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 !!! #AFIRE #illegalimmigration illegal immigration aliens 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 2:36 PM Dec 15th

@jrsusa: #Immigration reform debate is no place for bigotry #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 #ri4a
Dec 15, 2009 03:44 PM GMT

@ALIPAC: Immigration bill backers try again despite jobless rate #illegalimmigration #tcot #AFIRE 3:54 PM Dec 15th

@GrayRiv: Plz read, #digg and RT: #Immigration: The next nasty, necessary fight: #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" #AFIRE #immigration #noamnesty Dec 15, 2009 06:15 PM GMT

@ObamaBeenLying: RT @SeniorBuzz FIGHT BACK AMERICANS! The House is debating AMNESTY FOR ILLEGALS. #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! RT to sign #actly #topprog #ri4a #p2 Dec 15, 2009 09:16 PM

@TRUTHINHISTORY: Tough road for immigration bill - - 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 #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 ... 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 - Dec 16, 2009 01:44 PM GMT

@SmackdownFan: Pelosi says no vote on immigration bill til Senate passes a bill #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 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 Dec 16, 2009 02:58 PM GMT •

@BayouPerspectiv: Immigration Policy Must Put the Needs of American Workers at the Forefront 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 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.