Lawsuit Forces Texas to Make It Easier for Undocumented Immigrants to Get Birth Certificates for Children
With the settlement of a lawsuit against the state, undocumented immigrants will be able to use more types of documents to get birth certificates.
By Julia Preston

After Nancy Hernandez gave birth to a baby girl in a hospital in Texas in 2013, she went to a county office to get a birth certificate, just as she had after her first two children were born in the state.

But officials told Ms. Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant living in the United States illegally, that the rules had changed. Without valid documents, she would not be able to get a birth certificate to show that her daughter was an American-born citizen.

Last year, Ms. Hernandez and about two dozen other immigrants sued, saying they could not obtain the documents Texas officials were demanding to prove their identities. On Friday, Texas agreed to a settlement that will expand the types of documents parents can present, allowing those without legal immigration status to obtain certificates for their children again.

The babies whose parents brought the federal suit were born in Texas medical facilities, so it was not in doubt that they were citizens. Lawyers for the parents said the settlement would be “life-changing” for them.

“The bottom line is, there was a category of people who were being locked out of obtaining a birth certificate to which they are entitled constitutionally as citizens born in the United States just because of the immigration status of the parents,” said Efrén Olivares, the legal director of the Texas Civil Rights Project’s South Texas office and a lead lawyer in the lawsuit.

In the settlement, Texas made no changes to the basic rules for birth certificates, which it argued were designed to ensure that the essential documents were correctly issued. But the state agreed to accept several documents from parents that it had started to reject.

The change in practice by Texas registrars dated to 2013, when state leaders were taking steps to stem a surge in illegal border crossings by families from Central America. The next year, Texas sent National Guard troops to the border. Texas led 26 states in a federal lawsuit in 2014 to halt President Obama’s immigration programs to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation, which state officials said encouraged more illegal crossings. A tie decision by the Supreme Court in June effectively ended those programs.

The Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, added new fuel to the debate about the children of undocumented immigrants, saying he would cancel their right to citizenship if he became president.

Texas county offices began to require that foreign passports presented by parents include a valid United States visa. Officials also stopped accepting photo identity cards, known as matrículas, that Mexicans obtain from their consulates in the United States. In 2013, the lawsuit said, Texas stepped up enforcement of the new rules.

Parents said they could not obtain the required documents. They had not been able to baptize their children, enroll them in school or sign them up for public health programs so they could be vaccinated. With no legal document proving the babies were their children, parents feared that if they were deported, their families might be separated or that the children might not able to return to the only country where they were citizens.

In court, Texas did not deny its policy, but said that the immigrant families did not need birth certificates to gain access to state programs. But the judge hearing the case, Robert L. Pitman of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, had signaled he was skeptical of that argument.

In a ruling in October, Judge Pitman said Texas’ claim that a birth certificate was not a vital document “simply begs credulity.”

Under the settlement, Texas confirmed that Mexican immigrants will be able to present a Mexican voter identification card. Under a recent change by Mexico, its citizens can now obtain those cards from consulates in the United States.

Parents from three Central American countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — will be able to present documents certified by their consulates. Texas has also set up a review process for parents whose applications were rejected, as well as training for more than 450 county officials who issue birth certificates.

The judge agreed to a monitoring period of nine months to make sure Texas was complying.

Juana Gomez, 34, a Mexican immigrant without legal status, said she was relieved that her two daughters, born in South Texas hospitals, would get their certificates. Ms. Gomez, who has been living in this country for 20 years, said she had to delay their baptisms, and Border Patrol agents had demanded to see their birth certificates at checkpoints well inside the United States.

But Ms. Gomez said she decided to join the lawsuit and risk exposure as an undocumented immigrant because she was concerned that her daughters would grow up without being able to vote.

“It’s just about respecting what is in the Constitution,” Ms. Gomez said of the settlement. “I don’t think of it as just good for me. A lot of mothers are happy and satisfied.”

Politics in this country is so funny, regardless of who gets elected poc are gonna have to adapt. Specifically undocumented immigrants are always playing the waiting game this time sround. “Will I get deported with this president or will i be able to get citizenship” it’s just a waiting game. Anytime you mention how both sides are inadequate when it comes to this hyper white liberals get soooooo upset with you. “We are trying to help you!!!” Is like the first response I usually get which is a flat out lie.

