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Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been beaten up in recent GOP presidential primary debates over his signing of a bill in 2001 giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrant kids in Texas. Look for the issue to come up again at tonight’s debate in New Hampshire.

In a free society, so-called DREAM Act legislation would be unnecessary. Opportunities for legal immigration would be open wide enough that illegal immigration would decline dramatically. And higher education would be provided in a competitive market without state and federal subsidies. But that is not yet the world we live in.

On the federal level, the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would offer permanent legal status to illegal immigrant children who graduate from high school and then complete at least two years of college or serve in the U.S. military. Legal status would allow them to qualify for in-state tuition in the states where they reside, and would eventually lead to citizenship.

Those who respond that such a law would amount to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants should keep a couple of points in mind.

First, kids eligible under the DREAM Act came to the United States when they were still minors, many of them at a very young age. They were only obeying their parents, something we should generally encourage young children to do.

Second, these kids are a low-risk, high-return bet for legalization. Because they came of age in the United States, they are almost all fluent in English and identify with America as their home (for many the only one they have ever known). “Assimilation” will not be an issue.

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The Cato Institute | 10/11/11

CHICAGO—According to the Immigration Policy Center, there are approximately 36,000 same sex, bi-national couples living in the United States. These couples have to reach out to alternative methods such as student visas or other legal resources in order to remain together.

 Kevin Goodman is associate dean at St. James Cathedral, in Chicago. He met Anton Pulung-Hartanto, who is originally from Indonesia, at Disney world in 2000.

“I went to Disney with a youth group, to try to show them that one could have a religious experience in a place like that, and that’s where I met my partner”, said Goodman at a forum on LGBT Immigrant Rights held at the Adler School of Professional Psychology on September 27th.

Pulung-Hartanto worked at Disney, in Florida, as a cultural host with a Q-1 visa, which is provided specifically for cultural exchange programs.

They have been together for 12 years and plan on marrying next spring in Vermont, said Goodman.

The Final Option

Goodman is from New Orleans and grew up tied to the All Saints’ River Ridge Episcopal church. He studied communication and worked as a television producer. But he’s always been interested in Asian cultures, which is why he traveled to Xi’an in the Republic of China and has taken Asian Studies courses. He also studied in the theological seminary in New York, where his work with indigent youth and people with HIV began.

When he arrived in Chicago he worked with The Night Ministry program, specifically with indigent youth in the Lakeview neighborhood. He was also working with the St. Matthew church in Evanston through the Ravenswood Community Services agency and now with St. James Cathedral.

When Pulung-Hartanto’s Q-1 Visa expired, he applied for a Student I-20 visa which allowed him another 10 years in this country. He studied culinary arts at Saint Augustine College.

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New American Media | 10/10/11

The impact of Alabama’s new immigration law, which requires K-12 schools to check the immigration status of their students, could be felt in several states, including Florida.

Sunshine State News reports today that “a number of school districts across Florida have been advised to monitor enrollment numbers for Hispanic migrant families relocating from Alabama after a federal judge upheld that state’s new immigration enforcement law.

The online news outlet adds that “Florida’s Education Estimating Conference said so far they haven’t seen any influx in the counties bordering Alabama or in counties such as Osceola, Hardee and Volusia where migrant families may seek agriculture employment,” and that the “Alabama Department of Education stated that on Oct 3, 5 percent of the state’s Hispanic students didn’t show up for school.”

Our sister site The American Independent recently reported that civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department sued to stop Alabama’s immigration enforcement law, “passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in May, from being enforced, as they did in the case of S.B. 1070, the Arizona immigration law. But unlike in Arizona, a federal judge chose to allow most of the Alabama law to go into effect.”

The Immigration Policy Center reported last week that Alabama school administrators “worry that Alabama’s immigration law will impact the state’s already cash-strapped school system.”

The Policy Center added that, “according to Alabama’s Department of Education, 2,285 Hispanic students (of 34,000 Hispanic students state-wide) were absent from school on Monday.”

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The Florida Independent | 10/10/11

California Governor Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he has signed the second half of California's Dream Act legislative package, which will begin in 2013. But what is the Dream Act, and what impact will it have on the California?

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Each year, about 25,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in California. Many of these students came to America when they were very young, before they had any say in their education or choices. As such, many legislators feel this bill gives them an opportunity both to become Americans and fulfill the American dream.

"After having invested 12 years in the high school education of these young men and women, who are here through no fault of their own," Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D- Los Angeles) said Saturday, "it's the smartest thing for us to do to permit these students to get scholarships and be treated like every other student."

Many undocumented students are not able to attend college without financial assistance. Almost 40% of undocumented students families' live below the federal poverty line, compared to 17% percent for native-born families, according to the Immigration Policy Center.

Approximately 2,500 students are expected to apply under the program thus far.

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International Business Times | 10/09/11

The long and winding road that is the challenges to Alabama’s Taxpayer H.B. 56 has begun. Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn has issued various rulings, but they are early, preliminary and procedural skirmishes, so there are no winners and losers yet.

But I have to ask Alabama decisionmakers, why bother? Many of the politicians involved are restrictionists and nativists who insist that they do not want government overreaching in their lives. And yet, they do not seem to mind, in fact insist upon, reaching into the lives of undocumented families, even at the state level.

Surely it is not large numbers behind this overreaction that is H.B. 56. Immigration Policy Center and Census Bureau figures reveal that in 2010, only 5 percent of Alabamians are Latino (3.9 percent) or Asian (1.1 percent), and in 2009, 87.8 percent of children in Asian families in the state were U.S. citizens, and 85.1 percent of Latino children in the state’s families were U.S. Citizens. With these small communities, why the rush to symbolize intolerance by enacting the country’s most restrictionist and comprehensively anti-immigrant statute?

Such laws are mean-spirited and punitive. The schoolchildren are already not showing up for classes. In enacting bans on college enrollments and counting measures on schoolchildren allowed by law to attend schools since Plyler v. Doe in 1982, Alabamians reveal themselves not as strict constructionists or conservatives, but as ideologues who will use unnecessary legislation and the power of government to intervene in families to punish innocent children. Public shame on them.

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The New York Times | 10/04/11

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s statements on immigration in Florida last week and the reaction of immigration enforcement only policy supporters seems to be having an impact on the Florida Legislature.

According to The Miami Herald:

Florida’s Tea Party activists say they will accept nothing short of requiring every employer to check the immigration status of their workers through the federal E-verify program in January when legislators convene in regular session. But armed with the support of Florida’s powerful agriculture and business groups, the same legislative leaders who last year promised Arizona-style immigration reform are now barely offering tentative support for it.

The Herald adds: “House Speaker Dean Cannon, whose chamber proposed but never passed an Arizona-style immigration enforcement plan last year, said that immigration reform may take a back seat to balancing the budget, reapportionment and strengthening the economy.”

Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island, said last week that his chamber would pass the same immigration bill it passed in the 2011 session. At this year’s RedState Gathering, Gov. Rick Scott said that an immigration enforcement bill “will happen this session.”

According to Numbers USA — an organization that wants “lower immigration levels” — Perry’s results in the Florida straw poll can be blamed on his weak stance on immigration enforcement. The group writes that “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is proving that appearing to be more concerned about illegal-alien workers than about unemployed Americans doesn’t work in Republican primaries.”

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The Florida Independent | 09/30/11

An apparent drunk-driving fatality in the small Massachusetts town of Milford has ignited a state-wide campaign to crack down on illegal immigration.

Last month, Ecuadoran Nicholas Guaman was charged with vehicular homicide for allegedly running down 23-year-old motorcyclist Matthew Denice in his truck while drunk. Guaman didn't have a driver's license.

The victim's family began advocating for Massachusetts to begin using the federal Secure Communities program. Denice's surviving family members maintain that tighter immigration enforcement could have prevented the fatal crash, since Guaman had a prior arrest and a Secure Communities review of his record would have resulted in his deportation.

A few thousand Ecuadorans, many of them undocumented, live in Milford, a town of 25,000 about 40 miles southwest of Boston. The immigrants work primarily in roofing and service jobs, according to radio station WBUR.

"If one of those factors had been different my son would still be here," Denice's mother told the local Fox station. "If we had the Secure Communities . . . he would have been deported."

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Research from University of Colorado sociology professor Tim Wadsworth found that in U.S. cities with at least 50,000 people, an influx of immigrants was correlated to a decrease in crime between 1990 and 2000. But because the U.S. Census doesn't distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, it's difficult for researchers to know the specific effect of illegal immigrants on crime. The Immigration Policy Center said in a report in 2007 that incarceration rates for young men of every ethnic group are lowest among immigrants, legal and illegal.

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Yahoo News | 09/29/11

Two dozen college students rallied Werdnesday afternoon outside the San Francisco office of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 9 to either sign or veto a bill that would allow undocumented students to receive public financial aid for higher education.

The students, joined by a member of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, took part in a statewide day of action designed to pressure Brown into signing the bill, AB 131, the second half of the California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act.

In July, Brown signed AB 130, a bill allowing undocumented students to receive private scholarships.

If he signs the second bill, undocumented students attending public higher educational institutions who qualify for the exemption from non-resident tuition would be eligible to receive financial aid at the state's public colleges and universities.

Currently, undocumented students cannot receive state or federal financial aid.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, although some 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school, only 5 to 10 percent continue onto college, with many unable to continue for financial reasons or because schools do not allow them to enroll.

Several students, identified only by their first names for their protection, shared stories at the rally about their college experiences.

Through choked tears, Catherine spoke of how she had been a fourth-year political science student at the University of California at Berkeley but had to drop out the semester she was to graduate because she could not afford to finish.

"Sign this bill as if your own children needed it," she said, urging Brown to take action. "Undocumented students are under attack and California can be the beacon of hope."

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The San Francisco Appeal | 09/28/11

California is poised to nullify immigration enforcement ordinances in about a half dozen Inland Empire cities – and to continue to buck a national trend – by restricting the use of E-Verify, the national online database used to check the immigration status of workers.

Under the Employment Acceleration Act, passed by the state Senate last week and currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, state and local governments could not require California businesses to use the database to ferret out undocumented employees.

California’s approach is an anomaly. States and cities across the country have passed laws that mandate use of the E-Verify system as part of a strategy to curb illegal immigration and ensure that scarce jobs go to U.S. citizens and legal residents.

The act conflicts with the Legal Workforce Act [PDF], a bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require the use of E-Verify by all American employers.

The California bill has been cited as a reason that the national legislation, which is being marked up this week in the House Judiciary Committee, is necessary.

“California has the second-highest unemployment rate in the U.S., yet elected officials in Sacramento just sent a bill to the Governor’s desk that will further diminish job opportunities,” bill sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said in a statement. “California’s E-Verify opt-out bill shows exactly why we need a federal E-Verify law.”

If the Employment Acceleration Act becomes law, it would create ripple effects at the local level, trumping city ordinances adopted in a number of Inland Empire cities – including Temecula, Lake Elsinore, and Lancaster – that currently mandate the use of the E-Verify system as a prerequisite to running a business.

Citing the importance of local control, state senators representing these communities have opposed the bill.

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California Watch | 09/16/11

This year, we’re kicking off Hispanic Heritage Month with the disheartening news that Latinos, for the first time in American history, comprise the majority of inmates in federal prison. One reason for this, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, is the unprecedented amount of undocumented immigrants being arrested and charged rather than deported. The trend is a tactic on the part of the Obama administration, (and the Bush administration before them), says Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center, to butter up conservative litigators for immigration reform.

“It’s a losing strategy because it’s never going to be enough for them,” Ewing told political watchdog site Colorlines, referring to members of Congress who demand “a secure border” before they can consider immigration reform.

Meanwhile, those sneaking into the United States to willingly perform labor for minuscule wages are finding themselves involved in a far more diabolic system than they bargained for. Namely, privatized prisons motivated by profit.

Corrections Corp. of America, (it sounds like something out of a Monty Python skit, but it’s sadly very real), runs more than 60 prisons and immigrant-detention centers across the country. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the effect of money on U.S. politics, CCA has spent more than any other corrections company–$17.6 million– lobbying politicians, contributing to their campaigns and hiring their former staff. They also lobby the Department of Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement division which just so happens to contract with CCA and other private companies for immigration-detention centers.

Though CCA says they only lobby to educate policy makers, one can’t help but notice that what they lobby for is tougher prison sentences. After all, it’s how they make their money.

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Texas Observer | 09/15/11