deferred action

Everything they said in the 2nd debate about immigration -- and what it might mean

Here is the transcript of all comments on immigration in the debates thus far and my explanation of what I think each comment meant.

The topic of immigration did not come up once in the first presidential debate or in the only debate between vice presidential candidates. Of course, the candidates have said a number of things on the campaign trail, and those are reflected in our Presidential Grid. But the transcript below is especially important because this is what the candidates wanted to say in front of 60+ million voters.

This is my second bite at the apple. Immediately after last Tuesday's debate, I post my overall analysis of the immigration part of the debate.

In this blog, however, I want to take a more leisurely and detailed stroll through the debate comments. I welcome your own comments.

2nd PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE EXCERPTS ON IMMIGRATION

OCTOBER 16, 2012, Hofstra University, New York

The moderator was Candy Crowley, veteran journalist at CNN. President Obama and Governor Romney walked around a stage speaking to a half-circle of voters, and pointing and staring at each other.

(CROWLEY) The Gallup organization chose 82 uncommitted voters from the New York area. . . . The questions are known to me and my team only. Neither the commission, nor the candidates have seen them.

In the middle of the debate, Crowley chose a question about immigration.

(CROWLEY) . . . Lorraine Osorio has a question for you . . .

(QUESTION) Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?

This was an especially tough question in that it set a trap in front of a national audience. Notice the new euphemistic way to talk about illegal aliens who have sneaked across the border or lied on their visa applications in their promise to leave United States at a designated time? Notice that illegal aliens are described as "productive" and "members of society." This is a much different way of saying that they have stolen jobs that belonged to Americans. And the phrase "immigrants without green cards" is interesting since by legal definition an "immigrant" is somebody who HAS a green card.

But for all the dishonesty in the question, it was a good trap. It was set to force Romney to show his humanity and advocate for some kind of amnesty for most illegal foreign workers or reveal himself as "harsh" if he suggested they shouldn't stay.

I held my breath because I was sure Romney was going to back-pedal from the promises he has made for six years that the officially estimated 11 million illegal aliens should not be allowed to stay in this country.

ROMNEY ON AMNESTY, 'STAPLING' GREEN CARDS, REMOVING MAGNETS

(ROMNEY) Thank you. Lorraine? Did I get that right? Good. Thank you for your question. And let me step back and tell you what I would like to do with our immigration policy broadly and include an answer to your question.

I think this was an excellent move and gave me great relief that Romney on the spur of the moment was able to get out of the trap. No need for any of us to get trapped in a very narrow specific question that lacks context. Stepping back to look at the overall immigration context is an excellent way to react in all kinds of situations.

(ROMNEY) But first of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann's dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American.

I wonder if any of these politicians has any idea what it means to say "we are a nation of immigrants" since every nation can say the same thing about its past. Still, I suppose politicians can use this phrase to suggest that they aren't anti-immigrant or anti-immigration.

I guess "dad" being born in Mexico is supposed to suggest that Romney has some special tie with immigrants? But "dad" was in no way an immigrant to the U.S., or even to Mexico. Anne's dad, though, was a real immigrant.

(ROMNEY) We welcome legal immigrants into this country. I want our legal system to work better. I want it to be streamlined. I want it to be clearer. I don't think you have to -- shouldn't have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.

Fair enough. NumbersUSA favors efforts to make the process of obtaining a green card faster for those who meet the criteria that serve the national interest.

(ROMNEY) I also think that we should give visas to people -- green cards, rather, to people who graduate with skills that we need. People around the world with accredited degrees in science and math get a green card stapled to their diploma, come to the U.S. of A. We should make sure our legal system works.

He just won't stop talking about this terrible idea. "Stapling" permanent work permits without reservation to every diploma of foreign students with certain degrees is about as reckless with Americans' jobs as is the Visa Lottery which raffles off U.S. jobs to foreigners without much of any criteria.

It isn't that there is no argument to be made for allowing some or many of the top foreign graduates in science and math to remain in this country, but why can't Romney ever utter the phrase "for positions that can't be filled by able and willing Americans."

NumbersUSA supports a fairly open immigration of foreigners with extraordinary skills that are in demonstrably short supply among our own population. But that requires a rigorous system to ensure that people getting these permanent work permits have truly extraordinary skills and that Americans with similar skills do not see their wages depressed or their job prospects diminished by giving out these green cards.

Neither Romney nor Obama in talking about these foreign college students ever says one word to reassure American grads that their interests will be considered in any way.

Later in this blog, I will take you through some of the very first part of the debate in which Romney and Obama displayed great concern for the 50% of recent college grads who have no job at all or can't find a degree job. Those earlier comments make me even more distressed that they both failed to show any sign of wanting to protect those very same American grads from unfair immigration policies.

(ROMNEY) Number two, we're going to have to stop illegal immigration.

Wow! What a great pivot from promoting himself as pro-legal-immigration and then raising the contrasting issue of "illegal" immigration. The woman asking the question was talking about "productive" immigrants without green cards but Romney here touched what nearly every American probably understood -- that the question was about "illegal" immigration. And he said we have to "stop" it.

(ROMNEY) There are 4 million people who are waiting in line to get here legally. Those who've come here illegally take their place. So I will not grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally.

I have such mixed feelings. When oh when are these politicians going to understand that the reason for enforcing immigration laws is not primarily about helping foreigners who want to come here legally but about protecting vulnerable American workers?

On the other hand, I have to give Romney credit for repeating what he has said for six years and what most of the mainstream media condemns him for saying -- that he won't grant amnesty.

However, he later indicated that he actually supports some kind of amnesty for younger illegal aliens. Nonetheless, I take his statement at this part of the debate to mean that he rejects a near-blanket amnesty of the type that Pres. Bush, 2008 Republican candidate John McCain and now Pres. Obama advocate for nearly all illegal foreign workers who are keeping millions of Americans unemployed.

(ROMNEY) What I will do is I'll put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so.

Yet another statement to show that the Romney of the Primaries is the Romney of the General Election. The most consistent element of Romney's statements about immigration has been the removal of the jobs magnet for illegal immigration, primarily through mandatory E-Verify. Here, Romney fails to use the word "mandatory" or the name "E-Verify," but I'm inclined to attribute that to the heat and pressure of the moment.

(ROMNEY) I won't put in place magnets for people coming here illegally. So for instance, I would not give driver's licenses to those that have come here illegally as the president would.

This is an abbreviated reference to Romney's long-standing opposition to any magnets of jobs or public benefits that both attract illegal foreign workers and that help them stay in this country.

(ROMNEY) The kids of those that came here illegally, those kids, I think, should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States and military service, for instance, is one way they would have that kind of pathway to become a permanent resident.

Whoa! what was he saying here? Despite his rejection of amnesty for all the illegal workers just a few minutes ago, he certainly seems to be saying he is favoring giving green cards to the younger illegal aliens who are -- in the words of the woman with the question -- productive members of society.

But wait, he immediately mentions military service as a way for some to get the green cards. That would affect only a tiny number of illegal aliens and also is something Romney already announced during the Florida Primary. Still, he says military service is "one way," suggesting that he also favors other ways for the younger illegal aliens to get permanent work permits.

Romney's answer could mean that he is favorable to an amnesty for up to 2 million of the 11 million illegal aliens, or perhaps only a fraction of the 2 million who are under age 31 and who were brought here illegally as children.

The question I am getting from lots of reporters is whether this means Romney has abandoned his promise during the Primaries that he would veto the DREAM Act amnesty.

My answer is that I don't think it violates the promise. The DREAM Act is all amnesty with no enforcement to prevent parents in the future from bringing their kids here for long periods of illegal residency. Because Romney has been so firm about mandatory E-Verify, and because of other comments he has made the last few months, I believe Romney is contemplating an amnesty for some portion of the DREAM Act beneficiaries but only when combined with other conditions such as mandatory E-Verify. That may or may not be a consolation to opponents of amnesty.

ROMNEY TAUNTS OBAMA FOR NOT TRYING TO PASS AMNESTY

(ROMNEY) Now when the president ran for office, he said that he'd put in place, in his first year, a piece of legislation -- he'd file a bill in his first year that would reform our -- our immigration system, protect legal immigration, stop illegal immigration. He didn't do it. He had a Democrat House, a Democrat Senate, super majority in both Houses. Why did he fail to even promote legislation that would have provided an answer for those that want to come legally and for those that are here illegally today? That's a question I think the -- the president will have a chance to answer right now.

This last comment adds further weight to the sense that Romney in this debate was promising some kind of amnesty for at least some of the younger illegal aliens. He taunted the President for not trying to pass immigration reform legislation when he had a super majority of his Party in Congress.

I think he is right to seem to suggest that Obama probably could have gotten immigration legislation passed if he had brought it up in the first year before his political capital had been so drained by other policy battles.

But I hate this line of argument that he has been using since he sewed up the GOP nomination and got additional advisors who are re-treads from the open-borders Bush Administration.

OBAMA TALKS BORDER, AMNESTY & SELF-DEPORTATION

(OBAMA) We are a nation of immigrants. I mean we're just a few miles away from Ellis Island. We all understand what this country has become because talent from all around the world wants to come here. People are willing to take risks. People who want to build on their dreams and make sure their kids have an even bigger dreams than they have.

I laughed when I heard Obama sound like he had to at least match Romney's pandering to the immigration mythology of the country. But I will cut him slack on this; it is like kissing babies -- just something most politicians have to do.

(OBAMA) But we're also a nation of laws. So what I've said is we need to fix a broken immigration system and I've done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the system. The first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system, to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line, obeying the law to make sure that they can come here and contribute to our country and that's good for our economic growth.

