Category Archives: immigration news

Supreme Court Hearing on Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law Will Show if Justices Value Human Rights

The decision the Supreme Court makes regarding Arizona’s vehemently anti-immigrant law will show whether the justices value human rights, said members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a network of community-based immigrant advocacy organizations in 25 states.

“Tomorrow’s hearing on Arizona’s ‘show me your papers’ law is a litmus test to see if the rights of all people are valued by the highest court in America,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change. “Arizona’s SB1070 is a thinly veiled attempt to isolate immigrants and people of color and to deny them the basic rights everyone deserves.”

“Unfortunately, other states have followed Arizona’s example in demonizing immigrants,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland. “When children in Maryland watch reports from Arizona and learn their families are vilified, it is a national crisis and requires national action to mandate dignified standards for everyone.”

“Arizona has exceeded its authority under the Constitution by enacting its own immigration laws, hurting its own economy, causing untold suffering for immigrant families and harming the basic rights of its citizens. The Supreme Court must set things right by striking down Arizona’s SB1070,” said Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona.

The Center for Community Change, CASA de Maryland and Promise Arizona will be among the thousands of FIRM members who will rally and march in front of the Supreme Court tomorrow to show support for human rights.

The Growing Human Rights Crisis on the Northern Border

For three years, OneAmerica community organizers had been hearing about the fear and mistrust border residents harbored toward U.S. Border Patrol. Residents living in Snohomish, Whatcom, and Skagit counties were too afraid to go to the courthouse to pay a fine, too mistrustful of the authorities to call 911, or too fearful to leave their home to attend church or go to the grocery store.

How could they become active participants in their communities if they were too scared to leave home?

Organizers interviewed residents in their homes, at work, and in church. We researched and observed how U.S. Border Patrol’s funding soared, its jurisdiction crept further and further inland, and how its role in the community became virtually indistinguishable from local police and 911 emergency service personnel.

Download the Executive Summary (2MB pdf)Download the Executive Summary


Download the full report (5MB pdf) Download the full report

OneAmerica compiled this research into a report and, in April 2012, released The Growing Human Rights Crisis on the Northern Border, which truly demonstrates the transformation of these border communities in the wake of the post-9/11 buildup of U.S. Border Patrol activity in the area.

The report shares the findings from 109 on-the-ground interviews with mothers, fathers, workers, and students. The majority of stories are marked by fear, mistrust, harassment, and abuse. They are rooted in specific—and avoidable—patterns of practice implemented by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), working in close coordination with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies.

In particular, Growing Human Rights Crisis calls attention to three interrelated patterns of practice:

  • First, in its own independent operations, the Border Patrol engages in systematic profiling of religious and ethnic minorities.
  • Second, collaboration between Border Patrol and other agencies, including local law enforcement, emergency responders, and the courts, results in a confusing and dangerous fusion where vital services are perceived as immigration enforcement.
  • Third, these first two patterns result in a third: U.S. Border Patrol’s behavior and dangerous partnerships with other agencies have created extensive fear and mistrust, leading to community members’ unwillingness to call 911, access the courts, and even to leave their house to attend worship services or fulfill basic needs.

We believe firmly that we must not trade away our rights for security. Documenting what is happening allows us to educate our policy makers so we can push together to change the situation. Our report offers policy recommendations aimed at correcting these wrongs while still protecting our borders, improving the ability for CBP to carry out its mission, and protecting the safety and rights of all who live in these communities.

This report is the product of a unique three-way partnership between OneAmerica, theUniversity of Washington Center for Human Rights, and the residents and leaders of these border communities. It culminates the first stage of a long process of organizing, educating, and empowering northern border communities to defend their human rights.

Advocates and Elected Officials Applaud as City’s New Immigration Law Comes Into Effect

Today, advocates in New York City celebrate a new immigration law coming into effect, which will protect thousands of immigrant New Yorkers from being transferred into federal deportation proceedings.

As of today, New York City will no longer hand over its residents to federal immigration authorities if they meet certain criteria: they have not been convicted of a crime; they have no criminal cases, criminal warrants, or outstanding deportation warrants or orders pending against them; and they are not listed on federal gang and terrorism databases. In other words, New York City will not hand over immigrants to ICE who are found not guilty, have their charges dropped, or obtain a non-criminal outcome (such as a violation or “youthful offender” conviction) in their case.

The new law, Local Law 2011/62, was introduced by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito last summer with the support of Make the Road New York, the New Sanctuary Coalition, and a coalition of advocacy groups. It was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on November 22. The City’s Department of Corrections, which administers the local jails, spent the last four months working with immigration advocacy groups to ensure proper implementation.

