Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Politics of Immigration Weekly Round-up 02/18/08

CCIR: Coalition of Comprehensive Immigration Reform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2008
CONTACT: Marisa McNee 917-733-2351

The Politics of Immigration Weekly Round-up 02/18/08

The buzz around immigration in the context of the presidential race quieted down a bit this week. Interestingly, the excitement was around Latino turn-out at the polls – the one segment of the electorate that has been undeniably energized by and against the hate interwoven in the immigration debate. For the GOP candidates hoping to capitalize from immigrant-bashing, immigration has been a flop at the polls.

As candidates continue traveling the country on the quest for the presidency, the Latino vote is proving to make the difference in some of the largest and most competitive primaries in 2008. One has to wonder how any political party that continues to fear-monger and demagogue the immigration issue could expect to win a national election alienating the Latino vote, and increasingly tiring the rest of the country awaiting for real solutions on this issue.

Read on for the weekly round up on the politics of immigration…

In the News

The Washington Post editorial page weighs in on the reality of immigration issue thus far in the 2008 election cycle:
“IN THE AFTERMATH of last summer's national debate over immigration reform, elected officials of all stripes were stunned by the popular passion and fury unleashed by the failed effort in Congress to provide an eventual path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Many Republicans concluded hopefully -- and many Democrats reckoned fretfully -- that immigration would be the premier wedge issue of the 2008 campaign. But with the presidential primaries in their homestretch, it now appears that both the hopes and the fears were overstated.”
Washington Post, Nativism's Electoral Flop, Feb. 14, 2008

And after yet another round of primary races last week the evidence continues to mount—the sleeping giant is most certainly alive and awake:
“In the Texas primary on March 4, one-quarter of the registered voters are Hispanic and the two Democratic front-runners are grappling for their support. For Sen. Barak Obama, Hispanic voters are key to gaining more momentum toward the nomination. For Sen. Hillary Clinton, Hispanics could reinvigorate a sagging campaign.

In Florida's own primaries last month, Hispanics pushed Sen. John McCain within striking distance of the Republican nomination. In the neck-in-neck Democratic race, Hispanic voters have stood solidly with Clinton, but may finally be flirting with the candidacy of Obama, who has enjoyed little support from them so far.”
“Political analysts and strategists have long watched the growing number of Latinos in the United States, predicting their political power. But until this year, Latinos have not gone to the polls in large numbers. Menendez said the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric that led to the defeat of the immigration bill is driving Hispanics to the polls…”
Florida Sun-Sentinel, Presidential Candidates Seek Support from Hispanics, Feb. 17, 2008
Spanish Language Press (Our Translation)
And the Spanish media was paying attention to McCain’s trajectory, and the potential for immigration reform in the context of what the presidential field is shaping out to be. Chicago’s La Raza newspaper had this to say about McCain…

“He has also gone against the current of his party in other things, and that is what makes him stand out from a group in which everyone wants to be more anti-immigrant than everyone else. And this is what is going to make the battle more interesting: John McCain was a co-sponsor of the Kennedy-McCain immigration reform bill, introduced in 2006 and that, even though it didn’t go anywhere, it laid the foundation for a broader discussion about comprehensive immigration reform during a dark period.

McCain is not representative of the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican party, that at this point is not a wing but the entire body, with some extremities that do better because they refuse to add to the xenophobic choir of those who insist, like Pete Wilson did, “that we are not ant-immigrant, only anti-illegals.” Those of us that listen know what they are in reality.”

“It is to say that McCain could help save the Republicans from themselves and from the damage that they have caused the fastest growing population of the United States. Of course immigration is not everything: Latinos also worry about the Iraq war, education, healthcare, and other issues that equally affect us all, regardless of race and origin.”
La Raza, The Figure of John McCain, Feb. 8, 2008

And Jorge Cancino at UnivisiĆ³n Online had this to say about immigration reform:

“The three leading candidates in the primary elections (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, for the Democrats, and John McCain for the Republicans), have something in common: they support immigration reform with a path to legalization.

It will be necessary to follow the developments of the primary elections until its known which candidates will be the nominees for the presidency in the November elections. There it will be possible to evaluate the probability of immigration reform. And the key date could be March 4th, when primary elections are held in the state of Texas, where an important percentage of Hispanic voters live.”
Univision Online, Immigration Reform has Probabilities: Clinton, McCain, and Obama Support It, Feb. 11, 2008

On the Blogs
Dave Neiwert has a second post of a three part series up at Firedoglake refuting the extremists in the immigration debate:

“The prescriptions offered by both the nativists and corporate conservatives are poisonous, likely to harm the body politic both culturally and economically, perhaps even at a catastrophic level.

There's a good reason for that: Much of the right -- the nativists particularly -- have been whipped up by scapegoating artists relying on a series of popular delusions that are built on a foundation of falsehoods and distortions. They are fundamentally untrue in important ways, so much so you can't properly call them "myths" -- "canards" or "popular delusions" would be more accurate.

The existence and persistence of these delusions is the chief reason progressives have largely been on the defensive when it comes to dealing with immigration. And it's an unfortunate fact: If they want to make any headway and forge their own approach to the debate, their first job is going to necessarily entail debunking the nativists' canards, and dispelling many of the popular delusions about immigrants. The public isn't going to follow a rational program if they continue to cling to old falsehoods.”

And Markos has a message for Democrats who want to run to the right on immigration: Psst Rahm? Immigration is killing Republicans

“We've seen the past two years the immigration issue doesn't decide elections, and that even a majority of Republicans aren't frothing in the mouth about it. To wit, Virginia, where Republicans based their entire 2007 off-year state legislative election strategy on demonizing immigrants, the primary exit polls for Republican voters, showed this (page two):

How to handle illegal immigrants
Path to citizenship: 26
Temporary worker: 28
Deport them: 44

That is, the most hard-core Republicans, the ones who bothered to turn out in a year when Republicans are mostly staying home, are more likely to support ways to keep undocumented immigrants in this country than they are to demand deportation.

Not that it's stopped Rahm Emanuel from continuing his efforts to the Democratic caucus to the right on the issue, obsessed with the notion that this is somehow a new "third rail" of American politics. But third rails kill. And if anyone is about to get burned by anti-immigrant sentiment, it's the GOP…

This is one of those great times that doing the right thing is also the best politics. Rahm's jihad against immigrants isn't based on the numbers. The numbers are clear. If he persists, there can be only one other explanation.”

Other Resources
• For a closer look at 2007 races, visit www.Immigration2007.org
• For a look at polling and public opinion on immigration and legalization, visit the National Immigration Forum’s website at www.immigrationforum.org
• For a look at the Latino electorate and the impact of the immigration debate, see NDN’s report, Hispanics Rising
• For a comprehensive look at the Latino electorate, see NCLR’s report The Latino Electorate: Profile and Trends

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Find Alternate Finances...

...That is what undocumented Arizona college students were told in recent letter. The Sunburst Scholarship, awarded $12,000 to around 207 Arizona DREAMERS who graduated from Arizona high schools, basically bringing the cost of tuition for these DREAMERS to in-state price, since they are now forced to pay out-of-state-tuition. Next year there will be no more Sunburst Scholarship.

In any normal universe, the Sunburst Scholarship would hardly be controversial. The students in question have done nothing wrong: Surely, Lou Dobbs wouldn't suggest that they should have defied Mom and Dad as 3-year-olds, or even third-graders, and vowed to stay in Mexico unless their parents obtained valid visas. (Well, okay, maybe Lou Dobbs would suggest that. Sigh.) In the loony anti-Mexican climate in Arizona today, though, the scholarships were truly an act of courage, and ASU President Michael Crow should be applauded for them.

But the demise of the Sunburst Scholarship raises real questions.

For one: When ASU realized the funding had run dry, why did it not contact leaders in the Hispanic community to come up with a transition plan? The activists I've talked to said they'd heard that the scholarships were being terminated only after getting calls from frightened students. Turns out the students learned they were being cut off in a letter from the school telling them to look for alternate financing for next fall. Clearly, this could have been handled with a bit more grace.

Here's another question: Just how hard did ASU work on getting donations for this scholarship? I haven't heard any direct requests for support. Granted, I'm not rich and not an ASU alum; I wouldn't blame anyone for leaving me off their fundraising list. But with an issue like this, you'd think a public plea would be in order — if nothing else, a story in the newspaper urging people to give. I can't find any evidence that ever happened. When we last heard about this issue, President Crow made it sound as though the matter was taken care of. ASU had found private funds. Period.

Which makes me wonder this.

Did ASU really run out of money? Or was it just easier not to raise it?

With legislators breathing hot air and an angry mob at the gate, it surely would be easier for ASU to cut 207 Mexican-born students adrift than to keep fighting.

"The fact that they're stopping these scholarships makes me feel like the pressure was greater than they could take," says Luis Avila, a local Latino activist and recent ASU grad.

I hope Avila is wrong about that. But I have to admit he may be on to something.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I saw this over at DREAM Act Texas, and I knew I had to immediately make a post about it. I'd like to applaud all the DREAMERS who took this initiative and have given all of us a voice.

Phoenix, Arizona
February 6, 2008

A compelling account of the struggle that students without legal status in
the U.S. are facing has taken the form of a bilingual book. Under the title of
Documented Dreams, the Arizona-based Hispanic Institute of Social Issues
(HISI) has published a collection of letters written by students from
Gateway Early College High School, and compiled by the school’s principal —
and 2008 ‘Living the Dream’ award recipient— Yvonne Watterson

The letters were written in response to the anonymous and generous
donations by people from the community, who made financial contributions
to help students unable to qualify for in-state tuition continue taking college
classes. The group of High School students then decided to write thank you
letters to show their appreciation.

Watterson revealed that after reading the letters from students, “a book
seemed the obvious way to capture forever their collective thanks. The
students wanted to thank the strangers who were making their continued
college education a reality. They could only convey their gratitude
anonymously, from the shadows.”

The idea for a book emerged simultaneously with the defeat in the U.S.
Senate of the Dream Act last Fall. Millions of students were hoping to
regularize their status and be able to continue with their education.

“Mrs. Watterson contacted us, we read the letters, and immediately jumped
into giving form to the book project”, stated Eduardo Barraza, HISI’s
director. “We recognize that we are living in a historical turning point;
publishing the students’ letters is an attempt to ensure we accurately
record history as it happens before our eyes, and in the voice of its
protagonists: the students themselves.”

Documented Dreams is a book of enormous human value, mainly because it
symbolizes the aspirations of millions of students caught in a sociopolitical
midpoint. The book will further contribute to the efforts of keeping students
taking college classes at this early college program, as it will be used as a
tuition fund-raising tool.

For further information visit www.hisi.org/books.html or call 480 – 983–

Book Details: Documented Dreams • Edited and compiled by Yvonne
Watterson • Photographs by Eduardo Barraza • ISBN: 978-0-9797814-3-8
• Paperback • Language: Bilingual in English and Spanish. $25.00 Minimum

Published by the Hispanic Institute of Social Issues © 2008


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bizarre Proposals

Bizarre Proposals To "End" Illegal Immigration
by Maurice Belanger of the National Immigration Forum

In 2007 our determined public servants on Capitol Hill outdid themselves coming up with new ways to target "illegal immigration," and make it the new fear-driven wedge issue of American politics. Following is a snapshot of some of the strangest and ugliest proposals drafted by Members of the 110th Congress thus far. Do they offer real solutions or simply false promises to end illegal immigration? You be the judge.

What Part Of "Legal" Don’t You Understand?

Leading anti-immigration Republican Tom Tancredo’s OVERDUE Act (H.R. 4192) is an overblown mishmash of bad immigration enforcement ideas and radical changes to our legal immigration system. Some of its most extreme provisions would all but end the legal family immigration system, severely restrict employersponsored immigration, and reduce the number of refugees we protect in the U.S. to just a trickle. While Representative Tancredo claims his goal is to end illegal immigration, it is hard to see how such dramatic cuts in legal immigration would do the trick. In fact, the Tancredo bill would probably have the opposite effect, since increased illegal immigration is directly tied to our outdated legal admissions quotas.

Department of State or Department of Genetic Testing?

Representative Tancredo’s H.R. 4192 contains other head-scratchers, like the section straight out of George Orwell's 1984 that would require anyone who qualifies for family-based legal immigration to give up a swab of their DNA to a government agent. Representative Tancredo was apparently so pleased with this— ahem—novel idea he even introduced it as a stand-alone bill, H.R. 3860.

All Most Some Persons Born or Naturalized?

Proposals like Representative Nathan Deal’s (R-GA) Birthright Citizenship Act (H.R. 1940) would gut the 14th amendment by denying U.S. citizenship to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. The amendment that granted citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized" in the U.S., including freed slaves, was aimed at eliminating second class "non-citizenship" policies. Not only are proposals like H.R. 1940 plainly unconstitutional, but it is absurd to think that creating more undocumented people would somehow reduce the number of undocumented immigrants.

No Visa, No VISA.

Undocumented workers have been accused of a variety of ills, but opening bank accounts and applying for credit cards were never on the list until Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced S. 2393. The Vitter bill would deny undocumented immigrants the American Dream of making purchases on credit. This, combined with a provision to end the nefarious practice of undocumented workers saving money in U.S. banks, would close a gaping loophole that has allowed so many of them to buy goods, pay sales tax, and help bolster the nation’s economy.

All Immigration, All the Time?

This year, Republican Members of Congress proved it is possible to turn any debate into a referendum on immigration when they targeted the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2786) with immigration-related riders. Amendments filed by Representatives Steve King (R-IA) and Tom Price (R-GA) would have made sure no money in the bill could be used to hire or house undocumented immigrants (and even some legal residents). If only those provisions had been in place during the 17th century! But seriously, excluding the undocumented from employment and public benefits is already the law of the land. This was just a replay of the Republican "broken record" strategy of making every debate an immigration debate. Which leaves us taxpayers to wonder: when will it be time to put this onetrick pony out to pasture and get back to the People’s business?

No Immigration Check, No Farm Check.

This year, Republican Members of Congress and presidential candidates also made community policing a wedge issue, by railing against police departments that encourage crime victims and witnesses—even the undocumented—to work with the police and report crimes. In one of the most comical jabs at community policing, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) filed two amendments to the farm bill (S.A. 3707 and S.A. 3705) that would deny agricultural subsidies to farmers located in so-called "sanctuary cities." This phrase, which has become a dirty word in Republican circles, refers to cities and states that refuse to inquire about the immigration status of crime victims and witnesses. The Gregg amendments to the farm bill were a total non sequitur but did raise an interesting point: why are people in cities getting farm subsidies in the first place?

Bipartisan Bad Ideas.

Many immigration proposals introduced in the 110th Congress are supposed to reduce the undocumented immigrant population—estimated at 12 million or so— through enforcement alone. Dubbed "enforcement-first," "enforcement-only," or "comprehensive enforcement bills," these are actually "expulsion-only" bills, and offer no more of a solution to illegal immigration than the status quo. In 2007, Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) teamed up with former anti-immigration lobbyist Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) to introduce H.R. 4088, a bill that would drive undocumented immigrant workers off our tax rolls but not en masse out of the country. The Shuler-Bilbray bill would push undocumented workers further into the shadows and into the arms of unscrupulous employers, creating ever-more-exploitable workers and putting wellmeaning employers out of business. Recycling the current failed immigration enforcement policies is hardly a recipe for change, whether the bill is bipartisan or not. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Senator David Vitter, have introduced companion bills (S. 2368 and S. 2366, respectively), making this a bipartisan, bicameral bust.

Solutions or Sound Bites? We Report, You Decide. Even Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), the uber-immigration hawk, would admit that rounding up and deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants is a pipe dream (or the dream of someone smoking a pipe). It would take the government nearly fifty years and cost U.S. taxpayers over $200 billion just to carry out these deportations at the current (record-setting) rate. Yet one of the most popular Republican "solutions" to the problem of illegal immigration is to turn all 12 million undocumented workers into criminals. Bills sponsored by former House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) (H.R. 4056) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (S. 2294) fall into this category. In addition to an expensive deportation, the Sensenbrenner-Kyl approach would treat these immigrants to a taxpayer funded criminal trial, court-appointed counsel, and a stay in a Federal prison before their flight out.

Want more unrealistic, budget-busting, sounds-tough immigration laws we have no chance of enforcing? Then pass these bills. If you want solutions, though, you’ll have to look beyond these shallow sound bites and silly proposals.