Weekly Diaspora: DREAM Act Could be First Step to Reform

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After months of intense debate over the Obama administration’s efforts to revamp our immigration system, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made a decisive, though piecemeal, move on immigration reform by adding the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

The proposed DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant youth who commit to two years of military service or college. It would potentially grant legal permanent status to 825,000 young people, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Reid’s announcement this week is just the latest example of a growing, nationwide backlash against the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. As more anti-immigrant measures are blocked or reviewed by federal courts, and many others are flatly rejected by local governments, federal lawmakers and reform advocates are once again making a strong push for comprehensive immigration reform.

DREAM Act paves way for new comprehensive reform bill

As Elise Foley of the Washington Independent reports, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) have all come out in favor of Reid’s decision, all while insisting that comprehensive reform is still essential. At an immigration forum attended by more than 500 reform advocates yesterday, Menendez announced plans to introduce an immigration reform bill in the Senate, while Gutierrez announced plans to ask Obama to freeze non-criminal deportations until immigration reform has passed.

Dream Act vote unites immigration reform advocates

In particular, Guttierez’s support for passing the DREAM Act independent of comprehensive reform is a change of pace. Guttierez previously stood opposed to “piecemeal” reform efforts. The DREAM Act, which has been heavily lobbied by grassroots activists and has proven much more popular than any other proposed reform bill, was a point of contention among reform activists. While prominent pro-immigrant groups called for including the DREAM Act in a comprehensive reform package, DREAM activists decided to chart their own course.

Gutierrez’s change of heart may have been prompted by widespread frustration on the part of reform advocates, who had hoped to make headway on comprehensive immigration reform as early as last year.

He’s not alone. As Julianne Hing notes at ColorLines, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) quickly endorsed Reid’s decision, despite its past criticisms of DREAM activists’ unilateral approach. The CHC was careful to downplay the intra-movement tension that has come to define the DREAM Act, in favor of presenting a unified front on immigration reform. For DREAM activists, the endorsement is a welcome move, and gives credence to Reid’s decisive move on the bill.

For local governments, cost outweighs ideology

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant movement is starting to lose steam, as more localities are outright rejecting popular anti-immigrant measures. They fear inviting costly lawsuits and garnering unwanted attention from the federal government. AlterNet’s Seth Hoy reports that Tomball, Texas and Fremont, Nebraska are the latest cities to opt against strict anti-immigrant enforcement ordinances. Similarly wary of attracting exorbitant lawsuits, legislators in Ohio and Idaho are feverishly revising their own, once-embraced versions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

They have cause for concern. While Arizona has managed to collect $3.6 million in donations to defend SB 1070, other state governments haven’t been so lucky. One city in Texas has already spent $3.2 million defending its three anti-immigrant ordinances.

Federal courts pull no punches on anti-immigrant laws

In another major blow to the anti-immigrant crusade, a federal appeals court blocked an infamous Hazleton, Pennsylvania law that bred copycat bills in several other states. If enforced, the law would have penalized landlords and businesses who rented to or employed undocumented immigrants.

On the same day, the Supreme Court set a date to hear the case against another Arizona law that threatens to penalize businesses for employing undocumented immigrants. The 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, which is based on the Hazleton law, is the first anti-immigrant measure to ever come before the Supreme Court—and with good reason, as the law continues to have a devastating impact on scores of undocumented workers.

As I note for Campus Progress, the Arizona law is one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s primary tools in his own crusade to rid Maricopa County of unauthorized immigrants. The law contains a provision stipulating that undocumented immigrants who obtain employment with the use of a fake ID are guilty of committing a class 4 felony which, in Arizona, means automatic jail without bail. This has contributed to Arizona’s notoriously high rate of immigration-related prosecutions and deportations.

But, if the Hazleton victory is any indication, the Supreme Court case could mean that undocumented workers in Arizona can look forward to a reprieve from Arpaio’s worksite raids sometime in the near future.

Of course, with elections coming up, immigration hawks aren’t going to give in anytime soon. Yet, with anti-immigrant legislation getting blocked left and right, and the DREAM Act gaining steam among newly-unified reform activists, one has reason to be optimistic.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Weekly Diaspora: DREAM Act Could be First Step to Reform

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After months of intense debate over the Obama administration’s efforts to revamp our immigration system, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made a decisive, though piecemeal, move on immigration reform by adding the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

The proposed DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant youth who commit to two years of military service or college. It would potentially grant legal permanent status to 825,000 young people, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Reid’s announcement this week is just the latest example of a growing, nationwide backlash against the rising anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. As more anti-immigrant measures are blocked or reviewed by federal courts, and many others are flatly rejected by local governments, federal lawmakers and reform advocates are once again making a strong push for comprehensive immigration reform.

DREAM Act paves way for new comprehensive reform bill

As Elise Foley of the Washington Independent reports, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) have all come out in favor of Reid’s decision, all while insisting that comprehensive reform is still essential. At an immigration forum attended by more than 500 reform advocates yesterday, Menendez announced plans to introduce an immigration reform bill in the Senate, while Gutierrez announced plans to ask Obama to freeze non-criminal deportations until immigration reform has passed.

Dream Act vote unites immigration reform advocates

In particular, Guttierez’s support for passing the DREAM Act independent of comprehensive reform is a change of pace. Guttierez previously stood opposed to “piecemeal” reform efforts. The DREAM Act, which has been heavily lobbied by grassroots activists and has proven much more popular than any other proposed reform bill, was a point of contention among reform activists. While prominent pro-immigrant groups called for including the DREAM Act in a comprehensive reform package, DREAM activists decided to chart their own course.

Gutierrez’s change of heart may have been prompted by widespread frustration on the part of reform advocates, who had hoped to make headway on comprehensive immigration reform as early as last year.

He’s not alone. As Julianne Hing notes at ColorLines, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) quickly endorsed Reid’s decision, despite its past criticisms of DREAM activists’ unilateral approach. The CHC was careful to downplay the intra-movement tension that has come to define the DREAM Act, in favor of presenting a unified front on immigration reform. For DREAM activists, the endorsement is a welcome move, and gives credence to Reid’s decisive move on the bill.

For local governments, cost outweighs ideology

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant movement is starting to lose steam, as more localities are outright rejecting popular anti-immigrant measures. They fear inviting costly lawsuits and garnering unwanted attention from the federal government. AlterNet’s Seth Hoy reports that Tomball, Texas and Fremont, Nebraska are the latest cities to opt against strict anti-immigrant enforcement ordinances. Similarly wary of attracting exorbitant lawsuits, legislators in Ohio and Idaho are feverishly revising their own, once-embraced versions of Arizona’s SB 1070.

They have cause for concern. While Arizona has managed to collect $3.6 million in donations to defend SB 1070, other state governments haven’t been so lucky. One city in Texas has already spent $3.2 million defending its three anti-immigrant ordinances.

Federal courts pull no punches on anti-immigrant laws

In another major blow to the anti-immigrant crusade, a federal appeals court blocked an infamous Hazleton, Pennsylvania law that bred copycat bills in several other states. If enforced, the law would have penalized landlords and businesses who rented to or employed undocumented immigrants.

On the same day, the Supreme Court set a date to hear the case against another Arizona law that threatens to penalize businesses for employing undocumented immigrants. The 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act, which is based on the Hazleton law, is the first anti-immigrant measure to ever come before the Supreme Court—and with good reason, as the law continues to have a devastating impact on scores of undocumented workers.

As I note for Campus Progress, the Arizona law is one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s primary tools in his own crusade to rid Maricopa County of unauthorized immigrants. The law contains a provision stipulating that undocumented immigrants who obtain employment with the use of a fake ID are guilty of committing a class 4 felony which, in Arizona, means automatic jail without bail. This has contributed to Arizona’s notoriously high rate of immigration-related prosecutions and deportations.

But, if the Hazleton victory is any indication, the Supreme Court case could mean that undocumented workers in Arizona can look forward to a reprieve from Arpaio’s worksite raids sometime in the near future.

Of course, with elections coming up, immigration hawks aren’t going to give in anytime soon. Yet, with anti-immigrant legislation getting blocked left and right, and the DREAM Act gaining steam among newly-unified reform activists, one has reason to be optimistic.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Weekly Diaspora: Anti-Immigrant Bills Faltering, Even in Arizona

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After orchestrating a divisive national campaign to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, Arizona legislators watched their own anti-birthright citizenship bill flounder in the state Senate this week.

ColorLines’ Jamilah King reports that Senate bill 1309—introduced with considerable fanfare only two weeks ago—met significant opposition during its first Senate hearing on Monday and was subsequently withdrawn by one of its chief sponsors, state Sen. Ron Gould (R). The swift defeat comes as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the bill, as Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature has managed to pass a number of controversial measures in the last year, without much difficulty.

What’s more, Arizona legislators—headed by Senate president Russell Pearce (R)—have brazenly led the charge against birthright citizenship, with legislation being introduced at both state and federal levels. So while 14 states are attempting to restrict citizenship and force a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment, according to Doug Ramsey at the Public News Service, Arizona had appeared to be the most likely to pass the controversial measure.

The effort isn’t completely dead, however. An identical measure introduced into the [STATE?] House may still stand a chance, as it has yet to reach committee. Meanwhile, Gould will keep trying to secure votes for SB 1309, while Pearce considers reassigning the bill to a friendlier committee. Nevertheless, the measure’s easy defeat in a state notorious for embracing hard line immigration laws may bode ill for similar efforts elsewhere.

