Posted 04/06/12 at 01:43pm By Pili Tobar

“Tweak” Bill Reinforces Rather than Repeals the Ugliness of Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law

alabamaYesterday, the backers of Alabama’s “show me your papers” anti-immigrant law introduced new legislation to tweak, but not repeal HB56.  The following is a reaction to the new bill from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

The underlying premise of the Alabama immigration law remains the same: to purge the state of its undocumented immigrant population and use racial profiling and discrimination against citizens and legal immigrants to pursue its goal of mass expulsion.  As a result, the only state in the nation where the nativist strategy of ‘attrition through enforcement’ is in effect is in the midst of a civil rights, humanitarian and economic crisis that recalls the ugly days of Jim Crow. 

As former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce confirmed yesterday, the Alabama and Arizona anti-immigration laws are the same as the ‘self-deportation’ policy embraced by Mitt Romney.  The GOP cannot stand for the mass expulsion of millions of Latinos and their family members, and all the chaos and consequences that result from this ugly strategy, and still compete for a sizable share of the Latino vote.

Posted 04/06/12 at 11:38am By Van Le

Colbert Report on Republicans and the Latino Vote

Add Stephen Colbert to the long list of commentators who realize what a problem the Latino vote is going to be for Republicans this November.

A “Colbert Report” segment this week wonders how Republicans are going to capture the Latino vote “instead of their current strategy of capturing Latinos.”  Colbert cites the recent Fox News Latino poll which found that no more than 14% of Latino voters would swing for the Republican Party if the general election were held today.

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Why?  It could be that presumed standard bearer Mitt Romney’s immigration policy basically consists of “self deportation,” in which all 11 million undocumented immigrants already here in the US are expected to remove themselves back to their country of origin, no matter how long they’ve been in the country or what kind of ties they’ve put down. 

However, Colbert points out, given the Republicans’ extremist base, there’s no easy way for the GOP to reverse course on their severely anti-immigrant positions and attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters “without coming off as a bunch of immigrant coddling amnesty huggers.”

Somehow, he says, it’s just not endearing to certain groups of voters when the GOP wants them to “vote Republican in 2012,” but then “kindly see yourselves out” of the country after November.

Posted 04/05/12 at 05:46pm By Web Team

BREAKING: Bill Proposing Changes to HB 56 Introduced in Alabama House

Breaking from Mike Hubbard's Communications Director, Todd Stacy:


More information soon.

Posted 04/05/12 at 04:10pm By Patty Kupfer

Personal Report From Berlin, at the Daimler AG Shareholders’ Meeting


This week, a delegation representing civil rights and labor leaders -- which includes our very own Patty Kupfer -- attended the Mercedes-Benz annual shareholders' meeting in Berlin, Germany, to protest Daimler AG's silence on HB 56, Alabama's worst-in-the-nation anti-immigrant law.  Mercedes-Benz is one of the largest employers in Alabama and has the economic influence to do something about HB 56. They just need to take a stand.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of representing America’s Voice Education Fund, alongside Renata Soto of National Council of La Raza and Fred Redmond of the United Steel Workers and the AFL-CIO, at the Daimler AG shareholder meeting with more than 6,000 attendees in Berlin, Germany. Renata spoke on behalf of our delegation, taking our message powerfully to the shareholders and the Daimler managing board. She got louder applause from the shareholders than just about any other speaker at the meeting as she asked Daimler if they would abide by the corporate principles they’d laid out and call for the repeal of HB 56!

Renata shared:

Having lived in Alabama’s neighboring state of Tennessee for almost twenty years, the threat of this bill hits close to home.  Last year, the Tennessee legislature considered similar anti-immigrant legislation, but after Nissan, Bridgestone and Volkswagon all came out against the law, the bill died.

Let me be clear: What we are asking is for Daimler to make a statement very much in keeping with what they proclaimed: that laws which trample on people’s rights are inconsistent with their corporate values and that places where symbols of intolerance are not only tolerated, but encouraged, are not the type of places in which these companies want to do business.  Will you join us in calling for the repeal of HB 56?

