Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover new research on immigration and the economy, immigration policy, state news, and more...

A report released by the Fiscal Policy Institute shows the importance of immigrants to the economy.  In a study of the 25 largest metropolitan areas of the U.S., research shows that immigrants, documented and undocumented contribute to GDP proportionally to their share of the population.  Read the full report here (PDF).

New public opinion research by the Pew Research Center shows that while there is a large percentage of people that favor stronger border/immigration enforcement, there is a consistently strong majority of people (63%) that favor a legal path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the United States. 

The debate as to whether undocumented immigrants should be included in comprehensive immigration reform continues.  In the case of California, approximately one in six people will be excluded from a plan that does not account for undocumented immigrants.  Immigrant advocates maintain that taxpayers will ultimately end up paying- last year California spent $1.2 billion because it cannot turn away patients based on their immigration status.

Under the Dream Act, Wisconsin has become the 11th state to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that have lived in Wisconsin for at least three years, graduated from a Wisconsin High School or have earned an equivalency degree.

In Texas, a peaceful demonstration in observance of International Human Rights Day on December 10th will be held outside of GEO Group, a private prison company that manages the Reeves County Detention Center where two prisoners died last year and sparked two uprisings at the facility.  

The Immigration Policy Center's new research on the impact of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in Iowa:

-The purchasing power of Latinos totaled $2.4 billion and Asians totaled $1.7 billion in 2007.

-Unauthorized immigrant families in Iowa paid between $42 million and $62 million in state and local taxes in 2007.

-If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Iowa, the state would lose $1.4 billion in expenditures, $613.4 billion in economic output, and approximately 8,819 jobs.

Read summary and full report (PDF).

A Tucson, Az. federal court's mass ciminal investigation hearings have been deemed unlawful.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the court has violated Rule 11 which requires that each defendant be read their rights and given an explanation of what a guilty plea means. 

Lastly, Several recent reports have documented the failings of our expensive and highly flawed immigration detention system.  Using government data obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, Human Rights Watch has just released research documenting the staggering 1.4 million detainee transfers in the last 10 years.  The Constitution Project has also issued a report (PDF) detailing their recommendations for reforming our broken Immigration Detention System.



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Americans Believe in Government...When it Works

On issue after issue, President Obama is locked in a struggle for the hearts and minds of the American people.  At issue--transcending health care reform, economic stimulus, the bailout of banks and automakers, and beyond--is the role of government in our society.

The president is well aware of the terms of this struggle.  As he told NBC News in September, "It's an argument that's gone on for the history of this republic, and that is, `What's the right role of government? How do we balance freedom with our need to look out for one another?' . . . This is not a new argument, and it always evokes passions."

Most Americans carry around at least two stories of government in their heads.  One is the story of government as problem solver, as fair referee, and as investor in shared prosperity.  It is the government of first responders, of Iwo Jima, of gifted teachers, Head Start and Social Security.  The other story is of government as bloated bureaucracy, as tax-and-spender, as bungler, and as rights violator.  It is the government of the DMV, of Vietnam, of lazy teachers, of FEMA and Hurricane Katrina.  More important than ideology for these Americans is how facts on the ground seem to reaffirm one story or the other.

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The Future with a Green Economy

While we are making significant strides in leveraging our economy—and our country— out of a very difficult time period for millions of people, we need to be cognizant of how we do so. As new stimulus-funded opportunities take shape, communities and groups who are traditionally marginalized, historically overlooked, and most affected by the recession deserve priority in seizing these opportunities. However, it is up to us to ensure that the recovery makes investments that are equitable, transparent, and fair.

Instead of remaining in a gray economy ( it_R3.pdf, pg 6)—one where the environment is polluted with toxins and waste, and not all jobs offer advancement, stability, and personal development— the eco-friendly, green economy has great potential to improve not only the environment, but the state of the economy as well. As outlined in Applied Research Center’s November 2009 Green Equity Toolkit (, the benefits of a green economy are vast. Green jobs not only pay higher wages compared to conventional jobs, but they are also less likely to be exported abroad and would simultaneously move our country towards energy efficiency, sustainability and self-reliance. If we work towards green sector development, we could take a step closer to improving our current, rather dismal, state of affairs. With October’s unemployment rate higher than it has been in 25 years and the personal bankruptcy rate for the first nine months of 2009 40% higher than the 2008 rate, the time is now to make the necessary change towards an economy that would be best for everyone, including Mother Nature.

