December 31, 2006
Immigrants Share the Fight in US Military
Just in from AILA, by Margaret Stock, For NewsUSA, Guest Commentary;
"(NU) - America's all-volunteer military is distinguished by a patriotism that knows no borders and is shared by immigrants whose service is essential to the mission.
In fact, immigrants make up 3 percent to 4 percent of today's armed forces. They are loyal to America and heed the call to fight for the principles of freedom and democracy just as native-born soldiers do. For noncitizens who can meet requirements to enlist and serve honorably, serving in the U.S. military offers a unique path to citizenship.
Foreign-born soldiers play a special role in the military. The United States is a global power, and to project that power effectively, the military needs soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with diverse backgrounds - including the ability to speak many different languages and understand other cultures and societies.
In the fight against terrorism, immigrants enhance the U.S. military by understanding the languages and societies in which our troops are fighting. That's because most native-born Americans lack the linguistic and cultural expertise needed for mission success in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Immigrants also help preserve the all-volunteer force. In wartime, it is especially difficult for the U.S. Armed Forces to find enough qualified people - particularly when the military must compete for recruits with other government agencies and the private sector. If the armed forces were to refuse immigrant enlistments, they would not meet their need for highly qualified enlistees. Even a draft would not provide a ready source of recruits who speak Arabic, Dari, Pashto and other strategic languages.
Immigrant soldiers have been critical to American success in every war. They have been eligible to enlist since the Revolutionary War and have served with great distinction.
Alfred Rascon was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who served in the military and won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War. He later became a U.S. citizen. General John Shalikashvili was promoted to the highest ranks of the U.S. military. The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to the United States from Poland shortly after World War II.
Serving in the military is a time-honored path to citizenship: Immigrants prove their allegiance to their new homeland and integrate more quickly into American society. Their service carries on a proud and unquestioned tradition in our nation of immigrants".
Margaret Stock is an attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association; Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police Corps, U.S. Army Reserve; and Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
December 30, 2006
Immigration Policy Hurts US Farming Industry
Just in from AILA; By Eli M. Kantor, For NewsUSA, Guest Commentary
"(NU) - The American farmer is an essential part of America's history and future. What many of us don't often think about is the fact that behind every American farmer and harvest is a community of immigrants who perform the arduous labor that is required to pull, pick and prepare that harvest for our use and enjoyment.
This year, our nation's farmers are facing severe labor shortages due to outdated immigration laws that do not match modern day economic realities. A recent study by the American Farm Bureau Federation indicated that cutting off illegal immigrant labor could cost U.S. agriculture up to $9 billion in production losses, a cost that would inevitably be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher food prices.
Affected farmers know firsthand that our nation's immigration system is broken, and they warn that if the system is not fixed, eventually the high-quality, locally grown foods that Americans want will no longer be available.
A group of lettuce growers who previously harvested crops in California is just one example of farmers who have shut down operations here and moved their business to Mexico. These growers say that if they cannot get the help that they need here, they will go where the workers are.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented immigrants fill as many as 25 percent of all farming jobs in America. However, many of this season's crops have been left rotting in states like California, Idaho and Washington because the growers are crippled by the inability to find the workers they rely on to fill these jobs.
Their principal labor supply is drying up due to tightened border security, active enforcement of internal regulations and an increase in the activity of vigilante groups, all of which threaten undocumented workers with incarceration and eventual deportation.
Farmers don't want to have to rely on an undocumented and vulnerable immigrant work force. But our immigration system fails to provide an adequate, workable visa program by which seasonal workers can enter the U.S. legally. The American Farm Bureau Federation supports legislation that "provides a workable temporary worker program which would address agriculture's needs for an adequate and reliable legal work force." Farmers need and deserve a stable, legal labor supply.
Congress failed to responsibly fix our immigration system by passing an ineffective and symbolic "fence bill" instead of enacting comprehensive immigration reform. As the farmers who are losing their business along with their labor force know, America's agricultural industry cannot survive so long as Congress resorts to enforcement-only immigration regulation.
They support immigration legislation that will help undocumented workers come out of the shadows, earn legal status and fully become part of society so they can continue to contribute to the economic and social wealth of the nation".
Eli M. Kantor is an attorney in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif., and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
December 29, 2006
Satirical Web site targets Mayor for views on illegal immigration
From The News Bizarre, Dec. 24, 2006;
"HAZLETON, Pa. — A satirical new Web site pokes fun at Mayor Lou Barletta by claiming he has banned Santa Claus, "the nation's most prominent undocumented worker," from the city.
Playing off the mayor's recent crackdown on illegal immigrants, the Web site says Barletta has launched a campaign against the jolly old elf, who is "not an American, nor is he legally recognized for residency or occupational purposes in this country."
Barletta attracted national attention earlier this year when he pushed through a tough, first-of-its-kind law targeting illegal immigrants, who the mayor says have committed crimes and drained tax dollars in the northeastern Pennsylvania city of 31,000 people.
The law, which a judge has blocked pending a legal challenge, penalizes landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and employers who give them jobs.
Barletta wasn't amused when he learned about the Web site this week, referring it to state police because it solicits online credit card donations.
"Santa Claus is welcome in Hazleton as he's welcome everywhere," Barletta told Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes show. ``Whoever created the Web site obviously has too much time on their hands.''
The Web site was registered in October to an Emeryville, Calif., group calling itself No Santa For Hazleton.
December 28, 2006
Brokaw: Indisputable points in the immigration debate
'Tom Brokaw Reports: In The Shadow of the American Dream'
• Dec. 22, 2006 | 8:52 a.m. ET
Indisputable points in the immigration debate (Tom Brokaw, NBC News)
In our report on illegal immigration Tuesday night, December 26, at 8 p.m. on NBC, "Tom Brokaw Reports: In the Shadow of the American Dream," several points are indisputable:
· In many parts of the country immigrants are doing the work Americans no longer want to do, especially the hard work of manual labor at construction sites.
· In our reporting we discovered that most of them are paid a fair wage — $14.00 an hour for an entry level construction job, and that they are paying state and federal taxes through withholding. (Sure, some employers pay cash off the books but most we encountered are trying to play by the rules).
· While local residents are conflicted about the spreading Hispanic culture - language and music - they agree the immigrants are very hard workers and in general have good family values.
· But it is also clear the immigrants are straining the public and health systems without paying their fair share.
· They live in overcrowded, often sub-standard housing in clear violation of local laws.
· They're brazen about acquiring forged documents — from Social Security cards to driver's licenses — to get work.
· And, most important, this complicated problem won't be solved until Mexico becomes a reliable partner in improving its own economy and enforcing the rules at its border.
We can build a high fence, send illegals back, crack down on employers and it won't end because it is about survival and a piece of the American dream, a powerful lure for immigrants from all over the world for 200 years.
It is a growing problem and it requires urgent action in Congress because in the meantime all the pressure is on local law enforcement, school and health administrators and employers.
A sovereign nation must have control of its borders and a great nation must have a systematic, legal way of filling its labor needs.
In an upcoming "Tom Brokaw Reports," airing Tues., Dec. 26 at 8 p.m., Brokaw travels to an unlikely place where the debate over illegal immigration is raging — the Colorado Rockies. NBC News spent eight months reporting on the myths and truths about illegal immigration in this pristine stretch between Aspen and Vail, a historically white population that has seen an influx of thousands of Hispanics, mostly from Mexico. The hour-long documentary follows a booming economy attracting illegal workers willing to do unskilled labor, questioning what happens to American culture and America's laws when hundreds of thousands of people enter the country illegally.
December 27, 2006
Texas Comptroller Concludes that Undocumented Immigrants Provided Substantial Financial Benefit to State Economy
The Office of the Comptroller for the state of Texas this month released a report detailing the net financial benefit provided to Texas by undocumented immigrants. The report concludes that these undocumented immigrants contributed $17.7 billion to the gross state product of Texas, exceeding by nearly half a billion dollars the amount spent by the state for education, healthcare and other services to such immigrants. These findings directly contradict the conclusions of two recent reports which found the costs of undocumented immigrants to exceed revenue. The Comptroller attributes this discrepancy partly to the fact that at least one, if not both of those reports relied on population estimates based on outdated data from 1994, as opposed to the current, more accurate data used in the Comptroller's report.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the Texas Comptroller, stated that this report marks "the first time any state has done a comprehensive financial analysis of the impact of undocumented immigrants on a state’s budget and economy, looking at gross state product, revenues generated, taxes paid and the cost of state services." She added that "(t)he absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion. Undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received." The report identifies education as the largest cost factor spent on state services for the undocumented, while sales tax and other consumption taxes and fees constituted the largest share of revenue generated by this group.
You can find the full report on the Texas State Legislature's website; http://www.cpa.state.tx.us/specialrpt/undocumented/undocumented.pdf
December 26, 2006
Germany's IT Industry Calls for Immigration Point System
In Technology, 18.12.2006;
"As experts meet for Germany's first ever information technology summit, Germany's IT industry has called for urgent reforms to the national immigration laws to help meet labor shortages.
"We are calling for the introduction of a point system based on criteria for qualification, age and language skills," said Jörg Menno Harms, vice president of Germany's Federation for Telecommunications, IT and New Media (BITKOM) in an interview with German national radio, Deutschlandfunk.
He was speaking ahead of Germany's first national IT conference, which is being sponsored by the German government and is being held in Potsdam, near Berlin.
Harms said anyone who fulfilled the criteria set out in the points system should be allowed to stay in Germany on a long-term basis.
Firms already suffering from lack of qualified staff
A recent BITKOM survey found that the lack of skilled labour was adversely affecting fifty percent of German IT companies...".
December 25, 2006
Early 2007 to Provide Window of Opportunity for CIR
When the 110th Congress convenes on January 4, 2007, comprehensive immigration reform will take a prominent place on the legislative agenda of both chambers. Given the Senate's prior experience with CIR, members of the Senate may move fairly quickly and could have a draft bill ready for consideration in committee within the first couple months of 2007. The House timeline is less certain. Having considered enforcement-only legislation during 2006, members of the House lack experience with the complexities of the issue and the necessary components of comprehensive reform. As a result, the House may need to hold hearings that could require more time or set them on a different course than their counterparts in the Senate.
The first months of 2007 represent an extraordinary window of opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration advocates will need to act quickly to educate new and returning members, and to sustain the pro-CIR momentum generated during the midterm elections and in the wake of recent ICE raids at Swift & Co. facilities. AILA and our coalition partners are taking action to push for change. But we will need your help to advocate on a local level and demand that Congress fix our immigration system in a humane and comprehensive manner. To participate in our strategic campaign to realize CIR, keep reading the Pulse and check in at our Congressional Action and Information Center in early January, when new member contact information and committee assignments should be finalized.
December 24, 2006
Letter thanking Mario for advocacy on immigration reform
On behalf of the AILA Advocacy Department, I am writing to thank you for your dedicated work and to update you on AILA’s efforts to secure effective relief from the H-1B visa cap and employment-based (EB) green card backlogs.
As you know, the 109th Congress adjourned last Saturday without enacting H-1B and EB relief measures. The two-week lame duck session presented particular legislative and political constraints that made passage of any legislation extremely difficult. In his attempts to attach the H-1B and EB measures to a larger bill, Senator Cornyn faced procedural obstacles that were made even more difficult to overcome when some in the Senate voiced concern over the substance of the relief provisions. With a fresh start in the 110th Congress, we are hopeful that our renewed push for relief in early 2007 will meet with success.
Thanks to the efforts of committed AILA members this autumn, we succeeded in showing members of Congress that there is wide-ranging support for H-1B and EB relief. We intend to renew these advocacy efforts as Congress finalizes new committee and subcommittee assignments in early January, and we hope to present the 110th Congress with a letter signed by 1,000 companies calling for relief (starting, of course, with the 900+ companies that have already signed on). We will be in touch in early January to update you on our plans for making H-1B and EB relief a reality.
Thank you again for your unflagging advocacy efforts.
Associate Director of Advocacy
December 23, 2006
attorney for a CSS/Newman (LULAC) applicant
I received your question;
I am an attorney for a CSS/Newman (LULAC) applicant. The denial is based upon the CIS not accepting the supporting documentation as sufficient or verifiable. Some of the supporting documents were submitted on forms created by INS for Legalization. We are appealing the denial.
Could you supply me with 1) a copy of the Settlement; or 2) other documentation which may help in this matter.
Meg, contact Peter Schey Attorney re CSS/NEWMAN/LULAC/LIFE for a copy of the Settlement or other documentation at 213-388-8693 x 104 or at his e-mail of email@example.com
December 22, 2006
NATIONAL LATINO ORGANIZATIONS EXPRESS CONCERN ABOUT RECENT IMMIGRATION RAIDS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Dec 21, 2006
Contact: Diana Tejada or Flavia Jiménez at(202) 785-1670
Washington, DC - Four of the leading national Hispanic advocacy organizations in the United States - the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) - this week released the text of a letter to President Bush expressing their concern following the raids earlier this month at Swift & Company plants.
The text of the letter follows:
December 20, 2006
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our deepest concern and alarm over the recent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at Swift & Company plants. It has been reported that more than 1,200 individuals have been taken into ICE custody and detained at facilities throughout the country, and some have been removed from the U.S. These raids have separated families, closed factories, and slowed the economies of entire regions. Yet the raids have not significantly reduced the size of the undocumented immigrant population, and have not rooted out unscrupulous employers who hire and exploit immigrant workers. Surely this is not a convincing way to resolve our country s real immigration problems.
While we respect your authority to enforce immigration laws, as Latino organizations we have serious concerns about the manner in which these most recent raids were conducted. Various news reports and accounts from members of the community have claimed that racial profiling was used to single out workers for questioning; furthermore, we have reports that lawful permanent residents were detained. Furthermore, we understand that authorities prevented family members, clergy, and legal representatives from communicating with those detained, including in situations which could affect the health and safety of their family members. We are especially concerned for the children of those detained. In the short term, the children must be housed, fed, and clothed. In the long term, these children face the reality of a future separated from their parents, or living in a foreign country that is not their own. This is simply an unacceptable outcome, destructive to the lives of individual families and entire communities in several states. In all cases, government agencies must respect the due process rights of all individuals, and ICE must take into account the welfare of the children, elderly relatives, or other dependents of those detained.
Perhaps the greatest irony of the Swift raids is that Swift was attempting to obey the law faithfully. As a participant in the Basic Pilot program, Swift was required to verify the documents of each of its employees. ICE has proven that the Basic Pilot is not effective in cases of identity theft or document fraud, and even employers who abide by the rules are likely to lose their workforce and struggle to replace it with authorized workers. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, the current enforcement strategy is simply inadequate.
Ultimately, these raids were carried out in the service of an immigration system which the country believes and your Administration agrees is broken. The Swift raids provide additional evidence that Congress and the Administration must work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. But as that debate unfolds, it seems especially cruel to invest enforcement resources in a strategy which maximizes the human cost of our broken system, while doing nothing to correct the sources of the problem.
We urge you in the strongest possible terms to rethink your immigration enforcement strategy and invest in tactics which maximize effectiveness while minimizing harm to families and communities.
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
cc: Michael Chertoff, DHS
All Content © 2006 NCLR. All Rights Reserved
ORGANIZACIONES LATINAS NACIONALES EXPRESAN PREOCUPACIÓN SOBRE RECIENTE REDADAS DE INMIGRACIÓN
PARA DIFUSIÓN INMEDIATA, 21 de diciembre del 2006
Contacta: Diana Tejada o Flavia Jiménez al(202) 785-1670
Washington, DC - Cuatro de las principales organizaciones hispanas de defensa de los derechos civiles a nivel nacional en los Estados Unidos- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund y el Consejo Nacional del la Raza (NCLR por su siglas en inglés)- difundieron el texto de una carta al Presidente Bush expresando preocupación por las redadas que tomaron lugar en las plantas de Swift & Company anteriormente en el mes.
El texto de la carta a continuación:
20 de diciembre de 2006
Estimado Sr. Presidente:
Le escribimos para expresar nuestra profunda preocupación sobre las recientes redadas que oficiales del Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, por sus siglas en inglés) efectuaron en las plantas de Swift & Company. Se ha reportado que más de 1,200 individuos están detenidos bajo la custodia de ICE en varios lugares del país y que algunos han sido deportados de Estados Unidos. Estas redadas han separado familias, cerrados plantas, y han desacelerado las economías de regiones enteras. Sin embargo, las redadas no han reducido el tamaño de la comunidad indocumentada de manera significativa. Tampoco han podido detener a empleadores sin escrúpulos de seguir contratando y aprovechándose de trabajadores inmigrantes. Seguramente esta no es una manera eficaz de resolver los reales problemas de inmigración en este país.
Mientras respetamos su autoridad para hacerse cumplir leyes de inmigración, nosotros, como organizaciones latinas, tenemos serios problemas con la manera en que fueron efectuadas las redadas. Varios reportajes y relatos de miembros de la comunidad han alegado que perfiles raciales fueron usados para decidir cuales trabajadores fueran seleccionados para ser interrogados. Además, tenemos reportes que residentes permanentes documentados fueron detenidos y es nuestro entendimiento que autoridades no dejaron que familiares, clérigo, y representantes legales se comunicaran con los detenidos aún en situaciones que podrían afectar la salud y seguridad de sus familiares. En especial, estamos preocupados por los niños de los detenidos. A plazo corto, los niños necesitan de un hogar, comida y ropa. A plazo largo, estos niños enfrentan la realidad de un futuro en el cual estarán separados de sus padres o vivir en un país extranjero que no conocen. Esto, simplemente, es un hecho inaceptable que destruirá las vidas de familias y comunidades enteras en varios estados. En todas estas situaciones, las agencias gubernamentales deberían respetar los derechos del debido proceso legal para cada individuo. Igualmente ICE tiene que tomar en consideración el bienestar de niños, familiares ancianos y otros que dependan de aquellos detenidos.
Tal vez la ironía más grande de las redadas en Swift era tratar de cumplir con la ley como era debido. Como participantes del programa Basic Pilot, Swift era requerido a verificar los documentos de cada empleado. ICE ha comprobado que el Basic Pilot no es efectivo en casos del robo de identidad (en inglés, identity theft) o fraude de documentos. Aún empleadores que siguen las reglas puedan perder números en su fuerza laboral y batallar para reemplazarlos con trabajadores documentados. En la ausencia de una reforma migratoria integral, la estrategia actual de hacer cumplir las leyes simplemente no sirve.
En última instancia, estas redadas fueron efectuadas bajo un sistema de inmigración que el país cree- y que la Administración actual admite- no funciona. Las redadas de Swift añaden evidencia que el Congreso y la Administración tiene que trabajar juntos en un proyecto de ley para aprobar una reforma migratoria integral. Pero mientras se desarrolle este debate, nos parece especialmente cruel que invirtamos recursos para hacer cumplir las leyes con una estrategia que maximiza la cantidad de personas afectadas por nuestro sistema disfuncional mientras no se hace nada para corregir las fuentes de la causa.
Les instamos de manera urgente que vuelvan a pensar sobre su estrategia de hacer cumplir las leyes de inmigración. Igualmente les instamos que inviertan en tácticas que maximicen la efectividad de los recursos federales al mismo tiempo que se disminuya el daño a familias y comunidades.
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC, por sus siglas en inglés)
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF, por sus siglas en inglés)
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO, por sus siglas en inglés) Educational Fund
National Council of La Raza (NCLR, por sus siglas en inglés)
cc: Michael Chertoff, DHS
December 21, 2006
The Perils of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy
One question that recently received heightened attention from lawmakers is whether or not immigrants should be admitted to the United States less on the basis of family ties and more on the basis of the skills they can contribute to the U.S. economy. Today, the most common way permanent immigrants enter the United States legally is through sponsorship by a family member already in the country. By contrast, nations such as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom admit immigrants primarily for employment reasons, based on a point system. Points are assigned on the basis of educational level, professional skills, proficiency in the host country’s language, and other qualities that increase immigrants’ likelihood of integrating into the host country’s labor market.
In the latest report published by the Immigration Policy Center, Kara Murphy of the Policy and Global Affairs Division at the National Academy of Sciences investigates how a similar policy might work if implemented in the United States. She concludes that, although some of the practices associated with a point-based immigration system might benefit the U.S. economy, policymakers should be careful not to assume that such a system would be a panacea for the widespread dysfunction of U.S. immigration policies. She argues, for example, that a point system favoring high-skilled workers does little to fill the need for essential, low-skilled workers in this country, particularly in industries such as agriculture, construction, and services. This becomes increasingly true if current trends hold as expected and the pool of low-skilled native workers continues to shrink as a result of more native-born workers earning college degrees and an aging U.S. population.
Furthermore, Ms. Murphy contends that a point system would multiply the paperwork and bureaucracy required to process applications, worsening the already problematic backlogs that exist. At best, she says, the United States should look to the recent experiences Canada has had using a points-based immigration system, and implement such a system, if at all, only in conjunction with other immigration mechanisms, not to the exclusion of them.
The full report is available on the IPC's website; www.ailf.org/ipc
December 20, 2006
CIR in the 110th Congress: Favorable Conditions Demand Proactive Advocacy
When the 110th Congress convenes on January 4, 2007, immigration advocates will welcome a new mix of legislators that may offer the best chance for comprehensive immigration reform in years. AILA and our coalition partners are moving aggressively to pursue this opportunity, but we will need the help of AILA members to generate momentum and demand that Congress fix our immigration system in a humane and comprehensive manner. To participate in our strategic campaign to realize CIR go to www.aila.org at our Congressional Action and Information Center in early January, when new member contact information and committee assignments should be finalized.
View the Senate's 2006 calendar.
December 19, 2006
Corporate Executives Plead Guilty to Illegal Hiring Practices
More enforcement news from ICE;
News Release, December 15, 2006
SAN DIEGO - Two corporate executives at a California fence building company pleaded guilty Thursday to the hiring of unauthorized alien workers, following a multi-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
As part of the guilty plea, Golden State Fence Company agreed to forfeit $4.7 million gained from its illegal activities. In addition, Golden State's President, Melvin Kay, and Vice-President Michael McLaughlin, will pay fines of $200,000 and $100,000 respectively.
Golden State Fence Company, which builds fences for residential, commercial, and military projects throughout California, was first notified in writing that at least 15 of its employees at its Oceanside officer were unauthorized alien workers following a visit by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials in July 1999.
At that time, Golden State stated they were terminating these employees. However, in September 2004, ICE officials again determined that at least 49 Golden State employees at the Oceanside office were unauthorized aliens. Three of these employees were among those listed in the 1999 notice as unauthorized alien workers.
In June and September 2005, ICE agents observed unauthorized aliens listed in the 1999 and 2004 notices working at the Oceanside office. Then in August 2005, ICE agents inspected Golden State's Riverside, California office. ICE agents again found that at least three of the employees working in the Riverside office were unauthorized aliens who were listed in the 1999 notice as unauthorized alien workers.
In November 2005, ICE agents executed search warrants at the Oceanside and Riverside offices. Agents seized evidence showing these offices engaged in a pattern of hiring unauthorized alien workers. From September 2004 to September 2005, records maintained by Golden State revealed that the company hired more than ten unauthorized alien workers that had been listed in either the 1999 or 2004 notices.
Social security records also showed that hundreds of the names and social security numbers Golden State provided for its employees did not match the Social Security Administration's records.
During the execution of the search warrants, ICE agents arrested 16 employees who were unauthorized alien workers. When interviewed, many of Golden State's former employees stated they were unauthorized alien workers, that Golden State's managers knew they were unauthorized workers and Golden State hired them despite their illegal status.
“This settlement and guilty plea clearly show that employers who knowingly and blatantly hire illegal workers will pay dearly for such transgressions," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE Julie Myers. "In 2006, ICE tripled the number of arrests made in conjunction with worksite-related investigations and we will be expanding our focus in this arena further in the year ahead."
United States Attorney Carol Lam whose office prosecuted this case said, “Employers have long known that it is a federal crime to knowingly hiring illegal aliens. They now also know that we are serious about prosecuting the crime.”
At sentencing, Kay and McLaughlin face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
ICE was assisted in the investigation by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Social Security Administration and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
-- ICE --
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of four integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.
December 18, 2006
Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras at a Press Conference on Operation Wagon Train
Release Date: December 13, 2006
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Secretary Chertoff: Good morning, everybody. I'm joined here by Julie Myers, the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement; by Deborah Platt Majoras, the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; and by George Gaines, the County Attorney for Cache County, Utah.
One thing that I've spoken about and many others in the administration have talked about over the last year is the need to take a comprehensive approach to the issue of illegal immigration. I shouldn't have to remind people this problem has been with us for decades. It won't be solved overnight, and it won't be solved with a piecemeal approach. What's required is a comprehensive approach. And as the President has said, that means stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary worker program.
Now, some of this requires further congressional action. We need Congress to act if there's going to be a temporary worker program. That would be a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program that gives us visibility into who is coming in, has a secure form of identification, and makes sure that the federal government is able to collect and properly allocate all the necessary taxes.
But while we're waiting for Congress to act on a temporary worker program, there are other areas in which we can take significant steps. And we have taken significant steps in order to control this decades-long problem. We've added more boots on the ground at the border. We've added new technology in fencing. We've let our SBI net technology contract, which brings 21st century capabilities to the border, to leverage our Border Patrol assets. And, very significantly, we have ended catch and release at the border, just as we promised we would.
But we've also done some things in the interior, and that revolves around our efforts to substantially increase what we do with respect to worksite enforcement in the United States. We all know that the primary economic engine that draws in illegal migration is work. And when businesses are built upon systematic violation of the law, or others go to systematically violate the law, in order to either bring in illegal migrants or to allow them to find jobs, that is a problem that we have to attack.
As a consequence, we've set a new record this past year for worksite enforcement. During fiscal year 2006, we arrested or charged 716 individuals for criminal violations of our immigration laws. These are charges which, in many cases, have jail terms and substantial financial penalties attached to them. That compares, by the way, with only 25 criminal arrests back in 2002. These cases, I want to emphasize, are not about administrative fines; they are about criminal felony sanctions, with a very real threat of jail time.
In addition to this effort focused on the criminal law, we've stepped up our targeting of criminal organizations and enterprises that support illegal migration by trafficking in false and stolen documents, including Social Security numbers and driver's licenses. This is a serious problem not only with respect to illegal immigration, but with respect to national security. And that's precisely the point made by the 9/11 Commission a couple of years ago, because illegal documents are not only used by illegal migrants, but they are used by terrorists who want to get on airplanes, or criminals who want to prey on our citizens.
And so, as part of this overall strategy of worksite enforcement, we've gotten very focused on the question of those who exploit illegal documents and identity theft in order to pursue illegal acts. So yesterday's enforcement action demonstrates another step in this work site enforcement strategy. A tough stance against worksites that employ illegal aliens and against individuals and organizations that commit or facilitate identity theft or fraud.
As you learned yesterday through raids that were conducted at six facilities for Swift & Company, Operation Wagon Train, which is the product of months of investigation, is targeted at a massive use of document fraud to support illegal work in the workplace. ICE agents yesterday arrested 1,282 individuals as part of ongoing worksite enforcement investigations at six facilities owned by Swift & Company, the nation's third largest processor of fresh pork and beef. Warrants were issued at Swift facilities in six states — Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota.
Of the 1,282 workers who were arrested on administrative immigration violations, approximately 65 were also charged with identity theft-related charges — those are criminal charges — or other similar criminal violations, including reentry. That number may change as the investigation continues and as more individuals get charged with criminal violations in addition to administrative violations.
The investigation began in February of this year. The evidence we uncovered indicates that hundreds of Swift workers illegally assumed the identities of U.S. citizens, using stolen or fraudulently acquired Social Security numbers and other identity documents which they used to get jobs at Swift facilities. I emphasize that the investigation is continuing, particularly with respect to those who facilitated or conspired with others to allow this use of identity theft to support illegal work. So some of the follow-on is going to continue as the investigation matures.
Now, this is not only a case about illegal immigration, which is bad enough. It's a case about identity theft in violation of the privacy rights and the economic rights of innocent Americans. I will tell you that the people whose identities were stolen — and we believe, based on reporting we got at the federal Trade Commission (FTC) — that these number at least in the hundreds. These individuals suffered very real consequences in their lives. These were not victimless crimes.
Let me give you a couple of examples. One victim in Texas stated that his personal information was used by someone else for employment. As a consequence of that identity theft, the victim reported that he was pulled over and arrested on one occasion because the suspect used his identity information to conduct illegal activity. The victim believes the suspect got his information because he lost his wallet. And the FTC information indicates the suspect was working at the Swift plant in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Another victim in Texas reports that the suspect obtained utility accounts and a cell phone account, using her identity information. Suspects have also gained employment at several locations throughout the United States using this identity information. And the victim believes, again, this started as the result of a theft of personal information from a purse. The suspect using this, or at least a suspect using this information, was also working in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Anybody who has ever been a victim of identity theft understands the hardship, and, in fact, the persistent hardship, that follows from this kind of crime, and the hardship that is felt by innocent people. We're working with the Federal Trade Commission to notify all the individuals who have been identified as victims of this scheme of the results of the enforcement action taken yesterday and today.
I want to talk for a moment about one dimension of this case. As the company has indicated, they participated in a program set up by the law called Basic Pilot. And what Basic Pilot does is it allows participating employers to check names and Social Security numbers by perspective employees to make sure that the name matches the Social Security number, and that the Social Security number is, in fact, legitimate and real within the system. That is a very, very useful tool in preventing one kind of use of identity for purposes of illegal immigration and illegal work. But it is not a magic bullet for every kind of problem.
There is a separate problem, a more sophisticated problem, that arises when people actually steal legitimate names and numbers that match together, and then use those stolen identities to get work. So that, while Basic Pilot inoculates a company against one kind of illegal immigration fraud, it doesn't inoculate against all kinds of fraud. There are additional tools that we have to bring into play. The analogy I use is, a polio vaccine protects you against polio, it doesn't protect you against tetanus. You've got to use multiple kinds of vaccines to protect against multiple kinds of problems.
Now, a question that arises is why is it that people are able to get away with using genuine identities and genuine Social Security numbers obtained through identify theft or through the sale of identity in order to get work? In other words, why doesn't Basic Pilot cover this, too? And the answer is, there's a legal obstacle. The law currently does not allow the Social Security Administration to refer to us instances where the same Social Security number is used on multiple occasions in multiple work places as a basis for obtaining jobs.
If we were able to get the legal authority to do this kind of review of information, we could much more readily identify the kind of identity theft and identity fraud that we discovered in this case. We have urged Congress to act to give us this authority. Once again, I call on Congress, when Congress returns early next year, to take up this issue of revising the Social Security rules so we can further protect Americans from identity theft, and protect our borders against illegal immigration.
I might also add that when we get a temporary worker program, if Congress passes such a program, a critical element of that will be a biometric secure credential, which, again, will be a weapon not only in allowing us to fight against illegal migration, but as important, to protect Americans' identities against theft and other identity-related crimes.
Finally, I want to put this into somewhat larger context. While this theft is not, in itself, related to national security, the issue of fraudulent identification is one which, as the 9/11 Commission recognized, poses a homeland security challenge. The 9/11 Commission said — and I'm quoting — "Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people who are who they say they are, and to check whether they are terrorists."
So we have been working very hard to move forward, in general, on this recommendation of the 9/11 Commission with respect to things like our Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative and our Real ID Secure Drivers License Initiative, both of which were passed by Congress in the last few years. Again, we're going to press Congress to give us the support and continue the support to get the job done. Yes, it costs a little bit of money, yes, there's a little bit of grumbling about the need to change to these new kinds of documents, but if it protects Americans against terrorism or identity theft or a host of other problems, it's worth making the investment and getting the job done.
So now I'm going to ask the Assistant Secretary, Julie Myers, to provide a little additional specifics on Operation Wagon Train. I'm going to then ask the Chairman of the FTC to comment, then we'll take some questions.
Assistant Secretary Myers: Thank you. Thank you, Secretary Chertoff. This investigation began in February, 2006 as a result of information provided by local police and developed during ICE's Criminal Alien Program — or CAP. Under CAP, ICE agents process aliens who are being held in state or federal jails for removal following completion of their sentences. In this case, ICE agents conducting CAP interviews in Marshalltown, Iowa found a troubling pattern. They kept on interviewing criminal aliens who said they worked at Swift and who admitted that they had assumed identities — other's identities in order to circumvent employment eligibility screening.
At the same time we were conducting these CAP interviews, we started receiving referrals from local police agencies, and we also had several calls to our hotline from anonymous individuals who reported illegal aliens working at Swift. These factors led us to open this investigation.
And over the past several months, as the Secretary noted, the investigation uncovered substantial evidence that hundreds of illegal aliens working at Swift had apparently stolen the identities of U.S. citizens, and improperly used their Social Security numbers and dates of birth to gain employment. The illegal aliens had obtained these documents from a variety of document rings and vendors.
I want to note that yesterday's operation was first and foremost a worksite enforcement operation where we determined which Swift workers were without valid immigration status, and we took them into custody on immigration charges. Indeed, Operation Wagon Train is the single largest worksite enforcement operation to date. A number of individuals, as the Secretary noted, have also been charged with the state crime of identity theft in Colorado and Utah.
Operation Wagon Train is an outgrowth of ICE's current worksite enforcement strategy, a comprehensive approach that focuses on how illegal aliens get to our country, the ways in which they obtain identity documents allowing them to become employed, and the employers who knowingly hire them.
Our new strategy is really built upon extensive review of past efforts to control illegal employment, and that history is clear and undisputed. Ever since the establishment of employment verification requirements back in 1986, the use of fraudulent documents by illegal aliens seeking employment has been a significant problem.
In recent years, however, this fraud has evolved into a disturbing new trend. Now, instead of obtaining fraudulent documents with fraudulent identities, illegal aliens are buying genuine documents with real identities, identities of unwitting U.S. citizens. Combating this new and burgeoning problem is one of our highest priorities, and that's why back in April of this year, ICE and the Department of Justice established document and benefit fraud task forces in 11 major cities throughout the United States.
The goal of our multi-agency task forces is to target and take down the criminals and the organizations that produce and sell the fraudulent documents, the stolen identify information, and the other products used in immigration-related identity theft and benefit fraud.
Identity theft is widely reported as the largest and fastest growing crime in America, and this case illustrates that illegal immigration may be a driving force behind this growth. I would like to thank our partners at the Department of Justice who have vigorously supported our efforts, including the Deputy Attorney General's office, the United States Attorneys who prepared the warrants, civil search warrants, the Assistant United States Attorneys who are assisting in the criminal investigations, and the Civil Division, who defended us well in the civil lawsuit Swift filed to try to block us from pursuing this action.
I would also like to thank the Federal Trade Commission, the departments of Agriculture and Labor the Social Security administration , and the District Attorney from Cache and Weld counties for their participation.
I would now like to introduce our partner, Chairman Majoras, from the FTC.
Chairman Majoras: Good morning, everyone. I'm pleased to be here this morning with Secretary Chertoff, Assistant Secretary Myers, and our other law enforcement partners.
These arrests today demonstrate the power of interagency coordination. They show how enforcers from across the government, working together, can uncover and stop a scheme that harmed hundreds of U.S. citizens who simply were going about their daily lives.
The FTC, of course, is a civil law enforcement agency, but we also play an important role in supporting the criminal investigations of identity theft. The FTC runs the National Identity Theft Clearinghouse, taking in consumer complaints about the crime which we then share with over 1,400 law enforcement partners. We also advise consumers about what to do if they've been victimized by this crime. And we probably receive on average about 15 to 20,000 contacts from consumers every week.
In this case, ICE agents came to us with thousands of Social Security numbers that they knew were being misused in identity theft employment scams. We then took those, ran them through the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, and found, indeed, that they were being — that people's identity's were being misused not only for securing employment, but also for credit card fraud, student loan fraud, tax evasion, and the like.
Identity thieves have learned that information is a powerful currency. But we, too, can use information to beat them at their own game. The data we provided will be instrumental in prosecuting hundreds of criminals and bringing them to justice. And we will continue to work with ICE and our law enforcement partners to reach out to the hundreds of innocent consumers who were caught up in this scheme.
I especially want to extend our gratitude to the millions of U.S. citizens who have contacted the FTC and provided us with information about how they were victimized by identity theft. By reporting this crime, they give criminal authorities the tools that are necessary to catch up with these identity thieves and bring them to justice. So whether consumers need information about protecting themselves from ID theft, whether they need to report it, whether they need our help in figuring out what to do next, we urge them to visit the FTC's identity theft website at www.ftc.gov, or by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT.
Thank you very much.
Secretary Chertoff: I want to join in thanking our partners, as well, across the federal government and state and local authorities, like County Attorney Daines, for their cooperation in what was a joint effort, and really could only be successful as a joint effort.
Now we'll take some questions.
Question: One question I have, as you look at each of the facilities, what percentage of the workforce were illegal immigrants —
Assistant Secretary Myers: Well, our initial review of the I-9s established that approximately 30 percent of the I-9s we reviewed at Swift plants overall were suspect. And so that prompted kind of the further investigation. Yesterday — we have the specific breakdown in plants on how many individuals were working, and we can give that to you, so 200 out of a certain number.
Question: What was the incentive for companies to participate in a Basic Pilot program that has so many flaws to it?
Secretary Chertoff: Well, what's the incentive for taking a polio vaccine if you don't necessarily have a vaccine against AIDS? I mean, we have a program which at least eliminates one problem, and that's a very good incentive. And for companies to participate in that program, they essentially, if they do it in good faith, they're not going to wind up getting punished, even if it turns out that there was a problem that emerges.
But because it's only a partial solution, I'd like to see a better solution. The better solution requires congressional action. And that would be a solution that allows us to have the Social Security Administration identify multiple uses of the same Social Security number in different places, so we could see there's an identity theft issue here and a fraud issue here. It's certainly better than nothing, but it's not a complete solution, and Congress can act and give us what we need to make it into a more complete solution.
Question: Secretary Chertoff, you say that 1,200 people were arrested, 600 have been charged. What are you going to do with the other — I think it was about 600. What are you going to do with the rest? Have they been charged?
Secretary Chertoff: No, no, everybody was charged administratively; 65 of them have also been charged criminally. So everybody gets charged — everybody who was arrested is charged as an immigration violator, but then a subset of those who actually are accused of committing a criminal offense are charged with criminal charges. That number may change. Some of the people who are in the administrative category may also get added to the criminal category.
Question: And the second part of my question, where are they now? What facilities —
Secretary Chertoff: They are now being sent to facilities in various places in the country. In fact, they are tracking in the operations center the flow of aircraft and buses that are being used to move people around to where they're going to be in detention centers, pending their ultimate disposition of the cases. Obviously, we're continuing to investigate. So there are interviews that have been going on all night, and are continuing, as we process people.
Question: Are they in prison facilities, or detention centers run by DHS?
Secretary Chertoff: If it's an administrative facility — an administrative charge, it's a DHS or an ICE facility. If it's a criminal charge, it may be a state or it could ultimately be a federal jail facility.
Question: Yesterday's raids were targeted at plants by one company in one industry. What is your sense as to the dimension of this problem throughout —
Secretary Chertoff: Well, we did a case earlier this year in April against a pallet company called IFCO, in which we arrested 1,187 people. At that time, that was the biggest case. We've now broken that record. I think this is a problem that is not limited to a single industry. It's to be found in a number of industries. A slightly different measure of the significance of this issue of illegal work is the complaints that we're hearing from growers out in the west who say now that we've cracked down on people coming across the border illegally, they're having trouble finding people to pick lettuce and other kinds of crops. And what it suggests is that the solution here long term is to come up with a temporary worker program that answers this economic need without putting people in the position where they are sorely tempted to break the law.
Question: But would you assume that millions of people are using fraudulent documents, hundreds of thousands of —
Secretary Chertoff: I can't — some number are using identity theft. Some number are using the simpler, less sophisticated method of just coming up with a phony number, which is what we do catch with Basic Pilot. And some may have found other ways to get illegal work. So there's no one template. This scheme happens to be a little more sophisticated than your garden variety scheme where people would just come in with a made-up Social Security number.
Question: Mr. Secretary, let me clarify, there are no charges against the company at this time?
Secretary Chertoff: At this — right, there are no charges against the company at this time.
Question: Any reason?
Secretary Chertoff: Well, obviously we're continuing to investigate. We don't charge people until and unless we have evidence that they've committed a crime.
Question: Can you talk about cooperation, sir? I mean, that's what we're all getting at. We all wonder why it's a coincidence that all of the arrests —
Secretary Chertoff: Well, the company did participate in Basic Pilot. And therefore, as a consequence of participating in Basic Pilot, if you participate in that in good faith, then you are not going to be charged criminally or be held civilly liable. The company was cooperative with us to the extent that our coming into the plants, they helped us work to do it in an orderly way.
The company — I think it's now public — did attempt to stop us from doing these raids by going to court. Their effort was totally rejected by the district court. The company did complain about the fact that we were doing these raids, but as the district judge pointed out in her findings, there wasn't any way to meet the important public interest of preventing illegal migrants and identity thieves from escaping, except to do it the way that we wanted to.
The fact is that — and I'm going to quote directly from the judge's opinion — there was a period of time, for example, this fall where the company itself conducted interviews of suspect employees, found that between — I'm quoting right from page 7 of the judge's opinion: "Swift found that between 90 percent to 95 percent of its suspect employees were either not who their identification documents said they were, or were not legally eligible to be employed in the U.S. Over 400 workers were terminated, quit or did not show up."
ICE wasn't notified and we don't know where those 400 workers are. So it wasn't practical to stage this over a long period of time without putting at risk really hundreds of innocent Americans whose identities have been stolen.
Question: Were they essentially on notice, though, the workers that — from the company, was there anything to prevent the company from saying, well, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE is coming in here?
Secretary Chertoff: Well, we asked the company not to do that. We asked the company not to reveal that we were going to be coming in in advance because common sense tells you, if you do that, everybody who is illegal is going to flee. And the problem is those people are all going to flee with their phony documents, and we're going to have to track them down. And in the meantime, there's a risk to the innocent victims that the people with the phony documents are going to continue to do things that hurt the real individuals involved.
So we did engage with the company. But at the end of the day, what we were not prepared to compromise on was an enforcement action that would simultaneously address the problem so that we could maximize the number of people who had these phony identifications that we could scoop up at one time. Otherwise, what we're doing is we're taking a chance with an innocent person.
Question: Mr. Secretary, some companies I would imagine will now look at this and say, well, the company wasn't charged, but we are at risk — something that DHS has acknowledged that for many companies, their options here are pretty limited. What do you say to companies out there? Do you anticipate that — I know that you've tried to target in the past companies that you thought were particular violators. Do you suspect that chambers of commerce are now going to be concerned about how do companies protect themselves? This company was a target, they lost —
Secretary Chertoff: Well, certainly, Basic Pilot addresses one set of issues. And as we've said, if you enter into Basic Pilot and you do it in good faith, that will protect you against criminal and civil liability.
Now, I emphasize good faith; obviously, if you enter into Basic Pilot and then you deliberately evade it, that's a different story. So that's certainly one measure.
And I think common sense is an important measure. Obviously, you have to be very careful not to discriminate against people. But where there's some indication that you have what may be an identity theft, obviously, you have to be alert to that. But again, I go back to the fact that if we could get the permission of Congress to have the Social Security Administration begin to identify these multiple circumstances where the same number appears in five different places all across the country, that would be a step forward that would help businesses who want to comply with the law and help us do our job.
The other thing that I'm hoping this is going to do is it's going to be a deterrent to illegal workers. It's going to cause them to say that this happened in Swift, it could easily happen somewhere else. In fact, I'm pretty much going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these cases. So that ought to be part of what starts to push in the other direction on what has been drawing people into this country to do illegal work. We're going to try to make it inhospitable to break the law here.
Question: Assistant Secretary Myers mentioned that most of the documents came from some sort of criminal identity theft ring. Has that ring been identified? And what's being done about it?
Secretary Chertoff: It's not necessarily one ring. There may be some multiple rings. We are currently investigating based on what we have already learned. And that's why I emphasize the investigation is open. We're particularly interested in working with the Department of Justice and state and local authorities to track back where the documents came from. We may get some cooperation, for example, from some of the people that have been arrested. Because ultimately, we want to strike at the source of the documents, as well as the people who misused them.
Question: Just to follow up, if I may, the companies, though — the 400 workers who quit and you're now trying to figure out where they went, was that after the company was notified by federal officials that you might have a problem, that they did their own internal review? And I guess my next question would then be, did they then come back to you and say, look, we've got a pretty significant problem?
Secretary Chertoff: Maybe I'll let Julie answer that.
Assistant Secretary Myers: Sure. Yes, that was well after the time that the company knew that there was a significant problem in their workforce. And we regretted that they went ahead and took that action and then did not talk to us in the midst of talking with them.
Question: Did they notify you a large number of their workforce disappeared?
Assistant Secretary Myers: No, they did not. We actually learned through other reports that — schools and the like — that individuals were not showing up at the school. And the town's population was shrinking in certain cases.
With respect to the document rings, though, I also would note that there's been one arrest earlier this month in Worthington, Minnesota that related to a document ring that was providing documents to some of the Swift employees. And the documents they were providing were genuine U.S. birth certificates of individuals from Puerto Rico, as well as Social Security cards. And so we've tied that ring, which was a part of the rings that were operating here, to the Swift problem.
Question: And would it be fair to say based on what we just described that the company — you're now still looking at the company?
Secretary Chertoff: I'm not going to speculate. I'm just going to say we are continuing to investigate all the facts, and at the end, based on what the facts are, the Department of Justice will make charging decisions, or state prosecutors will make charging decisions.
Question: Mr. Secretary, has there been an effort out there to inform the people whose identities may have been stolen?
Secretary Chertoff: Yes, and maybe the Chairman wants to talk about it.
Chairman Majoras: Yes, there is. At least for those we've identified who have a problem, we're working together with the information that the department has to reach out to those consumers to let them know as much as we can about what we know, and then to advise them on the steps that they can take to continue to — or in some cases to start protecting themselves and getting their identities back.
Question: Some farmers also feel like they're (inaudible) because you chose to shut down the operations of one of the only buyers of cattle and hogs in some areas. Can you tell what steps you took to address this?
Secretary Chertoff: Well, first, let me say that in terms of — obviously, we were mindful of all the health and safety dimensions of what we were doing here. So we worked closely with the Department of Agriculture. They had Agriculture folks present in the plants to make sure that we managed the process in a way to avoid any potential health effect with respect to the product itself and tried to manage it in terms of the animals in as humane a way as possible.
Obviously, when even unwittingly a business is significantly built on illegal labor, once we enforce the law, that's going to have a ripple effect. And that's a way of emphasizing the fact that getting this issue of comprehensive immigration reform right is ultimately going to save everybody a big headache because it's everybody's problem.
In the current system, if we enforce the law as we are absolutely determined to do there are going to be cases where people further down the distribution chain will wind up having a consequence because when we remove the illegal workers, there's going to be some kind of a slow-down. And a temporary worker program that would give everybody a confidence level that we built an entire system that's visible and regulated would, in the long run, help all those people. So this immigration thing is one of the most fundamental economic and social issues that this country has ever faced. And we have an opportunity to take an approach that deals with the whole problem.
But until the problem gets resolved in its entirety, we are going to enforce the law. We're going to do it as vigorously as we can. We're going to be fair about it, but we're going to be tough about it. And again, we want to work with Congress to see if we can come up with a solution that is more comprehensive and addresses everybody's interest in having a fair outcome.
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This page was last modified on December 13, 2006
December 17, 2006
Tell President Bush: Change Policies That Punish Refugees Fleeing Persecution
A message on the "material support" bar from our partners at Human Rights First:
During this season of thanksgiving and hope, we urge you to take a moment to write to the White House to ask President Bush to intervene to resolve the crisis that threatens to undermine America's historic role as a haven for those who seek freedom from oppression.
As many of you know only too well, thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are being prevented from receiving asylum, resettlement, or more permanent residence in this country under overly broad immigration definitions that punish the victims of persecution. The U.S. refugee resettlement program – a lifeline for those who flee oppression – has been devastated by the failure to resolve the crisis caused by this "material support" bar. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security has failed to set up a process to exempt eligible refugees in the asylum process from these provisions. The administration's plans for addressing this crisis – too little too late - will leave many deserving refugees unprotected. To read the Action Alert sent to President Bush by Human Rights First, please visit: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/c/refugees/
Please join Human Rights First, the Refugee Council USA, its member organizations and others around the country to urge the President to ensure that this problem is fully addressed early in the new year. And please circulate this notice broadly to others who care about refugees and asylum seekers.
Together, we can make sure that thousands of Americans write to the White House during the holiday season to express their concern about the fates of the thousands of refugees who have been affected by this problem.
December 16, 2006
ICE Raids Reveal Flaws in Current US Immigration Policy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 13, 2006
CONTACT: George Paul Tzamaras, 202-216-2410; firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, DC - "Raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at meat-processing plants around the country yesterday clearly point out that our immigration system is broken and that America needs comprehensive immigration reform right now," said Carlina Tapia-Ruano, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "By not having a reasonable immigration policy in place, we have created a system that practically begs for people to break the law."
AILA believes that what America needs is an immigration policy that allows companies to fill jobs with willing legal workers. A reasonable, orderly worker program would go far in helping to eliminate the dangerous human smuggling and border crossings that currently plague our system, and would also alleviate such related crimes as the use of false social security numbers. In addition, such a policy would significantly diminish illegal immigration by creating a legal avenue by which people could enter the U.S.-something that barely exists today. In fact, current U.S. immigration law provides just 5,000 annual permanent visas for low-skilled "essential" workers, versus an estimated annual demand for 500,000 such workers.
"Once again yesterday's action by the federal government doesn't really address the deep problems plaguing our immigration system," stressed Tapia-Ruano. "AILA's hope is that when the new Congress convenes in January, it will act quickly and enact some type of comprehensive immigration reform."
AILA also calls upon ICE to ensure that the rights of the workers being rounded up are protected, and that attention be paid to the safety and welfare of those workers' children. "Please do not forget the tenets of due process that underlie our entire legal system, or the compassion and caring for the welfare of children that underpin American society," urged Tapia-Ruano.
Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, professional services and expertise through its 35 chapters and over 75 national committees. AILA also advocates before Congress and the Administration, as well as provides liaison with government agencies in support of pro-immigration initiatives. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.
For information, please call George Tzamaras at 202-216-2410, or Brooke Hewson at 202-216-2435
December 15, 2006
ICE raid at West Liberty Foods; a turkey processor close to Iowa City, Iowa
I have received a report that there is another ICE raid occurring at West Liberty Foods at this moment. Anyone who has contacts in West Liberty have them go to the plant and, in whatever way they can, inform people to remain silent, not answer any questions and ask to speak to a lawyer. This is urgent, since as we have seen in Marshalltown, once folks are in custody there is little chance to inform them of their rights.
109th Congress Adjourns
The House and Senate adjourned last Saturday, December 9, marking the end of the 109th Congress. Legislators passed three positive immigration measures before the final gavel: the Creating Opportunities for Minor League Professionals, Entertainers, and Teams through Legal Entry (COMPETE) Act of 2006 (S. 3821); the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act (H.R. 4997); and the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 1285).
However, despite behind-the-scenes efforts by immigration advocates and legislators, Congress did not have an opportunity to vote on H-1B and EB relief measures. When the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007, AILA National and our dedicated coalition partners intend to renew our collective efforts to secure immediate temporary relief from the H-1B visa cap and employment-based green card backlogs. We will also continue to push for a long-term fix through comprehensive immigration reform.
December 14, 2006
The Nativists Are Restless; The backlash against immigrants is at full boil in Tennessee
by P.J. Tobia, Nashville Scene;
"Kit Brewer doesn’t like immigrants.
“While America was harnessing electricity, while America was winning World War I, winning World War II, inventing the computer, inventing nuclear weapons [and] breaking the DNA code, what were the Mexicans doing?” he asks. “They were making tacos.”
He pauses to clarify.
“By Mexicans, that’s kind o’ a generic term for me that also includes Salvadorans, Hondurans, etc…. I don’t want any immigrants from the Third World.” He also mentions Iraq and Sudan.
Brewer used to live in Antioch—which he calls “Hispanioch,” because of its large Hispanic immigrant population—but moved after getting tired of his child “having to step over drunk Mexicans in a ditch to get to the school bus."
“Thank God I got out,” he says. “While I could still get something for my house.”
Brewer insists that he doesn’t have a problem with all immigrants, just the “Third Worlders.”
“If somebody wants to come here form Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, that’s fine. I would have hated to turn away Albert Einstein,” he says. “I don’t think that the next Albert Einstein is going to come from the Sudan, Mexico or Honduras.”
Brewer also thinks that Americans are inherently better and smarter people than those from other nations.
“Like it or not, their I.Q.s, except for Orientals, average seven to 20 points below the average American white.”
When asked how and where he found such a statistic, Brewer cites “the Internet.”
Unlike some other people who have strident opinions about immigrants and the impact that they’re having in the U.S., Brewer doesn’t differentiate between most legal and undocumented immigrants. “A legal immigrant from the Third World is just an illegal immigrant with a green card,” he says.
Kit Brewer is not alone in his isolationist leanings. Throughout Tennessee in recent months, there have been many public and private displays of sentiments that closely echo Brewer’s. Some of these have been benign—angry talk radio callers and ugly graffiti. Others have been decidedly less so...".
December 13, 2006
ICE executes warrants in worksite enforcement investigation involving a large–scale identity theft scheme
Here is a press release from ICE on their enforcement against employers;
"December 12, 2006
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed civil search warrants at six facilities owned by Swift & Company. The operation is part of a worksite enforcement investigation that has identified a large identity theft scheme that has victimized large numbers of U.S. citizens and lawful residents. Swift is a nationwide processor of fresh beef and pork.
ICE agents executed the court-authorized warrants at Swift’s processing facilities in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. These civil warrants allow ICE agents to search for and apprehend any illegal alien workers encountered at these facilities.
Because agents are still in the process of apprehending illegal alien workers, an arrest total is not available at this time. The aliens are being arrested on administrative immigration violations and, in some cases, existing criminal arrest warrants. Additional criminal charges of aggravated identity theft and other violations may also be brought at a later time.
Evidence uncovered during the ICE investigation, which began in February 2006, indicates that large numbers of illegal aliens may have illegally assumed the identities of U.S. citizens or lawful U.S. residents and improperly used their Social Security numbers to gain employment at Swift facilities. ICE agents and the Federal Trade Commission have identified hundreds of potential victims".
December 12, 2006
Washington Insider predicts CIR passage next year at 70%
San Antonio Express-News, December 9, 2006
Immigration bill's fate next year uncertain, by Hernán Rozemberg, Express-News Immigration Writer;
“A national immigration expert, speaking at a conference in San Antonio on Friday, said the long-simmering congressional effort to overhaul the current system will be revived next spring and legislation will have to pass by early fall or risk being derailed by the 2008 presidential campaign.
Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, spoke on the future of immigration policy to members of the National Conference of State Legislators meeting at the downtown Hyatt in San Antonio.
Papademetriou, who's often consulted by leading Washington politicians while working on immigration legislation, said he expected the U.S. Senate to introduce an immigration bill by the end of March or early April akin to the version the chamber approved last year.
The bipartisan legislation, which became known as the McCain-Kennedy bill, offered to reinforce border protections and called for a temporary worker program as well as an opportunity for illegal immigrants already in the country to work toward legalization.
Though Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., indicated he wouldn't want next year's bill to differ much from its original version, the offer for earned permanent residency likely will be streamlined, with migrants who have been in the country for a long time getting first dibs over recent arrivals, Papademetriou said.
After the bill is introduced in the Senate, the slack will be picked up on the House side by Reps. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who also presented the McCain-Kennedy proposal in their chamber last year, Papademetriou said.
He predicted events would unfold similarly to last year: relatively smooth passage in the Senate, while consensus will be harder to achieve in the House...”.
December 11, 2006
Less Rhetoric and More Substance on Immigration: The Midterm Elections and Prospects for Comprehensive Reform
By Benjamin Johnson, Director of the Immigration Policy Center, November 2006;
"Anyone who has been keeping close tabs on the immigration debate in Washington over the last five years can attest to the fact that it has all of the ingredients for the perfect political storm. For starters, U.S. immigration laws are so arcane that only a handful of legislators truly understand them. As a result, many policy makers search for simple, sound-bite driven solutions to problems that are far too complex for quick fixes. The complexity of the issue is made even more difficult by the fact that the immigration issue is not easily defined by party labels. Supporters and opponents of various immigration proposals come from both parties and span the political spectrum. This makes it difficult for party leaders to determine where, when, and how to discuss the issue. Finally, and perhaps most destructively, the topic of immigration evokes intense emotions that are easily stirred by politicians and pundits who play to the fears and insecurities of the electorate rather than deal with the issue honestly and pragmatically. It is the emotional nature of the debate that really has whipped the political winds into a fury over the last five years.
The failure of anti-immigration politicians to ride their emotional storm to victory in the midterm elections could set the stage for the new Congress to find a workable solution to the immigration troubles we face. Public relations gimmicks such as fences and walls along the border are likely to emerge again; but we also are more likely to see serious proposals to provide better and more efficient channels of legal immigration that fit with the economic realities of our times. We may also see the emergence of a long overdue debate about the steady erosion of due process protections for non-citizens and the complete absence of any national policy to facilitate the integration process for these new members of our communities. With any luck, the new composition of Congress may also set the stage for serious debate on a myriad of social and economic issues that, in the past, have falsely been linked to immigration. Blaming immigration for the nation’s shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, rising health care costs and dysfunctional schools has been a diversionary tactic that enabled last year’s Congress to avoid its responsibility for solving these problems. The early agenda announced by the incoming House Democratic leadership suggests that next year Congress may be more willing to face these problems for what they are: social and economic issues independent of immigration. Successfully separating these issues from the immigration debate raises the prospects for truly confronting these issues and for moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform".
December 10, 2006
Do Immigrants Make Us Safer?
By Eyal Press, New York Times Magazine, Published: December 3, 2006;
"Although the midterm election failed to render a clear verdict on illegal immigration, the new Democratic Congress may enact sweeping legislation tightening border controls and allowing more guest workers next year. If that happens, the rancorous debate about how undocumented workers affect jobs and wages in the United States will be rejoined. So, too, will an equally rancorous, if less prominent, debate: Do immigrants make the U.S. more crime-ridden and dangerous?
In an age of Latino gangs and Chinese criminal networks, the notion that communities with growing immigrant populations tend to be unsafe is fairly well established, at least in the popular imagination. In a national survey conducted in 2000, 73 percent of Americans said they believe that immigrants are either “somewhat” or “very” likely to increase crime, higher than the 60 percent who fear they are “likely to cause Americans to lose jobs.” Cities like Avon Park, Fla., have considered ordinances recently to dissuade businesses from hiring illegal immigrants, whose presence “destroys our neighborhoods.” Even President Bush, whose perceived generosity to undocumented workers has earned him vilification on the right, commented in a speech this May that illegal immigration “strains state and local budgets and brings crime to our communities.”
So goes the conventional wisdom. But is it true? In fact, according to evidence cropping up in various places, the opposite may be the case. Ramiro Martinez Jr., a professor of criminal justice at Florida International University, has sifted through homicide records in border cities like San Diego and El Paso, both heavily populated by Mexican immigrants, both places where violent crime has fallen significantly in recent years. “Almost without exception,” he told me, “I’ve discovered that the homicide rate for Hispanics was lower than for other groups, even though their poverty rate was very high, if not the highest, in these metropolitan areas.” He found the same thing in the Haitian neighborhoods of Miami. In his book “New York Murder Mystery,” the criminologist Andrew Karmen examined the trend in New York City and likewise found that the “disproportionately youthful, male and poor immigrants” who arrived during the 1980s and 1990s “were surprisingly law-abiding” and that their settlement into once-decaying neighborhoods helped “put a brake on spiraling crime rates.”
The most prominent advocate of the “more immigrants, less crime” theory is Robert J. Sampson, chairman of the sociology department at Harvard. A year ago, Sampson was an author of an article in The American Journal of Public Health that reported the findings of a detailed study of crime in Chicago. Based on information gathered on the perpetrators of more than 3,000 violent acts committed between 1995 and 2002, supplemented by police records and community surveys, it found that the rate of violence among Mexican-Americans was significantly lower than among both non-Hispanic whites and blacks...".
Eyal Press, a contributing writer for The Nation, is the author of “Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City and the Conflict That Divided America.”
December 09, 2006
Immigration fees to increase by spring
By Anabelle Garay, Associated Press Writer, Dallas;
"The fees immigrants pay for citizenship and permanent residency petitions will rise as officials try to prevent more backlogs in the system, the director of the nation's immigration service said Tuesday.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Emilio Gonzalez said the amount of the increases is still being determined, but expects it to be significant.
"I envision that it'll go up a fair amount," he said during a visit to Dallas. "We're a business. We're not allowed to be deficient."
Currently, immigrants applying for citizenship pay $330 or $325 for permanent residency documentation known as a "green card." Applicants also pay a $70 fingerprinting fee. They could see the new prices for immigration petitions by April, Gonzalez said...".
December 08, 2006
Congress open to passing bill on immigration
By Charles Hurt THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published December 4, 2006;
"Congress will approve an immigration bill that will grant citizenship rights to most of the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in the U.S. after Democrats take control next month, predict both sides on Capitol Hill.
While Republicans have been largely splintered on the issue of immigration reform, Democrats have been fairly unified behind the principle that the illegals currently in the country should get citizenship rights without having to first leave the country.
"Years of dawdling have worsened our border security and made it harder to fix this broken system," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who will lead the Judiciary Committee next year. "We should not let partisan politics and intolerance continue to delay and derail effective reform."
Democrats in both chambers say they will start with some form of legislation first drafted by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, which was the basis for the bill that was approved earlier this year by the Senate.
"This past May, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported and then the Senate passed bipartisan versions of comprehensive immigration reform to bring people out of the shadows while strengthening our borders," Mr. Leahy said. "I look forward to building on that work next year and making progress on a bipartisan effort that improves security, supports our economy and respects the dignity of all people."...".
December 07, 2006
110th Congress: Getting Immigration on the Agenda
The newly elected leaders of the 110th Congress are in the process of developing their legislative agenda for 2007. House Democratic leaders did not include comprehensive immigration reform in their agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, but they will need to take up immigration legislation within the first 100 days if they intend fix our nation's broken immigration system. Advocacy groups like MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress are already mobilizing to let the new congressional leadership know which policy priorities they expect to see addressed next year. The Center for American Progress's "100 Days Agenda," which highlights Comprehensive Immigration Reform, is available to view on their website; http://www.americanprogressaction.org
You can encourage Congress to make Comprehensive Immigration Reform a legislative priority by filling out a short survey on the MoveOn.org website; http://pol.moveon.org/mandateforchange/survey2/
December 06, 2006
Metro Council defers English First bill
Last night I went to the Nashville Metro Council meeting where Councilman Eric Crafton deferred his English First bill until February, 2007. It is understood that he deferred his bill to avoid a losing vote. It seems that his support has been eroding away, despite his statements to the contrary. Councilman gave as a reason for deferring the bill to allow time for more discussion to unify the city. His reason flies is the face of the divisive nature of the bill.
Opponents to his bill range from Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Area Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, the Metro Nashville Human Relations Commission, church leaders, immigrant groups, the Tennessee Immigrant Rights Coalition and people representing almost all walks of Nashville.
It is as if the city has risen up against the Mr. Crafton. As one person said to fight this bill to do what is right and it's great to be on the good side of a struggle. The people of Nashville do not want to be seen by the rest of the USA and the world as an intolerant city.
We will continue working to defeat Mr. Crafton and to erode his support. It was good to see members of the City Council in opposition to the attempt by Mr. Crafton to pass off a divisive bill as a way of unifying the city. To reach your member of City Council go to http://nashville.gov/council/council_roster.htm
December 05, 2006
This Week in Congress; Scope of Lame Duck Still Uncertain
The House and Senate will reconvene next Tuesday, December 5, for a final session of the 109th Congress that could conclude as early as next Friday or continue through much of December. The length of the session - and the prospects for passage of positive immigration measures - will depend upon how Congress decides to handle fiscal 2007 spending legislation. GOP leadership has expressed an unwillingness to engage in lengthy debates over appropriations bills, and instead hopes to quickly pass a continuing resolution (CR) to extend low levels of funding into the new year.
Plans to pass a CR in lieu of any further appropriations work would frustrate attempts by immigration advocates to enact positive immigration provisions - such as H-1B visa and employment-based green card relief - during the lame duck session, since any immigration measures would need to be passed as part of an appropriations bill. However, Democrats and Republican appropriators oppose deferral of the spending bills and would prefer to see appropriations legislation completed during December. If these legislators succeed in bringing one or more appropriations bills to the Floor, advocates will still have a chance to push for positive immigration measures.
For more go to www.aila.org
Your voice needed on "English-first" ordinance
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Nashville Metro Council is expected to cast a third and final vote on the "English-First" ordinance, BL-2006-1185. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce -- which does not support illegal immigration, but does favor comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level -- is strongly opposed to this ordinance, as well as two other immigrant-related ordinances being considered by Metro Council.
The Chamber is specifically opposed to the English-First ordinance because:
The English-First ordinance (which began as English-Only) has nothing to do with someone's legal status. It does, however, project an image that says Nashville is anti-inclusive.
The English-First ordinance is insensitive to immigrant populations (regardless of legal status), and unwelcoming for visitors and businesses with large numbers of foreign-born workers that may be considering relocating or expanding their businesses in the Nashville area.
No one disputes the importance or dominance of the English language in America or in Nashville. The English-First ordinance is little more than a symbolic gesture that creates unnecessary tension and anxiety among our immigrant communities. Keep in mind, many of these individuals are here legally, either as permanent residents or on temporary work visas, and they are already working hard to understand and embrace American culture and the English language.
If you live and/or work in Davidson County, and you share the Chamber's position opposing Metro Councilman Eric Crafton's English-First ordinance, we urge you to send a quick e-mail to your Metro Council representative. Ask him/her to VOTE NO or ABSTAIN on the Crafton "English-First" proposed ordinance on its third and final reading on Tuesday, December 5.
To identify and obtain an e-mail address for your Metro Council representative, please visit http://nashville.gov/council/council_roster.htm
December 04, 2006
Restrictionist Campaign to Stifle H-1B & EB Relief Must Be Drowned Out!
When anti-immigration advocacy groups heard about AILA's 900+ company strong letter to Congress urging for H-1B and EB relief, they were moved to wage an opposition campaign. Since the release of our letter, they've been flooding Hill offices with anti-business immigration messages in emails and phone calls!
We must continue to call and email Congress about this key issue! We cannot let the restrictionist rhetoric overshadow the substantive and persuasive message that you and your dedicated colleagues worked so hard to share with our nation's decision makers. Without additional voices to complement the work of AILA's 167 outstanding business advocates and their 900+ clients, we could lose this battle for H-1B & EB relief.
You can still participate in this campaign by calling and emailing your policy makers through Contact Congress, signing on to the coordinated letter, and sending personlized messages to Congress.
Please continue to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill; in this battle of participation, silence is our greatest enemy.
Go to www.aila.org
December 03, 2006
National Association of Evangelicals Resolution on Immigration
On 10/12/2006 the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) unanimously passed this resolution affirming their support for immigration reform tht reflects human dignity, compassion, and justice. This NAE’s resolution on October 12, 2006 reaffirms their immigration resolution of 1995;
"Compassion for Immigrants and Refugee - 1995
As Christians, we are called to joyfully share our faith and hope with all people. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are guided by love. The Bible repeatedly declares God's love and care for all people, and requires that "The same law shall apply to the native-born as to the alien living among you." (Exodus 12:49) Similarly, "You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 24:22)
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is deeply concerned by a growing spirit of hostility towards immigrants and refugees who have become residents in our communities. While we recognize that some of our constituency feel strongly concerning issues of justice and law, we are all compelled by the love of Christ to act with compassion to our neighbors. Therefore, we pledge to eliminate the spirit of racism in any of our responses. While we recognize the right of nations to regulate their borders, we believe this responsibility should be exercised with a concern for the entire human family in a spirit of generosity and compassion. (Deuteronomy 10: 19, Leviticus 19: 34)
Furthermore, we acknowledge that immigrants and refugees contribute much to the continuing strength and vitality of local communities and our country by their commitment to work, education, and the family.
We call upon our government, therefore, to maintain reasonable and just admissions policies for refugees and immigrants. As evangelicals responsible to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), we are called to show personal and corporate hospitality to those who seek a new life in our nation".
December 02, 2006
USCIS Issues Questions and Answers for New Pilot Naturalization Exam
Advance Release Informs American Public and Stakeholders of Civics and U.S. History
WASHINGTON - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Emilio Gonzalez announced today the release of 144 questions and answers for the pilot test of a new naturalization exam. USCIS will administer the pilot exam in early 2007 to about 5,000 volunteer citizenship applicants in 10 cities.
"We found that the current naturalization exam process lacks standardization and encourages applicants to memorize facts just to pass a test, but that doesn’t guarantee that they understand the meaning behind the question," said Director Gonzalez. "Our goal is to inspire immigrants to learn about the civic values of this nation so that after they take the oath of citizenship they will participate fully in our great democracy."
USCIS included new questions that focus on the concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. In designing the new exam, USCIS received assistance and worked with test development contractors, U.S. history and government scholars, and English as a second language experts. USCIS also sought input from a variety of stakeholders, including immigrant advocacy groups, citizenship instructors and district adjudications officers.
The pilot will allow USCIS to work out any problems and refine the exam before it is fully implemented nationwide in the spring of 2008. The questions and answers are posted on the agency Web site, http://www.uscis.gov. Questions that are not successful in the pilot will be dropped, narrowing the list to the same 100 questions as the current exam. The range of acceptable answers to questions will increase so that applicants may learn more about a topic and select from a wider range of responses. In addition to new questions, USCIS will soon release a new civics-based vocabulary list to help applicants study for the English reading and writing portion of the proposed test.
During the trial period, volunteer applicants who choose to take the pilot exam can immediately take the current exam if they incorrectly answer a pilot question. To pass, applicants will have to correctly answer six of 10 selected questions. The 10 pilot test sites are: Albany, N.Y.; Boston, Mass; Charleston, S.C.; Denver, Col.; El Paso, TX; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami, Fla.; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, Ariz.; and Yakima, Wash.
December 01, 2006
Study Explores Shifting Latino Voting Patterns
Republicans enjoyed unprecedented Latino support in the 2004 elections, causing many to believe in a permanent shift in Latino voting patterns. Comparisons of the 2006 exit polls with those from 2004, however, suggest a significant swing among Latinos back in favor of the Democrats. What was the reason for this shift? Did Latinos merely ride a national wave in shifting partisan preference away from the Republicans, or was something else at work? A study released on November 27 by the Pew Research Center sheds some light on the answer, but also suggests that more research must be done before a definitive conclusion can be reached.
The Pew study compares the 2006 and 2004 exit polls and reveals that blacks, who traditionally support Democrats in large numbers in every election, showed only a modest increase in the percentage of those that voted Democratic. Comparisons of white voters, meanwhile, showed a 6% increase in Democratic voting. Latino voters, by contrast, demonstrated the largest shift, with a remarkable 11% increase from 2004 of those who voted Democratic in 2006.
According to the Pew study, one major reason for this shift may have been Latino interest in the immigration debate, to the benefit of Democrats. Anti-immigration hardliners such as Randy Graff and J.D. Hayworth, who ran for House seats in Arizona, a state with a sizeable Hispanic population, both lost in their re-election bids, having made a crackdown on illegal immigration a centerpiece of their campaigns. However, the Pew study cautions against overstating the benefit to Democrats provided by the shifted Latino vote. For example, other pro-enforcement incumbents like Senator John Kyl, also a Republican running for re-election in Arizona, won elections. Furthermore, a close look at the results shows that, in large part due to geography and redistricting, the increase in Latinos voting Democratic did not impact election results on the whole: none of the sixty Congressional districts with the largest concentrations of Hispanic voters produced a turnover of seats in the House; and in those House races that did produce a net Democratic gain, Latinos made up at least 10% of voters in only four of them.
In sum, as the Pew report suggests, more research must be done to uncover the full nature and impact of the Latino vote in the 2006 elections. The full report is available on the Pew website;