State of the Union: Rhetoric to Reality on Expanding Opportunity

President Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican Response by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell each called, as they should have, for a renewed focus by government on jobs and the economy. Within that broad charge, however, there was another, more surprising, point of agreement—at least at the rhetorical level. Both speeches challenged our government to focus simultaneously on creating greater and more equal opportunity.

The President declared that “we need to invest in the skills and education of our people,” and announced initiatives that The Opportunity Agenda has long promosted, including sidestepping banks to provide increased college aid directly to disadvantaged students through Pell grants and tax credits instead of loans, doubling the child care tax credit, incentivizing job creation through our tax code, and moving forward on commonsense immigration reform.

At the same time, he invoked “the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you will be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.” In this connection, he announced strategies that we’ve long called for, including vigorous equal opportunity enforcement by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department, abolishing discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans in the military, and pursuing full compliance by employers with equal pay laws for women and men doing the same jobs.

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A New Beginning?

For months we’ve been arguing that President Obama’s failure to convey a core narrative, rooted in shared values, has been a major impediment to his success on health care reform and other progressive priorities.  At long last, he seems to be coming to the same conclusion.  As he told George Stephanopoulos last week:

OBAMA: If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here – 

STEPHANOPOULOS: That people would get it.

OBAMA: That people will get it. And I think that, you know, what they've ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there's these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. Maybe some of them are good, maybe some aren't, but do they really get us and what we're going through? And I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we're in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago.

Let's hope he means it.

For more, watch this.

New Statistical Profiles of Immigrants and Hispanics in the U.S. Just Released

The Pew Hispanic Center just released updated statistical profiles of immigrants (38 million foreign-born residents) and Hispanics (47 million) in the U.S. The profiles include a large spectrum of information such as occupation, industry, income, poverty, or educational attainment by race and ethnicity in 2008, and how that compares to 2000.

The data is available at here.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup includes policy news, new research and media on immigration, and more...

In the case of Kucana vs. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that individuals who seek to reopen their deportation orders have the right to appeal to the federal courts if the immigration court refuses to hear the appeal. 

In a letter to Janet Napolitano, Sen. Chuck Schumer made a case for not shutting down the Varick Federal Detention Facility in lower Manhattan and transferring its 300 detainees arguing that it would be a blow to their right to due process.

Tensions escalated toward the end of a demonstration on Saturday by thousands of immigration advocates protesting against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio outside of a county jail in Phoenix, Az. 

Full Disclosure Network (FDN) has released a 10-minute documentary covering the well known conflict between Federal and local law enforcement agencies in enforcing immigration policy and the lesser known LAPD policy called "Special Order 40" that prohibits local police officers from enforcing U.S. Immigration laws.  Watch the documentary here.

The offer of temporary protective status for Haitians living the U.S. is proving to be a difficult challenge for many.  The process requires people to supply documents such as passports or national identification cards, proof that they were living in the U.S. before the earthquake occurred, as well as fees amounting to $470.

As part of their series of "Solution Papers" the Immigration Policy Center has released "Family Immigration: Repairing our Broken Immigration System" which lays out the key principles for family immigration within the context of comprehensive immigration reform.

A report released by the Social Security Administration details the various errors incurred in implementing E-Verify, an electronic employment verification program that attempts to determine whether a new hire is authorized to work in the U.S.

Under the EB-5 visa program, the number of immigrants willing to invest $500,000 to $1 million in a U.S. business has tripled over the past fiscal year.  Read this blog from the Immigration Policy Center to see how other investments by immigrants in American business are on the rise.

Last week, Reform Immigration for America kicked off its campaign bringing together more than 600 organizations in an effort to obtain comprehensive immigration reform.  There were 152 launch events throughout the country to which 17,000 showed up in support of CIR.

Lastly, in light of Republican Scott Brown winning the Massachusetts State Senate elections, the Immigration Policy Center has released its research regarding the economic impact of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in the Bay State:

-12.7% (or 403,915) of registered voters in Massachusetts were "New Americans"-naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants.
-The state's foreign born population represents over 14% of state's total population and 17% of the state's workforce.
-The 2009 purchasing power of Asians totaled $12.7 billion and Latinos totaled $12.4 billion in Massachusetts.
-Immigrants in the Bay State paid $1.1 billion in state income taxes in 2007.
See more information regarding New Americans in the Bay State here.

Talking About Racial Equity in the Age of Obama

A unique challenge faces advocates for meaningful dialogue on racial inequality and injustice in America. As people of color have made even modest gains in education, economic security, and professional opportunities over the past few decades, some Americans have increasingly insisted that racial discrimination is largely a thing of the past. Today that sentiment is more widespread and vocal than ever, just a few days after what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 81st birthday, and as Barack Obama marks the one-year anniversary of his historic inauguration as the nation’s 44th president.

Equal opportunity is a core national value, and Americans strongly believe that it should not be hindered by gender, ethnicity, race, or other aspects of who we are. However, President Obama’s important political victory threatens to eclipse the large body of evidence documenting the continuing influence of racial bias and other barriers to equal opportunity. Although the current economic crisis has encouraged a welcome focus on socioeconomic inequality, it has often been to the exclusion of racial justice.

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Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Media and Public Opinion

The media has a substantial influence on the shape of public opinion, and it is important to understand how the landscape of media is changing, as well as how news coverage portrays issues, individuals and groups of people. The Project for Excellence in Journalism through Pew Research Center recently released two studies, one examining where local news comes from in Baltimore, and another looking at coverage of Latinos in the news. Pew Research Center also released findings from an important new study on race relations, which we will discuss further in the upcoming Public Opinion Monthly report. To see more analysis of public opinion pertaining to race relations, please see the Public Opinion Monthly November Roundup.

Where is the News Coming From?
A recent study by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism examined the “modern news ecosystem” of Baltimore to gain an understanding of how people get news about their communities and the role of alternative news sources such as blogs and new media. In this study, they found that traditional media outlets – print, television and radio – are producing fewer new stories and doing less original reporting, but new media has not, as yet, picked up the slack. Fifty-three media outlets producing local news were identified, and six news threads were studied. More than eight in ten local news stories were redundant, only 17% of the stories included new information.


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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup includes Haiti immigration news, policy updates, and more...

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Cold Times in New York Town

The coldest, most bitter part of winter is upon us.  Even those of us with a warm home and a proper coat have good reason to fear that truly awful type of wind, the kind that cuts through the skin and chills to the bone. And, for those among us without, this is the time of year when life becomes a struggle for very survival.

With the holidays past, it can be tempting to indulge in a little selfishness, putting all that thankfulness and goodwill towards others on the backburner.  When some unsold clothes that Walmart and H&M put in garbage bags outside their stores were found to have been slashed over the last few weeks, rendering them unwearable, it was probably not an act of malice against people who have been left out in the cold, but it certainly betrayed a lack of compassion.  No one should be forced to rely on digging through the trash for clothing, but, until we create a sufficient social safety net, it would be nice to think that we would all try at a minimum—a very minimal minimum—not to make life even more difficult for people trying to scrape by.

The economic collapse is forcing us to confront the degree to which our fates are inextricably linked.  And, while there is good reason to believe that many Americans have been reminded that we’re all in it together, all it takes is one story like this to see that, if we intend to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we have an awfully long way to go.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Negroes Against Apartheid

So who even uses the word “Negro” anymore, much less the phrase “Negro dialect”?  Apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a conversation with reporters before Barack Obama became president. 

To be sure, one has to wonder whether a guy who uses that kind of outmoded language has other anachronistic notions about us Negroes.  But let’s look at the substance of what Reid actually said—then apologized for:

First, that Obama is lighter skinned, and therefore likely more acceptable to the broader public, than darker skinned African Americans.  Obama’s skin color is a fact.  And, sadly, lots of social science research and practical experience supports Reid’s conclusion about how the public receives and perceives African Americans of different hues.

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Public Opinion Monthly

Looking Back on the Past Year
Reflecting on the Last Decade
Outlook on the Next Year
Expectations for the Coming Decade►

This month's Public Opinion Monthly examines people's feelings on the past and the future as we enter not only a new year, but a new decade.  The last ten years have been full of change, uncertainty and often struggle, yet people hold on to hope and show great resilience in their optimism as they look ahead to what the next ten years may hold.

The Past Year

Mixed emotions on 2009:  According to a new AP GfK Roper survey, nearly three in four (73%) believe that 2009 was a bad year for the country.  A plurality (42%) expressed that 2009 was a very bad year, and 31% assert that 2009 was a somewhat bad year for the country overall.  For individuals and their families, a majority (61%) expressed that 2009 was actually a good year and 38% reported that it was a bad year.  Only a small minority (15%) felt that 2009 was a very bad year for them individually.

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