Tag Archives: immigration

On immigration, follow MLK’s guidance. It’s about human dignity

Yesterday, a powerful editorial appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The author, African-American Reverend Harvey Clemons Jr. talks about educating himself to debunk immigration myths and does it all from the frame of justice and scripture used by Martin Luther King Jr.

I often shy away from immigration reform arguments that name-check MLK Jr. or discuss the movement as the modern day “civil rights” struggle. I am uncomfortable appropriating the work of those who have come before me to define today’s fight. However, I think that this editorial correctly places the crux of both King’s argument and the need for immigration reform on one thing: human dignity.

Though the conversation concerning immigration in America is more ancient than King, King’s vision provides a helpful tool with which to view the immigration struggle today. Immigration is about human dignity…

The Reverend’s own journey from ignorance to education about the issue is a story that must be told more often. The myths surrounding immigration in this country are false, but until we can open more eyes, we won’t be able to open more hearts.

The perception garnered from the media is often that undocumented immigrants simply go around the open door of the legal immigration system, but that morning I learned how an unworkable immigration system closes the vast majority of legal avenues for those who desire to immigrate legally. The perception from the media is often that immigrants do not pay taxes; that morning I learned undocumented workers pay taxes and to a much greater degree than what they consume in our state, with an estimated $400 million surplus. Also, I did not know undocumented immigrants contributed more than $17 billion to our state’s economy, how an enforcement-only policy would cost our economy $651 billion in annual output, or how immigrant parents lived continually under the threat of being separated from their children. For too long, advocates who fear immigrants have acted as the primary molders of our perception concerning immigration, convincing us all too easily that their fears fall in line with reality.

And perhaps most importantly, the Reverend Clemons adeptly weaves the current debate into a broad historic pattern of the struggle for justice.

Listen not to false prophets who wrap their politics around the fear of the immigrant. It is not a new song they sing. In fact, it is eerily similar to the songs sung not too long ago. They sang that slavery was God’s way until that song sounded ridiculous. They altered the song and sang segregation was God’s way until that too sounded ridiculous. Now the song of the false prophets paints the immigrant as a threat to, rather than a pillar of, American society; paints undocumented fathers and mothers working from sunrise to sundown as a drain of our nation’s resources rather than a reminder of our heroic beginnings; and paints immigrant children as a national burden rather than our nation’s blessing.

Recently, my friend took to her Twitter account to summarize just this:

So grateful to be a part of the Immigration Reform movement. What will you tell your children when they ask where YOU stood? [via @NvrComfortable]

For those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet (or those of you who know someone who hasn’t), I suggest  reading the Reverend’s full article. Then, educate yourself. For all the complexity of the immigration issue, your stance on it should be simple: its about human dignity

And Dobbs just keeps getting dropped

Fresh off of his departure from CNN and his announcement that he would consider a Presidential run in 2012, Lou Dobbs took an unexpected turn.

During an interview with Telemundo, Lou stated:

“We need a rational, effective and humane immigration policy in this country,” he said. Dobbs also said, “We need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants on certain conditions.”

Say what? Did Lou just use the word HUMANE?!To fully appreciate this about-face, allow me to juxtapose this seemingly rational statement with what we’re accustomed to hearing from Dobbs. Check out the two short clips below.

After Dobbs took his message of legalization to Telemundo, ALIPAC (one of our favorite extremist anti-immigrant groups) pulled their support of Dobbs’ potential 2012 candidacy.

From William Gheen, restrictionist-in-chief at ALIPAC:

“We’ve received so many demands from prior Dobbs supporters to remove their pledges of support that we have to suspend all operations on the Dobbs fan sites,” Gheen added. “Lou Dobbs has deeply offended his base of supporters..”

When Lou Dobbs even makes your organization look extreme, you know you’ve got a problem.

I have to admit, I’m loving the in-fighting that’s coming from Lou’s change of heart. With ALIPAC ousting Dobbs as their champion, the former CNN host just can’t’ catch a break from anyone.

As Adam Luna of America’s Voice proposed:

This Mexican-American, constitution-hugging, diversity-loving advocate invites the anti-immigrant extremists of the world to unite with me for a common purpose – let’s just ignore him.  Together we can help Lou Dobbs make a speedy transition to TV has-been status.  Let’s just get it over with.  Are you with me?

