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Posts Tagged ‘immigration reform’

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court, deadlocked at 4-4, rendered a terse, nine-word, one-sentence non-decision on the executive actions known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and DACA plus (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). The absence of one Justice on the bench deprived more than five million people of the just recognition they deserve.

It took courage for people to step forward to ask for temporary relief from the threat of deportation for themselves and their family members. Their goals were to be recognized, to be heard, to go to school and to earn a living, and to demonstrate their desire to keep their families together. That courage was met by a Congress and Supreme Court that are incapable of action, and politicians using people as political footballs, kicking the vulnerable back to the shadows.

Our country has suffered through fractious debates over the past decade on several issues, perhaps none as contentious as immigration. This has caused paralysis. When Congress had the opportunity to address comprehensive immigration reform, the House failed to act and permitted the issue, and those affected, to languish. The administration then announced efforts to prioritize enforcement efforts, with mixed results.

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As international educators, we understand that global learning leads to a more engaged and welcoming United States, and a more secure and peaceful world. To be fully realized, these goals require a functioning immigration system. Our immigration law is the face the United States presents to the world. When it is broken, when the welcome mat is only out for some or pulled away entirely, the world takes note.

Immigration law impacts international education by dictating who may come to the United States, for how long, and what they can do while they are here. International education suffers when the law makes it difficult for international students, scholars, researchers, and others to come to the United States to learn and work. Additionally, by prohibiting the family members of international students from working or studying while they are in the United States, we send a message that they are not welcome, and add additional burdens for international students and scholars to endure.

Perhaps even more troubling is the way our current immigration law impacts the story we tell the world about ourselves. Our story is one of a nation of immigrants that welcomes new people who aspire to work hard and become Americans. Too frequently, in too many places in the world, our aspirational story has been eroded by a perception of anti-immigrant rhetoric and laws targeting immigrants for capricious or harsh treatments. As a result, our ability to achieve the goals of international education are crippled. Reforming immigration law supports the mission of international education, advancing global engagement by welcoming people from around the world to live, work, and study in our communities.

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Do you know there are children in the United States of America being denied an education? The Associated Press reports that in at least 35 districts in 14 states hundreds of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been turned away from schools, discouraged from enrolling, or pushed into programs that cannot meet their needs.

Not only is this abhorrent, it is illegal. In 1982, the Supreme Court held in Plyer v. Doe that denying primary and secondary education to undocumented children violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Education is fundamental to the fabric of society and key to ensuring people are equipped to lead economically productive lives to the benefit of everyone.

Whatever your position on immigration reform, the law regarding the education of children is settled: we do it. It doesn’t matter if the children arrive in our communities by themselves or with their parents. It doesn’t matter if there is an ongoing debate as to whether the children are refugees or fleeing poverty. Denying a child a proper education is a lifelong punishment, for both the person, the community and the world. It is appalling that schools in the United States of America are denying an education to children.

Please join us at ConnectingOurWorld.org to stay informed on the latest immigration and higher education news.

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Could you use an elixir for disillusionment with the U.S. political system or the hand-wringing about the future of the United States? Listen to “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” a story broadcasted on NPR’s “This American Life” about Abdi Nor, a Somali refugee living in Kenya who won the Diversity Visa (DV) program lottery.

The goal of the DV lottery, when it was created by Congress in 1990, was to diversify the immigrant population by allowing people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for one of 55,000 green cards available annually under the program. Unlike the vast majority of others who apply to live permanently in the United States, DV applicants aren’t required to have family already here or an employer sponsoring them.

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Reports of death have been greatly exaggerated at least since 1897, when Mark Twain told the New York Journal that contrary to reports, he was in fact alive. So it is with immigration reform which, these days, is the subject of repeated obituaries. You only die once—unless, apparently, you’re immigration reform, which dies in our newspapers and on our TV screens with monotonous regularity.

One reason these frequent death reports are getting boring is that we always know the culprit—there isn’t even any suspense. In the case of immigration reform’s most recent demise, a hitherto unknown politician named David Brat holds the bloody dagger. His defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia seventh district primary supposedly proves that the tea party is again ascendant and that all hope for immigration reform is gone.

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In 1862, during the darkest days for the Union, President Lincoln faced a momentous decision. He wanted to issue a proclamation freeing the slaves in the Confederate states. Many counseled against it, fearing that the time was not right: It would prolong the war, fracture Lincoln’s coalition in Congress, and have other adverse consequences. It was far from clear that the “team of rivals” that comprised the president’s Cabinet would support such an action. But Lincoln was convinced, in his own mind, that emancipation was not only the right thing to do, but would in fact have positive strategic consequences for the war effort. Late that year, buoyed by victories on the battlefield, Lincoln informed—not consulted, but informed—his Cabinet of his decision, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.

President Barack Obama now confronts his “Lincoln moment”: Will he emulate this greatest of American presidents? Will he take bold executive action to address an injustice of his administration: the record deportations of undocumented immigrants? That this would be the right thing to do is unquestionable. The administration is more concerned about the politics: Would it be strategic, or would it actually work against immigration reform? If we think clearly about these issues, as Lincoln did in the case of emancipation, we will see that executive action on deportations is not detrimental to immigration reform, but would, if anything, actually help reform. Why is this the case?

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action,” and reminded Congress that “…what most Americans want [is] for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.” He shone a light on education by noting the importance of “….preparing tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education;” and he again asked Congress to take up commonsense immigration reform as he explained:

“When people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

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On November 9, 2012, three days after President Obama’s re-election with the massive support of Hispanics and other immigrant communities, I posted on this blog an analysis of the meaning of the election and its implications for immigration reform. I said that the election would occasion a titanic struggle in the Republican Party between those who wanted to double down on far-right ideological positions and those who understood that the party had to broaden its appeal to immigrants and others who supported the president (women, minorities) if it hoped to remain competitive in national elections. I said that immigration reform would be one of the venues for this struggle, and I said, “The Republican Party will abandon its anti-immigration posture on the day it decides that anti-immigration no longer works for it politically.”

There is reason to believe that day will come soon, if it is not already here. Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders seem to have concluded that the party must deliver on immigration reform. It also appears that the Speaker is finally fed up with his extremist wing and is no longer prepared to give it an automatic veto over actions that he considers to be in the party’s long-term interest.

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Connecting Our World advocates at a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota in October 2013.

While members of Congress have left the halls of the Capitol to venture home for the holidays, the unfinished work they leave behind – commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform – will not disappear with the start of the new year. And neither will we.

The pro-immigration reform movement is growing stronger each day. People across the country are standing up, speaking out, protesting, rallying, fasting, and more.

What motivates us?

Every day 1,100 people are deported and separated from their families, jobs, and homes. The vast majority of these men, women, and children would qualify for a legal status under pending immigration legislation. Deporting them is arbitrary, wastes resources, and contradicts the values of our nation.

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Coming off a successful August of immigration reform activism in the states and districts of Members of Congress, reform advocates are in the driver’s seat. But to judge from the defeatism in the community, you would never know it. I don’t worry when the pundits assure us that immigration reform can’t be done; negativity is their job. But I do worry when we start to believe them. Reform advocates will only lose this debate if we allow ourselves to be defeated. If we buy into the assumption that nothing can happen, then we deserve to lose. But the immigrants don’t deserve to lose. There’s too much at stake. We have to rediscover the positive attitude—the confidence that we will win—that has carried us this far.

Remember:  According to the smart guys in the media, nothing that has happened so far could happen. A year ago, the immigration debate that we are having today couldn’t happen—but it did. Nine months ago, a bipartisan group of senators—including some who helped defeat reform just a few years ago—couldn’t come together to introduce a comprehensive reform bill—but they did. Six months ago, you could never put that bill through regular order and have a civilized debate and a successful markup—which preserved the bipartisan, comprehensive essence of the bill—in the Senate Judiciary Committee—but we did. Then, we were assured, the bill could never survive the Senate floor, where it would be picked apart, filibustered, and defeated or, at best, emerge in some grotesque form that no one could support. But, as we all know, it passed intact, with a bipartisan, 68-vote majority.

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