Monday, March 5, 2007

Immigration News Roundup: Feb 26 – Mar 4

This week brings us a varied set of stories. Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced a new comprehensive immigration policy coupled with reform of its policies towards the treatment of undocumented Central and South American migrants in Mexico. An organic farmer and author from Fresno, Ca. makes some suggestions on immigration policy while the Senate begins working on a new reform package. New enforcement policies make a small Arizona airport the nation's deportation capital and the Denver Post examines some of the costs of increased enforcement to the US justice system. Additionally, a new section has been added to the round-up with miscellaneous stories not widely covered by the MSM

  • Mexican President Announces New Comprehensive Immigration Policy

  • Farmer Explains Concerns for Immigration Reform

  • Arizona Airport Becomes Nations Busiest Deportation Hub

  • Senate Poised to Start Immigration Reform

  • True Costs of Enforcement-Only Examined

Mexican President Announces New Comprehensive Immigration Policy

Felipe Calderón hopes to show visiting fellow president George W. Bush that he can accomplish the sweeping immigration reform Washington has failed to adopt - not just cracking down on the southern border but also creating a guest-worker program and improving conditions for illegal Central American migrants.

Proving that controlled, regulated migration is possible is the immediate political goal of Calderón, who is unveiling the ambitious reforms shortly before Bush´s March 13-14 visit.

Calderón´s migration agency announced the first phase late Tuesday, pledging improvements to 48 detention centers in response to criticism that illegal Central American migrants are denied the same respect Mexico demands for its citizens in the United States.


Calderón also will push Congress to make being undocumented a civil violation, rather than a crime, Salazar said. Republicans in the U.S. Congress have gone in the opposite direction, seeking to treat undocumented migrants as felons.

Meanwhile, Calderón has promised a new, more formal guest-worker program for Central American workers in Mexico.

"Just as we demand respect for the human rights of our countrymen, we have the ethical and legal responsibility to respect the human rights and the dignity of those who come from Central and South America and who cross our southern border," Calderón said shortly after taking office.

Details have not been released but migration experts expect an expansion of Mexico´s long-standing seasonal farm worker program, which issues at least 40,000 temporary visas a year, mostly to Guatemalans. Most work in coffee plantations in southern Chiapas state, and many often face problems getting payment, medical care and housing.

Migration experts say Calderón wants to stop those abuses while also allowing Central Americans to work in construction and service industries along the southern border.

Washington Post

Farmer Explains Concerns for Immigration Reform

For the sake of peaches, pass immigration reform

But whether I can grow a better peach depends on whether I have enough field workers, and that's where immigration reform comes in. In recent years, farm labor has been tight, with some workers lost to construction jobs and others because of increased border security. Some farmers have responded by increasing wages, yet there were still not enough people willing to work the harvests. Last year, pears in California rotted on trees; two years ago, my raisin harvest was endangered, and for the last three years, I've struggled with peach harvests, terrified that just as the fruit was at the peak of perfection, I wouldn't have enough workers. Some of my best fruit has fallen from my trees.

The agricultural industry supports federal legislation for a guest-worker program that would bring in temporary farm laborers when shortages arise. This remedy would fix short-term problems. However, a long-term solution lies in immigration reform that could change the nature of farming, especially when it comes to specialty crops and small-scale operations like mine.


Agriculture makes a mistake, though, if our sole goal in immigration reform is to seek an abundant supply of cheap labor. Farmers must acknowledge the human capital in our fields. Investments in workers, such as training, can benefit all parties. Skilled positions can then be created for a more willing and able labor pool. With the right kind of reform, workers' worth would be redefined; they would no longer be invisible.


As we once again debate immigration reform, agriculture has an opportunity to educate the public about the role farmers and workers have in growing food, in satisfying our hunger. We're all part of a food system at the dinner table, and the policy we create will affect the nature of each bite.
Washington Post

Arizona Airport Becomes Nations Busiest Deportation Hub

Bush policy turns Mesa airport into deportation hub

One by one the immigration detainees stepped off buses onto the tarmac as dawn broke one recent chilly morning. After deputy U.S. marshals pat searched each one, the detainees climbed single file aboard a large unmarked jetliner waiting nearby…

The scene is repeated almost daily at Williams Gateway Airport, the busiest air deportation hub in the nation, as the federal government ramps up efforts to quickly deport record numbers of non-Mexican undocumented immigrants to their home countries.

The taxpayer-funded flights have helped cut deportation times by months, removing about 51,300 non-Mexicans from Oct. 1, 2005 to Sept. 30, 2006, mostly to countries in Central and South America, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

The flights, part of the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, have been key to ending the government's long-standing policy of releasing thousands of non-Mexicans into the U.S. pending immigration hearings and serve as a deterrent to illegal immigration, officials say.

Analysts say the flights are also central to President Bush's political efforts to curry favor with hard- liners in hopes of coaxing a comprehensive immigration bill out of Congress. The flights are expected to increase as the administration pushes for stronger enforcement.

The flights already have increased fivefold since 2001. They carried more than 116,000 passengers last fiscal year, enough to rival some small U.S. airlines. That total consists of the 51,300 non-Mexican deportations and 64,700 undocumented immigrants flown from the interior of the U.S. to centers like the one in Mesa to be deported.

The program is costly. In fiscal year 2006, ICE officials say the agency spent more than $70 million flying undocumented immigrants home or to the border. In addition, an October inspector general's report sampling flights from Mesa and other air deportation hubs found planes that frequently flew less than half full.
Arizona Republic

Senate Poised to Start Immigration Reform

Kennedy, McCain try again on immigration

Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John McCain are set to introduce a revised version of their sweeping plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, in a bill that's likely to restart a tense debate in Congress.

The measure, which is being drafted in consultation with the White House, will largely mirror the immigration bill that stalled last year, according to lawmakers and aides involved in the process. That measure was blocked primarily because House Republican leaders were adamantly opposed to provisions that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to become US citizens.

Though negotiations are still ongoing, this year's bill will most likely leave in place the 700-mile border fence, the creation of which was signed into law last year. It would also double the size of the US Border Patrol and add new means to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, a further attempt to assuage concerns about the nation's porous borders.

But the bill is likely to enrage advocates of a get-tough approach to immigration by allowing most of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already in this country to earn legalized status. Early drafts of the bill would allow them to become citizens after about 12 years if they meet requirements such as learning English, passing a criminal background check, and paying back taxes and a $2,000 fine….

The bill, set to be introduced in the House and Senate as soon as next week, will also include a "guest worker" program for immigrants to work in the United States under temporary visas -- an oft-stated goal of President Bush.
Boston Globe

Related Opinion:
LA Times
Contra Costa Times

True Costs of Enforcement-Only Examined

Fortress America: Part 1
As the U.S. builds walls and trains agents to bar its southern door from the rush of illegal immigrants, some see only a policy of prison shackles and razor wire.

Five days a week, Arce-Flores' courtroom witnesses a steady march of men and women in orange jumpsuits, the vast majority of whom are Spanish-speaking immigrants caught near the border.

During a pretrial hearing before another of Laredo's magistrate judges in early December, the judge dispatched 22 cases in four hours. Nearly all the immigrants were charged with a felony - illegal re-entry after a previous deportation or removal. And because all pleaded guilty, exchanges in court were mostly limited to how defendants were detained and a few questions by the judge about their education level and occupation.


But it's not so much that the court is spending time jailing gardeners and construction workers, said Arce-Flores, who is one of the busiest federal judges in the country. It's that the enormous immigration caseload is like a large fire that sucks oxygen from a closed room.

Clerks are tired. U.S. marshals are overworked. While the average federal judge has 87 open felony cases at any one time on the docket, that average for each of the two full judgeships in Laredo is 1,400.

"Do you go after the mob or these guys on the border? Do you go after the Ecstasy distribution rings or these guys on the border?" said Charles L. Lindner, a California lawyer and past president of the Los Angeles Criminal Bar Association, explaining how the focus on federal immigration prosecutions is rippling through the system.

"We're short on (assistant U.S. attorneys) in the office here in Los Angeles because they're doing immigration in Laredo," Lindner said.


Sitting in her court offices in Laredo, Arce-Flores pulls out a calculator from a large desk and begins tapping buttons - performing a quick estimate of what it costs taxpayers to jail the immigrants passing through her courtroom.

"If I have 30 people a day times five days a week, that's 150 people," she said.

Each costs about $90 a day to keep in jail, the judge said, and the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor offender is six months.

That's nearly $2.5 million, "for just for one week's work," according to Arce-Flores.

"But when they are discussing this in Washington, they keep saying, 'We need to detain every one of them; we need to give every one jail time,"' Arce-Flores said. "I don't think they realize the consequences."
Denver Post

This Weeks Miscellaneous Bits and Pieces

3 Honduran Kids in L.I. Face Deportation Forbes

Latinos: Councilman's online remarks "bigoted" Asbury park News

(Houston) Immigration raid nets 67 suspects Houston Chronicle

Bush talks trade, immigration with president of El Salvador North County Times

Napolitano: Congress must fix broken immigration system this year Arizona Daily Star

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