Archive for the ‘State & Local Immigration Rules’ Category.

Bad Choices

shutterstock_141609061Last week, my state’s attorney general, Adam Laxalt, did something that is wrong for my community, my state, and my country. He signed Nevada to the lawsuit against President Obama’s executive action to defer deportation for potentially millions of long-time residents.

I’ve been here in Nevada for decades – nearly 30 of which I’ve spent practicing law. My field is immigration law and I’m a true believer – helping to found and lead the Nevada Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). And now, well, I’m embarrassed for my entire state.

Why did Adam Laxalt decide that it was a good idea to join 24 other states in a meritless, politically motivated lawsuit? Despite the rhetoric, the president’s actions were completely lawful and within his authority, intended to give some freedom from fear for immigrants who are not security risks while Congress hopefully works on a permanent solution.

Mr. Laxalt should know that President Obama’s actions were lawful – they actually fit under the same executive authority that presidents from both parties have used repeatedly over the past decades. A little bit of family history for Mr. Laxalt – when the Reagan administration realized that their amnesty program only helped those who entered before 1982, it allowed family members who had come after 1982 to stay in the U.S. and gave them employment authorization. At that time, one of President Reagan’s closest political advisors was Senator Paul Laxalt from Nevada, the son of Basque immigrants from southern France and the grandfather of Adam Laxalt, the current AG.

Beyond embarrassing a family legacy, joining this lawsuit at this point is pure theater. The preliminary hearing has already been heard – on January 15, 2015 – though the decision has not yet issued from the judge. At the very least, he should have waited to see if the Texas judge would throw this lawsuit out of court the same way that another federal judge threw out Sheriff Arpaio’s lawsuit against the executive actions. Instead he drags our state into pointless and wasteful litigation that does not reflect our values as Nevadans. The arguments presented in the lawsuit, that the U.S. will be economically harmed by Obama’s Executive Action, are speculative and have been rejected in earlier lawsuits. In fact, numerous studies show the exact opposite:  that allowing people to come out of the shadows and providing some kind of work authorization for the undocumented will benefit the economy.

Now we hear that the Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval, who supported Mr. Laxalt’s election and has been discussed as a potential Republican candidate for Vice President in 2016, is very concerned about the loose cannon that is his new lawyer.  The Governor reportedly said that he was not consulted on the decision to join the lawsuit and that it came out of left field, adding that he would be meeting with the AG to discuss the future course of the lawsuit.

What does Mr. Laxalt do then? He doubles down saying he doesn’t need the governor’s permission. Not the best idea to my mind, but he is making his choices. Sadly though, he is making the wrong ones for our state and our country. I guess Mr. Laxalt doesn’t see it that way but I am proud to say that many Nevadans disagree with him and side with our country’s history, our country’s values, and our country’s future. Thank goodness.

Written by Peter Ashman, Past Chair, AILA Nevada Chapter

New Yorkers Get New ID to Get Past the Velvet Rope

imageClubs are synonymous with New York, and in order to get past the velvet rope, what do you need? Identification. It always helps to know somebody and have a lot of money, but I will curb the comparison of immigrating to the US with getting into Studio 54, lest someone think you can “bribe the doorman.”

New York has just launched the IDNYC card. In an age where you need to be able to identify yourself to access a building, get on a plane or train, make a purchase, open a bank account, get housing, or respond to a police inquiry, a person with no identification, in particular the undocumented, are often made more vulnerable from not being able to prove who they are.

This does not only related to the undocumented. During election time, producing identification was a problem for some elderly citizens.

As the city presents it:

“IDNYC is the new, free identification card for all New York City residents, which gives all of us the opportunity to show who we are—New Yorkers. As a government-issued photo identification card, IDNYC secures the peace of mind and access to City services that come from having recognized identification. IDNYC benefits every city resident, including the most vulnerable communities—the homeless, youth, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated and others who may have difficulty obtaining other government-issued ID.

IDNYC cardholders can access services and programs offered by the City as well as by businesses. IDNYC helps enhance public safety, by serving as a recognized ID for interacting with NYPD. It also helps New Yorkers gain access to all City buildings that provide services to the public and is accepted as a form of identification for accessing numerous City programs and services. IDNYC also provides a dynamic series of benefits to cardholders, including a free one-year membership at many of the City’s leading museums, zoos, concert halls, and botanical gardens.”

It is imperative that we all, as in, all New Yorkers, obtain these IDs. Otherwise, it will be all too easy to be able to identify undocumented individuals by this new ID as the only type of identification available to them. This is one more great innovation by the city to make it more open and welcoming to the vulnerable and to help try to solve the great disconnect between Federal inaction and positive local action. While we wait for reform beyond the President’s Executive action, small steps like these help to make the city more inclusive for a population which already exists. The city is finding a way to work together rather than a hostile attitude of deportations at all costs. Most often, this culture of deportations and “no” costs Americans just as much, since these undocumented individuals provide a very real service, are part of the fabric of our society and they add to the economy.

Instead of hostility, we need to find a way to welcome these individuals. Giving them identification is certainly a great step in the right direction.

Everybody, welcome to the club!

Written by Neena Dutta, Chair, AILA NYC Chapter

National Inaction Leads to Local Legislation

image On Friday, New York City’s (NYC) Mayor Bill de Blasio signed local legislation, Introductions 486-A and 487-A, which will significantly restrict the city’s cooperation with inappropriately broad federal immigration enforcement practices, except in instances where there are public safety concerns, i.e., criminal activity. Another effect of these bills is to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) presence at Rikers Island prison and all City facilities.  A few of us attended the press conference, where the Mayor actually signed the legislation which will  go into effect in 30 days.

In essence, the bill drastically limits ICE’s use of the New York City Criminal Justice System as an arena in which it can enforce its removal and detention operations.  The new laws will lead to the release of many non-citizens who since the inception and implementation of the Secure Communities and Criminal Alien Programs have actually chosen to remain in criminal custody by not posting bail and refusing to resolve even the most minor of criminal cases in an effort to avoid their inevitable transfer into ICE detention.

Prior to this signing, New York Chapter members Cory Foreman and Hedwin Salmen-Navarro, testified in front of New York City Council, representing AILA’s position that the then current practice of detaining non-criminals was inhumane, cruel and financially crippling to an already vulnerable community.  As part of their testimony, they said:Neena 1

“In light of a number of recent court decisions holding that federal law does not require local law enforcement to honor detainers, a growing number of cities and municipalities across the country are refusing to cooperate with Immigration & Customs Enforcement following a foreign national’s release from police or Department of Corrections custody.  There are a number of legal, policy and humanitarian reasons why it is critical for New York City to stop honoring immigration detainers except in the most extreme cases.”

ICE issues detainers to local law enforcement agencies, such as the NYPD or Department of Corrections, asking them to hold an individual even after his or her cases have been resolved, often without a warrant. The detainers allow the person to be picked up by federal immigration authorities, who often hold the person for months before initiating deportation proceedings.

486-A and 487-A will limit the NYPD or Corrections to only honoring a detainer if it comes with a federal warrant, and even then, only if the individual in question has been convicted of a violent or serious felony in the last five years, or is a possible match on the terrorist watch list.

Mayor de Blasio has been a keen supporter and advocate for immigrant rights, and sympathizes greatly with the plight of undocumented workers.  I recall seeing him speak at the immigration rally October 2013, where he spoke in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  As he signed these bills he said, “What these bills do is they protect the rights of undocumented immigrants, of visa holders, and legal permanent residents alike, all of whom have suffered under the previous approach, and ultimately prevent families from being torn apart.”

This is not the only immNeena 3igration stance he has taken.  The Mayor has also introduced the idea of municipal identification for undocumented individuals, and has always been a vocal advocate of the Dream Act.

The usual opponents and naysayers claim that these new laws restricting ICE’s scope of authority will compromise safety, however as we know, and as the Mayor conveyed at the press conference, undocumented immigrants will be more likely to approach police for help or with tips if they do not fear deportation.  He said: “When people understand in all cases police are here to protect, and will not be part of deporting, it will encourage people to come forward.”

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also spoke at length about federal inaction causing harm by separating families and the pain for undocumented individuals, as they are unable to apply for any relief, nor leave due to the fear of not being able to return.

As we all anticipate some form of executive action, or see if this game of chicken or immigration stalemate will come to an end and we hope to see some significant, meaningful reform, local governments recognize the need for action.  I hope that local legislators continue their important efforts, but I think we all hope that the federal government starts acting soon, because immigration is a federal concern, not just a local one.

Written by Neena Dutta, AILA NYC Chapter Chair

Cities and Counties Stand Up for the Constitution

shutterstock_103176035Cities across the country have been following a federal policy that law enforcement officials increasingly describe as harmful to public safety and that courts now call unconstitutional.  I’m glad to know that Philadelphia is no longer one of them.

My mayor, Michael Nutter, signed an executive order last month preventing law enforcement officials from keeping people in jail on the basis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer request, unless it’s accompanied by a judicial warrant and the person has been convicted of a violent felony.  These detainers request that state and local police hold people in jail, without a warrant or the guarantee of a prompt hearing before a judge.  States, counties and cities have spent millions of their own tax dollars complying with detainers that jail people who may (or may not) be deportable from the United States.  As an immigration attorney, I know first-hand the disastrous impact that reckless immigration enforcement practices can have on families and communities and I’m proud that my city and mayor have said no.

When issuing the order, Mayor Nutter cited the impact on public safety as one reason for his decision. “As a result of overly aggressive use of these detainers, there has been a negative impact on some immigrants who will not report crimes to the police, don’t want to be witnesses, and suffer accordingly.”  The University of Illinois at Chicago recently found that 44% of Latinos were less likely to call the police if they became the victim of a crime, when they live in jurisdictions where police are heavily involved in immigration enforcement.

Philadelphia is not the only place that’s saying no. More states and localities around the country, from  California (San Diego County and San Francisco just announced as well) to Connecticut, are refusing to honor these hold requests.  And the courts are agreeing with them.  In the last few months, three separate federal cases have confirmed that detainers are voluntary requests and that local law enforcement can be sued for violations of the Constitution if they choose to honor these ICE requests, including a case involving Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. And just recently, a federal judge held Clackamas County, Oregon liable for violating the Fourth Amendment for holding an individual solely on an ICE detainer without probable cause.

The Oregon decision sent shockwaves through counties all over the Northwest. Sheriff Joe Pelle of Boulder County, Colorado called the judge’s decision in this case a “game changer.” Law enforcement officials from counties in Oregon, Washington and Colorado immediately announced they would no longer continue business-as-usual with respect to these immigration holds—joining places like Philadelphia that have already said no.

Detainers are fundamentally flawed. They are not making communities safer. They are expensive. That’s why states and localities are pushing back.  They’re making their own decisions about what’s best for their communities. As the president of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association Gary Bettencourt said, “We will no longer violate anybody’s constitutional rights, I can guarantee that.”

If AILA members and the public want to advocate against detainers, it’s plain to see we have plenty of company from law enforcement and the courts. Let’s work to get more cities and localities across the nation on board.

William Stock, AILA Second Vice President

What’s Happening to Florida?

shutterstock_33919990Last week, the Florida legislature passed two bills that are heading to Governor Rick Scott, who has stated that he will sign them. One grants in-state tuition to undocumented “Dreamers.” Another will allow Jose Godinez-Samperio, a DACA recipient and law school graduate, the ability to be a licensed attorney in the State. Jose was in Tallahassee in the gallery on the day the Florida House passed the bill. He was given a standing ovation.

I am still shaking my head. What happened to Florida? Gov. Scott ran on a platform in 2010 that called for Arizona-type laws to be enacted. Four years later, he is supporting significant pro-immigration legislation. I thought we could easily count on current Florida leadership to remain oppositional to any pro-immigration issue that was not forced upon them.

It would be easy to be cynical and chalk it up to politics. It is an election year, after all, and perhaps some politicians are finally realizing it is not a bad idea to try to garner favor in the  immigrant community.

Certainly I believe that is a big part of it. But, I also think that we may be witnessing a change in attitude across the board.

After the vote last Friday, I was contacted by a local newspaper columnist who had written earlier in the week in support of the Jose Godinez-Samperio bill. He had received responses from readers asking questions such as “Why didn’t he apply for citizenship?” “Why does he need a special law, couldn’t he have started the citizenship process during law school?” “Didn’t he want to become a citizen?”

He contacted me to make sure he was not missing anything – that there had been no change to federal immigration law recently of which he was not aware. I assured him that no, there had been no recent change.

The columnist, Tom Lyons, from the Sarasota Herald Tribune, then wrote a follow-up column clarifying that Jose did not have the option of obtaining citizenship and said of the questioners:

the more I thought about those people who wanted to know why that would-be lawyer hadn’t applied for citizenship, the more I thought kindly of them. Though they apparently missed a key point in the nation’s immigration debate, I think their question was based on a nice assumption. They assumed that U.S. law couldn’t be as rigid and mean as it actually is.

This illustrates what I believe is also happening in Florida; people are becoming more educated about the issues. And as they get more educated, they may be becoming more compassionate…and passionate to do the right thing.

I only hope that the individuals in office at the national level take a look at what is happening in Florida since I hear Florida might just be a tad bit important when it comes to presidential elections.  I hope they realize that the House really needs to follow Florida’s lead and move forward on immigration reform.

By Victoria Jaensch Karins, Chair, AILA Central Florida Chapter

Governor O’Malley Moves Baltimore City Away from Secure Communities

shutterstock_176840825At a time when Federal stalemate and local hostility prevents us from giving practical help to the 11 million souls in our midst without a country, I am proud to live and practice law in a state led by a governor who practices what his faith preaches.

Governor Martin O’Malley took a strong stand on behalf of the undocumented when he advocated and signed into law in Maryland a bill guaranteeing in-state tuition for undocumented students.  Now he has come forward again, and announced an end to the use of the ironically-named “Secure Communities” program at the Baltimore City Jail.

If I were to criticize Governor O’Malley at all in this context, it would be for taking so long to take this step in the first instance. This program is anything but secure for communities.  It separates children from their parents, forcing state and local governments to step in and spend time and resources doing the parents’ work at the expense of other families.  It has led to the deportation of individuals who offer no threat to our national interest at all, and who have violated little more than traffic laws.  Even worse, it has led to the under-reporting of far more serious, even violent, crimes, from fear of being accidentally caught in a deportation system whose own resources are so overwhelmed that it can no longer adequately discriminate between those who deserve mercy and those who do not.

But, rather than focus on criticism, it is more appropriate, especially at this time of year, to focus on praise.  As Christians celebrate Easter, and Jews observe Passover, it’s worth noting that both faiths support the struggle for freedom, and the good to be found in sheltering those among us who are strangers and sojourners.   In ending the “Secure Communities” program in Baltimore, Governor O’Malley has honored his faith as a Catholic, and upheld his belief in America as a promised land for everyone.

Written by Cynthia Rosenberg, Chair, AILA D.C. Chapter

California on Immigration—Great Steps Forward and New Requirements for Immigration Attorneys

shutterstock_89347900Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills last week that will make a huge difference for many immigrants.  “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Governor Brown said. “I’m not waiting.”  The bills are mostly positive, but one creates new requirements for AILA members practicing in California.

First, undocumented immigrants in California will be able to obtain driver’s licenses which is great news, not just for immigrants and their families, but also for many law enforcement agencies and insurance companies who supported such a measure for safety and security reasons.  This isn’t likely to be instantaneous; according to reports, the licenses are expected to become available to immigrants no later than January of 2015.  However, there is talk that the licenses could become available as early as late 2014.  They also won’t be just like other licenses, instead they will have a special designation on the front and a caution that the document is not a form of identification at the federal level; a sort of scarlet letter.  California isn’t alone; my state joins ten others that already had similar measures.  But California is the biggest state to pass a bill like this; an estimated 1.4 million drivers are expected to apply for the licenses during the first three years.

Governor Brown also signed the TRUST Act—which will prohibit local law enforcement from detaining immigrants charged with minor crimes in order to let federal authorities know about them for immigration violations.  If an immigrant were charged with a serious offense, then they could be held for 48 hours and transferred to federal authorities for potential deportation.  We’re delighted that Governor Brown signed the TRUST Act, along with bills allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses and one that criminalizes employers who “induce fear” by threatening exposure of a person’s status as someone who entered the country illegally.  AB 524 prevents employers from using the reporting threat to stop workers from complaining about workplace abuses, unsafe working conditions and wage theft. SB 666 allows an employer’s business license to be suspended or revoked for retaliation against workers based on immigration status.  Governor Brown also vetoed a bill that would have allowed noncitizens to serve as jury members.

So those were all big steps forward for immigrants and advocates.

Governor Brown also signed AB1159, a bill that was of tremendous concern to AILA.  The law’s intention is to protect potential victims of immigration fraud.  At its onset, AB1159 sought to regulate the practice of Immigration Law in California.  AILA raised major concerns about the bill earlier in the summer when the state legislature was taking up the measure, including the fact that some requirements could endanger attorney/client privilege, make it more difficult if not impossible for lawyers to offer pro bono or low cost services, and even prevent lawyers from advising clients on how changes in the law might impact their case or how to prepare for change.

Due to the staunch advocacy led by the California Chapter Chairs, AILA’s Executive Committee, and many AILA members, AILA was able to correct the misguided efforts of the California State Bar and the bill’s authors. After long negotiations, the bill’s author agreed to take out the onerous requirements against Immigration Attorneys, while continuing to tighten requirements against immigration consultants and notarios.

AB 1159 prohibits Immigration Attorneys from entering into contracts relating to Immigration Reform before the law is actually signed into law by the President.  AILA carved out an exception for preparatory and investigatory work, like requesting FOIA’s, background checks, and post-conviction relief.  If money has been collected by an attorney for a law that does not exist, the attorney must refund the money or place it in an attorney/client trust fund.

Additionally, AB 1159 requires all attorneys that enter into contracts relating to an Immigration Reform Bill to inform the client where they can report complaints.  The California State Bar will create the document, translate it into various different languages, and post it on their website.  After reaching this compromise, AILA withdrew its opposition to the bill.

The bill also increased the amount of bond that immigration consultants must carry from $50,000 to $100,000 as of July 1, 2014.  It also prohibits the use of the term “notario,” which has been misconstrued as someone who is qualified to give legal advice.  The bill also provides that a person who violates the ban on the use of the term “notario” is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day for each violation.

While the bill is far from perfect, AILA remains at the forefront of promoting ethical lawyering and preventing the unauthorized practice of law.  AILA has been advocating against the unauthorized practice of law way before it became politically expedient to do so.  AILA will continue to monitor other state legislatures for similar bills and reach out to legislatures to ensure the best method in which to combat immigration fraud at all levels, including the new fraud frontier – internet notarios or “net-tarios.”

An Open Letter to Gov. Jan Brewer

September 26, 2012

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

On August 15, 2012, you issued an Executive Order which barred those individuals eligible for Deferred Action (DACA) from obtaining driver’s licenses or other state benefits. After a fiscal analysis, I can only conclude that this decision was based upon your personal vendetta against President Barack Obama. Besides having no basis in federal or state law to issue this executive order, your policy will cost the state and businesses millions of dollars.

Had you or your advisors conducted an unbiased cost-benefit analysis, you would have likely concluded that this program will have a profoundly positive impact on a number of industries in our state, along with making our streets safer and saving Arizona resident’s money. Before I go any further, I must confess that I am no economist and my calculations may be considered rudimentary to some, but it will definitely make logical sense.

Let’s start from the basics: There is an estimated 50,000-80,000 individuals in Arizona who will qualify for DACA. A driver’s license for applicants age 16-39 is $25.00. Using the low-end estimate of individuals, which would mean the state is bound to earn $1.25 million in driver license fees. Let me add that these individuals will only get work permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for two years and then have to apply for renewals. That means the state will collect $1.25 million, or more, every two years!

In order to qualify for work permission under DACA, all applicants will have to undergo a strict vetting process by DHS. Candidates who will qualify must undergo background checks, been physically present in the United States for at least five years, and provide clear evidence that they have either completed high school or are currently in school. Many have already taken college courses or completed their post-secondary schooling. Therefore, we are talking about a class of individuals that are educated and will provide a benefit to the lagging Arizona economy. Rather than taking jobs from U.S. citizens, they will help expand the growth of businesses and spend their hard-earned money in the state.

Who else is bound to gain from the issuance of drivers licenses to DACA grantees? Insurances companies, car dealers, gas stations, automotive service stations, car washes, and pretty much any business that is not near a bus stop. Arizona is not exactly known for its excellent public transportation systems. Therefore, getting from point A to point B can be difficult without an automobile. According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), one in eight Arizona drivers are uninsured. According to IRC, Arizona has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured motorists at 22% of the population. Insurance companies are bound to gain more customers and benefit their businesses when new drivers can either lease or purchase cars. There will be a trickle-down benefit to gas stations, tire and brake repair, and many other related industries.

The economic benefits to DACA are considerable and I have attached a report from the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council, which provides raw data of these benefits. This includes tax benefits, expansion of investments, more spending and an increased incentive to fulfill educational goals. Nobody loses from this program and the state is missing a golden opportunity. This program only helps a narrow group of persons and, contrary to what you believe, will not be a magnet for others to enter the country without documentation.

Assuming you have made it to this point in my letter and your eyes are not completely glazed over, I want to make a final legal point. There is no doubt that the state is bound to lose money in litigation costs, and ultimately will lose in the courts, as your policy conflicts with state law and the federal REAL ID Act. More wasted money on behalf of taxpayers, more image problems and less tourism.

In order to function in society we must compromise, and sometimes make decisions that are against our core beliefs. I believe that your advisors are misleading you on the issue of immigration and particularly in the benefits of this DACA program. The benefits of this program to our state far outweigh the costs that we will incur if your executive order remains in place. Therefore, with the utmost respect, I ask that you lift this executive order and allow the economic boon that this program will bring to our state to become a reality.

Thank you and God bless America.

Written by: Mo Goldman, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

Why saying “I do” still receives unequal treatment under Federal Immigration Laws

Last month, as I read Justice Scalia’s scathing dissent in Arizona v United States, I wondered what he’ll be thinking when he hears oral argument in the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The premise of Scalia’s dissent was that states have the right to control their borders. It seems logical then that Scalia, and those who claim to cherish state sovereignty, would likewise conclude that the regulation of marriage is also a matter appropriately left to the states. Why then is it that when it comes to immigration benefits for same-sex couples, state laws which recognize same-sex marriage are resoundingly trumped by the federal law which does not?

The answer is DOMA and its infamous limitation of marriage to unions between “one man and one woman” which puts family-based immigration benefits – such as green card sponsorship – beyond the reach of same-sex couples.

To be sure, the Obama Administration has made clear its support of same-sex marriage. This past May the President gave his public endorsement, explaining that he “had hesitated on gay marriage in part because [he] thought that civil unions would be sufficient.” His views continued to evolve, he said, because marriage “invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”

Yet despite the Administration’s evolution toward support for same-sex marriage, including Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to defend DOMA in litigation, American families in same-sex marriages continue to receive unequal treatment under our archaic immigration laws causing needless suffering and fear of separation.

Last week Jane DeLeon, an immigrant from the Philippines, challenged the constitutionality of DOMA as applied to deny immigration family benefits. In 2008 DeLeon married her long time US citizen partner. She is eligible for an employment-based immigrant visa, but requires a waiver due to a previous immigration violation. The waiver is available to immigrants such as DeLeon where the denial of her lawful permanent residency would cause extreme hardship to her US citizen spouse. In DeLeon’s case the waiver was denied solely because she is married to a woman even though, under state law, the woman is her wife.

Due to our broken immigration system a same-sex marriage recognized under state law means nothing. Same-sex couples remain at the mercy of an antiquated and functionally mean spirited statute and they will so remain at least until the Supreme Court addresses the constitutionality of DOMA.

On the Spanish program “Aqui y Ahora” recently, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “There is nothing more critical than keeping families together.” Yet how many more American families will be torn apart before the sanctity of same-sex marriage is no longer sullied by DOMA and its impact on our immigration laws?

Renewing the Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

On June 15, 2012, President Obama took a bold step by supporting DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s memo offering deferred action to certain young undocumented immigrants who have been victims of congressional politicking.

The President’s action will enable over 800,000 individuals to come out of the shadows and fully participate in our society. There may be teachers, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, social workers, soldiers, and athletes among their ranks. They will pay taxes, get car loans, buy homes, provide other essential services and strengthen our diverse economy when we need it the most.

Building on the President’s momentum, on June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that we may not have a patchwork of immigration rules and regulations in these United States of America. The Justices rejected the core of the divisive Arizona SB 1070 and held it as unconstitutional. Only one section of the law was upheld and the Justices left the door open for future litigation on whether it leads to racial profiling.

As a result of these recent developments, immigration has arrived front and center in this Presidential election year as a key issue for the electorate to consider before they cast their ballots. According to a recent Gallup poll, immigration policies ranked between 3rd or 6th in importance to U.S. voters, depending on how they were asked the question.

Not too long ago, immigration was a bi-partisan issue. Most Americans including business, religious, and civic groups had long held the view that immigration was a net gain for the country. Indeed, America’s citizenry is composed of virtually every nationality, race, and religion. Over the centuries, our diversity has been the source of great strength economically and otherwise.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have witnessed prominent members of Congress change their positions on immigration matters due to pressure by some fringe groups. This despite the Administration’s record on increased border security and removal of non-citizen criminals from the United States.

So what gives? Why did the last major expansion of our immigration policy occur over a quarter of a century ago? Why are we spending so much of our time and money to separate law-abiding bi-national families? Why are we exporting highly educated foreign scientists to India and China upon their graduation from U.S. universities? Why are we blocking capital flight from overseas due to our antiquated visa system? Why is the narrowest of the immigration bills – the DREAM Act –  still stalled in Congress? Why do our Congressional leaders sometimes behave like kids in a school yard, but with a gavel?

I do not have a logical answer to any of these questions, but certainly a nation that roared in unison and demanded that Mr. Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall is at odds with its culture when it wants to build its very own version of the wall – and electrify it in the process. It’s our destiny as Americans to work together and come up with a just and comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system. It’s time for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Written by: Ally Bolour, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee