Updates from The Episcopal Church, Office of Government Relations
Message to the new Administration and 111th Congress: the Interfaith Platform on Humane Immigration Reform for 2009 is now finalized and attached, with 441 signatures from national organizations; local organizations, congregations, dioceses, and religious orders; and faith leaders. Thanks so much for your work reaching out to your networks!
Due to high interest in the document, we will continue to add signatures after today's date, although the current version will be sent to the Obama transition team. Please circulate the platform widely and encourage others to continue to send signatures to firstname.lastname@example.org. As a reminder, faith leaders must include their congregation name or faith affiliation and their city and state. The Episcopal Church signed on the platform conjointly with 13 Episcopalian local organizations, congregations, dioceses etc. and 42 faith leaders from our church.
Advocacy Material: Enforcement 287 (g) program
Advocates are working to end ICE raids and hope to see many changes in immigration enforcement under the new administration. But local enforcement of immigration laws are likely to remain a problem under 287(g) and other state and local enforcement agreements. You can access material about 287(g) Agreements/MOU here:
Casa de Maryland
Casa de Maryland's website includes information about and a copy of the lawsuit challenging the failure of the Frederick County Sheriff 's Office to produce documents concerning its 287(g) agreement at http://www.casademaryland.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=594, the complaint is also available on IAN at http://www.immigrationadvocates.org/link.cfm?11345 (login required)
The National Immigration Law Center website contains sample language for policies limiting use of local law enforcement in immigration enforcement at http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/LocalLaw/sample%20policy_intro%20brief_nov%202004.pdf and an article on "Myths and facts about state enforcement of immigration laws" at http://www.nilc.org/DC_Conf/dc-conf2007/wrkshp_materials/6-3_Myth-v-FactMOU_2007-03.pdf
RepresentativeLuis Gutierrez, D-IL, is pledging to push comprehensive immigration reform during President-elect Barack Obama’s first year in office. Rep. Gutierrez, who sponsored a 2007 reform bill that ultimately failed, is also calling for an end to immigration raids.
The discussion about President-elect Obama’s nomination of Janet Napolitano for secretary of Homeland Security—and its implications for immigration reform—continues. According to the San Antonio Express-News, her political pragmatism appeals to moderates in both parties, and the Federal Times expects that she will try to make major changes in immigration policy.
No match letters: The Department of Homeland Security is seeking to accelerate implementation of the so-called no-match rule in order to have it take effect before President George W. Bush leaves office in mid-January. The regulation, which would require employers to fire employees with Social Security numbers different from those listed in the Social Security database, has been held up in lawsuits since it was first introduced in 2007.
Border Issues: The Department of Homeland Security will finish constructing approximately 670 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border before President Bush leaves office. NPR describes how the project is affecting relationships among border communities.
Deportation of Haitians Resume: U.S. immigration officials have resumed deportations to Haiti after a temporary suspension following four tropical storms in September. Human rights advocates and some members of Congress are criticizing the the policy, arguing that it is inhumane and that it may hamper Haiti’s recovery efforts.
H2A Visas: The Bush Administration has approved a series of modifications to the H2A visa, which allows foreign farm workers to temporarily work in the United States. The new rules are already proving contentious: Administration officials claim that the regulations will streamline the application process and reduce demands on businesses, while worker advocacy groups argue that they may hurt wages and working conditions for farm workers. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/us/12farm.html?_r=1&scp=5&sq=immigration&st=cse
Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008, H.R. 7311
Congress passed legislation to extend and expand efforts to halt human trafficking and aid its victims. The bill (HR 7311) was passed on Wednesday December 10, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The bill was introduced on December 9 by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard L. Berman, D-California. This bill reconciles a bill the House passed last year (HR 3887, introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos) and a Senate measure that the Judiciary Committee approved in July (S 3061, introduced by Sen. Joe Biden). This bill will reauthorize through 2011 protections first enacted in 2000 (PL 106-386) and last extended in 2005 (PL 109-164). The legislation would provide protections for undocumented immigrants who may be victims of trafficking or may testify against traffickers. It would establish new programs to prevent trafficking in foreign countries and offer additional protections for survivors who are threatened by trafficking perpetrators. “Trafficking, like germs, infection and disease, thrives in shadowy and murky places,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J. “But the contagion slows and it even dies when exposed to the light. This legislation brings more light, bright light, to this problem, and it will act as a powerful disinfectant.”
Political Space from the National Immigration Forum:
In the past three years, the immigration debate has been dominated by angry voices. Any positive immigration reform proposal advanced in Congress to fix the broken immigration system elicited thousands of calls to Congressional offices as anti-immigrant groups and conservative talk radio hosts whipped their followers in opposition to “amnesty.” With their passions raised, constituents opposed to reform that included any break for undocumented immigrants called again and again at each turn of the debate. Up to now, there was little “political space” to move immigration reform; every time a proposal was floated in Congress, it was shot down by the flood of calls, and by the politicians who figured that those calls were representative of the majority of their constituents.
Funny thing happened on Election Day: those angry constituents could only vote once. On election day, the voice of every voter had equal weight. That was a problem for politicians who misjudged the composition of the electorate.
The politicians who lost their races did so for many reasons. Immigration, however, was a factor. This wedge issue backfired big time. What the parties will ultimately learn from this election will be debated for some time. There is a debate, though, and it is not just taking place among the immigration advocates on both sides. The story of Latino and immigrant voters rejecting candidates who adopted a hard line on immigration and turning out to vote in unprecedented numbers has been a feature in every analysis of this election appearing in the mainstream media.
It is too soon to say how the immigration issue will play out in the first session of the 111th Congress. The new Administration and Congress have many serious problems to tackle. Whether or not immigration reform is dealt with immediately, immigration reform advocates have gained political space.
That means there is opportunity to advance the issue. Perhaps as importantly, it also means the chances are greater that we will not constantly be under siege. Congress may again be flooded with calls opposing “amnesty,” but those calls will occur in a different context. Now politicians are aware that come election day, their survival depends on reaching out to more than the segment of the electorate that is upset with undocumented immigrants. It should give pause to politicians prone to attacking immigrants, and it should bolster those who are sympathetic, but who might not have taken a stand supporting immigration reform.
On the other hand, politicians are prone to forgetting these lessons, so the election results won’t necessarily be remembered when the phones start ringing unless some of us who voted also call and write. We need to encourage everyone who cares about immigration reform to translate their vote into continued action—and remind our elected officials that immigration matters to their constituents—and that we vote.
Following is a summary of some of the polling and analysis that has been released since the election.
The Latino Vote
Nationally, the Latino share of the electorate increased by 1% over their share in 2004 (from 8% to 9%), and totaled 11 million voters—three million more than in the 2004 election. Barack Obama captured 67% of those voters, compared to John Kerry’s 56%. In absolute numbers, that’s about 3 million more Latino voters for the Democratic candidate.
In several key states that went Republican in 2004, the increase in the Latino share of the electorate was larger than the national average. In New Mexico, it was 9% greater. In Colorado and Nevada, it was 5% greater. These states went for Barack Obama. (PewHispanicCenter)
A survey of Latino voters conducted after the election in the 21 states accounting for 93% of the Latino electorate found that a whopping 92% of Latino registered voters surveyed said they had cast a ballot. Of those voters, 46% were immigrants. A significant number (15%) were voting for the first time. A higher percentage of respondents to this survey said they voted for Barack Obama (72%) than had been reported from exit polls. Among these voters, expectations are high for the immigration issue to be addressed, and comprehensive reform is strongly favored. (NALEO)
In Miami and Los Angeles, exit polling revealed that the subset of Latino voters that were immigrants voted in a higher percentage for Obama—78% vs. 22% for McCain. These voters made up 40% of the Latino vote in those two locations. For 89% of the Latin American immigrant voters, the issue of immigration was “very” or “somewhat” important. More than 90% said they favored giving undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize their status. (America’s Voice)
Asian American Voters
Nationally, 62% of Asian Americans voted for Barack Obama and 32% voted for John McCain. In Los Angeles, exit surveys indicated that 68% of Asian American voters supported Barack Obama, including 24% of Asian American Republican voters. The issue of immigration was among the most important issues in helping to determine Asian American voters’ preference. In Los Angeles, Asians comprised 9% of the electorate. (AsianPacificAmericanLegalCenter)
In Chicago, Asian American voters gave Barack Obama an 81% to 16% margin of victory. Looking at younger voters (18 to 30 yrs. old), the margin was 92% to 3%. When asked how they perceived the political parties attitudes towards immigrants, 50% of respondents said they thought Democrats were “very favorable” towards immigrants, while 46% thought Republicans were “not favorable” towards immigrants. (Asian American Institute)
Immigration as a Wedge Issue
In 21 House and Senate races in swing districts where a Republican candidate used illegal immigration as a wedge issue against the Democratic challenger, Democrats came out on top in 19 of the races. While not all of the successful candidates said they favored comprehensive reform, they advocated policies beyond enforcement only. (America’s Voice)
The lack of success of the wedge issue strategy, in the case of immigration, was not entirely due to its rejection by Latinos. In a post-election national poll, a majority of both McCain supporters and Obama supporters indicated they favored a comprehensive approach to the immigration problem. In the general electorate, 57% favored a comprehensive solution (verses 28% favoring enforcement only). This margin has not changed much in the past two years. (National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice)
Will Republicans, who have tended to latch on to the hard-line on immigration, learn that this is not a productive position to take for those who want to win elections? Republican strategist Karl Rove recently wrote an essay, The Way Out of the Wilderness, printed in Newsweek. He says in part, The GOP won't be a majority party if it cedes the young or Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support secure borders, a guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation. An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.
A summary of information on the election results from various sources has been compiled by the ImmigrationPolicyCenter, and can be obtained here:
Some Key Congressional Leadership Picks
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has become a leader on immigration in the Senate (especially on matters related to family immigration) has been named to Chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He replaces New York Senator Charles Schumer in that post.
Representative Xavier Becerra, who has in the past served as the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Immigration Subcommittee, has been elected to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus.
Representative Nydia Velasquez (D-NY) will chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Transition, White House and Agency Picks
President-elect Obama has already announced several of his cabinet choices. Those related to immigration include:
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will be the Secretary of Homeland Security. As Secretary, she will be charged with overseeing the various immigration agencies that are part of the Department of Homeland Security. The choice of Governor Napolitano is a signal by the President-elect that immigration will be a focus of concern. As Governor of Arizona, Napolitano is acutely aware of the problems caused by the dysfunctional immigration system. While Governor Napolitano has supported tough enforcement measures, she has spoken out on the need for comprehensive immigration reform. (See the Forum’s press release here.)
Senator Hilary Clinton (D-NY) will serve as Secretary of State, and Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton, will be Attorney General.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will serve as Secretary of Commerce. Last year, President Bush enlisted the aid of his Homeland Security and Commerce Secretaries in lobbying Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. In the Obama Administration, these two posts will be filled by people who are solidly pro-reform.
Our friend and colleague Cecilia Muñoz has been named Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House. Ms. Muñoz has been Senior Vice President for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, and was a long-time member of the National Immigration Forum’s Board of Directors. (See our press release here.)
The President-elect has set up a number of Policy Review Teams, one of which focuses on immigration. Leading that team are Stanford law Professor Tino Cuéllar and Georgetown University Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, who served as Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs and as General Counsel in the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton years.
You can find principles on the issue of immigration from the transition team here: