Immigration

What's Wrong With Politics-Driven Policy?

Flickr/Antonio Villaraigosa
Today's big news is that the Obama administration, through executive action, is enacting a kind of mini-DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children. We'll get to the details in a moment, but one thing we know for sure is that Republicans are going to be very, very mad, or at least they'll sound very, very mad. They'll make three separate arguments: First, they'll have a substantive argument about why it's a bad idea to allow any undocumented immigrant to work here legally. Second, they'll have a process argument about why it's an appalling power-grab for Obama to do this without congressional approval. Of course, they're quite happy with all sorts of executive orders and similar actions when a Republican is in the White House, but that hypocrisy doesn't necessarily make them wrong on that point. Finally, they'll say this is blatant "election-year politics" meant only to secure Latino votes in the fall election. Which it may well be, at least in...

Arizona Asks the Court Not to Trust the Feds

(Krista Kennell/Sipa Press)
This term’s last oral argument ends next week with yet another blockbuster case— Arizona v. United States , the challenge to Arizona’s harshly anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 . This case poses vitally important questions about individual rights, racial profiling, and the future of individual equality in the United States. But don’t expect to hear them argued openly next week. Instead, arguments will be couched almost entirely in the language of “federal preemption,” a subject so abstruse and technical that it induces coma in even the hardiest law-review editors. But lurking underneath the talk of “conflict preemption” and cigarette-labeling statutes are issues of human equality and the emerging constitutional question of our time: When, if ever, are Congress and the executive branch owed deference by the states and by their special protector, the Roberts Court? The issue is whether four sections of S.B. 1070 usurp the federal government’s role in regulating immigration matters—a power the...

Not Sweet Home Alabama

Civil rights leaders help undocumented immigrants fight against HB 56 in the state.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Recently, Scott Douglas III, a civil-rights activist in Alabama and executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss his involvement as a plaintiff in an American civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the state of Alabama. The case challenges the state's infamous HB 56 law, which imposes a litany of sanctions on undocumented immigrants. The law: mandates that law enforcement officials obtain proof of citizenship from people they suspect of being in the country illegally; prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits; bars undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges or universities; requires public school officials to ascertain student citizenship status and turn in a tally of the number of their students they think are undocumented; prohibits renting property to illegal immigrants; prohibits transporting or harboring illegal immigrants; When it comes to employment, the law requires large and small...

White Nationalists Agree: Multiculturalism Is Bad

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Right-wing members of Congress have never shied away from associating with fringe agitators, but appearing with a white nationalist is beyond the pale. On Thursday afternoon, Iowa Representative Steve King jovially appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigrant author that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has termed a white nationalist. Brimelow wrote Alien Nation and founded the online community VDARE, which SPLC describes as "a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants." King had no qualms about associating himself with Brimelow when I caught up with the congressman after the panel. "Consider the source, I'm not in a position to judge people in the fashion that they seem to be so free to do," King said of the SPLC. King was not on the public schedule for the panel held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and showed up as a surprise guest an hour after the panel started. Hosted...

Outsiders Everywhere

"Why do you stay in the U.S., then?" I asked the German-born historian whose last professional job in Germany ended two years ago. Since then, she has been doing piecemeal work and relying on a much thinner social safety net in the U.S. than she would have in her country of origin. There, she'd have her family, health care, lower housing costs, and other social and economic guarantees. She had just told me how much Germany had come to life since her youth: instead of "don't walk on the grass" signs, there's a lively public culture; instead of beige houses, there's an explosion of color; instead of the grim and clenched authoritarian culture for which Germany was once famous, there's playfulness. So why stay in the U.S.? I wasn't challenging her; I was genuinely curious. It takes a certain kind of person to leave your culture behind and be unfamiliar with everything forever after. No matter how long she's been here, she can never be part of certain shared cultural conversations, which...

Honk If You Support Immigrants

As 2011 draws to a close, the immigration situation in the U.S. remains a mess. Arizona's infamous SB 1070, which required law-enforcement officials to check immigration status during routine encounters if there was "reasonable suspicion" someone was in the country illegally, sparked a nationwide outcry when it was passed in 2010. But in the past year, lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, and South Carolina have followed suit, passing a host of copycat bills. In Alabama, schools are even required to check the immigration status of students, which has resulted in hundreds of Hispanic children being kept home from school. But there is a quiet backlash taking shape. Across the country, a number of grassroots organizations have recently kicked off awareness campaigns that welcome immigrants. Uniting NC, a grass-roots group in North Carolina, has raised funds online for billboards all over the state featuring images of smiling immigrants and the headline, “Community, we’ll get...

The Arpaio Effect

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report saying that under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has violated the Fourth Amendment and Title VI through a consistent “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.” “MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos,” the report found. One expert quoted in the report said it was “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature.” No one familiar with Sheriff Arpaio will be surprised at the findings of the DOJ investigation—the self-described publicity hound’s exploits, which include making prisoners wear pink underwear and housing prisoners in tent cities, are well documented. But the fact that the DOJ called the sheriff out in a tangible way is a switch in direction for the...

Showdown at the Docks

Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrated the movement's three-month anniversary by taking the fight to major ports.

Protesters at the Port of Oakland Monday. Photo/Aaron Bady
On Monday, occupiers set out to shut down ports across the West Coast. Targets included SSA, which is largely owned by Goldman Sachs, and the Port of Longview, which multinational EGT is trying to operate as the West Coast’s only port without members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The actions, which shut down operations at Longview, Oakland, and Portland, were opposed by ILWU leadership. They led to intense debate among and between occupiers and unionists over tactics—who the blockades hurt, whether they’re worth the legal risks—and democracy, namely, how democratic the ILWU and the Occupy movement each are, and whether workers should have a veto over actions where they work. This week saw the continuation of two hunger strikes, one by occupiers in New York demanding an occupation space, and another by occupiers in DC demanding full congressional representation for the district. Activists continued taking foreclosed homes, including a “Home for the Holidays...

Will Latinos Help Re-Elect Obama?

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama greets the crowd after speaking about immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, Tuesday, May 10, 2011, during his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. D emocrats have long been able to play good cop to the Republican bad cop on immigration reform and border security, which in effect has put minorities and those who care about these issues in the bind of voting for the lesser of two evils. But whether Barack Obama is trying to appeal to conservatives on immigration or is actually conservative at heart, his administration has proved that little, in fact, differentiates the two parties. Let’s take a look. Since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the issues of immigration and counterterrorism have been conflated. Much of the pressure to deport more and more undocumented immigrants comes from a fear that those immigrants could endanger the American people. As a result, Obama has dealt with immigration as a...

Pardon Me

Instead of forgiving cronies and crooks, the president should use his executive authority to pass the DREAM Act.

One of the little joys of teaching a presidency class in the fall is that my session on presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey . However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains. Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions. While the possibilities are vast, modern presidents use the power to pardon sparingly . Other than a few political cronies, moonshiners , and fowl friends, presidents have been reluctant to appear “soft on crime” and slow to use the pardon power. And since 1980, almost all pardons have been for specific individuals after the president and his staff have weighed the merits of each person’s case. But it is also possible for presidents to pardon entire...

Rick Perry's Last-Ditch Anti-Immigration Pitch

In hindsight, the likely failure of Rick Perry's presidential ambitions shouldn't have been all that surprising. Despite appeal among party elites, late-entry candidates like Wesley Clark in '04 and Fred Thompson in '08 have historically struggled to catch up to the rest of the field. The candidates in the race from the beginning have a chance to work out all the kinks before the spotlight glares at the debate stages, an experience that would have proved especially crucial in Perry's case. He's always been a loose-cannon campaigner with, shall we say, a less than thorough grasp on his material. It was a problem his campaign staff could mitigate by limiting his media exposure in Texas elections but couldn't avoid on a national stage. After just four debates during his decade as Texas' governor, Perry was bound to produce a series of gaffes during the tiring slog of presidential campaigning. None of that should have been a surprise. What has been shocking to watch is the process under...

What Gingrich and Dubya Have in Common

Talking Points Memo sheds some light on Newt Gingrich’s ongoing effort to appeal to Hispanic leaders: As Benjy Sarlin reported back in 2009, Gingrich was using social networking and TV appearances on Spanish language TV to ingratiate himself with the Hispanic community and attempt to grow the GOP base there. Republicans have long felt they have a real chance to grab big swaths of the Latino vote, which they say is naturally more socially conservative and open to Republican ideas. Gingrich continued the outreach early into his campaign. As Time’s Michael Scherer reported in May, Gingrich gave one of his first post-campaign announcement interviews to Univision, where he took questions on immigration and previewed the path to legal status for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US that’s led to attacks from his Republican rivals. Given the extent to which Latino voters are well-aware of the Republican Party’s hostility toward their interests—from efforts to help the economy...

A More Perfect Union

E mily Dopper and her boyfriend, Willem van Leeuwen, tourists from the Netherlands, were on their way to lunch at the Boathouse restaurant in New York’s Central Park when they encountered the picket line. Clay Skaggs, a striking waiter, intercepted them. “We’re asking you not to eat here,” he said in a tone of polite explanation. “They practice sexual harassment, and they stole $3 million in wages over two years. They also got a C-rating on their health inspection.” Dopper looked dejected and unconvinced. “We came here to Central Park all the way from Europe,” she said. “There are lots of other great places nearby,” Skaggs continued. He handed them a foldout flyer. One side featured a detailed map of the park and its myriad paths and attractions, displaying locations and write-ups of other restaurants and a big red circle with a slash around the Boathouse. On the other side was an explanation of the issues in the strike, with summaries in 19 languages. Adopting his best waiter’s...

A Rare Glimpse of Sanity

Yesterday's Republican presidential debate in Washington focused on national security, so of course the candidates readily took the opportunity to dive into the dangers of illegal immigration. "An insecure border is a national security threat… we know that terrorists have come into this country by way of Mexico," Herman Cain said. "As the President of the United States," Rick Perry said, making a now outlandish proposition, "I will promise you one thing, that within 12 months of the inaugural, that border will be shut down, and it will be secure." It was all the same tried and not-so-true language from the previous debates, but then things took an unexpected turn when the question was directed at Newt Gingrich, who departed the conservative safe space for a rare moment of humanity. "If you've come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home. Period," he said. "If you've been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and...

Busted in 'Bama

Last Wednesday night, a cop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pulled over a rental car that didn’t have the right tag on it. He asked the driver for his license, and the driver instead produced his German identification card. Before Alabama’s new immigration law took effect this fall, the driver would have been ticketed, but under the terms of the new law, the cop arrested the driver and hauled him off to the police station for the crime of lacking proper identification. In fairly short order, a colleague of the arrestee showed up with the driver’s passport, visa, and German driver’s license. At that point, the driver was released—but the story had just begun. Turns out the driver was a Mercedes executive in town to visit a Mercedes SUV plant about 20 miles outside Tuscaloosa, which employs roughly 2,800 Alabamians. And his arrest drew the immediate attention of Robert Bentley, the state’s Republican governor, who had signed the immigration bill into law. Bentley called his homeland security...

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