Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Immigration News Roundup - 7/27/2011

I haven't done one of these in a while and a lot has been happening. It's a bit daunting to begin again. I'm sure I haven't covered everything but it's a start...

1. One Million Deportations: Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Gustavo Torres, director of CASA de Maryland, and several other activists were arrested at the White House (photos) as they protested the Obama administration's policy on deporting immigrants. In his speech prior to getting arrest, Rep. Gutierrez described the reception the president received when he had addressed National Council of La Raza earlier in the day and excoriated Obama for his failure to lead in the immigration area. Said Gutierrez: "The question is whether the President will exercise the powers he has under current law to give DREAM Act students and other immigrants relief from deportation when it is in the national interest of the United States. But he has to expend the political capital to do it, which he has been reluctant to do."

2. Immigration Law Blamed for Labor Shortage at Georgia Restaurants: Almost half of the restaurants in Georgia have a shortage of workers following the enactment of the state’s tough new immigration law (HB 87), according to a survey released this week by the Georgia Restaurant Association. The study, in which 523 eateries took part, found that 49 percent of those interviewed are having difficulties finding workers and 88 percent expressed concern about the possibility of worker shortages in the future. The survey found that on an average the restaurants polled have lost between $2,000 and $8,000 a month due to the lack of workers and at least 27 percent of those interviewed said they have noted a decline in the number of job applications. Georgia’s food service industry hires more than 375,000 employees and makes profits of close to $14 billion per year. Ninety-one percent of those polled said they oppose HB 87.

HB 87 also drew major protests on July 2nd and July 9th. The Georgia Catholic Conference came out strongly against HB 87 and The Georgia Bulletin notes that the law has caused considerable anxiety among the immigrant faithful and a drop in Mass attendance as well as participation in other Church activities.

3. Alabama Law Faces Multiple Court Challenges: Alabama's sweeping immigration reforms now face a legal challenge based on a section of the 1901 state constitution that encourages immigration. Already contested in federal court as overstepping federal authority and violating protections of the U.S. Constitution, the state's 72-page act cracking down on all aspects of illegal immigration was challenged on Friday in Montgomery Circuit Court. The latest challenge largely builds upon Section 30 of Article I of the state constitution, which reads in its entirety: "That immigration shall be encouraged; emigration shall not be prohibited, and no citizen shall be exiled." The suit, whose plaintiffs include undocumented workers from Blountsville, argues that the new law subverts the state constitution because it "has the opposite effect of 'encouraging immigration.'...Attorneys for the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center and other groups already filed suit in federal court in Huntsville. They asked a judge to prevent state officials from enforcing the act before most provisions take effect on Sept. 1. Meanwhile, there is considerable concern about the impact the law will have on Alabama's economy, particularly in the agricultural sector by driving away the laborers on whom the farmers depend to bring in their crops. And, as in Georgia, the churches are mobilizing against Alabama's immigration law.

4. Fundraising for the Fence: Tired of waiting for the federal government to build a fence between itself and Mexico, Arizona has set up a Web site, Build the Border Fence, to receive donations from citizens interested in completing the project. The Web site is the brainchild of Arizona state senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) who has been assuring donors that their contributions are tax-deductible. To date, 2,569 people have donated $115,935 to this project. FYI: This Web site is, not to be confused with, a promotional site set up by Las Vegas cab driver Charles Chinchuck who says “I did it to promote the need for the Arizona border fence I’m tired of illegal aliens taking jobs from Americans especially when unemployment is 9.2 percent.” At the moment, due to a spelling error, Chinchuck's site misdirects people to a non-existent ""...

5. In Maryland, a DREAM deferred: The veto referendum about in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, also known as the Maryland “Dream Act,” (SB 167) is headed to the 2012 statewide ballot. As of Friday, July 22 the final deadline to verify and certify the proposed measure, officials announced that a total of 108,923 signatures were cleared. The veto referendum questions legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state or in-county tuition at Maryland colleges. However, in order to qualify students are required to have attended a Maryland high school for three years, as well as prove that their parents or themselves paid taxes. Governor O'Malley had signed the measure into law back in May.

The Maryland Catholic Conference has responded by creating an Interdiocesan Immigration Task Force, whose mission will be to educate Maryland Catholics about why the DREAM Act deserves their support, and to help them make the connection between Gospel values and the Church’s public policy positions on immigration. They have also set up a Justice for Maryland Immigrants Facebook page which I would encourage everyone to visit and "like".

6. California DREAMin....: This week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the so-called California Dream Act easing access to privately funded financial aid for undocumented college students. He also signaled that he was likely to back a more controversial measure allowing those students to seek state-funded tuition aid in the future.

7. Recession Study Finds Hispanics Hit the Hardest: Hispanic families accounted for the largest single decline in wealth of any ethnic and racial group in the country during the recession, according to a study published this week by the Pew Foundation. The study, which used data collected by the Census Bureau, found that the median wealth of Hispanic households fell by 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. By contrast, the median wealth of whites fell by just 16 percent over the same period. African Americans saw their wealth drop by 53 percent. Asians also saw a big decline, with household wealth dropping 54 percent.

Photos are from the demonstration mentioned in Item 1.

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