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September 2012 Archives

Immigration Reform News

A socially liberal, fiscally conservative Mayor of one of the most densely and most diversely populated cities in the country, a libertarian media mogul and businessman, and an outspoken life-long Democrat walk into Boston’s Seaport Hotel. While this may sound like the beginning of a political joke, ending with a mildly controversial and satirical punch, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino actually did walk into the Seaport Hotel. Two weeks ago, the three highly influential personalities convened in order to make a nonpartisan argument that reformation of our country’s broken immigration system is of the essence if the nation’s economy is to be revived.Immigration System Bloomberg

Immigration System Statistics

Immigrants encourage the growth of the economy, there are studies and statistics abound proving this. Mayor Menino discussed local statistics for Boston as further evidence: in Boston, there are 8,800 immigrant-owned small businesses, employing more than 18,000 people and producing close to $3.7 billion in annual sales. This economic growth is due solely to foreign-born entrepreneurs; the immigrant population, as a whole, spends $4 billion per year and brings in #1.3 billion in state and federal taxes. These astounding numbers, remember, are only for the city of Boston. Mayor Menino enthusiastically proclaimed, “[immigrants] make this old city new again and again.”Immigration System MurdochMr. Murdoch added, “an immigrant is more likely to start a small business than a non-immigrant.” An immigrant himself, Murdoch understands and appreciates the positive influence our immigration system has on the growth of the country, not only economically, but also socially, academically, and technologically.

Immigration System Reform

In addition to small businesses, a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy has found that over forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. While the immigrant population in the country is less than thirteen percent of the general population, approximately twenty-eight percent of all new American businesses last year were created by them.Immigration System PleaTo address any misguided disconcertion's regarding immigrants draining our economy of valuable finances and snatching employment opportunities, Mayor Bloomberg argues, “people don’t come here to put their feet up and collect welfare, they come here to work.” And working is exactly what they do. Immigrants work hard to achieve the American dream, and in the course, they strengthen, preserve, and expand the economy. The convention of Mayors Bloomberg and Menino, and Mr. Murdoch, then, displays the need to unite in a nonpartisan effort to finally fix this broken immigration system.

New Immigration Laws

In most scenarios, passing fewer laws serves as a limitation to the people’s freedom and liberty. Certainly, for immigration issues, it would seem as though less is far from more. Our broken immigration system is obviously in dire need of restructuring and, at first glance, it seems almost commonsensical that the fewer immigration laws passed, the longer and more excruciatingly tedious that restructuring will be.

Immigration Issues

Immigration Legislation LawsWhat one must realize, however, is that in terms of laws actually being passed, quality trumps quantity. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently released the results of a study on the passage of immigration measures this year. It found that forty one states enacted 114 bills and adopted ninety two resolutions relating to immigration from January through June of this year. This is a decrease of twenty percent from 2011 for the same time frame. The NCSL attributes this decline to a shift in the priorities of lawmakers, gradually moving away from immigration and into balancing the budget. Additionally, it claims that this decline is also due in part to U.S. courts evaluating pending litigation on how much authority states have in enforcing immigration laws.To understand why less, in this case, is actually more, let us take a look at the immigration laws that were passed last year. Five states last year followed the suit of the law that Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed two years ago, SB 1070 – or the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah individually passed laws designed to drive out undocumented immigrants from the state. In addition, thirty state legislatures introduced more than fifty immigration bills that ran in some line parallel to SB 1070. Fortunately, the laws passed in those states were either partially or entirely blocked by U.S. courts.

Immigration Law

Immigration LegislationIn comparison to this year, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out three provisions of SB 1070, only five states introduced bills similar to SB 1070, none of which were enacted, and states continue to approve legislation that funds naturalization and migrant and refugee programs. Statistically, twenty five percent of approved legislation is related to the latter immigration issue, eighteen percent of approved legislation is related to identification, and eleven percent is related to granting driver’s licenses.While approved legislation in the first six months of this year is far from being a thorough reformatting of our immigration system, the shift in the general outlook refreshing relative to last year. The overarching theme remains the necessity of increased legislation on immigration; however, the type and quality of the legislation must also and always be taken into consideration because, as seen in 2011, more can sometimes be less.

DACA Law

Necessity to earn an income renders individuals unable to qualify for recent benefits

Applying for DACA

As hundreds of thousands of undocumented youths begin the process of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), there is a harmonious sigh of relief due to the benefits – temporary though they may be. Unfortunately, for several more thousands, while they should benefit from DACA, they are deemed ineligible. These individuals fulfill most requirements: they were brought into the country before their sixteenth birthday; have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007; are under the age of thirty-one as of June 15, 2012; entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired as of said date; have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat; and were present in the United States on June 15, 2012. The only requirement these individuals in question do not fulfill is that of being currently in school, having graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, having obtained a GED, or being an honorably-discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States. These individuals were unable to fulfill this requirement due to the fact that they are what are known as migrant agricultural workers.Youth Migrant Farm Workers Ineligible for DACAThese youths begin working in their budding youths, unable to attend school as their families need them working as agricultural workers in order to bring additional income into the household. The U.S. agricultural industry allows hundreds of thousands of children, a majority of them immigrants, to begin working full-time at an age as young as eleven or twelve. Out of compulsion, these youths face hardships uncommon, and even unheard of, to their urban and suburban counterparts, working longer hours and in more hazardous conditions in order to supplement their family’s income.

DACA Youths

Some are fortunate enough to be able to attend school; however, the average child migrant farmworker changes schools three times a year as they move from state to state with their families due to planting and harvesting seasons. While it might seem like a boon to be able to be a part of academia, for most, maintaining decent grades, keeping up with coursework, and sustaining an attendance record up to par proves to be a trying task due to the nature of their lifestyle. Thus, the drop-out rate for a child farmworker is four times the national average; as these youths are.For those migrant child farmworkers who have fortunately been able to complete their high school education, or have been able to obtain a GED, another difficulty arises in regard to applying for DACA. Because their lifestyle is highly migratory, evidencing their continuous presence in the country is troublesome. For most of these individuals, the most common documentation of utility bills and leases are out of the question as they would most probably live in migrant housing.DACA Deferred Action for ChildhoodWhile DACA was designed by the Obama administration to offer conciliation to upright immigrant youths, to offer temporary relief from the agonizing and debilitating fear of deportation, and to allow them to work towards finally achieving the much-strived after American Dream, DACA discounts these migrant farmworkers. If it were not for the fact that their lifestyle demobilizes them from attending school, these bright and hopeful youths would be able to apply for DACA and, like their undocumented peers, be granted the opportunity to live to their full potential. When parts of the population suffers thusly, can we sit inactive and helpless, then? Is there nothing we can do for these otherwise DACA eligible individuals?

Green Card By Marriage

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been negatively affecting individuals since it was enacted in 1996. Under this U.S. federal law, the definition of marriage is limited to mean a legal union between one man and one woman. §3 of DOMA specifically codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes including but not limited to insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, and immigration. As immigration law is federal, the government agencies apply DOMA’s definition of marriage for these cases; those gay and lesbian couples legally married in one of the six states that perform and recognize same-sex marriage, in addition to Washington, D.C., still are not considered married for immigration purposes.As of 2010, there are upwards of 650,000 same-sex couples in the country. Of these couples, 79,200 include at least one partner who is not a U.S. citizen or naturalized as a citizen. Under U.S. immigration policy, citizens are able to obtain permanent residence for a different-sex spouse but this option is not available to same-sex partners under DOMA.DOMA Defense of Marriage ActThe implications of these limitations are multifold: gay and lesbian U.S. citizens are unable to successfully petition for their spouses, the non-citizen partner is unable to accompany their citizen spouse in receiving family or employment-based visa, and non-citizen partners are unable to obtain waivers or relief from removal despite their marriage. DOMA, then, restricts same-sex couples from receiving benefits that they would were they in different-sex marriages.This week, a lesbian couple filed a federal lawsuit - seeking class-action status - in California in an attempt to resolve this discrepancy. Jane DeLeon, a Philippines citizen, has been married to Irma Rodriguez for three years. Ms. DeLeon was sponsored for a green card by her employer; however, she is unable to obtain residency due to DOMA. The suit is filed by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law on behalf of Ms. DeLeon and her twenty-six year old son; Mr. Peter Schey, the President of the Los Angeles-based organization, hopes to not only solve Ms. DeLeon and Ms. Rodriguezs’ immigration woes, but to also stop the deportation of individuals in same-sex marriages due solely to their marriages being unrecognized due to DOMA.Ms. DeLeon, according to the lawsuit, is eligible for a green card but needs to obtain a waiver because she entered the country as though she were married when she was actually in a common law relationship with the father of her son. The waiver would be approved if the foreign national’s absence from the country would cause extreme hardship to a spouse or parent of an American citizen. Ms. Rodriguez suffers from a serious medical condition which would possibly cause extreme hardship were Ms. DeLeon to be deported to the Philippines. Despite this circumstance, federal immigration authorities denied Ms. DeLeon’s waiver application due to the fact that her marriage is not legally recognized by DOMA.Similar lawsuits have been filed by immigration advocates on behalf of numerous same-sex couples. The over-arching allegation is the refusal by DOMA to legally acknowledge same-sex marriages is a violation of their constitutional rights. Jane DeLeon and Irma Rodriguez are extending this allegation as DOMA is preventing them from partaking in the same immigration benefits as a different-sex couple would be able to enjoy under the same circumstances.The Obama administration has already determined §3 to be unconstitutional, however, until the repeal of the law or a final judicial decision is passed on the law, the Department of Justice will still enforce DOMA. Therefore, while we wait on the courts and the legislative process to proceed – a matter that is painstakingly slow – future steps become obscured in a mist of uncertainty and patience is tried to the utmost. While same-sex bi-national families are being torn apart, though, is patience really a virtue?
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