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Immigration Advocacy Groups Step Up Local Efforts

Pro-immigration reform groups are stepping up local efforts to help illegal immigrants deal with police, learn English and understand deportation proceedings, USA Today reports. As deportations become more prevalent, the groups argue Congress should act to provide a pathway to legal status for non-criminal illegal immigrants already living in America. But recognizing the long odds of successful legislation this year — and President Obama’s unwillingness to take administrative action on immigration — the groups are trying in the meantime to help immigrants deal with enforcement.

The problem? Sometimes this boils down to helping illegal immigrants avoid detection, which critics of illegal immigration argue is indefensible. “That really crosses into a whole different type of political activity,” Roy Beck, executive director of the pro-enforcement group NumbersUSA, told USA Today. “It’s very counterproductive to the cause of these immigrant groups, because it’ll cause them to seem more foreign and less American.”

Here are some of the local efforts:

•The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights created 21 family support networks this spring to set up a safety net for immigrant families whose relatives get deported, leaving spouses and children behind. Executive director Joshua Hoyt says the group is still pushing for immigration legislation introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., but realized communities should be the focus in the meantime.

“We said, ‘We have to figure out a way to organize ourselves to provide support at the same time we challenge the policies,’” Hoyt says.

•In Washington, OneAmerica, a statewide civil rights groups, has established nine community groups. Executive director Pramila Jayapal says they have begun regular discussions with local politicians and police agencies to ensure that the plight of immigrants is understood.

•In Arizona, about 15 “neighborhood defense committees” were created in recent months, and organizers are getting requests to open more around Phoenix. [...]

Opal Tometi, whose Puente Arizona organization helped create the committees, says they serve several functions: They train illegal immigrants to know their rights when they are stopped by police. They work with lawyers to navigate deportation proceedings. They offer English classes and arrange for doctors to treat people nervous about going to hospitals.

They send out video teams to monitor for civil rights violations when police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents perform immigration raids.

Immigration reform advocates are also attempting to mobilize Latino voters, a majority of whom support comprehensive immigration reform, to vote in the midterms. However, that push seems to be flagging, with a recent poll indicating only half of registered Latino voters plan to go to the polls in November.

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