Category Archives: Updates

FIRM update 4.8.08

 

Building America Together!

 

In keeping with our campaign to gather pledges, organize forums and turn out the immigrant vote, the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), FIRM and other partners will hold a Boot Camp to train organizers that will be involved in citizenship, voter registration and GOTV programs leading up to the 2008 general elections.  To participate, or to learn more email Nicola at nwells@communitychange.org.

 

As we engage Americans in a conversation about what America stands for as a nation, the courageous testimony of individuals like Juan will hopefully remind us that being undocumented does not make one un-American: http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/juan2019s-story-undocumented-but-not-un-american/

 

 

Politics 2008

 

In a strong nod to gay/lesbian and immigrant rights, including Out4Immigration, Senator Clinton last week endorsed reforms that would support reforms in federal law impacting the same-sex partners of immigrants.  For the press release, go to http://www.pr.com/press-release/79586.

 

Congressional News

 

Democratic Leaders, in a bid to slow momentum for a discharge petition on the SAVE Act, announced late last week that they would hold a series of hearings in key House committees to discuss aspects of employment verification and enforcement related to immigration.  An article on the topic is pasted in below.  In the mean time, as of Tuesday, April 1, there were 185 signatures on the SAVE Act discharge petition.  To view signatures on the petition, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/110/lrc/pd/petitions/Dis5.htm.  In the mean time momentum is starting to build against the SAVE Act in the blogosphere: http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/80847/.

 

State & Local News

 

Last week, the City of San Francisco announced a local media campaign promoting the city’s status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.  To view an article on the announcement go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/04/03/BA0NVUM70.DTL.

 

A recent article from Stateline.org analyzes the status of the avalanche of anti-immigrant bills in state legislatures and finds that the flood has turned into a trickle as state legislatures wind down.  To view the article, go to http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297325.

 

In Arizona, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon slams Sheriff Arpaio’s anti-immigrant crackdown: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/112439.

 

Raids, Detention, Deportation

 

Advocates filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security re: home-based raids in New Jersey last week.  The suit focuses on the practices used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to gain entry into homes.  For an article on the suit, please go to http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/us/04immig.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin.  This is one among a number of suits currently pending against DHS and ICE on the conduct of immigration raids in both work sites and residences.

 

The Immigration Policy Center recently released a short report on the unintended consequences of raids, including their impact on children.  To view the report, go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080331.

 

Immigration Agencies and Federal Regulations

 

The comment period on the new supplemental rule on No Match Letters released by the Department of Homeland Security lasts until April 25.  FIRM is part of an effort to generate as many comments in opposition to the new rule as possible.  For more information on the comment period, please contact rstolz@communitychange.org or go to the web site of the National Immigration Law Center at http://www.lwiw.org/SSA_NM/lwiw_comments.htm.

 

Advocates opposing the new regulation are also concerned about the impact that employment verification programs, including the No Match proposed rule, could have on non-immigrants.  One such example is profiled in this article that ran in the Los Angeles Times last week: http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-arizimmig5apr05,1,2329426.story

 

A recent report from the US Department of Homeland Security found that legal immigration dropped significantly last year, largely due to administrative problems within the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.  To review an article on the report, go to http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jVzJBVTd1tawK227QQZltW_jigzwD8VRA5JO1.

 

Last week the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would use its waiver authority to try to speed up construction of a border wall along the United States-Mexico border.  The announcement immediately led to concerns with respect to environmental and economic impact.  For example, the Border Network for Human Rights released a statement opposing the announced waiver authority that garnered signatures from more than 25 organizations and many more concerned residents.  For more information, go to http://www.bnhr.org/.  To see the DHS announcement, go to http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1207080713748.shtm.

 

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security and a number of states negotiated temporary deals that would allow almost all states to remain in compliance with existing REAL ID Act regulations.  For an article with an update on the issue, please go to http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297809.

 

FIRM Member Activities

 

This week and next, the Florida Immigrant Coalition will hold a series of events drawing attention to the root causes of migration in this hemisphere in an effort to reframe the issue of immigration.  The first event, co-sponsored by the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and Global Local Links, will be held April 6 and will bring together environmental and human rights activists.  The second to be held on April 14 will focus on the impact of international debt and economic policies, and is co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.  For more information on these events, please contact mrodriguez@floridaimmigrant.org.

 

The Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (WA, OR, MT, ID) has created a new tool to help educate members and potential allies about the issue of immigration.  This new board game, which was demonstrated at the FIRM Summit in February, can be ordered from NWFCO at their website at www.nwfco.org.

 

The Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (KCIRR) will be celebrating the second annivarsary of historic marches that took place in Lexington, KY on April 10, 2006 on April 10, 2008.  For more information about KCIRR, please go to www.kcirr.org.  This march, which helped to launch KCIRR, drew nearly 10,000 local residents from across the Lexington area in one of the largest marches and rallies ever held in that city’s history.

 

In Texas and New Mexico, the Border Network for Human Rights is organizing a petition drive to oust the Sheriff of Otero County because of the Sheriff’s actions detaining residents and requiring them to prove their legal status and in engaging in a wide range of activities linked to aggressive immigration enforcement activities.  For more information about this campaign, please go to http://www.bnhr.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7.

 

Allies and Partner Activities

 

Over the last several weeks a group of Indian H2B Visa Workers marched from Mississippi to Washington, DC to bring attention to the human rights and labor rights violations brought down on them by the Signal corporation under the H2B Visa program.  Literally treated as modern-day slaves and tricked into exorbitant fees by H2B Visa recruiters, these workers are calling on the Indian embassy and the United States government to address their situations.  A class action law suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center is adding to the pressure.  A range of organizations are also supporting their cause, including South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow (SAALT) and the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice.  For more information, please to go http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/.

 

Resources & News to Use

 

Sojourners and the Christian Coalition for Immigration Reform has recently released a tool kit for pastors interested in materials that can be incorporated into sermons and other educational opportunities within congregations.  To download these resources, please go to http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.ccir&item=CCIR_main.

 

The Immigration Policy Center recently released a report on the impact of anti-immigrant hate speech on the growing number of hate crimes targeted at Latino residents in the United States.  To view the report, go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080330.

 

The Immigration Policy Center also released a new report detailing the impact of a new employer verification program.  To view the report go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080402.

 

An Iowa Op Ed by a state legislator makes the point, don’t attack immigrant, enforce labor laws.  From the DesMoines Register: http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297325.

 

Please also find attached a fact sheet on employment verification provided by the National Council of La Raza.

 

Announcements

 

Last week many of us took a moment to remember Rev. Martin Luther King Jr on the anniversary of his assassination.  In case folks haven’t seen his last speech, one that eerily seemed to predict his death, I recommend taking a moment to listen and reflect on the vision he conveys with his words and his heart.  http://www.mlkonline.net/video-martin-luther-king-last-speech.html

 

The National Council of La Raza issued an RFP for organizations interested in applying for their Emerging Latino Communities grant program last week.  The application is attached, and the deadline is May 30, 2008.

 

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is seeking a new executive director.  For more information about the position, please go to www.tnimmigrant.org or contact edsearch@tnimmigrant.org.  Applications are due by April 18th, 2008.

 

 

From the National Journal Congress Daily:


Dems Look To Contain Hot-Button Issue
   With congressional Democrats unable to come to terms on a comprehensive immigration bill, House Democratic leaders have hatched a plan to hold a series of hearings aimed at keeping control of the issue.
   They are unlikely to win consensus for more concrete actions, such as floor votes. “There’s a chance that something could slip through, but I’ve got to go to Vegas and play a crap game. Those are better odds,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., assistant to Speaker Pelosi.
   “The leadership is smart enough to know that if you’re going to do something, you don’t want to see the debacle that the Senate experienced,” Becerra said, referring to a month-long debate last year on a broad immigration bill that eventually died. “No one wants to see this become the grave.”
   Sources in the Democratic leadership said the majority leaders want to curtail Republican efforts to force a floor vote on an immigration enforcement bill from Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., that would make E-Verify, a voluntary  electronic employment verification program, mandatory for all
U.S. employers within four years.

   “There is recognition that we maybe need to address this,” said one Democratic leadership aide. “That is what we intend to do, to not allow this to spin out of our control and discharge it.”
   A GOP discharge petition on the Shuler bill has 185 signatures, including 10 Democrats. Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va., who filed the discharge petition on the bill, said Republicans will this week begin targeting a handful of Democrats who are considered vulnerable on the issue. “There needs to be a full court press now to get these signatures,” she said.
   House Democrats are concerned that another 10 rank-and-file lawmakers, likely Blue Dog Coalition members, will sign the petition. With that, Republicans could easily round up the few in their party who have not signed on and ensure that the measure comes to the floor.
   Senior Democratic leadership and rank-and-file aides said that the set of hearings, agreed to in a closed door meeting with Pelosi last week, is designed to dissuade Democrats from signing the discharge petition.
   Hearings might not be enough to satisfy lawmakers in both parties who are frustrated that smaller bills are caught up in the hot-button vortex of illegal immigration.
   Republicans accuse the Congressional Hispanic Caucus of holding “hostage” guestworker bills that would relieve employment shortages in high-tech and tourism industries.
   “Clearly, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has verbally stated that they’re opposed to bringing this forward because they want to see what they call comprehensive immigration reform,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who filed a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to give employers access to seasonal foreign workers.
   Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who is leading the Hispanic Caucus’ talks on immigration, said he is sympathetic to employers scrambling for foreign workers, be they high-tech or low-skilled.
   Gutierrez added, “It is impossible for me, in good faith, to negotiate for a high-tech engineer or who is going to scoop the poop in the zoo when we have men in
Iraq whose [illegal immigrant] spouses are being deported.”
   Most Democrats are supportive of a comprehensive bill that would require illegal immigrants to earn green cards or leave the country. But many lawmakers would be just as happy to ignore the issue because of its sensitivity.
   “When my buddy, my friend from
Illinois, [House Democratic Conference Chairman] Rahm Emanuel, says ‘Immigration is the third rail;’ that’s not exactly helpful,” Gutierrez said.
   Emanuel has been working with Becerra, Shuler, Stupak and Gutierrez on a more limited bill that would boost immigration enforcement, respond to employers’ visa needs, and give some temporary visas to illegal immigrants.
   Democratic aides say the effort is at a stalemate because Republicans have been unwilling to lend their support.
   “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of fight left in this Congress for the issue,” said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. “With the defeat of the Senate bill last year, I think all sides pretty much left it all out on the field.”
   Last year, Pence tossed his hat into the “comprehensive” immigration debate with a proposal to require illegal immigrants to leave the country and return on guestworker visas. “I’m just waiting for the opportune moment again,” he said. “I’ve lost track of the number of colleagues who say, ‘When you get around to this, we’ll do it like this.'” 

By Fawn Johnson and Christian Bourge

 

FIRM Update 4.1.08

Building America Together! 

Watch Juan’s story: http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/juan2019s-story-undocumented-but-not-un-american/#1206991018

Sign the pledge: www.buildingamericatogether.org 

Congressional News 

Representatives return from a two-week recess this week and will jump back into the politics of the SAVE Act discharge petition.  I’ve pasted in an article from the National Journal at the bottom of this e-mail reflecting some of the activities in Congress.  While Democratic leaders try to figure out how to head off the threat of a discharge petition, negotiations on a potential package of immigration proposals, including some relief for undocumented immigrants, appear to have stalled.  At the moment, it is unclear what, if anything, the Democrats may bring to the floor in order to create an alternative to the SAVE Act (also known as the Shuler-Tancredo bill, HR 4088).  For a list of those Representatives that have signed on to the discharge petition, please go to http://clerk.house.gov/110/lrc/pd/petitions/Dis5.htm.  181 Representatives have signed on to the petition, and 218 signatures are required to force the SAVE Act to the House floor for a vote.  Here is an Editorial that ran in the Chicago Sun Times on the SAVE Act: http://www.suntimes.com/news/commentary/856291,CST-EDT-edit23aa.article. 

On April 2, Secretary Chertoff will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing.  In that hearing, Senators anticipate raising concerns with respect to naturalization backlogs, implementation of the REAL ID Act, the Social Security No Match Rule, other recently announced regulations regarding passports and other issues.  For more information, go to http://judiciary.senate.gov/schedule.cfm. 

State & Local News 

News stories related to the involvement of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement efforts have been on the rise as more states and localities adopt policies to cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.  Please find an article that ran in the AP last week that highlights the trend and the consequences: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5heF80SqPHj0LbcvNXib8jm4eQFIAD8VN0MD80 

A growing number of reports are focused on the negative economic impacts of anti-immigrant laws at the state and local level.  Here is a study by economists of the impact of Oklahoma‘s new anti-immigrant legislation http://immcomp.blogspot.com/2008/03/economists-project-potentially-massive.html that estimates under some scenarios that the law could cost the state between $1.8 and $3 billion annually.  Coverage of the report: http://newsok.com/article/3220599/. 

And in Arizona, businesses have successfully gotten the state’s House of Representatives to modify various aspects of the law that Arizona passed last year.  To review an article on the revisions, go to http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0328sanctions0328.html. 

