The Week in Immigration News
A roundup of the top immigration stories of the week:
- If Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) don’t introduce an immigration bill in three weeks, Democrats will bring their own bill forward, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday, according to aides and lobbyists. The Hill also reported Wednesday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is “fine” with the Senate taking up immigration reform before climate change legislation. “If they [the Senate] can do immigration first, that is fine,” a Pelosi aide told The Hill. But Graham, who is also working on the climate bill with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), said Congress is not ready to take up immigration reform yet. “This comes out of left field,” he said. “We haven’t done anything to prepare the body or the country for immigration.”
- The Arizona state Senate passed a controversial immigration bill Monday. Senate bill 1070 (“Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act”), one of the toughest immigration bills in the country, would require law enforcement officers to ask anyone they suspect of being illegal about their legal status, prohibit blocking traffic when seeking work (to target immigrant day laborers) and ban “sanctuary cities.” The legislation was passed by a vote of 17-11 — only one Republican senator joined all voting Democrats in voting against the legislation. Republican Governor Jan Brewer has until Saturday to sign or veto SB 1070. Numerous civil rights groups and lawmakers, including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), have been adamantly opposed to the legislation and have urged Brewer to veto it. Considering that 70 percent of Arizona voters favor this kind of legislation, many believe Brewer will sign the bill. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who supports the bill, and Democratic Arizona state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema talked about SB 1070 on CNN Wednesday. President Obama referenced the bill today, saying it threatens “to undermine basic notions of fairness.”
- On Monday, Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans from Arizona, announced a 10-point border security plan for Arizona they say will fight illegal immigration, drug and immigrant smuggling and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Their plan calls for the deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops to the southern Arizona border; the implementation of Operation Streamline, a program that has created a backlog of immigration cases and a rising number of immigrant detainees; and the completion of an unpopular border fence, among other measures.
- An appeals court has refused to reconsider its decision that prohibits Oklahoma from enforcing parts of House bill 1804, the 2007 anti-illegal immigration law intended to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants. The court decided that at least two provisions of the bill are unenforceable. The Oklahoman reported earlier this week: “The case now will go back to U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron in Oklahoma City to decide whether she will turn her 2008 preliminary injunction against the law into a permanent injunction. One part of the law upheld by the appeals court requires businesses that contract with government agencies to verify the immigration status of job-seekers by using a federal database known as E-Verify.”
- “Eight law enforcement agencies in Virginia and Maryland have recently joined a sweeping federal program that aims to identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes,” reported The Washington Post. The program, called Secure Communities, is part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) effort that allows local law enforcement officers to check fingerprints against the FBI criminal database and the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric database to detain and remove criminal immigrants. There are now about about 150 jurisdictions in 19 states that participate in the program. ICE expects the program to be a nationwide resource by the end of 2013. On April 27, several civil rights groups and other activists will formally announce a lawsuit demanding records related to the “little-known” Secure Communities program and a national week-long campaign to raise awareness on the program.
- States are starting to get tough on illegal immigrants; Arizona is one example. But yesterday, Steve Chapman of Reason magazine wrote about how states’ and the country’s plans for cracking down on immigration are actually backfiring — the claims of anti-immigrant lawmakers and officers aren’t really accurate, and certain government initiatives, like the border fence, are actually helping keep immigrants, who would have gone back to their home country at some point, in the U.S. From the article: “The state [Arizona] has an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants. But contrary to myth, they have not brought an epidemic of murder and mayhem with them. Surprise of surprises, the state has gotten safer. Over the last decade, the violent crime rate has dropped by 19 percent, while property crime is down by 20 percent. Crime has also declined in the rest of the country, but not as fast as in Arizona. [The] claim about police killings [by illegal immigrants] came as news to me. When I called his office to get a list of victims, I learned there has been only one since the beginning of 2008—deeply regrettable, but not exactly a trend. … If there is anything we’ve learned about getting tough on illegal immigration, it’s that it rarely works as intended. Like punching a wall, it may feel good for a moment, but it hurts a lot longer.”
- Rep. Gutierrez, who campaigned for Obama during his election and is one of the most outspoken advocates for immigration reform, is becoming increasingly displeased with the president’s stance on the issue. Gutierrez said Latinos could stay home in November if Congress and the administration fail to act on immigration reform, The Hill reported. He says the Latino community has lost patience with an administration that focuses on enforcement-only policies. Read more here.
- Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) sent a letter asking Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to stop the deportation of young immigrants who would be eligible to participate in the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a bill that would give a pathway to undocumented students to become permanent residents and possibly citizens and facilitate their access to college, provided they meet a list of criteria. Read more here.