Thursday, December 20, 2007

Virginia Official Questions Motivation Behind Prince William Resolution

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC Special Projects Policy Fellow

Prince William County continues to garner attention for its heated immigration debate. On December 14, Linda Chavez, co-chair of the Virginia State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' Immigration Subcommittee, convened a hearing in Woodbridge to examine the resolution that was passed by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors this past July. The resolution was introduced by Gainesville District Supervisor John T. Stirrup.

The resolution denies access to county services to individuals who are unable to prove their immigration status in the United States. These services include business licensing, housing assistance, and some support to the elderly. In addition, the resolution calls for local police officers to question criminal suspects about their immigration status if they have "probable cause" to believe the suspect is undocumented.

According to the Virginia State Advisory Committee, Chavez convened the hearing to gather a cross-section of viewpoints from local officials, immigration specialists, and advocacy groups and to understand the motivation behind the enactment of the resolution. The Immigration Subcommittee is conducting a review of immigration issues in Virginia; this includes the potential impact of the resolution vis-a-vis local law enforcement and the provision of services to Prince William County residents.

When questioning Prince William Board of County Supervisors Corey A. Stewart and Stirrup, Chavez asked if it was "facts, or something else" that motivated the Board's decision to pass the resolution. She commented on what appeared to her as "very little fact-finding prior to the board's consideration of this measure," reported the Potomac News.

Police Chief Raises Concerns about Racial Profiling

Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane expressed concerns that the resolution would result in racial profiling, thus hurting local community-policing efforts. These concerns were mirrored by Fairfax County Chairman Gerry Connolly this past August when he scrutinized the resolution's clause, which calls on local policy officers to question criminal suspects about their immigration status if there is a "probable cause."

The Richmond Times informs that the Advisory Committee will compile a preliminary report; additional hearings are under consideration. The final report will be presented to the Federal Civil Rights Commission. "We're to shine the light of day on important civil rights issues and to make recommendations to the civil rights commission, which can then make recommendations to the president and to Congress," said Chavez. At the same time, Prince William County officials plan to implement the measures in the resolution after county staff and police have been trained, which could be as early as January 2008.

Friday, December 14, 2007

International Migrants Day Celebration

AFSC's Human Migration and Mobility/Project Voice,
Community Relations Unit, Nationwide Women's Program, and Third World Coalition present ...

Celebrating Our Common Humanity Cultural Presentation
Featuring Ollin Lloliztli Calmecac Aztec Dance Troupe

Tuesday, December 18 at 12:30 pm
American Friends Service Committee
Cherry Street Room
1501 Cherry St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Please join us for snacks, reflection and celebration. For more information, contact (215) 241-7124 or

Monday, December 10, 2007

Journey for Human Rights & Dignity

From December 10 (International Human Rights Day) to December 18 (International Migrants' Day), AFSC's Human Migration and Mobility programs around the country are holding a "Journey for Human Rights and Dignity," a series of educational and cultural events that will allow participants to remember and join in solidarity with the world's estimated 200 million migrants, as well as the 32.9 million refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers.

The following activities are scheduled:

Decemeber 10-18 JOURNEY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS & DIGNITY (Migration & Mobility Network/Project Voice)

Dec. 10 - International Human Rights Day (Regional Activities Begin)Dec. 10 PMRO (Visalia, CA) Screening of "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" - Human Rights Commemoration at Visalia Friends Meeting Center (17208 Ave. 296 Visalia, CA - Contact

Dec. 10 - NYMRO (Newark, NJ) Press Conference: Community Voices on Drivers' License Campaign (Contact: Chia-Chia Wang:

Dec. 14 NERO - (Boston, MA) - Dialogue & Workshop: Labor Exploitation, Trafficking, Immigration & Globalization at Simmons College (Contact:

Dec. 16 - GLRO (Dayton, OH) - Candlelight Prayer Vigil for African Refugees (College Hill Presbyterian Church - Contact:

Dec. 15 - PSWRO (San Diego, CA) - 14th Annual Posada Sin Fronteras: "Families without Borders" at Border Field State Park (Contact:

Dec. 16 - PNWRO (Portland, OR) - Video Documentary Festival addressing the struggle of immigrant communities, and root causes of immigration issues. The event will raise funds to benefit workers of the Del Monte raid. Appetizers & cultural performance. (Sponsors: AFSC, SEIU, Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition and Del Monte workers. Contact:

Dec. 18 - International Migrants Day - NERO Participates in Massachusetts Commemoration (public event at "Encuentros" - 7:00 pm. Contact:

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Raids Fail As Solution To Immigration Policy Vacuum

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC Special Projects Policy Fellow

Recent raids of homes in Long Island, New York by federal immigration agents received strong criticism from county officials and residents concerned about the harmful effects these tactics have on communities. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the arrests conducted by federal immigration officials under a national program known as Operation Community Shield target gang members and their associates. However, raids of the homes of U.S. citizens and arrests of individuals without gang associations or criminal records raised concerns and questions from elected officials including Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey, and Greenport Mayor David Nyce.

"This is un-American. We need to do something about immigration, but not this." said Tina Finne, a native of Greenport in Suffolk County, N.Y (NYT). In recent raids in Greenport, only 1 of the 11 men detained was suspected of gang affiliation, the New York Times reports. The rest of the individuals had no gang associations or criminal records. According to Greenport Mayor David Nyce, "the whole gang issue is something to keep the white majority scared about the Latino population, and to come in and bust as many people as they want."

County Officials Call for Federal Investigation of Home Raids
Leaders Claim Federal Agents Displayed "Inappropriate" Behavior and Posed Unnecessary Dangers to Local Police

Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence M. Mulvey and County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi called for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to conduct a federal investigation into the conduct of the ICE agents during the recent raids. On three occasions ICE officials failed to check the names and addresses of their arrest targets against the Nassau Police Department's Gang Intelligence Files. This resulted in the wrong homes raided, the officials wrote in a letter to Chertoff.

Immigration agents also mistakenly drew their guns on Nassau County police, according to Mulvey. "Tactically the operation was structured poorly," wrote Mulvey in a letter to Joseph A. Palmese, Resident Agent in Charge of ICE. "This, in my view, posed unnecessary dangers to all parties, including my members, who in fact were drawn upon by the agents," he wrote.
During a press conference officials noted that the raids, used Border Patrol personnel who were apparently not trained for this operation. Additionally, the list of those arrested was "not forthcoming" from ICE, said Mulvey. >To watch a video of the press conference click here.

Raids Lead to Knocks on the Doors of Residents and Citizens

Community members in Greenport and Nassau County were concerned that the immigration officers entered the homes of immigrants, residents and citizens without a warrant. For example, the Nassau home of Peggy Delarosa-Delgado, a U.S. citizen, was invaded by more than a dozen federal immigration agents after her 17-year-old son opened the door, the New York Times reported. Under the law, immigrant agents may only enter homes without a judicial warrant if the residents consent. >For Know Your Rights materials click here.

Focus Shifts to Enforcement

The New York raids relied on significant cooperation from local law enforcement units. However, Suozzi and Mulvey indicated that they would no longer cooperate with federal immigration officers unless they changed their tactics, reported the New York Times.