Immigration Agencies and Federal Regulations 

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a supplemental rule providing further guidance with respect to implementation of Social Security No Match letters.  For detailed information about the supplemental rule and next steps, please go to www.nilc.org.  When draft comments are prepared, please be prepared to get the word out.  We’ll need to generate as many comments as possible in order to make the case publicly that the Department of Homeland Security should not be using No Match letters as a basis for immigration status enforcement.  For more information, please contact rstolz@communitychange.org or Tyler Moran at the National Immigration Law Center at moran@nilc.org

Last week the New York Times also weighed in against the proposal: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/opinion/27thu2.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin. Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a new program to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal histories that are currently in prisons across the nation.  A fact sheet on the new initiative is attached to this bulletin. Coverage on the new policy can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/28/washington/28immig.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. 

Farmworker organizations and allies are circulating comments to proposed changes in the H2A Visa program that they are asking organizations to sign-on to.  The proposed comments are a direct attack on worker rights, and an effort by the Administration to streamline the H2A visa program at the expense of farmworkers.  To sign on to the comments (see attached) please contact Adrieene DerVartanian at adervartanian@farmworkerjustice.org by April 8 at 3 pm Eastern Time.  Her telephone number is 202-293-5420 in case you have any questions. 

FIRM Member Activities 

In Los Angeles, CHIRLA and a coalition of allies succeeded in getting the Los Angeles City Council to pass a resolution, by a vote of 11 to 1, that denounces the SAVE Act.  For coverage: http://www.dailynews.com/ci_8709777.  A copy of the resolution is attached to this e-mail.  For more information, contact Cynthia Buiza at cbuiza@chirla.org.  In Chicago, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights launched a campaign to ensure that immigrants in federal detention have access to clergy.  For an article on the campaign, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-immigrantdetentio,0,2077908.story.  For more information about the campaign, contact Ana Guajardo at aguajardo@icirr.org 

Immigrant organizations and criminal justice reform advocates are working together to stop the expansion of an immigrant detention center in Aurora, Colorado.  For more information about the campaign go to the new Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition web site at http://www.coloradoimmigrant.org/article.php?id=63. 

On Monday, March 24th CASA of Maryland joined with the Latino Student Union at the flagship College Park Campus of the University of Maryland for a rally and student speak-out, bringing together student activists from accross the state of Maryland to advocate for access to higher education for immigrant students. Over 14 high schools, colleges and universities were represented at the event, as well as local youth and immigrat advocates.  Legislation which would enable qualified immigrant students to attend MD colleges and universities at the instate tuition rate, regardless of immigration status, is currently pending in the Maryland General Assembly, and the action was timed as a last push during the legislative session, which ends the first week in April.  Many of the students present were graduating seniors from area high schools who chose to spend their spring break advocating for themselves and their classmates who will be unable to afford college next year if the instate tuition benefit is not authorized in the remaining months before the fall semester.  For more information, please contact ealex@casamd.org.

If you have news that you’d like to share with other groups in FIRM, please send a note about your work to rstolz@communitychange.org, and we’ll do our best to include it in our weekly bulletins.

 Allies and Partner Activities

 A coalition of organizations recently launched a new campaign in support of the DREAM Act that demands that the Presidential candidates enact the DREAM Act in their first 100 days as President.  The centerpiece of the campaign is a video by Brave New Films that can be viewed at http://adreamdeferred.org/?utm_source=rgemail.   

News to Use 

In Iowa, a coalition of religious leaders called on state legislators and the general public to treat immigrants with dignity.  The DesMoines Register: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080327/NEWS10/803270393. 

Undocumented immigrants could be a boon for the nation’s social security system.  Coverage from CBS news: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/25/politics/animal/main3968207.shtml. 

Last week the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights issued a new report on the raids: Over Raided, Under Siege.  To view a summary of the report, go to http://www.nnirr.org/resources/docs/executivesummary3_.pdf. 

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the primary anti-immigrant organization in the United States, admitted to fudging numbers estimating the impact of undocumented immigration in South Carolina.  For the article go to http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/news/local/story/392640.html

In the meantime FAIR has been fighting its label as a hate group by attacking the Southern Poverty Law Center, which designated FAIR as a hate group last fall.  For information on FAIR‘s designation, please go to www.splcenter.org.

 Announcements If you’re in the mood to be alarmed, and if you happen to be in Washington, DC on April 19th (Hitler’s Birthday), check out this video on the National Socialist Movement’s anti-immigrant march on DC:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0DRtzrKb08&eurl=http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/  

From the National Journal:  IMMIGRATION
   At the request of the House Judiciary Committee, CBO is expected to provide informal cost estimates this week for an immigration enforcement bill sponsored by Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C. House Republicans are collecting signatures on a discharge petition to force a floor vote. The cost estimate could make it more difficult to bring the bill to the floor under pay/go rules.
   House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Michael McNulty, D-N.Y., sent a letter to House Democrats last week urging them to “get the facts” before signing onto the discharge petition. Among other things, Shuler’s bill would require all employers to use the Homeland Security Department’s “E-Verify” electronic verification system to check the authorization of all their workers.
   The Rangel/McNulty letter said DHS is not ready for a national roll-out of the program, which handled about 3.6 million inquiries last year. To meet the requirements in Shuler’s bill, that number would jump to 60 million annually and
DHS would have to enroll 4,000 employers per day for four years.
   Last year, when the Senate was debating a broader immigration bill, CBO declined to offer an estimate of how much a similar employment verification requirement would cost, saying much of the cost would depend on how regulations were drafted.
   GAO said last year that Homeland Security would need as much as $500 million annually to run the program while the Social Security Administration would need  up to $6 million a year.
   Earlier, private estimates of a mandatory employment verification system put the total cost — much of it borne by the private sector — at more than $11 billion per year.
   On Tuesday, House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller and Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., are hosting a staff briefing of the low-skill H-2B guestworker visa program. The panel will feature H-2B workers who were victims of employer abuses, such as being told falsely that they would be given green cards upon arrival in the
United States.
   Lawmakers are hoping for a temporary increase in available H-2B visas as part of a limited immigration measure that might include provisions for high-skilled H-1B visas and new enforcement mechanisms.
 

FIRM Update 3.24.08

Building America Together! 

FIRM is partnering with the National Training and Information Center around a major event in Washington, DC April 12-14 called National People’s Action.  Please consider attending this event.  For more information, go to www.npa-us.org. 

Many organizations in FIRM are planning events on May 1st.  If your organization is planning to hold an event on or around May 1, please send a brief description of the event to rstolz@communitychange.org by April 4, 2008. 

In response to a request for videos on immigration and community values, the Movement Vision Lab received some great examples of videos that are now available for you to view.  Vote on the one that you like the best!  http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/your-votes-community-values-immigration-video-contest/view 

Immigration Politics & Elections in 2008 

Quotations from the three major presidential candidates as reported on in US News and World Report: http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/campaign-2008/2008/03/17/where-clinton-obama-and-mccain-stand-on-immigration.html An interesting quote from Senator McCain cautioning Republicans on use of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the 2008 elections: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/17/politics/politico/thecrypt/main3944618.shtml 

Congressional News 

Congress will be on recess for one more week before returning to Washington, DC April 1.  Now is the time to keep the pressure on US Representatives to make sure they do not sign the discharge petition on the SAVE Act.  For more information about the SAVE Act please contact rstolz@communitychange.org.  T

here are 181 signatures on the discharge petition; Republicans need only 218 to force the bill to the floor.  Keep the calls coming! The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights launched a full campaign against the SAVE Act last week.  To see a video a blog coverage of their campaign, go to http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2008/03/illinois-immigrants-communities-urging.html.  Here is a letter to the editor that Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights published last week: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/letters/chi-080320saveact_briefs,0,4905317,print.story. 

In the Senate, a coalition of United States Senators have formed the US Senate Border Security and Enforcement Caucus.  To see the members, go to http://vitter.senate.gov/bordersecuritycaucus.html Pressure is also mounting to support an H1B visa renewalhttp://blogs.computerworld.com/five_reasons_why_the_h_1b_visa_cap_will_increase (Note that this will continue to grow in significance in coming months as the business community maneuvers to get the Democratic Leadership to renew these visas without hitching it to broader immigration reform proposals.) 

State & Local News 

Before wrapping up their legislative session, Utah enacted an anti-immigrant bill that will allow local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with federal immigration officials, require public employees and contractors to verify the legal status of workers, and forbid localities from adopting so-called sanctuary policies.  The provisions of the bill will not be implemented until 2009 in hopes that a federal law may be enacted, and the bill did not include efforts to repeal in-state tuition.  To view the legislation go to http://le.utah.gov/~2008/htmdoc/sbillhtm/SB0081S01.htm.

 In Tennessee recent polls suggest a shift in opinion regarding immigration, as reported on in the Nashville Tennesseean: http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080314/NEWS01/803140426 I

mmigration Agencies and Federal Regulations 

After a lot of waiting, the Department of Homeland Security is poised to release its new regulations on Social Security No Match letters next Tuesday.  Please find attached a copy of the rule prior to publication.  A number of national organizations have already begun to analyze the document; assuming that the regulation is released next week, anticipate a flurry of information, including action alerts in the coming days. 

An article in the NY Times higlights the abuse of power that some immigration agents have used against naturalization applicants.  This story focuses on an example of alleged sexual coersion: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/21/nyregion/21immigrant.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Other articles have raised serious concerns regarding management of the immigration agencies and criminal behavior on the part of some agents, particularly those that deal with issues of immigration enforcement: http://www.star-telegram.com/national_news/story/512023.html 

Raids, Detentions and Deportations 

Please find attached an interesting article framing the growth of the “national security state, one raid at a time” by Robert Lovato for Public Eye. org: http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v23n1/immigrant_crackdowns.html 

FIRM Member Activities

 The Ayuda Business Coalition recently celebrated victories in the Virginia State Legislature, won in part by a wide range of community-based immigrant groups across the state.  For a summary of ABC‘s role, please go to: http://ayuda.com/pages/page.cfm?id=41&pid=&eid=37;  For a review of state bills in Virginia, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/14/AR2008031403912.html. 

Allies and Partner Activities 

Last week the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) launched a new website: http://www.truthinimmigration.org/.  The purpose of the web site is to bring attention to the myths and hate speech being aired against immigrants and immigrant communities. 

On May 8, the Rights Working Group Liberty and Justice for All Campaign will be holding The Night of 1000 Conversations in support of immigrant rights and civil liberties.  For more information about the event, please go to http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/?q=NOTC_May08. 

A new pro-immigrant organization, America’s Voice, announced its creation last week in Washington, DC.  The organization, which was created by the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and partner groups, received coverage on CNN: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/03/19/pro-immigration-group-opens-dc-war-room/ 

The Southern Poverty Law Center will hold a live webcast on March 26 at 2 PM Eastern Time to brief interested parties on their Year in Hate report, including the exponential rise in hate crimes and hate speech against immigrants and immigrant communities.  To register for the webcast go to: http://www.webcastgroup.com/client/start.asp?wid=0890326083995 

News to Use 

In the debate on health care, immigration has become a wedge issue being used by opponents of needed reforms to try to defeat such proposals.  At risk in this debate are immigrants themselves, regardless of their status.  This column ran in the Washington Post last weekend: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/15/AR2008031500172.html?referrer=emailarticle; it demonstrates why everyone should be covered.

 Please find the link to report from the National Employment Law Project highlighting economic risks states face by enacting harsh anti-immigrant legislation: http://www.nelp.org/docUploads/Costly%20in%20every%20way%20022108.pdf 

And here is a column that ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune linking strategies around reforming NAFTA to the immigration debate: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080229/news_lz1e29lewis.html 

Announcements 

The National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) is seeking an Immigrant Rights Project Manager.  Job announcement attached. The National Immigration Forum announced this week that Ali Noorani, currently head of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, would take the Forum’s executive director position.

FIRM UPDATE- want your feedback

WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK – let us know on this post- are these updates useful? is there info missing? would you like to see other info? 

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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 mpayes@communitychange.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). 

Congressional News 

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 (julien@coloradoimmigrant.org).  

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

FIRM Update 3.11.08

Immigration Politics & Elections in 2008 

Last Saturday, Democrat Bill Foster defeated Republican Jim Oberweis in a special election to replace former and retiring Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert.  Oberweis, an anti-immigrant nativist, by all accounts should have won given the fact that this particular district in suburban and rural Illinois trends Republican.  The defeat marked an embarrasing loss for Republicans.  For commentary on the race go to http://thinkprogress.org/2008/03/10/oberweis-immigration/. A summary of recent positions taken by the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates can be viewed on DailyKos at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/3/4/103149/5143/334/468521. 

