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Posts tagged ‘Center for Immigration Studies’

Immigrant Activists Push to Stop Deportations.

President Barack Obama’s surprise announcement last week that his administration would change its deportation policy to become more “humane” shows how the immigration battle has narrowed after months of congressional deadlock.

As recently as last year, immigrant rights activists, along with an unusually broad coalition of business, labor and religious groups, were united in their demand that Congress pass a sweeping bill to both remove the threat of deportation from many of the 11 million people here illegally and eventually make them citizens. But now activists just want to stop deportations.

They have pressured Obama to limit the number of people sent back overseas, which led to his administration’s announcement Thursday of a review of deportation policies after a meeting with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. Activists also are pushing state legislatures to end participation in a program to help federal immigration authorities deport people and chaining themselves across entrances to local jails or immigration detention centers.

“We need relief and we need it soon,” said Reyna Montoya, 23, of Phoenix, whose father is fighting deportation and who co-wrote an open letter with dozens of other young activists urging immigrant rights groups to stand down on the citizenship issue. “People who are directly affected just want peace. Later on they’ll worry about becoming citizens.”

Immigrant rights groups still want to win citizenship for many who are in the U.S. without legal permission. But the shift to deportation relief shows the desperation felt by immigrant communities as deportations have continued, even as the president and many in Congress say they support changing the law to allow some of those people to stay in the U.S.

It also represents the possible splintering of the diverse coalition for an immigration bill that would overhaul the system by expanding citizenship. And the more aggressive, confrontational tactics also raise the risk of a public backlash.

“One picture of a cop with a bloody nose and it’s all over for these people,” Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors greater restrictions on immigration, said of the activists.

The change comes after many expected Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year. Republicans have been torn between some in their base who want to step up deportations and others alarmed at how Hispanics, Asians and other fast-growing communities are increasingly leaning Democratic.

The Senate in June passed a bipartisan bill to legalize, and eventually grant citizenship to, many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. But the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Republican leaders there floated a proposal that could stop short of citizenship for many people here illegally. But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged it stood little chance of passing.

Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is on track to having deported 2 million people during the past six years. Critics say that’s more than President George W. Bush’s administration deported, though some who push for a tougher immigration policy argue the Obama administration’s numbers are inflated.

Obama already has eased some deportations. In 2012, as he was trying to generate enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for his re-election, Obama granted people who were brought to the country illegally as children the right to work in the United States and protection from deportation if they had graduated high school or served in the military. Advocates are pressuring the president to expand that to other people here illegally. The administration has said it cannot make sweeping changes without Congress, and it is unclear what steps it will take after its review is completed to limit deportations.

Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said it’s inevitable that Obama makes changes. “This is a White House that has told the immigrant rights community that they had to build up enforcement massively to create the political climate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Newman said. “Well, that gambit failed.”

Roy Beck of Numbers USA, which pushes for a more restrictive immigration policy, said expanding deportation relief could also fail. “It looks radical,” he said of the notion of sharply limiting removals.

Activists are willing to take that risk and have grown tired of waiting for Washington.

Late last year the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition’s members acknowledged there were no hopes of a big immigration bill anytime soon. They began pushing the local sheriff’s office to end its participation in the Secure Communities program, which checks the immigration status of anyone booked into local jail and refers people here illegally to federal authorities. Last month, six coalition members were arrested after locking themselves together to block entrance to the county jail.

“We decided we needed to change our focus because this is a more winnable campaign,” Executive Director Alejandro Laceres said. Of Congress, he added, “We don’t have the luxury of moving at their pace.”

In Arizona, activists have launched a series of protests, including blocking buses transporting immigrants to courts. “We just realized we are losing too many people in our community,” Carlos Garcia of the group Puente Arizona said in a telephone interview minutes before he was arrested outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Worries about whether their tactics could cause a backlash “go out the window,” he added. “Our heads hurt from thinking about the politics around it.”

At the state level, activists have had notable successes. The biggest victory came last year in California when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, barring California police from participating in Secure Communities. Immigrant rights groups are trying to replicate that legislation in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Driving the efforts are cases like that of Abel Bautista, who was stopped for traveling 8 miles per hour over the speed limit on a Colorado interstate in 2012 and has been fighting deportation ever since. At first he was not too worried, because he expected an immigration overhaul last year to make the case moot. Now he worries about the lack of legislative action and the trauma inflicted on his three U.S. citizen children as his case drags on.

“We’re just left hanging at loose ends,” Bautista said in an interview, recounting how his children’s performance at school has deteriorated and how they sob when he leaves for court hearings. “If the community unifies and has more demonstrations, maybe they will listen to us.”


© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Nearly 3,000 Illegal Immigrant Sex Offenders Released Under Court Order.

Some 2,837 illegal immigrants convicted of sexual offenses were recently cut loose from American jails to comply with a Supreme Court order that says immigrants cannot be held if their home countries refuse to take them back, according to The Washington Times. 

That was just a small percentage of the nearly 59,347 released from jail as of September of last year due to the court order. Since they could not be deported, they were released under some form of supervision, the Times reported.

The release information came from a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that also showed five percent of the sexual offenders released were not registered in local communities.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that immigration detention cannot be punitive, so if illegal immigrants can’t be deported they must be released back into American communities.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said immigration officials are not rigorous about monitoring sexual offenders released from jail.

“I’m surprised that only five percent of them are not properly registered,” Vaughan said.

The GAO report also suggested the court order made it more difficult to keep track of sexual offenders. “The risk that alien sex offenders will reside in U.S. communities without being registered is increased,” the GAO said.

The report also revealed that large numbers of convicted sex offenders that were deported simply turned around and came back to the United States, where they committed other offenses.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Audrey Hudson

Vacancies at DHS Could Impact Immigration Reform.

The Department of Homeland Security, the largest agency in the federal government, soon will have at least 15 vacancies in top posts once Secretary Janet Napolitano leaves in September.

Lawmakers are concerned not only about the departure of Napolitano, but also of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton and other directors of various immigration departments, according to The Washington Times.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas told the Times that Napolitano’s departure “is a substantial addition to the growing list of unfilled key leadership positions within the department, and the administration should move swiftly to fill the gaping holes in its management.”

But as Congress continues to work on overhauling the immigration system, Morton’s departure is drawing the most attention. Once he leaves, immigration-enforcement efforts will be without top leaders not only at ICE but also at Customs and Border Protection and at Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Frankly, it doesn’t matter what is in the [immigration] bill because there’s no one to enforce it,” Janice Kephart, a national-security researcher at the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies, told the Times.

Since his second term began in January, President Barack Obama reportedly has made only one DHS nomination for jobs that are to be confirmed by the Senate. Immigration and national-security experts worry that if Homeland Security vacancies are not filled soon, it could lead serious problems.

“If enough positions are open for a long enough period of time, it can lead to significant operational and management risks,” said Christian Beckner, deputy director of George Washington University’s nonpartisan Homeland Security Policy Institute. “I am afraid that the Department of Homeland Security is now at the point where it is facing these risks.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Lisa Barron

Left Bracing to Expand Immigration Reform Bill Even Further.

Carlos Gonzalez has lived nearly all his 29 years in a country he considers home but now finds himself on the wrong side of the border — and the wrong side of a proposed overhaul of the U.S. immigration system that would grant legal status to millions of people.

Gonzalez was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, from Santa Barbara in December, one of nearly 2 million removals from the United States since Barack Obama was first elected president.

“I have nobody here,” said Gonzalez, who serves breakfasts in a Tijuana migrant shelter while nursing a foot that fractured in 10 places when he jumped the border fence in a failed attempt to rejoin his mother, two brothers and extended family in California. “The United States is all I know.”

While a Senate bill introduced earlier this month would bring many of the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally out of the shadows, not everyone would benefit. They include anyone who arrived after Dec. 31, 2011, those with gay partners legally in the U.S., siblings of U.S. citizens and many deportees such as Gonzalez.

With net immigration from Mexico near zero, the number who came to the U.S. since January 2012 is believed to be relatively small, possibly a few hundred thousand. They include Isaac Jimenez, 45, who paid a smuggler $4,800 to guide him across the California desert in August to reunite with his wife and children in Fresno.

“My children are here, everything is here for me,” Jimenez said from Fresno. He lived in the U.S. illegally since 1998 and returned voluntarily to southern Mexico last year to see his mother before she died.

So far, advocates on the left have shown limited appetite to fight for expanded coverage as they brace for a tough battle in Congress. Some take aim at other provisions of the sweeping legislation, like a 13-year track to citizenship they consider too long and $4.5 billion for increased border security.

“It’s not going to include everybody,” said Laura Lichter, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It’s not perfect. I think you hear a lot of people saying, ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,’ and this is good.”

Peter Nunez, who supports restrictive policies as chairman of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, rates the bill an 8 or 9 on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most inclusive. He criticizes a measure that allows deportees without criminal histories to apply for permission to return if they have spouses or children in the U.S. legally, a step that supporters say would reunite families.

“I just don’t understand why we are going to basically undo a deportation,” said Nunez, a former U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Senate negotiators were more forgiving of criminal records than the Obama administration was when it granted temporary work permits last year to many who came to the U.S. as children. The administration disqualified anyone with a single misdemeanor conviction of driving under the influence, domestic violence, drug dealing or certain other crimes. The Senate bill says only that three misdemeanors or a single felony make someone ineligible.

Deportations topped 400,000 in fiscal 2012, more than double from seven years earlier, sending Mexicans to border cities like Tijuana where they often struggle to find work. The Padre Chava migrant shelter serves breakfast to 1,100 people daily in a bright yellow building that opened three years ago because it outgrew its old quarters. Director Ernesto Hernandez estimates 75 percent are deported.

“Many come wearing sneakers that cost hundreds of dollars and nothing in their pockets,” Hernandez said.

About 10 percent of the shelter’s deportees speak little or no Spanish, including Salvador Herrera IV, 28, who came to the U.S. when he was 2 in the back seat of a car and grew up skateboarding and playing basketball in Long Beach. With a conviction for grand theft auto putting his legal status out of the question, he is considering paying $8,000 for someone else’s identity documents to try to return illegally to Southern California.

“I’m basically American,” he said. “I’m a beach boy. I do American stuff.”

Many at the shelter have convictions for DUI or domestic violence, said Hernandez, reflecting the Obama administration’s priority to target anyone with criminal records for deportation.

Gonzalez was arrested in Santa Barbara on suspicion of disorderly conduct, landing him in Tijuana for New Year‘s Eve. He said he had several misdemeanor convictions, including a DUI, which he committed shortly after turning 18.

“That’s when you party a lot and you think it’s not going to matter,” he said.

Gonzalez was born in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, and came to the U.S. by plane when he was 2 years old, never leaving Santa Barbara. After graduating from Santa Barbara High School in 2002, he took automotive classes at community college, worked about four years at a Jiffy Lube outlet and held jobs as a mechanic, gardener and telemarketer in the picturesque California coastal city of 90,000 people.

Gonzalez doesn’t know where he will settle after his foot heals. His family helped with more than $3,000 in medical expenses, including a metal rod that holds a toe together.

He may try to find an aunt in Cuernavaca but doesn’t have her phone number or address.

“I never thought I would be in this predicament,” he said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Low-Skill Visas Could Derail Immigration Reform.

A dispute between business and labor over the number of visas available for low-skilled workers is threatening to derail immigration reform in the Senate.

A key bipartisan group of eight senators said earlier this week that they had resolved issues between business and labor and only needed to finalize the details of the bill’s language.

The “Gang of 8” had hoped to roll out their bill when Congress returns to session next week. However, business groups — led by the construction industry — are now hedging over the number of work visas that would be available in the agreement.

“Capping the amount of visas for the construction industry at only 15,000 in an industry that currently employs nearly 6 million workers is simply unrealistic and destined to fail,” a coalition of builders’ groups said in a statement.

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“A guest worker program that fails to provide a sufficient number of visas to meet market demand as the construction sector recovers will inevitably make it harder to fill critical labor openings and make it impossible to secure the border.”

Labor unions, on the other hand, are optimistic in their success at capping the total number of low-skilled foreign work visas at 200,000. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement that a “new visa program is only a small part of our campaign to build a common sense immigration system.”

Such differences could stand in the way of a bill even being introduced in the Senate next week, a leading think tank opposed to increasing the number of work visas tells Newsmax.

“This is not some peripheral part of the bill,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It is very important.”

“This is one of the many time bombs in the process that could go off and blow the whole thing up,” he said.

A national employer advocacy group called the Gang of 8’s progress promising, but criticized the “outsized” role of the unions in the process and the limited number of work visas.

“The Republican senators in the Gang of Eight did the best they could under the circumstances,” said Immigration Works USA President Tamar Jacoby. “But the deal is skewed by union demands — and several of its most ingenious, most thoughtful elements will not work as intended on the ground, primarily because the program is too small.”

“The stakes could hardly be higher. Without a workable temporary visa program, the nation can have no hope of ending illegal immigration,” Jacoby said.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent

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