Tag Archive | "Immigration"

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Obama Unveils Quicker Family Reunification for Filipino WWII Vets

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House responded to years of pressure from immigrant rights groups on Wednesday with an announcement of a new policy that will expedite the process of bringing certain family members of Filipino veterans of World War II to the United States.

The policy, announced along with a number of other efforts that are a part of President Obama’s executive actions to improve the U.S. immigration system, would skip the long wait times— sometimes more than 25 years — for family members of these Filipino veterans, who are now American citizens or legal permanent residents, to immigrate legally to the U.S.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State, according to the White House, “will work together to provide clear guidance to the public on the application process, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Advocates for the policy directive immediately hailed the announcement, hoping that it will be implemented soon.

Day to celebrate

“This is the day to celebrate,” said Mee Moua, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

In 1941, more than 260,000 Filipinos responded to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to fight side-by-side with American soldiers during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After the war, in 1945, Roosevelt promised these Filipino veterans U.S. citizenship and veterans’ benefits.

But it took nearly 50 years for the U.S. government to grant citizenship to Filipino veterans, in 1990, and since then they have been waiting for their children to join them in the U.S.

And because the U.S. government puts limits on visas so that each country can only receive 7 percent of the 226,000 family-sponsored available visas every year, the wait for Filipino American families can exceed many years or even decades.

Of the 4.2 million people waiting for family-sponsored visas, nearly one-third are from Asian countries, including the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.

Inhumanely long backlog

“Until now, the inhumanely long visa backlog has separated them [Filipino veterans] from their children and denied them the opportunity to live together in the United States,” Moua added. “It’s long past time the U.S. made good on its promise and we hope [the] USCIS will implement this as quickly as possible.”

“We are extremely pleased to hear the good news coming from the White House, that Filipino World War II Veterans will soon be reunited with their families,” said JT Mallonga, national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

Mallonga added, “They have endured so much pain waiting for many years for this to happen. But with this latest executive action by the Obama administration, our ailing and aging heroes will no longer be separated from their loved ones.”

Estimates indicate that there are about 6,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who are still alive in the United States today. Now in their 80s and 90s, most of them need the care and assistance of their families, and they long to reunite with their family members during their golden years.

Parole as an avenue

“Parole is an avenue provided under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows individuals to come to the United States for a temporary period of time,” according to the White House announcement, “based upon urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

However, the Obama administration has not provided any specific details on the eligibility requirements of the policy, or when will it be implemented. Considering it is part of Obama’s executive actions, many are concerned that the policy may no longer be enforced once his presidential term ends in 2016.

Recognizing the challenges ahead, Erin Oshiro, AAJC’s immigration and immigrant rights program director, says that advocacy groups are now reaching out to the administration and putting more pressure to move forward with the implementation of the new family reunification policy for Filipino veterans.

“It never moved quickly in D.C. Time is really of the essence here,” Oshiro added. “But this is an opportunity for us and the community to weigh in and ask the White House to make this program possible.”

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Is Dominican Immigration Policy Obamafied?

By Roberto Lovato,  Latino Rebels

DAJABÓN, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC—On a recent afternoon in this tense border town, a hub for the flow of goods and people between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Haitian immigrants and their Dominican-born children were preparing for the worst: the mass deportations they’d been hearing about for months from railing Dominican politicians and, especially, the local media.

Streets that are usually busy with Haitian street vendors were relatively empty because, migrants’ rights advocates told me, many of them of them were in hiding. At the border crossing, the crush of thousands of people who travel daily between Haiti and the Dominican Republic for work and trade was even more intense than usual as busloads of Haitians voluntarily left their homes in the Dominican Republic rather than be hunted down, jailed and deported as government officials has repeatedly promised in the months leading up a June 17 deadline.

Tensions in Dajabón and across the country have been on the rise since 2013, when the country’s constitutional tribunal decided to revoke citizenship from tens of thousands of people born of foreign-born parents. Then, in 2014, President Danilo Medina issued a decree requiring all undocumented people to register with the government to “regularize” their status in the country by June 17, 2015, further increasing pressure on Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Those providing the required documentation were supposed to be given a two-year temporary status document. Those who don’t will be deported.

Haitian, Dominican and international human rights groups have denounced the process as dangerous, discriminatory and beset by massive bureaucratic failures— including lost papers, understaffed processing offices and corruption. As a result, over 200,000 people, most of them Haitian or of Haitian descent have been left vulnerable to deportation. Many here believe the current crisis follows a well-established pattern of racism against Haitians in the Dominican Republic.


Some Haitians, feeling scared and persecuted, are fleeing even without the government forcing them. “We have reports that Haitian immigrant homes have been burned down,” said the announcer on a bilingual Creole-Spanish radio show last Friday. “And we do not know if the Haitians themselves burned the homes or if Dominican citizens had burned the homes.” (Non-governmental organizations later confirmed that Haitians had burned their own homes to dispose of property they couldn’t take with them back to Haiti.)

But in the end, the predictions of swift, mass expulsions, of government buses overflowing with Haitians deportees, have yet to materialize.

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Editor’s Note: This piece was first published on June 26 at LatinoRebels.com. All photos by the author. 

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In Wake of Shutdown, It’s Not Immigration that Needs Resuscitating, It’s the GOP

By Frank Sharry, La Prensa San Diego

Conservative journalist Byron York of the Washington Examiner has an interesting piece entitled, “How 30 House Republicans are forcing the Obamacare fight.” In it, he states:

“There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare. On the other side, insiders estimate about 30 House Republicans believe strongly that Obamacare is such a far-reaching and harmful law that the GOP should do everything it can – everything – to stop it or slow it down.”

Sound familiar? Just swap out every “Obamacare” reference for “immigration reform.” The ability of House radicals to make the House GOP dysfunctional has led many to declare immigration reform all but dead.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionNevertheless, we remain optimistic. For one, smart House Republicans understand that their party is careening toward an existential moment of truth. The nation is experiencing a demographic transformation and the GOP either adapts to this reality or ceases to be a viable national party. The 2012 election made it clear that a whites-only electoral strategy is a prescription for defeat. Inaction on immigration will only hasten the GOP’s demise. The disaster that is currently unfolding with the government shutdown is likely to embolden the modernizers to stand up to the radicals.

For another, Republicans are steadily moving away from their prior position of “self-deportation” and towards legalization. As Maria Santos of the Weekly Standard highlights, there are scores of GOP House Members ready to bolt from the shackles of the “30 Republicans” and move immigration reform forward. She writes:

“84 House Republicans have publicly voiced support for granting some type of legal status to the 11 million immigrants here in the country illegally, and 20 others have said they would be willing to consider it – many more than what most media reports suggest… Speaker John Boehner has said he will not bring up any bill that does not have majority support from at least 118 Republicans.

Republicans will insist on securing the border and maintaining respect for the law, and most will refuse liberals’ calls for pathways to citizenship. But, with over 100 open to legalization, and still others who have not explicitly opposed it, a path to legalization might not be far away.”

Since there are ways to square Republican support for a path to legal status that has “no special path to citizenship” with our goal of an achievable citizenship option for all those legalized, this movement is significant. It strongly suggests that a near-majority of House Republicans are open to an approach towards the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America that could serve as the basis for bipartisan negotiations with Democrats and bicameral negotiations with the Senate.

Moreover, it underscores what advocates have been saying for some time now: right now we have the 218 votes in the House of Representatives to enact common sense immigration reform with an inclusive legalization program and an achievable roadmap to citizenship. Now it’s up to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to find a way for the modernizers to move forward rather than remain hogtied by the 30 Republican radicals.

As the shutdown proves, when Speaker Boehner and his fellow House leaders allow Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his 29 friends to run the Republican Caucus, the GOP loses. If he does the same on immigration reform, the Party is headed for oblivion. It’s time for the modernizers in the House GOP to step up and take control of their caucus and set a new direction of the GOP. Nothing less than the future of their party hangs in the balance.

This commentary originally appeared on americasvoiceonline.org

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? An Immigrant’s Dilemma

Alfred DiciocoAlhambra Source

Thick smog encased the crowded streets, jeepney drivers’ horns buzzed in an endless cacophony, and plastic bags scattered all over the streets of Quezon City. So why did I still feel a positive vibe?

Returning to the Philippines for the first time since I left seven years ago at the age of 15, I anticipated feeling like a stranger in my own country. After all, I should be more Americanized by now with my fancy accent and love for Trojan football. Instead, I was surprised at how comfortable I was to be back. Speaking in my native Filipino flowed in a way that English does not. And being reacquainted with family and friends, I felt more at home than I had in years being with people who shared similar experiences and values: they understood why I go to mass on Sunday, follow a curfew even now that I have graduated from college, or still have the need to inform my parents of my whereabouts. I even saw opportunities for myself to work and raise a family.

When I came back to Los Angeles, I felt my eagerness to adapt to American society around me change. For years, I had struggled to fit in — to know the popular cultural references that people grew up with, understand the dating culture, and learn what “success” truly means in this society. After my visit to the Philippines, I started to feel that mastering these things was not enough: even if I could complain about the traffic like a typical Angeleno or declare In-N-Out as the best burger I’ve ever tasted, I could only feel completely at home living in the Philippines.

Knowing that I felt drawn to my homeland does not mean the decision to move back is an easy one. My parents live in Alhambra and I have tons of college loans. I also feel an expectation that if I move back, I have to do it rich. And part of me is terrified to leave what has become my home in Los Angeles. I have met here some of the smartest and most compassionate people from different backgrounds, which has made me more open minded to their experiences regardless of my culture and beliefs.

So for more than a year I have endured this affliction of feeling pulled between two places.

I am not the only one to learn that immigration is not always a simple one-way journey. If I decide to move back to my homeland, I would be joining a large number of educated Asians and Asian Americans returning to their home countries from the United States. Of the 4 to 7 million Americans who currently live abroad, approximately 1 million are of Asian background, according to Edward Park, Professor and Director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University.

This group of returning immigrants is growing. Two of the countries where the trend is most pronounced are India and China. In India, almost 100,000 people of Indian descent moved back to the country in 2010 compared to 35,000 in 2006, according to the Migration Information Source. And according to an article about returning Chinese professional migrants from the United States published in the database Project Muse, 632,000 scholars and student migrants who studied abroad including in the United States chose to return to mainland China in 2010 compared to only 108,300 in 2009.

Other places where the trend is increasing are South Korea and Japan. “Samsung, a huge Korean tech company, wanted to innovate. But they realized that they just don’t have the talent in Korea,” Park said. “So, they began recruiting Korean-Americans.”

In my adopted hometown of Alhambra, I had a harder time finding like-minded people. Standing in front of the library and boba shops, I talked to immigrants from Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Each one said he or she had left and was not looking back. At a community forum, one Mexican woman even told me she had already bought a cemetery plot for herself here.

One difference I noticed between the people I interviewed and myself was that most of them either left their home country at a very young age, married and had children here, or had a negative experience in their native country. “I would like to stay here in a country that has stable politics,” Mei Lam, who moved to Alhambra from Hong Kong, told me. “And my future children, they can also enjoy the democracy instead of having to fight hard for freedom of speech.”

Sonny Sehmi, a native of England who owns the Indian-British fusion restaurant Hot Red Bus on Main Street with his American wife, said he sees a future for himself and his family in this city. “I live here, I married, I opened a business in Alhambra, about to become a father,” Sehmi said. “Home is where your heart is and my heart’s definitely here.”

