Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

CNN – Dec. 29, 2011 – Obama administration sets up new hotline for immigration detainees – CNN.com

Obama administration sets up new hotline for immigration detainees – CNN.com.

updated 9:19 PM EST, Thu December 29, 2011
 An undocumented Guatemalan immigrant, chained for being charged as a criminal, prepares to board a deportation flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 24 in Mesa, Arizona.
An undocumented Guatemalan immigrant, chained for being charged as a criminal, prepares to board a deportation flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 24 in Mesa, Arizona.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new federal hotline is set up for immigration detainees
  • The line is for detainees who “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime”
  • Meanwhile, new immigration laws are set to go into effect in some states on January 1
  • The new laws require businesses to verify immigration status of workers

(CNN) — In the latest volley between the federal government and states pushing anti-illegal-immigration laws, the Obama administration announced Thursday it was establishing a new hotline for immigration detainees who feel they “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime.”

The 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week hotline is part of a “broader effort to improve our immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, (on) repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives while continuing to strengthen oversight of the nation’s immigration detention system and facilitate legal immigration,” a news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

The new measure was launched by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure detained individuals “are made aware of their rights” or “properly notified about their potential removal from the country,” according to the release. The hotline number is 855-448-6903.

A new “detainer” form — which includes Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese translations — also is part of the new policy. The detainer — or notice to detain — form is official paperwork giving law enforcement the authority to hold a person in custody for a time.

Administration to lower number of troops on Southwest border

“The new form allows ICE to make the detainer operative only upon the individual’s conviction of the offense for which he or she was arrested,” the release said.

Immigration rights advocates told CNN there “has long been a need for more accountability and oversight of the issuance of immigration detainers.”

“The ACLU and other advocates identified four native-born U.S. citizens who were held unlawfully in custody through immigration detainers in Los Angeles County. One of these citizens was held for two days because of an immigration detainer despite repeatedly telling officers that he was a U.S. citizen,” Laura Vazquez, immigration legislative analyst for the National Council of La Raza, told CNN in a statement. The council is a national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.

CNN attempted to get reaction on the new policy from the attorneys general in Alabama and Arizona — two states viewed as having among the most strict immigration reform laws — but were unsuccessful. An official in the Alabama attorney general’s office said Thursday officials had no comment.

The move by DHS comes just before the beginning of the new year, when new immigration laws in Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia will require businesses to enroll in the federal E-Verify program to ensure employees are eligible to work in the United States, according National Conference of State Legislatures.

E-Verify is a controversial program designed to check a prospective employee’s citizenship or immigration status.

Supporters say it helps businesses avoid unintentionally hiring illegal immigrants. Critics complain that it is expensive to operate, pushes undocumented workers further underground, and is not always accurate.

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December 5, 2011

Farm Press – 12/2/11 – State legislatures create problems with strict immigration reforms | Farm Press Blog

State legislatures create problems with strict immigration reforms | Farm Press Blog.

• In a nation that was built with immigrant labor, some of our states are now viewed as being openly hostile to the entire concept of immigration.

With the issue of migrant farm labor hitting a fever-pitch in the Southeast — especially in states like Alabama and Georgia — it might be a good time to take a step back and consider the contributions of immigrants to American agriculture.

In a recent article in The New Yorker magazine about authentic Southern cooking, writer Burkhard Bilger makes the interesting point that the nineteenth century was a great “Age of Experiment” in American agriculture.

“Three-hundred years of immigration had brought over every conceivable crop — rice from China, quinoa from South America, groundnuts from Africa — and farmers found ways to grow them all,” writes Bilger.

In this same article, David Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina, says there was a “frenzy” of agricultural research at the time. “They took the carrot culture of Flanders, the turnip culture of Germany, the beet culture of France, and they tweaked them to create this extraordinary myriad of vegetables and grains,” says Shields.

This “extraordinary myriad” is what has given us the rich diversity of crops that we enjoy today. Yet, even as we consider such contributions, in a nation that was built with immigrant labor, some of our states are now viewed as being openly hostile to the entire concept of immigration.

