Archive for the ‘State & Local Immigration Rules’ Category.

Governor O’Malley Moves Baltimore City Away from Secure Communities

shutterstock_176840825At a time when Federal stalemate and local hostility prevents us from giving practical help to the 11 million souls in our midst without a country, I am proud to live and practice law in a state led by a governor who practices what his faith preaches.

Governor Martin O’Malley took a strong stand on behalf of the undocumented when he advocated and signed into law in Maryland a bill guaranteeing in-state tuition for undocumented students.  Now he has come forward again, and announced an end to the use of the ironically-named “Secure Communities” program at the Baltimore City Jail.

If I were to criticize Governor O’Malley at all in this context, it would be for taking so long to take this step in the first instance. This program is anything but secure for communities.  It separates children from their parents, forcing state and local governments to step in and spend time and resources doing the parents’ work at the expense of other families.  It has led to the deportation of individuals who offer no threat to our national interest at all, and who have violated little more than traffic laws.  Even worse, it has led to the under-reporting of far more serious, even violent, crimes, from fear of being accidentally caught in a deportation system whose own resources are so overwhelmed that it can no longer adequately discriminate between those who deserve mercy and those who do not.

But, rather than focus on criticism, it is more appropriate, especially at this time of year, to focus on praise.  As Christians celebrate Easter, and Jews observe Passover, it’s worth noting that both faiths support the struggle for freedom, and the good to be found in sheltering those among us who are strangers and sojourners.   In ending the “Secure Communities” program in Baltimore, Governor O’Malley has honored his faith as a Catholic, and upheld his belief in America as a promised land for everyone.

Written by Cynthia Rosenberg, Chair, AILA D.C. Chapter

California on Immigration—Great Steps Forward and New Requirements for Immigration Attorneys

shutterstock_89347900Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills last week that will make a huge difference for many immigrants.  “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Governor Brown said. “I’m not waiting.”  The bills are mostly positive, but one creates new requirements for AILA members practicing in California.

First, undocumented immigrants in California will be able to obtain driver’s licenses which is great news, not just for immigrants and their families, but also for many law enforcement agencies and insurance companies who supported such a measure for safety and security reasons.  This isn’t likely to be instantaneous; according to reports, the licenses are expected to become available to immigrants no later than January of 2015.  However, there is talk that the licenses could become available as early as late 2014.  They also won’t be just like other licenses, instead they will have a special designation on the front and a caution that the document is not a form of identification at the federal level; a sort of scarlet letter.  California isn’t alone; my state joins ten others that already had similar measures.  But California is the biggest state to pass a bill like this; an estimated 1.4 million drivers are expected to apply for the licenses during the first three years.

Governor Brown also signed the TRUST Act—which will prohibit local law enforcement from detaining immigrants charged with minor crimes in order to let federal authorities know about them for immigration violations.  If an immigrant were charged with a serious offense, then they could be held for 48 hours and transferred to federal authorities for potential deportation.  We’re delighted that Governor Brown signed the TRUST Act, along with bills allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses and one that criminalizes employers who “induce fear” by threatening exposure of a person’s status as someone who entered the country illegally.  AB 524 prevents employers from using the reporting threat to stop workers from complaining about workplace abuses, unsafe working conditions and wage theft. SB 666 allows an employer’s business license to be suspended or revoked for retaliation against workers based on immigration status.  Governor Brown also vetoed a bill that would have allowed noncitizens to serve as jury members.

So those were all big steps forward for immigrants and advocates.

Governor Brown also signed AB1159, a bill that was of tremendous concern to AILA.  The law’s intention is to protect potential victims of immigration fraud.  At its onset, AB1159 sought to regulate the practice of Immigration Law in California.  AILA raised major concerns about the bill earlier in the summer when the state legislature was taking up the measure, including the fact that some requirements could endanger attorney/client privilege, make it more difficult if not impossible for lawyers to offer pro bono or low cost services, and even prevent lawyers from advising clients on how changes in the law might impact their case or how to prepare for change.

Due to the staunch advocacy led by the California Chapter Chairs, AILA’s Executive Committee, and many AILA members, AILA was able to correct the misguided efforts of the California State Bar and the bill’s authors. After long negotiations, the bill’s author agreed to take out the onerous requirements against Immigration Attorneys, while continuing to tighten requirements against immigration consultants and notarios.

AB 1159 prohibits Immigration Attorneys from entering into contracts relating to Immigration Reform before the law is actually signed into law by the President.  AILA carved out an exception for preparatory and investigatory work, like requesting FOIA’s, background checks, and post-conviction relief.  If money has been collected by an attorney for a law that does not exist, the attorney must refund the money or place it in an attorney/client trust fund.

Additionally, AB 1159 requires all attorneys that enter into contracts relating to an Immigration Reform Bill to inform the client where they can report complaints.  The California State Bar will create the document, translate it into various different languages, and post it on their website.  After reaching this compromise, AILA withdrew its opposition to the bill.

The bill also increased the amount of bond that immigration consultants must carry from $50,000 to $100,000 as of July 1, 2014.  It also prohibits the use of the term “notario,” which has been misconstrued as someone who is qualified to give legal advice.  The bill also provides that a person who violates the ban on the use of the term “notario” is subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day for each violation.

While the bill is far from perfect, AILA remains at the forefront of promoting ethical lawyering and preventing the unauthorized practice of law.  AILA has been advocating against the unauthorized practice of law way before it became politically expedient to do so.  AILA will continue to monitor other state legislatures for similar bills and reach out to legislatures to ensure the best method in which to combat immigration fraud at all levels, including the new fraud frontier – internet notarios or “net-tarios.”

An Open Letter to Gov. Jan Brewer

September 26, 2012

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

On August 15, 2012, you issued an Executive Order which barred those individuals eligible for Deferred Action (DACA) from obtaining driver’s licenses or other state benefits. After a fiscal analysis, I can only conclude that this decision was based upon your personal vendetta against President Barack Obama. Besides having no basis in federal or state law to issue this executive order, your policy will cost the state and businesses millions of dollars.

Had you or your advisors conducted an unbiased cost-benefit analysis, you would have likely concluded that this program will have a profoundly positive impact on a number of industries in our state, along with making our streets safer and saving Arizona resident’s money. Before I go any further, I must confess that I am no economist and my calculations may be considered rudimentary to some, but it will definitely make logical sense.

Let’s start from the basics: There is an estimated 50,000-80,000 individuals in Arizona who will qualify for DACA. A driver’s license for applicants age 16-39 is $25.00. Using the low-end estimate of individuals, which would mean the state is bound to earn $1.25 million in driver license fees. Let me add that these individuals will only get work permission from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for two years and then have to apply for renewals. That means the state will collect $1.25 million, or more, every two years!

In order to qualify for work permission under DACA, all applicants will have to undergo a strict vetting process by DHS. Candidates who will qualify must undergo background checks, been physically present in the United States for at least five years, and provide clear evidence that they have either completed high school or are currently in school. Many have already taken college courses or completed their post-secondary schooling. Therefore, we are talking about a class of individuals that are educated and will provide a benefit to the lagging Arizona economy. Rather than taking jobs from U.S. citizens, they will help expand the growth of businesses and spend their hard-earned money in the state.

Who else is bound to gain from the issuance of drivers licenses to DACA grantees? Insurances companies, car dealers, gas stations, automotive service stations, car washes, and pretty much any business that is not near a bus stop. Arizona is not exactly known for its excellent public transportation systems. Therefore, getting from point A to point B can be difficult without an automobile. According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), one in eight Arizona drivers are uninsured. According to IRC, Arizona has the fifth highest percentage of uninsured motorists at 22% of the population. Insurance companies are bound to gain more customers and benefit their businesses when new drivers can either lease or purchase cars. There will be a trickle-down benefit to gas stations, tire and brake repair, and many other related industries.