They'll start new businesses. They'll make things happen to create jobs here in the United States.

This segment is basically a point by point agreement with Romney in backing the ideas of streamlining the immigration process and in praising immigrants as holding the key to the country's economic growth.

Like Romney, he showed no sign of recognition that immigrants taking U.S. jobs might not be the best thing for unemployed Americans. Instead, he bought into Romney's earlier suggestion that immigrants can create jobs in ways that Americans can't.

(OBAMA) Number two, we do have to deal with our border so we put more border patrol on the -- any time in history and the flow of undocumented works across the border is actually lower than it's been in 40 years.

I find this to be quite encouraging. Rather than pander to the woman with the question designed to help a candidate supporting amnesty, Obama apparently felt he needed first to show that he is pro-enforcement. And he wanted to brag about the low flow of illegal immigrants -- although most experts on both sides of our issue believe that is more the result of the bad U.S. economy rather than improved enforcement.

Obama could have pushed his enforcement credentials further by talking about the relatively high level of deportations under his Administration. But he didn't, perhaps fearing a backlash among the open-borders wing of his Party which earlier in the year threatened to depress the vote if he didn't slow down deportations.

(OBAMA) What I've also said is if we're going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that's what we've done.

This is where it got ugly, although Obama cleverly may have said things in a way that weren't clear to the average voter.

What he essentially said is that he doesn't believe immigration laws should be enforced against illegal aliens who aren't gang bangers and aren't otherwise violent threats to "the community."

That means non-violent illegal workers are free to continue to take jobs from unemployed Americans. It would seem to mean that the some 45 million legal visitors to the U.S. each year should feel free to over-stay their visas and take as many jobs from Americans as they can -- and depress wages down to the minimum legal level -- as long as they don't behave violently toward our community. Obama sent the word to the whole world at this part of the debate that he doesn't believe in the deterrent effect of threatening non-violent visa-overstayers with potential detainment and deportation.

(OBAMA) And what I've also said is for young people who come here, brought here often times by their parents. Had gone to school here, pledged allegiance to the flag. Think of this as their country. Understand themselves as Americans in every way except having papers. And we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship.

And that's what I've done administratively.

Obama repeats what he has always said about his support for an amnesty for younger illegal aliens, including his admission that he has given the amnesty administratively.

Interestingly, though, he limited his call for amnesty to these potentially 2 million illegal aliens rather than call for a path to citizenship for all 11 million. I have no reason to believe he has backed off his desire for a blanket amnesty, but the fact he didn't mention it suggests that his campaign team feels that only the younger illegal aliens are sympathetic to the general voting public.

(OBAMA) Now, Governor Romney just said, you know he wants to help those young people too, but during the Republican primary, he said, "I will veto the DREAM Act", that would allow these young people to have access."

Obama understandably wasn't going to let Romney get away with appealing to pro-amnesty voters, even though he should have been pleased to get Romney's support for the amnesty for younger illegal aliens.

Nonetheless, as I noted earlier, Romney has room to oppose the DREAM Act -- which has no improved enforcement in it -- and still favor some amnesty for younger illegal aliens if it is acompanied by mandatory E-Verify and perhaps some off-sets in the importation of immigrants whose skills are not needed.

(OBAMA) His main strategy during the Republican primary was to say, "We're going to encourage self-deportation." Making life so miserable on folks that they'll leave.

It is truly amazing to me that so many people -- including the President of the Untied States -- consider it draconian to have a policy that encourages illegal aliens to go home on their own without U.S. taxpayers having to pay the costs of deporting them. THAT is what "self-deportation" is.

Frankly, I'm outraged that a President of the United States would make this statement in the debate.

What was Obama trying to tell the hundreds of millions of workers around the world who would like the higher wages of a U.S. job? Was he telling them that the policy of the U.S. is to make life COMFORTABLE for those who overstay their visas and illegally take jobs from vulnerable Americans?

Does the President not understand that the basis of nearly every federal law is to make law-breaking so uncomfortable that most people will voluntarily obey the law?

Earlier, the President already said he doesn't want to deport any illegal foreign worker except those who are violent. Now he ridicules and demonizes the idea of encouraging illegal aliens to go home on their own because they are prevented from getting jobs. (which is the foundation of all of Romney's comments on self-deportation).

After ruling out those two forms of government deterrence to illegal aliens taking U.S. jobs, what's left to protect American workers? Precious little!

(OBAMA) He called the Arizona law a model for the nation. Part of the Arizona law said that law enforcement officers could stop folks because they suspected maybe they looked like they might be undocumented workers and check their papers.

You know what? If my daughter or yours looks to somebody like they're not a citizen, I don't want -- I don't want to empower somebody like that.

