Category Archives: U.S. Capitol

Tweet del Dia: No Latino Love for Ted

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Republicans Block Chavez Resolution Because of Immigration

Unsurprisingly, the Republicans in the US Senate blocked a resolution honoring late labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Why? Because the Republicans wanted to honor Chavez’s anti-immigrant work.

But Republicans blocked it after Democrats refused their demand that they also include in the resolution mention of how Chavez pushed for tighter border security and saw undocumented immigrants as detrimental to U.S. workers.

I mentioned this particular fact about Chavez’s life in the review of movie last week, and it is a part of his life that Republicans have tried to exploit for their own benefit, much like they attempt to co-opt Martin Luther King’s Republican past.

Much like most labor unions, the United Farm Workers were opposed to immigrant labor because of how easy it was to exploit this source of cheap labor, thus making it easier to end the labor movement. While Chavez and the Union wanted fair labor practices and fair pay for what were mostly American citizen workers, it was people like Ronald Reagan and other Republicans who would have none of that and supported strike-breaking in the form of immigrant exploitation. Some things never change, much like the corporations that want to exploit immigrants today in order to avoid benefits like health insurance, equal pay, and simple worker protections. It really is an old Republican strategy of “divide and conquer.”

Ultimately, Cesar Chavez changed course on immigrant rights as the Chicano civil rights movement took on a more global view of labor, civil and human rights. Plus, the Union was in need of membership. Obviously, Republicans have never supported civil and human rights for anyone, much less labor rights.

Frankly, I’m not much into empty resolutions when Congress isn’t getting any real work done. I want public policy, like, I don’t know, immigration reform, equal pay, jobs creation, health care reform/single payer, education funding, stuff like that. But it’s not like the Republicans will ever support anything of value to a majority of this country.

 

GOPtinos 2.0?

Looks like they’re at it again. The Republicans are courting Latinos by hiring Latinos and then sending a press release about it.

Quick! Point me to the nearest polling location! I’ve been convinced that the GOP likes us!

It seems the Republicans are still lying to themselves. Still far from supporting a path to citizenship, which over 80% of Latinos support, their efforts on immigration reform have stalled to the point of indifference. They have convinced themselves that immigration is not a top issue for Latinos, although thousands showed up in Washington, DC to demand Congress wake up and pass some sort of reform a couple of days ago. The right-wing “Caller” rag called them “illegals.” But that’s not the entire Latino message for the GOP.

Here in Texas, Greg Abbott is already attacking Wendy Davis on driver’s licenses for immigrants, and is on record supporting racial profiling as a means of state-sanctioned immigration enforcement. Right-winger for state comptroller Glenn Hegar just started a poll asking his supporters if the comptroller should do a study about the “impact of illegal immigration.” The title alone tells us what his intent really is. Even Carol Strayhorn used the term, “undocumented” in her report. Mostly, Hegar is also on record as saying he supports voter ID because “illegals” vote illegally in record numbers–a downright lie.

And I’ll also mention that voter suppression through voter photo ID and gerrymandering sent Latinos a clear message:  No representation for you!

What do I usually tell Latinos who may be buying into GOPtino outreach window dressing?

It’s the policies, ¡pende**s!

And Latinos are on record as being overwhelmingly in support of more progressive policy stances on jobs and the economy, health care, immigration reform, and education. Any other issues, particularly the cultural ones the GOP seems to stick to, are far from priorities for Latinos. Just read any poll by Latino Decisions or the Pew Hispanic Institute.

As always, I’ll tell Democrats and Democratic candidates–stay strong and progressive on these issues; defend against right-wing attacks; and don’t give in.

Ted Poe Gets Double Dose of CIR Push

Today at the University of St. Thomas, faith and community leaders held a panel discussion to discuss the urgency of passing comprehensive immigration reform. Moreover, the target of the discussion was Congressman Ted Poe and other Texas delegation members.

Dr. Robert Ivany, President of the University of St. Thomas, spoke to our individual obligations as engaged citizens and the university’s obligation as a Catholic institution. 

“Here in Houston, the lack of comprehensive immigration reform confronts us daily. We are honored to host this forum to address our duty as responsible citizens and as faithful Catholics who are committed to the fair and just treatment of our community.” 

Scott Braddock, known for dynamic interviews with politicians and activists from across the political spectrum, moderated the discussion and urged the diverse set of panelists to describe the impact of America’s broken immigration system on Houston and the costs of Congress’ current inaction.

