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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Immigration Reform: The View from the Faith Side

Washington Post: The irony is familiar but still troubling: America, a nation proudly built by and for immigrants, today has a badly broken immigration system. But the debate about how to fix it has been fractious and unproductive. We seem to be stalled. At Georgetown's Berkley Center, a group of scholars and activists last week explored how religious leaders and communities see the issue and what they are doing about it. It was a generally upbeat afternoon. Heartening data from surveys suggest that most people, deep down, are ready for immigration reform. There's a mobilization for action despite the sad defeat of the DREAM Act in December. And religious communities across the country are engaged in the day-to-day work of helping new arrivals find their way and integrate into American society.

Republicans Must Walk Fine Line on Immigration

New York Times: The growth of the state’s Hispanic population and the rise of immigration as a political issue puts Texas Republicans in a tight spot. It’s clear in the polls, on the political stump, on the news, at rallies and in the aisles of the Legislature that voters strongly support tougher enforcement of immigration laws and that conservative and white voters strongly support more restrictions and fewer benefits for illegal immigrants and their children. It’s also clear that Hispanic voters — part of the fastest-growing group in the state’s population — don’t agree with their fellow Texans on many of those issues. Can Republicans keep their current voters happy without alienating the Hispanics they hope will support them in statewide races in the future? This isn’t new. When George W. Bush was governor, he was careful with immigration issues. He had watched California Republicans run some tough-nosed campaigns on immigration that resulted in a backlash that helped the Democrats take over their state government. Mr. Bush also wanted to bring Hispanics into the Republican Party, to win their votes and to unravel the historical ties between those voters and Texas Democrats. When Gov. Rick Perry talks about immigration, he doesn’t talk about immigration. He talks about border security and other law enforcement-related subjects like sanctuary cities. He’s not anti-immigration, just pro-law enforcement. Mexico’s drug gangs haven’t hurt the argument for border security, either: Mr. Perry’s ads on the subject in 2006 were so effective that he used them again in 2010.

Singer Shakira: Latinos in US Will Have 'Justice'

Singer Shakira accept Harvard humanitarian honors, says Latinos in US will have 'justice'

ABC News: Colombian singer Shakira was honored Saturday by Harvard University for her artistic and humanitarian work. She later said some U.S. states' proposed anti-immigrant legislation goes against her foundation's efforts to provide education to poor people around the world. The Grammy Award-winning singer, however, said Latino immigrants in the U.S. facing various anti-immigrant bills will have "justice" as public awareness about their plight grows. "Justice will come. I'm sure," Shakira told The Associated Press after the award ceremony. "Wherever there is ... a kid, who could be the son or the daughter of a Latino immigrant, who cannot attend a school in the United States of America, that kid should be a concern to all of us and our responsibility." Shakira made the comments in an interview when asked about proposed measures in Arizona and elsewhere targeting illegal immigrants. A bill in Arizona, for example, would bar illegal immigrants from attending public schools, living in public housing or driving. Another bill seeks to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. if their parents are illegal immigrants. "I believe we should never think less of the Latino community because it's a productive force in this country," Shakira told the AP.

Angry Arizona, Again

New York Times: Many states are doing urgent business: jobs, the economy, broken budgets. Arizona’s legislators are trying to give government new powers to strip away individual rights, to extend immigration enforcement into schools, public housing, hospitals and doctor’s offices. Many states are doing urgent business: jobs, the economy, broken budgets. Arizona’s legislators are trying to give government new powers to strip away individual rights, to extend immigration enforcement into schools, public housing, hospitals and doctor’s offices.

EDITORIAL: No Exit from a Bad Program

New York Times: “I’m totally confused now,” wrote a government official in one of thousands of internal e-mails released last week on the subject of Secure Communities, the federal program enlisting state and local police in the crackdown on illegal immigrants. The confusion was over a simple question: Could a state or city choose not to participate in Secure Communities? That is, could it decide to preserve that bright line separating local policing from federal immigration enforcement, so as not to discourage immigrants from reporting crimes? The e-mails show that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t know how to answer the question — even two years into the program, which sends the fingerprints of everyone arrested by participating state and local agencies to federal databases for an immigration check. The answer was important, because while the Obama administration has made Secure Communities a centerpiece of its immigration-enforcement strategy, many state and local agencies have wanted nothing to do with it. They know it has been used to deport tens of thousands of people with no criminal records, even though it was supposed to focus strictly on dangerous criminals. They have seen how some politicized and unscrupulous police departments have used it as an excuse for racial profiling. They worry that participation will strain their resources and make community policing harder.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bill Would Make Hiring Illegal Workers a Felony