50 Shockingly Extreme Right-Wing Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform
What Trump, a GOP Congress and GOP-appointed Supreme Court would do to America.

Here are ten excerpts from the Republican Platform 2016.

Part Three

21. Require citizenship documents to register to vote: “We  support  legislation  to  require  proof  of  citizenship  when  registering  to  vote  and  secure  photo  ID  when  voting. We strongly oppose litigation against states exercising their sovereign authority to enact such laws.”

22. Ignore undocumented immigrants when drawing congressional districts: “In  order  to  preserve  the principle of one person, one vote, we urge our elected representatives to ensure that citizenship, rather than mere residency, be made the basis for the  apportionment  of  representatives  among  the  states.”

23. No labeling of GMO ingredients in food products: “The  intrusive  and  expensive  federal mandates on food options and menu labeling should be  ended  as  soon  as  possible  by  a  Republican  Congress.  We  oppose  the  mandatory  labeling  of  genetically modified food, which has proven to be safe, healthy, and a literal life-saver for millions in the developing world.”

24. Add work requirements to welfare and cut food stamps: Nearly all the work requirements for able-bodied adults, instituted by our  landmark  welfare  reform  of  1996,  have  been  removed.  We  will  restore  those  provisions  and,  to correct a mistake made when the Food Stamp program  was  first  created  in  1964,  separate  the  administration  of  SNAP  [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program] from  the  Department  of  Agriculture.

25. Open America’s shores to more oil and gas drilling: “We support the opening of public lands and the outer continental shelf to exploration and responsible production, even if these resources will not be immediately developed.”

26. Build the Keystone XL Pipeline: “The  Keystone  Pipeline  has  become  a  symbol  of  everything  wrong  with  the  current  Administration’s  ideological  approach.  After years of delay, the President killed it to satisfy environmental extremists. We intend to finish that pipeline and others as part of our commitment to North American energy security.”

27. Expand fracking and burying nuclear waste: “A  federal  judge  has  struck  down  the  BLM’s rule on hydraulic fracturing and we support upholding  this  decision.  We  respect  the  states’  proven  ability  to  regulate  the  use  of  hydraulic  fracturing,  methane  emissions,  and  horizontal  drilling,  and  we  will  end  the  Administration’s  disregard  of  the  Nuclear  Waste  Policy  Act  with  respect to the long-term storage of nuclear waste.”

28. No tax on carbon products: “We oppose any carbon tax… We  urge the private sector to focus its resources on the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology still in its early stages here and overseas. ”

29. Ignore global climate change agreements: “The  United  Nations’  Intergovernmental  Panel  on  Climate  Change  is  a  political  mechanism,  not  an  unbiased  scientific  institution.  Its  unreliability  is  reflected  in  its  intolerance  toward  scientists  and  others  who  dissent  from  its  orthodoxy.  We  will  evaluate  its  recommendations  accordingly.  We  reject  the  agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement,  which  represent  only  the  personal  commitments   of   their   signatories;   no   such   agreement can be binding upon the United States until it is submitted to and ratified by the Senate.”

30. Privatize Medicare, the health plan for seniors: “Impose no changes  for  persons  55  or  older.  Give  others  the  option  of  traditional  Medicare  or  transition  to  a  premium-support  model  designed  to  strengthen  patient  choice,  promote  cost-saving  competition  among  providers.”





Conor Oberst on "MariKKKopa," Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and undocumented immigration
  • Q:At what point did you feel as though going after Sheriff Joe by name was important? Is there a danger you're just giving him more attention?
  • A:Joe Arpaio needs no help from me getting attention. For years he has been a beacon of bigotry and intolerance for all the world to see. The list of human and civil-rights abuses he's committed in Maricopa County is long and well documented. His many "crime suppression sweeps" are some of the most egregious affronts to American values and human dignity perpetrated in this century. What he does need is to be called out at every opportunity as the criminal that he is. There are many ways of doing that. The federal government's current law suit against him being one of them. I used the best means at my disposal to do it: a punk rock song.
  • Q:As someone who grew up in a non-border state, why do you think this particular issue strikes you as so important and inspiring?
  • A:Well, first I would say that there are undocumented people living all across this country. There are a great many living in Nebraska; the vast majority of whom make vital contributions to our economy, society and culture. They are without a doubt a net positive to our American way of life. I have many friends who are both Mexican and Mexican-American and others who, I guess you would say, are somewhere in between. The ironic thing is that all three of those categories often exist inside of the same family. I've seen with my own eyes how our unjust immigration system tears these families apart, separating mothers and fathers from their children and leaving all involved in a state of helplessness and despair. I'll never understand how destroying families through deportation benefits our society. How we treat the undocumented says a great deal about us as a people and whether or not we'll continue to fulfill the fundamental American promise of equality and opportunity for all. Considering our history, I can think of nothing more American than an immigrant.
  • Q:Tell me about the line "it's their turn for someone to get hurt."
  • A:I wanted to convey, through the music, the unbelievable level of vitriol and hatred that comes from some supporters of these anti-immigrant laws. The rage with which they demand "justice" is terrifying. In the case of Sheriff Joe and his "deputies" they are, quite literally and by their own admission, a posse. And as anyone who has seen a few Western movies can tell you, a posse is basically a mob that usually ends up lynching someone. I decided to sing most of the song from their point of view to hopefully illustrate the dangerous nature of that way of thinking. So often the debate is framed as a state's rights or security issue when, in actuality, xenophobia and racism play a much more central role than most proponents care to admit. The language in the song is ugly and hurtful, just like these ideas themselves. If you think it's heavy-handed, just listen to the sample of Joe Arpaio himself at the end as he responds to being compared to the KKK. Unbelievable.
  • Q:There are a lot of people in this country who regard Arizona's actions with a similar horror and disappointment as you. Boycotts and protests aside, what solutions should they be pushing for?
  • A:I think we should be pushing for amnesty and a path to citizenship for every undocumented person residing in the United States who has not committed a violent crime; with a special emphasis on keeping families together. This isn't just the only practical solution, it's also the only moral one. Our immigration challenges are tied to many other challenges facing our country. In order to achieve "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" we must also reexamine our trade laws, our labor laws, our drug laws, our budget priorities, our for-profit prison system and our foreign policy towards Mexico, Central and South America. If part of that reform is discouraging illegal immigration in the future, we will need an accessible Guest Worker Program as well as a real effort to force businesses to pay a living wage, both here and in Mexico. As far as paying for public services for these new Americans -- although I believe their participation in the economy would do so -- I'd recommend cutting our military budget in half. We'd have more than enough money for all the basic public services we all require. I'll never understand how we allow public health and education to suffer here at home while we spend endless amounts of money overseas fattening the purse of defense contractors. I know I'm dreaming big here, but you asked!

Meet Ju Hong, The Undocumented Immigrant Who Heckled President Obama Over Separation & Deportation of Immigrants

NOTE: This post is written by Ju Hong.

Dear President Obama,

I am Ju Hong, the “heckler” that interrupted your speech at the Betty Ong Center in San Francisco last week. I spoke up not out of disrespect, however, either for you or our country. No, I spoke up – and am writing to you now – to ask that you use your executive order to halt deportations for 11.5 million undocumented immigrant families.

My family came to the United States from South Korea when I was 11 years old. Like many immigrants, my mother brought me to this country to seek a better life for her children.

I graduated from UC Berkeley, and am now pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration at San Francisco State University. I have lived in America now for 13 years. I consider this country as my home. During my senior year in high school, however, I learned that my family had overstayed a tourist visa. We are undocumented immigrants.

As an American without papers, I was not able to get a job, obtain a driver’s license, or receive governmental financial aid. When my mother was sick and in severe pain, she did not visit a doctor because she cannot procure medical insurance. And when my family’s home was burglarized, she refused to call the police because she was afraid that our family would be turned over to immigration officials and deported.

Like many other undocumented immigrants, I was living in the shadows and living in fear of deportation. However, I have decided to speak out and stand up.

Immigration reform is not only a Latino issue, it’s also an Asian and Pacific Islander issue – in fact, it is a human rights issue. Currently, two million of the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in our country come from Asia. Under your administration, 250,000 undocumented Asian/Pacific Islander immigrants have been deported. While we only make up five percent of the country, we are disproportionately impacted by your immigration policies.

Last week, I was formally invited by White House staff to hear your remarks on immigration reform in San Francisco. As I stood in the stands behind you, I was hoping to hear about your plan to address the lives of 11 million undocumented people living in this country, like my family. And while you expressed your support for comprehensive immigration reform, you did not address how an average of 1,100 immigrants are deported every single day under your administration. You did not address how you deported 205,000 parents of U.S. citizens in the last two years. You did not address how, because of your administration’s record number of deportations–nearly two million immigrants in five years, a record–families are being torn apart: spouses are being separated from each other, parents are being separated from their children, and our brothers and sisters are being separated from one another. You did not to address how your administration would end the anti-immigration deportation programs like “Secure Communities.” You’ve deported more people than any other president in the U.S. history.

Interestingly, you talked about Angel Island during your speech. What you did not mention, however, is that more people are detained every single day in detention today than were detained yearly at Angel Island. You recognized Angel Island as a dark period in Chinatown’s history, but you failed to recognize that more Asians and Pacific Islanders are in detention today than were in detention under the Chinese Exclusion Act. In fact, your administration detains up to 34,000 people per day, a record number of detainees in U.S. history.

Because you failed to address these issues, I was compelled to address the concerns of our community.

You claim that the President of the United States has no authority to stop the deportations. And yet, in June 2012, before the 2012 election, which you won with the help of Latino and Asian voters, you implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. With the stroke of a pen, you dramatically changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people like me who can now live without the daily threat of deportation, and can legally work in this country for the first time in our lives.

I know that you support comprehensive immigration reform. But I also know that you have the power to stop the deportations, and that you have the power to stop the suffering, fear, and intimidation facing millions of immigrants like my family.

Your fellow American,

Ju Hong

Open Letter to the Immigrant Rights Movement Re: Anti-Blackness and Why Non-Black Latinxs Must Shut It Down Too
By Raúl Alcaraz-Ochoa and Jorge Gutierrez
By Raul Alcaraz

The following 7 points are critical for non-Black Latinx folks and movements to consider and explore:

1. Law enforcement is inherently white supremacist and cannot be reformed with dashboard and body cameras, DOJ oversight, police accountability, citizenship or relief. Police, ICE, DHS, Border Patrol altogether must be demilitarized, defunded and dismantled.

2. Latinx, migrant, trans, and queer liberation is impossible to achieve as long as anti-Blackness is the paradigm and Black people are assassinated in cold-blood by law enforcement.

3. We must rise in solidarity with our Black and undocumented Black immigrant siblings and embrace our proximity to Blackness and recognize law enforcement terrorism as an issue that also impacts Latinxs and our families directly. While at the same time recognizing our differences and non-Black privilege and not claim or co-opt the Black struggle that is not our own.

4. As Latinxs and Indigenous people are killed, let’s uplift their names and stories without comparing it to Black deaths and without expressing resentment about the lack of attention they receive by media; let’s not compare deaths at the expense or on the backs of the Black community. This is not oppression olympics.

5. Let’s only use #BlackLivesMatter and not change that hashtag to be about Latinx or Brown lives because that is an example of co-opting and making it more about us.

6. We must show-up, build relationships and be in coalition with our local Black-led organizations under the BLM Movement and assist and follow their leadership.

7. We must respond, speak-out and organize every time a Black, Brown, trans, queer person in our community is killed by the police.


Oh hey, SURPRISE ATTACK OF TEARS AT MY DESK watching this video.  A really moving portrayal of undocumented immigration across the US/Mexico border. 

You’ve probably heard the Avicii version of this song–Aloe Blacc did the vocals for that, but this is his solo version. His voice is amazing.

Arizona woman deported after winning casino jackpot.

Mirna Valenzuela took a trip to Tucson, Arizona’s Casino del Sol Resort with her daughter Zamira Osorio, and hit a $1200 jackpot win. But the lucky win turned unlucky very quickly when events led to Valenzuela’s deportation to Mexico. Federal law requires that winners of $1200 or more show identification for tax purposes. When Valenzuela presented her ID, casino officials suspected it was fraudulent, and called the tribal Pascua Yaqui police. After investigating they determined that the ID was valid, but that Valenzuela and her daughter were undocumented immigrants from Mexico. The mother and daughter were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol and arrested. Valenzuela was deported and Osorio was released under the DREAM act. Casino CEO, Wendell Long said, “We’re not here to deport people,” and that this is the first time since the casino’s 2001 opening that an incident of this type has occurred. Regardless, Zamira Osorio said that her family felt discriminated against and that Casino del Sol Resort should put up a sign that they don’t want illegal immigrants playing at their casino. While the situation is sad, Valenzuela is doing all right and her winnings are still at the casino, where she’ll have to claim them in person with a valid id.

Presumably, Valenzuela’s daughter is still in the U.S. because she was protected by Deferred Action.

Casino officials say their property is on a Native American land and they don’t enforce immigration laws.

This is my hometown, guys. I would really appreciate if if you spread the word so that more people know how undocumented immigrants like me are treated and the very little rights we have here.

Overreaction: Rep. Steve King Pitches A Hissy Fit When DREAMers Held Peaceful Protest In His Congressional Office

Credit: Maricela Aguilar, @maricelaguilar

One week after House Republicans passed an amendment that effectively deports DREAMers, undocumented high school students held a peaceful protest in Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) office. In their caps and gowns, the undocumented members of United We Dream occupied his office during regular hours to advocate for immigration reform.

As is his usual fashion, King overreacted, tweeting that his office was under invasion:

20 brazen self professed illegal aliens have just invaded my DC office. Obama’s lawless order gives them de facto immunity from U.S. law.

— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 13, 2013

#Gof8 You promise border security. How, when we can’t secure Congress from Obama amnesty? Schumer, McCain, come guard my door.

— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 13, 2013

King regularly introduces bills to stop “anchor babies” and discriminate against non-English speakers. He has compared immigrants to dogs and livestock.

Sometimes, mid-breakfast or during one of the slow crawling Atlanta traffic hours from work, I force myself to remember Brazil because I am afraid of what it means if I can’t, if the corners and walls no longer turn or stand solid in wherever place memories fester. I have not set foot in Brazil in eleven years. Is it enough to say, “My home country,” and know it is true? To close my eyes and feel it, always, southern hemisphere, phantom roots reaching for familiar ground. To see behind eyelids the weekend feirinhas and VCR stores, family owned bakeries at every corner, and street cars where they sold the newest Monica comics. To remember minute details, like the abandoned church a block away from my cousins’ and the blackened windows in failed businesses.

To then open my eyes and realize I am standing in a country that still denies my family’s existence, and to stand with the knowledge of never being able to call it our home, not even now, after a decade and some years. And still, building a home in it anyway, carving one from abandoned wood that once looked vaguely like a house. This is what my parents have done, fixed a beautiful home for themselves out of an old, rustic thing.

In truth it is merely an act of existing, but I like to think of it as an act of rebellion, and something half way to extraordinary.


Find out what Donald Trump has said about ‘people like you’ with #TrumpYourself

On Thursday, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, launched a Facebook app called Trump Yourself. The platform overlays various insults Trump has used against women, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, people who doubt his success, and more, and it drapes them over your profile picture.
The insults available go as far back as 1997 and are as recent as a Trump tweet in May 2016. Many of the available filters highlight Trump’s more contentious comments, including “If you need Viagra, you’re probably with the wrong girl,” and “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. …. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists." 

Here’s how you can #TrumpYourself.

New Obama Directive Allows Immigration Agents To Keep Families Intact

It seems to me that the easiest way to obtain citizenship for unlawful residents would be for President Obama to use reverse psychology and announce he is ordering every last undocumented man, woman, and child sent to Guantanamo. Since Republicans reflexively resist any policy the president suggests, the Tea Party would not only become amnesty converts, they would probably send every household a “Welcome to America” gift basket.

Alas, the Obama administration has decided on another route. Friday afternoon, the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a new directive aimed at keeping undocumented families together. Agents will now make it their priority to keep kids out of the foster system, when their parents or caregivers are detained or deported.

The new policy, called “The Parental Interests Directive”, instructs agents to find alternatives to detention when the parents of minor children are involved.  It also requires the agency keep parents who are detained close to home, where families can visit. And if parents are deported, it allows them to return to attend family court and custody hearings.

Pro-immigration reform groups hailed the new policy directive.

“No parent should lose custody of their children simply because they are involved in immigration proceedings,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Women’s Refugee Commission.“This announcement is an important acknowledgement that immigration enforcement can be carried out in a more humane and child-friendly manner.”