The more time I spend in the United States, the further I feel from my homeland: the penetrating warmth of the humid tropical weather, the holler of vendors selling taho and fishballs, and the company of people who made me feel welcome even after being away for years. But I also feel a growing urgency to act fast. Growing up in a third-world society, I am scared I might settle for a comfortable and risk-free life instead of living in a place where I can possibly make a bigger impact. It is every person’s right to decide what is best for themselves and their families, but it saddens me every time I hear stories of my own friends and family getting separated from their spouses to work abroad, spending Noche Buena away from their children, or even watching their father’s wake through a computer screen. Unlike millions of Filipinos who remain abroad because of their legal status, not being able to afford to go back home, or having nobody left to go back to, I have the privilege of being able to return. I realized that my last visit to my homeland was not simply fueled by nostalgia for the memories of my life growing up in the Philippines. More than anything else, I think I saw a glimpse of an entirely new future for myself. I just didn’t expect it to be in a familiar place.

Alfred Dicioco emigrated to the US from his native Philippines when he was 15. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Theater and says one day he hopes to move back to the Philippines and host a morning news show. Illustration by Jee-Shaun Wang.

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Ethnic Media’s Collective Message to the White House: Do It Now

New America Media,
Editor’s Note: This editorial was produced in association with New America Media (http://www.newamericamedia.org), a national association of ethnic media, and was published by more than 50 ethnic media across the country to bring attention to the urgency of immigration reform. Ethnic media interested in running the editorial may contacteshore@newamericamedia.org.

The White House and Congress must move quickly to enact just and humane comprehensive immigration reform.

In the wake of the 2012 elections, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed the need to act on the issue. The window for bipartisan legislation is now open.

Ethnic media have a high stake in the future of immigration policy in this country. That’s why we are joining together to take an editorial stand to urge Congress and the White House: Make 2013 the year of immigration reform.

This is not merely a question of politics. We are calling for comprehensive immigration reform because it is the morally right, economically wise and pragmatically sensible thing to do.

Our country is a nation of laws, and it is clear that U.S. immigration laws need to be overhauled. The immigration system is broken, not only for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but for the thousands of immigrants who are unable to get visas to work in the United States; for American businesses that can’t hire the workers they need; for the families who wait for years to get visas to join their relatives in the United States.

We need comprehensive immigration reform that will reunite families, reinvigorate the economy, and revive our identity as a nation that thrives on the contributions of hard-working immigrants.

It’s clear that our federal immigration laws are not working. Federal inaction on immigration has led states from Arizona to Alabama to write their own legislation. Even the recently announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a temporary band-aid that does nothing to solve the larger problem of a broken immigration system.

Immigration has been portrayed as a divisive issue. In reality it’s not. All of us would benefit from an effective immigration system that responds to the needs of the market, protects all workers from abuse and exploitation and puts an end to the practice of separating parents from their children.

We need an immigration system that reflects the best traditions of our history — our belief in justice, equality, and economic opportunity.

And as we look to the future, we must make sure that we remain competitive in an increasingly globalized world. We need to continue to attract the best and the brightest, to be the destination of the world’s most innovative workers.

We must act now. Our economy and our future depend on it.

Op-ed in Spanish
El mensaje colectivo de los medios étnicos a la Casa Blanca: Hazlo ahora

Op-ed in Chinese

Op-ed in Vietnamese
Thời gian đã đến: Truyền Thông sắc tộc Gọi cho cải cách nhập cư trong năm 2013

Op-ed in Korean
2013년 이민법 개혁을 위한 소수계 언론의 공동 선언

A partial list of media that have agreed to publish the op-ed:

