Category Archives: DREAM Act

BuzzFeed: The Obama CIR Fact Sheet

The President’s speech on comprehensive immigration reform left much to be desired, at least for me. When I was listening to the radio on the way into downtown, there was much talk about how “liberal” the plan would be, but no one able to say how it could be considered “liberal.”  According to Buzzfeed, the big difference:  “…it treats same-sex couples the same way as straight couples, and doesn’t include a “trigger mechanism” to make reform contingent on stricter border security efforts.” Here’s the info off the fact sheet that Buzzfeed published.

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s commonsense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

· Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

· Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

· Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

· Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

· Strengthen border security and infrastructure. The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.

· Combat transnational crime. The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.

· Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement. The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are keys to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.

· Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling. The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.

· Deporting Criminals. The President’s proposal expands smart enforcement efforts that target convicted criminals in federal or state correctional facilities, allowing us to remove them from the United States at the end of their sentences without re-entering our communities. At the same time, it protects those with a credible fear of returning to their home countries.

· Streamline removal of nonimmigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.

· Improve our nation’s immigration courts. The President’s proposal invests in our immigration courts. By increasing the number of immigration judges and their staff, investing in training for court personnel, and improving access to legal information for immigrants, these reforms will improve court efficiency. It allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs. It also provides greater protections for those least able to represent themselves.

Cracking Down on Employers Who Hire Undocumented Workers

· Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President’s proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses.

· Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud‐and tamper‐resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.

· Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

Pathway to Earned Citizenship

· Create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Agricultural workers and those who entered the United States as children would be eligible for the same program. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits, including subsidies or tax credits under the new health care law.

· Create strict requirements to qualify for lawful permanent resident status. Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident.

· Earned citizenship for DREAMers. Children brought here illegally through no fault of their own by their parents will be eligible for earned citizenship. By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship. The President’s proposal brings these undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

· Create administrative and judicial review. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

· Provide new resources to combat fraud. The President’s proposal authorizes funding to enable DHS, the Department of State, and other relevant federal agencies to establish fraud prevention programs that will provide training for adjudicators, allow regular audits of applications to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, and incorporate other proven fraud prevention measures.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

· Keep Families Together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.
· Cut Red Tape for Employers. The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations.

· Enhance travel and tourism. The Administration is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our nation’s security. Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on travel and tourism, the President’s proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa. And finally it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

· “Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas. The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States. It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

· Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs. The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.

· Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S. economic development. The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; provides incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds new measures to combat fraud and national security threats; includes data collection on economic impact; and creates a pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

· Create a new visa category for employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories. The proposal creates a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs after being in the United States. for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

· Better addresses humanitarian concerns. The proposal streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence. It also better protects those fleeing persecution by eliminating the existing limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum.

· Encourage integration. The proposal promotes earned citizenship and efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically.

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The Rove Memo on Latinos

Don’t characterize all Hispanics as undocumented and all undocumented as Hispanics

Karl Rove has developed a dos and donts memo for his Republican buddies when they get to talking about immigration. [OK, its the Hispanic Leadership Network, but who wrote it?] The fact that they have to develop something like this is quite funny, but I’ll admit having to correct some of our own right-wing Dems who have used negative terminology to get a vote. In fact, it may need to get to these Dems, too, since some of them who voted against the DREAM Act a few years ago tend to sound like Republicans.

I will give Rove some credit, since he’s tried to warn people on how negative stuff will hurt their Party. Still, playing semantics with people in order to appease them doesn’t usually work, since we already know how they really feel. Ultimately, if they want to make up for the crap they’ve tossed at Latinos and immigrants, they need to just vote for sensible immigration reform.

Here are a few:

When engaging in conversation or doing an interview on immigration reform:
Do acknowledge that “Our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it”
Don’t begin with “We are against amnesty”

Note: Most everyone is against amnesty and this is interpreted as being against any reform.

Apparently, Lamar Smith didn’t get the memo, Karl!