“A sensible immigration bill is vital for our city, state, and nation,” said Stan Marek, a leading figure in Houston’s business community and President and CEO of the Marek Family of Companies. “An estimated 2.1 million undocumented reside within our Texas borders and it’s time they were brought out of the shadows. Too many are working in low paying jobs and in a sense being held hostage because of their status. We need to demand now that our members in the House take seriously their obligation to pass a bill into the Conference Committee.” 

Bringing to bear the teachings of their respective faith traditions, prominent pastors from diverse backgrounds echoed the call for comprehensive immigration reform and demanded an end to the exploitation of aspiring Americans. 

“Every day, Houston pastors encounter children and young adults whose families have been torn apart by America’s failed immigration system,” said  Senior Pastor Tim Moore of Walk Worthy Baptist Church. “We will not be silent while these anti-family policies wreak havoc in our communities. We urge Rep. Poe and fellow members of Texas’ Congressional delegation to examine the tenets of their faith and give us a vote on comprehensive immigration reform with an earned pathway to citizenship.” 

Seeing firsthand the impact of Houston’s broken immigration system on local families and parishioners, Pastor Diane McGehee , Director of the Center for Missional Excellence at Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, said  “We need Congress to pass immigration reform right now that protects immigrant families and workers, and includes a path to citizenship. The system we have right now is broken, hopelessly complex, and devastates hard working immigrants who come here to build a better life for themselves and their families. Even I, a licensed attorney, can’t navigate it without help and great expense. We can and must do better. How we treat our fellow human beings as made in the image of God is central to our faith as Christians.”

Bob Price, a well-known political commentator and blogger for TexasGOPVote, said “Immigration reform can no longer be ignored by our government. If we are to be a nation of laws, our laws must be just, and they must serve the needs of our people, our families and our communities.  This is the right time for us to move forward on this issue and solve a problem that has been haunting us for many years.” 

As the immigration reform movement continues to gain steam in Houston and across the United States, Members of Congress need to act now to reform our broken system. Eleven million aspiring American citizens must not be trapped in the shadows any longer, and immigrant families must be freed from the constant threat of being torn apart. The faith, business, labor and law enforcement communities stand united and will not rest until our neighbors, parishioners, customers, students, and friends are brought out of the shadows and given the opportunity to fully engage in America’s economy and democracy. 

Given that Ted Poe has been under pressure from both sides of the issue after a FoxLatino.com article mentioned Poe had “softened” on the issue, perhaps even being open to supporting a path to citizenship, the Chron continued adding to the storyline with an article by Rob Paral.

A new analysis of immigration trends and demographic composition of U.S. House districts shows that many Republican congressional districts have emerging electorates that care deeply about immigration reform.

Many Republican representatives will see their constituency profiles evolve in the coming years. Asian and Latino youth and newly naturalized U.S. citizens will make up 34 percent of newly eligible voters in 55 Republican-held congressional districts.

Take for example Republican Rep. Ted Poe, of Texas’ 2nd Congressional District. The district, which includes parts of Houston and eastern and northern suburbs, is more than half white. But come time for the 2014 elections, nearly 51 percent of all the newly eligible voters in his district will be either recently naturalized immigrants or Asian or Latino youth who turned 18 before the election and will be eligible to cast a ballot.

The political realities of 2012 are hitting many Republicans in the face, as of late. While some on the “blue” side of things have been awaiting the demographic changes to come through to effect victories, Paral seems to think that once this occurs, the effects will not stop.

This is not a one-time event. The impact stretches across future election cycles and its influence grows over time.

Like I’ve stated, I’m not a fan of S.744 or the Border Militarization. Much of what is in the bill has been written to appease Republicans like Ted Poe and others who are beginning to see the realities of the future of Texas. Unfortunately, I’m thinking that the GOP is just too damn pig-headed to even support a bad bill like S.744 just for face-saving purposes.

 

Is Ted Poe Really Changing His Mind on CIR?

The story about Ted Poe softening on immigrant hunting at the border has been out since April when Fox Latino put this article out.

“I’ve changed,” said Poe, who was first elected to Congress in 2004. “I used to think we had to do border security before we ever talk about other immigration issues. But we have to do them in tandem, because [otherwise] we’ll never get to those other issues. The border is really not secure because of the drug cartels.”

Now, Poe not only will discuss other immigration issues, but is going head-on against many of his fellow conservatives in his decision to support a path to legal status for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

The Chron put out an editorial praising him, too.

I co-wrote an op-ed in the Kingwood Observer the other day in which I challenge Poe to put his money where is mouth is and at the very least support S.744. Now, I’ve been quite adamant that S.744 is quite flawed and needs vast improvements on the Citizenship side of it, but the way Poe has been talking, it would seem S.744 is right up his alley.

Where does he really stand?

Recently, immigration reform group America’s Voice, released an infograph and list on the number of Republicans (24) who now support a path to citizenship, but Rep. Poe is not on it. So, did the Chron actually do its research?

While Boehner has stated that he will not allow a vote on S.744 on the floor of the House unless a majority of the Republicans support it, the reality is that if all of the House Democrats support S.744, only eighteen (18) Republicans would be needed to pass it. It looks like there’s even a little bit of a cushion for Dumbocrats who are too chicken to support it. Of course, that’s if you actually like S.744.

Some have asked me, “What’s up with Poe?” I’m not sure. If he’s changing his mind or re-prioritizing the border, ok, then! Is it political? Does he want to be the next VP or Senator? Who knows? I just felt the need to provide some perspective to what’s been in the news, lately.

 

3rd Centavo: Guerra ~ S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part II

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part II in a several part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers. The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.” Here in Part II, another onerous trigger is discussed.

THE E-VERIFY TRIGGER

The bill states that the DHS Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens until “the Secretary has implemented the mandatory employment verification system…for use by all employers to prevent unauthorized workers from obtaining employment in the United States.”

The point of E-Verify is to prevent unauthorized workers from gaining employment by requiring that permission be sought from the federal government when starting a job. It is currently being used in 16 states across the country. S.744 basically turbocharges e-verify, making it federal law, requiring every state and every business, anybody hiring anybody anywhere, to implement it.

The negatives of E-Verify have been outlined and discussed for a while now. One of the major issues that I see is that the government is woefully not ready for the program.

When government program errors prevent anybody from making a living, that’s kind of a big deal. When government program errors prevent hundreds of thousands of people from making a living, well, that program needs to be done away with. Rampant false positives already exist. Here are some stats:

  • The US Government Accountability Office estimates that if E-Verify is made mandatory nationwide, 164,000 people would be held up from being hired just because of issues with name changes [1].
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services reports that in 2012, ~1 out of every 400 cases submitted to E-Verify resulted in false positives [2]. In a nation where there are 154 million workers, that would be 400,000 deprived of the right to work.

Oh, and resolving errors isn’t easy. A report by the National Immigration Law Center highlights examples that are typical of people experiencing false positives. Here’s a good one [3]:

  • A US citizen and former captain in the US Navy with 34 years of service and a history of having maintained high security clearance was flagged by E-Verify as not eligible for employment. It took him and his wife, an attorney, two months to resolve the discrepancy.

In addition to the false positives, the AARP is extremely concerned about the strain a nationwide E-Verify would put on the Social Security Administration’s ability to delivery services to its beneficiaries.

There’s more. History and recent data suggest that E-Verify will lead to widespread discrimination and racial profiling. A 1990 study by the GAO found that when the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 required employers to verify identities, 20% of employers engaged in widespread discrimination against foreign-looking AMERICAN workers [4]. You almost can’t blame them. Businesses may avoid interviewing workers just to avoid dealing with the potential hassle (this is racial profiling).

The Huffington Post has a nice short article highlighting the discriminatory issues with E-Verify. For a more in depth study on the negatives with E-Verify, check out the ACLU’s 10 Big Problems with E-Verify.

[1] www.gao.gov/new.items/d11146.pdf
[2] USCIS
[3] www.nilc.org/document.html?id=337
[4] archive.gao.gov/d24t8/140974.pdf
 

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

One-Year of DACA

Last week, I had the honor of speaking to one of my favorite Democratic clubs, the Kingwood Area Democrats. While the Democratic/National Latino Organization narrative has been one of support for Senate Bill 744 (which sits idle in the U.S. House), the Republican narrative has been the same old negative vitriol.

The dissonance can be frustrating for those who truly support immigration reform. In the case of my visit to KAD, I chose to offer a little truth about Senate Bill 744–that not only is it not a perfect bill, as President Obama has told us, but it is quite imperfect. My colleague Rey Guerra also writes about this, and we look forward to posting the second part of his series on S.744.

No doubt, the one bright spot in the last couple of years has been Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order for DHS to defer the deportation proceedings of undocumented children. Some of these kids may otherwise qualify for a future DREAM type act. Unfortunately, Republicans have called it a “back-door Amnesty,” which it is not. And Democrats have compared it to the DREAM Act, which it definitely is not. (The Kingwood article in which I am quoted state DREAM Act, but I actually was talking about DACA in that instance).

