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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Former migrant worker heads to space

A former migrant worker is scheduled to lift off for space this week. Jose Hernandez, a NASA astronaut, once toiled in California’s farm fields with his Mexican parents.

Hernandez didn't learn English until he was 12, according to the Associated Press.

California-born Hernandez is actually one of two Mexican-Americans who will be on board space shuttle Discovery when it launches this week. (Thunderstorms prevented Discovery from blasting off early Tuesday.)

Hernandez, 47, recalls his early years sweating in the fields. After a long day of work picking cucumbers and tomatoes back in the 1960s and 1970s, he said his father would turn to him and his brothers and sister and say, “Remember this feeling because if you guys don't do well in school, this is your future.”

Now a national hero in Mexico, Hernandez received a call this weekend from Mexican President Felipe Calderon, according to the Los Angeles Times. Calderon wished him “an enormous congratulation, with all our admiration, all our affection and all our pride.”

Calderon invited Hernandez down to the presidential palace once he’s returned from outer space.

Hernandez’s parents, Salvador and Julia, migrated to northern California in the 1950s in search of work. They later became U.S. citizens and raised four children.

As a kid, Hernandez continued to visit his parents’ old neighborhood in Michoacán, where cousins and aunts and uncles were being interviewed this week by the Mexican press.

For those of you interested in learning more about Hernandez, you can follow him on his Twitter feed. Hernandez has been posting updates his preparations for take-off and developments in both English and Spanish. Here is his Twitter page.

Photo: Jose Hernandez from his Twitter Page.

Monday, August 24, 2009

California could gain 9 House seats because of illegal immigrants

North Carolina could lose a seat if illegal immigrants are not counted. Is all this right?

Critics of the Census’s practice not to ask about residency status say “no.”

John Baker, a constitutional law professor at Louisiana State University, and Elliott Stonecipher, a Louisiana pollster and demographic analyst, charge that the census has drifted from its constitutional roots and that the 2010 Census count will result in a unfair redistribution of Congress.

Since 1790(except following the census of 1920), the Census has been used to determine the apportionment of members of the U.S. House of Representatives among the states.

Baker and Stonecipher write in a recent Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal that California could get nine House seats “it doesn’t deserve” because illegal immigrants will be counted in the 2010 Census.

They charge that several states, such as Iowa, Louisiana, and Michigan, will likely lose one seat in the 2010 reapportionment because of this.

For a story on illegal immigrants threatening to boycott the Census, we reported in May that North Carolina could lose its coveted 14th seat in the House of Representatives.

North Carolina and Utah battled after the 2000 Census when in 2002 after North Carolina won the last available U.S. House district seat over Utah. Critics said North Carolina won the seat because of the state’s growing illegal immigrant population.

Nine states in all, including South Carolina, could gain a seat based on population gains, according to a recent study by Election Data Services, a political consulting firm.

Photo: The threatened boycott of the upcoming Census by illegal immigrants is a frequent topic for Charlotte radio host Jorge Medina. T.ORTEGA GAINES –

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scam artists prey on illegal immigrants

Illegal Immigrants continue to fall prey to scam artists posing as lawyers pledging to make their clients legal. And sometimes the scammers are actual lawyers charging desperate illegal immigrants thousands of dollars to help them apply for asylum or other avenues of residency that the attorneys know aren't likely to be granted.

Since 2000, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a division of Justice Department that oversees immigration courts, has suspended or expelled more than 300 lawyers who have run afoul of the law, according to a recent story in the New York Times.

We reported in 2006 that hundreds of immigrants across North Carolina were getting cheated by people posing as attorneys and legal experts, according to immigration lawyers and Latino advocates.

Not wanting to alert authorities that they're in the country illegally, many victims often don't report the crimes.

North Carolina has one of the nation's fastest-growing Hispanic populations. More than half of the state’s Latinos are believed to be in the country illegally. Many are desperate to become legal, yet few realize the odds against them.

Between 2004 and 2006, the number of court cases deciding whether someone could stay in the country has almost doubled, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Yet only 12 percent of the 264,723 cases heard in 2005 were successful. Eighty-four percent were sent to deportation proceedings.

Maria, a Mexican native who asked that her last name not be used because of her immigration status, said she met a man posing as an attorney through her church. She said she paid the man thousands of dollars to file a residency application on her family's behalf.

"We were so excited," she said. "We thought we were getting close. He promised to help us. Instead, he caused us problems."

Philip Turtletaub, an immigration attorney who later took on Maria's case, said the application never had a chance. Turtletaub said the family needed to be in the country 10 years, but has been here only eight.

"People are desperate," Turtletaub said. "No one likes to hear `no.' So, when someone says `Yes, just give me this amount of money,’ they do."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jury sides with hospital that deported injured illegal immigrant

What obligations do hospitals have to treating severely injured illegal immigrants?

In a case that has drawn the attention of the advocacy and medical communities, a jury in Stuart, Fla., decided that Martin Memorial Medical Center did not act unreasonably when it chartered a plane and repatriated a severely brain-injured Guatemalan patient against the will of his guardian. The case is likely to become a point of reference for hospitals trying to determine their obligations toward uninsured illegal immigrants.

Check out the New York Times for their stories on the jury decision and a previous article raising questions about the case involving Luis Alberto Jiménez and Martin Memorial hospital, which provided Mr. Jiménez life-saving care and kept him as a ward for several years before undertaking his repatriation.

Photo: (AP Photo/Steven R. Martine, Stuart News)