Thursday, June 25, 2009

The cost of illegal immigration to North Carolina

Whether the roughly 350,000 illegal immigrants in North Carolina are a benefit or burden to our state is a complicated question. I'm asked that quite a bit and there is no straight answer. There is a lot of conflicting information out there. And that's not surprising when assessing a community that does its best to remain under the radar.

One of the latest studies, by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says illegal immigrants costs the state $1.3 billion annually. Meanwhile, a 2006 study by the UNC Chapel Hill's Kenan Institute says N.C. Latinos – of which half are undocumented -- contribute $9.2 billion to the N.C. economy.

So which one is right? I’m not going to pretend to know. They draw totally different conclusions, but both raise points worth a closer look. I'd recommend checking out the studies yourself, but here are some of the highlights. Since the FAIR study is more recent, I’ll start with it.

FAIR's study

-- $975 million annually spent on educating the children of illegal immigrants, based on an estimate of 49,800 school-age, illegal immigrants and 69,800 U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. Researchers estimated per pupil costs of $8,150 per year for public K-12 schooling.
-- $209 million-plus in health care costs. FAIR says North Carolinians who have medical insurance also pay higher medical insurance bills to help cover the costs of those without insurance.
-- $49 million a year for incarcerating deportable illegal immigrants at state and local prisons. FAIR says the figure does not include short-term detention costs, related law enforcement and judicial expenditures.

FAIR, which advocates for stricter immigration enforcement, says its findings demonstrate the extent to which illegal immigration has become a nationwide phenomenon and a burden on American taxpayers in every region of the country.

Read the full FAIR report here.

UNC Chapel Hill Kenan Institute study.
-- $61 million spent by taxpayers to pay for schools, health care and prisons to accommodate the rapidly growing Latino population.
-- $1 billion saved in labor costs had Latinos not been around to build an estimated 27,000 houses in the state in 2004. UNC researches said as much as $10 billion in construction wouldn't have been completed.
-- $9 billion contributed to the state's economy by the Latino community via its purchases, taxes and labor.
UNC researchers, which conducted the study on behalf of the N.C. Bankers Association, concluded that Latinos “contribute immensely” more to the state's economy than they cost taxpayers. Researchers concluded North Carolina needed the low-wage labor Latinos provide to compete in a global economy.

Read the full Kenan Institute study here.

Photo: stopnlook

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Advocacy groups respond to Latino KKK allegations

Carolina advocate Andrea Bazán says she was stunned to hear conservatives compare the largest Hispanic advocacy group to the Ku Klux Klan.

Our colleagues at the (Raleigh) News & Observer report that the nomination of a Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court has brought allegations few thought possible. Some conservatives say Sonia Sotomayor's former membership with the National Council of La Raza should disqualify her for the high court.

La Raza is a Washington-based private non-profit. Its mission is to reduce poverty and discrimination and improve the opportunities for Hispanic Americans. It also aggressively supports immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and advocated for illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition fees.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo called La Raza "a Latino KKK without the hoods and nooses." And conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh compared Sotomayor to David Duke, who is a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

“It’s outrageous,” Bazán, who chair La Raza’s board, told the paper.

Much of the focus has been on the group’s name: La Raza, which can mean “the race”
Ron Woodard, who leads enforcement advocacy group N.C. Listen, said "They seem to play the race game and to be focused on their race because of their name."

State Sen. Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, who is sponsoring a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from community colleges, said he’s troubled by La Raza’s advocacy work for illegal immigrants.

"If she's a member of the group and she agrees with their policy positions, that would argue against her being on the Supreme Court," he said.

But others say these allegations against La Raza and Sotomayor are a subversive political strategy, much like was used against African American organizations during the civil rights movement.

Said Bazán: "I think we should be looking at the Sotomayor nomination and discussing her qualifications as a judge."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Advocates: Watch out, judges 'will block' enforcement

Compromise is key to passing immigration reform, but some advocates believe promises by the pro-legalization movement to accept enforcement measures ring hollow.

They say the "dirty little secret" is immigrant rights groups know such promises won't actually happen because judges will block any agreed upon enforcement.

The Center for Immigration Studies presented a report earlier this month on what they characterized as an attack on plenary power, a 19th century doctrine that gives the legislative and executive branches of government power over immigration regulation.

The center says there is a movement by immigration attorneys and others to erode this power in favor of a judicially administered immigration system.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the center, said this will allow judges to block enforcement measures such as mandatory use of the E-Verify system, which checks the Social Security numbers of job applicants, or more cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities.

“If there’s no guarantee of enforcement measures actually making it through court, then the whole concept of a deal is completely undermined,” Krikorian said.

Krikorian, citing the 1986 amnesty, says history shows that promises of legal status for tougher enforcement may not be held up.

Photo: steakpinbal, CIS

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New tactic: suing the President

More than 100 kids have sued President Obama over the deportation of their parents.

The children, all born in United States, charge the deportations will cause "extreme, grave and irreparable hardship" and therefore amount to civil rights violations against them as U.S. citizens.

They're are asking the court to suspend the deportations of their parents until Congress overhauls U.S. immigration laws. The case is set to go to trial in August.

Click here to read the 51-page complaint.

Nora Sandigo, chief executive officer of Miami-based advocacy group American Fraternity, filed the suit in on behalf of the children in U.S. District Court in Miami. At a rally yesterday, Sandigo said she is frustrated that the Obama administration hasn't done more to address immigration reform, according to the Associated Press.

"Today these children's voices are not heard, but tomorrow these U.S. citizens will be voting," she said.

Acting U.S. attorney Jeffrey H. Soman asked the court to dismiss the case on grounds that Sandigo didn’t properly file her case.

The suit was originally brought against the Bush administration, but was dismissed.
Alfonso Olviedo, the children's attorney, told our colleagues at the Miami Herald that the case would most likely be dismissed again, with the court citing that it is an inappropriate forum.

Even if dismissed, Sandigo said her group will continue to fight. Children at the Miami rally said their families risked losing their homes and some children are suffering psychological and physical hardship.

"My grades went from A's to C's when my mom had to leave," Ronald Soza, who is named in the suit, told the Associated Press. Ronald’s mother was deported to Nicaragua last year.

Photos: (Top) Obama File AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, (Above) Ronald Soza, 10, left, and his sister Cecia, 12, right, at protest for the deportation of their mother. LYNNE SLADKY/AP / STF

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is worker ID answer to passing immigration reform?

The worker ID may be the best way to ensure workers are authorized and convince Americans the government can actually stop the flow of illegal immigrants, says a N.Y. Senator.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat who will lead the effort to write the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill, has called the worker ID card the best way to ensure U.S. workers are in the country legally and therefore stop the flow of illegal immigration.

"The ID will make it easy for employers to avoid undocumented workers, which will allow for tough sanctions against employers who break the law, which will lead to no jobs being available for illegal immigrants, which will stop illegal immigration," Schumer wrote in his 2007 book, "Positively American."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Schumer will present the worker ID card idea at a hearing this summer on employee verification systems.

Schumer writes that the ID card will make it easy for employers to avoid undocumented workers and allow tough sanctions against employers who break the law.

While some support his idea, it has raised concerns of “big brother” intrusion among some activists like the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The bottom line is that this would be really expensive, really invasive and people will hate it," Chris Calabrese, counsel for the ACLU's technology and liberty project, told the newspaper.

Others say it would be impossible to ensure millions of employers remain in compliance.

"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," Mike Garcia, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 in Los Angeles said. "We're not against it necessarily if all of the other pieces of immigration reform fall into place."

Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Obama holding up E-Verify?

Legislators and advocates are questioning President Obama's commitment to enforcing immigration laws after, again, delaying when federal contractors need to adhere to an order to use an employment-verification system designed to identify illegal immigrants.

Originally scheduled to go into effect last January, the Obama administration rescheduled for June 1. The order to use E-Verify has now been pushed back until Sept. 15.

The administration says it gives the president more time to review the program.

E-Verify is a free program that allows employers to verify applicants’ Social Security numbers with federal databases. We reported last month that more and more N.C. employers are signing up for the program amidst warnings from the government that it is going after unscrupulous employers.

Obama’s own Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, has been on Capitol Hill for months advocating for the program.

