Weekly Diaspora: Will Immigration Reform Bills Bring Voters to the Polls?

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Riding the media blitz that followed the DREAM Act’s recent defeat, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) unveiled their own comprehensive immigration reform bills just before Congress adjourned last week. The bills are enforcement-heavy, party-line bills that were immediately referred to committee, where they are expected to languish for some time.

Few expect much to come of either bill, given their untimely introduction and the broad failure of previous immigration reform efforts. Rather, these bills are perceived as last-ditch attempts to score political points before midterm elections. The Menendez bill could net support for Democrats from an increasingly unmotivated Latino electorate, conversely, Hatch’s bill reinforces the hard-line immigration stance so popular among Republican voters.

The Menendez Bill: Two steps forward, one step back

While the Menendez bill was introduced with the strong support of major immigration reform groups like the National Immigration Forum, others regard it as a disappointing mixed bag of talking points.

The bill has several high points, like its inclusion of AgJOBS and the DREAM Act, but is heavy on the kinds of federal immigration enforcement that immigrant rights advocates abhor. As Prerna Lal at Change.org writes:

[The bill] starts with border enforcement, followed by interior enforcement, then worksite enforcement, before actually reforming the system and moving forward with the legalization of undocumented immigrants. […] The biggest downfall of the bill is probably that it does not do much to address the ever-growing immigrant detention complex and, instead, mandates a system that criminalizes immigrants.

Likening it to the failed Schumer-Graham bill of last spring, Lal notes that the bill’s prioritization of enforcement isn’t bi-partisan so much as a slap in the face of those who have fought hardest for comprehensive reform. Nevertheless, the Menendez Bill succeeds where its Democratic predecessor—the Guttieriez bill—failed: It provides a path to citizenship for undocumented partners of LGBT citizens.

While it remains unlikely that the bill will ever become law as is, Menendez introduced it into Senate to remind Latinos which party is on their side this election season.

The Hatch Bill: Revving up the base with more of the same

Orrin Hatch admits even more frankly that he only introduced an immigration bill because he wanted to stir up his base. In his own words, the bill is “just for show.”

Accordingly—and as Elise Foley of the Washington Independent notes—his bill doesn’t do much of anything except reinforce existing immigration laws and practices:

Immigration advocacy groups were critical of the bill, calling it “dog whistle rhetoric” to gin up his base. “His bill doesn’t offer serious solutions,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum said in a press release. “Instead it duplicates work already being done on enforcement and won’t solve the crisis it purports to address.”

The bill does propose boosting enforcement in some areas—for instance, requiring all law enforcement agencies to deputize their officers as immigration agents—but on the whole appears to be little more than the political ploy Hatch says it is.

Where are the Latino voters?

Whether either bill will have much of an impact on voters, however, is up for debate. A new report released by the Pew Hispanic Center reveals that, while Latino voters still largely identify as Democrats, they are much less motivated to cast their ballots this year than they have been in the past two elections. The finding is a surprising one, as reform advocates have been working hard to galvanize the Latino constituency against increasing anti-immigrant sentiment.

But weak voter motivation may have less to do with politics and more to do with the pressures accompanying a bad economy. As I wrote for Campus Progress, populations that were disproportionately hurt by the recession seem to have less overall interest in voting this November.

In particular, Latino voters with close ties to undocumented workers are experiencing some of the worst voter fallout from the recession and, under the circumstances, are becoming politically disaffected despite the highly politicized immigration debate.

Rather than motivating the bulk of Latino voters, all of the controversy surrounding anti-immigrant sentiment and policies are instead fomenting an agitated conservative base. At ColorLines, Jamilah King astutely notes that, “while Democrats had hoped incendiary anti-immigrant legislation like SB 1070 would encourage voters to come out against Republicans in protest, it seems that the opposite is happening.”

Instead, controversy surrounding SB 1070 and other measures are generating strong support among conservatives. Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio, once the figurehead of immigration enforcement in the U.S., is now proclaiming himself to be the “poster boy” of immigration as he tours the country endorsing a slew of radical conservative candidates.

There they are!

Nevertheless, reform advocates are optimistic about both the power and the will of the Latino electorate.

According to Valerie Fernandez at New America Media, organizers are registering record numbers of Latinos this year. In Arizona, where voter registration closed on Monday, a coalition of ten groups claims to have registered 22,000 new voters. It’s a remarkable accomplishment. Latino voters make up only 15 percent of all registered voters in Arizona, despite the fact that Latinos comprise 30 percent of the state’s population. 22,000 new voters could effectively double the number of Latinos voting in the state, and may significantly impact the election’s outcome.

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: What the #$@!, Arizona?

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

While federal lawmakers cautiously mull over the possibility of dropping a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year, legislators in Arizona have passed yet another law that criminalizes undocumented immigrants. What’s more, the Arizona House is advancing a bill that would require the Arizona Secretary of State to review President Barack Obama’s birth certificate before his name is allowed on any ballots.

The Arizona crackdown

Arizona lawmakers just passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighbourhood Act, which is arguably the toughest immigration law in the country. It forces local police to check the immigration status of people if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might be undocumented. The bill is an invitation to racially profile residents.

The bill, which now goes the states’ Republican Governor Jan Brewer for final approval, has sparked an organized campaign to defeat the measure over concerns that the bill is inhumane would discriminate against Latinos.

Valeria Fernández with the Inter Press Service reports on the bill, which “includes a number of provisions that go beyond authorizing the arrest of undocumented immigrants on ‘reasonable suspicion.’ It targets day laborers by making it a crime to look for work on the street, and would fine anyone who harbors or transports an undocumented immigrant, including family members.”

Outbreaks of civil disobedience have accompanied the bill. “On Tuesday, nine students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after they chained themselves to the entrance doors of the capitol building in an act of civil disobedience against the proposed law.” Fernández reports. “Authorities arrested them as soon as they said they wouldn’t leave until the governor took action on the law.”

John Tomasic with the Colorado Independent also notes that “On Capitol Hill, Prominent Latino Reps. Luis Gutierrez [(D-IL)] and Raul Grijalva [(D-AZ)]denounced Arizona’s controversial immigration bill and urged [Brewer] to veto the legislation. “

Eyes on Washington

While anti-immigrant legislation passes in Arizona, optimism for federal immigration reform this year is growing dimmer. While a proposal has already been introduced in the House of Representatives, the issue of citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants could be shelved indefinitely if a bill isn’t introduced in the Senate soon.

The Senate will need time to debate the issue, and if it isn’t introduced in the next few weeks, potential fallout from the upcoming Congressional elections may make passing reform even more difficult.

ALIPAC attacks

As Kai Wright notes over at RaceWire, the congressional debate is not off to a civil start. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the only Republican Senator openly working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, was verbally attacked by anti-immigrant groups this week.

“The rabidly anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has launched a campaign professing to out Graham as gay,” reports Wright. “In a speech to a Tea Party rally — which is making the web rounds via YouTube — the group’s leader, William Gheen, speculated that Graham’s being blackmailed into participating in immigration reform because of his ’secret.’ ‘I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it,’ Gheen said.

McCain veers right

Mother Jones reports that ALIPAC is also targeting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a lawmaker who co-sponsored a immigration reform bill in 2007 with the late Ted Kennedy. The 2007 bill didn’t pass, and since then McCain has backed away from vocally supporting reform now that he’s facing a primary challenge to his Senate seat.

“The motivation for McCain’s rightward shift is obvious,” Suzy Khimm writes. “The Arizona senator authored the Senate’s last comprehensive reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. His Tea Party-backed primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth, has attacked him relentlessly for doing so. Hayworth has been endorsed by [ALIPAC], a right wing anti-immigrant group that’s trying to stir up Tea Partiers to revive the conservative crusade against ‘amnesty.’”

Just this week, McCain introduced a bill in the Senate that would 3,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border, “an intervention that critics say would be both costly and ineffective,” according to Khimm. McCain also come out in support of Arizona’s news anti-immigration law.

But despite vicious attacks from the right, there is still hope. Immigration reform supporters are planning rallies in dozens of states on May 1 to keep pressure on the Senate to propose a bill. To organizers working on the ground to pass reform, Arizona exemplifies why the broken immigration system needs to be fixed on a national level, and now.

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.




Not a smear on Obama, read closely -- six degrees from Obama is right

The commentary on Obama was not intended as a smear, it was simply an anticipation of possible smear tactics that could be used by Republicans. Whoever thought this was a smear obviously didn't read the entry very carefully.

Republicans are going to have to reach deep and far to discredit most of the people who will end up as Democratic frontrunners. My money is on Obama as the frontrunner. Therefore, I think "six degrees from Obama" might be the only tactic Republicans have.

As someone who knows the Southside of Chicago better than the streets of Cambridge or Westchester County, Obama has close ties with what might be called "the silent majority" of the Democratic Party. These are churches, community organizations and local leaders who are not affiliated with the 'political class' of the Democratic Party. This is a silent majority which has been languishing and has been ready to emerge out from under the legacy of the Clinton era DNC.

Furthermore, Obama has been very careful not to associate with Illinois polticians who could bring his reputation in proximity to corruption scandals. It will be very difcult to harness him with any 'official bad business' stories the Republicans will dig up to try and counter the fact Americans have indeed tilted towards the left and are ready for a more progressive president, (call it the Goldwater effect for Democrats).

And anyone who thinks that I'm making this up about Gutierrez I have $100.00 that says I can prove it.

The pictures were also to disprove any accusations that Obama is not rooted in the African-American community.

I am neither for or against Obama. I am neither for or against Hillary Clinton. The only Dem I don't like is Edwards. To use an R-rated Carville-ism, I think he will be as effective as an 80-year-old penis without viagra.

And comeon, like you aren't going to vote for Hillary if she gets the nomination? What America have you been living in for the past 8 years?

All of the naysayers should do some reading on Granovetter's 'Strength of Weak Ties' to see where the real issues in this campaign wil come from.

Oh, sorry to suggest academic reading. I forgot, most people on here only read blogs and Slate.

There's more...

Barak's biggest possible problem

Barak Obama biggest possible problem - should the Republicans get desperate for an issue - will be any relationship with Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Arguably the most powerful Latino politician, even trumping Senator Robert Menendez (D, NJ), Guiterrez has enjoyed a long, politically-intimate relationship with Dr. José Lopez, brother of Oscar Lopez the Puerto Rican Political Prisioner who refused the freedom offered to him by former president Bill Clinton during Clinton's last days pardon-a-thon.

Even after 9/11, the FBI was investigating Lopez for possible connection to possible planned terrorist acts involving the FALN, the armed faction of the Puerto Rican nationalist/independence movement.

Few talk about this relationship between Dr. Lopez and the Congressman despite Lopez' dominant presence during Gutierrez' campaigns and at his victory parties. Should the Republicans have an opportunity to use terrorism as a scare tactic (even they know it's becoming the sister of the boy who cried wolf yelling 'fire!') this relationship and the Dems sedintary attitude about Lopez' advisement to the Congressman could end up being a powder keg. Should Castro die any time during the election (a Republican wet dream) and 50's Mari Bras relations between the Puerto Rican Independence movement and Cuba's Communist Party rear their head as evident, this relationship could become additional problematic.

Of course, given that Hillary's husband gave the pardon, the issue could become a problem for her, too.

However, unless there is another small-scale attack on U.S. soil or solid evidence an intended attack has been twarted, there is a slim chance such assertions will work in painting any Democrat as weak on terrorism.

Meanwhile, here are some photographs taken of Obama on his 'home' turf, Chicago's South Side. These are some rare photos of him interacting in the African-American community, something he does quietly.

http://www.zeitgeistreport.com/obama/oba ma_photos.html

There's more...

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.



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