The troublesome trend started in Arizona, where lawmakers were convinced they could do a better job than the federal government of keeping out undocumented immigrants. Georgia and Alabama followed suit, and Florida might consider its own version of “immigration reform” in 2012.

So far, the results of these state laws have been disastrous, and you can read more about it in the pages of this issue of Southeast Farm Press. Such “reforms” have been especially harmful to farmers, more specifically vegetable and fruit producers who rely heavily on immigrant labor to complete their harvest each year.

The reasoning from lawmakers was that these were “job” bills; that illegal immigrants were taking jobs away from U.S. citizens and that stricter enforcement would help to lower the unemployment rate. Either these legislators did not do a thorough-enough job of researching the issue or they simply ignored the facts.

The data is plentiful showing that immigrants typically do the work that Americans won’t do, such as picking vegetables from a field. This was proven dramatically in Georgia and Alabama, where crops rotted in the fields because there was no one to harvest them. And unemployment rates actually have risen in both states since the enactment of the laws.

But rather than admit they might have reached too far with these new laws, state officials have offered outlandish proposals to help remedy the problems they’ve created. In Georgia, it was suggested that perhaps recent prison parolees could perform farm labor, but many of them didn’t stay on the job for even one full day. Not to be outdone, Alabama has floated the idea of current prison inmates working in farmers’ fields.

We can all agree that illegal immigration is a problem in this country, but immigration reform on the level attempted by Arizona, Alabama and Georgia is not the answer. As is many times the case, these laws are the actions of politicians who were eager to act on a divisive issue, and who didn’t give a thought to what the repercussions might be.

And then there’s the problem of perception. I don’t have much faith in my elected officials these days, but I do believe they’re honorable enough men and women that they wouldn’t enact any law based on racial bias. But that’s not how the outside world is viewing the events of recent months.

For proof, just take a look at this recent headline of an editorial in The New York Times: “Standing in the Schoolhouse Door.” The article goes on to equate Alabama’s recent immigration law with the civil rights injustices of the 1960s.

You can reasonably ask the question of why we should give a damn what people in New York think about us. But national and international perception does matter, and it could do irreparable harm to our ability to attract new industry in the future.

In Alabama and Georgia, where draconian cuts continue to be made in state budgets, it’s beyond preposterous that our scarce tax dollars are now being used to fight appeals of these immigration laws in federal courts.

phollis@farmpress.com

December 2, 2011

CSMonitor – 12/1/11 – Illegal immigration: Are Obama deportations truly aimed at ‘criminals’? – CSMonitor.com

Illegal immigration: Are Obama deportations truly aimed at ‘criminals’? – CSMonitor.com.

 

US says it deported a record 216,000 ‘criminal aliens’ in fiscal 2011, but immigration court statistics show a drop in criminal deportation proceedings from the Bush years. How do those square?

 

By Patrik JonssonStaff writer / December 1, 2011

 

County Sheriff deputies in Mesa, Ariz., arrested six workers at a dry cleaners during an immigration raid in April. Federal officials are concentrating on criminal illegal aliens, they say.

Michael Brannock

 

 

Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken is openly questioning the forthrightness of the Obama administration these days.

 

He knows the Obama administration is in a tough spot. Congress is refusing to take up immigration reform, and the president is being squeezed between Republicans who claim he is soft on border crossers and Hispanics who say he has not done enough to resolve the status of longtime illegal immigrants.

Yet it is the administration’s response that has left Mr. Kolken suggesting that the government “is not being truthful.” Immigration officials say they are cutting a “common sense” middle path – ramping up deportations of criminal illegal immigrants but also granting prosecutors discretion to have compassion on law-abiding illegal workers who have close ties to the United States.

Statistics from an independent clearinghouse for federal data, however, appear to contradict some of the government’s claims. Moreover, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in New York says the administration has been hesitant to release details behind a record 400,000 deportations in the past year.

The result has been growing concern among critics on the left and right that the Obama administration is playing politics – holding back data that might upset the Hispanic community, which is seen as crucial to the president’s reelection prospects. Obama officials refute that assertion, but Kolken, for one, is skeptical.

“What I have seen coming out of TRAC, this administration is not being truthful with regards to the data they’re releasing, or at least with regard to the public-relations spin they’re putting on policies,” says Kolken, who works in Buffalo, N.Y. “Every time they say something, TRAC looks at the cold, hard data, and it contradicts the press releases. It’s a repeating pattern.”

So far, the Obama administration has been bold and specific in its assertions. The Department of Homeland Security “has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives, and recent entrants,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said in an e-mail.

As a result, Immi­gra­tion and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed a record 216,000 criminal illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011 – “an 89 percent increase over 2008,” Mr. Chandler added.

In May, President Obama told an audience in El Paso, Texas, that the focus was on “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.”

The problem is that immigration court statistics obtained by TRAC show that actual criminal deportation proceedings have dropped below Bush administration levels. So how are deportations of criminal aliens up 89 percent over 2008?

That’s the unresolved question.

 

While DHS says it’s counting deportations of people with past criminal convictions, TRAC can’t get access to detailed case data that would show whether deportees really are serious criminals or people with minor infractions that in the past may not have led to a deportation order. In other words, without more transparency, it’s not clear whether the Obama administration is bolstering its claim of focusing on “the worst of the worst” by including in its data the very immigrants whom the White House insists it’s not targeting.

“There are really an enormous amount of questions about what is actually going on, and it’s very discouraging when law enforcement agencies, despite all the talk about transparency, are not providing data that they are collecting – data that ­everybody really needs to have to decide the very, very complicated policy issues that the country is facing,” says Susan Long, director of TRAC, which tracks federal data through the Freedom of Information Act.

A DHS spokesman replied that agency officials spoke with TRAC on Nov. 11 about how to resolve how ICE tracks statistics. He also noted that the sheer volume of information requests may mean response delays, but to assume that those delays constitute a lack of transparency is “simply inaccurate.”

While the criminal-alien data remain in question, however, there is a more solid verdict on what impact prosecutorial discretion has had on deportations.

ICE Director John Morton announced the policy shift in June, and the administration on Nov. 17 also began a training program to show immigration agents how to block deportation cases against some noncriminal illegal immigrants.

But so far, it may not have protected many of those “just looking to scrape together an income.”

“The overwhelming conclusion is that most ICE offices have not changed their practices since the issuance of these new directives,” states a November study of 252 immigration cases by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

That’s due, in large part, to the culture of ICE, experts say. The ICE union has attacked the prosecutorial discretion policy, saying it undermines the focus on law and order.

Taking on ICE could boost Mr. Obama’s 2012 prospects among Hispanics, says Allert Brown-Gort, director of the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame University in Indiana. “Though he didn’t pull out immigration reform … serious prosecutorial discretion is the next best thing he can do,” he says.

In the meantime, detailed immigration data could be damaging. The Obama administration “is basically letting ambiguity be its friend,” says Professor Brown-Gort. “One of the reasons why the administration is being less than forthcoming is because they’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

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December 2, 2011

AJC – 12/1/11 – UGA Council opposes regents’ illegal immigrant policy | ajc.com

UGA Council opposes regents’ illegal immigrant policy  | ajc.com.

 

Georgia Politics 5:27 p.m. Thursday, December 1, 2011

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Some University of Georgia faculty called a policy barring illegal immigrants from the state’s most selective public colleges “a step toward re-segregation,” and the University Council urged state leaders to rescind the ban Thursday.

UGA President Michael Adams said he will share the council’s resolution with the State Board of Regents, but he stressed the university will continue to follow the policy. The regents have stood by the rules when questioned.

The policy forbids illegal immigrants from attending any campus that has turned away academically qualified students the past two years. The rule went into effect this fall and applies to UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College and State University.

The University Council is made up of faculty and administrators who advise Adams on policies concerning academics and other issues. The council’s vote was a symbolic stance by the state’s largest public university and follows an earlier resolution the student government passed urging the regents to reverse the policy.

The regents approved the ban after months of public debate over fears that illegal immigrant students take seats away from lawful residents. Illegal immigrants may attend the other 30 colleges in the University System of Georgia, provided they pay out-of-state tuition.

Lawmakers filed a bill last year to bar these students from all public colleges, but it didn’t pass either chamber of the Legislature.

Alabama and South Carolina bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges. A dozen states grant them admission and in-state tuition if they are trying to earn legal status.

December 2, 2011

Athens Patch – 12/1/11 – University Council May Consider Immigration Issues – Athens, GA Patch

http://athens.patch.com/articles/university-council-votes-on-immigration-issues

University Council May Consider Immigration Issues

Various colleges have passed resolutions in favor of undocumented high schoolers.

By Rebecca McCarthy

December 1, 2011

The agenda for today’s University Council meeting includes what could become a controversial item. It’s a resolution asking the State Board of Regents to rescind the policy excluding undocumented high school graduates from applying to UGA.

“Our mission is to educate the population of Georgia. and the issue of legal status isn’t part of our mission,” says Dana Bultman. “Determining whether someone is authorized to be here isn’t part of our mission. You could conceivably have a high school valedictorian who couldn’t apply to UGA, and that bothered peope.”

UGA has an admissions policy that grants undergraduate admission to valedictorians from accredited Georgia high schools. According to the Admissions Office website, the valedictorian must also meet “all Board of Regents requirements,” which would include legal status.

Bultman teaches Spanish Rennaisance literature in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’s Romance Languages Department. She said the college’s Faculty Senate voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for the policy to be rescinded.

“At the university, we have a non-discrimination policy, and this is clearly discrimination,” she says.

At today’s meeting, a representative from the UGA Student Govenrment Association will also present a similar resolution that members adopted. The College of Education also followed suit.

The Regents policy also pertains to other schools in the university system.These include Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia College and State University and the Georgia Health Sciences University (former known as the Medical College of Georgia).

A petition that circulated around the UGA campus called the move a step toward the “re-segregation” of Georgia schools.

Composed of representatives from each of UGA’s 14 colleges and schools, the University Council meets today at 3:30 in the Tate Center’s Grand Hall.

via University Council May Consider Immigration Issues – Athens, GA Patch.

December 2, 2011

GPB – 12/1/11 – Campaign Energizes Latino Voters

Campaign Energizes Latino Voters.

Thu., December 1, 2011 4:48pm (EST)

By Jeanne Bonner

 

ATLANTA  —

A statewide Latino organization is launching a campaign to increase voter registration and turnout. And organizers say opposition to Georgia’s new immigration law will bring out Hispanic voters for next year’s state and federal elections.

As part of the campaign, Latinos already registered to vote will pledge to enroll 10 new voters.

As of 2009, there were about 150,000 registered Latino voters in Georgia.

Jerry Gonzalez heads the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. He says he hopes the campaign will push the number above 200,000.

And to that end, he plans to score Georgia legislators on how they voted on the immigration law, known as HB 87.

“The scorecard is going to be based on the final vote on HB87 and we will identify on a county level which elected officials voted for it and who voted against it,” he said.

But it’s unclear how it will affect the 2012 election.

Mark Hugo Lopez with the Pew Hispanic Center says many Latinos here can’t vote because they’re too young or not citizens.

“A smaller share of Georgia’s Hispanic population is actually eligible to vote, just 22 percent, compared to a state like New Mexico or California, where more than 40 percent of the population there of Hispanics is eligible to vote,” he said an in interview.

The campaign, however, could have long-term effects. Lopez said the center’s polling shows strong opposition to the state immigration laws that have cropped up in the last few years. He said only 13 percent of Latinos polled think illegal immigrants should be deported.

Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political science professor, says Latinos are a growing population in Georgia, and many of them will turn 18 in the next few years.

“I suspect immigration is going to be an issue for a very long time,” she said. “So if this is the environment in which young people are being socialized into the political process and civics, the campaign could be very effective.”

The voter campaign will focus on areas where the Latino population is large, including Hall, Whitfield and Gwinnett counties.

The Georgia Latino group opposed a new law requiring many employers to check workers’ immigration status using the federal E-Verify database.

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