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Immigrant Day; Atrocious Alabama immigration law signed; Report shows that immigrants strengthen economies 5.14-5.21

23 May

Immigrant rights activists rally around immigrant day
Monday was immigrant day. Advocacy organizations like The California Immigrant Policy Center and allies are rallying to pressure policymakers to pass progressive immigration policies and advocate against anti-immigrant policies such as SComm and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

Alabama governor signs harshest immigration law
Last week, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what is likely to be the harshest immigration law yet. The new version (HB658) keeps the main parts of the original bill (HB56), like requiring police to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect is undocumented and requiring schools to track students’ immigration status.  Like the original bill, it will result in racial profiling and denial of students’ right to an education. To make matters worse, HB658 added a new provision that will marginalize and make life even more unjust for undocumented immigrants: it requires the state to publish the names and photos of all undocumented immigrants who appear in court.

S&P reports finds that immigrants strengthen economies, do not weaken it
A new report from Standard & Poor’s finds that cities with large numbers of immigrants experienced economic growth. Specifically, the report found an increase in per-capita income, improved credit ratings and found a stabilizing effect on labor markets. The report provides evidence that rejects the commonly promoted idea that immigrants harm  economies.

Black, Latino and Asian babies are now the majority among newborns
Census data reveals that for the first time in U.S. history, more than half (50.4%) of the nation’s babies are Black, Latino or Asian.


In the News 4.16 – 4.24: Border Patrol brutality; Supreme court examines Arizona’s law on Weds.

24 Apr

PBS episode exposes the brutality of border patrol, PBS, 4.20.12
As part of its Need to Know investigative reporting, the PBS episode exposes the border patrol’s inhumane treatment of people crossing the border. The episode shows footage of the brutal tasing and fatal beating of Anastasio Hernández, who had been a resident of San Diego for 25 years. Additional media outlets, including Democracy Now, have also recently covered this horrific event, which occurred in 2010. The report raises serious concerns and problems with the Department of Homeland Security, a system that lacks accountability and humane treatment.

Supreme Court examines whether immigration is a state or federal matter, LA Times, 4.21.12
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will examine Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070, which encouraged other states like Georgia and Alabama to pass similar and even more hostile laws against immigrants. The issue at hand is not whether these laws violate human rights, but whether states have the authority to pass and enforce legislation around immigration, a topic that has been in the past a federal matter. The Center for American Progress has compiled various resources to help advocates understand the potential effects of this decision.

Net migration from Mexico falls to zero and has perhaps even reversed, Pew Hispanic Center, 4.23.12
The Pew Hispanic Center’s report finds that between 2005 and 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans migrated to the U.S. while 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S. born children migrated to Mexico. The findings suggest that that the pretext for anti-immigrant policies is unfounded.

164 Anti-Immigration Laws Passed Since 2010? A MoJo Analysis. Mother Jones, April 2012
2011 saw a higher number of laws against undocumented immigrants than in 2010 due to five states passing bills similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. Some states passed 11 or more laws ranging from driver’s license eligibility to mandating that employers use E-verify. Mother Jones’ analysis also exposes how private-prisons like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO reap profits from anti-immigrant laws.

Arizona official targets Mexican-American studies at universities ,Colorlines, 4.18.12
Previously, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal led the attack to disband the Mexican-American studies program at Tucson Unified School District. He now is targeting similar programs at universities and colleges. One faculty member says “This is Arizona…And I firmly believe they want to eliminate a world view, from the schools all the way to the university level.” Eliminating these programs would eliminate not just a world view, but recognition of the social, cultural and economic contributions of Mexican and Mexican-Americans to Arizona and the nation.

Debates continue over immigration policies, including detention and deportation, and pathways to citizenship

5 Apr

Post written by: Naomi Beyeler

In the News, March 25 – April 2, 2012

In light of increasing reports of mistreatment and neglect in detention centers, resulting in high rates of abuse, injury, and death among the 30,000+ immigrants awaiting deportation, the Federal government proposed new rules to protect basic human rights of those in detention.

These rules now face criticism from Republicans and the American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing federal officers in charge of detention and deportation. In a hearing organized by Republicans, titled “Holiday on ICE”, Republican leaders charged that the new rules turned detention into “recess,” while the head of the union critiqued the new rules because of concerns that they weaken security for ICE officers.

However, advocates for immigrants’ health and safety emphasize that the new laws will not provide a “holiday” but are simply the first necessary step in protecting basic human rights. For example, under the new laws, people in detention will gain rights including: access to safe drinking water and medical care, prohibitions on strip searches by agents of the opposite sex, and protections against participation in clinical trials without informed consent. In addition, while acknowledging that these are important steps to protect the basic health of detainees, advocates for immigrants rights continue to highlight the greater problems associated with detention and deportation, arguing that people should not be placed in detention simply for immigration reasons.

Also, debates continue about the creation of potential pathways to citizenship for immigrant youth who have spent their lives in the U.S. Unwilling to support the full DREAM Act – which offers citizenship for students who attend college or join the military – Republicans, including Marco Rubio, introduced proposals that will only provide legal status, thereby preventing access to the basic rights of full citizenship, such as voting.

Latino immigrants aren’t the only group of people facing the racism and violence prevalent in our communities and our immigration policies. In Southern California an Iraqi woman was murdered, and found with a hateful note left next to her. Discrimination and targeting of Muslim communities isn’t simply the product of individual actions; recent reports from the ACLU show that around the country the FBI is spying on Muslim groups in mosques, universities, and community organizations.

Anti-immigrant policies encourage bad policing and create toxic environments

28 Mar

Source: Center for American Progress

Featured article: Life as an Undocumented Immigrant: report finds that driving and walking are top two concerns among study participants, Center for American Progress, 3.26.12

The negative impacts of anti-immigration policies on public health are not always obvious.  The Center for American Progress has released a study looking at how anti-immigrant policies affect the everyday lives of undocumented immigrants and their communities. The study focuses on migrants in North County, California, near San Diego. One of the key findings is that anti-immigrant policies, such as  Arizona’s SB 1070,  Alabama’s HB 56 and Secure Communities, in practice transform local law enforcement into immigration agents and result in racial profiling. In fact, 43% of immigrants in the study reported feeling negatively targeted by police, contrasted with 8% of whites reporting in another poll. This, in turn, creates a deep distrust and fear of local police that pushes undocumented immigrants — and their relatives and friends–  to avoid contact with the police. Because of this, driving and walking in public were the top two activities of concern reported among the study participants. The consequences of people fearing local police affect entire communities. As the authors explain, “…when unauthorized immigrants fear interacting with law enforcement, it makes us all less safe — whether we are documented or not.”

From a public health perspective, this report highlights how policies generate unhealthy and toxic social environments by creating a mixture of distrust, fear and hostility between different segments of a community, in this case undocumented immigrants and their loved ones versus local police. If people don’t even feel safe enough to walk in their neighborhoods or to call the police when faced with a dangerous situation, such as domestic violence, how are we supposed to build healthier environments?

For example, there is a lot of attention around addressing the obesity epidemic in the Latino communities by increasing access to fresh foods and parks where people can exercise and walk to daily activities. But these health promotion efforts will fail if anti-immigration policies destroy a basic sense of community safety, such as feeling free to walk the streets or drive to the supermarket without fear of arrest for “looking suspicious” or having a broken tail-light.  Unfortunately, as demonstrated by this study, under Secure Communities, these examples are legitimate threats to immigrants. Anti-immigrant policies undercut our public health work by building oppressive and toxic social environments. It is time that public health insert itself into the immigration debate and draw the links between anti-immigrant policies and poor public health outcomes. Otherwise, we risk the health and lives of our communities.

In the News

Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing, New York Times, 3.27.12
A community fears that hate crime and racism against Iraqi immigrants resulted in the brutal murder of an Iraqi woman.

Georgia’s anti-immigrant bill seeks to deny access to water, school and passports as IDs, Wall Street Journal, 3.26.12
Georgia’s SB 458, sponsored by Senator Barry Loudermilk, is translating to a bill that would deny basic rights such as access to public water and sewage services, education, and most recently allowing foreign passports as acceptable ID.

Another report highlights deep problems with detention centers and New Jersey is the newest example, Washington Post, 3.23.12
Despite the Obama administration’s emphasis on reforming the civil detention system, centers like New Jersey have been found to deny basic services such as healthcare, food and legal assistance.

Immigration’s loose rule of detention, Los Angeles Times, 3.18.12
In this editorial, the LA Times holds the Obama administration accountable and demands that it ensure that detention centers treat immigrants fairly and humanely.

Immigration policies are inhumane, ineffective and unhealthy, 2.20 – 2.27

28 Feb

Staying Put but Still in the Shadows, Center for American Progress, 2.23.12

The Center for American Progress has launched a new series to highlight the stories of undocumented immigrants and describe how our immigration policies affect all of us. The first report, Staying Put but Still in the Shadows, asks the question: “Have anti-immigration bills led to an exodus of unauthorized migrants from the US as restrictionists have promised?” The study authors find that:

  • Most undocumented immigrants decide to stay in the country.
  • Anti-immigrant laws push immigrants from one area to another and displace them from their homes and neighborhoods.
  • State efforts to force undocumented immigrants out of the country are expensive: Arizona’s SB 1070 cost the state at least $14 million; Georgia’s HB 87 cost between $300 million and $1 billion; Alabama’s law could cost as high as $10.8 billion.

As highlighted in this report, harsh policies that attempt to make life unbearable for undocumented immigrants are not only inhumane, but ineffective and costly. Recently, we have seen Republican Presidential candidates shamelessly promote similar policies in the GOP debates: for instance, Mitt Romney called Arizona’s SB 1070 a “model policy” and has advocated for “self-deportation” – a tactic that, as explained in a New York Times editorial, is based on making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they “choose” to self-deport.

From a public health perspective, these policies create unacceptable social and economic inequities that lead to poor health among immigrants. To work to improve health, public health professionals investigate the “root causes” of poor health. When looking at immigrant health, we need to look at how xenophobia and discrimination shape policies that push our communities into the shadows. If we are to build healthier communities, we need to ensure that we have fair policies that provide access and rights to all, not just to a few. We should not have a society built on policies that aim to make life unbearable for particular communities.

In the News

Aging Migrant Workers Face Perilous Future in Salinas, New America Media, 2.20.12
In this commentary piece, Joaquin Magon exposes the injustices that aging migrant workers face. He comments that “the reality is this: Capital is valued above humanity, and those that cannot produce capital have no room in this world.”

National gathering in L.A. spotlights plight of day laborers, Los Angeles Times, 2.21.12
Hundreds of day laborers and former day laborers gathered in downtown Los Angeles for a week-long conference “to measure their progress since day laborers began a concerted effort to organize themselves two decades ago.” The program also covered immigration issues.

Georgia Immigration Law: Senate Bill 458 Would Ban Undocumented Immigrants From Public Colleges, Huffington Post, 2.23.12
Georgia Senate Committee passes SB 458 in an attempt to further marginalize undocumented students by banning them from public schools. The bill now moves to the full Senate.

Arizona to Create an “Armed Militia” Along its Border, News Taco, 2.24.12
Arizona is at it again: a new bill aims to place an “armed militia” on the national border between Arizona and Mexico.

More than just a business, 1/23-1/30

1 Feb
A recent article in the New York Times described one incentive for providing a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants: economic profit. The article highlighted a report from the Greater Houston Partnership which found that Texas would get at least $1.4 billion a year in revenue and that “…the law needs to be business friendly” and that “the untapped revenue would be accessible if immigration reform…allowed illegal immigrants the chance to work legally and pay taxes.” The economic rhetoric is also seen in other states, where legislators are supporting businesses with low-cost labor, while passing laws that discriminate against this labor because of immigration status.

The focus solely on profit and business is troublesome because it treats undocumented immigrants like a business. Given our weak economy, it’s convenient to emphasize the economic argument. From a business perspective, this may pass. But from a public health and social justice perspective, it doesn’t. Undocumented immigrants are not a business transaction. Their well-being is part of the health and well-being of our society at large. The rationale for providing a pathway for citizenship should have a deeper foundation – one that is based on human rights and social justice. Yes, undocumented immigrants should have the chance – the right – to work legally, and they should also have the right to enjoy the benefits of their hard work, like health insurance, and have the freedom to live without fear. In the US, a business or economic argument can be made about anything, but we must also equally emphasize the human rights and public health foundations for a healthy society.

In the News

Why Conservatives Want to Tax Poor American Children of Immigrants, Center for American Progress, 1.20.12
Republicans in Congress have voted for a bill that would fund the extension of the payroll tax break by eliminating the ability for parents who file income taxes with a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, meaning they do not have a Social Security Number, to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. A New York Times editorial also speaks out against this bill.The Politics of Immigrant Scapegoating: Not Just an American Past-time, Colorlines, 1.23.12
U.S. is not alone in its anti-immigrant attitudes and polices. Britain and Western Europe also have political figures who “waste no opportunity” to scapegoat immigrants.

Romney on immigration: I’m for “self-deportation”, CBS, 1.24.12
Despite being vocal about his stance against immigration in previous states, like South Carolina, Romney argues for “self-deportation” instead in Florida, given the state’s large Latino voters.

Military-only version of the DREAM Act, Miami Herald, 1.27.12
Remember how GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich suggested that he’d support a version of the DREAM Act that didn’t have a college component? Taking a cue from Gingrich, a Florida Republican Congressman has now introduced just that, a House bill that proposes conditional legal status for undocumented young people who enlist in the military. Going to college, however, would not be an option.

Undocumented workers pay billions in Social Security taxes, 12.25.11-1.2.12

4 Jan
A common myth is that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes. But, a recent article in The Seattle Times shows that each year billions of dollars are deducted from undocumented workers’ pay checks, and this money goes to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Medicare. The funds go into what is called an Earning Suspense File, established to collect money from filers whose names do not match social security numbers. In 2009, the last year for which figures were available, there were $72.8 billion in wages from 7.7 million workers whose names did not match the social security numbers. Of this, approximately $9 billion went to the SSA system and an additional $2.1 billion went to Medicare. In addition, they also pay sales tax, income taxes and rent, which landlords use to pay property taxes. Instead of seeing the benefits from these billions, undocumented workers face accusations that they do not pay taxes.
This inaccurate – and discriminatory- accusation is just another example of how U.S. policies and society exploit and scapegoat our undocumented workers. Less obvious are the health repercussions of these false assumptions. For instance, many undocumented workers will not be able to claim the benefits to which they contribute, such as Medicare or Social Security pensions. The “immigrants-do-not-pay-taxes” myth also stigmatizes workers and encourages flawed policies, such as E-verify, that further marginalize undocumented workers. Anti-immigrant systems and policies exploit immigrant workers, when what our society needs to do is recognize the contributions of our workers and treat them fairly. One way to start is by exposing these discriminatory myths.
In Other News
Calif. bans car tow practice that hit illegal immigrants, USA Today, 12.27.11
On Sunday, a new law took effect that prohibits police from impounding cars at checkpoints if the only offense is not having a license. Immigrant advocates have long critiqued checkpoints as unjustly targeting undocumented immigrants while towing companies gain huge profits from impounding fees.
As Deportations Rise to Record Levels, Most Latinos Oppose Obama’s Policy, Pew Hispanic Research Center, 12.28.11
The report finds that “By a ratio of more than two-to-one (59% versus 27%), Latinos disapprove of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations of unauthorized immigrants.”
Immigration laws pose a test of states’ rights in Supreme Court, LA Times, 12.28.11
While federal judges have blocked anti-immigrant laws introduce by conservatives in half a dozen states like South Carolina and Arizona,  the Supreme Court’s conservative majority may shift against immigrant rights advocates.

E-verify sections of Alabama and Georgia’s anti-immigration law now in effect, 1.2.12
Employers in Alabama and Georgia are now required to use the E-verify system, which mandates employers to sign a document confirming that “they’ve e-verified their employees….[and] are complying with federal law.”