Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two immigration-related events scheduled in Pennsylvania

Two events announced today by the Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition (the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition is a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals that represent the needs of immigrants, migrants, refugees, and other new Americans living in Pennsylvania. They seek to educate the public and develop support for fair policies that welcome and sustain immigrants):

On April 4 Esperanza, the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia, and the PICC will host the "Familias Unidas" (Uniting Families) immigration community gathering here in Philadelphia. This gathering seeks to educate the community and encourage policy makers to advocate for legislation that promotes comprehensive immigration reform. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), who has led immigration gatherings around the country, will attend this event as the final stop of his "Familias Unidas" campaign to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. Families affected by the current immigration laws will share their testimonies and the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia will offer prayers for the undocumented. This event will be held at Iglesia Internacional at 191 W. Hunting Park Avenue. The program runs from 1 to 4 p.m., with musical selections by salsa singer Anthony Colón and Gospel singer Jessica. The program will conclude with musical selections by Gospel singer Ricardo Rodríguez and the Mariachi Flores. Call 215-324-0746 for more information.


I'm excited to announce that PICC's first-ever PA Lobby Day is happening on May 5. On this day, people from immigrant communities -- and their allies -- across the state will have a chance to get their voices heard in Harrisburg. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more anti-immigrant bills in the PA legislature. Last session, we were successful in keeping them from becoming law, but this session, we are again facing bills that would require government ID, make English the official language of PA, and require local police to enforce immigration law. It is time for our lawmakers to hear from us: Anti-immigrant laws weaken our state, our economy and our public health and safety.
Make your voice heard at Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition’s PA Lobby Day, Tuesday, May 5 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. For more information call 215-459-2456.

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Some interesting reading:
• Fears about detention, raids, etc. may affect an accurate census count (in El Diario/La Prensa, in Spanish) http://www.impre.com/eldiariony/noticias/nacionales/2009/4/1/no-tema-al-censo--hagase-conta-117269-1.html
• New immigration raid policy (in the Hartford Courant) http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-tc-nw-immigration-0331.artmar31,0,4823465.story
• See how your senators and legislators voted on immigration-related bills -- go to http://capwiz.com/nclr/dbq/officials/ and type in your zip code.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dare to dream

According to The St. Petersburg Times, the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act is to be reintroduced this week by Sen. Richard Durbin.

"The DREAM Act is a bipartisan proposal, which would create a pathway to citizenship for thousands of young students who were brought to the United States years ago as children. These children have grown up in our communities and include honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists, homecoming queens, and aspiring teachers, doctors, and U.S. soldiers.

Even though they were brought to the U.S. years ago as children, they face unique barriers to higher education, are unable to work legally in the U.S., and often live in constant fear of detection by immigration authorities. Our immigration law currently has no mechanism to consider the special equities and circumstances of such students. The DREAM Act would eliminate this flaw.

By enacting the DREAM Act, Congress would legally recognize what is de facto true: these young people belong here. If Congress fails to act this year, another entire class of outstanding, law-abiding high school students will graduate without being able to plan for the future, and some will be removed from their homes to countries they barely know. This tragedy will cause America to lose a vital asset: an educated class of promising immigrant students who have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and a strong desire to be contributing members of our society."

On Thursday, March 26, ask everyone you know to call into Congress in support of the DREAM Act (Dial 202-224-3121 to be connected to your member of Congress).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Living in detention

From a very fine Associated Press report that appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday:

America's detention system for immigrants has mushroomed in the last decade, a costly building boom that was supposed to sweep up criminals and ensure that undocumented immigrants were quickly shown the door.

Instead, an Associated Press computer analysis of every person being held on a recent Sunday night shows that most did not have a criminal record and many were not about to leave the country _ voluntarily or via deportation.

An official Immigration and Customs Enforcement database, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed a U.S. detainee population of exactly 32,000 on the evening of Jan. 25.

The data show that 18,690 immigrants had no criminal conviction, not even for illegal entry or low-level crimes like trespassing. More than 400 of those with no criminal record had been incarcerated for at least a year. A dozen had been held for three years or more; one man from China had been locked up for more than five years.

Nearly 10,000 had been in custody longer than 31 days -- the average detention stay that ICE cites as evidence of its effective detention management.

And further into the article is this:

Immigration lawyers note that substantial numbers of detainees, from 177 countries in the data provided, are not illegal immigrants at all. Many of the longest-term non-criminal detainees are asylum seekers fighting to stay here because they fear being killed in their home country. Others are longtime residents who may be eligible to stay under other criteria, or whose applications for permanent residency were lost or mishandled, the lawyers say.

Still other long-term detainees include people who can't be deported because their home country won't accept them or people who seemingly have been forgotten in the behemoth system, where 58 percent have no lawyers or anyone else advocating on their behalf.

And more:

Immigration violations are considered civil, something akin to a moving violation in a car, so the government can imprison immigrants without many of the rights criminals receive: No court-appointed attorney for indigent defendants, no standard habeas corpus, no protection from double jeopardy, no guarantee of a speedy trial.


Most immigrants are navigating a complex legal system without an attorney. Fifty-eight percent went through immigration proceedings without an attorney in fiscal year 2007, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a branch of the U.S. Justice Department.

Those who do have an attorney have little recourse if that lawyer turns out to be incompetent. In one of his last acts as Bush administration attorney general, Michael Mukasey reversed years of precedent by ruling that immigrants, unlike criminal defendants, cannot appeal on the grounds of incompetent counsel.

These points have long been made by advocacy groups, newspapers serving ethnic populations and by immigrants themselves but have been under-reported in mainstream media. It is great to see AP devote this sort of word-count to the story.

Read the full article:


Monday, March 16, 2009

Anti-Hispanic sentiment in – and on – the news

From El Diario/La Prensa’s March 14 edition:

This week, Dobbs ranted about President Barack Obama having the audacity to deliver a speech on educational reform to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He accused Obama of pandering to Hispanics.
Dobb's tone insulting to all Hispanic-Americans but he then went on to slur the Chamber in a truly hatefull manner.
Dobbs said: “Making a decision to talk about a national initiative on education from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is effectively an organization that is interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico and Mexico's export of drugs and illegal aliens to the United States. This is crazy stuff."
What is Looney Toons is Dobbs’ claim. Hispanic Americans are proud citizens who love their country and care about all the same issues that non-Hispanic Americans do. To impute that Hispanic American businessmen are working against American interests is demagoguery of the most vile sort. To associate them with the drug trade is slander.

Read the full editorial at:

Friday, March 6, 2009

May the road rise up to meet you

An interesting article from the New York Times about New York Archbishop-elect Timothy Dolan, and the "new Irish" in NYC -- Latinos: