This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending January 29


Week Ending January 29

This week in immigration: New poll shows support for administrative relief; our colleagues at America’s Voice provide a primer on judicial standing; and NCLR Affiliate TODEC reflects on passage of AB 60 in California.

Reuters polls shows support president’s administrative relief measures: A new poll released this week by Reuters and Ipsos finds yet again that a majority of Americans support the actions taken by President Obama to provide administrative relief. 61 percent of Americans support the plan to provide a reprieve from deportation for some of the 11.3 undocumented immigrants currently in the country, including 42 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats. This poll comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Supreme Court will hear the case surrounding President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which would provide relief for an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants.

Editorials questions validity of administrative relief lawsuit: With oral arguments expected in the spring in the United States v. Texas case, numerous media outlets have voiced support for President Obama’s administrative relief plans. America’s Voice provided an analysis of the state of Texas’s legal standing to sue the United States over the President’s executive action. The analysis argues that the legal standing is questionable at best, given the Supreme Court’s precedent of allowing the President broad authority when it comes to immigration enforcement.

Additionally, an op-ed in the New York Times calls the claims made by the 26 states taking part in the lawsuit “groundless” and says states should never have been allowed to sue in the first place. “Texas claims that it has that right [to sue] simply because it thinks the president’s orders would harm its economy,” writes the Times. “If the court were to accept this kind of claim, it would mean that any time a state or city opposed a federal action, it could drag that political dispute into the courts.”

NCLR Affiliate, TODEC, on the implementation of California law AB 60: California celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of AB 60 in California, which authorizes driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. In a blog post, Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center (TODEC), reflected on the fight to pass the measure, saying, “Once AB 60 passed, one of the sheriffs in an area we serve said that his department wouldn’t respect the law, but through building relationships and sitting down and discussing our constituents’ side, he finally agreed that he would uphold the law and allow his officers to do so as well.” Founded 31 years ago, TODEC is an NCLR Affiliate that advocates for immigrants’ rights in California’s Inland Empire.

And Justice For All: Building Relationships for Immigrant Communities

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC Legal Center

By Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

Founded 31 years ago, the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center (TODEC) has been an advocate for immigrants’ rights in California’s Inland Empire. The organization was instrumental in advocating and lobbying for the successful passage of AB 60, a 2013 California law authorizing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. While some decried the law, thousands of people already driving in California were able to take state mandated driving tests and become officially certified to drive in the state. Public safety aside, the law provided more than just a state-issued license. For the first time, many undocumented immigrants were able to take their children to school without fear of tickets, arrest, confiscation of their vehicles, or even deportation.

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC, described the fight to make sure all Californians can live their lives productively and effectively.

“We just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of AB 60, which is
the California driver license law for undocumented immigrants. There were situations where the police would be outside the schools in the mornings and afternoons, giving tickets, and once they found out a parent didn’t have a driver’s license, they would take their vehicle away,” said Gallegos. “The parents felt that they were being targeted. A high percentage of families living in the area were undocumented.”TODEC logo

The confiscation of the family car had a detrimental impact: children weren’t able to get to school, nor parents to work.

Compounding the issue, the various police departments in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties were less than receptive to working with the community to address the driver’s license issue, among others.

“Once AB 60 passed, one of the sheriffs in an area we serve said that his department wouldn’t respect the law, but through building relationships and sitting down and discussing our constituents’ side, he finally agreed that he would uphold the law and allow his officers to do so as well,” said Gallegos.

Relationship-building has been a tool consistently invoked in the fight against police abuse, and while that may seem obvious to an observer, those working on the ground to correct the police violence epidemic see it as the most valuable tactic available. Once both sides of the debate sit down to discuss their views and issues, the debate softens and workable solutions are usually found.

“Relationships are important—not only with the police officers and captains, but also with the sheriffs because they are elected officials and it’s very important for them to see that the community is paying attention to them as well. That brought a lot of accountability.”

Ending abusive policing tactics is a challenge we must undertake as a nation if we wish to live in a peaceful, trusting society. Allowing distrust and violence to become ingrained in our collective lives would undermine the basic tenets of our democracy.

Modern Day Settlement Houses Strengthening Communities Across the Country

Day in and day out, NCLR Affiliates across the country provide services that assist permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens. Our Affiliates are the spiritual descendants of the original Settlement Houses, and in the case of NCLR Affiliate Erie House in Chicago, were founded as Settlement Houses. In addition to teaching English, they provide civics classes and assist in filling out the immigration forms in order to naturalize. They are responding to the challenges that immigrants who want to naturalize face by innovating and providing solutions that will encourage their clients to complete the multi-step process of becoming citizens.

For example, in Delaware, the Latin American Community Center (LACC) runs a Lifelong Learning Adult Education English as a Second Language program and a civics program that offers flexible scheduling, personalized placement, and availability of education classes during the day and evening at three locations. Recognizing that students have varied work schedules, LACC understands that flexibility is one of the keys to their students’ success. LACC is complementing the classes with a new program to assist individuals in filling out the application for citizenship.

Here in Washington the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) takes advantage of its location in the nation’s capital to prepare students for the civics exam. As part of the 12-week citizenship class, students go on a field trip visiting national monuments and landmarks as part of their preparation for the naturalization exam. What better way to cement learning about U.S. government and history than by touring sites commemorating our country’s history! At the end of the class, students get a chance to prepare through a mock citizenship interview.

In California, where more than a quarter of the 8.8 million permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize reside, many NCLR Affiliates are providing citizenship classes and application assistance. In the Inland Empire, there are more than 250,000 permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens, and TODEC hosts regular workshops to assist individuals in completing the application. Recently, the group’s efforts were highlighted in a news broadcast. As you can see in the video (watch below), TODEC’s Youth Leadership Team is spreading out across the community knocking on doors to encourage eligible permanent residents to become citizens and urging citizens to register to vote.

Every door that they knock on is an opportunity to talk to people like José, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and is a permanent resident. He says that he has more desire than ever now in becoming a U.S. citizen so that he can vote as a result of being tired of politicians, such as Donald Trump, who scapegoat the Latino community to get votes. José says, “Donald Trump is hurting us but at the same time, he is pushing us to overcome—so that those of us who have the opportunity to vote, vote and those who don’t have that opportunity, become citizens.”

José echoes the call to action made by Janet Murguía when she said: “If we want hope to prevail in this time of challenge, we must act, and use every tool at our disposal. That includes, if you are eligible, becoming a citizen. If you are eligible, register to vote.”