“I've seen it work,” Napolitano told a congressional hearing in May. “I used it as a governor. We intend to make it, like I said, an integral part of our ongoing workplace enforcement.”
But with no requirements in place for federal contractors, critics are questioning whether the strong rhetoric is more bark than bite.

"The same administration that rushed through the most massive spending bill in history before anyone had a chance to read it claims to need months of delay to review regulations for a program that state and local governments are already using successfully," said Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports greater immigration enforcement. "The fact that we are facing yet another delay demonstrates that gaining amnesty for people who broke our immigration laws remains a higher priority for President Obama than the plight of millions of unemployed Americans."

Some U.S. representatives like Republicans Ken Calvert of California and Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida are calling on the president to implement E-Verify immediately.

“Frankly, I cannot understand what there is to review,” Brown-Waite said in a statement. “E-Verify… has been in operation since 1997. Furthermore, President Obama was a United States Senator for four years and has had ample time to learn about the E-Verify program.”

Opponents say the program ensnares American job-seekers in database errors, adds to employers' costs and does not actually prevent undocumented immigrants from getting jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that expanding E-Verify could cost $17 billion over the next 10 years.

Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center said the system "simply isn't ready for prime time." He points to a 2007 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that states improvements are needed and the program's "still not sufficiently up to date."

But U.S. officials say many of E-Verify’s earlier problems have been fixed and that the program now has a 96 percent accuracy rate.

Said Rep. Calvert: “When Americans are losing jobs, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that federal funds are going to employ American citizens and legal workers – not illegal immigrants.”

Photo: Mandi Bickes of ResourceMFG interviews a client. The company has enrolled in E-Verify. T.ORTEGA

Friday, June 12, 2009

Judge: Immigrants' rights violated in Conn. raids

Immigration agents violated the constitutional rights of four illegal immigrants in raids that critics say were retaliation for a city program that provided ID cards to foreigners in the country illegally, a federal judge ruled.

The New Haven raid on June 6, 2007 occurred two days after the city approved issuing identification cards to all city residents, regardless of immigration status, the Associated Press reported. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deny the early morning raids were retaliatory, saying planning began the year before.

Immigration Judge Michael Straus said the ICE agents went into the immigrants' homes without warrants, probable cause, or consent. He stopped deportation proceedings against the four defendants.

Immigration officials denied the arrests were improper. They said in court documents that they were allowed into the homes during the raids.

ICE spokeswoman Paula Grenier told the AP the agency was reviewing the ruling and would decide later whether to appeal. Monday.

Straus wrote that the rights of at least one immigrant were “flagrantly violated."

"The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is 'reasonableness' and, by natural extension, one's reasonable expectation of privacy," the judge wrote. "Nowhere is that expectation of privacy more sacrosanct than in the confines of one's home."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Government case against water-jug activist

Feds describe how illegal immigrants were aided by Tuscon activist leaving water in desert.

We received a lot of feedback about our post yesterday on Walt Staton, 27, a volunteer with the humanitarian group No More Deaths, who was convicted of littering in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Considering the disparity of arguments being made for and against Mr. Staton on our site, we thought it’d be helpful to share some of the government’s arguments made against Mr. Staton.

Click here to read the full complaint.

Click here to read the verdict

“Agent Collins observed a silver Jeep sport utility vehicle drive into a low area…. In previous weeks, Agent Collins has located numerous full water bottles consistent with humanitarian organizations that work in the area. Agent Collins has also encountered these plastic bottles discarded as garbage further north along these trails.”

Staton's attorney, William Walker, argued in court that leaving full water jugs didn't constitute littering just because someone else disposed the empty container elsewhere, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Walker told the jury that, based on the prosecutor's theory, if jury members were given a meal in the jury room and then tossed an empty wrapper on the floor, it would mean the court was guilty of littering.

"Just because something can turn into litter from someone else doesn't make it litter," Walker said. "His intent and purpose was for them to drink the water, not to litter."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Activists faces jail time for leaving water in desert

A Tucson man is convicted of littering on federal land because he left jugs of water for illegal immigrants walking through the desert.

Walt Staton, 27, a volunteer with the humanitarian group No More Deaths, faces up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine. He will be sentenced Aug. 11.

