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TOPEKA — Kansas hasn’t adopted an Arizona-like immigration law, but several current and former elected officials from Kansas have chosen sides as the issue goes before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court will hear arguments April 25 in the legal battle between the state of Arizona and the federal government over the immigration law known as Senate Bill 1070.

Kris Kobach, a Republican who before being elected Kansas secretary of state gained national attention by pushing tough anti-immigration laws, helped write SB 1070. The measure was adopted by the Arizona Legislature and enacted by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010.

The law contained a number of controversial provisions that are now front and center before the Supreme Court.

One of the most controversial requires local police in Arizona to determine the immigration status of anyone stopped if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.

The Justice Department says regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not the states. Officials in Arizona, a state bordering Mexico, say the feds haven’t done their jobs and that is one of the reasons for SB 1070.

In addition to legal briefs from the specific parties in the case, the Supreme Court has received approximately 40 legal briefs from others who support and oppose SB 1070, according to a report completed by the Immigration Policy Center, a nonpartisan group whose mission “is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration.”

Kansas is one of 16 states that have signed on in support of SB 1070. That decision was made by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican. Schmidt’s office says he supports preserving powers of states to promote public safety. His office said Kansas has not spent any money in the litigation.

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Lawrence Journal World | 04/08/12

President Obama's inability to pass much-needed comprehensive immigration reform could cost him the 2012 election. Though recent news of a rebounding economy, coupled with Republican Party infighting, suggests an alternate narrative, the Hispanic vote is neither uniform nor clearly aligned with the Democratic Party. If Hispanics fail to show up in support of the president in four key swing states — Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado — the election could go to the Republican candidate, likely to be former Governor Mitt Romney.

Time magazine kicked off the topic of Hispanic electoral power with its March 5th cover story, "Yo Decido," written by journalist Michael Scherer. The author noted demographic trends that favor Hispanic predominance in certain places in the nation, and last week, it was widely reported in the U.S. media that about one in six Americans are Hispanic. Additionally, one in six workers in the U.S. is Hispanic, and most Hispanics live in the U.S. legally. They are fully integrated into communities. There is a prevailing assumption that, because a majority of Hispanics are Catholic, they should be naturally allied with more conservative candidates — particularly the two Roman Catholics still in the Republican race as of this writing, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

While the Republicans appear to have learned from some earlier egregious mistakes, like former candidate Herman Cain's jocular comment about electrifying the fence between the U.S. and Mexico, they seem to have a collective tin ear when it comes to Hispanic culture, issues, voting patterns, and history. They don't seem to understand the importance of Hispanics among us, and, surprisingly, they don't seem to really care.

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Memphis Flyer | 04/05/12

An immigration enforcement bill that contains the same type of provisions that have Arizona’s S.B. 1070 poised for a Supreme Court hearing died Tuesday in the Mississippi Senate.

Immigration Works, a national organization “advancing immigration reform that works for all Americans – employers, workers and citizens,” said Tuesday in a press release that “Mississippi isn’t the only state to hesitate on immigration this year. Lawmakers across the country are holding off. Some are waiting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in its second immigration federalism case in so many years, U.S. v Arizona.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments about Arizona’s law, known as S.B. 1070, on April 25.

S.B. 1070 has served as a model for other states and has brought to the forefront questions about how states can enforce existing federal immigration laws.

Immigration Works described “what made the difference in Mississippi”: “Business leaders and law enforcement officials spoke out persuasively, expressing concerns about the consequences of HB 488. The employer coalition that opposed the bill included the Mississippi Farm Bureau, the Mississippi Poultry Association, the state chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors and several foresting and nursery groups, as well as blueberry and sweet potato growers.” (Read the full press release below.)

The Immigration Policy Center writes that H.B. 488 “would have, among other things, allowed police officers to determine the immigration status of individuals they ‘reasonably suspect’ are in the country without documents. While HB 488 is dead, however, state House members may still be looking to keep these immigration enforcement measures alive by inserting them in other bills.”

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Florida Independent | 04/04/12

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who will chair the Democratic National Convention here in September, on Tuesday urged Hispanics in North Carolina to vote “for those who don’t have a voice” in the presidential elections in November.

“If we don’t vote, neither of the two parties are going to take us into account. You have to go out and register people and, above all, motivate those who can to become U.S. citizens,” said Villaraigosa in a meeting with Hispanic reporters in Charlotte.

In his first visit to the Queen City, one of the country’s highest-profile Latino politicians reiterated that since North Carolina is the state that has had the biggest growth in the country in its Hispanic community, its voting power is “essential.”

“The figures point to it and we know it: the Hispanic vote is important, and we’ll work very hard to get it,” Villaraigosa emphasized.

The mayor on Tuesday toured Charlotte’s convention center and Bank of America stadium, where President Barack Obama will accept the nomination of his party in September.

The number of Hispanics in North Carolina increased by 111 percent over the past decade to more than 800,000, representing 8.4 percent of the state’s residents.

According to figures compiled by the North Carolina state elections board, in 2008 there were more than 68,000 Hispanics registered to vote and of those 20,648 voted in the presidential elections that November.

Obama won North Carolina by a scanty 14,177 votes, the first time since 1976 that a Democratic presidential candidate had garnered the state’s 15 electoral votes.

A post-electoral analysis by the Washington-based Immigration Policy Center emphasized that those Hispanic votes that went to the Democrats were “indispensable” in helping Obama win the Tar Heel state.

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Latin American Herald Tribune | 04/04/12

The city of Austin didn’t like Arizona’s controversial immigration-enforcement law — SB1070 — when it first passed in 2010, and it still doesn’t like the measure today as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments for and against it.

In 2010, the city of Austin quickly passed a resolution that urged city departments to sever ties with businesses in that state.

Council members said then they wanted to send a message that they opposed racial discrimination of any kind, and they didn’t want to risk subjecting city employees to “unfounded detentions while on official city business” in Arizona.

Now, Austin — along with the city of Laredo and Dallas County — is again expressing dismay over the measure in an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for April 25.

Meanwhile, a leading immigration-policy think tank has issued a report stating that if the justices rule in Arizona’s favor, individuals may still bring additional legal claims to halt the policy depending on how it is enforced.

The court will review four provisions of the Arizona law, which has been enjoined by a federal district court. They include a requirement that police officers attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped if they suspect the person is in the country illegally; a requirement that immigrants register with the federal government and carry a registration card with them; a provision that makes it a crime for an unauthorized immigrant to work, apply for work or solicit work; and a provision that allows officers to arrest immigrants without a warrant if probable cause exists that they have committed a deportable offense.

The amicus brief, joined by 41 cities, the United States Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, argues that the law, and others like it, open the door for racial profiling and adversely affect community policing efforts.

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Texas Tribune | 04/04/12

On March 14, Tania Chairez and Jessica Hyejin Lee walked into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Philadelphia and handed over letters demanding the release of Miguel Orellana, an undocumented immigrant who has been detained for eight months at a Pennsylvania detention center. Both Chairez, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lee, a 20-year-old junior at Bryn Mawr College, were undocumented immigrants themselves, having been brought to the U.S. by their parents at ages 5 and 12, respectively. After making their demand, they exited the building, sat down in the middle of the street, and began shouting “Undocumented! Unafraid!” They were arrested after refusing to move, putting themselves at risk of deportation in the process.

With Washington unlikely to take up immigration reform any time soon, some immigrants, like activists in the Occupy and LGBT movements, are turning to more confrontational tactics. Young undocumented immigrants across the country have come out as “undocumented and unafraid” in the most conspicuous of places: in front of the Alabama Capitol; in Maricopa County, Ariz., home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio; in front of federal immigration courts; and even inside ICE offices, processing centers, and detention centers. While they sometimes have specific causes, such as Orellana’s release, they also had a larger demand: that the civil and human rights of all undocumented immigrants be recognized and respected.

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Salon.com | 03/29/12

Twin Cities jazz pianist and Cuban immigrant Nachito Herrera has been named one of three recipients of the 2012 American Heritage Award, the highest honor granted by the American Immigration Council. The award will be presented at the American Immigration Lawyers Association Convention in Nashville on June 15th. Few musicians have received this honor--the last was Carlos Santana.

Over the past decade, Nachito Herrera has burrowed his way into the hearts of Twin Cities’ jazz fans with his monster technique, bottomless energy, and infectious enthusiasm for his homeland and its eclectic rhythms. Even fans of trad and polka now tap their Sorrel boots to montuno and clavé. Nearly monthly, Nachito spreads his artful fire across the stage at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis, where he has presented sets of tunes ranging from Rachmaninoff to Ellington to Earth, Wind and Fire to Disney and more.

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Jazz Police | 03/22/12

WASHINGTON - Congress may have finally found an immigration issue it can agree on in an election year: letting in more Irish people.

At a time when the volatile issue of comprehensive immigration reform is hopelessly stalled in a divided Congress, senators of both parties are rallying behind legislation that would allow 10,500 Irish nationals to come to the U.S. to work each year.

The legislation by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., has been attacked by critics as a cynical ploy to win Irish-American votes as Brown battles for re-election in a state where one in four residents is of Irish descent. It also has been decried by both pro-immigration and anti-immigration groups as an example of favoritism toward European immigrants over Hispanics and Asians.

But supporters of the bill, including Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, say they are trying to help reverse discrimination against Irish nationals that was inadvertently created by a 1965 overhaul of the U.S. immigration system.

That overhaul, designed to end a bias against immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa, made it difficult for Irish immigrants to obtain visas despite their strong cultural ties to the U.S., say supporters of Brown's bill. Hispanics and Asians have been the dominant immigrant groups to the U.S. since 1965 and, as they become citizens, their close family members have been given priority for U.S. visas as part of the U.S. government's emphasis on family reunification.

About 40 million Americans identify themselves as being of Irish descent, or about 13 percent of the U.S. population of more than 313 million. Hispanics make up about 16 percent of U.S. residents. The number of Irish immigrants granted permanent legal status in the U.S. has plunged from nearly 38,000 in the 1960s to about 16,000 in the 10 years from 2000 through 2009.

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The Arizona Republic | 03/21/12

Raul Rodriguez and Alberto Ledesma live parallel lives. Both proudly claim UC Berkeley as their alma mater. Both have worked hard academically. And both have published personal essays about the stigma of being an undocumented student.

But that’s where their lives diverge. Ledesma was fortunate enough to gain amnesty via the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), federal legislation that granted amnesty to immigrants who entered the U.S. before 1986. Rodriguez, on the other hand, remains undocumented because legislation like IRCA no longer exists.

“Even now, years after amnesty, I get all tongue-tied when anyone asks me about my immigrant past. I become that undocumented immigrant Cantinflas, twisting words and phrases until nothing I say makes sense. The problem is, I don’t know where my Cantinflas and where the true me begins.”

Rodriguez says he shares that same feeling of being constantly distressed. If he were granted amnesty, he says he would take every opportunity that presented itself, the simplest of all being travel. Before discovering he was undocumented, Rodriguez had plans to move to New York City and Paris, but all of those plans disappeared upon hearing the truth about his legal status.

“Being undocumented means re-shifting your life and not doing what you love,” he notes.

Today, Rodriguez lives a life that he can only describe as “going through the motions.” He is not alone. A study conducted by the Immigration Policy Center in 2008 showed that 25 percent of all people in the U.S. are either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. The same study concluded that 40 percent of all immigrants currently in the U.S. came to this country before 1990, which suggests that they've since established deep roots in this country. Many are like Ledesma and Rodriguez, having grown up in the U.S. yet never fully embraced as Americans.

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New American Media | 03/20/12

Luzhilda Campos, 3.8 grade-point average. Triple major in psychology, human services and Spanish language.

Jesús Chávez, 3.8 grade-point average. Psychology major.

Héctor Zambrano, 3.2 grade-point average. Architectural design major.

Campos, Chávez and Zambrano are all undocumented students who are enrolled at Santa Fe Community College. Along with high school student Udell Calzadillas -- 3.7 grade-point average -- they have joined a national movement dubbed "Coming Out of the Shadows."

They are asking the community to support comprehensive immigration reform and the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the Dream Act, which would provide a legal path to citizenship for youth who complete two years in the military or two years at an institution of higher learning, and fulfill certain other requirements.

In May 2011, the Dream Act was re-introduced to Congress by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Democratic Rep. Howard Berman of California. Although the legislation has failed to gain enough support in Congress, several states such as California allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and to qualify for some state financial aid.

In New Mexico, a student without a Social Security number also can pay in-state tuition.

"I have a dream of becoming somebody in the future, of being the example for my family," said Zambrano, 20. After working in the hospitality industry, he knew he didn't want a future there, he said. So he enrolled at the community college and plans to keep working toward a four-year degree.

"Sometimes I question myself. Should I keep studying? For what? I won't be able to work," Zambrano said. "But I'm still here."

Young adults like him have joined "Coming Out" campaigns in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York to push the campaign's slogan: "Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic."

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Santa Fe New Mexican | 03/14/12