Immigrant Rights News -- Fri, August 25, 2006
Immigrant Rights News -- Fri, August 25, 2006
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1. Associated Press, "DHS to Share Immigration Data with Local Departments"
2. Houston Chronicle, "Immigration hearings poorly attended"
3. Time magazine, "A Third Way on Immigration Reform"
4. Los Angeles, "Illegal Immigration Dominates Meeting of U.S., Mexican
DHS to Share Immigration Data with Local Departments
Posted: August 21st, 2006 10:35 AM EDT
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to unveil an
information-sharing program next month to give local law enforcement access
to federal immigration data.
Homeland Security and the FBI are working to electronically combine their
records on criminal and immigration offenders, said Robert Mocny, acting
director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology
The program's first initiative will be announced in September, and is
expected to offer state and local law enforcement more access to immigration
information, Mocny said on a panel discussing immigration issues at the
annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures last week.
"What we hope this program will do is provide that one-stop shop, where
you'll see that person's criminal and immigration history," Mocny said.
Mocny said information sharing can be complicated by privacy concerns, and
that interaction with state and local law enforcement will be handled by the
U.S. Department of Justice.
The US-VISIT program collects biometric information like fingerprints and
digital photographs from foreigners seeking entry into the United States.
The system is in place in 311 air and sea ports and U.S. consulates abroad,
The program has led to the arrests of more than 1,350 wanted criminals, or
people using false papers trying to enter the country.
Those arrested include "murderers in California, drug couriers in Florida
and an illegal alien who was in federal penitentiary and escaped," Mocny
Mocny acknowledged that greater information sharing "sounds like something
that should have been done long ago." But technological and administrative
hurdles prevented much of that information sharing until the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, he said.
The US-VISIT program applies to travelers between the ages of 14 and 79.
"We tell people: 'We want you to come to the U.S., we want you visit our
sights and our schools, but we want you to leave on time and respect our
laws,'" Mocny said.
Aug. 25, 2006, 2:03PM
Immigration hearings poorly attended
By ALLISON HOFFMAN Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press
SAN DIEGO — With immigration reform legislation stalled indefinitely, the
congressional hearings on the issue that attracted overflow crowds around
the Fourth of July have now fizzled with disinterest leading into Labor Day.
Most Americans paid little attention to the two dozen House hearings held
around the country during the last two months. Many families have been on
vacation, and the news has been dominated by war in the Middle East, the
foiled terror plot in London and an arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey murder
"People don't pay attention to these things, except the C-SPAN junkies,"
said Gary Jacobson, an expert in congressional politics at the University of
California, San Diego. "It's not surprising that it's fizzled."
Democrats and immigrant groups have questioned the need for the hearings
because such meetings are typically held before legislation is passed _ not
after. Critics call the hearings an election-year tactic to delay
negotiations on the competing immigration bills passed by the House and
Many House members have shown waning interest in the meetings, preferring to
campaign during the August recess or go on vacation, Jacobson said.
A hearing in San Diego drew just two congressmen, even though it is a border
city often described as a crucible of immigration politics. Another
gathering in Dalton, Ga., attracted just three representatives.
A sparsely attended hearing in El Paso, Texas, was held in the dark and
rebroadcast on C-SPAN with a note reading: "This hearing was held in a
theater with lighting problems."
Another gathering scheduled for Friday in upstate New York was canceled with
one week's notice. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee blamed logistical
difficulties getting members to the meeting from a panel in Concord, N.H.,
that took place the previous day.
Some Republicans consider the hearings a success.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the meetings allowed lawmakers "to
hear testimony from local people, as well as to talk with them informally."
But even some who agree with the House GOP's hardline stance against illegal
immigration gave mixed reviews to the hearings, which generally involved
Homeland Security officials, academics and activists discussing the issue.
Ron De Jong, spokesman for the activist group Grassfire.org, said he would
have liked more accessible venues and an opportunity for audience members to
"I would have provided a forum for citizens to speak," De Jong said. "Give
them 90 seconds."
House GOP leaders called the hearings to highlight differences between the
enforcement-only bill that the House passed in December and a Senate bill
approved in May, which would establish a guest worker program and a path to
citizenship for many who are in the country illegally.
The first hearing outside Washington, held at a Border Patrol station in San
Diego, attracted a host of lawmakers and an overflow crowd of more than 200
people. At the time, many lawmakers hoped for hearings in their home
Hearings were scheduled as far afield as Yuma, Ariz., Evansville, Ind.,
Hamilton, Mont., and Selfridge Air National Guard base, near Detroit.
The final House panel is Sept. 1 in Dubuque, Iowa. The Senate has also held
As lawmakers prepare to reconvene after Labor Day, prospects for a
compromise are cloudy.
Two conservative Republicans, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Rep.
Mike Pence, R-Ind., proposed a bill in late July that they hoped would start
negotiations between the House and Senate.
The bill would set up privately run "Ellis Island" centers outside the
United States. Illegal immigrants would have to leave the country and apply
at the centers to return on work visas. But those would not operate until
after the president has certified to Congress that the border is secure.
Associated Press writer Beverley Wang in Concord, N.H., contributed to this
Friday, Aug. 25, 2006
A Third Way on Immigration Reform
Time is running out for Congress to pass real reform before the elections.
But a commonsense plan from an unlikely Congressman may be gaining momentum
By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.
In politics, a wedge issue is a terrible thing to waste. That's why the
conventional thinking is that Congressional Republicans will run out the
clock and not touch immigration reform until after the mid-term elections.
But not if Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN, has anything to say about it. The
three-term congressman has become a major player in this debate by devising
a common sense compromise that, Pence believes, still has a chance to break
the legislative logjam between competing House and Senate bills.
"I think there is both time and opportunity to come up with a third way,"
Pence told me over the phone last week.
There is time, but not much. Congress only has about two weeks of scheduled
legislative days left before it adjourns for the fall campaign.
We could have predicted that an issue as emotional and as contentious as
immigration reform would go down to the wire. But what was not so easy to
predict was that Pence, despite his solid conservative credentials, would
become a thorn in the sides of some of his fellow conservatives.
To listen to the rhetoric of Republican hardliners who seem to find as much
value in a sound bite as in a solution, and others who pander to nativists,
Pence has gone soft on illegal immigrants. He did it by coming up with a
plan that House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner — another
key figure in the immigration debate — uncharitably described this week as
Rubbish. That characterization is untrue — and unfair.
And no one knows that better than Sensenbrenner. A few weeks ago, during a
meeting with the Chairman, I asked him how he would define amnesty. He
settled on this: "excusing the illegal entry and illegal presence in the
country through the payment of a fine (in exchange for) ultimate permanent
residency or U.S. citizenship."
Sensenbrenner thinks that illegal immigrants have to go home. And what do
you know? Under the Pence plan, that?s exactly what they have to do.
For the first two years after the plan is adopted, the emphasis would be
securing the border with more border patrol agents and enhanced technology.
Then comes a guest-worker program that would require illegal immigrants in
the United States to briefly return to their home countries to register at
privately run centers where they would be issued work visas that could be
renewed every two years for up to 12 years. For the next five years, they'd
be given a more permanent visa. And then, after 17 years in the program,
participants could apply for U.S. citizenship.
The congressman gained an important ally in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of
Texas, who has added her name to the plan. It was Hutchison who suggested
that participation be limited to those who come from countries that partner
with the United States in the NAFTA and CAFTA trade agreements.
Now Pence may have picked up the backing of an even more valuable ally:
President Bush. The President met with Pence this summer and, according to
White House officials, came away "intrigued" with the Hutchison-Pence plan.
Illegal Immigration Dominates Meeting of U.S., Mexican Border Governors
By Miguel Bustillo
Times Staff Writer
August 25, 2006
AUSTIN — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his counterparts from
Texas, Arizona and New Mexico made stopping illegal immigration a central
theme at their annual meeting Thursday with governors from Mexico's border
The focus on illegal immigration at a gathering typically dominated by
nonconfrontational topics such as boosting trade and cleaning up the
environment underscored the increasing desire of American politicians to
show that they are doing something to address the issue in an election year.
"We had some serious discussions in the private meeting. Border security
issues were at the top of the list," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a
Republican who has been touting tougher measures against illegal immigration
as he campaigns for reelection.
However, even the ceremonial speeches by regional leaders from the two
countries were marked by differences over how to make the border more
secure, a politically volatile issue on both sides of the frontier.
"The immigration problem is not one that is born on our border," said Gov.
Eduardo Bours Castelo of the Mexican state of Sonora. "What we need is to
improve economic opportunities throughout our country."
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a
Democrat, introduced a resolution calling for all 10 U.S. and Mexican border
governors to fight criminality along the border, including drug smuggling
and illegal immigration, instead of waiting for their federal governments to
do the job.
At the same time, the resolution called for the governors to stand against
the prolonged presence of the U.S. National Guard along the border, and said
it was the responsibility of federal leaders in Mexico and the U.S. to
address the root economic causes of illegal immigration.
Perry and Schwarzenegger also used the event to ask the federal government
to continue increasing border security funding, saying that bolstering the
law enforcement presence on the U.S. side is clearly showing results.
The annual conference of the four American and six Mexican governors — from
the states of Sonora, Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and
Tamaulipas — who share the U.S.-Mexico border are typically sleepy affairs.
But this year's event in the Texas capital, taking place Thursday and today,
is somewhat different because of election-year politics and the nation's
renewed emphasis on illegal immigration.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was greeted as a guest of
honor during the opening ceremony inside the wood-paneled chambers of the
Texas Senate, and he reiterated President Bush's push to add 6,000
additional Border Patrol agents by 2008.
Chertoff called on the border governors to continue cooperating to stop
"These groups try to operate in the shadows between our governments,"
Chertoff said of human smugglers, adding, "By working together, we are
seeing real progress in apprehending these men."
Immediately afterward, Juan Bosco Marti, the director of North American
relations in Mexico's Foreign Ministry, sought to clarify that the Mexican
government was acting to stop illegal immigration. But he also made clear
that it believed the path to slowing illegal immigration was through
economic improvements in his country, and he promoted building more ports of
entry and other tools to increase trade.
"More bridges and fewer walls are needed," he said.
Although the event was largely peaceful, the California Nurses Assn., one of
the governor's most dogged political opponents, protested a noon
Schwarzenegger fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel. Meanwhile, Code Pink,
the antiwar group, attempted to "arrest" all four American border governors,
arguing they had tacitly supported the militarization of the border.
Perhaps the most awkward political moment Thursday came when Perry said he
had spoken with Felipe Calderon and offered his support for the man he
called the president-elect of Mexico.
Calderon's opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, continues to challenge the
results of the election, and some Mexican governors immediately sought to
distance themselves from Perry's embrace of Calderon.
Amid questions from Mexican journalists, Perry later said that he was merely
following the customs of his own country, where it is common to pay respect
to the candidate that officially garners the majority of the vote.
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