This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending March 13

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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.

House Republicans Begin New Congress by Voting Against American Families

DREAMers_cantwaitOne of the first orders of business for the brand new Congress today was to undo President Obama’s administrative relief for certain undocumented immigrants. In a series of votes nearly along party lines, representatives sought to undo the president’s program through amendments to the funding measure for the Department of Homeland Security. Members also voted to end the highly successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary legal status to DREAMers. We condemn these votes and are resolved to fight them and other similar proposals.

In a statement released shortly after the vote, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía expressed her disappointment:

“The House Republican leadership and Caucus may believe that they voted against the president today, but they actually voted against the millions of American families whose loved ones are working very hard to get right with the law. And they voted against millions more, including the majority of Americans who strongly support the substance of the president’s policy.

“Adding insult to injury, House Republicans voted to undo the one program in the last two decades that has done anything to help resolve our immigration issue, gratuitously harming hundreds of thousands of young people who are now able to make stronger contributions to our economy and communities. I cannot think of a more substantively offensive and politically disastrous step for Republicans to take at this moment in time. It is no secret that the GOP is in a severe deficit when it comes to the Latino community and the Hispanic vote; it is a well-known fact among the many Republicans who support a sensible and effective immigration solution, and polling confirms it.”

The Latino community will not forget that House Republicans actively worked to begin the 114th Congress with a political stunt meant to crush the hope given to families without any plausible alternatives in return.

Stay updated with the latest immigration news. Join our Action Network today!

A Broken Immigration System Hurts Communities and Businesses

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By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR 

Our EconomyWhen we talk about the need for President Obama to grant administrative relief to qualifying immigrants, we often focus on the families who lose cherished loved ones. But there is more to the story. The approximately 11 million aspiring Americans in our country are woven into the fabric of communities. Nearly 10 million have lived in the United States for five years or more. They are volunteers, breadwinners, and skilled workers.

Take, for example, the story of Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez, a 38-year-old man living and working in Orcas Island, Washington. His story was recently reported in the Seattle Times.

For 15 years, Benjamin was solely responsible for operating the antique circular saw at West Sound Lumber. His skills and knowledge were indispensable to running the mill—no one else knew how to operate the saw that he used to craft furniture and other goods. The company’s owner, Jack Helsell, considered Benjamin essential to his business’s success, as Benjamin did the same work that two men used to do, and he did it twice as fast. Benjamin was not only a reliable worker, he was also virtually irreplaceable. Before he came on, no sawyer had stayed on the job for longer than a year, given the tough, physical nature of the work.

In 2008, however, Benjamin ran afoul of immigration authorities while driving his sick and elderly neighbor to the hospital. Benjamin met his 80-year old neighbor Natalie White in 1998. In exchange for English lessons, he helped Natalie with odd jobs around the house and took care of her cats, dogs, goats, and guinea pigs. When Natalie suffered a stroke, she thought to call Benjamin first rather than dial 911. Benjamin drove her to the closest hospital and they encountered a Border Patrol checkpoint on the way, where he was apprehended.  He was detained, granted a hearing, and then ordered to be removed from the country.

Meanwhile, the Helsells worried if their business would survive. West Sound Lumber is a small, family-owned company that couldn’t afford to upgrade its saw, and even after recruiting for two years, the business could not find a replacement for Benjamin. The company wouldn’t have been the only business affected by Benjamin’s deportation. Local builders who depend on the mill’s lumber urged immigration authorities to release the skilled craftsman, writing that his loss would be disastrous for their businesses. Local artists also went to West Sound Lumber with special projects for Benjamin and the saw.

Advocacy Central Need Action8The Orcas Island community, like other communities across the country, rallied to make the case that deporting someone who is integrally linked to their community would be devastating and was not in the country’s best interest. The Helsell family, other local businesses and residents, elected officials, and local papers wrote hundreds of letters and made countless calls to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, urging the agency to release Benjamin.

The advocacy paid off.

This past May, Benjamin was granted a one-year stay of removal. Senator Patty Murray (D–Wash.) remarked: “As I told Homeland Security Secretary [Jeh] Johnson, Ben Nunez is exactly the type of person we should not be kicking out of this country. He’s a cherished friend and member of his community, he’s a hard worker who keeps the doors open at a small business, and he’s someone Americans should be proud to call their own.”

The United States is still struggling to recover from the Great Recession and it is incredibly poor policy to spend taxpayer dollars apprehending, detaining, and removing people like Benjamin, people who are integral to both our businesses and our communities. Misguided immigration policies don’t just tear families apart; these policies also impact the communities where aspiring Americans live and contribute. Their neighbors, pastors, teachers, and co-workers feel the effects of the broken immigration system and have advocated for Congress to act.

Since GOP leadership in the House of Representatives has failed to do so, President Obama must now do what is in the best interest of communities across the country.

Thanking the Eleven Republican House Members Who Stood with DREAMers

Last Friday, 11 Republicans stood with DREAMers and rejected a bill that would effectively end DACA, which has provided relief to more than 500,000 people so far.

Click the photos below to help us send a thank-you tweet to these members of Congress:

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Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.)

Mike_Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)

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Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)

Rep. Joe Heck (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Joe Heck (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.)

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.)

Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.)

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.