Friday, May 22, 2009

Immigration News Roundup - May 22, 2009

1. Immigration Checks to Expand to Local Jails: The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is expanding a program aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. In four years, the measure could result in a tenfold increase in illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation. By matching inmates' fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable illegal immigrants before they are released from custody. David J. Venturella, program director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that the agency will give priority to deporting the most dangerous offenders: national security risks or those convicted of violent crimes.

2. Immigrants and the Housing Crisis: A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, Through Boom and Bust: Minorities, Immigrants and Homeownership, indicates that Latino immigrants have weathered the housing crisis better than US-born Latinos and African-Americans. In fact the rate of homeownership among foreign-born Hispanics rose from 36.9% in 1995 to 44.7% in 2007 and remained stable in 2008. Homeownership rates for US-born Hispanics rose from 47.2% in 1995 to 56.2% in 2005, but then declined to 53.6% in 2008. The Pew Center says that "the explanation for the relatively modest impact of the recent housing market turmoil on immigrants appears to lie in the changing characteristics of the foreign born. Among other things, the typical immigrant in 2008 had spent more years in the U.S. and was more likely to be a U.S. citizen than was the typical immigrant in 1995. Those factors, strongly associated with higher rates of homeownership, appear to have mitigated recent troubles in the housing market among immigrants."

3. Tierra de Todos: The well-known Hispanic journalist, Jorge Ramos, has just published a new book, Tierra de Todos: Nuestro Momento para Crear una Nación de Iguales (Vintage 2009) in which he offers ten reasons why the United States should develop a path for legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. The bottom line, argues Ramos, is that we must become a nation of equals, not a two-tier society. "How difficult can it be to remove the first two letters from the word "UNdocumented"?, he asks.

4. "U" too can stay a while: Twenty former workers at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville have received visas under a law that protects crime victims. The first wave of women and children arrested last year at the plant have been granted U-visas by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing them to legally live and work in the country for four years. They can apply for green cards in the third year. Sonia Parras-Konrad, a Des Moines attorney who led the effort, said the visas are a big step toward vindicating the immigrants and giving them justice. “A government entity has found, indeed, that these women and children have been subjected to extreme emotional or physical harm by Agriprocessors,” Parras-Konrad said. “These people have been exploited, have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.”

5. Hispanic Want Immigration Reform and They Vote!: The country's Hispanic voting population is gaining political ground, rallying behind the new president, and keeping immigration reform close to its heart, according to poll results released this week. In interviews with 800 Hispanic voters from 13 states conducted between April 28 and May 5, Bendixen & Associates found that these voters identify more closely with the Democratic party than the Republican party, and that they view President Barack Obama as a leader sympathetic to immigration issues. Seventy-five percent said Obama had done an excellent or good job on Hispanic issues. The pro-immigration campaign America's Voice also sponsored the report.

A central part of the survey was finding how the 12-13 million Hispanic eligible voters are casting ballots. Seventy-one percent of respondents said the Democratic Party best represents the opinion of the Hispanic community on immigration issues, compared to 11 percent who mentioned the Republican Party. The survey also found that more Hispanic voters have shown up at the polls. In the 2008 election, 86 percent of the respondents said they voted, compared to 50 percent in the 2006 mid-term election.

Respondents were also asked about their views on national problems. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said immigration was "very" important. Seventy-five percent said they felt anti-immigrant sentiment against Hispanics was growing. Many respondents -- 69 percent -- said they knew undocumented migrants personally. Fifty-six percent said the country's weak economy weighed most heavily on them, and 13 percent cited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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