.@Americasvoice: @SenatorSessions Dishonors Cesar Chavez & Praises Anti-Immigrant Group’s “Research”

From America’s Voice

For Immediate Release:                                                         Contact: Michael Earls
April 1, 2014                                                                                          202-494-8555 

Washington, DC – It was quite the busy Monday for the Senate’s leading anti-immigrant member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).  By objecting to a Senate resolution honoring Latino civil rights hero Cesar Chavez and touting the shoddy “research” of allied anti-immigrant organization the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Sen. Sessions offered a fresh reminder of how the extreme, anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party will continue to define the GOP to Latino voters and fill the vacuum left by Republican inaction on immigration reform.

Last evening, Sen. Sessions objected to a resolution honoring Latino civil rights leader Cesar Chavez after Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked unanimous consent to move it forward in the U.S. Senate.  In response, Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) asked, “How can they look back at the sacrifices Cesar Chavez made for our country and fail to recognize the accomplishments of this great American Hero?”

Earlier that day, Sen. Sessions breathlessly lifted up new “research” from anti-immigrant organization Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), saying that CIS had demonstrated that “immigration enforcement in America has collapsed.”  Unsurprisingly given CIS’s anti-immigrant roots and associations, the study isn’t viewed as credible by actual immigration policy experts.  For example, the American Immigration Council coolly dissected the methodological shortcomings and shoddy conclusions of the CIS study here.  Keep in mind, CIS is the same organization whose senior policy analyst Stephen Steinlight said that Senate’s immigration proposal “amounts to a plot against America,” and warned that it if it were to pass, America will “be balkanized along ethnic and cultural lines and lose its cohesion.”  Most disturbingly, in regards to the many religious leaders of many faiths who support immigration reform, Steinlight said, “God help me, find a baseball bat, there would be a whole lot fewer of them around.”

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “By blocking the resolution honoring Cesar Chavez, Sessions has proven that he’s not just anti-immigrant and anti-worker, but anti-Latino and anti-American.  He has a casual relationship with the facts, a cozy relationship with the Center for Immigration Studies, and zero credibility with most thinking people.  So why is it that the Republican Party continues to let him and his buddy in the House, Steve King, define them before millions of Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters?  Sessions and King are filling the vacuum left by House GOP inaction, with dangerous implications for the GOP’s electoral prospects in 2014 and 2016—not to mention our national character.”

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HT @AmericasVoice: Two NYT Stories Highlight On-the-Ground Anger & Disillusionment With Washington’s Immigration Failures

From America’s Voice

Washington, DC – Two New York Times stories from this past weekend highlight the growing anger and disillusionment directed at both political parties, coming from core constituencies.  The Republicans come in for special condemnation from agricultural producers for blocking immigration reform legislation.  Meanwhile, President Obama’s record deportations are causing frustration and anger in the Latino community.  The stories offer sobering political reminders for both parties about consequences of the immigration status quo.

In a New York Times story titled, “California Farmers Short of Labor, and Patience,” Jennifer Medina writes of the acute frustration expressed by agricultural leaders in California’s Central Valley over Republican obstruction on immigration reform:

 Perhaps nowhere else captures the contradictions and complications of immigration policy better than California’s Central Valley, where nearly all farmworkers are immigrants, roughly half of them living here illegally, according to estimates from agricultural economists at the University of California, Davis.  That reality is shaping the views of agriculture business owners here, like Mr. Herrin, who cannot recall ever voting for a Democrat.  In dozens of interviews, farmers and owners of related businesses said that even the current system of tacitly using illegal labor was failing to sustain them.  A work force that arrived in the 1990s is aging out of heavy labor, Americans do not want the jobs, and tightened security at the border is discouraging new immigrants from arriving, they say, leaving them to struggle amid the paralysis on immigration policy.  No other region may be as eager to keep immigration legislation alive…

…After the 2012 presidential election, as Republicans spoke enthusiastically about the need to court Latinos, Mr. Nassif was optimistic that immigration would become a top priority.  But exasperation has replaced his confidence in recent months, and he said his group [The Western Growers Association] could withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars in congressional races in which it has usually supported Republicans.

I can tell you if the Republicans don’t put something forward on immigration, there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture,’ Mr. Nassif said. ‘We are a tremendously important part of the party, and they should not want to lose us.’

In a New York Times piece titled, “Hopes Frustrated, Many Latinos Reject the Ballot Box Altogether,” Jackie Calmes reports that Colorado Latino voters’ anger and disillusionment at both parties could preview lower levels of Latino voter turnout – a potentially ominous development for Democrats:

Latinos mainly blame Republicans, who control the House and have buried the Senate bill, but they also have soured on Mr. Obama.  The federal government has so aggressively enforced existing immigration laws that one national Hispanic leader recently nicknamed the president ‘deporter in chief’ for allowing nearly two million people to be deported…

…Democrats indeed are worried.  While the growing Latino electorate is a force in presidential elections, and one expected to give Democrats an edge for years unless Republicans shed an anti-immigrant image, Latinos are relative bit players in this midterm election year.  Their turnout typically drops in midterm years; nationally and in Colorado, about half of registered Latinos voted in 2008 and 2012, but less than a third did in the 2010 midterm elections and many Democrats lost.  This fall, with many Latinos caught between hostility toward Republicans and disappointment with Mr. Obama, participation could dip further…

…A depressed vote threatens Democrats in a number of races, notably in Colorado, where Latinos were 14 percent of the state’s 2012 electorate and about 70 percent voted for Democrats.  Their Senate majority at risk, Democrats are hustling to help Senator Mark Udall now that a formidable Republican, Representative Cory Gardner, has challenged him.  They also hope to snatch the House district, including Aurora, from Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican.  His Democratic rival is Andrew Romanoff, a former State House speaker.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said, “The status quo is unacceptable and the American people want their leaders to lead.  If House Republicans don’t step up to pass immigration reform in the next three months, President Obama will have to step in to take action through executive action.   While a permanent solution through legislation is the best option, executive action is far better than inaction.”

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform 


What Does it Mean that Sen. Menendez and Janet Murguía Called on President Obama to Roll Back Deportations? Short-term Heartburn for the White House and Long-term Disaster for the GOP

Washington, DC – During last evening’s 2014 NCLR Capital Awards dinner, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and NCLR President Janet Murguía both made impassioned pleas to President Obama to roll back the deportation machinery that rips families apart on a daily basis.  Without a doubt, this will increase pressure on the Obama Administration to take bold executive action.  But while it means short-term heartburn for the White House, it spells long-term disaster for the Republican Party.

 Here’s why.  If House Republicans decide to play politics and block immigration reform, then the window of opportunity for floor action on immigration reform this year will close, and House Republican inaction will effectively cede the initiative to President Obama.  This would undoubtedly lead to the President using his pen and phone to take bold executive action on behalf of millions of undocumented immigrants who are low priorities for detention and deportation.  Recent history provides a template – in 2010 Republicans blocked the DREAM Act; in 2011 advocates and Capitol Hill allies pressured the President to take administrative action (including a notable moment at a NCLR conference); and in 2012 the President provided relief to more than a half million Dreamers through the DACA program.  This not only helped real people, it helped President Obama reap political rewards.

As we have noted, there is little chance that immigration reform will be easier in 2015 for Republicans, despite the wishful thinking and recent comments of some.  The next time immigration reform has a serious chance of passage is on the other side of the 2016 elections – an election cycle in which the Republicans are risking an electoral tsunami if they block immigration reform this year.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “It’s now or never for the Republican Party.  They either act in the first half of this year or squander an historic opportunity to shape immigration policy and win political credit.  They either respond to the strong public support for reform, or they can forget about their ballyhooed ‘rebranding’ effort with the fastest growing groups of voters in America.  They either get right on immigration reform this year or risk the party’s political future.  For once the President acts administratively to protect millions of undocumented immigrants, it is predictable that reform advocates will opt to wait on moving forward with a renewed push for immigration reform legislation for when Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress.”

Here’s what Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), one of the most prominent immigration reform champions in the U.S. Senate, said at last night’s dinner:

“While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the President to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities…the current deportation apparatus is an outrage and it’s a tragedy.”

As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent captures today, “If the discharge petition Dems will employ to force a House vote on immigration reform fails, the pressure will rapidly intensify on the President to act, since it would confirm once again Republicans have no intention of acting this year.  You could see more senior Dems in Congress stepping forward as Menendez has now done.”

Here are some excerpts of what NCLR President Janet Murguía said in her keynote address last night:

“Any day now, this Administration will reach the two million mark for deportations.  It is a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America.  Many groups, including NCLR, have long been calling on the president to mitigate the damage of these record deportations.  But again we hear no.  The president says his administration does not have the authority to act on its own.

“Nearly half of those being deported are simply hardworking people who have put down roots in their communities and have employers who count on them.  Most have been here more than a decade.  One out of every four deportees is the parent of a child who is a U.S. citizen.  Hundreds of thousands of these children, our children, are being deprived of their mother or father—and very often the family’s only breadwinner.  It will take generations to heal the harm caused by inaction.  So, yes.  We respectfully disagree with the president on his ability to stop unnecessary deportations.  He can stop tearing families apart.  He can stop throwing communities and businesses into chaos.  He can stop turning a blind eye to the harm being done.  He does have the power to stop this.  Failure to act will be a shameful legacy for his presidency.  But we cannot rely on administrative relief alone.  It’s important and it’s needed, but it is also limited and temporary.  We do a grave disservice to our community and to ourselves if we focus on only one front in this battle.  Only Congress can deliver a broad, inclusive, and lasting solution.”

Said Sharry, “The window of opportunity is closing for the Republican Party.  Do they realize the stakes?  If they care about surviving as a viable national political party, they better.”

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform 

After Latest Judicial Setback, Anti-Immigrant Strategy in Shambles @americasvoice #TNTweeters

For Immediate Release:                                                         Contact: Michael Earls
March 4, 2014                                                                                       202-494-8555


After Latest Judicial Setback, Anti-Immigrant Strategy  in Shambles


Washington, DC – After its latest judicial setback, the anti-immigrant movement’s strategy for long-term victory is in disarray.


The centerpiece of their strategy, developed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Mark Krikorian at the Center for Immigration Studies, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), and Representative Steve King (R-IA), has been to block immigration reform at the federal level while advancing what they called “attrition through enforcement” and what Mitt Romney called “self-deportation” policies in the states.  Essentially, their bet was that state and local governments could make life so miserable for undocumented immigrants that they pack their bags and leave the country voluntarily.  After the latest round of judicial rulings against this approach yesterday, it is clear that the key offensive component of this strategy is in a shambles.


The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear appeals from two towns who had enacted Draconian, anti-immigrant ordinances.  The Court’s announcement means that appeals court rulings striking down anti-immigrant laws in Hazleton, PA and Farmers Branch, TX will stand.  In South Carolina, the state agreed to a settlement with groups who had filed a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s SB20 law, which had authorized state and local police to rely on “reasonable suspicion” to check the immigration status of suspects – a practice that amounts to state-sanctioned racial profiling.  Yesterday, South Carolina accepted an opinion by the state Solicitor General that determined that police could not extend regular traffic stops to check immigration status.  This comes on the heels of past rulings that dealt major blows to the anti-immigrant laws passed by Arizona and Alabama.  And as anti-immigrant laws are being halted, new progressive, pro-immigrant laws are being adopted (see California and Washington state for recent examples).


In fact, the only place where the anti-immigrant extremists still have clout is in the Republican-controlled House where the only immigration vote taken this session was on a Steve King measure to defund the DACA program and subject DREAMers to deportation.


According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Congratulations to the movement’s litigators, who have successfully fought back against a pernicious strategy aimed at driving millions of hard working immigrant families out of the country.  The latest rulings skewer the self-deportation strategy of the increasingly marginalized get-rid-of-them-all crowd.  Now it’s up to Congress to deliver a permanent solution and the President to do what he can to roll back deportations in the meantime.”


Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform 




DACA Renewal Information Released By DHS Applies Only To Cases Granted By ICE From 06/15/12 Until 08/15/12 http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-process/ice-granted-daca-renewal-guidance

“This notice contains renewal information only for those individuals granted DACA by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from June 15, 2012 until August 15, 2012, when USCIS started receiving requests. Our records indicate that this notice only applies to a small fraction of the DACA population. This notice does not apply to any individuals who received deferred action by making a request to USCIS using Form I-821D on or after August 15, 2012. In the coming months, USCIS will issue guidance about the renewal process for this group.”


Unpacking the GOP’s Weak Excuses for #Immigration Inaction HT @americasvoice #TimeIsNow

For Immediate Release:                                         Contact:  Michael Earls
February 18, 2014                                                                   202-494-8555; press@americasvoiceonline.org 


Unpacking the GOP’s Weak Excuses for Immigration Inaction

And Why Relentless Demographics & Political Implications Will Win Out


Washington, DC – Below, America’s Voice offers our assessment of some of the recent developments in the immigration reform debate.