The one in which Karl seems to call them out as dumbasses is this one.

Don’t use President Reagan’s immigration reform as an example applicable today
Note: That legislation was true amnesty; in addition, border security, fixing our visa system, and a temporary worker program were parts of the reform which were never implemented.

Of course, leave it to Rove to blame again, as they try to blame the entire failure of 1st term immigration reform on President Obama. The reality is when the DREAM Act came up, ZERO Republicans supported it. And when President Obama offered up DACA, Mitt Romney’s “immigration advisor” found some Border Patrol agents willing to sue to stop it. So, holster that finger, Karl! There’s enough blame to go around!

Well, at the very least, the White House and Democratic response to the Republican vitriol can be, “Didn’t you get Karl Rove’s Memo?”

The Bipartisan Agreement on Immigration Framework

Looks like the Senate will have some sort of immigration framework to begin work on immigration reform. Again, this is only a framework, and not actual legislation. Once it is written up, it will go through a painful committee process which will be contentious, unless the Republicans in the mix are able to control their own colleague’s vitriol. Anyway, the framework goes a little like this.

As those security measures take effect, the proposal says, illegal immigrants would be forced to register with the government, undergo a background check, and pay a fine and back taxes so they can obtain a legal status on a probationary basis. That would allow them to live and work legally in the United States, unless they have committed serious crimes, which could subject them to deportation. Those who have obtained probationary legal status would not be allowed to access federal benefits.

After the enforcement measures take effect, those who have obtained their probationary legal status would be required to undergo a series of requirements — including learning English and civics and undergoing further background checks — before being able to obtain permanent residency. The proposal insists that those who have entered the country illegally would not get preferential treatment over legal immigrants playing by the rules.

The only exceptions would be made for seasonal agricultural workers as well as young individuals who unknowingly entered the country illegally as children in a move similar to the DREAM Act proposal that has stalled in Congress for years.

Looks familiar, huh?

Some will say, “Finally!” I’m more willing to say, “Why didn’t you do this during Term 1?” Obviously, the Sunday talking head shows showed a remarkable move to the left on the issue from Senator McCain, as he pointed to the 2012 election results. Republicans still have it in mind that Latinos somehow belong to them, but we’re not single issue people. Mess with our health care, mess with our Social Security, mess with safety net programs and college financial aid, and Latinos will continue to respond, despite the Latino Decisions poll, which I think did not really go into depth tying all issues together.

Still, there are some issues of contention that I’m not in favor of at this point. The Republicans’ insistence that the pathway not begin until some imaginary security measure is instituted has yet to be described.

Before a pathway to citizenship can happen, the group says that new border security measures first must take effect, including an increase in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and agents at the border, new rules for tracking people entering the country on temporary visas and the creation of a commission of southwestern political and community leaders to ensure the new enforcement mechanisms take effect.

But if “legal status” comes before the path to citizenship, then it may be the one thing that will bring both sides together. Unfortunately, the point where the pathway begins may become a long-term debate in the process. Perhaps the committee will iron that out, although, I believe it should be made up of non-elected officials, perhaps human rights representatives, law enforcement, and the like. Someone like Rick Perry on a committee will only make it a platform for 2016.

The contentious part on the Republicans side will be that of “amnesty,” which a good chunk of their Tea Party favorites will call the measure, despite the fines and rules. I expect the vitriol to come from that general direction.

Of course, I cannot say I’m in favor of some of those security measures. Unmanned drones flying around the Valley and South Texas aren’t something that would make me feel “secure.” Any type of militarization of areas in which 90% of the population is Mexican American makes me kind of nervous. Has anyone asked Americans who live in these areas how they feel about that?

The President announces his ideas on Tuesday, but for all intents and purposes, it would seem that those who are supposed to be creating legislation (Congress) are actually working toward something.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Politics is the Art of Compromise?

by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

The most overused saying among liberals is that politics is the art of compromise, and it gripes me to no end. Liberals repeat it with such smugness as if they were sages. I find it so pretentious — to the point that I consider it a bunch of toro dung.

