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.

Day One of #NCLR14 Starts With a Bang

Check out highlights from the first official day of our 2014 NCLR Annual Conference.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending July 18


Week Ending July 18, 2014

This week in immigration reform: President Obama meets with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss the need for administrative action on immigration reform as well as how best to protect children fleeing violence; President Obama and Congress continue to debate what course of action to pursue regarding children fleeing violence, as a number of lawmakers introduce bills related to the emergency; NCLR launches “Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans,” a blog series focused on individuals in need of administrative relief from immigration enforcement; and NCLR’s 2014 Annual Conference in Los Angeles presents an array of immigration-related events.

Pres. Obama meets with CHC, which urges him to act on administrative relief and to ensure legal protections for children fleeing violence.  President Obama met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) this Wednesday, July 16.  The CHC urged President Obama to stand firm on his existing promises to review and reform our broken immigration enforcement practices.  CHC members also encouraged the President to resist appeals from Republican lawmakers who wish to change the law so that child migrants from Central America would be denied due process and their day in court.

Following the meeting, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4) remarked that CHC members will refuse to support any legislative changes that undermine the legal protections for child migrants, and reaffirmed that the CHC will work with Pres. Obama to organize the necessary resources needed to address the ongoing humanitarian emergency of children fleeing violence.  Rep. Gutierrez also reported that CHC members asked the President to be “broad and expansive in using prosecutorial discretion and executive action” to relieve aspiring Americans from the threat of deportation.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) published an op-ed following the meeting in which he called on members of Congress to cease their callous, “detain and deport” approach to the children fleeing violence; pointed at Congress’ failure to consider immigration reform legislation as a root cause of the current troubles; and reminded his colleagues that America has historically provided refuge to those fleeing danger.

Pres. Obama and Congress continue debating best course of action on children fleeing violence.  As the Obama administration deals with the humanitarian emergency of children fleeing violence as best it can, political theater has replaced pragmatic policy-making as various members of Congress are introducing bills that would do little to address the root causes of the situation. So far bills have been introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas); Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); and Rep. John Carter (R-Texas).  It remains unclear how Congress will move forward with addressing the emergency.

Other lawmakers, however, have suggested constructive proposals on how to address children fleeing violence.  The Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, chaired by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, firmly rejected proposals to change the law that would eliminate existing due process and humanitarian protections by indiscriminately sending children back to unsafe conditions of rampant gang violence, rape, murder, and human trafficking.

–NCLR launches “Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans” series.  This week NCLR launched “Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans,” a blog series that will highlight stories of individuals and families who would benefit immensely from relief from indiscriminate detention and deportation. Since Republican leadership in the House has wasted the best opportunity we’ve had in years to fix our broken immigration system, millions of hard-working individuals must now look to President Obama for action on immigration.

The first story in the series looks at how Congressional inaction on immigration has affected the Maldonado family of Northeast Ohio.  Check it out here, and stay tuned to NCLR’s blog for future updates to this series.

NCLR’s 2014 Annual Conference in Los Angeles presents an array of immigration-related events.  NCLR’s 2014 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA is just around the corner.  Conference kicks off on July 19 and runs through July 22.  NCLR is committed to the fight for immigration reform and for administrative action on the part of President Obama, and immigration-related events will be front and center at this year’s conference.

On Saturday, July 19 don’t miss NCLR’s featured session “The Battle for Immigration: Legislation, Executive Action, and Unaccompanied Children” at 10:45 A.M. in Room 515A. If you won’t be able to attend in person, you can

Also on Saturday, July 19 be sure to check out “Casa Azafrán: A Case Study in Immigrant Integration through Placemaking” at 9:00 A.M. in LACC West Hall 511C.  Later that day NCLR will be screening “Documented,” the new film by journalist, filmmaker, and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, at 2:45 P.M. in LACC Theatre 411.  Vargas will take questions and answers after the session.

Finally, NCLR will be holding a roundtable discussion on the humanitarian emergency of children fleeing violence in Central America on Sunday, July 20 at 1:30 P.M. in LACC West Hall 150B.  Check out the full pocket agenda for NCLR’s 2014 Annual Conference here.

While at NCLR’s 2014 Annual Conference, be sure to download NCLR’s new immigration integration app “Inmigo” on your smartphone!  The app provides workers in the immigrant integration field with up-to-date information on changing immigration laws and policies. The app is also equipped with an easy-to-use location feature that helps you find legal assistance on immigration-related issues.

#NCLR14 Kicks Off With a Day of Service

We kicked off our Annual Conference in Los Angeles with a day of community service to beautify Berendo Middle School together with Bank of America and our Affiliate, Youth Policy Institute. Below are highlights of the event!