Let's get real about harsh anti-immigrant laws and their implications

From the Restore Fairness blog.

The small town of Fremont, Nebraska is the latest in a series of U.S. towns that have decided to take immigration law into their own hands. On Monday, the 21st of June, 57% of the town’s 25,000 residents voted in favor of a law that would ban landlords from renting to people that were undocumented, and ban employers from hiring people without the correct immigration documents. The measure will require city officials and employers to verify people’s immigration status before taking them on as employees or tenants.

The arguments in support of this measure are similar to those heard in Arizona from those that support SB1070, the Arizona law that makes it a misdemeanor to be undocumented in Arizona and sanctions local law enforcement to stop people who appear reasonably suspicious of being undocumented. In Fremont, those in favor of the anti-immigrant ordinance attribute it to the Federal government’s inaction on the issue of immigration. A resident of Fremont, Trevor McClurg thinks that it is a fair measure. He said, “I don’t think it’s right to be able to rent to them or hire them. They shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Speaking to the Associated Press, 56 year old Alfredo Velez, who runs a general store in Fremont and is an American citizen, has a very different opinion. Surprised by the law, he was only certain about one thing. “We’re not welcome here,” he said, expressing concern about the future of the town’s Hispanic population and his store, Guerrero, which sells products from Central America and Mexico. The town, about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, has seen its Latino population grow in leaps and bounds in the last decade due to the availability of jobs at the nearby Fremont beef and Hormel factories. Velez, who is the father of four and has lived in the town for 12 years, considers it home and has no plans of leaving, but was incredibly hurt by the high percentage of residents that voted to get the anti-immigrant ordinance passed. An owner of a building downtown, he is certain that if passed, this law will scare people away from the town, chasing away many potential renters.

The probable implications of a law like this are huge, and can run much deeper than deterring immigrants from settling in the town. In addition to inciting racial discrimination and racist sentiments, laws like this often result in length legal battles, the costs of which have to be filled by town taxes. In Fremont, the American Civil Liberties Union has already planned to file a lawsuit opposing the new measure. Explaining the motivation behind such bills, Amy Miller, ACLU Nebraska’s legal director said-

I’m afraid this is part of a larger, nationwide trend, most obviously typified by what has happened in Arizona,”There is no rational reason for Fremont to be worried about protecting our border. But it is a community, like many in rural Nebraska, where the only population growth has been in new immigrants, many of them people of color.

ACLU Nebraska has two main problems with the bill. She feels that in addition to immigration policy being a federal function, the measure violates the14th amendment of the constitution, which guarantees due process to everyone in the U.S., not just American citizens. Other cities with similar ordinances such as Hazelton, PA and Riverside, NJ, have faced lawsuits that have kept the laws tied up in the courts, preventing them from being implemented and resulting in extremely high legal costs for the cities. City officials in Fremont are estimating up to $1 million dollars as the cost of the ordinance, including legal fees, employee overtime and computer software, not taking into account the deduction in city taxes that will take place as a result of the law driving away people who fear being targeted by it.

And it isn’t just small towns that are passing laws such as this. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 5 other states (South Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Michigan) are looking at copycat legislation, and as per a Washington think tank, NDN, 17 other states had expressed interest in similar laws. Lawmakers in cities such as Fremont should learn a lesson or two from Arizona when executing harsh anti-immigrant measures such as this.

Even before Arizona’s SB1070 has been implemented,it has been responsible for sizable numbers of people, especially Latinos, leaving their homes in Arizona and moving to other states. Although there is no official data tracking the numbers of people leaving, piecemeal information from businesses, schools and health centers indicates that since Gov. Brewer signed SB1070 on April 23rd, the populations of Hispanic neighborhoods is dwindling. Latino families that are frightened about the repercussions of the law for their children and community, are pulling their children from schools, leaving their jobs and uprooting their lives to move elsewhere, in moves that are highly risky given the current economy. According to Alan Langston, president of the Arizona Rental Property Owners & Landlords Association in Phoenix, landlords and realty companies will be hard hit by the new law. In Phoenix’s Belleview street, home to a large Latino population, now more than half of the properties have “for rent” signs hanging outside them.

Additionally, dozens of healthcare clinics in Arizona are concerned because people are too afraid of being questioned about their immigrations status to show up to their appointments. Tara McCollum Plese, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, which oversees 132 facilities said that people are either moving away or too afraid to turn up, and the health care workers are worried about the implications of people resisting treatment. “We’re actually worried about communicable diseases,” said Tara, speaking to the Washington Post. Educators are worried that with so many children being pulled out of schools, they may be forced to cut programs and lay off teachers, since lower enrollment means funding cuts for schools. According to the Washington Post-

Parents pulled 39 children out of Balsz Elementary, which has a 75 percent Hispanic student body, since April 23…In the small, five-school district, parents have pulled out 111 children, said district Superintendent Jeffrey Smith, who cites the new law as the leading factor. Smith said each student represents roughly $5,000 in annual funding to the district, so a drop of 111 students would represent roughly a $555,000 funding cut.

Small businesses like grocery stores and car washes are already feeling the impact of the law as well, having lost up to 30% of their business in the last two months. Most recently, Phoenix’s police chief released an estimate saying that once implemented, the enforcement of SB1070 would cost the city of Phoenix up to $10 million per year, as a result of the clause that makes it a criminal, rather than civil offense to be in the state without the correct documents.

State legislatures taking immigration law into their own hands can have a potentially devastating impact on the economies and communities of their states. It is imperative that the Federal government acts to pass immigration reform before more states follow suit. Take action now and write to Congress and President Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform that upholds due process.

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Op-ed on the "Democratic Opportunity"

The Politico asked me to write an essay on what advice I would give to the Democratic Presidential candidates.  It is running today and is below.  Would love your thoughts.

The Democratic Opportunity

Simon Rosenberg

April 11, 2007 07:32 PM EST

As we look to 2008, it is clear the two parties face a vastly different political landscape than anything we've seen in recent years. For the first time in a generation, the Republicans are in retreat, their brand damaged and ideology discredited. The Democrats won a resounding national victory in 2006 and, according to a recent Pew Center poll, they have opened up an extraordinary 15 percentage-point advantage in party identification.

It is now reasonable to speculate that if Democrats win the presidency in 2008, it could be the beginning of a sustained period of Democratic control of government, akin to their run in the middle of the past century. President Bush, meanwhile, is looking more like a 21st-century version of Herbert Hoover each day.

Thus the stakes in 2008 are very high. It is not just about the control of the White House, but whether Democrats can take advantage of a profound mishandling of government by the Republicans, and build the foundation for a 21st-century majority as strong as it had in the 20th.

To do so, Democrats will have to apply their values to a new set of realities that are making the new politics of this new century different from the last.

A New Governing Agenda That Tackles the Emerging Challenges of Our Time

When in power during the 20th century, Democrats succeeded by tackling the great challenges of that time. Abroad, we defeated fascism, were instrumental in the triumph over communist totalitarianism and constructed an international system based on FDR's vision of a United Nations, bringing unprecedented liberty and prosperity to the people of the world. At home, we rescued America from its greatest economic crisis, the Depression. We further created Social Security and Medicare, and spearheaded the civil rights, consumer, labor, women's and environmental movements that have helped make America not just great but good. And, when we last held presidential power, during the 1990s, progressives oversaw the greatest economic expansion in our history. It is a record to be proud of.

In the years ahead, our leaders will face a new set of tough 21st-century governing challenges. We must keep the world peaceful and our country safe, restore broad-based prosperity in a much more competitive age of globalization, invest in infrastructure and people to ensure future prosperity, address global climate change, modernize our health care system while guaranteeing that all Americans have access to health insurance, strive for energy independence while lowering our energy costs, manage the retirement of the baby boom, get our federal budget under control and solve the immigration challenge. These are no small set of challenges.

For Democrats, success in 2008 will require offering real solutions to these great challenges, something the current governing party has utterly failed to do.

A New Post-Broadcast Media and Communications Era

As FDR mastered early broadcast radio and JFK excelled on the new technology of his time, television, future success will depend on the mastery of an emergent post-broadcast communications environment. We are in the very early stages of a whole new era of political communications, which is more personal, iterative, participatory, fragmented, digital, networked -- and whose rate of change is accelerating.

In 2003, we saw how an unknown candidate, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, used these new 21st-century tools to leapfrog his competition among rival Democratic presidential candidates. In 2004, we saw the DNC use them to raise more money than the RNC for the first time in recent memory. And in 2006, we saw the early power of viral video help take down GOP senator George Allen in Virginia, giving Democrats control of the Senate.

The way the American people connect and communicate with one another is changing and, in response, we must radically alter our approach to media and political communications. For Democrats, success in 2008 will require replacing the 20th-century model of political communications, with a new spirit of experimentation and a new set of political tools.