Houston Chronicle: A Texas bill that would make it a state felony to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant, unless the person is a domestic worker, has faced some opposition from critics who say it would crack down on businesses while allowing households to use such workers. Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Houston, authored the bill that would penalize those who knowingly or recklessly hire or contract with an undocumented worker. But jobs like maids, landscapers and other domestic positions within a family home would be exempt. Critics of the measure, filed earlier this month, say it exposes the hypocrisy of lawmakers who vow to crack down on illegal immigration but want to create a loophole for Americans benefitting from household services. Back to Basics, a political group dedicated to holding politicians accountable, called the bill a "laundry loophole." "That's not sensible immigration policy," the organization said in a news release. "It's indentured servitude." Riddle's chief of staff, Jon English, said Riddle didn't want to create a bill that would make residents afraid to hire a company to do work around the house. English said homeowners shouldn't have to fear being punished if the company employs illegal workers. The bill aims to crack down on those who knowingly break the law without fear of the consequences. "The goal of the bill is to punish businesses creating an economic environment that's based on illegal behavior," English said. "Businesses have standards they have to meet in their employment practices and, quite frankly, they are the ones seeking large amounts of illegal employees." He admitted the exception opens up a loophole for homeowners to knowingly hire an undocumented worker.

Utah Senator Unveils Broad Immigration Reform

Bloomberg Business Week: A Utah senator has unveiled an immigration reform bill he says balances enforcement provisions with economic realities. Many conservative Republicans, however, oppose the bill because it offers amnesty for illegal immigrants. Among the most vocal critics are sponsors of enforcement-only bills that already have passed the House. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said Senate Bill 288 combines language from most of those House bills, to ensure the different laws coordinate. Bramble said it's also kinder and doesn't carry the stigma of Arizona-style enforcement, although enforcement is a core element. Law enforcement will be required to check the immigration status of anyone stopped for a class A misdemeanor or a felony, Bramble said. Businesses will also be fined for hiring illegal workers. But enforcement is balanced by compassion, Bramble said. Illegal immigrants would be able to register as guest workers and use driving privilege cards. Their children would qualify for in-state college tuition. The guest worker permits would not be available until July 1, 2013, and the state would need a federal waiver. The federal government, in fact, is a hurdle for most reform, Bramble said. Enforcement measures, for example, need the federal government to deport people the state arrests.

Most Americans Favor Citizenship for U.S.-Born Children of Illegal Immigrants

Politics Daily: While Americans still favor strong measures to crack down on illegal immigration, they oppose proposals to change the Constitution so that children born here to illegal immigrants would not automatically become citizens, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted Feb. 2-7. Proposals to deny citizenship to what immigration hardliners call "anchor babies" born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents are unpopular with the public. Fifty-seven percent oppose changing the Constitution's 14th amendment that grants automatic citizenship to anyone born on American soil. Thirty-nine percent favor changing the amendment and 4 percent are undecided. Republicans are roughly split on the issue with 49 percent saying the amendment should be left as it is and 47 percent favoring a change to the Constitution. Democrats want to leave the amendment as it is by a 66 percent to 32 percent margin and independents agree by 56 percent to 39 percent. Those sympathizing with the tea party movement favor a change to the Constitution to eliminate the automatic birthright by 57 percent to 39 percent.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Immigration Policies Hit Fashion Jobs

Wall Street Journal reported that: As models were taking their final turns on the runways of New York Fashion Week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that the country's immigration policies jeopardize New York's status as "the fashion capital of the world," saying they limit visas for designers, manufacturers and, yes, models. "This industry could easily move overseas again," Mr. Bloomberg said Friday on his weekly radio show. "We have double the number of fashion houses, I think, of any other place in the world. But we could lose this business very easily. We just have to fix immigration." Processing delays and strict caps on employment visas, the mayor said, raise costs for the fashion industry, encouraging those businesses to move abroad. More than 165,000 people, or 5.5% of the city's workforce, are employed by fashion-related businesses in New York. Said Mr. Bloomberg: "The designers want to come over here and create jobs here, and we're not letting them in." The mayor's remarks came as several prominent industry forces, including Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Saks Fifth Avenue and Brooks Brothers, joined the immigration-reform coalition Partnership for a New American Economy. A group of business leaders and politicians, the coalition's co-chairmen include Mr. Bloomberg, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steven A. Ballmer, Walt Disney Co. President and Chief Executive Robert Igerand Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal. "America was built by immigrants—and if we want to stay the global leader in fashion, then America must continue to welcome immigrants who bring to the industry new ideas, new businesses, and new energy," Ms. von Furstenberg said in a statement.

Film Prods Politicos to Grasp Truth About Immigration

Latin American Tribune: The new movie “Immigration Tango” points out the need for politicians to understand the truth about immigration, because, according to one of its leading actors, they currently “don’t know how to dance in time with their citizens.” “‘Immigration Tango’ is about the difficult dance people do, despite the annoying pitfalls, to try and stay in this country,” one of the film’s stars, Carlos Leon, tells Efe. “Nonetheless, it takes two to tango, and most politicians don’t want to dance the immigration tango, and the few who do have two left feet,” said, Leon, best-known as the father of singer Madonna’s 14-year-old daughter, Lourdes Maria. “Immigration Tango,” a 92-minute film produced by Mutressa Movies, has premiered in a number of movie theaters in New York, Miami, Phoenix, Houston and Los Angeles. Under the slogan “It Takes 4 to Tango,” the film written and directed by David Burton Morris tells the story of an undocumented couple, Russian student Elena (Bulgarian actress Elika Portnoy) and Colombian Carlos (Carlos Leon), who agree with some American friends to swap partners to get married and in that way obtain legal residence. But the situation gets complicated when Betty (Ashley Wolfe) and Mike (McCaleb Burnett) are investigated together with Elena and Carlos by immigration agents. “Our movie is a kind of criticism that will help people see that immigration laws in the United States are ridiculous,” said Leon, who has acted in more than 20 films. “I’m the son of Cuban immigrants who came here at the end of the 1950s, but like any other American I don’t think we have to deport people – many of them have children born here and I’m not sure that that helps the United States maintain its humanitarian image,” he said.

Arkansas Legislature Looks at Illegal Immigration Bill

NECN: An Arkansas lawmaker pushing to prohibit the state from providing non-emergency benefits to illegal immigrants doesn't deny the chief argument against his proposal: that it would cut off services for children and pre-natal care the state provides. Rep. Jon Hubbard, who is expected to present his measure to a House panel this week, said he doesn't like that the legislation he's backing would affect those services. But the freshman Republican lawmaker from Jonesboro said that's the only way to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. "I'm not an ogre," Hubbard said last week. "I'm not trying to be somebody that's hard on the kids. The kids are an innocent victim of this, just like the citizens of this state are innocent." Hubbard's proposal, which is expected to go before the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, would bar the state agencies from providing benefits to anyone in the country illegally. The proposal would not apply to cases involving emergency or life-saving measures. The problem, Gov. Mike Beebe and other state officials say, is it would go too far by denying other essential services to some of the most vulnerable in the state. "You're talking about taking health care away from unborn children, you're talking about taking health care away from disabled children, you're talking about taking mammograms away from women to detect breast cancer," Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said. "And that's all pretty dangerous stuff. ... By just his conscience, the governor cannot support any bill that deprives unborn children of health care or deprives developmentally disabled children from the help they need."

Immigration Bill Has Georgia Agribusinesses Concerned

Miami Herald: Donald Chase and his father farm 1,600 acres in Macon County, and if proposed immigration rules being considered by Georgia lawmakers go into effect, Chase and lot of farmers are worried it will cost them more than time and money. Some farmers say it could put them out of business. While the immigration rules intended to stem undocumented workers would affect many private employers, agriculture is the state’s largest industry -- valued at more than $11.3 billion in 2009 -- and would be one of the hardest hit. At the heart of House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40, as originally written, is that employers will be required to use E-Verify -- a federal online employment verification program -- to confirm the legal status of employees to work in this country. It would not apply to farmers who use the H-2A program, sometimes referred to as the federal guest worker program, which allows farmers to fill temporary jobs with non-U.S. citizen workers. E-Verify, authorized in 1996, is administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service and compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 -- Employment Eligibility Verification -- to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.
Although currently a voluntary program in most states, E-Verify is mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause.

Pollster: Utahns Want Immigration Solution, Just Not Sure What It Is

Deseret News reported that: When it comes to illegal immigration — one of the state's toughest, trickiest issues — Utahns seem to want a solution, but just aren't sure what it is. "I don't know of an issue that's been more confusing for a long, long time," said pollster Dan Jones, who has been conducting surveys on the issue for years. A trio of poll questions for the Deseret News and KSL that Dan Jones & Associates asked a sample of Utahns highlights the conundrum and underscores the challenges Utah lawmakers face as they try to craft new legislation. • Asked if it's worth additional resources for local law enforcement to check the legal status of those they suspect could be illegal immigrants, 54 percent of those surveyed said, "yes." • Seventy-one percent support creating a state-issued work permit for undocumented immigrants to allow them to stay here if they have a job and agree to a criminal background check. • And 55 percent back the Utah Compact, a document supported by local business, government and religious leaders that calls it a federal, not a state issue, and recognizes immigrants' value to society.

Pearce Drops "Omnibus" Immigration Bill

Arizona Capitol Times: Although he calls it a mere “clean-up bill,” Senate President Russell Pearce is pushing legislation to tighten immigration laws by denying illegal immigrants access to public benefits, from operating or titling vehicles to enrolling in community colleges. Pearce, author of 2010’s landmark immigration law known as SB1070, introduced SB1611 on Feb. 21, an “omnibus” immigration bill whose aim, he said, is “making sure that our laws that are on the books are enforced.” But critics will likely argue that the bill contravenes federal law and usurps federal authority over immigration matters. Those critics probably will challenge SB1611’s constitutionality, assuming it survives the session. The bill, which was introduced late, limits documents that can be used for enrolling a child in a K-12 school to about a dozen items, including birth certificates and passports. Currently, the law says that those who are enrolling children must show a birth certificate or “other reliable proof” of identity and age, which may include a baptismal certificate. The bill doesn’t say a child who cannot show proof of legal presence is denied enrollment. Meanwhile, state laws already require a list of documents to prove lawful status in order to access public benefits — but only to “extent permitted by federal law.” SB1611 would delete this limiting clause, a move that critics have said would leave an Arizona list that is far more restrictive than the federal list.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feds Target Illegal Hires

Expanded Government Audits Force About 1,000 Firms to Verify Workers' Status

Wall Street Journal: The federal government is requiring as many as 1,000 companies to turn over their employment records for inspection, part of an expanding crackdown on businesses suspected of hiring illegal immigrants, according to people close to the Department of Homeland Security. The audits, which the government is expected to make public in the next few days, represent the biggest such operation since 2009. At that time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS unit, conducted an auditing sweep of businesses working in public safety and national security. ICE last month established an employment compliance inspection center to beef up coordination across states instead of having agents follow only local leads. The latest round of audits targets at least a few regional fast-food chains, according to people with knowledge of the operation.