Hmmm.. with Dobbs being dropped by ALIPAC and Sarah Palin trying to re-ignite the birther conspiracy, I’m seeing a possible 2012 ticket match made in heaven. Since Dobbs is “a great friend to Latinos” and Palin is woefully ignorant of Latino issues, it seems like they’d be a good fit. Plus, they could both just fade into irrelevancy together – and bring the extremist fringe with them.

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.

Catching up: Arpaio, detention reform and veterans facing deportation

I have been in San Francisco (thus the picture) for the past few days at a training with the New Organizing Institute. The training was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing people doing very exciting and important work (more on this later). But being away from the blogosphere for even a few days always stresses me out. So much has happened while I’ve been gone. There are a couple of things I want to write full-length posts on, but in the mean time, I’m going to do a quick round up of updates and news.


First things first, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, long time Latino terrorize in Maricopa County, has lost some of his swagger! It was decided that Arpaio is to be stripped of his power to arrest undocumented immigrants in the county. What this actually means is that he can no longer racially profile and target people of a certain skin color. Though Arpaio says that he will continue to conduct raids, this is at least a step in the right direction coming from the Department of Homeland Security. Read more about it here and here.

Next up, this week the Department of Homeland Security announced its plans for reform of the nation’s immigrant detention system. DHS announced its outlines for reform this past Tuesday. And, like I’ve said before, they are certainly a step in the right direction. However, they will not be effective unless they are incorporated into a comprehensive reform of the full immigration system in this country. Kevin Johnson from NILC sums it up nicely here:

The DHS announcement today identifies several of the steps the agency must make to create a “truly civil system” and correctly notes that our current immigration enforcement programs “identify large volumes of aliens with low level convictions or no convictions” who should not be the focus of immigration enforcement efforts. The detention system can’t be viewed in isolation from how immigration enforcement is conducted.

Read more about proposed detention reform here and here.

In other news, Marisa Treviño from Latina Lista reports on the over 3,000 veterans who have fought for a country that won’t even make them citizens. And to repay them? They are now battling deportation. Read her full post here. And also check out the Reform Immigration FOR America blog’s write-up of  a new documentary on military families being torn apart of the broken immigration system. Those who risk their lives for our country deserve better – and as Marisa points out they even  “deserve extra kudos because their volunteerism runs much deeper than someone who is a citizen.”

Last on the list (which is by no means exhaustive) is a report that was released by the U.N. on Monday. The report’s main finding is simple: migrants contribute much more to their new countries than they take. For more on this check out CAUSA Oregon’s blog and listen to their podcast. So for all of the folks out there who continue to shout about immigrants who are “draining” our country, listen up!

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.

Police Officers Speak out for Immigration Reform


This morning, leading law enforcement officials from across the country are voicing their opinions about immigration reform. A panel discussion took place in Miami, FL that included: Chief John Timoney, of Miami; Chief Art Acevedo, of Austin, Texas; and former Chief Art Venegas, of Sacramento, Calif. Acevedo is also head of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

It seems as though even law enforcement agrees that the current immigration system is broken and must be reformed. The panel comes on the heels of  the Washington State Sheriff’s Association issuing an urgent call for changes to the immigration system. Our partner group One America reports that the Sherriff’s Association released a letter to the Department of Homeland Security detailing their support of reform. Below is an excerpt:

For years, the federal government has failed to deal with the broken immigration system and left our communities to deal with the effects:  illegal drug trade; smugglers who take advantage of immigrant workers and families; criminals who prey on immigrants because they believe they won’t be reported; the expense on local courts and local jails… The time is now to fix the broken immigration system and its safe-guards.

It is clear that even law enforcement officials understand the toll our broken immigration system is having on the country. It is time to reform immigration, for public safety.

Immigrant Inclusion and the Health Care Debate

health care

While there is a lot of national attention on the health care debate at the moment, we shouldn’t forget that immigration and health care intersect in various and meaningful ways. Health care reform that doesn’t include access for immigrants would be a loss for the whole country. From NCLR:

…the positive impact of several reform proposals on the table may be undermined by additional measures that would severely restrict access to health coverage by mandating new, expensive verification and documentation procedures. “This debate should be about health care for all, and setting the nation on a pathway to future health and well-being. Adding layers of immigrant verification and bureaucratic red tape to a new health care system would guarantee that millions of citizen children are effectively barred from accessing preventive care and would raise the cost of health care,” Murguía noted.

