Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You're Invited to a Summer BBQ!

American Friends Service Committee
New York Metropolitan Regional Office
Summer BBQ Fundraiser

Gregory's Woods
at Warinanco Park
Roselle, NJ

Sunday August 2, 2009
1-5 pm

Come out to enjoy good food and nature (yes, we will be grilling by a lake!), meet new friends, learn AFSC's work, all for a good cause!

Ticket: $25 for individual, $50 for a family (Max number is 4).

Volunteers, donations, and advance tickets, call 973-643-1924 or email: ccwang@afsc.org.

How to get to Warinanco Park, Roselle, NJ:
NJ transit bus #62 from Newark/Perth Amboy, #112 from New York. Check schedule: www.njtransit.com
Car pool available at AFSC office at 89 Market St. Newark from 11am to 12pm.

Check out our programs: www.afsc.org/nymetro/

Monday, July 27, 2009

Biometric Data on All Workers Proposed

by Lindsey Daniel, AFSC Policy Intern

In a Senate hearing last week, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), both leaders on immigration in the House and Senate, stated that an employment verification system including a biometric identifier, such as fingerprints, is a key to any broad immigration bill. "Only by creating a biometric-based federal employment verification system will both employers and employees have the peace of mind that all employment relationships are both lawful and proper," said Schumer.

Currently an electronic employment verification system called, E-Verify, is used by the government determine the eligibility of workers in America for employers who chose to voluntarily use the system. The government recently announced that it will require federal contractors to use E-Verify.

Failure to Fix E-Verify Errors Raises Concern

Senator Russ Feingold (D-IL) expressed concern for the expansion of E-Verify without trying to fix the system. He cited reports showing that roughly 600,000 workers, mostly U.S. citizens, would be deemed ineligible under mandatory electronic employment verification. "Workers must be given a simple, straightforward means to appeal any data errors," said Feingold.

You can watch the hearing webcast by visiting the hearing webpage.

Social Security Administration Testifies on E-Verify's Impact

The current E-Verify system requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify that a newly hired employee's Social Security Number, name and date of birth match the SSA records. For employees claiming United States citizenship, SSA also confirms citizenship status. "The SSN card was never intended, and does not serve, as a personal identification document," said David Rust of the SSA in a House hearing on E-Verify last week.

In almost every situation, SSA must conduct a face-to-face interview if an employee contests a mismatch of their SSN or citizenship information, explained Rust. This is time SSA employees cannot use to assist applicants for a Social Security benefit, according to Rust.

To watch the hearing webcast and view witness statements, click here.

Mandatory E-Verify Affects Every Single Worker

A mandatory electronic employment verification system - and all the errors that come with it — does not just affect immigrants; it will apply to every single worker in this country — U.S. citizens and immigrants alike, emphasizes Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center (Immigration Impact).

"In most cases, employers aren't likely to wait out the red tape to re-verify a worker - employers will fire first and only the most well connected workers will be able to ask questions later. This will further jeopardize economic recovery by expanding job loss, undermining employer confidence and thrusting millions of hardworking, legal families into a web of uncertainty," said Anna Burger of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Learn more

A community survey of 400 immigrant workers conducted by the American Service Committee’s (AFSC) Arizona program reveals the impacts of mandatory E-Verify in Arizona:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interfaith Unity Platform on Immigration


More than 500 faith-based organizations and leaders have recently signed a letter calling on the White House and the U.S. Congress to take action on humane immigration reform. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is one of the signers of the letter. A summarized version of the letter follows:

"We call for immigration reform because each day in our congregations, service programs, health-care facilities, and schools we witness the human consequences of a broken and outdated system. We see the exploitation of undocumented workers and the plight of separated families, as well as the escalation of community fear due to indiscriminate raids and local police acting as federal immigration agents. Humane immigration reform would help put an end to this suffering, which offends the dignity of all human beings. We call on the new Administration and 111th Congress to commit to:

Uphold family unity as a priority of all immigration policies - Recognizing the importance of families to the creation of healthy individuals and strong communities, we call on the new Administration and Congress to 1) expeditiously reunite immigrant families separated due to lengthy visa backlogs; 2) revise family preference categories and per-country caps to prioritize family unity; and 3) remove bars to reentry and adjustment of status for individuals seeking to reunite with their family members. Attempts to devalue the family, such as denying birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants or placing family-based and employment-based visa applicants in competition with each other on a point-based or other system, must be rejected in order to maintain and promote family unity.

Create a process for undocumented immigrants to adjust their immigration status and allow for eventual citizenship - Enact immigration reform that allows undocumented immigrants and their families to earn lawful permanent residency upon the satisfaction of reasonable criteria, with a pathway to citizenship. Communities and congregations around the country are prepared to provide legal services to those eligible, as people of faith are committed to an effective and humane system that keeps families together and values the dignity of our friends and neighbors.

Protect workers and provide efficient channels of entry for new migrant workers - We call for an expansion of legal avenues for workers who seek to migrate to the United States to work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner. Their rights must be fully protected, including the ability to bring their families with them, travel as needed, change their place of employment, and apply for lawful permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

Facilitate immigrant integration - Many immigrants desire to naturalize but lack the necessary tools. The U.S. immigration system should empower them to this end by providing financial support to state and local governments and community organizations that offer language and civics education, outreach, and naturalization application assistance. Citizenship should be made more affordable by reducing naturalization fees and making fee waivers more easily accessible.

Faith based organizations and congregations around the country will continue to assist in integration efforts by providing social services and helping immigrants learn English, find jobs, and thrive in the United States.

Restore due process protections and reform detention policies - Immigration policies should respect human rights and ensure due process for all persons. We have witnessed how indiscriminate immigration raids have caused trauma and hardship for thousands of individuals. Such raids separate families, destroy communities, and threaten the basic rights of immigrants and U.S. citizens alike. The suffering caused by the increase and severity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in homes and workplaces underscores the problems with current U.S. immigration policies and the urgent need for reform.

We urge the new Administration and Congress to reduce the use of detention for immigrants and improve detention conditions by enacting clear, enforceable reforms that include rigorous medical treatment standards and increased access to pastoral care, legal counsel and legal orientation programs.

Align the enforcement of immigration laws with humanitarian values - For the past 20 years, the federal government has dramatically increased fence construction, border patrol presence, and the deportation of immigrants, which have proven ineffective at decreasing undocumented immigration. During this time, we have witnessed the desecration of sacred sites and the violation of environmental and religious freedom laws, as well as the unnecessary suffering of community members whose loved ones have suffered or died seeking entry into the United States. Currently, vast resources are being used for fence construction and the mass arrests, detention, and deportation of immigrants who contribute to the U.S. economy and culture.

All immigration laws must respect the dignity of all persons, prioritize the cohesiveness of families and communities, recognize the economic contributions of immigrants, and uphold our moral obligations to provide refuge and welcome the stranger.

Immigration: A matter of human rights - As people of faith, we call attention to the moral dimensions of public policy and recommend reforms that uphold the God-given dignity and rights of every person, each of whom are made in the image of God. We are dedicated to immigration reform because we value family unity, justice, equity, compassion, love, and the humane treatment of all persons. It is our collective prayer that the new Administration and 111th Congress enact just immigration reform based on these tenets."

Join Your Voice to the thousands calling for humane action:

Join local efforts to support humane immigration reform. Visit AFSC's website for program sites, background information and materials you can share with your congregation or community. Visit: www. http://www.afsc.org/ImmigrantsRights/

Contact Pesident Obama and urge him to exert leadership on this pressing issue. Write him at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

For a complete copy of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's letter, visit: http://www.interfaithimmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/interfaith-immigration-platform-009.pdffsc.org

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Breaking Bread and Barriers

Take Action this Summer!

Join faith communities throughout the country for the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's Month of Action for Immigration Reform. Your faith community can choose to host a prayer vigil, plan a Neighbor to Neighbor in-district meeting, or collaborate with other congregations and host a Breaking Bread and Barriers potluck/town hall event.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently announced to the Associated Press that he expects to have an immigration bill ready introduce by Labor day this year - which makes August - September an important time to be in touch with your Members of Congress, and even invite them to an event in your community.

Congress takes a recess during the month of August, so your representatives will be away from their D.C. offices and possibly spending a lot of time in their home states. Start planning your event now, and invite your Members of Congress to participate as soon as possible.

As talks begin in the Capitol and the White House, AFSC staff across the country are working toward humane immigration policies. In a News and Record article this month, Lori Fernald Khamala of AFSC Greensboro encouraged leaders to work with President Obama to create policy that unifies families, protects workers’ rights, and sets a clear pathway to citizenship. "It is a moral issue, but a moral issue is not incompatible with good laws," she said.

Below are all the materials you need to plan any of these events – just add your creativity and determination!

View the IIC Summer Schedule

View the IIC Organizing Guide

List your event the IIC calendar

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Arresting Dilemma That Doesn’t Make Sense

“The police chiefs here, having spent most of their careers in cities with large immigrant communities, said it would be impossible to send the nation’s 10 million to 15 million illegal residents home. They criticized last year’s roundups... at workplaces, and the federal 287(g) program that has given at least 63 police departments a role in deporting... immigrants.” (New York Times, 7/1/09)

It is not a message from “pro-immigrant” groups, or others pigeonholed as the “open borders” crowd. In fact, the recent message is coming from local police officials: an association that brings together the police chiefs of major urban centers. In early July the Major Cities Chiefs Association met to discuss public and community safety issues. A key discussion point was the nation's current immigration policies.

Troubled by what they believe is the wrong use of critical human and limited financial resources, the police chiefs called on legislators to take action on national immigration policy. They expressed their concern with the continued use of the federal 287(g) program, which allows local police members to question and detain anyone they suspect may be an undocumented immigrant.
This program has led to complaints of racial profiling, and compounded an already precarious relationship between local community members, immigrants ("documented" and otherwise) undocumented) and police officers. Indeed, the 287(g) initiative has disrupted the fabric of trust that communities have been trying to establish with local police departments.

At the gathering police chiefs reiterated what many already suspected: putting police officers to enforce federal immigration laws does not build dialogue between community members and police officials; in fact, this action strains financial and human resources, and does nothing to resolve the current immigration dilemma. In addition, the 287(g) program diminishes, in effect, the critical role community residents can play in creating safe, healthy and vibrant communities.

"It is troubling to see that already stretched financial resources are being used by local police departments to enforce federal immigration policy,” notes Gabriela Flora, AFSC Denver staff. “People in general, are often apprehensive about approaching police officials if they have witnessed a crime, or have been the victim of a crime. There is a better way of making sure that we have safe communities for everyone. I think this is the common denominator -- whether you are an immigrant or non-immigrant -- you want to live in a safe community. This is what is important to everyone and should be the key factor to consider," she concluded.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: ACT NOW!
Contact the Department of Homeland Security:

Operator Number: 202-282-8000 or Comment Line: 202-282-8495
Leave a Message for Secretary Napolitano urging her to:
  • Refocus 287(g) funds to promote greater community participation in community safety.
  • Target funds to support community safety efforts so that everyone – immigrants and non-immigrants can be involved in the creation of safe, vibrant and healthy neighborhoods.

Friday, July 10, 2009

North Carolina Youth Rally for Equal Education Access: Yazmin’s Story

"My name is Yazmin, I am a student at Guilford College and this summer I've been working at the American Friends Service Committee. AFSC is committed to college access for immigrant students, but as a pacifist organization, AFSC is deeply concerned with the inclusion of military service in the proposed DREAM Act, and the exclusion of community service as an alternative for youth to consider. As a college student, and as a person who is interest in contributing to my community's betterment, I urge Congressional representatives to reinstate the community service provision. (Photo: Greensboro, NC youth rally for equal education access and for community service option in the DREAM Act – Courtesy of Lori Fernald Khamala).

Growing up, I knew I wanted to be "someone," I often heard from my family that if I wanted to have a better future I had to stay in school, and do my best to be able to go to college. At the age of 13, life circumstances brought me to the United States from Mexico. I thought I could accomplish everything I dreamed of because I was in the United States of America!

In high school I worked hard to adjust to the new culture, to learn the language, and get good grades. I always kept in mind what my family often said "Ech├índole ganas se sale Adelante.” (Put your energy into it, and you’ll go far!). However, when I started high school I stared hearing people telling me, “Why are you trying so hard? You won’t be able to go to college, you are an immigrant.” Some of my friends became discouraged; many of them dropped out of high school, others married and so on. I felt that I could not give up.

My faith helped me to continue trying and believing in myself. Finally, I met a friend who inspired me to continue with my educational journey. He was a great model and life example. I applied and was accepted at Guilford College. Getting in was not easy, staying has been even more challenging. But I know that at the end I'll be able to look back and see that all the sacrifices, worries, and stress hat come with being a Latina immigrant in college. I am gaining the skills and experience that will help me to serve and help my community.

AFSC wants every student to have the opportunity to further their education, but many will still find great financial and other barriers. While I have always supported the DREAM Act, it is important that community service be part of this proposed legislation.

As it is now written, the DREAM Act will lead many young people to think that military service is the only option that can help them secure permanent residency. However, previous versions of the DREAM Act included a community and volunteerism service component. National service is one way that we can all contribute to our communities.

I see the benefits of the DREAM Act for my friends, my community and for me. Community service means a lot to me because it is part of how we can support and help each other especially when we are far from our country, family and culture. A service component in the DREAM Act will help the development of a strong nation. I urge legislators to support the DREAM Act and to restore the volunteer and service component now. Thank you.”


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To learn more about the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The "DREAM Act") and AFSC's analysis, please contact Sara Ibrahim at sibrahim@afsc.org

Additional sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/DREAM/index.htm

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dream an Equal Education

Everyone has the right to education. Education should be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations...” - Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

As a non-violent, faith-based organization, AFSC reiterates grave concern with the inclusion of military service in the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) and the exclusion of community service as viable alternative for youth to consider. AFSC has long been an active faith-based voice on issues of race, gender, disability, religion, national origin or legal status. AFSC supports equal access to educational opportunities that augment workforce skills and the nation's future viability.

Civic Engagement Benefits the Common Good

AFSC calls for the inclusion of a community service and volunteerism component to the DREAM Act. Communities throughout the nation are challenged by economic crises and other critical issues such as a shortage in teachers for classrooms, the elimination of basic services and reduced operating budgets. The DREAM Act could provide a viable opportunity for volunteerism and innovative civic engagement opportunity that helps strengthen and sustain rural and urban neighborhoods.

Recent calls by local and national leaders have encouraged young people to become engaged and active participants in community service endeavors. Indeed, the recent passage of the Serve America Act offers a remarkable opportunity to engage all youth. Re-incorporating a community service component to the DREAM Act lends itself to this reality and to participation in local or national civic service that build neighborhoods, support families, and create a strong national human infrastructure. This can be an innovative alternative which fosters goodwill, positive self-esteem and a sense that one is part of a broader community effort!

What AFSC Supports: Education is a Basic Human Right

  • AFSC supports the provisions in the DREAM Act that provide a path to permanent residency to undocumented immigrant students and lifts penalties on states that provide undocumented immigrant students with in-state tuition. AFSC does not support policy or legislation inviting immigrant students – or any student – to join the armed forces. AFSC vehemently rejects a military service component which serves as a de facto military draft for undocumented youth.
  • We believe that immigrant youth should be able to qualify for the benefits of the DREAM Act (instate tuition, a path to permanent residency, and eventual citizenship if they so desire) by performing community volunteerism that encourages community service as a career choice and volunteerism as a starting point for future and ongoing civic participation.
  • The 2009 Serve America Act could be an important path for immigrant youth to contribute to the nation's human infrastructure, and in turn, an opportunity for future generations to be equal participants in the betterment of the nation.

Education is a human right and yet immigrant students in the nation’s academic learning system confront systemic, structural and institutional barriers that impact their academic achievement and their ability to attend institutions of higher learning. Social, class, race, ethnicity and disability are several of these key issues and underlying inequalities. Studies have shown that for every immigrant student who attends a two or four year college, twenty will not be able to do so.

AFSC deplores the use of a poverty draft and its inclusion in all legislation that addresses the ability of immigrant youth to receive equal educational access. It is also highly probable that immigrant youth may be lured into enlisting in the US military with the notion that they only have to serve two years in the military. The DREAM Act currently specifies two years as the minimum amount of time needed to be eligible for legal permanent resident status, but the bill does not articulate that everyone who enlists in the military is obligated to serve eight years.[1]

Dream to Serve: Make Service Opportunities Available to All Youth

Given the intention of Congress to use the DREAM Act to increase military recruitment numbers, the potential for abuse and misuse of the law in order to fraudulently recruit undocumented immigrant youth is of grave concern. Recent studies show how important information is omitted, misleading information is providedand how potential recruits are deceived in order to convince them to sign the enlistment agreement.

Senator Richard (Dick) Durbin, the key sponsor of the bill, has noted, "...[T]he DREAM Act creates a strong incentive for military service. And many DREAM Act kids come from a demographic group that is already predisposed towards military service." A 2004 survey by the Rand Corporation found that 45 percent of Hispanic males and 31 percent of Hispanic females between ages 16 and 21 were very likely to serve in the Armed Forces, compared to 24 percent of White men and 10 percent of White women.”[2] Furthermore, Lt. Colonel Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve and a participant in the drafting of the bill has observed, “The DREAM Act promises to enlarge dramatically the pool of highly qualified recruits for the U.S. Armed Forces." [3]

The option of community and national service and restoring provisions for federal grant eligibility (including Pell Grants) benefit the nation while providing motivated immigrant youth a viable alternative for civic participation. This is also a way through which youth can live out their values, physical and spiritual energy, and contribute to the nation's greater good. This is especially important at a time when the nation’s executive and legislative leaders have called for public engagement by affirming and supporting the 2009 Serve America Act.

Bridging the Serve America Act with the DREAM Act is a mutually beneficial and more comprehensive way to ensure that immigrant youth can serve the nation without having to do so by serving in the armed forces.

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For information on the Serve America Act of 2009 go to: http://www/nationalservice.gov

[1] Armed Forces of the United States, Enlistment/Reenlistment Document, Section C.10.a. available at http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0004.pdf.
[2] Senator Dick Durbin, Floor Statement: DREAM Act as an Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, July 13, 2007.
[3] Margaret D. Stock, “The DREAM Act: Tapping an Overlooked Pool of Homegrown Talent to Meet Military Enlistment Needs,” Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, January 15, 2006.