Saturday, May 30, 2009

Dream Act: Pros and Cons

The Dream Act is one of those most controversial issues in the immigration debate.

With Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust recently endorsing the Dream Act, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to hear from some of the leading minds on both sides of the debate.

Some of you probably read the New York Times’ recent series on immigration “Remade in America.” If you haven’t, you should consider checking it out.

I’m going to point you toward a sidebar to the series: The editors’ running commentary that posted online.

In one of the discussions, the editors invited three immigration specialists to weigh in on the Dream Act, which many of you know would give some young illegal immigrants a chance to become permanent residents if they join the military or attend college.

You can read their full statements here. I'm including a boiled down version of what I found most interesting.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stronger immigration enforcement.

The issue is what to do about illegal aliens who were brought here as children and have grown up here. They made no decision to leave their native land and break another nation’s laws. And yet this may be the only country they’ve ever known.

Amnesty advocates use the predicament of such people (many of them adults at this point) to try to engineer a broad legalization of illegal immigrants. This, in fact, is the strategic purpose of bill, which would give amnesty to certain illegal immigrants brought here before age 16. Though its scope is not nearly as narrow as advocates would have you believe, it is nevertheless a targeted amnesty. But it is one designed to politically leverage the dilemma of the most sympathetic group of illegals into a more general amnesty.

A legislative package that might actually make sense would have a rigorous legalization process for longtime residents brought here illegally as children (unlike the Dream Act, which is so lax as to virtually guarantee massive fraud). To compensate for such an amnesty, and to ensure its finality, the package must also permanently end chain migration and turn off the magnet of jobs for illegal immigrants.

Tamar Jacoby is president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a federation of employers seeking an overhaul of immigration law.

…. Our fear and misplaced moralism are blinding us to our own interests.

Immigrants are assimilating, and we ought to reward them for it. The kids who would be covered under the Dream Act have mastered English. They’ve graduated from high school, often in families and neighborhoods where that’s difficult and discouraged. They’ve learned enough about America not just to fit in, but to succeed here. And many are willing to risk their lives for their new country.

But millions of newcomers, legal and illegal, are taking similar steps — although we do virtually nothing to help or encourage them. On the contrary, if they entered the country illegally — responding to our mixed signals, half-forbidding but half-inviting them to come do work we need done – we bar them from the very steps we say we want most from them: moving up the socioeconomic ladder and becoming fully participating members of society.

Photo: Paulina is a top student at her Charlotte High School. She wants to attend either UNC or Harvard. She recently visited Washington D.C. to lobby for the Dream Act. DAVID T. FOSTER

Friday, May 29, 2009

Harvard president supports college for illegal immigrants

The president of Harvard University caused a stir last week when she pledged support for a federal bill that would provide legal residency to some illegal immigrant students.

The Boston Globe reports that President Drew Gilpin Faust’s backing of the Dream Act surprised students and drew criticism from opponents of the act.

In a letter to federal lawmakers, Faust called the legislation a "life line" for some students. The legislation would allow young illegal immigrants a path to legal residency if they attend two years of college or military service. She acknowledged that students with "immigration status issues" attend Harvard.

Last year in North Carolina, the board of the state’s two-year college system stopped a longtime practice of allowing illegal immigrants to enroll at 58 campuses under out-of-state tuition rates.
In a preliminary report, a board consultant said the state could profit from admitting undocumented students because they would pay $1,650 more in tuition than it costs to allow them to attend.

Faust is the latest leader to pledge support for the controversial bill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently told Congress she supports the bill. Last month, the College Board, made up of more than 5,000 colleges and universities, announced its backing of the legislation.

"I believe it is in our best interest to educate all students to their full potential - it vastly improves their lives and grows our communities and economy," Faust wrote in a letter to members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who support the bill.

Opponents of the legislation, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said Harvard should not admit illegal immigrants because they displace students here legally.

"Maybe the elites at Harvard should come down from their ivory tower and get some ground perspective on what kind of cost and competition that legal U.S. residents are actually incurring these days," said Bob Dane, spokesman for FAIR.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Senator: No health insurance for illegal immigrants

Congress is drafting a major health overhaul that would cover nearly everyone, but not illegal immigrants.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee, told reporters last week that covering undocumented workers is “too politically explosive."

The finance committee is drafting the sweeping legislation that would cover up to 96 percent of the population. The legislation is expects to be introduce by mid-June.

Baucus told the Associated Press that his bill would build on the current system in which employers, government and individuals share in paying health care costs. It's likely to include a requirement that individuals get insurance coverage, either through an employer, a government plan or on their own. He said the plan will include "incentives" - and perhaps requirements - for employers to help pay.

Even though illegal immigrants won't be able to get benefits under the legislation, they can still get health care at hospital emergency rooms and through federally funded community health centers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sotomayor: Appeals court where "policy is made"

Questions about a statement the high court nominee made at a Duke forum may be the first test she needs to overcome before getting confirmed.

Thanks to our friends at the News & Observer for this tip.

Critics say this statement she made at 2005 forum while explaining the difference between district and appeals court justices shows she'll be a judge who legislates from the bench.

“All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is – Court of Appeals is where policy is made,” she said. “And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't ‘make law,' I know.”

The audience laughed.

“OK, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know,” she said to more laughter.

“Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating. It's interpretation, it's application.”

She is not without her defenders. The former Duke University law professor, who moderated the forum, has already dismissed criticisms over the remark.

“Judge Sotomayor's comment was innocuous and true,” Erwin Chemerinsky, now dean of the University of California-Irvine law school, wrote in an e-mail to The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

“Appellate judges and Supreme Court justices must make choices about the law that include consideration of policy issues. Every first-year law student knows this. I am amazed that anyone is making anything of this comment.”

In a blog post for the New Republic, Chemerinsky writes Sotomayor would be “terrific for the Supreme Court and the future of constitutional law.”
“As a woman, a Latina, a person who has faced a lifelong serious illness (diabetes), and a person who grew up in modest circumstances, Sotomayor brings experiences that are unrepresented or largely absent from the current court. These certainly will influence her rulings and they also may help in the most important task for a Democratic appointee on the current court: persuading Justice Anthony Kennedy, the key swing justice on almost every closely divided issue. Sotomayor's background, as well as her intellect and experience, make her ideally suited for this role.”

Karl Rove on the Sotomayor pick

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mexican Census: Fewer Mexicans migrating north

Much attention is being given to a report about census data out of Mexico revealing a decline in Mexican migration to the United States. The data appears back up what many U.S. experts – and the Observer -- have been saying for months that the bad economy is slowing the flow of illegal immigration.

The New York Times reports that Mexican data show that immigration from Mexico to other countries declined by 25 percent in the year that ended in August 2008 from the preceding year. Some 226,000 fewer people immigrated from Mexico. Most come to the United States.

As with their American counterparts, Mexican researchers say the decline is largely a result of the lack of jobs in the ailing American economy.

"If jobs are available, people come," Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, told the paper. “If jobs are not available, people don't come."

Other researchers argue the drop in crossings from Mexico proves that tough law enforcement at the border and in American workplaces can help reduce illegal immigration.

"The latest evidence suggests that you can reverse the flow," says Steven A. Camarota, a demographer at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stronger enforcement of immigration laws. "It is not set in stone, so with some mix of enforcement and the economy, fewer will come and more will go home."

Photo: NEWS & OBSERVER staff/Ted Richardson.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Taco truck flap unfair to east Charlotte?

Ed Garber doesn't like what the taco truck controversy is doing to his neighborhood.

The chairman of the Eastside Political Action Committee says allegations are off base that the clampdown on the taco trucks operating on Central Avenue is a form of ethnic discrimination.

Garber, a longtime Eastside resident who graduated from Garinger High, called me yesterday concerned about a story I posted about similar efforts to reduce the number of taco trucks in Los Angeles, Houston, and Des Moines.

In a Los Angeles Times story, UC Davis law professor Kevin Johnson said the fight against taco trucks in Charlotte and Des Moines is another way to express anti-immigrant views.

Garber says that’s not true and wrongly makes Eastsiders out to look like racists. He said the working class community has long been diverse, made up of African Americans, whites, and Hispanics who have lived together peacefully for years. The only thing people in East Charlotte hate, he says, "is an unproductive person."

And he says the taco truck controversy fails to recognize all the work neighbors have done to highlight local diversity. He noted the popular Taste of the World tour, which showcases area Latino, Asian, African, and Greek restaurants.

"It’s not an ethnic thing," he said. "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."

Garber said the clampdown on mobile food vendors is really about enforcing existing laws and protecting established businesses -- some owned by Latinos -- that were losing customers because mobile food vendors didn’t follow city rules.

He stressed the 9 p.m. curfew, which many taco truck owners find egregious, was already in existence but not strictly enforced.

Another new ordinance though requires mobile food vendors to stay 400 feet from each other and from residential neighborhoods, eliminating most of the sites where trucks can park on Central Avenue.

Photos: Yalonda James/The Charlotte Observer, Ed Garber, and Gary O'Brien/The Charlotte Observer

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Charlotte taco troubles get attention in L.A.

Charlotte is not the only community cracking down on taco trucks. Similar efforts have taken hold in Los Angeles, Houston, Des Moines, and Hillsboro, Ore.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that as the Latino community has grown in the United States, so have the number of taco trucks catering to them.

We reported in March that dozens of taco trucks in Charlotte have shut down since the city passed an ordinance curtailing hours and where they operate.

Read the Observer story here.

In the LA Times story, Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis law school and a professor of law and Chicano studies, says the fight against taco trucks in Charlotte and Des Moines is another way to express anti-immigrant views.

"It's hard for me to see how this whole taco truck controversy is separate and apart from the continuing clash of cultures in the U.S.," Johnson told the paper.

Here is an excerpt about Charlotte from the LA Times story:
In Charlotte, which has a fast-growing Latino population, residents complained last year that taco trucks were camping out in office parking lots past midnight, bringing crowds and crime to nearby neighborhoods.

"They were transitioning from a place for food to a place for folks to congregate," said John Lassiter, an at-large city councilman. "A lot of these neighborhoods are older, struggling with the changing demographic, so they perceive the taco truck and the related use as negatively impacting their quality of life and potentially impacting the value of their primary asset, which is their house."

The City Council responded by passing an ordinance forcing taco trucks to shut down at 9 p.m. and ensuring that several of them could not gather in the same parking lot.

Photos: DIEDRA LAIRD/Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Did Census aid Japanese-American internment?

A Latino Christian group calling on illegal immigrants to boycott the Census charges the agency with giving information to American surveillance agencies during World War II to identify people of Japanese ancestry.

It’s one of the more controversial accusations being made by the D.C.-based National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, which represents about 16,000 churches.

Read the Observer's story about the boycott, here.

Miguel Rivera, president of the organization, says the Census’s promises of confidentiality should not be trusted. He cites a Fordham University study that reports the Census bureau gave a list of everyone with Japanese ancestry to the Treasury Department in 1943.

According to William Seltzer, a senior research scholar in Fordham’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the data from the 1940 census, collected under a pledge of confidentiality, was handed over in seven days. Researchers say the bureau also disclosed information about others to the FBI as well as information about businesses and organizations to war planning agencies, such as the Office of Emergency Management.

Whether the Census provided information on Japanese Americans during World War II has been a highly contested matter for decades, Seltzer says. The controversy was reignited in 2004 when it was reported that the Census Bureau had provided zip-code data from the 2000 census about Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security.

Census spokesman Raul Cisneros acknowledged to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the Second War Powers Act in 1942 did authorize the Department of Commerce to make certain information available for the purposes of national defense. But he said those laws have been changed.

“Current law . . . explicitly forbids the Census Bureau from disclosing information," he said. "With regards to claims that the government used information to target Arab groups after 9/11, this particular situation involved disclosing information that was already fully available to the public.”

We’re not sure the fact that the Census pulled all that public information together and then handed it over eases anybody’s anxiety.

What do you think?

Photo: AP

Monday, May 18, 2009

S.C. can't afford immigration hotline

A planned hotline to accept complaints about illegal immigrants hasn’t been set up in South Carolina because the agency supposed to operate it doesn’t have the money.

The hotline is part of a new law, considered one of the toughest in the country, passed last year to root out illegal immigrants.

The Greenville News reported today that the Commission on Minority Affairs doesn't have the $287,000 to start the hotline or a database to help track immigration information received by all state agencies.

Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens County Republican who helped push the immigration law last year, said the hotline and database were considered extras that would only be paid for if lawmakers could eventually find the money.

"The idea was great if we had the money," he said. "It was basically an add-on. But if the funding is not there, it's not there."

Photo: KaCey97007

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Japan pays immigrants to fly home

The United States is far from the only country trying to get a handle on a broken immigration system. Italy and Japan have very different approaches to dealing with the problem.

Italy's largely unpatrolled coastline and proximity to Africa makes it a popular destination for smuggling operations. Some 36,000 migrants from Africa and elsewhere arrived by boat last year.

