused by a parent, making them eligible for visas under existing programs, lawyers said. Others have discovered that they were able to apply for permanent residency through a family connection.
Shelly, 25, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, said that as she was consulting about deferred action with a lawyer at African Services Committee, an immigrant assistance organization in Harlem, she found out she could petition for a green card under the Violence Against Women Act because she had been physically and emotionally abused for years by her American-born husband.
"I felt like I was living again," recalled Shelly, who asked that her full name be withheld in order not to anger her husband, from whom she is estranged.
Federal immigration officials, led by Alejandro Mayorkas, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, have conducted an outreach campaign in recent years about special visas.
Even before the deferred action program began, the number of special visas had been increasing in recent years, according to government statistics. In the 2012 federal fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, about 24,800 applications were submitted for the U visa, with about 10,100 approved, up from 6,800 applications and 5,800 approved in 2009, the first year that it was offered.
Another illegal immigrant, who gave only her first initial, J., said she revealed to a lawyer during her deferred action consultation that she had been repeatedly raped by a smuggler when she was 11 as he helped her get to the United States from her home in Guyana.
With the help of Ms. Burke, the lawyer at Atlas: DIY, who is also supervising staff attorney at the New York Asian Women’s Center, she obtained the deferred action reprieve last year. She then filed a petition for a T visa, which is reserved for victims of human trafficking.
J., who is now 19 and a sophomore in college in New York, said that when she heard about the T visa, she started to cry, in part because she was angry with herself that she had never told a lawyer about her experience.
"I felt that if I had said something earlier in my life then my situation could’ve been changed way before," she said.
Return to Top
Immigration reform for same-sex couples may be long shot, but advocates push on
By Leslie Berestein Rojas
KPCC News (CA), March 21, 2013
When President Obama unveiled his immigration reform blueprint in January, gay and lesbian advocates cheered. That’s because the president's plan would allow same-sex couples to sponsor a foreign-born partner for an immigrant visa.
But as the clock ticks toward the expected target date — likely in April — for reform bills to be introduced in the Senate and House, LGBT groups pushing for a same-sex partner provision know they have their work cut out for them.
In the small Wilshire Boulevard office of API Equality LA, gears have shifted recently. For years, the organization — which advocates for gay and lesbian Asian Americans — focused mostly on legalizing same-sex marriage. But recently, the small staff has become part of the national immigrant rights movement, reaching out to legislators and working with mainstream groups.
"I would say the greatest focus for us right now is same sex bi-national couples," said executive director Eileen Ma.
Like other immigrant LGBT groups, they want for same-sex couples to have the same rights as straight married couples when it comes to sponsoring an immigrant partner for a visa. The White House thinks it’s a good idea, but the Senate has yet to embrace it; no mention of same-sex couples was made when the Senate's immigration blueprint was announced in January.
But there is a stand-alone bill in the Senate, the Uniting American Families Act, and LGBT advocates hope it can be worked into a comprehensive reform package. Ma said she's cautiously optimistic.
"There is a concern that while the proposals may be on the table now... that somehow it will get compromised away at the end of the day," Ma said. "I think that trepidation is tempered by the realization that we can actually organize among ourselves and make sure our voices are heard."
But with all the wrangling already taking place over how to create a path to citizenship for the undocumented, a provision that gives equal sponsorship rights to same-sex couples could fall victim to politics and to a "poison pill" mentality says Kevin Johnson, law school dean and a professor of immigration law at UC Davis.
"Immigration is a hot button issue, and same-sex marriage is an arguably even hotter issue, more controversial," he said. "And I think that Republicans in the House who are already starting to gear up for a re-election campaign, and Democrats in the House who are going to face re-election, they are much more likely to be more conservative on same-sex marriage in immigration reform."
The perception that a same-sex provision would add an extra hurdle to a comprehensive immigration package is something that LGBT immigrant activists are trying to change. It’s a two-sided challenge, says Jorge Gutierrez of the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, part of a youth immigrant activist group United We Dream.
