Category Archives: Civic Participation

Anti-immigrant amendment to census defeated in the Senate

Yesterday, the Senate voted 60-39 to stop any further debate on the census effectively killing the Vitter amendment requiring proof of citizenship. I blogged about the politicization of the census and the use of immigration, yet again, as a wedge issue last month. The pro-migrant community has been awaiting the vote on this amendment for a while. Its defeat is great news.

SEIU took the lead on the Don’t Wreck the Census action, driving thousands of people to contact their Senators and say NO to the Vitter amendment. Eliseo Medina of SEIU said this about yesterday’s vote:

Today U.S. Senators put working families ahead of the politics of division and hatred. Joining a chorus of former U.S. Census Directors and advocacy leaders , the Senate voted down Senators Vitter and Bennett’s misguided attempt to undercut 2010 enumeration efforts and mar this critical process with hateful, anti-immigrant politics.

Now if only we could say the same for the health care debate, as the topic of undocumented immigrants is again rearing its ugly head, with rabid anti’s wanting to block them from even BUYING their own insurance. Prerna at’s immigration blog  spells it out plainly:

The question is simple: Do you want undocumented immigrants in your overburdened emergency rooms on ‘taxpayer dollars’ or do you want them buying health insurance to pay for their own medical bills? Never mind the fact that the undocumented pay taxes to mitigate the costs of receiving any so-called ‘free health care’ and are the least likely to use emergency health facilities.

Yesterday’s defeat of the Vitter amendment was a good step forward, but until we comprehensively reform our current immigration policy, this issue will continue to mire down any legislation that hits the House or Senate floors. You can count on it.

Politicizing the census: Immigration used as a wedge issue yet again


The upcoming census has devolved into a debate about immigration. Sounds familiar, right?  Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has introduced amendment 2644 to the upcoming census reapportionment bill that will cut off funding for the 2010 Census unless an 11th question is added. Can you guess what that 11th question is about? You got it, the GOP’s ever-ready bogey man, undocumented immigrants.

Vitter wants to ensure that only citizens are counted during the Census. The New York Times today lays out exactly why this would not only waste tons of money, but would derail the Census process entirely.

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey’s 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter’s demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

In summary, not only is it already law that EVERYONE be counted, but Vitter is politicizing the 2010 Census for his own gain. NDN has a great information page about the Vitter amendment, where I found this succinct summary of Vitter’s hyprocrisy:

Earlier this year, several Republican senators expressed outrage over the perception that the new White House Administration was playing politics with the Census. The outrage was so deep that US Senator Judd Gregg withdrew his nomination as US Secretary of Commerce citing concerns over this perception to politicize the Census. Now these very same Republican Senators are resorting to the very same techniques they decried earlier this year. This amendment only serve serves to politicize and delegitimize what is expected to be a very nonpartisan process. The result could cost billions of dollars, and will complicate efforts to inform and prepare state and local governments for the changing demography and characteristics of this nation.

Yet again, immigrants are being thrown under the bus in an attempt at partisan politics. [Insert my constant reminder of the need for comprehensive immigration reform to avoid such political quagmires here].

Also, I think its worth adding that if this bill were to pass it would lead to widespread non-participation from immigrants communities, regardless of immigration status.

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

The bill will be voted on this Wednesday. To take action to defeat Vitter’s bill, check out the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign’s click to fax/email page.

FIRM Spotlight: Make the Road New York asks the state to Get Out of the Deportation Business


From our partners at Make the Road New York:

Over the past several years federal immigration agents have established a permanent presence on Rikers Island and in other New York City Department of Corrections (“DOC”) facilities. Without any oversight, accountability or written agreement U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents have regularly conducted coercive and deceptive interrogations of pre-trial detainees, effectively denying those detainees their constitutional rights to be presumed innocent, to remain silent, and to an attorney.

As a result of these interrogations, immigrants are less willing to cooperate with local police as witnesses and victims of crime — undermining everyone’s safety. Despite its rhetoric of reform, the Obama administration has continued the Bush administration’s enforcement-only approach — leading to the deportation of countless New Yorkers, many with no criminal record, leaving the deportees’ families abandoned in New York and dependent on our City’s strained social service system. Previously unreleased FOIA responses outlining the scope of ICE operations in DOC facilities will be made public for the first time.

