Thursday, December 31, 2009

The "quote, unquote" immigration debate in 2009.

It's been quite a year for the immigration debate. Here are just a few quotes culled from some of the biggest stories of 2009 that we covered in This Land. Thanks for making it a successful first year for the blog.

Happy New Year!


"It’s pro-family, pro-jobs and pro-security. And the time to pass it into law is right now. " Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D -IL) introducing his 600 page bill on Dec. 15 to reform the nation's immigration laws.

"He's not the devil, but he is certainly a man who is right now not making it easy to understand why he's making the public-policy choices that he is." -- Former CNN host Lou Dobbs talking about President Obama to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly on Nov. 17 after leaving the cable news network.

“In the middle of one of the worst recessions in American history, our N.C. Community College Board decides to help illegal immigrants enroll in college when our state unemployment rate is 11 percent.” - Ron Woodard, director of NC Listen. In a Nov. 30 email regarding voters in a Civitas Institute competition selecting a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to enroll in N.C. community colleges as the year’s worst bill.

"You go to work every day and if you make a mistake, you got a colonoscopy coming from the command staff." -- Senior Cpl. Glenn White of president of the Dallas Police Association, in October after 20 Dallas police officers wrongly gave $204 traffic tickets to some drivers who didn’t speak English.

"He's out having a taco." -- ESPN announcer Bob Griese on Oct. 24 in response to a query from a fellow announcer asking where is Juan Pablo Montoya. Griese received a one-game suspension for the comment.

“It’s all politics.” - Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking to the press on Oct. 6 after the federal government stripped his office of its authority to patrol for illegal immigrants.

"You lie!" - U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson shouted to President Obama during his address before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9.

“I can tell you that within our organization there are real racists." Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, which advocates for greater immigration restrictions, in a July 10 meeting with advocates in favor and against immigration reform.

"There are extremes in our coalition who really are for open borders; who really are for emptying the jails. And you know we get tagged with them. They get wrapped around our neck the same way the hate crimes get wrapped around Roy’s neck." -- Douglas Rivlin formerly of the National Immigration Forum in a July 10 meeting with advocates in favor and against immigration reform.

"At the end of the day, if we're going to achieve legalization of a major share of the undocumented, we realize there will have to be some give and take over worker verification. We're not against it necessarily if all of the other pieces of immigration reform fall into place." -- Mike Garcia, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 in Los Angeles.

"I was just trying to save lives. We're not asking permission from the United States to save people's lives. We never have, because we know they'd say no." -- Walt Staton, 27, a volunteer with the humanitarian group No More Deaths who was convicted of littering on federal land because he left jugs of water for illegal immigrants walking through the desert.

"It’s not an ethnic thing. If you look at how people in East Charlotte live. They eat in these restaurants. We're known for the restaurants. The community is supporting the restaurants. We’re trying to market the restaurants. So for the whole community to be labeled as not accepting of Latino people and diversity it is a slap in the face." - Ed Garber, chairman of the Eastside Political Action Committee, who says allegations are off base that the clampdown on the taco trucks operating on Central Avenue is a form of ethnic discrimination.

"The idea was great if we had the money. It was basically an add-on. But if the funding is not there, it's not there." - Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens County Republican on a planned hotline to accept complaints about illegal immigrants not being set up in South Carolina.

We can't continue with a broken immigration system. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for American workers. It's dangerous for Mexican would- be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border. It is putting a strain on border communities, who often times have a deal with a host of undocumented workers. And it keeps those undocumented workers in the shadows, which means they can be exploited at the same time as they're depressing U.S. wages. - President Barack Obama in a White House press conference about his first 100 days in office.

Friday, December 18, 2009

24 tweets for 24 hours of immigration debate

A congressman introduced his immigration bill and set the webosphere on fire this week.

Supporters and opponents of the Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D -IL) bill were quick to join in as news continued to break and stoke interest among those on their side of the debate. The hundreds, if not thousands, of posts on blogs, emails, and Twitter started even before the congressman introduced his bill, which he called "pro-family, pro-jobs, pro-security."

Gutierrez's proposed bill would legalize undocumented immigrants who registered with the federal government, pay a $500 fine, learn English, and pass background checks, among other requirements. They would then be eligible for a six-year visa, followed by a green card.

And on Twitter, where users chatter, gossip, lecture, and opinionate in 140 character bursts, you can see just how emotional this debate will. Here are 24 selected tweets that I pulled from the 24 hours following when Gutierrez introduced his legislation.

@MicEvHill: Gutierrez begins to cite bible verses in support of his bill, saying that the immigrant community has turned the other cheek time after time 1:10 PM Dec 15th

@ALIPAC: Amnesty Legislation Filed TAKE ACTION NOW !!! www.alipac.us #AFIRE #illegalimmigration illegal immigration aliens http://bit.ly/77rO4C 1:26 PM Dec 15th

@JuanSaaa: @repgutierrez says he has 80 votes to kick start his #immigration bill, compared to 40 as he proposed the project last time. #ri4a Dec 15, 2009 01:36 PM GMT

@mkolken: @RepGutierrez Thank you for standing up for the rights of others!!! We are behind you!!! #immigration #ri4a #cir Dec 15, 2009 01:38 PM GMT

@NumbersUSA: Everyone at NumbersUSA is learning about social media! RT @insideyourhalo: @numbersusa http://yfrog.com/4apfivj 2:36 PM Dec 15th

@jrsusa: #Immigration reform debate is no place for bigotry http://bit.ly/8xHLio #CIR Dec 15, 2009 02:47 PM GMT

@RI4A: all i want 4 xmas is #immigration reform! RT @CAUSAOregon: @weareoneamerica Rally celebrate bill b4 holiday http://tinyurl.com/y9psnxs #ri4a
Dec 15, 2009 03:44 PM GMT

@ALIPAC: Immigration bill backers try again despite jobless rate http://bit.ly/8SKDaR #illegalimmigration #tcot #AFIRE 3:54 PM Dec 15th

@GrayRiv: Plz read, #digg and RT: #Immigration: The next nasty, necessary fight: http://bit.ly/6JU2A0 #RI4A #hcr #p2 #topprog #du1 #dnj Dec 15, 2009 04:28 PM

@RI4A: Gutierrez: "Immigrant blame game is constant." Enough with the scapegoating! #CIRASAP #immigration #ri4a Dec 15, 2009 06:09 PM GMT

@JessicaNWood: Really good! "An Immigration Time-Out" http://bit.ly/7XS57v #AFIRE #immigration #noamnesty Dec 15, 2009 06:15 PM GMT

@ObamaBeenLying: RT @SeniorBuzz FIGHT BACK AMERICANS! The House is debating AMNESTY FOR ILLEGALS. http://bit.ly/7gyS2q #immigration #tcot #teaparty PLZ RT Dec 15, 2009 06:45 PM GMT

@desidyke: @gaysifly It comes down to the Senate and the deals being struck between Schumer and Graham forces. Long ways to go. #immigration Dec 15, 2009 09:05 PM

@dandyxands: Petition @RepGutierrez to include #lgbt families in his #immigration reform bill! http://act.ly/1j8 RT to sign #actly #topprog #ri4a #p2 Dec 15, 2009 09:16 PM

@TRUTHINHISTORY: Tough road for immigration bill - - POLITICO.com: http://bit.ly/8ulig9 We might as well annex Mexico? #tcot #noamnesty Dec 15, 2009 09:16 PM


@NCLISTEN: Bill to provide amnesty to 11 mil illegal aliens introduced in the House http://bit.ly/6bpRfj #AFIRE #ConsNC #noamnesty #NC 11:35 AM Dec 16th

@ChronInaug09: Democrats unveil new immigration plan; GOP says it's a job killer: The following report was written by Gary Martin ... http://bit.ly/5eEV4Y Dec 16, 2009 01:41 PM


@worldorganizers: Gutierrez immigration reform bill introduced and buried in the papers and already being pronounced "dead on arrival." Inauspicious start. Dec 16, 2009 01:44 PM

@bobney: Here we go Amnesty around the corner--Dems move to overhaul immigration - http://shar.es/a8M3P Dec 16, 2009 01:44 PM GMT

@SmackdownFan: Pelosi says no vote on immigration bill til Senate passes a bill http://tinyurl.com/yelpms3 #AFIRE Dec 16, 2009 01:45 PM GMT •

@FrancoOrdonez: Is Congressman's #immigration bill doomed? Gutierrez bill not likely to make it far, but that’s not the point. #CIRASAP http://ow.ly/Mu7Z 1:55 PM Dec 16th

@angelamkelley: #Immigration Reform Will Enhance Economic Recovery: We Can’t Build a Strong Economy on Top of a Broken Immig System http://bit.ly/7xd5vS Dec 16, 2009 02:58 PM GMT •

@BayouPerspectiv: Immigration Policy Must Put the Needs of American Workers at the Forefront http://bit.ly/8YY1m8 Dec 16, 2009 03:18 PM GMT •

@llguy: Show me the federal government can control illegal immigration and then we'll talk. #politics #immigration

Photo: AP, Fibonacci blue

Big meeting today on admitting undocumented students

A public hearing is being held this morning on admitting illegal immigrants to N.C. community colleges.

After two years of controversy, the community colleges board in September approved a policy to admit illegal immigrants – if they pay out-of-state tuition rates, have graduated from an American high school, and don’t displace students in the country legally. The public hearing is part of a required administrative review process before the policy is put in place.

Groups for and against the policy change have been organizing by phone, email, and the Internet to ensure they have a strong showing at the Raleigh hearing.

Those opposed to the move say the debate is not over. Consider:

“With 11% unemployment, shouldn’t our North Carolina Community College System focus our limited state resources on training/educating unemployed citizens for jobs? If we allow illegal immigrants to attend state Community Colleges at any of the over 50 campuses across NC, won’t we be helping illegal immigrants take jobs that should be reserved for only legal residents?” – NC Listen

Those in favor of admitting illegal immigrants say every student deserves an opportunity to further their education. They say:

“We have demanded access to higher education for all of our students, and we must now demonstrate that we support this step in the right direction that the State Board of Community Colleges has taken. We must have enough speakers lined up to speak in favor of an open door policy, especially because we know that our opposition will also be lined up to speak against this proposal.” - Adelante Education Coalition


Photo: DANA ROMANOFF, Observer Photographer

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is Congressman's immigration bill doomed?


The Democrat's immigration bill is not likely to make it far in the political process, but that may not be the point.

Saying the time for waiting is over, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D -IL) introduced his 600 page bill Tuesday that includes greater enforcement of immigration laws, employment verification, family reunification programs, and a path for legalizing millions of illegal immigrants. He has encouraged his most ardent supporters and millions more who are tired of waiting for congress to fix what President Obama called the country's broken immigration system.

Standing before activists chanting "Si, se puede," Gutierrez said the bill was "pro-family, pro-jobs and pro security."

But as one of the most vocal and well known advocates in the fight for reform, Gutierrez is an easy target for pro-enforcement groups. They're already using the news to build up their own base by painting him as a liberal who has introduced the expected “amnesty bill.”

Frankly, it appears Gutierrez is taking one for the team. He could propose building a 50-foot-wall, but many Americans consider Gutierrez and his supporters out-of-touch with our nation’s laws and ongoing woes with high unemployment. He’s sure to build up his base and win supporters in diverse cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. But it'll be tough to make headway in North Carolina and across middle America.

Gutierrez’s bill already has nearly 90 co-sponsors, but all are Democrats.

He may not have an expectation that his bill will make it that far. But he’s definitely teeing up the debate so immigration is near the top of the political agenda once healthcare is resolved. And he sets the discussion. His bill becomes what future bills introduced will be judged upon.

Keep an eye out on Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who are reportedly nearing completion on a less liberal, bipartisan bill expected to be introduced early next year.

The reality is any bill on such a divisive issue is going to be a tough sell - especially so close to midterm elections. Think back to September and the fury over illegal immigrants that Joe Wilson caused when he yelled those infamous two words, "You Lie."

Photo: AP

Friday, December 11, 2009

ICE fights criticism, reveals Obama's quandary


A top immigration official responded to criticism of a program to remove dangerous illegal immigrants.

John Morton, an assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, wrote in a letter to the New York Times that a new federal fingerprinting program has led to the identification of more than 11,000 arrested illegal immigrants “charged with or convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder.”

His letter was in response to a Times editorial last month calling for immigration reform and saying that it was wrong for Janet Napolitano, President Obama's homeland security secretary, to “boast” about the program known as Secure Communities. (The Mecklenburg County Sheriff will soon be using the program in conjunction with its 287(g) program.) The Times editorial board said Napolitano failed to point out that minor violators were also caught up in a program that is aimed at more serious offenders.

