Skip to Content

Programs:

The Council In the News

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.

Read more...
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.

Read more...
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.

Read more...
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.

Read more...
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.

Read more...
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."

Read more...
Santa Fe New Mexican | 03/14/12

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CN) - Immigration lawyers want the Department of Homeland Security to release information on its Criminal Alien Program, which is believed to be involved in nearly half of all the "removal proceedings."

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Connecticut Chapter sued the Department of Homeland Security in a federal FOIA complaint.

Critics have said that the so-called "criminal alien program" does not target criminals at all, but is used to enlist local governments in deportations.

"The Criminal Alien Program ('CAP') is an enormous, nationwide initiative of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ('ICE'), a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and is implicated in approximately half of all removal proceedings," the complaint states. "CAP's enforcement operations take place in tandem with law enforcement in every state, and as a result of CAP, individuals are often detained by ICE and deported before they have been convicted of a crime or have had the opportunity to speak with an immigration attorney. Despite CAP's role in facilitating the removal of hundreds of thousands of individuals each year, and despite serving as ICE's 'bedrock' enforcement initiative, very little information about CAP is available to the public. What little is known about the program suggests that CAP exacerbates racial profiling and other abusive police practices."

The complaint adds: "Congress never enacted legislation authorizing CAP. Nor did DHS officially promulgate regulations to govern CAP. As a result, little publicly available information exists that could illuminate how CAP functions. Instead, DHS and ICE stitched CAP together from interpretations of vague congressional appropriations provisions and a patchwork of administrative initiatives, thwarting public understanding of the program."

Read more...
Courthouse News Service | 03/13/12

Immigration advocates continue to march to oppose enforcement-only state laws, deportation proceeding and to support immigration reform measures.

The recent deportation proceedings against Miami student Daniela Pelaez and her sister have sparked outrage in South Florida, with thousands taking to the streets last week to protest.

Speaking on the Spanish-language news show Al Punto on Sunday, Pelaez told reporters that her lawyer had obtained a deferred action – a step that effectively halts deportation proceedings against her, and grants her two years to adjust her residency status in immigration court.

Congressman David Rivera, R-Florida, who met with Pelaez on the heels of the Miami protest, announced Friday that he would file the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act, or S.T.A.R.S. Act, which would allow undocumented immigrant youth who meet certain criteria to adjust their residency status.

But according to DRM Capitol, an organization that supports the DREAM Act, Rivera’s S.T.A.R.S. Act “is far from the more comprehensive DREAM Act that many undocumented youth organizations are fighting for.”

“This proposal is an orchestrated attempt to appeal to the important Latino voting block that will be critical to the 2012 elections,” adds DRM Capitol.

In its March/April issue, Mother Jones published its Immigration Hardliner Family Tree, a chart showing the links between organizations that support self-deportation or attrition through enforcement immigration policies and several GOP politicians, including Florida congressman Allen West.

GOP presidential candidates have said they support controversial immigration enforcement laws that currently exist in Alabama, Arizona and Georgia. Those candidates have also voiced their opposition to the DREAM Act, which polls show the majority of Latino voter support.

Read more...
The Florida Independent | 03/12/12

A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked two key sections of Alabama’s immigration law, HB 56.  Thursday’s ruling came the same week that thousands of Latinos marched with African American leaders to commemorate the bloody civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery 47 years ago.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined sections 27 and 30 of the state law until legal challenges brought by the federal government and a coalition of church and civil rights groups are resolved.

Read more...
Feet in Two Worlds | 03/09/12

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the nation’s policy for issuing visas is hurting the economy by limiting tourism and blocking overseas buyers of American products from coming to the U.S. for training.

“We will engage on the visa issue, which is frankly crippling us right now,” Kirk said today in Washington. “We hear from business after business, ‘We go, we make these sales, and my customers can’t get a visa to come here to learn how to use the product.’ We are past-due to have a common-sense immigration policy, and we need to have visa reform as part of that.”

In January, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the nation needs to ease restrictions on immigrants who plan to open U.S. businesses, and create a separate visa for potential entrepreneurs.

Efforts at overhauling immigration laws are stymied in Congress, including a proposal to let temporary foreign workers enter the U.S. and help illegal immigrants advance toward citizenship. The debate has overshadowed the need to change the U.S. visa program, according to the Chamber, the largest business group.

Current laws make it difficult for people to enter the U.S. and start a business, according to a Jan. 25 report from the Chamber and the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based nonprofit. Expansion of the visa program would also aid companies’ access to foreign- born graduates of U.S. universities, helping economic growth, the authors of the report said.

Speeding Visas

President Barack Obama on Jan. 19 gave the departments of Homeland Security and State 60 days to write a plan for speeding visa applications from China and Brazil. Obama’s order recommends cutting the process to three weeks from four months.

Visa-processing capacity in China and Brazil must increase 40 percent in the next year, according to the order.

Read more...
Bloomberg | 03/05/12