On August 25th, at 11 AM, Make the Road New York will gather with religious and faith leaders from the surrounding communities to call for and end to federal immigration agents’ dishonest, immoral and dangerous enforcement operations.

WHERE: Judson Memorial Church, 239 Thompson St., New York, NY 10012

Calling all Immigration Bloggers: Apply to a be Netroots Nation Scholar!

Our partners at America’s Voice are sponsoring 8 immigration bloggers for this year’s Netroots Nation. Check it out:

The America’s Voice – Netroots Nation “Immigration Blogger Scholar” Contest is Here!

The annual Netroots Nation Convention, entering its fourth year now, is a unique gathering of progressive bloggers, activists, issue campaigns, and candidates.

This year, America’s Voice will send 8 immigration bloggers to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the convention, with the help of the Netroots Nation planning committee.

America’s Voice is committed to supporting a vibrant and independent pro-migrant blogosphere and we believe it is critical for bloggers who write about immigration to be well-represented at Netroots Nation.

So, do you know someone working at the intersection of new media and immigration, who blogs on the issue, and who needs some help getting to Netroots Nation?

Apply Today to be a Immigration-Blogger-Scholar at Netroots Nation 2009


Community Groups Begin Weekly Visits to Congress

capitol-building-pictureThe Campaign for Community Values, a coalition of community groups from around the country, will be bringing the voices of communities directly to Congress in the First 100 Days of the Obama administration.

On Tuesday, January 27, and every Tuesday for the next 14 weeks, ten community organizations from across the country will converge on Washington to advance an ambitious plan to rebuild the economy in a way that works for us all and push for just and humane immigration reform.

Nearly 100 community organizations representing 38 states will send local leaders to participate in this unprecedented, relentless advocacy push to unite our communities and help all workers.

This is such an exciting time to be in Washington DC and we will make sure that Obama delivers on his promise to return the government to the people. Communities will be represented in our policies thanks to the relentless efforts of community leaders and organizers like the members of the Campaign for Community Values. We will be sure to give frequent updates of theses visits to Congress as they occur.

Realizing the Promise Coverage Round-up

Hey guys! I’m back on the blog after a few days away. I hope you all enjoyed the fabulous live-blogging of the Realizing the Promise forum this past thursday. A BIG shout-out to Will Coley for his great work!


The event itself was amazing. So many people, so much energy and a palpable sense that we WILL ENSURE that the change we want becomes a reality.

Below is a round up of the articles and live-blogs of the event.

Also, below are a few excerpts of the article from the Nation.

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Tomorrow is the Day: Get out and VOTE (Ve y Vota!)

Unless you have already cast your ballot during early voting, you will be hitting the polls tomorrow to engage in the democratic process.

Below are some links to useful resources to make sure your vote counts and to fight voter suppression, from the Voter Suppression Wiki.

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We are Getting out the Vote!

All across the country, advocates are helping to mobilize the immigrant vote. During the upcoming election, these new voters’ voices will be heard in unprecendented numbers.

As Henry Fernandez reported at ThinkProgress:

A recent NALEO Educational Fund poll found that an astonishing 90% of Latinos in battleground states (Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico) say they are certain to vote.

Why does this matter? The vote count gurus over at rank Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico as top “tipping point states,” meaning a state that in a close national election would alter the outcome if decided differently.

That’s right. The work that is being done by Immigrant Rights groups across the nation will be a major part of next week’s Election outcome. Here is a run down of our folks on the ground and the amazing work they are doing.

In Chicago:

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Spotlight NYIC: The Impact of the Immigrant Vote and Civic Participation

On Saturday, October 25th, the New York State Youth Leadership Council (along with guest speakers) discussed the impact of the immigrant vote and immigration policy in the 2008 presidential elections, the issues faced by immigrant youth (specifically, access to higher education), and their role in the political process as engines of change in their communities.

Members of the YLC also shared their experiences as participants of the NYSYLC Civic Engagement Program.  They discussed how they have organized civic circles in their communities to educate and organize their communities to build power and impact the political process. Guest speakers included: Alan Kaplan, Civic & Electoral Participation Program Coordinator, New York Immigration Coalition,

Suman Raghunathan, Project Consultant for “Feet in Two Worlds” and Bill Shiebler, National Field Director, U.S. Student Association.