WATCH: This segment with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, who interviews author Sonia Nazario and United We Dream’s Cristina Jimenez about children fleeing violence. As Sonia and Cristina make clear, we’re facing a refugee crisis, and how we respond to it will define who we are as Americans.
MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry: How Will US Respond to Children at the Border? by Van Le on 07/26/14 at 2:11 pm
Sheriffs With FAIR’s Border Tour Not Exactly Unbiased Participants by Van Le on 07/25/14 at 5:38 pm
Recently, seven sheriffs from five states participated in a tour of the border organized and paid for by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — an organization well-established as a hate group. The sheriffs are now back at home and speaking about their experiences on the border, and naturally, what they say they saw is far from inspiring.
According to the Frederick News Post, here’s what Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Maryland has been saying:
“We’re being invaded by drug cartels, drug smugglers, human traffickers, people who are being victimized. The flow of heroin and marijuana into Texas, through the borders, Arizona and New Mexico, is overwhelming,” Jenkins said.
These drugs make their way to Frederick County, as do gang members who have crossed the border unlawfully, he said. Jenkins highlighted the local impact to explain his participation in the visit, which has drawn criticism and attracted widespread media attention….
Brian Schmitt, an immigration lawyer and member of the Frederick Immigration Coalition [said], ”He (Jenkins) went down there to take a look at this humanitarian crisis, and for him to come back up here and say we’re being invaded by gangs and drug cartels and coyotes is ludicrous.”
Schmitt is right. It’s a conflict of interest, to say the least, for a public official to accept a paid trip from a hate group that staunchly opposes immigration, then come back and talk about invasions. And there’s plenty of evidence that Sheriff Jenkins and the other sponsored sheriffs weren’t exactly unbiased in the first place. As the Center for New Community recently wrote at their Imagine 2050 blog, the participating sheriffs already had a record of working with FAIR, most notably at their annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” media event, and associating with FAIR-favorite legislators like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). More about the connections:
Most of the sheriffs participating in FAIR’s border trip last week subscribe to the anti-immigrant movement’s view that all levels of law enforcement should fervently enforce federal immigration statutes. By traveling to the border with FAIR, these sheriffs continue to align themselves with – and validate the motivations of – a movement that has had no qualms exploiting the present crisis of children fleeing violence for political gain.
North Carolina’s Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page was one of the seven sheriffs touring the border last week. His involvement was expected given his history with the anti-immigrant movement. Page travelled to El Paso with FAIR in 2012 and has been a regular attendee of FAIR’s annual media event in Washington DC, “Hold Their Feet to the Fire.” During the 2013 installment, he participated in a press conference organized the stridently anti-immigrant Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA). Shortly after that conference, Page signed a letter to members of Congress along with other sheriffs and law enforcement officials in opposition to immigration reform. That letter was facilitated by National ICE Council President Chris Crane, who himself has worked closely with Kris Kobach and NumbersUSA.
Sheriff Tom Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts similarly signed Crane’s anti-reform letter and has attended FAIR events. Hodgson has made additional trips to the nation’s capital to oppose immigration reforms. During an October 2013 press conference – again organized by Sen. Sessions – Hodgson disparaged undocumented immigrants for supposedly “creating public health hazards” and “public safety concerns.”
Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff Chuck Jenkins was also a predictable participant given that his ties to FAIR go back to at least 2009 when he spoke at FAIR’s advisory board meeting. Jenkins certainly advocates implementing harsh immigration enforcement measures. Under his watch, Frederick Country is the only county in Maryland that maintains a 287(g) arrangement with ICE. Issues with Jenkins’ department are not solely limited to immigration matters. In 2010, Jenkins said an “Arizona type law” or statewide 287(g) participation would be “ideal for Maryland.”
While these sheriffs and others toured the southern border with FAIR last week, another FAIR-affiliated Sheriff actions in Oracle, Arizona was denounced by editors of The Arizona Republic as “incomprehensibly irresponsible.”
Last Tuesday, Pinal County (AZ) Sheriff Paul Babeu (pictured above, from 2011) might have set a new low in recklessly spinning anti-immigrant sentiment into political opportunity. After passing on information regarding the arrivals of children fleeing violence to nativist protestors who then mistakingly harassed a bus of YMCA campers, only then did Babeu assert his presence on site as a “peacemaker.” Republic editors likened Babeu to a “pyromaniac who torches his own house, then throws himself on the mercy of the court as a homeless waif.”
Whether they are leaving their jurisdictions to tour the border with anti-immigrant organizations or creating dangerous standoffs in their own backyards, sheriffs should not entertain the anti-immigrant movement’s dangerous nativist agenda. As Babeu’s critics wrote earlier this week, it is “a higher order of cruelty — and carelessness — for a peace officer to use his elected office to play on anger and fear.”
As the sheriffs and their comments pick up coverage, we hope the media will take the example of the Frederick News Post and take note of who these public officials are really speaking for.
Immigration Reform “Office Hours” by AV Press Releases on 07/25/14 at 2:57 pm
Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Immigration Experts and Advocates Discuss State of Play in Congress, Administration
On today’s weekly Office Hours press briefing, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and immigration reform advocates discussed the state of play on policy reforms in Congress and the Administration.
While the Obama Administration continues to take steps to address the child refugee situation, with young people fleeing gangs and violence in Central America arriving in the U.S. in record numbers, there is still much more to be done. Some responsible actors in Congress are trying to pass a clean supplemental spending bill, while opponents of immigrants are using the current situation to try to advance their anti-immigration wish list and ultimately, lead the body to a stalemate. Their actions (or inaction, depending on perspective) are making it all the more crucial for the President to address both the refugee situation and the status of migrants in the interior with bold and decisive leadership.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said:
It appears the do-nothing Congress is living up to its reputation and looks poised to do nothing to address immigration and border issues once again. But the ideological straightjacket Republicans are in shouldn’t prevent the President from taking action. The President has significant latitude under current law to address both the short-term and long-term issues we face in immigration until such time as the Congress resolves its paralysis. We need to treat immigrants humanely and order our priorities to make sure the vast sum of money we spend on enforcement is actually helping the country, not hurting us.
Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, said:
House Republicans have recklessly blamed lax immigration enforcement, insecure borders, and the deferred action program for DREAMers for the current surge of Central American kids. And they have introduced numerous bills over the last several weeks designed to roll back protections for kids fleeing violent, untenable conditions in their home countries. They even have proposals to deport DREAMers. They have, in short, chosen to exploit vulnerable children to protect their political hides.
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, Deputy Managing Director at United We Dream, said:
If a little boy or a little girl knocks at your door seeking help would you not let them come inside? Central American children are fleeing violence and to send them back is to send them to their death-bed. Republicans have politicized this issue to advocate for the mass deportation of Dreamers. President Obama has a chance to go big and expand on the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA). We expect nothing less from President Obama than bold leadership.
Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, concluded:
Every day there’s more extreme rhetoric and more extreme policy proposals coming out of the GOP. Instead of responding to the current situation with sober policymaking, they’re using the children’s plight to try to advance their anti-immigrant wish list. Today they’re voting to strip the child tax credit from taxpaying immigrant families. Next it will be another vote to end DACA and subject DREAMers to deportation. When it comes to immigration, the GOP is reaching new levels of absurdity with every passing day. At the same time, this means expectations for reasonable policy changes are increasingly focused on responsible Democrats and the Administration. We expect them to act boldly to address the status of refugee children and the millions of immigrants who are rooted already in the United States.
Listen to a recording from today’s call here.
View the latest Center for American Progress reports, A Way Forward on Child Refugees, here and Citizenship Matters: How Children of Immigrants Will Sway the Future of Politics, here. Their “TalkPoverty” fact sheet on Republicans’ attempts to gut the Child Tax Credit is available here.
View United We Dream’s 5 Things Obama Can Do Right Now infographic here.
For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.
GOP Hasn’t Passed Immigration Reform, Still Wants to Deport DREAMers by Van Le on 07/25/14 at 1:48 pm
In the last few weeks, quite a number of Senate and House Republicans have come out in favor of ending DACA/deferred action, either because they think doing so will halt the influx of children coming to the border, or as part of the response to the children. The list of Republicans explicitly calling for an end to DACA include:
- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) said he supports ending DACA as part of any border crisis plan, a comment that’s attracted notice since Dent is considered a moderate.
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said DACA “needs to end.”
- Another Gang of 8 Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said “it is in our interest to wind down this program.”
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that ending DACA is his “top priority.”
- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): “Certainly, DACA and the President’s other numerous unlawful policies must be terminated.”
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) said Obama “must end the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), a policy decision that should be left to Congress,” apparently forgetting that we tried that with the DREAM Act in 2010.
- Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said DREAMers should revert to the “status that they were in prior to this program being established,” i.e. a position in which they could be and regularly were deported.
- And Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to Obama asking the President to sign DACA, which was signed by 32 other House Republicans, namely Reps. Pete Sessions (TX), Sam Graves (MO), Lamar Smith (TX), Blake Farenthold (TX), Bilirakis (FL), Blackburn (TN), McClinktock (CA), Duncan (TN), Cotton (AR), Bridenstine (OK), Nunnelee and Harper (MS), LaMalfa (CA), Gosas (AZ), Jenkins (KS), Hartzler (MO), Cole (OK), Mullin (OK), Calvert (CA), Wenstrup (OH), Foxx (NC), Crenshaw (FL, Gingrey (GA, Wittman (VA), Hall (TX), Campbell (CA), Williams (TX), Stockman (TX), Benishek (FL), Jolly (FL), Yoho (FL), Griffin (AR).
- Even more Republicans have tried linking DACA to the children fleeing violence, presumably as a way to try and end the former.
Not sure why House Rs would want to make folks like Denham, Coffman, Valadao, Gardner vote on ending DACA
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) July 25, 2014
Who Voted to Take Food Out of 5.5 Million Children’s Mouths? by Guest Blogger on 07/25/14 at 1:33 pm
The following is a press release from the Alliance for Citizenship:
House Republicans missed the chance to reverse their anti-immigrant voting record
The House of Representatives voted today 237-173 on HR 4935, a bill permanently expands the eligibility of the child tax credit to higher income families, yet denies taxpaying immigrant workers with families from accessing the tax credit.
Below is a statement by Sue Chinn, the National Campaign Manager of the Alliance for Citizenship:
We support any expansion of the child tax credit to more families, however this House leadership once again showed how dead-set they are against immigrant families—including hardworking, taxpaying immigrant workers who have US born children—by voting to eliminate their eligibility from the child tax credit.
This is the same House leadership who has twice voted to deport Dreamers, is attempting to criminalize children who are fleeing violence from Central America, and has squandered the best chance in a decade to reform our broken immigration system. Now they are taking food out of the mouths of more than 5.5 million children whose parents are just like every other American parent, working hard for them to provide a better life.
I didn’t think it was possible for the House Republicans to take even more egregious action this year than they did last year, but it’s clear they’re allowing its extremist, anti-immigrant base to pull them further and further out of touch with mainstream America, ignoring the growing Latino and immigrant communities in this country.
Foster, Polis, Vargas Introduce House Resolution Calling On DOD To Allow DREAMers In The Military by Guest Blogger on 07/25/14 at 12:10 pm
Today Representatives Bill Foster, Jared Polis, and Juan Vargas introduced a House resolution calling on the Department of Defense to allow DREAMers to serve in the military. Foster and Polis introduced the resolution at a press conference, joined by Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice and Cesar Vargas, J.D., Co-Director, DREAM Action Coalition.
A copy of the resolution, H.Res. 685, can be found here.
“There are many smart, capable young men and women who want nothing more than to serve the only country they have ever known,” said Foster. “Allowing DREAMers to serve in our military is just one small fix we can make to our broken immigration system, but it’s a fix that will give hope and opportunity to thousands of DREAMers while strengthening our military.”
“For many young people brought to the United States before adulthood, America is the only place they’ve known as home,” said Congressman Polis. “I hope the Department of Defense seizes this opportunity to enlist interested Deferred Action individuals in all branches of our military and allow them to help keep our nation, and their home, safe.”
“I am proud to join my colleagues in urging Secretary of Defense Hagel to allow DACA-eligible individuals to serve in the military. DREAMers have been raised in America and are proud to call this country home. At a time when our military is facing personnel shortages and decreased recruitment, our nation of immigrants should allow these willing and capable young men and women to serve the only nation they’ve ever known,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51).
“Granting DREAMers the opportunity to serve in the armed forces is a no-brainer. These young people are Americans in all but paperwork and are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the country they grew up in and love,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
“Serving in the military has been an aspiration for me because it’s not only a way to contribute but also to show that the U.S is my home. With the support of congressional leaders, like Rep. Foster, DREAMers around the country hope the Department of Defense updates their policies in August to allow us to serve in uniform,” said Cesar Vargas.
Background: In 2012, the President introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to allow certain undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States as children, so-called DREAMers, to be provided temporary relief from deportation and be given the ability to work here legally. DACA beneficiaries have already undergone background checks and finished high school or received a GED equivalent. Unfortunately, the DACA program does not currently allow these youth to join the U.S. Armed Forces. However, such a change could be made through executive action.