Loving Couples Forced to Make Impossible Choices

Hanging in the balance-01

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR 

In this week’s edition of “Hanging in the Balance,” we meet a young couple whose dreams of living happily ever after were turned upside down because of the United States’ dysfunctional immigration laws.

As reported by Fusion, Rachel Custodio and her husband Paulo are just one of more than one million mixed-status couples where one is a citizen or permanent resident and one is an aspiring American. If one faces deportation, his or her significant other must face the impossible choice our current immigration system forces upon thousands of families: should the permanent resident leave the United States and follow his or her deported spouse, or stay behind and attempt to maintain a relationship from half a world away?

Advocacy Central Need Action1-1Four years ago, Rachel, a U.S. citizen, packed up her life in Boston and took a one-way flight to Brazil. She couldn’t speak Portuguese. She wasn’t traveling to a new job. As so many other husbands and wives have done, Rachel was leaving the United States for the first time to be with her deported husband.

Rachel and Paulo met in Boston back in 2005 and were married by 2009. She knew that Paulo lacked immigration status since he had entered the country by crossing from Mexico into Texas in 2002. So, shortly after marrying, the newlyweds hired a lawyer to get Paulo right with the law.

One day, as the couple was going through their I-130 interview at a federal office in Boston, their world began to crumble. There in the interview room, Rachael and Paulo learned that Paulo had an outstanding deportation order. He had no criminal record, but somewhere along the line—as he sought a driver’s license or another document that he needed for his everyday life—a judge had served Paolo deportation orders, orders that he never received. After giving the few possessions he was holding to his wife, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer took Paulo away to a detention center.

Though Rachel gathered friends, family, and Paulo’s coworkers to ask immigration officials to grant Paolo released supervision, the authorities deemed him ineligible for parole. After two difficult months in a detention center, Paolo was deported to Brazil.

Immigration FamiliesRachel worried about the effect separation would have on their marriage. She chose to move to Brazil and remains there today, despite her continued struggles with learning Portuguese, separation from her parents, and occasional feelings of isolation in her new home.

As a country, we have a commitment to strengthening families, and in the absence of action from Congress, the president has no choice but to act to keep families together. President Obama has the legitimate authority to fix elements of the outdated immigration system. He should provide relief from deportation to those who have strong ties to our country and are woven into our communities.

Too many American citizens are having their families torn apart without hope for a better future.

Latinos and the Minimum Wage

Live The Wage Hangout

Five years ago, the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25, and it has remained there, unchanged. The cost of living, however, has continued to increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator, if the minimum had kept up with inflation for the past 40 years, it would now be $10.86.

For many Latino families, the impact of a raise in the minimum wage would be powerful. In a recent report, we showed that Latinos represent only 15 percent of the workforce, yet comprise approximately 24 percent (6.8 million) of the 27.8 million workers that would benefit from boosting the minimum wage to $10.10. Overall, 43 percent of Latino workers earn poverty-level wages, compared to 36 percent of Blacks and 23 percent of Whites.

This evening, at 7 p.m. ET we’ll be joining Speak Hispanic’s Elianne Ramos for a Google+ Hangout with experts, including our own Alicia Criado, who will discuss the current fight to raise the minimum wage at the federal and state level and the impact of raising the wage for low-income workers, particularly women. She’ll also delve into the implications for small businesses and the country’s economy in general. Also on the Hangout, Ramos will discuss this year’s #LiveTheWage campaign, which started last week. We’ll see you online tonight!

Guests include:

•Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project at NCLR
•Carmen Ortiz Larsen, Owner of Aquas, Inc and Vice President at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County and member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage
•Raquel Roybal, Care Coordinator (Albuquerque, NM) and member of OLE (Part of the National Domestic Worker Alliance)
•Katie Hamm, Director of Early Childhood Policy, Center for American Progress

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 25

Immigration_reform_Updates_blueWeek Ending July 25, 2014

This week in immigration reform: The NCLR Annual Conference featured sessions on immigration and unaccompanied children; Congress continues to debate how to address the humanitarian emergency at the Southern border; and Representatives take a vote to take away a tax credit from vulnerable families. NCLR kept the community informed in a number of media appearances this week, with staff quoted in stories on MSNBC, Huffington Post, and appearing on the program Jose Diaz Balart which broadcast live outside the Conference.

  • Immigration and Unaccompanied Children were focus of presentations at the NCLR Annual Conference. For four days in Los Angeles, leaders from across the country discussed topics important to the Latino community, including immigration and the humanitarian emergency at the Southern border. From Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D-IL-4), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) conference participants heard about the benefits of passing immigration reform, the need for President Obama to act and provide administrative relief, and the need for a compassionate response for the children who are fleeing violence in Central America. NCLR Affiliate, Southwest Key Programs, presented on the work they are doing providing care and shelter to unaccompanied children. Check out the NCLR Blog for photos and summaries of the successful conference!

Rep. Luis Gutierrez addresses the NCLR Annual Conference in Los Angeles

  • Congress continues to debate how to respond to the humanitarian emergency at the Southern border. The House and Senate continue to have discussions on how to proceed with the President’s request for supplemental funds to respond to the children and families fleeing violence in Central America. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) penned an op-ed articulating the need to protect the children and keep the protections that they have under current law.  As he writes, “we must not repeal the law that offers them protection. We must enforce it and provide the administration with the funding necessary to better address both the domestic and international aspects of this crisis.”

Children at the NCLR Family Expo wrote letters to children fleeing violence as part of the They Are Children campaign

The House of Representatives voted this week to take away a tax credit from vulnerable families. Instead of attempting to improve their failing score on immigration, the House Republican leadership allowed a vote on Friday afternoon that would expand the Child Tax Credit for higher income families, while denying taxpaying immigrant workers with families who use an ITIN for filing from accessing the credit. HR 4935 passed 237-173 despite opposition from the administration: “ H.R. 4935 would immediately eliminate the Child Tax Credit for millions of American children whose parents immigrated to this country, including U.S. citizen children and “Dreamers,” and would push many of these children into or deeper into poverty.”  Click here to see roll call vote 451 and see how your Representative voted on this legislation that would harm hardworking immigrant families. Tune in on Monday as NCLR and Latino, AAPI, faith, and labor organizations issue the final CIR Scores by following #CIRScores.

Honoring Servicemen and Women, the Best and Brightest Latinos: Highlights from the Final Day of #NCLR14

The last day of the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference closed with an inspiring Tuesday lunch and our annual Awards Gala. Check out the highlights from our last day in Los Angeles.

Stern Words for Congress on Immigration: Day Three of #NCLR14

The Economy and Early Child Education were also major themes for day three.