New York Times profiles DREAM Act Advocate

The New York Times has published a compelling profile of Isabel Castillo, a 26-year-old woman who was brought to the United States illegally when she was 6 years old.

Ms. Castillo graduated from college with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  Despite her talents, achievements, and her 20 years in the United States, Ms. Castillo has no legal status in the United States.

The DREAM Act, a bill that remains pending in Congress, would have given legal status and a chance for citizenship to Ms. Castillo and others like her – people who were brought to the United States illegally at a young age who then attend college or serve in the U.S. military.

You can find the article here.

Congress investigates USCIS delays in new processing program

Congress is looking into a delayed program to computerize the immigration application process.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is heading the “Transformation” program, which began in 2007 with a budget of $536 million and a plan to automate the paper-based application process by 2013.

So far, $630 million has been spent, current cost estimates have ballooned to $2.2 billion, and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

In a February 16 letter to the Director of USCIS, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, wrote, “I’m concerned that very few improvements have been made since the Government Accountability Office reported to Congress in 2007 about the Transformation initiative. . . . The GAO and the inspector general have noted that ‘efforts to modernize . . . have been unfocused, conducted in an ad hoc and decentralized manner, and in certain instances, duplicative.’ “

You can read the complete article here.

Opinion: On immigration, demography is destiny

Demography is destiny, according to political commentators Steve and Cokie Roberts.  In an opinion column, they note that confronting the reality of our nation’s immigration situation requires politicians to have an “adult conversation” about some difficult issues.

Recently, two key senators — Democrat Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — took some early steps to “test the political will” in both parties for grappling with immigration. “Who knows,” said Schumer, “we might surprise everyone and get something done.”

Republicans would be wise to consider their own political self-interest.  In 2010, Hispanic voters provided key margins for victorious Democrats in at least three states: California, Nevada and Colorado.

If demography is destiny, the power of minority voters is only going to grow.

As Steve and Cokie Roberts write, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is married to a Mexican woman, told fellow Republicans last month: “It is important to realize that the Hispanic population, which is the fastest-growing population in the country, will also eventually be the fastest-growing population of voters. It would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote.”

Read the opinion piece here.

Texas police chiefs oppose immigration bills

The El Paso Times reports that Texas police chiefs and sheriffs have declared their opposition to state legislators’ attempts to make them act in the role of immigration officials, saying that law enforcement officials, not politicians, know how to maintain safety in communities.

Police chiefs from many parts of Texas, including El Paso, Dallas, McAllen, San Antonio, and Austin, recently traveled to the state Capitol to denounce the Arizona-style legislation, which they say would take their deputies and officers out of neighborhoods and require more spending, at a time when legislators are already reducing funding to deal with budget deficits.

The officers said that the proposed legislation could cost taxpayers millions of dollars to detain undocumented immigrants in state jails, pay for officer training and defend any lawsuits that might arise.  The officers also said that the proposed legislation would destroy the trust that police officers have established with their local communities, making people less willing to cooperate with police.

Read the entire article here.

Report: Immigrants boost Michigan’s economy

Immigrants to Michigan provide an overall benefits to the state’s economy, according to a report published by the Michigan League for Human Services.

Highlights from the report include these key points:

• Immigrants are responsible for 33 percent of all hightech startups, making Michigan third among all states in producing new high-tech business opportunities.

• In 2006, 22 percent of the international patent applications from Michigan listed a foreign-born resident as one of their key inventors, ranking Michigan 8th in the nation.

• During the 2008-2009 year, foreign students contributed $592 million to the local economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses.

• In 2008, 37 percent of the Michigan immigrant population had a college degree, an increase of 27 percent since 2000.

• 44 percent of all engineering master’s degrees and 62 percent of engineering doctorates are awarded to foreign-born students in the state.

• Michigan stands to lose over $3.8 billion in economic activity, $1.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 20,000 jobs with the removal of all unauthorized workers from the labor force.

Congress members discuss immigration reform

High-ranking members of the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, and Senators Lindsey Graham, Charles Schumer, and John McCain, are setting immigration reform legislation as a priority for this session of Congress.

A spokesperson for Senator Durbin recently indicated that Democrats now plan to reintroduce the DREAM Act in this session.

Click here to read an article about the senators’ comments.

Opinion: Pass the DREAM Act

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and undocumented DREAM-Act eligible youth Gaby Pacheco present compelling arguments for the DREAM Act, a bill in Congress that, if passed, would allow certain persons who were brought to the United States unlawfully at a young age to get on a path to legalization if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military.

Trumka and Pacheco outline some of the most important reasons why the DREAM Act should be passed.  Please read their opinion piece here.

Report: Flawed implementation of immigration policies

The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, recently published a report studying a federal law that allows the federal government to delegate enforcement of immigration laws to state and local officers.

Named for Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the so-called 287(g) Agreements allow state and local officers to ask people their immigration status, detain people for alleged violations of immigration laws until the federal government takes custody, and issue charges that begin the process of removing people from the United States.

The report concludes that under the 287(g) Agreements, many state and local officials are not focusing on finding and removing people who have committed serious crimes, but rather are spending approximately half of their resources on identifying and detaining people who have committed misdemeanors and traffic offenses.  The report further concludes that the program is implemented very differently in different parts of the United States.

The report calls for a review of the program to ensure consistent implementation of 287(g) Agreements across the United States, and to focus primarily on serious criminal offenders rather than on people who have committed minor crimes or traffic offenses.

You can read the full report here.