An Almost Unnoticed Victory

Last week, while press attention was heavily focused on passage of House legislation to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Latino and pro-immigration advocates won an almost unnoticed, but nevertheless important, victory. President Trump signed a $1.1 trillion spending deal to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year that, according to Bloomberg News, “largely tracks Democratic priorities and rejects most of [President Trump’s] wish list, including funds for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.” The bill, H.R. 244, was required because Congress previously only appropriated enough funding for half of the 2017 fiscal year.

In mid-March, the White House formally requested an additional $30 billion in defense spending and more than $3 billion for the wall and other immigration enforcement. The Trump administration further asked Congress to cut $18 billion in funds for domestic programs to partially offset these increases. Separately, the administration also urged Congress to eliminate funding for so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with his mass deportation scheme. With a single political party controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, one might’ve assumed that the president’s priorities would sail through the legislative process. Early on, Democratic negotiators made clear they would fight funding for the wall, seeking to beat back one of the president’s signature issues.

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The Looming Immigration Disaster We Can Avoid

The administration’s new immigration executive orders will result in disaster. Our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, made the case for why in a Washington Post op-ed this week.

While the courts have effectively stalled the failed initial executive order rolled out just days after his inauguration, nobody should be fooled in believing that the pending new order will do anything but put a target on the backs of Latinos all over the country.

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The Administration’s New Immigration Enforcement Rules Will Terrorize Citizens and Noncitizens

U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The administration’s immigration guidelines released this week have put Latinos in the crosshairs. While the memos put out by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this week do not contain the roundly criticized policy to use the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants, they remain an unnecessary and a wasteful solution to a nonexistent problem. NCLR wholeheartedly condemns these guidelines.

“Despite repeated reassurances that the Trump administration would prioritize going after gang members and other violent criminals, this DHS action does no such thing,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a statement. “Instead, it opens the floodgates to terrorizing millions of people in this country—citizens and noncitizens alike—to combat a nonexistent immigrant crime wave. Or, to put in the words of this administration, based on ‘fake news.”

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First Recommendations for Integrating New Americans Issued

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This week, the Task Force on New Americans issued its first report to President Obama, recommending ways that the federal government can more effectively support the successful integration of new Americans. As part of the president’s executive actions announced last November to address the nation’s broken immigration system, the Task Force was formed to recommend federal strategies that will strengthen communities and maximize the contributions of immigrants, who today represent nearly one-fifth of the U.S. labor force.

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States experienced a massive and unprecedented wave of immigration that, in relative terms, has yet to be equaled. According to the Migration Policy Institute, from 1860 to 1920 immigrants composed 13–15% of the U.S. population. Starting in 2013, for the first time in a century, the immigrant share of the U.S. population once again approached historic highs.

As with previous waves of immigrants, these new Americans face a number of obstacles. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that nearly half of the legal immigrants arriving annually to the U.S. lack full proficiency in English, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that over two-thirds of the foreign-born population do not have a postsecondary degree. This is troubling, since 19 of the 30 fastest-growing occupations require some form of higher education or additional training.

Marlene-SeptThe response toward these new arrivals has been lackluster compared to previous generations. The successful incorporation of millions of newcomers into the fabric of our society a century ago is one of our country’s signature achievements. These immigrants did not do it on their own; rather, they received significant help from all levels of government and charitable institutions. Today, as success requires higher levels of educational attainment and English language proficiency, our nation has moved away from providing a coordinated government response to help immigrants integrate into American life. The work of the Task Force on New Americans implicitly acknowledges that more must be done.

Among the report’s recommendations from NCLR and other stakeholders, it calls for the creation of a Welcoming Communities Challenge. Inspired by an NCLR recommendation, this competitive funding opportunity would encourage communities to create tailored plans to meet immigrants’ needs in addressing civic, linguistic, and economic integration. While the details are still under review, this challenge would encourage recipients to design programs for local conditions that could provide innovative models for scalable, replicable projects in the future. Without being overly prescriptive, the Welcoming Communities Challenge would highlight best practices that coordinate the three pillars of integration. Immigrants and communities alike would benefit from the inclusion of civic, linguistic, and economic integration in a cohesive policy.

We know too well that questions about who, and how many, should be allowed to enter the country will always be controversial, but there should be no debate about our shared interest in rapidly and fully integrating Americans-in-waiting. Our future economic prosperity, national security, and social cohesion rest in part on how well we meet this challenge.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 6

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Week Ending March 6

This week in immigration reform: Nearly 300 community leaders participated in National Latino Advocacy Days,Congress funds the Department of Homeland Security; and NCLR continues a new blog series highlighting the impact of administrative relief.

Braving the weather, hundreds attend National Latino Advocacy Days: This Wednesday, nearly 300 Latino leaders from across the country participated in a day-long event promoting advocacy for Latino priorities. Attendees represented 24 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Check out tweets and photos from the event on Twitter with #NLAD15. Also, take a look at NCLR’s Facebook photo album on why Latinos vote.

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Latino Advocacy Days followed the NCLR Capital Awards where NCLR recognized the work of Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and honored longtime immigration reform advocate, Frank Sharry. During her remarks, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía warned the Republican Party about the political consequences of their rhetoric and policies that are adversely affecting not only the Latino community, but the entire nation’s best interests. You can see Janet’s speechhere.

Congress passes DHS funding bill without harmful immigration amendments: This week the House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of this fiscal year. This was after much political maneuvering and uncertainty. House Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the version of the bill that passed in the Senate, one that removed the harmful language defunding President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. NCLR applauds the passage of a clean DHS funding bill.

Also this week, House Republicans found time for a two-day markup of four-immigration related bills. These bills would promote a national racial profiling protocol, take an ineffective enforcement-only approach to fixing our immigration system, and would deny due process to some of the most vulnerable immigrants: child refugees. In a statement, NCLR’s Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro said “These bills are a conscious, premeditated attack against millions of American families and a direct blow at the heart of the Latino community. They are representative of the backward thinking that has replaced a solution-driven approach to immigration in Washington, and they show a disregard for the civil rights of all Americans.”

Second installment of our blog profiling deferred action success stories: This week’s “Living the American DREAM” blog post features Steven Arteaga Rodriguez, a 19-year-old from Houston and a DACA recipient who was brought to the United States when he was four months old. Steven got the chance to meet with President Obama to discuss how his executive actions have impacted the lives of immigrants and their families. DACA enabled Steven to search for work without fear of deportation. To continue the success of deferred action programs, Steven urged his fellow DREAMers to apply, saying “If we don’t apply, we don’t take this opportunity, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We’ve gotten this far, and it wouldn’t be fair for all those DREAMers that fought if, you know, not everybody applied.”