Monday, January 31, 2011

Immigration news round-up 1/31/2011

We haven't done one of these since last year, before the Senate killed the DREAM Act right before the Christmas recess, and before the dreams of two friends, Marco and Neptali, and their families, were killed by deportation.

1. President Obama's 2011 aspirations for immigration reform:

While it was not a major part of his State of the Union address, President Obama did remember our nation's immigrants and the need to give them a chance. Let's hope this translates into action this time. Here's what the president said:

...Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation...

2. Report finds immigration law not enforced consistently:

Some local law enforcement agencies, particularly in the Southeast, are turning over illegal immigrants who commit even minor offenses to federal authorities for deportation, while others are focused on deporting more violent criminals, according to a report released this week by the Migration Policy Institute. The study focused on the 287(g) program issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The report said ICE needs to do more to ensure consistency in the program, which critics have said has given rise to racial profiling and civil rights violations.

3. Arizona proposal would alter birthright citizenship:

Legislation to end citizenship for U.S.-born kids of undocumented immigrants was introduced last week in the Arizona Legislature and is part of an effort planned in about a dozen states to end automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants, said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican who is one of primary sponsors of the bill in the House (HB 2561/SB 1309).

A similar study on this subject by the Migration Policy Institute last year found that: "Repeal of birthright citizenship for the US-born children of unauthorized immigrants would expand the unauthorized population by at least 5 million over the next four decades. This analysis suggests that there would be 4.7 million unauthorized immigrants as of 2050 who had been born in the United States — 1 million of them with US-born mother and father — if birthright citizenship were denied to children born to parents who are both unauthorized."

4. Keeping "them" out of Virginia:

Virginia is giving Arizona a run for its money with a flurry anti-immigrant legislation this year. Among the proposals being floated in Richmond:

  • a bill (HB 1775) at the state level that would require students enrolling in public schools to indicate their citizenship or immigration status. The bill provides that the child must still be admitted into public school, but the immigration status information must be reported to the secretary of education annually.
  • another bill (HB 1465) would amend state law to explicitly prohibit people who are in the United States illegally from being admitted to Virginia's public two-year or four-year institutions. Federal law prohibits such people from paying in-state tuition at colleges and universities, but they can still pursue a public college education. Virginia's public universities currently have the discretion to decide whether to admit illegal aliens as long as they charge out-of-state tuition.
  • Other bills would require departments of social services to verify someone's legal status (HB 1468) before supplying them with public benefits, and require sheriffs to question the status of anyone arrested (HB 1430), a move to supplement existing state law that requires them to do so when a person is “taken into custody” at a jail. A companion bill (HB 1421) would prevent Virginia localities from restricting “the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” Any locality that does not comply with the order would risk losing state funding. A complete list of 2011 anti-immigrant legislative initiatives may be found here.

"In a perfect world, I would like to be able to kick out every single person who’s an illegal alien in Virginia.” -- VA Delegate Dave Albo (R - Fairfax)

5. Unconstitutional and Costly: The High Price of Local Immigration Enforcement

A new report by the Center for American Progress's Gebe Martinez studies the economic and other costs of piecemeal immigration enforcement efforts in five communities: Hazleton, PA, Riverside, NJ, Farmers Branch, TX, Prince William County, VA and Fremont, NE. Martinez's conclusion? "Local action against undocumented immigrants is a losing proposition. [We] have to tell Congress that national immigration reform simply cannot be put off any longer."

6. Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010

As of March 2010, 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, virtually unchanged from a year earlier, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center. This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009 that was the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth. Unauthorized immigrants were 3.7% of the nation's population in 2010.

This latest Pew study also found that the number of children born to at least one unauthorized-immigrant parent in 2009 was 350,000 and they made up 8% of all U.S. births, essentially the same as a year earlier. An analysis of the year of entry of unauthorized immigrants who became parents in 2009 indicates that 61% arrived in the U.S. before 2004, 30% arrived from 2004 to 2007, and 9% arrived from 2008 to 2010. These statistics would tend to contradict the "anchor baby" theorists, since the babies are being born to individuals who have clearly been in the United States for a while and are more indicative of the natural process of settling down in a given location.

7. The Church and Immigration Reform

a) The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops produced some particularly lovely and powerful resources for this year's National Migration Week, including a poster, rosary reflections, a prayer for migrant and refugee families and a bulletin insert. The resources are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded as PDFs or ordered in bulk. Highly recommended.

b) "Immigration and The Church: Social and Policy Perspectives" -- This conference sponsored by the USCCB will take place on March 21, 2011 from 10 AM - 4 PM in Caldwell Auditorium, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. Click here for more information and a list of speakers.

c) The current chairman of the bishops' Committee on Migration, Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, testified last week before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. He emphasized that Congress should:

1. Prioritize and pursue comprehensive immigration reform in lieu of enforcement-only measures to address the issues of unauthorized immigration in the United States; and

2. De-emphasize the use of workplace raids – in which immigrants are detained and families are separated – as a measure to enforce immigration laws in the U.S. workplace.

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