Though Republicans like to throw around the term “anchor babies” as if having a baby insulates an undocumented family, the truth is between 2010 and 2012 alone, an estimated 200,000 parents of minor children who are citizens by virtue of their birth, were deported. Homeland Security estimates some 4.5 million minor children have at least one undocumented parent.  The Parental Interests Directive attempts to keep these families together whenever possible.

External image
Not pleased with the new family-friendly policy? Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, charged with authoring the immigration reform bill to be voted on by the House. Last week, the chairman dashed hopes for a bill, when Goodlatte announced he would not support a path to citizenship for the Dreamers – undocumented residents who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Read: The Republicans Need To Punish Undocumented Immigrants

Already angry that President Obama issued an executive order to stop deportation of the Dreamers, Goodlatte railed against the president’s newest expression of compassion in a statement posted on his website:

“President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants.”

“This new directive from the Obama Administration also poisons the debate surrounding immigration reform and shows that the Administration is not serious about fixing our broken immigration system,” Goodlatte complained. “Instead of working with Congress to address problems with our immigration system, the President is working against us.”

The new directive still requires authorities to detain and deport anyone involved in serious criminal offenses. Immigration officials can now use their discretion in all other cases. The new family-friendly rules take effect immediately.

Father and daughter photo
Mother and daughter photo

One Mistake As A Teen Made Me An Ally For Undocumented Immigrants
By Hendel Leiva

“Get out of the country, you illegals!” I yelled at the top of my lungs from the backseat of the car my friend was driving. “We don’t want you here!”You may never guess that a member of Jose Antonio Vargas’s Define American organization, which aims to create a more welcoming culture for immigrants, once yelled insults at Latino day laborers as a teenager. Furthermore, you may also never guess I am Latino myself, and that my father was once an undocumented immigrant.

Read the very personal story of Hendel Leiva, Define Americans’ Campus Engagement Manager

Who Would Win an Immigration Debate Between Sanders and Clinton? Martin O’Malley.
Martin O’Malley, Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Maryland, is a mere whisper in the polls and has been pilloried for his record on policing while he was mayor of Baltimore. He also happens to be an immigrant voter’s dream.

via @thenation: Compared to other Democratic presidential candidates who’ve incrementally evolved on the issue of immigrant rights, and contrasted against a sea of Republican candidates who clamber to say the most outrageously racist thing, O’Malley is a standout for his longtime support of immigrants’ rights. And for the seriousness of his current reform platform.

“Certainly compared to any of the other Democrats and all of the Republicans, [O’Malley’s platform] is so far more detailed and thorough than anyone else has been willing to express,” said Beth Werlin, director of policy at the Immigration Policy Center. Werlin said that on immigrant detention in particular, where O’Malley has proposed serious cutbacks, “he really goes out there in a level we haven’t seen from other candidates.”

Undue Targeting: Civil Rights Groups Slam Republican Amendment To Bipartisan Immigration Bill That Subjects Muslims To Stricter Targeting Than Other Immigrants

Civil rights leaders slammed an amendment added to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that would subject immigrants from Muslim countries for extra scrutiny. The measure, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and added to the bill with the support of at least two Democrats, would require additional review for undocumented immigrants applying for legal […]

Civil rights leaders slammed an amendment added to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that would subject immigrants from Muslim countries for extra scrutiny.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and added to the bill with the support of at least two Democrats, would require additional review for undocumented immigrants applying for legal status who are from “a region or country known to pose a threat, or that contains groups or organizations that pose a threat, to the national security of the United States.” Under the underlining bill, all undocumented immigrations are required to undergo three separate background checks before obtaining legal status. In defending his amendment during the Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up on Monday, Graham argued for an additional screening from regions of the world “where terrorists operate.”

“I mean, it’s pretty clear what I’m trying to do,” Graham said. “I’m trying to make sure that in addition to looking at your criminal background, when you adjust status, that if there are certain parts of the world or countries — like Yemen — that you’re adjusting from, I want to know a little more about you, given the world we live in.”

Under the provisions of the amendment, the Secretary of Homeland Security would have the broad authority to target any “alien or alien dependent spouse or child” from any region or country that they deem, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to house threats to the United States for additional scrutiny before becoming citizens. “I’m not dictating that [the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State] have to pick any region or country over the other,” Graham said, attempting to deflect criticisms that the amendment focuses specifically on the Middle East.

But a coalition of civil rights groups disagreed with Graham’s approach, arguing that the measure was similar to the now-defunct National Security Entry-Exit System (NSEERS), a largely ineffective program set up under the the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9/11. As part of the program, immigrants from twenty-four Muslim majority countries were forced to register into the system, which tracked their entry and exit from the country. The coalition — including the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Arab American Institute, and National Council of La Raza — signed onto a letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to condemn the amendment as being the NSEERS reborn:

Graham amendment #3 seems to do little more than revive the failed approach taken by the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), in which nonimmigrants from countries designated as national security concerns were subject to special screening. NSEERS was widely discredited, as it resulted in unjust racial and ethnic profiling of individuals from mainly Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. While NSEERS resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands of people, it cost $10 million annually and failed to result in any successful counter-terrorism prosecutions. The Department’s Inspector General reported that the program was inefficient and burdensome. There is no reason to believe that the approach in Graham amendment #3 would be any more successful in rooting out national security threats.

The Obama administration shuttered most of the NSEER’s functions in 2011, leaving the program indefinitely suspended. Graham’s amendment is less explicit than the NSEERS was, but would still place into law the ability for the government to racially profile potential citizens. During debate, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggested that a better system should be based on intelligence and law enforcement concerns rather than nation of origin, a suggestion Graham denied was necessary.

Graham’s amendment passed by voice vote and was inserted into the overarching bill with support from Sens. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who announced they would back the measure. The overarching bill itself was voted out of committee last night, propelling it to the Senate floor where an effort to remove Graham’s language is likely to take shape.

Before His Detainment Today, Jose Antonio Vargas on Why ‘the Media Has Largely Failed’ Undocumented Immigrants

As talks on Capitol Hill to overhaul the immigration system have fizzled out in recent months, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas has embarked on a mission to educate the American public about its surging immigrant population and the cracks within its immigration laws.

Read the full story here.

What’s Up With The Immigration Reform Bill? A Guide

A comprehensive immigration reform bill just passed through the Senate, and you need to know what’s in it (so you can most effectively fight with your old neighbor on Facebook). Here’s your easy-to-understand guide to the Senate’s bill and the current status of immigration reform.

What’s going on with immigration reform?

I’m glad you asked! After months of debate, wrangling, and amendments, senators just passed S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” their comprehensive immigration reform law, by a 68-32 margin.

So now… immigration is reformed?

No, not quite. After the Senate, the House of Representatives has to pass the bill—or a modified version of it that can be reconciled with the Senate's—after which the president can sign off on it.

So what does the Senate bill consist of, then?

When I say “comprehensive,” I mean it: The bill has four sections, dealing with border security, enforcement, immigrant visas, and nonimmigrant visas.

Let’s start with border security, then.

Okay. If the Senate bill passes through the legislative process unchanged (unlikely with respect to border security in particular),Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will be required to submit a two border security plans, called the “Southern Border Fencing Strategy” and the “Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy,” through which at least $3 billion will be spent on infrastructure and personnel—including building new fences, bases, and stations; increasing surveillance and deploying more unmanned drones; and hiring thousands of new Customs and Border Protection officers.

Both plans have a common goal: A 90 percent success rate at stopping border crossings and comprehensive round-the-clock surveillance. If neither met, a bipartisan Southern Border Security Commission will be created to devise new recommendations. (More drones! More guards! Give the guards lasers! And big pit, and at the bottom of the pit, there are attack dogs!)

And you said this is different from the enforcement component?

Enforcement is a whole other section of the bill, dealing with how the U.S. handles immigrants (both documented and un-) once they’re within the country. The big change has to do with verification of legal immigration statuses: American businesses—phased in over a five-year period—will be required to use an expanded version of the E-Verify system to confirm that new hires are legally allowed to work in the U.S.

The bill also expands protections for victims of human trafficking, offering a visa to people who have been abused or enslaved; eliminates the one-year-after-arrival deadline for asylum applications; and provides some protections for immigrants engaged in removal proceedings (such as limiting solitary confinement and guaranteeing representation for some vulnerable classes of immigrants).

What about citizenship for the immigrants who are already here? Is that part of the immigrant visas section?

