March 2016

Faith Groups Anxious about Immigration Reform, Interviews Report


Although faith groups have generally supported widespread immigration reform and the apparent plight of incoming immigrants, recent reports published by the Public Religion Research Institute speak of a growing anxiety regarding the impact of immigrants on American culture.

Following the increasingly troublesome migrant crisis in Europe, many U.S. religious leaders are calling for their members and all Americans to open their communities to the fleeing refugees.

The study found that 43% of white, mainline Protestants, 41% of white Catholics, 38% of Mormons, and 53% of white evangelical Protestants say that the growing numbers of immigrants “threaten traditional American customs and values.” This compares to 34% of all Americans interviewed in general expressing the same fear.

The report is based on more than 40,000 interviews with adults across the U.S. between April 2015 and January 2016. The report also allows readers to examine results on a state-by-state basis.

However, PRRI’s report also shows that majorities of all faith groups and more than three-quarters of U.S. adults (77%) support immigration policies that allow a track to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

Daniel Cox, PRRI’s director of research, has stated that support for immigration reform has remained remarkably constant in recent years, also noticing that support doesn’t appear to be affected by global terrorist attacks or controversial calls for immigration limitations from presidential candidates in the same way that these events affect people’s views on the immigrants themselves.

Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., speaks to the commonality of this sentiment, stating that “if someone has a different language, customs, skin color or religion, that makes people nervous.”

Zapor’s organization dedicates its time helping local affiliates support immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens or legal residents by providing training and legal support.

However, there are also other religious leaders reacting to the growing fear of terrorist attacks by calling for increased restrictions. “All immigration needs to be stopped until we have a proper way of vetting people that want to come into our country,” said the Rev. Franklin Graham while at a prayer rally on Tuesday.

Congressman Jeff Denham’s Immigration Stance under False Attacks


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently claimed that Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) “has agreed all illegal immigrants should be detained, arrested and deported” in line with Donald Trump’s extremist views on immigration.

This comes as especially surprising since Denham has usually been considered a moderate who has rejected hard-line views and was the first Republican to co-sponsor H.R. 15 allowing immigrants to gain citizenship eventually.

The DCCC made its claim in a March 17 press release titled “The Denham and The Donald Line up Again Against Immigrant Families,” showing a photo of the two Republicans standing next to each other. The only proof of this alliance was identified as an audio from a 2010 Republican primary debate.

The debate asked the candidates if they “believe that anyone who is here (in the United States) right now as an illegal immigrant should be detained, arrested and deported?” Denham subsequently responded with: “The simple answer is: Yes, we’ve got to uphold the laws of our state, the laws of our nation. But as a state senator, one of the calls that I get frequently are those families that came here legally, that are working here legally and somehow lost their immigration status to no fault of their own.”

Although Denham does answer the question in the way extrapolated by the DCCC, it is unfair to call him an extremist on the issue since his most pressing issue with illegal immigration is the unfair deportation of formerly-legal immigrants held up due to bureaucratic failings. What is certain is that it is unfair to equate him with Donald Trump.

The reason for this attack most likely arises from the upcoming debate where Rep. Denham must protect his position from candidate Michael Eggman, who has faced off against Denham previously in 2014 and will do so again in the June primary election and again in November.

Court Bars Immigration Law from Discriminating against “Habitual Drunkards”


A federal appeals court Thursday struck down part of an immigration law which impeded the deferment of an undocumented immigrant if he was a “habitual drunkard,” which would place him in poor moral standing.

The law itself allows the attorney general to cancel the deportation of a non-citizen or allow the person to depart voluntarily if that person has good moral character. The law deems a person immoral if he or she participated in genocide or torture, has been convicted of a serious felony or gambling offenses, or is a habitual drunkard.

“Is it rational for the government to find that people with chronic alcoholism are morally bad people solely because of their disease? The answer is no.” Wrote Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Reinhardt also added: “A statute targeting people who habitually and excessively drink alcohol is, in effect, targeting individuals with chronic alcoholism.”

“The theory that alcoholics are blameworthy because they could simply try harder to recover is an old trope not supported by the medical literature,” Reinhardt wrote. “Rather, the inability to stop drinking is a function of the underlying ailment.”

Reinhardt and the majority of the court held that the federal law linking drunkenness with poor moral character is a violation of the equal-protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

The law was brought to the court through the detainment of Salomon Ledezma-Cosino, a Mexican citizen who entered the U.S. in 1997 and has been held in legal limbo due to being deemed a habitual drunkard, even though he was eventually able to quit drinking. Should the court’s decision not be appealed, Ledezma-Cosino would be allowed to remain in the country or at least leave willingly.

The dissent, written by Judge Richard R. Clifton, claimed that the court applied the wrong legal standard. He also stated that: “If chronic alcoholics really had no ability to control their conduct, then such individuals would never be able to stop drinking.  We know that is not the case, as Ledezma himself laudably demonstrated. Chronic alcoholics do not have to be habitual drunkards.”

Republican Candidates Redouble efforts after Brussels Attack


Almost immediately after the Brussels terrorist attack yesterday morning, both GOP frontrunners took the opportunity to criticize the current administration’s immigration policies and restate their own stances on the issue.

“The first job of the president is to be commander in chief. It’s unconscionable. It needs to change. … If I am president, I will destroy ISIS.” Said Cruz yesterday, referring to the airport and subway explosions in the city which killed at least 31 people and wounded hundreds.

Cruz also called for an immediate halt on President Obama’s ongoing plan to allow thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war into the United States. Cruz claims “our vetting programs are woefully insufficient” and argues ISIS has already stated its intentions of infiltrating the country in order to “commit acts of jihad.”

Trump, on the other hand, called for an end to the United States’ visa program, which allows around 20 million people to visit the country each year.

I’ve been talking about this for a long time, and look at Brussels. Brussels was a beautiful city, a beautiful place with zero crime, and now it’s a disaster city.” Said Trump to Fox newscasters. The GOP candidate stands in a particularly peculiar position since in January earlier this year he called for a ban on Muslim immigration and referenced Paris and Brussels as being “in a particularly dire state.”

On the Democrat’s side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton has called for “Americans [to] stand in solidarity with our European allies,” and further stated “terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders implored that “we need to have significantly improved intelligence, and not just related to the United States. He have to share intelligence with the rest of the world.”

Although Congress recently put new restrictions on the visa program for dual citizens of Sudan, Iran, Iraq and Syria, the overall program continues unimpeded.

DHS says Stalled Immigration System may be Security Risk


The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general, John Roth, stated that the compounding immigration backlog in the country may present a security risk, after several Green Cards and other documents have been sent to the wrong people.

According to Roth, this margin of error was created by moving the application process online, to the Electronic Immigration system (ELIS), implemented in 2005 mainly to streamline the process of applying for citizenship, asylum, and other benefits, and ensure potential terrorists or other individuals bent on threatening U.S. security could not enter the country or receive citizenship benefits.

However, numerous documents have nonetheless been printed with incorrect names or mailed to the wrong people, which Roth claims “created potential security concerns about documents that cannot be accounted for or that may have fallen into the wrong hands.” Roth also states that potentially hundreds of Green Cards have been sent to unauthorized individuals who might sell or use them fraudulently for profit.

Roth recently audited the ELIS to gauge, after 11 years and considerable expense, the benefits that ELIS has provided as far as processing is concerned. Roth found out, unfortunately, that the benefits have been few.

Despite going through years of development, applicants can only apply online for two of about 90 types of benefits and services which account for less than ten percent of the agency’s entire workload.

Leon Rodriguez, director of USCIS, disputed Roth’s audit, mainly challenging the assertion that USCIS’s attempts at implementing and developing the new technology has been half-hearted. Also, Rodriguez questions whether “national security was impacted based     on address changes by applicants.”

Rodriguez also accused Roth of not taking into account that USCIS is currently implementing an identity verification process and other safeguards to minimize the risk of sending documents to the wrong address.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, called the findings “concerning”, and stated that: “With ISIS and other terrorist groups active around the world and committed to attacks on our country, our national security depends on our systems for screening visa and immigration applications working effectively.”

GOP Approves Amicus Brief in Immigration Case


While Zuckerberg’s own brief stalls in the process, the House of Representatives has recently approved the GOP, led by Paul Ryan, to file its own amicus brief to persuade the Supreme Court in the upcoming case reviewing the president’s use of executive actions to dictate the enforceability of immigration law, U.S. v. Texas et al.

The measure passed mostly on partisan lines, with 234 Republicans for it, and 181 Democrats and five Republicans opposing it.

“This is not a question of whether we are for or against a certain policy. Members who are here making immigration policy arguments are missing the whole point here. This comes down to a much more fundamental question. It is about the integrity of our Constitution,” Ryan argued.

Meanwhile, the Democrat’s own amicus brief, signed on by more than 200 House and Senate Democrats, stalls in the process, although it is expected to fail more or less along the same party lines.

While this back-and-forth continues, more than 65 legislators in the House, mostly Democrat, move forward a bill that would expand immigration eligibility for immediate family members of U.S. citizens and allow same-sex married couples to join spouses in the United States.

The bill, known as Reuniting Families Act (RFA), was sponsored by Representative Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who says the immigration reform legislation is designed to cut backlogs that separate some 4.4 million family members from U.S. citizens and green card holders.

Currently, U.S. immigration law includes immediate family members as spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21 and parents 21 years of age or older. This new bill would expand this definition to also include brothers and sisters, and also allows same sex, interfaith, or other couples that are not permitted to marry in their home country. Additionally, it exempts husbands, wives and children of green card holders from numerical caps.

Unfortunately, although a rather sensible bill as far as what it would reasonably allow, the bill would run into the same partisan roadblock the Democrat amicus brief faced.

Primaries shift focus to Immigration


As the two parties move away from Ohio and Florida and into Arizona, it is likely immigration will take the forefront as the main topic at issue.

Both of the Democratic runners, Clinton and Sanders have made their stance clear on immigration, pledging to continue Obama’s executive actions protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation while providing them with a track to residency and citizenship.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have taken a hard stance against illegal immigration and have promised to deport all illegal immigrants from the country.

The state itself, although having a sizable immigrant population, has had a generally conservative bent, and hasn’t voted for a Democratic candidate since 1996. Donald Trump, in particular, stands in a favorable position, having been endorsed by popular former Arizona governor Jan Brewer and the recently notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump has confirmed his visit to the state this week, but Cruz has no firm travel plans set yet.

On the Democratic side, the race will be closer in the primaries, with Sander’s wife having been in the state since earlier this week.

With all of the perspective candidates placing immigration at the forefront of their campaign so far, there is surmounting doubt on whether or not the candidates have taken the proper stance on this issue.

Of the five states which held elections on Tuesday (Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri), only 10% of the voters identified immigration as a top issue in the campaign. Of that small number of voters, however, Trump was the choice candidate by a wide margin.

On the other hand, Trump’s stance might appear less than favorable in the national stage, with a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll stating that voters believe immigration helps the U.S. more than it hurts by a 53% to 38% margin. Latino voters alone agree immigration helps the U.S. by a 71% to 20% split, making it unlikely Trump will win a large category of voters during the general elections.

Sanctuary cities under attack in Maine, Wisconsin

As briefly described in a previous article, sanctuary cities are cities which prohibit authorities, both local and federal, from inquiring into an individual’s immigration status in the country. These cities have been under attack recently and penalized by the federal government due to accusations of protecting accused criminals from scrutiny andallowing repeated crimes, and states have taken it upon themselves to shut down these cities in what they consider a move to protect the American people from dangerous illegal immigrants and possible terrorists.

The most recent attempt to tackle this issue has come from both Wisconsin and Maine simultaneously, as the two states take different approaches in order to either outright ban these sanctuary cities or else discourage the practice in its municipalities.

Wisconsin attempted to introduce bill AB 450, which would outright prohibit sanctuary cities and encourage police to investigate the immigration status of arrested individuals and refer them to federal immigration authorities.

Although the bill was approved by the state Assembly, it was taken off of the Senate’s docket, partly due to the protest in Madison on Feb. 18 organized by Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit focusing on Latino immigration issues.

In Maine, a bill was on its way to denying municipalities state funding for education and General Assistance if they had formally written sanctuary city ordinances or simply informal practices. Towns would have likewise been ineligible for state funding if they did not share information with federal immigration officials.

Although the bill was immediately rejected by Maine’s House Democrats, Gov. Paul LePage has made it clear that there exists a sanctuary city problem in Maine and that he strives to correct the problem, as shown by his rescission of former Democratic governor John Baldacci’s 2004 executive order prohibiting state officials from asking about a person’s immigration status.

Clinton Splits with Obama on Immigration


As the Republican runners make their stance on immigration clear, Hilary Clinton also moves to convey to the American populace how she would handle one of the more crucial platform issues in this presidential race. To everyone’s surprise, Clinton promised not to deport illegal immigrants except for violent criminals and terrorists.

This comes in sharp contrast to Obama’s tacit inaction towards illegal immigrants, which, although still resulting in thousands of deportations a year, do not even come close to dealing with the excessive backlog of illegal immigrants held up in the court system throughout the nation.

Of course, regardless of how the candidates believe immigration should be handled, the Supreme Court is expected to decide in June the constitutionality of Obama’s current deferred action program and possibly set a future president for the next president to abide by.

Obama’s 2014 executive actions declared that the administration would no longer target illegal immigrants who have not committed crimes (other than illegal entry), stating that he wanted to deport “felons, not families.”

The executive actions had an exception, however: immigrants who arrived illegally since Jan. 1, 2014, including tens of thousands of people fleeing from violence and corruption in Central America, are still subject to deportation, so long as they did not qualify for political asylum.

The stance predictably met strong opposition from immigrant rights groups, followed by strong support for both Clinton and Sanders, who both clearly stated their opposition to the Obama administration’s policies.

“The fact that both [Clinton and Sanders] had the wherewithal to say we should not deport children, as a stark contrast to the Obama administration, and that both mentioned they agreed with the president on most things except on this was very powerful and very important,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Experts believe that Clinton’s plans would be legal even if the Supreme Court finds against Obama’s work permit expansion, since it would simply broaden the DHS enforcement guidelines but not necessarily add more work permits.

Zuckerberg and others support Obama’s immigration actions in brief to the Supreme Court


Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, joined by several other influential tech insiders, filed an amici curiae to the Supreme Court trying to provide more information and hopefully influence the court in the upcoming case challenging Obama’s 2014 immigration policy implementation.

Obama’s  immigration reform, under attack by the state of Texas, encompasses the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would provide up to 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, mainly by extending the deferred action to the parents of children here illegally.

The 71-page brief itself, brought forward by 63 tech figures, provides cited data along with hard numbers as to loss of productivity and economic benefits caused by the massive deportation and separation of parents and children due to the nation’s deportation policies.

The brief also went into detail as to the severe shortages not only in the need for manual labor in traditional jobs for illegal immigrants and immigrants with work visas, that being seasonal agricultural work, but also the more technical skilled work which also tends to be filled by immigrants.

This support from the private sector followed closely the motion for a vote that would allow the Democratic national legislators to submit their own amicus brief in support of the president in his movement to defer illegal immigrants with a possibility of future legalization. However, due to the Republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely such a motion will pass, as hinted at by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Although Obama’s action seems to have much support, due to Justice Scalia’s recent passing, should the court split the rule 4-4, the lower court decision will be affirmed and no binding action will be able to be passed and the immigration issue would persist perhaps for years to come.