Immigration Authorities at Odds on Local Participation in Enforcement Program

Washington Post: Even as federal immigration officials were telling Arlington County, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that they could not opt out of a controversial immigration enforcement program, they were telling other municipalities that they could, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents. The documents, released as a result of a lawsuit against DHS by opponents of the program, reveal an agency at odds over how to handle criticism of Secure Communities, the Obama administration's signature immigration enforcement program, without running afoul of constitutional limits on what the federal government can demand of local jurisdictions. The program sends fingerprints gathered by local law enforcement agencies to the FBI and then through a federal immigration database to identify undocumented immigrants. About 1,049 jurisdictions in 39 states participate, including many in Maryland and Virginia. In October, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano declared that Secure Communities was not "an opt-in, opt-out program." But even after her statement, ICE officials did not back away from earlier assurances to New York officials that local communities there would have the last word on whether to join the program. Internal documents show they also created an exception for Chicago. "No jurisdiction will be activated if they oppose it," read an e-mail to New York officials from Dan Cadman, a Secure Communities regional coordinator. "There is no ambiguity on that point. We get it."

Immigration Enforcement Bill Brings Lawsuit Threat

Times News: Republican state Rep. Joe Carr introduced a bill Wednesday empowering local law enforcement officers to ask suspects whether they are legally in the country, a proposal that immediately prompted the threat of a lawsuit. A similar measure that formed part of Arizona's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law that passed last year is currently the subject of a federal suit. Carr, from Lascassas, and Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, would not say specifically how their legislation differed from the enforcement measure in the Arizona bill. They did say they believed their bill would survive a court challenge. That may be put to the test. American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee executive director Hedy Weinberg said afterward that the group would pursue litigation if the bill passed unchanged. "It invites racial profiling, hinders public safety and betrays core American values of equality and fairness," she said. Ketron said in the news conference that "profiling is not acceptable."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GOP Senate Hopeful Looking at Attack from Right Over Immigration Reform

The Hill reported that: Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is brushing back criticism of his record on immigration as he embarks on a run for the seat of retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), saying Tuesday that hits on his record from the right won’t stick. Arizona conservatives have struck Flake hard in the past on the immigration issue, and it will undoubtedly come up in any Republican primary. Flake has supported efforts for comprehensive immigration reform in the past, teaming up with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in 2007 to introduce the STRIVE Act, a reform plan that included the creation of a temporary-worker program and a path to citizenship. “I have the most conservative district in the state and I’ve had primaries periodically on the immigration issue,” Flake told The Hill on Tuesday. “Arizona voters are very sophisticated on this issue. They know where I stand on this.” Flake said any suggestion that he supports, or has ever supported, amnesty for illegal immigrants is nothing but a trumped-up charge his political opponents have tried to level against him in recent years.

Group of Utah Latinos Asks Mexico to Curb Mormon Missionary Visas

wonkroom.thinkprogress.org reported that: Over the past year, Latinos of Mormon faith have been asking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to take a position on the immigration issue. While other socially conservative denominations, including the Southern Baptists and Catholics, have come out strongly supporting a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, the Mormon church has remained notably neutral. One advocate decided to collect the signatures of over 130 people in a letter asking Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s government to suspend visas to Mormon missionaries. The article notes that LDS “is heavily invested in Mexico, with 23 missions, more than a million members and a dozen temples.” To its credit, LDS recently released a statement which indicated that the Utah Compact “is consistent with important principles for which we stand.” Yet, as the Salt Lake Tribune notes, it has yet to formally sign on to the document. A spokesperson for LDS noted that withholding visas from LDS missionaries “would hurt Mexico more than the Utah-based church.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

State GOP Lawmakers Plan to Limit Immigration Bills

Republicans don't want to slight jobs, education

TheTennessean reported that: Tennessee Republicans are limiting the number of immigration bills they will take up this year, saying they want to focus on a few key aspects of the issue and keep the topic from overshadowing job creation and education. GOP lawmakers are planning to focus this legislative session on one to three measures designed to combat illegal immigration by requiring more checks on citizenship status by employers, police and government entitlement administrators. Legislative leaders say the approach will help them manage the General Assembly's workload and prevent immigration from grabbing too much attention and distracting from economic and educational priorities."I want us to concentrate on education. I want us to concentrate on pro-business issues," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said.

Will the GOP Embrace Immigration Reform or Continue to Ostracize Key Voters?

