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FIRM is coordinating a range of activities in support of the organizing that we’ll need to do to strengthen our base and build our organizational membership going forward. One of our main priorities is the Democracy Schools program, which was inspired in part by the Freedom and Citizenship Schools of the Civil Rights movement. Organizations can get information on this multi-faceted curriculum at http://www.fairimmigration.org/learn/civic-engagement/democracy-schools.html. For more information about the Democracy Schools curriculum (an open source curriculum that is adaptable to organizational needs), please contact Mayron Payes at the Center for Community Change at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Immigration Politics & Elections in 2008
As reported in the US News and World Report, Sen. McCain is attempting to thread the needle between Hispanic and conservative voters on the immigration issue: http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/campaign-2008/2008/03/14/mccain-must-appease-both-hispanics-and-conservatives-on-immigration.html
A recent internal Republican poll in Colorado found that a majority of Republicans and Independents polled in Colorado CD 6 do not agree with the stances taken by the anti-immigrant wing of the Republican party: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_8552360
The National Republican Congressional Committee has published a hit-list of Democrats wrong on Immigration: Baird (WA), Bishop (GA), Boucher(VA), Boyd (FL), Braley (IA), Carney (PA), Edwards (TX), Hodes (NH), Kanjorski (PA), Larsen (WA), Loebsack (IA), McNerney (CA), Michaud (ME), Mollohan (WV), Shea-Porter (NH), and Welch (VT).
Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives began circulating a discharge petition that could force the SAVE Act to the House floor for a vote if it receives 218 signatures, a simple majority of Representatives. The move signaled a renewed anti-immigrant attack geared at vulnerable Democrats. There are now 181 signatures on the petition (to see the list go to http://clerk.house.gov/110/lrc/pd/petitions/Dis5.htm). For more information about discharge petitions and how they work, go to http://www.rules.house.gov/archives/97-552.pdf.
The ACLU of Southern California has issued an alert that does a good job of framing the issue from a civil liberties lens: http://ga1.org/campaign/OpposeSAVEAct.
The New York Times published an editorial on the SAVE Act and related measures last week: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/opinion/13thu1.html
While the House is lurching toward a possible floor vote on the SAVE Act, there are negotiations also underway around a possible negotiated package of immigration-related measures. Initial news reports suggest that this package will include some provision to renew the H2B Visa program, a modest renewal of the H1B Visa program, an employment verification provision and some elements of the SAVE Act related to border security, and provisions advocated by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus providing relief to undocumented immigrant families that could include a waiver of the 3 and 10-year bars on return for immigrants that have committed immigration violations, a five-year non-renewable temporary visa, and relief for familiy members of individuals in the military. These negotiations are driven by pressure on the SAVE Act, pressure on H1B Visas, pressure on H2B Visas and the CHC‘s effort to use their leverage to prevent these other measures from moving forward without some relief for undocumented immigrants. This article in the New York Times reflects pressure being directed toward the CHC by the business community to back off of their efforts: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/14/us/14visa.html?_r=2&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1205593313-HdoUcsgbhg48c3ivhhCYkA&pagewanted=print.
In the mean time, in the Senate, a series of immigration related amendments were debated and voted on as part of the fight over the Senate’s budget resolution. Note that the budget resolution is not binding, but provides parameters for future debates on binding legislation. These amendments are a signal for where Senators are on a range of issues related to immigration heading into the elections and 2009.
–Kennedy amendment to increase funding for the Department of Education’s English Literacy-Civics Education State Grant program, with an offset (#4350) was agreed to by a roll-call vote of 95-2.
–Alexander amendment to take $670,000 used by the EEOC in bringing actions against employers that require their employees to speak English, and instead use the money to teach English to adults through the Department of Education’s English Literacy/Civics Education State Grant program (#4222) was agreed to by a roll-call vote of 54-44.
–Menendez amendment to establish a reserve fund for immigration reform and enforcement (#4259) was agreed to by a roll-call vote of 53-45.
–Sessions amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for border security, immigration enforcement, and criminal alien removal programs (#4231) was agreed to by a roll-call vote of 61-37.
–Vitter amendment to create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to sanctuary cities that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists (#4309) was tabled to by a roll-call of 58-40.
–Dole amendment to increase amounts budgeted for States and local governments for expenses related to immigration enforcement training and support under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, with an offset (#4208) was accepted by voice vote.
–Reid amendment to establish a reserve fund for studying the effect of cooperation with local law enforcement (#4373) was accepted by voice vote.
–Biden amendment to increase FY 2009 funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by $100 million, with an offset (#4166) was accepted by unanimous consent.
–Feinstein amendment to provide for a total of $950,000,000 in outlays for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program in fiscal year 2009. (#4225) was accepted by unaminous consent.
–Leahy amendment to add a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation that improves the participation of naturalized citizens in the US political process, strengthens national security by improving and expediting FBI security name checks, and reduces the backlog of naturalization applications for individuals seeking to become naturalized citizens (#4270, as modified) was accepted by unanimous consent.
State & Local News
Tired of waiting for the federal government, Arizona and Colorado are now considering legislation to create their own guest worker programs: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jZoEanK6LDPjZgsMKkyMLLAGgLRAD8VDCAIO1
A widely publicized employer crackdown bill in Indiana died in conference committee this week: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080313/LOCAL19/80313072
A compelling article about a principle taking a stand for immigrant students in Arizona: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/education/12education.html
FIRM Member Activities
Organizations in Colorado, including the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition denounced a racially motivated assault in Boulder, CO last week. “It is time to stand up to the politicians and commentators who are fanning the flames of insecurity and prejudice around the immigration debate. They continue to contribute to racial and ethnic hostility,” Julien Ross of CIRC (email@example.com).
Following on worksite raids on Microsolutions in Van Nuys, California, CHIRLA has been organizing a major response with a wide range of allies in the region. Please take a moment to review this video describing the impact of the raids at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EG7cCxS5RH0&feature=email.
A settlement associated with a law suit against ICE for conduct in these raids was announced last week. Hate Free Zone and a coalition of allies worked with the Governor to issue a new executive order on how Washington State will treat its newest Americans.
Allies and Partner Activities
The Progressive States Network recently launched a new coalition: State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy. For more information on the effort, please go to http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1665/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=951.
Federal Regulations, Naturalization Backlogs & Social Security No Match
Emilio Gonzalez, the head of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, announced that he will be leaving the agency last week. He leaves in the midst of enormous naturalization backlogs that threaten to disenfranchise tens of thousands of immigrants that have filed to naturalize since the agency increased fees for naturalization applications.
News to Use
In Arizona, the Colores Actors-Writers Workshop is running a production called “The DREAM Act” by James E. Garcia. For more information, go to http://www.americanlatino.net/caww/.
The Immigration Policy Center recently released a new report on problems with the SSA No Match database and other employment verification proposals. To view the report go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080313b.
The National Immigration Law Center recently released a paper providing additional information about problems with Employment Verification proposals. http://www.nilc.org/immsemplymnt/ircaempverif/e-verify_infobrief_2008-03-13.pdf. Additional information is available at http://www.nilc.org/immsemplymnt/ircaempverif/index.htm.
An article in the Arizona Daily Star addressing the question: Why Don’t People Come Here Legally? http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/border/228697