U.S. Electoral Politics: March 2008 Archives

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the principal immigration agency in the U.S. and successor to the INS, is in dire need of reform from top to bottom.

The agency has completely failed to keep up with the predictable (and predicted) surge in naturalization applications last year stemming from upcoming elections and a substantial fee increase for naturalization applications—from $400 to $675.  In addition, a new instance of bribery and malfeasance at USCIS in New York shines light on a system predicated on arbitrary decisionmaking and very little oversight, conditions that breed corruption and abuse. 

Preemptive Update: After writing most of this post, I saw that Nina Bernstein at the NY Times has blown the Baichu story wide open (I initially saw a shorter version reported in the NY Daily News).  I’ll definitely have more to say about this later.

UPDATE: Here's the Video

Looks like I'm getting thrown into the Presidential horse race, and bringing it to this blog.  I just read the speech Obama gave to address the issues of race that have come to a boil in the Presidential campaign.  I have to confess the last part of it brought tears to my eyes.  I don't agree with all of it, but it certainly is well argued and well written.  And I don't feel like I'm being talked to through dozens of focus groups, polls, and sound bites.  Most of all, I wanted to read the whole thing through.  

Apparently an incarceration ratio of 1 in 100, while good enough for U.S. citizen adults, is a little low for immigrants in the eyes of the feds. 

From Anna Gorman and Scott Glover at the LA Times (via Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings):

Federal authorities are cracking down on immigrants who were previously deported and then reentered the country illegally -- a crime that now makes up more than one-third of all prosecutions in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, a Times review of U.S. attorney's statistics shows.

Most of these prisoners were probably removed through an administrative removal proceeding after coming to the U.S. previously.  Most probably didn’t have access to counsel the first time around, which is just one of the due process violations prevalent in the pseudo-judicial immigration system.  But it’s ok, the government argues, because it’s “just a civil matter.”  No jail time involved—just “detention” on your way out of the country if you try to fight your case. 

But there are serious consequences if someone previously deported decides to come back to be with their children or spouse, or out of economic desperation.  Then the outcome of the previous administrative proceeding is used against them in criminal court.

stop the SAVE Act

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The House GOP is pushing the SAVE Act to the floor, suspecting they only have a few months left to do as much legislative damage as possible before increased Democratic majorities make it too difficult, and desperate for a “gay marriage scare” type assault on a vulnerable minority that they hope will pay political dividends.  

If you ever thought you might get involved on this issue or think you might want to in the future, don’t wait … NOW is the time. 

Call your representative at 202-225-3121 (or find your rep's number here) and ask them not to sign the petition to discharge H.R. 4088, the Shuler-Tancredo Bill (the SAVE Act), and to vote NO on the SAVE Act if it comes to the floor.  Or utilize this simple online form to make your opinion heard. 

The discharge petition currently pushed by the GOP needs 218 signatures—at last count, it had 163

The restrictionist strategy of enforcement through attrition claimed another hardworking taxpayer last week.  A Brooklyn woman finally gave up her fight to stay in this country.  Already past retirement age, she works long nighttime shifts caring for disabled people.  Her employers and patients have nothing but praise for her.  But the stress of long years of trying to resolve her immigration status, after a string of mistakes committed by USCIS (including at one point sending her a welcome notice signaling the start of permanent resident status, then denying the case without informing her), finally led her to abandon her quest to stay in the country.  Nativists everywhere, rejoice--the low-wage ambitions of another softspoken terrorist grandma have been thwarted!

The combination of burdensome and incomprehensible rules, unjustifiably high fees (e.g., $340 for a work permit, often baselessly or mistakenly denied by USCIS, and $585 to appeal the decision--over $1,000 for a bare-bones DIY green card application), race-based decisionmaking cloaked in administrative discretion, and extraordinarily punitive enforcement measures have created a climate of hate and fear.  This situation didn't arise organically, nor is it an inevitable consequence of natural social and economic forces, as restrictionists would have us believe.  It is the carefully planned result of years of conservative organizing and legislative action, spearheaded since 1999 by the nativist caucus in the House.   

In a special election in Illinois, another Republican running on an anti-migrant platform has been defeated.  Democrat Bill Foster comfortably defeated Republican Jim Oberweis. This is a huge upset for Republicans, since the seat was held for a long time by former GOP speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert.  It also supports long growing body of evidence that shows anti-migrant rhetoric does not win elections.  Matt Ortega describes Oberweis' anti-migrant roots:
Image: Nepean District Historical Society

The mainstream progressive blogosphere has been frighteningly silent lately, as a major migration battle looms over the U.S. Capitol.  Grassroots migrant rights organizations across the nation are mobilizing in opposition to the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act:

Call your representative TODAY and demand that they reject the SAVE Act!

Pressure is mounting in the Democratic-led House of Representatives to act on the SAVE Act (HR 4088), an enforcement and deportation-only bill introduced and sponsored by more than 140 Democratic and Republican opponents of humane immigration reform.

[Click here] to reach your representative.

- MIRA Coalition (the link is mine)

A epic battle is being waged against anti-migrant Democrats in Congress, and it's important that the blogosphere makes sure the pro-migrant side, the side of justice, comes out in front of this.