Archived Immigration News

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House Democrats Introduce Immigration Bill


December 15, 2009


Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) filed a new comprehensive immigration bill to be considered by Congress. The 700-page bill is named after Rep. Solomon Ortiz, the longest-serving Latino in Congress. The bill proposes changes to most major areas of immigration law. Among its provisions are a “path to citizenship” for unauthorized immigrants, a Southern Border Security Task Force, a worker identity-verification program, and visa reforms to help immigrants reunite with their immediate family from their home countries. The bill does not contain a guest-worker program. Many Democrats support Gutierrez’s bill. Many Republicans oppose it because of concerns about the American economy and unauthorized immigration. (Source: — DH


U.S. and Cuba to Discuss Migration


December 4, 2009


The U.S. has had an embargo in place against Cuba since the early 1960s. The U.S. embargo bans trade with and travel to and from Cuba. This embargo was the United States’ response to the Communist revolution in Cuba in 1959.

Because they are fleeing a Communist nation, unauthorized immigrants from Cuba are generally allowed to remain in the U.S. if they reach U.S. soil.

President George W. Bush suspended talks between the U.S. and Cuba about easing migration between the two countries. In July 2009, the U.S. State Department resumed the talks. The talks were supposed to start again this month, but they have been postponed until February 2010. (Source: Voice of America) — DH


San Francisco Changes Policy on Juvenile Unauthorized Immigrants

October 21, 2009

San Francisco has been a sanctuary city since 1989. That means the city has developed a policy not to allow city agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. Police would only refer adult criminal suspects in custody for felonies to federal immigration authorities. Last summer, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom changed the policy somewhat. He ordered the city’s police department to start also referring juveniles arrested on felony charges to federal immigration authorities. On October 20, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to overturn Mayor Newsom’s new policy. (Source: The New York Times) — DH


Economic Recession Slows Immigrants’ Assimilation

October 6, 2009

The Manhattan Institute released a study on October 5, 2009, showing that the country’s present economic woes are affecting immigrants. Specifically, data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Homeland Security shows that the immigrant population has decreased since 2007. The number of unauthorized immigrants has dropped the most. They are leaving the U.S. because of declining economic conditions. As a result, the study concludes, the assimilation of immigrants has slowed down. (Source: Miami Herald) — DH


Alleged Smugglers Stopped at Border

September 25, 2009

Two men allegedly transporting unauthorized immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border were charged with smuggling after they attempted to drive vans through a border checkpoint. They drove two vans filled with people who had each paid between $2,500 and $4,000 to be transported illegally into the United States. As the vans rushed through the checkpoint, authorities opened fire on them, injuring one of the alleged smugglers. A third van driver ran back to Mexico and was detained by Mexican authorities. There were 78 passengers in the vans, five of whom were children. (Source: Associated Press) — DH


Representative Shouts “You Lie!” During President’s Speech to Congress

September 10, 2009

President Obama was interrupted during a speech to a joint-session of Congress last night. In his pitch to bolster congressional support for his proposals on health-care reform, the president briefly discussed unauthorized immigration. He said, “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.” Immediately, South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” Wilson’s interruption was heard throughout the chamber, and both Republicans and Democrats later called upon him to apologize. In a statement after the speech, Wilson said, “I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH


President Obama Postpones Comprehensive Immigration Reform Until 2010

August 11, 2009

At a summit of North American leaders in Mexico, President Obama stated that he would not push for passing new immigration laws until 2010. He pointed out that he already has “a pretty big stack of bills” to consider before the end of 2009, including health-care reform. When Obama was a candidate for president, he said immigration reform would be “a top priority in my first year as president.” As a result, some reformers have criticized the postponement. Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said that “we’d be smarter to move on it this year.” Mexican official Carlos Navarette expressed hope that “Latino Congress members [in the U.S.]…will maintain their activism in this matter.” (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH


President Obama Plans to Reform the Immigration Detention System

August 7, 2009

President Obama announced a plan to change the immigration detention system. Instead of using a network of local and private jails, the administration would use centralized facilities specifically for detainees. With this new system, the president argues that it would be easier for the federal government to control what happens to the detainees.

The detention system holds people found to be in violation of the nation’s immigration laws. Many are currently detained in local jails or private jails. Each day about 33,000 await deportation behind bars. Organizations such as the National Immigration Law Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the detention system for providing substandard living conditions. Since 2003, 90 people have died while being detained, and critics say these deaths resulted from inadequate medical treatment or unsafe conditions. President Obama’s plan addresses this criticism. (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH


New Senator Franken Becomes Focus of Debate on Immigrant Workers

July 9, 2009

Comedian and writer Al Franken became the newest U.S. senator from Minnesota this week. As part of his campaign, he argued against the creation of guest-worker programs “that would create a permanent underclass of exploited workers….” Franken now sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to work on legislation to reform the nation’s immigration system in the coming months. The AFL-CIO (the largest organization of labor unions in the country) sees Franken as an ally who will support labor unions while reforming immigration policy. On the other hand, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the largest organization of business-owners in the country) supports a guest-worker program and disagrees that temporary guest workers are “exploited.” (Source: Politico) — DH


Obama Administration to Lift Ban on HIV-Positive Immigrants

June 30, 2009

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency within President Obama’s administration, has proposed removing a ban on the immigration of anyone who is HIV-positive (infected with the HIV virus, which can lead to the disease AIDS). The Immigration and Nationality Act contains a list of communicable diseases that make non-citizens ineligible to immigrate. The list includes HIV. The CDC’s proposal came up recently, in part, after a British health activist who is HIV-positive was denied a visa to come speak at the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle, Washington. (Source: The Seattle Times) — DH


The Supreme Court Denies Jury for Deportation Proceeding

June 15, 2009

In the case of Nijhawan v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that immigration officials are not required to have a jury decide the financial impact of an immigrant’s crime of fraud. Nijhawan immigrated from India in 1985 but was later convicted of fraud and money laundering. The trial court determined that the loss to the victims exceeded $100 million. Under the law, any loss due to fraud that exceeds $10,000 is an “aggravated felony,” and any immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony is deportable. Nijhawan argued that the immigration court should have a jury determine if the loss exceeded $10,000. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. Justice Stephen Breyer said in the opinion that Nijhawan had already stipulated that the loss was over $100 million. (Source:  Associated Press) — DH


Grand Jury Indicts 12 People Who Lured Unauthorized Immigrants to be “Modern-Day Slaves”

May 27, 2009

Federal prosecutors in Missouri say that 12 people and three companies in the Kansas City area lured unauthorized immigrants into the United States to work for inadequate wages and to live in overcrowded, overpriced housing. The acting special agent-in-charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said that the indictment (accusation) alleges that the defendants lured victims into the U.S. with the promise of legitimate jobs “only to treat them as modern-day slaves under the threat of deportation.” The defendants used false information to obtain fake visas for these immigrants, many of whom worked in Kansas City-area hotels. The federal grand jury issued an indictment with 45 criminal counts, including human trafficking and immigration violations. (Source: Associated Press and KY3 News) — DH


Haitian Man Arrested for Smuggling Immigrants After Boat Capsizes

May 18, 2009

Jimmy Metellus, a native of Haiti, was arrested on May 16, 2009, after his boat capsized off the coast of Florida. The boat had been too heavy, overloaded with 30 Haitian immigrants whom Metellus planned to smuggle into the United States. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 10 of Metellus’ passengers died in the boat accident. Survivors told authorities that they had paid traffickers to take them to the United States. Metellus faces criminal charges of “smuggling that places in jeopardy the life of any person, and that results in the death of another person.” (Source: AFP) — DH


Victims of Crime Face Deportation After Contacting Authorities

May 10, 2009

Uruguayan immigrant Richard Lemos and his wife agreed to testify four years ago against woman who allegedly conned (cheated) him and many other unauthorized immigrants in Utah. The suspect, Leticia Avila, shared membership with Lemos in the LDS Church (Mormons), gained trust from him and others, and collected $4,000 from each of them in exchange for the promise of providing them with legal visas. Suspecting a scam, Lemos and others reported Avila to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These immigrants say that ICE agents offered them visas in exchange for their testimony and cooperation in an investigation. Instead of issuing visas, however, ICE agents arrested them this year for violating U.S. immigration law. (Source: The Salt Lake Tribune) — DH


Supreme Court Limits Government’s Power to Prosecute Immigrants for Identity Theft

May 5, 2009

In the case of Flores-Figueroa vs. U.S., the Supreme Court overturned part of an unauthorized immigrant’s conviction for the crime of “aggravated identity theft.” The law makes it a crime to knowingly use the identification of another person (such as someone’s Social Security number). Ignacio Flores-Figueroa admitted to buying false documents in Chicago in order to work at a steel plant in Illinois. The prosecution did not, however, offer proof that Flores-Figueroa knew that the documents actually belonged to another person. Therefore, he could not be convicted of aggravated identity theft. The court’s decision is expected to prevent authorities from using this law to prosecute many unauthorized immigrants and is expected to help President Obama’s plan to focus more on employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. (Source: Los Angeles Times) — DH


Homeland Security Secretary Rejects Calls to Close the U.S.-Mexico Border

April 28, 2009

Representative Eric J.J. Massa (D-NY) and others called for U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to close the border with Mexico in response to the 2009 outbreak of swine flu. (The first cases of swine flu infection were found in Mexico City.) Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, a group that seeks to limit immigration to the U.S., joined Representative Massa to call for a stop to all “non-essential traffic” across the border. The group also called for deployment of the U.S. military at the border to stop unauthorized immigration. Napolitano, however, rejected their requests for closing the border. She stated that the economic harm caused by closing the border outweighed the helpfulness it would have in preventing a swine flu outbreak. (Source: The Washington Post) — DH


Budget Cuts Lead to Fewer English-Language Classes for Immigrants

March 22, 2009

As states across the nation are forced to slash their budgets for adult literacy classes, immigrants to the U.S. have fewer options for learning English. In New York, the governor’s proposed budget includes a 33 percent funding reduction in three programs that contain English education. In California, the new state budget contains a 15 percent cut to funding for adult-literacy programs in school districts. According to the Migration Policy Institute, concerns about continued cuts have grown in other states. Immigrants face a need for acquiring English-language skills, especially during the current economic downturn. (Source: Newsday) — DH



Bureau Must Clarify Rules for Refugees Who Harmed Others

March 3, 2009

The federal law that denies asylum to refugees who have harmed other people in their home countries is unclear, the Supreme Court ruled today. Daniel Negusie, a refugee from the African country of Eritrea, sought asylum in the United States. He had refused to serve in his country’s military in 1998 during a war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. His own government imprisoned him on a military base, and he served as an armed guard over fellow prisoners there. His petition for asylum was denied for that reason.

In the case of Negusie v. Holder, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the federal asylum law is open to interpretation. It bars asylum for those who have caused harm to others in their home country, but it is unclear whether there is an exception for those who caused harm while under the threat of death or torture. The court told the federal Bureau of Immigration Appeals to clarify whether that exception exists. If it does, then this Eritrean refugee may go ahead with his petition for asylum in the U.S. (Source: SCOTUSBlog) — DH


Poll Shows Latinos More Concerned About The Economy Than Immigration

January 15, 2009

In just one year the number of Latinos who view immigration as “extremely important” has decreased, according to a poll released by the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Research Center. In December 2007, 38 percent of Latinos surveyed said that immigration was extremely important, whereas the new poll shows that number has fallen to 31 percent of Latinos surveyed. By contrast, the same poll shows that the number of Latinos citing the economy as an extremely important issue rose from 43 percent to 57 percent. (Source: The Washington Post) — DH