Staton said he will continue leaving water despite the conviction, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

"I was just trying to save lives," he told the paper. "…We're not asking permission from the United States to save people's lives. We never have, because we know they'd say no."

His lawyer argued that leaving full water jugs didn't constitute littering just because someone else disposed the empty container elsewhere.

Prosecutors argued it shouldn't matter what Staton's intentions were. If it did, "Every bank robber would come in here and say they did it to save their dying grandmother," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Lee said.

Staton was cited Dec. 4 for littering when U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted him placing unopened gallon containers of water in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson.

Photo: A group of migrants cross the desert between Sasabe, Mexico, and Sasabe, Arizona. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Anchor babies" not protected under 14th amendment, says commissioner.

A county leader says automatic citizenship issue is "ripe for litigation."

County Commissioner Bill James cited opinions among members of congress and some legal think tanks when he wrote me last week saying U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants should not be granted automatic citizenship.

He was responding to my story about U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia and his efforts to change a federal policy that automatically grants citizenship to any baby born on U.S. soil. He and his supporters feel the current policy encourages illegal immigration and makes immigration enforcement more difficult.

James supports the effort, but questions whether the policy needs to be changed. He argues it was “never written to include everyone born in America.”

The debate is wrapped up in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Ratified in 1869, it was written as a result of slavery. States were saying African Americans were not citizens and therefore were not eligible for any rights. The amendment states:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

The question at hand is whether the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants should be considered "subject to the jurisdiction" of the U.S.

James argues they’re not.

The longstanding practice giving U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants birthright citizenship has never been directly reviewed by the Supreme Court.

James points out the children of diplomats are not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Their children do not enjoy birthright citizenship. Their embassies, consulates, and residences are considered foreign soil. They can be removed at the will of the president.

But others disagree.

Miguel Manna, a former Charlotte immigration attorney who is now working in Raleigh, says illegal immigrants are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Here is what he had to say:

“If an undocumented alien breaks a U.S. law or state law he/she is subject to prosecution. If an undocumented alien works in the U.S., despite not having permission to do so, they are still liable for taxes on their income. They also enjoy the benefits of our police protection, and constitutional safeguards, etc. The fact that they are in the U.S. illegally is somewhat irrelevant as most immigration violations are civil in nature.”

Manna said that when the 14th amendment was being drafted vigorous debate ensued about citizenship by birth in the U.S. Some Senators did not want the mere accident of being in the U.S. at birth to determine the great privilege. Others wanted a more expansive definition, to include diplomats and foreign dignitaries.

The reality is, Manna says, “nobody really knows what Congress intended when they added "and subject to the jurisdiction of thereof..."

Photos: Bill James, Library of Congress

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bollywood saga strikes N.C.

A movie-strike happening in India has a N.C. theater scrambling to find movies to show.
The (Raleigh) News & Observer reports that Galaxy Cinema, a six screen art house in Cary, is struggling to find Hindi-language films to show to its largely Indian clientele.

Indian movie producers and multiplex owners are fighting over profits. In April, the producers and distributors stopped releasing films to Indian multiplexes.

Galaxy Cinema usually reserves one or sometimes two of its theaters for Indian-produced films. They account for about 25 percent of the theater revenues.

The region is home to a bustling Indian population. Many Indian families visit the area on weekends to shop at Indian stories and eat at the restaurants. They know the Galaxy usually has a good Hindi-language film playing.

Since the strike, the owners have been showing older Indian films. American movies have never attracted as many clients. Nonetheless, trying to make up for about 25 percent loss in revenue, the theater recently showed "Star Trek" and "Terminator Salvation."

Photos: (Top) A patron enters the theater during 'Swades,' the only Indian-produced film showing at the Galaxy Cinema in Cary. And projectionist Cory Livengood prepares to show 'Swades.' Before the strike it would show two Bollywood films at once. ROBERT WILLETT/News & Observer

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is Charlotte a good place to live for immigrants?

In a new study on social ties in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, residents gave mixed marks on whether their hometown is a good place to live for immigrants.

While more than half of survey respondents rated Charlotte-Mecklenburg as a good or excellent place to live for people from other countries, some 16 percent said it was a poor or very poor place to live.

Check out pages 112 to 130 on the survey for more detailed information.

The findings were part of the 2008 Crossroads Charlotte Social Capital Benchmark Community Survey. Released this morning, the survey of 856 residents – 49 percent men and 51 percent women – measured community friendships, civic involvement and trust of police, among other categories.

Opinions differed based on residents’ education, race and ethnicity, citizenship, marital status and other factors.

Survey participants more likely to rate Mecklenburg County as an AVERAGE place
to live for immigrants were:

-- Persons with a high school education or less (37%)
-- Hispanics (44%)
-- Non-U.S. citizens (42%)
-- Those surveyed in households with three or more children aged 17 or younger (50%)
-- Renters (38%)
-- Persons in households with three or more people (36%).

Respondents more likely to rate Mecklenburg County as a good place to live for immigrants were:

-- Those with some college education (48%)
-- Caucasians (46%)
-- Persons in households with a child aged 17 or younger (46%)
-- Respondents living in a two-person household (46%).

While white respondents were more likely to rate the county as a good place to live for immigrants, African Americans were more apt to rate Mecklenburg as an average place to live for ethnic minorities. Latinos generally rated the county as an average place to live for immigrants.

Photo: Nearly 150 new citizens being sworn in at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police and Fire Training Academy. JOHN D. SIMMONS -

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Debate over 'anchor babies'

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia wants to change a federal policy that automatically grants citizenship to any baby born on U.S. soil.

The Associated Press reports that Deal, a Republican candidate for governor, and his supporters feel the current policy encourages illegal immigration and makes immigration enforcement more difficult.

"This is a sensible, overdue measure that closes a clause that was never meant to be a loophole," said Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks tighter immigration restrictions.

The term “anchor babies” is often used by opponents of illegal immigration who say immigrant families have children in the United States to establish a legal foothold. The children could also later sponsor citizenship for family members.

Automatic citizenship is part of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. It says:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

It’s no surprise that Deal’s proposition has raised concerns among Latino advocates and human-rights groups who say it contradicts the American spirit.

Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, told the AP that the proposed law wouldn't stem illegal immigration and would make the problem worse because not only would illegal immigrants be undocumented, their American-born children would be, too.

"You end up with potentially millions of children who are stateless, who were born here and have no ties to any other country, yet they're not considered citizens or part of the United States," she said.

It's very difficult to amend the constitution. In once scenario, an amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress. If approved, it must be ratified by majority votes in the legislatures or conventions of three-fourths of the states before it can become part of the Constitution.

A recent study the Pew Hispanic Center found that the number of American children who have at least one undocumented parent has increased considerably from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. More than 70 percent of all children of illegal immigrants are American citizens.

Those children would not lose their citizenship under Deal’s proposal but the numbers demonstrate the rapid demographic shift taking place within the country’s undocumented population.

Photo: Children participate in a Charlotte rally for immigration reform. Over 150 latino students wrote letters asking President Obama to stop deportations that break up immigrant families. DAVID T. FOSTER III -

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Feds reject Georgia's "discriminatory" voter system

Secretary of State Karen Handel says decision will allow non-citizens to vote in Georgia.

In a letter released Monday, the Justice Department said the Georgia voter-verification program – which uses Social Security numbers and driver’s license data to check if prospective voters are citizens – is frequently inaccurate and has a “discriminatory effect” on minorities.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that DOJ lawyers said the office of Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel had created a system that “does not produce accurate and reliable information and that thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote under Georgia law have been flagged.”

"This flawed system frequently subjects a disproportionate number of African-American, Asian and/or Hispanic voters to additional, and more importantly, erroneous burdens on the right to register to vote," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a letter.

Handel, a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2010, slammed the DOJ’s decision. In a statement she said it “shows a shocking disregard for the integrity of our elections.”
“DOJ has thrown open the door for activist organizations such as ACORN to register non-citizens to vote in Georgia’s elections, and the state has no ability to verify an applicant’s citizenship status or whether the individual even exists. DOJ completely disregarded Georgia’s obvious and direct interest in preventing non-citizens from voting, instead siding with the ACLU and MALDEF (The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). “Clearly, politics took priority over common sense and good public policy.”

Photos: AP, Georgia Secretary of State