Archive for the ‘Border Enforcement’ Category.

No, It’s Not Over

shutterstock_147492446Last week I came to Washington and met with House leaders about immigration reform.  I heard a lot of pessimism and I certainly understand where it’s coming from.  After the high of the Senate bill passage, during AILA’s Annual Conference of course, we’ve descended into the lows of inaction.

There was a glimmer when the House Republican leadership released their standards for immigration reform but then the appearance of backtracking immediately thereafter resulted in a fizzle, rather than an explosion of forward momentum.

But let’s be honest, it was never going to be easy.  But we’ve kept up the fight.

And what’s impressive to me, and keeps me optimistic about our chances, is the fact that immigration reform is turning into an issue that is uniting more and more Americans rather than pulling them apart.

What do I mean?  Well, we’ve got poll after poll that points to an acceptance of the need for reform that helps the undocumented get on the road to citizenship.  We’ve got poll after poll that emphasizes the acceptance of DREAMers as the incredibly deserving group of kids that they are.  We’ve seen a shift in public perception from an emphasis on security and enforcement at all costs towards welcoming and understanding and wanting to DO something about our broken immigration system.

So while Washington, DC may be at a standstill, while Capitol Hill may not be moving, the rest of the country is.

And what that means is that we need to keep up the advocacy, keep up the push, and keep up the hard work in our communities, in our states, and in DC.

Which is why I’m asking you for your time.  Make a visit in February or March to your senator or representative.  Talk to them or their staff about why immigration reform is important.  Offer yourself as a resource, a person they can turn to for solid information about what bills have been brought up in committee, what they would mean for your community, and why this issue is so important.

Tell them about what you’ve witnessed.  Bring along a client and their family if they’re willing.  Share the impact that reform would have on a family facing deportation, local businesses, agriculture, high-tech, what have you.

And then commit to doing the visits again, in DC, as part of AILA’s National Day of Action on April 10.

I’m not giving up.  I’m going to keep meeting, educating, and sharing.  I’m going to keep my voice loud but respectful.  I’m going to make sure that both sides of the aisle know where I stand, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

You can sign up for the National Day of Action online.  It’s free, it’s important, and I hope to see you there.

Written by Doug Stump, AILA President

GOP’s Principles on Immigration Reform: A Welcome Sign, So Let’s Steer Forward

shutterstock_153955259House GOP leaders on Thursday released their standards for immigration reform.  With these principles, they renewed their position that reform of our broken system can only be attained “through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures.”  They made clear that they will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) noted that “While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform that both sides can accept. It is a long, hard road but the door is open.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tweeted that “Today’s House #GOP #immigration proposal falls short of the bipartisan #CIR we passed last year in the Senate…but I welcome any movement that leads to Congress finally fixing our broken immigration system.”

The first priority towards reform according to the GOP principles is the “fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders”, and so these principles prioritize securing and verifying the security of our Borders before tackling other aspects of our system.  Although this concept of “securing borders” is not new to the GOP rhetoric, one wonders if members of the House GOP have read the statistics that show deportations were at a record high in 2012 with 409,849 total deportations – the highest they’ve ever been.

Furthermore, at its peak, U.S. Border Patrol data show that apprehensions of undocumented immigrants nationwide and along the Southwest border routinely topped 1 million.  In 2004, the Border Patrol counted nearly 1.2 million apprehensions along the Southwestern border.  In 2012, the Border Patrol apprehended 364,768 individuals nationwide, 98 percent of whom were caught on the Southwestern border.  If these figures are not enough to signal a secure border, since FY 2001, the U.S. Border Patrol has steadily increased its number of agents from 9,821 agents nationwide to more than double today at 21,395 agents.

House Republicans make it clear that reform will include a “zero tolerance” for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future, irrespective of the driving forces to do so, yet hopefully with a more robust legal immigration system and reduction in backlogs, the need for many to cross without documentation or overstay a visa will be minimal at best.  The principles also call for a robust visa tracking system and further require the full implementation a workable electronic employment verification system.

For a party that has long cherished and respected family values, it seems the principles frown at immigration through family members and “pure luck” – presumably referring to our current Diversity Visa Program.  It is true that at the crux of any developed Country is its ability to remain competitive in this global economy and attracting the brightest talent is a key component of this competitiveness.

A robust legal immigration system that includes visas and green cards for individuals seeking to contribute to not only the economic but social fabric of our nation is important, yet let’s not forget that these talented individuals have also left family behind.  Extended family such as parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and grandparents are part of what fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, the researching drive, and the thrill at discovery that leads to excellence in many fields.  To say that family is not part of the success of a developed country is to fall short on the American dream.

It is promising to find the House principles recognize the committed spirit of the DREAMers, the young and talented aspiring Americans who are ingrained not only in our social fabric, but are a key part of our economic growth and development.

At the end of the line, we find those who have endured years of agony in taking steps to reunite with family and loved ones, who have lived in fear of deportation, abuse, and indifference; the 11 million individuals who have contributed to our economy and our neighborhoods.  Individuals, who despite living outside the “rule of law” have also risked it all in search of a better life, and along the way have contributed and improved our great Country.

To them, these principles offer a way to live legally and without fear in the U.S. if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families.   The principles recognize what these individuals are already doing and remove the yoke of fear and insecurity.  Without a defined roadmap to full integration however, we will have to wait for further details to see the prospects of these individual becoming full-fledged Americans.

What this all means is yet to be seen.  These principles will serve as the House’s foundation for the immigration bills to be introduced, and as we all know, “the devil is in the details”.  The announcement from House leadership is encouraging following President Obama’s call to make this a “year of action” and pass immigration reform.

The balancing act will come when the parties sit down and hammer out the details of a series of bills addressing each aspect in these principles.  Critical to this balance is the understanding that our system must be completely revamped if not in one full sweep then with concise bills that address all areas of our system.  The American people are ready for it, the DREAMers are ready for it, the 11 million are ready for it, so let’s steer these principles forward for the future of our Country.

Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA Treasurer

Representative Goodlatte and Immigration Reform

shutterstock_86506957 (1)In an interview with Telemundo’s Jose Diaz Balart that will air this weekend, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed prospects for immigration reform.  What he reportedly said made me cautiously hopeful. But it also showed me that we all have some work to do to get to smart reform.

According to a transcript of the interview, he talked about the progress that the committee had made last year by passing four bills out of committee.  Now, none of those four bills was anything that I’d want to see become law in their current forms, and at least one of the bills is quite troubling.  A couple of the others have some elements worth using, but need more work.

He didn’t share much about the principles that Speaker Boehner says are forthcoming from House, but he did say that they hoped those principles might galvanize support for immigration reform.  He emphasized the need for interior enforcement and the fact that a large proportion of immigrants who are here unlawfully are actually overstays.  That all seemed reasonable.

I am heartened that he was talking about achieving a legal status “for people who are not lawfully here.”  It is important for any immigration reform to recognize that legality, not mass deportations, is the answer for most of the people here without status.  And he is right that they should be “able to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country.  Be able to– own a business, pay their taxes.”

But stopping there would be a mistake.  The problems that some European and Middle Eastern countries have faced by having people present with no hope of ultimate integration—essentially  a permanent second-class status—have created undue pain for those countries.  Unless we fix the legal immigration system, and make sure that the people whose statuses are regularized now can participate fully in a robust legal immigration system, with an opportunity for naturalization for those who seek it, we will not have lasting reform.

I’m an immigration attorney and after decades in practice, I want change.  I would love to see the day when our system is more than just a cracked and broken set of policies.  I would embrace a new, straightforward immigration system that was clear with lines for people to get into without putting them into decades of limbo.  I want our businesses to get the best and the brightest as employees, and be able to keep them on.  I am eager for the entrepreneurs to feel welcome here in the U.S. and use their talents to drive our economy.  I dearly wish for a day when families are no longer torn apart but instead valued for what they are: the cornerstone of our nation.

I believe that this interview is a thawing of Mr. Goodlatte’s views on immigration and I feel cautiously hopeful that he is committed to really trying to pass meaningful legislation. I, for one, stand ready to help.

Inaction is not an Option!

Last week, two House Republicans who had been trying to draft a comprehensive immigration package dropped out of bipartisan negotiations.  In a joint statement, Texas Republican Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson said that they had “reached a tipping point” in the talks and “can no longer continue” working on a “broad approach” to a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws.

Their leaving basically dismantled the so-called Gang of Seven bipartisan group in the House that has long struggled to draft legislation. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) dropped out in June and the only Republican member that remains is Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida. The group worked on and off for four years to write a comprehensive reform bill, yet in the end, it produced no results.

Currently sitting in the House however, is the comprehensive bipartisan bill S. 744 which the Senate passed with overwhelming support in June of this year. Even as the House bipartisan group working on immigration could not reach a compromise, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the Judiciary committee pledged action on immigration reform legislation. Goodlatte said members of his committee were working on four separate bills in addition to four that the committee had already approved as well as a bill to give DREAMers “an earned path to citizenship”. The House Judiciary committee has already approved a bill on agricultural workers, another on high-skilled visas, a harsh interior enforcement bill, and a fourth to require employers to verify their workers’ legal status.

Although the House has yet to take concrete steps forward on immigration reform, a piecemeal approach could result in House approval of a series of bills that could lead to negotiations with the Senate on a compromise immigration reform bill.  At the same time, Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Filemon Vela (D-TX) introduced their own comprehensive reform bill last Friday. “The House discussion on immigration reform hasn’t been an honest debate about good policy, it’s been a one-sided refusal to take the issue seriously,” Grijalva said in a news release.  As the month of September comes to an end, GOP members are still struggling with a full agenda, from Obamacare, to the budget to debt .

Inaction however, is not an option.

Thousands of immigrants and their families marched this past weekend in Los Angeles demanding the House take action on immigration reform. The realities of the effect of inaction, the contributions of immigrants, the creativity of individuals and the heartfelt stories of families were on full display as they walked through the streets of Los Angeles uniting their faces, voices and hearts for immigration reform.

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Since the last major overhaul of our immigration system in 1986, the federal government has spent an estimated $186.8 billion on immigration enforcement. This astronomical figure however, did not keep unauthorized immigrants out of the United States, nor did it persuade any immigrant already here to leave. We now have 11 million aspiring Americans living in our communities and contributing to our economy. Increased enforcement spending is a waste of our dollars.

According to the U.S. Border Patrol, from 1998 to 2012, 5,570 migrants died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The loss of lives will continue if Congress fails to act.  Furthermore, several studies confirm the economic benefits of immigration reform. As our country continues to grapple with a slow economy and high unemployment, the opportunities of bringing the smartest and the brightest, the entrepreneur sprit of immigrants and the tangible creation of more jobs are lost to a waiting game.  The time is right and the time is now.  It is time to put politics aside and pass a commonsense immigration process that keeps families together, reinforces the American entrepreneurial spirit and allows aspiring citizens to become fully integrated members of our communities.

As Rep Mario Diaz-Balart said: “This great nation doesn’t just need a solution to its broken immigration system. It deserves one.”

So let’s get moving.

Like Déjà Vu, All Over Again

Really? Seriously?  Wow.

Not the most erudite comment I’ve ever made but that’s what I’m reduced to facing this week’s Amendmentpalooza.  Wow.

I’m looking at the breakdown of proposed amendments to the Senate immigration reform bill (S. 744).  AILA National is conducting careful analysis of the hundreds of amendments, figuring out how they would impact our new favorite reading choice, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”

In digging through the 300 amendments proposed by Democrats and Republicans alike, they have found some doozies.  These potential poison pills should be required reading for any immigration attorney, and, for that matter, any business owner and especially for any resident of several states from whom the Senators hail who proposed these outlandish amendments.

This is a bipartisan bill.  That already requires compromise on both sides, but accepting the following amendments wouldn’t be compromising, it would be putting nails in the coffin of a decent immigration bill and burying America’s future with it.

Apparently gutting the legalization process sounds good to several Senators.  Taken together the provisions would essentially ensure that pretty much no one qualified for permanent status—oh, and if Sen. Cruz has his way, no one who was ever willfully unlawfully present would ever get citizenship.  Nope, they’re unworthy.  I’m just surprised that there wasn’t a Scarlet Letter amendment in there too, forcing legalized immigrants to wear an “A” for Amnesty for the rest of their lives.

Businesses would get a pretty harsh wake-up call too, per Sen. Grassley, who would play havoc with the business immigration policies to the extent that American businesses seeking to hire foreign talent—the kind that leads to American jobs and global competitiveness—would be shut out.  At some point, you make an immigration category so difficult that no one will apply.  On the upside, I guess we wouldn’t need to hold an H-1B lottery ever again.

There is amendment after amendment that would roll our immigration policy backward instead of moving it forward, to prevent families from being reunited, and to throw more money at ineffective border security measures, rather than investing in enforcement that will actually make our country safer.  Oh, let’s not forget the amendments that would gut due process and eliminate training for DHS agents in things like civil rights.

Don’t get me wrong—a few stalwart Senators from both sides are offering potentially good amendments, to reunite families, ensure a more inclusive legalization process, and make our immigration system better.  How many of those might be included in any final bill is anyone’s guess.  Again, this is a bipartisan, compromise process so no one will be completely happy but the flip side is that with a decent bill, no one will be entirely disappointed either.

Some things require compromise, but worthless amendments that only serve to destroy the workable framework that the Senate “Gang of Eight” and their staff have built have no place in this process. If you’re in one of the states with a Judiciary Committee member, or have a client from that state, get calls in to your Senators, email their offices, reach out to contacts you made through AILA’s National Day of Action or in-state meetings.  Reach out to local reporters to talk about what is wrong with some of these amendments and why even proposing them is an overt effort to derail immigration reform that our nation desperately needs.  Your voices—and the voices of your clients—need to be heard, but they won’t be, unless you speak out.

Six Things You Need to Know about Stateside Processing of I-601A Waivers

Starting March 4, 2013, certain relatives of American citizens who are in the country illegally and need a waiver of unlawful presence before being eligible for a green card can get a decision on their case before leaving the United States.

For those who can take advantage of the new rule, this means peace of mind, knowing that their loved one is likely to successfully complete the immigration process and not be stranded in a foreign country for an unknown length of time.  For some, however, the new rule will do nothing to resolve their immigration issues.

1.      What is the new rule and how can it help my family?

Under current law, many immigrants who enter the country illegally or overstay their visas cannot apply for permanent residence (a “green card”) in the U.S., and instead must finish the immigration process abroad.  Unfortunately, just leaving the country—even to pick up a visa sponsored by a family member—automatically makes the intending immigrant subject to a penalty for their “unlawful presence,” potentially separating them from their family for up to ten years.

For some, but not all, the penalty can be waived.  Before this new rule, immigrants could be stranded outside the country for weeks, months or even years while waiting for a decision on whether they could return to their life in the United States. And all that time, the immigrant was stuck abroad, usually with no legal way to return.  Many families endured the emotional strain, financial hardship and dangerous conditions. Others simply were unwilling to take the risk.

The new rule means that many immigrants will leave the United States, knowing in advance that their case will probably be approved, and they could be back with their families—as a legal resident—in a matter of days.

2.      Who can apply under the new rule?

Only applicants who are an immediate relative of a US citizen (spouses, parents and certain children) can apply at this time, though the rule may later be expanded to other relatives.

The applicant must be physically present in the United States, and not already have a scheduled interview at a U.S. consulate abroad.  Also, the provisional waiver is only available if the sole issue holding up a case is unlawful presence.  Applicants who have criminal issues or other immigration violations cannot use the provisional procedure.

Individuals who are in immigration court or who have an order of removal or voluntary departure may not qualify unless they get special permission from the government and a court order resolving their case.

To be successful, applicants must show that denying the case would be an extreme hardship to their qualifying relative(s); the impact on the immigrant doesn’t count.  Hardship factors can include family separation, economic hardship, medical issues, country conditions abroad, and any other difficulty or harm faced by the qualifying relative(s), if the waiver isn’t granted.

3.      What does it mean that the waiver is “provisional?”

Even if a waiver is granted, the approval is “provisional.”  As a practical matter, this means that the government has reviewed the case and believes that the waiver should be granted, but there is no guarantee that a case will be successful if facts change or new information comes to light.  For example, if an applicant had previous immigration violations or criminal history, the provisional waiver will be revoked.

If any new issues arise, and the applicant is still eligible for a waiver, he or she will be able to re-apply using the existing process, but will have to wait abroad for a decision on their case.

4.      When can I apply?

The new rule goes into effect on March 4, 2013, and no filings will be accepted before that date. You can only apply for a provisional waiver after an immigrant petition has been approved.  If you haven’t filed yet or you’re still waiting for a decision on a pending petition, you can’t apply for the provisional waiver—yet.

5.      What else do I need to know about provisional waivers?

A provisional waiver is not a legal status, and even an approved waiver doesn’t provide work authorization, a social security number or a driver’s license. Having a provisional waiver will not protect you from deportation or any other consequences of being in the country illegally.

If an application for a provisional waiver is denied, there is no appeal.  If you have more or better evidence to prove your case, you can re-file, with a new filing fee. Remember, not everyone can be sponsored or qualify for a waiver, and just as importantly, not everyone needs a waiver.

6.      Do I need to work with an attorney?

The immigration process can take months, even years, and government filing fees and other expenses are significant—it’s best to know your options before investing time and money.  A thorough legal consultation should look at all aspects of your immigration history to find the best solution for your family, not just evaluate eligibility for a provisional waiver.

Always work with a licensed immigration attorney.  Never trust legal advice from an unregulated consultant or notario. Consider consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer before starting the process to make sure that you qualify, and that stateside waiver processing is the best solution for your immigration case.

Additional Resources

Always turn to reputable sources for immigration advice and information about new developments. Finding an AILA lawyer is a good place to start. Members listed on meet legal education and malpractice insurance requirements, and have been AILA members for at least two years.

AILA Immigration Lawyer Referral Service

AILA Resources for Stateside Waivers

USCIS Resources on Provisional Waivers

Consumer Protection for Victims of Immigration or Notario Fraud

Written by Laura Lichter, AILA President

My Friday Night CNN Debate With Kris Kobach

Kris Kobach, anti-immigrant restrictionist lawyer and Kansas Secretary of State, claims to know something about immigration law, but in our Friday night CNN debate he was able to do little more than throw around phrases like “backdoor amnesty” and “illegal aliens”.  The subtext of these words is sinister–that America is under a Latino invasion which threatens our culture, language, and way of life.    Fixing America’s badly broken immigration system is not part of Kobach’s plan.  What he and his ilk want is to put an end to immigration, period.  And since they have no helpful plan for America, restrictionists like Kobach rely on ethnically charged words and phrases—like the ones used by Kobach on CNN.

Not surprisingly Kobach failed to articulate even a single immigration policy solution.  He started off by making the patently false claim that the proposed processing tweak announced by the Administration on Friday is “phase two” of an “amnesty”.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  In fact the proposed change will make it possible for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply for a family unity waiver while in the U.S.   It’s a technical adjustment that will keep American families safe and together during administrative processing.

And contrary to what Kobach said, not one letter of the law was changed.  The immigrants it would affect get nothing to which they were not already entitled.  To obtain the family unity waiver, applicants must still meet the strict letter of the law which requires they prove that family separation will cause their American citizen husband or wife extreme hardship.  Currently, these immigrants must spend months, even years, abroad waiting for the bureaucracy to process their waivers.  The proposed change will permit the waiver request to be decided stateside.  It will alleviate bureaucratic delay and reduce processing backlogs at U.S. embassies abroad.  It’s good government pure and simple.

At some level Kobach must have understood he couldn’t seriously argue with a processing fix that promotes legal immigration, keeps American families together, and protects the integrity of our borders.  Realizing he had nothing of substance to add to the debate, Kobach concluded with the phrase “we can all agree”, words used by those who know they not only have lost the argument but are on the wrong side of the issue with the listening audience.  It’s a time tested debate trick designed to fool the viewers into thinking he and I were not that different.

Fortunately we are.

I advocate for an immigration policy that protects American families, keeps the U.S. globally competitive, and restores civil liberties.  Kobach wants to spread the same climate of fear he helped create in states like Arizona and Alabama which have enacted hate filled anti-immigrant laws he helped write.

Newt Gingrich’s Immigration Plan: The Devil Is In The Details

I’d like to think that Newt Gingrich, the current GOP front runner, has come out squarely in favor of a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Not because I support his presidential candidacy, but because rejection of mass deportation as a solution to America’s broken immigration system raises the level of the national debate about immigration. At least he’s not ginning up the same old sound bites about securing the border and building fences.

But, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, Gingrich’s proposal falls far short of what is needed to fix the broken immigration system. In fact, his idea would lead to the mass deportation of millions of people and the demise of scores of American families.

The cornerstone of Gingrich’s plan is the so-called “citizen review panels” which would consider whether an undocumented immigrant’s personal circumstances merit a reprieve from deportation. Gingrich likens the idea to the draft review boards of the World War II era.

But listening carefully to Gingrich it becomes clear that under his plan very few undocumented immigrants would even qualify to go before the review panels. Only those that have been in the U.S. for more than 25 years would be considered, even if they have compelling equities such as U.S. citizen relatives, a record of paying taxes, good moral character, and a consistent work history.

A recent report by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that of the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only 35% have been in the U.S. 15 years or more—even less have been in the country for more than 25 years. That’s more than 7.8 million people who, according to Gingrich, would be targeted for what he calls “dramatically easier” deportation. It’s not clear what Gingrich means by that ominous phrase, but I imagine it doesn’t include much due process and fairness.

Yet Gingrich’s proposal shines when compared to Mitt Romney’s. Romney suggests that undocumented immigrants, all 12 million of them, should turn themselves in, be given a transition period to get their affairs in order, and self-deport. It’s obvious that Romney hasn’t a clue when it comes to fixing the broken immigration system. Romney bases his proposal on the idea that the undocumented—many of whom have close family ties to America—can simply go home, get in line, and return legally. He obviously doesn’t understand—or worse, doesn’t care—that the broken immigration law includes a myriad of daunting legal obstacles which prevent undocumented immigrants from returning to America and their families for at least a decade or more. His proposal is as ridiculous as it is unworkable.

On the other hand, Romney and Gingrich both argue forcefully for an immigration policy that will attract the best and brightest to America—the innovators, entrepreneurs, and scientists. On this point—although neither would likely admit it—both GOP front runners agree with President Obama. Recalling a time when America opened its doors to highly skilled immigrants to shore up its competitive edge, President Obama has called for innovation, education, and rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. This  necessarily implies an immigration policy that keeps America open for business.

But what neither Gingrich nor Romney seems to get is that high skilled professionals and creative entrepreneurs won’t come to the U.S. if we do not fashion an immigration policy that restores and protects due process. Just ask the scores of business people and scientists who have been stymied by an overly restrictive immigration bureaucracy or targeted for special registration and prolonged security checks over the past decade. (Note: you may need to contact them via email or Skype because many have immigrated to other, more welcoming, countries).

The subtext of the current immigration debate is that undocumented immigrants won’t do what they should to gain lawful immigration status. This assumes that compliance with the immigration law is as easy as filling out a passport application at a local  post office. What none of the candidates seem to understand is that under the current law there is simply no way for most unauthorized immigrants to comply, as much as they might want to, whether they remain the U.S. or go back to their native countries.

Nevertheless, Gingrich’s proposal, as deeply flawed as it is, recognizes that wholesale removal of 12 million is not a solution.  And, if nothing else, that position is a welcome addition to a Republican immigration debate that has thus far been limited to little more than sound bites about border security, boots on the ground, and fences.

Iowa Poll Shows Likely Caucus-Goers Favor Immigration Solutions, Not Pat Sound Bites

Remember Pete Wilson? JD Hayworth? Tom Tancredo?

That’s what I thought.

These guys are a few of the politicians whose anti-immigrant agenda played a big part in the demise of their political fortunes.  And the list continues to grow.  Just ask former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of Arizona’s SB1070, the “show me your papers” law, who was thrown out of office last month by his own constituents.

So it comes as no big surprise that some of the most conservative voters in the country—Iowa caucus-goers—are, according to a report in NPR, “open to policies that help foreign-born young people educated in the U.S. to enter the workforce, as well as those that help companies hire seasonal and permanent employees for vacant jobs Americans are not filling.”  They also strongly support increasing opportunities for highly-skilled legal immigrants and entrepreneurs to come to the United States.

When you look at these numbers you begin to understand why GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich declared his support for a more humane immigration policy—one which includes a pathway to lawful compliance for the millions of undocumented foreign nationals in the US.

Unlike Mitt Romney, his chief rival for the nomination who continues to pander to the restrictionist fringe, Gingrich’s remarks on immigration have been deftly aimed at the centerist—dare I say more reasonable—Republican voters.  Gingrich understands that America’s economic and social future depends on an immigration policy which attracts the best and brightest to America’s shores and which includes a common sense, humane approach to bringing the scores of undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the sunshine of American life.  In a GOP primary that has offered little more than inane blabber about “amnesty”, “fences”, and “boots on the ground”, Gingrich offers a refreshing perspective.   Though his proposal is still very flawed, he is challenging his party and Republican voters to consider solutions to the nation’s immigration problems rather than pat sound bites.

How then does this explain the Rick Perry’s fall in the polls? Didn’t his moderate approach to immigration, including his support for instate tuition for undocumented immigrants, severely damage his presidential campaign?

No, not so much.

The collapse of Perry’s candidacy has more to do with his debate gaffes and other missteps, not his stance on immigration. Simply put, Perry lost his front runner status because he was not ready for prime time, not because of any one particular issue.

The Iowa poll shows that Americans—liberal, moderate, and conservative—overwhelmingly support a common sense approach to immigration.  This is consistent scores of other studies conducted by pollsters over the years.  American voters long for a modernized immigration system that will create jobs for American workers, protect American families, and restore American due process and fairness.

Politicians who choose to ignore this do so at their own peril.

Something’s Happening Here…

Written by: Tony Weigel, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

What it “is” is becoming more clear. We pro-immigration advocates have a lot of work to do.

Our country has had an ongoing policy war over immigration since its inception. This history includes both positive and negative periods, each influenced by the day’s politics, economics, and the varying attitudes this “nation of immigrants” has harbored towards its more recent immigrants.

For some, the current debate is helplessly and hopelessly fixated at the border. Candidates for public office talk of “front door” and “back door” immigration policies without acknowledging they are both attached to the same “house.” Our country has failed to fundamentally address the immigration needs of our economy, yet many of our leaders have embraced the flawed logic that walling ourselves in from the world and adopting and vigorously enforcing draconian laws at the federal and state levels will end unauthorized immigration. These efforts have not only failed to spur federal legislative action, they have paralyzed those with the legitimate responsibility and ability from acting. For example, since 2007, Congress has twice failed to pass the DREAM Act by only a handful of votes.

Among those seeking our country’s highest office in 2012, there is little serious discussion about reasonable immigration policy solutions. The current administration has failed to affect significant, positive reforms, legislatively or administratively, has steadfastly advanced programs like Secure Communities and indiscriminately ramped up enforcement. Republican contenders have failed to effectively defend or advance positive solutions. In the words of former political strategist for George W. Bush and ABC News political consultant, Matthew Dowd, “You can’t have a thoughtful conversation about it in the Republican Party right now. You’re either [former U.S. Rep. and anti-immigration advocate] Tom Tancredo, or you’re for sanctuary cities.” The failure of Republican debate participants to speak out against a proposed policy of electrocuting human beings reflects that tragic, political reality.

We as AILA members are all participants in the current chapter of our country’s immigration history. The good news is that we have several shining examples of the kinds of work that can and should be done to change the storyline.

  • AILA leader Laura Lichter recently served on a prominent, ICE Advisory Task force.
  • DC-area member Paromita Shah, Associate Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, has been engaged at a high-level in opposing Secure Communities.
  • A group of 13 members: Debbie Smith, Vikram Badrinath, Stephen Manning, Russell Abrutyn, Cynthia Aziz, Aaron Tarin, Kimberly Herrera, Rebecca Sharpless, Farrin Anello, Socheat Chea, Eli Echols, Mark Barr, and Andres Benach, have worked tirelessly on amicus briefs in opposition to state laws in Arizona, Utah, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
  • 135 AILA members in 31 states have volunteered to represent young adults through the AD2 program.  A group of 9 senior AILA members, organized by Mo Goldman, serve as mentors to the group.
  • Iowa member Lori Chesser has served as a leader in the Iowa Immigration Education Coalition, which has brought together a broad coalition in support of positive immigration policies.

The opportunities to make a difference are out there and the resources to help write the rest of the present chapter are at our fingertips. AILA offers a variety of great tools to advocate for better policies. Additionally, the Immigration Policy Center develops and maintains a wealth of information and critical analyses of the misinformation driving today’s bad policy decisions. Changing the tone and tenor of today’s debate requires reaching out to our communities, making meaningful connections, and helping educate those in the media and others about facts to counter the tide of fear.

We all have things we must do to pay the bills, but it simply makes me sick to read stories like those coming from Alabama, and it incenses me to hear the top leaders of a major political party recklessly use the bigoted words “illegals” and “anchor babies.” The time to act is now.

Please do.