Tag Archives: obama and immigration

The grassroots asks Sec. Napolitano the tough questions

In an effort to truly represent the country’s concerns at today’s meeting with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Reform Immigratin FOR America Campaign asked YOU to submit questions you wanted Napolitano to address. The response: you sent in more than 4,000 questions in less than 24 hours.

Marissa Graciosa, immigration coordinate with FIRM said:

“Most of the questions and concerns centered around timing, on wanting immigration reform done this year, not 2010. The questions came from all over the country. This reflects the widespread effects of our enforcement-heavy approach to immigration.”

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, and a partner of the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America, was able to ask Napolitano two representative questions selected from the 4,000-plus entries. The first was submitted by a person in Pickerington, Ohio who wanted to know why Napolitano has focused too intently on border security and stopped advocating for comprehensive reform. Napolitano said she has been working on immigration reform, and would do more to communicate with people on her efforts on both fronts.

Noorani’s other question concerned the 287g program, which gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce immigration law. Noorani asked Napolitano to revoke the authority of agencies who have clearly violated the spirit of the agreement, and that the immigration reform community looked forward to seeing that happen. Napolitano responded, “Me, too.”

It’s amazing to see the voices of the grassroots communities speaking directly to lawmakers and the White House. FIRM has always tried to amplify the voices of communities who don’t always have a space at the table.  In 2006 and 2007, millions marched in the streets for immigrants’ rights and reform. Now, those millions are moving beyond the streets to swamp switchboards, email accounts, fax machines and the halls of Congress.

FIRM and RI4A was there to tell Secretary Napolitano that she must to take a leadership role in building support for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill and with the American public.  She told said that she understands that she has do a better job communicating and a more consistent job of leading, but we need to see action to be sure she got the message.

The President is clear that he wants immigration reform to move forward this year so that we can pass a bill early next year.  To do that, we need to see more motion from Congress and more push from Secretary Napolitano.  We hope to see detailed congressional proposals shortly after recess.

Tomorrow, the FOR America campaign will deliver the more than 4,000 questions that you asked to the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano. The administration is hearing your voices and they know they must respond. We continue to build momentum and we will work with you to keep pressure on the administration.

Groups fight “more of the same” on immigration

Last week, amidst growing frustration from immigrant rights groups and advocates, folks from FIRM groups in New York (NYIC) and Los Angeles (CHIRLA) took to the streets to protest the expansion of Bush-style immigration policies and legislation. While many of our groups (FIRM included) looked to the Obama presidency as a “New Day” for immigration, the reality of recent weeks has worn patience thin. The New York Times ran a story this week, highlighting the growing discontent and impatience.

First, there was the expansion of E-verify – a fatally flawed electronic verification system that threatens not only American workers but immigrants caught up in the endlessly bureaucratic immigration system. Then, there was the expansion of the 287g program – which gives local law enforcement the ability to enforce federal immigration law and is rife with racial profiling and abuse of power.

To be frank, we were promised a “new day” and we feel like we are seeing more of the same.

“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.

There is no right way to expand flawed systems. They are just that; flawed. Of course enforcement has to be a part of a Comprehensive Immigration Package, but it should not be expanded outside of an entire overhaul of legislation. As Katy Vargas at ImmPolitic blog wrote:

There is a desperate need for broader oversight of our immigration policies. Escalating enforcement without reforming our immigration system comprehensively only exacerbates the problem and it will not render long-lasting solutions to our immigration chaos.

Last week, America’s Voice launched the “Enough” campaign, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to push for Comprehensive immigration reform, not an expansion of flawed and abusive programs. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, do it NOW. (Sign petition here)

President Obama promised a new day for immigration policy in America, but we have yet to see sufficient change coming from DHS. Rather than overhaul misguided Bush-era immigration enforcement strategies, DHS continues to pursue policies that have done little, if anything, to solve the crisis of illegal immigration.

These policies continue to increase fear in our communities and undermine public safety at a time when the nation is waiting to hear your plans for advancing real, comprehensive immigration reform.

While, on a personal level, I have been very disappointed with the recent moves from the administration (especially the expansion of 287g), I still have faith that the President is ready and willing to bring sensible solutions to the table to help fix our broken immigration system. I firmly believe that we need to keep up the pressure and make our voices heard in order to push for this. Obama (and the United States for that matter) can’t afford to not succeed on this issue.

A Sobering Wake-up Call: Are we ready for the fight?


Here is another installment by our guest blogger, Robert Gittelson. This time, Robert asks the tough question: Are we ready to fight for immigration reform?

In the ongoing push to achieve legislative passage of a full and well considered CIR bill this year, it seems prudent to pause every once and a while, to get our bearings. Now seems as good a time as any to take stock of what has been achieved, and what exactly are the areas that could use some additional and well targeted effort, if our goal is to be realized.

The “Full Right for Immigrants Coalition” held an important panel discussion on Saturday, July 11, at the Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles, that addressed this issue: “Towards Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Next Steps.” The public forum called on “organized labor, immigration attorneys, elected representatives, and pro-immigrant rights activists to be a part of a serious political conversation about where the movement goes from here, and how to get to the finish line on immigration reform that fixes the broken immigration system.”

There is an underlying consensus among many of the coalition members that to date, action has been long on empty campaign rhetoric, and short on substantive achievement. The event will be a space for airing “concerns” at the event, and offering their ideas about getting this campaign firmly on a track for success. I was asked to participate in one of the panel discussions. In a nutshell, here is what I intend to brought up at the public forum: leadership.

Now, ultimately, President Obama has to assume the ultimate mantel of “Leader” on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and slowly but surely, he seems to be cautiously sliding into that role. I can’t exactly say that he has taken the bull by the horns, but he has given indications that he will eventually get in the game. I guess that we have to take what we can get. For now, he has “delegated” leadership to others. Therein lay my greatest concerns.

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President Obama makes serious commitment to immigration reform

reformIt looks like we aren’t the only ones taking note of the President’s leadership on this issue. Yesterday, the New York Daily News wrote about the building momentum towards immigration reform, led by President Obama. Here’s how it starts out:

If there were any doubts about his commitment to immigration reform, President Obama dispelled them at a bipartisan White House meeting with members of Congress on June 25.

It goes on to cite support for reform from members of Congress and the majority of the American public (including the majority of GOP supporters). A new poll conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group shows that:

While comprehensive immigration reform has some vocal opponents, in our recent national poll, we found that the vast majority of voters (two thirds or more depending on the details) favor comprehensive immigration reform, a position that has not wavered in the face of an economic downturn.

There is widespread support for a comprehensive approach to solving the issue of illegal immigration – among all political parties, regions, ages, both genders, and those who are undecided on the 2010 Congressional race. Voters see a relationship between comprehensive immigration reform and the economy and perceive an economic and fiscal benefit to passing reform. In fact, the economic situation has increased the desire for quick action on immigration reform.

Without giving an explanation of what comprehensive reform means or consists of, nearly two thirds of voters (64%) support it. When voters are given the details of comprehensive reform (see appendix for proposal text), 86% support Congress passing comprehensive reform, with nearly 6 in 10 voters strongly supporting it. Only 7% strongly oppose the plan (14% total oppose).

While there is a very vocal group of folks who are against this legislation, they are the minority (albeit a loud one). The American public wants comprehensive immigration reform – it is now up to Congress to make it a reality and it is up to President Obama to lead the way.

Immigration Reform: The Building Blocks are in Place

RIFA logo

Today, amidst speculations that the White House is distancing itself from earlier committments to comprehensive immigration reform this year, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) reiterated that reform is, in fact, possible this year.

And on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that handles immigration, went one step further, saying that “all the fundamental building blocks are in place to pass comprehensive reform this session, and even possibly later this year.”

Tomorrow, President Obama will meet with key members of Congress to begin discussion about immigration reform. Leaders like Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and immigration subcommittee ranking member John Cornyn (R-Texas) will hopefully be pressing the commander in chief to ACT on his committment to reform, rather than continue to give the issue lip-service.

As Frank Sherry states in today’s piece at the Huffington Post:

Ultimately, the question we face is this: are we going to allow hardliners who want nothing less than the expulsion of millions of immigrant families already living in our communities to dominate the debate? Or are we going to live up to our tradition as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws and write a new chapter in the American story of how including “them” makes for a stronger “us?”

Immigration reform will not be easy, and yet, this is the kind of big issue that led you to proclaim the fierce urgency of now and run for President.

This is your kind of fight, Mr. President. History is calling

Tomorrow, we will see if the President and members of Congress are ready to rise to the occasion.

The Reform Mantra for This Week: Focus, Values, and Leadership

immigration reform cartoon

Check out the second guest post from Robert Gittelson – its a great reminder about where we are in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)!

This has been somewhat of a frustrating and difficult week for both sides in the immigration debate. The anti’s have been sidetracked by the deranged and violent acts of one of their own, which has lead to an outpouring of blistering attacks against racism and extremism, tainting the anti coalition with guilt by association.

The pro CIR advocates have been frustrated by the continued delays on the part of the White House, in their promised meeting with legislators to begin crafting the CIR legislation, (which I heard was now re-scheduled for June 25th).

While I understand that tensions are high, and seem to be escalating, I counsel that everyone involved in this debate should take a deep breath, pause to get their bearings, and refocus on the task at hand.

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June 8th: Immigration Reform Comes to the White House

white house

So I know this is week-old news – it dropped while I was on a short vacation last week – but I had to post about it. This is one of the more exciting things to happen in the last year and I couldn’t miss an opportunity blog it. Last week, Politico broke the news that Obama has set a date for a meeting on Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the White House. June 8th, the White House will gather policy-makers from both sides of the aisle to begin pushing reform this year. From Politico:

“The meeting will be an opportunity to launch a policy conversation that we hope will be able to start a debate that will take place in Congress later in the year,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.

Asked if the session would be billed as a summit or a forum, like similar meetings on health care and fiscal responsibility earlier in the year, another official said, “This isn’t a forum or a summit with outside groups, this is solely a meeting with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the issue.”

The meeting couldn’t come at a better time. The week before, on June 3rd – 5th, there will be a HUGE Summit where pro-reform advocates and activists will gather with allies from faith, labor and other communities to launch the Reform Immigration for America Campaign.  Yours truly will be live-blogging the Summit, so be sure to come back and check that out.

Can you feel the momentum building? This is going to be our year.

Courage, President Obama


An editorial in today’s NY Times speaks to the upcoming fight for immigration reform and the hard, but hopeful,  road ahead. The endorsement of labor unions has bolstered the White House’s announcement of a move on reform this year and we are gearing up to push back against the sure-to-come rhetoric that reform is somehow not compatible with economic recovery. (If you would like some black and white proof of why this is wrong, check out the Immigration Policy Center’s most recent report.)

American workers and businesses continue to be undercut by the underground economy. The economic potential of some of the country’s most industrious workers is thwarted. Working off the books — and living in constant fear of apprehension — they earn less, spend less, pay less in taxes and have little ability to report abuses or to improve their skills or job prospects.

The ingredients of reform are clear: legalization for the 12 million, to yield bumper crops of new citizens, to make it easier to weed out criminals and to end the fear and hopelessness of life in the shadows; sensible enforcement at the border that focuses resources on fighting crime, drugs and violence; a strengthened employment system that punishes businesses that exploit illegal labor; and a future flow of workers that is attuned to the economy’s needs and fully protects workers’ rights.

We stand strong with the President and with the AFL CIO and Change to Win in their endorsement for reform. There is a lot of work to do, but I am confident that, together, we can make it happen.

We expect to hear more from Mr. Obama soon. It will take courage to defend the wisdom and necessity of fixing the immigration system. It will take even more courage to engage in the serious fight to do so. It is what the country needs and what American voters elected Mr. Obama to do.

One Step Closer: Labor Unions Endorse Immigration Reform

The New York Times reported today that two of the most important Labor unions in the country, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, are endorsing President Obama’s push for comprehensive immigration reform. This is great news and immigrant rights advocates are excited that our friends in the Labor movement are joining the fight.change-to-win1


“The labor movement will work together to make sure that the White House as well as Congress understand that we speak about immigration reform with one voice,” Mr. Sweeney (president of the AFL-CIO) said in a statement to The New York Times.

Folks in labor unions understand that in order to ensure that workers’ rights are enforced across the board, we must level the playing field and bring the millions of undocumented immigrant workers into the system and out of the shadows.

A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials said they agreed with Change to Win leaders that, with more than seven million unauthorized immigrants already working across the nation, legalizing their status would be the most effective way to protect labor standards for all workers.

“It shows how important the issue is to the representatives of American workers,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an advocate group.

This is great news and we applaud both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win for their brave move to support Immigration reform this year.

VIDEO: Glenn Beck Sets Man on Fire, Proves Nothing

So, after Barack Obama announced a plan for immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship (not amnesty) and tightening border security, Glenn Beck took to his “news” show to shoot the right-wing anti-immigrant movement in the foot.

From Crooks and Liars:

Barack Obama wants to burn Joe Q. Public alive — and all because he wants to fix the immigration mess.

That was pretty much what Glenn Beck told his Fox News audience yesterday. Actually, it was more blatant than that:

Beck: And President Obama apparently feeling like — ah, I’m pretty much done, not a lot more to do, you know? I got all those things done. You know what? Why don’t I work on immigration reform? Later this year he hopes to create a path for the estimated 12 million illegal aliens here in America to become legal. But yet, we haven’t fixed the border and shut the water off! What a sweet, sensitive guy he really is.

Here’s one thing I think the media is missing. I don’t know about you, but when I saw that story last night, I did this: Wha-? You’ve gotta be kidding me! Let me, let me just ask you a question. Maybe I’m alone, but I think it would just be faster if he just shot me in the head! You know what I mean? How much more — how much more can he disenfranchise all of us?

We have Bill Schultz here, he’s from Red Eye. And I’m just going to demonstrate at least how I feel, all right? I feel, when I read this story last night, I don’t know about you — let’s say Bill is the average American here, and I’m President Obama. This is the way I feel. I feel like President Obama is just saying, ‘You know what, I’ve got that $3.5 trillion budget here …’

He then proceeds to douse Schultz with a clear liquid from a gas can (he promises it’s actually water) and then hold up a lit match in his general vicinity.

And then he wonders why people think he’s promoting a violent and paranoid right-wing worldview that is bereft of anything approaching reality.

You know, I feel sorry for the people that buy into all the saber rattling done by guys like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to work as hard as I can everyday to make sure they don’t get the last say. Let’s bring some common sense, and maybe some credibility, into the debate here folks.