With today’s news, New York City joins other localities such as Cook County, Illinois, and Santa Clara, California, in refusing to honor federal requests (“detainers”) that are contrary to many of our values as New Yorkers: family unity; trust between the immigrant community and the police; and the conservation of local law enforcement and financial resources.

“All of our faith traditions place special importance on the family. I am happy that today the city will begin to protect many immigrant families from deportation. This law is a step towards fully honoring the contributions immigrants make to this city and country, and I am proud to stand with other religious leaders, elected officials and community members to mark the day it takes effect,” said Rev Dr. Omar Almonte, Pastor Central Baptist Church in Bushwick and member congregation of Make the Road New York.

“Beginning today, thousands of New Yorkers who find themselves in City jails but are not convicted will be protected from deportation,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This new law, which I was proud to sponsor in the City Council, takes a major step forward in keeping New York City’s families united. I look forward to working with my partners in government and the advocacy community to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers are aware of this new law and know their rights”

“With this law going into effect, this is sending a strong and unified message that this city will no longer allow innocent immigrants, who pose no threat, to be unfairly detained and deported due to an antiquated immigration system. I want to thank everyone that was involved in making this law happen, especially our partners in government,” said Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council.

“Too many immigrants have been unfairly detained and deported because of our broken immigration system,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “The implementation of this legislation will begin to put an end to these unnecessary deportations and send a clear message that New York City is not a place where immigrant lives are destroyed but rather a place where they can thrive and continue to give back to our great country. I commend Make the Road NY for taking the necessary steps of informing our immigrant community of this important new law and I encourage all immigrant New Yorkers to learn about their rights and these new protections that will keep their families united.”

“The implementation of Local Law 2011/062 on Wednesday, March 20, 2012, is a welcome reality in the immigrant communities of New York City. The Riverside Church has for decades advocated for the fair and just treatment of all who come to our shores and seek asylum, family connections, freedom from oppression, and the chance to provide for their families. Our faith history and sacred writings implore us to practice a radical hospitality and care for the sojourner, the widow and the orphan. Unjust practices in arrests, detentions, and deportations have been decimating immigrant families, separating parents from children and husbands and wives who are non-criminals. We celebrate this first step and seek to free our immigrant sisters and brothers from further abuse from the injustice of flawed immigration law and enforcement,” said Rev. Robert B. Coleman, from The Riverside Church and member of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

“As cities across the country are standing up to federal immigration policies that co-opt local police and resources to funnel people into an unjust deportation system, we applaud New York City for taking this important first step and encourage our elected officials to expand this legislation to protect more immigrants in the future,” said Alisa Wellek of the Immigrant Defense Project.

“The hard work of immigration advocates over a period of more than three years has finally come to fruition in a law that protects some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said José León, a legal intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “New York City once again takes the lead in pressing social issues and leads the country through example on how we should treat our immigrants in the United States. This law makes me feel proud to call New York City my home.”

To commemorate the new law going into effect, Make the Road New York will distribute a new Know Your Rights Manual for immigrants about the new law.(Click here to download a copy in Spanish: English version will be available this afternoon.)

“As an immigrant I have fought for this law because of what it means for our community. I am proud today to have been a part of the effort to make New York a more welcoming, humane, and just city,” said Lucy Tzunum, a Guatemalan immigrant and member of Make the Road New York.  “We have been spreading the information of the new law, and will use all the tools available to me to teach my community about the new protections for immigrants in Department of Correction Facilities,” concluded Tzunum.

Text of the law is available to download here:

In Support of In-State Tuition for Undocumented Youth, Active Service Members and Veterans

In 2010, the AFL-CIO expressed its strong support for the DREAM Act—a piece of federal legislation that would provide hard-working immigrant students a path to legal status.  We noted then that the bill is about children who have grown up in the United States, attended local schools and have demonstrated a sustained commitment to succeed in the educational system, but immigration laws provide no avenue for these students to become legal residents.  We also recognized that access to higher education will allow these immigrants to make even stronger contributions to our society, and decrease the number of those forced to live in poverty.  Unfortunately, that bill remains stalled in the United States Congress.

Meanwhile, some states have found a way to help these deserving young people, by adopting their own versions of the DREAM Act.  Those state laws do not provide a path to legal status because that is an area of authority reserved to the federal government, and therefore they do not conflict with the federal DREAM Act; they simply provide access to an affordable education by allowing qualifying undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates.  Thirteen states have adopted such laws.  Maryland’s version is particularly important because it also allows active duty service members and veterans to qualify for in-state college tuition.

Not surprisingly, these laws have become a target of right-wing extremists connected to groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—the very same organizations that are leading the nationwide attack on collective bargaining and voting rights.  Maryland is currently their bull’s-eye. An organization called “Help Save Maryland,” which links itself to FAIR and Numbers USA—organizations that have been designated “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center—successfully placed the law on the ballot for repeal this fall.

