HEADLINES: Immigration

Published On: Donate

There was a glimmer of hope for collaboration in the house as a rare bipartisan consensus formed over the need to provide more legal avenues for high-skilled immigration. Legislation is now at a stand-still, however, as Republicans linked their bill for high-skilled STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) immigration to the dismantling of the diversity visa program, leading quickly to the house Democrats  blocking the bill, which needed a  two-thirds majority.  While everyone from immigration advocates to high-profile tech companies were disappointed by congress’ lack of ability to enact a STEM visa law, others are hopeful.  Muzzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s Office at New York University, was among them, saying, “at least since 2008, the consensus in congress was ‘no, no, no’ on any immigration measure.  Now we have seen an immigration thaw: There’s clearly a space for pro-immigration bills, and pro-migration bills.” [Washpost]

A close decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that green card applicants who were aged out of the application process because they turned 21 while their parents were waiting should now be given priority.  Currently, “immigration officials were wrongly forcing many of these applicants to file new applications for residency, putting their applications at the bottom of the pile.”  Applicants typically have to wait years to receive a green card, and families can apply together, but only with children under the age of 21.  This new policy will prevent the disunion of families due to bureaucracy. [Washpost]

In last week’s TIME magazine, journalist and undocumented activist Jose Antonio Vargas, wrote an article calling for a rethinking of media terminology regarding immigration status.  Both the New York Times and the Associated Press use the term illegal immigrant frequently, though some other news sources, including the Miami Herald and the Huffington Post, have dropped the term from their papers. He writes that “the term dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe,” and that “describing an immigrant as illegal is legally inaccurate.  Being in the U.S without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one.”   The New York Times immigration reporter Julia Preston defended her journalism, saying, “I think we need a little more flexibility.  But we should use the term at times – it is accurate. It is a violation of law for a foreign-born person to be present without legal status.”  She went on to claim that the Times’ use of the word was not “tarring people as criminals,” but she also acknowledged that there is a growing constituency that is uncomfortable with the term ‘illegal.’  The fact that there is a conversation on all levels, however, is a good indicator of openness to change. [TIME] [Nytimes]

Immigration is once again fueling conflict within the state of Georgia, as anti-immigrant activists are asking the state to crack down on agencies that are not complying with its strict immigration laws. This month, “the state Audits and Accounts Department sent a list of 570 government agencies to the Department of Community Affairs, saying they have not filed annual E-Verify reports.”  The E-Verify system continues to be highly controversial, although some agencies in small simply might have no employees and be run solely by volunteers, accounting for some of the discrepancies.  [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

There is no doubt about it.  Alabama’s HB-56 has had a large effect on the distribution of the Alabamian work force, but probably not the effect that the law’s authors had in mind.  In the wake of the extremely harsh law, there has been a vacuum in labor, as many documented and undocumented Latinos have fled the state.  This labor shortage did not result in more employment opportunities for longtime Alabama residents, though, but rather in the arrival of hundreds of legal African and Haitian refugees to work in the poultry industry.  A spokesman for a local farm said, “plants sought refugees because too few local residents were interested or qualified.”  Thus, demographics in towns big and small are changing again, as social services and labor solutions agencies are finding refugees work all across Alabama.  These changes can even be seen in grocery stores, as “Albertville’s main Hispanic grocery Tienda El Sol added coconut milk, new varieties of hot peppers and other items to appeal to newcomers.”  Meanwhile, however, Alabama politicians continue to stand by HB-56, and many parts of the draconian law are still in place, including the ‘show me your papers’ provision. [Bloomberg]

Image credit: Penubag

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