Italian lawmakers voted for a new bill to fine illegal immigrants up to $13,670 and jail people who house them. The Associated Press reports that Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government is being pressured by the anti-immigrant Northern League party in its coalition to halt illegal migration as Italy's economy shrinks in the global downturn.

Under the new Italian legislation, which still needs Senate approval, migrants would not face prison time. But the bill provides for up to three years in prison for anyone who knowingly rents housing to an illegal immigrant.

Critics say the legislation would further marginalize those living in Italy illegally by making them afraid to seek medical help or to register their children at birth for fear of being turned in to police and deported.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that Japan is offering to pay hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Latin American immigrants to fly back home. So far, at least 100 workers and their families have agreed to leave the recession-racked country.

In 1990, Japan -- facing a growing industrial labor shortage -- started issuing thousands of special work visas to relatives of their resident immigrants. Today, an estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians live in Japan.
Under the emergency program, introduced this month, the country's Brazilian and other Latin American guest workers are offered $3,000 toward air fare, plus $2,000 for each dependent -- attractive lump sums for many immigrants here. Workers who leave have been told they can pocket any amount left over.

One condition: They can't come back.

Photo: AP

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Remembering a raid

One year ago, some 900 immigration agents descended on a small Iowa community and rounded up nearly 400 illegal immigrants at Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher meatpacking plant.

The Postville raid, one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history, illustrated the country’s intent to enforce immigration laws. But it’s now looked at as how bad the country’s immigration problems have gotten.

Advocates of stricter immigration laws say the government should never have let companies and communities become so dependent on undocumented labor. Critics have used the raid as a rallying cry against unfair treatment of illegal immigrants and a reason for reforming the country’s immigration system.

Dozens of news outlets, big and small, covered the one-year anniversary Tuesday. Here is some of what they reported.

A year later, Iowa raid still marks a flashpoint
The Kansas City Star
While the raid answered the prayers of millions of Americans on the anti-immigration side of the debate, it fed the passions of millions of others who are lobbying for leniency toward undocumented workers.

Indeed, Obama administration officials are now pushing a national immigration policy that will target the employers who hire and sometimes abuse illegal immigrants, more than the illegal immigrants themselves.

“Postville will one day be remembered as a dark chapter in U.S. history that served as a catalyst for reforming our nation’s immigration system into something we can take pride in again,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan, pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.

Whether that reform will ultimately lead to amnesty for the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, or guest worker programs for those who follow, remains to be seen.

But either way — as with most preceding swings in U.S. immigration policy — the question is more likely to be decided by politics and passion than by economics and common sense, observers say.

A travail of two towns

Chicago Tribune

In Postville, a place of proud Midwesterners, many resent being in the spotlight yet are frustrated that more has not been done to offset the unanticipated damage.

When the meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors Inc., opened in the late 1980s, Orthodox Jews arrived to work as kosher butchers and envisioned a rural paradise for new synagogues and religious schools. Migrants, mostly from Guatemala, began arriving in the 1990s -- creating an ethnic stew with natives of mostly Eastern European descent.

After the raid, the family-like community of high school football game gatherings and homey weekend meals at local cafes began to unravel as the plant faltered. Agriprocessors has since gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is up for sale with no apparent buyer.

…Former City Councilman Aaron Goldsmith, an Orthodox rabbi, fumed over the damage. "We still haven't done anything about illegal immigration" in the state, he said. "All we've done is devastate northeastern Iowa."

Photo: Keith Myers
A GPS monitor tracks Nohemi Hurtado as she waits for a decision on her residency status in Postville, Iowa. Daughter Jocelyn Bustamante plays at her feet.

Illegal immigrants on the job? Who is checking...

Bank of America, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge are just a few places enrolled in a federal program that identifies illegal immigrants.

We report today that as the Obama administration warns that it will focus on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, N.C. companies are signing up in droves for a once-obscure federal program that allows them to root out illegal immigrants. In the past two years, the number of N.C. employers signing up for E-Verify, which verifies applicants' Social Security numbers with federal databases, has increased more than 700 percent to 2,567.

Who else is signed up?

Click here to see an edited spreadsheet from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that lists enrolled Carolina companies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

High court ruling won't stop S.C. sheriff

The sheriff in Beaufort County, S.C., says a Supreme Court decision to overturn felony charges against an illegal immigrant will not stop his own investigation of forged employment documents at county businesses.

