This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending July 3

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Week Ending July 3

This week in immigration reform: celebrating citizenship in light of Independence Day; the growing influence of the Latino community; and Delaware extends driving permits to undocumented immigrants.

This Fourth of July, Let’s Celebrate New Citizens: This Saturday marks America’s 239th birthday. As we head into the holiday weekend, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is preparing to welcome more than 4,000 new citizens in more than 50 naturalization ceremonies between July 1st and 4th.  A San Jose Mercury News article covered a naturalization ceremony during which 92 new Americans took their oaths of citizenship. New American Sergio Saporna Jr., 43, came to the U.S. almost 16 years ago from the Philippines: “Today, in the ceremony, I was thinking about where I came from, but also about all the benefits and wonderful things that have happened to me. I think becoming a citizen is the best way for me to give something back to the country that has already given me so much.” This weekend follow #newUScitizen for photos and tweets of people celebrating the 4th of July as new Americans. 

Also this week, Univision, along with NCLR, NALEO, LULAC, and CitizenshipWorks launched a campaign to promote the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen. “There are an estimated four million Hispanics eligible for citizenship in the U.S.,” said Roberto Llamas, executive vice president for Human Resources & Community Empowerment. “Our goal is to help them understand the benefits, rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship, particularly how to qualify and prepare themselves to vote.” Check out UnivisionContigo.com for information and resources on applying for U.S. citizenship.  

The Latino community’s growing influence is already changing the 2016 election landscape: This week, 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing consequences after making derogatory remarks about Latino immigrants. Media companies NBC and Univision have cut ties with the business mogul and Macy’s Department Store will no longer carry his menswear line. NCLR issued a press statement applauding NBC and Univision for their decision: “NBC deserves an enormous amount of credit for reaffirming what their company stands for and, as importantly, what it does not stand for. We know that this was not an easy choice for NBC and its parent company, Comcast, nor was it easy for Univision, and they will have NCLR’s full support going forward. We applaud those in both companies who worked so diligently behind the scenes to address this issue and ultimately make this difficult decision. It was the right thing to do,” stated NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

An NPR story linked the backlash from Trump’s comments to the growing influence of the Latino population, especially as consumers. Latinos are one of fastest growing groups of consumers, with their collective purchasing power expected to reach $1.5 trillion this year, up 50% from 2010. Further, the average age of the Hispanic population is 27 and they are just entering their prime buying years. The media is also vying for the Latino audience. Candidates and companies alike can no longer risk insulting or alienating our community without paying an economic price.

Delaware passes law allowing undocumented immigrants driving permits: A Washington Post article reports this week that Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill to give driving privilege cards to undocumented immigrants who have ties to the state. The state will begin issuing the cards in six months.

 While Delaware is implementing helpful, welcoming policies for undocumented immigrants, other states are still holding up federal deferred action programs that would provide social and economic benefits nationwide. This week the three-judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was chosen to hear arguments on July 10th regarding the Texas lawsuit stopping expanded DACA and DAPA. Many remain confident that the judicial system will eventually side with the Obama Administration. In a New York Times op-ed, Matt Barreto writes: “Just as with same-sex marriage and Obamacare, the issue of immigration is before the federal courts, and if past decisions are any indication, it is very likely that 12 months from now the Supreme Court will continue to validate the progressive movement by affirming Obama’s immigration orders as constitutional and in line with U.S. public opinion.” The Justice Department hasn’t ruled out taking the case to the Supreme Court, but they are currently allowing the case to work its way through the Fifth Circuit.

Our Changing Conversation on Race and Ethnicity: Fostering Dialog for Millennials

By Patricia Foxen, PhD, Deputy Director of Research, NCLR
enGRtub - ImgurThere is no doubt that our country is going through a profound period of reflection regarding the treatment of race. Last Friday, the elation produced by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legality of same-sex marriage was contrasted, later that day, by the overwhelming sadness behind President Obama’s eulogy at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral. The death of Reverend Pinckney, one of nine victims killed in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church by a 21-year-old racist, reminds us how very far we still have to go in confronting and healing race relations.

Watch the moving speech below:

By his own admission, the shooter’s beliefs were largely influenced by organizations, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, that foment racial fear and hatred through disinformation. As history buffs know, such hate mongering, used by powerful actors to rationalize the social exclusion of entire groups of people, has long involved dehumanizing “others.” The contrast between this hateful imagery and the kind, generous spirit of those killed in Charleston made the violence all the more shocking. But while most Americans are appalled by the explicit and virulent racism the killer demonstrated, more subtle forms of structural racism and implicit bias continue to taint the everyday experiences of our nation’s minorities.

Latinos have not been spared from this “othering” process, as Donald Trump’s recent derisive comments on Mexican immigrants clearly illustrate. Thankfully, leading Latino organizations (including NCLR) responded swiftly to Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists, leading Macy’s and NBCUniversal, among others, to cut ties with the presidential candidate. However, the consequences of negative stereotyping of Hispanics and immigrants—which can range from bias and discrimination in housing, employment, and education all the way to violent hate crimes—have tended to be largely absent from our nation’s on-going discussions on race.

YvhqQYr - ImgurGiven the rapidly changing demographic landscape in this country, where non-Whites will become a majority of the population within the next two decades, and the various forms of racial and ethnic tensions that lurk beneath the surface, it is high time that we open up the national discussion to include everyone: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and White Americans.

In an effort to help in this process, NCLR partnered last year with MTV’s Look Different campaign, which helps young people think through and speak about race and other forms of bias. Recently, Look Different announced the July 22 release of White People, a groundbreaking television documentary that explores whiteness in America. In addition, the campaign’s website has added Look Deeper, a powerful interactive feature and safe space where young people can hold conversations about bias in their own lives and in the news. A Creator Competition will also allow people to submit ideas for video projects about racial privilege.

If we want to prevent the propagation of racism and exclusion in future generations, we must encourage youth to speak openly and honestly about race and ethnicity, and we must provide them with the language, tools, insight, and empathy to do so.