Daimler’s answer was less inspiring. They did not call for repeal, but there were also reasons to be encouraged by their statement -- Daimler spoke for the first time publicly about the Alabama law, and they stated clearly that they’re in conversations with the Alabama Business Council and with reps from the US Congress about the law. They also stated they were waiting for “further progress on these discussions.”

They didn’t say what we were hoping for, but they did leave the door open for further negotiation. And, that’s an opening we intend to take advantage of to continue to raise the pressure on Daimler to act, both behind the scenes and publicly on the Alabama law.

I'm sharing media coverage of the event below: 

Posted 04/05/12 at 04:10pm By Mahwish Khan

Mississippi’s Anti-Immigrant Bill Is Dead for the Session

mississippi lawLate Tuesday night, the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger posted a listing of the bills that were still alive in the Mississippi legislature -- and what bills were dead. And fortunately, the anti-immigrant bill, HB 488, made the "dead" list:

Immigration: House Bill 488 would've required police or deputies to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement every time they arrest someone they suspect of being in the country illegally.

That doesn't mean there wasn't a "last-ditch effort" to keep HB 488 alive, led by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, who chairs House Judiciary Committee B. But Braxton's scheme appears unlikely to work, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Joey Kennedy, from The Birmingham News, provided this analysis -- it's vintage Joey Kennedy:

As bad as our Legislature is, I never thought I'd have to say that even Mississippi's Legislature is smarter than ours. But it is, at least where immigration policy is concerned.

Mississippi was ahead of Alabama on immigration reform, already requiring employers to use E-Verify, the federal system that tells employers whether a new hire is eligible to work in this country. This year, some far-right lawmakers put up an Alabama-style, harsh, overreaching immigration bill. It passed the Mississippi House before screeching to a halt in the Senate.

The reason given: Senators wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Arizona's overreaching law. That's smart. They won't have to pay to fight the law in court. Alabama lawmakers, of course, couldn't wait on the Supreme Court before showing the country and world how mean our state could be. HB 56 passed last year, making every part of an immigrant's life miserable and, at the same time, destroying Alabama's reputation as a tolerant state that welcomes international investment and business. There's no telling how much our stubborn xenophobia will cost, because we'll never know what lists we were scratched off of before a search even got started

Posted 04/05/12 at 11:37am By Mahwish Khan

Under Pressure From Color Of Change, Coca-Cola Drops Support of ALEC. Pepsi’s Out, Too.

alec The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)--"a front group for powerful corporate interests that is behind and actually writes some of the most extreme right-wing bills in state legislatures across the country"--has been in the news a lot lately. As we've reported, a lot of activists, including some of our allies in immigration advocacy, have been trying to expose ALEC and its shady dealings for awhile.

Last night, we learned from Color of Change that Coca-Cola is no longer supporting ALEC:

We welcome Coca-Cola's decision to stop supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which has worked to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. We confirmed with Coca-Cola that they are no longer a member of ALEC and no longer fund the group in any capacity.

We reached out to Coca-Cola last year and have been in dialogue with them since then to convey the concerns of more than 85,000 ColorOfChange members who called on major corporations to stop supporting ALEC. Hundreds of ColorOfChange members began making phone calls to Coca-Cola this morning, and the company listened to their voices.

We continue to call on all major corporations to stop supporting voter suppression through ALEC. Our members are prepared to hold accountable companies that continue to participate in ALEC's attack on voting rights.

Today, we learned that Pepsi has dropped ALEC, too:

Two of America's best-known companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a low-profile conservative organization behind the national proliferation of "stand your ground" gun laws.

ALEC promotes business-friendly legislation in state capitols and drafts model bills for state legislatures to adopt. They range from little-noticed pro-business bills to more controversial measures, including voter-identification laws and stand your ground laws based on the Florida statute. About two-dozen states now have such laws.

These corporate sponsors can't keep marketing to our communities while they're sponsoring ALEC, which undermines so much of our work. 