Protecting the Maryland DREAM Act is Important to Working Families

  • Repeal would put the other state DREAM Acts at risk. The extremist forces behind the repeal effort are using Maryland as a testing ground.  If they are successful in Maryland, they are likely to target the other 12 states that have adopted similar laws.
  • Repeal would weaken support for the federal DREAM Act—the only immigration-related legislation that has attracted bipartisan support. The growing number of states that have adopted DREAM legislation sends a powerful message to legislators: There is growing public support for common-sense solutions. Repeal of the Maryland law would accomplish the opposite and may scare away legislators.
  • The state DREAM Acts are the best sign of hope that hard-working undocumented youth currently have. In-state tuition bills are balanced measures that benefit immigrant children who were brought to the United States by their parents through no fault of their own, and who are making the right choices in order to lead productive lives.  These young people live in our communities, attend our schools and pray in our worship centers.  All of us live with the consequences of whether they are provided with hope for the future.
  • A growing number of civil society organizations oppose repeal, in part because purveyors of hate are fueling the effort. The Maryland Catholic Conference is among many civil society organizations opposing repeal of the law, and has urged that “we must be wary of an anti-immigration movement afoot in our country, including right here in Maryland, that is fueled in large part by a man who has spent much of his life, albeit at a great distance, playing on people’s fears and prejudices to advance his own racist and classist agenda,” citing the founder of FAIR and Numbers USA.
  • Repeal would further empower the ALEC and others whose goals is to reduce the number of people who vote.  Every time the labor movement beats back ALEC-inspired initiatives—whether it’s Ohio’s SB 5 or Maryland’s DREAM Act repeal—working people diminish ALEC’s strength.  It is in our collective interest to protect the progress we make on the ground and show ALEC just how strong we are.

The failure of the U.S. Congress to act has left a dangerous policy void which the states, reflecting the desperation of the American people, are attempting to fill.  Some states—Alabama and Arizona, to name just two—are implementing mean-spirited and punitive bills that make the situation worse, and which the labor movement has strongly opposed. Others, like Maryland, have adopted in-state tuition bills that bring hope and modest relief for a small segment of the population.  We will support state-level efforts like the Maryland DREAM Act, but make no mistake: These are not complete solutions.  Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform.

We need to focus on creating jobs and repairing our economy so it works for the 99%—not on tearing down real solutions and engaging in even more partisan payback.  We will continue to fight back against political games and hold all of our elected officials accountable for their commitment to do what’s right for our veterans, service members, talented young new Americans and all working people.

This was originally published by the AFL-CIO on March 14, 2012.

Kansas Leaders to Release Information About How Kris Kobach is Really Spending his Time

Secretary of State’s Calendar Shows Significant Time Out of State, Avoiding the Job He Was Elected to Do

Topeka, KS – Because he has failed to do the work necessary to fairly and effectively implement his own strict Voter ID law, Kansans want to know how Secretary of State Kris Kobach really spends his time.  So last month a group of state leaders/taxpayers filed a Kansas Open Records Request (KORA) to find out.  They will release the results at a press conference in the Capitol at 11:30 on Thursday, March 15th.

Kobach’s prominent role in the national nativist movement has led Kansans to question his commitment to his duties as Secretary of State.  That is why the Kansans Count campaign filed KORA requests on February 15th for all timesheets, calendars, schedules, and phone records kept by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  The results, which will be released publicly for the first time, are astounding: serious discrepancies between what the Secretary of State says he was doing and what he was actually doing, and significant amounts of time spent in other states defending anti-immigration laws instead of doing his real job back here in Kansas.

Kansas Leaders to Release Information About How Kris Kobach Really Spends His Time

Bill Brittendall – Director of South Central Kansas Peace and Social Justice Center
Louis Goseland – KanVote coordinator
Angela Ferguson – Kansas City Attorney

Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 11:30am

Kansas Capitol Building, Room 142-S, 300 SW 10th Ave Topeka KS


Kris Kobach has become the nation’s most notorious nativist extremist. Kobach’s involvement with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a designated hate group, put him on a top 20 nativist watch-list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Kobach currently serves as legal counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), the “legal arm” of FAIR, acting as their national constitutional law expert.

Before taking office in January 2011, Kobach became the nation’s celebrity nativist after drafting Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law SB1070. Though his duties as Kansas Secretary of State do not pertain to immigration enforcement, Kobach’s status as the nation’s lead nativist has only risen since taking office as he drafted Alabama’s HB56 while in office.  Kobach maintains his position at IRLI and has defended his policies against legal challenges in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, California, and Texas while in office. Kobach continues to assert himself as spokesperson for harsh anti-immigrant policies; having conducted dozens of interviews and written op-eds for Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and other local and national news networks since taking office. He has also made many out of state appearances to profess his nativist policies at rallies, conferences, and debates throughout the nation. Kobach recently campaigned for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in South Carolina and boasts his involvement as Romney’s immigration advisor.

While Kobach is hard at work promoting his nativist agenda throughout the country, his role as Kansas’ Chief Elections Officer has gone neglected. A voter ID bill drafted by Kobach was signed into law in April 2011 and went into effect on January 1, 2012. Though he had over 8 months to prepare state agencies to carry out this law, the first month of implementation has brought about administrative failures in every related department. Election offices were initially unable to provide documents that had not been published by the Secretary of State’s office. DMV employees continue to defer inquiries to other agencies when voters ask whether or not they are eligible for the free voter ID. Kansas Department of Health and Environment had to urgently slap together a process for free birth certificates to cover up an unnoticed poll tax written into Kobach’s law.

Kansans Count is not the first to question how Kobach spends his time. Kobach has rebuffed such doubt by repeating the claim that he works 40-50 hours a week, during regular office hours, fulfilling the duties of Secretary of State. Kansans Count says a simple Google search disproves that. The results of our KORA request will shed light on Kobach’s split priorities and provide Kansans with useful information to hold him accountable as a public servant.

Tuition Bills Building Momentum in Local Legislatures

Immigration reform on a national level might not be on this year’s political agenda, but there are steps that state lawmakers can take to welcome immigrants and strengthen local economies for all. Suman Raghunathan writes about tuition equity bills and how they are gaining momentum local legislatures across the country. These bills make sense for states’ economic bottom lines and helps prepare America for the battle for the future.

Immigration enforcement program to be shut down

From USA Today:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have trained local officers around the country to act as their agencies’ immigration officers. Working either in jails or in the field, the officers can check the immigration status of suspects and place immigration holds on them.

The program, known as 287(g), reached its peak under President George W. Bush, when 60 local agencies signed contracts with ICE to implement it. But that trend slowed significantly under President Obama— only eight agencies have signed up since he took office, and none has done so since August 2010.

Now, in their proposed budget for the upcoming year, Department of Homeland Security officials say they will not sign new contracts for 287(g) officers working in the field and will terminate the “least productive” of those agreements — saving an estimated $17 million. All the contracts between ICE and local police agencies run for three years, so that portion of the program could be finished by November when the last contract for field officers expires.

In its budget request, DHS said officials instead will focus on expanding Secure Communities, a program that checks the fingerprints of all people booked into local jails against federal immigration databases. The followup work in those cases is done by ICE agents, not local police.

“The Secure Communities screening process is more consistent, efficient and cost-effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens,” the department explained in its budget request.

The program had been criticized by Homeland Security inspector general reports, which found that local officers were not being properly trained and there was not enough oversight to ensure that local agencies weren’t using the program to engage in racial profiling.

A study last year by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, found that immigrants developed “fear and mistrust of authorities” when they realized that local police could act as immigration agents.

The main complaint Friday from groups that oppose 287(g) was that the program isn’t being terminated immediately, and that its replacement — Secure Communities — is not much better.

“The 287(g) program has been repeatedly called into question by advocates as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, and should be terminated rather than sustained with taxpayer money,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “The Secure Communities program is surrounded by grave concerns about the impact to public safety, community policing and civil rights abuses.”

Defenders of the program, such as Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, say Homeland Security is “putting politics ahead of public safety” by cutting back the 287(g) program. She said Secure Communities is helpful but that local officers working in the field are better able to identify illegal immigrants who may not have their fingerprints in federal databases, making it harder to identify them.

She said some agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Safety have used their 287(g) officers to suppress drug and human smuggling, gang activity and identity theft and said many sheriffs and police chiefs prefer the program to Secure Communities.

“The problem for ICE is that while they may feel that they get political brownie points for this kind of gesture, in reality what the anti-enforcement groups want is for them to end 287(g) and Secure Communities, not curtail (them),” said Vaughan, director of policy studies for the center. “So it’s futile — they end up making everyone on both sides angry.”

TN Lawmaker Puts Immigration Bill on Hold

According to the article below, originally from The Tennessean, a bill that would allow law enforcement to check someone’s immigration status if pulled over or detained has been put on hold, at least for now.

TN Lawmaker Puts Immigration Bill on Hold
From the Tennessean
Click here to read >> 

Florida’s Latino vote is up for grabs

The Latino vote in Florida is changing. In previous years, the vote has been dominated by Cuban conservatives who align themselves with the GOP. Esther Cepeda says that is no longer the case. In her opinion piece, she describes how Florida Latinos now better reflect the rest of America and why this is still anyone’s race.

Opinion: Florida’s Latino Vote is Up for Grabs
From the Washington Post
Click here to read >> 

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.