Washington Post: Read the census data that have been coming out over the past couple weeks and you're compelled to a stark conclusion: Either the Republican Party changes totally, or it has a rendezvous with extinction. What the census shows is that America's racial minorities, aggregated together, are on track to become its majority. The Republican Party's response to this epochal demographic change has been to do everything in its power to keep America (particularly its electorate) as white as can be. Republicans have obstructed minorities from voting; required Latinos to present papers if the police ask for them; opposed the Dream Act, which would have conferred citizenship on young immigrants who served in our armed forces or went to college; and called for denying the constitutional right to citizenship to American-born children of undocumented immigrants. If the Republicans have a long-term strategic plan, it seems to derive from King Canute, who commanded the tide to stop. The most dramatic numbers in the census are those that tally children. In the first four states for which the Census Bureau released detailed information - New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia - the number of whites under age 18 actually declined the past decade. The numbers of Latinos, blacks and Asians among the young, by contrast, are soaring, and they are highest among the youngest.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Arizona Files Countersuit Tied to Challenge of Its Immigration Law

Washington Post: Even as the federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's strict immigration law remains tied up in an appellate court, tensions over the case have ratcheted up, with the state firing a legal shot back at the Obama administration. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) filed the unusual countersuit last week against the federal government, accusing it of failing to secure the southwest border against a tide of illegal immigrants. The lawsuit, or counterclaim, was filed as part of the same case in which the Justice Department is seeking to have the Arizona law declared unconstitutional. The department sued Arizona in July over the immigration law, which empowers police to question people who they suspect are in the country illegally. The law has triggered a fierce national debate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is considering whether to allow the measure's most contested provisions to take effect. "We did not want this fight. We did not start this fight,'' Brewer said as she announced the state's countersuit Thursday at a news conference in Phoenix attended by a handful of protesters. "But, now that we are in it, Arizona will not rest until our border is secured and federal immigration laws are enforced."

Enforcement Spurs Illegal Immigrants to Leave

Enforcement Spurs Illegal Immigrants to Leave.
By Elton Gallegly, Washington

Washington Post: The Feb. 1 Metro story "Counties see fewer Hispanic residents" missed the larger story: Illegal immigrants leave when laws are enforced. The Migration Policy Institute report cited in the article found that consistent enforcement leads illegal immigrants to leave the United States voluntarily. This counters arguments that amnesty is the way to solve illegal immigration. Fully enforced immigration laws send the message to illegal border crossers that we take our laws seriously. Amnesty signals that they're welcome to violate U.S. laws. And when illegal immigrants leave on their own, limited taxpayer-funded resources are no longer drained and scarce jobs are opened up for unemployed Americans and legal immigrant workers. Enforcing all immigration laws would better protect the lives and well-being of all Americans.

Lawsuit Challenges Davidson County Sheriff's Immigration Powers

U.S. citizen held twice cites 1963 Metro charter.

The Tennessean: An American citizen held as an illegal immigrant in Davidson County — more than once — may have the strongest legal argument yet against the sheriff's role in a federal deportation program. Daniel Renteria-Villegas, a 19-year-old Portland, Ore.-born man, has been detained twice by the Davidson County Sheriff's Office on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, in spite of having a valid Tennessee driver's license, passport, birth certificate and Social Security number. Now he's challenging the sheriff's very authority to participate in a federal immigration enforcement program called 287(g). He has filed a lawsuit demanding that Sheriff Daron Hall be banned from participating in the program. The argument: Metro's 1963 charter, which stripped the sheriff's office of most of its law-enforcement powers, prohibits jailers from immigration enforcement. This latest challenge, by attorney Elliott Ozment, may be the biggest threat to one of Hall's hallmark programs. On Feb. 25, a Davidson County Chancery Court judge probably will decide whether to grant a temporary injunction stopping Davidson County from enforcing immigration laws under the 287(g) program. Immigration attorneys will be paying close attention to the results.

The Politics of Arizona's Great Divide

TIME: Arizona and its most watched-over daughter, Gabby Giffords, easily had the largest presence at the State of the Union address. It wasn't just the empty chair; it was the entire intramural seating chart. The short, subdued ovations. The lack of score settling in the speech or outbursts from the gallery. Even Representative Michele Bachmann, in her Tea Party retort to President Obama's speech, failed to leap off her usual rhetorical cliffs. A vow to "proclaim liberty throughout the land" was as close as she came. Other Arizonans were in attendance as Michelle Obama's guests. Some had been at the First Lady's side in Tucson a few weeks earlier, like the family of the little girl who was murdered in the Jan. 8 shooting spree and the young (and gay and Hispanic) hero of that chaotic crime scene. But there was a new face of Arizonan compassion as well: Diego Vasquez, an aspiring aerospace engineer from Laveen who helped design an award-winning wheelchair after seeing a disabled friend struggle in school. Giffords watched all of this from her hospital bed in Houston, and one wonders whether she was able to appreciate the irony that this bipartisan restraint — no matter how fleeting — should be inspired by Arizona, a state whose politics are, well, unrestrained. Arizona seems to have adopted a role as the fingernails on the chalkboard of American politics: screeching, cringe-inducing, impossible to ignore. And whatever the amount of comity that hit Congress on the night of Jan. 25, Arizona is going to need much more of it.

Michelle Obama Urges Latino Community to Pressure GOP to Back Immigration Bill

The Hill: First Lady Michelle Obama called on the Latino community to put pressure on Republicans to support comprehensive immigration legislation. In an interview with Univision, the first lady said President Obama wanted to pass immigration legislation, but could not find enough support among Republicans to move a bill. The DREAM Act, a bill to give undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and are pursuing higher education an opportunity to become U.S. citizens, had little support among Republicans, she said. The latest attempt to pass the legislation failed in December. “So I urge the Latino community, he needs help, he's got to have Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are going to step up,” the first lady said. “If a sound immigration bill gets put on the President's desk he is going to sign it. But it’s got to get through Congress. He can't do it alone.” Asked if the president pushed hard enough to pass an immigration bill, the first lady defended her husband. “Immigration reform has been at the top of my husband's agenda from the minute he thought about running for this office,” she said, adding later, “But people have to know that the President can't pass immigration reform without the support of Congress and we don't have that.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

House Panel to Hold Final Hearing on Immigration Bill Friday

Atlanta Journal Constitution: A legislative panel will hold its third and final public hearing Friday morning on an Arizona-style bill targeting illegal immigration. A revised version of House Bill 87 could be presented at that hearing. The bill’s sponsor -- Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City -- said he has been considering some changes. He recently confirmed he was already on the 16th draft of the bill. “We are working on some revisions and will hopefully have it done in the next day or so,” Ramsey wrote in an e-mail Thursday. The House Judicial Non-Civil Committee is expected to start the hearing at 9:30 at the state Capitol. Committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, said a committee vote has not yet been scheduled. More than a dozen people spoke during Tuesday’s hearing on the 17-page bill, including religious leaders, immigrant rights activists, business groups and immigration watchdogs. Critics of the bill have blasted it as an unconstitutional measure that could damage the state’s economy, which partly depends on migrant labor. Supporters say it should be approved to stop illegal immigrants from taking jobs from state residents and sapping taxpayer-funded resources.

Will the U.S. Follow Britain's Wrong Turn on Immigration?

Washington Post: Immigration has a way of making nations irrational, if not suicidal. The French have banned burqas in defiance of their liberal tradition. The Swiss have banned new minarets despite their reliance on Arab bank deposits. The Japanese have shut off most immigration though they grow demographically decrepit. Perhaps the most self-defeating act is taking place here. Last summer, the Conservative government of David Cameron imposed a temporary cap on immigration of high-skilled workers from outside the European Union. Indian and Chinese workers with the latest computer programming skills, for example, were turned away. In December, Britain's High Court voided the measure for not having been approved by Parliament. No matter - Cameron's government already planned to submit to Parliament an even more stringent, and permanent, cap. Popular with the public, it is likely to pass. But then, whatever their real interests might be, voters, like politicians, often see the world in us-vs.-them terms. Such thinking can lead to excesses, which is something President Obama and the American business community might keep in mind as they seek to bury the hatchet after the president's visit this week to the Chamber of Commerce. Britain provides a political lesson for what can happen to their shared goals of stimulating innovation and the economy if they don't work together.

Frustration, Fear Prevail in Hispanic Community, Poll Shows

Latin American Herald Tribune: The majority of U.S. Hispanics feel frustrated in the face of the failure of immigration reform, according to a survey released Thursday. The results of the investigation, the first in a series of six surveys performed by Spanish-language media giant impreMedia in conjunction with opinion-research outfit Latino Decisions, show a community worried about the economic outlook. “Latinos are very afraid that someone in their family or they themselves may lose their job,” Pilar Marrero, a journalist for impreMedia tasked with analyzing the results of the survey, told Efe. The results of the survey of 500 registered Hispanic voters in 21 states reveals discontent over the failure of attempts to reform the immigration laws, the issue that 47 percent ranked as their top priority. The recession has made itself felt in the majority of Hispanic homes. More than five out of every 10 people surveyed said that during the past year they were worried “many times” that they would not have enough money to pay their bills. “There’s no doubt that that’s going to have an effect on future elections,” Marrero said. The poll showed that almost 40 percent of Hispanics are very concerned about the possibility of losing their job, while 5 percent of those surveyed were unemployed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

As Lawmakers Look at E-Verify, Businesses Fear Expansion of Immigration Program

Washington Post: In an early indicator of how congressional Republicans will legislate on immigration, House GOP leaders are expanding an inquiry into an enforcement program that allows employers to check the immigration status of employees. The E-Verify program has long been championed by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, which will hold a hearing on it Thursday. Many business owners believe that Gallegly and other House Republicans want to make E-Verify, currently a voluntary program for companies, mandatory. Critics of such a move, many of them farmers, warn that it could destabilize the agricultural economy, which is heavily dependent on undocumented immigrants, and jeopardize millions of jobs held by American citizens that are upstream and downstream of farm labor. Supporters of E-Verify say that, with minimal effort, the program ensures that jobs are filled only by U.S. citizens and those foreigners who are legally authorized to work. After he was named chairman of the immigration subcommittee, Gallegly noted that "making [E-Verify] universally mandatory would ease the cumbersome and easily manipulated I-9 process employers now use to screen employees. It would also greatly reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the American workforce."

Soldier Finds Minefield on Road to Citizenship

Wall Street Journal: During 10 years in the U.S. Army, Luis Lopez served in Iraq and Afghanistan, won medals and had a commander laud his service as a "critical part of the success of his unit fighting the global war on terrorism." Mr. Lopez is also an illegal immigrant. In late December, the staff sergeant was discharged from the Army after applying for U.S. citizenship. And because of his illegal status, the 28-year-old native of Mexico couldn't work as he waited for immigration authorities to decide if he would be granted citizenship or find himself at risk of deportation. Mr. Lopez's case reflects the federal government's complex-and seemingly inconsistent-relationship with illegal immigrants in the armed forces. Illegal immigrants aren't allowed to voluntarily enlist for active duty. Yet if they find a way to join, a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act provides them a path to citizenship. The 1952 immigration law says foreign nationals who have "served honorably" during wartime may be naturalized "whether or not [they have been] lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence."

Immigration Laws

New York Times (OPINION):

To the Editor: Re "Napolitano Accuses Critics of Politicizing Border Issues" (news article, Feb. 1), about the 287(g) program:Your article cites a report claiming that the program is problematic because it results in the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants with little or no criminal record. Such a view is misguided and dangerous.The 287(g) program allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enter into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to help enforce federal immigration laws. When the program began, there was no intent to limit it to criminal illegal immigrants or to those who commit serious offenses. I should know because I wrote the law that established the program.Waiting until illegal immigrants commit criminal offenses before deporting them places American citizens and legal immigrants in danger.America's immigration laws apply to all illegal immigrants, not just those who have committed crimes. The Obama administration is responsible for enforcing those laws, and the 287(g) program is a useful tool to help do so.

Lamar SmithWashington, Feb. 1, 2011

Group Calls for New DC Museum of American People

Wall Street Journal: A group that wants to build a National Museum of the American People in Washington to tell the history of immigration is calling on Congress to jump-start the effort. The group is announcing Wednesday that it has support from 130 ethnic and minority organizations. It's asking Congress to support a bipartisan federal commission to study establishing such a museum. Organizer Sam Eskenazi says the Smithsonian museums hold many cultural artifacts, but he says they're not storytelling museums. His effort focuses on the history of immigration and migration that formed the nation. Eskenazi isn't deterred by Congress' focus on cutting spending. He says the museum could be built with private funds. The New York-based group already is proposing five sites near the National Mall.
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

U.S. Fast Food Caught in Immigration Crosshairs

Reuters: Chipotle Mexican Grill has a lot going for it -- an upscale burrito concept, a hip and eco-friendly image, expansion plans galore and a 500 percent-plus stock price gain in just over two years. And then it has something not going its way -- a federal crackdown on its immigrant labor force that has so far forced Chipotle to fire hundreds of allegedly illegal workers in the state of Minnesota, perhaps more than half its staff there. The probe is widening. Co-Chief Executive Monty Moran told Reuters on Friday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also issued "notices of inspection" for restaurants in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Investors in the Wall Street darling are taking note and one firm, Calvert Investments, plans to talk to Chipotle about the large number of undocumented workers uncovered. Dependence on illegal labor is the elephant in the room for the U.S. restaurant business. And experts say the Chipotle ICE investigations are a wake-up call for an industry that is one of America's biggest employers and generates over $300 billion in annual sales, according to research firm IBISWorld Inc.

SD House Panel Rejects Citizenship Measure

NECN: An attempt to challenge automatic U.S. citizenship for children born in the country of illegal immigrants was rejected Monday by a South Dakota legislative panel. The House Judiciary Committee voted 8-5 to kill the bill after opponents said it attempted to solve the problem the wrong way and would violate rights guaranteed by the South Dakota Constitution. The bill called for South Dakota to join a compact with other states in an attempt to require that a child born in the U.S. qualify as a citizen only if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant. States in the compact would issue different birth certificates for those who are citizens and those who are not, but such compacts would have to be approved by Congress. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, said the bill was intended to prompt Congress to propose a change in the 14th Amendment, which now guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the country. He said Congress could propose a constitutional amendment preventing citizenship for any baby without at least one parent who is a citizen or legal immigrant. Steele said many people enter the U.S. illegally to give birth so their babies will be citizens. "Our system is being abused, and this state compact is a method to correct this abuse," Steele said. However, lawyers said provisions in the state Constitution guarantee equal treatment for citizens and resident aliens and prohibit granting rights only to certain classes of people.

Birther Bill In Limbo, Voting Postponed

KPHO reported that "The so-call birther bill making it's way through the state Senate is in limbo after a day of debating on Monday. Arizona state lawmakers have tabled voting on the bill until later this week, and some say it is expected to fail. The bill challenges automatic U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. The Senate judiciary committee heard the proposal on Monday afternoon. It seeks a court interpretation on an element of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the U.S. The bill's sponsors say their goal is to force a court to rule that a child born in the U.S. is a citizen only if one parent is a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant. Constitutional scholars believe this bill will be declared unconstitutional. Opponents said the proposal is mean-spirited toward immigrants and won't make a dent in Arizona's immigration problem."

