Category Archives: Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Fair Immigration Reform Movement Applauds Obama for Commitment to DREAM Act, Progress on Administrative Relief

But More Must be Done on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) applauded President Obama for renewing his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act in his State of the Union Address tonight, and also praised his administration for progress made to provide administrative relief for immigrant families.

“The President is clearly committed to comprehensive immigration reform that values families. We hope that Congress, with comprehensive reform stalemated for now, will not waste any more time and pass the DREAM Act,” said FIRM spokesperson Rich Stolz. “Since last summer, in the absence of Congressional action, the Obama administration has used its own legal authority to try to make the immigration system more sensible and humane, and the Administration must follow through on the promise of these reforms. However, our broken immigration system will remain broken until there is comprehensive reform.”

Obama’s commitment to passage of the DREAM Act was evident in the choice of former DREAM student Juan Jose Redín as one of the First Lady’s guests at the State of the Union address. Redín, born in Mexico before emigrating to the United States with his mother and sister at the age of 10, is now a successful attorney in California. Like many other DREAM students, Redín endured many challenges as he worked toward his goal to higher education. Under California Assembly Bill 540, Redín was able to enroll at UCLA where he received both his undergraduate and law degrees. Redín is now a U.S. citizen.

Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers, including GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have publicly stated their opposition to the DREAM Act and to other legislation that would lead to comprehensive immigration reform. Romney has said if elected, he would veto the DREAM Act.

Rep. Lofgren Calls for Investigation of Secure Communities

By Mary Moreno

One of the major reasons deportations have surged under the Obama administration is the expansion of the so-called Secure Communities program. Under Secure Communities, everyone who’s picked up by the police, be it for traffic, minor or major violations, has their fingerprints sent to DHS by the FBI to be checked for legal status. This program has led to the deportations of people who were never charged with a crime or who were accused, but not convicted, of offenses.

DHS used to insist that the program was voluntary. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano even asserted this “fact” to members of Congress. One congressional member to hear this from Napolitano, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, is calling for an investigation of the program after documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the program, in fact, is not voluntary, opting out is not an option.

Lofgren told the LA Times:

“It is inescapable that the [Department of Homeland Security] was not honest with the local governments or with me” about whether local jurisdictions must participate, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). “You can’t have a government department essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress. This is not OK.”

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President Talks with CEOs on Immigration; Activists Ask for Action

by Mary Moreno

President Obama today met with stakeholders to discuss a way forward on immigration reform. Getting the President’s time on immigration is great, especially when so many other pressing issues are competing for his attention. We’re glad the long overdue meeting happened. However, critical voices were absent from this meeting, voices that echo the experience of so many immigrants who make up our community and are directly impacted by our broken immigration laws.

 Missing from the meeting were people like Victor Reyes, a father of 5 whose wife was deported because she missed an appointment. Also absent was Freddy Gutierrez, who lost his wife and 2 young children to deportation. He only stayed in the U.S. because this is where he has a good job that allows him to provide for his family.

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What does Disney have in common with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?

Give up? They both want to escalate efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Today, immigration reform saw a welcome two steps forward. First, a press conference today marked over 100 co-sponsors for the CIR ASAP bill, introduced last fall by Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).  At the press conference, members of Congress reaffirmed and intensified their commitment to passing immigration reform.

Much of the message was framed around the passage of SB 1070 in Arizona and the copycat laws that are springing up around the country. Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Barbara Lee spoke out against the racial profiling law:

We must act now. We cant afford to wait any longer. Arizona reminds us of that. We wont let people divide us anymore. (via ClinicLegal)

Representative Luis Gutierrez, who introduced the legislation, drove home the urgency of the moment:

“The legislative clock is ticking,” stressed Gutierrez. “We know people are getting deported at the highest rate in modern history.”

Guttierez said the need for Congress to pass his plan is critical, especially with only one month to go before many provisions within the recently signed Arizona immigration law start to take effect. He called the Arizona law a call to action, and said a pragmatic solution must be found for what he referred to as a “broken system.” The Illinois Democrat added that he wants something passed before Congress recesses in August.

At the same time that members of Congress were escalating their push for immigration reform this year, some unlikely allies were publicly declaring their support for the measure. CEO’s of major corporations like Hewlett Packard, News Corp and Disney have joined forces with New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Mayor Bloomberg:

“I can’t think of any ways to destroy this country quite as direct and impactful as our immigration policy. We educate the best and the brightest, and then we don’t give them a green card.”

“It’s our great strength as a nation, and it’s also critical for continued economic growth,” Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Robert Iger said in a statement. “To remain competitive in the 21st century, we need effective immigration reform that invites people to contribute to our shared success by building their own American dream.”

Today Obama meets with Brewer. Will leadership ensue?

By guest blogger, Elisabeth Lesser.

Today, Governor Jan Brewer will meet with President Obama regarding border security and Arizona’s SB 1070. This will be the first meeting between Governor Brewer and the President since the Governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, and the tone set tomorrow by the President will send a clear message about his priorities and agenda in the face of such blatant disregard for social justice and basic civil rights.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, released the following statement regarding the meeting:

“We don’t expect much from a governor who’s clearly more interested in winning a primary election than she is in protecting her state. She’s firmly dug her partisan heels into the Arizona sand, and will only use the meeting with the President as a platform for even more political grandstanding.”