African-American Voice (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Al Día (Philadelphia)
Arizona Informant (Phoenix)
Asian American Press (St. Paul, Minn.)
Asian Journal (Los Angeles and New York)
AsianWeek (San Francisco)
Balita Media Inc. (Glendale, Calif.)
Balitang America – ABS-CBN International – The Filipino Channel (Redwood City, Calif.)
Bangla Patrika (New York)
CaliToday (San Jose, Calif.)
Caribbean Today (Miami)
ChicoSol (Chico, Calif.)
Chinese Daily News (Las Vegas)
El Diario-La Prensa (New York)
El Hispanic News (Portland, Ore.)
El Perico (Omaha, Neb.)
El Tiempo Latino (Washington)
El Tiempo New Orleans (New Orleans)
Express India (Washington)
The FilAm.net (New York)
Filipino American Journal (Phoenix)
Future Newspaper (Tinley Park, Ill.)
FWN Magazine (San Francisco)
Hartford Guardian (Hartford, Conn.)
Hyundai News USA (Oakland, Calif.)
The Immigrant’s Journal (New York)
India Journal (Los Angeles)
India West (San Leandro, Calif.)
Inquirer.net (Daly City, Calif.)
Jamaicans.com (Miami)
Jambalaya News (New Orleans)
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix (Phoenix)
KoreAm (Gardena, Calif.)
Korea Daily (Los Angeles)
Korean News Week (San Jose, Calif.)
La Voz (Phoenix)
La Opinión (Los Angeles)
La Raza News (Memphis)
Manila Mail (Washington)
Miami Diario (Miami)
Mundo Hispánico (Atlanta)
Nguoi Viet (Westminster, Calif.)
NM Compass (Albuquerque)
The Perspective (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Philippine News (Burlingame, Calif.)
Philippines Today (San Bruno, Calif.)
Rio Grande Digital (Las Cruces, N.M./El Paso, Tex.)
Rumbo (Houston)
Sada-e Pakistan (New York)
Sampan (Boston)
Siliconeer (Fremont, Calif.)
Sing Tao (San Francisco)
Sing Tao (New York)
Tri-State Defender (Memphis, Tenn.)
Two Rivers Tribune (Hoopa, Calif.)
Vida en el Valle (Fresno, Calif.)
World Journal (New York)
Zethiopia (Washington)

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What’s Wrong With Immigration Reform, Rubio Style

 By Raúl A. Reyes, Hispanic Link News Service

Lately Marco Rubio has been busy laying out the Republican Party’s framework for immigration reform to anyone who will listen. “We’re for legal immigration and for enforcing our laws,” the U.S. Senator from Florida explained to Telemundo.

The GOP spokesman on the issue favors an approach that “is not unfair to the people that are trying to come here legally.” Under his plan, the undocumented will be able to apply for citizenship “eventually.”
It’s good news that Cuban-American Rubio is accepting his party’s leadership role on immigration. Or is it? The idea that we need increased border security and enforcement ignores reality. His timetable for citizenship for the undocumented is problematic. And there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical of his conversion from immigration hardliner to immigration reformer.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionIt’s true that Rubio’s immigration plan is not too different from ideas proposed by President Obama. Both include employment verification mechanisms, a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for the undocumented that includes paying fines and back taxes, if owed.

But Rubio also believes we need more border security and enforcement measures. Not so, suggests the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. It notes that the U.S. spends roughly $18 billion on federal immigration enforcement, more than it spends on all other law enforcement efforts combined. Nearly all of the border security benchmarks set by Republicans during the 2007 immigration debate have been surpassed.

Meanwhile, 2012 saw record level of deportations, even as the Pew Center reports that illegal immigration has fallen to “net zero.”

Rubio should also stop insisting that we need to enforce our immigration laws because we are enforcing our immigration laws.

He told the New York Times that a “significant but reasonable” amount of time to legalize their status. Then, he said, they must go “to the back of the line” before they can apply for citizenship.

The problem is that Mexican nationals often wait between 15 and 20 years to receive a green card. Under Rubio’s plan, undocumented immigrants would have to get in line behind them, and could wait decades for citizenship.

When the Times questioned Rubio about this inordinately long waiting period, he replied, “I do not have a solution for that question right now.”

If he doesn’t have an answer to that question, it is premature for him to be floating his proposal. Not having critical details worked out renders any immigration plan incomplete.

Rubio’s recent interview with the Wall Street Journal was headlined “Marco Rubio: Riding to the Immigration Rescue.” Yet he may find his ideas a tough sell among Republicans and Latinos alike. Just three months ago, he was campaigning in Florida with Mitt “Self-Deportation” Romney. Rubio was against the original Dream Act and a supporter of SB 1070, Arizona’s harsh immigration law.

Now his Tea Party base and Hispanics are supposed to welcome his new position on immigration? Not too likely. Instead, people may realize that Marco Rubio’s only core conviction is Marco Rubio.

We don’t know the details of Rubio’s immigration proposal because he hasn’t offered any. If he isn’t careful, he risks a repeat of his Dream Act debacle. For two months Rubio publicly promoted his incomplete version of the Dream Act, but never wrote anything down. When President Obama introduced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, Rubio’s words became moot.

This time around, he needs to put something into action. If he takes a break from his media whirlwind long enough to write legislation, he may have a viable proposal. His challenge is to prove that his views are about opportunity – not opportunism.

Raúl A. Reyes practices law in New York City. Reach him at raul@raulareyes.com.

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Flawed E-Verify Law Would Derail Immigration Reform Efforts, Say Experts

By Caitlin Fuller, NAM News Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last month, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Legal Workforce Act, which would require employers to verify their employees’ legal immigration status using the online program E-Verify. While proponents of the program believe the resulting loss of jobs will compel undocumented workers to return to their home countries, not all policy experts agree.

“The law would just drive eight million unauthorized workers even deeper into the shadows,” said Angela Kelly, an analyst at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Back in 2006 and 2007, proposed immigration reform packages included E-Verify mandates, but were counterbalanced by legalization programs for the 11 million or so undocumented people currently living in the United States. Today, only 4 percent of U.S. employers use E-Verify. If participation in the program becomes mandatory through the Legal Workforce Act, however, it would likely take the wind out of comprehensive immigration reform bills such as the one introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) last month, according to Kelly and her colleagues at CAP.

During a teleconference hosted by New America Media on Wednesday, Kelly and Philip Wogin, both immigration policy analysts at CAP, told ethnic media reporters that the E-Verify legislation would also have other unintended consequences.

“This bill would break the backs of small businesses,” said Kelly, who shared CAP estimates showing that the mandate would cost small businesses a total of $2.6 billion a year.

In theory, E-Verify allows employers to ensure that all of their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. To do so, the employer enters personal information, including the birth date and social security number or alien identification number of the employee, into the E-Verify system. Then, the Social Security Administration and U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cross check that data against existing records. If the information matches up, E-Verify issues proof of work authorization.

If there is a mismatch of information, E-Verify issues a tentative non-confirmation to the employer. When this occurs, the employee must contact the government in order to sort out the issue. If the employee fails to resolve the data discrepancies, E-Verify then issues a final non-confirmation notice. Under Smith’s proposed bill, the employer would be legally obliged to fire the worker after receiving the second notice.

Part of the problem, said Kelly and Wolgin, is that the current E-Verify technology is not accurate. CAP estimates that the system will accurately identify only about half of all employees who are not legally authorized to work in the country. Conversely, many employees who are legally authorized to work could be erroneously flagged by E-Verify as unauthorized. CAP estimates those employees would then have to spend an average of $450 in lost wages and transportation costs just to straighten out the misunderstanding with the government. Although legally, employers have to wait for the final non-confirmation notice before firing their employees, CAP has found that employers who already use E-Verify often fire their workers after receiving the first, tentative non-confirmation. CAP estimates that 770,000 people who are legally authorized to work in the United States could lose their job if E-Verify becomes law.

Kelly noted that the federal government would also stand to lose revenue, if unauthorized workers choose to move from the formal to an informal economy as a result of the E-Verify mandate. In addition to the lost income and tax revenue that will cause, said Kelly, there is also the startup cost to the federal government.