On one hand, they’re trying to convince mainstream gay and lesbian groups to back same-sex immigration reform; on the other, "if you go to the immigrant rights movement, I think the challenge has been there," Gutierrez says. "You know, the homophobia is still very much at the core of the immigrant rights movement and the mainstream. So how do we push on that?"
He says part of the task of building bridges with mainstream immigrant rights and Latino groups is getting this message across: "You’ve got to stop using this outdated rhetoric, saying that if you support the LBGT communities, we’re going to lose out on both."
Activists such as Gutierrez and Ma say if nothing happens this time, there’s always that adage about living to fight another day. There's still the stand-alone bill, and there will be lawmakers they can persuade to champion a same-sex reform measure. But they’re not going there yet.
"No one goes in to any kind of endeavor expecting to fail," Ma said. "And I think that would be a failure for our community if we did not achieve immigration equality for same-sex couples this round...I think what we are bracing ourselves for is the work ahead of us in these next couple of months, to make sure that people know we are serious and that there are people who are behind this change."
And if that doesn’t work, there’s the U.S. Supreme Court. In June the justices are expected to rule on the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the government from recognizing same-sex marriages when it comes to applying for a green card. A ruling against the federal statute would change this, although some legal experts say immigration laws may still need to be adjusted accordingly.
But for married same-sex binational couples, it would be a welcome first step.
Return to Top
Border Patrol: Weapon Seizures Double At Detroit-Windsor Crossings
WWJ News (MI), March 22, 2013
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office says the number of weapons seizures at the Detroit-Windsor border since October has doubled compared to that same period last year.
Since October 2012 border agents working at ports of entry in Detroit have confiscated nearly 50 weapons including 16 handguns, two shotguns, 10 electronic weapons, 13 knives and two swords, along with magazines and various types of ammunition.
Agents say in some cases, the weapons are being brought by legitimate hunters who aren’t aware of the rules at the border, but that’s not always the case.
"As these seizures show, our officers also encounter individuals transporting prohibited firearms and other items. The fact that all of these seizures were done without any incidents shows the efficiency and effectiveness of our officers," Roderick Blanchard, Detroit Port Director, said in a statement.
For information on how to properly transport hunting/sport weapons across the border, visit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website at www.atf.gov.
Return to Top
Vigil marks 2nd anniversary of fatal Border Patrol shooting
By Perla Trevizo
The Arizona Daily Star, March 22, 2013
Guadalupe Guerrero walked slowly, clutching to her chest a picture of her son, fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent two years ago.
About 40 people walked about 45 minutes from the family's home, passing the high school Carlos Lamadrid graduated from in 2009, all the way to the border fence about 1 1/2 miles east of the Douglas Port of Entry, where he fell off a ladder with three gunshot wounds to his back.
The group gathered on both sides of the border for a vigil, held a prayer and listened to the story of his last minutes on March 21, 2011, sung by his former band members.
Marijuana in truck
The pursuit that led to the shooting began about noon when someone called Douglas police to report a gold Chevrolet Avalanche had been loaded with bundles of marijuana.
Police officers saw Lamadrid's truck and started following him, but he sped toward the border, police reports say, until he collided with a Border Patrol agent's SUV.
The 19-year-old then jumped out of his truck and ran toward the border fence, the report says.
As he climbed a ladder up the border fence, other men in Agua Prieta threw brick-size rocks at the agent, just missing him but hitting the SUV's windshield, according to reports.
As a man on the Mexican side of the border grabbed Lamadrid's wrist to try to help him up the ladder faster, Border Patrol Agent Lucas Tidwell fired a handful of rounds and Lamadrid tumbled off the ladder. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Officers found 48 pounds of marijuana in the teen's truck, according to newspaper reports at the time.
Cameras monitoring the border recorded everything but visibility was poor due to high winds and dust that day.
Lamadrid's mother said she continues to fight for justice.
