Tag Archives: CIR

May 3: March for Immigration Reform

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2,000,000 Deportations Later, A Review

The AP is reporting that President Obama had called on the Department of Homeland Security to do a review of current deportation practices to see whether enforcement can be more humane.

In a meeting with Latino lawmakers, Obama said he was deeply concerned about the pain that families feel when they are separated because of a broken U.S. immigration system. He told the lawmakers he’s asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to perform an inventory of current practices “to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said in a statement.

I don’t know, if there was that much concern about the pain of family separation, President Obama should at the very least cease deportations during the review. Of course, others would ask, “Now, he’s concerned?”

While this may appease the Hispanic caucus members, the people most affected by this will certainly continue to speak up for deportation reform.

Meanwhile, I’m sure the Republicans will continue spewing venom, using terms, such as “backdoor amnesty” and “weak on border security” among other right-wing favorites.

Stay tuned. I sure will be.

Update:  The Immigration Policy Center provides some data on 2013 deportations.  The report states that most deportees were a threat to no one.

Stace and Rey Are Back!

Houston Politics with Stace and Rey is back! What is that? It’s a podcast featuring myself and local smart guy and activist, Dr. Rey Guerra. We had a few shows toward the end of 2013, but after I fought off a bad case of laryngitis, we are back and ready to talk…a lot!

So, to get back into practice, we recorded this episode last Thursday.

We cover the latest on immigration reform, the City Council election, and Wendy Davis and the Democrats. I also mention how Lt. Governor candidates are making immigration the issue on which to attack Latinos, and Kuff provides some proof today, so, it is fitting that we talked about this.

If you need to copy and paste, here’s the URL:

http://houstonpolitics.buzzsprout.com/15824/144501-houston-politics-we-re-back

The plan is to bring in a VIP on our next episode to discuss Women’s Health, the Affordable Care Act, and probably more on the sexist nature of the Greg Abbott campaign toward Wendy Davis and all women. Stay tuned!

 

Immigration Reform: What’s Next?

It is safe to say any perceived progress toward comprehensive immigration reform came to a dead-stop the minute the Democrat-heavy U.S. Senate gave away some high-dollar, high-collateral items to the Republicans to gain their support for Senate Bill 744. The House Republicans not only sensed blood, they sucked it right up and made themselves political dead wood on the issue–with no reason to move, no reason to care. It’s hard to believe that soon after President Obama’s re-election, immigration reform was the top issue for him and “Latino outreach” became the task of Republicans. So much for that.

President Obama has been using the last five years to “prove himself” as an immigration enforcer to gain Republican votes in Congress. He’s funded and bolstered programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities to the point of throwing out almost 2,000,000 immigrants from the United States–a large portion being low-level offenders who didn’t even fit these programs’ description of “criminal immigrant.” And he and Congress have also bolstered detention policies and the private prisons who warehouse these folks. How’d that work out? Certainly not  well for the broken families affected by these policies.

Some of my lib-lab friends utilize the talking points well:  It’s the Republicans! I don’t argue that fact, but when it comes to deportation, it is President Obama who holds the keys to the deportation bus.

Certainly, Republicans knew exactly what President Obama was doing since they didn’t budge at all on the House side. If anything, the issue may still figure prominently in 2014 elections as Republican primary candidates try to out-hate each other on the issue. What will the Democratic campaign response be in 2014?

And while the national pro-migrant organizations (LULAC, NCLR and others) kept their talking points intact, all the while while turning their collective cheek to the mass deportations, mass human warehousing, and general indifference of both sides of the aisle, it was the immigrant-activist community whose message seemed to be strengthening:  Stop the deportations. The question that goes unanswered is if there is agreement on taking anything less than a path to citizenship.

According to the latest Pew Hispanic Center polling, 55% of Hispanics now favor deportation relief over a shot at citizenship. Given that Hispanics make up 3/4 of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, this is a significant trend. And according to the experts at Pew, it is this trend that could cause a major shift in the immigration debate–one that could allow piecemeal legislation and other compromises. That’s if the Republicans don’t feel the need to try to milk the issue for what it is worth to them in the GOP primaries.

According to Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition, a piecemeal approach is what is going to happen.

Walking away with nothing is not an option for us; “citizenship-or-nothing” is not an option. We can’t ask our communities to wait for “citizenship” while we see our mothers, our fathers being separated from their children. Citizenship is our ultimate goal but we cannot let it become a hardline that poisons bipartisanship.

