In January, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona made headlines when she was photographed thrusting an accusatory finger in President Barack Obama's face during a confrontation on a Phoenix tarmac. Brewer later explained that the president was "a little disturbed" about her book, in which she described Obama as weak on immigration.
The fleeting exchange filtered quickly out of the news cycle, but the image encapsulated the underlying legal issue as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up Arizona's new immigration law on Wednesday. Fundamentally, the case pivots on the relationship between states and the federal government when it comes to enforcing immigration law.
I have a dear friend who disagrees with me about the immigration issue -- she's a fence-sitter mostly, not sure that the state should or should not be passing legislation restricting access of undocumented immigrants to public services.
"I've got to think and pray about it more, and I'm not sure I know enough about the issue," she told me this morning.
I applaud her candor, and her willingness to suspend judgment until she has all the facts.
Unfortunately, facts have very little to do with the issue.
Two years after Arizona passed a controversial immigration-enforcement law that, among other things, makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday for and against the law. Several other states, including Texas, that have passed — or have attempted to pass — similar legislation are certain to keep a close eye on the proceedings.
Analysts say that a decision will probably be rendered in June, which would leave ample time for lawmakers in Texas to mull over if or how they would attempt to write legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration before the next legislative session convenes in January. Several dozen bills — including measures making it a state crime to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant (except those hired for domestic services) and broadening the immigration-enforcement authority of local law enforcement — were filed during the 2011 session. But none passed.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case challenging Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law two years after its passage. The Obama administration has challenged four provisions of the law, known as S.B. 1070, for interfering with federal immigration enforcement. Immigrant right groups have organized a number of protests and vigils nationwide to coincide with today’s hearing. Ben Winograd of the American Immigration Council said the Supreme Court ruling will have major implications nationwide as a number of states seek to pass copycat measures.
Ben Winograd: "Allowing states to be the primary enforcers of federal immigration law would, from a civil rights perspective, have huge ramifications. All of a sudden, every traffic stop that is conducted by a local officer and involves someone who arguably looks or sounds like an immigrant could result in an extended detention and even possibly incarceration."
A clash over immigration law will go before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday (April 25), pitting the state of Arizona against U.S. President Barack Obama in a case with election-year political ramifications for him and Republican rival Mitt Romney.
In its second-biggest case this term, the court -- fresh from hearing the Obama healthcare overhaul case -- will consider whether a tough Arizona immigration crackdown strayed too far into the federal government's powers.
A pro-Arizona decision would be a legal and political setback for Obama, who has criticized the state's law and vowed to push for immigration legislation if re-elected on November 6.
WOODBURY, Minn. — When a teenage boy sits down to dinner with his girlfriend's father, he's bound to feel intimidated. That's particularly the case if the boy came to the United States illegally and the dad is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who spent three decades apprehending violators of immigration laws. But for Alan, the captain of his high school football team and an honor student, it's like eating with family. That's because the immigration special agent who ordered the arrest of convicted Sept. 11 hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui, has taken up a new cause. Mark Cangemi is trying to help the teenager stay in the country.
Mitt Romney’s campaign hired GOP campaign strategist Ed Gillespie, while Kris Kobach’s “advisor” status was put in doubt, according to news reports.
Elise Floey of Huffington Post wrote Tuesday that the Romney campaign “told Politico that [Kris] Kobach is a ‘supporter,’ not an adviser. This contradicts both Kobach’s previous statements and his seemingly larger role in the campaign — a bigger part than the campaign is letting on.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach authored Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement-only law. He endorsed Romney in January, “advised Romney on immigration during his 2008 presidential bid and has long-promoted the strategy of ‘attrition through enforcement’— the immigration-control strategy to drive away the unauthorized population by making their lives so miserable that they will choose to ‘deport themselves’ rather than remain in the U.S.,” according to the Immigration Policy Center.
The Hill reported Tuesday that “Romney’s hiring of Republican strategist Ed Gillespie is being seen as a sign the campaign will heavily court Hispanic voters — perhaps at the expense of immigration hard-liners in the party.”
“When asked for an interview, Gillespie directed The Hill to Romney’s presidential campaign, which said he’d be a senior adviser that will help them with messaging, overall strategy and the August convention in Tampa, Fla,” The Hill added.
“Gillespie, a former head of the Republican National Committee, has long advocated an aggressive outreach to the Hispanic community,” The Hill wrote. “He also heads up Resurgent Republic, an organization focused on messaging to independents, including Hispanic swing voters.”
Resurgent Republic is currently developing a six part “target voter series” focused on suburban women, young voters, seniors, independents, Hispanics and blue collar Catholics.
Midnight on Tuesday is the deadline for filing your state and federal income taxes and a portion of Georgia’s taxpayers are undocumented workers.
It’s hard to say exactly how many of the state’s workers are illegal.
Workers who don’t have social security numbers can still file a tax return, using a nine-digit Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or I-TIN. The Georgia Department of Revenue doesn’t know how many people with ITINs are here illegally. But the Immigration Policy Center says in 2010, undocumented workers in Georgia paid more than $85,000,000 in income taxes.
Grace Williams is an Atlanta accountant who filed some of those returns. She says there are two reasons why undocumented workers file tax returns. Some want a refund. But Wilson says those who owe hope paying their taxes will lead to bigger things.
“A lot of people in the community are telling them that that’s the responsible thing to do,” Williams says, “And if they aspire to become legal one day, the first thing that they’re going to look at is, ‘Did you do your taxes?” she says.
Williams says those workers hope to become U.S. citizens. But DA King, president of the Dustin Inman Society, which advocates enforcement of immigration laws, says that’s not the real motivation.
“They are getting a refund on the Additional Child Tax Credit,” King says, “Refund is not the right word. They’re getting a rebate from the government for having U.S.-born children,” he says.
King calls the segment of undocumented workers who pay taxes “microscopic.” He points to the Center for Immigration Studies. The group doesn’t have Georgia-specific numbers, but nationally, they say illegal immigrants who file tax returns receive billions more in refunds than they pay in taxes.
So, what’s next? It’s hard to say. Immigrants’ rights groups advocate a path to citizenship, while opponents want tougher enforcement.
When the Department of Homeland Security announced last summer that some lower-priority cases should be shelved in immigration court through a process called prosecutorial discretion, Alexandru Ghilan looked like the perfect candidate.
The 29-year-old from Moldova had come to the United States on a work visa six years ago. He had applied for political asylum because of incarcerations and beatings he said he had endured as an activist protesting the former Communist regime in his eastern European home country.
Ghilan, who earned a law degree in Moldova, did not enter the country illegally and has no criminal record in the United States. He has worked and paid taxes since he came to the country. He has a wife and a 1-year-old daughter who is a U.S. citizen.
His asylum request has been denied: Communists no longer hold power in Moldova. He is appealing the case. Now, it has been passed over for administrative closure through prosecutorial discretion even though an immigration judge recommended that Ghilan be considered. If Ghilan had been granted that closure, he would no longer be living under the constant threat of deportation.
Government prosecutors aren't saying why some seemingly good fits for prosecutorial discretion, such as Ghilan, are being denied. But immigration attorneys are saying this is happening too often.
"It looks like it's a national problem," said Denver immigration attorney Bryon Large, who heard input from other lawyers from around the country during a recent meeting of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Figures collected by the American Immigration Council show that about 9 percent of 165,000 immigration cases reviewed since late last year have been suspended through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
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 suggest otherwise, the Hispanic vote is neither uniform nor clearly aligned with the Democratic Party. If Hispanics fail to support the president in four key swing states — Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado — the election could go to the likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Time magazine kicked off the topic of Hispanic electoral power with their March 5 cover story “Yo Decido.” 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. are Hispanic and of legal status.
While the Republicans may have learned from 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 understand the importance of Hispanics among us, and, surprisingly, they don’t seem to really care.
Romney is hardly progressive or nuanced when it comes to Hispanic issues; he opposes the critically important DREAM Act, which would allow people who arrived in the U.S. as children to earn an education in America beyond high school. Common sense suggests we support a policy whereby our nation, struggling to compete in an increasingly technical, global environment, supports the education of young people who want to contribute to the social and economic development of the U.S.