This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 27

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Week Ending February 27

This week in immigration reform: Janet Murguía and advocates meet with President Obama on immigration; NCLR launches a new blog series; the Department of Homeland Security funding debate continues; and NCLR gears up for National Latino Advocacy Days.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in Slate and EFE Newswire and featured on Kansas City Public Radio.

President Obama meets with advocates and participates in townhall on immigration: This week Janet Murguía attended a meeting with President Obama where he encouraged advocates to continue to get out the word about DAPA and the broader eligibility for DACA. The president also told advocates at the meeting that, despite the temporary delay of the implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA because of the court injunction, the priorities enforcement memo from November 2014 is in effect and the administration will continue to prioritize public safety, national security, and border security. Read more in a Huffington Post article. Murguía tweeted about the meeting (below) and made a statement afterwards, saying “the law is on our side and that while we need to move forward through the legal process, we believe that we will win this case and make sure that we can move forward with implementation with the executive order.” Watch a video of her complete statement.

The president continued defense of his executive action on immigration during an appearance with MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart for an immigration town hall in Miami. Watch the video in our blog. Additionally, President Obama wrote an op-ed in The Hill urging comprehensive immigration reform.

NCLR launches a blog profiling deferred action success stories: A new blog series began this week with the story of Emilio Vicente, a DACA recipient and soon-to-be college graduate. Emilio has advocated for immigration reform, is an active member of his university community, and hopes to continue his work on immigration upon graduation from the University of North Carolina. On what DACA has meant for him, Emilio said:

“DACA for me means not being under the threat of deportation at any moment and being able to use my degree once I graduate. I can also sleep better at night knowing that my brothers and sisters-in-law, who qualify for DAPA, won’t be deported and separated from their families at any moment. We need a humane immigration bill that is permanent but until then, DACA and DAPA will protect many of us from the separation of our families.”

The blog, ‘Living the American DREAM,’ will also profile individuals who will come forward to apply for the expanded DACA and new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs.

Congress continues to debate funding for DHS, which expires at midnight: The fight over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security has played out all week on the Hill. Just today, the Senate passed an amended version of HR 240, a ‘clean’ DHS funding bill to fully fund the agency through the fiscal year. House Republicans might try to call a conference committee to negotiate a final bill and to potentially add language into the bill to prevent implementation of executive action. Minority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to block a conference committee and is quoted in an article from The Hill saying: “If they send over a bill with all the riders in it, they’ve shut down the government. We’re not going to play games.”

The Senate then proceeded to vote on a bill by Senator Collins (R-Maine) that would overturn President Barack Obama’s most recent immigration actions. That vote failed 57-42. In the House, Republicans attempted to pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund DHS through March 19. That vote failed 203-224. It is unclear how Congress will proceed and NCLR will keep you informed as this debate continues.

Latino advocates come to the Washington next week to voice concerns and support for their communities: Next week, 300 Latino leaders from 23 states and the District of Columbia will come to Washington D.C. for National Latino Advocacy Days. NCLR is excited to welcome members of the NCLR Affiliate network and will be facilitating a day-long training to prepare participants before they visit their elected officials.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 13

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Week Ending February 13

This week in immigration: Ready America conference takes place in Virginia; House Judiciary Committee brings back harmful proposals; House Democrats introduce a ‘clean’ DHS funding bill; and Republicans should be wary of the impact of their current DHS funding strategy.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in the LA Times and the Baltimore Sun.

Ready America conference helps prepare groups for administrative relief: This week approximately 400 people from across the country gathered for the Ready America conference in Northern Virginia. The conference was an opportunity for organizations from different sectors to be inspired, learn, and coordinate on the implementation of administrative relief with workshops covering policy, community outreach, collaborations, and service delivery models. NCLR Senior Cabinet Advisor, Charles Kamasaki, organized a workshop highlighting research efforts related to administrative relief which allowed researchers to connect with practitioners and for practitioners to share what research would be helpful. 35 NCLR Affiliates were represented by 51 participants at the conference and Lindsay Daniels, Manager of NCLR’s Wealth Building Initiative, organized a workshop on the small dollar lending programs that could help individuals cover application fees. The panel featured NCLR Affiliates doing this work, such as Mission Asset Fund from San Francisco and The Resurrection Project from Chicago. Check out the conference hashtags on Twitter to find out more: #RA15 and #immigrationaction. Read more in our blog.

Also this week, a newly released poll shows a majority of Americans support the president’s executive action on immigration, with 52 percent saying he should have taken action. Additionally, 76 percent of respondents said they supported the provisions of the executive action to allow those undocumented immigrants with a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident child to stay in the U.S. for three years.

RESOURCE: To help people prepare for administrative relief, USCIS published frequently asked questions on expanded DACA and revised instructions for Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The forms for expanded DACA will begin to be accepted on February 18.

House Judiciary Committee convenes hearing on harmful bills that failed last Congress: This week the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on three bills that provide a piecemeal response to the complex broken immigration system. One bill, the “SAFE Act,” is particularly harmful to communities and a NCLR blog notes:

In contrast to its name, the “SAFE Act” will make living in America more dangerous for millions of families. This legislation gives state and local authorities the power to create and implement their own immigration laws, throwing an already chaotic immigration system into further disorder. It emphasizes an enforcement-only approach that focuses on locating, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. It encourages racial profiling, which will inevitably lead to wrongful detention because anyone who “looks illegal” can be stopped, arrested, and detained. And it goes so far as to criminalize undocumented status, as well as the mere act of providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. Under this law, a church providing shelter to undocumented immigrants could actually face criminal prosecution.

NCLR continues to oppose the “SAFE Act” and similar bills that focus on enforcement and criminalization rather than a comprehensive solution.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Lowey (D-N.Y.) introduce a clean DHS funding bill: This week the Ranking Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and of the full Appropriations Committee introduced a DHS funding bill without the harmful amendments ending President Obama’s administrative relief for millions of families. In a press release, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard notes this “clean Homeland Security funding bill will keep our nation safe. Every Democrat has co-sponsored this bill, so we have the votes to pass it with only 30 Republican votes. The Republican leadership should correct their dangerous strategy and stop threatening our national security. I call on my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in living up to our responsibility as Members of Congress, and put the safety of the American people first by immediately passing our bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for 2015.” NCLR applauds the introduction of a clean bill to fund DHS.

The GOP should be wary of the impact their DHS funding strategy could have on Latino voters: As Senate Republicans attempted to move forward with the House-passed DHS funding bill, some are questioning how such an approach is perceived by the Latino community. A Hill article notes that the majority of Latino voters support President Obama’s executive action to temporarily allow qualified undocumented parents to stay in the U.S. While the GOP pushes an agenda to repeal this administrative relief, they have failed to introduce a solution to the problem administrative relief seeks to alleviate. The article cites Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as saying, “To attempt to use a spending bill in order to try to poke a finger in the president’s eye is not a good move, in my view. I believe that rather than poke the president in the eye we ought to put legislation on his desk, and we ought to use this time — we’ve already used up two weeks trying to attach measures to a funding bill when we could have used this time to actually move actual immigration legislation.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) stated he wants to see a DHS spending bill without the anti-immigrant provisions, “This battle should be ended. When we were given the honor of the majority, we have to govern wisely. Shutdowns are not wise policy for key national security-related departments.”

Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has stated that the Senate will have a fourth vote to attempt to pass the House-passed version of the DHS spending bill which has failed in the three previous votes and which President Obama has stated he will veto.

Sen. Durbin of Illinois Today on the Senate Floor

Watch Sen. Dick Durbin speak on the Senate floor today to demand a “clean” version of a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, one that doesn’t include provisions to undo the president’s administrative relief.

Stay the Course and Gather What You Need for Administrative Relief

With the news on immigration focused on administrative relief and a new Congress seemingly bent on undoing that relief, we know there may be some confusion about what is happening. We want to allay your fears and bring you up to speed on applying for the new DAPA program and expanded DACA.

First and foremost, it must be noted that the votes in the House of Representatives on administrative relief are not a new law. Efforts to take away administrative relief will not stand. There have already been attempts to undo the president’s action (more on that below) and we are actively working to defend it, but nothing that Congress has passed so far will have any bearing on administrative relief. Therefore, you should continue to prepare everything you need for applying for DAPA and expanded DACA.

We have prepared a handy checklist on what you need to gather before starting the application process. Take a look below for information on eligibility and applying.

(Click the images to enlarge)

One thing you’ll definitely need is a birth certificate. If you’re a Mexican citizen living in the United States, starting today you’re eligible to get your birth certificate from the Mexican Consulate. Make sure to take advantage of this opportunity soon.

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So What’s Happening in Congress?

If you haven’t been following the issue closely, let us fill you in with a quick overview:

The 114th Congress has just begun its session, and this week the House passed a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As part of the Republican leadership’s plan to stop the president’s administrative relief, a number of amendments designed to achieve this goal were added to the DHS budget bill, and they all passed.

As you might remember from your civics class, in order for a bill to become law it must pass in both the House and the Senate and then be signed by the president. So, the next stop for the DHS funding measure (including the approved anti-immigrant amendments) is the U.S. Senate, where it has a slim chance of passing in its current form.

While the DHS budget must be approved, there is widespread belief that enough senators will object to the House amendments being included in any final bill. In addition, the president has made several indications that he would veto any measure that would undo his administrative action.

Our message to Congress is this: We cannot think of a more substantively offensive and politically disastrous step for Republicans to take at this moment in time. And our message to our community is “No se asusten.” Stay informed and keep preparing for administrative relief.

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for our Action Network to stay on top of the latest news and take action.

Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans

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By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR

In this blog series, we will lift up the stories of individuals who would benefit from administrative action to address the suffering caused by increases in detention and deportation. The individuals are representative of millions across the country who would benefit from Congress providing a permanent solution to fix our immigration laws but in the meantime need the president to act.

AllInRally3Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered the best opportunity in years to provide a solution to our broken immigration system. Instead of providing a solution that promotes family unity, creates new jobs, and reduces the deficit—all stated interests of the GOP leadership—they have turned their backs on their colleagues who were pushing for a lasting solution, as well as the American public, which supports immigration reform. Doing nothing, however, is not an option. The failure of the House GOP to act reaffirms the need for President Obama to act instead.

When I think about who the GOP has failed, I think of the Maldonado family. The consequences of inaction are not abstract for them, and the failure does not just impact the Maldonados. It affects the community that has rallied around them, including an amazing advocate who is known as the guardian angel for immigrants in Ohio.

I first learned of the Maldonado family in 2011 when Manuela and her sister, Rosa, were in deportation proceedings and faced the heart-wrenching struggle of deciding what to do with Manuela’s sons, who are U.S. citizens. Her children need their mother and aunt, who has been a caretaker for the boys ever since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took Manuela’s husband from their home and deported him.

The Maldonados had lived quiet, productive lives in Ohio for nearly 10 years, yet a 2007 immigration raid changed their lives forever. ICE officers entered their home looking for someone else, but upon learning that the parents and aunt of the Maldonado boys were undocumented, they put them in deportation proceedings. Tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees later, Manuela’s husband was deported to Mexico, and she and her sister faced the same fate. Due to the tenacity of advocates in the community, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) granted Manuela and Rosa an exercise of prosecutorial discretion since they are not a priority for removal—they are productive members of their community, raising children who were born here.

HouseImmigrationBill_picI met one of the boys when he came to the NCLR National Latino Advocacy Days. He talked to members of Congress and the Obama administration about how his family lives with the daily fear of being separated. The separation of his father has already been too much for the family to handle. Manuela’s husband attempted to reenter the U.S. this year to be reunited with his children and provide for them. Instead of looking at the totality of circumstances—a father of U.S. citizen children who had lived in the U.S. for nearly 10 years without criminal record—DHS saw a “recent border crosser,” to use their terms, and sent him back to Mexico as a priority deportation.

Unfortunately, the Maldonados’ story is not uncommon. Too many children and families live in fear of losing their loved ones because of our broken immigration system.

The administration must act to provide commonsense relief to individuals who have longstanding ties to our country and are not a threat to national security.