This year we have a real opportunity to secure our first victory; a victory that will allow us to live and work freely, to travel and see our family members we left behind. Rest assure the next day, we will be ready to work and fight for the next victory, including a path to citizenship. Let’s, however, get our first win 2014.

Ultimately, a piecemeal package may not spell political victory for either political party.

If the immigration bill dies, a plurality of Hispanics (43%) and Asian Americans (48%) say they would mostly blame Republicans in Congress. But sizable minorities of each group—34% of Hispanics and 29% of Asian Americans—say they would hold Democrats in Congress and/or President Obama mainly responsible.

I would think that simple deportation stops wouldn’t give an edge to either Party at this point. Political promises and niceties from both political parties have failed as campaign tactics, given Hispanic numbers tanking for President Obama and achieving new lows for Republicans. For those Hispanics who continue to have faith in their vote, or perhaps aren’t single issue voters (folks like me), I’m sure they will continue to be engaged at some level. But breaking down immigration reform (and the Hispanic community) to the point of accepting only deportation relief is concerning–at least for folks like me.

To me, there is nothing more important than citizenship–the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Although it is understandable that those who live in the shadows and fear detention and deportation want some sort of relief, I fear the formation of, for lack of a better term, a legalized sub-class of people will only be detrimental to our democracy. Sure, it may be a boon to our tax system at all levels, and to our economy, but eleven million people in a tax-paying, non-voting class all to themselves does not help further public policy that benefits our country, our states, and our local governments. If anything, it allows those who make the rules (on both sides of the aisle) to run roughshod over these folks–and any other group with a similar demographic make-up, yet, are citizens and voters.

Unfortunately, President Obama has now given a tentative “OK” to a piecemeal approach that the Republicans have been pushing, and the pro-migrant, national Latino groups will soon follow or get out of the way. Given the image of victory will be those groups led by immigrants who are asking for deportation relief, while Republican politicians will say, “Well, we’re just doing what they asked for.” In other words, Republicans will support anything but citizenship if they were to go along with this. That’s the even bigger question:  Will Republicans go along with it? Or will Tea Party bigotry be the victor, again?

I’ve been writing about immigration reform since I started this blog. My entire intent was not to become an “immigration blogger,” but what made me driven as a supporter of immigration reform was that citizenship was the end-game. At this point, deportation relief may bring a sigh of relief to a certain extent–depending on what the parties agree to–but a lack of a path to citizenship and whatever else the Republicans tack on which will limit the rights of this new legalized sub-class is not a workable solution, in my opinion. Some will call it a step toward citizenship (to be achieved in another 10? 20 years?), but what is the reality? How will the private prison and jail industry be appeased? And how will local law enforcement agencies who defend 287(g) and SCOMM move forward? There are a lot of unanswered questions as to how “deportation relief” will be defined in the end.

So, a new question is being asked:  Will we have something in 2014?

It’s hard to tell when even Professor Larry Sabato stated on CNN that this issue was a big loser in 2013 and that he didn’t expect much movement on it in 2014. And neither does my favorite policy guy, Robert Reich. Pro-reform Republicans, too. 

Obviously, we need to keep an eye on things. And, ultimately, the “pro-migrant” side needs to get its message straight so the rest of us know what we’re supposed to support.

Aura Bogado has a cool Prezi at Alternet about what happened in 2013.

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.

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

by Dr. Rey Guerra

The national mainstream media has been bringing a lot of attention to the United States Senate’s version of a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act). Here locally, a delegation of 5 congresspersons held a townhall meeting that I’m not sure adequately characterized the content of the bill or Houstonians’ attitude toward the bill. Although it’s refreshing to see CIR being covered in the mainstream media and by our local leaders, there’s a whole lot that’s not being discussed…like what’s actually in the bill.

What’s missing from the mainstream coverage is an analytical breakdown of the bill’s content. I say ‘mainstream’ because the analytical breakdown very much exists, it’s just not being discussed and/or being used as a basis for supporting or not supporting the bill.

From a moral, humane, or civil rights perspective, it’s an easy case to make that the bill will put everybody, including current US citizens, in a worse position.

From a political perspective, I’m not sure that there is reason for Republicans or Democrats to support the bill, or, I don’t see there being a sound analytical reason for either party to support it; not if each is basing their support on true party principles.