It is like saying that politics is the art of the possible, an equally absurd, pretentious and irritating notion. What happened to the impossible dream? Shouldn’t we always strive for something better?

If we have to have a standard wouldn’t a better saying be that politics is the art of principle after all politics is not a game. It involves people, and consequences.

In my own little world, I have seen too many Chicana/o studies programs compromised out of existence with administrators convincing Chicana/o negotiators that it was impossible to give them what they wanted, not enough money. At the same time the president of the institution draws down $300,000 a year, and gets perks such as housing, a per diem, and an automobile. One recently retired university president that I know sits on two corporate boards of directors, and draws down an extra $300,000.

This is academe’s version of one potato two potatoes three potatoes, more.

The game gets ridiculous. Faculties at institutions of higher learning supposedly have shared governance. In fact, every committee is merely advisory to the president who can accept or reject the recommendations.

For the past several years California State University professors have been playing footsies with the administration or better still the chancellor’s office over the budget and pay raises. This is a Catch-22, however. Faculty members also say that they are concerned about the escalating tuition; note that students pay as much as 80 percent of instructional costs. So where is the additional revenue going to come from? Professors love students, but not enough to forgo raises or out of principle go on strike to trim back the number of administrators and the presidents’ salaries.

It really gets ridiculous at times. At Northridge, Chicana/o studies was threatened that if it exceeded its target enrollment that the department would be penalized and its budget cut. Our former chancellor wanted to pressure the state legislature to cough up more money by turning back students. The administration minions at the disparate campuses justified this by repeating the party line that numbers do not count. In fact they laid a guilt trip on us saying that Chicana/o studies professors we were not team players because we were admitting too many students.

As a result, this semester we have a crisis. The institution did not admit enough students; the rationale was if we had fewer students, then we would spend less. But it does not work that way. At state universities even the allocation for paper clips depends on how many students you are taking in. That is why most departments are now being told to beef up their enrollment or lose a portion of their department budget.

Good old compromise got us there as well as the illusion that faculty has power. In fact there were other possibilities. Compromise was not necessarily one of them.

The word compromise is insidious. President Barack Obama has been trying to play Henry Clay and show that he is a great compromiser – forgetting that he is not bargaining for a used car.

President Obama compromised and got his Obama care package. A half a loaf is better than none my Democrat friends repeated, smiled, and nodded. But, according to the New York Times, “Americans continue to spend more on health care than patients anywhere else. In 2009, we spent $7,960 per person, twice as much as France, which is known for providing very good health services.” An appendectomy in Germany costs a quarter of what it costs in the United States; an M.R.I. scan less than a third as much in Canada.

The U.S. devotes far more of its economy to health care than other industrialized countries. It spends two and a half times more than the other countries do for health care; most of it is funneled through giant health corporations. Why do we pay more? Could it be because Obama compromised on the single payer?

I have been to France, Spain and Germany; I can testify that the quality of care is on a par and often better than in the U.S. and the earnings and prestige of doctors is equivalent or better.

Why is this? Could it be that they don’t have giant medical corporations making tremendous profits? Just Blue Cross of California has annual revenue of $9.7 billion. This not for profit corporation made $180 million in excess profits in 2010.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that Obama was suckered into believing compromise was necessary and that politics was the art of the possible instead of sticking to principle.

Let’s be honest for a moment, immigration was put on the back burner until the Democratic party realized that in order to win that Latinos better be invited to the dance.

However, Mexican Americans, Latinos or, whatever we call them, play the same ridiculous game as white people do.

Go to the neighborhoods, ask Central Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Ask Cuban Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Many resent the fact or want to ignore that Mexican Americans make up two-thirds to 70 percent of the Latino total.

So, let’s not rock the boat, Mexicans will call any politician with a tenth Mexican blood a Latino and call them compadre. They are happy to be called anything but Mexican.

I don’t know how we are going to get out of this bind when we have to vote for people without principles. Are we going to support a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz because they have Spanish surnames, or George Prescott Bush because his mother was Mexican, and forget that he was once called ”the little brown one.”

It gets ridiculous — like that game played in the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices that features articles asking, do you know that this actor or actress has Latino blood? It is as stupid as the game of compromise or the art of the possible.

It reminds me of my grandfather and uncles who worked on the railroad (Southern Pacific) for fifty years who would say that a certain foreman was simpatico, they just knew he liked Mexicans. Why shouldn’t he? Mexican workers bought his lottery tickets and junk jewelry.

Support should be based on principle. I support Central and Latin Americans not because their numbers swell opportunities for politicos, but because they have suffered European and Euro-American colonialism, and come to this country for a better life. They deserve what every other human being should have.

We are not going to get a thing through compromise. Every time I look at John Boehner, Eric Cantor and their buddy in the Senate who reminds me of the bloodhound Trusty in “Lady and the Tramp”; I am reminded that a fair deal is based on integrity. I would not want any of these jokers to come to dinner – not in my house!

Before we start compromising and calling anyone our amigos remember that Boehner called a 2007 bipartisan immigration bill “a piece of shit.” This is what he thinks about us. I use the generic word Latino because I care about my Latin American family – not because I want to be Italian.

Obama is now at a crossroads. He is going to have to make a decision, and that decision does not only encompass immigration and gun control. It is about whether politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible, or whether it is about principle.

My advice is to tell his three Republican amigos to take a hike and mint the damn trillion dollar coin. It is better to be right and to be respected than to be liked.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Does Rubio’s CIR Proposal Include Citizenship?

It never surprises me when non-Latino sites immediately praise Republicans who move a tiny bit toward a sensible immigration reform plan. The question to Republicans from pro-migrant advocates (and lefty bloggers) should always be:  Does it include a path to citizenship?

As I went through a power nap this afternoon with the MSNBC on in the background, I heard the terms Marco Rubio and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the same sentence, and that awoke me! Reading more on the direction he’s headed left me wanting a longer nap.

It’s all still very vague and the White House and Senate have yet to produce a specific bill of their own to compare it to. But while Rubio stressed that his plan “is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship,” he made clear that the legislation he had in mind would strive to ensure that the undocumented population is not left in legal limbo indefinitely. Given that Rubio has toyed with bills that might have stopped short of citizenship before, this is a significant move.

And I call it a move toward announcing for 2016 with a kinder, gentler attitude toward Latinos, who only supported the GOP at about 27%. Creating a second class of people is not an option, just like creating multiple “temporary” work programs is not one. For Rubio and the Republicans, all it takes is appeasing another 18% of the Latino electorate to achieve a win.

It seems we all need a quick lesson on why citizenship matters, and the Center for American Progress provides us that lesson. And then, we must all push for citizenship in immigration reform proposals.

Here we review the top five reasons why citizenship—not just legal status—is of critical importance to our society and to our economy.

1. Big gains to the economy. A December 2012 study by Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins of the University of Southern California found that a path to citizenship leads to higher wages for naturalized immigrants both immediately and over the long term. Naturalized immigrants earn between 5.6 percent and 7.2 percent more within two years of becoming a citizen, and peak at between 10.1 percent and 13.5 percent higher wages 12 years to 17 years from the time of naturalization. Higher wages means more consumer spending, and more spending means more growth for the overall economy. Pastor and Scoggins also found that even if only half of those eligible to become citizens do so, it would add $21 billion to $45 billion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.

2. Economic gains for the native born. Numerous studies have found that immigrants raise the wages of the native born—for example, by complementing the skills of the native born and by buying goods and services, all of which expands the size of the economy. And with even higher earnings after naturalization, more money would be moving through the economy. The $21 billion to $45 billion in extra wages would be spent on things such as houses, cars, iPads, computers, and the like, and as people buy more products, businesses see more revenue and are more willing to hire new workers. Put simply, more money in the system creates economic growth and supports new job creation for all Americans.

3. Certainty for both immigrants and employers. number of scholars working on the economics of citizenship have pointed out that naturalization sends a signal to employers that their workers are fully committed to life in the United States, while also giving immigrants the certainty that they will never have to worry about suddenly uprooting their lives and moving elsewhere. This certainty gives employers the peace of mind that they will not have to retrain a new worker—often at high costs—if the immigrant employee loses their visa or chooses to move elsewhere, and gives individuals the stability to invest in more schooling and more job training, both of which ultimately lead to higher wages and better careers.

4. A stronger, more integrated United States. Since the founding of our country, we have granted citizenship to newcomers and have actively worked to ensure that they are fully integrated into everyday life. Nations such as Germany that historically denied citizenship to many immigrants have struggled to integrate those individuals into society, leading to blocked social and economic mobility. On the other hand, in countries such as Canada that expressly view immigration as a part of their national and economic successstudies find a greater sense of belonging and attachment to the nation among newcomers. Our goal should be the full integration of new Americans, not the creation of a permanent underclass.

5. Forward, not backward, on equality. The United States was founded on the idea that we are a nation of immigrants and that we gain strength from diversity. Over the past half-century—since Congress removed de jure racial discrimination from American life with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965—we have moved toward broader equality and a recognition of the power and strength that diversity brings to the nation. Instead of moving backward toward an idea of America as a country club that accepts some people as full members and rejects others, we must move forward toward greater equality. Creating a group that can legally reside in the United States but can never naturalize, can never vote, and can never become full and equal members goes against the very ideals that founded our nation.

 

VP Biden: Hispanics Are All That And A Bag of Tostitos

Well, VP Joe Biden sorta said that. What he actually said was:

“What’s finally happened is the American people, the American people have finally begun to understand …the awesome potential, future potential of the Hispanic community,” he said Thursday at a welcome reception for new Latino members of Congress. “…Now the nation — and I might add the hemisphere — understands the Hispanic community must be courted. Must be courted.”

Of course, as I always say, it’s all about policy. And VP Biden didn’t ignore the policy implications of what he stated.

At the same time, the vice president said the deferrals are “only a small part of what has to be done.” But he also said that he believes Republicans have had a “rapid epiphany” since the election about immigration reform.

Obviously, Latinos are not only about immigration reform, but it is the one issue that Republicans, including their great brown hopes like Cruz and Rubio, have used as their means of pumping up their Tea Party base. In 2012, we all know how that went, but the message is clear:  Don’t target Latinos with hateful legislation if you want to win. And the message goes for Democrats, too.

At least the VP seems to get it.

“You’re the center of this nation’s future,” he said.

NCLR Says Cliff Outcome Good for Latinos

Bigoted Chron Commenters Go Nuts

Janet Murguia from the National Council of La Raza, which the media calls “La Raza” to rile up the right-wing racists, spoke out today in favor of the fiscal cliff outcome which brought both parties together.

“We applaud the White House and Congress for working together to deliver a fair approach to reducing our deficit that doesn’t come at the expense of vulnerable, working and middle-class families,” said Janet Murguía, CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

Murguía hailed the deal, which won the backing of Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn and all nine Texas congressional Democrats, as a balanced approach to repair the nation’s fiscal health.

“The overall tax plan passed today is a strong first step toward ensuring that the burden of deficit reduction is shared more fairly, without jeopardizing the health of our economy and the financial security of Latinos and other vulnerable communities,” she said.

Taking a look at the comments, it seems like several heads exploded while commenting. The racism from supporters of the big losers, the Tea Party, speaks for itself. If the Republicans want Latinos votes, then they need to shape up and throw out the Tea Party rhetoric and be a little nicer. Doubtful, but they can always try.

Anyway, the battle isn’t over. Wrangling over spending cuts is coming up, and while the Democrats will take the scalpel approach, the Republicans are hard at work washing themselves to create the bath water with which to attempt to throw the baby. The people, the voters, must remain vigilant and responsive now that a new Congress takes over tomorrow.

2012 – Latinos Bank Some Political Capital

For all intents and purposes, it would seem that 2012 was a bit more than just OK for a lib-lab like myself. It provided more hope–at least more ganas to fight–for public policies beneficial to Latinos. And because the policies would benefit Latinos, they would benefit most everyone else–even the 1%. Of course, I speak in a national sense, since Texas Latinos have more of a fight against the Tea Party’s scorched earth agenda in the Texas Legislature.

President Obama’s re-election, along with the election and re-election of good Democrats in various battlegrounds, has put into play the importance of not only the Latino vote, but the Latino community as a whole. One cannot ignore that Latinos represented 1 in every 10 votes in 2012. If anything, Latinos proved something else:  That ours is a progressive agenda that takes into account all Americans. But instead of fighting for mere existence in American political society, Latinos have now carved themselves a niche in the national conversation, and it should not be only on immigration reform.

Some would argue that we’ve had that niche for a long time, pointing to anecdotal “Latino” political appointments and all other types of window dressing. But that is not enough. As I not-so-jokingly tell people, “It’s about policy, pendejos!”

So, if Latinos truly feel that we made a difference in the 2012 elections, then we must go beyond Election Day and push forth the agenda the we have supported with our vote. And if those we elected to push forth that agenda on our behalf falter in their support, then we must do what we must and call them out, correct them, or vote them out. That’s all part of our rights as voters. And there’s nothing wrong with expecting a return on our investment as voters, no matter who may be the incumbent, no matter who is in charge of our neighborhood political machines.

As President Obama put forth in his interview with David Gregory on Meet The Press, comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for Year One of Term Two. Frankly, I am glad he said this after all of the posturing by both sides of the gun debate after the tragedy in Newtown. Although I fall on the side of President Obama and Vice President Biden on the debate, the bottom line is that both were elected to put forth public policies that save and bolster our economy, add to the middle class, expand health care, fully fund education, and enact comprehensive immigration reform, among other policies. The voters responded to long-term challenges that have been hounding working and middle class families since Bush-2 was in office. On November 6, President Obama was provided with the political capital to respond to these issues, but he cannot do it alone, either.

Should gun reform be a part of this? Sure. But it should not take precedence over those issues on which many invested their community capital–as activists and as voters.

The fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, jobs and the economy are an ongoing priority, and Latinos wholeheartedly agree. Investing in infrastructure and education is also a top priority for Latinos. Expanding access to health care, too. The one issue that encompasses all of these is comprehensive immigration reform, and so too will it be a top priority. And the polls and the election outcome show that Latinos and the majority of Americans agree. But the battle did not end on Election Day, as the fiscal cliff rhetoric tells us. The people, and in this case, Latinos, must demand these policies be enacted.

Back in 2006, when Democrats won back the majority of seats in Congress, I spent no time in declaring that it happened because of Latinos responding to Republican craziness on the immigration issue. When candidate-Obama won, and the numbers showed that the margins of victory in various battleground states could be credited to the Latino vote, I spent no time in declaring that Latinos should expect some political payback–mostly in the form of comprehensive immigration reform and maybe some good political appointments. In 2010, when Harry Reid defeated a well-funded Tea party challenge by speaking the truth on immigration reform, rather than taking the “blue dog” approach of making Latinos (and not just immigrants) the example, it seemed to me that 2012 had the potential to be special. But our elected leaders need to realize that our importance goes beyond the ballot box. Our importance must be exhibited in the process of creating public policy, and that means Latinos taking responsibility by joining and steering the debate.

It seems that since at least 2006, we’ve been banking some political capital. Yes, we’ve voted in elections past, but did we ever have real potential to effect meaningful and positive public policies? Or a better question, did both sides of the political argument ever have the realization that we matter in the overall conversation? To me, it is obvious. No, on both counts.

Let’s face it, when Republicans are in power, the only policies having anything to do with Latinos have been negative–Voter ID, cuts in public education, sanctuary cities laws, etc. Democrats, although defending on most aspects of the progressive agenda Latinos seem to support, failed on comprehensive immigration reform, which I’ve argued encompasses all other issues in one way or another, and was the basis of most of the negativity coming from Republicans.

But in 2012, it seems to me that we have a political savings account in which we’ve saved up our well-earned political pennies to expend on a positive political agenda. And it’s time we do. Not only the voters, but any progressive Latino elected official, too. The Latino electeds should not just wait to be told that it’s their turn, and neither should the Latino electorate wait. Whatever the outcome, it is the fight that matters and empowers us for the future.

Now, it may seem to any right-wing Republican or to any white liberal who thinks he/she is doing Latinos a favor, that I’m being too Latino-centric. Well, I started this blog because no one was mentioning Latinos in the progressive conversation, unless it was to chastise our voter turnout on the day after election day. So, let’s toss the hurt feelings aside and begin an inclusive progressive movement. Don’t try to do Latinos any favors with pats on the head, but do some listening, instead.

In 2012, Latinos sent a message and have become part of the conversation–even though most of the TV talking heads on Sunday morning aren’t Latinos, but that’s a whole other battle. But it is up to the Latino electorate (and not just those individual Latinos on end-of-year “Top 10″ lists) to continue pushing beyond Election Day to ensure our elected officials create public policy that is beneficial to all.

Let’s get to work.

Update:  LA Times seems to be just as worried about immigration reform being overshadowed by the gun fight. I’m sure Republicans would breathe a sigh a relief.

Update:  Think Progress tells us that President Obama, much like he mentioned on Meet the Press, is moving forward with immigration reform.

The Obama administration’s “social media blitz” will start in January and is expected “to tap the same organizations and unions that helped get a record number of Latino voters to reelect the president.” Cabinet secretaries and lawmakers from both parties are already holding initial meetings to iron out the details of the proposal and Obama will to push for a broad bill.

DREAM Beanies for the Holidays

So, you’re freakin’ out that you forgot to buy a few gifts for friends or family members? Well, my friend and DREAMer Jose Luis Zelaya, a grad student at Aggieland U., tells us how he went from homelessness to reaching a professional goal of a graduate degree by crocheting all sorts of cool stuff.

Howdy! In this video I share how I went from being homeless to a graduate student with the help and support from a teacher. I am now pursuing a Masters in Education seeking to make a difference in the lives of my students. In order to pay for College I crochet beanies, scarves, etc. I ask you to please help me and support me by buying beanies and other crafts. Please share this video and tell your family and friends about it. I know everything is possible. CROCHETING MY WAY THROUGH COLLEGE.

Watch the video, fall in love with a great cause, and then place your order here.

FYI – For some of my Harris County Dem friends, Jose Luis was a speaker at 2012’s Johnson Rayburn Richards dinner, so you all need to buy something, too!

HOPE Announces Lege Agenda

Hispanics Organized for Political Education (HOPE), the former “political arm” of Texas LULAC has re-organized and announced its legislative agenda for the 2013 Texas legislative session. It is quite comprehensive and divided into four parts.

Plan of Action
Latinos in Texas rank the following 7 issues in order of importance as the most relevant to our community’s agenda:
1. Education
2. Immigration/Racial Profiling
3. Political Access/Redistricting
4. Health Care
5. Business/Workforce
6. State Budgetary shortfall
7. Housing

Catching my eye because of its importance is their plank on education.

HOPE calls on the Texas 83rd Legislature to reinstatement school-funding using district property wealth for allocation to the 2009, level of funding that also took into account the annual increased enrollment of students.

Quality Education for English Language Learners (ELLs)
Reform and improve education by supporting reforms for effective secondary educational programs that serve English Language Learners including stronger accountability standards, curricular reforms at the secondary level, and addressing qualified teacher shortages through recruitment and retention programs. These reforms will result in closing the achievement gaps and reducing the drop-outs.

Drop-Outs

1. Reform and improve education by identifying a menu of best practices that are research based to address dropouts;
2. Introduce legislation that will require institutions to include in their graduation degree plan developed courses that focus on addressing potential dropout students and dropouts as part of their teacher certification programs;
3. Support legislation that will require institutions that grant teacher certification and who are also identified as an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) to develop leadership programs for minorities in the field of education;
4. Support legislation that will create a statewide Blue Ribbon Committee made up of those institutions of higher learning that are identified as HIS to create  a Thinktank to be centered at Texas State University in San Marcos to research, monitor, and propose solutions to student dropouts;
5. Close all loopholes in the state’s leaver code system so that districts and campuses cannot arbitrarily mask student dropout numbers;
6. Monitor the extent to which students are being taken off of the recommended high school program and placed in the Minimum track that leaves them ineligible for state financial aid (i.e., TEXAS Grant) and automatic admissions under the Top Ten Percent Policy.

Equitable School Finance System

Invest in the economic future of Texas by supporting a return to formula-based funding that maintains a school finance system that allows schools to access equal revenue at a similar tax effort and properly funds special needs students.

Universal Access to Schools

Oppose all efforts to deny access to education and ensure access to parents and children living in Texas to educational services regardless of immigration status.

High-stakes Testing

Put a stop to the over-reliance on a single test-based indicator when assessing students. Continuing to focus on student test performance does not lead to a deeper or critical understanding of the curriculum. Rather, it obstructs students’ access to quality learning time and diverts precious dollars and resources (such as teacher and staff time) to testing companies. The misuses of testing are both unethical and unsupported by research, and also disproportionately impact poor, minority, and English learning students, as well as those student receiving special education services.

Holistic Assessment

Support the use of multiple measures such as classroom work, homework, extracurricular involvement, teacher evaluation, parent evaluation, and test scores as a means for holistically assessing a student’s overall academic performance. Oppose policies that solely rely of a single test score to determine grade promotion or retention decisions, deny students a high school diploma, deny access to college or financial aid, or contaminate students’ course GPAs.

College Readiness Preparation

1. Support students’ access and successful completion of the 4×4, college readiness curriculum;
2. Oppose efforts to track students into nonrigorous, vocational or career and technology courses;
3. Support rigorous career and technology education courses that are taught by certified teachers, that supplement (rather than supplant) students’  completion of college ready curricula, and lead to workbased certification and college credit.4. Support supplemental programs and partnerships that provide students resources and access to institutions of higher education;

5. Require that all students have fully certified, quality teachers who have theacademic and social competencies to ensure that all students reach their optimal potential.

Affordable Tuition Rates in Higher Education

1. Oppose any measure that restricts or prohibits minority access to needed financial aid and Texas grants that should be fully restored;
2. Support affordable access to higher education by restoring the state regulation of tuition;
3. Oppose any measure that further restricts Texas’ high school graduates access to instate tuition.

Top 10%

Oppose any legislation that would reduce, eliminate or make exceptions to the top 10% rule.

DREAM Act

Oppose any legislation that would challenge students’ access to higher education by modifying or eliminating House Bill 1403.

Bullying

Support enhanced anti-bullying legislation that will mandate that the education administration code include a directive to identify a point of contact for bullying.

Special Education

Support legislation mandating that the parents of special education students who are also limited English proficiency (LEP), be provided all documentation in their native language during the ARD and the development of the student’s IEP.

State Board of Education Reform

Reform the State Board of Education (SBOE) to ensure that the adopted and future TEKS curriculum standards are accurate, comprehensive, in compliance with legislative intent and responsive to community input. Support efforts to include top university experts in the decision making process.

Click on the link to read the entire document; however, be warned–it is pretty progressive and will earn some right-wing opposition. With the Dewhurst-Patrick-Republican ideas of expanding charter schools and school privatization, the battle lines have definitely been drawn between Latinos and Republicans.

Thanks to my good friend, Joe Cardenas, III, for sending this to me and for chairing such an important group of leaders.