"The immigration laws of the United States should be enforced and I fully support the execution of lawfully issued arrest warrants in Nassau County, particularly for known gang members," Suozzi wrote in a letter to Chertoff. "I condemn, however, any tactical actions which cross the lines of legality and law enforcement best practices."

Last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued Guidelines for Identifying Humanitarian Concerns among Administrative Arrestees When Conducting Worksite Enforcement Operations. ICE issued the guidelines as the result of discussions with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Delahunt (D-MA), according to a Kennedy office press release. The discussions followed a massive raid and the arrests last March of more than 350 workers at the leather goods manufacturing plant Michael Bianco, Inc. in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Most of those who were detained were women from Central America. The arrestees claimed that their quick transfer to detention centers in Texas inhibited them from making better decisions with respect to the fate of the children they left behind. (AP).

On November 27, while upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by immigrants arrested during a factory raid in New Bedford, a federal appeals court criticized ICE for what it considered a "callous" raid that should serve as a "learning experience" in order to develop better ways of carrying out their responsibilities. (AP)

However, these guidelines could be interpreted by immigration agents as guiding principles, rather than a mandatory regulation. "In the context of immigration and deportation proceedings we are completely out of step with our societal values of protecting the best interests of our children," said attorney Joseph Hammell, who is surveying recent raids for the Urban Institute. (New York Times).

Congressional Inaction a Recurring Theme in Immigration Debate

The need for clear, concrete immigration reform thus becomes clear. Even the courts that ruled to uphold the New Bedford lawsuit highlighted the need for Congress to "speak clearly" and take action in order to fill the immigration policy vacuum, and allow undocumented individuals in the U.S. to exercise their rights. According to the judges, "it is Congress ... that has the responsibility of prescribing a framework for the vindication of those rights." (AP)

Raids such as the ones that took place in Greenport and Nassau do nothing to fix the broken immigration system in the U.S. Rather, they generate and exacerbate a climate of fear and anxiousness within all members of communities, whether immigrant or non-immigrant.

Steps You Can Take: Take action to stop ICE raids and the separation of families!

Stop ICE raids in Hartford, Connecticut
Rally on International Human Rights Day: Monday, 12/10 5pm
ICE Headquarters in Hartford - Gather at 4:30 p.m. in South Green Park (corner of Park and Main streets) Step off at 5 p.m. and march to the ICE headquarters, 450 Main St., for a rally
This will be a peaceful protest of the 21 arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Parkville neighborhood over the first week of November. Arrests of innocent working-people have nothing in common with a fair, humane immigration reform that recognizes the rights of immigrants to live and work in the U.S. For more information or to get involved, contact Frank O'Gorman of CT People of Faith at 860-841-5006 or or Kate Prendergast of Stop the Raids, Trinity College , at 610-209-9264 or Sponsors: Connecticut Federation of Educational & Professional Employees; American Friends Service Committee; Stop the Raids, Trinity College; Hartford Areas Rally Together; Hartford H.O.P.E.; Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice; Unidad Latina en Accion of New Haven; CT People of Faith; Latinos Against the War; Queers Without Borders; Campaign to Stop the ICE Raids in Danbury; Voluntown Peace Trust; CT Transadvocacy Coalition; Free People's Movement, as well as students and faculty from UConn, St. Joseph's College, Trinity, and CCSU.]

Friday, November 30, 2007

DHS Says No Go on "No Match" Letters

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has opted to forego using the Social Security Administration's database to implement its "no match" rule. The DHS decision comes as the result of a lawsuit filed by organizations including the AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) to stop DHS from sending no match letters to the nation's employers.

DHS asked a federal court to place the lawsuit on hold until March 2008 in order to rewrite the rule and conduct a small business survey. DHS plans to re-craft a new rule for public dissemination in late December, the NY Times reports.

"No matter how DHS alters its rule, any use of a social security mismatch to assume immigration status will trap workers in a bureaucratic nightmare and punish them unfairly," said Marielena Hincapie, staff attorney and Director of Programs for NILC.

The lawsuit contends that use of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) defective database would prompt the unfair dismissal of employees and the discrimination or racial profiling of many workers. SSA's Inspector General has consistently found significant clerical and bureaucratic discrepancies in its database including the records of United States citizens. In October, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer's preliminary order halted DHS from enforcing the rule, which would affect an estimated eight million workers.

AFSC strongly urges DHS and the Bush Administration to pursue constructive worksite policies that enable employers to assist their workers in the adjustment of their immigration status, while they also continue to contribute to the nation's economic vitality.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Winter of ICE and No Reform

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC Special Projects Policy Fellow

A major overhaul of failed U.S. immigration laws will not occur until after the 2008 presidential election year, according to members of Congress. Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and House Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently indicated that major immigration reforms will not be a priority in Congress for at least another year, the L.A. Daily News reports.

Both members supported negotiations earlier this year on the immigration bills AgJOBS (H.R. 371) and the DREAM Act (H.R. 1275). The Senate versions of these two bills suffered recent setbacks when the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the DREAM Act and when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) decided not to attach AgJOBS (S. 340) to the Farm Bill.

Enforcement-Only Bills in the Wake of Congressional Inaction

At the same time, House members introduced two enforcement-only bills in less than a week. The Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act of 2007 (H.R. 4088) introduced this month by Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC) has received criticism from immigration reform advocates including some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) noted similarities between the SAVE Act and the STRIVE Act, a bill that he and Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced this past March. Rep. Gutierrez said that it looked like Rep. Shuler "took all the enforcement parts of [my STRIVE bill] and forgot to turn the page." (CQ Today).

The SAVE Act, which currently has 112 co-sponsors, may face a challenge in the Homeland Security Subcommittee chaired by Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a former member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. According to CQ Today, Rep. Sanchez stated that Rep. Shuler made a mistake by "not consulting with her before he introduced the bill."

Among its provisions, the SAVE Act would authorize DHS to retain or construct a family detention center, similar to the T. Don Hutto detention center, with at least 500 beds. The bill would also mandate the use of employment authorization verification called E-Verify (formerly known as Basic Pilot) for every employer in the United States, a move previously criticized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce due to erroneous Social Security Administration records.

Sensenbrenner Revisits An Unsuccessful Legislative Past

This month Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced another enforcement-only bill, the Border Enforcement, Employment Verification and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4065). This bill, which currently has 10 co-sponsors, is similar to H.R. 4437, a measure Rep. Sensenbrenner introduced in 2005 when he served as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

The American Friends Service Committee believes that legislative proposals such as H.R. 4088 and H.R. 4065 do not offer workable, realistic solutions that constructively address the issue of immigration facing the nation. An enforcement-only approach does not reflect the support studies and polls have reiterated for bringing "out of the shadows" the nation's undocumented immigrants and workers.

Legislation Mirrors Disturbing Wave of Local Immigration Legislation

Unfortunately, because the federal government has failed to produce constructive policies, there are now troubling manifestations of local and state governments taking actions in a matter that is the legal purview of the federal government. The Congressional proposals come at a time of increased use of local police in the enforcement of federal immigration law in 34 states such as Arizona, North Carolina and Virginia.

