The Obama administration has unveiled several key decisions aimed at bolstering ties to the immigration reform community as the president’s campaign has stepped up efforts to woo Latino voters ahead of the 2012 elections.
The moves come as Republican presidential contenders have begun staking out positions on immigration, making it a focal point of political attacks leading into the South Carolina and Florida primary elections.
Latino and immigration reform groups have heavily criticized President Obama for not doing enough to overhaul the country’s immigration system to provide a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.
The groups, on and off Capitol Hill, have stressed that the same Latino voters who helped bring Obama into office in 2008 are not a sure bet for him in 2012. As Republicans begin to attack the president on his immigration record, Obama will be forced to highlight the steps he’s taken to improve the immigration process.
In a strong nod to Latino groups this week, Obama appointed Cecilia Munoz, the former senior vice president at the National Council of La Raza — the largest U.S. Latino civil rights and advocacy group — to be the director of the Domestic Policy Council where she’ll help shape the president’s domestic policy on immigration, education, health care and energy issues.
And last week, the administration proposed a long-awaited and greatly sought rule change that would fast track certain visa applications, lessening the time U.S. citizens are separated from their families who are required to remain outside the country while their immigrant visas are being considered.
On Thursday, the research and data-gathering Immigration Policy Center released an extensive report detailing the vast contributions of immigrants to the U.S. The enlightening report titled “Strength in Diversity” breaks down by each state the information gathered and also makes important nationwide conclusions.
Nationally, the IPC estimates that 12.5 percent of U.S.-Americans are immigrants, rising steadily from 7.9 percent in 1990. In total, there are over 40 million immigrants in the U.S. today. Former Mexicans make up the largest segment of this country’s immigrant population at nearly 30 percent. The vast majority of U.S. immigrants are authorized residents, with just 28 percent undocumented. And the report estimates that at least 4.5 million native born U.S. citizen minors in this country have at least one undocumented parent.
In addition, the statistics gathered by the IPC demonstrate the tremendous economic and political contributions made by immigrants to this country. Ten percent of all registered voters in the U.S. are naturalized immigrants or the U.S. citizen children of immigrants. More than 15 percent of all U.S. workers are foreign born, including 40 percent of our nation’s farming, fishing and forestry work force. And households headed by undocumented immigrants annually pay $11.2 billion in state and federal taxes. The IPC concludes that if the nation’s undocumented population were to be completely expelled, the U.S. would lose $551.6 billion in economic activity, $245 billion in gross domestic product and 2.8 million jobs.
In Arizona, specifically, the IPC estimates that 13.4 percent of the state’s population or 856,663 state residents are immigrants. This is up from 7.6 percent in 1990.
The POLITICO article “Obama: We Can’t Wait on Immigration” (Jan. 6) suggests that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announcement of streamlined processing for certain immigration waivers is part of a “war on GOP members of Congress.”
This is an unfortunate characterization of a long-overdue regulatory change. It is designed to correct a decade-long problem that has unnecessarily separated families and caused undue hardship to thousands of U.S. citizens and their loved ones.
The proposed rule would permit “in-country processing” of family unity waivers. This changes regulations that now require applicants to leave the country before they can apply for a waiver.
The current system has become increasingly burdensome, because of processing backlogs, uncertainty of outcomes and violence in key U.S. consulates, such as the one in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It creates unnecessary hardship for applicants who are eligible to receive a legal status but must first obtain a family unity waiver.
This waiver can now only be obtained abroad. But leaving the U.S. may trigger a bar of three years to 10 years if the applicant has been unlawfully present.
Many applicants fear that they might be permanently separated from their families and so never apply to become lawful permanent residents. Though applicants would still have to depart the U.S., under the new proposal they would do so knowing that their waiver had been provisionally approved — reducing waiting time and hardship for all.
All members of Congress — Republican or Democrat — have likely seen the compelling cases raised by the three year-to-10 year bar problem. Resolving it is not a partisan issue. It is instead an example of immigration service acting responsibly to address a problem of its own regulatory making.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last week, the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review in federal court in Seattle. The lawsuit alleges widespread problems with the asylum “clock”—the system that the government uses to determine when immigrants with pending asylum applications become eligible to obtain work authorization in the United States. The class certification motion describes the nationwide impact of these policies.
The complaint, co-filed with the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project, Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, was submitted on behalf of untold numbers of asylum applicants wrongfully denied work authorization due to unlawful agency policies and practices. The named plaintiffs include asylum seekers who have pursued their cases for years without work authorization—including a man from China who initially filed his asylum application in 2003.
With limited exceptions, federal law requires USCIS to grant work authorization to any person with an asylum application pending for 180 days. In calculating this period, however, USCIS relies on determinations made by immigration judges who work for EOIR. As a result, arbitrary EOIR policies on when the “clock” should start and stop—combined with growing backlogs in U.S. immigration courts—have unlawfully prevented asylum seekers from working. The suit alleges these policies violate the Constitution, federal statutes, and governing regulations.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Already known as a refuge for people from other lands, New Haven is tightening its embrace of newcomers as its mayor seeks to extend voting rights to illegal immigrants and other noncitizens, a policy challenge that comes shortly after attacks on "sanctuary cities" by Republican presidential candidates.
The Democratic mayor, John DeStefano, helped illegal immigrants come out of the shadows four years ago when he launched a first-of-its-kind program to give them city resident cards. Despite crackdowns elsewhere, he has forged ahead with proposals that he says are designed to find common ground in a diverse city.
"We're a place of differences," he said. "We're a place that sees a strength and places a value on welcoming folks from all over."
Dozens of American cities including New York, San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., take a hands-off approach to pursuing illegal immigrants. While advocates say they are rightly distancing themselves from a broken immigration system, critics accuse them of flouting federal law as "sanctuary cities" — a label not all of them accept.
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has vowed to cut off federal funding for such cities. One of his rivals, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, pushed a bill this year that would have prohibited cities from acting as "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants and allowed local law enforcement to become more involved in immigration enforcement. Mitt Romney has said he opposed sanctuary cities as Massachusetts governor and, as president, he would "find the right approach" to ending them if legally possible.
President Barack Obama has resisted calls from some Republicans to crack down on sanctuary cities. As a Democratic candidate in 2007, he said the U.S. government should address the issue by providing a rational immigration system, not by withdrawing funds from cities that shelter noncitizens.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Already known as a refuge for people from other lands, New Haven and its mayor are seeking to extend voting rights to illegal immigrants and other noncitizens.
Mayor John DeStefano, a Democrat, introduced four years ago a first-of-its-kind program to give noncitizens, legal or not, city resident cards. Despite crackdowns elsewhere, he has forged ahead with proposals that he says encourage differences.
“We’re a place of differences,” he said. “We’re a place that sees a strength and places a value on welcoming folks from all over.”
Dozens of American cities including New York, San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., take a hands-off approach to pursuing illegal immigrants. While advocates say they are distancing themselves from a broken immigration system, critics accuse them of flouting federal law as “sanctuary cities.”
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has vowed to cut off federal funding for such cities. Texas Gov. Rick Perry pushed a bill this year that would have prohibited cities from acting as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants and get local law enforcement more involved in immigration enforcement. Mitt Romney has said he opposed sanctuary cities as Massachusetts governor and, as president, he would “find the right approach” to ending them if legally possible.
President Obama has resisted calls from some Republicans to crack down on sanctuary cities. As a Democratic candidate in 2007, he said the U.S. government should address the issue by providing a rational immigration system, not by withdrawing funds from such cities.
Last night, Stephen Colbert gave a shout out to the Immigration Policy Center's blog in a segment called "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger." Steven Colbert gave a shout out (video below), in his own unique way, to the IPC for lifting up the problems with the original definition of “anchor baby” released in the latest edition of the American Heritage dictionary.
What does a tenure “anchor baby” mean? If we were to demeanour it up in a American Heritage Dictionary, we would find a new definition given final week.
The tenure was among some 10,000 new difference and phrases in the fifth book of a dictionary, published in November. It was defined as: “A child innate to a noncitizen mom in a nation that grants involuntary citizenship to children innate on a soil, especially such a child innate to relatives seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and mostly other members of their family.”
But when Steve Kleinedler, a executive editor of the dictionary, review that clarification during a radio talk last month, it uneasy Mary Giovagnoli, a executive of a Immigration Policy Center, a pro-immigration investigate organisation in Washington.
The once-obscure tenure has been used frequently in a recent debate over either to change a Constitution to repudiate automatic U.S. citizenship to children innate in this nation to illegal immigrant parents.
Last Friday morning, Giovagnoli posted an indignant object on the center’s blog, observant a compendium “masks a unwholesome and derogatory inlet of a term, a tenure that demeans both primogenitor and child.”
On Monday, a compendium posted a new definition. It started with “offensive,” in italics: “Used as a adverse tenure for a child innate to a noncitizen mom in a nation that grants automatic citizenship to children innate on a soil, generally when the child’s hearth is suspicion to have been selected in sequence to improve a mother’s or other relatives’ chances of securing eventual citizenship.”
Kleinedler said, “The tenure is now treated likewise to how the dictionary treats a far-reaching operation of slurs.”
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: In October, the U.S. Department of Justice challenged South Carolina's immigration law in federal court, charging that parts of the law are "unconstitutional and interfere with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy."
In April, the Justice Department succeeded in blocking some provisions of the newly enacted Arizona immigration law, and in October, some of Alabama's controversial provisions were temporarily blocked. Last month, the federal government sued Utah.
"A patchwork of immigration laws is not the answer and will only create further problems in our immigration system," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Nov. 22. "The federal government is the chief enforcer of immigration laws, and while we appreciate cooperation from states, which remains important, it is clearly unconstitutional for a state to set its own immigration policy."
South Carolina officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley, echoing the concerns of leaders in other states, say that local authorities cannot wait any more for the federal government to institute comprehensive immigration reform and must act now to secure borders and protect citizens and legal residents.
"If the Feds were doing their job, we wouldn't have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said recently.
The Obama administration has ramped up deportation actions.
About 1.1 million illegal immigrants have been deported since the beginning of 2009, and the Department of Homeland Security is dealing with a backlog of about 300,000 cases. By comparison, a total of 1.57 million were deported during President George W. Bush's two terms.
A decision by the American Heritage Dictionary to revise its definition of "anchor baby" -- labeling it an offensive and disparaging term -- is an attempt to manipulate the "linguistic landscape" and push a leftist agenda, some opponents of illegal immigration say.
"Anchor baby" was among roughly 10,000 words -- including "hoodie" and "babydaddy" -- added to the dictionary's fifth edition last month. The hot-button term, a noun, was initially defined as: "A child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially such a child born to parents seeking to secure eventual citizenship for themselves and often other members of their family."
That definition caught the attention of Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center, who heard American Heritage Dictionary executive editor Steve Kleinedler read it during a radio interview last month. Giovagnoli blasted the definition on the organization's blog last Friday, saying it masked the "poisonous and derogatory" nature of the term.
By Monday, the term had been changed. It is now defined as such: "Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a child born to a noncitizen mother in a country that grants automatic citizenship to children born on its soil, especially when the child's birthplace is thought to have been chosen in order to improve the mother's or other relatives' chances of securing eventual citizenship."
The revision is now a "well-crafted" definition of how the term is used, Giovagnoli said.
But not everyone agrees.
"That's a political statement and it's not even accurate," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. "[An anchor baby] is a child born to an illegal immigrant."
Krikorian said the revised definition makes a political statement and is much more than neutral, "just the facts" reference material.