The following is my take on why the bill is so damaging. I downloaded a .pdf version of the bill that is 1198 pages long. Reading the entire bill is kind of daunting, and the painful badness of the bill is replete, so I’m breaking the piece up into several part in hope that light can be brought onto its darkness.

Part I: The Border Trigger

Although many estimates are higher, it seems the general consensus is that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. When all is said and done, “triggers” associated with the bill could result in as little as 2 million undocumented immigrants and as many as 6 million qualifying to become legal US residents (2 million under DREAM and AgJobs provisions). According to analysis from Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, of the remaining 9 million, as many as half would be left in limbo–either deported, pushed back into hiding, and most certainly in a worst socioeconomic state than they are in now. Schey later describes a grim scenario, that the triggers are set up in such a way that 20 years from now, it is very plausible that nobody will have benefited from the bill.

Of all of the onerous triggers, the one that is the most ambiguous, and the easiest to deny all that apply, is the border security trigger. The bill states that the DHS Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens until

  • a comprehensive border security strategy has been submitted to Congress and is substantially deployed and substantially operational. Substantially in this case is 90% effective. Note that the bill does not allow the border security strategy to even be defined by a commission any SOONER than 5 years after the enactment of the bill.
  • a southern border fencing strategy has been submitted to Congress, implemented, and is substantially completed. Substantially in this case is at least 700 miles of fencing, but may be more, at the discretion of Secretary.

Again, an issue here is that a commission to recommend a border security strategy can’t even issue recommendations on how to secure the border until 5 years after the bill is enacted.

Also, even after the report is issued, it is quite possible that a 90% effectiveness may not be achieved for 10 or 20 years or EVER…and remember, under this bill, no immigrant can achieve legal status until 90% effectiveness is achieved.

The ‘‘effectiveness rate’’ is the percentage calculated by dividing the number of apprehensions and turn backs during a fiscal year by the total number of illegal entries during such fiscal year. Analysis done by professors at UC San Diego suggest that the DHS does not currently collect the data to measure effectiveness, nor does it know how in the way that the bill requires. They also suggest that the difficulties involved in meeting the 90% border enforcement may be so formidable that the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.

With respect to the fence, no empirical evidence exists, anywhere, that suggests that building a fence slows, let alone stops, immigration rates. Immigrants are leaving a country and family that they love just as much as you and I love our family. If your wife and your children’s survival depends on your getting on the other side of a fence, I imagine that you will find a way to get over that fence.

The Border Trigger is bad, very bad, but it’s only one of many mechanisms in S.744 that will, by design, keep the vast majority of undocumented immigrants from achieving legal status and create a large sub-class; a sub-class of families and workers that can’t vote, are exploited for their labor, are discriminated against because of their being in a ‘legal’ pergatory, and can’t leave for fear of becoming ineligible to one-day, perhaps in several decades, become ‘legal.’

In Part II, I’ll get into the remaining triggers.

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.

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.”

Is Immigration Reform Falling Apart?

What’s really going on with immigration reform?

Frankly, I feel there aren’t any straight answers coming from the Democratic side of the debate, while there is obvious honesty coming from Republicans. An interview with NPRs Goodman has Rep. Luis Gutierrez quite scattered on strategy, while Republicans have basically said, “No amnesty!”

After the Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, gave Republicans the militarization of the border for an extra eight (8) votes to pass S.744, House Republicans are now pushing a “scaled-back” version that might include DREAMers, but nothing for anyone else in the form of citizenship. Just some sort of “legal status” that keeps people as a permanent underclass.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez stated today that she would be willing to discuss that sort of Republican bill. And her Republican counterpart, Labrador, continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth.

Some House Republicans have suggested a path to legalization that would function like a work visa may be on the table. Republican Congressman Raul Labrador told Alex Wagner on Wednesday that he was confident a the House GOP approach would include “some sort of legal status,” which he believes should not “prevent anybody from becoming citizens, but would not necessarily give them citizenship status.”

Note to Democrats:  It helps when you have a public mouthpiece who actually fights for the path to citizenship.

In other news, President Obama had yet another meeting with Hispanic Caucus members. Feel free to use the hash-tag, #notanotherObamaimmigrationmeeting

Presente.org: The Good and The Bad of S.744

Thanks to Presente.org for compiling this. Like they tell us, you won’t see this on CNN, and I really didn’t really see any of the bad stuff being talked about by Democrats and pro-migrant groups who have signed up to sell this to the U.S. House. They sure did bombard me with e-mails, though. Better to be informed, right?