Tag Archives: immigration policy

ACTION: 9500 Liberty Screening in San Francisco tomorrow!

If you live in, or around, or even just near San Francisco, you should try to make it out to the screening of 9500 Liberty tomorrow. The film, which centers around Prince William County, Virginia, documents the local community’s struggle with an anti-immigrant law introduced by elected officials.

9500 Liberty reveals the startling vulnerability of a local government, targeted by national anti-immigration networks using the Internet to frighten and intimidate lawmakers and citizens. Alarmed by a climate of fear and racial division, residents form a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual townhalls, setting up a real-life showdown in the seat of county government.

This film, a low-budget documentary by Annabel Park and Eric Byler, is a front-row glimpse into how deeply the immigration debate can impact a community.  Watch as Prince William County becomes ground-zero of the immigration debate.

The screening in San Francisco is especially relevant, given the city’s long-standing identity as a “Sanctuary” city and the currently heated debate over that policy in for minors.

Also, the screening will include a cast of VIP attendees.  Markos Moulitsas, Founder of Daily Kos, will introduce the film. Michael Yaki, Attorney for US Commission on Civil Rights, President of SF Board of Supervisors David Chiu, District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, and District 9 Supervisor David Campos will join a discussion with the filmmakers. And, though not yet confirmed, it is possible that Police Chief Gascon, SF’s new police chief, will also be in attendance.

It should be an amazing night. I can’t go, but you should! You can still get tickets here.

Why the Era of “Enforcement Only” Has Failed

ICE raid

The time has long passed, since our country lost it’s way in the struggle to figure out how to effectively deal with our broken and outdated immigration system. There are multitudes upon multitudes of missteps that I could point to along the way on our tragic misadventure. However, if I had to point to one specific decision that continues to confound this issue on a daily basis through to this day, it would have to be President Bush’s decision to “appease” the Restrictionists, in the wake of his second loss to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed in 2007.

Bush never was one for subtlety. He made an assumption that Restrictionists would eventually go along with the concept of CIR, if they saw that America was taking our existing immigration enforcement laws seriously. Therefore, he set us on a course of “enforcement only,” in an effort to prove that he could be tough on undocumented immigrants.

In the abstract, one could theoretically see the simple logic of his simple plan. By ramping up the enforcement side of the equation, he assumed that he could cozy up to his conservative base, while at the same time, cause just enough economic havoc in the marketplace for people to start calling for reform. His plan misread the tea leaves on many levels.

First of all, his economic policies imploded so severely, that we are now experiencing such massive unemployment, as to obscure any signs that the enforcement only approach has hurt our domestic economy (it has, actually). But because of the upheaval that his fiscal policies have wrought upon us, the undocumented labor issues, such as the recent firings of 1,800 undocumented employees at American Apparel, have barely been noticed on a national scale.

Similarly, in the absence of the passage of a CIR bill, his enforcement policies have served to tear apart families and crush the dreams and aspirations of thousands, if not millions of aspiring Americans, and citizens alike. The vacuum of reform has lead to the continuing alienation of millions of people, and has fostered or nurtured an atmosphere of racial tension and a climate of scape-goating.

Back in October of 2007, actually two years ago this week, I wrote an article that warned of the problems that the environment of “Enforcement Only” would engender upon us. The article, “The “Enforcement Only” Approach: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It,” spoke to the situation that we now find ourselves in.

In the article, I mention…..the Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff’s dire yet understated warning that “there will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this”. Of course, he probably didn’t realize just how right he was. I warned in the article that

“the myopically short sighted anti-immigration reformers simply don’t have a clue as to how the economy works in the real world, and furthermore, exposes the dangers that the enforcement only approach posses to not only our economy here at home, but to the economic stability of our entire region of the World.”

However, it is actually the issue of social injustice that moves me to write today. The time to put the enforcement only environment on hold has never been more important than it is right now. We need to completely re-think what we are doing, until such time as we can put together a CIR package that makes sense, and that is fair and just, and allows for enforcement that targets only the right people, for only the right reasons.

Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times had two articles last week that addressed our current and continuing path down the wrong road on this issue, and the policies that are striking fear into our nation’s neighborhoods. She wrote that,

Despite continuing criticism about the program, authorities announced Friday that 67 local and state law enforcement agencies across the country would continue enforcing immigration law under special agreements with the federal government….Since 287(g) began, more than 1,000 local officers have been trained to enforce immigration law. More than 130,000 illegal immigrants have been identified under it, according to officials. In 2009, roughly 24,000 illegal immigrants identified have been deported.

She also wrote about how these programs are truly on the wrong track:

Yolanda Diaz, who was arrested on a charge of simple assault, said the arrest has dashed her plans of going to college in the United States. Her sister, Diana, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, said she just wants to graduate from her high school. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Other people have done much worse things than this.” Marty Rosenbluth with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the government’s 287(g) program wasn’t designed to pick up illegal immigrants like the Diaz sisters. “I appreciate that they are saying they are prioritizing dangerous criminal aliens,” he said. “That is not what we are seeing.” Another one of his clients, Luis Cruz Millan, 30, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was ordered to report to an immigration officer after being arrested last month for allegedly listening to music too loudly in a car outside the Raleigh house where he was living.

Professor Kevin Johnson, Dean of the University of California Davis Law School, wrote passionately about how this climate of fear and hate has escalated our worst societal demons:

Sadly, it continues to be open season on Latinos — especially Latino immigrants — in the United States. The “sport” of “beaner hopping” is even defined in the Urban Dictionary.  What the heck is going on?  The latest news on this subject to report is a hate crime in Brooklyn, with the poor Mexican victim who was beaten senseless (and now unable to work and support his family) afraid to report the crime to police because of his and his wife’s immigration status. Will the federal government ever act?  How many senseless deaths of Latinos must occur before the Obama Administration condemns what is happening?  The spike in hate crimes against Latinos has long been in the news, as the debate over immigration reform, state and local anti-immigrant agitation, and Lou Dobbs and others have fomented hate..  Where is the U.S. Department of Justice, especially the Civil Rights Division? During the Presidential campaign, we were told by Senator Obama himself that “help was on the way.”  Many of us hoped and believed.  We have been patiently waiting on immigration reform, responses to hate on the streets, etc.  The wait has to end.  What has to be done to trigger a federal response to the daily injustices affecting Latinos in the United States?  Is there anyone out there?

Last week, I attended a meeting of community leaders in Los Angeles, and the issues of 287g agreements and our “enforcement only” policies are impacting communities in ways that surely our leaders never intended. This is a huge issue in the inner cities around the country.

Many misguided people have wrongly assumed that just because our local police have the capacity to arrest people, and jails in which to incarcerate them, that they would naturally be the right people to enforce immigration laws. They couldn’t be more wrong. The whole concept of police departments, is inherent in the motto of the LAPD: To Protect and Serve. How can our police people protect and serve our neighborhoods, when a large percentage of the population fears them, and won’t go to them for protection, because they rightly fear that they would end up being deported for their trouble?

Again, I want to make a plea to our nation, and particularly to our Government, that it is time to assume a full mantle of responsibility and sanity during this debate, and to re-examine our policies and tactics. If we have been trying to show that we can be tough on enforcement, I think that we have made that point, and we don’t need to continue to beat that dead horse. Clearly, at some point in our near future, we will come together in a dialogue aimed at restoring order to this atmosphere of chaos. Until that time, which should be within the next few months, let us put aside the tactics of fear and, what could be labeled an environment of institutionalized terror to our undocumented population of millions. The time for a rational federal – and federal only – policy is now. The time for fear and hate has long since passed.

VIDEO: 9500 Liberty Trailer

From 9500 Liberty:

In July of 2007, Prince William County, Virginia became “ground zero” in America’s explosive battle over immigration policy when elected officials adopted a law requiring police officers to question anyone they thought was “probably” undocumented.

9500 Liberty reveals the startling vulnerability of a local government targeted by national anti-immigration networks using the Internet to frighten and intimidate lawmakers and citizens. Alarmed by a climate of fear and racial division, residents form a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual townhalls, setting up a real life showdown in the seat of county government.

The devastating social and economic impact of the “Immigration Resolution” is felt in the lives of real people in homes and in local businesses. But the ferocious fight to adopt and then reverse this policy unfolds inside government chambers, on the streets, and on the Internet. 9500 Liberty provides a front row seat to all three battlegrounds.

Big-City Police Chiefs Urge Overhaul of Immigration Policy

police car

Yesterday, I noted that law enforcement officials from across the country were gathering in Miami to add their voices to the growing call for comprehensive immigration reform. Today, the New York Times has a detailed write-up of the panel discussion yesterday.

Chief Timoney, Chief Art Acevedo of the Austin Police Department in Texas and former Chief Art Venegas of the Sacramento Police Department said local law enforcement had been undermined by the blurred line between crimes and violations of immigration law, which are civil.

Those who call illegal immigrants “criminals,” they said at a news conference here, are misreading the law and hurting their own communities by scaring neighbors who could identify criminals.

“When you remove the emotion from the debate,” Chief Acevedo said, “no one can argue that it is in the best interest of public safety to keep these people living in the shadows.”

The police chiefs here, having spent most of their careers in cities with large immigrant communities, said it would be impossible to send the nation’s 10 million to 15 million illegal residents home. They criticized last year’s roundups of illegal immigrants at workplaces, and the federal 287(g) program that has given at least 63 police departments a role in deporting illegal immigrants.

I have been writing about the 287(g) program and its negative effects for the past year, and its extremely encouraging to see law enforcement officials stand up for public safety in their own communities.

So, to re-cap, police chiefs from across the country believe that the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country should be brought out of the shadows in order to make our communities safer. I think it is also worth highlighting that even law enforcement agents believe the criminalization of undocumented immigrants is detrimental to communities.

Faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement leaders, community organizations, leadership of the House and Senate, the President of the United States and the majority of the American public believe that the time is now for immigration reform. I’m not sure how to make a more convincing argument for why this legislation urgently needs to happen this year.

Guest Blog: Winning Hearts and Minds

I am proud to announce a new guest blogger at Standing FIRM. Robert Gittelson will be contributing consistently to the site and I’m excited to be collaborating with him. I feel like I’ve had less and less time to write as of late, thus I am thrilled to have another voice to add to the work on the site.

Also, be sure to check out Robert’s quick bio, after the full post.

poster may 1

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve written many articles on the subject of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It has been said, that when the facts are on your side, you should argue the facts. I, like many CIR advocates, have done exactly that. I have recognized that much of what the detractors on this issue have been saying about CIR, and the undocumented population in general, has been, for lack of a more delicate way of stating this, factually inaccurate. And, in a sense, I note that the “setting the record straight” method has been working, albeit slowly. Recent polling has suggested, in no uncertain terms, that our citizen population is not only for CIR, but that this majority of voters has been growing. And yet, I sense that this majority is sort of a silent majority.

Continue reading

Thursday’s Hearing on Immigration is a Big Step Forward

Tomorrow Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will hold his first hearing as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees. The hearing is titled Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?”. The list of speakers is expansive – and promising.

The hearing will feature testimony from Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Dr. Joel Hunter of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, to name a few.


Is it me, or do these speakers resemble the broad-based coalition that is coming together to support immigration reform in 2009? We have Greenspan representing the economic and business interests, Hunter bringing the faith-based support to the table and Medina showing that the support of the labor unions is going strong.

Jackie from America’s Voice will be live-blogging the hearing, be sure to tune in at 2:00 pm and listen to what goes down. Check it out here.

