Weekly Diaspora: Zero Hour Approaching for Federal Immigration Reform

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

The countdown is on. Half a million supporters of comprehensive immigration reform rallied across the country on May 1 to protest SB 1070, Arizona’s prohibitive new anti-immigration law and ratchet up pressure for a federal reform bill this year. In Washington, DC, police arrested a dozen demonstrators, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), after they engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, as Esther Gentile reports for New America Media.

So far, legislators in the Senate have not introduced a proposal, and the longer they wait, the less likely it is that a bill will be debated in 2010, especially with an election on the horizon. The stakes are incredibly high because a lack of federal action leaves a wide opening for states to draft their own, increasingly restrictive versions of immigration reform.

Rally round the country

Feministing also reports on the Washington May Day rally, which was led by “the Trail of Dreams trekkers, Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa, and Juan Rodriguez, who walked 1500 miles from Florida to DC in support of the DREAM Act, which would make a college education possible and create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.”

Los Angeles had the largest rally attendance of about 60,000 according to Hatty Lee at RaceWire, but there were also significant numbers in other states. “The nationwide May Day rallies drew tens of thousands of protesters—the largest turnouts since 2006,” Lee writes, remembering the millions who marched in cities for immigration reform just four years ago.

Workers Independent News sheds some light on to the labor history involved with May Day, writing that May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day, has created a strong alliance between union members and immigration reform boosters.

Arizona on my mind

SB 1070, Arizona’s new immigration law which forces local police to check the immigration status of a person if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented, has only energized the reform movement.

“It has mobilized the entire pro-immigration community and triggered a large, visible, highly vocal and well-publicized backlash that some polling suggests is beginning to turn fence-sitters into advocates,” William Fisher reports at the Inter Press Service.

Jesse Freeston with the Real News found that “While the demands of immigration reform, fair education, and an end to deportations have been around for years, the recent developments in Arizona were on everybody’s mind.”

In the wake of Arizona, Democratic lawmakers released a rough draft of an immigration proposal for the Senate last week. Jessica Pieklo at Care2 reports that “the proposals suggested by the Democrats include enhanced border security, the creation of a new fraud-resistant Social Security card, and for those already in the country illegally, a series of penalties, taxes, and fees, in addition to passing a criminal background check would have to be satisfied before they would qualify for legal residency, ”

Despite the draft—one of two, the other co-authored by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and released weeks ago—a bill has yet to be officially introduced in the Senate, and it’s unknown when it will be given a chance.

SB 1070 disproportionately affects children and victims of Domestic Violence

SB 1070 will likely have a great affect on undocumented victims of domestic violence, according to Laura Tillman at the Women’s Media Center. Tillman notes that domestic abuse could become worse in the state, now that the police are full-time immigration agents.

Tillman writes that the “new immigration law is set to give [domestic abuse] victims a heightened fear of deportation if they come forward to report crimes, and criminals the confidence to perpetrate crimes without fear of retribution.”

AlterNet also reports on a new study from the advocacy group First Focus, which finds that “Children are the hidden casualties of America’s war on immigrants, and the passage of Arizona’s new racial profiling legislation could open up countless opportunities for local law enforcement to break up families by putting undocumented parents on the fast-track to deportation.”

Today, with strong grassroots organizing, and after the countless injustices endured by immigrants on both the state and national level, the immigration battle of 2010 is nearing its most critical hour. And now, all eyes are on Congress to produce a bill.

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: 200,000 March on DC, Call for Immigration Reform Now

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

As the health care debate comes to a close, there’s no better time to introduce comprehensive immigration reform. Hundreds of thousands of immigrant rights supporters from all over the country congregated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to demand immigration reform in 2010. It was the largest political rally to be held since President Barack Obama moved into the White House.

Dressed in white and carrying American flags, the crowd numbered between 200,000 to 500,000 people. The marchers spanned approximately 7 blocks, all the way from the Washington Monument to the steps of Congress. Although many media outlets and lawmakers were were occupied by the historic health care vote taking place in the House of Representatives on the same day, Obama took time from his busy schedule to record a video message to the marchers, in which he discussed the need for immigration reform “this year.”

Obama the guest speaker

“I pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus, this year on this issue,” Obama said in the video, which was broadcast to the cheering crowd via giant TV screens on the Mall’s perimeter.

As RaceWire notes, Obama explained to reform supporters that “you know as well as I do that this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but if we work together across ethnic, state and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

The message came hot on the heels of a proposed Senate outline of an immigration reform bill, written a few days beforehand by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “For undocumented immigrants already here, the pathway to [a documented] status is basically this: pay a fine, pay back taxes, admit you broke the law, do some community service and then pass a back ground test,” RaceWire’s Seth Freed Wessler notes.

A similar immigration reform bill is in the House, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), but it is unknown when Schumer and Graham will introduce their proposal to the Senate floor. Immigrant advocates want lawmakers to introduce a reform bill in the Senate this Spring so that there will be time to debate the issue in 2010. The Senate outline is just a rough draft and the proposal could change significantly after it goes through Congress.

Labor and immigration reform

An enormous coalition of religious organizations, businesses and human rights groups are behind the push for immigration reform and the march on Washington. The coalition also includes dozens of unions. Labor was noticeably split over the issue when it was debated in 2007, but now appears to be consolidating its support. Workers Independent News reports that the AFL-CIO, a union federation that represents around 12 million workers, is supporting reform so long as it “enforces workers’ rights.”

Union federation president Rich Trumka also supports legislation that “would give undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and who graduate form U.S. high schools a chance to earn conditional permanent residency,” reports Workers Independent News correspondent Jesse Russell.

Change to Win, which represents 5 million workers, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fasted growing union in America, were also present at the march. While certain issues, like a possible guest worker program, are likely to be sticking points for labor when reform is debated, union members that have years of organizing experience are supporting efforts to create a pathway to citizenship.

Broken system hits home

It’s important to remember that the fight to pass reform is fueled by the havoc that the broken immigration system wreaks on families and workers. Compound a broken national system with arcane laws on the state level and lives are ruined on a daily basis.

Inter Press Service reports on a Arizona bill that could lob “fines and criminal charges against family members and employers that harbor or transport undocumented immigrants.” This means that even a U.S. citizen that is married to an undocumented immigrant would likely be charged if stopped by police while driving his or her spouse around.

The Texas Observer also reports on the booming immigration detention industry, noting that “as the number of immigrant detainees continues to grow, the waits for hearings continue to lengthen, and immigration reform languishes in congress, the atmosphere in [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention facilities has grown predictably volatile.”

According to the publication, there were riots at a private prison holding immigrants in Pecos, TX “After a man in solitary confinement died from epileptic seizures.” At another facility in Port Isabel, TX, hunger strikes protesting poor detainee treatment continue.

These stories are just a few examples of the countless daily abuses that happen due to a lack of immigration reform on the federal level. But now, for the first time in years, there’s a real opportunity to pass reform and provide citizenship to the millions of hard-working Americans who are already living in the country. There is an legislative opening to end the madness.

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.

 

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads