Tag: immigration reform

Evangelicals find the heart of God on immigration

Jim Daly of Focus on the Family

By Alan Bean

American Evangelicals are gradually joining the push for immigration reform and the impetus behind this shift in emphasis is most apparent in Focus on the Family, a para-church organization founded by the controversial James Dobson.  But Dr. Dobson has yielded leadership of Focus on the Family to the irenic Jim Daly, and the difference in approach is beginning to show.

James Dobson started out as a Christian psychologist with a mission to teach Christian parents how to discipline their children.  As anyone who has ever spent low-quality time with undisciplined children knows, Dobson was scratching where a lot of families were feeling the itch.  Originally, Dobson stayed on message and his avuncular and often humorous presentations were warmly received in Christian churches across North America.  As a young pastor, I used his films on Sunday evenings.  Parents felt overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting and Dobson seemed to have the answers. (more…)

Five myths about the immigration ‘line’

By Alan Bean

Daniel Kowalski provides a much needed corrective to much of the political blather surrounding the immigration debate.  The biggest myth about the immigration line is that most people who want to live in the United States have a line to get in.  They don’t.

I was particularly struck by this bold statement:

Our immigration policy runs counter to our national ethos of civil and human rights. Over the past century, we have come to believe that discrimination on the basis of race, gender, faith and sexual orientation — things that cannot be changed or that we cannot demand be changed — is morally wrong. Yet the Immigration and Nationality Act, by setting quotas on how many people can come from certain countries, is another form of discrimination.

Is there a national ethos of civil and human rights?  The anti-immigrant movement, and much of the historical information Kowalski provides in this essay, suggest that two equally powerful ethoses (ethi?) are vying for the upper hand.  This explains why our immigration policy is so radically unfair and why no politician dares tell the truth.

Five myths about the immigration ‘line’

By Daniel M. Kowalski

Daniel M. Kowalski is a senior fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism and the editor of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin. He practices citizenship and visa law in Austin at the Fowler Law Firm.

The “line” of people seeking American citizenship or legal status has become an integral part of our immigration debate. In a speech Tuesday, President Obama said that undocumented immigrants should go to “the back of the line” behind those who are going through the process legally. The immigration reform blueprint presented a day earlier by a group of senators contained the same requirement. But misinformation about this line abounds.

1. There is one line.

The federal government has issued more than 1 million green cards per year, on average, for the past five years. But there are several lines — which one immigrants end up in depends on whether they have a job or family in the United States. (more…)

Normal Republicans have always favored immigration reform

Although you would never know it from watching television during the past five years, Republican report for comprehensive immigration was strong before the Tea Party made the issue toxic.  Or so says Molly Ball.

Why Republicans Are Suddenly Pro-Immigration Reform

Molly Ball

The Atlantic

November 14, 2012

The GOP establishment has long wanted to pass comprehensive immigration reform but been cowed by its activist base. Tuesday’s election gave them an opening.

Republicans lost the election in part because Mitt Romney drew record-low support from Hispanic voters, who made up a record-high proportion of the electorate. Within days, top Republicans have figured out what to do about this: Support immigration reform!

The chorus of prominent voices has been stunning: From Sen. Marco Rubio to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, from television and radio host Sean Hannity to columnist Charles Krauthammer. To some on the left, this looks like the most craven sort of opportunism — the GOP scrambling for a quick PR fix to its deep-seated demographic problems. (more…)

Now, this is encouraging . . .

By Alan  Bean

An exit poll conducted for the Associated Press contains this surprising result:

Only 3 in 10 voters said that most illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be deported, while nearly two-thirds said such people should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.

Voter opinion depends a great deal on the way the question is phrased, so a different question might have received a less generous response.  But if 65% of the nation thinks undocumented residents deserve a shot at citizenship, Congress has a mandate for comprehensive reform.  Let’s hope they make the most of it.

Where corporations are persons and the undocumented are not

By Alan Bean

With the first presidential debate looming, Mitt Romney has moved to the center on the immigration issue.  He still promises to oppose the DREAM act, if elected, to veto the bill if it passes congressional muster.  But Romney now says he would honor the work visas which, at President Obama’s direction, are currently being awarded to young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

As Ross Douthat (with admirable cynicism) pointed out in a recent column, when it comes to the immigration issue, presidential aspirants can win votes by exhibiting compassion (George W. Bush, Rick Perry) or by playing mean (Mitt Romney during the primary season), but there is no advantage to waffling between these two strategies.  Like most right-leaning pundits, Douthat favors using immigration as a wedge issue:

 Taking a more restrictionist position and using the issue to portray the Democrats as beholden to their party’s ethnic interest groups and out of step with blue collar Americans’ concerns.

The wise course, in other words, is to drive a wedge between hardworking Latinos and Anglos.  Nice, Ross.  A self-proclaimed “Christian” columnist advocates this sort of nastiness and no one cries “for shame!”  That’s the America we live in.  Christianity, it seems, has no moral application unless we’re talking about abortion.

Texas politicians like George W. Bush and Rick Perry are “soft on immigration” because their support base includes a lot of agribusiness people who couldn’t survive without cheap undocumented labor.  Alienating Latino voters might benefit Republicans in the short-term; but it is a long-term loser.