“This is a program that would result in a massive expansion of government,” said Kelly. CAP estimates that the Department of Homeland Security would spend about $800 million just to establish the program. It would cost the Social Security administration $281 million.

The bill is likely to be debated in the Judiciary Committee, of which Smith is the chair, later this month. If it passes the Republican-controlled committee as expected, it could be introduced on the House floor as early as September.

Although Congressional Republicans appear to support the bill, it is not without some controversy within the party. Pennsylvania Representative Lou Barletta, the former mayor of Hazleton, who famously cracked down on the employers of undocumented immigrants in his town, objected to the federal government taking on what he sees at a state issue. To date, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Indiana have all passed immigration laws that include E-Verify mandates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he will not support a federal E-Verify mandate separately from comprehensive immigration reform.

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Poll: For Latinos, Immigration Is Personal

La Opinión, Pilar Marrero

Latino voters are no strangers to the plight of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

A majority (53 percent) of Latino registered voters said they personally know an undocumented immigrant, and one-quarter (25 percent) said they know someone who has been deported or is facing deportation proceedings. That’s according to a new poll by ImpreMedia and Latino Decisions, the third in a series of six national opinion polls exploring the views of the most integrated segment of Latinos in American society: registered voters.

This installment of the poll focused on the topic of immigration.

Matt Barreto, pollster for Latino Decisions and political science professor at the University of Washington, said the poll results put to rest the notion that Latino voters are not interested in what happens to undocumented immigrants.

“It proves what we know anecdotally, that the immigration issue is very personal for Latinos, and doesn’t have to do with political ideology. Latino voters have personal relationships that they feel are impacted by the nation’s decisions about immigrants,” said Barreto.

“That’s why they [undocumented immigrants] can affect the political decisions of even second- or third-generation Latinos born here.”

Gabriel Sanchez, political science professor at the University of New Mexico, said that at first glance, the poll results seem surprising.

“We’re talking about registered Latino voters, and yet the direct and personal connection with the issue of undocumented immigrants helps explain why even Latinos born in the United States, whose dominant language is English, have liberal attitudes about immigration policy,” he said. “This is something a lot of people in the U.S. don’t understand.”

Fifty-one percent of Latino voters consider the issue of immigration, including comprehensive reform and the DREAM Act, to be the most important issue currently facing the community. Thirty-five percent said their priority is the economy and the creation of jobs. Education came in third place, with 18 percent of voters identifying it as the most important issue.

The voters surveyed said that in the absence of immigration reform in Congress, they believe the president should use his executive powers to address some of the immediate problems facing certain groups of undocumented immigrants.

Sixty-six percent of voters said they would support an executive order by the president to stop the deportation of undocumented minors or college-age youth who do not have a criminal record. This support is consistent among Latinos of all ideologies, backgrounds and political parties, including 54 percent of Republicans.

Respondents also said they did not see the need to further increase border security or direct more resources toward deportations. When asked if they thought these efforts were necessary, 29 percent agreed and 62 percent disagreed. Of these, 49 percent said they “strongly disagreed.”

Among those who favor the president’s use of executive orders, 60 percent said they support stopping the deportation of children and minors with no criminal record; 74 percent said they support stopping the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

“A clear majority of Latino voters favors President Obama making use of his executive authority so there is greater discretion when it comes to detentions and deportations. They clearly want to see the end of deportations of young students, parents of U.S.-citizen children and people married to citizens or legal residents,” Barreto said.

They were also asked about a number of immigration-related state measures. Fifty-six percent said they oppose laws requiring state or local police to ask people for their papers; 29 percent were in favor of these laws.

Fifty-two percent said they would support a law clarifying that only the federal government can ask for immigration papers. Seventy-eight percent said they support laws that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at universities.

The survey also found strong support for comprehensive immigration reform, reflecting the results of previous polls of Latino voters. All categories of Latino registered voters, including independents and Republicans, said they support immigration reform, in numbers ranging from 66 percent to 80 percent depending on the subgroup. All were solid majorities.

This includes requiring undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and pass a background check (84 percent supported this) and requiring them to have lived in the country for at least two years (69 percent) in order to qualify for a path to legalization. There was less support for a fine of $1,000 (48 percent in favor, 46 percent opposed) and requiring immigrants to return to their home country before getting papers (40 percent in favor and 53 opposed).

Latino voters also said they noticed an anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in U.S. public discourse. Sixty percent said there was definitely an anti-immigrant climate and 16 percent said there was to some extent (for a total of 76 percent).


Latino Decisions interviewed 500 registered voters between May 24 and June 4 in the 21 states with the highest Latino populations, representing 95 percent of the electorate. Interviewees were selected at random from voter rolls and included those interviewed by cell phone. The margin of error was 4.3 percent. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish, according to the preference of the respondents.


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McCain’s Reversal

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During the last presidential primaries, we gave our support to Senator John McCain for being a pragmatic, independent-minded politician, and for having a realistic vision on immigration. What a disappointment it is to compare that man to the candidate for reelection in Arizona today!

McCain has gone from being a reasoned voice in the immigration debate to an apologist for the irrational by supporting the Arizona bill that uses racial profiling to persecute the undocumented, among other controversial provisions. If that weren’t enough, the Senator recently appeared on the Fox television network saying that undocumented immigrants were “intentionally” causing car accidents.

McCain’s dramatic shift on immigration personifies the political opportunism we mentioned a few weeks ago in relation to California’s own Republican primary, although the Senator’s case is much more profound. This is a politician who was once considered one of the Senate’s pillars in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, a position he diametrically opposes today.

It is sadly all too common for politicians to change their messages in election years to win more votes. But 180-degree reversals are unacceptable, all the more so, as in this case, when it means the persecution of individuals because of their appearance using stereotypes particularly harmful to Latinos.

McCain’s strategy aims to thwart a challenge by ultraconservative J.D. Hayworth in the August Republican primary. Pressure from anti-immigration extremists within the Republican ranks is leading people like McCain to take radical positions unlike anything they have done previously in their career.

We believe there is absolutely no justification for supporting the Arizona bill or for using the language the Senator did. Good deeds in the past provide no immunity for the blunders of the present.

After what just happened in Arizona, comprehensive immigration reform is needed more than ever. In this debate, McCain should be the reasonable pragmatist rather than a voice of irrational extremism.

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Obama’s Aunt Seeks Asylum

BOSTON —  The Associated Press is reporting that President Barack Obama’ aunt is before a judge today seeking asylum to stay in the U.S.

Obama’s aunt showed up in a wheelchair with  a cane across her lap, for a hearing in U.S. Immigration Court to make another bid for asylum because of what her lawyer said included medical reasons, the report says.

Kenya native Zeituni Onyango, 57, and two doctors are expected to testify at the hearing, which is closed to the public, lawyer Margaret Wong said. She is applying for asylum for medical and “other” reasons, Wong said.

In an interview in November with The Associated Press, she said she is disabled and learning to walk again after being paralyzed from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.

It was not immediately clear when Judge Leonard Shapiro would rule. Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, said the judge could issue a decision Thursday after the hearing, could continue the hearing and hear additional testimony on another date, or could issue a decision later.

Onyango, the half-sister of Obama’s late father, moved to the United States in 2000. Her first asylum request was rejected, and she was ordered deported in 2004. But she didn’t leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston.

Her status as an illegal immigrant was revealed just days before Obama was elected in November 2008. Obama has said he didn’t know his aunt was living in the country illegally and immigration law should be followed.

In November, Onyango said she never asked Obama to intervene in her case and didn’t tell him about her immigration difficulties.

“He has nothing to do with my problem,” she told the AP.

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