The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday that law enforcement detained and deported a record-breaking 391,953 people during the 2011 fiscal year, and with just one month left in the 2012 year, the numbers look to be similarly high. These numbers come at the same time as reports that “the number of migrants crossing the border illegally dropped to a 40-year low.” The proportion of deported immigrants this year that had a criminal record was higher this year, in line with President Obama’s announcement that his administration would focus on deporting criminals, but Obama’s record on immigration continues to be controversial as he attempts to shore up his Latino base in the upcoming weeks prior to the election. [NYTimes]
While Obama’s deferred action program has met with a lot of success, many eligible immigrants are still hesitant to enroll in the program. The program still falls short of the progressive DREAM act, which continues to be mired in congress, and does not grant citizenship to these young people, but rather gives them access to work permits, which have to be renewed every two years. Thus, the benefits are tentative, especially during an election season. Those under the deferred action program would give their home addresses to the federal government, thereby making their families vulnerable to deportation, were policies to change. Romney has not been known for his leniency on immigration, and the GOP just released their harshest anti-immigration platform ever, effectively endorsing the “self-deportation” model espoused by SB 1070 and HB 56. When asked if he would end Obama’s deferred action program if he were to ascend the presidency, Romney said, “the answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure.” Wall Street Journal]
Obama’s deferred action program has created a huge political windfall, but there have been great social implications as well. As with any social service, lines have been drawn for who is eligible and who is ineligible, and many fall just barely on either side of that line. Therefore, friends, couples, and siblings have found new strains on their relationships, as a few months difference in age can create a huge schism in opportunity for people who ostensibly have almost identical backgrounds. In fact, according to Allan Wernick, director of Citizenship Now!, “Everyone who is eligible knows someone who isn’t, whether a friend or a family member. We’re getting a lot of inquiries from people hoping it’s flexible, but it’s not flexible.” Now, many families are facing the situation where there is a mix of legal statuses among family members. One young couple in New York, Gilda and Boni, are married with a 6-year-old daughter. Gilda is 32, too old for the DACA program, but Boni is 28. While DACA has provided Boni with the opportunity to finally go to college and run his own business, the family will still be living in fear of deportation and separation. “We both wish we could be eligible for deferred action,” Boni said. “One of us is living in fear; we’re still in fear that we’ll be separated.” [NYTimes]
In a new effort to grapple with its burgeoning undocumented population, the city of Los Angeles is considering launching a new program that would provide identification to all undocumented people in the form of a city ID. The ID card would be administered by the city’s libraries and then, the city would partner with a private vendor to set up bank accounts for those who want to use the library ID as a debit card. The main effect of this program would be that hundreds of thousands of Angelenos who would not have otherwise had access to a bank account now will. A report by the Pew Health Group in 2010 estimated that 300,000 people in Los Angeles don’t have a bank account. Without access to banking services, many undocumented workers are forced to turn to payday lenders, where they can easily be exploited and scammed for what little wages they do make. San Francisco and several other California cities have had city IDs for years. Its linkage of IDs to the library system, however, is a novel concept. L.A. councilman Richard Alarcon said that “linking the cards to L.A’s library system would help promote ‘financial literacy.’” The cards are not, however, a substitute for a driver’s license, nor would they help prevent deportation measures in any way. [LATimes]
Uncertainty still surrounds the fate of the VAWA Act, which in its current form provides relief and support to thousands of women who are victims of domestic abuse and trafficking. The new bill put forward by Congress, however, would dangerously undermine VAWA’s ability to provide for abused immigrants and help them testify against their abusers, thus endangering these women and the general public. Under the current VAWA Act, victims of domestic abuse are eligible for U-Visas if they cooperate with law enforcement. This new House bill, however, “would make this visa temporary and take away an immigrant survivor’s incentive to come forward. ‘He’s wrong; you’re safe’ would be replaced with the far less reassuring message ‘You’ll have to wait and see.’” Additionally, immigration authorities ran out of U-Visas for the 2011-2012 fiscal year late last month, despite the fact that there was 6 weeks until the beginning of the new year. In the Senate’s bipartisan reauthorization bill, the visa cap would increase from 10,000 to 15,000, but not in the House bill. “All women who have lived through violence and abuse should have the certainty that the law will protect them – no matter their race, creed, color, religion, or immigration status.” [Politico] Join in the fight to protect immigrant women’s rights.