This Week in Immigration Reform

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Week Ending October 28

This week in immigration: USCIS announces new fee schedule and guidance on ‘extreme hardship’; new report shows benefits of DACA extend into communities across the country.

USCIS issues new fee schedule:  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a final rule  adjusting the fees required for most immigration applications and petitions. The new fees will be effective December 23, 2016 and there is an average 21 percent increase in most application fees. The fee rule has been made final after USCIS reviewed stakeholder feedback. During the comment period earlier this year, NCLR expressed disappointment at the increase of fees, but was encouraged by the creation of a new partial fee waiver.

One of the results of the final rule is a new three-level fee system for the application for naturalization (Form N-400). The standard fee will increase from $680 to $725 (including biometrics). USCIS will introduce a partial fee waiver that will apply to applicants with household incomes between 150-200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, or between $36,000-$48,000 per year (for a household of four). The full fee waiver for applicants with household incomes under 150 percent of poverty will remain in effect. Professor Manuel Pastor, Director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) at the University of Southern California, estimates that there are 1 million legal immigrants who will be eligible for the new partial naturalization fee waiver, and 2.7 million immigrants who are eligible for the full naturalization fee waiver.

USCIS will host a conference call to answer questions regarding the final rule on November 2nd at 3:30 Eastern. To register for the USCIS call with Director Rodriguez, click on the USCIS registration page and follow the instructions.

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July31

Immigration_reform_Updates_blueWeek Ending July 31

This week in immigration: NCLR responds to Donald Trump’s mass deportation proposal; check out the facts about immigrants and Medicare; and read a blog post featuring citizenship lending circles.

  • NCLR Deputy Vice President, Clarissa Martinez de Castro was interviewed by Univision for their nightly news segment on Donald Trump’s proposal that the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country should be deported:  You can see her response here.
  • This week Medicare — which provides healthcare coverage to America’s seniors — turned 50.  It’s a good opportunity to highlight that immigrants have been contributing to Medicare and helping to sustain the program.  Check out our infographic for more info:
  • This week on the NCLR blog, we featured the work NCLR Affiliate, Mission Asset Fund (MAF).  MAF recently received an NCLR Family Strengthening Award at this year’s NCLR Annual Conference in Kansas City.

MAF has formalized the process of Lending Circles, in which a small number of people agree to lend money to each other at no interest, by having registered participants’ payments reported to the national credit bureaus. This helps people who may not otherwise have had access to get into the mainstream financial system, says Ximena Arias, Financial Services Manager at MAF.

Lending Circles can help those who have specific goals in mind, such as paying the application fee to become a citizen. Watch the video to hear Karla Henriquez who has experienced the process both as a participant and as the Programs Coordinator for MAF.

Weekly Washington Outlook — May 4, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of May 11th.

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will vote to override the President’s veto of S.J. Res. 8, a bill that would block a proposed National Labor Relations Board rule on expediting workplace elections in certain circumstances. On Tuesday, the Senate will resume consideration of legislation that would give Congress the authority to review any nuclear agreement with Iran. The Senate also plans to vote this week on a conference report of a joint budget resolution.

White House:

On Monday, the President will travel to New York City to deliver remarks at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization. He will also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, and attend DNC events.

On Tuesday, the President will host a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House.

On Wednesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the President will welcome the United States Air Force Academy football team to the White House to present them with the 2014 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. In the afternoon, the President will travel to the Portland, Oregon area to attend a DNC event.

On Friday, the President will attend an event held at Nike headquarters to discuss how workers will benefit from progressive, high-standards trade agreements that would open up new markets and support high-quality jobs both for Oregon small businesses and large companies like Nike. The President will also make the case that strong bipartisan trade promotion legislation – introduced this month by Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch – is an important step to ensure our trade policy works for the middle class through strong enforcement provisions, transparency, and the requirement that our trade agreements include high-standards to bring greater opportunity to American businesses, level the playing field for American workers, protect the environment, and raise human rights and labor standards around the world. Afterward, the President will travel to Watertown, South Dakota to deliver the commencement address for the graduating class at Lake Area Technical Institute. Lake Area Technical Institute is one of the top community colleges in the nation, and is recognized for rigorously preparing its students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st Century economy. With a two-year graduation rate more than twice the national average, Lake Area Technical Institute focuses on providing its graduates smooth pathways to high skilled careers with private-sector businesses.

Also This Week:

Immigration – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills on Wednesday, including S. 750, “Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act.” This bill would allow Customs and Border Protection access to federal lands in Arizona for their patrols. It has been criticized by environmental groups, immigration advocates, and others.

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee continues to hold hearings this week. The Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Tim Massad will both appear on Tuesday before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will make her first appearance in her new role on Thursday before the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. When the House returns from recess, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated he plans to bring the Legislative Branch funding bill to the floor before the end of the work period.

Budget – The Senate is scheduled to vote this week on a conference report on a joint budget resolution for FY2016. The measure maintains discretionary domestic spending at sequester levels, but increases defense spending by $96 billion. It also includes reconciliation instructions, setting the stage for a fight over repealing the Affordable Care Act later this summer. The House passed the conference report last week.

Education – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote in his May memo that he still plans to bring H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act” to the floor in the coming weeks. Without any Democratic support, however, the legislation is rumored to still be short of votes needed for passage. Acknowledging this, Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has recently signaled openness to a different legislative vehicle for passing legislation to rewrite ESEA. The Senate is likely to take up a bipartisan reauthorization bill in early June. The “Every Child Achieves Act,” which passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee earlier in April, still faces challenges from civil rights groups and others about what has been perceived as a weak accountability system.

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.

Finding Hope in “The State of Arizona”

For filmmakers Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval, another film focused on immigration was not in the cards.  Ten years ago they made the award-winning documentary, Farmingville, about immigration in America set against the backdrop of the murder of two Latino day laborers.  The film was a critical success and helped spur national debate about our broken immigration system.

After living and working in Farmingville, New York for a year, both said they had decided to avoid delving back into the issue.  This even after one of the film’s featured characters, anti-immigrant activist and Minuteman Glen Spencer, told them that he was moving to Arizona because it was the next battleground.  They didn’t know it then, but Spencer was right.  Only a few years later Arizona passed its controversial  racial profiling law, SB 1070, also known as the “papers, please” law.  After it went into effect, the filmmakers realized they had to do something.

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Still from The State of Arizona

What resulted is their most recent documentary, “The State of Arizona.”  The film tells the story of how the polarizing SB 1070 law spurred Arizona’s immigrant community into action, bringing the entire U.S. Latino community together. You can watch a clip of the film below. The documentary airs on PBS’ Independent Lens when on January 27. Check your local listings for air times.

Sandoval and Tambini were in Washington recently for a Capitol Hill policy briefing that featured the film.  We had the opportunity to sit down with them afterward to talk about “The State of Arizona” and about immigration’s centrality to the story of America.

Before the Q & A, watch some clips from the film:

NCLR:  In your own words, what is SB 1070?

Sandoval:  SB 1070 is Arizona’s controversial immigration law.  It came to be known as the “papers, please” law.  Part of it was to require law enforcement to take people who looked “reasonably” suspicious in terms of their appearance.  The law was ultimately limited and required officers to make a lawful stop, but that was one of the controversial provisions of the law.  Another was the intent of attrition through enforcement, which really meant to make life so miserable for people that they would self-deport.


NCLR:  Why did you both get involved?  Why make this film now?

Tambini:  After Farmingville, one of the anti-immigrant activists in that film, Glen Spencer, said to us, “Arizona.  That’s the next place.”  He moved to Arizona and bought a ranch on the border.  A lot of things started to happen.  The Minutemen sprang up, and we were trying to avoid trying to go back into the issue, but things kept happening.  Once the law went into effect, we both kind of looked at each other and said, “Let’s go see what we can do.”

Sandoval:  For me, it was personal.  Here was a law that was being considered, and passed, that was going to racially profile me, and people who looked like me.  The fact that it was not limited in any way, the fact that the mere presence of walking down the street, people who looked like me, who were several generations American, could be stopped.  That angered me, and it frightened me.  After SB 1070, or while it was being considered and revised, that “reasonable” suspicion provision was unleashed; it could affect anyone.  I think that really charged the Latino community across the U.S. in ways that other issues had not.

Activists demonstrate outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Photo Credit: Lauren Asmus

Activists demonstrate outside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Photo Credit: Lauren Asmus


NCLR:  What kind of challenges did you encounter while you were in Arizona making the film?

Sandoval:  I think that from the storytelling perspective, one challenge was that this was a large sprawling story, an ongoing story.  When we arrived, the train had left the station in many ways.  We captured a community on the upswing, a community that had organized itself.  That’s part of the story that’s so remarkable.  Here you had a community that spontaneously brought themselves together and organized on a level of massive mobilization that was ultimately very effective.  We arrived as that was going forward, and we were trying to catch up.  And so access to people became difficult because. Thanks to folks like former NCLR Board Chair Danny Ortega, we had access to all the Latino community and the immigrant community all over Arizona.  Reaching out to people who were in favor of SB 1070, however, that community was a difficult one to reach.

Tambini:  It took us a long time to begin to penetrate the pro–SB 1070 side of the issue.  We went to every event that there was, but one of the major problems was that both sides were so entrenched.  It was hard to find anybody in the middle.  We like to find the person on the ground who can be the “everyman,” who can sort of speak for most of the viewers who will see the film.  That was a big difficulty when we got there.  It took us a long time to penetrate into the pro–SB 1070 world.  Finally, when we did, it really paid off.


NCLR:  Why do you think it was so difficult to find SB 1070 supporters willing to be filmed?

Duncan Blair on his cattle ranch that runs along the U.S.-Mexican border.  Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

Duncan Blair on his cattle ranch that runs along the U.S.-Mexican border. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

Tambini:  A lot of the reasons that are the race card gets thrown.  People say things like, “Oh, you’re just racist.”  And supporters respond with, “No.  It’s the law.  What part of that don’t you understand?”  I think that people get painted with a broad brush, so everyone’s a little reluctant.  They don’t want people to know how they feel.  They don’t want to be ostracized.

Sandoval:  There’s another very practical matter.  When we arrived, as we said, people were organizing, mobilizing; they were moving.  They were organizing this march that was going to involve 200,000 people, and we were following that action.  We were following that story.  And so having the time to really seek out supporters of SB 1070, there just wasn’t enough time in the day.  We did get the chance, though, to go to a Tea Party rally that was to happen the same day as this massive march.  We went from this march that had familia, lots of music; everyone was well-ordered; the spirit was up.  It was fantastic.  And so we go over to the Tea Party rally, which was in a baseball stadium, and you could see the Hell’s Angels motorcycles lined up.  There were people screaming out things that were anti-Mexican.  “Vicente Fox has got to go.”  “Can you hear us Mexico now?”  “This is not your country.”  People were really ginning each other up.  There was hardly a person of color to be found.  I was so shell-shocked during the entire thing.  Catherine had to kind of hold me up and insisted that we stay.  And it was feeling that kind of anger enclosed within a stadium where everything kind of reverberated.  I was so stunned by this, and it occurred to us later that this is the story about the struggle for the soul of America.  It was people fighting over who and what we are, and that was really an incredibly emotional day.  That was a challenge.

Phoenix area resident Renee Taylor demonstrates in support of SB 1070 outside the federal court house. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

Phoenix area resident Renee Taylor demonstrates in support of SB 1070 outside the federal court house. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini


NCLR:  How were you successful in finding folks who were in the middle?  Where’d you go to find them?

Tambini:  We didn’t really find folks in the middle.  Who we found was the mayor of Mesa, Arizona, Scott Smith, who for us became the voice of reason.  He’s our go-to guy in the film when we need things explained about the history.  He summarizes certain points for us, but it was very difficult.  We didn’t really find people who could walk us down the middle part where they were conflicted about one thing or the other.

Sandoval:  We did find very interesting and quite compelling characters, such as Catherine Kobar.  She loves to picket!  She’s a lovely woman, and very caring, but she just feels very strongly about this issue.

Tambini:  Part of her thing is that she feels there are just too many people.  She’s been influenced by the Numbers people.  She’s in her 60s and she’s found something that she likes to do and she goes and does it.  She’s our person on that side who’s the layperson.  Like Carlos said, she’s very lovely, she just has the issue.

Sandoval:  And just because she delivers things with such wonderful cadence, she’s a personality that comes across.


Supporters of tough Arizona immigration laws outside the state capitol. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

Supporters of tough Arizona immigration laws outside the state capitol. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

NCLR:  What do you think was in SB 1070 that people found support for?

Sandoval:  I don’t know that it was support for a specific provision, as much as it was support for “we’re okay with anything that deals with this matter.”  You have to understand that Arizona was ground zero.  There was a huge influx of people coming across the border.  Lives were changed.  Things got transformed in a relatively short time, a ten-year period.

Tambini:  Also, the media had a lot to do with ginning up this whole frenzy every day.  You see it in the beginning of the film.  There was a media frenzy that was making it a lot worse than it actually seemed to be, in my opinion.

Sandoval:  I think it’s frustration and a little bit of change and some anger, but I don’t think it’s [support for] any of the step-by-step provisions.  I think that’s true for a lot of Arizonans who feel like, “We’re pissed off because the federal government hasn’t done anything about this and we’re here by ourselves.  We have to do something.  And whatever it is, we just have to do something.”

Tambini:  Arizona also was the place where people were funneled.  [The feds] shut down the borders in Texas and California and really funneled people through Arizona thinking that it would deter people from coming because of the risk of death in the desert, but it didn’t.  People kept coming and coming and coming, and, as Carlos said, it became this hotbed.


Carlos Garcia arrested as he protests the implementation of SB 1070. Photo Credit: Michael Jordi Valdés

Carlos Garcia arrested as he protests the implementation of SB 1070. Photo Credit: Michael Jordi Valdés

NCLR:  What, if anything, do you think those opposed to SB 1070 can do or say to gain supporters for immigration reform?  Is there a winning argument?

Tambini:  I think a lot of what we try to do is humanize people.  We try to let people see how we’re alike rather than how we’re different.  So that’s one thing we try to do with our films is to show what it’s like to be in somebody else’s shoes, show compassion.  If you can see that families are being broken apart, those sort of things work.

Sandoval:  It’s a conversation and dialogue, and probably a variety of conversations, because the conversation always starts with, “They’re illegal.  It’s the rule of law.”  So then you have to sort of talk about the compassion aspect.  Do we really want to break up families?  Is that the American value?  What is the cost/benefit of analysis?  Looking at how, overall, reform is better for the economy.  So it’s a framing and re-framing of it.


NCLR:  What do you think is missing in the immigration policy debates here in Washington?

Sandoval:  I have two answers that are kind of diametrically opposed to each other, and one of them comes from someone like Erika Andiola.  Her own mother was picked up for deportation.  Erika’s left Washington to work in Arizona to work as an activist.  She put across that there is a need for urgency, and the real issue right now is deportation.  We don’t care if it’s Republicans or Democrats who stop it, what we want focus on is stopping those deportations.  So there’s that voice, which is saying we’re going to do everything we can, we’re going to take inventive civil actions to do that.  That voice may push reform because it just pushes the dialogue further.  Then there are the people who are calling for much less than those supporting immigration reform want.  How you get that dialogue going I don’t know, and, obviously, Washington is stuck in that.  I think that the general consensus across the country is get something going and make it happen.

Kathryn Kobor with her picket signs. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

Kathryn Kobor with her picket signs. Photo Credit: Catherine Tambini

NCLR:  What is different now in Arizona since the Supreme Court decision?

Tambini:  Rep. Sinema [Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.] told us that opening day in the legislature this year, they had the Mexican consul general to come and speak.  This is four years after SB 1070 was passed and all this anti-Mexican sentiment going on.  There are people who are now in charge of the Arizona Senate who are voting down those more extreme laws.  No new laws have passed.  No new anti-immigrant laws have passed.  And they’re very organized on the ground.

Sandoval:  The tide turned in Arizona.  Within the state, it’s a very different feeling, from what I gather.  Scott Smith, the Mesa, Arizona Mayor, and a Republican, there’s a lot of talk about him because he’s about to run for governor, and he’s a more moderate politician.  That chatter has resulted in the extremes pulling back.  The irony is, and as a country I think we’re in the middle zone, the irony is that as things seem to be more positive in terms of the possibility of reform, we still have the highest record number of deportations.  That’s the tension right now.  Going back to the urgency for reform so we don’t have other Arizona’s, and the immediate need to stop breaking up families unnecessarily, that’s the tension we engaged in the immigration debate are facing now.


NCLR:  What do you think comes next after comprehensive immigration reform?

Sandoval:  That depends on what comprehensive reform looks like.  I’m going to take your term and just call it immigration reform, because I think there’s a real possibility that whatever passes may not be “comprehensive.”  My concern is that if we go the piecemeal approach, then fine, but then it depends on what order you take it in.  If you put enforcement first and then maybe guest-worker programs, employer sanctions, those are the easy ones.  But then you get to the issue of legalization.  Will we actually carry that out?  And if we don’t, then we’re where were before.  The scenario under piecemeal versus comprehensive is very, very different.  If we get all the way through with piecemeal, great, but what will be given up in the course of the piecemeal approach is the question.  I say that in a pragmatic way.  If we don’t deal with what someone in our film calls the “hairball,” that is the split families, the 11 million undocumented, if you don’t deal with them in some way or another, the situation continues.  The frustration continues on both sides.  It has to be dealt with otherwise the rest is just window dressing.


NCLR:  What do you hope viewers walk away with after watching your film?

ImmigrationRally_7_10_2013Sandoval:  Hope.  This is what’s ironic for me, but it’s hope.  It’s that you can turn things around through action.  That mobilization, going forward, working hard, having patience, that there can be hope…  What we saw going on was that as the wrath of more extreme immigration laws were proposed, that Republicans led the charge in not going down that route.  So there was a sense in which, speaking of the American character, that we’ll only go so far.  Now how far they went in Arizona may be farther than a lot of us wanted to go, but it means that there’s room for something to come to a halt.  Your immigration and civic engagement director, Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, at the briefing said that things with the immigration debate were at a fevered pitch and that with Arizona, the fever broke.  It’s a greater sense of public support for immigration reform.  The film tracks that arc.  We hope people will watch the film and gather hope from that.

Tambini:  We also hope people will begin to come together and talk about what needs to happen with immigration reform.  It seems like things are kind of stalled again.  We have great hope that something will happen this year and so we’re hoping that the film being used by groups around the country will begin to stimulate that dialogue so that they’ll go back to their elected representatives and say, “Look, we really want something to happen and here’s the way it needs to go.”  That’s a big hope for us.