FIRM Update 5.19.08

Building America Together!


On Sunday, May 18, local residents sent a message to the nation through a series of local events, including a prayer vigil in Postville, Iowa, site of a massive immigration raid last Monday.  The story of the raid has been building in recent days as more organizations engage in the issue and more relevations emerge about the nature of the raid, how detainees have been treated, and the history of worker abuses at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant.  The story of Postville,'s raid is as much about how the community has come together in an expression of fundamental values related to community, dignity and basic due process.  For an article on the situation in Postville, click on  More details about the raids response will be sent out to this list shortly.  For information on a recent lawsuit filed as a result of the raid, go to


Politics 2008


For an initial assessment of how the presidential campaigns are mapping out their strategies, here is a link to an article that ran in the NY Times last week:


For information on Hispanic opinions on the upcoming general election go to, and interesting site sponsored in part by Telemundo.


Congressional News


This week, the immigration debate will play out in House committees and potentially on the Senate floor.  On Thursday, the House Homeland Security Sub-committee with jurisdiction over the border will hold a hearing to discuss various proposals on border enforcement.  Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) will be one of the witnesses set to testify.  For more information on the hearing, go to


Last week, as part of an Appropriations sub-committee vote on a war supplemental spending bill, several Senators succeeding in amending immigration-related provisions to the underlying legislation.  These include:

- an amendment introduced by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen Craig (R-ID) to grant temporary legal status to 1.3 million undocumented agricultural workers.  For more information about the amendment, please go to or:

- an amendment introduced by Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Gregg (R-NH) to exempt certain workers from H2B visa caps in order to allow more workers into the United States through the H2B visa program.

- an amendment introduced by Sen. Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Gregg (R-NH) to recapture more than 200,000 unused visas for employment based immigration for high tech businesses


State & Local News


In Missouri, state lawmakers gave final approval to an anti-immigrant bill that would place new restrictions on communities and businesses.  On a separate front, Missouri is considering a new voter identification requirement that according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, could disenfranchise 200,000 United States citizens.  To view the report, go to  An article that ran on the Huffington Post quotes the Arizona Advocacy Network and Arizona ACORN:


Anti-immigrant organizations have challenged local municipal ID card ordinances that allow local residents, regardless of their immigration status, to receive identification documents for municipal purposes.  Currently such ordinances exist in New Haven, CT and San Francisco, CA.  For more information, go to


In Arizona, a fight erupted between Sheriff Arpaio and Governor Napalitano as the Governor signed an executive order shifting resources away from human trafficking and illegal immigration enforcement to the capture of criminal fugitives in the state.


In Minnesota, the state Senate passed a bill to bar the state from implementing REAL ID drivers license requirements by a veto-proff majority.  The proposal now goes to the House.


In North Carolina, the state community college system reversed a prior decision to allow undocumented immigrants to attend college with in-state tuition given recent controversy over the topic.


Raids, Detention, Deportation


A new practice recently revealed in Hurricane evacuation rehearsals: the United States Border Patrol intends to check on the immigration status of evacuees fleeing hurricanes this year.  Perhaps to be listed in a top ten list of worst ideas contemplated by the Department of Homeland Security.  For an article on the story, go to


Immigration Agencies and Federal Regulations


Please find a recent news analysis of the 287g program (local police coordination with federal immigration authorities), as well as new developments in the program coming out of South Carolina.


FIRM Member Activities


Last week, at a hearing pulled together by Rep. Solis (D-CA) on the topic of immigration, Eun Sook Lee of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium presented testimony on the immigration-related issues facing the Asian American community.  The testimony is attached to this e-mail.  For more information on the hearing, which also involved other FIRM members, go to or


Allies and Partner Activities


The campaign for relief for H2B workers from India continued as a number of workers continued a hunger strike into last weekend.  For more information on this campaign, go to


Resources & News to Use


The Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest released today a new report "Forcing Our Blues into Gray Areas: Local Police and Federal Immigration Enforcement."  To view the report, please go to


A new study released by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank based in New York, points out that immigrants are assimilating at a faster rate in recent years.  To view the Washington Post article, go to  The report can be viewed at


Other Annoucements and Opportunities:


The Open Society Institute recently created a new fellowship program for individuals interested in inspiring public debate in four primary areas: National Security and the Open Society; Citizenship, Membership and Marginalization; Strategies and Tools for Advocacy and Citizen Engagement; and Understanding Authoritarianism.  For more information, go to


The Center for Community Change is hiring organizers to work on its immigration and worker rights initiatives.  For more information go to:




An article on recent developments driven by Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) in Congress:


Feinstein, Lofgren push for immigrant workers

Friday, May 16, 2008

(05-16) 04:00 PDT Washington - -- Two of California's most immigrant-dependent industries - agriculture and Silicon Valley - are pushing narrow measures through Congress in an effort to employ foreign workers at opposite ends of the labor market, people who pick vegetables and the postgraduate engineers and scientists of Silicon Valley.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein attached a farm guest-worker program to the giant Iraq spending bill Thursday in a last-ditch effort to remedy a shortage of workers in California's produce fields as the federal government continues to crack down on illegal immigration and the political climate proves hostile to more sweeping measures.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, teaming with Republicans, is pushing several bills to give permanent residence to top engineering talent.

