Sunday, December 31, 2006
For a link to the editorial on the Contra Costa Times website click HERE.
THE TAKEOVER of both houses of Congress by the Democratic Party increases the chances that real immigration reform could be enacted in 2007. That's because most Democrats, a significant number of Republicans and President Bush are in general agreement on how to deal with the issue.
They believe that most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States should be put on a path toward citizenship. Congressional leaders are considering dropping a requirement in a Senate bill that would require several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.
That measure divided illegal immigrants into three groups: those living here for five years or more, those here for two to five years and those here for fewer than two years.
All but the illegal immigrants living here for five years or more, roughly 7 million, would have to leave the country briefly to be eligible for legal status. Those here for fewer than two years would have to leave the country and would not even be guaranteed a slot in a guest-worker plan.
The bill is unworkable. Trying to determine who has been in the country for two, five or more years is virtually impossible, especially with an all-but-certain flood of fake documentation. Then there is the problem of trying to force 7 million people to leave the United States and seek
Opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to stay in this country is understandable. Immigrants should be required to go through the legal process of entering the United States. But there is no practical or humane way to turn back the clock on two decades of lax enforcement of immigration laws.
For many years, immigrants have been lured into the United States by employers seeking low-wage workers, regardless of identification, even though it is illegal to do so.
Had employers strictly obeyed federal law, there would be far fewer illegal immigrants in the United States. Unfortunately, the law was rarely enforced.
For any immigration law to be effective and humane, it must require far better identification documents, strict enforcement of federal law banning the hiring of immigrants without proper identification, and a large guest-worker program to accommodate the millions of immigrants who have been working productively in this country for many years.
In brief, reform measures now being discussed in Congress should effectively monitor immigration, protect our borders, enforce the law, recognize economic and logistical realities and be humane.
Bills that have been debated in Congress during the past few years meet some, but not all of the above criteria. Their biggest failing is trying to undo two decades of virtually open borders. It now appears that there is broad support in Congress for a more realistic immigration reform.
Those drafting new legislation for 2007 include Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., along with Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. The four and their staff members have begun working on a bill, which could be one of the few successes of the Bush administration.
Even with bipartisan support in Congress and backing by the White House, immigration reform will not be easy. Many members of Congress in both parties still fear that allowing most illegal immigrants to seek citizenship will be considered granting amnesty like that in the Simpson-Mazzoli law, which has proved to be so ineffective.
However, it was not amnesty that resulted in a failure to control immigration. It was a lack of enforcement against employers who hired illegal immigrants and the lack of foolproof identification for foreign nationals working in the United States.
These are the shortcomings that need to be corrected, not deportation of millions of people or a huge fence along part of our border with Mexico.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
And by the end of 2006, Congress still hadn't changed one letter of U.S. immigration law.
The border practically exploded into politics this year, drawing attention from voters and lawmakers thousands of miles from the Southwest. An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants live here already, and about half a million make it here every year, mostly from Mexico.
But for all the drama inside and outside of Washington around the issue, advocates for reforming immigration laws are again waiting to see if Congress - this time, controlled by Democrats - will be able to deliver after years of debate.
That could be more likely now. President Bush, Democratic leaders in the new Congress and a broad coalition of Latino civil rights groups, churches, labor unions and business organizations all support reforms that would make it easier for workers to come here legally and would allow most undocumented immigrants already here to get legal status.
House Republican leaders were the main obstacle to passing new immigration laws this year, refusing to negotiate with the Senate over the dramatically different bills the chambers passed. Instead, the House focused on beefing up border security without changing the underlying immigration system.
But November's elections saw several outspoken "enforcement first" candidates lose, despite their tough rhetoric, from GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth in Arizona to GOP Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.
"I think we've got a better opportunity to get this thing done than I think we've ever had," said Marshall Fitz, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which is pressing for reforms.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he'll introduce legislation similar to the bipartisan bill the Senate passed in May as one of his top 10 priorities for the new Congress. That bill included a plan to offer millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will chair the Judiciary Committee - which will write any immigration legislation - also listed immigration reform as a chief goal for the year.
"Immigration is something that's not easy," Reid said. "But it's necessary."
Both the White House and Congress may be looking for issues where Bush and Democrats agree in an effort to start the next session without too much partisan rancor. Some observers say that could bode well for immigration reform.
"The list of major policy initiatives that this president and this Congress can agree upon is very short, and I think immigration reform is at the top of that list," said John Gay, a lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association and co-director of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, made up of trade organizations for industries that depend on immigrant labor.
Still, the issue won't be at the top of the agenda for all lawmakers.
Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hasn't yet decided how or when to take up reform again, Democratic aides said. Many new House Democrats supported new border security restrictions on the campaign trail, which could complicate matters politically for Pelosi, even though lobbyists working on the issue believe a majority of the House would vote for reform.
But the stalemate this year taught advocates that they need to act fast, before election-year politics come into play, said Cecelia Munoz, vice president for advocacy at the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino civil rights group, Munoz hopes the House will take up a bill by spring in order for Congress to finish its work before 2008.
With the Bush administration already is ratcheting up border security and enforcement of laws against hiring illegal immigrants - the two biggest busts of undocumented workers in U.S. history occurred this year - some observers say border hardliners could win by default if Congress doesn't pass new laws soon.
The crackdowns are slowing the arrival of new immigrants, even though conservative critics say the administration isn't doing enough. Already, agriculture groups are complaining that new security measures are contributing to a labor shortage.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
To read the full editorial click HERE.
EVERY nation is a nation of immigrants. Go back far enough and you’ll find us all, millions of potential lives, tucked in the DNA of our African mother, Lucy. But the immigrant experience in the United States is justly celebrated, and perhaps no aspect of that experience is more quintessentially American than our long heritage of illegal immigration.
Descendants of the great immigration experiences of the 19th and 20th centuries visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum to learn of the tribulations of ancestors who risked much to become Americans. Those of us whose ancestors risked everything as illegal immigrants, and in the process helped found a nation, owe our forebears a debt of gratitude, too. Without their daring disregard of immigration laws, we might not be here today.
With the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and some
key center-leaning Republican allies are working on measures that could place
millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship. In May, the Senate passed a bill that was much more centrist than the radically right-wing bill passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives at the end of 2005.
The new efforts in both houses of Congress are likely to look more like the Senate bill, and in many cases be much more humane and liberal-leaning.
This is in direct response to public support by Americans that felt some of the measures went too far in punishing immigrants, while giving a free pass to businesses that were in greater violation of existing laws.
Being a nation of immigrants, most Americans want to welcome newcomers to the United
States. The trick is to balance between security of the country, stability of the economy and the society, and simple humanity toward other people.
Accordingly, lawmakers are considering abandoning a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.
The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, a law championed by Republicans. The original $6 billion to $10 billion estimate has increased to a $36 billion estimate, and may take longer than a decade to complete.
Details of the bill, which would be introduced early next year, are being drafted. Key points include tougher border security and a guest worker plan. The lawmakers, who hope for bipartisan support, will almost certainly face pressure to compromise on the issues from some Republicans and conservative Democrats.
To read the full article click HERE.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 — Counting on the support of the new Democratic majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.
The lawmakers are considering abandoning a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the United States before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.
The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, a law championed by Republicans that passed with significant Democratic support. Details of the bill, which would be introduced early next year, are being drafted. The lawmakers, who hope for bipartisan support, will almost certainly face pressure to compromise on the issues from some Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Still, the proposals reflect significant shifts since the November elections, as well as critical support from the Homeland Security Department.
Proponents said the prospects for such a measure, which would include tougher border security and a guest worker plan, had markedly improved since Nov. 7.
The Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill next month with an eye toward passage in March or April, officials said.
The House is expected to consider its version later. President Bush said last week that he hoped to sign an immigration bill next year.
The major lawmakers drafting the legislation include Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, along with Representatives Jeff Flake,
Republican of Arizona, and Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois. The four met this month, and their staffs have begun working on a bill.
“I’m very hopeful about this, both in terms of the substance and the politics of it,” said Mr. Kennedy, the incoming chairman of the Senate Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee.
Mr. Kennedy acknowledged that there would be hurdles. But he and other lawmakers say Republicans and Democrats are now more likely to work together to repair a system widely considered as broken.
Many lawmakers say their hope is growing that Congress will pass an immigration bill next year.
“There are going to be hard choices that are going to be made, because we need to build a bipartisan, broad-based coalition,” said Mr. Gutierrez, who leads the House Democratic immigration group. “But I’m hopeful that in the environment in which we’re working now we can get it done.”
To read the full article in today's New York Times, click HERE.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Mr. Bush’s Immigration Realism
Every now and then the public gets a glimpse of the George W. Bush who is a calm realist on immigration, a former governor of a border state who knows, likes and understands Latino immigrants. It’s an identity sharply at odds with that of many other members of his Republican Party, especially the snarlers clustered on its right wing.
At his news conference yesterday, Mr. Bush commented on the raids at Swift & Company, the meatpacking giant that, to nobody’s surprise, seems to have had hundreds of illegal immigrants with forged papers on its low-skill work force. Mr. Bush did not condemn the detainees as border-crossing evildoers. He spoke with startling tolerance.
“The system we have in place has caused people to rely upon smugglers and forgers in order to do work Americans aren’t doing,” Mr. Bush said. “It is a system that, frankly, leads to inhumane treatment of people.”