I’d like to add that there are plenty of good reasons why Governor Brewer doesn’t inspire confidence. She stands beside Sarah Palin in the ranks of smug, uber-conservative female politicians. Asked by CNN how she would respond if the Department of Justice attempted to challenge SB 1070, Brewer responded firmly:

“We’ll meet you in court… I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

And even when confronted with proof that her reasons for enacting SB 1070, namely increased crime, are not true, she dismisses the facts and sticks to her misrepresentations.

Back to Bhargava’s statement:

“But from the President we do expect action. He should immediately cancel the 287 g and Secure Communities programs that opened the door to the racist, divisive law Brewer signed last month. By ending local law enforcement’s role in immigration law, the President will leave no doubt that immigration law is solely the federal government’s purview.  The President must also call for an immediate moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration is enacted, thus making a statement that hardworking men and women will not be separated from their families simply because Republicans have chosen to continue obstructing progress.”

Fortunately, the fight against the startlingly discriminatory Arizona law has been flooding national headlines. Yesterday, nonviolent civil disobedience in New York reached a pinnacle as 56 protesters were arrested, the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience that has led to the arrests of people in DC, LA, Chicago and Seattle. And in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the Arizona boycott. CCC pledged to join this boycott on May 6th, and you can learn more about why you too should join us here.

As we watch the immigration debate rekindle in full force and Arizona strips its residents of  adequate civil liberties, it is clear that the people of this country are up in arms, and that the federal government needs to act. Let’s hope the President has heard the united voices against SB 1070 and will finally deliver on his campaign promise to actively reform our nation’s broken immigration system, once and for all.

McCain gives another lesson on hypocrisy

by Dennis Chin, guest blogger

(originally published in the CCC Blog)

Hypocrisy isn’t a good look on anyone, especially our elected officials.

Congressional Republicans, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have been unabashedly hypocritical on a number of issues since the election of President Obama in 2008.  From the economic stimulus, to health care reform, and now to immigration.

To have these lies exposed seems to have no effect on their political capital.  (Given the fast-paced 24-hour news cycle and the general dominance of conservative framing on mainstream issues, it’s really not surprising at all but that’s a discussion for another post)

Recently, Senator McCain’s latest hypocrisy came with with his stance on Don’t Ask, Don’t TellIn 2006, he stated that “…we ought to change the policy.”  In 2010, when President Obama stated that he will seek to repeal the ban with the support of Admiral Mike Mullen, McCain said that we should not be seeking to overturn the bill.

Well, Senator McCain is at it again, abandoning his “common sense” approach to immigration reform in 2004 for an extreme anti-immigrant stance in 2010.  Chalk it up to old-fashioned political posturing and a Republican base that’s moving further and further to the right (his challenger is a birther, no joke)

This is what Senator McCain stated in 2004:

“A simple crackdown aimed at sending all illegal immigrants back to where they came from would not work. It would simply drive people without proper documentation deeper into the shadows, where they would continue to be at the mercy of unscrupulous employers and would be afraid to report crimes, send their children to school or seek treatment when they had infectious disease.”

This is Senator McCain now:

Dear Senator John McCain, you used to be a proponent of immigration reform that actually made some sense.  But I understand your true political nature compels you to abandon those principles.  For my mental sanity, I’d encourage you to adopt the following look:

I love me some old school Batman!  It’ll seriously be a great reminder to not believe anything you say from now on.

RNC meeting yields conflicting stories (nothing new for Michael Steele)

Yesterday, 10 FIRM leaders met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to discuss immigration reform. The meeting was a direct result of a sit-in that activists staged on March 22nd at RNC headquarters. After the meeting, the leaders reported that Steele committed to:

…work with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the party’s leadership to enlist another Republican senator’s support for comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform

However, only a few hours later, a spokesperson for the RNC issued a statement denying any such commitment and backing away from support of immigration reform.

From the New York Times:

Doug Heye, a spokesman for Mr. Steele, dismissed that account as “100 per cent inaccurate.”

Mr. Steele “makes it a priority to meet with different grassroots activists who are concerned with the direction of our country,” Mr. Heye wrote in an e-mail. “Today’s meeting was meant as an opportunity to listen to concerns and discuss the Republican Party’s strong support of legal immigration.

“Any claim that the RNC made any policy commitments is a clear misrepresentation,” Mr. Heye said.

April fool’s? Josh Hoyt of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights had this to say about the mixed messages:

“Steele seemed legitimately moved by the need to broaden the GOP tent on this issue.  He seemed to understand the political dilemma of continuing to offend immigrant and Latino communities by politicizing this issue rather than moving forward with practical and what he termed ‘holistic’ reform.  But the sun didn’t even set before we got the message they were just kidding.”

The leaders present for the conversation insist that the meeting was, in fact, productive and feel it’s unfortunate that the RNC is choosing to back away from their commitments.

“It was a productive meeting,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica. “I’m surprised that Chairman Steele backed away from all of the next steps we outlined together.”

While it’s frequently been said that immigration reform will be a bi-partisan issue, this event continues to expose the willingness of some members of the GOP to use immigration as a wedge or a political football.

“The future of their party is not with extremist and often hateful anti-immigrant tea party activists. Up until yesterday, activists across the country were focusing their anger on the Obama Administration whose enforcement policies are tearing apart immigrant families and congressional Democrats who have shown very little leadership on CIR. But yesterday, we were reminded of another central problem: GOP obstructionism.”

Oh and if you’re wondering why conflicting stories are nothing new for Steele (or if you’ve been living under a rock), you can learn more here.

Supreme Courts extends rights of immigrants to due process

Yesterday, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision that upholds due process for immigrants in court. The decision means that any immigrant defendant has a right to be informed about whether or not a plea could lead to deportation.

From the Washington Post:

“The severity of deportation – the equivalent of banishment or exile – only underscores how critical it is for counsel to inform her noncitizen client that he faces a risk of deportation,” said Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion for the court.

The decision puts a new burden on lawyers to advise immigrant clients about the consequences of a guilty plea…”

Jose Padilla, the defendant in the case, had lived in the United States for 40 years as a legal permanent resident and was facing automatic deportation for  a plea made in 2001. He was told by his lawyer that the plea would not affect his immigration status.

Yesterday’s decision ruled that:

“It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant – whether a citizen or not – is left to the ‘mercies of incompetent counsel.'”

This is a big victory for immigrant rights in the U.S. legal system, though it comes at the cost of thousands of deportations that should have been legally avoided.

For more on this decision check out:

National Public Radio:  High Court: Lawyers Must Give Immigration Advice

The Detention Watch Network Blog  Landmark Decision: SCOTUS Upholds Due Process for Immigrants

America’s Voice: Justice Prevails With Supreme Court Decision on Immigration Counsel

Michael Steele will meet with immigration reform advocates tomorrow

While Michael Steele has been in the news for some… less than savory activities lately, he has also been making news for a good cause.

From Jackie Mahendra at America’s Voice (and cross posted on DailyKos):

In light of the recent, um, developments this week, I’m wondering if RNC Chairman Michael Steele will be keeping his hard-won meeting with grassroots Latino and immigration reform advocates on Wednesday. These community leaders staged a sit-in at the RNC last Monday, just one day after 200,000 people from across the country traveled thousands of miles to march for real immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

In case you couldn’t hear it, that’s Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of ICIRR stating:

Family values are about not destroying families

When it comes to immigration reform, Republicans certainly could use an image boost with Latino voters.

From the Fair Immigration Reform Movement:

Meeting participants include: Tony Asion, executive director, El Pueblo, Inc. (North Carolina); Xiomara E. Corpeño, director of organizing and membership, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; Ricardo Perez, founder and executive director, Hispanic Affairs Pastoral Project (Colorado); Joshua Hoyt, executive director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Luis Huerta, student at Rio Hondo Community College and steering committee member of the California Dream Network; Pramila Jayapal, founder and executive director, OneAmerica (Washington); Eun Sook Lee, executive director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director, Voces de la Frontera (Wisconsin); Tim O’Harrow, member of the Council of Rural Initiatives and the Dairy Business Association; Julien Ross, executive director, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; and Sergio Suarez, successful businessman and entrepreneur (Chicago)

WHY: Less than two weeks after bringing more than 200,000 people to Washington to demand Congress and President Obama step up efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, immigrant rights leaders are continuing to press for action. They are meeting with RNC Chairman Michael Steele to demand that the Republican Party and Republican members of Congress work with Democrats to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year. Participants will be available for comments and questions following the meeting.

The meeting was granted to leaders of the immigration reform movement following a peaceful sit-in at the RNC headquarters last week. A group of about 40 protesters occupied the RNC lobby on Monday, March 22, 2010, with more than 40 other protesters singing and chanting in the rain outside. Legislative efforts in the House and Senate have drawn public support from only one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham. The leaders intend to ask Steele, who has publicly expressed concerns about his party’s future if it continues to be perceived as hostile toward immigrants and Latinos, for help in persuading more Republicans to come out in favor of reforming our broken immigration system.

We will be keeping you updated about how the meeting goes. Let’s just say that this could be a chance for Mr. Steele to help out his public image and we hope he takes advantage of it.

Advocates to DHS: Fire John Morton

Today, during a telephonic press conference FIRM and partner groups called on the Obama administration and Secretary Janet Napolitano to dismiss John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The reality is that ICE has gone rogue and needs to be reined in with dramatic action,” said one of the speakers, Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. “We call on President Obama to take control of the agency in order to ensure that public assurances from the top are reflected in the behaviors and practices of the enforcement agents on the ground.”

While the Obama administration and Secretary Napolitano have made clear their stance on targeting only undocumented immigrants with criminal records, recent memos from ICE and public statements made by Morton have directly contradicted those priorities.

“This department is under the control of our president, and we expect the president to hold it accountable,” said Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We are not going to be victims to politics. We are demanding they stop the criminalization of immigrant families.”

You can check out an audio recording of the event