The Senate Must Reject Sen. Sessions Nomination as Attorney General


Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) Photo: Sen. Sessions official Senate website

Almost two weeks have passed since Election Day, and the president-elect is in the midst of the transition process, deciding who will be in his Cabinet and among his top advisors. Traditionally, presidents have wide latitude when it comes to choosing their cabinets, but Donald Trump’s selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as the Attorney General is one selection that we cannot support.

“We believe that any president should have broad latitude in appointments within their administration,” said NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguia. “However, the combination of the pivotal role the attorney general has over so many issues of concern for our community and Sen. Jeff Sessions’ egregious track record on those issues makes it impossible for us to support this nomination.”

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending April 29


Week Ending April 29

This week in immigration: Congressman Grijalva introduces resolution condemning 1996 immigration law; 177 organizations call on DOJ to provide counsel for children in immigration proceedings; op-ed describes how Texas benefits if DAPA is implemented.

CONGRESSMAN GRIJALVA INTRODUCES RESOLUTION CONDEMNING 1996 IMMIGRATION LAW: This week, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) along with 30 Representatives introduced a congressional resolution calling for immigration policies that reduce automatic deportation and detention, restore due process for immigrants, and repeal unnecessary barriers to legal immigration. The “Fix96 Resolution” marks 20 years since the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act were signed into law in 1996, dramatically broadening and easing deportation and detainment requirements, removing legal defenses and involving local law enforcement. Vox writes an excellent description of the impact of the 1996 laws on today’s immigration system and its impact on families. 

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 13


This week in immigration reform: Texas court battle on immigration continues; Republicans again perpetuate anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric; and NCLR continues our blog series on deferred action recipients.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in El DiaroLaOpinion andEFE.

The Department of Justice Seeks to Lift the Order Halting Administrative Relief: This week the Obama Administration filed for an emergency stay in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans to lift the suspension of implementation of President Obama’s November executive actions on immigration. A New York Times article notes that the Fifth Circuit could lift the injunction for the nation as a whole, or severely limit it to only the state of Texas, who is spearheading the lawsuit effort. The Administration also suggested lifting the injunction for states who aren’t participating in the lawsuit. 14 of those states and the District of Columbia filed a brief with the court to ask for an exemption from the injunction. The attorney general of one of those states, Washington, wrote an op-ed highlighting the benefits of President Obama’s actions, noting “Our amicus brief urges the appeals court to allow these reforms to take effect, and I encourage Congress to put divisive politics aside and recognize our shared interest in common-sense immigration reform.”

Study shows current top GOP tactics on immigration could harm them in the future: A study by the University of Southern California highlights the impact of DAPA on U.S. citizen children and emphasizes that that population can vote: “nearly 600,000 children of DAPA parents currently have the right to vote. If we include those who are younger and will age into voting by 2020 – that is, over the course of the next Presidential term during which the DAPA program would have to be renewed, assuming that comprehensive immigration reform does not take its place – we are talking 1.7 million U.S.-born citizens who will be able to express their electoral views about leaders and decisions that could improve or worsen the lives of their parents and families.” The Republican Party should be conscious of how their actions will affect the lives of these young Latino voters. Read the report from the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

In spite of this study, Congressional Republicans continue to attack immigrant families. This week, Senator Vitter (R-La.) introduced an unrelated amendment to a human trafficking bill that would alter the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to only give automatic citizenship to babies born in the U.S. if they have a parent who was in the military, is a lawful permanent resident, or is a U.S. citizen. This amendment is slated to fail, as the Supreme Court has affirmed that the 14th Amendment means what it says – that the fundamental measure of citizenship in the United States is rooted in the soil on which an American is born and has rejected the argument that children born in the United States could be denied citizenship based on their parents’ immigration status.  NCLR joined with over 20 other advocacy groups and signed a letter to Senators opposing the Vitter amendment. Read more on the amendment here.

Next week the new Republican majority in the Senate will continue to spend time on hearings like this one in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Court titled “Reining in Amnesty: Texas v. United States and Its Implications” presided over by Senator Cruz (R-Texas).  Meanwhile the House Judiciary Committee will continue its work on bills that pursue a mass deportation strategy.

NCLR Blog profiles National Latino Advocacy Days participants: This week’s installment of our ‘Living the Dream’ series highlights last week’s National Latino Advocacy Days. The blog mentions three young Latinas who have received DACA and shows how they have continued to advocate for their communities. Samantha received DACA in 2012 and has been working with an NCLR Affiliate, TODEC, for more than five years. Maria attended National Latino Advocacy Days with another Affiliate, the Latin American Community Center in Delaware, and now she works with survivors of domestic violence. Andrea is a high school student from Chicago who wants DACA to remain in place, allowing her to continue her education.

Small Steps to Revive the American Dream of Homeownership

Family in front of housePresident Obama recently gave a speech in Arizona announcing a reduction in mortgage insurance premiums charged by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). This much-needed policy change will save homeowners with FHA loans an average of $900 a year on their mortgage payments while making the dream of homeownership more affordable and easier to reach for many Americans, including Latinos.

Unfortunately, the key message and potential benefits to hard-working Americans were lost following the announcement. Conservative policymakers were quick to invoke a deeply entrenched false narrative that attributes the collapse of the housing market to unqualified borrowers. For example, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R–Texas) released a statement calling the reduction in FHA premiums disappointing and warned against “the destructive cycle of boom, busts, and bailouts that poor decisions in Washington produce.

Regrettably, comments like this from Hensarling and others distract from the large body of evidence confirming that the foreclosure crisis was a result of unscrupulous lenders steering minority borrowers into costly subprime loans. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, studies by economists at the Federal Reserve, and a number of other independent investigations have all shown that the housing crisis stemmed from private-sector lenders chasing profits by producing large volumes of unsustainable loans without regard for borrowers. The Department of Justice reached historic settlements with large lenders charged with steering Black and Hispanic borrowers into predatory subprime products, even when these borrowers qualified for safer conventional mortgages. Additionally, a recent study by a private consulting firm refutes the idea that mortgage credit was easily attainable leading up to the housing market’s collapse. Using 10 years of mortgage originations, the study finds denial rates were actually higher before the crisis than they are in today’s tight credit market. Yet, just as banks and other financial institutions received taxpayer bailouts, they responded by restricting access to affordable mortgage credit to only the most pristine borrowers.

This restrictive environment is where we find ourselves today. Access to affordable mortgage credit continues to be a real barrier to homeownership, especially for qualified Latinos and other underserved markets. The reduction in mortgage insurance premiums from the FHA is expected to provide some relief to put many qualified Americans on the path to homeownership and better financial prospects. We hope that in the future, policymakers stop blaming victims of the foreclosure crisis and we encourage the Obama administration to continue doing more to put the dream of homeownership back within reach of Latino families.

Citigroup Settlement Penalties Are the Largest in History

Gavel and Law BooksThe U.S. Department of Justice recently announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup Inc. over the bank’s faulty mortgage securities and egregious practices. The settlement includes the largest civil fraud penalty ever levied by the Justice Department under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) and is more than twice what many analysts expected.

The government’s description of Citi’s wrongdoing closely mirrors conduct outlined in the Justice Department’s settlement with J.P. Morgan Chase. In both cases, the banks, or entities that they acquired, acknowledged repeatedly giving investors misleading information about mortgages underlying the securities. In many cases, those mortgages didn’t meet internal underwriting guidelines—which ensure that safe and secure loans are issued and help set the terms of the loan—but were included in packages and sold to investors.

Since the housing crisis hit in 2008, NCLR supported the efforts of state attorneys general in pursuing financial institutions whose predatory lending practices decimated the household wealth of millions of families, which was particularly devastating to Latinos and other communities of color. Working alongside advocates, housing counselors, and champions within the administration and the attorney general coalition, a national settlement was reached that made key changes to the mortgage servicing industry.

In California, NCLR worked closely with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris in the state’s successful passage of the Homeowner Bill of Rights, the first legislation of its kind that gives homeowners protections against abusive foreclosure practices by banks, and put an end to dual tracking.

This settlement is a reminder of the main causes of the financial collapse: poor practices in subprime mortgage lending, lack of transparency in the complex securitization process, and lax regulatory enforcement and oversight. Regulatory reforms are now in place that, we hope, will substantially improve the financial system.

The agreement also appears to improve on prior settlements by including affordable housing financing and counseling funds as permissible activities, a strong monitor, and it references relief to reach hard-hit areas.

That said, it will be important to assess how well the settlement is administered. Citi can make amends by working in good faith to ensure that hard-hit areas receive the relief and attention they deserve. In addition, the bank can significantly improve the financial system by collecting and reporting impact data by race and ethnicity, adding a substantial measure of transparency and accountability to the process. In doing so, the bank can ensure that those most harmed by their wrongdoing receive the help they need.

It is important for banks and mortgage lenders to settle accounts with the public for the 2008 crisis once and for all, and to provide as much relief and help as possible to those damaged by it. In doing so, they will help to build a better and stronger financial market in the future.

Family in front of houseLatinos are expected to comprise 40 percent of new households over the next two decades, and 50 percent of homebuyers will be Latino. Even with the recent foreclosure crisis, the desire for Latinos to be homeowners has not abated. According to a poll conducted by Latino Decisions and NCLR, the majority of Latino voters still believe that a key component of the American Dream is owning a home. Overall, 53 percent of Latino voters and 58 percent of immigrants agree that homeownership is a principle of the American Dream.

Latinos can contribute to the recovery of the nation’s housing market, but the widespread availability of safe and affordable mortgages depends on whether financial reforms can create a housing finance system that is accessible, transparent, and accountable for all Americans.