Obama to Push Immigration Bill as One Priority

April 16, 2009 by  

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama will frame the new effort — likely to rouse passions on all sides of the highly divisive issue — as “policy reform that controls immigration and makes it an orderly system,” said the official, Cecilia Muñoz, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs in the White House.

Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office. Latino voters turned out strongly for Mr. Obama in the election.

“He intends to start the debate this year,” Ms. Muñoz said.

But with the economy seriously ailing, advocates on different sides of the debate said that immigration could become a polarizing issue for Mr. Obama in a year when he has many other major battles to fight.

Debate is still under way among administration officials about the precise timing and strategy. For example, it is unclear who will take up the Obama initiative in Congress.

The White House is calculating that public support for fixing the immigration system, which is widely acknowledged to be broken, will outweigh opposition from voters who argue that immigrants take jobs from Americans. A groundswell among voters opposed to legal status for illegal immigrants led to the defeat in 2007 of a bipartisan immigration bill that was strongly supported by President George W. Bush.

Administration officials said that Mr. Obama’s plan would not add new workers to the American work force, but that it would recognize millions of illegal immigrants who have already been working here. Despite the deep recession, there is no evidence of any wholesale exodus of illegal immigrant workers, independent studies of census data show.

In broad outlines, officials said, the Obama administration favors legislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law, and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense. The legislation would seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

But administration officials emphasized that many details remained to be debated.

Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.

That is why Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, a Democrat from Mr. Obama’s hometown, Chicago, has been on the road most weekends since last December, traveling far outside his district to meetings in Hispanic churches, hoping to generate something like a civil rights movement in favor of broad immigration legislation.

Mr. Gutierrez was in Philadelphia on Saturday at the Iglesia Internacional, a big Hispanic evangelical church in a former warehouse, the 17th meeting in a tour that has included cities as far flung as Providence, R.I.; Atlanta; Miami; and San Francisco. Greeted with cheers and amens by a full house of about 350 people, Mr. Gutierrez, shifting fluidly between Spanish and English, called for immigration policies to preserve family unity, the strategic theme of his campaign.

Mr. Gutierrez’s meetings have all been held in churches, both evangelical and Roman Catholic, with clergy members from various denominations, including in several places Muslims. At one meeting in Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, officiated.

In an interview, Mr. Gutierrez rejected the idea that the timing is bad for an immigration debate. “There is never a wrong time for us,” he said. “Families are being divided and destroyed, and they need help now.”

Author: Julia Preston

Source: NY Times

DREAM Act Reintroduced

April 6, 2009 by  

Every year, U.S. high schools graduate approximately 65,000 immigrant students. Brought to this country as young children, they have grown up in American K-12 schools and share our culture and values. Like their U.S.-born peers, they dream of pursuing higher education. Unfortunately, due to their immigration status, they are barred from the opportunities that make a college education affordable – in-state tuition rates, state and federal grants and loans, most private scholarships, and the ability to legally work their way through college. In effect, they are denied the opportunity to share in the American Dream. If passed, the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act,” would facilitate access to college for immigrant
students in the U.S. by restoring states’ rights to offer in-state tuition to immigrant students residing in their state. The “DREAM Act” would also provide a path to citizenship for hardworking immigrant youth who were brought to the U.S. as young children and to pursuing higher education or military service, enabling them to contribute fully to our society.

The “DREAM Act” provides an opportunity for U.S.-raised
students to earn U.S. citizenship. The “DREAM Act” would allow certain immigrant students to adjust their status to that of a legal permanent resident on a conditional basis for six years based on the following requirements:
◗ Age. Immigrant students must have entered the U.S. before age 16.
◗ Academic requirement. Students must have been accepted for admission into a two or four-year institution of higher education or have earned a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED) certificate at the time of application for relief.
◗ Long-term U.S. residence. Students must reside in the U.S. when the law is
enacted. In addition, those eligible must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the date of enactment of the Act.
◗ Good moral character. Immigrant students must demonstrate good moral character, a defined term in immigration law. In general, students must have no criminal record.
The conditional basis upon which legal permanent residence was granted will be removed and become permanent if the student has fulfilled at least one of the following within six years:
◗ Earned a degree from an institution of higher education (two- or four-year institution), or maintained good standing, for at least two years, at an institution of higher education while working toward a bachelor’s degree or higher
◗ Served in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years and, if discharged, received an honorable discharge.


Sin Nombre the Film

April 6, 2009 by  

Making its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Sin Nombre is an epic dramatic thriller from award-winning director Cary Fukunaga.
Seeking the promise of America, a beautiful young Honduran woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaytan), joins her father and uncle on an odyssey to cross the gauntlet of the Latin American countryside en route to the United States.  Along the way she crosses paths with a teenaged Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar M. Flores), who is maneuvering to outrun his violent past and elude his unforgiving former associates.   Together they must rely on faith, trust and street smarts if they are to survive their increasingly perilous journey towards the hope of new lives.

Actors’ Commentary

Paulina Gaitan (stars as Sayra): When I read the script, I realized I had to play Sayra because she was similar to me. I related to her emotional issues, like her feelings towards her father. Sayra is sentimental but strong at the same time; she bottles things up.

She starts to feel something for Casper, and thinks she can help him and change him and give him a better life.

I am Mexican, and Cary [Joji Fukunaga] wanted a Honduran actress to play Sayra, so he offered me the role of Martha Marlene. But I said, “If I’m not Sayra, then I won’t be in this movie.”

In playing Sayra, I added a lot of me so she became very similar to me. It became not, “What would my character think?” but “What would I think if I had to go on such a long trip with my Dad by train?”

I didn’t know about how Central Americans cross the border by taking the train, and what they go through; we watched videos of it during rehearsals, including of immigrants crossing rivers.

We Mexicans complain a lot about how we are treated in the U.S., but we don’t see how we treat Central Americans, and Sin Nombre shows that.

To see a trailer or where the film is playing near you visit:

Will Haitians be granted TPS?

April 2, 2009 by  

Temporary protected status (TPS) grants temporary protection from deportation to nationals of a country in which environmental or political events have occurred which make it temporarily unsafe to deport them or when armed conflict poses a serious threat to public safety. TPS has been granted to nationals of many countries including those of Nicaragua and Honduras in 1999 following Hurricane Mitch, and of El Salvador in 2001 following severe earthquakes.

Recent devastating environmental disasters from which Haiti has not recovered, continuing violence, and unstable political conditions pose a serious threat at this time to the personal safety of anyone forcibly repatriated to Haiti. Last year’s storms and hurricanes killed hundreds and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Fifteen percent of Haiti’s already fragile economy was destroyed, the equivalent of eight to ten Hurricane Katrinas hitting the United States in the same month. Haitian deportees face hunger, homelessness, and grave threats to their security. The Haitian government’s ability to provide basic governmental services–clean water, education, passable road and basic healthcare–has been severely compromised by the natural disasters and food crisis in 2008. Repatriating Haitians exposes them to these dangerous conditions, while imposing an additional burden on government resources that are already stretched too thin.

Furthermore, granting TPS to Haitian refugees would help Haiti recover, as Haitians in the United States could obtain work permits and would increase the already significant flow of remittances to their family and friends back home. Many depend on those remittances for their very survival. That flow of dollars is among the best foreign aid that the United States can provide, and it costs taxpayers nothing. TPS would be extended only to those Haitians currently residing in the United States, so any concerns about a mass exodus to the US are unfounded.
Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) introduced legislation to grant TPS to Haitians (H.R. 144).

to take action click here or sign a petition

Jailed Without Justice- a report by Amnesty International

April 2, 2009 by  

Amnesty International has found that the dramatic increase in the use of detention as an immigration enforcement mechanism in the USA results in a number of human rights violations. More than 300,000 men, women and children are detained by US immigration authorities each year. International human rights standards require that detention should only be used in exceptional circumstances, must be justified in each individual case and must be subject to judicial review. However, in the USA immigrants can be detained for months or years without any form of meaningful individualized judicial review of their detention. Alternatives to detention including reporting requirements or a bond should always be considered before resorting to detention. 

The conditions under which immigrants are held violate both US and international standards on the treatment of detainees. Amnesty International documented pervasive problems including comingling of immigration detainees with individuals convicted of criminal offenses; inappropriate and excessive use of restraints; inadequate access to healthcare including mental health services; and inadequate access to exercise. Many individuals have limited or no access to family and to legal or other assistance throughout their detention.

Key findings of Amnesty International’s report on immigration detention include:

  • The US detains asylum seekers, survivors of torture and human trafficking, lawful permanent residents and the parents of U.S. citizen children.
  • While the average cost of detaining an immigrant is $95 per person/per day, alternatives to detention are significantly cheaper, with some programs costing as little as $12 per day. Despite the proven effectiveness of these less expensive and less restrictive alternatives, the government is choosing to detain instead.
  • Immigrants can be detained for months or years without any form of meaningful individualized review of whether their detention is necessary.
  • The vast majority of people in immigration detention – 84 percent – are unable to obtain the legal assistance necessary to present viable claims in an adversarial and complex court process.
  • The US contracts with approximately 350 state and county criminal jails to house approximately 67% of all immigrants in detention.
  • Detention facilities are required to comply with ICE detention standards, however, these standards are not legally binding, and oversight and accountability for abuse or neglect in detention is almost nonexistent, leading to practices in violation of international standards. Immigrants are often put in excessive restraints, including handcuffs, belly chains and leg restraints.
  • Individuals in detention find it very difficult to get timely – and at times any – treatment for their medical needs. 74 people have died while in immigration detention over the past five years.

to read entire report visit:

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