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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


Friday, August 31, 2012

Deportation Nation

By Daniel Kanstroom
August 30, 2012


It would have taken a hard heart not to be moved this month as tens of thousands of “Dreamers” — young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children — emerged from the shadows to apply for temporary work permits and deportation deferrals under a new policy by the Obama administration that has delighted immigrant advocates and enraged conservatives.

Though generous and humane, the policy represents only one side of the deportation story. Barack Obama has presided over a record increase in the number of removals, in many cases on legal grounds that offend our basic notions of fairness. These injustices predate him; they started in 1996, when immigration policy was changed in a draconian fashion so that noncitizens — including permanent legal residents — became vulnerable to deportation even for minor crimes committed years ago, with little regard for procedural rights or judicial discretion.

Consider Marco Merino-Fernandez, a 35-year-old client of a clinic at the law school where I teach. He was brought from Chile to the United States legally, when he was 5 months old, but like many legal permanent residents, he never became a citizen. He speaks English fluently and got a G.E.D. in Florida. Returning from a vacation abroad, in 2006, he presented his green card to immigration agents, who discovered that Mr. Merino-Fernandez, more than a decade earlier, had been convicted of two misdemeanors for drug possession, small amounts of marijuana and LSD.

He was detained for months. After a brief hearing, a judge ruled that he was “an aggravated felon” and ordered him deported to Chile, where he had not been since infancy and where only a few relatives remained. After arriving in Chile, in 2007, Mr. Merino-Fernandez learned that his mother had died in Florida; he wasn’t able to return for her funeral.

Before 1996, deportation was a comparatively small enterprise, with safeguards that allowed judges to exercise compassion and recognize rehabilitation. Since then, one of history’s most open societies has developed a huge, costly, harsh and often arbitrary system of expulsion. Between 2001 and 2010, more than one million people were deported from the United States because of post-entry criminal conduct.

These homesick exiles can be found around the world. In the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, are New Englanders who sport Red Sox caps and speak English with thick Boston accents. Most know no Portuguese. “Honestly, it stinks,” one of them told me. Other men teared up as they recalled their families in the United States.

New Yorkers abound in the Dominican Republic, where the United States has sent around 30,000 deportees. Their distinct dress, walk and language mark them as outcasts, the social scientists David C. Brotherton and Luis Barrios found in a book published last year.

In a study of Latin American deportees who had lived for long periods in the United States (on average, 14 years), the sociologists M. Kathleen Dingeman and Rubén G. Rumbaut found that deportees who had emigrated as children suffered the most. Deportees to El Salvador (a country many had fled during the civil war of the 1980s) encountered discrimination because of their accents, style of dress and California gang-themed tattoos.

In 2004, a New Yorker, Calvin James, 45, was separated from his partner and their young son and deported to Jamaica, where he hadn’t lived since he was 12, because of past convictions for selling drugs. As the journalist Julianne Ong Hing described it, the local police asked Mr. James standard questions — “Do you have family you will be contacting? What address will you be staying at?” — but Mr. James had no one to call. He landed in Spanish Town, a crime-ridden community he described as “a battle zone,” before eventually finding low-paying work.

Hundreds of Cambodian youths whose families survived the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields have been deported to a land about which they had heard nothing but horror stories. The documentary “Sentenced Home” tells of Loeun Lun, who was brought to the United States at age 6. He served 11 months in jail for having fired a gun in a shopping mall (no one was hurt) when he was 19, but he turned his life around. Even so, he was deported in 2003, at the age of 27.

Deportation can be inhumane, even life-threatening. In 2000, the Haitian government imposed mandatory, indefinite detention on criminal deportees arriving from the United States. In Haitian prisons, deportees have suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, nutrition and health care, and from outbreaks of diseases like beriberi and cholera.

This vast experiment in deportation hasn’t deterred undocumented immigration, which increased steadily from 2000 to 2007. Nor has it substantially reduced serious crime rates; a 2007 study found that American-born men between 18 and 39 were five times more likely than foreign-born men to be imprisoned. What it has done is forcibly separate hundreds of thousands of families — an especially harsh fate for children or elderly parents left behind in America.

“Well, that’s tough,” some say, “but they broke the law — period.” Laws have certainly been broken. But law is not a one-size-fits-all enterprise. Discretion, as the jurist Felix Frankfurter noted, makes law enforcement more humane and more efficient.

To be sure, some deportees have been convicted of serious crimes. But most are guilty of drug offenses, or misdemeanors like petty larceny, simple assault, drunken driving. Lifetime banishment is an inhumane and disproportionately harsh sentence, particularly for nonviolent drug offenses and crimes committed when the offenders were minors.

What vision of law justifies the deportation of those who have grown up, attended school and raised families in the United States? What purpose is served by permanently barring them from returning home, even for family visits?

In a 2010 decision, Padilla v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court recognized that many criminal defense lawyers had a poor understanding of immigration law and that if they advised clients about deportation at all, they often gave bad advice. As a result, many people have agreed to guilty pleas that unnecessarily resulted in deportation. But the Board of Immigration Appeals has held that once they are deported, their cases cannot be reopened. The rule of law, it seems, ends at the border.

Though most experts agree that we need visa reform, better border control and a large-scale legalization program for those already here, no comprehensive legislation has passed. The plight of the deportees is even further down on the legislative agenda, if it is there at all. And so the deportations go on.

Daniel Kanstroom, a professor of law at Boston College, is the author, most recently, of “Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora.”

California Okays Driving Licenses for Some Illegal Immigrants

REUTERS (California)
By Mary Slosson
August 31, 2012


California lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday to allow some young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to obtain driving licenses, in a move that could appeal to Hispanic voters in the heavily Democratic state.

The bill, which passed the state Assembly by a 55-15 vote before being sent to the desk of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, was introduced following the announcement of a federal program to relax deportation rules and grant some young immigrants temporary legal status in the United States.

"It is a victory for those who were brought here through no fault of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society," the bill's sponsor, Assembly member Gilbert Cedillo, said in a statement

He added that he was confident Brown would sign it into law.

The bill's passage marks the latest chapter in a long-running national battle over how to handle illegal immigrants that has seen California's legislature emerge as a major proponent of integration into mainstream society of undocumented migrants who came as children.

California's stance on the matter has been in stark contrast with other states such as Arizona that have passed laws that sought to clamp down on such immigrants. California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States, with nearly 2.6 million at the start of 2010.

The "deferred action for childhood arrivals" permits shield them from deportation for at least two years so long as they were younger than 16 when they came to the United States, have lived in the country since June 15, 2007, and have not been convicted of a felony. They must be at least 15 years of age and no older than 30 when they apply.