It is also devilish, but hey, in American politics you’ve got to give the devil his due.

Romney and Obama are both waffling on the immigration issue.  Obama claims to be working for comprehensive immigration reform (known as CIR in immigration reform circles), but he also deported a record 400,000 undocumented immigrants last year, three-quarters of them to Mexico.  To put that in context, that’s the same number of undocumented residents the United States deported between 1908 and 1980. In theory, the feds are deporting criminals, “the worst of the worst”.  In reality, half of the deportees have no criminal record and most of the “criminals” represent little threat to American public safety.

Historically, American politicians of both parties have waffled on immigration, bouncing between compassion and demagoguery.  In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that exchanged amnesty for many undocumented immigrants for assurances that the border would be closed to new arrivals.  Typically, the approach has been to privilege on group of undocumented Americans at the expense of other undocumented groups.  The DREAM act, for instance, would allow young people who came to the United States as children to obtain work permits and apply for citizenship, but their parents, and children who arrived too late, would be out of luck.

This good-immigrant-bad-immigrant approach is fundamentally unfair and utterly unworkable.  We gain nothing by kicking the immigration can down the road.

Politicians like Obama and Romney can’t be more progressive (or regressive) than the American middle.  A new poll suggests that the majority of Americans now favor providing a path to citizenship over mass deportation.  This shift occurred, I suspect, because Barack Obama found the courage to protect (albeit temporarily) DREAM act young people from immediate deportation.

Few of us think our way to an opinion.  We listen to what significant others are saying and follow suit.  We don’t all march to the same drummer, but few of us supply our own drum track.  True reform will come when both major parties realize that they can get one of their people elected president, or they can enrage the Latino electorate, but they can’t do both.

Here’s the results of the CNN poll: (more…)

Private prisons for immigrants attacked by advocacy groups

By Alan Bean

This Texas Tribune article touches on a topic dear to all Friends of Justice, the use of underfunded and inept private prisons to house immigrants.  We have had long conversations with many of the people quoted below in recent weeks because they are the experts on this distressing topic.

The private prison industry notes, correctly, that the real issue here is American immigration policy.  But the assertion that companies like CCA and Geo Group have no interest in the immigration policy debate is absurd.  As a National Public Radio investigation discovered, the private prison industry leans heavily on The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC is a shadowy organization that drafts legislation for state legislators and then hosts lavish conferences where state politicians are encouraged to back these bills.  For instance, SB 1070, the controversial Arizona anti-immigration legislation, was drafted by ALEC.  While the link between ALEC and the private prison industry is difficult to document (this is a highly secretive organization), private prisons, and the anti-immigration movement that sustains them, are central to the punitive, anti-government legislative policy of this powerful legislation-drafting organization.  ALEC is the voice of the corporate world (I was going to say “corporate America”, but that phrase is becoming an anachronism), and private prisons are just one more way for private investors to feed at the government trough.  First you foment a paranoid anti-immigration panic through the dissemination of misleading propaganda; then you sell the politicians a cheap way of getting tough on immigrants.  The private prison industry doesn’t have to lean on ALEC; the industry is ALEC’s brainchild.

Private prisons are cheap because, as Krystal Gomez argues below, they cut corners on staff, medical care, maintenance, food and every other budgetary item.  Immigration prisons are heavily privatized and the consequences for inmates have been horrendous.  Gomez has interviewed scores of inmates in these prisons so she knows whereof she speaks. (more…)

A shocking report targets Operation Streamline

By Alan Bean

What is Operation Streamline, you ask.  A post from a couple of months ago described our heart-rending encounter with Streamline in a federal courtroom McAllen, Texas.   Until 2005, undocumented immigrants detained at the US-Mexico border were simply deported; now they are tried in federal court for the crime of illegal entry.  If they have crossed the border more than once, the undocumented can be prosecuted for illegal re-entry, a felony charge carrying a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.

When reformers speak of “crimmigration,” Operation Streamline heads the list of abuses.

Operation Streamline cases are clogging dockets in federal courtrooms along the border, detracting prosecutors from crimes involving massive fraud and violence.  But for the poorest members of the Latino community, the consequences of this wrongheaded policy have been devastating.

Recently, Grassroots Leadership, an immigration reform organization, released a report called Operation Streamline: Costs and Consequences that will tell you everything you need to know about the criminalization of immigration.  Not only is Operation Streamline ineffective as a deterrent, the report concludes, it is obscenely expensive and socially destructive.

In addition to draining resources and burdening the courts system, Operation Streamline imposes a devastating human cost, especially upon the Latino community. Latinos now represent more than half
of all individuals sentenced to federal prison despite making up only 16% of the total U.S. population. Increased enforcement measures also drive migrants to employ the services of professional smugglers and to attempt crossings in more obscure and dangerous areas.  As a result, immigrant fatalities along the border have become increasingly common, reaching totals more than four times those in 1995.
 Friends of Justice is designing a narrative campaign that will illuminate the abuses highlighted in the Grassroots Leadership report.  Our goal is to humanize and personalize the plight of the men and women who continue to cross and recross the border without documentation.  We will be asking who these people are, where do they come from, and why are they willing to repeatedly violate the laws of a sovereign nation?  The answers will shake you up.