Regardless of whether her son was carrying marijuana, he should have been tried in a court, she said, not killed.
Despite her trips to Washington, D.C., and her participation in marches in Nogales and San Diego, where similar incidents have happened, it's harder to keep attention on her son's case.
Thursday's vigil attendees were a third of what they were a year ago, with mostly friends and family joining her in remembering her son.
"Two years after your assassination, we continue to await justice," read a banner carried by the family, with a picture of Lamadrid playing his accordion.
"Remembering everything all over again is very painful," Guerrero said before the vigil. "But knowing that he is not alone, that he is being remembered, gives me strength to keep fighting."
Spring break volunteers
In the last several years, agents have shot at least 22 people nationwide. Nine of those cases have been in Southern Arizona.
But the cases are rarely resolved quickly.
Prosecutors still haven't said whether they plan to pursue charges against Tidwell. Guerrero sued the agent in federal court, and that is pending as well.
"No one has been able to tell me why a Border Patrol agent can't be tried," she said in Spanish.
Border Patrol agents are taught to use deadly force only when they or someone else is threatened with death. The rule applies to rock-throwing, since it can pose an imminent threat depending on how near the thrower is, and how big the rock.
Kasey Hilgenberg was among a small group at the vigil who were friends or relatives of Lamadrid. She and five other University of Northern Colorado students are volunteering with the Tucson-based Human Rights Coalition during their spring break and have researched shootings involving Border Patrol agents to humanize the issue.
"It hits close to home for us," she said, since Greeley, Colo., the town where the university is located, has a refugee center and a meat-packing plant that attracts immigrants.
Return to Top
Paperless Protesters Picket Immigration Detention Center
By Ned Hibberd
MyFoxHouston, March 21, 2013
A group of undocumented immigrants came to the Houston detention center Thursday night. But they were not there to turn themselves in.
Instead, about 20 people took turns at the bullhorn, claiming to be undocumented yet unafraid.
It is a relatively new tactic in America's immigration showdown: going public about being paperless.
"We are here, we are undocumented and we know that there's power in community," said Alicia Torres Don. "There's power in numbers and we've learned that the more public you are, the safer you are."
Many protesters had hoped deportations would subside under a Democrat president. But that hasn't happened, says University of St. Thomas assistant professor Richard Sindelar.
"It's not well known," explained Sindelar, "but the Obama administration has upped the number of deportations almost double George W. Bush's administration."
Sindelar believes immigration reform will ultimately happen. But he says it probably won't include a so-called "path to citizenship," which is vehemently opposed by a large segment of the public.
Return to Top
Border agent recovering after deadly shootout
The San Antonio Express News, March 22, 2013
A U.S. Border Patrol agent who was shot in a confrontation over a stolen car on a back road in Jim Hogg County early Thursday that left the suspect dead has been released from the hospital.
"They shot went through his thigh into his hip area," said Efrain Perez, an agency spokesman in Laredo, who said for safety reasons the agent is not being identified.
"The subject, a white male, was pronounced dead at the scene. I don't know if he's been identified. The investigation is being done by other agencies," he added.
The shootout occurred about 2 a.m. south of Hebbronville after agents came upon a man standing by a parked late model Honda that appeared to have been in a minor accident.
"It's an area where there is a lot of alien and narcotics smuggling," Perez said.
When agents determined the car had been stolen from near Waco, they approached it.
"The agents attempted to arrest the subject. He shot him in the leg. Our agents returned fire, killing the subject," he said.
Return to Top
Police: Drunken illegal immigrant led officers on N. Houston chase
KHOU News (TX), March 21, 2013
The woman who allegedly led officers on an early morning chase while drunk was also in the country illegally, police said.
The chase started shortly after 2 a.m. Friday when an officer with the Houston Police Department tried to stop a Dodge Charger for a traffic violation on E. Crosstimbers. Police said the driver refused to pull over and continued westbound, running red lights in the process.
. . .
Return to Top