Three reasons why the Republicans’ latest excuses for blocking immigration reform are transparently weak:


  1. 1.      The Votes Exist in the House to Pass Immigration Reform Right Now: Last week’s House vote on the debt-ceiling again demonstrated that a “governing majority” does exist in the House to pass priority legislation.  The so-called “Hastert rule,” the supposed ironclad rule that only bills receiving support from the majority of the majority move forward, is now officially the “Hastert excuse” – the debt-ceiling vote was the fifth instance this Congress in which Speaker Boehner ignored it.  On immigration, the votes exist to pass reform, if Speaker Boehner allowed a vote to occur.


  1. 2.      If It’s a Political Calculation, Why Aren’t House Republicans Acting on Immigration?  Per the Washington Post, House Republicans are openly stating that they will not pursue “big-ticket” legislation like immigration reform this year and will instead prioritize “calming divisions,” avoiding “intraparty drama,” and building “Republicans’ ground game ahead of November’s midterm elections.”  The open acknowledgment that political implications are driving their legislative strategy begs a larger question – why focus on such short-term political scenarios when the 2016 and longer-term political implications are strongly in favor of passing immigration reform?  If the Post report is true and House Republicans continue to block immigration reform, this means that only immigration floor action that House Republicans will have taken this Congress will be their vote in favor of anti-immigrant extremist Steve King’s (R-IA) amendment to defund the DACA program and subject DREAMers to deportation.  Not exactly a strong rebuke of the GOP’s recent “self-deportation” past.  Plus, the idea that Republicans will hurt their 2014 chances by pursuing reform is misguided.  As former NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer recently said to Greg Sargent of the Post, “The idea that someone who is sitting at home mad at the president about Obamacare is going to wake up in October and say, ‘I’m really mad that Republicans voted to solve the immigration mess, so I’m not going to vote’ — I just find that to be ridiculous.”  


  1. 3.      Wait ‘Til 2015? Not Going to Happen: The notion that Republicans can block immigration reform in 2014, but take the issue back up in 2015 is a non-starter, despite numerous House Republicans making this assertion recently.  As Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said on CNN last Sunday, “To wait until 2015 when we’re involved in Republican primaries, obviously, would not be a viable scenario.”  And the Wall Street Journal recently editorialized that “the opponents will raise the same furor whenever it comes up, and Democrats will be less likely to compromise figuring they can use the issue to drive minority voter turnout in 2016.”


Despite the continued House Republican obstruction to reform, here are three reasons why we think immigration reform is coming:


  1. 1.      The American Public Strongly Backs Immigration Reform & Republican Voters are Surprisingly Supportive: The American public broadly and consistently backs immigration reform with a path to citizenship, with Republican voters more pro-reform and pragmatic on the issue than conventional wisdom suggests.  As a new Gallup poll finds, public sentiment is moving even more in a pro-reform direction, with Americans placing equal importance on a plan to deal with the undocumented population and border security measures.  As Gallup notes in its poll summary, this “is a shift from the past, when Americans were consistently more likely to rate border security as extremely important.”  Meanwhile, key constituencies like the American Farm Bureau and in-state business leaders (see this op-ed from Nebraska, for example) continue to speak out about the need for reform and the policy consequences of inaction.  And Latino voters’ political engagement and behavior remains closely tied to immigration reform debate (see this recent summary of Latino voter polling on immigration from Latino Decisions).  With both overall public sentiment and the intensity factor on the side of the pro-reform movement, it’s only a matter of time before that wins out.


  1. 2.      The Demographics are Relentless and the Political Consequences of Inaction are Severe: Republican obstruction to immigration reform would cement their anti-immigrant brand to the fastest-growing segments of the electorate, meaning that their prospects of re-taking the White House in 2016 and beyond will be imperiled.  As John Feehery, a former House leadership aide and current Republican consultant, recently noted, “If we don’t pass immigration reform this year, we will not win the White House back in 2016, 2020 or 2024.”  Beyond the presidency, observers are increasingly noting that immigration could harm Republicans’ chances in a host of 2016 down-ballot races as well.  For example, Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats in 2016 – seven in states carried by Obama – while Democrats need only to defend 10 seats.  A filibuster-proof majority is possible.  Republican inaction in 2014 could mean the GOP is doomed as a national party in 2016 and beyond.


  1. 3.      Pressure on President Obama to Take Executive Action is Rising, and GOP Inaction in 2014 Will Virtually Guarantee He Will Exercise it:  If House Republicans block a legislative fix to immigration in 2014, pressure will only grow on President Obama to take executive action to suspend deportations for those who would qualify for legalization under pending legislation.  Already, the President’s allies and immigration activists are providing a preview of what’s to come if legislation remains blocked.  At the recent House Democratic retreat, several lawmakers asked the President about relief for parents of DREAMers and administrative efforts to encourage re-unification of families separated by deportations.  Meanwhile, as MSNBC highlighted, approximately “30 religious leaders, immigrants, and supporters holding signs and singing songs in protest to President Obama’s deportation policy were arrested outside the north gate of the White House,” in a protest organized by the United Methodist Church and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) yesterday.  If the GOP blocks reform and the President delivers on executive relief, it would inject the issue into the Republican presidential primary cycle, burnish the President’s legacy among Latino and Asian-American voters and box the Republican Party in politically – much like President Obama’s DACA announcement did in June 2012.


Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform




Republican #Immigration Principles: A Step Toward Reform

Posted today on The Hill Congress Blog

The good news is that the glass is half full.

Thursday’s release of the Republican “immigration Reform Principles” is promising because it shows that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the House leadership are finally thinking about positive solutions to fix America’s broken immigration system.

It’s also very encouraging that while the GOP plainly stated they will not go to conference with the Senate’s bill, their reform principles largely mirror the Senate’s, including keeping the borders secure, preventing bad actor employers from hiring undocumented workers, providing a temporary worker program, overhauling the visa system, and providing DREAMERs with a roadmap to legalization.  Most importantly, GOP talking points no longer include “self-deportation”, a mean-spirited policy proposal championed by anti-immigrant restrictionists.

Even when it comes to providing a pathway to legal status for the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants the Republicans seem to be signaling their intent to roll up their sleeves and get to work on an immigration overhaul that will move America forward.  True, the GOP principles include a seemingly firm declaration that there will be “no special path to citizenship”.  But as someone who makes his living parsing through the convoluted immigration law in search of immigrants’ rights, I interpret placement of the word “special” after the word “No” as a statement that a “path to citizenship” –even if it’s not “special—might be acceptable to the GOP as they work with immigration reform advocates to find common ground.  This is critical because it suggests the Republicans are seriously interested solving the Nation’s immigration problems.

In fact, when you think about it, the GOP’s “no special path to citizenship” assertion may not be all that different from the immigration bill passed by the Senate last year.  The Senate’s plan requires that undocumented immigrants spend a minimum of 10 years as “Registered Provisional Immigrants” before they can apply for green cards.  Once they get their green cards—which can only happen after certain enforcement triggers are met and the immigration backlogs have cleared—the new legal  permanent residents must wait another three years to apply for U.S. citizenship under the existing law. In other words, the Senate immigration bill does not include any “special” pathway to citizenship either.

If the GOP is proposing to provide undocumented immigrants with legal immigration status which will protect them from deportation and give them a chance to apply for green card status through the normal legal channels that might not necessarily be a deal killer either.  Of course for that to work the legal immigration system will have to be revamped to provide realistic attainable legal avenues for people to qualify.  Under current law most foreign nationals who don’t have a close US citizen family member or highly skilled job have no access to a green card.

Of more concern is the GOP’s statement that “none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented”.  It’s not clear what they mean by this.  But if the GOP is going to insist on unreachable triggers what they are essentially saying is, “We’re not interested in immigration reform, comprehensive, piecemeal, or otherwise any time soon.”

Hopefully the Republicans will soon offer concrete, detailed legislation which fills in the gaps and answers the serious questions raised by the Statement of Principles released Thursday evening.  Yet it’s very encouraging that they are finally recognizing our Nation desperately needs immigration reform; that we cannot continue to tear apart American families because of a broken immigration system; and that a robust and healthy immigration policy will add billions of dollars to America’s economy and create good jobs for US workers. If the House Republicans are serious about immigration reform—and I believe that they are—then they’ve given the country a Statement of Principles that can be worked with and improved upon.

In meantime one thing is clear.  The House Republicans are late to the party.  It’s time they get moving on real legislation!

Leopold is a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Associaiton.

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