"It's an emergency," Feinstein said of the farmworker situation. "If you can't get people to prune, to plant, to pick, to pack, you can't run a farm."

Her addition to the Iraq spending bill would give temporary legal status to 1.3 million farmworkers over the next five years, but it would provide no path to citizenship or permanent residency. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 17-12 on Thursday.

Workers applying for the program would have to prove they had worked on U.S. farms for at least 150 days or 863 hours, or had earned at least $17,000 during the last four years. They would have to remain working in agriculture for the next five years, when the program would expire.

Citizenship on hold

The move marks an end for now to efforts to give farmworkers a path to citizenship after a sweeping immigration bill crashed in the Senate last June. Feinstein has been trying all year to attach a bill called AgJobs but has met nothing but dead ends.

Western Growers, representing California farmers, and the United Farm Workers of America union joined in backing the bill. Western Growers President Tom Nassif said large growers are accelerating efforts to move their farming operations to Mexico. The 15 growers out of several hundred who responded to a survey and were willing to talk about their plans moved 84,000 acres worth of crop production to Mexico this year, twice as many acres as last year, Nassif said.

"Once the acreage moves to Mexico, it's there permanently," Nassif said. "Much of the remaining open space in California is agricultural land. If it's not farmed, we'd be growing condos or cementing it over with office buildings."

The tightening of the border has made it increasingly difficult, dangerous and expensive for laborers to return to the United States if they leave, disrupting the traditional circular flow of farmworkers from Mexico to California's fields in the Salinas and Central valleys. Most farmworkers arrive illegally, and farmers complain that an existing guest worker program called H2A is cumbersome and ineffective. Feinstein's bill would streamline that program's rules.

Threat of fines worrisome

Growers are apprehensive about a new administration effort, temporarily stopped by a federal court, that would require employers to match workers with a valid Social Security number or be heavily fined. The Department of Homeland Security is refining the rule to get past court objections.

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez said farming is facing "a very real emergency" and applauded the bill as a "critical but temporary fix to a much larger problem."

Feinstein acknowledged that the chances of getting the bill all the way through Congress, even attached to war spending, is "uphill all the way."

On the other side of the Capitol, Lofgren is teaming with conservative Republicans to try to push similar discretely targeted measures for Silicon Valley. She has dropped efforts for now to expand the controversial H-1B program for temporary high-skilled workers, which again this year ran out of its 85,000 visas on the first day they were released. Lofgren said the program needs changes, given its wide use by Indian offshoring companies.

5 low-key bills in works

Instead, Lofgren has introduced a passel of five small-bore immigration bills, among them one that would allow master's and doctoral graduates from U.S. universities to apply immediately for permanent residence, skipping the H-1B program altogether.

"Most people would agree if you get your Ph.D. in engineering from an American university, you've got something to offer this country," Lofgren said. "Right now, we have no ability to keep those people here ... we send them home to compete against Americans. It would make more sense to keep them here to help us compete."

Lofgren has even teamed up on one bill, to "recapture" unused permanent resident slots, with Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican famous as the author of immigration crackdown legislation, never enacted, that was so harsh it led to the nation's first large-scale Latino protests in 2006.

"What's happened is that with the shortage of very high-level people, multinational companies are sending their project teams offshore," Lofgren said. "Not only the top hot shot leading the team, but all the support jobs that go with that hot shot. Among the people I've met is a guy who spent four years at Harvard, seven at Stanford's engineering school, then did practical training and has been here six years on an H-1B, and he's in limbo. He's an extremely talented person and has no idea what his future is going to be. He's being recruited in Australia and Europe, and he's ready to bail out. What he needs is not more temporary time."

Members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group of business executives spent Thursday lobbying Congress on high-skilled immigration and tax breaks for solar energy and research and development.

"This is no time to say to high-skilled workers in a global economy that we don't want you," said Barry Cinnamon, chief executive of Akeena Solar in Los Gatos. "We're happy to have that argument with anyone."

Feinstein's guest-worker program

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed a program designed to remedy a shortage of workers in California's produce fields. Here's how it would work:

-- Immigrant workers would have to prove they had worked on U.S. farms for at least 150 days or 863 hours or earned at least $17,000 over the past four years.

-- They would have to remain working in agriculture for the next five years.

-- The program would end after five years.

E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle