FIRM Update 4.15.08

Building America Together!


With May 1st only a few weeks away, organizations in cities across the country are planning a wide range of activities.  If you have not yet sent a description of events planned in your community to, please do so ASAP so that we can compile as strong a list as possible.  In the mean time, press coverage over the anniversary of the major May 1 marches has started, including this article that ran in the Dallas Morning News:


On April 12-14, more than 500 grassroots community leaders gathered in Washington, DC for National People’s Action, a major gathering of community organizing groups across the nation.  At that gathering hundreds of leaders from African American, Latino, Asian, and urban and rural communities joined the Building America Together campaign and endorsed the FIRM Pledge.  FIRM and NPA members then held a series of actions on a range of issues important to low-income and minority communities, including the foreclosure crisis and immigration reform.  For more information go to  On Monday, April 14, NPA and FIRM organized an action at the Department of Homeland Security demanding that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service quickly address naturalization backlogs that could deny hundreds of thousands of immigrants an opportunity to vote this fall.  At that action, USCIS agreed to a national meeting and local follow-up meetings to discuss progress on the backlogs.


Politics 2008


At the presidential level, pundits are noting that immigration has remained a relatively quiet topic among the main candidates vying for the office.  A useful summary article of the state of the debate can be found at


Julia Preston, reporter for the New York Times, posted a blog entry on the newspaper’s site calling for stories about personal experiences with the immigration system.  A number of very compelling stories followed.  If you’d like to post your own story, please go to


At the bottom of this update, please fine included an excerpt from a statement made by Senator Obama on the issue of immigration.  It’s noteworthy in that it represents a rhetorical shift toward “requiring” legalization in an unfortunate nod to Americans concerned about sounding tough on immigrants.  At the same time, Senator Obama argues against the politics of division and bitter partisanship that derailed the immigration bill last year.


Congressional News


– A column from a prominent Hispanic evangelical leader condemning the SAVE Act:

– An article that ran on New American Media last week on “big brother” aspects of verification programs:

– An article on how employment verification programs impact citizens:

– For a fact sheet being circulated in the human needs community, please go to:


State & Local News


Tensions in Arizona over race, immigration and enforcement policies centering on the actions of Sheriff Arpaio are rising.  The Mayor of Phoenix recently requested the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine Arpaio’s practices.  For coverage go to or to see how the story is spreading.  Tensions are emerging even among law enforcement agencies and fears of civil unrest due to Arpaio’s actions:  Last week the New York Times also weighed in with an editorial critical of the 287g program, which encourages cooperation among federal immigration authorities and loca law enforcement officials, and called for its own investigation of Sheriff Arpaio:


In Valley Park, Missouri, recent elections ousted the incumbent mayor who had made stemming illegal immigration that town’s major political cause.  The mayor-elect has already signaled a new direction on immigration.  The town has been burdened by legal suits ever since it enacted anti-immigrant ordinances in 2006.


A story coming out of Texas demonstrates the sad state of affairs in the nation’s immigration debate.  A young girl who claimed to have been attacked by Hispanic students for submitting an anti-immigrant homework assignment lied about the assault, but the truth came to light following a wave of angry anti-immigrant media.  For a sample story, go to


In Missouri, a chamber in the State Legislator voted to prohibit the state from implementing the REAL ID Act.  For an article on the action, go to


Raids, Detention, Deportation


The new commercial film, The Visitor, which tells a story about the impact of immigrant detention on friends and family members, is now out in the theaters.  To see a trailer of the film, please go to A list of locations where the film is being shown can be seen at  A number of groups are organizing around this film to raise awareness about immigrant detention issues.  To see what folks are up to, go to


Immigration Agencies and Federal Regulations


Responding to concerns raised by business and political leaders, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff defended the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and punted concerns about raids by turning attention back toward Congress:  An article on the comments and letter sent by Mayor VIllaraigosa to Chertoff can be found at


There is a growing political response to waivers announced by the Department of Homeland Security to sidestep various protections in an effort to speed up construction of border walls.  A summary of the legal issues can be viewed at, and a press release announcing the intent of several House members to sue the Department can be seen at


A coalition of organizations have developed a detailed analysis of recently issued regulations that would govern the H2A Visa program, used primarily for agricultural workers. 


FIRM Member Activities


The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition celebrated a victory in the State legislature last week when an appropriations committee voted against a proposal to double the state’s immigration enforcement patrol.  For more information, contact


Allies and Partner Activities


The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union held the most recent of a series of hearings on the impact of ICE worksite raids in Boston, MA last week.


Resources & News to Use


Tax Time! The Immigration Policy Center released a paper last week summarizing recent research on the tax contributions of immigrants.  To view the report, go to


The following Op Ed ran in papers across the country last week highlighting the personal experience of immigration lived by Cristina Lopez of the Center for Community Change:


Two videos were honored in a contest held by the Movement Vision Lab.  Each video tells a story about immigration from the perspective of community values.  To view them go to


An Op Ed by a state legislator from Iowa makes the case that rather than pass anti-immigrant laws, it’s time to enforce wage laws that can benefit everyone:



Posted on Mon, Apr. 14, 2008 in the Charlotte Observer:

Obama: Enforce tighter border, employer verifications

One of my fundamental beliefs is that for too long we have had a politics of division and distraction in Washington that’s stopped us from coming together to bring about real change. There are few better examples of how broken our politics has become than the immigration debate. Just last summer, we saw comprehensive reform fail in part because of bitter partisanship.

While I understand the passions — and legitimate differences — on both sides of this difficult issue, we must restore civility and reason to the conversation. The longer we go without comprehensive reform, the more pronounced this problem will become.

We must find common ground and take action on the two central issues that lie at the heart of this debate — and we cannot effectively address one without addressing the other at the same time.

First, we must reinforce our borders to deter the more than 2,000 immigrants who cross them illegally each day. Most of these aspiring laborers risk death in the desert to come here illegally, and they are diverting our attention from those trying to enter to do us harm.

Strengthening the border requires equipping Customs and Border Protection agents with better technology and real-time intelligence, improving infrastructure, and making smart choices about where patrols should be deployed.

We also have to ensure that employers are hiring only legal workers. That’s why I’ve worked with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to make it significantly more difficult — if not impossible — for employers to hire workers who are here illegally, including the more than 40 percent who came legally and overstayed their visa.

This will require a mandatory electronic system that enables employers to verify the legal status of their employees within days of hiring them.

Second, we must require the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already here, including more than 300,000 in North Carolina, to step out of the shadows and onto a path that includes the ability to earn citizenship by demonstrating a sound character, a commitment to America, and a strong work ethic.

We have to understand that many immigrants want to get right with the law. They work in their communities, pay taxes, and have become an integral part of our society.

While it’s unrealistic to deport them, illegal entry cannot go unpunished. That’s why we must require them to pay a fine, learn English, and get to the back of the line for citizenship behind those who came here legally.

We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and we must reconcile those traditions. It’s time to move beyond our broken politics and achieve real progress on immigration reform, not just for the sake of passing a bill, and not as a favor to immigrants, but so that we can finally address the concerns of the American people, and make real the hopes of all those who want nothing more than a chance at the American Dream.

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