The economic benefits to DACA are considerable and I have attached a report from the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council, which provides raw data of these benefits. This includes tax benefits, expansion of investments, more spending and an increased incentive to fulfill educational goals. Nobody loses from this program and the state is missing a golden opportunity. This program only helps a narrow group of persons and, contrary to what you believe, will not be a magnet for others to enter the country without documentation.

Assuming you have made it to this point in my letter and your eyes are not completely glazed over, I want to make a final legal point. There is no doubt that the state is bound to lose money in litigation costs, and ultimately will lose in the courts, as your policy conflicts with state law and the federal REAL ID Act. More wasted money on behalf of taxpayers, more image problems and less tourism.

In order to function in society we must compromise, and sometimes make decisions that are against our core beliefs. I believe that your advisors are misleading you on the issue of immigration and particularly in the benefits of this DACA program. The benefits of this program to our state far outweigh the costs that we will incur if your executive order remains in place. Therefore, with the utmost respect, I ask that you lift this executive order and allow the economic boon that this program will bring to our state to become a reality.

Thank you and God bless America.

Written by: Mo Goldman, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

Why saying “I do” still receives unequal treatment under Federal Immigration Laws

Last month, as I read Justice Scalia’s scathing dissent in Arizona v United States, I wondered what he’ll be thinking when he hears oral argument in the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The premise of Scalia’s dissent was that states have the right to control their borders. It seems logical then that Scalia, and those who claim to cherish state sovereignty, would likewise conclude that the regulation of marriage is also a matter appropriately left to the states. Why then is it that when it comes to immigration benefits for same-sex couples, state laws which recognize same-sex marriage are resoundingly trumped by the federal law which does not?

The answer is DOMA and its infamous limitation of marriage to unions between “one man and one woman” which puts family-based immigration benefits – such as green card sponsorship – beyond the reach of same-sex couples.

To be sure, the Obama Administration has made clear its support of same-sex marriage. This past May the President gave his public endorsement, explaining that he “had hesitated on gay marriage in part because [he] thought that civil unions would be sufficient.” His views continued to evolve, he said, because marriage “invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”

Yet despite the Administration’s evolution toward support for same-sex marriage, including Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision not to defend DOMA in litigation, American families in same-sex marriages continue to receive unequal treatment under our archaic immigration laws causing needless suffering and fear of separation.

Last week Jane DeLeon, an immigrant from the Philippines, challenged the constitutionality of DOMA as applied to deny immigration family benefits. In 2008 DeLeon married her long time US citizen partner. She is eligible for an employment-based immigrant visa, but requires a waiver due to a previous immigration violation. The waiver is available to immigrants such as DeLeon where the denial of her lawful permanent residency would cause extreme hardship to her US citizen spouse. In DeLeon’s case the waiver was denied solely because she is married to a woman even though, under state law, the woman is her wife.

Due to our broken immigration system a same-sex marriage recognized under state law means nothing. Same-sex couples remain at the mercy of an antiquated and functionally mean spirited statute and they will so remain at least until the Supreme Court addresses the constitutionality of DOMA.

On the Spanish program “Aqui y Ahora” recently, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “There is nothing more critical than keeping families together.” Yet how many more American families will be torn apart before the sanctity of same-sex marriage is no longer sullied by DOMA and its impact on our immigration laws?

Renewing the Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

On June 15, 2012, President Obama took a bold step by supporting DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s memo offering deferred action to certain young undocumented immigrants who have been victims of congressional politicking.

The President’s action will enable over 800,000 individuals to come out of the shadows and fully participate in our society. There may be teachers, doctors, lawyers, firefighters, social workers, soldiers, and athletes among their ranks. They will pay taxes, get car loans, buy homes, provide other essential services and strengthen our diverse economy when we need it the most.

Building on the President’s momentum, on June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that we may not have a patchwork of immigration rules and regulations in these United States of America. The Justices rejected the core of the divisive Arizona SB 1070 and held it as unconstitutional. Only one section of the law was upheld and the Justices left the door open for future litigation on whether it leads to racial profiling.

As a result of these recent developments, immigration has arrived front and center in this Presidential election year as a key issue for the electorate to consider before they cast their ballots. According to a recent Gallup poll, immigration policies ranked between 3rd or 6th in importance to U.S. voters, depending on how they were asked the question.

Not too long ago, immigration was a bi-partisan issue. Most Americans including business, religious, and civic groups had long held the view that immigration was a net gain for the country. Indeed, America’s citizenry is composed of virtually every nationality, race, and religion. Over the centuries, our diversity has been the source of great strength economically and otherwise.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have witnessed prominent members of Congress change their positions on immigration matters due to pressure by some fringe groups. This despite the Administration’s record on increased border security and removal of non-citizen criminals from the United States.

So what gives? Why did the last major expansion of our immigration policy occur over a quarter of a century ago? Why are we spending so much of our time and money to separate law-abiding bi-national families? Why are we exporting highly educated foreign scientists to India and China upon their graduation from U.S. universities? Why are we blocking capital flight from overseas due to our antiquated visa system? Why is the narrowest of the immigration bills – the DREAM Act -  still stalled in Congress? Why do our Congressional leaders sometimes behave like kids in a school yard, but with a gavel?

I do not have a logical answer to any of these questions, but certainly a nation that roared in unison and demanded that Mr. Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall is at odds with its culture when it wants to build its very own version of the wall – and electrify it in the process. It’s our destiny as Americans to work together and come up with a just and comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system. It’s time for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Written by: Ally Bolour, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

Arizona’s Exceptional and Extremely Unusual Hardship

On Monday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared “victory” in the Supreme Court’s ruling on Arizona v. United States. This revelation came in spite of the fact that the Court held 5-3 to strike down three of the four key provisions in Arizona’s SB 1070 law. Brewer still rejoiced as the Court unanimously found that, while not explicitly upholding the provision, it was too premature to enjoin the “papers please” section 2(B). Brewer exuberantly declared:

Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the

rule of law. It is also a victory for the 10th Amendment and all

Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility 

of states to defend their citizens. After more than two years of

legal challenges, the heart of SB 1070 can now be implemented

in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

What was the reward for her “victory”? The Obama administration called and raised her in this high-stakes game of poker. As Governor Brewer was in the process of publicly celebrating, the Department of Homeland Security was preparing to announce that they would only send immigration officers to the scene of a traffic stop if the individual came within the Department’s enforcement priorities. The Department also partially terminated their 287(g) agreements with Arizona law enforcement agencies. These actions by the administration left the “heart” of SB 1070 on life support and had Brewer declaring that Obama’s immigration policy was a message to Arizona – that they should “Drop Dead.” The decision from SCOTUS and these pronouncements by the administration should put the other states considering copycat laws on notice.

With these actions, SB 1070 is looking more and more like a toothless insidious law lacking the punch it once was purported to have by its drafters. While many in Arizona are still distressed with the enactment of section 2(B) and the potential for racial profiling, there is undoubtedly going to be litigation against the state which will test the constitutionality of the provision as applied. The Justice Department has taken a proactive measure by setting up a federal hotline for the public to report potential civil rights concerns regarding the Arizona law. The phone number is 1-855-353-1010. The email is SB1070@usdoj.gov.

There is an irony to all the talk by those supporters of SB 1070 regarding the “rule of law.” The fact is that the current immigration laws are the true source of this legal mess and many immigrants have little to no options in actually following the law. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Arizona has placed its own law enforcement in a similar position with the “papers please” provision. If they enforce the law they’ll get sued, if they don’t enforce the law they’ll get sued.

So, who really won on Monday? It is tough to declare a winner in this battle between Arizona and the United States. There are too many people who lose because of Congress’s inability to enact legislation that could help resolve these problems without a drawn out legal fight. The financial, human and emotional toll that this ongoing conflict has on the public is impossible to calculate. Therefore, we should declare neither President Obama nor Jan Brewer the true victors in this struggle. The true victor: the legal system, which will undoubtedly remain active with more immigration challenges in the coming months.

Written by: Mo Goldman, AILA Media-Advocacy Committee

Alabama’s Nuremberg Playbook

Written by: G. Vernon Leopold

Eighty years ago I was a child in Germany, where my family had lived for generations.  My father, a decorated officer of the German Air Force, who had proudly served his country in World War I, could never have imagined that in just a few years he would be singularly focused on saving our lives.

Last summer Alabama adopted its Public Law 56 or, as it’s commonly known, HB56; a law that under the guise of controlling illegal immigration will deny undocumented immigrants employment, housing, schooling, and other rights and benefits equal to those guaranteed to its other residents. In effect, if not in intent, Alabama’s law closely follows the playbook of the racially restrictive decrees that the Nazis initiated in Germany beginning with Hitler’s takeover in January 1933 when the Nazis started to throw undesirable “Non-Aryan” Jewish Germans into concentration camps.

Since brown skinned Latinos comprise a visible minority in Alabama, HB56 now empowers, in fact requires, Alabama law enforcement officers to profile and detain as “suspicious” without warrant Latinos regardless of citizenship status if they are unable to identify themselves on demand as lawful U.S. residents. And as the Nazis’ Nuremberg laws that progressively restricted and then barred German businesses from employing Jews and Jewish households from engaging “Aryan” domestics, Alabama’s HB56 imposes heavy penalties on employers of undocumented aliens.  Like the Nuremberg measures in Nazi Germany that revoked the licensure of “Non-Aryan” professionals such as Jewish physicians, judges and lawyers and barred them from receiving pension benefits, HB56 bars unauthorized foreign nationals in Alabama from employment as teachers, from admission to public schools and universities, and from receiving health and welfare benefits. And like the Nazis’ measures that in 1938, in line with their earlier Nuremberg laws, had decreed the mass, overnight deportation of all Polish Jewish residents from Germany, HB56 now mandates the summary deportation of undocumented aliens from Alabama.

For the time being, enforcement of Alabama’s HB56 is stayed on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. But unless this racially targeted law is voided as unconstitutional by the courts, where will Alabama’s legal mayhem of civil rights and due process end?56 court o

The Nazis built their state of terror gradually and deliberately though propaganda, violence, mixed with colossal perversions of the rule of law. By the end of 1938 through violence, fines and confiscation the Nazis had progressively destroyed or seized all Jewish-owned property.  By 1944 they had deported and murdered six million Jews. It took millions more in American, and allied lives during World War II to stop Hitler’s calculated attempts to render Europe “JUDENREIN”—free of Jews.  Hopefully the U.S. courts will put a stop to Alabama’s legislative effort to make its territory “LATINO-REIN”.

Mr. Leopold, a retired lawyer, is a graduate of Harvard Law School who in 1938 (at the age of 15) fled Nazi Germany with his family, came to the U.S. as a refugee, and enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served in the European theater in the most decorated platoon in World War II.

March Sadness

Originally posted on Huffington Post

“Where’s your Green Card! Where’s your Green Card! Where’s your Green Card!…”

That was the despicable taunt that met Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez during the first-round NCAA tournament game between Kansas State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Never mind that Rodriguez, a native of Puerto Rico, is a U.S. citizen. His surname and brown skin were enough to lead Southern Mississippi band members to put on an ugly display of prejudice, humiliating themselves and their university.

It goes without saying that the incident should be investigated and the perpetrators disciplined. Southern Mississippi has since publicly apologized to Rodriguez. Such bigotry has no place anywhere in America, least of all on a university campus.

But can we really be surprised by the horrid display of anti-Latino prejudice? Is it not the foreseeable result of the coded hate-speech of the anti-immigrant restrictionists who day after day use the Internet, print media, and airwaves to disseminate their message of hate aimed at Latinos? The nativist restrictionists are a coalition of hate groups which rely on myths, half-truths, and bald-faced lies to frame the immigration debate in foul racist terms. They’ve concocted the grand myth of a “Latino invasion” — hordes of brown people streaming over America’s southern border to spread disease, crime, poverty, and every other social ill imaginable.

The modern day nativist movement began as a relatively obscure “population control” effort. In the 40 years since it has grown into a network of associations, groups, and so-called “think tanks” and “legal institutes” many of which are linked to a small cadre of people, including nativist John Tanton, whose disturbing ties to white supremacists and white ethno separatists have been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Their common purpose is to stop further diversification of America by ending immigration; particularly Latino immigration. To achieve this ugly goal, they’ve carefully masked their policy proposals with nuanced terms like “immigration time-out” (end all immigration, legal and unauthorized) or “reinterpretation of the Constitutional Citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment” (eviscerate core principles of American democracy). To vilify and dehumanize Latinos, the nativist restrictionists have succeeded in incorporating racially charged terms like “illegal alien” and “anchor baby” into the mainstream of American discourse. Today such obnoxious words are commonly found in the mainstream print and electronic media and have become largely accepted as part of the American vocabulary.

This year the nativists have played an increasingly prominent role in the presidential primaries, running slick ads and endorsing candidates. Nativist lawyer Kris Kobach, one of the main authors of Arizona’s infamous “papers please” anti-immigration law, publicly joined Mitt Romney’s campaign team advising him on immigration issues. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who, according to a recent Department of Justice report, has used his office to engage in a pattern and practice of civil rights abuses in Latino neighborhoods in Maricopa County, has also endorsed presidential candidates and was spotted prominently seated at the Arizona Republican presidential debate earlier this month.

Is it surprising then that the hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric with its thinly veiled anti-Latino messaging has metastasized like a cancer into the minds of some of America’s youth? Yet as ugly as the display at Southern Mississippi was, it also presents an opportunity — a national teaching moment — especially since it happened as the Mississippi state legislature was passing its version of the Arizona and Alabama anti-immigrant laws.

As Americans we should welcome and encourage a robust and frank discussion about immigration policy and how to make it work so that it protects and expands job opportunities for American workers, keeps our economy globally competitive into the 21st century, and restores due process. But we must remove hate from the discussion and replace it with tolerance, open-mindedness, and respect. If we do that then perhaps a promising American athlete like Angel Rodriguez will no longer be forced to endure racist jeers aimed at the color of his skin and the name the back of his basketball jersey.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

“Self Deportation”? Inconvenience For Us All Won’t Be Enough

Last month, I noticed this piece on the Bloomberg web site highlighting the practical effect of Alabama’s “strictest in the Nation” state-level immigration law on Alabama’s citizens.  The article vividly illustrates what it takes to enact what Kris Kobach and other anti-immigration advocates call “attrition through enforcement” – or what Mitt Romney recently called “self-deportation” – the idea that 11 million immigrants without status can be convinced to leave the US voluntarily, if only we make it hard enough for people without status to live in the United States.

As the article makes clear, the only way to make life too difficult for immigrants without status to bear is to turn every “transaction with a citizen,” in the words of Alabama’s HB56, into an immigration checkpoint.  In other words, the only way to make life in the US difficult for those immigrants is to make life equally difficult for ordinary Americans:

In one month, [Mobile County License Commissioner Kim] Hastie’s office handed out 332 temporary vehicle registrations to legal Alabamians without proper paperwork. There were 152 in all of 2010. Fewer than five people in the country illegally were turned away, she said.

Thwarted citizens got mad: “They’d say, ‘I’m not a Mexican. Do I look Mexican to you?’”

One World War II veteran had no birth certificate, an expired driver’s license and a military identification that the county couldn’t accept, she said.

“He was so mad he was yelling,” Hastie said. “He said, ‘I served my country and I can’t register my car?’”

Alabama’s requirement that any person prove his or her legal status in order to do business, of any kind, with the state government has proven to inconvenience Alabama’s US citizen residents almost as much as it inconveniences the 2.5 percent of the population who live there without authorization – probably more, in fact, since Alabama’s US citizen residents are required to transact business with the government much more often than the relatively few unauthorized immigrants do.

It wasn’t until I heard this week’s edition of This American Life, however, that I really began to appreciate what “self-deportation” will really require.  Transacting business with the government, after all, is hardly a daily event,  whether we are here legally or not.  Merely requiring ID and proof of legal status to license a dog or get water service for a new house is unlikely to make life hard enough that someone without status will want to leave.

What self-deportation is going to require, if it is to work as its proponents say it will, is for all of us, every day, being willing to cut ourselves off – economically and socially – from our neighbors.  We will have to ask everyone we need to deal with for their papers before we sell them groceries or even offer them the sign of peace in church.  And, if we are Latino, or speak with an accent, we will have to prove our legal status every day to everyone we meet.  Jack Hitt, who authored the piece, put it this way:

Every Latino person, legal or illegal, whom I spoke to noted at some point that there’s just something hateful in the air now. Before the law, they felt accepted. They had American friends. They didn’t feel out of place.

Now when they go to a store, every single one of them told me they feel that people are looking at them weirdly, like, what are you still doing here? When the law changed to make them less welcome, they actually became less welcome, in a day-to-day, “passing you on the street” sort of way.

When considered in terms of tax dollars, “self deportation” would, indeed, cost less than having the government arrange deportation of 11 million people (around $285 billion).  The human and economic costs on the communities in which these immigrants live – splitting up families, disrupting businesses whose workers and customers leave, destroying whole towns – are the same.  The human cost to all of us, however, as we must harden our hearts and demand “papers” from every one of our Latino fellow-citizens, from every person we encounter who “looks foreign” to us – that is a price I pray our country decides it never is willing to pay.

Year End Immigration Roundup And What To Expect In 2012

When it comes to immigration, 2011 will be remembered as the year Alabama enacted HB56, the most mean spirited state immigration law in U.S. history. It targets Latinos and other people of color and effectively mandates racial profiling by state law enforcement agents. Since it went into effect last Fall, Alabamans have been victimized by due process violations, acute shortages of essential workers, and the creation of a climate of fear which has led many Latinos—legal and illegal—to flee the state. The media has been full of graphic images of produce rotting in unattended Alabama fields and idle machinery abandoned amid the flight of terrified workers. Alabama officials have been repeatedly embarrassed by the shocking arrests of foreign auto executives detained by local law enforcement for failure to produce immigration papers. As 2011 draws to a close, Alabama politicians, including Governor Robert Bentley, who signed HB56 into law, are seriously considering dropping its most draconian sections.

If Alabama’s HB56 dominated the immigration developments in 2011, Arizona’s SB1070 will be sure to dominate in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Obama Administration’s constitutional challenge to Arizona’s immigration law, enacted in 2010 but temporarily blocked by the courts. The effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling on immigration policy—and beyond—should not be underestimated. Should the Court strike down SB1070 it will reaffirm, in a loud and clear voice, that immigration policy is exclusively a federal matter, inextricably tied to the idea of the United States as a sovereign nation. However, should the Court uphold SB1070 other states will certainly follow Arizona’s and Alabama’s lead, resulting in a disparate patchwork of state immigration laws throughout America. The challenge then may no longer be limited to the federal government’s plenary power to regulate immigration, but to the very idea of the United States as an indivisible nation. Stay tuned.

2011 will also be remembered as the year of immigration enforcement. Nearly half a million people were deported from the U.S., undercutting those that claim the Administration has not enforced the law. To the contrary, President Obama—for better or worse—has deported more illegal aliens than any president before him, including his predecessor, George W. Bush. But amid all the removals in 2011, Obama tried a new, potentially very effective tool—common sense immigration enforcement. In a policy announced in June, the Administration directed ICE to focus its energy on the deportation of violent criminals, drug dealers, and terrorists. And while Obama cannot grant citizenship to any undocumented immigrant, he can certainly direct immigration agents to use their common sense in enforcing the law.

As 2011 draws to a close the big question remains: When, if ever, will Congress overhaul America’s broken immigration system; or even pass the DREAM Act, which would help promising undocumented youth earn their way to lawful status. But 2012 is an election year, and the reality is that the politicians in Washington will not touch an issue as explosive as immigration reform.

In the meantime, Americans can only hope that whomever they send to Washington in November will roll up their sleeves and get to work on an immigration policy that creates American jobs, protects American families, restores due process, and ensures America’s competitiveness in a global economy.