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Posted on October 11, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an excellent short editorial today encouraging Latinos to vote in the coming election. Historically, Latinos vote in smaller percentages than other ethnic groups. There may be cultural reasons for this, but the failure to vote hurts Latino causes -— whether that is immigration reform or economic recovery. I want to join the newspaper in urging Latinos, and everyone else, to vote November 2. Here is the editorial:

This probably isn’t the first editorial you’ve read urging Latinos to make their mark at the polls. We’ve written some ourselves, so this plea to Texas’ Hispanic voters is not new to us, either.

Nevertheless, the point remains. From jobs to education to immigration, Hispanic voters have quite a bit at stake in November’s mid-term election. Yet some recent polling data suggests a significant number of registered Latino voters may sit this one out.

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that only about half of Hispanic voters nationally are likely to cast ballots. By contrast, 70 percent of all registered voters say they will vote.

A survey by this newspaper and several others found similar numbers across Texas. Only 44 percent of registered Texas Hispanic voters said they were “absolutely certain” to vote, compared to 58.2 percent of all registered Texas voters with no doubt they would hit the polls.

The polling firm Latino Decisions found some marginally better numbers nationally. Its recent report shows 73 percent of registered Hispanic voters are “almost certain” to vote. “Almost certain” is nowhere as good as “absolutely certain,” but the Latino numbers perhaps could end up higher than 45 percent to 50 percent of those registered.

Let’s hope so. Sitting this election out will do Hispanics no good, no matter how despondent they may be over the immigration debate. Experts examining these recent polls believe the anger surrounding this issue is largely responsible for the low projections.

But there is much more at stake, which the Pew Hispanic Center interestingly picked up on. Its survey revealed that Latinos consider education, jobs, health care and budget deficits more important issues than immigration.

So with all that at stake, particularly the economy, Latino voters have every reason to vote early or on Nov. 2. We hope that by the morning of Nov. 3, these dire projections will have been proven wildly inaccurate.

Posted on January 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

From The Associated Press:

President George W. Bush told a group of Texas reporters Friday that he regretted immigration policies were not reformed while he was in office.

“I’m very disappointed that it didn’t pass,” he said in an interview with correspondents from his home state. “I’m very worried about the message that said, ‘Republicans are anti-immigrant.'”

Bush said he wanted a comprehensive immigration plan “not for political standing or for Latinos, but because it was best for the country,” the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Friday.

The outgoing president said that in hindsight he should have pushed his immigration proposal soon after the 2004 election, rather than after partisan squabbling over Social Security began.

Posted on December 3, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Acting Director for USCIS has resigned, close on the heels of the resignation of the head of ICE. The Administrative Appeals Office is also without a leader. Who’s running the show up in Washington these days? Anyone want to apply for a job that will probably end on January 20, 2009? Here is the official statement from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertof:

For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary

Contact: 202-282-8010

Today is Jock Scharfen’s last day as Acting Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Jock has demonstrated remarkable dedication to this department during his tenure as Acting Director and as Deputy Director, and has helped guide the agency’s transformation into a 21st century service-driven organization. 

Jock has made lasting contributions to homeland security, including processing a record number of naturalization petitions, effectively eliminating the FBI name check backlog, and welcoming thousands of Iraqi refugees that supported the U.S. overseas.

I am grateful for Jock’s service to our nation during his tenure at the department as well as his distinguished 25-year career as a U.S. Marine. On behalf of the department, I thank him for his many contributions to improving the services we provide legal immigrants and in naturalizing thousands of new U.S. citizens.

Posted on December 3, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

That was a headline in the Dallas Morning News, and let’s hope it comes true. This country desperately needs the federal government to step up to the plate and take responsibility for passing and enforcing immigration laws. As is, we have a hodgepodge of states and municipalities trying to pass conflicting laws regulating immigrant behavior. If the federal government would just do what we pay them to do, the cities and states wouldn’t have to worry about this issue. Here are excerpts from the article.  

As governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano pushed the federal government to take more responsibility for illegal immigration. When it didn’t do so, she signed a state law that filled the vacuum, establishing the nation’s toughest penalties for companies that hire illegal workers.

Analysts expect Ms. Napolitano, introduced Monday as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for secretary of homeland security, to lead an effort to reassert federal authority over immigration. Her record as a proponent of enforcement signals that Mr. Obama will balance border-security concerns with the demands of employers wanting more foreign labor, they said.Ms. Napolitano has supported the concept of a “virtual fence,” or using surveillance and technology to monitor smugglers.

“The governor understands that immigration is a federal responsibility, and she has made that pretty clear by asking for federal help,” said James W. Ziglar, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Of the border fence, Ms. Napolitano famously said: “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”

Ms. Napolitano has supported the concept of a “virtual fence,” or using surveillance and technology to monitor smugglers.

Her nomination was applauded by business groups who think she’ll support efforts to expand guest-worker programs.

As governor, Ms. Napolitano pushed for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. She has supported a temporary worker program and called for a national employer-verification system.

Posted on December 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times has a good editorial about the selection of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for homeland security secretary. The Times is in favor of Napolitano, and so am I. I think she’s a good, moderate voice in the immigration debate. I hope she can find a middle ground between the enforcement-only crowd and the open-the-borders crowd. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

It would be a relief to see the job go to someone with a solid understanding of immigration and all its complexities and political traps. As governor of a border state, Ms. Napolitano knows the landscape intimately. She has a cool head and a proven willingness to pursue policies that conform to reality, rather than the other way around. For years, the country has stumbled in a state of immigration panic, using harsh tactics to create the illusion of control while rejecting comprehensive strategies that would attack the problem at its roots.

Getting comprehensive reform passed may be a difficult slog for the new administration. But it can move quickly to repair what has gone awry with the enforcement-only regime, starting with reining in state and local crackdowns. Ms. Napolitano would do the country a huge favor by taking a withering look at a fellow Arizonan, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has used the federal 287(g) program, which delegates immigration enforcement to the local police, to terrorize immigrants in Phoenix.

Ms. Napolitano is famously skeptical of the border fence, the Bush administration’s 700-mile, multibillion-dollar desert speed bump. The fence was never going to be the zip-lock seal its defenders clamored for, and is hardly worth the expense or environmental damage it has caused. Ms. Napolitano is well aware that the way to get tough at the border is to bring the visa supply in line with reality and give the Border Patrol the resources to catch drug smugglers and other bad people.

The federal crackdown on illegal hiring is a similar mishmash of hastily erected rules, including much-criticized systems of checking workers’ names against error-plagued databases. Ms. Napolitano would do well to ensure a slow, judicious rollout of electronic workplace enforcement, to avoid mistakes that could ruin the lives and livelihoods of thousands of legitimate employees.

The immigration detention system, which has been scarred by horrifying accounts of neglect and mistreatment, is in dire need of reform to ensure humane standards of medical care. And perhaps most important, the new administration should abolish the disastrous campaign of raids that have sundered families and spread terror through immigrant communities while making no meaningful difference in the undocumented population.

Posted on November 20, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The CapitolAnnex Web site has a good summary of the immigration bills pre-filed in the Texas Legislature, for consideration when the Legislature meets in January. Fortunately for Texans, our Legislature meets only every other year. Unfortunately, 2009 is one of those years. As some of us say, No Texan is safe when the Legislature is in session. From January through May of 2009 we’ll be sweating every day as the politicians in Austin try to outdo one another in controlling our lives.

Posted on November 17, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Morning Edition, on National Public Radio, had a very interesting story this morning about the potential effect of Latino voter turnout on future immigration policies. Please read the article, but the gist is the suggestion that the large Latino support for the Democrats might force Democrats to act on immigration reform or risk losing this support. And the Republicans may have to rethink the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has gained them popularity with certain segments of the electorate.

Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy may postpone any efforts at a guest worker program. Here are excerpts from the article:

In recent years, political advice on immigration in both parties has gone something like this: “It’s the third rail of politics.” “The less said, the better.” “If you say anything, talk tough.”

But with President-elect Barack Obama’s solid win — and his overwhelming support from Latinos — some think that advice may change.

“What the election showed is that the conventional wisdom on why immigration reform is too hot to handle is wrong,” says Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration lobbying group.

More Hispanics than ever voted, and they voted 2-to-1 for Obama over McCain. Sharry says Latino support was decisive in helping deliver the swing states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. And polls show it was the immigration issue — specifically some in the Republican Party who demonized illegal immigrants — that helped drive Latinos to the Democrats.

“The large, vocal anti-immigrant vote that has hijacked the Republican Party — they have a lot of bark but not a lot of bite,” Sharry says. “They couldn’t turn elections.”

With the economic crisis, health care and energy dominating the political agenda, the Obama administration and the next Congress may well be tempted to keep pushing off immigration.

But if they do, lobbyist Sharry would urge them to think about 2012 and the decisive Latino vote that will have grown even bigger by then. Sharry believes Democrats will need to push an immigration overhaul to satisfy this now crucial constituency. And if the diminished Republican Party hopes to win back that Hispanic support, it could be harder for them to oppose it.

Posted on October 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Lewisville city council has decided not to invoke an “English-only” policy. This is good news, in my opinion. I just see no up-side to such policies, and I think the city council came to the same conclusion. The vote was 4-1 against pursuing such a resolution.

There was evidence that translating city documents into Spanish cost only $475 during the most recent fiscal year, but perhaps the most powerful testimony during the meeting was from the mayor of the small town of Oak Point, Texas, which enacted a similar English-only ordinance recently. This was his statement:

“It did not change the way the city is run,” he said “We did not save any money, and we did not become more efficient with this resolution. The only thing it did for the city of Oak Point was to pit neighbor against neighbor.”

Posted on October 6, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Why do cities continue to waste time and money trying to make English the “official” language? The latest in our area to do so is the Dallas northern suburb of Lewisville, which is debating the issue this evening in a city council meeting. The council will also be debating which city documents to translate into English.

Many official documents are required by state or federal law to be translated into English, but cities are more and more trying to restrict the other types of documents they translate. I understand it’s a pain and an expense to do these translations, but in Texas we have such a large Spanish-speaking population that it just makes sense to me that a city would want a high percentage of their citizens to understand the city’s rules and ordinances. Spanish is the primary language in about 20 percent of Lewisville’s 30,000 households.

Of course there is often a hidden agenda in these “English only” debates, and that is to drive away immigrants from the cities.

Posted on September 22, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I recently mentioned a statement Barack Obama made about immigration policy. You can see the candidates’ complete immigration policies on their Web sites — Barack Obama’s immigration policies and John McCain’s immigration policies.

Both candidates, fortunately, are in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. It is my personal opinion that if immigration reform is your primary concern, Barack Obama is the better choice. I believe John McCain will have a harder time working with what will surely be a Democratic Congress. And please note the subject headings for the two Web site sections. Barack Obama titles his “Immigration” while John McCain titles his “Border Security.” I think this is a subtle but important insight into their thinking.

Border security obviously is of great importance to the United States. But if we wait until our borders are truly “secure” we’ll never get around to comprehensive immigration reform. We need to work on both at the same time, not total security first (even if that were posssible) and then comprehensive reform eventually.

Posted on September 19, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As quoted in a Wall Street Journal article, these comments were made by Barack Obama in a recent speech:

“This election is about the 12 million people living in the shadows, the communities taking immigration enforcement into their own hand. They are counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric filling our airwaves, and rise above the fear, and rise above the demagoguery, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

Posted on August 25, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

I wrote before about the scandal of choosing Immigration Judges based upon their political beliefs and loyalty. It had the potential for enormous unfairness in judicial opinions. Now my concerns seem to have been confirmed by a study reported on in the New York Times.The article states “Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States have been disproportionately rejected by judges whom the Bush administration chose using a conservative political litmus test, according to an analysis of Justice Department data.” This truly is shameful. Here are additional excerpts from the article:

The analysis suggests that the effects of a patronage-style selection process for immigration judges — used for three years before it was abandoned as illegal — are still being felt by scores of immigrants whose fates are determined by the judges installed in that period.

The data focuses on 16 judges who were vetted for political affiliation before being hired and have since ruled on at least 100 cases each.

Comparison of their records to others in the same cities shows that as a group they ruled against asylum-seekers significantly more often than colleagues who were appointed, as the law requires, under politically neutral rules.

Critics of the politicization of the immigration bench say it is not enough that in 2007 the department stopped using illegal hiring procedures. The fact that many of the politically selected judges remain in power, they say, continues to undermine the perceived fairness of hearings for immigrants fighting deportation.

The Justice Department employs more than 200 immigration judges in more than 50 courts around the country. They conduct hearings for noncitizens asking not to be deported, including asylum-seekers who say they fear religious or political persecution.

Although called “judges,” the hearing examiners are not confirmed by the Senate for life; they are covered by federal civil-service laws, which stipulate that they must be hired on the basis of merit under politically neutral criteria. But in early 2004, political appointees took control of hiring the judges away from career professionals and essentially began treating the positions — which carry salaries of $104,300 to $158,500 — as patronage jobs. They screened out liberals and Democrats, while steering openings to White House-vetted “Bush loyalists” and other job-seekers vouched for by Republican political appointees.

Posted on August 7, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News published an article today about the suburban city of Carrollton, and its approach to illegal immigrants. Here are excerpts:

Carrollton City Council members want to have a residents’ panel advise them on combating the effects of illegal immigration. They’re just not sure how to go about it.

On Tuesday, the council didn’t reach agreement on how many members the committee should have, how they should be selected or just what the group should do.

Mayor Ron Branson is clear about his own vision for the panel: He wants each of the eight City Council members to recommend five potential members. That number would then be whittled to 12 to 15 approved by the full council. Then the panel, led by a paid facilitator, would study illegal immigration in Carrollton and advise the council on ways to counter it.

Last month, the council agreed in a retreat to form an advisory committee – the brainchild of Mr. Branson, who was elected in May. But on Tuesday, some council members disagreed about how to proceed.

Mr. Branson said illegal immigrants in Carrollton are a threat to public safety. And he said some apartment complexes on the south side had solicited illegal immigrants from Farmers Branch, which is waging a legal fight to ban property rentals to them.

Posted on July 30, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post has a column today decrying the news that under the Bush Administration appointees to various departments were made on the basis of politics and not on merit. Shockingly, this seems to have included immigration judges. This is extremely disappointing and of course illegal. Here are excerpts from the column:

Now, an equally graphic report by the same two offices concludes that in 2003, the apolitical process for selecting immigration judges and prosecutors was stood on its head. A chief aide to Attorney General Ashcroft (and later to Attorney General Gonzales) “outlined a new process for hiring [immigration judges] that listed the White House as the sole source for generating candidates.”

Thus, immigration judges — who, by law, are to be chosen without regard to their political pedigree — were no longer picked by the nonpolitical office that is supposed to find and train the men and women who mete out justice to tens of thousands of immigrants. In the interview files for these candidates were such comments as “Cons[ervative] on ‘god, guns + gays’ ” — but not much about whether they understood immigration law or had the capacity for fairness.

Posted on July 14, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has an enlightened attitude on immigration, especially for a generally conservative newspaper. An editorial today bemoans the presidential candidates’ failure to clearly speak out on immigration issues and concludes with these excellent proposals:

This newspaper wants a president who pledges to address comprehensive immigration reform – including border security – without delay.

This package must include tough measures for workplace enforcement, penalties for employers who skirt the law, a guest-worker program that responds to employers’ needs for cheap labor and a pathway to regularization for existing immigrants who come forward and agree to abide by the law.

The candidate who confronts this issue head-on will go a long way toward demonstrating his readiness to lead our nation.

Posted on June 4, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The New York Times this week ran a wonderfully direct and provocative editorial about the shameful way our country treats immigrants, and about the cowardice of today’s politicians. I encourage you to read the entire editorial. Here are some brief excerpts:

Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don’t mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it. A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has been eclipsed, or is slipping away. There are few national figures standing firm against restrictionism. Senator Edward Kennedy has bravely done so for four decades, but his Senate colleagues who are running for president seem by comparison to be in hiding. John McCain supported sensible reform, but whenever he mentions it, his party starts braying and he leaves the room. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lost her voice on this issue more than once. Barack Obama, gliding above the ugliness, might someday test his vision of a new politics against restrictionist hatred, but he has not yet done so. The American public’s moderation on immigration reform, confirmed in poll after poll, begs the candidates to confront the issue with courage and a plan. But they have been vague and discreet when they should be forceful and unflinching.

Every time this country has singled out a group of newly arrived immigrants for unjust punishment, the shame has echoed through history. Think of the Chinese and Irish, Catholics and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Children someday will study the Great Immigration Panic of the early 2000s, which harmed countless lives, wasted billions of dollars and mocked the nation’s most deeply held values.

Posted on March 23, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting editorial a few days ago about the need for increasing the number of H-1B visas allowable each year. Here are excerpts:

Bill Gates appeared before Congress again last week to make a simple point to simpler pols: The ridiculously low annual cap on H-1B visas for foreign professionals is undermining the ability of U.S. companies to compete in a global marketplace. “Congress’s failure to pass high-skill immigration reform has exacerbated an already grave situation,” said the Microsoft chairman. “The current base cap of 65,000 H-1B visas is arbitrarily set and bears no relation to the U.S. economy’s demand for skilled workers.” The Labor Department projects that by 2014 there will be more than two million job openings in science, technology, engineering and math fields. But the number of Americans graduating with degrees in those disciplines is falling. Meanwhile, visa quotas make it increasingly difficult for U.S. companies to hire foreign-born graduates of our own universities. Last year, as in prior years, the supply of H-1B visas was exhausted on the first day petitions could be filed. Mr. Gates said his software company exemplifies this phenomenon. “Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities,” he told lawmakers. “If we increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to U.S. companies, employment of U.S. nationals would likely grow as well.” The preponderance of evidence continues to show that businesses are having difficulty filling skilled positions in the U.S. By blocking their access to foreign talent, Congress isn’t protecting U.S. jobs but is providing incentives to outsource. If lawmakers can’t bring themselves to eliminate the H-1B visa cap, they might at least raise it to a level that doesn’t handicap U.S. companies.

Posted on February 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As another result of the federal government’s refusal to take any action regrading immigration reform, more and more local jurisdictions are attempting their own solutions — usually with poor results and unintended consequences.

The Dallas Morning News reports today that Republican candidates for County Sheriff are incorporating strict immigration enforcement policies into their campaigns, while Democratic candidates are mostly silent on the issue. Here are excerpts:

Sheriff’s hopefuls want jail to check for illegal immigrants Dallas County: Most from GOP say jail could detect suspects who are in country illegally

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department isn’t doing enough to identify illegal immigrants in the jail, according to some Republican candidates for sheriff.

Illegal immigration, a hot topic locally and nationally, has become an issue in the race for sheriff. Several candidates are addressing it in their campaigns. One of them, Mesquite police Lt. Charlie Richmond, has made it his top issue.

He and fellow Republican candidates Catherine Smit and Jim Bowles say they would apply for special training from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would allow jailers to question inmates about their immigration status and detain them for federal authorities.

But former Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannaday said he would prefer to use a model used in Irving in which jailers call ICE at all hours of the day when they suspect an inmate is in the country illegally.

Most of the Democrats in the race don’t support such measures.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is running for re-election, says she has no plans to change the current arrangement in which a couple of ICE agents periodically visit the Lew Sterrett Justice Center to question inmates.

All of the Democratic candidates for sheriff except for Lancaster school Police Chief Sam Allen agree that the department is doing all it can and that immigration enforcement is a job best left to the federal government.

When ICE agents determine an inmate is a noncitizen who is deportable, they place a hold or detainer on him so he can be turned over to federal authorities once his local criminal charges are resolved.

That means the inmates must sit in the jail until ICE can pick them up. Between 180 and 230 Dallas County prisoners are released to ICE’s custody every month, said Ron Stretcher, the county’s criminal justice director.

He said he has not studied the impact of the detainers on the jails’ population but that he plans to do so.

“Anytime you place holds or detainers, it’s critical that we get a quick response,” Mr. Stretcher said, referring to ICE’s ability to take custody of inmates.

Mr. Cannaday said some defense attorneys will bond out their clients when they know ICE agents are not inside the jail. He said illegal immigrants must be screened when they are booked into the jail.

Inmates who are booked into the Dallas County jails currently must fill out a form that asks for their country of birth. But jail guards do not use that information to screen for illegal immigrants.

It’s an election year, and the question of identifying illegal immigrants in jails has arisen in the Harris County sheriff’s race as well.

Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas, who is running for re-election, wants his jailers to receive the ICE training to determine the immigration status of noncitizens.

Ms. Smit, the Cockrell Hill police chief who is running as a Republican, said she would work with other law enforcement agencies in the county to develop a coordinated strategy for tackling the problem.

“Every prisoner who comes into intake should be questioned at book-in so ICE agents have an opportunity to get to them before they bond out,” she said.

Posted on January 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News ran an article today detailing a problem that I and many other interested people have been complaining about for quite some time — the inexcusable delays in granting citizenship to qualified immigrant applicants. Some of us who are quick to attribute sinister motives to politicians note that a majority of new citizens vote Democratic, and the current administration is Republican. And of course this just happens to be an election year. So the fewer new citizens, the fewer votes for Democratic candidates? The article is well worth reading in full. Here are excerpts:

The unprecedented 1.4 million surge in U.S. citizenship applicants won’t translate into an equal number of new voters come November’s presidential election because of a processing backlog.

But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials said Monday that the agency is hiring more staff and pressing the FBI for more efficient background checks and that delays of weeks just to open mail are behind them.

“Anytime we have a surge in citizenship, it is a good thing,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director of the agency’s Dallas office. “We are working as best we can.”

Mr. Gonzalez and his agency have been assailed by critics who charge that the Republican administration wants to suppress the votes of new citizens likely to vote for a Democrat.

“If they don’t have the opportunity to vote in this election, they will have many other opportunities to vote in other elections,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The processing delays vary from city to city, though the biggest backlogs are in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, said Mr. Gonzalez and Michael Aytes, associate director for the agency’s domestic operations.

In Dallas, the backlog isn’t as serious, with 30,000 applications pending in November, Mr. Aytes said. The number of applicants here increased 49 percent in the last fiscal year compared with the previous year. In San Bernardino, Calif., the increase was 1017 percent; in Los Angeles, 101 percent.

Just the same, Mr. Aytes acknowledged, some applications with checks enclosed had taken more than six weeks just to be opened, including some sent via Federal Express.

Some 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while 23 percent align with the Republican Party, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey.

Posted on January 2, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post reports today on the exceptional prominence of immigration in the campaigns of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Here are excerpts:

The imagery of the mailings is designed to pack a wallop: a Mexican flag fluttering above the Stars and Stripes, the Statue of Liberty presiding over a “Welcome Illegal Aliens” doormat, a Social Security card emblazoned with the name “Juan Doe,” a U.S. passport proclaiming, “Only one candidate has a plan to STAMP out illegal immigration.”

As Republican presidential candidates troll for votes, they have flooded mailboxes in Iowa and New Hampshire with such loaded images. Their campaigns have filled the airwaves, packed their Web sites and taunted their adversaries, proclaiming their concern over porous borders and accusing opponents of insufficient vigilance.

No issue has dominated the Republican presidential nomination fight the way illegal immigration has. Under consistent attack for inconsistent conservatism, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has turned to the issue again and again to shore up his conservative credentials. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, running as the law-and-order candidate, has been forced onto the defensive by immigration policies in his city.

And just days after he delivered a passionate defense of the humanity of undocumented children in a Republican debate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee presented one of the most punitive immigration platforms seen in this campaign season, rejecting legislation to provide the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they finish high school, attend two years of college or join the military.

The strategy poses a real risk. As the rhetoric and the policy proposals have grown increasingly strident, the eventual nominee’s ability to win Latino support in swing states such as Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico may be coming increasingly into question.

Latino and other minority groups see racial codes in many of the words the Republican candidates have used — for instance, “illegals” rather than “illegal immigrants.” And hovering around the campaigns are far more strident figures and organizations. Immigration groups were taken aback when Huckabee accepted the endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the border-security Minuteman Project, calling it “providential.”

Posted on December 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to an article in today’s Washington post, immigration is the number one issue among potential voters in Iowa’s Republican caucus next month. I don’t doubt the Post’s polling, but that is amazing to me. With all our economic woes, a crisis in education, crime in the streets, and ongoing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I don’t see how people could put immigration at the top of their list of things to worry about.

Posted on December 10, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Thanks to Greg Siskind for pointing out this page of the Web site of the Americans for Better Immigration, an anti-immigrant group. The ABI has rated all the presidential candidates on their positions on immigration reform and enforcement. Of course, many of us strongly disagree with the philosophy of the ABI, but this rating system does let us learn about the candidates’ positions and make our judgments accordingly.

Posted on December 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

My thanks to Greg Siskind for this very funny video about “Our Founding Illegals.” Click the arrow twice to view it.

Posted on November 23, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The other day, someone asked me which presidential candidate would be best, strictly on immigration reform views. Here is a nice little summary from a Reuters news story:


New York Sen. Hillary Clinton

Supports a guest worker program for immigrants if it does not undermine U.S. workers’ wages and favors giving undocumented workers a way to become legal workers. Backed building border wall. Urges development of an employer verification system and higher penalties for employers who exploit illegal immigrants.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Urges doubling the number of Border Patrol agents, installing surveillance technology to police the border and increasing enforcement against employers who hire illegal immigrants. Supports allowing illegal immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they avoid a criminal record, pay a fine and learn English. Against a guest worker program that does not include workplace safeguards.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama

Backs additional personnel, infrastructure and technology to safeguard U.S. borders and ports. Urges reducing application fees and improving speed and accuracy of FBI background checks for immigrants. Supports a program in which illegal immigrants pay fines, learn English, not violate the law and go to the end of the line to become citizens. Backs creating a program for employers to verify an applicant’s immigration status.


Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Supports building the border fence and maintaining 20,000 Border Patrol agents. Urges issuing a single biometric identification card to foreigners, creating a national database and removing those immigrants who have overstayed their visas. Backs deporting illegal immigrants who commit felonies and requiring immigrants to read, write and speak English. Against providing driver’s licenses or similar identification to illegal immigrants.

Arizona Sen. John McCain

Initially supported temporary guest worker program for illegal immigrants but has since shifted his position to emphasize border security first.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Backs securing the border with a wall, fence or electronic surveillance. Urges creating a biometric documentation program and establishing a verification system. Supports an increase in legal immigration into the United States and opposes compromise on immigration amnesty. Opposes allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson

Against providing any legal status to illegal immigrants and urges bolstering enforcement against them and their employers. Backs cutting off federal funds to cities that try to restrict communications with the Department of Homeland Security about an individual’s immigration status. Urges finishing border wall by 2010, expanding Border Patrol to at least 25,000, making English the official U.S. language and improving the immigration process.

Posted on October 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

United Press International has an interesting article about the fact that although illegal immigrants cannot vote, they are included in the official U.S. Census. And the census is what determines the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.

Since the House is set at 435 seats, changes in population never increase the total number of seats. The changes only redistribute the seats. So if the population of Texas increases more than the population of New York, Texas could gain and seat and New York could lose one.

The point of the article is that increasing numbers of illegal aliens in some states could cause those states to gain seats in the House of Representatives, even though the aliens cannot vote. Here are excerpts:

U.S. states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants could receive additional seats in Congress after the 2010 census is conducted.A University of Connecticut study concluded Arizona, Texas and Florida could all see their House delegations increase due to rising populations that include sizable numbers of illegal immigrants.Although they can’t vote, such aliens are included in the census. The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News predicted Tuesday the pending 2010 headcount could be the subject of a political fight as Democrats and Republicans jockey for position before House seats are reallocated.

The Connecticut study also predicted California and New Jersey would likely keep their current number of seats while states with fewer immigrants, including New York, Illinois and Ohio, will lose a seat or two.

Posted on September 22, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Update to my post of September 9, 2007, about Mexican trucks being allowed deeper into the United States:

The Senate voted this past week to ban (again) Mexican trucks from U.S. highways.  By a 74-24 vote, the Senate approved a proposal by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) prohibiting the Department of Transportation from spending money on its pilot program  to give Mexican trucks greater access to the United States.

Posted on September 9, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Teamsters’ union and truckers in general have been protesting the recent change in U.S. policy that now (as of last Thursday) allows Mexican trucking companies to drive anywhere into the United States. Previously, the law required Mexican trucks to drive no farther than about 25 miles into Texas, and somewhat farther into Arizona. The change is a part of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

While there very well may be economic self-interests at play in these protests, the Teamsters say their primary concern is the safety aspect of allowing Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways.

The U.S. plans to grant permission to approximately 100 Mexican trucking companies by the end of 2007. This is part of a one-year pilot program intended to discover whether it would be safe to eventually allow all Mexican trucking companies into the United States.

Despite assurances from the U.S. government that all Mexican trucks will be inspected for drugs and for illegal immigrants, that the trucks will meet safety regulations, and that the drivers will be well-trained, there is considerable uncertainty among many Americans.

Because the main highway from Mexico into the U.S. runs through the Texas cities of Laredo, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas, and Fort Worth, we may find out fairly soon whether Texas drivers will be exposed to unusual dangers from the Mexican trucks.

Posted on August 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

I agree with Governor Rick Perry! Now that is a statement you will not see very many times. But in an article in today’s Dallas Morning News Perry is quoted as taking a reasonable approach to border enforcement and a guest worker program. Here are excerpts from the article:

Lawmakers in Washington have failed to see the economic benefits of legal immigration and how a temporary worker program can coexist with greater border security, Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday as he concluded a three-day energy trade mission to Mexico.

Mr. Perry spoke passionately about the two pressing issues between the nations: an immigration overhaul and securing the border without building fences between neighbors.

“We know how to deal with border security, and you don’t do it by building a fence,” Mr. Perry said at a news conference before meeting with President Felipe Caldern.

Border crime can only be reduced with “boots on the ground” and perhaps some limited fencing in urban areas, Mr. Perry said. Last year, he said, half a dozen police surges at key points along the border reduced crime up to 60 percent.

Posted on June 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This is the official statement of the American Immigration Lawyers Association on the failure of the comprehensive immigration reform bill to pass in the U.S. Senate:

Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 07062865 (posted Jun. 28, 2007)”

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate, in failing to pass a key procedural obstacle to the passage of its immigration reform legislation, today failed not only immigrants and their families and employers, but failed the country.

Our current immigration system is badly broken. Twelve million undocumented immigrants live and work in America without any opportunity whatsoever to earn full legal status and eventual citizenship. Our borders are not secure even with an historic level of enforcement. Family and employment-based immigration backlogs grow by the hour, requiring decades-long waits in many cases. U.S. employers cannot legally hire essential immigrant workers or needed highly skilled professionals, because no system is provided to afford necessary immigrant workers legal entry. The agricultural industry is unable to find sufficient workers and those undocumented working in the shadows labor under a badly broken system. High school students who excel are barred from continuing their education because they cannot obtain legal status. Immigrants seeking to feed their families and the chance to be part of the American dream continue to die in the desert seeking entry, and detention centers that are actual tent cities continue to grow.

The Senate bill was admittedly deeply flawed. Backroom negotiations and a convoluted amendment process ensured that the bill in its current form would not have led to workable reform. But the Senate has denied the House a chance to weigh in on this pivotal national issue to try to get things right, and to pass an immigration reform bill that would serve the interests of this country and its families, its businesses, and its immigrants.

AILA will advocate vigorously to ensure that the immigration reform debate stays alive, that Senators be held accountable for their actions, and that the House move boldly to take the lead and not replicate the Senate’s mistakes.

Any immigration reform bill must include the following necessary architecture for meaningful, effective reform:

(1) A clear path to lawful residence for those who come forward, pay fines, and demonstrate their commitment to become Americans by earning their status through working and learning English.

(2) A new worker program that includes labor protections, job portability, and a realistic path to permanent residence.

(3) The elimination of the existing unconscionable backlogs in family immigration, preservation of meaningful family immigration with reasonable quotas, and recalibration of our employment-based immigrant visa quotas to accommodate the needs of our dynamic and growing economy.

(4) Smart border and worksite enforcement mechanisms that protect our national security interests, while respecting civil rights.

(5) Due process and civil liberties protections that guarantee immigrants their day in court, judicial review, and a meaningful opportunity to seek waivers and discretionary relief.

The Senate bill that foundered on the Senate floor today gave the appearance of adhering to this skeletal architecture, but its content, flawed from the beginning of the process, was further compromised by harsh amendments that were supported by a majority of Senators in order to secure passage of the bill and to try to keep the legislative process moving forward.

AILA’s top objections to the Senate bill included:

(1) Decimation of the employment-based immigration system through creation of a mis-named “merit-based” point system that disconnects employment-based immigration from employer sponsorship and eliminates existing avenues of migration for aliens of extraordinary ability, multinational executives, and outstanding researchers.

(2) Evisceration of family-based immigration by eliminating 4 out of 5 long-recognized family relationships that qualify an individual for green card sponsorship in exchange for a partial reduction of the backlogs in those categories.

(3) Lack of meaningful opportunities for new temporary workers to transition to permanent residence.

(4) Lack of sufficient future numbers for employment-based immigrants at all ends of the skill spectrum.

(5) Unwarranted restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant visa programs.

(6) Lack of sufficient confidentiality protections for Z-visa applicants.

(7) Harsh due process restrictions that violate fundamental protections guaranteed to all persons under our constitution.

For years, AILA has been at the forefront in advocating for a comprehensive solution to the multitude of problems plaguing our immigration system. Our collective experience on the frontlines of immigration law and policy highlights the dire and urgent need for workable reform that advances the nation’s economic, social, and national security interests.

AILA will do everything possible to assist and to support the Senate and the House to craft an immigration reform bill that comports with our tradition as a nation of immigrants.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Posted on June 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The U.S. Senate Wednesday killed a Republican proposal to require all adult illegal immigrants to return home before they could qualify for permanent lawful status in this country.

Also defeated was a Democratic proposal to restrict lawful immigration status to those who have been in the United States for four years rather than the current provision restricting status to those in the U.S. before January 1, 2007.

Each of these amendments was designed to make the bill more palatable to conservatives who describe the currently proposed bill as “amnesty.”

There are about two dozen more amendments that must be voted on before a test-vote on the entire bill, now scheduled for Thursday.

Posted on June 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Washington Post has an excellent article today discussing the recent trend toward choosing all-powerful immigration judges for political reasons, rather than choosing them based on experience in immigration matters. Here are excerpts from the lengthy article:

The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.

Two newly appointed immigration judges were failed candidates for the U.S. Tax Court nominated by President Bush; one fudged his taxes and the other was deemed unqualified to be a tax judge by the nation’s largest association of lawyers. Both were Republican loyalists.

Justice officials also gave immigration judgeships to a New Jersey election law specialist who represented GOP candidates, a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, a White House domestic policy adviser and a conservative crusader against pornography.

These appointments, all made by the attorney general, have begun to reshape a system of courts in which judges, ruling alone, exercise broad powers — deporting each year nearly a quarter-million immigrants, who have limited rights to appeal and no right to an attorney. The judges do not serve fixed terms.

Department officials say they changed their hiring practices in April but defend their selections. Still, the injection of political considerations into the selection of immigration judges has attracted congressional attention in the wake of controversy over the Bush administration’s dismissal last year of nine U.S. attorneys.

All the judges appointed during this period who arrived with experience in immigration law were prosecutors or held other immigration enforcement jobs. That was a reversal of a trend during the Clinton administration in which the Justice Department sought to balance such appointees with ones who had been attorneys representing immigrants, according to current and former immigration judges.

Some judges and other immigration experts are highly critical of the administration’s practice of placing political allies on the courts. “When we start seeing people who look like [they’re fulfilling] someone’s political debt get these positions, it starts to become disturbing,” said Crystal Williams, a deputy director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“Immigration law is very complex,” said Denise Slavin, an immigration judge since 1995 in Miami, who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union. “So generally speaking, it’s very good to have someone coming into this area with [an] immigration background. It’s very difficult, for those who don’t, to catch up.”

One was Glen L. Bower, whom Bush initially nominated to the tax court. He was never confirmed because lawmakers noted that his amended tax returns showed he had taken inappropriate deductions for entertainment, gifts and meals for three consecutive years. A former Republican state legislator, Bower was the revenue director to then-Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan (R), who would be convicted on racketeering and fraud charges.

A few months earlier, another failed tax court nominee, Francis L. Cramer, a former campaign treasurer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), was appointed as an immigration judge. Cramer’s bid for a seat on the tax court foundered after the American Bar Association’s taxation section wrote a rare letter to the Senate Finance Committee, saying: “We are unable to conclude that he is qualified to serve.”

Cramer was then hired by the Justice Department’s tax division and was briefly lent to the department’s Office of Immigration Litigation. Ashcroft approved him as an immigration judge in March 2004. The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, criticized the appointment, saying, “Converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion.”

Another politically connected lawyer, Garry D. Malphrus, was appointed to Arlington’s immigration court in 2005. He had been associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and, before that, a Republican aide on two Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittees.

During the Florida recount after the 2000 presidential election that brought Bush to office, Malphrus took part in the “Brooks Brothers riot” — when GOP staffers from Washington chanted “stop the fraud” at Miami’s polling headquarters.

Other appointed Republican loyalists include lawyer Dorothy A. Harbeck, who represented New Jersey’s last GOP candidate for governor; Mark H. Metcalf, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state Senate and U.S. Congress from Kentucky who went on to several positions at the Justice Department unrelated to immigration; and Chris A. Brisack, a former Texas county GOP chairman who had been named by Bush, the governor at the time, to the state’s Library and Archives Commission.

Bruce A. Taylor, who was appointed as an immigration judge in Arizona last year, was general counsel for two conservative anti-pornography groups, Citizens for Decency Through Law and the National Law Center for Children and Families. Taylor also worked as a senior counsel in the Criminal Division at the Justice Department, but his rsum does not indicate immigration-related experience.

The recent pattern of hiring for immigration judges provoked a 2005 lawsuit by the government’s chief immigration lawyer in El Paso for 22 years. Guadalupe Gonzales — no relation to the attorney general — alleged she was denied a judgeship twice in favor of less-qualified white men who were hired without an open application process.

Her suit alleged that, between 2001 and late 2005, only two Latinos were appointed nationwide as immigration judges. Justice Department records make clear that the immigration bench is overwhelmingly male and white, even though Spanish-speaking people from Latin America make up at least 70 percent of the caseload.

The Justice Department responded in court papers that Gonzales’s lawsuit should be thrown out; it argued that she had not identified a discriminatory practice and that immigration judges did not have be hired as part of a competitive process. It said that all but four immigration judges chosen during the period in contention — from late 2003 to 2006 — were hired without public competition.

In September, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the department, finding that Gonzales “had identified a particular policy that has a discriminatory effect on a particular group.” Sullivan said that one judge hired in El Paso did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. Neither, the judge said, had Gonzales’s level of experience.

Posted on June 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting, on the CNN Web site, that the proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill has been withdrawn in the Senate, essentially killing the bill for now. Excerpts:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A broad immigration bill to legalize millions of people unlawfully in the United States failed a crucial test vote in the Senate Thursday, a stunning setback that could spell its defeat for the year.

The vote was 45-50 against limiting debate on the bill, 15 short of the 60 that the bill’s supporters needed to prevail. Most Republicans voted to block Democrats’ efforts to bring the bill to a final vote.

The legislation, which had been endorsed by President Bush, would tighten borders, institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers and give as many as 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.

Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who had made no secret of his distaste for parts of the bill, said he would withdraw it but keep working toward eventual passage.

“I, even though disappointed, look forward to passing this bill,” Reid said. But he said he needs help from the White House.

“This is the president’s bill,” Reid said. “… We can’t do it alone over here. We need some help.”

Most Republicans voted against ending debate, saying they needed more time to make the bill tougher with tighter border security measures and a more arduous legalization process for unlawful immigrants.

All but a handful of Democrats supported the move, but they, too, were holding their noses at provisions of the bill. Many of them argued it makes second-class citizens of a new crop of temporary workers and rips apart families by prioritizing employability over blood ties in future immigration.

Still, they had argued that the measure, on balance, was worth advancing.

“We can all find different aspects of this legislation that we differ with,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the leading Democratic architect of the bill.

Posted on June 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The debate over the proposed immigration reform bill now pending in the Senate is heating up. Two of the organizations running TV ads now. You can visit their Web sites at Where’s The Fence and Texas Employers for Immigration Reform.

Posted on June 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Each year thousands of asylum and immigration cases are overseen by judges. In the last few years, however, the judges’ decisions have come under attack as judges issue decisions which are widely inconsistent. On June 1st, the Dallas Morning News featured an article that detailed the discrepancies often found in Immigration Courts.

The article states that a study by three law professors was released last Thursday that shows that the outcome of asylum applications may be influenced by factors such as the location of the court and even the sex and professional background of the judge. The study, which can be found at www.ssrn.com, said Immigration Courts in Dallas and Houston grant only 37% of all cases that come before them. The authors of the study go on to state that the immigration system is a “refugee roulette” since the outcome of case is determined by the “spin of a wheel” – the assignment of a case to one immigration judge rather than another.

Immigration judges are trying to defend their decisions by stating that cases, especially asylum cases, are highly personalized and that as judges they have little to go by other that their own gut feelings about the case. Lawyers, case workers, and appeals courts are now criticizing this approach, because it seems that judges are allowing their personal feelings to affect their rulings.

The law professors’ study found significant discrepancies in the way asylum cases are handled. For example, female judges grant asylum at a rate that is 44% higher than male judges. Asylum applicants are also “considerably advantaged” if the judge reviewing their case has had previous experience in immigration law versus a judge whose background is in homeland security.

Another criticism of Immigration Courts is overwork and understaffing. In 2006, a study revealed that U.S. Immigration Court caseloads had jumped 39% in the previous five years. Even with the increased caseload, the courts have not seen much additional staffing or resources dedicated to alleviating the workload. To add on to this, two of the four immigration judges in Dallas retired this year, doubling the workload of the two judges remaining.

Several organizations such as The Rights Working Group and Human Rights First have been working diligently to make changes to the courts. Unless significant changes are made to the current immigration court system it is unlikely that any of these problems will be resolved

Click for a complete version of the Dallas Morning News article.

Posted on May 17, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Associated Press is reporting that an agreement has been announced between Senate leaders and the White House regarding comprehensive immigration reform!

Quoting AP:

“The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the United States. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.”

“The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called “point system” that would for the first time prioritize immigrants’ education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.”

“The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and – after paying fees and a $5,000 fine – ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.”

“They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.”

“A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called “triggers” had been activated.”

“Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.”

“In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end “chain migration” that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it’s an unfair system that rips families apart.”

“Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card – except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.”

“New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.”

The House is not expected to act until a bill passes the Senate, and any Senate bill could run into strong opposition in the generally more conservative House of Representatives. Still, this is a dramatic first step on the path to true immigration reform in the United States.

Posted on May 16, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The city council of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has unanimously passed several ordinances making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for immigrants to live and work in the city.

The measures include apartment renters providing proof of citizenship or residency and making English the city’s official language. Additionally, the new measures allow police to participate in a federal program that would enable them to check the residency status of suspects in custody and initiate deportation proceedings in certain cases.

One exception to the ban on immigrants is for mixed-status families. They may enter into a lease or rental arrangement if the family is already a tenant, the head of household or spouse has eligible immigration status, and the family includes only the head of household and spouse and their parents or minor children.

Apartment complex owners could be fined up to $500 a day for violating the law.

U.S. citizens will now have to provide a signed declaration of citizenship or U.S. nationality, confirmed by a U.S. passport or “other appropriate documentation in a form designated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as acceptable evidence of citizenship status.”

Non-citizens who want to rent an apartment in the city will have to provide:

* A signed declaration of eligible immigration status,

* One form from a list of documents designated by ICE as acceptable evidence of immigration status, and      

* A signed verification consent form.

Unfortunately, as Congress drags its feet on passing any kind of immigration reform law, more and more municipalities are expected to “take the law into their own had” and pass city ordinances that probably won’t pass constitutional tests, but will cause untold agony for residents and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to try to enforce in court.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a Dallas Morning News Article, Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman David Swinford plans to eliminate a significant number of pending bills that have been designed to target illegal immigration. He states that the majority of these bills are in violation of either federal law or state law, and would therefore be a waste of time for consideration before the Texas Legislature. Here are excerpts from the article:

Mr. Swinford, R-Dumas, said this week that he would let about 40 bills, such as one that would challenge the citizenship status of children born to illegal-immigrant parents, languish in his committee. He asked Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office to review the measures first to determine whether they violate the U.S. or state constitutions or federal law.

Still alive – so far – are bills that would make illegal immigrants pay out-of-state tuition rates at state colleges; resolutions demanding that the federal government crack down on illegal immigration; and a bill that would require local police to ask people they contact about their citizenship status. Mr. Swinford declined to identify all of the bills he wants to squash.

After historic protests against anti-immigration proposals across the nation last year, several lawmakers ran on platforms that included reining in illegal immigration. The state GOP included restrictions in its platform that immigrant advocates decried as inhumane and divisive – including a wall along the border with Mexico.

Texans consistently say in polls that they don’t think illegal immigrants should have access to public services such as health care. They are more receptive to allowing immigration as part of a guest-worker program.

Mr. Swinford refuses to put the House through a bitter fight in a losing battle, he said – particularly after a statue bill that passed his committee unexpectedly sparked an emotional, racially tinged two-hour debate in the House last week.

“On purpose, I’m not putting anything down here that just tears the House apart … and that we’d just lose on appeal,” he said.

Among the bills that will remain alive is a bill that would require police to ask about citizenship status, a bill to require proof of legal residence in order to pay in-state tuition, and resolutions urging the federal government to tackle illegal immigration. One of the bills that will not go forward is one that was designed to test the “birthright citizenship” principle, under which all children born in the United States are citizens, even if their parents are illegal immigrants.

Posted on March 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

According to a story in the New York Times today, “A new federal rule intended to keep illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid has instead shut out tens of thousands of United States citizens who have had difficulty complying with requirements to show birth certificates and other documents proving their citizenship, state officials say.” Other excerpts from the story:

Under a 2006 federal law, the Deficit Reduction Act, most people who say they are United States citizens and want Medicaid must provide “satisfactory documentary evidence of citizenship,” which could include a passport or the combination of a birth certificate and a driver’s license.

Some state officials say the Bush administration went beyond the law in some ways, for example, by requiring people to submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency.

The numbers alone do not prove that the decline in enrollment was caused by the new federal policy. But state officials see a cause-and-effect relationship. They say the decline began soon after they started enforcing the new rule. Moreover, they say, they have not seen a decline in enrollment among people who are exempt from the documentation requirement — for example, people who have qualified for Medicare and are also eligible for Medicaid.

Medicaid officials across the country report that some pregnant women are going without prenatal care and some parents are postponing checkups for their children while they hunt down birth certificates and other documents.

The principal authors of the 2006 law were Representatives Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal, both Georgia Republicans. Mr. Norwood died last month.

Chris Riley, the chief of staff for Mr. Deal, said the new requirement did encounter “some bumps in the road” last year. But, he said, Mr. Deal believes that the requirement “has saved taxpayers money.” The congressman “will vigorously fight repeal of that provision” and will, in fact, try to extend it to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Mr. Riley said. He added that the rule could be applied flexibly so it did not cause hardship for citizens.

In general, Medicaid is available only to United States citizens and certain “qualified aliens.” Until 2006, states had some discretion in deciding how to verify citizenship. Applicants had to declare in writing, under penalty of perjury, whether they were citizens. Most states required documents, like birth certificates, only if other evidence suggested that a person was falsely claiming to be a United States citizen.

In Virginia, health insurance for children has been a top priority for state officials, and the number of children on Medicaid increased steadily for several years. But since July, the number has declined by 13,300, to 373,800, according to Cindi B. Jones, chief deputy director of the Virginia Medicaid program.

“The federal rule closed the door on our ability to enroll people over the telephone and the Internet, wiping out a full year of progress in covering kids,” Ms. Jones said.

State and local agencies have adopted new procedures to handle and copy valuable documents. J. Ruth Kennedy, deputy director of the Medicaid program in Louisiana, said her agency had received hundreds of original driver’s licenses and passports in the mail.

Barry E. Nangle, the state registrar of vital statistics in Utah, said, “The new federal requirement has created a big demand for birth certificates by a group of people who are not exactly well placed to pay our fees.” States typically charge $10 to $30 for a certificate.

Posted on March 6, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

In July 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order specifying that foreign nationals who serve in the United States armed forces during a period of hostility would be eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. The period of hostility began on September 11, 2001, and ends on a date that has yet to be specified by the President.

According to the White House, this executive order has allowed non-citizens to immediately become U.S. citizens. So far, more than 13,000 foreign-born members of the armed forces have applied for U.S. citizenship since the order took effect.

For those foreign nationals who are stationed overseas, the Immigration Services now allows naturalization ceremonies to be held at U.S. military bases, embassies, and consulates around the world. This makes it easier for the foreign-born military personnel to obtain their citizenship quickly.

Under current immigration laws, non-citizens must serve in the U.S. military for at least one year before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. This new executive order, however, will remove the three year service requirement. Additionally, the filing fees associated with an application for naturalization will be waived for those meeting the above-mentioned requirements.

A survey released in May 2006 indicated that there are more than 68,000 foreign-born serving in the armed forces, and this represents approximately 5% of the total on active duty.

Posted on February 4, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

As an update to a previous post about the ridiculous imprisonment of the Ibrahim family, I’m pleased to report that the family has now been released from prison. The Dallas Morning News has a story today about the family. Excerpts from the article:

Immigration officers arrested Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife, Hanan, and four of their children in November at their Richardson home more than two years after their petition for asylum was denied.

Hanan Ibrahim, 34, who is five months pregnant, has been incarcerated since then at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, near Austin. Four of her children, Hamzeh Ibrahim, 15; Rodaina, 14; Maryam, 8; and Faten, 5, also were detained at the same center.

Meanwhile, her husband, 37, was being held at the Rolling Plains Regional Jail in Haskell, near Abilene. Attorneys for the family expect him to be released soon also.

Escalating violence in their homeland swayed a federal immigration panel Friday to reconsider the family’s asylum request, nullifying the order for removal from the U.S.

“Clearly the public glare of how horrible it is for children being detained and the family being split up caused this,” Theodore Cox, one of the family’s attorney, said of the decision.

Before Friday’s order, lawyers for the Ibrahims pointed out the family was willing to leave the United States but had nowhere to go. Travel documents issued to the family by the Jordanian government expired and the country refused to accept them. Other countries were not willing to take them or issue them travel documents.

Posted on January 31, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

This morning, Immigration Services announced a proposal to adjust filing fees for immigration and naturalization benefits. It is estimated that the new fees would be an 86% increase over the current fee structure. Immigration Services states that there is a need for an increase in the fee structure to improve customer service, strengthen the security of the current immigration system, and to modernize the organization’s infrastructure.

It is estimated that the increase in fees will eventually lead to a 20% decrease in processing time by the end of 2009. Previously, Immigration Services routinely adjusted fees for inflation, and the last increase took place in October 2005.

The proposed fee structure will undergo a comment period for sixty days beginning February 1, 2007.

For more information please see this Adobe Acrobat file from the USCIS Web site.

Posted on January 29, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. has yet another provocative column online. This one concludes that Americans will never be able to find a solution to immigration concerns because Americans are the problem.

His basic premise is that as long as Americans are addicted to illegal immigrant labor, we shouldn’t complain about illegal aliens coming to America. Here are excerpts from the article:

I’m a Mexican-American. In fact, I never feel more American than when I am in Mexico — a country with rich and poor and little in between, with too much corruption and too little opportunity.

Tijuana is an exception. It’s buzzing. According to Baja Gov. Eugenio Elorduy Walther, the unemployment rate is a measly 0.8 percent. Moreover, he said, the city retains as much as 70 percent of the people who migrate here from other parts of Mexico with the intent of crossing the border.

Did you catch that? To curb illegal immigration into the United States, root for the economies of Mexican border cities. If more people stayed there, fewer would come here.

Don’t expect the dim bulbs in Congress to figure this out. The only thing members could agree to do last year was approve a fraction of the funding to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border state governors were disgusted. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas called the fence “ridiculous” and provocative toward Mexico. And yet, there are Americans who love the idea of a fence along the border. For them, such a barrier must seem impassable and impenetrable.

Recently, after a speech in San Diego, a woman presented me with her own solution: A high-speed rail connecting Tijuana with Southern California. That way, she said, people could work in the United States during the day and be home in Mexico before sunset.

I love the idea. Not because it’s any good but because it illustrates better than 1,000 columns the schizophrenic way in which many Americans complain about illegal immigrants even as we feed our addiction to illegal immigrant labor.

It also shows why Americans will never be able to find the solution — because we’re the problem.

Posted on January 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The possibility of comprehensive immigration reform has been in the forefront of the news for the last several months. Thousands of people in the United States are currently waiting for developments in immigration law. Even more, who are in the United States illegally, believe the passing of new laws will lead to amnesty or eventual citizenship.

Waiting for a new law to pass, however, may prevent you from obtaining immigration benefits now, and may even lead to possible denials of immigration status in the future. Those who are hoping for “amnesty” may find it more productive to begin their immigration cases now, since there are many ways of obtaining a green card in the U.S., even for those here illegally.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or have relatives who are citizens, there may be different avenues available to you today that would make you eligible to receive your permanent residency. If you have been a victim of persecution in your home country, you may be eligible for asylum. If you have been in the U.S. for a certain length of time, you may also be eligible for immigration status. These are just a few examples of the groups of people who can begin their immigration cases today so that they may obtain permanent residency.

More important, there are many people who are waiting for immigration reform to pass believing that this will provide them a clear and free path to citizenship. This is simply not the case. In fact, many people who have legal options available to them now, may lose those options should any immigration reform be passed in the future. Furthermore, while it is likely that one day immigration reform may pass, we have no idea what benefits, if any, it would provide.

Rather than wait for an amnesty that may never arrive, take steps today to obtain legal status in the United States. Meanwhile, if any immigration reform is passed before your case is completed, there will be less of a chance that your status will be compromised. Finally, simply waiting and not taking any action is almost never a good idea.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on January 24, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

Last night, President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union Address. One notable portion of the speech specifically mentioned immigration in the United States and possible immigration reform. President Bush stated that:

“Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America – with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country… Yet…we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border – and that requires a temporary worker program.”

The President noted that his Administration is doubling the size of the Border Patrol and funding the use of new technology to prevent illegal immigration.

The President also outlined other immigration related goals such as:

– Creation of a temporary guest worker program is needed so that people no longer have to sneak across the border. The Border Patrol should focus on finding and capturing drug smugglers and terrorists, rather than preventing illegal border crossing.

-Immigration laws must be enforced at the work place and employers must be given the tools to verify the status of workers so there is no excuse left for violating the law.

– The United States has a tradition of welcoming immigrants and this process must continue.

– The status of illegal immigrants already in country must be resolved without animosity and without amnesty.

– Congress must engage in serious, civil and conclusive debate so the President can sign comprehensive immigration reform into law.

Posted on January 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial by the staff of the Dallas Morning News today hit just the right tone for a  way out of the current immigration mess. Excerpts:

A prosperous city and state with a promising future. That’s what everyone reading this surely wants to build for themselves today and for the generations to come.

Everyone has a role, primarily our lawmakers in Austin and Washington, but also the Editorial Page of The Dallas Morning News. In the coming year we’ll use our voice to exhort political leaders in strategic areas that can help form a sound foundation for our society.

We’ll identify those areas of focus today and monitor progress through the year. Some of these causes will be familiar to readers, as we have championed them in the past.

Our primary agenda for elected leaders in 2007 is this:


Hazelton, Pa. Farmers Branch. The Texas Legislature. The more that local communities and state governments take immigration problems into their hands, the more the situation cries out for Washington to finally provide a lasting answer.

What needs to happen: Comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration law to go along with stiffer border-security measures already under way. Reform needs to include a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. State and local governments, meanwhile, need to resist the urge to pass laws better handled by the feds.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and