Tag Archive | "Immigration"

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Community Forum on Immigrants Amidst Hate

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Immigrants and allies will gather in December to discuss ways to deal with anxiety spawned by hate incidents or deportation and offer viable resources to cope.

The event “The Changing Face of America: Immigrants as Assets” is scheduled for Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the University of Connecticut Hartford Campus, 10 Prospect Street, Room 146 in Hartford.

The event comes after news of an alarming increase in reports of hate incidents around the country since 2016. Reports range from vandalism and hate-fueled graffiti to physical attacks and shootings.

The reports come amid heightened fear and anxiety within immigrant and minority communities, fueled by the rhetoric and policies from the current administration.

At the community conversation, experts will offer replicable strategies to change the narrative on immigration and build support for better policies at community and state levels. Participants will find out how to push back with programs and policies that propel immigrants as assets. And they will learn about resources and allies to help immigrants faced with the anxiety of separation, deportation and the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in our nation.

Participants include Tess Reagan, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Denzil Mohammed, Immigrant Learning Center, Alok Bhatt, Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, Christina Gill, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Homa Nacify, Hartford Public Library, Fiona Vernal, University of Connecticut, Ann-Marie Adams, The Hartford Guardian.

The community conversation will be hosted by The Hartford Guardian.

For more information, email editor@the hartfordguardian.com.


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Line of Immigrants Seeking Citizenship Grows as Feds Grapple With Backlog

By Ana Radelat

HARTFORD — More immigrants in Connecticut are applying for citizenship, creating a backlog that has led the federal government to send some applicants to New York to process their cases.

The application process for new citizens has stretched from a median of about six months to more than a year as the line of applicants has grown.

Advocates and attorneys representing immigrants say the backlog, which is also occurring nationally, is due to a combination of factors  — an increase in more people filing for citizenship, and a deliberate slowdown aimed at discouraging new citizens from joining the ranks of fellow Americans.

“In my world, people are frantic about it,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the progressivePartnership for New Americans, a national immigrant rights organization.

Nationally, there are 753,000 immigrants whose citizenship applications were pending at the end of March, about double what there were in 2014.

In Connecticut, there were 7,652 pending applications in Hartford at the end of March, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS. That total did not include an unknown number of Connecticut applicants who live in Fairfield County and have had their applications transferred to Albany, N.Y., where 1,267 applications were pending.

In the same time period three years ago in Hartford, 5,617 applications were pending.

“It’s just getting more delayed, more delayed, and more delayed,” said Justin Conlon, an immigration attorney in Hartford.

In the first two quarters of fiscal year 2018, there were 4,757 applications for citizenship filed in the Hartford office, according to the USCIS, as compared to 4,625 applications during the same period in 2015.

While an increase of 132 applications is modest, it does not include those cases that have been transferred by USCIS from Connecticut to New York. USCIS could not provide that number Wednesday.

Until April, USCIS processed all applications for citizenship in Connecticut in its Hartford office.

“Earlier this year we assessed application processing times and individual office resources in an effort to improve naturalization processing across the (Hartford) district,” a USCIS official said. “Consequently, the temporary measure was implemented.”

“It’s a hassle for people,” said Aleksandr Troyb, an immigration lawyer in Stamford and past president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

He said immigrants who have early morning interviews had had to secure hotel rooms to spend the night before their hearings in Albany. Immigration lawyers have also raised their fees to represent Connecticut clients in proceedings in New York.

Whether they are processed in Hartford or Albany, all new citizens take the Pledge of Allegiance in a naturalization ceremony in Hartford. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 17 at the Hartford Public Library.

Despite the hardship, which includes filling out lengthy applications, paying a $725 filing fee (which includes $85 for a background check),  a medical exam, lengthy interviews — and for many, legal fees — advocates say immigrants are rushing to become U.S. citizens.

Troyb said immigrants are filing for citizenship as soon as they can, instead of putting off the process, because people are worried qualifications will tighten under the Trump administration.

“A lot of them are filing as soon as they become eligible,” Troyb said.

Most immigrants are eligible for citizenship if they have held legal residency, or a “green card,” for five years, although legal immigrants who are married to a U.S. citizen can apply after only three years.

But the Trump administration is expected to issue an executive order in the  coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including the Affordable Care Act.

“They see things like that on the news and they are very worried their applications will be denied,” Troyb said. “There’s a perception immigration laws are changing weekly.”

Hoyt, of the Partnership for New Americans, said “the surge in applications is driven in part by fear.”

As of now, most applications for citizenship are approved, even as the process has lengthened.

For example, the Hartford USCIS office approved 2,217 applications in the first quarter of this year and denied 254.

At the  Hartford  office Wednesday, a neatly dressed man from Yemen was attempting to navigate the complex application process. Saleh, who declined to give his first name, emigrated to Connecticut 11 years ago with his wife, but only recently decided to apply for citizenship.

Saleh, who lives in Bridgeport with his wife and five children, brought his oldest son, who is 12, to translate during his interview because he was worried about his English proficiency.

“I have wanted to apply for citizenship for a long time but I wanted to speak better English,” said Saleh. “I’m still very nervous about my English, but decided to go for it now. It (the process) has taken a very long time.”

Immigrants who become U.S. citizens can vote, serve on juries and obtain security clearance. Denaturalization — the process of removing that citizenship — is very rare.

But the Trump administration in July hired dozens of attorneys to form a task force to review the records of people who have become U.S. citizens since 1990, in order to identify people who deliberately lied on their citizenship applications.

“We finally have a process in place to get to the bottom of all these bad cases and start denaturalizing people who should not have been naturalized in the first place,” USCIS Director Francis Cissna said.

Conlon said he noticed the citizenship process had become more “rigorous” about a year ago, with federal agents asking more questions about an immigrant’s background.

“There is definitely more scrutiny,” said Wayne Chapple, an immigration lawyer whose office is near the Hartford USCIS center.

He said things slowed down a bit during President Obama’s second term, “but nothing like it is now.”

Immigration lawyers and advocates say there’s nothing stopping the USCIS from hiring more personnel to deal with its backlog. That’s because the agency is funded by the filing fees immigrant pay, and not by Congress or the taxpayer, and can simply raise fees to cover additional expenses.

To Hoyt the delays are simply a way to discourage people from becoming new citizens – and new voters.

“The effect is voter suppression, that’s why we say the Trump administration has built a second wall,” he said.

Julia Werth contributed to this story. This article was first published by ctmirror.org.

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CT Dems ‘Shocked’ About Condition of Immigrant Detentions at Border

WASHINGTON — Connecticut lawmakers at the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend said they were moved, and even shocked, by what they saw up close as the effect of  the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

“It was worse than we ever thought,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District.

DeLauro and Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Jim Himes, D-4th District and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, were part of a group of 25 Democratic lawmakers who toured a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in McAllen, Texas, and the Port Isabel immigration processing center in Brownsville, Texas on Saturday.

The Connecticut Democrats spoke of sobbing mothers who did not know where their children were and pleaded for help, families in holding centers ringed with barbed wire, and children sleeping on concrete floors under mylar heat-resistant blankets.

“It was very emotional,” Courtney said.

Many of the immigrants caught up in the drama at the border are Central Americans who are fleeing drug-related and gang violence in their countries. Some have traveled to Mexico, on foot much of the time, for a month or more to reach the United States.

At the Brownsville detention center, the Connecticut lawmakers met with 10 Central American mothers who had been separated from their children.

With Himes, who speaks fluent Spanish, acting as translator, the lawmakers determined that only one of the mothers had been able to contact a child.

She had spoken to her daughter, who was taken to New York by the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the federal agency that takes charge of immigrant youth who arrive in the United States by themselves or who were separated by their parents since the Trump administration imposed its “zero tolerance” policy.

Under the policy, parents were jailed and children were taken to DHS -contracted shelters.

Courtney said the detention center where the mothers were held “is like a prison where they have to pay to use the phone.” But he said few had any money when they reached the border and others had their money confiscated.

“The most disturbing thing without question was spending time with this group of moms,” Himes said.

“The president of the United States,” said Esty, “should come down and speak to these women.”

The Customs and Border Patrol personnel were “trying to do the best they can, as humanisticaly as they can, under an insane flip-flop at the White House,” Himes said.

He described a scene where 20 or 30 little girls emerged from “mounds of silver Mylar” they were given to sleep under. “They were scared. Some had been crying,” Himes continued. “But what is the worst aspect of what we have seen today is that this President calls those little girls that stood up from those mounds of Mylar, calls them MS-13, calls them criminals. Wants Americans to believe that the hundreds of people we saw in this facility behind us are a danger to them and to this country.”

DeLauro said she met a woman from Honduras held at the processing facility in McAllen with her two teenage daughters. The mother begged the lawmakers to “please, please help.”

She said the detainees wore prison garb and were held in facilities where the walls were reinforced with double rows of razor wire.

“When you think about it, these are misdemeanors we’re talking about,” DeLauro said.

The lawmakers were not allowed to take photos, or bring cell phones or recording devices into the facilities they toured. They were ferried from place to place by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bus.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’ comment about riding in an ICE detention bus: “Suspect most passengers don’t get boxed lunches.”

Himes joked on Twitter: “(I) suspect most passengers don’t get boxed lunches.”

Reacting to scorching criticism about the separation of more than 2,300 children from their immigrant parents, President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to end the practice of separating families.

But the order also called for the continued jailing of all undocumented immigrants, even many seeking asylum and first-time border crossers who would be charged with a misdemeanor.

That executive order has added to the chaos at the border, the Democratic lawmakers said.

“There is still a lot of confusion and a lot of panic,” Himes said.

Since a 1997 consent decree forbids keeping children in ICE detention centers for more than 20 days, Customs and Border Protection agents have interpreted the executive order as allowing them to freeze criminal referrals for migrant parents who cross illegally with children, just as they did before the “zero tolerance” policy went into effect.

“They pretty much told us the separations were over,” Courtney said.

Reconnecting separated children with their parents is not going to be easy.

All detained immigrants – even immigrants — are assigned “A’’ or alien numbers, only to be given different identification numbers by other federal agencies. Many of the children have been taken to other states, among them New York, Florida and Michigan, and placed with family members or other court-appointed guardians. There are reports that parents have been deported without their children.

Esty said “intense pressure” must continue to be brought to bear on the Trump administration to reunite immigrant children with their parents.

Democrats believe they have reaped a political gain from the immigration crisis that was created by the Trump administration’s imposition of the “zero tolerance” policy, a move made to appeal to the GOP’s conservative base.

In the midst of the controversy last week, House conservatives were unable to gain enough support to pass a hardline immigration bill. A more moderate Republican version is expected to be voted on next week, but approval of that measure is not guaranteed.

A frustrated Trump undercut GOP efforts to pass the more moderate bill by tweeting that Republican leaders should give up on immigration until a “red wave” ushers in more congressional Republican lawmakers in November’s midterm elections.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made a separate trip to the border this weekend with New Mexico’s Democratic senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall.

Like the House members, Blumenthal was limited in what he was able to see. He visited a detention center where about 250 immigrant boys were housed in tents. “One of the questions we kept asking is ‘Where are the girls?’“ he said. “And nobody seems to know.”


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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.

Read More

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)
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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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