For more information, please see Applied Research Center’s Green Jobs webpage at:

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November Public Opinion Roundup

Covered this month:
Suspects of Terrorism and Due Process
Race in the Age of Obama

This month’s insight into the public mind is on rights for suspects of terrorism and due process, and racial attitudes in the age of Obama, a topic which we will continue to track and analyze here over time.

The Obama administration has decided to try five terrorist suspects and Guantanamo Bay detainees, including alleged mastermind of the 9.11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian federal court in New York. Since the decision was announced, several polls have been released exploring Americans approval, or not, of the administration's decision. The public seems to be divided on whether military or civil trial with an edge for the former option. However not all polls tell the same story. Support for closed military courts tends to increase—drastically—depende nt on the wording of the question and the information inserted in it. In no studies did the option for a civil trial gain more support than military courts. A closer look at demographic breakdowns suggest that party affiliation, as expected, drives support for military trial up.

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High-Stakes of Stupak-Pitts Amendment for Women of Color

A few Saturdays ago, on November 7th, we were at the annual SisterSong meeting, a gathering of about 300 reproductive justice advocates. What was exhilarating and unusual about this meeting was that the vast majority of people attending were women of color who are focused on gender and sexuality issues. This was a fantastic event that showcased and harnessed the power of women of color, a group often portrayed as politically and socially marginalized.

At the same time, the House was considering and voting on the now-infamous Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the health care reform bill. Stupak-Pitts bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, whether through a public option, or through federal subsidies to private insurance plans offered through an insurance exchange. While that, in and of itself, is extremely limiting and dangerous, the amendment goes even further—it bars the use of federal funds to “cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion.” Essentially, the amendment bars any insurance plan operating in the health care exchange from offering abortion services.

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Racial Segregation in U.S. Schools: Illinois Terminates Chicago's Desegregation Decree

All people should have the opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their race. But a recent Illinois district court decision jeopardizes that possibility.

In U.S. v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, an Illinois district court ended a twenty-three year old consent decree, which was intended to ameliorate segregation in Chicago public schools. Viewing the Chicago public school system through the lens of the particular constitutional violations that had warranted the initiation of the decree in 1980, the court determined that the consent decree was no longer necessary, because those "vestiges of discrimination" identified in 1980 were "no longer."

With an eye towards racial progress and expanded opportunity in the United States, this narrow view of segregation in public schools is deeply problematic. Although we might hope that race does not matter, too often it does. Even though over fifty years have passed since Brown v. Board of Education, according to a 2005 report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, almost 2.4 million students—including about one in six of both black and Latino students—attend schools in which the student population is 99-100% minority.  Nearly 40% of both black and Latino students attend schools in which the student population is 90-100% minority; conversely, only 1% of white students attend such schools. Additionally, 72% of black and 77% of Latino students attend schools in which minorities constitute a majority of the students.

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Bi-weekly Public Opinion Roundup - Health Care and Capitalism

As expected, there are plenty of new public opinion polls on health care and health care reform.  Though some people may already be tired of the topic, it is more important now than ever that we understand where the public stands on health care, how the trends in opinion are changing, and why.  Indirectly related to issues of healthcare is a new public opinion poll on capitalism, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Health Care: the Individual Mandate and a Public Option
The October Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll found that 66% of those surveyed report that they are in favor of requiring all Americans to have health insurance (provided there is financial help for those who need it).  A majority of those surveyed (57%) also expressed support for the creation of a government-administered public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers.  In addition, a majority expressed that “it is more important than ever to take on health care reform now” (55%).

Who will be better Off with Health Care Reform?

According to the above Kaiser poll, a majority asserted that the country as a whole would be better off if Congress passed health care reform (53%).  A plurality (41%) expressed that individually, they or their families would be better off if Congress passed health care reform, with 27% expressing that they would be worse off.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover some policy news, newly released research on immigration and more.

Washington D.C. will join 94 other jurisdictions in employing the Secure Communities program which allows authorities to check the immigration status of every person booked into a local jail.  The program which started with President Bush in 2008 has expanded under the Obama administration in an effort to target immigrants that have committed crimes.

The Center for Disease Control has lifted the requirement that young women seeking permanent residency in the United States get vaccinated for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Alejandro Mayorkas has stated that although it would be a last resort, the agency is considering increasing fees for immigration benefits.  After a sharp decline in immigrant benefit applications, the USCIS experienced a $164 million defecit this year.

The Migration Policy Institute released Tied to the Business Cycle: How Immigrants Fare in good and Bad Economic Times (PDF) which discusses the trend from the mid 1990's through 2007 in which immigrants surpassed native-born workers in employement rates and other market indicators.  However, the current recession starting with the housing bust in 2006 is largely responsible for reversing this trend.  A summary of details can be found here.

As part of a larger series regarding the positive economic impacts of immigration in various states, The Immigration Policy Center has released their findings on immigration in Indiana.  A fact sheet and summary of findings can be found here.

Some highlights include:

    - Immigrants in Indiana paid an estimated $2.3 billion in federal, state, and local taxes in 2007.
    - The purchasing power of Indiana's Latinos totaled $6.8 billion and Asians totaled $3.1 billion in 2008.
    - If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Indiana, the state would lose $2.8 billion in expenditures, $1.3 billion in  economic output and approximately 16,700 jobs.

Lastly, in a speech made last Friday to the Center for American Progress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reaffirmed President Obama's support for a "tough but fair" path to legal status for illegal immigrants and said that Congress is expected to start moving on the issue early next year.

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Spotlight on Community Voices Heard and the Economic Recovery

The economic stimulus package has tackled some of the most pressing job-related issues facing our communities.  However, with national unemployment at over 10% for the first time since the early 1980s, we have to make sure recovery monies are spent in communities who need help the most. We have a better chance of achieving success in these areas if we come together to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, including communities of color, immigrants, and the poor, can participate in and contribute to our economic growth.

Over the next few months, The Opportunity Agenda will be highlighting the progress that a number of community groups have had in dealing with the economic recovery. Specifically, we will be highlighting the successes and challenges that these groups have had in accessing stimulus funds, how those funds have been used to increase job opportunities and ensure economic security, and what the economic recovery package has meant for poor communities and communities of color.

As an organization working to ensure equal opportunity in the economic recovery, we have begun interviewing local and state-level groups to gain a better understanding of how our country is faring during this critical period. Today’s post centers on the our interview with Sondra Youdelman and Henry Serrano, focusing on their work with Community Voices Heard (CVH), a membership organization working to build power for low-income families in the state of New York. Sondra is the Executive Director of CVH, and Henry is their Senior Organizer/Voter Engagement Project Coordinator.

During these trying economic times, CVH has been lucky enough to achieve success by taking advantage of stimulus funding opportunities and grassroots activism. Recently, CVH won $25 million in new resources for subsidized employment, partly through regular Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) contingency money. In addition, CVH has been extremely proactive in assuring proper oversight and monitoring of public housing capital funds, specifically in the enforcement of Section 3 provisions of the 1968 Housing and Urban Development Act. The Opportunity Agenda interviewed Sondra and Henry together on October 21, 2009. Here are some portions of that interview:

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An American in Paris, and Beijing, and London...

During a series of trips through Europe and Asia that I completed last week, I was reminded that the Americans with Disabilities Act really is the Americans with Disabilities Act, and why our nation should be so proud of that milestone. So many of the offices, buildings, public facilities, train and plane stations that I visited were largely inaccessible to people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities. The relative progress that America has made on this issue benefits not only people with disabilities, but all of us.

Passed by Congress and signed by the first President Bush in 1990, the ADA ensures equal opportunity irrespective of disability in employment, transportation, telecommunications, public accommodations and state and federal services. Just as importantly, the law ushered in a new mindset about who we are as a society, and what equal opportunity means in America.

Equal opportunity, the ADA has helped teach us, is not about treating people identically, but about treating all of us as equals. For example, giving people in wheelchairs “access” to the same courthouse steps offered to people who can walk up those steps—as Tennessee tried to do in an important 2004 Supreme Court ADA case—is treating people identically, but not as equals. The Court correctly held in that case, Tennessee v. Lane, that requiring George Lane to crawl up a Tennessee courthouse staircase to participate in his own trial was not only unconscionable, but illegal. (Remarkably, the Court’s four most conservative justices at that time would have held that Congress lacked the power to outlaw such state practices in this manner).

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