HEADLINES: Immigration

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On election day, Maryland became the first state to enact the DREAM Act through a statewide referendum, though 12 other states have similar legislation in place by other means.  The DREAM Act will allow some undocumented students access to in-state tuition rates in higher education.  The measure passed easily with almost 60 percent of the vote, despite the divisiveness of the issue. Montana also had immigration legislation on the ballot, though they passed LR-121, which will tighten restrictions on benefits for undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that the estimated undocumented population in the state is only a few thousand. [National Journal]

In the aftermath of the behemoth Hurricane Sandy, day laborers are streaming in to help restore the affected areas and repair the massive damage that has been done to infrastructure and personal property.  After every major disaster, day laborers, nearly all of them undocumented immigrants, are among the first responders, often being hired to do perilous, life-endangering work.  Pablo Alvarado, president of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “at great sacrifice for themselves and great benefit for everyone, day laborers are first responders for reconstruction.”  His organization, however, strives to make sure that these day laborers are not exploited and endangered.  [Fox Latino]

Late last month, a truck believed to be smuggling drugs was shot at by a Texas state helicopter, killing two Guatemalan migrants who were the real cargo of the vehicle.  The agency has cited a continuing investigation, but the event has enraged activists on both sides of the border as well as Guatemalan diplomats.  Terri T. Burke, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said, “One has to think that they just have no respect for human life.  I don’t care what was in that truck.  If they weren’t shooting at that helicopter, how in God’s name can you justify firing on what appears to be unarmed folks.”  Texas, unlike other border states, has a state policy allowing police to shoot at vehicles to disable a car.  Organizations like the ACLU are calling for a change in that policy.  [NYTimes]

Despite an intense “get out the vote” campaign by immigration activists, Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America” easily won his re-election bid.  Arpaio, one of the most vocal proponents of Arizona’s draconian SB-1070 law, has been mired in controversy in recent years, as his department has been investigated for corruption, racial profiling, and the misuse of funds. Immigration activists had been hopeful that Paul Penzone could challenge Arpaio’s longtime reign, but name recognition and vast fundraising networks stymied their efforts.  Maricopa County, Arpaio’s jurisdiction, is home to Phoenix, and has been a bastion of right-wing anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years. [LATimes]

New reporting by Fourth Estate, a media watchdog, found that over the last year, “only a miniscule 0.2 percent of journalists writing front-page newspaper features on immigration were Latino.”  As the debate over the usage of the term “illegal immigrant” in news sources continues to rage, the voice of Latinos are still absent.  In fact, the lack of diversity in the actual newsroom is a large factor in why several prominent news sources are resistant to change on this issue.  Papers that have greater Latino representation, such as the San Antonio Express-News and the Miami Herald, have dropped the I-word already.  Currently, one in every six Americans are Latino.  [Huffington Post]

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