Posted 04/04/12 at 04:43pm By Van Le

Who is a Criminal?  ICE’s Less-than-Reliable Numbers on ‘Criminal Offenders’

stop the raids

A lot has been written this week on the recent ICE sweep that arrested more than 3,100 individuals over the span of six days, involving more than 1,900 ICE officers in every state across the nation.  Given the scope of the operation—it was one of the largest deportation sweeps ever of its kind—we have to wonder who was picked up, and for what reasons.  The Obama administration’s prosecutorial discretion policies are supposed to be in force right now, and the headlines about this sweep were all about the really bad guys taken off our streets.  But given our experience, we were skeptical.  Is ICE really deporting only the worst criminals, while allowing innocent DREAM Act students and hardworking immigrants who just want to take care of their families stay?

ICE director John Morton assured the Washington Post this week that his agency was being discriminate about who it chose to detain:

This is part of our effort to prioritize our immigration enforcement efforts.  As a matter of public safety, we start first and foremost with criminal offenders. 

Unfortunately, ICE has a history of talking the talk without walking the walk.  Our colleague, Dara Lind, put together this memo of the many times in recent memory when ICE has obfuscated or trumped up its numbers of who it is calling a criminal in order to win headlines.  Some of its so-called “criminals” have done nothing worse than run a red light.  Do they really meet the “worst of the worst” criteria that ICE is supposed to be following?

From FY 2009 to February 20, 2012, ICE deported 1,316,375 immigrants. A majority of those, 53%, had not committed any crime at all. The other 47% were what ICE calls “criminal aliens”—a scary-sounding term for someone who could have committed a range of offenses from violent or dangerous crimes, to re-entering the country after being deported, to a simple traffic offense.

In the first half of 2011, ICE deported 46,486 parents of U.S. citizen children. In the introduction to a new report, compiled when Congress asked how many parents of U.S. citizen kids were being deported, John Morton announced he was “pleased to present the following report, ‘Deportation of Parents of U.S.-Born Citizens.’”  Not something most people would be “pleased” about.  There’s been serious outcry about the numbers, particularly from Spanish language media, and ICE director John Morton was forced to discuss it at a press conference this week.  But instead of admitting that deporting the parents of U.S. citizens is really not something to brag about, Morton said “We want to retain the unity wherever we can.  At the same time, we can't have a system that having a child in the United States is license to stay here unlawfully and commit crimes.”  We’ve seen this before – pull out the criminal card and you win.  Unfortunately for Morton, there’s no evidence to back up the claim that the vast majority of these people are criminals, or that criminals intentionally have children in order to thwart deportation.  Over the period covered by this report, just over half of all people ICE deported were criminals.

Even ICE’s signature program for finding and deporting “criminals” Secure Communities (or S-Comm), has a poor track record of actually targeting criminals. Of all immigrants who’ve been deported as a result of SComm since the program began in 2008, over a quarter—26.2%--didn’t commit any crime at all. Only 26.9% have been what ICE calls “Level 1” offenders (people who have, in theory, been convicted of the most serious crimes). 

And it’s not just dangerous and violent criminals who get classified as “Level 1.” ICE records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) show that everything from cashing a check with insufficient funds to traffic offenses can get someone labeled “Level 1.”

In fact, traffic offenses were the second-most-common charge in detention according to the records TRAC analyzed. Rep. Luis Gutierrez has recently drawn attention to one of these “high-priority aliens” the government is trying to deport: Gabino Sanchez, a South Carolina construction worker who has lived in the country for a dozen years and has 2 U.S. citizen children. Sanchez has never committed a real crime, but is currently facing deportation proceedings because he has multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving without a license—i.e. driving while undocumented.  Sanchez has been stopped by cops eight times over his life in the U.S.—which sounds like racial profiling, not effective law enforcement.

So when we heard last week’s immigration sweep resulted in 3,168 arrests, we wanted to know more about the people behind the numbers.  ICE reports that 1,477 of those arrested had been convicted of felonies—46.6%--and 1,357 (42.8%) had misdemeanor convictions.  As the Associated Press reports, however, some of the “most serious” offenses were actually immigration crimes, like entering the country illegally after being deported, not violent crimes. ICE hasn’t even demonstrated that everyone they detained with a felony conviction was a dangerous criminal—not to mention the 1,300 immigrants with nothing more than misdemeanors.  Here’s what else we learned::

  • ICE bragged that it arrested 698 “immigration fugitives,” which makes them sound like outlaws. It’s a misleading term. “Fugitive” might mean an immigrant got an order of deportation and deliberately disregarded it—but it might just mean she missed a court hearing thanks to a fraudulent notario. It’s bad enough that many immigrants try to get legal representation and end up losing their money and their case thanks to notario fraud; ICE is adding insult to injury by tarring them as “fugitives” on the run from the law. 

  • 10% (334) of the people arrested in this “crime” sweep had committed absolutely no crime.  We’re talking about hard-working, taxpaying immigrants with families, not hardened criminals.

  • ICE admits that a number of people picked up were “collateral” arrests—not people they were specifically looking for who had committed egregious criminal violations, but people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In San Diego, for example, ICE agents only found 6 of the 12 immigrants they had warrants for, but they made up the difference by picking up 6 additional immigrants they just happened to find.

Clearly, the driving force behind last week’s sweep was quantity over quality.  Every headline trumpeted the 3,100 number, and every article mentioned that it was the largest immigration sweep in history.  But what about the lives and the families of the people who committed minor offenses—or none at all—and are being roped in with rapists and murderers?    

So no, when we see splashy headlines about rapists and murderers arrested during massive immigration sweeps, we don’t believe that every person caught in the net is a dangerous felon.  We have good reason not to.  

Posted 04/04/12 at 11:20am By Pili Tobar

As Commentators Assess Romney Immigration Attacks, New Latino Voter Model to be Unveiled Thursday

mitt romneyMitt Romney tried to attack President Obama on immigration this week--and brought the issue into the forefront of the 2012 presidential contest once again.  Apparently, the Romney campaign is finally paying attention to Latino opinion polls, and has concluded that if the candidate can’t compete for the Latino vote, the best he can do is suppress it.  Romney’s strategy will no doubt be echoed by Republican-aligned super PACs and special interest groups heading into the fall. 

This development makes the release of a new model assessing Latino voters’ influence in the 2012 cycle extremely timely.  Developed by Latino Decisions, the model will be unveiled on a Thursday afternoon webinar at 2 PM Eastern along with America’s Voice Education Fund. 

The stakes are clear when it comes to Latino voters this cycle, and the way the two parties have handled immigration (among other issues) will  influence these voters.  Joe Klein wrote on his blog for Time Magazine:

Latino voters know that Romney’s draconian and silly position on immigration–his utter refusal to discuss what to do about the 11 or so millions of immigrants who are here illegally–was pure politics, a squalid attempt to pander to the nativist base of his party.  That is why he is rocking along with about 14% support from Latinos in the polls.  That is why this is one sketchy sketch he won’t be able to unetch.

At Talking Points Memo, Pema Levy noted that:

Democrats have been working hard to portray Mitt Romney as the most radical candidate on immigration in modern history.  He has, they note, promised to veto the Dream Act, urged ‘self-deportation’ and tapped the architect of the controversial Arizona and Alabama immigration laws as a campaign adviser.  Many observers are waiting for Romney to tamp down his immigration rhetoric as part of his pivot to the general election.  But some immigration activists suggest he’ll take a slightly different tack: Instead of softening his stance to win over Latino voters, they expect Romney will simply try to disenchant them so they don’t vote for Obama.

On Thursday April 5th, Latino Decisions will reveal a ground-breaking new model analyzing Latino voter influence in the 2012 presidential, Senate, and gubernatorial races and providing important context for why Romney is on the attack over immigration.  Supported by America’s Voice Education Fund, this new framework developed by the political scientists and statisticians at Latino Decisions identifies how various Latino voter turnout and vote preference scenarios could impact key 2012 races.  The model uses historical turnout information and real-time polling data to develop different scenarios that could play out in the upcoming election in key Latino influence states.

Posted 04/04/12 at 10:11am By Mahwish Khan

DOJ to Arpaio: “You Are Wasting Time and Not Negotiating in Good Faith.”

joe arpaioLast December, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the results of its investigation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which concluded that he has "engage[d] in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing"  and "a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations."  DOJ has been trying to end Arpaio's reign of terror. Since December, the two parties had been engaged in negotiations, but not anymore. Negotiations have broken down

The standoff between the federal government and a high-profile Arizona sheriff accused of discriminating against Hispanics escalated Tuesday when settlement negotiations fell through and the Justice Department threatened to sue the sheriff.

Justice officials have accused Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s department of illegally detaining Hispanic residents and denying them critical services in jail. A day before settlement negotiations were to begin, Arpaio refused to agree to a court-appointed monitor to oversee changes in his department, one of the Justice Department’s requirements.

“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” wrote Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy L. Austin Jr. in a letter to Arpaio’s attorney. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources.”

Not that any of us are surprised that Arpaio was not negotiating in good faith or squandering government resources. That's who Arpaio is and what Arpaio does - in addition to discriminating and racial profiling.

More from Ray Stern at the Phoenix New Times, which is a publication that really knows Arpaio, his tricks, and his tactics:

The sheriff claims in a new release this afternoon that he will not "surrender my office to the federal government."

Arpaio claims that a federally appointed monitor would have to approve "every policy decision, every operation..." of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which would nullify his power.

We're not sure that's accurate. But if it is, imagine the potential humiliation involved if the monitor failed to approve all of Arpaio's document-shredding sessions, illegal-immigrant roundups, jail-tax-fund raids, campaign tricks and bogus search warrants. No wonder he's ticked.

What do you think -- will the feds cave to Arpaio's demands, or will they sue to install the monitor over the sheriff's protests?

Posted 04/04/12 at 09:57am By Mahwish Khan

Labor Groups Submit Complaint to UN’s International Labor Organization, Citing Problems With H.B. 56

Mercedes BenzToday, a delegation representing civil rights and labor leaders -- which includes our very own Patty Kupfer -- will be in attendence at the Mercedes-Benz annual shareholders' meeting in Berlin, Germany, to protest Daimler AG's silence on HB 56, Alabama's worst-in-the-nation anti-immigrant law. Others in the delegation include Fred Redmond, International Vice President for the United Steelworkers and member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, Renata Soto, National Council of LaRaza board member and Executive Director of Conexión Américas. 

The Mercedes-Benz parent company is one of the largest employers in Alabama and is a founding signatory of the U.N. Global Compact, which calls on corporations to ensure “they are not complicit in human rights abuses” where they do business. As part of the campaign, SEIU and its affiliate, the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers United, submitted a complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations that reads

This complaint documents the current and anticipated cost to trade unions of: 1) general denials of equal protection and access to justice to undocumented immigrants; 2) the climate of fear produced by this law, which extends its impact beyond undocumented immigrant workers to workers who are from racial minority groups – including many who are legal residents and citizens; and 3) provisions that have a direct and demonstrable impact on trade union activities such as new organizing, representation of existing members, and enforcement of individual and collective contractual agreements on behalf of workers. 

We believe that the U.S. government's inability to act promptly and decisively to put in place a national policy related to immigration – attentive to international guarantees related to individual workers' rights as well as to the rights of trade unions with immigrant members – has given the space to individual states to enact laws that are in flagrant violation of international norms. The fact that the violations in this case are the work of an individual State, does not insulate the U.S. from responsibility. Furthermore, the efforts of the executive branch of the U.S. government to challenge the law are simply insufficient to protect these workers and our trade union now, or into the future, without a deeper commitment to federal legislative reform. 

More from the press statement:

“The fact that the violations in this case are the work of an individual State, does not insulate the U.S. from responsibility,” said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry and International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, in a letter that accompanied the complaint to the ILO. “Furthermore, the efforts of the executive branch of the U.S. government to challenge the law are simply insufficient to protect these workers and our trade union now, or into the future, without a deeper commitment to federal legislative reform.”

The delegation is scheduled to hold a press call today at 1 pm ET to outline the results of the meeting and to announce next steps. Just last month, Eliseo Medina (SEIU) and Wade Henderson (The Leadership Conference) flew to Seoul, South Korea and attended Hyundai's shareholders' meeting to deliver a similar message. Next stop on the campaign will be Japan in June, when car company Honda holds its shareholders' meeting. 

All three auto-manufacturers have operations in Alabama. All three have yet to speak out against this anti-immigrant/anti-foreigner legislation. 

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