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned charges of "aggravated identity theft" against an illegal immigrant in Illinois because he didn’t know he was using another person’s Social Security Number.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner told the Beaufort Gazette that a countywide audit of businesses turned up about 194 employees at 22 businesses that may have used falsified or stolen identities to get jobs. Tanner said he never intended to charge them with anything but misdemeanor forgery unless his investigation revealed further charges are appropriate.

The sheriff's investigation of 11 businesses netted five arrests in the past two months. All the suspects were charged with forgery, which could result in prison time.

He said his cases don’t involve identity theft, thus aren’t affected by the court’s decision.

"I think the Supreme Court's decision was correct," Tanner said. "Most of the Social Security numbers that have been found to be used by those that are foreign-born illegals to obtain work ... are just false. They're not connected to anyone."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tancredo: Obama is 'a cult leader.'

The immigration debate continues to heat up as the nation's leaders get personal and answer tough questions about whether illegal immigrants should be given a chance to remain in the country legally.

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said illegal immigration makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy. He told a Senate subcommittee last week that an overhaul of immigration laws is "badly needed" to create legal avenues for skilled and unskilled illegal immigrants to enter the country. Here is what he had to say:
There is little doubt that unauthorized, that is, illegal immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, it accounted for more than a sixth of the increase in our total civilian labor force.

Some evidence suggests that unskilled illegal immigrants, almost all from Latin America, marginally suppress wage levels of native-born Americans without a high school diploma, and impose significant costs on some state and local governments.
However the estimated wage suppression and fiscal costs are relatively small and economists generally view the overall economic benefits of this workforce as significantly outweighing the costs.
Former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, called President Barack Obama a “cult leader” when talking about his immigration plan. Speaking on the conservative news radio program “Dateline: Washington,” Tancredo said Obama is trying to dress up a plan that amounts to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. Here is an excerpt.
He is — you have to admit — he is a cult leader. And the cult will go with him wherever he wants to go. You just don't know about the size of the cult; how big it is — if it's shrinking or growing.

Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, says she supports a federal bill that would give illegal immigrants a path to legal residency if they complete two years of college or military service. Responding to a question about the so-called Dream Act, Napolitano had this to say at last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
As a governor of a border state, this is one of those areas where everyone wants the immigration law enforced. We must enforce it. It's part of our national sovereignty, among other things.

On the other hand, we have to have the ability to deal with some of the human issues that arise here. And the one that you have identified is one of the most acute. I supported the Dream Act when I was governor. I support it now. One of the most moving things I've been privileged to do as secretary is to administer the Oath of Citizenship to men and women in our military who have been serving in Iraq, who were not citizens, who have elected to become citizens -- in a way, kind of mirrors what you're talking about in the Dream Act. But it seems to me that the Dream Act is -- is a good piece of legislation and a good idea.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Remember 'catch and release'?

Enforcement advocates say new federal immigration guidelines may signal a return to a widely criticized program that allowed captured illegal immigrants to be released to await a court date. Many never showed up.

The Obama administration issued a new enforcement policy last week focusing on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates stronger enforcement, says the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines do not “offer anything new in the way of substance with respect to enforcement against employers.”

Instead, FAIR says it raises questions whether illegal immigrants caught at worksites will be released. FAIR keys in on one line in the DHS memo:
ICE will continue to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of these worksite enforcement actions in a manner consistent with immigration law and DHS priorities.
FAIR contends that “processing for removal” could mean releasing illegal immigrants and giving them a notice to appear in court on a certain day to begin removal proceedings.

"Such a practice would be tantamount to reinstating the catch and release policy - a Border Patrol policy that was widely criticized as ineffective and counterproductive," FAIR states.

The catch and release program was ended in 2006. The practice allowed some illegal immigrants to remain free while awaiting their court hearing. Many never showed up in court.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Amnesty" by any means necessary?

Some immigration enforcement advocates predict President Barack Obama will attempt to use a little-known program to give illegal immigrants a path to legal residency, if Congress can't get the votes to pass a comprehensive bill.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, says the president could try to use Temporary Protected Status as a way to give illegal immigrants permanent status disguised as a temporary fix.

Temporary Protected Status is a federal program for foreign nationals currently in the United States whose homelands are considered unsafe to return to because of war or natural disasters.
This status is considered a temporary program that lasts around a year to 18 months. But critics say it's renewed year after year. There are currently six countries under the program: Burundi, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan.

“Mark my words," Krikorian wrote in a blog post on the center's webpage. "As it becomes increasingly clear that no amnesty will be forthcoming from Congress this year, expect a rising chorus of demands from both the Left and the rope-selling Right that the president circumvent Congress and use his popularity to "fix" the immigration problem this way.”

Photo by Eli Turner

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Busted, fake ID. Felony?

Enforcement advocates are crying foul while immigrant-rights groups are praising a Supreme Court decision to overturn the felony prosecution of an illegal immigrant arrested for using a fake ID.

The high court overturned charges of “aggravated identity theft” against an illegal immigrant in Illinois because he didn’t know he was using another person’s Social Security Number.

Here's a link to the ruling.

Enforcement advocates, such as Americans for Legal Immigration Pac, say the judges have taken away a “tool for prosecuting and deporting workers who are in this country illegally” while advocates want similar prosecutions overturned.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association wants the cases of more than 300 illegal immigrants arrested last year in a raid at an Iowa meat processor reopened. Many were charged with aggravated identity theft, a law adopted in 2004 that carries a mandatory two-year prison term.

About a dozen undocumented immigrants working as supervisors at a Greenville, S.C., poultry plant run by N.C.-based House of Raeford Farms were also arrested on similar charges.

The law was used by the Bush administration to round up hundreds of illegal workers at several worksites that employ illegal immigrants.

Photo: Chuck Kennedy/KRT

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Local call for immigration reform

Immigrant rights groups from around Charlotte are joining forces to fight for immigration reform.

Dozens of advocates waved flags and held signs at a gathering Friday in Marshall Park calling for legislation that would give illegal immigrants a chance to live and work legally.

Ruben Campillo, a member and advocacy coordinator for the Latin American Coalition said they want to hold President Obama to his promise to address immigration reform.

“We all recognize our current immigration system is broken,” he said. “… Let's do the right thing and fight for a fair treatment and practical solution that benefits us all.”

Opponents say giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship is a form of amnesty.

Ron Woodard, director of NC Listen, which advocates for stronger immigration enforcement, says the country's immigration policies exist because America cannot possibly accept all the immigrants who want to come to the country.

“People who come to America illegally are not only breaking the law, but are also jumping in the front of the line of others waiting their turn to come here legally,” he said.

To read the full article, click here.
to read it in Spanish, click here.

Video of the rally.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Latino profiling? Not according to stats.

In 2008, 72 official complaints were made against Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers. None of the complaints were by Latinos reporting they felt they were profiled or mistreated because of their ethnicity, police report.

One of the biggest complaints in the Latino community is that some officers target Latino immigrants knowing they could be deported if they’re taken to jail and found to be in the country illegally.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Rodney Monroe didn’t have the statistics available last month when we reported on crimes going unsolved in Charlotte because immigrants don’t feel safe reporting them.

Chief Monroe said last month that he wanted to improve ties with the Latino community. He is familiar with charges of racial profiling, but he said people who feel they've been mistreated need to report that to him.

Chief Monroe said he understands people may not want to bring more attention to themselves by filing a complaint, but he said if the mistreatment is happening as often as some people claim more people should be coming forward.

“I'm not going to put blinders over my head and automatically deny that issue,” he said. Nor does he want “to condemn the men and women of this organization” without more facts.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Obama: " We can't continue with a broken immigration system"

In a press conference yesterday from the White House about his first 100 days in office, President Barack Obama reiterated his intention to make immigration reform a priority in his first year in office.

Responding to question about his immigration reform strategy, Obama had this to say:
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 oftentimes 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.

In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core -- some key administrative steps to move the process along, to lay the groundwork for legislation, because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together, we can execute.

So [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, who has great knowledge of this, because of having been a border governor, she's already in the process of reviewing and figuring out, how can we strengthen our border security, in a much more significant way than we're doing?

If the American people don't feel like you can secure the borders, then it's hard to strike a deal that would get people out of the shadows and on the pathway to citizenship, who are already here, because the attitude of the average American is going to be, well, you're just going to have hundreds of thousands more coming in each year.

On the other side of the debate:

The Obama administration also reiterated its plan to pursue employers who knowingly hire and exploit illegal workers. Guidelines sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents yesterday call for imposing fines and pressing criminal charges against employers who break the law, according to the Associated Press. The priority is to go after employers, but the policy says agents will continue to arrest illegal workers as long as local US attorneys commit to prosecuting cases against their employers.

Napolitano has said the agency will focus on ``renewing a priority on employers who are making money off of these illegal immigrants and giving them jobs that should be going to American workers.''

In 2008, ICE brought criminal charges against 135 employers and 968 workers.