About Me

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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


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fremont Wrestles with Immigration

Omaha World Herald: Starting May 4, employers in Fremont will have to verify whether their newly hired workers are legal residents.

But those seeking to rent a house or an apartment won't have to obtain an occupancy license until after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on Fremont's controversial ordinance aimed at illegal immigration.

The Fremont City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to begin enforcing the employment provisions of the law, even as it appeals a federal court decision on the housing requirements.

The ordinance, approved by voters in a special election in June 2010, prohibits the harboring or hiring of illegal immigrants.

It requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm that their new workers are in the country legally.

And it requires renters to obtain a license from the city. The information provided for the license would be used to verify their immigration status. If they are not legally in the United States, their permission to rent housing in Fremont can be revoked.

In a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp upheld the employment provisions of the ordinance and the occupancy license requirement.

But she threw out the provision allowing people to be evicted if they are not legal residents.

She said that would conflict with federal housing law and would make it more difficult for federal authorities to enforce immigration laws.

Camp said it would essentially push illegal immigrants into other communities, where it would be harder to find them.

ACLU Nebraska said Tuesday that it plans to appeal at least the portion of Camp's ruling that upheld the requirement for occupancy licenses. The group asked the Fremont City Council not to enforce the ordinance until the 8th Circuit Court has ruled.

The council went into closed session for an hour before it emerged to vote on a resolution calling for its own court appeal and a delay in the housing rules.

Mayor Scott Getzschman reported that during the closed session, the council consulted by telephone with Kris Kobach, a Kansas lawyer in the forefront of a national effort to establish local authority to enforce immigration laws. Kobach helped draft Fremont's ordinance and has represented the city in court challenges.

"The key thing here is that this is an important issue to many members of the community and to most businesses as well," Getzschman said. "The E-Verify provision was upheld 100 percent, and that's a section of the ordinance we can begin implementing almost immediately."

Council Chairwoman Jennifer Bixby said Kobach advised the council to hold off on enforcing the housing provisions while the city appeals Camp's ruling.

Had the council not approved the delay, the housing provisions would have taken effect Monday.

Several people who were active in the effort to pass the ordinance attended Tuesday's meeting. They included Bob Warner, Jerry Hart and Carl Schaffner.

Schaffner objected to the council's discussing the ordinance in closed session. He urged the council to uphold the will of the voters, who approved the measure.

"This entire process has been open to the public, except when you folks have decided to take it out of the public's hands," he said, referring to previous council decisions to vote down the ordinance and delay its enforcement.

Warner is the former council member who originally proposed the ordinance in 2008. After the full council rejected it, he helped organize the petition drive that put the proposal on the ballot.

He scoffed at council members' concerns that it might be difficult for Fremont businesses to quickly comply with the new ordinance.

He warned Fremont officials to beware of the situation that now faces Schuyler, Neb., and Colfax County, which on Monday announced an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to provide bilingual poll workers and Spanish-language election materials because of the large proportion of Hispanic voters in the county.

"They say 65 percent of Schuyler residents can't speak English. That's terrible," Warner said.

Amy Miller, an ACLU attorney, said the organization is mulling whether to challenge Camp's decision upholding the E-Verify requirement. A decision will be made next week, she said.

In a letter to the council, Miller said that enforcing the housing requirements before a final appellate court decision would confuse the public, increase the city's costs and deepen tensions.

"This important debate has been moved to the courtroom, and we encourage the city to leave it there until a final answer is issued by a higher court."

Getzschman said the city had set aside $1.07 million over two years for expenses related to the immigration ordinance. The city expects to spend $425,000 to $450,000 per year on software, computers, training and additional staff to implement the employment provisions.

Kristen Ostrom, a Fremont lawyer who helped lead the unsuccessful effort to defeat the ordinance in 2010, said the council made the right decision to delay the housing provisions.

She now works with the ACLU.

"The ordinance is unconstitutional and un-American," she said. "We're going to continue to fight it on behalf of Fremont landlords, tenants and employers."

Alabama's Immigration Law -- Cruel Hearts Spawn Cruel Laws, Which Lead to Cruel Treatment

The Birmingham News (Opinion by Joey Kennedy): There's that movie, A Few Good Men, with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, where Nicholson's character while on the witness stand in a military court shouts at Cruise's character, who has just asked Nicholson to tell him the truth: "You can't handle the truth."

I thought about that little bit of classic cinema this week after the Southern Poverty Law Center released its report "Alabama's Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants." In typical "can't handle the truth" style, commenters attack the SPLC.

A nedbutler2001 offers this: "This useless organization discriminates more than anyone else in the state of Alabama or the US. These people are a bunch of racial pigs, time to shut them down."

Some commenters whine about how much they think they're having to pay for undocumented residents to stay in the U.S. and Alabama.

This post by malefic is fairly typical of those who don't want to know the truth: "U. S. Citizens shouldn't have to pay taxes to pay for food and medical care for illegal aliens. Illegal aliens need to be deported and quit being a financial drag on the economy."

Then they claim because the immigration law prohibits racial profiling, there can be no racial profiling, forgetting that it's not what a law says, but what it does.

Writes torimom: "What an absolute BS story. You cannot be pulled over, period, unless you have committed a traffic violation (speeding, tail light out, running a stop sign, etc.)."

Yet, the SPLC report is what it is: Actual documentation of wrongs committed in the name of this terrible law. The SPLC, which has a long, well-respected history of fighting racism, terrorism and wrongs, said the law "virtually guarantees racial profiling, discrimination and harassment against all Latinos in Alabama. HB 56 attacks not only 'every aspect' of an immigrant's life in Alabama -- but also basic human dignity and our most fundamental ideals as a nation."

That it does. Because of the law, Carmen Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen who was born in Texas and lives in Foley, was told to "Go back to Mexico." But wait: Supporters of HB 56 say Carmen and her family have nothing to worry about. Another family had to wait 40 days without running water because their "papers" weren't in order.

The SPLC report has story after story after story, and then closes with this: "HB 56 has created a humanitarian crisis in Alabama." That is Alabama's shame.

Read the report, if you can handle the truth.

Alabama Immigration Law Foes Seek Automakers' Support

CNN reported that: Groups seeking to repeal a controversial Alabama immigration law are asking the state's highly influential auto manufacturing industry to join their cause.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote letters to all three of the state's foreign-owned automakers highlighting that the bill has created "widespread racial profiling and other discrimination ... particularly against anyone suspected of being foreign in Alabama."

The National Council of La Raza, the NAACP, the United Auto Workers and the Southern Poverty Law Center have requested meetings with auto executives hoping to discuss how the bill is affecting the state's image and, potentially, its economy.

"Your leadership in the area of social justice is required to help undo the damage caused by H.B. 56," the groups say in an open letter to Honda, Daimler AG and Hyundai executives. "Unless we work together to rein in this growing intolerance, the acts of intimidation against foreigners in Alabama and in other states will continue."

Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for La Raza, said, "We are not asking them to take to the streets... (we are) seeking to become allies."

She noted that executives from two of the automakers "have experienced firsthand what the consequences of this law are," and that their experience "played a part" in the campaign to enlist their support.

Last year, police in Tuscaloosa pulled over a Mercedes-Benz executive because of a problem with the tag on the rental car he was driving, and detained him when he didn't have proper identification on hand. (Mercedes is a division of Daimler AG).

A Honda official was detained in another incident.

Mercedes representatives did not return repeated e-mails or a phone call from CNN requesting comment about the groups' outreach. Honda did not return e-mails.

Chris Hosford, a spokesman for Hyundai, confirmed in an e-mail that the company had received the groups' letter and said the company does not take a position on the immigration law one way or the other.

H.B. 56, which became law in September 2011, is widely considered to be one of the toughest illegal immigration laws in the country. It allows police to ask for legal status in certain situations and voids contracts if one party is not in the country legally.

Most of the law has thus far withstood court scrutiny, but an appeals court has issued an injunction against enforcing a requirement that public schools ask for the citizenship status of new students.

Approving the "Dream Act"

MSNBC : Federal legislation that would provide a path to legal residency to children who were brought to the U.S. illegally is on the minds of voters heading to the polls in Arizona on Tuesday.

MSNBC contributor Meghan McCain reports.


Video embedded in clip.

As Arizona Votes, Is "Self-Deportation" More Than a Slogan?

CBS News: As Republican voters in Arizona head to the polls today to decide who should be the party's nominee for president, candidates have been talking tough on immigration.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he thinks the Grand Canyon state's controversial immigration law should be something for the rest of the country to embrace.

"I think you see a model in Arizona," Romney said at the CNN sponsored debate last week in Mesa, Arizona, near Phoenix.

Arizona in 2010 passed a law giving police broad new powers to crack down on illegal immigrants, though the more controversial aspects of the law have been held up by court challenges. Supporters of the law say that by making life difficult for illegal immigrants who have already entered the country, they will choose to leave rather than to stay amid constant fear of getting caught.

The concept is known as "self-deportation," though deportation by definition is involuntary. Advocates of the idea call it "attrition through enforcement."

Romney likes the idea and said so in an earlier debate.