Congressional News 

Last week, Republicans in the House and Senate announced a full court press on several anti-immigrant enforcement measures in both chambers of Congress. In the House of Representatives, Republican sponsors of the SAVE Act have begun to circulate a discharge petition in an effort to gather enough signatures to force a vote on the SAVE Act on the House Floor.  Only a simple majority is required to trigger the discharge petition.  At least a handful of Democrats are likely to sign the petition.   In the Senate, a coalition of Republican Senators is planning to introduce a series of anti-immigrant bills to try to raise the temperature on immigration in the Senate.  The list of bills follows, but it’s not complete.  For more information, e-mail rstolz@communitychange.org 

·  S. 2710, sponsored by Senator Sessions, authorizes Homeland Security to use an employer’s failure to resolve a “no match” notice as evidence that the employer knowingly hired an illegal alien in violation of federal law (INA §274A(a));

·  S. 2711, sponsored by Senator Sessions, requires employers to use E-Verify and raises the penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens;

·  S. 2712, sponsored by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), mandates that Homeland Security complete the 700 miles of fence required by the Secure Fence Act by 2010;

·  S. 2713, sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R-LA), prohibits federal community policing funds from being distributed to states and municipalities with sanctuary policies;

·  S. 2716, sponsored by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), authorizes the National Guard to continue guarding the border;

·  S. 2717, sponsored by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), expands the participation of state and local officials in the enforcement of immigration laws through the 287(g) program;

·  S. 2720, sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), denies financial aid to countries and prohibits the issuance of visas to nationals of countries that unreasonably delay or deny repatriation of those ordered removed by the U.S.;

·  S. 2721, sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), modifies the U.S. citizenship examination; and

·  S. 2722, sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), prohibits aliens who are repeat drunk drivers from receiving legal status or immigration benefits.  

State & Local News 

This week, NPR ran the following story on Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa County whose reign of terror against immigrants has gotten him a lot of press and has only added to his controversial image in Arizona politics: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88002493. In New Haven, CT public officials have reinforced their decision to not disclose the list of individuals who hold municipal ID cards.  This is in response to a tactic by anti-immigrant activists to access the list through a Freedom of Information Act request.  http://www.nhregister.com/WebApp/appmanager/JRC/BigDaily;jsessionid=JRSdHTfKb3rGXQlXml1XfXMLTNGRdCTZ27yVBQWPXJFLvfRMCpnB!-1410432021?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=pg_article&r21.pgpath=%2FNHR%2FHome&r21.content=%2FNHR%2FHome%2FTopStoryList_Story_1683982. 

Border News 

A judge ruled last week that the federal government violated federal laws in their rush to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.  To review the actual ruling please go to http://www.nnirr.org/resources/docs/EloisaTamezCase3-7-08-Order.pdf.  This is the most recent in a series of setbacks and mistakes by the Department of Homeland Security in their misguided efforts along the US border with Mexico.  In another court case represented by the Center for Constitutional Law and Human Rights, a border patrol agent on trial for murder was given a reprieve when the jury deadlocked and was unable to come up with a verdict.  Eye witness accounts and testimony from the defendant were completely contradictory.  Decision on a retrial is pending.  For coverage: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/110827 

FIRM Member Activities 

Hate Free Zone, a FIRM-member from Washington State recently developed some materials for presentations for non-immigrant and/or potential allied organizations, including an attached Myths and Facts document and a powerpoint presentation.  In the powerpoint presentation, participants in the sessions were asked to write down and submit questions they had about immigration, which accounts for the first few pages of the presentation.  For more information, please contact Shankar Narayan at shankar@hatefreezone.org. 

Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) in Florida is organizing to defend one of their own who last week faced a court date and potential deportation.  Gaby Pacheco, who has been a leader in student government in Florida and a leader in FIRM at numerous events, is arguing in her defense that ICE acted selectively when they chose to single her out for speaking out on behalf of herself and students and other immigrants in similar positions.  For more information, please contact Jose Luis Marantes at joseluismarantes@gmail.com.  

On March 1st, the Graham Memorial Community Church in Denver (led by Rev. Patrick Demmer who spoke at the FIRM Summit Press Conference) and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) convened an ethnic diversity prayer breakfast, “Black, Brown and Beyond: Tearing Down Walls and Building Bridges.” Over 75 people attended from the African American and Latino community and the diverse program speakers challenged participants to unite across lines of race for the common cause of justice and not to allow anti-immigrant groups to wedge communities against one another. For more information on event, contact julien@coloradoimmigrant.org. 

Allies and Partner Activities 

Farmworker Justice, which has been at the forefront for the push for worker rights for farmworkers, recently launched a new interactive web site and blog called Harvesting Justice: http://www.harvestingjustice.org/. The Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday issued a report “The Year in Hate” that details the growing number of hate organizations across the United States, many emerging out of the anti-immigrant movement.  To view the report go to http://www.splcenter.org/index.jsp.  For coverage of the report on ABC News go to http://www.abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=4421921&page=1. 

On April 12-14, National People’s Action will hold a nationa conference and training in Washington, DC bringing together a diverse group of more than 600 grassroots leaders from across the country working together on a wide range of issues, from housing foreclosure to immigration.  www.npa2008.org 

News to Use 

The National Immigration Law Center recently released new fact sheets on the REAL ID Act and drivers licenses policies in the states.  To view these materials please go to http://www.nilc.org/immspbs/DLs/resrc_guide/index.htm. The Immigration Policy Center recently launched a new web site that brings together fact sheets and other useful data for immigrant advocates to use at http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=onpoint.  The three top articles include: Why Don’t They Just Get in Line?, Immigration as a Wedge Issue, and Basic Pilot/E-Verify: Not a Magic Bullet.

FIRM Update!

Building America Together! 

Join the pledge to Build America Together! http://www.buildingamericatogether.org! Questions about the pledge or should be directed to mgraciosa@communitychange.org. To support our campaign, FIRM is partnering with other organizations to create training opportunities for immigrant organizersA March 7 deadline for applications for a training that will be held in Chicago April 5-9 is fast approaching.  For more information about the training, please go to http://www.communitychange.org/genchange/what-we-do/advanced-leadership-support/advanced-leadership-support.html.

 Immigration Politics & Elections in 2008 

As the Democratic candidates prepare for their primary showdowns in Ohio and Texas next week, Senator McCain is flip flopping on this immigration stance.  Reported in the Associated Press: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hASkL7CyMOJGBunkx_s-mXyCZhtgD8V2TIN02.  This, despite hopes that Republicans have pinned on McCain to gain ground among Hispanic voters: http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080227/NATION/267093512&SearchID=73310165848243. 

Congressional News 

Earlier this week you received an action alert on the SAVE Act.  For an updated summary of the SAVE Act, please go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc071215 Immigration politics within the House of Representatives are being driven by efforts by the Democratic Leadership to head of the possibility of procedural motions that would allow sponsors of the SAVE Act to force a vote on the floor over the objections of Democratic Leaders, including Speaker Pelosi.  Please call your representatives now and urge them to oppose the SAVE Act.  We also need to pressure the Democrats on the bill to withdraw their support for the SAVE Act. A list of Democratic co-sponsors of the SAVE Act is attached. Yesterday, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced an alternative employment verification bill that would take a different approach than the SAVE Act, though it may be just as bad.  An article from the Dallas Morning News: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/022908dnbuseverify.1cd9039.html. Recent polling has suggested that Democrats should shift their language on legalization toward a tougher stand that would allow them to be more proactive in debates in immigration with anti-immigrant candidates in the general election.  Namely, polls suggest that Democrats say that immigrants should be “required to legalize” or leave the country.  A debate has begun among Democrats about whether this language will really work.  The Huffingpost broke the story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/29/confidential-study-sugges_n_89077.html. 

State & Local News 

Today the Indiana legislature passed an anti-immigrant bill that includes a crackdown on employers hiring undocumented immigrants and a requirement that law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal authorities.  The Indianapolis Star: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008802290420. 

A coalition of pro-immigrant organizations and legislatures introduced a package of bills to fight off anti-immigrant proposals in the Rhode Island state legislature.  For coverage on the proposals go to http://www.projo.com/news/content/IMMIGRANTS_02-29-08_DE96HCF_v21.1ab07e2.html. 

In Utah, a package of anti-immigrant bills appears to be losing momentum in the state legislature, though the Governor has been ambiguous about whether he’s support or oppose them. Coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8403372. 

A new report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategies provides examples of possible pro-immigrant ordinances at the local level: http://www.cows.org/about_publications_detail.asp?id=422 

Border, Raids & Deportation 

Rep. Solis (D-CA) is the sponsor of the Families First Enforcement Act, which would create new standards for how the Department of Homeland Security conducts immigration raids in worksites and communities.  Sen. Kerry (D-MA) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.  For information about the legislation, please go to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.03980:. 

The Washington Post reports on the Department of Homeland Security failed virtual fence project (Boeing had the contract): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/27/AR2008022703747_pf.html. The ACLU filed a law suit in federal court against the federal government for mistakenly deporting a US Citizen.  Coverage in the San Jose Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/crime/ci_8390857?nclick_check=1 

FIRM Member Activities 

Several FIRM members are in preparation for mobilizations on May 1.  For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera will be holding a major mobilization calling for the end to the war on immigrants, with a special focus on the Social Security No Match letters.  For more information go to http://www.vocesdelafrontera.net/.  If your organization is planning a mobilization on May 1, please send a note about your plans to rstolz@communitychange.org. Last Monday, Casa de Maryland held its annual Immigrant Action Night involving town meetings with state legislators and rallies to bring attention to anti-immigrant, pro-immigrant and important labor and workplace legislation in the state legislature.  A flyer for the event is attached.  For more information go to http://www.casademaryland.org/. 

Allies and Partner Activities 

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union continued their campaign against ICE misconduct in worksite raids this week with a meeting of a commission to study the extent of abuses by ICE officials and agents.  For more information about the UFCW campaign, go to http://www.ufcw.org/icemisconduct.cfm An article on the commission ran in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/25/AR2008022503369.html The Southeast Asian Resource Action Center released their federal policy priorities for 2008 this week.  A copy of the policy priorities is attached to this document.  For more information about SEARAC, please go to http://www.searac.org/. 

Federal Regulations, Naturalization Backlogs & Social Security No Match 

Advocates are anticipating the new Social Security No Match regulations will be released by the Department of Homeland Security any day now.  A briefing on No Match concerns will be held for Congressional staff in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 5. Speakers will include experts from the National Immigration Law Center, the Immigration Policy Center, Jobs with Justice, and the American Federation of Government Employees.  For more information, please go to www.lwiw.org. Here is a link to a story on CNN about the naturalization backlogs: http://www.criticalmention.com/vg/seiu/2008-2-22_cnn_2327.wmv 

News to Use 

A useful summary article on the relationship between NAFTA and immigration from the Americas Program: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4705?utm_source=streamsend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=317992&utm_campaign=The%20North%20American%20Union%20Farce%20%7C%20Laura%20Carlsen

 A similar column ran on the Movement Vision Lab: http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/migration-and-corn. A recent study demonstrates that there is no correlation between immigration and crime.  The report by the Public Policy Institute of California can be found at http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=776 

Time Magazine reports: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1717575,00.html On AlterNet, an advocate for reproductive justice makes the link between anti-immigrant activists and population politics.  http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/77491/ 

Making a comeback – UPDATE from FIRM

After a long hiatus, some new staff, and after pulling off one killer national summit – our blog is back in action.

Here is the latest update from FIRM, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement

Building America Together!
Coming out of the FIRM Summit February 10-12, 2008, the “Building America Together” campaign is up and running  A sample of the media coverage from our gathering can be seen at http://www.hispaniclink.org/HeadlineStory.asp.  And the FIRM pledge campaign is just getting started with more than 100,000 pledge commitments made by dozens of organizations across the country, immigrant and non-immigrant alike.  For more information on the campaign go to http://www.buildingamericatogether.org/.  Questions about the campaign should be directed to Marissa Graciosa at mgraciosa@communitychange.org.
At the FIRM Summit, we held a press conference at the Department of Health and Human Services calling on health care for all, and demanding that politicians should not scapegoat immigrants to derail the health care debate in this country.  For a video of the action go to http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/video-health-care-for-all.
Immigration Politics & Elections in 2008
In a debate Thursday night in Texas, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both said they would consider suspending immigration worksite raids until a federal immigration law were passed.  Reported in the Austin Statesman: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/immigration/entries/2008/02/22/obama_clinton_would_consider_s.html
Immigration-related excerpts of the debate are pasted at the bottom of this e-mail.
Note that for the first time, Senator Clinton announced that she would introduce comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the first 100 days of her Administration if she were elected President.  This represents a major shift in her political positioning on immigration.  Last December at the Heartland Presidential Forum, where FIRM members and allies called on her to make immigration reform part of her first 100 days, Senator Clinton refused to respond with specifics, which prompted boos from a large part of the 4,000 participants in the audience.  Now both Democratic candidates are on the record supporting comprehensive immigration reform legislation in their first term.
For information on the Hispanic electorate in the 2008 primary elections, go to the Pew Center at http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=86.
There is an active debate now within the Democratic Party over how to message the issue of immigration.  Here is one perspective on the debate: http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/archives/2007-2/Immigration_alevison.pdf.
Latino evangelicals, who often vote Republican because of their stance on social issues, are rethinking their relationship to the Republican party.  A column by Samuel Rodriguez, Jr. can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/22/AR2008022202385.html.
Congressional News
The SAVE Act (HR 4088), introduced by Rep. Shuler (D-NC) and Rep. Bilbray (R-CA), continues to hang over the Democratic-led Congress in 2008.  The SAVE Act is a deportation-only bill that has garnered the co-sponsorship of more than 40 Democrats in the House of Representatives concerned about trying to look tough on immigration enforcement.  90 Republicans are now on the bill. 
There are two paths to a vote available for the SAVE Act.  The first is a “motion to discharge” that requires a majority of House members to sign a petition that would allow the SAVE Act to be taken straight to the Floor of the House without having to go through the committee process.  At the moment, it appears that this path is unlikely.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), has stated that any bill that reaches the floor must both address enforcement and the status of undocumented immigrants.
The second path is through a “motion to recommit.”  This would allow the SAVE Act to be attached to any legislation moving on the House floor.  Timing for such a scenario is likely to happen as early as late March or April, when bills related to homeland security are likely to be voted on.  A summary of the SAVE Act is attached to this e-mail.  For information about the SAVE Act is also available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.04088:.
We’ll get an action alert on the SAVE Act early the week of February 25, when Members of Congress return from their President’s Day recess.
State & Local News
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) released a new guide for state and local policy advocates.  You can download the report at http://www.aila.org/stateguide.
The Progressive States Network has released a list of pro-active and positive immigration-related policies that states can pursue.  To view the report go to: http://www.progressivestates.org/files/immigration/ImmigrationPolicyOptions.pdf or contact immigration@progressivestates.org.
The following column, which ran in the Salt Lake Tribune, makes a series of arguments against harsh anti-immigrant measures at the state level in Utah: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_8328629
The LA Times issued an editorial late last week on the immigration issue that can be viewed at http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-ed-oklahoma21feb21,1,7070163.story?ctrack=2&cset=true.
The Commonwealth Institute recently issued a paper on the tax contributions of undocumented immigrant to Virginia.  To view the report, go to http://www.thecommonwealthinstitute.org/pages/immtaxcontribution.pdf.
Raids & Deportation
There is growing attention being given to the circumstances facing immigrants in detention.  In Illinois and other locations, the Sisters of Mercy have begun to hold vigils outside of detention centers.  And a new commercial film called The Visitor is now playing in theaters and it relates the story of immigrants in detention.  For more information on The Visitor, go to http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/thevisitor/trailer/.
Actual horror stories are becoming more frequent, including the following story coming out of Texas about children in detention being sexually abuse: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA021608.01B.immig-childabuse.3689173.html.
FIRM Member Activities
Earlier this month, the Alliance to Develop Power in Springfield, MA participated in a forum that higlighted solidarity among immigrant, African American and other students.  At that forum students gathered 300 pledges in support of the Building America Together campaign.  An article highlighting the story of an undocumented student and her experiences and the solidarity pledge is attached.
On Saturday, February 16th, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition held a solidarity vigil in support of an Islamic Center in Columbia, TN that had been desecrated with swastikas and burned to the ground the week before.  Nearly 200 supporters attended from across middle-Tennessee and Alabama.  For more information about the event go to http://www.tnimmigrant.org/news.php?viewStory=123.
Allies and Partner Activities
Last week, FIRM joined with Farmworker Justice and other organizations in opposing anticipated regulations that could gut worker protections for current guestworkers under the H2A Visa program.  Soon afterwards, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary CLinton (D-NY) followed suit.  For more information, please go to http://www.farmworkerjustice.org/.
On April 12-14, National People’s Action will hold a national event in Washington, DC.  Immigrant organizations connected to FIRM are encouraged to attend.  A flyer for the event is attached.  More information about the event will appear in future bulletins.
The National Council of La Raza recently launched their “Wave of Hope” campaign to push back against the wave of hate speech directed at immigrants in the nation.  For more information about this campaign, please go to http://www.nclr.org/section/wave_of_hope/.
Breakthrough just launched their new on-line game that introduces players to the trials and pitfalls of the immigration detention system.  To see and download the game go to http://www.icedgame.com/.
Federal Regulations, Naturalization Backlogs & Social Security No Match
On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the Administration would soon release new regulations intended to be implemented by March 27.  The three rules the Administration intends to release include 1) significantly increased penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers, 2) a new requirement that federal contractors utilize the E-Verify system, and 3) requiring employers to scrutinize employees that return No Match letters from the Social Security Agency.  For more information about the press statement go to http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1203722713615.shtm.
A coalition of groups are actively working to hold the US Citizenship and Immigration Service accountable for their failure to keep pace with the surge in naturalization applications over the last several months.  As a result of this failure, thousands of immigrants may wait as many as 18 months to be naturalized.  One consequence of this situation is the effective disenfranchisement of thousands of new voters in the 2008 election.  The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the National Immigration Forum are now gathering stories of individuals that will be impacted by these backlogs.  A survey is attached for individuals to fill out share their own stories.  Stories and surveys should be sent to Maurice Belanger at the Forum at mbelanger@immigrationforum.org.
Immigration Excerpts from the transcript of the Presidential Primary Debate between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama:
RAMOS: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH) Federal raids by immigration enforcement officials on homes and businesses have generated a great deal of fear and anxiety in the Hispanic community and have divided the family of some of the 3 million U.S.-born children who have at least one undocumented parent.

Would you consider stopping these raids once you take office until comprehensive immigration reform can be passed?

CLINTON: I would consider that, except in egregious situations where it would be appropriate to take the actions you’re referring to.

But when we see what’s been happening, with literally babies being left with no one to take care of them, children coming home from school, no responsible adult left, that is not the America that I know.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: That is against American values. And it is…

(APPLAUSE)

And it is a stark admission of failure by the federal government. We need comprehensive immigration reform. I have been for this. I signed onto the first comprehensive bill back in 2004. I’ve been advocating for it: tougher, more secure borders, of course, but let’s do it the right way, cracking down on employers, especially once we get to comprehensive immigration reform, who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages for everyone else.

I’d like to see more federal help for communities like Austin and others like Laredo, where I was this morning, that absorb the health care, education, and law enforcement costs.

And I personally, as president, would work with our neighbors to the south, to help them create more jobs for their own people.

Finally, we need a path to legalization, to bring the immigrants out of the shadows, give them the conditions that we expect them to meet, paying a fine for coming here illegally, trying to pay back taxes, over time, and learning English.

If they had a committed a crime in our country or the country they came from, then they should be deported. But for everyone else, there must be a path to legalization. I would introduce that in the first 100 days of my presidency.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: Senator Obama, is your position the same as Hillary Clinton’s?

OBAMA: There are a couple of things I would add. Comprehensive immigration reform is something that I have worked on extensively.

Two years ago, we were able to get a bill out of the Senate. I was one of the group of senators that helped to move it through, but it died in the House this year. Because it was used as a political football instead of a way of solving a problem, nothing happened.

And so there are a couple of things that I would just add to what Senator Clinton said.

Number one, it is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to the immigration debate, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly.

Oftentimes, it has been directed at the Hispanic community. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate as it has been conducted in Washington, and that is unacceptable.

We are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants, and we can reconcile those two things. So we need comprehensive reform…

(APPLAUSE)

… we need comprehensive reform, and that means stronger border security. It means that we are cracking down on employers that are taking advantage of undocumented workers because they can’t complain if they’re not paid a minimum wage.

OBAMA: They can’t complain if they’re not getting overtime. Worker safety laws are not being observed.

We have to crack down on those employers, although we also have to make sure that we do it in a way that doesn’t lead to people with Spanish surnames being discriminated against, so there’s got to be a safeguard there.

We have to require that undocumented workers, who are provided a pathway to citizenship, not only learn English, pay back taxes and pay a significant fine, but also that they’re going to the back of the line, so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally, which raises two last points.

Number one, it is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we’ve got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally.

(APPLAUSE)

And what’s worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you’ve got a hard working immigrant family, they’ve got to hire a lawyer; they’ve got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just can’t afford it. And it’s discriminatory against people who have good character, we should want in this country, but don’t have the money. So we’ve got to fix that.

OBAMA: So we’ve got to fix that.

The second thing is, we have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border.

And the problem that we have…

(APPLAUSE)

The problem that we have is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a U.S.- Mexican relationship. And, frankly, President Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working not just for the very wealthy in Mexico, but for all people. And that’s as policy that I’m going to change when I’m president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: All right, Senator Obama.

We’re going to stay with this topic. I want to have John King ask another question.

Go ahead, John.

KING: I want to stay on the issue, but move to a controversial item that was not held up when the immigration debate collapsed in Washington, and that is the border fence.

KING: To many Americans, it is a simple question of sovereignty and security. America should be able to keep people out that it doesn’t want in.

But, as you know in this state, especially if you go to the south of here, along the border, and in other border states, to many people it’s a much more personal question. It could be a question of their livelihood. It could be a question of cross-border trade. It might be an issue to a rancher of property rights. It might be a simple question of whether someone can take a walk or a short drive to see their family members.

Senator, back in 2006, you voted for the construction of that fence. As you know, progress has been slow.

As president of the United States, would you commit tonight that you would finish the fence and speed up the construction, or do you think it’s time for a president of the United States to raise his or her hand and say, “You know what? Wait a minute. Let’s think about this again. Do we really want to do this?”

CLINTON: Well, I think both Senator Obama and I voted for that as part of the immigration debate.

CLINTON: And having been along the border for the last week or so — in fact, last night I was at the University of Texas at Brownsville — and this is how absurd this has become under the Bush administration. Because, you know, there is a smart way to protect our borders, and there is a dumb way to protect our borders.

(APPLAUSE)

And what I learned last night when I was there with Congressman Ortiz is that the University of Texas at Brownsville would have part of its campus cut off.

This is the kind of absurdity that we’re getting from this administration. I know it because I’ve been fighting with them about the northern border. Their imposition of passports and other kinds of burdens are separating people from families, interfering with business and commerce, the movement of goods and people.

So what I’ve said is that I would say, wait a minute, we need to review this. There may be places where a physical barrier is appropriate.

I think when both of us voted for this, we were voting for the possibility that where it was appropriate and made sense, it would be considered. But as with so much, the Bush administration has gone off the deep end, and they are unfortunately coming up with a plan that I think is counterproductive.

CLINTON: So I would have a review. I would listen to the people who live along the border, who understand…

(APPLAUSE)

… what it is we need to be doing to protect our country.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: Let me go on, again — John?

KING: Does that mean that you think your vote was wrong, or the implementation of it was wrong?

Because, as you know, when they first built the fence in the San Diego area, it only went so far. And what it did was it sopped the people coming straight up the path of where that was built, and they simply moved. And California’s problem became Arizona’s problem.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: But, you know, John, there is — there’s a lot we’ve learned about technology and smart fencing. You know, there is technology that can be used instead of a physical barrier.

CLINTON: It requires us having enough personnel along the border so that people can be supervising a certain limited amount of space and will be able to be responsive in the event of people attempting to cross illegally.

I think that the way that the Bush administration is going about this, filing eminent domain actions against landowners and municipalities, makes no sense.

So what I have said is, yes, there are places when after a careful review, again listening to the people who live along the border, there may be limited places where it would work. But let’s deploy more technology and personnel, instead of the physical barrier.

I frankly think that will work better and it will give us an opportunity to secure our borders without interfering with family relations, business relations, recreation and so much else that makes living along the border, you know, wonderful.

BROWN: All right.

CLINTON: And the people who live there need to have a president who understands it, will listen to them and be responsive.

BROWN: All right, Senator Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Obama, go ahead please.

OBAMA: Well, this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree. I think that the key is to consult with local communities, whether it’s on the commercial interests or the environmental stakes of creating any kind of barrier.

And the Bush administration is not real good at listening. That’s not what they do well.

(LAUGHTER)

And so I will reverse that policy. As Senator Clinton indicated, there may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. But for the most part, having border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that’s going to be the better approach.

The one thing I do have to say, though, about this issue is, it is very important for us, I think, to deal with this problem in terms of thousands of — hundreds of thousands of people coming over the borders on a regular basis if we want to also provide opportunity for the 12 million undocumented workers who are here.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton and I have both campaigned in places like Iowa and Ohio and my home state of Illinois, and I think that the American people want fairness, want justice. I think they recognize that the idea that you’re going to deport 12 million people is ridiculous, that we’re not going to be devoting all our law enforcement resources…

(APPLAUSE)

… to sending people back.

But what they do also want is some order to the process. And so, we’re not going to be able to do these things in isolation. We’re not going to be able to deal with the 12 million people who are living in the shadows and give them a way of getting out of the shadows if we don’t also deal with the problem of this constant influx of undocumented workers.

And that’s why I think comprehensive reform is so important. That’s the kind of leadership that I’ve shown in the past; that’s the kind of leadership that I’ll show in the future.

One last point I want to make on the immigration issue because we may be moving to different topics: Something that we can do immediately that I think is very important is to pass the Dream Act, which allows children who through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans, allow them the opportunity for higher education.

OBAMA: I do not want two classes of citizens in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

I want everybody to prosper. That’s going to be a top priority.