“For this reason, we are extremely concerned that some view health reform as a way to scapegoat immigrants,” Murguía continued. “We agree that the immigration system needs to be fixed, but address that problem separately through immigration reform. The best way to reduce costs in our health care system is to ensure that people do not have to follow a long paper trail to get to the doctor and that everyone shares the costs of a new system. Making health care easier to use and accessible for all workers and children is simple common sense.”

Let’s hope that as the health care debate moves forward, a common-sense and inclusive approach is taken.

40 Cities Launch Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America

RIFA logo

Yesterday, diverse allies in 40 different cities across the country came together to launch the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign.  Reading through the press coverage of the launches, its truly inspiring to see just how broad support is for the campaign.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of people marched to launch the RI4A Campaign:

los angeles RI4a

Carrying signs that read “Economic Recovery Includes Immigration Reform,” the demonstrators marched from the Our Lady Queen of Angels church to City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, where they held a rally calling for an immigration reform that they said would benefit all citizens.

Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, said that the campaign “promotes immigration reform that actually promotes economic opportunity for all.”

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti joined the demonstrators in their call to action.

Continue reading

Immigration and Unions

derechos-trabajadoresYesterday, the New York Times featured a great editorial on exactly why last week’s endorsement of Immigration Reform by the nation’s two largest labor unions makes sense. Lots of sense.

The very idea that unions would endorse legalizing illegal immigrants, as the country’s two big labor federations did this month, strikes some as absurd. Americans have a hard enough time competing with cheap foreign labor. Why undercut them within our own borders? Especially with millions of citizens losing their jobs?

I’m no stranger to these types of questions and arguments. I get plenty of folks here on the blog who shout that the approach I push will cost American citizens their jobs. However, its nice to have somebody like the New York Times back up my argument that enforcing workers’ rights across the board (by bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows) will help raise wages and working conditions for everyone. Which, in turn, helps our ailing economy.

The unions, at least, understand that there is a better way. They see immigration reform as an issue of worker empowerment. If undocumented immigrants undercut wages and job conditions for Americans — and many do, by tolerating low pay and abuse and bolstering an off-the-books system that robs law-abiding employers and taxpayers — it is because they cannot stand up for their rights.

“Workers don’t depress wages. Unscrupulous employers do,” said Terence O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Unemployment in his industry is above 21 percent. Nearly two million construction workers are out of work. So what does Mr. O’Sullivan want? Reform that allows immigrants to legalize. “If we can free them so they can come out of the shadows, we can not only improve their lives, but all workers’ lives,” he said.

Immigration reform is an integral part of our economic recovery. Unions, who represent the TRUE American workers, understand that, the administration understands that and the American public understands that. Now, we must make sure Congress does too

Also, click here to share the editorial with your friends and colleagues. This is big news, we need to make sure folks know.

Rahm’s Immigration Turnabout

emanuelImmigrant rights advocates across the country have been speaking about the turning tide in the immigration debate. Considering the decisive Latino and New American voter turnout during the November elections, a growing number of community and faith leaders calling for just and humane reform and the continued “proxy wars” being fought over immigration in Congress – it seems pretty likely that immigration reform is on the minds of the new administration.

However,  Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s appoint seemed a vexing one for immigrant rights advocates. In the past, he has blocked comprehensive immigration legislation and once even stated that a Democratic President would have to wait until his second term to enact such legislation.

Now, though, it seems like he may be changing his tune – another side of the turning tide in the immigration debate. In today’s Politico, an article featured Emanuel’s recent comments about immigration and his support for the inclusion of immigrant children and women in the coverage provided by the SCHIP bill signed by Obama last week.

Emanuel, a shrewd political mind who also epitomizes the rough and tumble politics of his hometown of Chicago, seems to be firing up the bulldozer on immigration-related issues he once resisted.

For example, he recently cleared the path for increased benefits for legal immigrant children and pregnant women in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Obama’s first major legislative victory.

The debate was set up by Latino leaders and immigrants’ rights backers as a test of Obama’s and Congress’ commitment to their issues. In negotiations with key senators, Emanuel warned that the bill would not be signed without the immigration benefits.

Also, in a recent interview with Spanish-Language media, Emanuel said that:

SCHIP shows that “the arrow is pointing in a different direction in relation to immigration politics in this country,” Emanuel told the Hispanic media during the second week of the new administration. SCHIP can be viewed as a down payment on what will be forthcoming from the Obama administration, Emanuel added, according to La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper.

It seems as though Emanuel has revised his views on immigration, which is BIG news for those of us who are pushing for just and humane reform from the New Administration. This change in approach from Emanuel hopefully signals the change that is forthcoming.