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The Week in Immigration News

A roundup of the top immigration stories of the week:

  • Yesterday, President Obama met with members of the Domestic Policy Council to talk strategy on immigration reform, focusing on ways to advance the efforts of Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have been working on a bill for several months. The White House has agreed that the bill should include a path toward citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants, but that it would come with penalties for violating the law and a fine.
  • A Texas judge has publicly denounced the volume of court cases involving non-violent undocumented immigrants in Texas. The mounting number of cases has become increasingly problematic for courts across the country, and U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin has issued an order challenging the U.S. attorney’s office to justify each illegal re-entry case brought before him. His action is unprecedented, say lawyers. “It appears the United States Attorney is not screening these cases to eliminate those persons who need no federal prosecution and should simply be returned to their own country,” he wrote in his order. Sparks noted that these cases spend money and time on immigrants who could be deported without prosecution. His critique seems to be aimed at exactly what the Bush’s administration’s Operation Streamline, which has been continued by Obama, strives to do: prosecute all illegal immigrants criminally, regardless of criminal history.
  • A Florida language school has been under investigation for what’s been called “the largest visa fraud investigation in the [U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's] history.” The school’s owner and an employee are responsible for applying for student visas for students who never attended class. They apparently sold student visas without any requirements and made about $2.4 million over the past three years from their operation.
  • Mexican drug gangs have been using U.S. public lands to grow marijuana for decades, but their presence is now more persistent than ever. About a million more pot plants were found by local, state and federal agents each year between 2004 and 2008. Mexican drug traffickers, using smuggled immigrants who are often extorted into working on the farms, can grow up to 30 tons a year.
  • A new bill would offer legal residence status to immigrant entrepreneurs who secure a minimum of $250,000 to start up their businesses. The Start-Up Visa Act of 2010, proposed by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) last week, could also create jobs. This two-year visa would require that entrepreneurs create five or more jobs and collect an addition $1 million in investment or revenue during that time to obtain a green card. “It’s a more accessible version of the existing EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa program which grants legal permanent residency to immigrants who can prove that their investment (of at least $500,000 to $1 million) in a U.S. business preserves or creates at least 10 U.S. jobs after two years,” points out the pro-immigrant Immigration Impact.
  • In New York City, advocates have denounced the police department’s failure to help victims who are in the process of applying for, or in need of, a U visa. The visa programs allows immigrants who were mentally or physically abused and who cooperate with the police during investigations to stay in the country legally and work up to four years while they apply for permanent residency. But several reports from Spanish-language newspapers have found that the NYPD has ignored many of these cases after women cooperated with officials.
  • California’s GOP gubernatorial candidates are using illegal immigration as a central issue to distinguish themselves from one another to get ahead in the primary. Candidates Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman have been recently been using the issue of immigration in their speeches to appeal to different sides of the Republican Party. Poizner has had a firm stance on immigration, saying he plans on “stopping it once and for all.” Whitman, a moderate on the issue, has said she favors working on creating a path for illegal immigrants toward legalization, but opposes amnesty. Whitman is currently leading in the polls.
  • In an NPR interview, Tomás Jiménez, an author and professor of sociology, discusses how drug and gang violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is changing the relationship between Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. and their relatives on the other side. Read the interview here.
  • Here’s a look at the Census Bureau’s history of complicating and narrowing the cultural and ethnic compositions of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S.
  • “In the past year, Texas saw an 85-percent increase in all official refugee arrivals,” The Texas Observer reports. Much of that might be attributed to North Texas refugee organizations. Since 2006, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been a central refugee destination for Middle Eastern families, especially for Iraqis. “Between 2006 and 2009, 2,822 Iraqis officially resettled in Texas. Thousands more are on the way.”

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