The American People Themselves Have Changed

Since FDR built the Democratic Party's last great majority electoral coalition, the American people have changed a great deal. In recent decades, America has become increasingly suburban and exurban, Southern and Western, Hispanic and Asian, immigrant and Spanish-speaking, aging boomer and millennial, and more digital age in our orientation toward life and work than industrial age.

These new demographic realities have created a new 21st-century electoral majority strategy for Democrats, one that was used to win the Senate and House in 2006 and that has now produced 42 states with either a Democratic senator or governor. This new map starts with Democratic strengths in the Northeast, Midwest and Coastal West, and seeks to consolidate opportunities in the Inter-Mountain West, the Southwest, the Plains and parts of the South.

Democrats start the hunt for the presidency with much more strength at the Electoral College level than is widely understood, having what could be considered perhaps a high floor but low ceiling. The party has received 250 Electoral College votes or more in the past four national elections, a feat last accomplished in the FDR era.

While Ohio alone may give the Democrats the presidency in 2008, a great new Hispanic opening has emerged with what may be a permanent degradation of the Republican brand resulting from the terrible immigration debate in 2006. Exploiting this opening could flip Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, and give the Democrats another 56 electoral votes. What is remarkable is that this new Electoral College strategy is essentially the same way Democrats won the Senate and House, creating for this old party a very new, achievable and durable way of holding power in this new century.

What's Next

So how are Democrats doing so far in mastering this new politics of the 21st century? Well, after years of failed conservative government, Democrats have put big issues -- restoring broad-based prosperity, fixing Iraq and global climate change and energy independence -- on the agenda. Our presidential candidates have already embraced powerful new tools like viral video and social networking. Our party's emerging leaders -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and DNC Chairman Dean -- look like 21st-century America and hail from the regions critical to locking in this 21st-century electoral majority.

Our new primary calendar includes states from the fastest-growing regions of the country, the South and West, which will allow African-Americans and Hispanics to participate in our primary process as never before. Our 2008 convention is in Denver, at the epicenter of the most important new strategic opening in this election, the Southwest, and will be chaired in part by the compelling Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado, a member of a new generation of Hispanic leaders.

There is much at stake in 2008. Only one political party, the Democrats, built a sustained majority coalition in the 20th century. The historic failures of the Bush era have made it possible for Democrats to imagine replicating this success in our new century. And while a great deal of attention will go into winning the 2008 elections, it is critical for us to also be looking ahead at a much more strategic level and recognize that by mastering this new politics of the new century, we may be taking the critical early steps in building a majority coalition as robust and durable as the one FDR built more than 70 years ago.

There's more...

Simon Rosenberg (NDN) claims Emanuel & Schumer led victory

Just a few minutes ago on the Alex Bennett show (Sirius 146) Simon Rosenberg of the NDN (which he says now doesn't not mean anything, like KFC) claimed that Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer were the parties responsible for the overwhelming performance of Democrats, including the vast number of candidates running.

Of course, this is patently false.  Without the push of Howard Dean and the netroots to pursue the 50-State Strategy, these men and their campaign committees would have continued the losing strategy of pursuing just a few 'critical' seats, underfunding 'unimportant' races at federal and state levels, and basically trying to not rock the boat and upset the GOP majority by letting the GOP control the message, control the election and most likely continue to control the Congress.

You can call the Alex Bennett show:  866-997-4748

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Hillary Clinton criticizes the blogosphere - again

bumped b/c dbalpert is wicked smart - Matt

I'm at the NDN Annual Meeting this morning, where Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton just addressed the conference. And while 99% of her speech would have bloggers nodding if not cheering, she couldn't resist throwing in a little dig at the blogosphere.

Many online vehemently oppose Senator Clinton's Presidential ambitions, and she has made the tactical decision to ignore the blogosphere rather than engaging with it -in my opinion, a poor choice.

But at the conference, the Senator said much with which progressive bloggers would enthusiastically agree.  She drew clear distinctions with Republicans on major policy areas such as health care, making higher education affordable, and a competent FEMA.  She made a clear case for the importance of Congressional oversight of what is going on in the executive branch.  She believes that having an honest discussion about Iraq in Congress is vital.  She even mentioned Net Neutrality.  It was a laundry list, but it was good laundry, at least.  Until a questioner asked her about blogs.

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Blogging the NDN Conference

Yesterday, All America PAC attended the New Democrat Network's Annual Meeting. Many insightful things were said - which we blogged about here and here and here.

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Diaries

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