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.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org




Health Care, Climate Change, and Christianity in the Omaha World-Herald

I'd like to draw your attention to two recent faith-based op-eds from Ben Nelson's home state, one on climate change and the other on health care. Both articles are from the Omaha World Herald, which according to Wikipedia"has for many years been the newspaper with the highest penetration rate -- the percentage of people who subscribe to the publication within the paper's home circulation area -- in the United States."

Today's World-Herald includes an op-ed by 16 Christian clergypersons from around the state calling for Congress to take action on climate change and pass clean energy legislation. The 16 authors include Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant pastors as well as the state-wide leaders of three different denominations (the Episcopal Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the United Church of Christ). An excerpt:

Environmental scholar and Methodist Bill McKibben writes that God does "not understand dominion to include thoughtless destruction for short-term gain." The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has similarly said, "At its core, global climate change is not about economic theory or political platforms, nor about partisan advantage or interest group pressures. It is about the future of God's creation and the one human family."...

If we are serious about seeking justice for all God's children, then we must lend our voices in support of those working to address this problem, which is already having a devastating effect upon the sinking Bangladesh Plain and the islands of the Maldives... The impacts of climate change are not limited to developing countries or the American coast. According to a recent study by the Nature Conservancy, the Midwest will warm more than any other region of the country. The resulting droughts will not be kind to Nebraska farmers or those who depend on their products for daily sustenance.

Unfortunately, Nebraska's primary energy source, coal, is the dirtiest form of energy in use today. As much as 30 percent of global warming is a result of burning coal. In addition, our insatiable appetite for coal has devastated mountaintops, increased mercury poisoning and in some areas led to elevated rates of asthma and cancer. Nebraska needs to move away from its dependence on coal and develop its potential for renewable energy sources.

Are you listening, Ben Nelson?

Similarly, on Friday the World-Herald printed an op-ed from three pastors - two Methodists and a Jesuit - urging Senator Nelson to vote for health care reform, something he has since pledged to do. (Two of the three are among the climate article's 16 authors, as is another pastor from the third's church).

As clergy and leaders within our faith traditions, we believe every person is created to live with dignity and wholeness. In today's world, this requires access to health care. Providing universal health care access is a moral and spiritual imperative...

As Nebraska faith leaders, we call for systemic change that is guided by the following principles based on our religious values. We support universal access to good-quality health care that: (1) Provides comprehensive and affordable coverage for all. (2) Eliminates health care disparities. (3) Includes effective cost containment. (4) Simplifies administration. (5) Eliminates pre-existing condition exclusions from coverage.

We turn to U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, knowing he stands with us as a person of faith. As governor, he left a lasting and important legacy of strong public insurance programs such as Kids Connection and CHIP, which provides insurance to thousands of Nebraskans who would otherwise join the uninsured.

There's more...

The results are in: Obama wins Omaha's electoral vote

(Cross-post at C4O Democrats.)

Let me tell you why I am excited this afternoon.  I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and grew up there the first seven years of my life before my family moved to California.  Omaha is home to a respectable number of liberal Democrats who would no sooner vote for a Republican than play touch football on a freeway during rush hour.  I am living proof of the truth of that statement.  

There's more...

On the road with Sarah Palin in Omaha

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

On Saturday night, there were reports not just that Obama was making a major play for the one electoral vote that comes with a victory in Nebraska's second congressional district, but that this move sufficiently concerned the McCain campaign that they decided to send Sarah Palin to Omaha to do a rally there.  Well, guess what?  Sarah denies that she went to Omaha to shore up flagging support.

There's more...

Palin in Nebraska tomorrow?

So Ambinder reports that Palin is scheduled to make a stop in Omaha tomorrow evening.  As we know, Obama is being pretty aggressive with courting the one electoral college vote available in the district for which Omaha is located.  If this story is correct (it sounds questionable to me because the lady is scheduled to be in Florida early Monday morning), we may have confirmation that the race is somewhat close in that one Congressional district.

It'll be interesting to see whether we call their bluff about Maine and send Biden to make a stop in the relevant Congressional district in Maine when he's up in New Hampshire Monday and Tuesday.

So I used up my two diary limit today on Palin.  What can I say, she was winking at me the other night....

There's more...


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