This troubling landscape is compounded with the rise in anti-immigrant ordinances that exclude undocumented immigrants from accessing housing, social services or jobs. Sadly, the root of these efforts is grounded in misguided policies, an increase in nativism and the calls by restrictionists to swiftly apprehend and deport immigrants who have not adjusted their immigration status. The domino impact has been clear: multi-status families have been separated; children have witnessed the deportation of their parents; more immigrants are now being held in detention centers; and racial profiling, and civil and human rights abuses has also increased.

Tone of Campaigns Does Little to Encourage Thoughtful Policy Solutions

Despite the increase in state and local measures, the aftermath of the state elections that took place in New York and Virginia in early November showed that immigration is not necessarily a wedge issue when it comes to the ballot box. Representative Xavier Becerra, (D-CA) said the elections sent "a clear signal - immigration by itself is not a wedge issue to count on in a negative campaign." (L.A. Daily News). While immigration is one of several issues that concern voters, what voters want is responsible and measured leadership, and a move away from divisive language and demagoguery, according to election analysis by the National Immigration Forum, The Century Foundation, Progressive States Network .

Justice for All

In the meantime, advocates throughout the nation continue to work with the undocoumented immigrants and non-immigrant allies who dislike the current undertone of the immigration discourse. The tone and spirit of this pressing debate can only change when immigrant and non-immigrant communities become fully engaged in actions that challenge anti-immigrant language and actions and that instead, bring to the fore the nation's history of fairness and due process, and ultimately lead to workable and constructive solutions.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NY's Decision A Step Back and Set Back

Security and Fairness Lost in Political Gamesmanship of Misinformation

The American Friends Service Committee expresses its strong disappointment with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's decision to abandon his administration's plan to provide an opportunity for undocumented immigrants to seek driver's licenses. This is not just a setback for the state's immigrant communities, but for all the people of New York.

The initial plan provided a historic opportunity for the Spitzer Administration to lead the nation in putting forth a humane policy which addressed local security and public safety concerns. Unfortunately, Spitzer's plan succumbed to a misinformation campaign and was withdrawn.

"The governor's plan would have promoted safer roads for all state residents, increased the number of insured drivers, and supported New York's thriving immigrant community which spurs on the state's economic vibrancy and development. Governor Spitzer's idea was a bold first step, but we still lack national leadership and desperately need legislation to offer permanent legal status to the nation's undocumented population," observes Amy Gottlieb, an attorney and director of AFSC's immigrant rights program in the Greater New York area.

While a significant number of the nation's citizenry have indicated their support for a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants, legislators have ignored their voices. Such a path would allow immigrants to adjust their legal status and end the daily fear and abuse they confront. In the meantime, the legislature's failure to act has led to the separation of families, increased raids in immigrants' homes and workplaces, deportations, and a growing population of individuals and families housed in detention centers.

"We will be in touch with New York legislators to express our disappointment and urge them to call on Congress and the White House to produce viable and constructive solutions," says Gottlieb. "New York City has been one of the nation's ports of entry for generations. The city is rich because people from around the world have come to make it an international commercial and cultural capital. Our work with and on behalf of immigrant communities will go on, and we will press our leaders to enact fair and humane policies, not ones based on fear, misinformation, and intolerance."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home? Read this State Survey

Diversity Inc. recently published a state by state survey of passed state immigration laws. To find how your state compares to other states across the nation click here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

From the Classroom to Congress: Addressing Economic Migration

What about the conditions in immigrants' home countries such as Mexico? He thought that one person might live better in the U.S. without authorization than in Mexico as a citizen or resident. The room sat silently for a moment as he waited for an answer. I asked for his thoughts. He answered "aid programs." Another person answered "education." Another answered "improving opportunities" in their home countries.

These answers did not come from a group of policy analysts or researchers, but rather a group of high school students discussing immigration in a Washington, DC classroom. The students raised questions and answered the question which is often absent from the debate on immigration - how do we address the root causes of migration?

Jubilee Act

As the students discussed immigration, across town, members of Congress listened to advocates discuss a bill that may help answer part of the question of improving opportunities in countries of origin. The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing yesterday on HR 2634, also known as the Jubilee Act. The bill would extend debt cancellation to 67 low-income countries in the world, provided they demonstrate plans to spend the funds on poverty reduction programs.

Debt and migration

What is the connection between the debt and migration? One of the factors that forces economic migration is international debt which contributes to abject poverty, poor economic development and lack of employment opportunity. Millions of families are separated due to unjust global economic policies which generate poverty and force individuals to leave their communities in search of a livelihood.

Debt and Its Dreadful Legacy

Despite debt relief agreements in 1999 and 2005, countries of the Global South continue to spend $100 million every day to pay foreign debts, often incurred by undemocratic governments and under unfair lending practices. In 2005, Mexico spent $44 billion to service debt, more than the country's entire education budget. Due to the tremendous outflow of money, debt payments limit a country's ability to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

How would debt cancellation help? Debt cancellation stimulates economies. For example, Uganda has invested its 2006 debt relief savings of $57.9 million in primary education, healthcare and infrastructure upgrades. Newly available resources can also support agricultural advancements and other critical economic development projects. Greater economic prospects result from fair economic policies.

Migration should be a choice, not a forced economic necessity. Pressures to migrate will only be reduced when the push factors - including unjust global economic policies - are addressed. More families and communities will remain intact when this vision is realized and jobs and other sustainable opportunities are made available by transparent and receptive leaders and governments.

The class of students understood the complexities of addressing immigration issues in the United States. Although divided in their opinions, they broadly agreed that ameliorating the economic push factors which force migration is an important part of ending the cycle of migration and global poverty, particularly in developing nations. It's time for Congress to address the same questions.

Email your Congressional Rep today and urge her or him to support the Jubilee Act (HR 2634) and 100% debt cancellation for low-income countries. Click here and take action.

For more info about the AFSC Life Over Debt campaign, click here. To learn more about the Jubilee USA network and its member organizations that support the Jubilee Act, please visit

Cross posted at Street Prophets blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

UN Expert Finds Rising Violence against Migrants

Jorge Bustamante, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, reported to a UN committee this week that his field visits during the past year have confirmed rising attacks on migrants (See UN News Centre). Bustamante noted that the increasing trend to conduct raids in migrant neighborhoods had led to "to separation of children from their arrested parents, including children born in such countries." (UN News Centre).

He also highlighted concerns about the conditions of migrants in detention. "A number of detained migrants suffer from ill-treatment, lack of medical attention, and abuse. Often, they lack access to justice, as many detained migrants are not granted access to lawyers for their defense," he stated to the committee.

Bustamante found a trend towards viewing migrants as commodities, rather than as people with rights. Countries should include a human rights perspective into their discussions, he urged.

Learn More ...

Monday, October 29, 2007

DREAM Act Update: Immigration Advocates Determined to Stay the Course after Senate Fails to Vote on Bill

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC Special Projects Policy Fellow

On October 18th, Majority Whip Richard (Dick) Durbin (D-IL), Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced a new version of the DREAM Act (S. 2205). The three Senators held hopes that the Senate would be ready to resume the immigration debate and move forward this proposed legislation designed to help children who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 by their parents but have not become permanent legal residents or U.S. citizens. These children, now teenagers and students, have become long-term residents of the U.S. They face unique barriers to higher education, are unable to work legally in the U.S., and often live in fear of detection and deportation by immigration authorities. However, in spite of Senator Durbin's leadership and the efforts of other Senate colleagues, the DREAM Act failed to win approval and was again defeated.

While AFSC has consistently called for the fair and equal access to education for undocumented children and youth, and for consideration of the substance of the DREAM Act, AFSC does not support actions that include military service or active duty as part of the DREAM Act legislation.
>To see a link of AFSC Analysis of the DREAM Act as included in the STRIVE Act, click here.

On Wednesday October 24, the Senate convened to proceed with a cloture vote (link to Senate dictionary definition of cloture vote) which would allow the Senators to close debate on S. 2205, and vote on the legislation. The resulting vote, 52 in favor of cloture and 44 against, was 8 votes short to closing debate on S. 2205 and proceeding to vote on the legislation. The fate of this piece of legislation reflects a resistance in the Senate to pass DREAM Act, whether as a stand-alone bill or a part of other bills. The DREAM act is also a provision in the STRIVE Act (H.R. 1645), which has not moved from the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law since this past August. In addition, although the original version of the DREAM Act (S. 774) is still a standalone bill, in September Senator Durbin was unable to attach it to the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization bill. AFSC has continued to express its concern about attaching the legislation to military or defense-related bills.

Minor but Important Differences Between Two Versions of DREAM

Many opponents of the older version of DREAM Act (S. 774) argued that it would let undocumented students benefit from in-state tuition because it repealed part of the law (Section 505 of the IIRAIRA Act of 1996), which discourages states from allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition. In reality, this version of the DREAM Act would have simply allowed states to determine for themselves whether or not they would allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Ultimately, this provision was dropped from the DREAM Act amendment that was offered in the defense authorization bill. Although S. 774 continues to have this provision, it was not included in the newer version (S. 2205). In addition, a new provision in S. 2205 clarified that only those who are 30 years of age or younger on the day on the enactment would qualify under the DREAM Act. It also eliminated the expedited processing for DREAM Act applications and the guarantee that no extra fees would be charged. Finally, it incorporated additional grounds for ineligibility including misrepresentation or false claim of citizenship or document fraud if committed after the age of 16 and failure to attend removal proceedings.

Differing Perspectives on Senate Floor

During the Senate floor debate on Wednesday October 24, various senators spoke on the legislation (S. 2205) and on the debate on immigration as a whole. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Durbin emphasized the need to pass this bill in order to offer a compassionate, humane solution to those children that were brought here at a young age, and have lived in the U.S. in an undocumented status. Senator Durbin stressed the need to understand the special circumstances of those who would qualify under the DREAM Act. He stated, "What crime did these children commit? They obeyed their parents."

Senator Durbin also spoke about the number of individuals that he encountered in his state who were exceptional students and diligent members of the community, yet whose hopes and ambitions were thwarted by their status as undocumented persons.

Members of the Senate who opposed S. 2205 expressed concerns that the DREAM Act was a specialized piece of legislation that would not address the issue of immigration in a more comprehensive manner. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), for example, recognized that the children in question are in a state of limbo, but mentioned the need for a bi-partisan bill that also addresses the question of immigration enforcement. Senator Jeff Sessions expressed his opposition to the DREAM Act by stating that was not a part of comprehensive immigration reform. Senator John McCain left the chamber before the procedural vote on the DREAM Act, stating that the issue would most likely not be resolved until 2009, and objecting to the passage of the DREAM Act by itself, with no other amendments.

Inaccuracies Continue to Taint the Immigration Debate

A number of misconceptions regarding the DREAM Act have prevailed throughout the struggle to pass legislation that could help address the difficult circumstances of those who might benefit from the legislation. Some of these misconceptions surfaced during the Senate debate. For example, although only a limited number of individuals would be eligible under the DREAM Act, according to the Congressional Quarterly most Republicans and some Democrats continue to oppose measure that they believe will offer "amnesty" to any of the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.

In addition, soon before the cloture roll-call vote took place, the White House issued a "Statement of Administration Policy" opposing S. 2205. This policy announcement noted that S. 2205 "created a path to citizenship that is unavailable to other prospective immigrants." At the same time, it contains a number of inaccuracies that distort the DREAM Act. For example, the policy statement claims that the legal status granted in the bill would allow beneficiaries to petition "almost instantly" for family members. However, according to the Immigration Policy Center "the age and physical presence requirements of the DREAM Act, as well as the lengthy and limited process that involved sponsoring family members, will serve to limit opportunities to sponsor family members."
>To see "The DREAM Act of 2007: FAQS" compiled by the Immigration Policy Center click here

In addition, the Administration Policy Statement claimed that S. 2205 "includes loopholes that would authorize permanent status for certain aliens convicted of multiple misdemeanors and even felonies." However, the new version of the DREAM Act clearly specifies additional grounds for ineligibility, such as misrepresentation, false claim of citizenship, or document fraud if committed after the age of 16. Persons who are inadmissible or deportable on criminal related-grounds (INA section 212(a)(2) and 237(a)(2)) are ineligible for the DREAM Act program and the Secretary of Homeland Security cannot waive ineligibility on those grounds.

DREAM Discussion May Continue

The failure of the Senate to close debate on S. 2205 poses yet another challenge to passing immigration reform this year, and some fear it may reflect the fate of more narrow immigration pieces, such as AgJOBS (S. 340). According to articles written by Congressional Quarterly (CQ) staff, some Senators feel that the immigration issue in general will not be resolved until after the presidential elections. In addition, CQ states that Senator Menendez (D-NJ) is fearful that those who opposed the DREAM Act for its legalization provisions may also oppose AgJOBS, which would provide a potential path to eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have worked in farm jobs for a specified number of days per year.

On the other hand, Senators such as Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) feel that legislation pieces such as AgJOBS may have a better chance of passing Congress because of their importance to the country's agriculture. Other organizations such as the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have indicated "there is still a chance that the DREAM Act could be resurrected and enacted this year." According to NILC, the DREAM Act continues to enjoy bi-partisan support, including a majority of the Senate. In its recent statement AILA observes, "There will be a number of additional opportunities over the next few months to pursue narrow, targeted immigration policy reforms."

AFSC will continue to urge Congressional leaders to remove the punitive components of the Dream Act, support equal access to education for children and youth who might benefit from the legislation, and strongly urge for the removal of military service as part of the language in the current DREAM Act proposal.

Friday, October 26, 2007

AFSC Activates Emergency Response for California Fires

Crisis Funds Sought to Help Threatened Families, Especially Immigrant Workers

"Some migrant farm workers live in makeshift homes along the mountainside and in canyons ... When the fire is contained, these forgotten communities will need blankets and warm clothing, along with medical, housing and other services not yet identified." - Pedro Rios, coordinator of the AFSC San Diego regional office

In its time-honored tradition of helping relieve suffering through immediate aid and long-term reconstruction and development, AFSC will earmark contributions to its crisis fund to help assuage the growing crisis resulting from the Southern California wild fires.

Staff on-the-ground in San Diego are assessing critical needs. Preliminary staff reports show the devastation is widespread around many of the eastern communities throughout San Diego County. Some communities were completely evacuated. Many areas are completely inaccessible by roads because of the fires.

The Service Committee will primarily focus on helping neglected immigrant communities in the area. Because English may not be their primary language, those communities may not receive life-saving information about the critical situation.

"We immediately began contacting farm worker communities," states Christian Ramirez, the American Friends Service Committee national immigrant rights advocate. "Some were still working out in the fields, even in the mandatory evacuation zones, afraid to leave for fear of losing their jobs. We intervened by negotiating with employers to allow them to leave."

Support AFSC's work by giving to the Crisis Fund>

"Working with Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales and other partners, we helped to set up a safe evacuation center for those without papers," Ramierz explains. "We are reaching out to farm workers still in the canyons, providing water, goggles, eye drops, flashlights, and other crucial supplies."

Many migrants are too afraid to go to the officially designated evacuation centers and instead seek cover along the treacherous and potentially deadly walls of brush-covered canyons.

"Some migrant farm workers live in makeshift homes along the mountainside and in canyons," said Pedro Rios, coordinator of the AFSC San Diego regional office. "When the fire is contained, these forgotten communities will need blankets and warm clothing, along with medical, housing and other services not yet identified."

"In the months ahead, as part of our ongoing work in San Diego County, we will work with this community to ensure that their voices are heard so that the next time there is a disaster, their safety and security will be also assured," Rios adds.

The American Friends Service Committee has been a witness for human rights along the U.S. Mexico Border for more than 30 years.

Help Families Displaced by the Fires Near San Diego: Donations should be sent to the AFSC Crisis Fund/San Diego Fires, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102. To contribute via Visa or MasterCard, call 1-888-588-2372, ext. 1, or through the AFSC website at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chertoff Waives Environmental Laws to Build Border Fence

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff decided this week to waive environmental laws and build 6.9 miles of fence in Arizona's San Pedro Riparian National Conversation Area. The decision to resume construction of fencing in the area, which is home to numerous species of animals and ancient archaeological sites, drew strong criticism from both southern Arizona Congressional representatives.

Representatives Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva emphatically challenged Secretary Chertoff's disregard for the concerns border communities have expressed. Representative Giffords whose Congressional district includes the San Pedro, said "the Department of Homeland Security must listen to the environmentalists and border residents of southern Arizona before resuming fence construction."

"It is implement a policy that affects communities and the environment several thousand miles away, ignoring the residents, culture, and landscape. But, this wall does not protect our communities; it separates our history, culture, wildlife and natural habitats," said Representative Grijalva.

On Oct. 10, in a suit brought by the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the federal court for the District of Columbia ordered the delay of portion of the fence construction on the grounds that the government failed to carry out the required environmental assessment.

Secretary Chertoff's ability to waive environmental and other laws is the result of the REAL ID Act passed in 2005. This is the third time Secretary Chertoff has used the waiver provision.

"The REAL ID Act, which allows the Secretary of Homeland Security... to waive all laws for fence and road construction along the border, was never intended to be used along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, the waiver was intended only for use on a small section of fencing in San Diego." said Representative Grijalva. As such, Representative Grijalva introduced the Borderlands Security and Conservation Act of 2007 (H.R. 2593) which would amend existing laws, including REAL ID, to help alleviate the enivornmental damage of border enforcement activities on Federal and tribal lands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Commission to Investigate Detention of Children

"The U.S. prides itself on family values. Shutting up families in prison is in direct contradiction of these values." - Michelle Brane, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a body of the Organization of American States, said last week that it plans to investigate allegations of mistreatment of people held in U.S. immigration detention centers, the Miami Herald reports. The plan follows the first hearing held by the Commission on the practice of immigration detention. >To watch the testimony click here.

Commission Asks to Tour Centers Detaining Children

Commission Chairman Florentine Melendez said that the human rights body asked the State Department for permission to tour facilities detaining children. "Perhaps no country in the world devotes more resources to the rights of children than the US, but I've been asking myself whether I was facing two countries," said Commission member Paul Sergio Pinheiro. "These are very contrasting pictures," he said.

Michelle Brane Director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children's detention and asylum program, who testified before the Commission, said, "the U.S. prides itself on family values. Shutting up families in prison is in direct contradiction of these values."

"Recent tragic deaths in detention have spurred Congress and the international community to investigate the treatment of detainees within the U.S.," said Kerri Sherlock Talbot, director of policy and planing for the Rights Working Group, who also testified the at hearing. Earlier this month, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on medical treatment in U.S. detention centers. Sherlock called on the international community and the public to force Congress and the administration to require that people in detention are treated humanely.

Read Testimonies from Congressional Hearing on Detention

Edwidge Danticat Niece of Reverend Joseph Dantica, deceased detainee
June Everett Sister of Sandra Kenley, deceased detainee
Francisco Castaneda Former Detainee

Learn more: Visit to learn how you can take action.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Federal Court Grants Preliminary Injunction on DHS "No Match" Rule

Last updated October 11, 2007

Today a federal judge issued a preliminary order that stops the government from implementing a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule on Social Security Administration (SSA) "no match" letters. The order prevents any implementation of the new DHS rule until the court makes a final ruling, according to a press release from the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). >To read a brief explanation of the order from NILC click here.

"The government's proposal to disseminate no-match letters affecting more than eight million workers will, under the mandated time line, result in the termination of employment to lawfully employed workers," the judge wrote (Washington Post).

The order follows a lawsuit filed by the AFL-CIO, the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and local labor movements. According to the organizations, the rule violates the law and will cause discrimination against workers perceived as immigrants.

Monday, October 01, 2007

USCIS Unveils New Naturalization Test

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week announced the 100 questions and answers of the civics section of the new naturalization (citizenship) test. USCIS will being administering the new test next year on October 1, 2008. >To read Frequently Asked Questions about the new exam from USCIS click here.

USCIS has posted the new question and answers, vocabulary lists, and a side-by-side comparison of the current and new test online at:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Obstacles Do Not Deter Commitment to Immigration Reform

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC, Special Projects Policy Fellow

On September 6 the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law held a hearing on the STRIVE Act of 2007. After Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) brought the hearing to a start, Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), who introduced the STRIVE Act, raised serious concerns about Congress' inaction on comprehensive immigration reform, indicating that "we need to roll up our sleeves, engage friends from both sides of the aisle, and negotiate workable solutions that can effectively address the problem."

Local Official Requests Federal Immigration Enforcement Powers

In the absence of federal legislation, states across the country have passed local ordinances on immigration as identified by Corey Stewart, the Board of Directors Chairman for Prince William County in the state of Virginia. Stewart's testimony during the hearing included asking Congress to grant local officials the power to enforce federal immigration laws, such as imposing fines on homeowners renting to undocumented immigrants. However, these kinds of powers were found unconstitutional by a federal court in the Hazleton decision this summer.

Increasing involvement of state and local police authorities in the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws will not address issues faced by immigrant or refugee communities. Rather, these types of harmful measures may discourage individuals from reporting crimes committed against them or which they may have witnessed, or from seeking other assistance from local policing agencies. They may also lead to racial profiling and discrimination.
>To see a link of an AFSC Analysis to Key Provisions of the STRIVE Act click here

"Amnesty" Argument Taking Valuable Time from Debate, Chairman Says

Representative John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed concerns that the fight over the term "amnesty" was taking valuable time from the immigration debate and creating an "unnecessary anti-immigrant bias." Representative Steve King (R-IA, and Ranking Minority Member of the House Immigration Subcommittee) suggested that the bill would provide "amnesty." Representative Jeff Flake (D-AZ, co-sponsor of the STRIVE Act), however, defined the term amnesty as an "unconditional pardon for breach of law," and emphasized that this act would not represent an unconditional pardon because it would create a set of rules to allow people to admit their undocumented status, pay a fine, touchback (e.g., return to their home country) for a certain period of time, and re-enter the U.S. under a new legal system.

"Playing By the Rules" Myth Debunked

One issue mentioned during the hearing was precisely the idea that there are some who manage to "play by the rules" and achieve lawful status after entering the United States. Both Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Representative King (R-IA) mentioned that they had been descendants of immigrants that "played by the rules" and earned lawful status. However, this notion that the immigration law necessarily benefits those who "play by the rules" was contradicted by the words of small business owner Tony Wasilewski, and US Navy Petty Officer Eduardo Gonzalez.

Mr. Wasilewski's wife Janina arrived in the United States from Poland, applied for asylum but her case was denied and she was subsequently deported. In the case of Mr. Gonzalez's wife Mildred, her marriage to Mr. Gonzalez nullified her ability to obtain legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under 21 years of age. She now faces deportation.

While attempting to abide by immigration laws, both their wives exposed themselves to the convoluted and austere immigration system. Although Mr. Wasilweski is soon to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Petty Officer Gonzalez was granted citizenship in 2005, the only action that would help their wives' cases is a comprehensive overhaul of the broken immigration system. >To read more about their cases click here.

A brief discussion ensued in which Representative King questioned Mr. Gonzalez about his citizenship status, suggesting that he would like to, "see us identify more as Americans first. It seems to me that it was missing in your testimony." Mr. Gonzalez responded that he was a U.S. citizen. Representative Gutierrez however, commented, "Shame on any institution that has a panel such as this and then questions their Americanism, their right to say I love this country. We say that each and every day."

STRIVE Act Passage "Unlikely," But Commitment Continues for Broad Overhaul

Representative Flake observed, "[I]t appears unlikely for the STRIVE Act to pass and that is unfortunate." Nonetheless, the various Congresspersons who participated at the hearing concurred that the current immigration system is in dire need of repairs. As Representative Gutierrez observed in his closing remarks, "We are the majority, we got elected to lead. Let's figure out comprehensive immigration a bi-partisan manner."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Separated Spouses Testify Before Congress

"What good has been done from my family being broken up?" asked Thomas Wasilewski of the Chicago area, whose wife, Janina, was deported to Poland.

In two weeks Thomas Wasilewski, an immigrant from Poland and long-time Chicago area resident will become a proud citizen of the United States. Unforutnately, his wife of 14 years and his son will not be there to celebrate. This past June, his wife, Janina, was deported.

"Unfortunately, my family is one of the many families who suffer due to irrational immigration law in our country," Wasilweski told the House Judiciary Committee Subcommitee on Immigration last week during a hearing on the STRIVE Act.

"Despite my legal status and the support of our community, I was not able to stop her deportation," he said. >To read his full testimony click here.

Eduardo Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen and elisted Petty Officer in the United States Navy, testified that he worries his wife, Mildred, may also face deportation.

Mildred's mother came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1989 when Mildred was five yeard old. This was a period of war and strife in the Central American region and she feard for her family's safety. In 2000, she applied for asylum under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) and included Mildred on her application.

Although the U.S. government granted her mother legal status in July 2004, the couple's decision to marry six weeks earlier cancelled Mildred's eligibility to obtain status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under 21 years old.

"At the time we got married, we did not know that Mildred and her mother would have an appointment with immigration in July of 2004. After all, they had already been waiting for 4 years for an appointment at that time," Gonzalez told the Subcommittee members.

In June 14, 2007, the couple appeared in court expecting that Mildred would be given at most 120 days to leave country. The judge, knowing that Gonzalez was about to be deployed and had a 20-month old son, decided gave Mildred a 12-month extension, Gonzalez testified.

"We recognize that Mildred has been fortunate to get extensions. These extensions do not solve our problem, but only prolong it. On June 8, 2008, if Mildred's legal status does not change she will have 60 days to voluntarily depart the United States or she will be deported," he said. >To read his full testimony click here.

Stories of Separated Families Not Unique

"I wonder whether our country [is] any safer or any better now that Janina is gone. What good has been done from my family being broken up?" Thomas Wasilewski said.

He told the Subcommittee members, "I hope this hearing and my testimony will help all the separated families so they can be united again. I also hope that my testimony will move you, members of this committee, to fix our immigration laws so that no more families need to be torn apart."

"As you may already know, my family is not the only one going through the same situation," Gonzalez said. "Many will not come forward and speak about it because they fear they might have to pay the consequences. Mildred and I also worry that this might have a negative impact on us, but given this opportunity, we feel that if we tell our story we might be helping out others in same situation." he said.

You Can Help Keep Families Together
Write to your member of Congress to keep families together or use our online tool to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Sample Text: As a person who believes that families are the essential components of productive and healthy societies, I am greatly troubled that multi-status immigrant families are being torn apart. The separation of children from their parents, husbands from wives, and elderly parents from their loved ones is cruel and inhumane. This does not reflect the values and guiding principles of our nation.

I urge you to lead with conviction and exert visionary and humane leadership that keeps families intact and allows them to continue to contribute to our nation's vibrancy, growth and future. Please play a vocal policy role in repairing our broken and out-of-date immigration system now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Landmark Settlement in Hutto Detention Case

Dozens of children released from detention as a result of litigation

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) yesterday announced a settlement with the federal government to improve conditions for immigrant children and their families at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas.

ACLU and the University of Texas law school immigration clinic filed lawsuits in March against federal officials on behalf of 26 immigrant children between the ages of 1 and 17 years old detained at the center with their parents. Requirements of the settlement include eliminating the "count" system that forced families to stay in their cells 12 hours a day; installing privacy curtains around toilets; providing a full-time, on-site pediatrician; and improving the nutritional value of food.

Emotional Release for Immigrant Children

For twelve-year old Andrea Restrepo from Colombia, the settlement means the end to a nightmare. "I am trying to forget everything about Hutto. I feel free. It was a nightmare," said Restrepo, who was held for nearly a year in a small cell in the Hutto Detention Center with her mother and 9-year-old sister.

Restrepo was among the final six children listed as plaintiffs released days before the finalized settlement. Since the ACLU filed the original lawsuits in March 2007, all of the children represented by the ACLU and co-counsel have been released. The children, who are now pursuing their asylum claims, live with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members.

"We are thrilled at what we were able to accomplish through litigation and mediation," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas. "But the fact remains that our government should not be locking up innocent children — period. That is not what America is about. It is time for Congress to intervene and end the policy of family detention."

The settlement between the ACLU and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requires the approval of United States District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who previously called the children's detention in "substandard conditions" an "urgent problem." Watch a video about the Hutto detention center here.

Detention of Children For Profit Continues

"Despite the tremendous improvements at Hutto, the facility remains a former medium security prison managed by the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit adult corrections company," the ACLU said in a statement. "The ACLU remains adamant that detaining immigrant children at Hutto is inappropriate, and calls on Congress to compel DHS to find humane alternatives for managing families whose immigration status is in limbo."

Learn more about how you can take action by visiting the Detention Watch Networks's website at :

To read the full settlement click here

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Human Rights Disappearing in Prince William County

Prince William County Resolution "Sounds Like Profiling" Fairfax Official Says
updated August 24, 2007

The Prince William County measure recently came under scrutiny from County Chairman Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County, which borders Prince William County. The July 10 resolution issued by Prince William County calls for police to question criminal suspects about immigration status if they have "probable cause."

Chairman Connolly questioned what constitutes probable cause, "Is it how someone looks? Is it their accent? Is it what they're wearing?" he asked. "That sounds like profiling, and I don't know how they're going to get over that," Connolly said, the Examiner reports.

According to Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart, "The way we are going to do that is with a standardized probable cause that has nothing to do with race, ethnicity or language." Failure to produce a driver's license during a criminal investigation may result in an automatic immigration check, Stewart said.

Gabriela Rivera-Oven, a resident of Montgomery County in nearby Maryland for the past two decades, said, "It's easy to blame the all the ills of this world on this group, because they don't have a real political voice." According to Rivera-Oven, "They're blamed for everything: from usage of hospitals, school money. But there's really no facts on this."

Local police questioning about immigration status during investigations "creates a lot of fear among immigrants particularly in domestic violence situations where we have seen both women and men are afraid to report crimes," observes Ruben Chandrasekar, AFSC staff in Baltimore, Maryland. "It's a public safety issue and eroding a lot of trust that police may have built in immigrant communities," he added.

Earlier this month Stewart sent a letter to the county's Human Rights Commission calling for the body not to criticize the resolution. "It is not the role of Board-appointed citizen advisory groups to critique the Board's policies after those policies have been adopted," Stewart wrote.

Take Action: The Prince William resolution does not become operative until October 10 and can be overturned. Join Prince William County residents and partners including Mexicans Without Borders and the Woodbridge Workers Committee. Let them know they are not alone in this call for equal treatment and respect for civil rights.

"... And Who Is My Neighbor?"
Join the peaceful march and rally against Prince William's
pending anti-immigrant ordinance

3:00 p.m., Sunday, September 2, 2007
McCoart Administration Bldg. 1 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, VA 221921 (at Prince William Pkwy)
For more information click here or contact

Starting at 12 noon on Sunday, September 2 buses will travel from Malcom X Park (Corner of 16th & Euclid Street NW) in Washington, DC to the rally. For more information and to RSVP contact NCIC at (202) 462-7042 or e-mail

Community Press Conference
On August 27 at 11:00 am at Chinn Regional Library of Prince William County (13065 Chinn Park Drive Prince William, VA 22192-5073) organizations from around the region will mark the beginning of the week long economic boycott in Prince William to rescind the resolution.

The press conference will be followed by a 2 hour vigil outside of Potomac Mills Mall to remind people of the economic contributions made by immigrants. Businesses which display signs against the resolution will be exempt from the boycott. For more information contact

Monday, August 20, 2007

U.S. policy should keep families together, not separate mothers from their children

AFSC gravely concerned by arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano

In the wake of the arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano - a Mexican immigrant who, with her 8-year old son, sought church sanctuary - AFSC continues its call for a rational, humane, and fair system of immigration that provides a path to legal residency and citizenship and keeps families in this country intact.

"Elvira exemplifies what's wrong with current immigration laws," says Christian Ramirez, an AFSC national immigrants' rights coordinator. "Ripping a mother away from her 8-year old child is unconscionable. Such dramatic and drastic measures fail to address the root causes of migration to the United States and ignore the needs of multi-status immigrant families, specifically families with children born in the United States who have known no other life beyond the one they have had in this country."

Ramirez saw Elvira Arellano this morning, soon after she was deported to Mexico. He reports that she vowed to be reunited with her son and to continue her campaigning for just and humane treatment of immigrants.

"With her strength, passion and admirable response, Elvira demonstrates these inhumane actions will not take away her dignity," Ramirez adds. "However, the repressive worksite raids and harsh, punitive enforcement tactics now adopted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement only compel thousands of families - such as Arellano and her son - to live their lives underground in a complicated and traumatic immigration limbo."

The Service Committee is compelled to speak out at this critical moment when many mixed-status families, such as Elvira Arellano and her U.S.-born son, have nearly lost all hope of remaining together.

As an undocumented immigrant mother facing deportation for the past year, Elvira Arellano had been given sanctuary by one of Chicago's Methodist congregations. She had traveled to Los Angeles with community and faith leaders from Chicago as part of a nationwide advocacy campaign calling for humane immigration policies and an end to immigration raids in worksites and homes across the country.

The deportation occurs at a moment of great anxiety in immigrant communities. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new immigration enforcement plan that, among other initiatives, increases the number of border agents, detention beds, and workplace immigration raids.

Instead of giving free rein to repressive worksite raids and other punitive enforcement measures, this country needs constructive immigration policies that enable Elvira Arellano and other undocumented parents to remain with their children and find a path to legal residency and citizenship.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

DHS "No Match" Rule a Detrimental Setback for the Nation's Workers

On August 13th the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule specifying an employer's legal obligations when the employer receives a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that the information submitted for an employee on W-2 Forms do not match SSA records(commonly referred to as an SSA "no-match" letter).

The new rule, which becomes effective 30 days after publication, outlines "safe harbor" procedures that employers should follow in order to avoid liability under U.S. immigration laws.

"We are worried with this new development. We already know of several work sites in our area who are indiscriminately telling workers they will lose their jobs. This does nothing but worsen the already difficult existence of many of these workers and their families" comments Martin Cuevas, staff member of AFSC's Proyecto Campesino in Visalia, California.

Previously, the purpose of the SSA no-match letter was to inform employees that they would not receive credit for their earnings, which can affect SSA benefits. The new rule changes the SSA no-match letter from an administrative notice into a tool for DHS to identify undocumented workers in the United States. In the past, however, there have been errors and incorrect information the "no match" letters.

>For more information visit the National Immigration Law Center's "SSA No Match" webpage.

Under the new regulation,
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can use an employer's receipt of a "no-match" letter as evidence that the employer has "constructive knowledge" that the employee is unauthorized to work in the United States. If the employer does not resolve the discrepancy within 90 days the employer must fire the employee or the employer will face criminal liability.

Farmworkers, farmers, and growers associations agree that the rule could disastrously impact America's farms resulting in lost jobs and in thousands of lost crops. "There's always more pressure on the immigrant community," said Gerardo Reyes, a farm worker from Immokalee, Florida. "We're making sure food gets to everyone's tables," he said. (Fresno Bee)

Action Step: >Email your Senators today to call for workable solutions that keep immigrant families together and provide a path to citizenship for all who have built a life here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Transcending the "Language" Line

My childhood is a memory of sounds and neighbors, and families who spoke Spanish, Greek, Polish, Arabic, and Italian. Language was never a barrier when I visited my friends or spoke to their parents. Most of their parents also spoke English, but spoke to their children in their native language. Parents were passing on their language, while also instilling in their children the importance of school and speaking English.

