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As part of its strategy to gain support for comprehensive immigration reform, the administration has continually touted its enforcement accomplishments. In fact, over the last two years, the Obama administration has committed itself to a full-court press to demonstrate how committed the administration is to removing criminals and others who remain in the country without proper documentation. They have continued to use the enforcement programs of the previous administration, including partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, detain, and deport immigrants. However, in doing so, they have lost the ability to fully control their own enforcement priorities and enforcement outcomes, and the results have demonstrated that the state and local partners are not necessarily committed to the same priorities.
At a time when federal, state, and local elections are often decided by small voting margins -- with candidates frequently locked in ferocious competition for the ballots of those "voting blocs" that might turn the electoral tide in their favor -- one large and growing bloc of voters has been consistently overlooked and politically underestimated: New Americans. This group of voters and potential voters includes not only immigrants who have become U.S. citizens (Naturalized Americans), but also the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965 (the Post-1965 Children of Immigrants). These immigrants and their children have a powerful and highly personal connection to the modern immigrant experience that most other Americans do not. It's one thing to hear family stories about a grandfather or great-grandfather coming to the United States during the much-romanticized "Ellis Island" era of immigration from Europe that ended decades ago. It's quite another to belong to a family that is experiencing first-hand the political and economic realities of immigration today. The ranks of registered voters who are New Americans, or Latino or Asian, have been growing rapidly this decade and are likely to play an increasingly pivotal role in elections at all levels in the years to come, particularly in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. As public opinion polls reveal, anti-immigrant political rhetoric is likely to motivate many New Americans to cast ballots, but is unlikely to win many votes for candidates perceived as anti-immigrant.
It is generally undisputed that immigration is important to America's economic success. During an economic downturn, however, many argue that immigration reform should not be a priority, while others argue that fixing our broken immigration system and allowing unauthorized immigrants to earn legal status would be detrimental to the economy. However, reforming our broken immigration system is an important part of improving our economy. Currently, unscrupulous employers are able to exploit unauthorized workers and create unfair competition by violating labor laws and paying suba
Now more than ever, Americans are seeking real solutions to our nationas problems, and there is no better place to start than protecting our workers, raising wages, and getting our economy moving again. Part of this massive effort must include workable answers to our critically important immigration problems.
Arizona and the federal government await a decision from a Phoenix district judge on whether enforcement of SB 1070 will move forward on July 29th, or whether all or some parts of the law will be enjoined. Meanwhile, local law enforcement is struggling to interpret SB 1070 and provide training to officers, which could be further complicated if the judge allows only some parts of the law to go forward. In a new report released today by the Immigration Policy Center, Enforcing Arizona's SB 1070: A State of Confusion (below), journalist Jeffrey Kaye reveals that "instead of 'statewide and uniform practices' as directed by the governor, Arizona police agencies have developed a patchwork of guidelines based on varying interpretations of the law." Kaye's reporting includes interviews with police officials, who cite concerns with implementing the new law, and a review of training materials that suggest the implementation of SB 1070 will differ from one jurisdiction to another, and even within police agencies, and "will be burdensome, costly, and distort priorities."
While immigrant communities across the nation endure the long wait for immigration reform, there are roughly 19 million immigrant women and girls currently in the U.S. Immigrant women, particularly the undocumented, are often more vulnerable than their male counterparts, lack the same economic opportunities, and experience exploitation while crossing the border, while working and even in their own homes. In short, immigrant women have become the silent victims of a broken immigration system.
The month of March marks the seventh anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its immigration agencies. It also marks the end of a sweeping internal review ordered by Secretary Janet Napolitano, a review which as not been made public. In order to assess the first year of immigration policy under the Obama Administration, the Immigration Policy Center releases the following Special Report which compare DHS's actions with the recommendations (Transition Blueprint) made to the Obama Transition Team's immigration-policy group. How does DHS stack up? The following IPC report finds a department caught between the competing priorities of old broken policy and new reforms. While DHS has failed to meet key expectations in some areas, it has engaged thoughtfully and strategically in others, and has made some fundamental changes in how it conducts its immigration business.
In February 2008, Austin Police Department (APD) officers pulled over a car on a routine traffic stop. In the car were a Central American couple and their three-year-old U.S.-citizen son. The officers arrested Sylvia and Ernesto due to outstanding traffic tickets, and later charged them with tampering with government records after finding the couple's false Social Security cards used to gain employment. Sylvia and Ernesto were booked into the Travis County Jail, while their son Luis was temporarily placed into Child Protective Services (CPS), to be reunited with his parents once they were released from jail. However, this reunion was not to occur on American soil. Through an initiative called the Criminal Alien Program (CAP), local law enforcement agencies collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify deportable non-citizens in county jails across the county. In Austin, Texas, the seat of Travis County, the Sheriff's Office supplies ICE with a list of foreign-born arrestees and grants ICE unlimited access to the jail to interview inmates. For individuals like Sylvia and Ernesto, who are undocumented, or for legal immigrants who are still vulnerable to deportation for crimes as minor as shoplifting, an arrest can lead to deportation. Because ICE was able to take custody of them, Sylvia and Ernesto were not released into the community to be with their young son. Instead, they were held in ICE detention while deportation proceedings commenced against them. Meanwhile, CPS transferred Luis to foster care, as no relatives could be immediately found to claim him. Luis's parents were ultimately both deported to Central America, and Luis lingered in foster care for a week until a relative was found. Unfortunately, this is no isolated incident. In 2008, the University of Texas School of Law's Children's Rights Clinic saw another similar case, and in April 2009, The New York Times reported that an undocumented woman's child was placed for adoption when the court deemed she "abandoned" her son after being jailed subsequent to an immigration workplace raid. ICE and local law enforcement officials claim that CAP targets the worst criminal offenders -- those dangerous individuals who make our communities less safe. The Chief Deputy of the Travis Country Sheriff's Office (TCSO) has said, "We know for a fact that we are only getting the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. These guys are really the undesirables. Most people wouldn't want them getting out of jail and being their neighbor. They'd like to see them deported out of the country." However, stories like those of Sylvia and Ernesto, and those of many others whose families are torn apart because of traffic arrests or misdemeanor offenses, show that many of the people impacted are far from being at "the bottom of the barrel." Not only are these individuals facing deportation and separation from their families, but CAP has also negatively impacted entire communities. There have also been allegations of law-enforcement agencies engaging in racial profiling and pretextual arrests in order to get suspected deportable immigrants into the jail so they can be identified by ICE. CAP can also affect a town's reputation, economy, and school system. Achieving the opposite of its mandate, CAP in fact decreases public safety when immigrant victims and witnesses fear contacting police due to law enforcement's collaboration with immigration authorities, creating a sphere for criminals to operate with impunity. This paper provides a brief history and background on the CAP program. It also includes a case study of CAP implementation in Travis County, Texas, which finds that the program has a negative impact on communities because it increases the community's fear of reporting crime to police, is costly, and may encourage racial profiling.
Millions of immigrants in the U.S. send billions of dollars in remittances to friends and family members in their home countries each year. While it is easy to assume that this represents a huge loss for the U.S. economy, the relationship between remittances and the U.S. economy is much more complex than meets the eye. Itas true that remittances are an important source of income for immigrant-sending countries, but remittances are also a huge boost to U.S. exports and the U.S. economy. The following IPC Special Report reveals the economic benefits of remittances to both developing nations and the U.S. economy.
According to a new study by UCLAas Dr. RaAol Hinojosa-Ojeda, Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over a ten year period, generate billions in additional tax revenue and consumer spending and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The report, which runs several different economic scenarios, finds that enacting a comprehensive immigration reform plan which creates a legalization process for undocumented workers and sets a flexible visa program dependent on U.S. labor demands not only raises the floor for all American workers, but is an economic necessity.
The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation. Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously. Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities. Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track.
Nearly everyone agrees that our immigration system is badly broken and in urgent need of reform. Under the existing system people are dying at the border, immigrants are living and working in abject conditions, families trying to reunite legally are separated for many years, employers are unable to hire the workers that they need, U.S. workers suffer from the unlevel playing field shared with exploited immigrant workers, and lawa