"We're not going to round people up," Romney said in late January. "The answer is self-deportation."

For Romney, it is unrealistic to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, but for them to leave on their own is more likely.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked Romney over the idea that "grandmothers" would self-deport.

One of the leading men behind Romney's plan of attrition through enforcement is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The former law professor who served in the Bush administration at the Justice Department under John Ashcroft is one of the key authors of the Arizona law and a similar measure in Alabama.

Kobach, who has endorsed Romney and serves as an informal adviser to the candidate, said "the idea is not rocket science."

"If you enforce the law more forcefully," Kobach told Hotsheet, "illegal aliens make the rational decision to return to their home country."

Kobach wants the U.S. to take the same approach as Arizona and Alabama.

"Arizona has become a model at what the U.S. should be doing at the federal level," Kobach said in a telephone interview, and he thinks Romney is the man to do it.

But not everyone agrees.

"There are consequences of intimidating people," said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute at the New York University Law School. He said those consequences include crimes going unreported and children being pulled from school, leaving groups of people uneducated.

Kobach dismissed the culture of fear.

"They fear getting caught if they break the law, but that's not a culture of fear, that's the law," he said. Kobach added that it is illegal immigration that scares him: "There's nothing scary about the rule of law. A really scary situation is an outbreak of lawlessness."

At a debate in Florida, Romney offered some details behind self-deportation. He said a national E-Verify workplace authorization system is necessary to ensure that only legal residents can obtain jobs.

"People decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," Romney said in January.

Kobach told Hotsheet that E-Verify is a major component, but just one of many parts. He called for federal raids of work sites, and stronger local and federal law enforcement cooperation, which would enable local police to ask immigration status.

But do undocumented immigrants actually leave? Kobach said they do.

He pointed to Alabama. He said the unemployment rate dropped 2.1 percent since that state passed its tough immigration law in October 2011, compared to a .5 percentage reduction in the national unemployment. He said immigrants self-deported -- probably to a neighboring state -- leaving jobs for Americans.

But media reports detail a shortage of workers for factories and farms and, recently, that immigrants have been trickling back into the state.

Skeptics say there is no proof that self-deportation occurs.

"We have seen no evidence of attrition through enforcement," Chisti said.

Tracking the number of undocumented immigrants is difficult. Pew Hispanic Center conducted a random sample and found that entire undocumented population in the U.S. has decreased from its peak of 12.5 million in 2007 to 11.2 million to 2010, probably due to the lagging economy. The study also found that four states saw a significant decrease in its undocumented population, and although Arizona did see a decline, it was not as much as New York, Florida, Virginia and Colorado.

Even Kobach admitted that it's a hard phenomenon to document.

"We're dealing with anecdotal evidence. It's hard to tell for both sides of the coin," he said.

Chisti boiled self-deportation down to campaign-season rhetoric and dismissed that it is a real solution. "It makes politicians feel good about themselves; it's a good sound bite and it intimidates people," Chisti told Hotsheet.

Steve Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which is promoting self-deportation, said the goal is not to see a 100 percent decrease in unauthorized immigration, but to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants over time, and that it will take some time.

"I think the goal would be to be to turn it from a national crisis to a national nuisance," Camarota said.

But Chisti said that even with record numbers of deportations under President Obama, "a very small number of people leave. So people take chances."

Many Cast Vote With November in Mind; for Others, Character Rates High

New York Times: Polls of voters in Tuesday's presidential primary in Michigan highlight the deep tension underpinning the Republican nominating contest, with Mitt Romney holding steady as the most electable candidate while Rick Santorum waged a serious challenge with a strong conservative base.

A majority of voters in Michigan said Mr. Romney was the candidate most likely to defeat President Obama, while just a quarter chose Mr. Santorum, according to exit poll results. But electability was not as great a factor for Michigan voters as it had been for voters in Nevada and Florida, where Mr. Romney won handily, or in South Carolina, where voters preferred Newt Gingrich.

About a third of Michigan primary voters said electability was the top quality they were looking for in a candidate, and about 2 in 10 were looking for someone with the right experience -- both strong groups for Mr. Romney. But Mr. Santorum countered with solid support from voters looking for someone with a strong moral character (about one-fourth) and those seeking a true conservative (about one in six). Mr. Romney trailed among groups that had posed problems for him in some earlier contests, including very conservative voters and strong Tea Party supporters.

Still, Mr. Romney ran strongly among groups that he has tended to attract, including older voters and higher-income residents. In Michigan, those who are 65 and older made up about a quarter of the electorate, an increase from 16 percent in 2008.

As has been the case in every contest with exit polls so far this year, the top issue was the economy. More than half of the voters in Michigan chose the economy as their most important issue, while about a quarter cited the federal budget deficit. Mr. Romney won nearly half of these voters.

Although far fewer voters placed abortion highest, about one in seven, Mr. Santorum drew about three-fourths of their votes.

Democrats and independents were allowed to participate in Michigan's Republican primary, yielding a somewhat different electorate than in previous contests. About 6 in 10 said they were Republican, the fewest so far except in New Hampshire. About 3 in 10 were independents, while almost 10 percent -- the most in any nominating contest to date -- said they were Democrats.

Some had encouraged Democrats to try to influence the primary outcome, including Mr. Santorum's campaign, which used automated calls to urge Democrats to cast a vote against Mr. Romney. Exit poll results did not show much effect; Democratic turnout differed little from four years ago, when it accounted for 7 percent of the state's Republican primary voters. And it was far lower than the 17 percent in 2000.

But Mr. Santorum did succeed in pulling Democratic votes his way. Most Democratic voters voted for Mr. Santorum, far outpacing Democratic support for any other candidate.

While Republican voters preferred Mr. Romney, independents were closely divided between the top two candidates. About 6 in 10 Michigan voters described themselves as conservative, including about 3 in 10 who said they were very conservative -- up somewhat from 2008. Mr. Santorum won strong conservatives, who did not favor Mr. Romney in several other states, including Florida, Iowa and South Carolina.

About a quarter of Michigan voters said it mattered a great deal that a candidate shared their religious beliefs. They strongly favored Mr. Santorum, although Mr. Romney won considerable support from Catholic women.

In a state with one of the highest union membership rates in the country, almost one-fourth said they or someone in their household belonged to a labor union. These voters leaned toward Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who tried to appeal to blue-collar workers.

Voters in Michigan were a bit more apt to say they disapproved of the government's bailout to United States automakers a few years ago. Opponents of the aid were closely divided between Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney.

Compared with Michigan, the Arizona electorate is more Republican, conservative and supportive of the Tea Party movement. Yet Mr. Santorum did less well among these groups than he did in Michigan. Mr. Romney won in Arizona among men and women and across all age groups, education levels and income groups.

About one in seven voters in Arizona were Mormon, helping to lift Mr. Romney there. More than 9 in 10 Mormon voters supported him.

About one in eight Arizona voters called illegal immigration their top issue, more than in any other contest where exit polls have asked about it. Still, many more cited the economy, making it voters' top issue in Arizona as well.

Arizona voters were divided over what to do with illegal immigrant workers. About a third said they should be deported, and as many said they should be offered a chance at citizenship. Nearly 3 in 10 said they should be allowed to stay as temporary workers.

The polls, conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of the television networks and The Associated Press, include interviews with voters as they were leaving polling places across Michigan and Arizona and telephone interviews with early and absentee voters in each state.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Because U.S. Erred in '90, Bronx Resident Becomes a Man Without a Country

New York Times (by Kirk Semple): Abdo Hizam says he has always tried to be a good American. Born in 1980 in a small village in Yemen to a Yemeni-American father, Mr. Hizam received an American passport through a law that provides citizenship to the children of Americans.

He moved to Dearborn, Mich., when he was 9 to live with his grandparents and embraced his new world. He gave up his Yemeni citizenship. He graduated from high school and earned a business degree at a local college. He worked for years at a local restaurant, and he opened a small grocery store. Throughout, he rooted passionately for the Detroit Lions.

But last year, his life was suddenly upended. The State Department told him that he had received his citizenship in error in 1990. The mistake had been no fault of his or his parents, officials said, but rather a bureaucratic blunder by the government.

Still, the State Department said it could not fix the mistake. Officials said the law left them with only one option: They revoked his passport and effectively stripped Mr. Hizam of his nationality, plunging him into an extraordinary stateless limbo.

Mr. Hizam, who is living in the Bronx, has filed a lawsuit against the government, demanding that it affirm his citizenship and reissue his passport.

"I feel betrayed," he said during a recent interview in a conference room at the New York University School of Law, where he is being represented by members of the Immigrant Rights Clinic.

"You try to live your life a certain way and you try to abide by the rules," he continued. "I devoted my life here, and it's all I am. And then I have it taken away."

Federal officials said they were prohibited from commenting on cases under litigation.

But Mr. Hizam's lawyer, Nancy Morawetz, a professor of clinical law at N.Y.U., said Mr. Hizam appeared to have been a victim of an inflexible and sclerotic immigration bureaucracy.

"It's certainly a scary power that the State Department is asserting here," she said. "The fact that the State Department can go back and ask these questions when somebody has, from childhood, been a U.S. citizen is very frightening."

Mr. Hizam was born in a poor village with no phones and limited electricity, a six-hour drive from Yemen's capital, Sana. At the time, his father, who had been born in Yemen and had received naturalized American citizenship, worked on an assembly line at a Chrysler plant in Michigan. His mother was living in Yemen.

In 1990, Mr. Hizam recalled, his maternal grandparents, who also lived in Michigan, visited Yemen. When they left, they took him with them. "They said, you're going to get on an airplane," Mr. Hizam recalled. He was soon en route to the United States.

He quickly found his place among the large Arab-American population in Dearborn and became assimilated into American life. Over the next two decades, he traveled back and forth to Yemen several times and the American government renewed his passport twice.

On one of those trips, in 2002, he wed a young Yemeni woman in an arranged marriage. They now have two children.

"My plan was to get that 9-to-5, be out of debt, be financially stable enough to bring my wife and kids and live my life here," he said. "I'm trying to get 'the picket fence.' Everything you get drilled into your head, I'm trying to live it."

In 2009, like his father two decades earlier, Mr. Hizam applied for citizenship for his two children and wife so they could join him in the United States.

But after several weeks of delays, a consular official in Sana told him that the United States authorities had discovered a problem in his file: His father apparently had not satisfied the requirements for conveying citizenship to him two decades earlier.

According to the laws at the time, Mr. Hizam's father could transmit citizenship to him if he could show that he had lived in the United States for at least 10 years before his child's birth.

Mr. Hizam's father, it appeared, had filed his paperwork with the correct dates delineating his time in the United States, but that time apparently added up to less than eight years, according to court documents. State Department officials approved the citizenship anyway.

In a letter to Mr. Hizam last year explaining the problem, a State Department official made it clear that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Hizam's family.

"There is no indication that your father fraudulently obtained citizenship documentation for you," the official said, according to court papers. The documentation had been granted 'due to department error,'" said the letter, dated last April 18.

A letter 10 days later from another State Department official explained that because Mr. Hizam's father had not satisfied the presence requirement, "there is no evidence that you lawfully acquired U.S. citizenship." As a result, the letter said, the government was forced by law to revoke Mr. Hizam's citizenship documents. His father's citizenship was not affected, Mr. Hizam said.

Soon after, Mr. Hizam surrendered his passport to federal officials. "I was in complete shock," he said. "Losing my status meant losing my whole future, which is here."

Ms. Morawetz contends that the revocation was doubly unjust because had his father's application been rejected in 1990, Mr. Hizam could have obtained citizenship by other legal means.

Federal officials said that revocations of citizenship rarely happened, and that when they did, they usually happened in cases of fraud. Several immigration lawyers said they had never heard of a similar case in which citizenship was rescinded because of an apparent bureaucratic error decades earlier.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hizam has fallen into a strange legal void.

While the government has not yet moved to deport him, Mr. Hizam cannot return to Yemen to see his wife and children, because of his uncertain citizenship status. He currently lives with three of his brothers, whose citizenship is unchallenged; they operate a deli and 99-cent store.

"You're here as a U.S. citizen and all of a sudden you're not," he said, shaking his head. "Technically, I don't exist on paper."

One Venture Capitalist's Personal View On Innovation and Immigration

Forbes: When Shervin Pishevar first got the call about an award, he thought it was a scam.

Then Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director, called him and he realized it was true. Pishevar, a managing director at venture firm Menlo Ventures, received an award last week from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service naming him an "Outstanding American by Choice," an award honoring immigrant entrepreneurs. "The director of immigration contacted me and I realized what it was," Pishevar says. "I called my parents. It was really cool. A beautiful ceremony."

Mayorkas gave the award to five immigrant entrepreneurs, including Pishevar and Michael Moritz, the renowned venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital. The ceremony included a citizenship ceremony for others. Pishevar said it was an emotional moment for him when he gave a speech accepting the award. "We were all immigrants at some point, we're a nation of immigrants," Pishevar said.

A number of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have supported the "Startup Visa" campaign that advocates legislation to enable entrepreneurs who would create jobs in this country to gain visa status. Pishevar was among the main creators of the group.

Pishevar, who is an immigrant from Iran, believes the U.S. should recruit top entrepreneurs globally to come to the U.S., providing a sort of MacArthur award for immigrants. "Instead of being passive, you go around the world and recruit," Pishevar says. As Michael Moritz says, "if you take the immigrants out of Silicon Valley, you don't have Silicon Valley anymore. We should be sending immigration officers to find brilliant, talented people to become Americans. We're in an arms race for talent."

Pishevar, who has invested either personally or through Menlo Ventures in companies such as Uber, Aardvark, Gowalla and Klout, says he often comes across visa problems with his and other investors' startup entrepreneurs. While he tries to help them, he believes a more comprehensive plan is necessary.

While not everyone in Silicon Valley is a supporter of such immigration policies, Pishevar says he wants to be involved for personal and professional reasons. (Moritz has gotten involved in other political issues in the San Francisco area.) "It's important to me," says Pishevar, who has supported Barack Obama for president. "I just feel like we in Silicon Valley have buried our heads for too long. We need to realize that things start to impact how we can get things done if other parts of the country are not doing as well."

Romney's at Odds with Mormon Church on Immigration

Los Angeles Times: Celia Alejandra Alvarez spent three months in a Maricopa County jail after deputies arrested her and other illegal immigrants working at a landscaping business.

She said a saving grace during the "90 long days" three years ago were the visits and help she received from her "brothers" and "sisters" with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I had no other family," recalled Alvarez, a 33-year-old mother of four from Guanajuato, Mexico. "It was a beautiful thing to know that my children were cared for, that they were being fed. I know that if my husband had asked for financial help, they would have given it to him."

Yet Alvarez said she was not overjoyed at the prospect of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney becoming president because of his staunch stand against undocumented immigrants like herself.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a front-runner to challenge President Obama in November, but many religious conservatives view his faith with suspicion. Supporters, however, can point to his stance on illegal immigration as an example of Romney not always aligning his beliefs with those of his church.

"If anyone ever levied the charge that he would make the presidency susceptible to the Church of Latter-day Saints' influence, this is one example where he's ignoring the church," said Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. "His Mormonism is being used against him, and this is actually a chance for his supporters to show he's not beholden to his church."

Romney's campaign visit last week brought attention to Arizona's growing Latino immigrant Mormon community, and also to a church with a strong Republican presence in the Southwest that has had a moderating effect on the politics of illegal immigration.

The Mormon Church supported a law signed last year by Utah's governor that would essentially allow illegal immigrants to remain in the state if they worked and didn't commit crimes. It also joined other religious, political, civic and business leaders in supporting the Utah Compact, a set of principles intended to guide a balanced approach to illegal immigration.

"The LDS church itself is actually quite moderate -- you might even say a voice of compassion -- on the question of immigration," said David Campbell, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.

According to the Pew Research Institute, about 7% of Mormons in the U.S. are Latino. But experts say they form the fastest-growing sector of the church.

In June, the Mormon Church acknowledged the problems caused by the "unchecked" flow of people across the border, but urged a "civil" approach to the illegal immigrants already in the country.

"The church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship," it said in a statement.

The church's outlier status and narrative of a people on the move also resonates with immigrants, said Ignacio Garcia, a Mexican-born professor of political science at BYU who converted to Mormonism when he was 15. He said some estimate that more than half the Latino Mormons in Arizona are illegal immigrants.

"The Mormon story is very much a migrant story, a story of becoming," he said. "People who are new to their communities and do not have established roots, and this includes a lot of immigrants, tend to be more open to religious conversion."

Bruce Merrill, a veteran pollster and emeritus professor at Arizona State University who is Mormon, said a large number of church members opposed illegal immigration, so Romney's position was far from unusual. But he said that in some cases, the church had made clear its displeasure with some members' overtly antagonistic gestures.

Such was the case with former state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mormon from Mesa, Ariz., who championed a bill that became the nation's toughest law against illegal immigrants. The move turned Pearce into one of Arizona's most popular politicians. But Merrill said Pearce's saber-rattling on this and other issues was a major reason he was voted out after Latino activists launched a recall.

He was replaced by another conservative Mormon Republican, but one who supported a more moderate approach to illegal immigration.

"The bishops don't preach from the pulpit, but they don't have to," Merrill said. "Being a Mormon is a way of life — you have meetings all week. They just let it be known that Pearce was an embarrassment to the church, and at a time they were trying to proselytize to the Hispanic community."

Many political observers said they expected Romney to soften his tone if he wins the nomination. Experts also point out that he is not alone, among politicians or people in general, in not adhering completely to the positions of his faith.

At times Romney has backed away from harder stands.

During the GOP debate in Arizona last week, Romney was asked whether he agreed with popular Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that illegal immigrants in the country should be deported. He ignored the question and instead talked about a far less controversial measure.

Because of their large Mormon populations, Arizona and Utah are two states where Romney's faith is an asset. The Mormon Latino community is too small to make a difference in an election, experts say, especially because so many can't vote. But some Latino Mormons have demonstrated at his events.

Alvarez, who avoided deportation and now works in home care assisting the elderly, said many Mormon immigrants wouldn't speak out for fear of being deported.

She said she couldn't reconcile Romney's position on illegal immigration with the teachings of their shared church, which she says has shown only love to her.

"If the president would be someone who believes … what he does about us, I wouldn't be proud," Alvarez said, "even if he was a Mormon."

The Latino Vote: A Factor in Swing States Come November

CNN: If there was still any doubt about Mitt Romney's position on immigration, it was erased last Thursday during the CNN Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona.

The former Michigan governor referred to Arizona's controversial HB1070 law as "a model" for the nation. The initiative approved in 2010 that cracks down on illegal immigration has been denounced by Hispanic and immigration rights groups as extreme.

Romney also said that "the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona ... I'll also complete the (border) fence. I'll make sure we have enough border patrol agents to secure the fence and I'll make sure we have an (employment eligibility federal database) E-Verify system and require employers to check the documents of workers."

Hispanic voters won't decide Tuesday's primaries in Arizona and Michigan, because few are registered as Republicans in those states; but it will be an entirely different story during the November presidential elections.

Arizona's Hispanic voters could give the candidate of either party enough of a margin to win the state in November. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Arizona has 766,000 eligible Hispanic voters, close to 20% of all eligible voters in the Grand Canyon state.

Making statements that can be perceived as anti-immigrant is risky, according to Jennifer Sevilla-Korn, the executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Network, a center-right advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

"Tone and rhetoric absolutely matter, because the use of language that can be perceived as inflammatory turns the Hispanic community off even if they agree with the candidate on other issues like how to deal with the economy and fiscal responsibility," Sevilla-Korn said.

Mark Lopez, associate director at the Pew Hispanic Center, said, "Latinos have played a growing and important role in the nation's presidential elections over the last few election cycles. There are now more than 21 million Hispanics who are eligible to vote, and Latinos reside in some key states."

According to the U.S. Census, in the 2008 presidential election, Latinos represented 13% of all voters in Colorado, 14% in Nevada, 15% in Florida, and 38% in New Mexico. Those four states will likely be swing states again in 2012. "Even the participation rate among Hispanics in presidential elections has been growing" in those states, says Lopez.

In 2004, former President George W. Bush won more than 40% of the Latino vote. Four years later, 67% of Hispanic voters went for Barack Obama. Experts say anybody getting that kind of support from Latinos next year, whether Democrat or Republican, has a good chance of winning the presidency.

Florida-based political analyst Charles Garcia says he's confident Latino voters will decide the U.S. presidential election in 2012. He points to states like North Carolina, where the number of registered Hispanic voters has almost doubled to more than 130,000 since the last presidential election.

"President Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by 14,000 votes," Garcia said. "In 2008 there were 68,000 registered Latino voters and a whopping 84% of them participated in the election."

According to research done by the CNN Political Team, based on U.S. Census figures there will be 15 swing states in the 2012 presidential elections: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In a tight race, Garcia said, Hispanic voters could be the margin of victory in 12 of the 15 swing states. The reason? The number of eligible Latino voters in those states has grown by more than 700,000 in the last four years.

"So the important message for the Latino community that's living in one of these 15 swing states is 'Get off your couch and go register to vote because you're going to determine the next election' - and that's powerful," Garcia said.

On the Democratic side, Garcia points out, President Obama hasn't delivered on a promise he made while campaigning: comprehensive immigration reform.

"What he's done is he has deported 400,000 immigrants a year - a total of 1.2 million so far - and he hasn't delivered on the Dream Act," Garcia said. The Dream Act is a bill that would give a path towards citizenship to undocumented young people attending college or serving in the armed forces.

As the GOP primaries play out and as the focus shifts toward the general election in November, Latino voters likely will find themselves more and more the focus of candidates' attention in those key swing states. Which candidate will get those voters' attention in the polling booth is a question that will be answered in the weeks and months ahead.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More Dumb Talk on Immigration

Denver Post (Opinion by Ruben Navarrette): Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist.

Newt, we hardly knew 'ye. Just when it looked like the former House speaker was aiming to be the only grown-up in the room when Republicans talk about immigration, Newt Gingrich says something infantile. Or, rather, if you watched the recent CNN debate from Arizona, several things.

Granted, one thing Gingrich has going for him is that the other main contenders for the GOP presidential nomination are arguably even more clueless on the issue.

Mitt Romney said during the debate that Arizona is a "model" for the rest of the country because of how it has handled immigration.

That's like going back in time to 1964 and saying Mississippi is a model for the rest of the country because of how it handled civil rights. Arizona lawmakers passed an atrocious law that legitimized racial profiling of Latinos, divided the state, cost millions of dollars in lost tourism and convention business, distorted the political climate, sparked a lawsuit by the federal government, and wound up being gutted by a federal judge. Oh yeah, Mitt. That's a swell model -- for disaster.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum, who likes to talk tough when going after illegal immigrants and implying that they don't measure up to the Italian immigrants in his family tree, got all squishy when moderator John King asked if we should punish the millions of homeowners who hire illegal immigrants to work as housekeepers, nannies, gardeners and senior caregivers. This sort of thing, Santorum said, was a "step too far" and that we should focus on "those who are here illegally and trying to do things that are against the law, like seeking employment here."

Wrong, Rick. Entering the country without the proper documents and using fake documents to find a job are both against the law, but the mere act of seeking employment isn't. Do you really think it's better to address the symptoms rather than the root cause? Going after employers — including homeowners — is a good way to show that we're serious about stopping illegal immigration. It's simple: People won't come across a border if there aren't employers on the other side waiting to hire them.

Gingrich recently suggested the common-sense approach of giving temporary worker permits to undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for years so as not to divide families through deportations. And yet, his debate performance was unimaginative and uninspiring.

When King asked Gingrich to address Texas Gov. Rick Perry's skepticism that we could ever build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border that was high enough to keep out desperate people determined to feed their families, the former House speaker brushed off the question and then doubled down on the simplistic approach of building more fences.

Never mind that researchers like Douglas Massey of Princeton, who has studied the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a quarter of a century, have pointed out that fences actually increase the population of illegal immigrants in the United States by discouraging them from returning to Mexico because they're afraid they wouldn't be able to return.

Later, when asked whether Marco Rubio was right when the Florida senator said recently that some of the rhetoric on immigration from Republicans was "harsh and intolerable and inexcusable," Gingrich — who is known for his intelligence — played dumb and pretended not to know what in the world Rubio was talking about. Who? Us? When?

So, I take it that Gingrich doesn't read newspapers, monitor websites, watch cable television, or listen to talk radio. If he did, he'd know exactly what Rubio meant.

Besides, Gingrich said, the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act — which he voted for and which called for border security and employer sanctions in exchange for offering amnesty to more than 3 million illegal immigrants — was "supposed to solve all this."

What a foolish thing to say. That law couldn't solve the immigration problem, and no law can -- until Americans accept responsibility for creating the problem and stop hiring illegal immigrants. We need to be clear and honest about this, and we need our leaders to stop trying to coddle voters by constantly advancing the ridiculous narrative that they're somehow the victims when this wound is self-inflicted.

It's time for Americans to grow up and do our own chores, and it's time for politicians to stop pandering and start telling us the hard truth.

Newt, take note.

Oscar Nod Honors the Undocumented

CNN (Opinion by Chris Weitz): Editor's note: Chris Weitz directed the film "A Better Life" starring Demián Bichir, who is an Oscar nominee for best actor. Weitz also directed "New Moon" and "The Golden Compass." He has filmed four videos on Alabama's immigration law: http://isthisalabama.org/

(CNN) -- As I ride to the Oscars on my compañero Demián Bichir's coattails this Sunday, I will be mindful of some ironies.

Will the canapés passed around to the guests arriving in black tie and gowns be served by documented workers? Hard to say.

Even "respectable" concerns like Wal-mart have used middlemen to enable them to benefit from the lower wages they can pay "illegals" (to use a favorite Republican term).

Doubtless the ingredients themselves will have been through the hands of undocumented workers -- a fact we should keep in mind when we enjoy the bountiful and cheap harvest of the nation's producers.

Demián's nomination came for his portrayal of Carlos Galindo, an undocumented worker in our film "A Better Life." But he will not, needless to say, be wearing the work boots and shearling of an immigrant gardener. He will be in the uniform of the Hollywood elite at play and, some would say, in the act of self-congratulation.

Yet, I think there is something to be congratulated in this case. While I believe the Academy gave Demián a tap on the shoulder for all the right reasons -- mainly the strength of his performance -- there is an effect beyond Hollywood of which it may not be aware.

I saw it on the front pages of Spanish language newspapers around the country, which greeted Demián's nomination as a stirring validation of the humanity of the character he played and a source of great pride. And I heard it at the screening we did for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, where 200 hard-working people, some who had traveled at the risk of being apprehended and deported, felt that they had been treated as first-class human beings rather than parasites.

The battle over immigration reform is fought with numbers, but the ground of the battle is an emotional landscape. Over the past few months we've seen the Republican candidates use undocumented immigrants as a rhetorical punching bag, secure in the knowledge that they can't fight back.

Why? Because an undocumented immigrant is afraid to draw attention to himself.

Although they are, on the whole, tremendously industrious, family-oriented, God-fearing and deeply invested in this country through familial ties, they are living on a razor's edge. The edge is, if anything, made sharper by draconian and politically self-serving laws like Alabama's HB56 and its cousins in Arizona and Georgia.

Alabama's HB56 made it illegal not only to work without documentation, but to give a ride to someone without documentation. Or, as one farmer put it, "The state of Alabama is telling me who my friends can be."

Leaving aside the fact that the law has been disastrous for the state's economy and reputation -- fruits are rotting unpicked in the fields and the bad old days of segregation have been evoked -- it's just plain indecent. This, more than any facts or figures, will be where the law runs aground, when people understand the story of the undocumented immigrant in the United States.

The Pilgrims did not have papers. They arrived and made their way. And my grandparents came from Mexico, Germany and Czechoslovakia to make a better life for my family.

And when the camera turns to Demián, nominated for an Oscar up there with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, hundreds of millions of people worldwide will see a foreign-born worker making his way, through all the barriers of language and racial preference, in this amazing country.

In Frederick, English Language Law Sows Conflict Amid Hispanic Immigrant Boom

Washington Post (by Pamela Constable): On a bustling street in downtown Frederick last week, a group of businessmen chatted in rapid Spanish inside a new Cuban restaurant. Down the block, two Mexican-born painters listened to peppy Latin music on the radio as they touched up a storefront’s facade.

Ten miles east, in a community of aging dairy farms, a recently opened Hispanic church stands next to an old barbershop. Across the street, signs in a McDonald’s restaurant urge customers to “relax and savor,” in both English and Spanish.

Amid such signs of change — driven by a rapid influx of mostly Hispanic immigrants that has brought both vibrant development and social tensions — the Frederick Board of County Commissioners last week adopted an ordinance making English the county’s official language.

The law declares that “the use of a common language removes barriers of misunderstanding” and enables all residents to obtain “full economic and civic participation.”

“We’re just stating the obvious,” said Blaine Young, a business owner and a Republican who heads the county board. He compared the law to others that made milk the official drink of Maryland and the Baltimore oriole the official state bird. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he said.

But critics say the ordinance, which requires all non-emergency dealings with the county government to be transacted in English, sends a message that is standoffish and discriminatory. Some say it could drive away investment and tourism. Others see it as a futile effort to hold back the tide of change.

Hispanic population boom

During the past decade, the population of Frederick County has grown 20 percent. By far, the greatest growth has been in the Hispanic population, which grew by 267 percent and accounts for 7.3 percent of the county’s population of 233,000, which includes the city of Frederick.

“I don’t see why this is necessary . . . it’s embarrassing,” said Graham Baker, 57, who owns La Paz, a Mexican bistro in Frederick, and employs more than a dozen Hispanics. “They’re all loyal, hard-working folks,” he said. “I can’t get high school kids to wash dishes anymore. Things are changing, and people have to get used to it.”

Victor Rojas, 48, Baker’s Mexican-born kitchen manager, studied English in high school but has forgotten most of it.

“I know I should learn,” he said in Spanish sprinkled with a few English phrases. “I work all the time to support my wife and children back home. There is no time to study.”

The ordinance is not expected to have a dramatic impact because it exempts health, safety and emergency services from having to be conducted in English. Politically, however, it stakes out new ground in a long-term effort by some conservatives to make Frederick a pocket of resistance in a liberal state that has welcomed Hispanic immigrants and been lenient toward those who are not in the United States legally.

A news release from Young’s office noted that Frederick is the first Maryland county to make English its official language. It is also the only Maryland jurisdiction to make a formal agreement with federal immigration authorities to turn over suspected illegal immigrants who are arrested. Since the program took effect in 2009, more than 700 illegal immigrants have been caught, police said. Neither policy is in effect in Frederick city, which has its own government and police force.

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins praised the language ordinance as “a new tool to discourage people who are here illegally from coming to Frederick County.” He said suspects who do not speak English will be provided with interpreters. He added: “Maryland may be a sanctuary state, but Frederick will not be a sanctuary county.”

Immigrants in favor

The issue of language ability, however, also affects legal immigrants, especially those who arrived as adults. In interviews last week, several longtime Hispanic immigrants in Frederick said they were proud of their hard-won English skills. They expressed sympathy for struggling newcomers but also a strong conviction that they should have to learn English, too.

Alex Ramos, 51, runs a cobbler shop in Frederick city. A native of El Salvador who came here 23 years ago, he worked two jobs until he could open his business.

His English is not perfect, but it is easy to understand, and he learned it on his own.

“For me, English was always the official language. It’s normal, because we are here in the U.S.A.,” Ramos said with a grin. “I bought a dictionary and some cheap notebooks and pencils, and every night I sat down and translated more words. I like this country, and next year I will become a citizen.”

Urban-rural divide

Local opinions about immigrants and language tend to be split along urban-rural lines. In Frederick city, with its historic downtown and gentrifying mix of eateries and antique shops, many people expressed either amusement or horror at the ordinance.

Among people from several communities in Frederick County, there was wide support for the law, mixed with a growing acceptance of the region’s immigrant population. Several said that learning English was more a matter of common sense than anything else.

“Some people have a fear of something different, but I was raised to believe we all have to get along,” said Greg Wolf, who owns a barbershop in rural Walkersville.

Next door, an old house was converted into a Hispanic evangelical church. “I’ve met the pastor, I’ve heard their music in the evenings. They seem fine,” he said with a shrug. “It’s a free country.”

Much of the animosity toward Hispanics is focused on an area on the outskirts of Frederick city known as the “Golden Mile,” where apartments are crowded, crime is high, schools are overwhelmed and many strip-mall stores have closed.

At a Latino market there last week, Julia Colon, a mother of three from El Salvador who works two jobs, as a health aide and housekeeper, said it is her “dream to speak English, but I am gone 14 hours a day.”

Colon speaks only a few phrases of English, all related to her work tasks. “Even if they call it the official language, I cannot learn it by magic,” she said. “Thanks to God, my children are all doing well in school, but for me it is too late.”

Gay Sheriff Prompts Intiguing Questions

Associated Press: A few days ago, the Yavapai Tea Party gathered at a church in rural Arizona to discuss the all-too-familiar topic of illegal immigration. Among the conservative, mostly over-55 crowd, it is a subject seen in black and white. Build a fence, add agents, reject amnesty — period.

And so it was all the more striking when, off to the side in a room with "Jesus Loves Us!!" written on a chalkboard, the conversation turned to the subject on everyone's mind, if not the agenda: The conservative Arizona sheriff and Republican candidate for Congress who less than a week earlier had admitted to reporters, his constituents — indeed to the world — that he is gay.

The absolutes were, in large part, absent.

Consider the comments of Bill Halpin, a 64-year-old ex-Air Force pilot who serves on the local tea party board: "I care less. I just care less. Don't preach it on me. Don't push it on me and, by golly, I respect your rights." And this from Mona Patton, the 60-year-old real estate agent who is the group's president: "I'm a Christian, but who am I to make a judgment about somebody else? I don't have that right, and I look beyond that. ... I still believe in him. I still back him. I still like him. That doesn't affect that."

Sheriff Paul Babeu's "coming out" moment on Feb. 18 was surreal enough, given the man, his politics and the venue — a news conference in front of the Pinal County Sheriff's Department with Babeu, in uniform, surrounded by deputies. Then, of course, there was the startling reason for the sudden admission: a story in an alternative weekly publication in which a former lover accused Babeu of threatening his immigration status if he revealed their relationship.

Now the conversations that have ensued here since — in one of the most politically conservative states in all the union — are astonishing in their own right. There are questions, many of them, about Babeu and his "choices" and judgment, about whether the sheriff may have somehow abused his power. Yet voters, Republican voters in particular, are also asking some intriguing questions of themselves, about acceptance and identity and values, about what really matters most to them.

"This may be a litmus test," said Patton, not just of whether a gay man can survive running for Congress in a deeply conservative district in a red state but, more so, of the contrast between how far society has come — and still has to go. "I have many, many, many friends in my life that are gay and have been gay, and I don't have issues with it. But, you know, it's a hurdle for a lot of people, and it's, I think, a shame. ... I think he's going to have a hard row to hoe."

Before all of this, the 43-year-old was considered a rising star in Republican politics. A retired major in the Army National Guard and an ex-police officer, Babeu was the first Republican elected sheriff in Pinal County, nestled between Phoenix and Tucson in a culturally diverse part of Arizona. Having previously commanded a National Guard unit in the border town of Yuma, Babeu quickly became known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. He appeared alongside Sen. John McCain in a 2010 ad in which McCain advocated completion of a border fence, and last year was chosen as America's "Sheriff of the Year" by his colleagues in the National Sheriffs' Association.

In January, he announced his candidacy for Arizona's newly drawn 4th Congressional District, and polls soon showed him as the favorite against an incumbent tea party Republican who switched districts to run and a GOP state senator who once sponsored legislation to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Then came the Feb. 17 headline on the website of the Phoenix New Times: "Paul Babeu's Mexican Ex-Lover Says Sheriff's Attorney Threatened Him With Deportation."

A day later, Babeu found himself before microphones and reporters, denying the threats but acknowledging, with stark candor, that he is gay.

"I'm here to say that all these allegations ... are absolutely completely false except for the issues that refer to me as being gay. Because that's the truth."

Some Arizona political insiders were quick to declare Babeu's congressional aspirations — indeed, his political career — over, in large part because of questions that go beyond his sexual orientation. An independent investigation, begun at Babeu's behest, is looking into the allegations of intimidation and threatening behavior. Babeu has denied threatening his ex-boyfriend with deportation and said his understanding is that the man, originally from Mexico, is in the country legally. The former boyfriend also told CNN that he was here legally.

Still others have questioned Babeu's judgment because of a photograph the New Times published showing him shirtless and standing in his underpants. Babeu had sent the picture to his former boyfriend, and his campaign manager and attorney, Chris DeRose, said Babeu "realizes that was a mistake, and he shouldn't have done that." The New Times also published an old profile of Babeu's from a gay dating website showing another shirtless photograph, with Babeu's face mostly cut out.

Then, on Friday, The Arizona Republic reported that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating whether one or more of Babeu's employees at the sheriff's office engaged in on-the-job politicking.

As a columnist for that newspaper wrote earlier in the week: "Sheriff Babeu is not in political (or perhaps legal) trouble because his lifestyle has been exposed. He's in trouble because he was involved in a messy relationship that spilled over into his public life and has raised questions about his judgment. And when you're running for the U.S. Congress your judgment is an issue. ... It isn't a gay thing. It's a trust thing."

Whatever the "thing" is, the reaction to it has — thus far — not been quite what some may have expected.

When Babeu posted a link to his news conference on his Facebook page and implored voters to "stand with me as we talk about the issues that matter," more than 1,000 comments flooded in. While some expressed disappointment and said that the sheriff had lost their support or branded him a hypocrite for being gay and Republican, the vast majority supported Babeu — from locals who know him to out-of-staters declaring that they, too, are conservative and gay.

"First gay man I can agree with," read one post. "We conservatives have his back," said another. And: "We still support you Sheriff. Gay or straight. Let's get this country back on the right track."

DeRose said Friday that Babeu had received $17,000 in political donations since his news conference, and that his supporters in Arizona "are more enthusiastic than ever."

Whether this is all just political posturing or even, political correctness that may soon fade remains to be seen. Babeu, who declined an interview request, has vowed to stay in the congressional race, and the primary is still six months off. He continues to make campaign appearances, including a speech at a Lincoln Day dinner the same day he admitted being gay.

"So, how is YOUR weekend going?" he joked, and his audience laughed.

The event was held in Yavapai County in the heart of the congressional district, which covers a huge swath stretching from the border near Yuma through the horse pastures of Prescott Valley up north to the conservative stronghold of Mohave County near the Nevada border. Phoenix political consultant Chuck Coughlin described the district as one of the most right-leaning in the state — with a rural, older demographic that does not "lend one to believe that there is a high degree of likelihood" of Babeu winning the congressional seat or even staying in the race for the long haul.

There have been no openly gay Republicans in Congress since 2006, when another Arizonan — U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe — retired. And the nation's 7,382 state legislators include 93 openly gay Democrats but not a single openly gay Republican, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

"If you're an openly gay Republican, you face a platform that is sometimes not welcoming," said Chuck Wolfe, the fund's president. "It's going to take a while to reverse that feeling."

Kolbe, who represented a more diverse, swing district than the one that Babeu hopes to win, was elected to Congress in 1985 and disclosed in 1996 that he was gay. Last week, he endorsed Babeu, and he said in an interview that while no one could predict whether Babeu will emerge from this and still be able to succeed politically, "we have come a long way."

"I think in a few years the media won't be paying that much attention to this issue. The public clearly is ahead of the media on this, and as the polls show people don't seem to be that concerned about this kind of an issue," he said. "The issue is whether Paul's a good candidate for Congress or not, and I think he is."

Coughlin and others noted that Babeu has a few things working in his favor: He's charismatic. Arizonans like his stance on illegal immigration and other conservative issues, but they also genuinely like him. Several voters also said that the sheriff's sexual orientation was one of the worst-kept secrets in Arizona political circles and that while they wish it hadn't come out the way it did, the fact itself was hardly surprising.

"Everybody knew on some level, and we never gave it a second thought," said Republican Shawna Thornton, 38, a before-and-after Babeu supporter who lives in Lake Havasu City, within the 4th District, and believes that the now openly gay sheriff still has a chance.

Old assumptions of how party affiliation defines a voter's position on social issues such as homosexuality no longer ring true, insisted Thornton, noting that for her and many others "conservatism" isn't about abortion or gay marriage but rather limited government, fiscal responsibility and "values" in the sense of understanding right from wrong.

"I'm finding that people are more middle of the road, less extreme, more accepting of how different people are deep down inside," she said.

Added Coughlin: "Life's a mosaic of issues and people, and although we want to see the world in black and white there's very little of that around. It's a lot of grays, and a lot of colors in between."

Some voters contacted for this story were hesitant to discuss the situation as they await the outcome of the independent probe. But the ones who did appeared to be genuinely muddling through all that had happened — and their own feelings about it — in ways that shunned the extremes.

"Well ... I just think that ... You know, I don't know," said Barry Denton, 52, a horse trainer and president of the Yavapai Republican Men's Forum, whose group played host to Babeu for a speech only days before all the "news" of his private life broke. As always, Denton said, he was well received.

"I think he's done an extremely good job as sheriff, and I think he's done a great thing by making people more aware of the immigration problem. I guess I wish he had come out with the gay thing sooner. I think he should have been a little more upfront, 'cause he's a pretty upfront guy.

"I don't agree with his lifestyle. That's his business," he said, "But as far as what he's accomplished, it's been impressive. ... I'm just disappointed."

Denton said he thinks the allegations against Babeu will prove unfounded, and that he hadn't yet picked a candidate to back. When asked whether all of this might persuade him to choose someone other than Babeu, he said: "I haven't come to any conclusion there yet."

There were similarly mixed feelings at the tea party meeting on illegal immigration, at which Babeu was initially scheduled to speak. Tea party representatives and Babeu's campaign manager said the sheriff had to cancel because of another previously scheduled event.

Jeff Tomb, a businessman who is running for county supervisor in the area, was frank in allowing that he didn't think, in his district, that "the homosexual thing is going to go over real well." But only moments later he questioned his own conclusion: "I don't know. People are getting more and more accepting now. He came out and said it and he was honest about it, which is a big plus. That's a good sign of a good honest man, and we need an honest man."

Halpin and Patton, the tea party board member and president, were among those who said they didn't care whether Babeu is gay. As for whether that meant they could vote for him, Halpin said he wouldn't rule it out, should Babeu remain in the race. (He is, however, adamantly opposed to the Babeu opponent who switched districts.) Patton went further, saying she probably would support the sheriff. But then she admitted that, in reality, she doubted he would remain in the race — or that he could win if he does.

"You know, we put people in boxes and we expect them to behave a certain way and then when people are outside the lines ... there's punitive measures that happen," she said. "I don't know. I just hope people are bigger than that, and I don't know that they're going to be. I don't know what to tell you. This is such a difficult situation. I wish it had not come down the way it did. I wish it hadn't happened."

"But," she said, "here we are."

Illegal Immigration Factoring Into Presidential Race in Arizona

Los Angeles Times: As the Republican candidates argued onstage over one another's conservative merit badges, Francisco Heredia balanced a laptop on his legs, waiting patiently to tweet. At any moment, he thought, they'll try to show who is toughest on illegal immigrants.

But when Wednesday night's debate got to illegal immigration, some Latino activists found the rhetoric muted.

"I expected it to be more heated," said Heredia, 29, a community organizer involved in Latino voter registration. "For it to be in Arizona, it was like they talked about it for 10 minutes and it was over."

The candidates used familiar language about border fences and punishment for employers who hire illegal immigrants, but their responses seemed perfunctory, said Lydia Guzman, director of Respect/Respeto, an immigrant advocacy group.

"I think the people asking the questions wanted a more extreme answer," she said. "But there weren't a lot of fireworks from the candidates. It was toned down."

Activists were hoping to use fierce rhetoric from the candidates — along with recent anti-illegal immigration steps they view as extreme — to help boost Latino voter registration and even turn Arizona into a battleground state. Since 1948, Arizona has gone to a Democrat only once in a presidential election (to Bill Clinton in 1996).

Such a shift would probably require a combination of factors, including a large turnout from the state's more moderate voters, said Bruce Merrill, a veteran pollster and professor emeritus at Arizona State University. Four years ago, Barack Obama didn't contest Arizona and lost to John McCain, the state's senior senator, by 8 percentage points.

But the very idea that Arizona could be up for grabs this year underscores the way illegal immigration continues to shade the state's political landscape.

Intense opposition to illegal immigration made conservative heroes out of Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Brewer signed SB1070, which would require people to carry proof of their legal status and require police to check the status of those they lawfully stop and suspect of being in the country illegally. (The law is on hold, pending a court challenge by the Obama administration.)

Earlier this month, a state Senate panel voted to create an armed volunteer militia to guard the U.S.-Mexico border.

But the issue also has produced fallout. Latino activists led a successful recall late last year against Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the once-popular architect of SB1070.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who is running for Congress, resigned from a volunteer position with Romney's campaign last week after being accused of threatening to deport an ex-boyfriend, a Mexican national. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Babeu appeared in a 2008 presidential campaign ad with John McCain, walking along the Mexican border as the Arizona senator declared, "Complete the danged fence."

Stan Barnes, a lobbyist and former Republican state senator in Arizona, said there is a risk to the GOP from the fast-growing Latino population if a substantial part of it feels aggrieved by the party's politics. For the general election, many observers expect Republicans to deliver a strong message against illegal immigration, without resorting to the most barbed language.

"It's fair to say the Democratic side of the aisle is hoping the Republicans kowtow to the right so far they can't bring themselves to the reasonable middle in November," Barnes said.

He said he thinks the Latino vote in Arizona is overstated as far as being a threat to Republicans in the general election. But given demographic shifts, that won't last forever, Barnes said.

"It's a calculated risk worth taking for center-right candidates to be clear and strident on immigration at the risk of alienating some Democratic Hispanic voters," he said. "It's still the ruthlessly calculated play. But that will end someday."

Latino activists in Arizona often cite California as a state that went solidly Democratic in large part because of harsh anti-illegal immigrant measures. But by the 1990s, when the measures were unleashed, California was already a "purple" state, or one that toggled between both parties.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, tough illegal immigration policies still play well with a broad conservative base, and have inspired similar measures in other states, including Alabama and Georgia.

Merrill, the longtime pollster, said that while the Latino vote may not have matured enough to endanger a Republican presidential candidate, it should not be underestimated. He said that while Arizona's most steadfast voters are its most conservative, the state's broad electorate is much more moderate.

Merrill said that polling he's done shows that illegal immigration remains a huge issue and that most people, including Latinos, generally feel strongly about securing the border.

"I don't want open borders. We have to protect our country," said Guzman, of Respect/Respeto. "But this has become not just an anti-immigrant thing. It's become anti-Latino."

But opinions vary greatly when it comes to what to do about illegal immigrants who have been in the country for years, Merrill said.

Not every Latino is liberal about illegal immigration, and even some conservative and Republican Latino groups have come out against some of Arizona's measures to deal with the issue.

If the state has a large turnout, beyond just more Latinos, Merrill said, that may make things more interesting as early as November.

"I think the debate was for a larger audience," Guzman said. "This was not a debate for Arizona."

Across Arizona, Illegal Immigration Is on Back Burner

New York Times: The angry protests over Arizona’s tough policies focused on illegal immigrants are mostly gone. The sponsor of the state’s touchstone immigration bill has been recalled, while two sheriffs who championed the crackdown are enmeshed in legal difficulties. And there has been a notable decline in police activity aimed at illegal immigrants, easing a long period of anxiety among Mexican communities.

Two years after Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed legislation that required all immigrants to carry documentation or face arrest — a law that set off protests here and stirred a national boycott of the state — concern about illegal immigration is no longer the all-consuming issue it had been for so long.

The fading of the issue, at least for now, was most recently on display in the Republican presidential primary. At a debate here last week, it took an hour before the issue that has shaken Arizona for five years was raised.

“There’s no doubt that in Arizona, there is immigration fatigue,” said Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa and a Republican. “People want to talk about things that impact them every day. And the reality is that in Arizona, illegal immigration does not affect you as much as not having a job.”

“It’s still important,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s just not as controversial here as it once was.”

The change has prompted worry among some of the leading advocates of tough immigration policies, even as they predict that the tide will change again — perhaps when the employment situation improves here and the flow of illegal immigrants slipping across the border picks up, or when the Supreme Court rules on a challenge to the Arizona law, SB 1070, later this year.

“It is not a front-burner issue now, because it’s been displaced largely by our dismal economy,” said State Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican. “It worries me, but I understand why it happens. And I just always remind people that the illegal immigration issue hasn’t gone away. It’s just been overshadowed and temporarily shifted to the back burner.”

Ms. Brewer — who announced on Sunday that she was endorsing Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, in this state’s primary on Tuesday — said in an interview that she had been disappointed by the limited discussion of policy on immigration and Mexico in last week’s Republican presidential debate and during the campaign.

“I would have liked to see a candidate come forward who understands the terrible disarray the state of Mexico is in. It’s a fractured, inoperable state right now,” Ms. Brewer said. “Everybody says they all have different ideas, but they all are basically saying pretty much the same thing.”

The economic problems here — joblessness, home foreclosures — have contributed to this shift in attention, along with the fact that there have been no recent crimes or arrests involving illegal immigrants. But not incidentally, this has taken place as some of the best-known players in the fight against illegal immigration here have run into legal and political troubles.

The sponsor of the original bill, Russell Pearce, the former head of the State Senate, was recalled from office in November in a display of the backlash that has caused alarm among Republican leaders. Joseph M. Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County who has become one of the leading advocates of tough immigration policy, has been accused by the Justice Department of anti-Latino bias and abuses of authority.

Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County was forced to step down as a co-chairman of Mr. Romney’s Arizona campaign last week amid accusations that he had threatened to deport a former lover — who was from Mexico — after he threatened to publicize their relationship. Mr. Babeu, who is now running for Congress, had appeared with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, in a particularly tough immigration ad that Mr. McCain had used in his 2008 presidential run.

“The media coverage hasn’t been so great because Joe Arpaio is facing indictment, so he is laying pretty low,” said Bruce Merrill, an Arizona pollster and political analyst. “We have not had any arrests. When the media covers it, it causes the attention to go up. There’s a feeling here that it’s not as important as it once was.”

None of which is to say that immigration is not a major concern for most people in this border state, or that the passions could not arise again. “Around the country, jobs and the economy are on people’s minds,” said Representative Ben Quayle, Republican of Arizona. “You can talk about the economy and you can talk about how we are going to secure our borders.”

Mr. Merrill said his own polls had found that immigration continued to be listed as a top concern of voters here; the difference was that it had been joined by the economy and joblessness.

Chip Scutari, a political consultant, said attitudes among Arizona voters from both parties were more nuanced than was reflected in the actions of the Republican-controlled Legislature. “Many of the voters who support 1070 also support an earned path to citizenship,” he said of the immigration law. “I think border issues are in the mix. But because there’s been such a quagmire, it’s lost some of its sex appeal.”

Whatever the case, the waning interest may be something of a gift to the Republican presidential candidates, sparing them from being drawn into a “who can be tougher on illegal immigrants” fight that might hurt their appeal to Latino voters.

“They all kind of danced with the same rhetoric, but none of them wanted to embrace it as a central issue,” said Representative Raul M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat. “I think there was a calculated issue to minimize talking about something where they could lose voters.”

Whatever the short-term benefit for Republicans, Democrats and some Latino leaders argue that the party has suffered long-lasting damage. The spate of legislation has helped Democrats register more Latino voters and increase turnout in local elections, similar to what happened in California after Republicans supported tough immigration measures, including Proposition 187, the 1994 initiative that would have cut off public services to illegal immigrants.

“There has been a tangible, palpable momentum shift in the state, which is essentially saying, ‘Well that was a disaster, and what should we do about it?’ ” said James E. Garcia of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “But the damage that the Republican Party did to itself in this state is absolutely comparable to what the Republican Party in California did to itself.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Georgia Immigration Law: Senate Bill 458 Would Ban Undocumented Immigrants from Public Colleges

Huffington Post: In the wake of Georgia's harsh immigration law, HB 87, which requires employers to check the immigration status of potential workers and encourages law enforcement to ask for immigration verification during routine stops, a Georgia Senate committee has now passed a new measure targeting undocumented residents.

The bill, SB 458, would ban non-citizens from attending public colleges in the state, and would make provisions to HB 87. The bill now moves to the full Senate.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), the sponsor of SB 458, said that college slots are being taken away from U.S. citizens and given to undocumented immigrants who would not be able to work in the country legally after graduation.

"Our colleges and universities are for those that are U.S. citizens and are here legally," Loudermilk said.

Loudermilk and other supporters of the bill believe that the current University System of Georgia is a violation of federal law, and that attending a public university is a privilege to be granted only to citizens. However, federal law does not ban undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It gives states the power to make the decision independent of the federal government.

Hank Huckaby, University System chancellor, defended the current situation, stating that undocumented students do not receive the benefit of in-state tuition, supported by taxpayer dollars. Instead they are charged out-of-state tuition, which is three-times more expensive. Huckaby believes the current system works well and should remain in place.

Out of 318,000 students in the University System, which includes the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State, Georgia Health Sciences and Georgia College & State universities, only about 300 are undocumented, according to Huckaby, a decrease from about 500 last year.

Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, spoke out against the bill, noting that many states are working to make college more accessible to non-citizens.

President Barack Obama's DREAM Act proposal would allow conditional, permanent residency to undocumented residents who meet certain criteria, such as attending a four-year college for at least two years or serving two years in the military. Opponents of the bill believe that it encourages and rewards undocumented immigration.

Salvadoran May Face Deportation for Murders

New York Times (by Julia Preston): An immigration judge in Florida has cleared the way for the deportation from the United States of Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former defense minister of El Salvador, finding that he assisted in acts of torture and murder committed by soldiers under his command during the civil war there, including several notorious killings of Americans.

The decision by Judge James Grim of immigration court in Orlando is the first time that federal immigration prosecutors have established that a top-ranking foreign military commander can be deported based on human rights violations under a law passed in 2004, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, intended to bar human rights violators from coming to or living in the United States.

Judge Grim found that General Vides assisted in the killings of four American churchwomen on a rural road in El Salvador in 1980, a crime that caused shock there and in Washington and presaged the bloody violence that would engulf the Central American nation for the next decade. The immigration judge's ruling is the first time General Vides has been held responsible for those deaths in a court of law.

Five soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard were eventually convicted of the killings and served long prison sentences. General Vides was the commander of the National Guard at the time of the murders.

The effort by Department of Homeland Security officials to seek the deportation of General Vides, who was El Salvador's defense minister from 1983 to 1989, is a turnabout in American foreign policy. He was a close ally of Washington throughout the war against leftist guerrillas in the 1980s, and was embraced as a reformer despite rampant rights violations by the armed forces under his command.

Judge Grim also determined that General Vides had assisted in the torture of two Salvadorans, Juan Romagoza and Daniel Alvarado, who testified against him in hearings last spring in the immigration court in Orlando.

"This is the first case where the Department of Homeland Security has taken this relatively new law and applied it to the highest military commander of their country to seek their removal," said Carolyn Patty Blum, senior legal adviser for the Center for Justice and Accountability, a nonprofit legal group in San Francisco that represented several torture victims in the case. She called the decision hugely significant for future efforts to bring immigration cases for human rights abuses against the highest-level military commanders and government officials.

Many details of the judges decision were not available on Thursday, since in keeping with general practice in immigration courts, the ruling was not published. His main findings were described by lawyers familiar with the case.

Diego Handel, General Vides's lawyer, said he had not had a chance to read the lengthy decision and could not comment on it.

The deportation case against General Vides was brought by prosecutors from the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, a unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement created in 2003 to focus on preventing rights violators from entering this country and deporting those already here.

General Vides contested the charges, saying he did not have any direct responsibility for, or even knowledge of, the murders and torture signaled by the government. In the hearings, witnesses, including former American diplomats, said that the general had been working to stop rights abuses by Salvadoran soldiers and to change the culture of a military known for brutality.

Judge Grim's decision confirmed that General Vides can be deported based on the rights charges brought by the government. Federal officials and immigration lawyers cautioned that there are still several steps to go before the judge will decide whether to issue a final order for the general's deportation. But lawyers said it would be considerably more difficult now for General Vides to avoid such an order.

A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Nicole Navas, said, "As a matter of policy, I am precluded from commenting on matters still pending before the immigration court."

General Vides retired as defense minister in 1989, amid praise from United States officials for his performance, and came to settle in Florida as a legal permanent resident.

But the family members of the four churchwomen, as well as some Salvadorans who barely survived prolonged torture during the war, have been tenacious in seeking to hold General Vides responsible for crimes of that era.

In 2000, a Florida jury acquitted General Vides and José Guillermo García, another former Salvadoran defense minister who retired to Florida, of responsibility for the churchwomen's murders. But in 2002, in a case brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability, another Florida jury found the two officers civilly liable for the torture of three Salvadorans and ordered them to pay $54 million. The deportation proceedings against General Vides stem from that decision.

The four churchwomen killed were Sister Dorothy Kazel of the Ursuline Order; Jean Donovan, a lay missionary; Sister Maura Clarke and Sister Ita Ford, both of the Maryknoll Order.

Sister Ita's brother Bill Ford fought vigorously for the prosecution of General Vides. Mr. Ford died in 2008.

"Since the women were killed, my father made this the single purpose of his life," his son, Bill Ford Jr., said Thursday. Mr. Ford, who is the principal of Cristo Rey New York High School in Manhattan, said, "I'm sure he knows and is well pleased that one of the men responsible for ordering the death of the women or for the cover-up may no longer be able to live in this country to enjoy the fruits of his brutality."

Fingerprint Rule Shakes Conn. City

Boston Globe (by Maria Sacchetti): Federal immigration officials activated the controversial crime-fighting program known as Secure Communities across Connecticut this week, stunning this city just weeks after the FBI arrested four police officers on charges of harassing immigrants and Latinos.

The launch marked the second New England state to fully deploy the program since it started in 2008 and signaled to the remaining states, including Massachusetts, that the federal government is plowing ahead with the initiative in spite of resistance. The program automatically checks the fingerprints of everyone arrested by state and local police against immigration databases to ensure that they are in the country legally.

Like Governor Deval Patrick, Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut last year sought to delay Secure Communities on concerns that the program - designed primarily to catch and deport criminals - is also deporting high numbers of immigrants who have not been convicted of any crime.

Federal officials activated the program with little public notice, illustrating how quickly the landscape can change.

Few communities were more caught off guard than East Haven, a working city of 29,000 on the Quinnipiac River in southern Connecticut. In December, the Justice Department accused East Haven police of engaging in systemic harassment of Latinos and immigrants. After the four officers were arrested last month, the police chief resigned and the mayor outraged residents by saying he might have tacos to reach out to the community.

Jorge Zuñiga, a 36-year old construction worker from Ecuador, said the new program would immediately raise fears of retaliation.

"It's not fair," said Zuñiga. "What are the people going to think? They're going to think that they wanted to do this to us."

Secure Communities, which allows immigration officials to automatically check the fingerprints that police routinely send to the FBI for criminal checks, is in 45 states nationwide, including Rhode Island.

In Massachusetts, only Boston participates in the program after helping to pilot it in 2006, but officials at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement - known as ICE - say the program will be nationwide by the end of 2013. The program also went statewide in Maryland and New Jersey this week.

Federal officials say the goal is to find and deport serious criminals and flagrant violators of federal immigration law, such as those who return to the country after being deported. ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said the vast majority of the 169,329 immigrants deported since 2008 fell into those categories.

Secure Communities has demonstrated its effectiveness in transforming immigration enforcement to a focus on criminal offenders, he said in a statement.

But in Boston and elsewhere, critics say Secure Communities is ensnaring immigrants stopped for minor traffic violations and never convicted of any crime.

Federal statistics as of Jan. 31 show that only half of the 446 immigrants arrested by Boston police and deported since 2008 had been convicted of a crime, a figure much lower than the national average of about 74 percent.

Advocates for immigrants also highlight another concern, that the program makes domestic violence victims and others afraid to report crime for fear of being deported.

"We are worried," said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "I'm most worried that the program has flaws and that the flaws are not being addressed."

In East Haven, residents from the deputy police chief to Latino store owners were caught off guard by the launch of Secure Communities. Immigrants who had been painting homemade signs in the back of Los Amigos Grocery for a demonstration tomorrow rushed to Hartford to urge the governor to halt the program.

"It's not within our power to stop it," said Mike Lawlor, Malloy's top criminal justice adviser. Lawlor said Connecticut will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to detain an immigrant at ICE's request.

Others praised the program this week for rooting out dangerous criminals - including more than 45,000 serious offenders such as rapists and murderers - and finding people who do not have legal authorization to live in the United States.

"It's nothing to do with discrimination," said Lou Ferraro, 62, in front of a local coffee shop on Main Street. "You should do it anyway."

Along a weathered stretch of Main Street this week, immigrants and shop owners said they were skeptical. For years, they said, police stationed cruisers outside their businesses, driving away customers. According to a federal indictment of four police officers last month, some officers beat Latinos or falsely arrested them, and harassed customers and store owners alike. The four officers have pleaded not guilty.

The 50-member police force has only one Spanish-speaking officer, though the Latino community has risen from 4 percent to 10 percent since 2000. About 9 percent of the residents are immigrants.

Marcia Chacón, an owner of My Country Store and an immigrant from Ecuador, said her family came to East Haven for the affordable homes and the small-town feel. But as immigrants fled, her business struggled. She lost two rental properties to foreclosures.

"The police are supposed to protect us, but it wasn't that way. They kept us in terror," she said.

Herman Zuñiga, a community leader and a carpenter who had been an elementary school teacher in his native Ecuador, said immigrants have helped revitalize this fading city.

"We are taxpayers either way," said Zuñiga, who has one child in college and another on the way. "We purchase car insurance. We buy groceries. Don't forget that."

Deputy Police Chief John Mannion said the department is taking a very hard look at ourselves and working to improve relations with the community. Asked about racial profiling, Mannion said, "That's not going to happen."

"This is just a computer system that makes it easier for ICE," he said.

For illegal immigrants such as Carlos, a 32-year-old construction worker from Ecuador who declined to give his last name, the new system raises the likelihood that a police stop could lead to his deportation.

"What can I do?" Carlos said with a shrug as he walked to his girlfriends car, got behind the wheel, and drove away.