Yes! Title II, Immigrant Visas, is the big-deal section in terms of the actual most important and pressing issue, which isn’t “border security” but rather providing current undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship.

Essentially, the bill would allow undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. since before 2012—and who are also in good standing with law—to apply for a newly created status, “Registered Provisional Immigrant,” which is good for six years, at which point it can be renewed for another six. After ten years as an RPI, and provided they meet certain requirements, immigrants can apply for Lawful Permanent Residence, or a green card; after three years with a green card, they may apply for citizenship.

This means a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants. There will be fast-track exceptions for two groups: those who entered the U.S. before they turned 16, who, in line with the long-debated DREAM Act, only need five years of RPI status, plus two years of college or four years of military service, to apply for a green card, at which point they can immediately apply for citizenship; and agricultural workers, who, provided they stay in agricultural work, can apply for a special “blue card” that would allow for them to apply for green cards after only five years, and citizenship after five years with a green card.

In addition to the new path-to-citizenship provisions, the bill would overhaul the legal immigration process, providing for a “point system” that would award “points” to applicants based on their skills, education, employment history, age, and family ties, among other factors (talk about gamification!). Finally, employment-based immigration would be expanded, removing the cap on workers from India and China, and providing an easier path for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities.

Okay, and, finally, what’s the deal with “nonimmigrant visas”?

These are, generally speaking, visas for people who want to come to the U.S. to work or study, but not permanently. For highly skilled workers, especially those in STEM fields, the bill will raise the visa cap from 65,000 to a figure over 100,000 that will be set yearly by taking into account market demand and unemployment numbers.

Even more radically, S.744 would create a several new categories of nonimmigrant visa. Most important of these is the W, for less-skilled, non-seasonal, nonagricultural workers—in general, people working in custodial, hospitality, construction and service fields. Workers with a W—good for three years and renewable for an additional three—could work for any employer registered with the program, and even leave one employer for another without jeopardizing their visa status. The cap for the W will, like other nonimmigrant visas, fluctuate depending on market conditions, and employers who wish to hire W employees will have to recruit U.S. workers and demonstrate that their positions cannot be filled by U.S. workers.

Finally, there’s a new “investor visa” for entrepreneurs and “job creators.” All of the nonimmigrant visas offer opportunities to move toward eventual lawful permanent residence status.

That’s everything, right? Anything missing?

I mean, broadly speaking, yeah, that’s everything. If you want something that goes more in depth but don’t feel like reading the law itself, the Immigration Policy Center has a long plain-English summary here.

Seems like a pretty good bill.

Yeah! I mean, the border security stuff is expensive and useless, but it’s the price you pay to get Republicans on board.

So what’s next, now that it’s passed the Senate?

The House of Representatives. And, possibly, death.

The bill might die?

Yes. The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that cobbled the bill together in the Senate spent a lot of time trying to get a proposal that would garner 70 votes—10 more than it’d need to avoid a filibuster (and 19 more than it should need under basic democratic principles)—in the hopes that it would signal to the House that the bill had broad bipartisan support and the House shouldn’t mess with it too much.

Unfortunately the House didn’t seem to read the signal, and Republican leaders have been loudly proclaiming their lack of interest in picking up the immigration ball. (Just as they did with the last immigration bill in 2006, which died in the House.) The House is more right-wing, generally speaking, and where Republican Senators—focused on the long game of a changing electorate—want to prove to Latino voters that Republicans aren’t racist, Republican Congressmen—focused on the short game of getting elected by right-wing districts—are trying to prove to terrified white voters that Republicans are.

Is there any way it will pass through the House?

It probably has enough votes to pass, between moderate Republicans and Democrats. But Speaker John Boehner is unlikely to bring it to a vote when the majority of his caucus is against it. So… call your congressperson, I guess. Every day.

Cheerful reminder that if you live in the USA and complain about undocumented immigrants, you’re
A)a freaking hypocrite living in a country founded on undocumented immigrants who stole native land
B)Completely ignoring the way our agricultural system and service industry is set up to depend on undocumented laborers, and
C)ignorant or unconcerned with how the USA’s international policies help create the reasons why people leave their home countries.

Another cheerful reminder that systematic problems can only be solved by systematic changes, not individual solutions. And that systematic change is nearly impossible to enact when you’re struggling just to get by.