SB 1070 copycat measures provoke division in Colorado, New Mexico and Florida

Indeed, attempts to pass Arizona-style immigration laws in other states have been repeatedly slowed by myriad legislative roadblocks and growing division between and within political parties.

In Colorado, proponents of an immigration law modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070 say they are planning to withdraw the measure after weeks of deliberation and indecision, reports Scot Kersgaard at the Colorado Independent. Just days after Arizona lawmakers withdrew their vaunted birthright citizenship bill, Colorado Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R) told reporters that legislators—who had hoped to avoid the kinds of costly legal challenges provoked by SB 1070— had failed to resolve the “possibly unconstitutional” elements of the measure.

In New Mexico, an executive order issued by Governor Susanna Martinez (R) that requires police to investigate the immigration statuses of all criminal suspects has sparked the ire of state Democrats. The American Independent’s Matthew Reichbach reports that Democratic legislators held a press conference last week denouncing the order, which is similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 and could lead to racial profiling.

While Martinez was careful to prohibit law enforcement from asking victims and witnesses about their immigration statuses (a practice that has, in Arizona, discouraged immigrant victims and witnesses from reporting violent crimes), Rep. Antonio Maestas (D) voiced concerns that the order could inhibit domestic violence victims from coming forward. Often, law enforcement responding to domestic disputes regard both parties as suspect (even fingerprinting and taking both into custody) until full statements can be taken and assessed—at which time, the victim is released.

But, as I’ve written before, in such cases victims run the risk of being questioned about their immigration status and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In response, Democratic lawmakers are pushing several bills that would overturn the governor’s order.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Republicans are divided over the prospect of introducing their own SB 1070 copycat bill, reports Elena Shore at New America Media/La Prensa, Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) argues that such a measure would be bad for the state, but newly elected Republican Governor Rick Scott (who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform) maintains that “police should have the ability to ask people for immigration papers while they go about their jobs, even during routine stops.”

Meanwhile, an SB 1070-type bill that was introduced last session may get a makeover as its author, Rep. William Snyder (R), tries to soften its provisions in advance of the upcoming legislative session, which opens March 8.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Weekly Diaspora: One Year After SB 1070, What’s Changed?

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Medica Consortium blogger

A year ago this month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, effectively pushing an already vibrant anti-immigrant movement to a new extreme. Over the following months, immigrant rights advocates prepared for the worst, and grappled with multiple setbacks as other states threatened to follow Arizona’s example.

Looking back, though, it’s clear that the draconian immigration law hasn’t quite measured up to its bad reputation—in part because a federal injunction blocked several of its more pernicious provisions.Kent Peterson at New America Media/Frontera NorteSur suggests that anti-immigrant policymakers “overreached” with SB 1070, pushing the restrictionist movement to its own peak with the controversial law.

Arizona’s political influence has waned

Certainly in the long term, the law seems to have done more harm than good to the movement. While it initially added plenty of fuel to the restrictionists’ fire, it has ultimately failed to spread through other states the way many expected it to. While a few states (seeColorlines.com’s infographic or Alternet’s rundown) are still considering SB1070-type laws, most others have backed off the idea.

As Seth Hoy explains at Alternet/Immigration Impact, “states learned from Arizona — the numerous protests, Supreme Court challenge, costly litigation, economic boycotts that are still costing state businesses millions — and rejected similar laws.” Peterson similarly notes that a number of states have moved away from Arizona’s example because of SB 1070’s unexpected economic consequences—chiefly, an estimated $769 million in economic and tax revenues lost as a result of boycotts.

Immigrants still marginalized

That’s not say that the law has had no effect on immigrants. While a federal judge stayed several of its provisions last summer, SB 1070 proved to be a precursor to other insidious state laws targeting immigrants. Empowered by their success with SB 1070 and the ensuing media frenzy, state legislators quickly moved forward with several other harsh laws. As Feet in Two Worlds’ Valeria Fernandez explains, many immigrants in Arizona continue to live in fear even though SB 1070 is only partially enacted. She writes:

When you talk to immigrants in the street, they’ll tell you that not much has changed. Some continue to live in fear that they could be stopped by the police and deported. Others are having a difficult time getting work due to another Arizona law that harshly sanctions employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

At Colorlines.com, Seth Freed Wessler elaborates on the real impact of bills like SB 1070. He writes:

[The bills] send waves of fear and confusion into immigrant communities. … In the period since SB 1070 passed, uncounted numbers of immigrants have fled their homes in Arizona. … And the provisions in the law that were not blocked by the court, including one that makes it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants, put everyone at risk.

The role of the federal government

Nevertheless, Wessler points out that the federal government—not SB 1070 and not Arizona—is to blame for the brunt of the damage inflicted upon undocumented immigrants in the last year. Besides deporting record numbers of immigrant detainees and significantly expanding border enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork for SB 1070 with its 287(g) program—which enabled local law enforcement to act as ICE agents. Adding insult to injury, President Barack Obama never came to close to fulfilling his campaign promise of passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Whether he will do so this year is up for debate, but many reform advocates remain skeptical after last year’s ups and downs. As Marcos Restrepo of the American Independent reports, several immigrant rights activists voiced disappointment after Obama convened a White House meeting on immigration last Tuesday. Chief among the critics was Pablo Alvorado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who said in a statement:

While we appreciate the President’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent…If the President genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the secure communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.

The American Prospect’s Gabriel Arana is similarly skeptical of both the president’s approach to the problem, and his ability to enact meaningful reform:

On one hand, it is laudable that the president has revived the immigration debate, but there is a reason it died last year, even with Democrats in firm control of Congress and the executive branch. Instead of trying to tack immigration reform to an enforcement bill, the president should change the frame and stop talking about immigration as a national-security issue rather than an issue in its own right.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: One Year After SB 1070, What’s Changed?

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Medica Consortium blogger

A year ago this month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, effectively pushing an already vibrant anti-immigrant movement to a new extreme. Over the following months, immigrant rights advocates prepared for the worst, and grappled with multiple setbacks as other states threatened to follow Arizona’s example.

Looking back, though, it’s clear that the draconian immigration law hasn’t quite measured up to its bad reputation—in part because a federal injunction blocked several of its more pernicious provisions.Kent Peterson at New America Media/Frontera NorteSur suggests that anti-immigrant policymakers “overreached” with SB 1070, pushing the restrictionist movement to its own peak with the controversial law.

Arizona’s political influence has waned

Certainly in the long term, the law seems to have done more harm than good to the movement. While it initially added plenty of fuel to the restrictionists’ fire, it has ultimately failed to spread through other states the way many expected it to. While a few states (seeColorlines.com’s infographic or Alternet’s rundown) are still considering SB1070-type laws, most others have backed off the idea.

As Seth Hoy explains at Alternet/Immigration Impact, “states learned from Arizona — the numerous protests, Supreme Court challenge, costly litigation, economic boycotts that are still costing state businesses millions — and rejected similar laws.” Peterson similarly notes that a number of states have moved away from Arizona’s example because of SB 1070’s unexpected economic consequences—chiefly, an estimated $769 million in economic and tax revenues lost as a result of boycotts.

Immigrants still marginalized

That’s not say that the law has had no effect on immigrants. While a federal judge stayed several of its provisions last summer, SB 1070 proved to be a precursor to other insidious state laws targeting immigrants. Empowered by their success with SB 1070 and the ensuing media frenzy, state legislators quickly moved forward with several other harsh laws. As Feet in Two Worlds’ Valeria Fernandez explains, many immigrants in Arizona continue to live in fear even though SB 1070 is only partially enacted. She writes:

When you talk to immigrants in the street, they’ll tell you that not much has changed. Some continue to live in fear that they could be stopped by the police and deported. Others are having a difficult time getting work due to another Arizona law that harshly sanctions employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

At Colorlines.com, Seth Freed Wessler elaborates on the real impact of bills like SB 1070. He writes:

[The bills] send waves of fear and confusion into immigrant communities. … In the period since SB 1070 passed, uncounted numbers of immigrants have fled their homes in Arizona. … And the provisions in the law that were not blocked by the court, including one that makes it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants, put everyone at risk.

The role of the federal government

Nevertheless, Wessler points out that the federal government—not SB 1070 and not Arizona—is to blame for the brunt of the damage inflicted upon undocumented immigrants in the last year. Besides deporting record numbers of immigrant detainees and significantly expanding border enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork for SB 1070 with its 287(g) program—which enabled local law enforcement to act as ICE agents. Adding insult to injury, President Barack Obama never came to close to fulfilling his campaign promise of passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Whether he will do so this year is up for debate, but many reform advocates remain skeptical after last year’s ups and downs. As Marcos Restrepo of the American Independent reports, several immigrant rights activists voiced disappointment after Obama convened a White House meeting on immigration last Tuesday. Chief among the critics was Pablo Alvorado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who said in a statement:

While we appreciate the President’s effort to keep immigration reform on the national agenda, his actions belie his intent…If the President genuinely wanted to fix the broken immigration system, he would respond to the growing chorus of voices calling for the suspension of the secure communities program and move to legalize instead of further criminalize our immigrant communities.

The American Prospect’s Gabriel Arana is similarly skeptical of both the president’s approach to the problem, and his ability to enact meaningful reform:

On one hand, it is laudable that the president has revived the immigration debate, but there is a reason it died last year, even with Democrats in firm control of Congress and the executive branch. Instead of trying to tack immigration reform to an enforcement bill, the president should change the frame and stop talking about immigration as a national-security issue rather than an issue in its own right.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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