This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending February 28

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Week Ending February 28, 2014

This week in immigration reform: members of Congress continue calling for immigration reform legislation; businesses, faith leaders, and an Arizona sheriff write Congressional leadership, urging action on reform; states around the country pass or consider smart immigration bills; and NCLR releases another graphic in a series that refutes the excuses offered by House Republicans for their inaction on reform.  NCLR kept the community informed as always this week, with staff quoted in the Associated Press, CBS DFW, The Gate News, and the Burnt Orange Report.

 —Members of Congress continue to call for immigration reform legislation.  Following positive comments on the prospects of reform by Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.), RNCC chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.),  Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) at the end of last week, this week saw members of Congress continue pushing for Speaker Boehner and House Republican leadership to get working on immigration reform legislation.

Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) published an op-ed in Roll Call this Wednesday where he described immigration reform as in line with conservative priorities, noting that reform would not only reduce state, local, and national deficits, but would add around 14,000 new jobs to every Congressional District.

Fellow California Republican Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) offered his own op-ed urging Congress to act on immigration reform, arguing that the country’s agricultural sector cannot function without changes to our immigration system.

These points were echoed in op-eds by Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

Tools You Can Use: Letters and op-eds from businesses, sheriff, and faith leaders urge action on reform.  Business, law enforcement, and faith leaders continued to pressure Congress to act on immigration reform this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a letter, signed by 636 businesses and business organizations, calling on Congress and the Administration to get moving on immigration reform.  Check out the letter to see if business groups in your community have signed on and could be a partner in advocating for reform.  Please contact John Herrick at jherrick@nclr.org  if you want to strategize around building or strengthening your local coalition.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik published an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star this past Sunday calling for immigration reform to be passed this year.  Without reform, the 50-year law-enforcement veteran argued, undocumented individuals will not trust law enforcement enough to report crimes or serve as witnesses, and our neighborhoods will be less safe as a result.  Dupnik also cautioned against proposals that would burden state and local police with enforcing the federal government’s immigration laws and thus alienate law enforcement from the communities they serve.

Finally, Catholic bishops teamed up with evangelical leaders in a joint letter imploring Congress to pass immigration reform legislation this year.

Not content to wait on Congress, states work on immigration legislation of their own.  While House Republican leadership produces only ill-founded excuses and fails to do anything meaningful on immigration reform, states around the country are passing or working on measures that will boost their economies and recognize the contributions and potential of immigrant residents.

Wednesday, Feb. 26 witnessed the signing into law of the Washington State DREAM Act, a measure that will allow undocumented students who meet income and residency requirements to access state-based financial aid.  The proposal passed the state House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities.

Other states, including Florida and Tennessee, are considering tuition-equity measures that would allow qualifying undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates at public universities and colleges.

Another NCLR “Reality Check” graphic refutes House Republican excuses for doing nothing on reform.  NCLR released another graphic this week challenging House Republican leadership’s excuses for failing to act on immigration reform.  When they claim that they can’t work on immigration reform because President Obama hasn’t enforced immigration laws, it’s time for a reality check: in 2012, the Obama Administration spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement – more than was spent on the FBI, ATF, DEA, Secret Service, and U.S. Marshals combined.

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NCLR and Affiliates in action. 

  • California:  The NCLR Action Fund supported the Fast for Families caravan this week by organizing partners and NCLR Affiliates to follow the fasters as they traveled throughout Southern California and advocated for immigration reform.

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ImmReform_update_2_28_2014_pic2Pedro Silva of the NCLR Action Fund (seated, left) with one of the Fast for Families fasters.

“What’s in the Chicken on Your Plate? Tears.”

By Catherine Singley, NCLR Economic Policy Project

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill.  L to R:  Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

Press conference, February 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill. L to R: Sherri Jones, Coalition of Poultry Workers; Salvadora Roman, poultry worker; Tom Fritzche, Southern Poverty Law Center; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP; Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS-2); Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11).

The bitter cold temperatures in Washington this week didn’t deter a delegation of poultry workers from the warm states of North Carolina, Mississippi, and Arkansas from traveling to the nation’s capital.  They had a message to deliver to decision makers: stop a government proposal that would endanger the health and safety of poultry workers by speeding up production lines in American poultry processing facilities.  Yesterday, workers held a press conference on Capitol Hill with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, NCLR, the Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Oxfam American, Food and Water Watch, and others, to describe the debilitating injuries they’ve suffered at work and to call on the Administration to halt a proposal that would make a bad situation worse.

The proposed rule change comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products.  If the rule is finalized, poultry companies would be allowed to speed up production from 140 to 175 birds per minute—a 25% speed up—that would lead to more injuries in poultry plants.  Many injuries are linked to the repetitive nature of poultry processing; workers can make up to 20,000 cutting or pulling motions a day.  As a result, poultry workers already experience high rates of traumatic injuries to their hands, wrists, and arms.

Why the line speed increase?  It’s included in the proposed rule as an economic incentive for companies to produce more chicken in exchange for adopting new food safety inspection measures (the basis of which has been heavily criticized by consumer advocates and the Government Accountability Office).

Not surprisingly, most of the debate about this proposal has been about the food safety benefits—or lack thereof—that would result if the rule is finalized.  It’s understandable that the public wants to know that their food is safe and it’s USDA’s job to assure that it is.

For everyone who is concerned about what’s in their meat, Bacilio Castro, from the North Carolina Worker Justice Center, had an answer:

“You want to know what’s in the chicken on your plate?  Tears.  Tears of the mothers who can’t lift their children because of the pain in their wrists and shoulders from working on the line.  We are not asking you to stop eating chicken.  We are simply asking to be treated as human beings and not as animals.”

Will Jan Brewer’s Veto Usher in a New Era for Arizona?

By Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR Policy Analysis Center, Phoenix Office

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

This week, all eyes were on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) as yet another piece of hateful legislation sat on her desk awaiting her signature.  Yet rather than pandering to unsubstantiated fears—this time—Brewer made a choice that was right for all Arizonans by vetoing SB 1062.

SB 1062 would have allowed businesses to legally deny service to customers if their religious beliefs were burdened.  Although not explicitly stated, the bill was designed to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.  As the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in this country, NCLR was appalled that this bill passed through the Arizona legislature.  An attack on the civil rights of the LGBT community is an attack on the civil rights of us all.

If this piece of legislation showed us anything, it’s that the Arizona legislature is completely out of touch with their constituents.  This revelation is not exactly news to NCLR, which recently fought to gut Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, which would have legalized racial profiling.

Contrary to the image of Arizona that the legislature has created, the Arizonans I know celebrate diversity and would not support a piece of legislation that seeks to discriminate against one group of people.  As we saw over the past two weeks, Arizonans were not willing to stay quiet.  Businesses, community leaders, and everyday citizens across the state pushed back against the extremists championing this bill.

We were especially lucky to have the business community come out in strong opposition to SB 1062.  Both Major League Baseball and the National Football League issued statements against the bill, voicing their strong support for the rights and inclusion of the LGBT community, and more than 80 companies, trade organizations, and other business groups, including Apple, signed a letter encouraging Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. I’m sure the economic backlash that resulted from SB 1070 was weighing heavily on her mind as she contemplated whether to sign this piece of legislation.

Still, what’s more important to remember is that protecting a person’s civil rights should never be a business decision. While the economic argument can be particularly persuasive for certain legislators, we have to move beyond putting a price tag on our citizens’ rights.  We should oppose laws such as SB 1070 and SB 1062 because they lead to discrimination and racial profiling, not because they cost us millions of dollars.  These bills run contrary to the very principles that this nation was founded upon.

Governor Brewer said it best:  “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value.  So is nondiscrimination.”

While we celebrate this victory, we must also recognize the priorities that the Arizona legislature has clearly laid out and the chance that more bills like this will pass through this state house and senate.  But we can win if the LGBT community, civil rights groups, and immigrants’ rights advocates stand together.  Rooting out discrimination remains a long and arduous task in many areas of this country, but together we can make sure that legalizing discrimination is damn near impossible.

We Can Reduce Obesity in the Latino Community!

Signing up for health insurance not only provides you with coverage, it’s also good for living a healthy lifestyle! When the Affordable Care Act was passed, it included an emphasis on disease prevention. Insurance plans must now cover a long list of preventive services at no extra cost. Some of these services include screenings and counseling for obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. And, these services are more important than ever, given the high rates of diabetes in Latino communities, as the image below shows.

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Do your part to reduce obesity in Latino communities and sign up for health insurance today!

It’s Never Too Late to Honor Courage and Bravery

By Jonathan Marrero, Senior Manager of Digital Communications, NCLR, United States Air Force Veteran

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The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award
award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be given to an individual who has served in the U.S. Armed Services. Photo: Naval History & Heritage Command

It may have been decades since they have served in the military, but it is never too late to properly honor those service members who fought heroically for our country.  Late last week, President Obama announced that 24 veterans, the majority of whom are Hispanic and Jewish, will receive a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, for their services in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

This is more than just an unusually large class of recipients, though.  All of the honorees had previously received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military award.  However, in 2002, Congress called for a review of veteran war records for Hispanic Americans and Jewish Americans who served in those wars to ensure that they were not denied the highest recognition due to prejudice.  A decade later, we will finally, as a country, be able to give these 24 valiant men their well-deserved recognition.

Hispanics have served with remarkable valor and courage – even at the cost of their lives – in our nation’s military throughout American history dating back to the Revolutionary War.  They currently make up more than 11percent of the active-duty military forces and more than 16 percent of new recruits.

While long overdue, it is still critical and still incumbent upon us as a nation to recognize the contributions of our veterans, especially when it comes to our country’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor.  It’s too easy to focus on rooting out discrimination and prejudice in the present, without adequately reflecting on injustices that may have occurred in the past.  As Staff Sgt. Melvin Morris, who his among those that will receive a Medal of Honor, explains, “there are a lot of heroes that are missing” that deserve to be rewarded for their work.  By reviewing candidates who may have been overlooked or marginalized, we are sending a clear message that their bravery and extraordinary service is not forgotten.

On March 18, we look forward to celebrating these 24 heroes, as the president awards them and their families with this well-deserved, incredible achievement.  Justice can never come soon enough.