"Laws must be enforced, but doing it this way hurts the innocent, creating a short line from Hispanic to immigrant to illegal to criminal. Having brown skin, speaking Spanish, seeming nervous in the presence of flashing police lights — none of those things say anything about whether you are here illegally or not, are deport able or not. But any one of them can be enough to get you pulled over in jurisdictions across the country” -- The New York Times editorial board.
Obama says he wants a similar form of immigration reform that the Times editorial board calls for. Napolitano and Morton point out that reform is necessary, but not, as Morton wrote, “without also providing smart and effective enforcement tools.”

The back and forth highlights the two public faces Obama is trying to present as he seeks to curry favor with opposing sides of the immigration debate.

To pass any immigration reform bill, Obama needs to convince citizens that 1.) it’s necessary and good for the country to allow law-abiding illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal status and 2.) that the government can actually control the borders and curb immigrant-related crime.

As can be seen by the Times editorial board, it's not going to be easy.

"President Obama has repeatedly assured 12 million illegal immigrants that he will fight to give them the chance to earn the right to stay. His administration should not undermine that noble effort by carelessly lending credibility to the view that the future citizens living and working among us are a class of criminals."

Photos: AP

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cardinal calls for health coverage for illegal immigrants

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is sure to drum up some controversy for saying it makes "no sense to deny" illegal immigrants healthcare.

In an op-ed, published Tuesday in the New York Times, the Cardinal says current health care bills falls short in three areas: the prohibition of federal money for abortions, the inclusion of provisions to ensure affordability, and the defense of immigrants’ rights to healthcare.

But he focuses his concerns on immigrants and what he describes as the “lack of adequate health care for immigrants who live in our midst but who do not yet have legal standing.”

Mahony points out that the Senate bill bars illegal immigrants from using even their own money to buy health insurance in the government-sponsored marketplace. The House bill allows illegal immigrants to purchase health insurance from the government-sponsored program, if they use their own money and receive no federal subsidy.

Both he says, have problems.
"When undocumented immigrants are intentionally excluded from health care coverage, they are forced to go to the only place where they will be accepted for care: trauma centers and emergency rooms — the most expensive health care delivery systems in the country. What a foolish waste of money, particularly in a time of economic stress for everyone. "
"...Using their own money, undocumented immigrants could receive basic health services through less expensive community clinics and doctors’ offices…And by paying into the system, immigrants would make health care less pricey for all by spreading the risks and costs among a larger pool of participants."

Mahony says that at least the House bill allows undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance from the proposed exchange. But he says the Senate bill takes the country in the "opposite direction and needs to be changed."

"How is the health of the entire country helped when the Senate will not even allow immigrants to use their own money to purchase their health insurance?"

Read the full op-ed here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Enforcement advocate drops Dobbs

A N.C. immigration enforcement group has withdrawn its support for Lou Dobbs and suspended its website calling on Dobbs to run for President. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC announced yesterday they're responding to membership angered over Dobb’s about-face on immigration issues.

Once one of the staunchest anti-illegal immigration advocates, the former CNN anchor angered supporters when he told Spanish-language network Telemundo that he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers. He long called these programs an unfair "amnesty."

Dobbs is reportedly considering a run for Senate or possibly even President. He seemed to be trying to change his image as an enemy of Latino immigrants by re-positioning himself as a champion of one of their main causes. Both sides of the debate doubted his sincerity.

"While Mr. Dobbs claims his positions have not changed, however, that is not the perception of many of our mutual supporters," said William Gheen of ALIPAC, which opposes giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. "His recent comments on Telemundo and his national radio show supporting some kind of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is inconsistent with positions of ALIPAC and the views of most American citizens."

ALIPAC officials say they circulated the video of the entire Lou Dobbs interview on Telemundo to over 30,000 national supporters. Gheen said internal polling showed that over 70 percent of the group’s supporters were upset with Dobbs's comments in support of legalizing illegal immigrants. ALIPAC opposes any path to citizenship form of Amnesty for illegal aliens

ALIPAC created the Loudobbsforpresident.org website. The group says it was the first national organization to call on Dobbs to run for President. Gheen was invited on Dobbs show to speak about the effort.

"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," said Gheen. "Lou Dobbs has deeply offended his base of supporters and ALIPAC is going to remain loyal to those Americans who support our existing immigration laws instead of Amnesty disguised as reform."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Salvation Army stops checking SS# for toy drive


The Salvation Army of Houston will no longer require Social Security numbers from those seeking gifts, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"It was never our intention to offend anyone with our registration requirement to provide a Social Security number, or to give the impression that we were discriminating against those individuals and families who do not have a Social Security number," Major Chris Flanagan, Area Commander for The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command, said in a statement.

The paper reported earlier this week that some Houston charities were asking whether children are in the country legally before giving them toys.

The Salvation Army and Outreach Program Inc., which distributes toys collected by the Houston Fire Department, require documents that indicate immigration status — birth certificates, Social Security numbers or other paperwork — to register for their holiday charity programs. Generally, Social Security numbers are only available to those legally residing in the United States.

Both charities have said that although they have asked for such for paperwork, they never intended to discriminate against people based on their immigration status.

Jim Price of the Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte said that while the local chapter must check if residents actually live here in the community, the agency does not check immigration status.

Photo: skippyjon

Some toy drives check immigration status


Some Houston charities are asking whether children are in the country legally before giving them toys.

The Houston Chronicle reports that several programs in the country’s fourth largest city require at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen.

The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among those that request birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children, according to the Chronicle. There are about 400,000 illegal immigrants in greater Houston.

Lorugene Young of Outreach Program Inc., which distributes toys collected by firefighters, said the point isn’t to punish the children but to ensure that their parents are either citizens, legal immigrants, or working to become legal residents.

Immigration activists called the idea of a charity turning away children because of decisions made by their parents “disturbing.”

“Usually, people target the adults because the adults made the decision to migrate, where the children are just brought through no fault of their own,” said Cesar Espinoza, executive director of America for All, a Houston-based advocacy group.

I asked Jim Price of the Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte if they were conducting any similar checks. He said that while the local chapter must check if residents actually live here in the community, the agency does not check immigration status.

Photo: skippyjon

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

'Bad bill of the year'

Voters selected a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to enroll in N.C. community colleges as the year’s worst bill.

The Civitas Institute, a Raleigh-based conservative think tank, hosted the NCAA march madness-style competition. The tournament began with 32 bills that Civitas staff had written about and nominated throughout 2009 as a “Bad Bill of the Week.” More than 10,000 votes were cast throughout the tournament, according to the institute.

State Senate Bill 848 defeated a public financing of municipal campaigns bill by a vote of 63-37. Neither of the two bills passed.

“The voters have spoken and declared SB 848 as this year’s worst bill of the year,” said Francis De Luca, executive director of the Civitas Institute. “SB 848 was able to defeat some really bad pieces of legislation on its way to the title, so it truly earned its victory.”

The bill was introduced in the midst of controversy over whether the state Board of Community Colleges should admit illegal immigrants to the state's 58 community colleges.

In September, the board approved a policy that would admit illegal immigrants provided they pay out-of-state tuition. The policy is expected to be implemented sometime in 2010.

NC Listen, which advocates for stronger immigration enforcement, is lobbying to prevent the policy change from being enacted.

“In the middle of one of the worst recessions in American history, our N.C. Community College Board decides to help illegal immigrants enroll in college when our state unemployment rate is 11 percent and citizens need help with retraining and education” said Ron Woodard, director of NC Listen.

Supporters of the policy say it will only impact a small amount of people and won't take away seats from U.S. citizens.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is Dobbs trying to make nice?

Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs had long been considered one of the most vocal anti-illegal immigration advocates on television and radio.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the former CNN anchor, pondering a run for the Senate or maybe even for President, is trying to wipe away his image as an enemy of Latino immigrants by positioning himself as a champion of the fast-growing ethnic bloc.

In an interview Friday, Dobbs told Spanish-language network Telemundo he now supports a plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers, despite the fact that he long called these programs an unfair "amnesty."

"Whatever you have thought of me in the past, I can tell you right now that I am one of your greatest friends and I mean for us to work together," he said in a live interview with Telemundo's Maria Celeste. "I hope that will begin with Maria and me and Telemundo and other media organizations and others in this national debate that we should turn into a solution rather than a continuing debate and factional contest."

Dobbs mentioned a possible legalization plan for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., saying "we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions."

Advocates on the left and right side of the immigration debate seemed perplexed by the about-face of his stance on the issue.

Frank Sharry, who heads America's Voice, a group that advocates for legalizing undocumented immigrants, told the Journal that Dobbs's conversion isn't credible, given his history of opposing efforts to liberalize immigration policies.

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, which seeks strict border enforcement and opposes legalization, said he admired Mr. Dobbs and will "watch him for several months before drawing a conclusion."

Click here to connect to the Telemundo website where you can see video of the interview in English.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dobbs: Obama's 'Not the devil, but...'


Former CNN newsman Lou Dobbs said Monday that CNN pushed him out the door because its top executives didn’t want to offend President Obama. Dobbs spoke to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, his first interview since suddenly leaving the network.

In his last few years at CNN, Dobbs had became one of the staunchest and most powerful critics of illegal immigration. He told O'Reilly that CNN executives didn’t seem to mind when he lobbed such criticism while George W. Bush was president.

The New York Post reported that CNN gave Dobbs an $8 million severance package. O’Reilly also asked Dobbs if he’d consider running for a New Jersey seat in the U.S. Senate. He didn't rule it out.

"A lot of things are on my mind, I'm not going to be coy about that," Dobbs said. "My wife and I are thinking about a lot of opportunities. I'm very blessed that I have a lot of opportunities. I guarantee you 100 percent I'm going to remain in the public arena."

The two also talked about the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate, reported death threats made to Dobbs, and his family’s concerns about a gunshot fired near his N.J. home.

Then O’Reilly threw out his most pointed question: "Final question, Barack Obama, is he the devil?"

Dobbs didn’t flinch.

"He's not the devil, but he is certainly a man who is right now not making it easy to understand why he's making the public-policy choices that he is."

Next up: Dobbs continues his media tour. Tomorrow, he's scheduled to appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. That should be interesting.

Here is a video clip from the interview from O'Reilly Factor. The actual interview begins at 2:20 minutes.




Photo Credit: Willens/AP

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lou Dobbs headed to FOX...tonight

Lou Dobbs, the controversial former CNN host, is heading to Fox – at least for one night. He’s going to be a guest of Bill O’Reilly tonight at 8 p.m.

The O'Reilly Factor guest appearance is fueling speculation that the outspoken anchor and one of the most powerful critics of illegal immigration will soon be working full time for Fox News or Fox Business.

O'Reilly is bound to ask Dobbs about his future. I wouldn't be surprised if Dobbs breaks news during the show and announces he's joining the network.

Fox News said last week that they had not had any discussions with Dobbs. But The New York Times reported in October that the Fox Business Network was eying Dobbs for a potential position.

Apparently CNN president Jonathan Klein offered a Dobbs a choice, according to the Times: Either vent his opinions on radio and anchor an objective newscast on television OR he could leave CNN. He eventually decided to go.

It’s tough to believe that the widely popular Dobbs will not land on his feet at another network. In his last broadcast, he said only that he was considering “a number of options and directions.”

Dobbs’s show drew an average of 631,000 viewers in October, putting him in third place behind Fox News and MSNBC.


(AP Photo/CNN, Mark Hill, File) (AP Photo/Jim Copper)

Friday, November 6, 2009

World Series MVP is an immigrant


Hideki Matsui of Kanazawa, Japan was awarded the MVP trophy Wednesday following the Yankees’ 7-3 Game 6 World Series victory over the Phillies. He was one of six immigrants on the field, not to mention other players who were the children of immigrants.

Watching the baseball game on TV, I couldn't help but notice many of the last names of the batters coming to the plate - Ruiz and Cano - and the pitchers on the mound - Martinez and Rivera. It was cool seeing Dominicans and Panamanians in the big game.

It’s been a great week for immigrants in sports. Meb Keflezighi, the Eritrean born runner, pointed at the U.S.A. emblazoned on his shirt as he crossed the finish line to win the New York City Marathon.

To be clear, this is not a post about illegal immigration. These athletes are all in the country legally.
But in today’s political climate, and on this blog, the debate can lump all immigrants together.