Massachusetts: Immigration Game Draws Fire

New York Times: A game developed by a Boston company that allows users to drive a truck full of immigrants through the desert and try not to have them tossed out is drawing fire. Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration, a proposed iPhone and iPad app by Owlchemy Labs set for release in March, lets players navigate across what appears to be the United States-Mexico border. Scores are calculated by the number of immigrants helped crossing the border. The developer, Alex Schwartz, said the idea came out of frustration that his friends had faced while trying to immigrate to the United States. But some advocates for immigrants say the game is in poor taste and trivializes the seriousness of the crossings.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Immigration Report: No Rush Across Border to Give Birth

USA Today reported that: Republican lawmakers in Congress and in more than a dozen state legislatures are trying to alter the interpretation of the 14th Amendment so that the children of illegal immigrants born in the USA are no longer granted citizenship. When announcing a plan for state legislation, a group led by Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe claimed "hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are crossing U.S. borders to give birth and exploit their child" to obtain citizenship. Critics of those legislative efforts are pointing to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center that found a vast majority of illegal immigrants who had children in the USA in 2010 had entered the country several years earlier. The report found that 350,000 babies were born in the U.S. between March 2009 and March 2010 to at least one illegal immigrant parent. Of those parents, 91% arrived before 2008. "It's real concrete data that I think destroys this notion that immigrant women are crossing the border illegally and having babies," said Angela Kelley of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

President Obama Meets with John McCain at White House

Los Angeles Times: President Obama welcomed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to the Oval Office on Wednesday for a rare face-to-face meeting between the two former rivals, covering issues such as immigration reform and the situation in the Middle East. On the issue of Egypt, McCain had offered measured praise so far for Obama's handling of the crisis, saying Sunday that he should do more to press for open elections. After leaving the Oval Office, McCain used the social networking site Twitter to call for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down. "It's in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military," he said. McCain's office described the meeting as productive, saying the two also discussed border security, trade and budget issues. "Sen. McCain looks forward to working with the president to address issues of mutual concern for the welfare of our country in these challenging times," his office said in a statement after the senator left. Earlier, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs singled out earmark reform as an issue where Obama and McCain have found common ground. When Obama said he would veto any legislation that included lawmakers' pet projects, McCain was one of the few lawmakers applauding. Wednesday's meeting comes amid a thaw in the often-frosty relationship between the president and his 2008 rival. It dates back even before the last presidential campaign, when the new Illinois senator sought the veteran Republican's cooperation on ethics reform but later split amid partisan wrangling over the issue in the campaign year of 2006. The two quickly sought to put their divisive 2008 race behind them, with Obama feting McCain at a pre-inaugural dinner. But as the senator sought reelection in a climate where conservative activists were targeting longtime GOP incumbents, McCain emerged as one of Obama's harshest critics. One of his first ads accused the president of engaging in an "extreme left wing crusade to bankrupt America," and touted: "I stand in his way every day."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Attack on Birthright Citizenship

Think Progress (pr.thinkprogress.org) reported that: Last week, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a resolution that would amend the Constitution to eliminate the guarantee that all persons born in the U.S. are automatically citizens. The resolution stipulates that, in order for U.S.-born children to qualify for citizenship, at least one parent must be a legal citizen, legal immigrant, active member of the Armed Forces, or a naturalized legal citizen. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Republicans introduced legislation this past Thursday seeking to challenge the right to U.S. citizenship for children born in the state whose parents are undocumented immigrants. The 14th Amendment explicitly states, "[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." These proposals all seek to either radically change or reinterpret what it means to be "subject to the jurisdiction thereof." As the draconian Arizona immigration law which made headlines last year moves its way up the courts, the attack on the 14th Amendment and over 100 years of jurisprudence is looking to be the next immigration battlefield in the months to come.

Janet Napolitano Urges Officials to Stop Exaggerating Violence on U.S. Side of Border

The Homeland Security secretary tries to make her case with FBI crime statistics, but public perceptions are hard to change.

Los Angeles Times: Battling the widespread perception that U.S. border cities have become more dangerous, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday called on public officials to stop exaggerating the violence on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico and "be honest with the people we serve." In a speech in El Paso, Napolitano cited FBI statistics showing that violent crime rates in Southwest border counties are down 30% over the last two decades and are "among the lowest in the nation." Napolitano's effort to change the public perception of danger follows a heated campaign season last fall that saw candidates in border states frequently emphasizing the effects of illegal immigration on their communities. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, was criticized during the campaign for saying that headless bodies were being found in the Arizona desert, a statement she retracted after local coroners could not confirm her claim. A few mayors in the region recently have said that the portrayal of their towns as dangerous has hurt them economically. "Let's stick with the facts," Napolitano said. "We need to be up front and clear about what's really happening along our borders." Even as the drug war has escalated just south of the border, crime rates in Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat, said Napolitano, citing the addition of personnel and technology in the region.