FIRM update 4.8.08
Building America Together!
In keeping with our campaign to gather pledges, organize forums and turn out the immigrant vote, the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), FIRM and other partners will hold a Boot Camp to train organizers that will be involved in citizenship, voter registration and GOTV programs leading up to the 2008 general elections. To participate, or to learn more email Nicola at email@example.com.
As we engage Americans in a conversation about what America stands for as a nation, the courageous testimony of individuals like Juan will hopefully remind us that being undocumented does not make one un-American: http://www.movementvisionlab.org/blog/juan2019s-story-undocumented-but-not-un-american/
In a strong nod to gay/lesbian and immigrant rights, including Out4Immigration, Senator Clinton last week endorsed reforms that would support reforms in federal law impacting the same-sex partners of immigrants. For the press release, go to http://www.pr.com/press-release/79586.
Democratic Leaders, in a bid to slow momentum for a discharge petition on the SAVE Act, announced late last week that they would hold a series of hearings in key House committees to discuss aspects of employment verification and enforcement related to immigration. An article on the topic is pasted in below. In the mean time, as of Tuesday, April 1, there were 185 signatures on the SAVE Act discharge petition. To view signatures on the petition, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/110/lrc/pd/petitions/Dis5.htm. In the mean time momentum is starting to build against the SAVE Act in the blogosphere: http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/80847/.
State & Local News
Last week, the City of San Francisco announced a local media campaign promoting the city's status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. To view an article on the announcement go to http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/04/03/BA0NVUM70.DTL.
A recent article from Stateline.org analyzes the status of the avalanche of anti-immigrant bills in state legislatures and finds that the flood has turned into a trickle as state legislatures wind down. To view the article, go to http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297325.
In Arizona, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon slams Sheriff Arpaio's anti-immigrant crackdown: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/112439.
Raids, Detention, Deportation
Advocates filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security re: home-based raids in New Jersey last week. The suit focuses on the practices used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to gain entry into homes. For an article on the suit, please go to http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/04/us/04immig.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin. This is one among a number of suits currently pending against DHS and ICE on the conduct of immigration raids in both work sites and residences.
The Immigration Policy Center recently released a short report on the unintended consequences of raids, including their impact on children. To view the report, go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080331.
Immigration Agencies and Federal Regulations
The comment period on the new supplemental rule on No Match Letters released by the Department of Homeland Security lasts until April 25. FIRM is part of an effort to generate as many comments in opposition to the new rule as possible. For more information on the comment period, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the web site of the National Immigration Law Center at http://www.lwiw.org/SSA_NM/lwiw_comments.htm.
Advocates opposing the new regulation are also concerned about the impact that employment verification programs, including the No Match proposed rule, could have on non-immigrants. One such example is profiled in this article that ran in the Los Angeles Times last week: http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-arizimmig5apr05,1,2329426.story
A recent report from the US Department of Homeland Security found that legal immigration dropped significantly last year, largely due to administrative problems within the US Citizenship and Immigration Service. To review an article on the report, go to http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jVzJBVTd1tawK227QQZltW_jigzwD8VRA5JO1.
Last week the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would use its waiver authority to try to speed up construction of a border wall along the United States-Mexico border. The announcement immediately led to concerns with respect to environmental and economic impact. For example, the Border Network for Human Rights released a statement opposing the announced waiver authority that garnered signatures from more than 25 organizations and many more concerned residents. For more information, go to http://www.bnhr.org/. To see the DHS announcement, go to http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1207080713748.shtm.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security and a number of states negotiated temporary deals that would allow almost all states to remain in compliance with existing REAL ID Act regulations. For an article with an update on the issue, please go to http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297809.
FIRM Member Activities
This week and next, the Florida Immigrant Coalition will hold a series of events drawing attention to the root causes of migration in this hemisphere in an effort to reframe the issue of immigration. The first event, co-sponsored by the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and Global Local Links, will be held April 6 and will bring together environmental and human rights activists. The second to be held on April 14 will focus on the impact of international debt and economic policies, and is co-sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. For more information on these events, please contact email@example.com.
The Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (WA, OR, MT, ID) has created a new tool to help educate members and potential allies about the issue of immigration. This new board game, which was demonstrated at the FIRM Summit in February, can be ordered from NWFCO at their website at www.nwfco.org.
The Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (KCIRR) will be celebrating the second annivarsary of historic marches that took place in Lexington, KY on April 10, 2006 on April 10, 2008. For more information about KCIRR, please go to www.kcirr.org. This march, which helped to launch KCIRR, drew nearly 10,000 local residents from across the Lexington area in one of the largest marches and rallies ever held in that city's history.
In Texas and New Mexico, the Border Network for Human Rights is organizing a petition drive to oust the Sheriff of Otero County because of the Sheriff's actions detaining residents and requiring them to prove their legal status and in engaging in a wide range of activities linked to aggressive immigration enforcement activities. For more information about this campaign, please go to http://www.bnhr.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7.
Allies and Partner Activities
Over the last several weeks a group of Indian H2B Visa Workers marched from Mississippi to Washington, DC to bring attention to the human rights and labor rights violations brought down on them by the Signal corporation under the H2B Visa program. Literally treated as modern-day slaves and tricked into exorbitant fees by H2B Visa recruiters, these workers are calling on the Indian embassy and the United States government to address their situations. A class action law suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center is adding to the pressure. A range of organizations are also supporting their cause, including South Asian American Leaders for Tomorrow (SAALT) and the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice. For more information, please to go http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/.
Resources & News to Use
Sojourners and the Christian Coalition for Immigration Reform has recently released a tool kit for pastors interested in materials that can be incorporated into sermons and other educational opportunities within congregations. To download these resources, please go to http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.ccir&item=CCIR_main.
The Immigration Policy Center recently released a report on the impact of anti-immigrant hate speech on the growing number of hate crimes targeted at Latino residents in the United States. To view the report, go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080330.
The Immigration Policy Center also released a new report detailing the impact of a new employer verification program. To view the report go to http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/index.php?content=fc080402.
An Iowa Op Ed by a state legislator makes the point, don't attack immigrant, enforce labor laws. From the DesMoines Register: http://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=297325.
Please also find attached a fact sheet on employment verification provided by the National Council of La Raza.
Last week many of us took a moment to remember Rev. Martin Luther King Jr on the anniversary of his assassination. In case folks haven't seen his last speech, one that eerily seemed to predict his death, I recommend taking a moment to listen and reflect on the vision he conveys with his words and his heart. http://www.mlkonline.net/video-martin-luther-king-last-speech.html
The National Council of La Raza issued an RFP for organizations interested in applying for their Emerging Latino Communities grant program last week. The application is attached, and the deadline is May 30, 2008.
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition is seeking a new executive director. For more information about the position, please go to www.tnimmigrant.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due by April 18th, 2008.
From the National Journal Congress Daily:
Dems Look To Contain Hot-Button Issue With congressional Democrats unable to come to terms on a comprehensive immigration bill, House Democratic leaders have hatched a plan to hold a series of hearings aimed at keeping control of the issue. They are unlikely to win consensus for more concrete actions, such as floor votes. "There's a chance that something could slip through, but I've got to go to Vegas and play a crap game. Those are better odds," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., assistant to Speaker Pelosi. "The leadership is smart enough to know that if you're going to do something, you don't want to see the debacle that the Senate experienced," Becerra said, referring to a month-long debate last year on a broad immigration bill that eventually died. "No one wants to see this become the grave." Sources in the Democratic leadership said the majority leaders want to curtail Republican efforts to force a floor vote on an immigration enforcement bill from Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., that would make E-Verify, a voluntary electronic employment verification program, mandatory for all U.S. employers within four years.
"There is recognition that we maybe need to address this," said one Democratic leadership aide. "That is what we intend to do, to not allow this to spin out of our control and discharge it." A GOP discharge petition on the Shuler bill has 185 signatures, including 10 Democrats. Rep. Thelma Drake, R-Va., who filed the discharge petition on the bill, said Republicans will this week begin targeting a handful of Democrats who are considered vulnerable on the issue. "There needs to be a full court press now to get these signatures," she said. House Democrats are concerned that another 10 rank-and-file lawmakers, likely Blue Dog Coalition members, will sign the petition. With that, Republicans could easily round up the few in their party who have not signed on and ensure that the measure comes to the floor. Senior Democratic leadership and rank-and-file aides said that the set of hearings, agreed to in a closed door meeting with Pelosi last week, is designed to dissuade Democrats from signing the discharge petition. Hearings might not be enough to satisfy lawmakers in both parties who are frustrated that smaller bills are caught up in the hot-button vortex of illegal immigration. Republicans accuse the Congressional Hispanic Caucus of holding "hostage" guestworker bills that would relieve employment shortages in high-tech and tourism industries. "Clearly, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has verbally stated that they're opposed to bringing this forward because they want to see what they call comprehensive immigration reform," said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who filed a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., to give employers access to seasonal foreign workers. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who is leading the Hispanic Caucus' talks on immigration, said he is sympathetic to employers scrambling for foreign workers, be they high-tech or low-skilled. Gutierrez added, "It is impossible for me, in good faith, to negotiate for a high-tech engineer or who is going to scoop the poop in the zoo when we have men in Iraq whose [illegal immigrant] spouses are being deported." Most Democrats are supportive of a comprehensive bill that would require illegal immigrants to earn green cards or leave the country. But many lawmakers would be just as happy to ignore the issue because of its sensitivity. "When my buddy, my friend from Illinois, [House Democratic Conference Chairman] Rahm Emanuel, says 'Immigration is the third rail;' that's not exactly helpful," Gutierrez said. Emanuel has been working with Becerra, Shuler, Stupak and Gutierrez on a more limited bill that would boost immigration enforcement, respond to employers' visa needs, and give some temporary visas to illegal immigrants. Democratic aides say the effort is at a stalemate because Republicans have been unwilling to lend their support. "I don't think there's a whole lot of fight left in this Congress for the issue," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. "With the defeat of the Senate bill last year, I think all sides pretty much left it all out on the field." Last year, Pence tossed his hat into the "comprehensive" immigration debate with a proposal to require illegal immigrants to leave the country and return on guestworker visas. "I'm just waiting for the opportune moment again," he said. "I've lost track of the number of colleagues who say, 'When you get around to this, we'll do it like this.'"
By Fawn Johnson and Christian Bourge