In today's immigration debate, immigrants have been characterized as unwilling to learn English or lacking the willingness to be part of the nation. These characterizations are unfounded and contrary to studies and a history which demonstrates that, in fact, new immigrants strive to ensure that their children learn English and the customs, norms and mores of their new country.

Early immigrants to the US also faced assumptions and stereotypes. Germans, Irish and others also faced the onslaught of ignorance and racism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, restrictionists claimed that Italians could not speak English and were different from previous immigrants. We know these views were false.

According to local elected officials such as Walter Tejada (Vice Chair of the Arlington, Virginia County Board), local anti-immigrant measures such as those in Prince William and Loudon Counties are motivated by a lack of information or education about the contributions of immigrants to communities and xenophobia.

"We are talking about people who want to be a part of the American community," Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett of Maryland said during a recently held panel on local immigration ordinances in Washington, DC.

According to a National Conference of State Legislatures' report, in the absence of federal legislation on immigration reform, state legislatures, considered 1,404 immigration measures this year and passed 170 of them.(New York Times)

According to Vic Walczak, ACLU attorney in the Hazleton Pennsylvania case, "Every single judge, this includes state and federal, appointed by Republicans and Democrats, every judge has said these laws are likely to be unconstitutional." The measures are also premised on myths that immigrants burden health care and increase crime rates, which the evidence in the Hazelton case disproves, Walczak said.

According to Tejada and Leggett, local anti-immigrant ordinances only make communities less welcoming and demonstrate the need for substantive solutions on federal immigration reform. As Village President Bill Sarto (Carpentersville, Illinois) has noted about a proposed English-only ordinance, "Passing this ordinance is not going to make one person learn English any faster ... All it will say is this: 'This is not a welcoming community.' The immigration problem is not going be solved here in Carpentersville."(NYT Magazine)

At the American Friends Service Committee, "we work from the conviction that fences that criminalize aspirations for decent, productive lives do not make for good neighbors, and that temporary worker programs exploit people but welcome no guests," writes Paul Lacey, clerk of AFSC's national board of directors and a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers).

This past week, several Senators introduced Senate Bill 1984 which continues to press for beefed up enforcement including walls, an employment identification card and other measures. Sadly, this latest action does nothing to address the underlying causes of immigration nor does it provide workable solutions that keep families intact and allow for the adjustment of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Take Action: Tell Congress that we need to fix our immigration system and that fences, raids, and detentions are not the answer.
E-mail Your Senator Now >

Listen to Local Voices on Immigration

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dropping the Temperature On the Immigration Debate's Heat

Are you having a cookout next weekend? Invite your local Congressperson!

The temprature in Washington rose last week in a debate on the federal agriculture approrpations. House Republicans stormed out of the Congressional chambers when a motion to bar the provision of housing to undocumented agricultural workers in the FY 2008 agricultural appropriations bill (HR 3161) failed. The bill eventually passed the bill by a vote of 237-18, which most Republicans boycotted.

The August recess provides the opportunity to bring cool conversations to the heated debate and allow for cooler heads - and temperaments - to prevail. Starting today, legislators are in their home districts for the month-long Congressional August recess. When not spending quality time with their families, Congressional leaders will be attending picnics and barbecues, back-to-school events, town hall meetings and social activities which provide a refreshing opportunity for constituents to seek out their Congressional representative.

One message from this year's immigration debate rang loud and clear - the movement for immigrants rights will be won at the grassroots level. Now is the time to make your voices heard. Your members' ears will be closer to those whose voices matter most - you.

Here are some tips on bringing your concerns and how to bring your representative to your backyard cookout and gathering:

  1. Contact Your Members' District Offices

  2. Check FCNL's online Congressional directory for your members' contact information, as well as background information, committee assignments, and voting records. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or check the government pages of your phone book.

  3. Schedule a Meeting or Host an Event: Invite Your Congressperson!

  4. For tips on how to schedule a visit click here. For tips on making your visit successful click here. Remember to invite Congressional staff as well.

  5. Share Your Voice in Town Hall Meetings

  6. Some members host August Town Hall meetings in their districts. Visit and for your members' websites and information.

  7. Involve the Press

  8. Invite the press to events and write letters to the editor. If you are hosting an event with a Congressional member work with your member's office to include local reporters.

  9. Maintain the Momentum

  10. After sharing your concerns, make sure you establish a verbal or written relationship with your Congressperson. Identify her/his key aides including the legislative aide involved in immigration policy, civil and human rights matters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Immigration Proposal Far Short of Substantive Solution

Legislative Actions Continue Downward Spiral and Same Old Policies

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) expresses its strong opposition to the recently introduced bill S. 1984. This latest attempt is not a sound or constructive legislative remedy to the nation's immigration problem.

In fact, it is a proposal that re-hatches failed immigration policies, continues a troubling trend to include additional penalties that harm undocumented immigrant families, and the steady drumbeat of punitive enforcement measures while doing little - if anything - to repair and rebuild the current immigration system. This legislative proposal offers little hope of producing workable, realistic or constructive solutions.

U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John Cornyn (R-TX) are the lead sponsors of this bill which contains an assortment of already failed provisions. These include
  • the ongoing militarization of the southern border and the construction of 700 miles of border fencing by the Department of Homeland Security;
  • enforcement of immigration laws by state & local law enforcement bodies;
  • increased worksite enforcement and the establishment of a national electronic employment verification system;
  • increased border personnel (to 14,000 new Border Patrol Agents), augmented technology and vehicle barriers; and
  • new detention space to hold border crossers.
"Why are legislators repeating the mistakes of the past? There is nothing new or creative about this bill. This latest proposal leads down the same punitive path of enforcement and border militarization. The proposal lacks substantive solutions and does not resolve the presence of 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States," remarked Esther Nieves, director of AFSC's national immigrant rights program.

AFSC's immigrant rights work has historically been grounded in its successful partnerships with local and national allies including faith, labor and community organizations. The enforcement-only approach presented in this latest legislative plan is not what immigrant communities need - or want. Nor does this proposal reflect the consistent support the nation's citizenry has expressed for bringing undocumented immigrants and workers into the full light of our society.

AFSC is troubled that these measures will lead to the violation of the basic due process, civil and human rights of non-status immigrants. This severe approach to the presence of undocumented immigrants and laborers will do nothing to integrate those who are already here nor will new walls, fences, technology or increased personnel patrolling the southern border alter the reality of global economic, political and social forces. Moreover, succumbing to disturbing nativist and restrictionist tendencies is not an effective method for the formulation of sound and workable national public policies.

"The increased militarization of the border has already created a human rights nightmare along the US-Mexico divide, increased fencing and beef-up at the border without taking clear steps towards accountability and oversight will have deadly consequences for our communities," said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC's San Diego Area Office. Since 1994, over 4,500 men, women and children have lost their lives attempting to enter the United States.

AFSC, therefore, strongly urges Congressional leaders to soundly reject S. 1984. AFSC urges the general public to contact their Congressional legislators and press them to continue a bipartisan dialogue which leads to solution-based, and achievable immigration legislation. These solutions include a path to lawful permanent residency, fair labor laws for immigrants and non-immigrants, and the opportunity to keep families intact, and able to contribute to the growth and future vibrancy of our nation.