Bi-Weekly Public Opinion Roundup

The upcoming November elections draw near, both Democrats and Republicans are in an election state of mind. Both parties are focusing on trying to appease their voter base, while Obama and his administration push forward to make due on some promises such as health care reform and the repeal of the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ military policy.

According to recent surveys 32% of Americans affiliate with the Democratic Party and 26% self-identify as Republican, while 39% identify as independents. Regarding the upcoming fall election, 34% of Americans say that they will definitely vote Democratic, while 37% say that they definitely will not.A majority of the public view both Democrats and Republicans unfavorably. 51% of the public view the Democratic Party negatively, and 57% for Republicans. Three- quarters of the American public disapproves of Congress, which is their highest disapproval rating since 1977. Additionally, half of the public would like to see the filibuster rule changed, in order limit back and forth politics of Congress, and ensure sure legislation actually can be passed.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover new research on the economic impact of immigrants, detention issues, the March for America on March 21st, and more...

The New York Civil Liberties Union has released "Voices from Varick: Detainee Grievances at New York City's Only Federal Immigration Detention Facility" which analyzes detainee grievances and highlights the inadequate medical care and mistreatment by staff.  Click here for key findings.

Last month ICE had announced that the Varick Detention Center would close this week, however relocating the 300 detainees to New Jersey has been difficult with the amount of detainees suffering from serious medical problems.  Immigration officials say that the Varick Center will only be used as a processing hub where detainees would be held no more than 12 hours, however advocates are skeptical. 

The Immigration Policy Center has released their research on the economic and political influence of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in Kansas:

-Immigrants make up 6.0% of Kansas's population.

-31.2% of immigrants in 2007 were naturalized U.S. citizens eligible to vote.

-If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Kansas, the state could lose $1.8 billion in expenditures, $807.2 million in economic output, and approximately 11,879 jobs.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are struggling in securing the Latino vote.  According to NBC-Wall Street Journal polls fewer Latinos view the Democratic party favorably than did a year ago.  While the Republican Party is threatened by immigration debate hard-liners and anti-immigration activists.

Lastly, be part of Reform Immigration for America' campaign and show your support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the March for America on March 21st, 2010 in Washington, D.C.  For more information go here.


The Disparate Impact of the Downturn

While it is a deeply-held American belief that we’re all in this together, there has long been a truism that when the economy gets a cold, the poor get pneumonia. It’s a glib way of noting that any downturn in the economy has a disparate impact on those least prepared to handle it.

On February 20, 2010, the New York Times published an article on the “new poor,” millions of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment. As the Times notes, changes in the economy have stripped away some of the jobs that traditionally offered a path to the middle class for those with less education. “Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce.” … “Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.”

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Power of the Pen

Last week President Obama used a strategy that should become an important part of his leadership going forward.  On February 18, he issued an executive order creating a bipartisan commission on addressing the budget deficit, after the Senate failed to enact legislation that would have done so.  Whatever one thinks of the commission’s mission or likely recommendations, the order should represent a rediscovery of the power of the presidency.

Perhaps because he came to the White House directly from the Senate, the President has been overly reliant on that body to achieve his goals.  It goes without saying that the Senate is dysfunctional and divided—by contrast, the House has passed superior versions of many of the President’s legislative priorities, only to see more anemic version die at the other end of the building.  But while the Senate is crucial to federal legislation, and federal legislation is crucial to transformative change on many issues, such as health care, financial regulation, and immigration reform, presidents wield tremendous power as presidents through their constitutional authority as executive.  The executive order is a prime example.

President Obama has issued some 42 Executive Orders since he took office.  But the Deficit Commission order served as a public notice—or at least it should—that the President stands ready to move solutions forward, within constitutional limits, when the Legislative Branch fails to act.

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Looking Ahead

One year ago our nation, and much of this world, was in a state of panic and turmoil. Companies and industries were shedding jobs faster than we could count. The stock market was tanking in front of our eyes. Waking up every morning to look at the headlines of the newspaper was a daunting task in fear of what a new day could bring to the American people. We needed a lifeline.

And so President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 17, 2009. Critics have been very vocal at pointing out the persistently high unemployment rate as well as flagrant examples of waste and inefficiency. At the same time, supporters have ample evidence to defend the act—a couple million jobs saved or created, a depression averted, and billions of dollars supporting and aiding colleges and universities to invest in the future of our country. Both sides have valid arguments and substantial verification. Undoubtedly, there have been great benefits from the act, but inevitably there is also vast room for improvement in the second year of the two year plan. With a year behind us, we must look ahead and focus our attention and energy in avoiding past mistakes by demanding greater transparency, and demanding higher quality outcomes. As the White House begins to craft the new jobs bill, we must make sure the bill creates good jobs—jobs that offer living wages, provide benefits, and have the potential for long-term growth and advancement.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover policy news, new research, and more...

Farmers have joined immigrant advocates in calling for immigration reform on a roadtrip throughout New York organized by the the NY Immigration Coalition and Reform Immigration for America.  Despite an 8% unemployment rate in Rochester, one of the stops on the roadtrip, farmers rely heavily on migrant workers since permanent residents rarely apply for farm work and those who do often quit shortly after.

Gov. Schwarzegger's budget proposes saving $304 million by eliminating public assistance programs including emergency cash, food, and medical aid to new legal immigrants.

The Immigration Policy Center has released "The Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County Texas" (PDF) which provides a history and analysis of the CAP program which is designed to screen inmates in prisons, identify deportable non-citizens, and initiate deportation proceedings.  The report shows that a large percentage of immigrants identified through the program had no criminal convictions at all and of those that had been charged a majority had been arrested for misdemeanors.

A 3.6-mile steel fence has been constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border on Otay Mountain, east of San Diego.  The $57.7 million project had been approved during the Bush administration.  Critics have voiced numerous complaints doubting the effectiveness and necessity of the project as well as calling out the environmental impact the construction of the fence.

"Health Insurance and Immigrants: Obstacles to Enrollment and Recommendations" which examines the barriers immigrants (with and without legal status) face in accessing health care.

"Immigration and Wages-Methodological Advancement Confirm Modest Gains for Native Workers" examines the impact of immigration on wages from 1994 to 2007.  A key finding: immigration raised the wages of U.S.-born workers by 0.4% and lowered the wages of foreign-born workers and any negative effects of new immigration during this period were felt largely by earlier immigrants.




Race in the Age of Obama and the Economic Recovery

We as a nation are at a critical juncture—we are working to re-shape America’s role in the 21st century global economy, and to create the jobs and the infrastructure that will help us create equal opportunities for success for all Americans. At the same time, we are living in a moment where our traditional notions of race and how we talk about it are changing. One question keeps coming up: with an African-American President leading our country, do we still need to think about and create solutions for historic barriers to opportunity? The answer? Absolutely.

As we reflect on our first year under Team Obama, and on the one-year anniversary of the historic American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus, our goals must be clear: we need to ensure that all Americans have access to the education, training, and jobs they need to succeed; and we must make every effort to bring opportunity to communities that were already hurting before the economic crisis. Historically, the groups who’ve been hurting the most are communities of color and women. Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and time again that access to full and equal opportunity is very much a mixed reality, and these groups are being left behind in ways that hard work and personal achievement alone cannot address.

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Big Banks Scam Students Out of Opportunity

The American Dream is perhaps our most powerful and enduring story. Through booms and busts, we insist (oftentimes in the face of overwhelmingly contrary evidence) that anyone who is willing to work hard can succeed. To the extent that the American Dream is a reality, it is due in large part to our secondary education system and the patchwork of loans, scholarships, and grants available for students. As sky-rocketing rates of student debt show us, though, these tools for expanding access to secondary education need retuning. There is talk of reform in Washington but, in a story that has become all too familiar, large financial institutions are standing in the way, protecting their profits at the expense of young people’s hopes and dreams.

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Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Americans' Agenda for 2010

Americans perception of today's affairs and recent important events, such as the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day, the President’s State of the Union Address, and the persistent effects of the recession form their agenda for 2010. Although the public's top priorities for the Administration and Congress laid out by recent surveys show that priorities remain similar to last year (jobs and the economy), there have been some notable shifts. These shifts will have an impact on what will gain enough public pressure to get legislation passed in an election year. Let's take a more careful look at how Americans think about the economy, terrorism, health care, and immigration.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's blog roundup covers new research on immigration, state and federal policy news, and more...

According to the Department of Homeland Security the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States has fallen by about a million from 11.8 million in 2007 to 10.8 million in January 2009.

America's Voice is releasing a new report "The Power of the Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections" (PDF) discussing the increased political power of Latinos in the U.S., voting trends, their potential impact on the 2010 elections, and how immigration reform will affect turnout.

In their report "Many Happy Returns: Remittances and their Impact" the Immigration Policy Center finds that remittances are often thought of as losses to the U.S. economy, they are used to buy goods from U.S. companies

Lawmakers in Maryland have proposed a bill that would require the state's prisons to notify federal authorities when an inmate may be in the country illegally.  However, this has immigration advocates concerned with how prison officials would be collect information regarding immigration status and the potential for discrimination.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not letting up on his plans to continue training deputies to enforce federal immigration law in the state of Arizona.  Although DHS has taken away 100 of their federally-trained deputies, Arpaio has made clear his plans on training each new deputy in recognizing "immigration violations".

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis announced the reinstatement of protections within the H-2A agricultural guest worker program that had been cut during the Bush Administration.  The new regulations (effective March 15th) will increase wages, improve work conditions, and require farm owners to post farm jobs on an electronic job registry in order to make sure domestic workers are given first choice.

Lastly, following up from the 1,500 page report issued by the American Bar Association last week, the ABA is proposing the creation of a new, independent court system for immigration cases.  Last week's report documented various aspects of the current system overwhelmed with growing backlogs, pressure for speedy decisions, and a growing rate of appeals.


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