Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Immigrants Boon to Prison Profits

To understand how well the prison business is faring and how immigrants are key to prison profits, you can listen in on the prison firms’ quarterly conference calls with major Wall Street investment firms. In early November, the country’s prison corporations reported soaring profits. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the country’s oldest and largest prison corporation, boasted that it enjoyed a $33.6 million increase in the third quarter over last year, while earnings rose 15%. Formerly known as Wackenhut, GEO Group, the nation’s second largest prison company, saw its earnings jump 29% over 2007. Another private prison firm that imprisons immigrants is Cornell Companies, and it reported a 9% increase in net revenues in the third quarter. Private prisons have been booming over the past eight years. From 2000 to 2005, the number of private prisons increased from 16% of all prisons to 23%. All of the increase in federal prisons has been in prisons owned or operated by private firms.
Immigrants are the fastest growing sector of the federal detainees and prisoners, and there’s hundreds of millions of dollars to be made by enterprising businesses and governments. The annual ICE budget for “detention and removal” is $1.2 billion. In addition, the Justice Department’s Office for the Detention Trustee has hundreds of contracts with local governments and private prison firms that provide beds for immigrants. Both ICE and OFDT have special offices that oversee the outsourcing of its immigrant prisoners. OFDT even boasts of its “enterprise” system of detention. Private prison companies aren’t worried that the Democratic Party sweep will mean that fewer immigrants are sent their way because of party promises of enacting comprehensive immigration reform. GEO Group’s chairman George Zoley on Nov. 3 assured investors: “These federal initiatives to target, detain and deport criminal aliens throughout the country will continue to drive the need for immigration detention beds over the next several years and these initiatives have been fully funded by Congress on a bipartisan basis.” Not only has the DHS crackdown on illegal immigrants have bipartisan support in Congress, it was the Democratic Congress, say private prison chiefs, that increased the 2009 budget for the crackdown. “The President only asked for a program funding of $800 million,” noted Zoley, “It was the Democratic chairman [Homeland Security subcommittee] … that added another $200 million to this program.”
In a post-election conference to report third-quarter revenue increases, CCA board chairman John Ferguson told Wall Street investors: “One budget that was put in place for the full year was immigration custom enforcement…and the funding for that is for 33,400 beds -- that's an increase from 32,000 in the prior fiscal year and also that compares to little over 31,000 detainees in [2007].”
“Just to remind everyone,” Ferguson told investors, “detainee beds that would be sourced from us from several places that immigration custom boys need -- that's border apprehensions, people that overstay their visas, [immigrants] that are identified as criminal , and the jails and prisons [that hold immigrants] who have completed their time and will be deported.”
Photo: Private prison for immigrants in Polk County, Texas

Monday, November 24, 2008

Identity Politics in an Obama America?

Isn't it time to end the identity politics, whereby political officials are evaluated, supported, or promoted mainly because they are of a certain race, ethnicity, or sex, rather than for what they stand for? Too often the results are characterless figures like Alberto Gonzales and Clarence Thomas who are party loyalists, not champions of the disadvantaged or disempowered.
Apparently not. Before the election the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of more than two dozen Latino organizations, sent both candidates a list of policy recommendations, including a demand that the new administration increase Hispanic political appointments and name more Hispanics to the federal bench.
After Obama's victory, Latino groups, collectively and individually, began pressuring for Latino hires.
The country had just elected its first African-American president, who won popular support with a message of inclusion and change. But elite Latino groups, led by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, insist that the large Latino election-day turnout for Democrats should be rewarded with increased Latino appointments in the new administration.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, headed by the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDF), sent a letter signed by 35 Latino groups to Obama urging him to nominate Bill Richardson as his secretary of state.
Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated Latino columnist, espouses identity politics yet he is skeptical that they will work the way they should for Latinos. In a column this week, Navarrette wrote: "Expect Latinos to get shortchanged—again. They may get bought off with a couple of high profile appointments. Bill Richardson is already mentioned as a possible secretary of State and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could also be in line for a prominent role in the new administration. As someone who made history, Obama could also make more of it by appointing the first Latino to the Supreme Court."
In addition to Richardson, the main hopefuls to fill slots at high levels of the new administration include Denver Mayor Federico Peña, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Tampa lawyer Frank Sanchez, Mariano-Forentino "Tino" Cuéllar, former AFL-CIO Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson, and former SEC Commissioner Roel Campos.
These and other names proffered by Latino groups are all Latinos. That makes sense, if one accepts politics as usual. In modern America the practice of promoting to political office members of ethnic and racial sectors by identity groups has helped open the political system to previously disenfranchised groups.
Undoubtedly this type of special interest lobbying has served the cause of civil rights in America—the best example being the current presence of African Americans at high levels of local and federal government. But it is fraught with problems.
Those advancing in the political system with the support of identity groups may share the same color and culture of their promoters but their advancement may not necessarily serve the best interests either of their identity group or of the American people as a whole, as in the case of Gonzales or the many anti-feminist women in conservative administrations.
What made good sense and good politics in the past may no longer serve either identity groups or the common good. Lobbying for public figures solely because they belong to a particular race, sex, or national origin does not guarantee advantages for that group.
Rather than playing identity politics as usual in identifying individuals to serve and represent all Americans, Latino constituencies and organizations would do better to develop a set of priorities for their communities and focus primarily on the beliefs and commitments of the nominees rather than numerical benchmarks. Then, they could recommend a slate of individuals, including many of the Latinos that all Americans have come to respect, who measure up.
Identity politics in an Obama America? It's time for a change.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Expect "Rule of Law" to Rule Immigation Policy Under Napolitano

The likely nomination of Gov. Janet Napolitano and the creation of an immigration task force within the transition team signal what?

The hopeful interpretation by immigrant advocacy organizations is that Napolitano along with the immigration task force are signs that immigration reform will be a priority for the Obama administration. Anti-immigration groups have a more sober, realistic assessment of Napolitano as a pro-enforcement advocate who has also called for comprehensive immigration reform.

Certainly, there is reason for relief that Michael Chertoff, a right-wing ideologue and Republican loyalist, will soon be gone. But he will leave a legacy in the two Department of Homeland Security agencies that implement immigration enforcement and border control – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

 Over the past three years, under his assertive leadership the two agencies have found purpose and direction, and its members have been given a sense of purpose that was previously lacking when its predecessor agencies were under the Justice Department and under the fumbling direction of the first DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.

 Following the lead of the anti-immigration institutes (FAIR, NumbersUSA, Center for Immigration Studies) and right-wing think tanks (Heritage Foundation), Chertoff came to Homeland Security with a new framing of the department’s immigration law enforcement and border control operations: Commitment to a strict enforcement regime to protect the country against foreign terrorists, and to reassert the “rule of law.”

 In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the restrictionist camp found that their message about the “illegality” and “criminality” of illegal immigrants had new resonance. And they proceeded to upscale the “what don’t you understand about illegal” message that echoed through the anti-immigration grassroots forces to a more conceptual framing of illegal immigration as a threat to the “rule of law” inside a nation that had just come under foreign attack by foreign outlaws.

 An October 2005 Heritage Foundation essay, "Rule of Law at Stake in the Immigration Debate," helped propel the rule-of-law framework into the mainstream media. Written by former attorney general Edwin Meese, a Heritage Foundation fellow, the essay was broadcast by Fox News.

Meese and foundation colleague James Jay Carafano wrote: "We need to encourage federal, state, and local governments to enforce our laws and work together to improve the security infrastructure at points of entry. Enforcement should include prosecuting benefits fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion, in addition to immigration violations."

 The “rule of law” framing for immigration works well for anti-immigration groups since it allows them to chart a course that is ostensibly separate from the nativists, economic populists, and white supremacists who spirit the grassroots ranks. It’s a message that is based historically and fundamentally on liberal principles of a government by laws not by royalty, aristocrats, and other elites.

 Another part of Chertoff’s legacy is his straight-out acknowledgement that immigration policy is flawed, but until there is a new more comprehensive law in place, DHS has a mandate to enforce existing law. Napolitano is by no means an anti-immigration hardliner.

However, as a lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and a governor who has insisted on more border control and stood behind a tough employer-sanctions law, she will fit easily into the “rule of law” framework for directing ICE and CBP operations.

 It’s a framework that has already been adopted by the Democratic Party and to a certain extent by Obama.

When asked by CBS’ Katie Couric about his illegal immigrant aunt, Obama appealed to this framework as one that should prevail in immigration policy. Couric: “You have an aunt who’s been living in this country apparently illegally, and your campaign says any and all appropriate laws should be followed. So would you support her being deported to Kenya?” Sen. Obama: “If she is violating laws those laws have to be obeyed. We're a nation of laws. Obviously that doesn't lessen my concern for her. I haven't been able to be in touch with her. But I'm a strong believer you have to obey the law.”

 During the campaign, Obama repeatedly said, as did Hillary Clinton, that, with regard to the immigration issue, America can be "both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws." Acknowledging that the immigration restrictionists were dominating the immigration debate, the Democratic Party and its allies have over the past year desperately sought to reframe the immigration crisis while at the same time attracting the allegiance of Latinos and “New Americans.”

Their new language about immigration policy—"nation of laws," "rule of law," and "required legal status"— started popping up everywhere, from the pronouncements of immigrant-rights groups to the Democratic Party platform. Instead of promising an "earned path to citizenship," as it has in the past, the party stated that illegal immigrants will be required to “get right with the law.”

"For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law," states the party's platform. "We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."

 As governor, Napolitano has attempted to navigate between the vocal and highly-organized anti-immigrant forces and those Arizonans who resist succumbing to those forces of hate and reaction (from the business community to Latino and humanitarian groups).

While realistic about the impossibility of completely sealing the border, she has called for more border patrol agents, deployed the state’s National Guard, and supported for increased federal-state cooperation in immigration law enforcement, albeit at the same time opposing the immigrant crackdown launched by the infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

 All the while, Napolitano has complained that the responsibility for addressing immigration-related issues lies with the federal government. She says she supported a tough legalization law, and, like Chertoff, has expressed strong support for temporary and guest-worker programs.

As Homeland Security secretary, Napolitano can be expected to follow the lead of Chertoff and the Democratic Party in insisting that current immigration laws be strictly enforced in order, as ICE and CBP routinely, “reassert the rule of law” in immigration and border control. In the absence of a reform law that provides a path to citizenship for the country’s 11 million illegal immigrants that route forward will be a victory for those calling for calling for restrictive policies on legal and illegal immigration.

Like Chertoff, she will have no power to shepherd through Congress a new immigration policy. What she can do, however, is reject the practice of her predecessor of using the law as part of a deterrence strategy.

Through highly publicized raids on worksites and through the shackling and imprisonment of immigrants, the DHS has sought to use the law to terrorize existing immigrant communities as part of a strategy to deter future illegal immigration. Napolitano can also use her position as a bully pulpit to explain that the rule of law is not an end goal.

It’s a path to justice. America is both a nation of laws and one where justice prevails, or it should be.

Restrictionists Ready to Challenge Obama

While pro-immigration groups are hailing the Obama victory and the Latino turnout as a victory for liberal immigration reform, immigration restrictionists are reshaping their messaging for the Obama era. Although not thrilled with the prospect of an Obama presidency, the restrictionists don't necessarily fear it. Some, including NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), already are trying to leverage Obama's promises to protect workers and create jobs.
Given how successfully the restrictionist institutes in Washington have tweaked their anti-immigration message in the Bush era to reflect new citizen concerns about national security and the "rule of law," it would behoove immigrant advocates and other supporters of comprehensive immigration reform to pay more attention to what the leading restrictionists are now saying.
During the campaign the anti-immigration groups despaired over the prospect of either McCain or Obama. But now the two leading restrictionist policy institutes, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, point encouragingly to Obama's strong positions in favor of employee verification and employer enforcement.
They have also been confident that the aggressive enforcement regime instituted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will persist into the next administration, especially given the way that many Democratic congressional representatives have supported increases in the department's immigration-enforcement and border-control budget.
However, it's the country's economic downspin that gives the restrictionists the most confidence that liberal immigration reform is dead for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Border Policy Report -- More Politics Than Policy

Effective Border Policy: Security, Responsibility and Human Rights at the U.S.-Mexico Border” November 2008, Washington, D.C. A new policy report by three U.S. border human rights groups in collaboration with the Washington, DC-based National Immigration Forum is full of important concerns and good intentions, but falls woefully short as a policy document. Those who support a liberal immigration policy that includes legalization and ends the terrorizing raids on communities and workplaces badly need expert analysis and policy recommendations based on grounded perspectives of what’s happening at the border. This report, however, is driven more by a set of progressive politics and dogmas than by timely, informed analysis. What’s truly stunning about the report, which purports to convey the view of borderlands residents about the “dynamic” border, is its one-sidedness. You wouldn’t know from reading the report that on the other side of these interconnected borderlands is complete mayhem. Despite noting the important cross-border ties that exist, it’s as if the problems of “security,” issues of “responsibility,” and abuses of “human rights” – the report’s three focus areas -- stop at the line. The report warns, for example, about the dangers of the “militarization” of U.S. border control. Yet on the other side of the border militarization isn’t an exaggeration but is all too real as the Mexican military, drug cartels, armed street bandits wage what verges on civil war.

Cheney, Gonzales, Vanguard Group in "Prisonville"

Private prison corporations are a good place to put money – if you are interested in making good money from companies that imprison people for profit. As the two leading private prison firms like to tell investors, it’s a booming business these days not because crime rates are rising but because of the new opportunities in immigrant detention.
So it’s not surprising that Vanguard Group, one of the country’s largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country’s two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.
Willacy County, Texas is the epicenter of the private prison phenomenon that is sweeping the country, fueled in recent years by the immigrant crackdown. Over the past three years, over 3,000 new “prison beds” have come on line in Raymondville, the county seat, as politicians and Texas developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government’s demand for prison space for detained immigrants. The largest operator is the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, although GEO Group also has prison operations in Raymondville, commonly called “Prisonville” by locals.
The recent indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for private prison-related crimes highlighted the controversial role of private prisons in immigrant detention. The indictments were filed by outgoing County Attorney Juan Angel Guerra but have not yet been signed by the county judge.
Cheney is charged organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, while Gonzales is charged with using his position as attorney general to stop investigations of prisoner abuse at private prisons in the country. Also indicted are GEO Corp, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (profiting from public office by accepting honoraria), two district judges, and a former U.S. attorney.
The country’s largest private prison company, CCA, has no business in Willacy County. However, County Attorney Guerra had protested the country contracts with Management and Training Corporation, contending that CCA would be a better partner for the country. In particular, he charged that Senator Lucio was lobbying for MTC and, as a private prison consultant, was benefiting from his favoring the Utah firm.
For more on Willacy County and private prisons, see an excellent report in the Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder.
Photo: Private Prison in Raymondville

Monday, November 17, 2008

Latinos for Latinos

Identity politics gets results. Every four years Latino groups come together to demand that the incoming administration appoint Latinos to the cabinet and other high-level positions. The results, too often, have been appointments that dismay, such as former HUD secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales. Latino groups, as varied as the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity and the National Council of La Raza, celebrated Bush’s nomination of Alberto Gonzales for attorney general. Despite his weak credential and ideological righteousness, Gonzales was widely praised during the confirmation process and later defended by Latino groups. The National Council of La Raza, which is now calling for President-elect Obama to nominate Latinos to his cabinet and other high-level positions, had criticized President Bush for not bringing a Latino in his cabinet after the departure of conservative Mel Martinez.
“We are very encouraged by the Gonzales nomination,” declared NCLR, “We previously criticized the Bush Administration for not having an Hispanic in the cabinet since the departure of former HUD Secretary, now Senator-elect, Mel Martinez. We are pleased that one of the first acts since the President’s reelection both rectifies that situation and marks an historic milestone for the Latino community.” “Never before has an Hispanic served as head of one of the four major cabinet posts – Secretary of State, Treasury, Defense, and Attorney General,” stated Janet Murguia, NCLR Executive Director.” Not a word about his political views. Being Latino seemed to be sufficient, that and that Gonzales was regarded by NCLR to be “a thoughtful, reasonable public servant, a man of his word.” This idea that a Latino in high places is good for all Latinos persisted within the Latino community through Gonzales’ sorry tenure as the country’s chief defender of constitution. In March 2007, the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity In March 2007, HAPI issued a media release in support of the beleaguered Gonzales.

“On behalf of the nearly 20,000 members of the HAP Institute, we write to reject calls for the resignation of Attorney General Al Gonzales, and offer our full support for his long-term service to our President, our country, and the Hispanic community.” “Attorney General Gonzales has achieved what few other Hispanics have been able to accomplish. He is a role model for the entire Hispanic community and his success proves to our children that they too can realize their dreams. General Gonzales should not be used as a scapegoat by those who are against the policies of the current Administration. The Hispanic community will not tolerate partisan politics, with the end result being to sacrifice one of its most respected, and productive members.”

Isn’t it time to end the identity politics whereby political officials are evaluated, supported, or promoted mainly because they are of a certain race, ethnicity, or sex? Too often the results are characterless figures like Alberto Gonzales and Clarence Thomas who are party loyalists not champions of the disadvantaged or disempowered.
Apparently not. A few days after the elections Latino groups mobilized to pressure the president-elect and his transition team to advance the nominations and appointments of a bevy of Latino politicians, educators, and businessmen. Apparently not. A few days after the elections Latino groups mobilized to pressure the president-elect and his transition team to advance the nominations and appointments of a bevy of Latino politicians, educators, and businessmen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Anti-Immigration Groups React to Obama Victory -- Part Three

Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA, is on a roll, and the Obama victory provides momentum for one of his central messages about immigration, namely that large number of legal and illegal immigrants undermine the welfare of U.S. workers.
Author of the 1996 book, Case Against Immigration, Beck has catapulted his argument that that high immigration flows negatively impact citizen workers and the environment into an increasingly high-profile stature for NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration institute organization he founded in 1997.
Beck’s case against immigration has also led him to become a leading adocate of the “Attrition Through Enforcement’ policy supported by the two overwhelmingly Republican congressional caucuses closely tied to NumbersUSA – Immigration Reform Caucus (House) and Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus (Senate) – and implemented by the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The day after the election of Barack Obama, Beck told NumbersUSA members and activists (800,000 claimed) that “I feel mildly optimistic at this moment about the next Presidency.” That’s because, said Beck, that Obama “must choose between two contradictory campaign promises.”
He calls for a “small army of committed citizens” to force the news media and politicians to look at the contradiction between 1) Obama’s “barely whispered perfunctory campaign pledges to offer U.S. citizenship to an estimated 7 million illegal foreign workers, plus their 5-13 million relatives”, and 2) his “loudest shouted priority to put Americans back to work.”
NumbersUSA isn’t waiting until January 20 to mobilize its army of anti-immigration activists to pressure Obama to stand down on his promise for liberal immigration reform and stand up to his promise to support workers. A petition to Obama organized by Beck asserts that a “legalization program would permanently remove 7 million jobs from being available for American workers.”
Economic downturns traditional ramp up anti-immigration sentiment, and NumbersUSA is already jumping on the purported immigrant-joblesses connection. According to Beck, "Every illegal foreign worker given amnesty permanently ties up a U.S. job that an unemployed U.S.-born worker or longtime legal immigrant is seeking in these hard times.”
Rather than pressuring Obama from the right on such issues as immigrant crime and the cost of social services for immigrants, NumbersUSA, along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, has concluded that there is new opportunity in making the case for restrictionism from the political left by playing on the plight of U.S. workers.
In Beck’s view, “Whatever the Obama campaign may have said about immigration before the stock market crash, his priorities have clearly changed and immigration policy will have to serve his top priority of getting American workers back into jobs that offer decent wages and benefits, especially health insurance.”
But a left-centered argument against legalization is not the only tactic that NumbersUSA will wield in the coming debate. NumbersUSA and other restrictionists also intend to pressure the Obama administration and the new Congress to continue with an "enforcement-only" policy. And Beck believes that they are on firm ground since Obama and other Democrats have stressed their support for secure borders and employment verification.
During the electoral campaign, Beck said NumbersUSA regarded the positions of the two presidential candidates as being from “bad” to “abysmal.” Now, however, the restrictionists say in Obama's campaign promises there much to work with as they seek to advance the enforcement-only agenda of “Attrition Through Enforcement.”
Beck, for example, points to the immigration platform on Obama’s campaign website, which states: "To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants."
Moreover, Obama’s website also supports employee verification, which if effected, would force millions of undocument immigrants to leave their jobs. As the campaign website boasts, Obama cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to ensure that "employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S."
Obama signed a Dear Colleague letter to other senators that said he "strongly support[s] creating an effective, mandatory employment verification system for all employers to verify the legal status of their workers."
A one, two, three action restrictionist agenda, according to NumbersUSA, should be: 1) support the authorization of the E-Verify program, 2) support the SAVE Act which provides for a phased-in verification system, and 3) continue the Bush administration’s executive order that requires federal contractors to use the E-Verify system.
The choice, says Beck, is Obama’s:

"If Obama follows his own instincts and past words of support for turning off the jobs magnet for illegal immigration, he potentially will open up millions of jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.

“This would be the cheapest, fastest job-creation program he has any chance of achieving.

“Or he can choose to favor illegal foreign workers and turn his back on unemployed Americans.”

In contrast to the sharply focused jobs-and-economy argument that is being aggressively promoted by NumbersUSA and other restrictionist groups, the pro-immigration camp has yet to emerge from its pre-election focus on getting out the Latino and immigrant vote. All but ignoring the jobs issue, the pro-immigration groups, including National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice, and National Council of La Raza, are emphasizing the importance of Latino and immigrant votes to Obama’s success and to the future of the Democratic Party.
This highly partisan strategy did work as an electoral strategy to register new voters and to get out the vote of what they call the “New Americans.” It did increase the numbers for Democrats in the general election, but that aggregate number of Democratic voters – some 6.5 million – is only a small part of the larger electorate.
What’s missing is a post-election strategy that goes beyond ethnicity and immigration status to appeal not just to Latinos and immigrants but to all Americans, especially those concerned about the future of their jobs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Contradictions of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

NDN, the successor organization to the New Democratic Movement, believes that Latinos and citizen immigrants are a critical part of a new Democratic coalition that will ensure a Democratic majority for decades.

NDN, through its Hispanic Strategy Center, supports comprehensive immigration reform as a kind of quid pro quo for the party loyalty of the Latino/immigrant voting bloc.

 Typical of well-heeled advocacy groups in Washington, DC, NDN commissions polls to support its political convictions. NDN, headed by Simon Rosenberg, commissioned a pre-election poll to support its contention that there is widespread public support for comprehensive immigration reform, particularly among Latinos and especially in swing states. But what is comprehensive immigration reform?

 For immigration restrictionists, it is a code liberals and the “open-borders lobby” use for “amnesty.” They’re right, minus their own labeling. Pro-immigration groups regard legalization as the central policy in comprehensive reform. When they call for comprehensive reform, they are calling for a “pathway to citizenship” for unauthorized immigrants.

Clearly, the issue of the fate of 11 million illegal immigrants who’ve made their homes in the United States is what makes comprehensive immigration reform so contentious. Rather than simply dealing with the issue straight-on, legalization supporters have included this explosive issue within a larger package in hope of winning necessary political support for legalization.

By including border security and immigration law enforcement measures with the package, legalization advocates hope to pull in moderate and conservative Democrats as well as a sprinkling of Republicans (enough so they can call it a bipartisan effort). By including proposals for expanded temporary and guestworker programs, they hope to win support from business.

And by including provisions for family reunification visas, they seek to guarantee and deepen support among immigrant communities (not just Latinos, but Asian Americans as well as others). Instead of a simple Immigration Reform Act, the latest comprehensive bill under consideration was the proposed Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

The inclusive nature of the bill – bringing in border control infrastructure and a complicated new guestworker program – represented the evolution of several comprehensive reform proposals (Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (2005), Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act (2005), and Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006).

 The strategy to advance legalization by including it in a comprehensive reform of immigration policy and border control has led to bills that include an array of contradictory measures. On the one hand, the bills aim to close the borders and decrease immigration inflows. But on the other hand, they propose to increase immigration, both temporary and permanent, through new guestworker initiatives, high-tech immigrant worker programs, speeding-up visa processing, and new family-reunification allowances.

In this mix of “security” and “economic opportunity,” the proposed solutions for bringing immigrants out of the shadows through legalization have become increasingly more complicated and restrictive. The comprehensiveness of the bills may bring in some additional congressional support because of certain proposals in the mix.

But as immigration reform becomes more comprehensive, it also sparks new opposition, even from those who strongly support legalization. In other words, as the reform adds new elements, it sparks new opposition, as the vote against closure in 2007 showed, bringing together a bipartisan majority against the Senate bill. On Sept. 10 NDN released a poll that it said found “overwhelming public support for comprehensive immigration reform in key battleground states.” 

NDN, America’s Voice, and other pro-immigration groups now cite the polling by the Democratic Party’s in-house Latino pollster Sergio Bendixen to support claims that there is intense and widespread support for comprehensive immigration reform. But the question asked 500 people in four states (Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado) was not if they supported legislation to legalize illegal immigrants.

Rather it was if they supported comprehensive immigration reform. As the report on the polling results noted, “Different groups and individuals use the term “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” to mean very different things.”

In this case, NDN commissioned the Bendixen firm to defined comprehensive reform in the harsh yet expansive terms that it encouraged the Democratic Party to adopt in its 2008 party platform. Here’s the question as framed by NDN: “Would you support or oppose a comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens border security, sets up an employment verification plan, establishes serious criminal penalties for employers that hire illegal workers, creates a new visa program for 200,000 workers annually, substantially increases the number of family visas available for the immediate relatives of legal immigrants, and grants illegal immigrants conditional legal status for six years and then a path to permanent residency and citizenship if they meet certain requirements?” 

The poll showed that 66-69% of those surveyed in the four states (rising to 75-79% for Hispanics) supported such a comprehensive reform package. Legalization, rather than being a centerpiece of this package, is surrounded by other measures variously designed to appeal to different groups – border security and criminalizing hiring of illegal workers for those favoring enforcement solutions, and new worker visa program and substantially increased family visas for those favoring more legal immigration.

Rather than legalization, the package as defined by NDN provides only a highly conditioned pathway to citizenship – hardly a strong expression of support for legalizing the country’s undocumented population of 11 million.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anti-Immigration Groups React to Obama Victory -- Part Two

While not thrilled with the prospect of an Obama presidency, the restrictionists don’t necessarily fear it. Some, including NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, already are trying to leverage Obama’s promises to protect workers and create jobs During the campaign the anti-immigration groups despaired over the prospect of either McCain or Obama. But now the two leading restrictionist policy institutes, NumbersUSA and FAIR, point encouragingly to Obama’s strong positions in favor of employee verification and employer enforcement. They have also been confident that the aggressive enforcement regime instituted by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will persist into the next administration, especially given the way that many Democratic congressional representatives have supported increases in the department’s immigration-enforcement and border-control budget. However, it’s the country’s economic downspin that gives the restrictionists the most confidence that liberal immigration reform is dead for the foreseeable future. FAIR’s Post-Election Framing The Federation for American Immigration Reform immediately jumped into the post-election debate over immigration reform with media releases, polls, and new policy analysis about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform. Rather than focusing on how pro-immigration and anti-immigration candidates did on Nov. 4, FAIR entered the post-election debate with a new framing for its anti-immigration message. According to FAIR, “The results of yesterday's elections are a clear rejection by the voters of government of, by, and for, special interests, and policies that have brought this nation to the brink of an economic crisis.” While pro-immigration groups like the National Immigration Forum and America’s Voice were citing the heavy Latino and immigrant turnout for the Democrats as evidence that the time has come for liberal immigration reform, FAIR posited that Americans were mostly concerned about their jobs and economic stability and, as such, would not support what “failed special interest-driven policies” like immigration. FAIR asserted that “Americans are fed-up with immigration policies that have placed the interests of immigration lawbreakers, cheap labor employers, and ethnic power brokers ahead of those of struggling workers and taxpayers.”
Casting aside Obama’s promise to enact comprehensive reform including legalization in his first term, FAIR’s president Dan Stein zeroed in on Obama’s commitments to create jobs and to back “change that voters can believe in.” Instead of focusing on the cultural, national security, environmental or “rule of law” arguments that FAIR has previously favored, Stein argued that FAIR’s position in favor of restricted immigration was an economic, worker-centered stance.
"To the extent that Senator Obama received a mandate,” said Stein, “it is to put government back on the side of working Americans. A critical component of an economic recovery plan for struggling workers must be to set rational limits on immigration, enforce laws against employing illegal aliens, and resist calls for more guest workers.”
Rather than situate FAIR as a negative force opposing comprehensive immigration reform, Stein called for Obama to “put forward a coherent immigration policy that recognizes that reforming immigration is critical to getting our economy back on track.” Typical of the restrictionists that see legal and illegal immigration as a causal factor for most any problem – from climate change to the subprime crisis -- FAIR now regards restrictionism as central to economic recovery.
"At a time when the economy is faltering, when nearly a million Americans have lost their jobs this year alone, when federal, state and local governments are facing unprecedented deficits, President Obama will need to institute and enforce immigration policies that do not add to these problems.”
Like the pro-immigration forces, the anti-immigration camp brandishes polls to back its statements. In making its new pitch for a conservative reform package that would restrict both legal and illegal immigration, FAIR points to exit polls and a post-election poll it commissioned to support its contention that liberal immigration reform can’t count on widespread public support. Exit polls commissioned by FAIR show that only a third (32%) of surveyed voters voting for Obama said they supported legalization of illegal immigrants, while six in ten of those who voted for McCain opposed “amnesty.”
FAIR contends that “by wide margins Americans believe that their interests would best be served by overall reductions in the flow of immigration, and enforcement of immigration laws in a way that sends a clear message to both illegal aliens and their employers that the interests of law-abiding, hard-working Americans is paramount.”
To support this assertion, FAIR points to a post-election poll (Nov.5-6) conducted by Zogby International of actual voters that found, according to FAIR, that “a decisive majority of voters believe that an illegal alien amnesty would "further harm the interests of struggling American workers.”
Obviously formulated to confirm FAIR’s own positions, some of the survey questions seemed to prompt restrictionist answers from respondents. Citing the survey results, FAIR reported that “57% of voters stated that amnesty would harm American workers and further strain public resources, while only 26% believe amnesty would aid economic recovery and ease public burdens.” While FAIR and other immigration institutes don’t dispute the widespread conclusion about Latino turnout for Democrats, they question the assessment that Latinos favor liberal immigration reform. As Stein noted in another post-election release, “Arizonans overwhelmingly rejected a deceptive ballot measure which would have made it easier for businesses to hire illegal aliens. Proposition 202 was rejected by 60% of Arizona voters, including 56% of Latino voters in the state.” Immigration proponents argue that the unprecedented turnout of Latino and immigrant voters – about 10 million – and their overwhelming support for Obama – 67% of Latinos – demonstrated the salience of the immigration issue for a large constituency angered by the immigration crackdown. What’s more, this expanding constituency proved key to moving four swing states – Nevada, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico – into the Democratic column. But FAIR counters that exit polling, including an Univision/Zogby survey, showed that the economy was the number-one voting priority for the majority (54%) of Latino voters, while only 11 cited immigration reform as their top concern. "All voters, including Latinos, turned to the Democrats last Tuesday in the hope that they will get our economy back on track. Notwithstanding a massive spin effort on the part of the ethnic advocacy network, the electorate, including Latinos, did not vote for amnesty and more immigration. In fact, the polls show that voters believe amnesty would be an impediment to economic recovery and putting American back to work," Stein concluded.
Instead of bemoaning the victory of Democratic candidate committed to liberal immigration reform, FAIR’s Stein said they looked “forward to working with his new administration to bring long overdue changes to an immigration policy that, along with many other policies of the past eight years, were soundly rejected by voters across the country and across the political spectrum.”
Clearly, many voters went to the polls on Nov. 4 concerned mainly about the nose-diving economy, their jobs, and their savings. But immigration proponents are certainly well-founded in their conclusion that the widespread rejection of the Republican Party included, especially among Latinos and immigrant citizens, concerns about the anti-immigrant policies embraced by many in the party.
But as immigration advocates gear up for another round in the immigration debate, they would do well to follow the example of their restrictionist counterparts who are framing their message not in terms of political parties, ethnicities, or status as “New Americans” but in terms of what’s good for the economy and all workers, not just immigrants. And in their call for legalization of 11 million immigrants living and working illegally in the country, supporters of liberal reform shouldn’t shy away from injecting values into the debate.
The economic bottom line of immigration reform can’t be ignored, but reform advocates should also be talking about what’s fair and just. Values played a major role in the Obama victory, and they also belong in the immigration debate.
Center for Immigration Studies
Immigration Reform Caucus
Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus
Immigration Law Reform Institute

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anti-Immigration Groups React to Obama Victory - Part One

While pro-immigration groups are hailing the Obama victory and the Latino turnout as a victory for liberal immigration reform, immigration restrictionists are reshaping their messaging for the Obama era. Given how successfully the restrictionist institutes in Washington have tweaked their anti-immigration message in the Bush era to reflect new citizen concerns about national security and the "rule of law," it would behoove immigrant advocates and other supporters of liberal immigration policies to pay more attention to what the leading restrictionists are now saying.
Post-Election Reaction of the Center for Immigration Studies
Not as close to either grassroots restrictionism or Capitol Hill as his colleagues at FAIR and NumbersUSA, Mark Krikorian, director of the restrictionist think tank Center for Immigration Studies reacted bitterly to Obama’s election while pointing to the restrictionist victories in Arizona as cause for hope. “Even if The One's minions gut immigration enforcement, it's still alive at the state level,” wrote Krikorian in his blog, “Arizona voters rejected the mendacious attempt by the business community to gut the state's toughest-in-the-nation immigration law. But unlike his counterparts at the other DC restrictionist institutes, Krikorian acknowledged that the anti-immigration forces may have a messaging problem. Noting that there is too much “bile” in the restrictionist movement, CIS’s president, author of the The New Case Against Immigration Both Legal and Illegal, observed in a post-election analysis that “too much of even the legitimate, non-bilious concern of immigration is based on the idea that today’s immigrants are somehow inferior to your grandma from Sciliy or your grampa from Lithuania.” Moving forward toward legislation restricting immigration, Krikorian recommends that restrictionists adopt a new framing of the issue. Rather than demonizing immigrants, as many restrictionists do to build their movement, Krikorian advocates a more cerebral, conceptual approach to immigration policy reform: “This is why I think there's political utility (as well as substantive truth) to the central point of my book: Today's immigrants are very similar to those of the past, but we have changed, our society so profoundly different because of modernization that mass immigration of any kind is no longer appropriate. This removes the onus from the foreigners and also allows us to place illegal immigration into a larger context rather than just gripe about lawbreaking (as bad as that is).” “A pro-immigrant policy of low immigration” is what Krikorian recommends as the new framing for restrictionists. Recognizing that many Latinos support a liberal immigration policy that supports more immigration, the CIS president observes that his framing probably won’t “attract most immigrants, or most Hispanics, or most Hispanic immigrants, but it will attract some and cause others to be less intense in their support for the other side and, perhaps most importantly, reassure native-born voters that their concerns about immigration don’t make them bad people.”
Center for Immigration Studies
Immigration Reform Caucus
Immigration Reform Law Institute
Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus

Monday, November 10, 2008

Immigration Doesn't Explain Losses of Dole and Barletta

Immigrant advocates are declaring that the anti-immigrant forces are on the run, pointing to the unpredicted electoral losses suffered by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and Hazelton, Pennsylvania’s immigrant-bashing mayor Lou Barletta.
Clearly, anti-immigrant politics is no sure path to electoral victory, especially if it is the central message -- a lesson that the Republicans should have learned from their 2006 losses. But neither was it the case that the victories of Dole’s and Barletta’s opponents were primarily due to their pro-immigrant, pro-immigration positions.
In North Carolina, Dole’s loss was mainly due to surge in those who voted straight-ticket Democratic. According to post-election analysis by Dr. Michael Bitzer, associate professor of political science at Catawba College in North Carolina, the 52-44% victory of state senator Kay Hagan over incumbent Dole would have been a 51-49% victory for Dole without the straight ticket votes. Also, the heavy early voting, central to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's grassroots effort to get people registered and to the polls, heavily favored Hagan in the state.
According to Bitzer, Hagan led among these one-stop absentee voters by a 57-43% spread. On election day, Hagan outpolled Dole by only 52% to 48%.
In the end, Dole lost her seat mostly because of "the Obama factor" and his campaign's "tidal wave of organization," which helped other Democratic candidates in statewide races, Bitzer said. Bitzer said exit polls showed that 61% of N.C. voters identified the economy as their biggest issue or concern.
Illegal immigration – the centerpiece of Dole’s immigrant-bashing campaign – “didn’t even make the list,” said Bitzer.
Clearly, the defeat of Dole was a major victory for Democrats, who will now occupy a seat that the Republicans have occupied since the first electoral victory of Jesse Helms in 1972.
According to analysis by the Swing State Project, Dole chose to run on what she regarded as a popular social issue, namely ending illegal immigration, but with the onset of the financial and economic crises and newspapers started pointing to Dole’s carpetbagger status, polls showed her dropping fast in the last weeks of the campaign.
Hagan’s immigration platform was not as well-defined as that of Dole, whose first television ad featured fear mongering about Latino immigrants by county sherrifs. But Hagan did say that she supported stronger border security and employer sanctions, and she offered qualified support for the 287(g) program of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which enlists local police and deputies in enforcing immigration law. Hagan said that the program should be fully funded by ICE, saying that local governments are now paying for part of the federal-local enforcement program.
While Dole charted out a strong anti-“amnesty” position, Hagan, while not promoting a strong comprehensive reform position, did say that she supported bringing illegal immigrants “out of the shadow economy” and advocate reforms in guestworker programs.
Dole, given an “A” on her “immigration report card” by the anti-immigration NumbersUSA, won’t be missed by immigration advocates, but Hagan probably cannot be counted on to back a reform bill that includes legalization. The backlash against immigration in North Carolina, one of the largest per capita recipients of immigrants in the last eight years, is just too strong and widespread for Hagan to ignore.
The defeat of Hazelton mayor Lou Barletta by incumbent Paul Kanjorski for Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district is being widely hailed by pro-immigration groups as a signal that immigration restrictionism is on the wane. Barletta, a restrictionist hero for his drive to rid Hazelton of illegal immigrants, was polling 5-10 points ahead of Kanjorski until the final weeks of the campaign, when Kanjorski started to erode Barletta’s lead as the economy became more of an issue.
Barletta had berated Kanjorski for his support for comprehensive immigration reform and legalization. However, Kanjorski started to move to the right on immigration issues as the race progressed. He bucked Democratic leadership, signing the discharge petition for the tough immigration enforcement bill pushed by Republicans, the SAVE Act, and started taking a tougher position on the campaign trail against immigration. Late in the campaign, the Scranton Times ran an election report headlined "Kanjorski, Barletta see immigration similarly."
Kanjorski campaign manager Ed Mitchell said campaign’s polls showed the importance of Barletta’s immigration stance waned as the election neared due to the souring economy. “People had other things on their minds,” he said. “In October and November it was the economy, the economy, the economy.
Photo: Sen. Elizabeth Dole

Saturday, November 8, 2008

FAIR's Many Faces

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has founded or has been a founding partner in an array of national coalitions, state or local restrictionist groups, or national groups that have achieved independent identities.
Critics like the Center for New Community calls many of these affiliated organizations “front groups” while FAIR terms them affiliates.
One recent example of a coalition in which FAIR played a leading role is the anti-immigration environmental coalition which calls itself America’s Leadership Team for Long Range population-Immigration-Resource Planning. Other members include NumbersUSA, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), and Social Contract. This coalition placed ads in the New York Times and The Nation that purported to show the direct link between immigration and environmental destruction and urban sprawl.
Other similar coalitions include such groups as Coalition for a Secure Drivers License, 9-11 Families for a Secure America, United to Secure America Coalition, and Coalition for the Future American Worker. FAIR also played a role in sparking the creation of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a Pennsylvania-based grouping of state legislators vehemently opposed to the “invasion” of illegal immigrants. This group promotes the anti-immigration legislative initiatives shaped by FAIR’s Immigration Reform Legal Institute.
While based in Washington, FAIR has a national reach. Whether it’s a campaign to introduce an anti-immigration law at the state level or a local effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, it’s likely that FAIR is involved at some level – ranging from providing financial and logistical support to assisting in the drafting of bills and in filing court cases. With funding and logistical support, FAIR has sparked the creation of numerous grassroots organizations. In its 2006 annual report, FAIR provides the example of MFIRE as a typical local effort supported by FAIR. MFIRE, says FAIR, is a “grassroots group FAIR helped launch in Mississippi collected thousands of signatures throughout the state on a petition which calls the Mississippi legislature to adopt state legislation that will stop benefits to illegal aliens.”
Similarly,”IFIRE, a grassroots immigration reform group FAIR helped launch in Indiana made provided several legislators in the state the model legislation produced by IRLI.” Other local groups launched with FAIR’s support include Protect Arizona Now, Texans for FAIR Immigration, Mayors and County Executives for Immigration Reform, and Citizens of Dade United. Through its paid and volunteer field staff, FAIR plays a key role in organizing local efforts to pass anti-immigration laws at the local and state levels. It sponsors anti-immigration conferences, such as the Impacts of Illegal Immigration on State and Local Governments conference in March 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri. The same year it sponsored the Southern Regional Immigration Reform Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. FAIR says it “maintains three full-time field coordinators who blanket the entire nation, supporting and educating with activists, incubating new local organizations and working with them to address issue as they arise in their communities and states.” The Georgia legislature approved a comprehensive set of state laws aimed at discouraging illegal immigrants from settling and working in that state. During the effort to enact this law, FAIR field and legislative staff worked closely with key members of the legislature to craft effective policies, and with local immigration reform activist groups to generate public support and to blunt organized efforts by the pro-illegal alien lobby to derail the effort.” “By the end of 2006 FAIR had established volunteer state coordinators in nearly every state. These on-the-ground eyes and ears tracked local developments, helping FAIR’s field staff allocate their time and budgets as effectively as possible. The state coordinators have also afforded FAIR the ability to reach key activists in every corner of the country whenever local immigration issues arise,” boasts FAIR.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Immigration Problems and Plan from Obama Transition

It’s only a sketch but it’s enough for a first assessment of how the Obama/Biden Transition Team see the immigration issue. As part of the transition, the transition team has opened a nifty government website – --that concisely outlines the problems and policy solutions, as they see them, and invites viewers to provide feedback.
The problem is three-fold, according to the transition team:
“Undocumented population is exploding: The number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000. Every year, more than a half-million people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas.
“Immigration bureaucracy is broken: The immigration bureaucracy is broken and overwhelmed, forcing legal immigrants to wait years for applications.
“Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.”
True enough that illegal immigration has rapidly expanded since 2000, but what is not recognized that according to U.S. census figures, the influx of undocumented immigrants has slowed since 2005 and the population of illegal immigrants has actually declined by some half-million in the last year. The Pew Hispanic Center reported: “Inflows of unauthorized immigrants averaged 800,000 a year from 2000 to 2004, but fell to 500,000 a year if you average from 2005 to 2008 with a decreasing year-to- year trend. The unauthorized immigrant population grew more slowly in the period from 2005 to 2008 than it did earlier in the decade.”
Some combination of new enforcement practices (including steady rise in deportations – up 20% over 2007 to 349,000 in 2008) and the economic downturn makes the statement that the “undocumemted population is exploding” appear alarming and supportive of restrictionist fear-mongering.
Yes, the immigration bureaucracy is plodding, but that’s to have been expected after the old and maddeningly slow INS was folded into the entirely new department of Homeland Security in 2003. A recent DHS announcement that the system for visas and residency documentation is being computerized may mean that help is already on the way. Main problem, though, is that the immigration bureaucracy is now part of a national security bureaucracy.
The assessment that raids “have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant familes” is welcome indicator that the new administration will move beyond a policy with a simplistic enforce-the-law logic, and will shape a new immigration policy that has heart and is concerned with justice not just law enforcement. One can only hope that the new administration will instruct Homeland Security to end the raids on selected worksites that while netting relatively few illegal immigrants have terrorized and devastated entire communities
Now what’s the “Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan” for immigration and border control?
Create Secure Borders Obama and Biden want to preserve the integrity of our borders. They support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.
Improve Our Immigration System Obama and Biden believe we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.
Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally Obama and Biden will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Bring People Out of the Shadows Obama and Biden support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.
Work with Mexico Obama and Biden believe we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.”
“Control Our Borders” – long a rallying cry of U.S. nativists and anti-immigration forces – is now a core piece of the liberals’ immigration policy agenda. Virtually all the freshmen members of the 110th Congress have said, like Obama and Biden, that border security is the top priority. And the Democratic Congress keeps throwing Homeland Security billions of dollars more for the “personnel, infrastructure, and technology” that the transition teams calls for. But this is problematic, just as employer crackdowns are, because the control and enforcement budget keeps expanding without any reform that keeps people in the shadows. What needs to be stated is that enforcement can’t come first. If we are to enforce “existing laws”, as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has repeatedly said, we must at the same time “bring people out of the shadows” with a reform that makes them legal. Otherwise, we will simply see the immigrant crackdown continue. Not enforcement first, not enforcement only, but legalization and enforcement as part of same package.
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Emanuel's Immigration Report Card

Rahm Emanuel, a former aide to President Clinton and Obama’s pick for chief-of-staff, will come back to the White House with a failing record.
During his first year in Congress, the Federation for American Immigration Reform gave Cong. Emanuel (D-IL) a 0% rating – with the number reflecting the percentage of time that Emanuel voted FAIR’s preferred position. Other restrictionist organizations that track congressional votes have confirmed FAIR’s assessment that Emanuel is irredeemably liberal when it comes to immigration reform.
NumbersUSA, the organization that spearheaded the grassroots mobilization against the Senate’s 2007 immigration reform bill, gives Emanuel a failing lifetime position. He flunked the NumbersUSA test, receiving an “F” on his “immigration-reduction report card.” U.S. Border Control gave Cong. Emanuel an 8% rating, indicating his “open-border stance.”
In other words, Emanuel, picked to exert control over Obama’s team and its policy agenda, is about as bad as you can get. He has, after all, cosponsored the McCain-Kennedy reform proposal, voted no on building a border fence, and even cast a “no” vote on a bill that would require hospitals to notify immigration agents when treating illegal immigrants.
But immigration restrictionists aren’t particularly worried. That’s because Emanuel, after the drubbing that immigration reform received in mid-2007, let it be known that the Democratic leadership in Congress wouldn’t be pushing comprehensive reform in 2008 or even in the first term of the next administration.
Calling immigration the “third rail” of American politics, Emanuel began backing away from comprehensive reform in 2007, even as he continued to oppose overly restrictive immigration and border bills.
Emanuel has come under fire from Latino columnist Ruben Navarrette for keeping immigration reform off the table this year. “House Democrats, under orders from Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., kept the controversial issue off the legislative agenda in 2008. Why? Organized labor. Democrats' slavish adherence to unions required that they derail any proposal that includes guest workers, as any bill with a chance to win Republican support would have to do,” wrote Navarrette. At the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza, Juan Salgado, board chairman of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, shocked participant, stating: "Congressman Rahm Emanuel said to me two weeks ago, there is no way this legislation is happening in the Democratic House, in the Democratic Senate, in the Democratic presidency, in the first term.” Emanuel’s office confirmed the congressman’s position. Emanuel’s spokesman Nick Pappas told the Washington Times: “Congressman Emanuel has worked hard to make comprehensive reform a reality and that work continues. However, President Bush and congressional Republicans’ failure on this critical matter has set back efforts to enact real reform.”
In turn, Salgrado said, “I was caught off-guard by the statement. I interpret his comments as a lack of courage on what they know is right. Listen, we’re here at the NCLR conference, and what it’s to take is not the attitude of Rahm Emanuel, if this is a second-term issue. What it’s going to take is boldness by the president.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FAIR's Family Tree

The Federation for American Immigration Reform has its own family tree.
The country's oldest restrictionist institute has created two major spinoffs that pursue its restrictionist agenda on the legislative and legal fronts.
The FAIR Congressional Task Force is a 501(c)4 organization that desribes itself as a "non-profit, public interest organization whose purpose is to serve the public welfare by developing and promoting immigration policies which are consistent with the economic, social and demographic interest of the United States; to restrict illegal immigration to the United States; and to limit legal admissions to reasonable levels.” FAIR's Congressional Task Force is the annual sponsor of the "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" campaign to bring restrictionist pressure on congressional representatives and staff.
Another FAIR family member is the Immigration Reform Law Institute. IRLI says it is “America's only public interest law organization working exclusively to protect the legal rights, privileges, and property of U.S. citizens and their communities from injuries and damages caused by unlawful immigration.”
It describes itself as “a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to controlling illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration to levels consistent with the national interest of the United States.” In other words, FAIR’s ILRI works not just against illegal immigration but also against most instances of legal immigration.
Typical of well-funded, well-established right-wing policy institutes, IRLI benefits from clear messaging. Central to its anti-immigrant messaging is its focus on U.S. citizens and its claim to be defending the “rule of law.” The “rule of law” framework for its activities routinely appears in statements by its principals and is regularly echoed by the state and local governments that work with the institute to design anti-immigrant laws.
On its homepage, ILRI warns: “The injuries caused by illegal aliens in your community have become a growing crisis in communities nationwide.” Another FAIR offshoot is the Center for Immigration Studies, which was established in 1985 as an anti-immigration think tank to complement the grassroots and policy work of FAIR. CIS says it is dedicated “to expand the base of public knowledge and understanding of the need for an immigration policy that gives first concern to the broad national interest.” Like FAIR and its affiliates, CIS has counted on funding from a funding umbrella, U.S. Inc, created by John Tanton for its financial support. Mark Krikorian, CIS executive director, formerly worked as a FAIR staff member.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Directors and Advisers of FAIR

FAIR's board members include Nancy S. Anthony (Chairman), Sharon Barnes, Edith Blodgett, Henry M. Buhl, Major General Douglas E. Caton, Donald A. Collins, Pat Choate, Sarah G. Epstein, Stephen B. Swensrud, Roy Porter, John Tanton, Alan Weeden.
Among those board members who are affiliated with population control, immigration policy, or family planning organizations are Sharon Barnes, a FAIR founding member and longtime population control activist; Donald Collins, who serves on the board of directors of the Population Institute, Family Health International, and International Projects Assistance Services: Sarah Epstein, who sits on the boards of Pathfinder International, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, Center for Development and Population Activities, and Population Institute, and John Tanton, who founded FAIR and is a principal in several anti-immigration groups, including Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA.
In addition to its board of directors, FAIR counts on a national advisory board. Its cochairs are Richard Lamm, former Colorado governor, and Cong. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), who is also the chair of the House Immigration Reform Caucus.
Prominent members include Fred Ikle, Peter Nunez, Bruce Reid, Henry Luce III, and Curtis Winsor, Jr. Former Sen. Eugene McCarty (deceased) was also a supporter of FAIR and a member of its advisory board. FAIR has drawn from its advisory board for help establishing its front groups and affiliates.
FAIR receives money from the Sidney A. Swensrud Endowment Fund, Swensrud Memorial Internship Fund, Border Security Fund, Cornerstone Contributors, Seventh Generation Society, and FAIR Gift Memberships. Swensrud, who died in 1996, was one of the founders of FAIR. According to MediaTransparency, FAIR received $3.5 million in 40 grants from right-wing and conservative foundations from 1986 to 2006. Major foundation support came from the Scaife Family Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, and Carthage Foundation.
Photo: Brian Bilbray

Immigration Challenge for Obama

During his tenure as homeland security secretary, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff has overseen a dramatic buildup in border security and immigration enforcement. As part of this crackdown on illegal immigrants, Chertoff has launched such new programs as Operation Community Shield (going after immigrant gang members), Operation Streamline (arresting and detaining illegal border crosses), and the Secure Border Initiative (which includes the 670-mile fence and the virtual fence).
Today, DHS deploys nearly 18,000 border patrol agents and has 30,000 prison beds dedicated to immigrants. In pursuing the immigrant crackdown, Chertoff has won broad bipartisan support for large annual increases in ICE and CBP budgets and for his initiatives that merge federal enforcement with local and state policing. What is more, many local and state governments have passed new laws aimed at driving unauthorized immigrants out of their communities.
Chertoff has set in motion a well-coordinated and unremitting immigrant dragnet in motion. The law-and-order immigration apparatus directed by DHS is certainly demonstrating results. But with its emphasis on law enforcement and its disregard for justice it is destroying millions of lives while splitting communities and families.
“Whether you like what we are doing or not,” said Chertoff in his "State of Immigration" speech on Oct. 23, “it would be hard to argue we were conducting business as usual in the last year and 18 months (since his appointment).”
Now that the infrastructure, funding, rationale, and strategy for a wide-ranging enforcement regime are in place, a new “business as usual” immigration policy is being passed on to the Obama administration. Despite declarations as a candidate that he would pursue comprehensive immigration reform in his first term, Obama will be hard put to back away from Chertoff’s strategy to enforce immigration law “as it currently exists.”
Any retreat from Chertoff’s hard-line position on enforcement will be met with an upsurge of angry anti-immigration organizing. And any Chertoff-like proposal for an expanded temporary workers program will likely be opposed, as FAIR signals, as a de facto legalization initiative. As the economy stagnates, active support for immigrant rights and legalization is likely to decline, making yet more difficult for the Obama administration to summon the political will to fight back against the enforcement-first measures that Chertoff and the restrictionists have set in motion.
The Obama administration and the new Democratic Congress will soon face the challenge of addressing the immigration crisis. The path of least resistance may be to accept the “State of Immigration” as shaped and defined by Chertoff and the Republicans.
But the bolder path is to stand on reason and principle in backing a new comprehensive reform bill, which meets valid citizen concerns about effective border control and sustainable immigration flows while also ensuring that immigrant workers and their families are treated with justice and fairness.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Remove Illegals, Contract Temporaries

Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Michael Chertoff made clear in his wrap-up speech on the “State of Immigration” that comprehensive immigration reform should include a three-pronged strategy of strict enforcement, border security, and immigrant worker programs.
Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, have objected to employee verification programs because they cost businesses time and money. Noting this opposition, Chertoff retorted: “In my experience, making money is not a sufficient justification for violating the law, since most people break the law in order to make money.”
But he readily acknowledged that enforcement-only is not the answer. “I think it would be a lot easier if we said to businesses if we can work together to have a legal way to get the workers, that is a win-win. You get the workers, the workers get protected, and we are obeying the law.” What’s needed, he said, is “comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the issue of temporary workers.”
Chertoff said:
“It is our philosophy, it is my personal philosophy that the answer to dealing with the problem of jobs that Americans do not seem to want to fill, is not to allow people to come in illegally, to break the law to fill them, but to create a regulated legal, visible and secure path, to invite people in when we want to invite them in, under the terms and conditions that satisfies us as Americans, that we are comfortable with the security and the economic impact of that migration in that temporary work, and also using a path that is transparent and protects the workers themselves from the kind of exploitation some of them experience when they come in an illegal status.”
There is simplicity to Chertoff’s proposal missing from other comprehensive immigration reform proposals. Rather than address the complexities of a “pathway to citizenship” or “earned citizenship,” Chertoff simply ignores the entire issue of possible citizenship for the 11-12 million illegal immigrants, focusing exclusively on temporary work programs as the legal path for new foreign workers.
In its simplicity – enforcement plus temporary worker program – Chertoff’s proposal for comprehensive reform lays out only two options for illegal immigrants – removal or temporary work permits.
This solution suddenly looked more possible when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that any solution would have to be bipartisan, which would mean sacrificing some of Democrats' past priorities, such as giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
"Maybe there never is a path to citizenship if you came here illegally," Pelosi said. "I would hope that there could be, but maybe there isn't," she said.
If there is no pathway to citizenship, immigrants now in the country illegally can expect increasingly precarious lives. Only if they sign up for a temporary or guest worker program will illegal immigrants likely be permitted to stay in the country. But most illegal immigrants don’t work in industries, such as agriculture, that have traditionally been included in temporary worker programs.
Immigration restrictionists, while pleased that “pathway to citizenship” proposals seem to be losing support even among Democrats, are already preparing their forces to do battle against a broad new temporary workers program that would possibly give worker visas to current illegal immigrants and to new flows of foreign workers.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, for example, has incorporated a response to a Chertoff-like proposal to expand temporary worker programs. In FAIR’s newly released Seven Principles of True Comprehensive Immigration Reform, one of its reform principles states: “Redefining illegal aliens as ‘guest-workers’ or anything else is just that: a redefinition that attempts to hide the fact it is an amnesty, not reform.”
While acknowledging that there may be some need for temporary workers in the U.S. economy, FAIR aims to wage battle on the benchmarks Congress and the new administration set for determining the need for foreign workers. Rather than relying on employers or even the government to document a shortage of workers, FAIR says that “the need for guest workers must be determined by objective indicators that a shortage of workers exists, i.e., extreme wage inflation in a particular sector of the labor market.”
In other words, unless businesses can show that they are paying exorbitant wages to attract labor, any plea for foreign workers should be rejected. Echoing the language of many unions and progressives, FAIR, in its principles for comprehensive immigration reform, declares: “Immigration policy should not be permitted to undermine opportunities for America's poor and vulnerable citizens to improve their working conditions and wages.”