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.