HEADLINES: Immigration

Published On: Donate

Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney clarified in an interview with the Denver Post this Monday that he would not revoke the existing reprieves granted by the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.  “I’m not going to take away something they’ve purchased,” said Romney, “Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.”  Despite the fact that the DACA program does not issue visas, and that he has not concretely proposed any immigration reform plans, his statement is likely to go over positively with Latino voters, many of whom are wary of participating in the DACA program because of Romney’s potential presidency.  This proclamation is likely to have very little effect if Romney is elected, however, because Romney only promised to honor existing referrals, and later went on to clarify that he would not continue the program.  So far, 6 weeks after the program began, only 29 DREAMers have been approved, and it is unlikely that most cases will be processed by inauguration day.  Despite Romney’s softening on immigration since the primaries, Obama still retains massive leads among likely Latino voters in most polls. [Nytimes]

It is widely known that Obama has presided over more deportations than any other administration in history.  Thus, private corporations specializing in prison construction have been making billions and billions of dollars. Critics, however, “contend that the expanding web of privatizing prisons for undocumented immigrants is substandard, where prisoner uprisings have become common due to poor conditions and inadequate medical care.”  And the privatization is continuing to grow, as congress is about to set aside an additional 25 million dollars for an 1,000 private prison beds.  While private prison companies claim that they are providing an essential civil service, “a series of academic reports have found minimal cost savings at private prisons.  Other reports, including reports by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, have found that conditions inside private federal prisons are comparatively worse than in federally-run facilities, with more overall prisoner misconduct occurring in private prisons.”  Private prisons, however, continue to receive fiscal and political support from both our president and our congress. [Huffpost]

In a desperate attempt to push immigration reform for STEM workers through Washington, Microsoft has proposed a new plan where the company will pay millions of dollars for more visas.  This comes in the wake of the meltdown of bipartisan congressional support for STEM visas last week, as democrats voted against the republican-led STEM Jobs Act because it would eliminate the diversity visa program.  There is a growing gap in the need for high-skilled STEM workers in the United States, as students who receive their higher education here are often sent home because of visa difficulties.  Microsoft is calling on the US to provide an extra 20,000 H-1B visas, and would be willing to pay over 15,000 dollars a piece for them, although there is little hope that the measure would be enacted by congress.  Altogether, fees from the proposed program would value over $500 million a year.  Microsoft “also detailed how that money might be spent. It called for hiring and training more STEM teachers for kindergarten through 12th grade and making advanced-placement computer-science courses available in 95 percent of U.S high schools that lack them, among other things.”  Thus, the hope is not only to attract foreign talent in the short-term, but also to foster growth within the STEM fields domestically in the long-term.  The executive director of the National Immigration Forum said, however, that this proposal “only addresses one part of the nation’s need for temporary workers of all skill levels.  Addressing the labor needs of technology firms in Silicon Valley will not help the Georgia farmer whose onions are rotting on the vine.”  All either industry can hope for, though, is that comprehensive immigration reform is enacted after this next election. [Seattletimes]

Immigration of unaccompanied children continues to be a growing issue in the United States and its immigration system.  These immigrants “are teenagers and younger, often riding alone atop freight trains to cross Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.”  Most unaccompanied minors are males in their early teens, and there has been a huge increase in these cases over the past year, which is expected to see twice as many cases as is typical.  Unaccompanied children create unique challenges for the immigration law system, which does not have the same set of rights built in as the criminal system.  In fact, “the majority of children still go before the immigration court without the assistance of an attorney. Too few children receive services to ensure that they will be safe when they are released from care.”  These flaws are exacerbated by the steep climb in intake of these cases.  In the words of San Diego State University doctoral student Elizabeth Kennedy, however, “these are very resilient people to have come so far alone.  If we invest in them, it could pay big dividends.” [Politico]

In response to the debate over the continued use of the term ‘illegal immigrant’ by the New York Times and the Associated Press, a group of linguists, led by Joshua Rosa, an assistant professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, released a statement saying that the term ‘illegal immigrant’ was not an unbiased term.  He writes “that ‘illegal immigrant’ should not be the preferred phrasing because it’s imprecise and frames the debate in narrow terms.”  The statement goes on to say that the phrase has little legal purchase, but is instead implemented for political gains.  In fact, the term ‘illegal immigrant’ did not even enter the American lexicon until World War 2.  The linguists also noted that the term in effect makes an immigrant’s documentation status their entire identity.  In fact, “the term illegal immigrant taints everything that person does”, wrote Lawrence Downes of the New York Times, “and suggests an irreparable offense.  How do you legalize an illegal person.”  The New York Times has defended its usage of the term, however, and is committed its continued presence in their style manual. [Abcnews]

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