HEADLINES: Immigration

Published On: Donate

As Arizona’s controversial SB-1070 law goes into effect this week, pro-immigrant activists are scrambling to prepare and inform people on how to best safeguard themselves.  Activists, “have been telling immigrants who are in the United States illegally that they should offer only their name and date of birth – and carry no documents that show where they were born.”  The main purpose of their campaign is to eradicate fear in undocumented populations, by giving them the tools to be prepared, educated, and confident.  Much is still unknown on how SB-1070 is going to play out in actual execution, and there is still a lot of misinformation on the law, especially among undocumented people.  While the legal battle surrounding the law has been highly publicized, many do not have the time or the language skills to keep up with all of the new information.  SB-1070 might find itself back in the courts soon, though, as opponents are calling it a green light for racial profiling.  Once actual cases of enforcement are documented, it is very likely opponents of the law will thrust it back into the court system. [Abcnews]

While the Obama administration’s deferred action process is fairly simple in theory, it is proving massively complicated in execution.  Youth who have been trained to obscure their identity are now being asked to provide proof of the lives they have worked so long to conceal.  Immigration lawyers are having to ask their DREAMer clients to think outside of the box.  Rex Wingerton, volunteer coordinator at CASA de Maryland said, “You have to look under every rock, regardless of how stupid that rock might be.”  One 20-year old Honduran is turning to Facebook in order to prove his eligibility.  He “has no official records to cover the whole 16-month period, but, on his girlfriend’s suggestion, he brought in printouts documenting his casual habit of ‘checking in’ on his Facebook page – from the mall, from Olive Garden. ‘It just lets all my friends know what I’m doing, in case they want to join.’”  There is no guarantee, however, that this will be enough proof.  The DACA program is also far from free, costing 465 dollars per application, a hefty fee for many who would be eligible for the program.  Others DREAMers are worried that the political climate might change in the future, and that they would be endangering their families by enrolling in DACA.  The only thing that is clear now, however, is that deferred action is going to be an extremely complicated program. [Washpost]

Chicago took another large step towards being a national leader on immigration reform by approving the “Welcoming City Ordinance. ”  The ordinance is aimed at “preventing some undocumented immigrants from being detained or deported by federal immigration authorities.”  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has had a lukewarm history with immigration reform, but he is now claiming that he “wants to make Chicago the most immigrant friendly city in the world.”   Chicago is not alone in enacting immigration reform at the city council level, as cities such as DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and El Paso have all passed similar legislation.  Other states, however, such as Georgia and Tennessee, have made it illegal to enact city-level welcoming ordinances.  The impact of the legislation is more symbolic than effectual, though, as, “since the 1980’s, an executive order calling on police not to detain undocumented immigrants for immigration status screenings in most cases has been in place.” [Huffpost]

The debate over high-skilled immigration has been thrust into the limelight, as a bill increasing the amount of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) visas put forth by Republican congressman Lamar Smith of Texas will be announced next week.  Companies in the science and technology sector have long lamented the dearth of opportunity for immigrants in these fields, many of whom have studied in the United States.  This new bill would make 55,000 visas available to workers with doctorates in the STEM  fields.  This will especially be a boon for workers from China and India, who have a lot of challenges immigrating to America because the US has a cap on per-country visas.  Currently, even though China and India make up 35 percent of the world’s population, they only receive 7 percent of the total visas to enter the US.  The Republican bill would also, however, eliminate the diversity visa program, which allows for 55,000 visas for people from countries with low immigration rates to America.  While increasing STEM visas has widespread bipartisan support, Democrats are wary of ending the diversity visa program.  Democratic Representative Luis Guttierez of Illinois, the chair of the immigration task force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said, “Republicans are only willing to increase legal immigration for immigrants they want by eliminating legal immigration for immigrants they don’t want.”   The Democrats, thus, introduced a bill, named Attracting the Best and Brightest Act (ABBA), which would incorporate the STEM Visas and keep the diversity visa program as is.  Democrats are wary, however, of voting against a STEM bill, as they want to seem supportive of both immigration reform and the technology sector, which is a major fundraising source for them.   Thus, for now, it seems that even though both parties have a shared immigration goal for once, partisan politics has still managed to make the issue divisive. (Hill)

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