immigration reform

  • June 3, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Immigrant families in California garnered a victory recently, when U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of California Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted a preliminary injunction in the case of Preap v. Holder

    The case, brought by Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Asian Law Caucus, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and Keker & Van Nest LLP Partner Jon B. Streeter, seeks to halt the federal government’s ongoing practice of holding undocumented immigrants, often for minor infractions, for months as they begin the deportation proceedings. In most cases the immigrants do not pose a flight risk, have ties to their communities and are raising families.

    Holding these immigrants without bond denies them the ability to mount their defense in deportation cases. The practice also rips families apart, leaving children with one less parent and often leaving family members to raise children without the detainee’s income. The rule of law is quite literally hurting children and families.

    Streeter said, “This case has the power to stop the federal government’s outrageous process of holding people without bond. We are now one step closer to ensuring those who aspire to be citizens are treated fairly before the law.”

    Judge Rogers’ injunction comes at a critical time in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. Last summer the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill. House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), however, refuse to allow the bill to come up for a vote, insisting they would only consider piecemeal actions instead of the Senate bill. Meanwhile, 11 million otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants in the United States are denied the chance at a path toward citizenship.

    Without comprehensive immigration reform, our nation’s immigrants face ongoing risk of arrest and detention for simply being who they are in the country they call home. They depend on victories like the one issued by Judge Rogers, not to get by, but to get through another day.

  • April 25, 2014

    by Charles Withers

    In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on Republicans and Democrats alike to “fix our broken immigration system.” Now, ten months since the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, it remains unlikely that the House of Representatives will follow suit. Meanwhile, amid Congress’ cantankerous political environment, immigration reformers are urging the president to use his executive authority to reduce deportations. In a memo released Monday, The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization called on the White House to address the “urgent needs of workers and immigrant communities” and to “stop sweeping individuals into the deportation pipeline.” While the AFL-CIO’s recommendations speak to a growing demand for federal involvement, many are looking instead to state governments for meaningful immigration reform.

    ACS and the Center for American Progress recently hosted a panel of immigration experts to discuss U.S. immigration policy and how state and local efforts are addressing the needs of undocumented persons. Some panelists suggested that a narrow focus on the federal courts and legislatures ultimately limits the overall effectiveness of immigration reform. 

    Moderated by CAP’s Vice President of Immigration Policy, Angela Maria Kelley, the discussion focused on key issues facing immigrant communities today, including onerous laws such as the infamous racial profiling law that Arizona enacted in 2010. Karthick Ramakrishnan, an associate professor of political science at UC Riverside who co-wrote an ACS Issue brief with fellow panelist Pratheepan Gulasekaram, refers to the bill’s architect, Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, as a restrictionist issue entrepreneur -- someone who “offers restrictive laws as pre-packaged solutions in search of immigration problems.” Kobach’s blueprint for anti-immigration policy inspired similar “copycat” legislation which extended the law’s detrimental effects to Alabama, Indiana, Georgia, Utah and South Carolina. According to Ramakrishnan and Gulasekaram, issue entrepreneurs like Kobach “played a two level game very effectively,”  manipulating immigration reform at the national level and then using the diminished federal action to empower support for state-funded anti-immigrant policies.

  • April 7, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Nationwide fasts of immigration reform supporters that started last year will culminate this week after a 48-hour fast in Washington, D.C. SEIU, We Belong Together and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) have coordinated the fasts and will bring 100 women together in D.C. to cap the nationwide movement.

    Thousands of supporters have participated in the fasts and last month, renowned immigrant rights leader Eilseo Medina was arrested while trying to visit Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart at his Miami office to deliver the groups' messages about immigration reform. Medina was released from a Miami jail on March 22.

    After the 48-hour-fast on April 9, the groups will share stories from across the country of people supporting immigration reform with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, urging them to pass comprehensive immigration reform and to stop deportations of undocumented persons. (In a lengthy piece from The New York Times government records show that the Obama administration has been deporting far more undocumented immigrants because of minor offenses than it has stated. The Times' analysis reveals that since Obama “took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people with who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”)

    Last summer the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill containing a path toward citizenship for a large portion of the country's more than 11 million undocumented people. But House leaders have continued to argue they would consider piecemeal actions instead of the Senate bill.  

    In an April post for SEIU blog, Sylvia Ruiz, wrote, “We want to meet with Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor on April 9 to share the stories we have gathered from across the country from people of faith, businessmen and women, immigrants, community members and constituents who are all supporting reform.”

    Those leaders, Ruiz continued, “have the rare opportunity to end the pain and suffering of millions of people that is caused by our broken immigration system. These two individuals are responsible for setting the House voting schedule. If they call for a vote on immigration reform, that vote will happen, and the House and Senate will finally be moving forward to fix a system that has needed fixing for years.”

    More information on the events of Fast for Families is here. A recent ACS event explored some positive actions a few states are taking to make the lives of undocumented persons easier as they seek citizenship.

  • August 23, 2013
    Guest Post

    By Joseph Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. This post is part of an ACSblog symposium on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

    The UFCW is proud to stand with our brothers and sisters from across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Fifty years ago on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  The march, organized largely by civil rights and labor leaders to promote freedom, economic equality and jobs, was one of the most important events in U.S. history and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    In spite of the advances we have made over the last 50 years -- including the election of our first African American president -- thefight for social and economic justice continues.  The Great Recession has widened the gap between the rich and poor, and the very concept of the American Dream -- namely that hard work pays off and the next generation will do better than the current one -- is in jeopardy.

    The African American and Latino communities, in particular, have been hit the hardest by the recent economic downturn, and the unemployment rate among African Americans continues to register in the double digits. Comprehensive immigration reform has not yet been realized, and our current system penalizes too many people whose only crime is trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Minority communities have also been the targets of voter suppression, and the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down key parts of the Voting Rights Act will undermine their access to the ballot.

  • June 27, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    While the Senate’s passage of a comprehensive immigration bill may or may not be historic, it’s certainly remarkable. In an era of hyper-partisanship, it is far easier for the Senate to block action -- unless it’s approval of secret surveillance measures -- than it is to pass meaningful legislation or save the nation from outrageous cuts to social safety net and educational programs.

    But for today 14 Republican senators joined 54 Democrats to pass the expansive measure that provides a 13-year long path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in the country, provided stringent enforcement mechanisms are in place. The New York Times provides some highlights of the Senate measure that was approved 68 – 32 late this afternoon. Tens of millions are allotted for enforcement measures, such as 20,000 more Border Patrol agents and “700 miles of fencing along the southern border.” Only after the enforcement measures are in place will undocumented immigrants be allowed to start on the lengthy path to citizenship.

    Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) lauded the immigration bill, saying it honors “our American values.” He said the immigration measure would help “address a complex problem that is hurting our families, stifling our economy and threatening our security.”

    The National Council of La Raza also praised the Senate measure and called today’s vote a “milestone.” But the group’s President and CEO Janet Murguia also noted that like many compromise measures this one “included painful concessions and certainly puts our enforcement-heavy immigration policy into overdrive. But it finally acknowledges that restoring the rule of law requires a legal immigration system that takes the legitimate traffic out of the black market, allows immigrants to arrive with visas rather than with smugglers and enables immigrants who are working and raising families in the U.S. to come forward, go through criminal background checks, get in the system and get on the books.”

    But the bill is nowhere near President Obama’s desk. The House of Representatives controlled by a Republican Party devoted largely to gridlock is unlikely to prove helpful. Reporting for TPM, Brian Beutler noted that House Speaker John Boehner said the House has no interest in passing a comprehensive measure, let alone the one the Senate just approved. “The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” Boehner said. “We’re going to do our own bill through regular order, and there’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people. For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.”