By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
Special to Philippines Today
CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – If there is an urgency for the U.S. Congress to pass the comprehensive immigration reform bill, it is not just legalizing the status of the 11-million undocumented immigrants. But it could also be used to stop the deportation of 1,000 undocumented immigrants everyday.
Alicia Morales, a Latino community activist from suburban Joliet, Illinois, told an immigration rally last Feb. 9 at Malcolm X College in Chicago’s west side of the Illinois Immigrant Integration Summit sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) headed by Filipino American Lawrence Benito, that while she is happy that both the Democrats and the Republicans are working together to pass the comprehensive immigration reform bill, she is sad that the federal government is “so heavy in enforcement and more on border security that 1,000 undocumented were deported yesterday. It is very discouraging that 1,000 are being deported everyday, and tomorrow another 1,000 are going to be deported.”
Ms. Morales, a daughter of Mexican parents who were legalized by the 1986 IRCA (Immigration Reform and Control Act) and had obtained an MBA degree, said in her backyard at Will County, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a multi-billion dollar corporation that runs dozens of for-profit prisons across the United States, is planning to build a for-profit immigration prison in Joliet to “make profit from human misery and breaking apart families not uniting them and celebrating families at its heart.”
She appealed to those who attended the immigration rally led by Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-4th-IL), Janice Schakowsky (D-9th-IL), Bill Foster (D-11th-IL), Illinois State Representatives Tom Cross (R-97th), Matt Murphy (R-27th) and Elizabeth Hernandez (D-27th) to stop CCA from constructing prison at Joliet because it is a “parasite, abusing immigrant detainees many of them have no criminal record after the ICIRR stopped the CCA from controlling immigrants by inflicting on them gladiator-like violence.”
A couple of months ago last December, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced the agency has surpassed its records of deportations in the past fiscal year while looking into enactment of a controversial immigration enforcement program that could lead to fewer non-criminal immigrants being removed from the country.
U.S. I.C.E. DEPORTED
409K IN 2012
The agency deported 409,849 immigrants in 2012 fiscal year, up from 396,906 immigrants in 2011. More than 392,000 immigrants were deported in 2010 fiscal year.
About 55% of those deported “were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.”
Earlier, during a panel of workshop moderated by Tuyet Le, Executive Director of the Asian American Institute, and composed of Fred Tsao, Policy Director of the ICIRR, Clarisol A. Duque, Chicago Director of the office of Sen. Richard Durbin (IL-D), and Mehrdad Azemun, Field Director of the grassroots group National People’s Action, all of Chicago, Mr. Tsao raised the possibility of expanding and making more generous protection for those who could qualify under the comprehensive immigration bill to include those convicted of driving under the influence, minor criminals, those, who have already served their time and how far to wait for green card if this is tied to border security under the Senate bi-partisan plan. This follows the DREAM Act version.
The panel compared the White House plan to the Senate Gang of Eight plan.
1. There are lots of undocumented who are qualified for Green Card unless they leave the country and be barred to return for 10 years that would set up a backlog. The Senate is silent on this.
2. Same-sex marriage is not recognized by federal law. But the White House is in favor of this. The Senate doesn’t say anything about this. But Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says no to this.
3. High-skilled and educated workers can get Green Card. But for low-skilled workers, the Senate is ok with temporary workers. The White House has no comment on this.
4. If E-Verify system becomes mandatory across the country, what are the protections to workers?
5. Mandatory detention is not yet discussed. Is felony ground for deportation? As regards Secure Communities, will Congress roll back 287g? 287g allows specially trained state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law. And
6. As to immigrant integration per White House, are immigrants going to succeed after they learn English, start business, gain job skills or contribute to the community, etc.?
Although neither of these proposals are final, the community is being urged to come up with other parameters that immigrants are going to need.
For her part, Ms. Duque said that while the proposals of the Gang of Eight, composed of four Senators each from the Democrats and Republicans are welcomed by President Obama, there is an urgency to “move fast, despite the momentum.” The timeline of the bill will be up from mid- to late-March that should be presented to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt).
She said “minor traffic violation maybe a problem” but the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), if it turns out to be successful, could be used as a learning tool and be the basis for moving forward.
Ms. Le urged the hundreds of those in attendance to call the U.S. Senators, particularly Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who has not yet taken a stand on immigration issues, and U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-18th-IL), who is running for Illinois governor, to support the comprehensive immigration reform. Sixty Senators and 218 Congressmen are needed to get the comprehensive immigration reform bill over the top.
Mr. Tsao added offenses that arose out of not having immigration status should also be considered for Green Card. Example, if someone used someone else’s Social Security Number or ID or was driving without license, these should not count against the Green Card applicant. And even for those who were convicted, other considerations should be taken into account like family situations, how long they have been in the U.S. or what contributions have they made.
While the Senate bi-partisan effort is the biggest starting point and there is desire from both sides of the aisle due to the election results, there is a worry in the House.
While President Obama keeps on deporting the undocumented, people should press the President to keep his word to pass the immigration bill, work very hard by broadening the alliance with AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others by doing something people can control and calling their own wisdom from past battles.
Mr. Azemun said there is encouraging signs because many Republicans from two years ago or as close as six months ago, who did not discuss the immigration issues, are now making them part of the conversation. That momentum is there. Every single person has role to play. Everyone should get involved. (firstname.lastname@example.org)