The hearing is a sign that reform is really going to happen this year – this is a small step, but an extremely strong one. It shows that the momentum for reform is growing, and not just from pro-migrant advocates.

America’s Voice answers both questions posed in the hearing (“can it be done”? and “how”?):

It will be instructive to see how both parties behave during next week’s Senate Judiciary Hearing, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?””

With the White House recently renewing its pledge to move forward on immigration reform this year with the unified support of the nation’s largest labor coalitions, we might expect the answer to the first question to be, “Yes.”

To answer the question, “How?”

Tune into what the public- not the noisy Minuteman minority- really want. Weigh the economic benefits of legalizing twelve million underground workers and cracking down on bad-actor employers against the human and financial costs of deporting 12 million men, women, and children.

Most importantly, take the debate back from the extremists.

Not only is the hearing a great step forward, but the next day, on May 1st, hundreds of thousands of people will be taking it to the streets, showing the American public’s appetite for reform and their commitment to the issue. For more on the May Day marches, check out www.anewdayforimmigration.org.

DHS Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids


Today the Washington Post published an article about an impending policy shift in the way the Department of Homeland Security does business. Immigration raids, which were the Bush administration’s pride and joy, are being restructured under Obama and new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The raids, which target workers and destroy communities, are now shifting focus.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute — increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

These delays are a good sign that immigration enforcement policy will be changing. In recent weeks there have been many prominent leaders (both political and faith) calling for a change in immigration policy and an end to the destructive raids.

While a policy is still under development, Napolitano has said she intends to focus more on prosecuting criminal cases of wrongdoing by companies. Analysts say they also think ICE may conduct fewer raids, focusing routine enforcement on civil infractions of worker eligibility verification rules.

This is good news since it signals an end to scapegoating the most vulnerable while letting the powerful off the hook. However, just a shift in enforcement policy will not be enough to right the course. This must come along with comprehensive reform in order to truly begin to fix the broken system.

Enforcement Gone Bad


There has been so much published recently about the wrong turn taken by the Bush administration’s approach to immigration enforcement. Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Migration Policy Institute have been especially damning. On Sunday, the NY Times ran an editorial reiterating that our immigration system is broken and that comprehensive reform is needed now more than ever. Here is an excerpt:

A report last week from the Pew Hispanic Center laid bare some striking results of that campaign. It found that Latinos now make up 40 percent of those sentenced in federal courts, even though they are only about 13 percent of the adult population. They accounted for one-third of federal prison inmates in 2007.

The numbers might suggest we are besieged by immigrant criminals. But of all the noncitizen Latinos sentenced last year, the vast majority — 81 percent — were convicted for unlawfully entering or remaining in the country, neither of which is a criminal offense.

The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals — violent thugs, financial scammers — to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down … workers.

The Pew report follows news this month that even as a federal program to hunt immigrant fugitives saw its budget soar — to $218 million last year from $9 million in 2003 — its mission went astray. According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, of the 72,000 people arrested through last February, 73 percent had no criminal record. Border Patrol agents in California and Maryland, meanwhile, tell of pressure to arrest workers at day-labor corners and convenience stores to meet quotas.

The country needs to control its borders. It needs to rebuild an effective immigration system and thwart employers who cheat it. It needs to bring the undocumented forward and make citizen taxpayers of them.

Napolitano Outlines Immigration Priorities

Yesterday, the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was on NPR discussing her vision for immigration policy in the new administration.

As governor of the border state of Arizona, Janet Napolitano was on the front line of the immigration debate. As the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, she inherits a department that was recently blasted by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. The New York Times called the institute’s scathing report a “portrait of dysfunction.”

Napolitano joins Madeleine Brand to discuss what’s in store for federal immigration policy.

Listen to the full story here.

VIDEO: Obama Talks About Immigration

Obama gave an interview with “El Pistolero” radio show and it was featured on Univision.