Legal immigrants here sometimes tell me they feel they have to defend their heritages because so many believe Latino and illegal are synonymous. So it’s nice sometimes to be reminded there are all sorts of immigrants in this country: athletes, musicians, judges, and politicians.

And, in the midst of the angry rhetoric, their contributions can be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Think it's tough in Charlotte?



In Dallas, police write $204 traffic tickets to drivers who don't speak English.

Thirty- eight motorists, all Hispanic, have been cited for not speaking English since 2007, according to the Dallas Morning News. It’s not a crime, but at least 20 Dallas police officers must have thought it was since they wrote tickets. Most cases were dismissed, but at least one person paid the fine.

The issue came to light last week when a woman told the news media she was cited for being a "non-English-speaking driver," among other offenses, during an Oct. 2 traffic stop, according to the paper. Police officials initially said the trainee officer who ticketed Ernestina Mondragon, 48, a native Spanish speaker and U.S. resident, had made an isolated rookie mistake.

Nope.

On Friday, Police Chief David Kunkle announced that officials had discovered dozens of other cases in which officers cited motorists for not speaking English. Kunkle apologized, promised an investigation and said that pending charges would be dropped and that those who paid fines for the charge would be reimbursed.

Not surprisingly, Hispanic leaders are calling for a deeper investigation of possible racial profiling. Police say they plan to look back several more years and include the supervisors who signed off on the tickets in the investigation for possible dereliction of duty.

No doubt, this issue is going to raise even more questions about the how local law enforcement should deal with immigrants. A New York Times editorial yesterday noted that on one side of the argument are the Obama administration and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who believe in outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police departments. On the other side are the ranks of police chiefs around the country who argue there is no good reason for turning cops into immigration agents. The Times agreed, but for entirely different reasons.

Such efforts up to now "have been marred by poor training, racial profiling and other abuses -- and widespread fear in the communities that the police are sworn to protect,” the editorial board wrote. “If there is any remaining doubt, just take a look at what happened in Dallas.”

AP Photo: Ernestina Mondragon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

LA police chief for reform; not 287(g)


Chief William Bratton says passing immigration reform will make "every American neighborhood much safer."

Bratton, one of the most well-known police chiefs in the country, writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed this morning that he opposes the federal 287(g) program that allows local law enforcement to double as federal immigration agents. He says the program stops immigrants from reporting crimes for fear of being deported.

It’s an interesting move for the outgoing police chief to insert himself into such a controversial debate. He will take some heat for his stance. Bratton, also the former police chief in Boston and New York, has never shied away from the spotlight. He once considered politics in New York, but he told LA Weekly this spring that he wasn't planning to run for office. He has since put his $1.8 million home up for sale and may be moving to Great Britain for a job at Scotland Yard, according to the Times.

He certainly picked a good time for making a big splash. The immigration debate is only expected to pick up as the White House prepares its strategy to pass comprehensive immigration reform next year.

In his column, Bratton also responds to queries about why he didn’t join 287(g) like many other law enforcement agencies. He says the program damages the trust police have with immigrants.

The 287(g) program is run in Charlotte. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff was one of the first to join the program back in 2006. Critics say the program is more often used to nab minor offenders, but it should be noted that the Mecklenburg program is operated in the jail and deputies are not out searching for illegal immigrants – as is the case in some other major cities.

“We must pass immigration reform and bring our neighbors out of the shadows so they get the police service they need and deserve,” Bratton says. “When officers can speak freely with victims and witnesses, it goes a long way toward making every American neighborhood much safer.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

ESPN needs work on Latino stereotypes


An ESPN announcer is apologizing after joking that Colombian-born NASCAR racer Juan Pablo Montoya was "out having a taco."

During a promo for NASCAR that highlighted the top five drivers, ESPN analyst Bob Griese responded to Chris Spielman's query, "Where's Juan Pablo Montoya?"

"He's out having a taco," said Griese.

A taco? A taco?

As Seth Meyers would say on “Saturday Night Live, “Really? Really?!”

Why couldn’t he have said an empanada? Or Ajiaco stew?

Not many tacos in Colombia. I guess some people may have not gotten the intent of the joke, but I think we should raise the bar a little bit on the humor scale. There are plenty of other ways to poke fun at Colombian stereotypes that you don’t have to go steal them from other countries.

Griese later apologized.

Montoya didn’t think twice about the comment. He played along.

"I don't really care, to tell you the truth," Montoya said. "Yeah, I don't. I could say I spent the last three hours eating tacos, but I was actually driving a car. But that's OK, I don't care."

I’m sure he’s heard much worse and will continue to do so.

Update: Griese has been suspended for one game for the remark towards Montoya, network officials confirmed Monday. Click here for the story.


(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

'Illegal Alien' costume goes viral



By now, you've probably seen one of the many stories about the controversial 'illegal alien' costume that has drawn the ire of immigrant rights groups. The story has been covered in most major news outlets, including the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, among others.

The costume is an orange jumpsuit with the words "ILLEGAL ALIEN" on the front, a space alien mask and a plastic green card. There is also an alternative mask of a space alien with a droopy black mustache.

Target was one of many retailers that pulled the costume from its website and apologized following complaints. The NC-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, which advocates for greater immigration enforcement, meanwhile called on supporters to go out and buy the costume as a statement to “stand up to censorship.”

Richard Zagone, a Chicago mask designer, told USA Today he was trying to be ironic when he and his brother came up with the idea. Little did he know the stir he’d create when people started complaining about the costumes being sold on major retailer websites like Walgreens, Amazon and others.

Most quit selling the costume after complaints by groups such as Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, whose director called the costume "distasteful, mean-spirited, and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform."

Joshua Thomas, a spokesman for Target, told the Associated Press, that the stores never intended to sell the outfit but included it in its online offerings by mistake, he said.

William Gheen, executive of ALIPAC, put a costume on eBay, according to USA Today. Bids went to $116 before eBay pulled it.

"This is a spooky Halloween because, apparently, I no longer live in a country of free markets, free speech or free political expression," Gheen said.

You can still pick up the costume in Charlotte. According to Fox Charlotte, Morris Costumes on Monroe Road has seen a surge of sales of the costume since controversy spread.

Owner Philip Morris told Fox he hasn’t had any negative feedback yet and continues to sell the illegal alien gear.

"It's all in a sense of humor, we're looking at our own selves and laughing," Morris said.



(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Charlotteans featured in 'Latino in America' series

Bill and Betty Garcia are part of CNN's two day, four-hour documentary that debuts tonight and runs through tomorrow.

‘Garcia’ now ranks among the top 10 among last names in America.

Bill, former executive director of the International House, is Puerto Rican and Betty is Dominican. They moved from their Latino neighborhoods in New York to Charlotte 15 years ago for more affordable living and escape the grind of big city life.

But now they worry they made a wrong decision. They fear by living in Charlotte their sons are not getting the same Latino experience they had growing up in New York.

The show starts at 9 p.m. Click here to see excerpts from the Garcia's interviews.

Photo: CNN

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charlotte painter named Latino of Year


Charlotte painter Edwin Gil joins Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and NASA Astronaut José Hernández as national Latinos of the Year.

Gil was among a list of Latino politicians, journalists, engineers, chefs, and artists honored by the Spanish language wire service EFE for their success and contributions to the Latino community this year.

Gil, one of the most well known Latino artists in Charlotte, has gained national and international notoriety for his work on a 70- by 30- foot mural aimed at uniting displaced Colombians living around the world. Using the colors of the Colombian flag, more than 8,000 Colombians have put their hand prints on the mural in a sign of unity. Gil himself is a displaced Colombian. He moved to North Carolina after he was kidnapped at gun point in Medellin, Colombia and spent the night locked in the trunk of a car. That experience changed his life, led him to leave his home country, and later become a painter. At a ceremony in Boston this summer, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe met with Gil to present him with a national award.

In August, Sotomayor became the first Latina named to the Supreme Court. Astronaut Hernández is a former migrant worker who last month returned from a two-week space mission aboard shuttle Discovery to make repairs to the International Space Station. He later took a rare public stand for a U.S. astronaut when he said the country needs to give illegal immigrants a path to legalization.

Photo: DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Congressman outlines plan for immigration reform


U.S. Congressman Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, presented his vision for a new comprehensive immigration reform bill Tuesday at a rally on the west lawn of the United States Capitol.

He spoke in front of thousands of immigrants who came to the capitol to calling for comprehensive immigration reform. He plans to introduce a full bill in the coming weeks.

His proposal focuses on a path to legalization for illegal immigrants, but also includes proposals for protecting immigrant workers, better employee verification systems, and stronger border enforcement.

“We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you, but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship,” Gutierrez said. “We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our work force by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows.”

Critics say Gutierrez’s proposal amounts to an amnesty proposal for those who broke American laws.

"Amnesty sends a message that you’re a sucker to play by the rules," said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which promotes stronger immigration enforcement, according to the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Congressman Gutierrez released on his website the following outline of the core principles that he will use in his reform bill:

– Pathway to legalization for illegal immigrants
– Effective border enforcement
– Humane interior enforcement
– Protecting immigrant workers
– Stronger verification systems
– Family unification
– Updated visa system
– Agriculture jobs
– Access to college for undocumented students

Photo: Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., speaks at a rally for immigration reform on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Commissioner's request for investigation of undocumented students denied

The Mecklenburg County attorney will not investigate whether the county is vulnerable to a lawsuit for subsidizing the education of illegal immigrants at Central Piedmont Community College unless directed by the full board of commissioners, County Manager Harry Jones said today.

That is not likely to happen.

And in response to a request from Commissioner Bill James, commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts stated in an e-mail that she did not plan to seek an opinion from the Department of Homeland Security on this issue.

“In addition, since out of state tuition is greater than the per pupil cost of educating students at CPCC, those few undocumented immigrants who might be able to afford it will be subsidizing the education of other students,” she wrote.

We reported last week that James wants illegal immigrants to pay an additional county fee to attend CPCC. He said he’s concerned the county may otherwise be vulnerable to lawsuit based on a federal statute that prohibits illegal immigrants from being eligible "for any State or local public benefit."

The county gave CPCC $41 million for operational and construction budgets. Last month, the State Board of Community Colleges approved a new policy that will allow illegal immigrants to attend any of North Carolina's 58 community colleges, provided they graduate from a U.S. high school, pay the higher out-of-state tuition, and do not displace legal residents from classes. The new policy won't take effect until next academic year, at the soonest, pending administrative review.

James argues the state gets around the “public benefits” liability question because illegal immigrants will be required to pay ‘out-of-state’ tuition, which exceeds the cost to the state and therefore is not a subsidy.

But, James says, unlike the state, the county doesn’t require repayment via tuition. He says unless CPCC charges illegal immigrants for that subsidy the county would be breaking the law.

James accused Roberts of “taking an ostrich approach of ‘don’t ask as we don’t want to know,’” but that he did not plan to force the issue by putting it on the commission agenda.

“I think this is not the best approach because it will create animosity and bring out folks on both sides, something that can’t accomplish much except ratchet up tension on an issue that already has way too much,” James wrote in an email.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Commissioner: undocumented students need to pay county

Commissioner Bill James wants illegal immigrants to pay a county fee to attend Central Piedmont Community College. Otherwise, he says, the county may be vulnerable to a lawsuit for subsidizing the education of illegal immigrants at the state's largest community college.

He has sent a request to lawyers for the county and CPCC asking how they legally justify spending $41 million of county money (for operational and construction budgets) at a college that expects to admit illegal immigrants once a new policy is implemented.

This is kind of complicated. So stick with me.

Last month, the State Board of Community Colleges approved a new policy that will allow illegal immigrants to attend any of North Carolina's 58 community colleges, provided they graduate from a U.S. high school, pay the higher out-of-state tuition, and do not displace legal residents from classes.

James cites a federal statute that prohibits illegal immigrants from being eligible "for any State or local public benefit." The statute was the basis of an attorney general recommendation in May 2008 to stop enrolling illegal immigrants, which the community college system did. The attorney general’s office later reversed its opinion.

James argues the state gets around the “public benefits” liability question because illegal immigrants will be required to pay ‘out-of-state’ tuition, which exceeds the cost to the state and therefore is not a subsidy.

But, James says, unlike the state, the county doesn’t require repayment via tuition. He says unless CPCC charges illegal immigrants for that subsidy the county would be breaking the law.
“The county receives nothing from students, so anything we give to CPCC to subsidize ‘post-secondary education’ that benefits illegals is illegal,” he said.

In response to James concerns, Q. Shanté Martin, general counsel for N.C. Community College System responded in emails that, after further reviewing the laws, the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General found ‘that admitting illegal immigrants into public postsecondary institutions is not a violation of federal law.’

The attorney added:

"For a legal analysis specifically addressing any potential legal liability local counties may incur as a result of providing funding to colleges that admit illegal immigrants, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners may want to seek a legal analysis from the Department of Homeland Security since the federal government is responsible for providing an authoritative interpretation of federal law."

James said he does not want to cut support to CPCC, but wants the school to track undocumented students and require them to pay a fee to reimburse CPCC and the county for the local subsidy.

The decision to admit undocumented students is not expected to cause an enrollment rush. Before last year, when many campuses admitted students regardless of immigration status, about 110 of the state’s 800,000-plus community college students were in the country illegally. CPCC says it had 19 undocumented students. Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory had fewer than five. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College had one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

'America's Toughest Sheriff' loses immigration powers


Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced Tuesday that the federal government had stripped his office of its authority to patrol for illegal immigrants.

Immigration news doesn’t get much bigger than Sheriff Arpaio. The Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff is the most well known sheriff in the immigration debate. He’s famous for his hard-line, no apologies approach.

He makes inmates wear pink. He kept many illegal immigrants in a segregated enclosure known as Tent City where temperatures were so high that groups accused him of human rights violations.

He is a hero of the right and a villain to the left.

Arpaio says he’s not giving up. He plans to use continue his controversial “crime suppression operations,” despite DHS’s decision to not renew an agreement that would allow the sheriff to continue immigration enforcement on the streets, according to the East Valley Tribune.

“It’s all politics,” said Arpaio, who spent much of an afternoon news conference Tuesday wagging his finger, waving his arms and snarling at reporters.

The department of Justice and other federal agencies are investigating the sheriff’s office on accusations of racial profiling during the operations, the paper says.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, with some 160 federally trained deputies, is the largest in the program and the most closely scrutinized by people on all sides of the immigration debate, according to the New York Times.

Arpaio said the vast majority of the 33,000 arrests of illegal immigrants his office has made in the past two years under the agreement followed a check on the immigration status of people in jails. About 300 have been arrested in the field during “crime suppression” operations, he said.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Friday, October 2, 2009

HUMAN TRAFFICKING VIDEO


We reported today on the growth of human trafficking in the region. In response to the growth, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is creating a team of agents in Charlotte to focus on human trafficking, smuggling and exploitation issues. Here is a video agents put together on the issue and what people can do to help.


HUMAN TRAFFICKING VIDEO

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obama's choice words carry great weight


Having declared "words matter," President Barack Obama's has drummed up quite a bit of attention in the blogosphere over his use of the term "illegal immigrant" during his speech to Congress earlier this month. The president strayed from using "undocumented immigrant" as he usually does, drawing the attention of immigrant advocates.

Groups such as Immigration Impact and Latina Lista are asking whether the subtle shift in language represents a change in commitment.

Jorge Ramos of Univision asked the president about his use of terminology during Obama's Sept. 20 media blitz.

Jorge Ramos: Now, in your speech to Congress you used the words “illegal immigrants.” However, and I remember very clearly, during the campaign you were very careful to use the words “undocumented immigrants”. Why the change? You said words matter. Now, why do you choose to use the language that is being used by ... those who criticize immigrants.

President Obama: Well, keep in mind what I was addressing. I was addressing misinformation by the other side that was engaging in scare tactics. So I was essentially quoting them. I was saying, “for those of you who are saying that illegal immigrants are going to be covered under this plan,” I said that’s not true. Right? So I’m using their language because I was addressing the misinformation that they are providing. And I was speaking directly to an audience, the American people, who because of this misinformation, I think actually were very responding oftentimes in a negative way.
-- (Translated transcript courtesy of Immigration Impact.)

Frankly, President Obama is in a no-win situation. Words like illegal immigrant and undocumented immigrant carry quite a bit of political baggage. And as we in the newspaper business have learned, whatever term he uses will be used against him by one side or the other.

It'll be interesting to watch how he addresses those in the country illegally from now on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

State board: Admit undocumented students

Read what the college board had to say today.

The State Board of Community Colleges approved a new admissions policy that would allow illegal immigrants to attend North Carolina community colleges. The board voted 16 to 1 in favor of the new policy.

To be admitted illegal immigrants must meet the following requirements:
  1. Must be a graduate of a U.S. high school
  2. Must pay out-of-state tuition, totaling $4,400 per academic year.
  3. May not displace a North Carolina or U.S. resident from a class or program
Click here to read what the college board had to say.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Community colleges panel says admit illegal immigrants

A committee of the state Board of Community Colleges this afternoon approved a policy that would admit illegal immigrants to the state's 58 community colleges, according to our partners in Raleigh, the News & Observer.

The full board will vote on the measure Friday.

We reported yesterday that community board members were expected to vote on a new policy that would admit undocumented immigrants and require them to pay higher out-of-state tuition rates. The policy also stipulates that U.S. residents would be given priority for admission when classrooms are full.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Community colleges to admit illegal immigrants?

Conservative groups are planning protests of Thursday's state community college board meeting where members are expected to discuss whether to let illegal immigrants attend their schools.

Leaders are expected to vote Friday on a new policy that would admit undocumented immigrants and require them to pay out-of-state tuition rates. The policy also stipulates that U.S. residents would be given priority for admission when classrooms are full.

During last year’s election campaign, the board stopped a longtime practice of allowing illegal immigrants to enroll at its 58 campuses at out-of-state tuition rates. It did so on the advice from the attorney general's office. The office later reversed its opinion, but the board decided to halt any additional action until it could review its policy.

The review, conducted by the consulting firm JBL Associates, concluded there would be no public subsidy of undocumented students who pay out-of-state rates. The report found that illegal immigrants paying out-of-state rates would pay an average of $1,680 more than the costs to the taxpayer of providing the educational opportunity.

Supporters say community colleges were created to give an education to anyone who wanted to learn and that these students, many brought to the country as young children, shouldn't be punished for their parents actions.

William Gheen, head of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said several groups who believe illegal immigrants should not be allowed in public colleges are planning a protest at the Raleigh meeting.

"Since people will not be allowed to speak at this meeting, we are protesting outside," Gheen said. "Important decisions like these should be left to state and federal elected officials, not appointed bureaucrats. This board voting to allow illegal aliens access to our community colleges is against the wishes of a vast majority of NC citizens and is depriving us all of a voice and representation."

Photo: Charlotte students Laura, born in Mexico and Ed, born in El Salvador, were crushed when they found out last year that CPCC and other N.C. community colleges would no longer accept undocumented immigrants. DANA ROMANOFF - dromanoff@charlotteobserver.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson's war




If you didn't know Joe Wilson before, you probably do now.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is the talk of the nation today after yelling "You Lie" at President Barack Obama during his speech to congress last night. Wilson was responding to the president’s statement that illegal immigrants will not receive coverage under the proposed healthcare plan.

The S.C. Republican is getting reviled on the left. The reactions on the right vary from withering criticism to high fives. One conservative blogger questioned why "Joe Wilson didn’t throw a shoe at Obama."

Wilson apologized for letting “my emotions get the best of me,” but said he disagreed with the president’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the healthcare bill.

Democrats and some Republicans took the congressman to task for disrespecting the President while speaking in the hallowed halls of Congress.

"I've never seen anything like that before," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., "We do not invite the president of the United States into the House of Representatives and hurl insults."

Wilson's website crashed last night. At 11:30 a.m. this morning, it was still down from excessive traffic.

Conservative bloggers have hailed Wilson as a hero, calling on supporters to send him thank you notes, money, and push their representatives to act more like him.

“President Obama tried to lie to the whole nation tonight and a brave Congressman by the name of Joe Wilson called him on it,” Alipac wrote on its website.

Conservatives continue to raise questions about whether illegal immigrants could benefit from healthcare reform. The House version of the bill prohibits spending federal money to help illegal immigrants get coverage. They would likely be able to continue to receive emergency room treatment as they do now.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Controlling illegal immigration: What a state can do


A new report says states – the "laboratories of democracy" – must do more to help the federal government combat illegal immigration.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found that states and localities can take more actions to control their jurisdictions. Congress should help them, not by legalizing immigrants here without authorization, but by amending the statutory provisions that limit the actions they can take and by increasing the legal avenues for foreigners to come to the United States to work.

"The only way to end or significantly slow illegal immigration in America is to create a mosaic of laws across the country that increase the cost of illegal immigration to a point that the supply dwindles to a trickle as the demand is filled by legal workers."

Read the report here.


The Heritage report says the federal government can’t combat illegal immigration alone. Six thousand U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are not enough to address the 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be in the United States.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can immigration enforcement protect workers?


A new report raises concerns of exploitation of Latino workers by egregious employers taking advantage of our broken immigration system.

The report was conducted by the immigrant rights advocacy group National Council of La Raza and cites data from academic studies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census and others. It finds, among other things, that the Latino occupation fatality rate was 21.1 percent higher than white workers and 17.9 percent higher than black workers in 2007.

You can read the NCLR study here.

We touched on some of these same findings in our series, Cruelest Cuts, and how the poultry industry ignored injured workers at its plants to help boost profits. Many of the victims were illegal immigrants too afraid to complain.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that the NCLR is a staunch advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. So it should come as no surprise that the group maintains that many of these problems would not be as great if many of these workers could be legalized and therefore unfraid to join unions built to protect them, and feel safe to speak out against exploitation.

It’s an argument many advocates are making.

But there is also an argument that increased enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws would produce similar results.

In January 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Smithfield Pork plant in Tarheel. Months later ICE followed up with additional arrests of workers and many others fled.

According to a report by the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies, written by former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jerry Kammer, the raid turned out to be a key factor in the December 2008 vote to unionize the plant.

You can read the CIS study here.

Similar working conditions criticized by the NCLR study had been being reported for years at the Tarheel plant, the world’s largest pork plant. Yet, for 16 years, organizers were unsuccessful in starting a union.

Unions are not the savior, however. Some of the plants we reported on in Cruelest Cuts are also unionized. In plants with many illegal immigrant workers, union membership is down and therefore so is the union's influence and ability to demand better working conditions.

Advocates like NCLR, as well as many economists, say America needs more additional immigrant workers. But that argument is going to be difficult to make in today's economy with so many Americans out of work.

Photo: JOHN D. SIMMONS - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Massachusetts cuts health care for legal immigrants


Here's a twist.

Gov. Deval Patrick stepped right over the controversy of offering healthcare to illegal immigrants and announced Massachusetts was cutting back state-subsidized health insurance for 31,000 legal immigrants.

The governor announced that legal immigrants would no longer receive coverage for dental, hospice or skilled nursing under the new plan. In a conference call with reporters, Patrick said his administration struggled to find a solution “that preserves the promise of health care reform” after the state legislature cut most of the $130 million it had previously allotted to immigrant health care, to help close a budget deficit, according to the New York Times.


Photo: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick speaks to reporters at the Statehouse in Boston.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Immigrant rights groups honor Ted Kennedy


I've been getting a lot of email messages from advocates who have been expressing their sadness over the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

We reported today about his mixed reputation in the South. Liberals loved him for championing education, health care and civil rights. Conservatives saw him as the definition of liberalism, big government and an advocate for entitlement programs.

Among immigrant rights’ groups, he was a national hero.

Here are excerpts from what they had to say:

If your American family began its journey in this country with the arrival in the last four decades of a single refugee or immigrant striving for a better life, you owe a special debt of gratitude to Senator Kennedy. The way to give back is to personally commit yourself to fighting for the justice, civil rights, and basic American decency that Senator Kennedy fought for throughout his life.
- Rich Stolz, Campaign Manager for the Reform Immigration for America campaign.
The great-grandson of eight immigrants to America, the brother of two of America's most visionary leaders on fighting for a fair and just immigration system, Senator Kennedy was in his own right the architect of the modern struggle to honor America's legacy as nation built by, populated by, and defined by immigrants from around the world.
--Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.
Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly for the past five decades to make the U.S. immigration system one that is color-blind, more just, and a safe haven for people fleeing persecution and upheaval around the world. In so doing, Senator Kennedy helped change the character of the immigration system, and indeed the country, bringing the United States a step closer to its founding ideals of fairness and opportunity for all.
-- Doris Meissner, who heads Migration Policy Institute’s U.S. Immigration Policy Program and served as INS Commissioner during the Clinton administration.