He continued: “The best way to deal with an issue that Americans agree on — that we ought to enforce our borders in a humane way — is we’ve got to have a comprehensive bill.”
Mr. Bush understands that many illegal immigrants are doing what they have to do to support families within a system that offers few routes to lawful entry. He understands that giving immigrants the opportunity to earn an honest foothold in this country — the path to citizenship despised by restrictionists as “amnesty” — is not giving a reward to criminals. It is not something for nothing. It is an attempt to fix a system that draws in millions of illegal immigrants each year, efficiently taking their labor but withholding hope.
Mr. Bush has shown a way to move the debate away from the “amnesty” trap by casting reform as a means to end an abusive system and remove the perverse incentives that allow illegality to flourish. It may sound shocking to say that illegal immigrants deserve better. But as long as this country keeps swallowing them up into a broken, unjust system, they do.
Mr. Bush showed yesterday that he gets it. He should do that more often.
For a link to the editorial on the New York Times Website, click HERE.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The theater of last week's high-profile immigration raids across six states shows in bright lights just how broken is our federal immigration policy.
Strong demand for labor and wink-and-nod enforcement of immigration law have spawned an underground economy that is peopled by as many as 12 million workers without legal authority to be in the United States.
Federal agents rounded up 1,300 employees of Swift & Co., a meat-processing company that insists it followed immigration law by checking papers as required. The arrests also uncovered several cases of identity theft.
Many of the workers are heading for deportation; many families are left without their breadwinners; Republicans and Democrats alike are calling foul.
If anything, the raids perhaps will prod Congress to take up stalled immigration reform and, finally, do something about it. The challenge of this problem has moved far beyond the black-and-white debate of "what about illegal don't you understand?"
Sounds pithy, but it is really nonsense, given the realities of our nation's reliance on illegal-immigrant labor.
The opportunity is there, especially with Democrats taking control of the House . A year ago, the GOP-controlled House passed a Draconian enforcement-only bill that all but denied the importance of these illegal workers to the nation's economy. It was shortsighted and mean-spirited.
The Senate did better, passing a more-balanced law that created a guest-worker program and provided a means for young people without legal status to earn it by succeeding in college.
Of course, those who want only closed borders and mass deportations will attempt to delay any meaningful compromises. But they must be ignored — for the sake of the economy, border security and humanity.
More massive roundups like those last week are not the solution. Leadership is.
For a link to the Seattle Times editorial click HERE.
For more information about While Mem'ry Brings Us Back Again, click HERE.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
These new Members are not scheduled to hold office until January 04, 2007. However, it is very important that we begin to educate them on the need to fix our broken immigration system with a fair comprehensive immigration reform.
Please contribute to the Justice for Immigrants Campaign by taking steps to inform and educate these new Members:
Write Your Newly Elected Representative/Senator to Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Oppose Enforcement-Only Proposals
If you prefer to personally call, you can use the following link to find their contact information and use some of the talking points. You can also simply use your own talking points if you prefer.
Call Your Newly Elected Representative/Senator to Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Oppose Enforcement-Only Proposals
Thank you in advanced for taking quick action to support the Justice for Immigrants campaign and comprehensive immigration reform.
For a link to the Justice for Immigrants action page, click HERE.
Friday, December 15, 2006
OMAGH District Cllr Declan McAleer has added his voice to the growing lobby to legalise undocumented Irish people living in the USA. He said that hundreds of Tyrone people, including people from the Omagh district, are among those who have no legal status in the US.
According to Cllr McAleer "There are approximately 50,000 undocumented Irish people in the USA. Many feel under siege, living in limbo, uncertain about their future and unable to make career plans or start a family because of the fear of imminent deportation.
"One of the most distressing aspects of the draconian immigration measures, which were introduced in the wake of the attack on the twin towers, is the inability to travel home, especially for weddings and funerals. At this festive time of year, many Irish people long to come home for Christmas but this is not possible because of the danger of not being allowed back to resume their lives and careers in the New Year. There are also many cases where elderly grandparents have never seen their grandchildren and even within this district I have seen situations where family members cannot return home to be with their loved ones if a family tragedy occurs."
In an address to the US Senate, Niall O'Dowd who chairs the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) group, alluded to the difficulties experienced by the undocumented Irish when he referred to a young Irish woman named Mary who lives and works in the USA. When her brother was killed in a car accident several months ago, she had to listen to the funeral service down a telephone line.
Cllr McAleer added, "Perhaps, one of the most damaging measures is the decision not to issue driver licences to people who are not documented. This makes it impossible for parents to leave their children at school and signals financial ruin for construction workers who require licences to travel to work and operate machinery."
According to the ILIR, approximately 300 Irish construction workers rushed to help at Ground Zero on 9/11 and spent the next seven or eight days digging up bodies. None of them were asked for work papers but many are castigated as illegal immigrants and effectively 'on the run' from the authorities as a result of the so called "war on terror".
Cllr McAleer said he would be tabling a motion in Omagh Council to reflect these concerns.
He said he would be personally forwarding a letter to Ms Pelosi and called on other elected representatives and interested groups and individuals to do likewise.
The Mid-Tyrone Councillor concluded, "This initiative, which has the full backing of the Irish government, will help resolve the undocumented Irish issue and effectively 'free' thousands of our fellow countrymen and women from the shadows and allow them to develop and get on with their lives."
Thursday, December 14, 2006
The undocumented Irish resign themselves to a 2006 holiday season of lonely isolation. Visiting Ireland to be with family at Christmas means risking the life they have worked so hard to build for themselves here in America.
While Christmas shopping this weekend, I was pretty much caught up in the holiday spirit (and nearly swept away by the crowds near Rockefeller Center) when my iPod randomly played a Prodigals song brought to mind just how difficult the holiday season can be for the undocumented Irish.
But the New Year is coming and with it comes the opportunity to join the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform for another Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. I can hardly wait to welcome the 2007 Congress.
Under new leadership and determined effort from the thousands of American-Irish supporters of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Congress will finally enact the long overdue comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The undocumented Irish love this country and deserve a chance to earn their way to legal status in America.
When Congress passes immigration reform, 2007 will be a Happy New Year indeed.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Speakers for the Boston rally will include several elected officials and Irish community leaders including former Congressman, Bruce Morrison; ILIR Chairman Niall O’Dowd; ILIR vice-chairman, Ciaran Staunton; and Executive Director Kelly Fincham.
IBEW Local 103
256 Freeport Street
Dorchester MA 02122
Wednesday, December 13 at 7:30pm
Monday, December 11, 2006
Would have been nice if the writer had picked up the phone and called someone in the ILIR to get some of his facts straight. (But at least, unlike certain other media outlets, he recognized the importance of the Irish in America)
The world and its mother knows the now faltering Celtic Tiger has been a mythical beast in large parts of Ireland. The real reason people are leaving Wooodlawn is because they can't live without a car; the cars have been taken off them. The cars have been taken off them because someone had the bright idea of turning the DMV into a branch of the immigration service. So now they're packing up and leaving, involuntarily.
And no-one's coming out to replace them because there's no legal channel to do so. The message has gone out loud and clear from the United States; "Don't even think of coming out here without a visa". So now the Irish are going to Australia.
Personally, I would be sad to see the historic links between Ireland and the US destroyed especially in such a piecemeal way. But maybe no-one else does?
Thursday, December 07, 2006
It was standing room only in St Barnabas to greet Senator Charles Schumer who made the "V" for victory sign
VICTORY IN OUR GRASP: More than 1,100 people squeezed into St Barnabas High School Auditorium in the Bronx on Friday night to hear NY Senator Charles Schumer address the ILIR immigration rally.
The overflowing crowd spilled out onto the sidewalk. Local businesses closed down for an hour as customers and staff packed into the church.
Senator Schumer was greeted with a roar of deafening cheers as he was given the traditional Irish bagpipe escort into the rally. The cheering continued as the crowd heard what the Senator had to say.
Senator Schumer predicted victory for immigration reform in 2007 and stressed the enormous part that the Irish would play in that victory.
"Without the Irish this would be very difficult to get done. The Irish are a hugely important part of the lobby on this issue. They have proved in the past how successful they can be when they address this topic and I am delighted to be working with them."
ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd said: "Senator Schumer's comments make it clear that this is the year for victory and that the Irish lobby will play a critical role".
"The level of support that we have received and the incredible reaction to Senator Schumer's remarks makes it clear that the Irish lobby is back in action in a big way and demanding progress.
"We will be back in Washington, we will be back in the corridors of power, we will be back to get what is rightfully ours - a fair immigration system which will allow the Irish undocumented to legalize their status and which will allow future generations of Irish to emigrate legally to the US, something they can not do at present".
ILIR Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton said; "I thought the roof would come off when Senator Schumer (whose nickname is Chuck) said Tiocfaidh ár lá (our day will come). It was an emotional night, one that I feel meant an awful lot to the Irish who came".
"For too long, we have been on the outsde, now we have the king of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, who delivered victory for the Democrats coming in to our community and telling us that TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!"
Executive Director Kelly Fincham paid tribute to the volunteers, saying they were the real reason behind the ILIR's success. "Every time you show up, every time you put on the Legalize the Irish T-shirt, you make a huge impact. Twelve months ago, we were calling Senator Schumer looking for support. Now he's calling us!"
The event was deemed so significant that the editorial board of The New York Times, the US paper of record, sent a representative.