All DACA does is bring these undocumented children out of the shadows, allowing them a work permit or the opportunity to continue their studies without fear of deportation for a two-year period. It is not a cure, it is not an amnesty,  it does not include any type of family reunification (the foundation of immigration in the US), and, there is one big problem.

The problem is that it is quite political in that many of those who were applying last year were literally praying for an Obama victory because there was no promise from Romney to continue the program. If anything Romney was non-committal and caught with his pants down with his whole “self deportation” scheme. And if immigration reform does not happen, what then? Pray for Hillary Clinton victory so that these kids can remain in limbo?

The result has been over half-a-million applicants for DACA, with over 70% of them having been approved. Only 1 percent have been denied for various reasons. The Brookings Institute provides some facts on DACA. Back to the political aspect of this, there are well over 800,000 children who may be DREAM-eligible, so that means a few hundred thousand have not applied for DACA, perhaps because of financial restraints or a preference for a more permanent plan like the actual DREAM Act.

What this proves is that an effective process of providing the 11 million undocumented a path out of the shadows toward legalization and ultimately citizenship is administratively possible. It would be a given with a better investment into the legal immigration system.

Instead, s.744 forces folks to the back of a line that doesn’t move, thus leaving people in a second class status. As I’ve stated before, it is currently a back of a line that does not move, and there isn’t much political determination to truly improve the infrastructure that would allow the line to start moving at a faster pace.

As my sister, Toni Medellin, states in her presentation, there are those in the “legal” immigration system being processed for a green card who applied back in 1992. This is not a working system; if anything, it is archaic and quite broken.

So, while many celebrate DACA and a temporary deferral of deportation proceedings, we must keep in mind that the bigger system under President Obama has already deported over 1.7 million immigrants. And this Congressional recess has around 40,000 more immigrants scheduled for deportation.

Let’s just contemplate that while we continue to break apart S.744. Because we are still of the opinion that America can do much better than what is being offered.

 

 

Drones, Floating Bodies, and Border Security

Thanks to the good folks at Kingwood Area Democrats for featuring my lawyer-sister Toni Medellin and myself on the issue of immigration reform last night. While Toni provided some legal and legislative background, I did more of a political talk, while also delving a little deeper on the realities offered by Senate Bill 744. I can tell you this much, it wasn’t a talk in line with what Democrats in DC are selling the people of the US of A.

It seems like both political sides continue their individual mantras of support vs opposition. (I mean, just check out Rep. Weber’s description of immigrants in this video.) Dems and pro-migrant  folks (and John McCain) talk about the political ramifications of CIR if the GOP doesn’t support it, or the economic impact of CIR, with the hopes that the other side will have some surprise buy-in. Frankly, it has tired me out, especially when our political leaders say S.744 is “not perfect,” yet should be he law of the land. The reality is that S.744 is as imperfect as they come–all sections of it. My colleague Dr. Rey Guerra began a series yesterday where he will be breaking apart S.744.

I have yet to hear from any Democrat or national “pro-migrant” group that has bought into the worst of S.744, the $46 billion border surge, a good reason to support S.744, as is. I mean, besides the selling point that it’s the only way Republicans would support it. 68 votes in the Senate later and the House Republicans are showing how much they care, especially their leader, the Boehner. All this talk of bipartisanship as a result of the border surge is a grim reminder of the human realities of “border security.”

Even Rep. Michael McCaul found out the grim reality of “border security” when the body of a Honduran migrant floated by him on the Rio Grande during another one of his fact-finding missions.

“My colleagues and I saw first hand the tragedies of this border and the loss of life when we saw a body floating just a few minutes ago on this river,” McCaul said. “And that is a sad fact of this border.”

Instead of backing away from “border security,” McCaul chooses to double-down.

His measure describes a list of metrics that homeland security officials would have to report to Congress, which would be used to determine what sort of resources work and what is needed where.

“Fencing alone is not going to solve this problem, it’s got to be a comprehensive strategy, a variety of assets whether they be fixed towers, mobile towers, (Defense Department) assets from Afghanistan, aviation assets to see on the ground what’s happening,” McCaul said. “Only by doing that can we really calculate with metrics if we’re being successful.”

The record number of bodies found in all border sectors is an indication that “border security” kills. Again, I’m reminded of my friend Roberto Lovato’s article, “Breathing in Our Dead…” about his trip to the Pima County Morgue’s freezer.

In the fight to end border militarization and what activists in Tucson and other border states call the “border overkill” at the heart of comprehensive immigration reform, nothing in Tucson or anywhere else matches the persuasive power of the smells emanating from the stiff, dehydrated and decomposing dreams stored in white body bags…

Perhaps McCaul and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle should pay a visit to Pima County, AZ and take a whiff of the effects of that which they so adamantly want and support.

It can’t be that those “non-lethal” weaponized drones Del Bosque at the Texas Observer tells us about are the only answer.

Although the Republicans are very much practicing the art of delay and kill when it comes to immigration reform, this recess is an opportunity for immigration activists to lobby their members of Congress against border overkill and militarization, and perhaps a better path to citizenship. The horror which Chuck Schumer has created in pushing Corker-Hoeven can still be fixed if our elected officials would just show an ounce of leadership, rather than political expediency.

Texas Dem Delegation to Hold Congressional Immigration Hearing

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Houston will be bringing together the Texas Democratic delegation for a Congressional immigration hearing next week.

The Texas Democratic Delegation will be hosting this hearing on July 29, 2013 at 2:00PM in the City Hall Chambers located at 901 Bagby Street in Houston, Texas.  Many events are taking place around the country and the State of Texas must be a leader and a strong voice on this vital issue.  Your attendance is welcomed at this special meeting.

Please RSVP to confirm your attendance to Ivan Sanchez at Ivan.Sanchez@mail.house.gov or call 713-655-0050.

Jackson Lee admits that progress on a comprehensive bill has stalled in the House and that the hearing will help Congress complete its obligation to pass immigration reform.

This issue impacts our children, our businesses, our healthcare system, and our everyday lives.  The time is now for Congress to come up with a plan that allows undocumented immigrants an opportunity to become taxpaying citizens.

A press conference and pro-migrant rally will take place immediately following the hearing outside of City Hall.

Obviously, these are friendly faces who support immigration reform. I’m not sure if I will be able to attend, but one question I would ask is about Border Militarization. I have yet to hear a good response from a Democrat as to why it is necessary, or why I should support militarization of my native South Texas.

My friend Roberto Lovato at Presente.org gives us all a path to not supporting a border surge.

Of all our senses, the one that can most alter U.S. immigration history–and U.S. history itself–is our sense of smell. If we could, for example, magically bring the smell in the freezers of the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office to politicians, advocates and voters on either side of the immigration debate, the current bi-partisan push for a “border surge” would die faster than a cricket stung by a scorpion in the extremely arid stretch of desert known as the “Devil’s Highway.”

Letter to Congress Shows Growing Opposition to Border Militarization

The Rio Grande Guardian reported on the growing opposition to the US Senate immigration bill which includes billions of dollars in “border security” money for the purpose of militarizing the border. These groups know the reality that, if the bill is already seriously flawed, that it can only get worse once the U.S. House gets hold of it.

Sign the Petition Against Border Militarization

Included on the list are well-respected organizations, such as the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) and the William C. Velasquez Institute. According to the letter signed by these groups:

This flawed legislation begins with the mistaken and dangerous premise that puts punishment over people and enforcement over citizenship. S.744 is neither inclusive nor fair. We cannot in good conscience support S.744 without major substantive changes. Our rejection does not condone the defeat of immigration reform. Rather, it represents the decency and dignity of a community drawing the line against more punishment of immigrants. These same values will continue to guide our struggle for humane and just immigration reform in 2013 and beyond.

In practice, S.744 will:

• Block Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI) from seeking lawful permanent resident status or citizenship for decades or forever;

• Exclude or disqualify, over time, more than 5 million undocumented persons from the Registered Provisional Immigrant program; Subject Registered Provisional Immigrants to reprehensible and unacceptable conditions for ten or more years in order to maintain status;

• Increase discrimination and racial profiling of people of color through nationwide mandatory E-verify of every worker- citizen and non-citizen- in the country; and

• Create a virtual police-state and create environmental disasters in the 27 border counties by militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border including weapons-capable drones, 40,000 guards, and 700 miles of border walls;

Such a proposal does not, in any way, reflect the kind of humane, inclusive, and common sense values that we envisioned before and since the 2012 elections. We write to ask you to join us in rejecting this legislation in the name of continuing the fight for real immigration reform.

You can join the effort by signing on to a petition in support of these groups and in support of real, sensible immigration reform.

Sign on now to oppose S.744! S.744 militarizes the border, turbo-charges E-verify, excludes half of the undocumented from legalization, and creates defacto indentured servitude for those attaining “RPI” status. This letter is being sent to progressive and minority Democrats: