Thursday, March 16, 2006

Internment of undocumented immigrants to begin.

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that DHS would be opening detention facilities in the next few weeks to house thousands of Chinese immigrants who have been denied immigration to the United States, yet were refused readmission by the Chinese government. Currently there are an estimated 39,000 undocumented immigrants caught in this diplomatic limbo, but if the more punitive immigration legislation passed in the House back in December, and now being debated in the Senate, was to become law perhaps millions more would join them.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Chertoff said that China last year readmitted 800 people. But that made only a small dent in what he described as a backlog of thousands illegally in the U.S.

"The math is pretty easy — at that rate, we wind up with increasing numbers of migrants who, if we're going to detain them, we're going to have to house at enormous expense," Chertoff said.

He added: "We can't be in the position any longer where we are paying the burden and bearing the burden for countries that won't cooperate with us and take their own citizens back."

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return a call for comment.

Currently, 687 Chinese are being held in federal detention facilities, at a daily rate of $95 each, while some 38,000 have been released on bond or under a monitoring program, such as wearing an electronic surveillance bracelet, the Homeland Security Department said later Tuesday.


Chertoff also said Homeland Security would open detention facilities in the next few weeks to house entire families of illegal immigrants who hope to bring their children along in order to avoid jail time. "It'll be humane, but we're not going to let people get away with this," he said.

Chertoff's remarks comes as the Homeland Security Department aims to end its "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct. 1. After that date, all illegal immigrants will be held in U.S. detention centers until they can be returned to their nation of citizenry.


Japanese-American internment camp during WWII

The Department of Homeland Security's decision to end the "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct.1 comes on the heels of last month's announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers that a $385 million contract had been awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Root and Brown to build "temporary immigration detention facilities".

Halliburton Subsidiary Gets Contract to Add Temporary Immigration Detention Centers
New York Times

Feb. 3 - The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary…

KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space…

A spokesman for the corps, Clayton Church, said that the centers could be at unused military sites or temporary structures and that each one would hold up to 5,000 people.

"When there's a large influx of people into the United States, how are we going to feed, house and protect them?" Mr. Church asked. "That's why these kinds of contracts are there."


In recent months, the Homeland Security Department has promised to increase bed space in its detention centers to hold thousands of illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. In the first quarter of the 2006 fiscal year, nearly 60 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended from countries other than Mexico were released on their own recognizance.

Domestic security officials have promised to end the releases by increasing the number of detention beds. Last week, domestic security officials announced that they would expand detaining and swiftly deporting illegal immigrants to include those seized near the Canadian border

As the Senate Judiciary Committee takes up immigration reform this week they will be debating provisions that may increase the number of incarcerated undocumented immigrants into the millions. Both the current Senate proposal, "The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006", sponsored by Sen. Arlen Spectrer, and it's House equivalent, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005"(HR4437) would criminalize almost any immigration infraction and leave the entire undocumented population vulnerable to incarceration. Both bills, in theory, call for the arrest and possible detention of all undocumented immigrants.

Mandatory Detention
Under current law, individuals who arrive without documents, including asylum-seekers, are subject to mandatory detention. Again this applies mainy to those arriving at airports or by sea. 60% of detainees are held in local jails under contract to the federal government, where they are generally not segregated from the criminal population even if they are asylum-seekers and others with no criminal record.

Under this new bill, the mandatory detention policy would be extended to all non-citizens who are detained at any port of entry or anywhere “along” the border for any reason.

“Illegal Presence” and “Aggravated Felonies,”
Section 203 of HR 4437 calls for the creation of a new federal crime of “illegal presence”. As defined in the bill it includes any violation, even technical, of any immigration law or regulation. Even if the immigrant was to fall “out of status” unintentionally, or do to paperwork delays. In essence, the bill makes every immigration violation, however minor, into a federal crime. As drafted, the bill also makes the new crime of “illegal presence” an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes. This classification would have the further effect of restricting ordinary undocumented immigrants (including those with pending applications) from many forms of administrative or judicial review. Those convicted of an "aggravated felony" would be subject to indefinite detention and/or expedited removal.

Indefinite Detention
Indefinite detention currently applies to non-citizens ordered removed from the United States whose countries refuse to accept them or who have no country because they are stateless. Most often they come from countries without good relations with the United States.

Section 602 of HR 4437 would permit indefinite detention of an increased broad class of non-citizens, including:
  • those with a contagious disease
  • any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony,” (see above)
  • non-citizens whose release would pose foreign policy problems
  • non-citizens charged even with very minor immigration violations who, based on secret evidence, are deemed a national security risk.


With the internment of undocumented Chinese immigrants and their families becoming a very real possibility, we need to start to look at the real ramifications of some of this proposed legislation. Homeland Security has already announced its intent to greatly increase the incarceration of undocumented immigrants and Halliburton is ready to supply the facilities to hold them. With HR 4437's provisions for indefinite detention and the reclassification of even minor offenses as aggravated felonies it is quite possible that all 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country could shortly end up in internment camps no different from the refugee camps we see throughout the rest of the world. We just never thought it could happen here.


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Monday, March 06, 2006

Lou Dobbs: Broken Record

On a nightly basis, CNN anchorman Lou Dobbs warns viewers of the ever increasing threat our "broken borders" present to the average working American. Relentlessly pursuing his cause, Dobbs parades a plethora of "experts", activists and scholars out to back up his assertions and claims that our nation is being invaded by hordes of illegal immigrants who are causing economic ruin for "average" Americans.

His message is compelling, so compelling in fact that even many progressives(see comments) seem to have fallen under his spell. But … Now from the Southern Poverty Law Center comes this look at CNN’s Lou Dobbs, the accuracy of his reporting ,and the nature of some of the guests he chooses to feature on his nightly show

Broken Record
Lou Dobbs' daily 'Broken Borders' CNN segment has focused on immigration for years. But there's one issue Dobbs just won't take on.
By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok

Lou Dobbs is a genial sort, a pleasant-faced CNN anchorman who regularly presents himself as standing up for American working men and women against those who would injure them. Hosting "Lou Dobbs Tonight" for a prime-time hour every weekday, he is also well known and powerful. So when Dobbs focuses on an issue, millions of Americans learn just what it is that Dobbs thinks they should know.

For more than two years now, Dobbs has served up a populist approach to immigration on nightly segments of his newscast entitled "Broken Borders." He has relentlessly covered the issue, although hardly from a traditional news perspective -- Dobbs favors clamping down on illegal immigration, and his "reporting" never fails to make that clear. He has covered the same issues, and the same anti-immigration leaders, time after time after time. In recent months, Dobbs has run countless upbeat reports on the "citizen border patrols" that have sprung up around the country since last April's Minuteman Project, a paramilitary effort to seal the Arizona border.

But there's one thing Lou Dobbs won't do. No matter what others report about the movement, Dobbs has failed to present mounting and persistent evidence of anti-Hispanic racism in anti-immigration groups and citizen border patrols.


And now for a little dose of reality: Many of Lou's " American patriot " guests who represent organizations that help protect our "broken borders" have ties to various white supremacist groups, racist organizations and recognized hate groups. Lou often presents his "minutemen" guests as the bulwark against the rising tide of illegal immigration, when in fact these guests are in fact no more than racist vigilantes.

more below the fold

GLENN SPENCER, head of the anti-immigration American Patrol, has been interviewed at least twice on the show, on Jan. 7 and June 4, 2004. Spencer's Web site is jammed with anti-Mexican vitriol and he pushes the idea that the Mexican government is involved in a secret plot to take over the Southwest -- facts never mentioned on Dobbs' show.
Spencer has spoken at least twice to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity," and once to American Renaissance, a group that contends that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. Dobbs has never reported those ties…


BARBARA COE, leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, was quoted on a show last March bitterly attacking Home Depot for "betray[ing] Americans," apparently because Hispanic day laborers often gather in front of the store looking for work. Not mentioned were her group, listed by the SPLC as a hate group, or the fact that she routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages." Coe recently described herself as a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a "white pride" group formed from the remnants of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s that were once described by Thurgood Marshal as "the uptown Klan." She also told The Denver Post in November that she had given a speech to the group.

A man named JOE MCCUTCHEN was quoted last April as part of a feature on the Minuteman Project, described by Dobbs as "a terrific group of concerned, caring Americans." No mention was made of the fact that McCutchen, who heads up an anti-immigration group called Protect Arkansas Now, had written a whole series of anti-Semitic letters to the editor and given a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens -- facts revealed the prior January by SPLC, causing Arkansas' Republican governor to denounce McCutchen's group.

In fact Dobbs regularly praises the excellent work done by the Minutemen and the other "border security" militias that patrol our southern borders. This, despite the fact that many of these groups are following in a long tradition of racist border vigilantism.

In 1977, David Duke and a handful of his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan got tremendous media attention when they inaugurated their 'Klan Border Watch.' The patrol turned out to be little more than a publicity stuntAlthough Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist are seen as the fathers of the Minuteman movement, citizen vigilante border patrols are not a new concept. Simcox and Gilchrist are following in the footsteps of other anti-immigrant activists before them, and it is well-trodden ground.

Klansmen were on the Mexican border 28 years before the Minutemen co-opted the concept. And they were talking about the Hispanic immigration threat more than five decades before that. Southern Poverty Law Center

The article goes on to profile many more of Dobbs’ guests along with analyzing some of Dobbs’ reporting, particularly his tendency to present misrepresentations, and sometimes downright lies as fact.

… according to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media monitor. In 2003, FAIR added, a reporter on Dobbs' show grossly mischaracterized a National Academy of Sciences report. The report found that immigrants provided a net gain of $1 billion to $10 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, but the CNN reporter said the report had found the economic impact of immigrants worked out to a net loss of up to $10 billion.


Your mother always warned you that you would be judged by the company you keep, This is perhaps some advice Mr Dobbs should take to heart.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Why I oppose a temporary guest worker program.

I must start off by saying that my opposition to the proposed "guest worker" provisions in the current version of the Senate's compromise immigration bill; “The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006”, sponsored by Judiciary Chairmen Arlen Specter, are not based solely on the flaws in this particular bill, but on the whole concept of using "temporary" workers to fill our nations labor demands.

Before I begin my rant as to why the concept of guest workers is both morally wrong and economically ill- conceived, I would like to look at this particular piece of legislation.

At the present time we must keep in mind that this proposed bill is still in its embryonic stage and has only today moved to the full Judiciary Committee for debate. From this early mark-up though, we can see that many of the more draconian measures from the House bill (HR 4437) have been incorporated. The classification of any immigration related offense, no matter how small, as an "aggravated felony", the "indefinite detention" of those who violate immigration laws, and the limiting of judicial review for immigration claims, have all been integrated into Specter's version.

As a "compromise bill" it also contains aspects of the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005" sponsored by Senators Kennedy/McCain. One of these aspects is the inclusion of a guest worker provision, but it has been drastically modified from the original.

Let's take a look at both guest worker plans:
(more below the fold)

Title III: Essential Worker Visa Program: "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005" (Kennedy/'McCain)

  • Creates a new temporary visa (H-5A) to allow foreign workers to enter and fill available jobs that require few or no skills

  • Applicants must show that they have a job waiting in the U.S., pay a fee of $500 in addition to application fees, and clear all security, medical, and other checks

  • Requires updating of America's Job Bank to make sure job opportunities are seen first by American workers

  • Initial cap on H-5A visas is set at 400,000, but the annual limit will be gradually adjusted up or down based on demand in subsequent years

  • Of the 400,000 annual visas, 50,000 must be allocated to "qualifying counties" that are outside a metropolitan area and that, during the last 20-year-period experienced a net out-migration of at least 10%

  • Visa is valid for three years, and can be renewed one time for a total of 6 years; at the end of the visa period the worker either has to return home or be in the pipeline for a green card

  • Visa is portable, but if the worker loses his job he has to find another one within 60 days or return home

  • Ensures that employers hiring temporary workers abide by Federal, state and local labor, employment and tax laws

  • Prohibits the hiring of temporary workers as independent contractors

  • Protects temporary workers from abuse by foreign labor contractors or employers

  • Gives temporary workers and U.S. workers remedies for violations of their rights

  • An employer can sponsor the H-5A visa holder for a green card, or after accumulating four years of work in H-5A status, the worker can apply to adjust status on his/her own

  • Sets up a task force to evaluate the H-5A program and recommend improvements

Kennedy/McCain Bill

Title IV: Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006” (Specter)

  • Creates a new temporary visa (H-2C) to allow foreign workers to enter and fill available jobs that require few or no skills

  • Applicants must show that they have a job waiting, pays a $500 fee in addition to the cost of processing, undergoes a medical exam at his or her own expense and provides a criminal history, immigration history, and proves no involvement in gangs or terrorist groups to DHS.

  • Spouses and children would be eligible to accompany or join the principal alien for an additional fee of $500

  • Visa is valid for three years, with one three-year period extension. At the end of the six-year period, workers must return to their home country for at least one year before reentering the program.

  • Visa is portable, but if the worker loses his job he has to find another one within 45 days or return home. If returned the immigrant could reenter if they meet all the original requirements.

  • Individuals holding H-2C visas could travel outside of the United States and be readmitted on the same visa assuming the period of authorized admission had not expired

  • Requires employers to comply with all applicable federal, state and local laws, including laws affecting migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.

  • Foreign labor contractors who recruit workers under this program would required to register with the Secretary of Labor

  • The Secretary of Labor would establish an electronic job registry and a nationwide system of public labor exchange services to provide information on employment opportunities available to U.S. workers

Specter Bill

A careful reading of both bills reveals that the Specter bill has eliminated crucial aspects of Kennedy/McCain. One of the largest changes is the removal of any path to permanent residency for immigrant workers. Under Specters plan immigrants remain on a permanent cycle of temporary status, working for up to six years, only to return home for a year before they can start all over again. At least Kennedy/McCain offers a path to permanency for those who wish it.

Specter's plan also specifies no concrete number of visas to be issued under the plan, only a commission to study the issue. Without firm numbers, the Specter plan would be open to continual revision by business lobbying groups wishing to increase and decrease numbers to suit their needs. Kennedy/McCain provides firm numbers and a method to increase or decrease them by use of a specific formula.

While both bills tie immigrant eligibility to remain in the program to employment, the Specter bill places far more eligiblity restrictions on the employer, and sets up a "pool" of qualified employers:

To qualify the employer must attest that the employment of such worker will:

1. Not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed workers in the U.S.

2. Did not and will not cause displacement of a U.S. worker employed during a 180-day period beginning 90 days before the petition is filed.

3. The worker will be paid the greater of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid by the employer to similarly situated workers

4. Such worker will be provided the working conditions and benefits normal to similarly situated workers in the area of intended employment

5. There is no strike, lockout or work stoppage in the course of a labor dispute in the occupation at the place of employment;

6. Provide benefits at least equal to those provided under to state worker compensation law for comparable employment;

7. There are not sufficient able, willing and qualified employees who are available at the time and place needed;

8. The employer has made good faith efforts to recruit U.S. workers including, recruitment at least 14 days but no more than 90 days prior to filing

While some of these added restrictions are quite reasonable, taken in total, they will tend to limit the kind of employers who would qualify for the program, particularly amongst the small, independent business that now hire many undocumented workers. The bookkeeping, time restrictions and paperwork involved could prove prohibitive to small employers, leaving only larger operations, with the ability to hire extra personel to oversee processing, in the "pool". With a limited employer pool, immigrants who wish to change jobs may be reluctant to do so, no matter what the reason.

The Kennedy/McCain bill gives the temporary worker the same job mobility as a "green card" where the immigrant can make job decisions based on what job is best for them, not limited to a pre-approved "pool".

For these reasons I find the Temporary Guest Worker proposals in the Specter bill unacceptable.

My other problem is I find the whole concept of "temporary" workers impractical and discriminatory. I understand that in certain agricultural sectors the need for large amounts of seasonal labor is required, and for these kinds of jobs I see the logic in temporary workers. Outside of that circumstance, I see no need or reason to have such a program.

If an employer needs a worker today to fill a job, how can he, the government or anyone else, possibly know that the job will no longer exist in an arbitrary amount of time like three or six years. That is the premise this program has to work on in order make any logical sense. If not, and the job is in fact available after that time, why would there be any reason to send the worker home?

The only reason would be to keep the workers from putting in enough time to qualify for pay raises, benefits, the ability to unionize etc. It's purely discriminatory. It's a plan to perpetuate an "underclass" of revolving, cheap, immigrant labor.

If the labor market dictates that a given number of low-skilled workers are needed every year to fill jobs in this country, and these jobs can not in fact be filled with native workers, than the solution is to allow people from other nations to come and fill them. Not as temporary, disposable workers to be replaced as soon as they gain economic privileges, but as full fledged new members of society who can enjoy the fruits of their labor without fear of being uprooted every six years.

It seems very simple to me: Would American workers sign on to a plan by which no one could ever stay at one job any more that six years, no matter how much they wanted too? Would they accept a plan that assured they could never qualify for a pension, pay raises, extra weeks of vacation, medical benefits, a 401K, and all the other perks that go with long-term employment? Would American workers accept that they would have to uproot their families and move every six years?

Of course not …. We believe in free will and economic autonomy. Why should we expect immigrant workers to accept any less?

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

It has long been speculated that much of the motivation that has fueled the increased anti-immigration rhetoric coming from certain political leaders, and their calls for more restrictive policies to protect our "broken borders", has had far more to do with political expediency than actual concern for national security, job loss, or economic stress put on society by increased immigration. Although the aforementioned rationales are commonly given by these "closed border" advocates, a new analysis of Congressional voting patterns by The American Immigration Law Foundation shows that those representing districts least likely affected by the influx of undocumented immigrants are the first to champion restrictive immigration policies.

An analysis of the Congressional representatives who supported HR4437 reveals that those representing districts with the fewest number undocumented immigrants generally supported the restrictive immigration plan, while those with large numbers of undocumented immigrants in their districts were more apt to oppose it.

More after the fold:

Representatives From Districts With Fewer Than 5,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Support The Bill

There are 96 congressional districts that have fewer than 5,000 undocumented immigrants. Most of these districts are largely rural and located in sections of Appalachia, the Midwest, and the Mississippi Valley that are experiencing little economic growth and low levels of immigration in general. Constituents in many of these districts face tough economic times, but the cause is not immigration. Immigrants are attracted to regions of economic dynamism and job expansion. This is why greater numbers of undocumented immigrants are found in western states that have agricultural, livestock, fishing, and tourist economies that need the kinds of less-skilled labor that undocumented immigrants often provide.

Undocumented immigrants in the 96 lowest-immigration districts make up no more than 0.8 percent of the population (each of the 435 congressional districts has roughly the same total population: about 650,000 as of 20001). The votes on H.R. 4437 in these districts tell you something about immigration politics in the United States today. The supposed threat from undocumented immigration is enough to rally voters and move levers of power even in areas where the actual impact is miniscule. Among representatives from districts with the smallest populations of undocumented immigrants, 74 percent (71 out of 96) voted for the bill: 90 percent of Republicans (56 out of 62) and 44 percent of Democrats (15 out of 34)

Representatives From Districts With More Than 50,000 Undocumented Immigrants Were Most Likely To Oppose The Bill

The voting pattern of the representatives from the 61 congressional districts with 50,000 or more undocumented immigrants tells a different story. These districts for the most part are located in densely populated urban areas such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and are relatively small in geographic size compared to rural districts that include many counties. In these high-immigration districts, the undocumented alone can account for as much as one-fifth of the total population. As a result, representatives who hail from these areas are familiar with undocumented immigrants and their impact on local communities. Among representatives from districts with the largest populations of undocumented immigrants, a mere 5 percent (3 out of 61) supported the bill: none of the 53 Democrats and only 3 of the 8 Republicans.

The inverse relationship between support for H.R. 4437 and the actual presence of undocumented immigrants in a representative’s district represents a widespread voting pattern. Among all Democrats, those who voted in favor of the bill had roughly 10,000 undocumented immigrants in their districts. Democrats who opposed the bill, on the other hand, had about 37,400. Among all Republicans, the same pattern holds: those voting for H.R. 4437 had an average of 14,500 undocumented immigrants in their districts, while those who voted against the bill had an average of 30,800

Overall 67% of all those who supported the bill from both parties came from districts with fewer than 15,000 undocumented immigrants while 62% of those opposed came from districts with more than 15,000.

As this pattern illustrates, the constituencies of most representatives who supported H.R. 4437 experience relatively little impact from undocumented immigration. As a result, these representatives are free to ignore the need for genuine immigration reform and focus instead on fostering a public image of being “tough” on undocumented immigrants.

Given these statistics, it becomes obvious that those who are most likely to take a hard line on immigration are doing so more out of a need to find a new "enemy" on which to scapegoat the failures of the present administration and its policies. Those from these generally rural and economically depressed areas find it much easier to blame the nonexistent undocumented immigrants in their districts for the economic woes of their constituents than to deal with the macro economic issues of globalization and loss of manufacturing jobs due to shifting economic realities.

Just as the right wing created a phantom boogieman out of the Gay community in the last election cycle to supply themselves with a wedge issue on "family values", they are once again setting up a divisive issue to distract and misdirect the American people away from the real issues that effect them.

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