As many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the program, which enables them to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and driver's licenses, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. But some states, such as Arizona and Nebraska, have said they would not grant benefits including driver's licenses to "deferred action" migrants.

California's driver's license bill had already passed the state Senate in a 25-7 vote on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama, whose administration has aggressively deported illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds, said in June that he was moving to help this group of youth - many of them Hispanic - who have become increasingly vocal in calling for immigration relief.

Republicans have criticized the policy nod to young undocumented immigrants as a political ploy in an election year to help win the Latino vote.

Three U.S. states currently allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license: New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.

The bill follows a series of pro-immigrant measures passed by California in the current legislative session. California lawmakers have also passed an immigration bill that activists have dubbed the "Anti-Arizona" that would shield some illegal immigrants from status checks by local police.

Earlier this week, the governor also signed into law a bill encouraging state schools to teach the history of a post-World War Two guest worker program that brought close to 5 million Mexican agricultural laborers into the country over two decades.

Texas Voter I.D. Law Is Blocked

By Sari Horwitz
August 30, 2012


A federal court on Thursday blocked a controversial new voter ID law in Texas, ruling that the state failed to show that the law would not harm the voting rights of minorities.

The three-judge panel in the historic case said that evidence also showed that costs of obtaining a voter ID would fall most heavily on poor African Americans and Hispanics in Texas.

Evidence submitted by Texas to prove that its law did not discriminate was “unpersuasive, invalid, or both,” wrote David. S. Tatel, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in the panel’s 56-page opinion.

The ruling will likely have political implications in the coming elections. Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over whether increasingly tough voter ID laws discriminate against African Americans and Hispanics.

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott said that the state will appeal Thursday’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which is the next stop in a voting rights case.

“Today’s decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana — and were upheld by the Supreme Court,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval or “preclearance” of any voting changes in states that have a history of discrimination. Because of Texas’s discrimination history, the voter ID law signed last year by its Republican governor, Rick Perry, had to be cleared by the Justice Department. The department blocked the law in March, saying it would endanger minority voting rights. Texas sued the department, leading to a week-long trial in July.

Tatel was joined in the Texas decision by U.S. district judges Rosemary Collyer, appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush and Robert L. Wilkins, who was nominated in 2010 by President Obama.

Earlier this week, a separate three-judge panel in Washington threw out Texas’s redistricting plans saying the maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature undermined the political clout of minorities who are responsible for the state’s population growth.

The Obama administration opposed both laws because it says they threaten to disenfranchise millions of Latino and African American voters.

The challenges are part of an escalating national legal battle over voter ID laws that has become more intense because it is an election year. Eight states passed voter ID laws last year, and critics say the new statutes could hurt turnout among minority voters and others, many of whom helped elect Obama in 2008. But supporters of the measures — seven of which were signed by Republican governors and one by an independent — say that requiring voters to show specific photo IDs would prevent voter fraud.

Republican lawmakers have argued that the voter ID law is needed to clean up voter rolls, which they say are filled with the names of illegal immigrants, ineligible felons and the deceased. Texas, they argue, is asking for no more identification than people need to board an airplane, get a library card or enter many government buildings.

In a courtroom just down the hallway from where judges heard arguments over the Texas voter ID statute, lawyers for the Justice Department and South Carolina are squaring off this week over a similar measure passed by the state’s legislature last year.

The Justice Department rejected the South Carolina voter ID law in December, the first time that a voting law was refused clearance by Justice in nearly 20 years. South Carolina sued the government to overturn the decision.

The law would require South Carolina voters to show one of five forms of photo identification to be permitted to cast a ballot: a state driver’s license, an ID card issued by the state’s department of motor vehicles, a U.S. military ID, a passport, or a new form of free photo ID issued by county election officials. Lawyers for South Carolina say the law was needed to prevent election fraud and to “enhance public confidence in the integrity of the law.”

“No one disputes that a state must have a system for identifying eligible registered voters who present themselves to vote,” Chris Bartolomucci, a lawyer for South Carolina, told the three-judge panel on Monday. “That is just common sense.”

The Justice Department and attorneys representing civil rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU, countered in court that the law did discriminate against minority voters and cannot pass muster under the Voting Rights Act.

“A disproportionate number of those individuals are members of racial minority groups,” said Bradley Heard, a Justice Department lawyer, in describing how the law would affect South Carolina voters.

Last month, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. gave a speech in Texas and referred to voter ID laws as “poll taxes,” referring to fees in some states in the South that were used to disenfranchise blacks during the Jim Crow era. Under the Texas law, the minimum cost to obtain a voter ID for a Texas resident without a copy of his birth certificate would be $22, according to the Justice Department.

A Romanian Migrant Detained, a Family in Limbo

By Daniel Gonzalez
August 31, 2012


The family was out of milk, so Valentin Balaj, a father of five, said he would dash over to the store to pick up a gallon.

Fifteen minutes passed. Then half an hour. His wife, Emma, wondered what was taking so long. The store in north Phoenix was less than a mile away.

She started to panic.

She knew federal deportation officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were looking for her husband, an undocumented immigrant from Romania who had sought asylum in the U.S. for religious persecution.

Years ago, he had been ordered to leave the country, but he never left, making him an immigration fugitive.

Emma dialed her husband's cellphone. A man answered, but it was not Balaj. It was an ICE officer.

It has been nearly five months since Balaj was taken into custody. He remains locked up inside an ICE detention facility in Florence, 60 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix. With few legal options, Balaj, 36, could be sent back to Romania any day.

His case shows how the federal government continues to detain and deport illegal immigrants with no criminal records, splitting up families in the process, despite President Barack Obama's highly touted election-year attempt to revamp the nation's deportation policy.

After deporting record numbers of immigrants each year since taking office in 2008, Obama has said he wants to stop deporting non-criminals with strong family and community ties and to make the removal of criminals and other dangerous offenders the top priority.

Of the 326,488 immigrants deported through July 22 of this fiscal year, just over half had no criminal background, according to ICE statistics. Of the 156,655 non-criminals deported this year, about 6 percent were immigration fugitives.

Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C., believes ICE is not adhering closely to Obama's revamped deportation policy.

It has been implemented "grudgingly at best," she said. "Out on the ground it just has not been happening."

ICE officials, however, say that they are following the policy and that 90 percent of immigrants deported last year fell under the agency's priorities.

Under Obama's changes, as many as 1.76 million young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors have been given a chance to apply for a reprieve from deportation and to work legally.

ICE prosecutors also have been told to use their discretion to close the cases of low-risk illegal immigrants already in deportation proceedings and turn down new cases of illegal immigrants who don't fit the new deportation policies.

Even so, Balaj could be sent back to Romania soon.

Not only does Balaj have a clean record, his wife, Emma, is a naturalized U.S. citizen, making him eligible for a green card. All five of their children were born in this country and are therefore U.S. citizens. Balaj has lived in the U.S. for more than 16 years, has learned to speak English fluently, and has run a business with his wife. More than 800 people signed a letter written by their pastor, asking ICE not to deport him.

If he is deported, his wife will be left to raise their five children, all younger than 10, on her own. Or she will have to uproot the family and move to Romania to be with her husband.

"This is just the total opposite of the kind of person we are trying to deport," said Carl Shusterman, a Los Angeles immigration lawyer whom the Balajs hired. "It just seems so contrary to the Obama policy."

Report of rough treatment

ICE officers caught up with Balaj on April 3, a Tuesday. It was about 7 a.m. when Balaj left to buy milk.

ICE officers had come to their home four times during the Christmas holidays in 2011. They always arrived unannounced, pounding on the door early in the morning or in the evening, scaring the children, Emma said.

The first time, ICE officers arrived while the Balajes were in California buying furniture for the adult assisted-living home they own and run. After that, Balaj made a point to stay away as much as possible from the assisted-living home and a nearby rental house where the family lives.

Months passed. The couple started to think maybe the ICE officers had given up. Then came Balaj's trip to the store.

On his way there, Balaj noticed a car tailing him. "They are going to pick me up," Balaj remembers thinking. He decided to get as close to home and his family as possible. On the way, he passed a church about three blocks from his house. Balaj pulled into the parking lot and stopped his car. He hurriedly tried to call Emma, but Balaj said the ICE officers were at his door in a flash.

Balaj climbed out. He said the officers pushed him to the ground, handcuffing his wrists behind his back. He remembers scraping his face on the pavement.

He wondered why they were treating him so roughly. "I did not put up any opposition whatsoever," Balaj said.

After moving, family steps in

While Balaj waits locked up in Florence to find out if he will be deported, Emma, 32, is home running the family business and caring for their children. His detention has put a strain on the family, she said.

Three days after ICE arrested Balaj, their oldest child, Benjamin, 9, woke up screaming in the middle of the night. The boy had a nightmare that a man was trying to climb into his bedroom through the window, Emma said.

"He screamed so loud I thought about calling 911," Emma said.

She said her two older children didn't want to go to school for a week.

"They were traumatized," she said. "They didn't know how to act around the other kids."

This year, she moved them to a new school to save them from embarrassment they felt from classmates. But, at his new school, Benjamin told his teacher he had a secret to share.

"My father is in jail," Emma said, recounting what the boy told his teacher.

The next day, Emma went to the boy's school to explain that her husband was not in jail but was being deported.

Emma said she can't run the assisted-living center they bought in 2005 and take care of the children. In June, her mother-in-law flew to Phoenix from Romania for two months to help out. In August, a sister from Los Angeles moved in to give her a hand.

Since her husband's arrest, she has lost 20 pounds.

Deportation ordeal

On a recent morning, Balaj sat behind a metal table in a small interview room inside the Florence detention center.

Balaj said he is originally from Sannicolau Mare, a town in Romania on the border with Hungary in Eastern Europe. He said his family was persecuted under the country's former Communist government because they are Pentecostal Christians. The persecution, he said, continued even after the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.

He left Romania in 1996 to seek asylum in the U.S. when he was 19. With $2,000 from a tractor his father sold, Balaj bought an airline ticket and flew to Cancun, Mexico, on a tourist visa with two Romanian friends. From there, they flew to Mexicali and hooked up with a group of 40 Mexicans attempting to enter the United States illegally by walking through the desert near San Diego.

After walking for three days, the group was caught by the Border Patrol, Balaj said.

Balaj applied for asylum in the U.S. After spending two weeks in a detention center, he was released while his asylum case was pending in Immigration Court. An aunt paid the $6,000 bond.

His asylum case dragged on for years. At the time, Balaj lived in the Los Angeles area. He met Emma in 1998 at a Pentecostal Romanian church in Orange County. They both sang in the choir. She was a legal permanent resident who came to the U.S. in 1998 with her family from Romania after her father received asylum.

The couple married in July 2002. In 2005, they moved to Phoenix. With $30,000 borrowed from friends, they bought the adult assisted-living home, a common business among Romanian immigrants.

After years of legal starts and stops, the Immigration Court in Los Angeles scheduled a final hearing for Balaj's asylum case on Feb. 13, 2006. But Balaj did not show up. He was in Phoenix when his lawyer called him from the courthouse to say the hearing was about to start.

Balaj says it was a mistake. He says the hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 15. He blames his first lawyer for not telling him the date had been changed. He also blames the attorney for not informing the Iimmigration Court that he had moved to Arizona.

When Balaj did not show up for his asylum hearing, Anna Ho, the immigration judge, ordered him deported in absentia, a written summary of the case provided by Shusterman says.

Balaj appealed to have the case reopened, but Ho denied the request on the grounds that mixing up the hearing date was not an acceptable excuse. Balaj tried appealing Ho's decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals at the Justice Department, but that appeal was also turned down.

After spending more than $20,000 in legal fees, Balaj said he gave up.

In 2010, his wife became a U.S. citizen. As the husband of a U.S. citizen, Balaj could apply for a green card. But there was a problem. As a penalty for entering the country illegally, Balaj first would have to return to Romania and then wait there for 10 years to come back legally to the U.S. The only legal way around the 10-year banishment would be to apply for a hardship waiver that could shorten the wait to months instead of years.

In 2011, Balaj hired Shusterman to file the paperwork to start the process. Balaj believes that is how ICE tracked him down in Arizona.

Fighting to reopen the case

ICE officials declined to discuss Balaj's deportation case. They confirmed, however, that he has no criminal record. They also provided a written statement defending the decision to deport him.

The statement said ICE identified Balaj as a "priority-enforcement target" because he had an outstanding order of deportation making him a "fugitive alien."

The statement said Department of Homeland Security records indicate that an immigration judge ordered Balaj deported on Dec. 17, 1998. Balaj appealed the deportation order twice to the Board of Immigration Appeals, but both appeals were denied, the statement said.

Based on that outstanding removal order, Balaj was taken into custody.

The statement said that the reason Balaj hasn't been deported yet is because he filed a petition to have his case reviewed and a motion for stay of removal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit issued a temporary stay. His petition is pending.

"ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration-law violators, including immigration fugitives who have ignored court-issued orders to leave the United States," the statement said.

Shusterman said the ICE statement is incorrect.

He said Balaj was ordered deported in 1996 and in 1998 for not showing up for court hearings. But both times Balaj was able to show it was not his fault. The first time, the hearing notice was mailed to the wrong address. The second time, Balaj went to the wrong location because the court had moved and he showed up 45 minutes late. As a result, his case was reopened twice, Shusterman said.

"Yes, he missed his hearing, so there should be a penalty," Shusterman said. "But separating him from his family for years? That seems like shooting someone for speeding."

In legal papers, Balaj argues that the case should be reopened because his previous attorney failed to effectively represent him.

Meanwhile, Balaj watches TV or plays table tennis at the detention center, waiting to find out if he will be deported.

His wife and children try to visit him on Saturdays. But the visits are often too painful. "Sometimes, I think they should not visit me," he said, choking back tears. "My kids start to cry. The kids don't understand why Daddy doesn't come home."

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio: I Deserve a Medal from Obama

August 30, 2012


The sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, said Wednesday in Tampa that the Obama administration should give him a "medal" for apprehending undocumented immigrants rather than investigating him for his methods.

"I should be getting a medal. The president should invite me to the White House ... and thank me for helping the government fight illegal immigration and the drug cartels," Arpaio told members of the foreign press covering the Republican National Convention.

"(The president and I) would go out on the patio, get ourselves some beers, play a little basketball and talk, but that's not going to happen," he said ironically.

Arpaio, who has supported the presidential candidacy of Republican Mitt Romney, said that if the former Massachusetts governor wins the presidency in November, Congress should work with him to legislatively solve the problem of illegal immigration.

Romney "is an honorable man" and if he wins the presidency solving the problem "won't be easy ... (but) I hope that they let him work (on it)," he said.
When asked by Efe about the Republican platform approved on Tuesday which takes a "hard line" against undocumented immigrants, Arpaio repeated his stance that the first mission of the United States is "to enforce its laws" and that those who violate them should go to jail.

Arpaio defended the arrest and deportation of undocumented foreigners as a deterrent to illegal immigration: "I oppose a (border) wall, but once you jump it, you should go to jail. That would be a big deterrent."

"I'm not drinking anything. I know how to handle the problem on the border," said Arpaio, who is the target of a Justice Department investigation into his controversial tactics of arresting and deporting undocumented migrants.

According to Arpaio, who is considered a "hero" among anti-immigrant groups all around the country, "the irony is that I've devoted my whole life to fighting drug trafficking and the problem of immigration, and now the Justice Department is after me."

Arpaio said that illegal immigration in the United States "is a difficult matter to resolve" but in his judgment the solution lies in strengthening the border, enforcing the laws and working jointly with Mexico.

"It's a two-way street. It requires mutual cooperation," he emphasized.

Illegal immigration has been one of the main issues in this electoral cycle and Hispanic voters are a key bloc in several swing states.

To win the presidency, the consensus is that a candidate needs to get at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. According to the latest surveys, President Barack Obama has a wide lead over Romney among Hispanics.

Arpaio does not have any direct role during the Republican National convention, where on Thursday Romney will officially accept the party's presidential nomination.

The 80-year-old Arpaio, who has been sheriff - an elected position - of Maricopa County since 1992, is awaiting the verdict of a federal court in Phoenix, after a lawsuit brought against him by the federal government accusing him of "illegal discriminatory practices used by (law enforcement) against Latinos."

Spanish-Language Media 'Obsessed' on Immigration Issue

By Stephen Dinan
August 30, 2012


TAMPA, Fla. — For most voters, the Republicans’ nominating convention has been filled with speeches about jobs, the economy, federal spending and President Obama’s record. But for Hispanic voters getting their news from the Spanish-language press, the view is very different — and decidedly unsympathetic to the Republican Party.

Heading into the convention, English-language coverage of last week’s platform fights concentrated on abortion and gay marriage. But Spanish-language reports zeroed in on an immigration battle, which saw Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach win passage of a strict enforcement plank in the document.

While the English press this week has wondered about which Republicans would mention Medicare, and who would play the attack-dog role for the GOP, Spanish-language media have been focused on what hasn’t been addressed: immigration.

“The questions are, ‘Yeah, let’s talk about the economy, let’s talk about Medicare. But then why haven’t they talked about immigration?’” asked Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who made the rounds of Spanish-language press in Tampa. “All the Spanish-language media is obsessed, focused, on that issue.”

That is not good news for Mitt Romney, whose position — the strictest enforcement stance of any major political party nominee in history — does not go over well with Hispanic voters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has taken steps, including his recent non-deportation policy, that have helped erase criticism from immigration rights advocates.

It’s not just immigration where the coverage differs, Spanish-language media-watchers said.

Univision and Telemundo, the two dominant broadcast networks, as well as other outlets, put heavy emphasis on education. They extensively cover health care and Mr. Obama’s law, which is poised to extend coverage to as many as 9 million Hispanics.

Hispanics are a growing political force and considered one of the key swing voting blocs.

They also have their own powerful niche press and — given language barriers for those who don’t speak English well — many of them amount to a captive audience for Spanish-language media.

Both presidential campaigns are trying to tap into that audience with outreach ads, and the Republicans have taken steps at their convention this week in Tampa to make inroads as well.

Emilio Gonzalez, former head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Bush administration, who is now a Republican strategist and a consultant to Univision, said the convention is sending a subtle but powerful message to Hispanic voters by featuring so many powerful Hispanic Republicans.

“One thing is what they are seeing, and the other is what the Republican Party is trying to project. What the Democratic Party is trying to portray is a party in search of a message for Hispanics,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “What the Republican Party is trying to project — look at the lineup. All the rock stars are Hispanic.”

He pointed to appearances from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz — all Republicans who he said proudly embraced the party’s message of making it on their own.

Indeed, those personal stories resonated with Hispanic delegates to the convention.

“Certainly, I believe that when we listened to the story of Susana Martinez, it touched the heart of many people because this is a hardworking woman who has been able to become the first Hispanic woman as the governor of New Mexico,” said Adryana Boyne, who was part of the Texas delegation.

She also pointed to Mr. Cruz, who told of his father coming from Cuba with $100 sewn in his underwear and a determination not to accept welfare, but to instead make it on his own.

“Just incredible testimonies to let the people know that we don’t need the help of the government, what we need is opportunities,” she said.

Democrats counter that those Republicans have all embraced tight immigration rules that don’t sit well with Hispanic voters. They also say Mr. Romney’s stance is so well-known in the Hispanic community that the question is no longer will Hispanics vote for him, but rather whether he’s permanently damaged the GOP brand.

But Mr. Aguilar said the GOP is not monolithic on immigration, and that battle played out even on the convention stage.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley talked about her state’s battle to enact a strict immigration law, which the Obama administration opposed. But on the same stage, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an appeal for immigration laws that “show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.”

Ms. Rice’s remarks were met with steady applause, and Mr. Aguilar said those sorts of moments are beginning to break through.

“It seems to me that the Spanish-language media, I think some are starting to become more aware of the battle,” Mr. Aguilar said. “Some of them are starting to perhaps explain better what is going on.”

He also said Mr. Romney does have a message that could reach Hispanics, if he emphasizes his pledge to take action on reforming legal-immigration procedures.

Jeb Bush Slams Republican Anti-Immigrant Stance As Loser

By Michael Bender
August 30, 2012


Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said his party’s anti-immigration policies are costing Republicans elections and contributing to lower fertility rates and gloom in the U.S.

“The most vociferous anti-immigrant kind of candidates lose,” Bush said during a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. “They lose in primaries, they lose in general elections. And I’m all about winning.”

Jeb Bush, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 should Obama win re-election, forecast a close race in Florida this year.

More than two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, according to Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center. Mitt Romney, who will accept the Republican presidential nomination, trailed Obama among Hispanics by more than a 2-to-1 margin, according to an Aug. 27 poll from Renton, Washington-based Latino Decisions.

Romney can begin to bridge that gap in his acceptance speech tonight by sharing more of his personal story and beliefs, Bush said. As part of that story, Bush said Romney should discuss how his Mormon faith has shaped his life in positive ways and “speak more from his heart.”

“That’s been hard for a guy who’s been brought up, trained, lived his life in a way of great discipline and reserve,” Bush said. “You know, he can’t undo 63 years of how you’ve lived.”

Romney’s Policy

Romney has said he favors “self-deportation,” the idea behind Alabama and Arizona immigration laws that pressure undocumented workers to leave. The party has adopted a similar platform calling for proposals to “encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.” The platform supports requiring employers to verify workers’ legal status and opposes “any form of amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Bush said a “dark pessimism” coming from Washington over immigration and other issues has led to lower fertility rates in the U.S.

“It’s actually impacting fertility rates,” Bush said. “We have a lower fertility rate today than France. It’s a sign of this pessimism. And the solution is to not view immigrants as a problem.”

The average U.S. woman has 1.9 births over her lifetime, according to a November 2011 report from the National Center for Health Statistics. That number has decreased each year since 2007 and in 2010 dropped below the rate it takes for a generation to replace itself.

Florida Votes

Bush, 59, served two terms as governor of Florida, leaving office in early 2007. His family has produced the last two Republican presidents: George W. Bush, his brother, and George H.W. Bush, his father.

Both former presidents won election with the help of Florida’s electoral votes, which this year will total 29 of the 270 needed. Jeb Bush, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 should Obama win re-election, forecast a close race in the state this year. Hispanic voters are about 14 percent of Florida’s electorate and outnumber black voters in the state’s two biggest television markets, Miami and Orlando.

“The demographics of the state are probably trending Democrat, but the voting profile of the state is” Republican, Bush said. “That may change.”

Obama’s Tactics

Bush criticized Obama for skirting Congress and ordering a plan to exempt from deportation younger illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements. Bush said he supported the policy.

“Having a solution to the fact that we have all of these young people, many of whom are making great contributions, don’t have a connection to their parents’ former country, yeah, of course I’m for it,” Bush said.

Still, Bush criticized Obama for making his deportation announcement in June, a week before Romney spoke to the annual meeting of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

“Let’s do this executive order the day before he speaks, and then I’m going to speak the next day, and everybody will applaud me,” Bush said of Obama.
Obama spokesman Adam Fetcher said the president has made “significant progress” on immigration policies.

“Mitt Romney and his allies have taken such extreme positions on immigration that Governor Bush has repeatedly criticized them,” Fetcher said in an e-mail.

‘Dominant Factor’

Asked in an interview on Bloomberg Television after the breakfast if the Republican Party runs the risk of becoming the minority party because of the issue, Bush said: “Not just Latinos, but Asians as well.”

The growing immigrant community, he said, “will become the dominant factor in politics.”

Bush said both parties have a “Groundhog’s Day approach” to immigration policy that favors politics instead of policies.

Bush said he was in favor of better control over the nation’s borders. “But then get to a different conversation about American greatness that can be sustained over the long haul, if we allow people to come in, embrace our values, fortify them, and bring vitality and energy and an aspirational notion about what it is to be an American,” he said.

Immigration Debate Absent in Pleas to Latino Voters

By Meredith Shiner
August 30, 2012


In the final night of the convention here, as Republicans made clear and repeated overtures to Hispanic voters, one giant elephant in the room remained: immigration reform.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, arguably the GOP's most prominent Latino politician, wowed delegates on his home turf. Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's son Craig delivered several paragraphs of his speech in well-intoned Spanish. "Hispanics 4 Mitt" posters were distributed to Latino delegates in cowboy hats. And a pre-recorded video shown in the forum championed the refrain "'Si se puede' is not enough," a direct knock on President Barack Obama and the Spanish translation of his 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes we can."

But none of the speakers directly addressed the politically complicated issues of comprehensive immigration reform or Obama's recently enacted executive order that stays deportations and grants work permits for DREAM Act-eligible illegal immigrants, children who have lived in America for much of their lives and are enrolled in a university or enlisted in the military.

And even the most passionate advocates of immigration reform say they think it's better that way.

"I am not particularly keen on it being addressed at the convention. I don't think it works for us. My goal is for us to be elected. My goal is for us to be elected - for Ryan and Romney to be elected - and I don't think an in-depth, detailed discussion of immigration by any speaker advances that cause," former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said in an interview with Roll Call. "Most Hispanics are more concerned about jobs than they are about immigration. I think what we need to do is after the election figure out how we can have a sensible policy that is well reasoned and that is compatible with the things Gov. Romney has already said about those issues."

Martinez, who served one term in the Senate after a stint as President George W. Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was one of the lead co-sponsors, along with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2006. He continues to be one of the few GOP advocates of additional pathways to citizenship, noting hours before tonight's primetime program, "I am incredibly sympathetic of the Dreamers and I support some sort of form of the DREAM Act."

The conspicuous absence of a conversation on immigration in front of millions of American viewers tonight likely will not help Romney chip into the huge advantage Obama has built with Latino voters. Obama leads Romney by a 63 percent to 28 percent margin, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Though former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a group of reporters earlier in the day that he supports the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent residence for undocumented students, he did not mention it once in the address he delivered tonight on the topic of education.

"But having a solution to the fact that we have all these young people, many of whom are making great contributions and don't have connections to their parents' home country, yeah of course I'm for it," Bush said in the session with reporters, before noting, "Then again, I'm not running for anything and can speak my mind."

Rubio, who has introduced his own version of the DREAM Act, did not speak about immigration issues in his widely anticipated and well-received speech that introduced the rising Republican star to a massive national audience. The freshman Senator is the son of Cuban immigrants and used his personal narrative, not policy positions, to appeal to potential Hispanic voters.

In lieu of a formal policy debate on immigration, Romney and the Republicans are banking on economic issues and hoping that voters, regardless of demographic, will want a change of course that leads to more jobs and growth.

Top Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told Univision News earlier in the day that while the nominee supports family reunification policies, the topic of immigration is not the most important of the election, saying there were larger problems Romney needed to address in the biggest speech of his political career.

"Look, there are some elections when, for example, national security is a big issue. When I was chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2004, that election was about national security," Gillespie said. "There have been times when immigration is the biggest issue. But the issue that most voters want to hear about is economy and jobs. That doesn't mean that [immigration] is not important. Gov. Romney has addressed it and will continue to do so."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We're a Nation of Immigrants, Not 'Guests"

By Bruce Goldstein
August 29, 2012


With the nation’s attention focused on Tampa Bay for the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney’s party has adopted a platform on immigration policy that is increasingly focused on enforcement and “self deportation.” The party also called for a new “guest worker program” to import foreign workers under temporary work visas.

But our country has already relied on marginalized guest workers for too long. It’s a system that is broken and inhumane. Guest worker programs shouldn’t be enlarged, they should be abandoned.

In agriculture, growers have long relied on immigrant labor. Currently, most farmworkers are undocumented immigrants. Many growers already import significant portions of their work force each year by requesting (through the U.S. Department of Labor) agricultural guest workers who enter the country with H-2A visas. The program is rife with abuse and offers a glimpse into the problems inherent with the any guest worker program.

Guest workers equal good business in the minds of some employers, since their visas tie the workers to a single employer, in effect, depriving them of flexibility to negotiate higher wages or better working conditions. It creates a system that gives the growers access to their idea of the ideal employee: skilled, vulnerable and inexpensive. It also leads growers to prefer guest workers over U.S. workers, which keeps wages low for everyone. The end result is an increase in profits for farmers and a decrease in job standards for the workers.

Despite these advantages, major agribusiness interests have launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to win the ability to recruit still bigger armies of agricultural guest workers at the expense of U.S. workers and to relax the wage and other modest protections guest workers currently have. Since guest workers cannot vote, growers enjoy a great political and legislative advantage.

Even before the Republicans approved their platform last week, candidate Romney issued a statement in June outlining his national immigration strategy. The Romney plan includes making the “system for bringing in temporary agricultural workers and other seasonal workers functional for both employers and immigrants.” That should be a nonstarter since a system in which vulnerable guest workers are prevalent can never be “functional” for the worker.

A large-scale guest worker program conflicts with our country’s historic concept that people who live and work in this country, native or immigrant, should be able to strive to succeed, earn the right to vote, pay taxes, raise families and settle into their communities. The foundation of our nation has always rested on the idea that we become stronger by giving those who move here to find work a chance.

What if the millions of immigrants who came through Ellis Island in the 19th and early 20th century had been given a guest worker visa and told they should expect to return to their home country?

It’s discouraging that the Republican platform identifies recruiting still more guest workers as part of the path forward on immigration policy. But the party’s embrace of guest worker expansion is in part reaction to recent complaints from constituents: Powerful growers across the country who complain of “labor shortages” on their farms. They say their crops are rotting and there aren’t enough workers available for the harvest. But what’s wrong with that picture?

Typically, when workers with particular skills are in short supply, the scarcity of those skills leads to higher pay. Growers who complain about “worker shortages” in an industry notorious for low wages and deplorable working conditions should recognize that shortages are aggravated by their insistence on maintaining high profit margins by keeping wages low. Restrictive state immigration laws like the ones passed in Georgia and Alabama make the situation worse.

Growers looking for a reliable workforce should find ways to offer better wages and working conditions rather than campaign for the importation of more exploitable guest workers. Guest worker programs should be phased out and current guest workers and other immigrant farm workers in the United States should be presented with a viable roadmap to immigration status and citizenship. We are a nation of immigrants, not a nation of guests.

Bruce Goldstein is president of Farmworker Justice, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C. that works to improve living and working conditions for migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

AB 2189 Must Become Law; Licenses for Dreamers Are a Step Toward Integration

LA OPINIÓN (Editorial)
August 29, 2012


The 11th-hour race in the California Legislature includes a very important state bill to be able to issue driver's licenses to beneficiaries of deferred action. AB 2189 must pass the Legislature and be signed by the governor.

This bill is needed to speed up the process in the Department of Motor Vehicles, which said it appears that the beneficiaries of this immigration change would be eligible for licenses. However, it postponed its decision until there is official verification that federal documents meet California's licensing requirements.

The bill introduced by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo fulfills this purpose. It would basically establish that any federal document that demonstrates that someone was granted deferred action-because he or she was brought to the U.S. as a minor-will be enough as proof of legal presence in California to apply for a driver's license.

The measure, which was approved by the Assembly yesterday and should pass to the state Senate today or tomorrow, reached this point thanks to legislative maneuvers that allowed it to advance quickly.

We have always maintained that giving undocumented immigrants access to a state ID as well as a driver's license has economic value and is important for security.

In the case of the Dreamers, so called because of similarities between the DREAM Act and deferred action, it makes sense to allow them to drive.

This is a step in the integration process of a group of people, many as American as those born here. It is a crass mistake to judge them by the same standards as the rest of people without papers, as has been the case in Arizona and Texas.

California benefits when a sector of the population that is young and enterprising is brought out of the shadows. Driver's licenses are part of it.

A Republican Platform Line Friendly to Immigrants

By Julia Preston
August 29, 2012


It was no surprise that the Republicans declared their intention to strictly crack down on illegal immigration in their platform, which was released last week.

But one line was added to the text that went counter to the calls for strict employee verification and expanded action by states: It called for “a legal and reliable source of foreign labor where needed through a new guest worker program.”

And Brad Bailey, a Texas Republican who owns two seafood restaurants in suburbs of Houston, was satisfied to see it there.

Mr. Bailey, 39, is not a delegate at the convention in Tampa, Fla., but he has been roaming the hallways there since last week, striding up to delegates to convince them that the party should be on record supporting new access for employers to legal foreign labor. He is a nonstop advocate for the immigration plank that Texas Republicans wrote into their state platform after contentious meetings in June, which includes a temporary foreign worker program.

“We are a border state and we have the same problem as Arizona, but we addressed it totally differently than Arizona,” Mr. Bailey said, referring to polarizing enforcement laws passed in that state.

Mr. Bailey admits he is rowing against his party’s tide this year. But he is among a number of Republicans, many of them farmers or small-business owners, who are urging party leaders to recognize that some employers still have a hard time filling low-paying jobs despite high unemployment.

He also wants the party to take the edge off its rhetoric against illegal immigrants. “Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio are hijacking the issue and damaging the Republican party brand,” Mr. Bailey said, referring to Arizona’s governor and the hard-line sheriff of Maricopa County. “We need to stop the hatred language and fix this problem.”

Mr. Bailey said he started his personal campaign to change the party’s approach after Latino workers in one of his restaurants — longtime legal employees — asked him last year why he was a Republican. “They don’t like Hispanics,” the workers said of the party.

He said Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas who wrote several enforcement amendments that were added to the convention platform, did not understand the needs of employers in labor-intensive businesses.

“I sign the front of the paychecks, he signs the back,” Mr. Bailey said.

In Tampa, Mr. Bailey found a sympathetic hearing from several delegates, including Sue Sharkey, a Colorado state official, who came to the meetings with her own proposal for a guest worker program run entirely by the private sector. Ms. Sharkey said she offered the language that was eventually adopted in the final text of the platform.

The party’s candidate, Mitt Romney, has said little recently on immigration, generally avoiding an issue that divides the party and has distanced it from Latino voters. Mr. Bailey said he was hoping for leadership on the issue from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate, who co-sponsored a Democratic proposal in Congress two years ago to give legal status to immigrant farmworkers.

Ted Cruz Thinks Mitt Romney Should End Obama's Deferred Action Policy

By Amanda Peterson Beadle
August 29, 2012


Mitt Romney has never said whether he would undo President Obama’s immigration directive to offer deferred action to DREAM Act-eligible young adults, only saying that he will work with Congress “to put in place a long-term solution.” But Ted Cruz, the Republican Senate nominee in Texas, insisted that the GOP presidential candidate should end the policy:

Asked by Telemundo whether Romney should reinstate deportations of young people granted deferred action, Cruz said, “I do.”

“I think it is without authority, and we’re a nation of rule of law, and it is not defending anyone’s freedom to be undermining rule of law,” he said of President Obama’s June announcement that his administration would grant work authorizations and deferred action — reprieve from deportation concerns for two years — to some undocumented young people.

Cruz said the U.S. should be a country that celebrates legal immigration “who follow the rules” instead of supporting the deferred action policy. That’s not a surprising position from a GOP candidate who campaigned on the fact that once fought to ensure that the state would execute an undocumented immigrant.

In his Telemundo interview, Cruz added that he doesn’t “think the Hispanic community is behind efforts for amnesty.” But a poll from Latino Decisions shows that Latino voters are very supportive of Obama’s deportation directive as well as the DREAM Act.

Rubio's Speech: A Dream Fulfilled. And Deferred.

August 30, 2012


The son of a Cuban immigrant bartender and maid, Marco Rubio stands on the biggest stage of his life Thursday when he introduces himself – and the Republican presidential nominee -- to the nation.

It’s a dream fulfilled. And deferred.

The freshmen Florida Senator from West Miami said he’s grateful for the high-profile spot. But Rubio not-so-secretly wanted more: the vice-presidential slot on Mitt Romney’s ticket or the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.

Rubio, whose sites are ultimately on the White House, got the next best thing: the introduction of Romney on a night when nearly everyone who wants to vote for president is watching.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be able to give this speech in my home state in front of a lot of family and friends who have been involved with me on a personal level,” Rubio said Wednesday.

“I hope for my mom, who’s watching from home, and my dad, wherever he’s watching from, it will be affirmation that their lives mattered,” said Rubio. His father passed away in 2010.

What makes this speech different from all others?

“I don’t know, 39 million people probably,” Rubio said with a smile.

For those who have watched the 41-year-old Miami native ascend the heights of political stardom, Thursday nights speech won’t have much new in it.

But this isn’t for insiders. It’s for a national crowd that knows relatively little about Rubio, the only Hispanic Republican in the U.S. Senate.

The speech will be only 15 minutes long – half as long as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Tuesday’s keynote that, to many at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, fell flat compared to the address Romney’s wife, Ann, gave right before him.

In contrast to Christie’s speech, Rubio’s is expected to dwell less on himself and more on Romney. Like vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Rubio’s widely viewed as being a more effective messenger about Romney’s record than Romney.

“Mitt Romney knows how prosperity’s created. It’s created when people take their own money and invest it in a business. They employ more people. Those people take their money and spend it in the economy, creating jobs for others,” Rubio said Wednesday.

“Barack Obama believes prosperity’s created when the government spends money or creates a new program,” Rubio said. “That’s what this is about.”

But it’s also about Rubio, a 41-year-old West Miami lawyer who first won office at the age of 2x. Cultivating powerful political allies along the way, Rubio served on the West Miami city commission and then in the Florida Legislature, which he left in 2009 after serving as speaker for two years.

In 2010, Rubio did what seemed like the impossible: He beat Gov. Charlie Crist to capture an open U.S. Senate seat. He also chased Crist out of the Republican Party. Crist ran then as an independent and now plans to become a registered Democrat and speaker at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Rubio laughed when he was asked about Crist on Wednesday: “He’s running out of parties.”

Dario Moreno, a Florida International University political science professor who has known Rubio since 1996, said this moment at the convention is an unparalleled opportunity in Rubio’s career.

“This is the national stage,” Moreno said. “He would have preferred to be in the keynote spot, but in a way this is better, a higher-profile position. Along with Christie and the other speakers in the primetime spots, you’re looking at the potential 2016 candidates for president. And Marco is one of them.”

Rubio’s speech isn’t a make-or-break moment, though. His 2010 win and his rhetorical ability to advance conservative causes catapulted him into the ranks of elite conservatives in Washington.

He’s so sought-after that he conducted nine interviews in 97 minutes Monday, from local television stations to Black Entertainment Television, CNN, CNN Espanol, Telemundo, Univision and Fox.

Romney’s campaign won’t say why Rubio wasn’t passed over in favor of Paul Ryan.

However Republican advisers say Rubio’s record of accomplishments is thin, and the campaign would have faced uncomfortable questions over Rubio’s use of a Republican Party of Florida credit card during his time in the Legislature.

Rubio has also stuck by Miami Congressman David Rivera who faces federal investigations into his campaign and private finances.

In some ways, Rubio’s speech comes despite some in the Romney campaign, where unknown consultants have secretly tried to sandbag the senator behind the scenes.

Last month, as Rubio began a tour to plug his new autobiography An American Son, Romney advisers leaked word that Rubio wasn’t on the vice-presidential shortlist. Conservatives revolted.

Then, last week, Romney advisers tried to bump Rubio from his prime-time slot introducing Romney. Conservatives revolted again.

Not only is Rubio one of the more sought-after Republicans in conservative circles, he’s one his party’s few recognizable Hispanic faces. Leaders like former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and former Gov. Jeb Bush have expressed concern over the Republican outreach to Hispanic voters, one of the fastest-growing demographic groups.

Bush said the party needs to “stop acting stupid” when it comes to immigration. He has also been a leading voice backing Rubio. Republican pollster Whit Ayres gushed that: "Marco Rubio is the Michael Jordan of American politics. He is enormously talented."

As the child of working-class immigrants, Rubio will likely reprise his biography. It not only tells his story to the nation. It reinforces the Republican effort to appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters amid Democratic criticisms of the multi-millionaire who heads the ticket and won’t disclose multiple years of his tax returns.

Rubio is sure to tell the anecdote of “the man behind the bar,” his father, who would frequently serve people at banquets like the tony fundraisers his son now headlines. It’s that well-told “journey” of his family – from standing behind the bar to standing behind the podium – that Republicans hope will connect with a broader audience.

Democrats, meanwhile, expressed a measure of concern about Rubio, who had the potential to attract more Hispanic votes had he been on the ticket.

Robert Gibbs, an adviser to President Obama’s campaign, said both Ryan and Rubio had “pluses and minuses.”

But he indicated Ryan was a better candidate for Democrats to run against because the congressman drafted the much-vilified “Ryan budget” that deeply cut healthcare and college-loan programs to help pay for tax cuts.

“It’s not the Rubio budget,” Gibbs said. “It’s the Ryan budget.”

One well-known liberal, Comedy Central comedian Jon Stewart sat down with Rubio on Tuesday during an extended Daily Show episode Tuesday and said it was better that Rubio didn’t get picked by Romney.

“I think this is much better for you,” Stewart said, asking how Rubio found out he wouldn’t be picked as Romney’s running mate.

“He called and let me know he was making the announcement the next day,” Rubio said.

“I cursed at him,” Rubio joked.

“You are introducing him,” Stewart said. “Have they said to you, hey, charisma boy, dude, take it down a notch?”

“All they’ve asked me to do is introduce the governor,” said Rubio. “They’ve given me 15 minutes to say anything I want.”

The Hurricane and the Undocumented

By Lawrence Downes
August 29, 2012


As Hurricane Isaac continues its agonizingly slow crawl over southeast Louisiana, it is exposing one of the regrettable consequences of a broken immigration system – a shadow population of the undocumented who can’t or won’t seek emergency help. The authorities and immigrant advocates have learned from prior storms that fear can have a crippling effect on people’s willingness to flee a disaster zone. That is why they have urged the Department of Homeland Security not just to suspend its immigration enforcement during this emergency, but to make that policy highly public and official, so that families will not hesitate to enter public shelters or to just get in the car and go.

To its credit, after being pressed by immigrant-rights advocates in New Orleans, the department did just that. A message from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol has been posted on the D.H.S. Web site, distributed within the agencies and sent — in English, Spanish and Vietnamese — to more than 1,000 local organizations that deal with immigrants.

It states that “there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Isaac, including the use of checkpoints for immigration enforcement purposes in impacted areas during an evacuation.” It goes on to tell state and local law enforcement agencies that if they are holding people in custody at the request of ICE or the Border Patrol – people who would otherwise be released because of the storm – they should let them go, after giving the feds a heads-up first.

This common-sense policy will be invaluable to immigrant organizations and rescue workers should evacuations, some of which have already begun, widen and become more difficult and chaotic. Especially when it’s inscribed on paper — something official that be held in the face of a gung-ho sheriff, police officer or Border Patrol agent who didn’t get the memo.

Advocates in New Orleans said they spent much time in the last few days trying to wring this policy and public statement out of ICE. They would be grateful for a more permanent statement that could be applied to future disasters wherever they happen – that enforcement will be temporarily halted, not just in the evacuation and sheltering phase of a disaster, but in the return and recovery period as well, to encourage evacuees to seek help. ICE says it’s considering such a move, while weighing the concern that criminals like smugglers might find a way to exploit such a policy when chaos hits. I’m confident that the department will be able to walk and chew gum at the same time — to protect us from canny smugglers while adopting a humane policy that saves lives of vulnerable evacuees when disasters strike.

Ex-Senator Criticizes Republicans' Tone on Immigration

By Adam Nagourney
August 29, 2012


Mel Martinez is a former United States Senator from Florida, served as chairman of the Republican Party under President George W. Bush, and is one of the highest-level Hispanic Republicans in public life. So it was striking on Wednesday morning to hear him speak starkly about his party’s problems with Latino voters after a primary season in which all the candidates stressed measures that would severely curb immigration

“We went through a tough period of time when the primary did the exact opposite of what we needed to be doing,” Mr. Martinez said, “which polarized the electorate in a terrible way.”

“I think the tone has been wrong,” he said. “And I think the tone in the primary really did a lot of damage.”

Mr. Martinez stopped short of criticizing Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, for his own rhetoric on the subject, and acknowledged that Mr. Romney had largely avoided the issue since winning the nomination. “In my view he has decided he is going to deal with this issue as president, and not as a candidate,” he said. “And I think that’s probably smart politics. But I still think he needs to reach out to Hispanics.”

He said Mr. Romney should talk about immigration, but not get pulled into the details of a difficult debate during the campaign. “The immigration issue is too difficult to deal with in a public contest,” he said, speaking on a panel on the Republican Party and Latino voters sponsored by National Journal, Univision News and ABC News.

“Tomorrow night is about winning an election,” Mr. Martinez said of Mr. Romney’s acceptance speech. “What I would have him say is, have him speak to Hispanics in the country about what he is going to do about jobs in this country.”

Mr. Martinez noted that his former boss, Mr. Bush, had done particularly well with Latino voters. He said part of that was because Mr. Bush was from Texas, a border state. But there was something else.

“He got more mileage out of the Spanish he knew that anyone else I have ever known,” he said.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Baca's Immigration Choice

LOS ANGELES TIMES (Letter to the Editor)
By Hector Villagra
August 29, 2012


L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca's commitment to violate a proposed state law he disagrees with in favor of a discretionary federal immigration law he prefers smacks of political opportunism, not public service.

Baca's statements make clear the need for the governor to sign the Trust Act. Baca misunderstands federal law. It provides only for voluntary cooperation by local law enforcement with immigration agency detention requests. The interpretation the sheriff suggests is not only wrong, but unconstitutional — the federal government is not permitted to commandeer state or local resources. The Trust Act simply defines when it is appropriate for local law to cooperate with federal requests.

Baca wants greater cooperation with an immigration program that transforms his officers from crime fighters into deportation agents --— at the expense of the people he is duty-bound to serve. He is precisely why we need the Trust Act.

Hector Villagra
Los Angeles

The writer is executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.