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Senator Durbin’s Office: First-Ever Hearing on DREAM Act Tomorrow

27 Jun

DREAMers are back and they’re stronger than ever! Senator Durbin (D-IL) has announced the “first-ever hearing on the DREAM Act” happening tomorrow at 10am ET.  Watch it live here!

On his website:

Senator Durbin (D-IL)


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced today that he will chair the first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act next Tuesday, June 28th, at 10:00 am ET. The hearing will be in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

“I’ve been working on the DREAM Act for over ten years,” Durbin said. “In that time, it’s been reported out of committee by a large bipartisan margin, passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster. I’ll convene the first-ever Senate hearing on this bill next week to discuss how the DREAM Act will make our country stronger by giving undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.”

Durbin will chair the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security. The hearing will be webcast live on the Judiciary committee’s website.

The following witnesses will testify: Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano; Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. Clifford Stanley; DREAM Student, Ola Kaso; Lt. Colonel (retired) Margaret Stock; and Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, Steven Camarota. “

Will this lead to fresh discussion or continued frustration? What has to happen for “progress” in favor of DREAMers? How can we define progress?


Obama to visit El Paso on May 10th

9 May

by Regina Cantu @

President Obama will be in Texas tomorrow. He’s scheduled to first stop in El Paso to deliver a speech focusing on immigration – a conversation that almost always brings about confrontation. So far, Obama’s argument has been directed at those who care about this issue, saying they need to increase the pressure they place on Congress to act.

Obama’s trip to Texas comes after three weeks of White House gatherings to get input from mayors, lawmakers and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Immigration advocates say the president has laid the groundwork for reform, which would lead to more secure borders.

But while many activists blame the White House for not making the issue more of a priority, members of both parties oppose Mr. Obama’s proposed measures to create a path to citizenship for some people who entered the country illegally, saying it would reward law-breaking. Republicans criticize Obama’s overture about tackling the longstanding problem.They insist not enough has been done to secure the border with Mexico. For instance, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said that, until the border with Mexico is secure and free of violence, immigration reform cannot occur and should not be a priority.

In response, the White House says it has put more “boots on the ground” along the southwest border than ever before and has cracked down on employers who hire undocumented workers. Obama administration officials contend the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure than at any time in history, despite the raging war being waged by narcotics cartels just across the Rio Grande.

The Border Patrol has increased to 20,700 agents, more than double the number of agents in 2004. As a result, the administration deported a record number of illegal immigrants last year, a point that has angered many Latinos. Federal officials say deportations of illegal immigrants hit a record 392,000 in fiscal year 2010.

Some advocates of an immigration bill aren’t on board the White House’s new push. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) said Friday that he won’t raise expectation in the Latino community that immigration legislation will pass when it won’t.

The moment to use pressure is gone,” he said. “I’m not going to be disingenuous with the public…It’s not going to happen.”

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), who opposes Mr. Obama’s stance on legislation, also saw no signs of movement in Congress. “President Obama’s push to legalize millions of illegal immigrants is purely political,” he said. “The president wasn’t able to pass his version of immigration reform when he had large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate because of bipartisan opposition. It is unlikely he will succeed anytime soon.”

Our hope is that the president will move forward with a broad agenda to stop deportations and enable law-abiding people to become citizens. The number of illegal immigrants in the country is estimated at 11 million by the Pew Hispanic Center. In Texas, the roughly 1.6 million unauthorized resident immigrants represent about 6.5 percent of the state’s population.

And while there are countless initiatives on how immigrants should be dealt with, the solutions thesemlves are more elusive. Let’s hope the president makes substantial contributions to the debate–and more importantly, upcoming legislative action–in El Paso.

One More Reason for Immigration Reform: To Ease the Budget Deficit

18 Apr

by Regina Cantu @

The current budget mess is one more reason why I think we should be doing something about immigration.While immigration policy did not cause the crisis, changing the policy could bring immediate reductions in government spending. And unlike most other proposed spending cuts, there would be no pain felt by every-day Americans.

There are 12 million people in this country without documentation. A portion of them are already paying taxes, but imagine if all of them did? There are 65,000 undocumented kids a year graduating from high school without a means to work and contribute to the economy.

But this idea is hardly a novel one. In 2010, before the most recent budget crisis, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern and Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), both Democrats on the bipartisan fiscal commission, said reforms giving the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States a chance to stay in the U.S. legally could boost the economy and thereby help pay down the debt.

Becerra, a member of the House Democratic leadership and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said there’s a “credible connection” between immigration and the country’s economic situation. Millions work in an “underground economy” in which they neither pay taxes nor contribute to entitlement programs such as Social Security, he said.

If you’re thinking in terms of this fiscal commission and our efforts to try to get this budget realigned, it makes sense to consider something that could add tens of billions or hundreds of billions to the economy,” Becerra said in an interview.

Former President Bill Clinton has also backed the idea of increasing the legalization of immigrants to help the country’s fiscal situation. He was quoted at a fiscal summit in Washington saying that policy changes to ensure entitlements stay solvent and to cut deficits “will be less draconian if there’s more people in the system.”

Reform to build a more inclusive economy is not just about legalization. Even for documented immigrants barriers to economic security and opportunity are pervasive, so turning work into wealth is elusive. Immigrants tend to work in jobs without health or retirement benefits, essential elements of the “wealth escalator,” and while many of them pay taxes, they are ineligible for many public benefit programs they help to support. In addition, their daily demands, their low-wage jobs, and language barriers often make higher education prohibitive, and job-training programs to get them into living-wage jobs are often non-existent.

According to the Center for American Progress, pursuing an “enforcement-only” policy would cost us $2.6 trillion over 10 years. It’s time we look at immigration not as a problem, but an opportunity to craft a policy that both recognizes that immigrants make valuable contributions to our economy and supports their ability to do. Our budget depends on it.

I just don’t want it delayed anymore,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who was arrested during an immigration protest last weekend outside the White House. “I think the commission should work forward. [There’s] not a problem with including it. It’s a win-win situation, both for immigrants and our economy.

When we talk about the budget, we typically fall into a narrow discussion around what to cut and what not to. But what we need to talk are larger issues about taxation and the tax base. A 2010 study by the Center for American Progress found:

legalizing the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform as well as making future flows more flexible would grow the economy by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The stark number cuts into the credibility of claims by immigration restrictionists that immigration reform during an economic recession is implausible

There are a lot of ways to “fix” the budget. This is one feature that would benefit us all.

Justice for Children of the Deported

11 Apr

by Regina Cantu

It’s a story we often hear but may not always sympathize with — immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally are detained and sent back to their home countries. Often they are forced to leave their families behind, including U.S.-born kids. But Kelli Valdez’s article for the Chicago Tribune is a reminder of the damage that deportation, and the forced separation of a family, causes to children.

According to Valdez, the separation creates an “angry generation” of children who were traumatized but still choose to stay in the U.S. rather than face potential poverty, violence, and cultural and language barriers in their country of origin. For some, advocates say, life in America is all they know.

Apparently these kids aren’t considered “American enough” for this to be a concern. I’ve heard several anti-immigrant spokespeople claim there’s no reason parents should “get off the hook just because their kids are put in a difficult position,” that “children often suffer because of the mistakes of their parents.” But this doesn’t excuse the failure of federal policies to provide legal protection for child migrants. There is a definite void in immigration law in terms of the best interest of the child: 90 percent of underage migrants don’t have a lawyer, as estimated by the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project.

More than 5 million children currently live in the US with at least one undocumented parent and 3.1 million of these children are citizens of the US. Parents of these children are in danger of deportation or detention, putting the families at risk of separation, emotional stress and economic hardship. Recent reports have shown the severe effects of raids and parental arrests on children, such as difficulty sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, increased levels of crying, eating less, fear of law enforcement officials, temporary drop in school performance, and aggression.

Separating these families is wrong, but not just because of how detrimental it is on the children. It is wrong because in so many cases, these kids have fully integrated themselves into American society. If allowed to stay, these children will contribute to it and be upstanding citizens, joining the workforce and become productive, patriotic Americans.

Creative Arts + Contemporary Dilemmas = Novel Solutions?

1 Apr

By Carlos Arredondo @

Here is a different take you have probably never heard on a polemic issue that has been talked about more than enough to make most weary. Meet Ronald Rael, architect, author and assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley. Rael has received a number of awards and accolades for his work, but it was the announcement of his project “Border Wall as Infrastructure” this week that could arguably be contested as either a ‘hail mary out of left field’ or an idea oozing brilliance from the mind of a futurist with uncanny foresight. I suppose it is for you the reader to decide which of the two it is, or if it is more accurate to call it something else. In any case, it is nothing less than an extremely thought evoking concept as you undoubtedly have heard nothing like it before.

Ronald observed that the current design of the wall is uni-functional, that is that its sole purpose is to divide, not mentioning that its performance at that is questionable. In addition the cost is immense, a $2.4 billion dollar project for some 600 miles of border fence means the government is pouring in some $4 million dollars into each mile of fence. Ronald’s proposition presents a totally different paradigm in which the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico instead becomes a sort of infrastructure hustling and bustling with intercultural exchange and commerce. A place where people meet and participate in a number of diverse activities. In essence, Ronald has flipped the traditional idea of the fence on its head. Because at the heart of his design ideas is that the fence becomes a place of attraction bringing people together and uniting them rather than dividing them. A sort of genius paradox… if it works (in practice and not just theory).

So how exactly does Ronald see this happening? And what are its forecast benefits? Well, you can read more about his specific designs here or in this inhabitat article. A host of diverse integrated designs would theoretically reap a harvest of economic, ecological, social, environmental, energy, health and security benefits. While there are near 20 amendments to his design in all, here are a few teasers for you:

– Solar-Electric arrays and farms being placed along some of the border walls in some of the most prime solar-real estate areas as well as solar thermal tubes that would collect thermal heat in underground tanks to be used by schools, commercial buildings, and factories.

-Life Safety Border Beacons that would collect storm water and use solar-powered filters to provide drinking water for people and animals thereby preventing deaths. Also, these stations would notify security or border patrol of activity, whether it be immigrants or American citizens.

-Water Treatment Facility would buffer the New River along the Mexicali border while cleaning and purifying water from the most polluted river in the United States. Not only would it prevent harmful toxins from entering but also would produce usable electricity as a by-product via methane.

-Wildlife Walls would create paths for various animals and wildlife particularly in nature reserves which the present wall cuts through putting at further risk populations of already endangered species. A secondary result of this would be the recreational aspect of peoples on both sides of the fence being able to enjoy the local wildlife.

-Linear Urban Parks would offer pedestrian and bike routes through cities and could connect to schools, libraries, and other parks. This could increase adjacent property values, increasing quality of life on both sides of it and building “social capital”

-“Burrito Walls” is one of various ideas of shared spaces that would insert food carts into the wall along with incorporated seats that create a place where conversation, food, and casual social interaction could take place.

If your reaction to these concepts is at all similar to mine, then you might find yourself on a seesaw between “Is this guy absolutely nuts?” and “Are these possibly some of the greatest ideas I’ve heard yet?” No doubt, they are spectacular and outlandishly different… but who would’ve not thought Bill Gates to be nuts in the 1980’s with an idea of personal computers in the homes and hands of mass market consumers everywhere? Point being, it is inevitable that it is the most visionary of men that create the greatest polarity with the presentation of their ideas of the future. The plausibility and fruition of those visions for the future can never be truly told by critics or supporters, but only by time itself. On that note, Ronald himself observed ironically that “Our wall is as unsophisticated as a wall built 2,000 years ago.”

Quoting his words in response to the wall, he says, “It would be easy for me to raise a picket sign and as an architect say, ‘Down with this wall!’. I have to accept the wall because it exists, but as a designer I see that something better is possible. Why not do something intelligent, something incredible? I envision not just a ‘dumb wall,’ but a social infrastructure that connects and improves lives on both sides.” It appears that part of his goal is, “The fence no longer becomes a fence … The fence becomes something else. And once it becomes something else, then we’ve done our jobs as architects. We have torn down the fence, not the structure itself, but we’ve dismantled the idea of it.” Rael says that this could possibly be “the best kind of immigration reform”.

Border Wall Alternatives

DREAMer Pedro Gutierrez Talks About Being Deported

30 Mar

by Regina Cantu @

Via America’s Voice, Pedro Gutierrez speaks about his difficult childhood and his dream to join the Marines. Pedro was desperately counting on the DREAM Act to pass.

He’s an orphan who grew up in Arizona and has no family or friends in Mexico. His grandmother brought him to the US at the age of 7, but passed away when he was still a child.

In the face of incredible adversity, Pedro has managed not only to survive, but to thrive, and he attributes this to the opportunities afforded to him in the United States. Pedro is admired by many for his spirit and tenacity, and above all for his desire to give back to his country by joining the US Marine Corps. The local recruiting officer, with whom Pedro has been in constant communication, considers him a perfect candidate.

Still, Pedro persevered with the support of his community. He graduated from high school and now dreams of joining the Marines.

Watch Pedro’s story:

Stop Future Marine\’s Deportation

“I now realize that the only way for me to be able to stay in Arizona, my home, is for President Obama to allow for me to stay. It is his choice whether I am deported to a country I do not know or if I am allowed to stay in Arizona and give back to my community. I ask President Obama to please let me serve this nation,” says Pedro.

Until President Obama takes targeted administrative action to re-examine the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youth in removal proceedings, ICE will continue to deport DREAMers like Pedro. For every Dreamer we see in the papers, there are hundreds more without a voice being deported.

[Take action here to help stop Pedro’s deportation.]