There were some nasty and totally unsubstantiated things said by both candidates during this pugnacious debate. But this descent into race-baiting based on a widely disproved description of Romney's position on Arizona law competes for some kind of prize.

First, Obama was describing an Airzona legal provision that the U.S. Supreme Court this year refused to over-turn because it does NOT do the things that Obama said it does.

Secondly, he repeats a fabrication that the open-borders crowd has been pushing for months despite confirmation by every mainstream media fact-checker that Romney never called that provision of the Arizona law a model for the nation.

(OBAMA) So, we can fix this system in a comprehensive way. And when Governor Romney says, the challenge is, "Well Obama didn't try." That's not true. I have sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term. And I said, let's fix this system. Including Senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it's very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform, if their standard bearer has said that this is not something I'm interested in supporting.

I don't blame Obama for being ticked at Romney's repeated charges of failure to act. The Romney campaign's repetition of this charge is certainly disingenuous when one considers that Romney opposes the legislation he taunts Obama for not pushing to a vote in Congress.

On the other hand, Obama seems to be saying that the only way he would bring his amnesty bills to a vote is if he were assured of winning and of having the political cover of a bunch of Republicans voting for it. That certainly wasn't his stance on other controversial issues. I think Obama didn't bring his amnesty wishes to a vote in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress because he felt it would hurt his re-election bid in 2012. And the American people can be most thankful to him for making that assessment and decision.

(CROWLEY) Let me get the governor in here, Mr. President. Let's speak to, if you could. to the idea of self-deportation?

(ROMNEY) No, let -- let -- let me go back and speak to the points that the president made and -- and -- and let's get them correct.

I did not say that the Arizona law was a model for the nation in that aspect. I said that the E-Verify portion of the Arizona law, which is -- which is the portion of the law which says that employers could be able to determine whether someone is here illegally or not illegally, that that was a model for the nation. That's number one.

The fact that Romney went out of his way to make it clear that the model he wants the nation to follow is Arizona's mandatory E-Verify for all employer is one of the most reassuring things to come out of this debate.

(ROMNEY) Number two, I asked the president a question I think Hispanics and immigrants all over the nation have asked. He was asked this on Univision the other day. Why, when you said you'd filed legislation in your first year didn't you do it? And he didn't answer. He -- he doesn't answer that question. He said the standard bearer wasn't for it. I'm glad you thought I was a standard bearer four years ago, but I wasn't.

Four years ago you said in your first year you would file legislation.

In his first year, I was just getting -- licking my wounds from having been beaten by John McCain, all right. I was not the standard bearer.

My -- my view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said.

What? This is Romney trying to score some political points that are totally divorced from and contradictory to the policies he has advocated. Why in the world would a person who opposes a blanket amnesty and supports mandatory E-Verify wish that Obama had used his political capital in his first year to push through blanket amnesty that also didn't include mandatory E-Verify?

Also, Romney misunderstood what Obama was saying about "the standard bearer" not supporting "comprehensive immigration reform" in private meetings after the election. Obama wasn't referring to Romney but to John McCain who had been the chief Republican champion for amnesty until the 2008 Primaries forced him to change his position. I can understand Obama's frustration with McCain and I also am overjoyed with that frustration that protected millions of American workers from a massive new amnesty and increase in green cards, represented by the legislation that Obama says he still wants.

(ROMNEY) Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they -- if they find that -- that they can't get the benefits here that they want and they can't -- and they can't find the job they want, then they'll make a decision to go a place where -- where they have better opportunities.

But I'm not in favor of rounding up people and -- and -- and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country.

With most of the nation's editorial writers treating the concept of self-deportation as harsh or laughable, and with the Bush wing of the Republican Party begging him to abandon the concept, Romney's answer here is a sign of both great political courage and conviction. Or maybe it isn't courage if he simply believes in the intelligence of the majority of the American people to understand that self-deportation is the only real alternative to mass roundups -- and a less costly and more humane one at that.

Romney has been given several chances to back away from what we prefer to call "Attrition Through Enforcement," but has always stood by his position. While he has given Americans very little reassurance that he would protect vulnerable workers from mass legal immigration, he has been steadfast in insistence on measures against illegal immigrant workers holding jobs.

OBAMA TRIES THE ARIZONA ATTACK AGAIN

After Romney tried to engage in another topic and with Crowley, Romney and Obama talking over each other, Obama got in some final words on the immigration issue.

OBAMA: I do want to make sure that -- I do want to make sure that we just understand something. Governor Romney says he wasn't referring to Arizona as a model for the nation. His top adviser on immigration is the guy who designed the Arizona law, the entirety of it; not E-Verify, the whole thing. That's his policy. And it's a bad policy. And it won't help us grow.

As if to underscore everything negative I said about Obama on this point earlier, he came back to try to make his fabrication stick. And he misquotes what Romney just said. Romney said that he DOES think Arizona is a model for the nation, but on the E-Verify law.

Obama then engaged in a logical fallacy by seeming to suggest that because the author of the other Arizona law is an advisor (informal and certainly not the top one) of Romney's that Romney is responsible for that other law.

(OBAMA) Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise. And they provide us energy and they provide us innovation and they start companies like Intel and Google. And we want to encourage that.

Now, we've got to make sure that we do it in a smart way and a comprehensive way, and we make the legal system better. But when we make this into a divisive political issue, and when we don't have bipartisan support -- I can deliver, Governor, a whole bunch of Democrats to get comprehensive immigration reform done, and we can't...

ROMNEY: I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year...

OBAMA: ... we can't -- we have not seen Republicans serious about this issue at all. And it's time for them to get serious on it.

Oh, boy. So, we have Romney at the end promising to do what? Pass the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is a blanket amnesty and includes big increases in green cards for even more foreign workers than a million a year?

We can only hope that Romney was referring to the immigration reform he had been outlining throughout the debate and not that he would pass Obama's immigration agenda in the first year.

And sadly we had the President of the United States seeming to suggest that 310 million Americans don't contain enough brains and creativity to provide the "energy" and "innovation" that our economy needs.

I have to conclude that if Obama is re-elected we will have to mobilize as never before to stop his dreams of overwhelming the American worker with foreign labor competition, and that if Romney is elected we will have to mobilize at the same level to try to keep him focused on his "self-deportation" agenda and afraid to carry out the wishes of his advisors from the Bush Administration who want Obama's agenda of overwhelming the labor supply with foreign workers.

RESPONSES TO THE JOBS QUESTION AT THE FIRST THAT MISSED THE IMMIGRATION ANGLE

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of this debate was the fact that it began with a clear question about the terrible jobs prospects for so many Americans. It was a perfect opening for a candidate to explain why immigration policies should be set based on helping and not hurting the most vulnerable of our fellow Americans.

(CROWLEY) . . . Governor Romney, as you know, you won the coin toss, so the first question will go to you. And I want to turn to a first-time voter, Jeremy Epstein, who has a question for you.

(QUESTION) Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Hats off to Crowley for apparently choosing this as the first question. She tried to get the candidates focused on what both have said for four years should be "Job No. 1" but it took them little time to get off the topic and never really come back to it. Still, notice how later comments by Romney and Obama seem to show amnesia about the concern they show here for young Jeremy.

(ROMNEY) . . . Your question -- your question is one that's being asked by college kids all over this country. . . . But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what's happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America's young people. I want you to be able to get a job. . . . With half of college kids graduating this year without a . . . college level job, that's just unacceptable.

Hooray. Romney stated the fact that we use all the time to call for restraint in importing even college-educated immigrants. He talked about the half of all recent college graduates who have no job at all or a job that doesn't require a degree. Unfortunately when he talked about immigration later, he seemed to have lost all sight of all the jobless and underemployed American college grads, showing not one ounce of interest in having immigration rules that protect Americans' ability to get jobs ahead of bringing in new immigrant workers.

(OBAMA) Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright. And the fact that you're making an investment in higher education is critical. Not just to you, but to the entire nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country. But not just jobs, good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family. . . . I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again.

I can't help but comment that Obama's commitment to creating manufacturing jobs is not the same as a commitment to put Americans IN those jobs. For four years, he has resisted both federal and state efforts to mandate E-Verify so that manufacturing jobs will go to Americans who want them, instead of to citizens of other countries who break our immigration and visa laws.

(OBAMA) Number two, we've got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you're going to college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education and we've worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you, but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.

The President has presided for four years over a system that gives a million permanent work permits to immigrants each year at every skill level to compete with Americans who have elevated unemployment rates at every one of those skill levels. No doubt, there are some skills in short supply. But the President and his Administration have shown no inclination that they are interested in knowing whether an immigrant's skill is in short supply before giving out the green card.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted.

Driver licenses for illegal aliens create bigger problems

Governor Kitzhaber has stated, in no uncertain terms, that he wants to restore driving privileges to illegal aliens living and working in our state.  Perhaps he should take look at what Washington State is dealing with due to their "welcome mat" approach to illegal aliens.  Read more here.

Immigrants’ Job Picture Brighter Under Obama Than For the Native Born

Under the Obama Administration, immigrants have fared better at finding jobs than the native born. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data indicate that as of August 2012, over 1.7 million immigrants found jobs during Obama’s term while only 418,000 native-born Americans did.

According to the BLS’ monthly household survey, immigrants garnered about three out of every four jobs added since January 2009 even though they are only one-sixth of the workforce. Between August 2011 and August 2012, immigrants won one out of every three newly-added jobs. During that period, native-born Americans gained 1.436 million new jobs, while immigrants acquired 788,000.

A separate BLS survey of employers indicates that immigrant job gains essentially equaled the number of new jobs added to economy since January 2009. Steven Camarota from the Center for Immigration Studies found that there was a net gain of 1.5 million new jobs between January 2009 and August 2012 while 1.5 million immigrants, legal and illegal, short-term and long-term arrived in the United States and found jobs.

The situation could worsen for the native born given the Obama Administration’s decision to grant work permits and deportation amnesty to as many as 1.7 million illegal aliens under the age of 31. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that fifty-eight percent of this group of illegal aliens are already working or seeking work, but having legal access will enable them to compete for a broader range of jobs with citizens, including higher paying ones.

The percentage of working-age Americans with jobs dropped from 60.6 percent in early 2009 to 58.4 percent in August 2012. That means about 3.9 million fewer working-age Americans are in the workforce. They are not included in unemployment numbers because they are no longer seeking work.

According to BLS, there are about 23 million unemployed and underemployed Americans now while about 8 million illegal aliens and another 16 million foreign-born immigrants hold jobs.

Destination Washington D.C.

OFIR's President will travel to Washington D.C. to attend two conferences.  There will be numerous opportunities to meet and network with people from all over the country interested in stopping illegal immigration.  A summary of conference events will be posted on the website upon her return.

Teen’s secret tied to fatal crash

Lack of immigration papers prompted a Churchill High School student to flee a traffic stop on March 7, causing an accident that killed two people, his attorney said on Thursday.

Emanuel Herrera-­Gutierrez, 16, was sentenced to 75 months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter for recklessly causing the deaths of Toni Lynn Bryson and Richard Lee Taylor. Defense attorney John Kolego said his client was not a legal resident of the United States, despite living here nearly all his life.

“He knew this dark secret that he had, that he was undocumented, even though he’d been here since he was 2,” Kolego said in an interview after the sentencing. “And when he was pulled over by the police officer, the fact that he was undocumented, the fact that he could potentially cause problems for his whole family, just led to pure panic. ... He just panicked and took off. Unfortunately that led to the deaths of two people and to two police officers being injured.”

Herrera-Gutierrez was driving his parents’ 2000 Nissan Maxima 90 miles per hour when he ran a red light at West 11th Avenue and Bertlesen Road and slammed into a vehicle driven by Taylor, prosecutor Dave Hopkins said at the sentencing. Taylor, 62, and his passenger Bryson, 43, were both ejected and died of their injuries at a hospital.

The Nissan then careened into a Eugene police patrol car that happened to be sitting at the red light, Hopkins said, injuring officers Kyle Evans and Joshua Sundquist. The impact caused the Nissan’s engine to catch fire, and both jumped out to render aid, the Lane County deputy district attorney said.

“Officer Sundquist, with one (injured) arm dangling, gets a fire extinguisher to put out the fire,” Hopkins said.

Herrera-Gutierrez was initially unresponsive when Evans tried to check on him, but when the teen came to, he tried to start the car again instead of trying to get out of it, the prosecutor said.

Herrera-Gutierrez probably will face deportation after completing his sentence, Kolego said.
It’s not clear what country the teen was born in. Nearly a dozen people who appeared to be his family members attended the sentencing, but did not respond to a reporter’s interview request. Several of them wept quietly throughout the proceeding.

No relatives of Taylor or Bryson were in the courtroom, though one of Bryson’s sisters made a statement by telephone from her home on the Oregon Coast.

“We loved our sister, and she had four children and they lost their mom,” Dory Thurman told Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen. “We will have to live with this for the rest of our lives. I’m sorry that everybody has to suffer for the choices (Herrera-Gutierrez) made that night.”

Kolego said the teen’s undocumented status also helped set those events in motion. Because of it, he was unable to get a driver’s permit and license, as most of his peers were doing. Wanting to drive, he waited until his parents were asleep that night and took their car out without permission.

He made another in a “series of catastrophic choices” when he decided to speed on the Randy Papé Beltline, Hopkins said. An Oregon State Police trooper saw Herrera-Gutierrez driving “about 100 miles an hour” and began pursuing him shortly before the 12:33 a.m. crash, the prosecutor said.

The teen initially pulled over just past the Barger Drive overpass, Hopkins said. But as soon as the trooper got out of his vehicle, Herrera-Gutierrez took off southbound toward West 11th Avenue, where he turned east and accelerated toward the site of the impending crash.

Hopkins told Rasmussen that the teen never asked about the condition of Bryson and Taylor, despite seeing them receiving medical attention at the crash scene and later being taken to the same emergency room as Taylor.

Under Oregon’s Ballot Measure 11, he was charged as an adult and will serve the mandatory minimum sentence of 75 months for second-degree manslaughter. He will do so in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections rather than the Oregon Youth Authority, despite his young age, his lack of criminal record and the fact that drugs and alcohol were not involved in the crash.

Kolego told the judge that his client was not indifferent to the harm he’d caused, but was dazed after suffering a concussion.

After the hearing, the defense attorney expressed hope that Herrera-Gutierrez would be incarcerated at the state’s MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn until age 18, and “hopefully, if he continues to behave himself, will remain isolated from hardened prisoners” after that. Kolego said Lane County juvenile detention officials have said they’ve never had a young inmate as well-behaved as his client.

“This is a really decent kid who made a horrific decision when he was too young to fully appreciate the risk he was putting other people in,” the defense attorney said.

Illegal migrants across U.S. taking protests to defiant new level

A growing number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona and other states are taking immigration protests to a new extreme, staging acts of civil disobedience by deliberately getting arrested in order to be turned over to federal immigration officials.

Often wearing T-shirts declaring themselves "undocumented and unafraid," the protesters have sat down in streets and blocked traffic, or occupied buildings in several cities including Phoenix and Tucson.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested, but in almost every case, federal immigration officers have declined to deport those in the country illegally. Protesters say they are planning more acts of civil disobedience, including possibly in Phoenix.

The acts are intended to openly defy stepped-up immigration enforcement that has led to record deportations over the past three years.

In Arizona, protesters are focused now on enforcement of a portion of the state's Senate Bill 1070 immigration law.

By getting arrested, immigrants say they are making a point: Illegal immigrants who are part of this country shouldn't have to live in fear of being deported and deserve to live here legally. They also think immigration authorities are less likely to deport illegal immigrants arrested in public because the government doesn't want the negative attention.

"Honestly, I can tell you I have never felt as free as when I was sitting in the middle of the street and when I was chanting 'undocumented and unafraid,' " said Daniela Cruz, 21. She is one of six undocumented immigrants arrested in March after blocking an intersection in front of Trevor G. Browne High School in west Phoenix.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say unwanted publicity has nothing to with the agency's decision not to take action against the protesters. In most cases, the agency has issued statements saying the protesters simply did not meet the agency's priorities of deporting criminals, recent border crossers and egregious immigration violators.

Still, undocumented immigrants could be taking a chance if getting arrested leads to a criminal record that could prevent them from gaining legal status in the the future.

Frustration spurs action

The rise of civil disobedience shows how some immigrant groups are turning to more-extreme measures out of frustration that the marches, work stoppages, voter drives and boycotts of the past have not worked. Reforms that include a proposed legalization program for millions of undocumented immigrants have not passed Congress, and deportations keep going up.

Last fiscal year, ICE deported a record of nearly 397,000 immigrants. ICE is on a pace to deport as many or more this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Comprehensive immigration reform likely won't be addressed again until next year at the earliest.

"Immigration reform has been on the national agenda for more than 10 years with no progress, and so, I think that is one of the reasons we are seeing an uptick in the level of civil disobedience," said Chris Newman, legal-programs director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an advocacy group in Los Angeles that has worked with groups that engage in civil disobedience.

Carlos Vélez-Ibánez, director of Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies, said the rise in civil disobedience is the result of a new crop of leaders who are inspired by some of the tactics of the civil- rights and Chicano movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

"In this case, people are putting themselves in harm's way to make the point of the unfairness of these laws," Vélez-Ibánez said.

Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that supports tough immigration enforcement, doesn't think civil disobedience now will sway public opinion to the degree that the civil-rights movement did.

"It's not clear to most Americans that this is analogous to the civil-rights movement," Camarota said. "In the civil-rights movement, you had American citizens demanding equality. In this case, you have people who aren't supposed to be in the country demanding the rights of citizens, and to most Americans, or at least a large fraction, that is not roughly the same thing."

Groups use e-mail, social media

Groups such as the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Dream Activist and Puente Arizona, which is based in Phoenix, are only a few years old or less. But they have quickly built national followings through the use of websites, Facebook, e-mail blasts, Twitter and YouTube videos to promote civil disobedience. They also attempt to rally public support for individual cases of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

Jonathan Perez, 25, a member of National Immigrant Youth Alliance, said he has seen an evolution in the undocumented-immigrant movement.

"Two or three years ago, people wouldn't come out. They were even afraid to be on camera," said Perez, an undocumented immigrant from Colombia who lives in Los Angeles.

Then, growing numbers of undocumented students known as "dreamers" began appearing on television and in front of Congress to tell their stories in hopes of generating support for the Dream Act, a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship if they attended college or joined the military.

The turning point came in May 2010, when a group of protesters dressed in caps and gowns staged a sit-in at the Tucson offices of Sen. John McCain, Perez said. Among the four protesters arrested were three who were in the country illegally. It was the first time students had deliberately gotten arrested and risked deportation in an act of civil disobedience, according to Perez and other activists familiar with the incident.

Protests heat up

Since then, civil disobedience in Arizona and around the country has steadily increased.

Among the most recent examples:

On July 24, four undocumented immigrants were arrested after stopping traffic at an intersection outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix. They were protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tough stance against illegal immigrants on the same day he was at the courthouse defending himself against a racial-profiling lawsuit accusing his office of targeting Latinos to search for illegal immigrants.

On Sept. 4, 10 undocumented immigrants, including three from Arizona, were arrested when they blocked a busy intersection in downtown Charlotte, N.C., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. The protesters said they wanted to push President Barack Obama to legalize illegal immigrants instead of deporting them.

On Sept. 7, four undocumented immigrants and two supporters were arrested while blocking traffic in Los Angeles. They were trying to pressure Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to stop working with federal immigration authorities to identify and arrest illegal immigrants.

More civil disobedience may now be on the way. Local police are about to begin enforcing the so-called "show me your papers" provision of SB 1070 following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that rejected an argument that the provision is unconstitutional.

That provision requires police officers to check the legal status of a person stopped or arrested under certain conditions during investigations or traffic stops.

To protest the law, organizers from Puente Arizona say they are considering civil disobedience, including getting arrested by blocking streets.

"It's empowering," said Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona. "But what it really comes down to is challenging the law itself and us being able to tell the stories of undocumented people and why they are risking everything."

In July, Puente created a Facebook page to drum up support for the "UndocuBus." About two dozen undocumented immigrants rode the 1970s-era passenger bus on a six-week trip across the country that began in Phoenix and ended in Charlotte. Along the way, the bus, painted bright turquoise with butterflies and the slogan "No papers no fear" on the sides, made stops in 15 cities, including Knoxville, Tenn.

In that city four of about 50 protesters blocking a city street were arrested on Aug. 28. They were protesting the local sheriff's participation in a federal program that gives local police the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

The UndocuBus' trip culminated with a protest that blocked an intersection near the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Among the 10 people arrested there was Phoenix resident and UndocuBus rider Gerardo Torres, 41, an undocumented immigrant from Aguas Calientes, Mexico.

Torres, a handyman, said it wasn't until the night before, during a meeting at a local church, that he decided to get arrested.

"I wanted to prove the point to the (undocumented) community that when we are together and we are united, we have a lot of power," said Torres, who said he has been living in the country illegally since 1993, when his six-month tourist visa expired.

Torres conceded, however, that he knew the chances of being put into deportation proceedings were slim because he has no criminal record.

Since June 2011, ICE has revamped its deportation priorities to focus more attention on removing illegal immigrants with criminal records instead of those with clean records and strong community and family ties.

After spending about 10 hours in jail, Torres was released. ICE declined to pursue deportation against the 10 protesters.

ICE officials declined to be interviewed.

In a written statement, Amber Cargile, an ICE spokeswoman in Phoenix, said the agency "fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinions."

"We recognize that our nation's broken immigration system requires serious solutions, and we continue to work with Congress to enact reform," Cargile said.

Since the acts of civil disobedience started, immigrant groups say, ICE has taken deportation action against only one protester, Miguel Guerra-Montana, 35. The Phoenix resident is one of four undocumented immigrants arrested after they sat down and blocked an intersection in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix.

In the statement, Cargile said ICE issued Guerra-Montana a notice to appear before an immigration judge and released him on bond after a federal database check revealed he had entered the country in January 2002 on a visitor's visa but failed to leave after the visa expired.

"ICE uses discretion on a case-by-case basis, taking enforcement action based on the merits of an individual's case and a comprehensive review of specific facts," Cargile said. An immigration judge will decide whether Guerra-Montana should be deported.

Guerra-Montana said he wanted to be placed in deportation proceedings. That would give him the chance to ask an immigration judge to let him remain in the U.S. legally. He has hired a lawyer and plans to argue that he should be allowed to stay because he has lived in this country for more than 10 years and two of this three children were born here.

He sees that as a better alternative than being stopped by police and turned over to ICE.

"I did this because I was tired of always having to hide," he said.

Although ICE has not pursued deportation against most of the protesters, they are still taking a chance by getting arrested.

In September, Cruz, the undocumented immigrant arrested in March for blocking the intersection at Trevor G. Browne High School, went to court to fight two misdemeanor charges. A judge found Cruz guilty of the two charges. Now, she has a criminal record.

Cruz said she doesn't know if her record will hurt her chances of applying for any future legalization program or for President Barack Obama's deferred-action program, which lets young undocumented immigrants apply to stay and work temporarily in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. The guidelines for applying rule out undocumented immigrants convicted of felonies, serious misdemeanors or three or more misdemeanors. Department of Homeland Security officials have said applicants for deferred action with records of disobedience will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

But Cruz has no regrets.

"To me, even after I was found guilty, it was more than 100 percent worth it," she said. "We showed our community that once we come out, we are a lot safer."
 

A step in the right direction

Alert date: 
September 19, 2012
Alert body: 

The Obama administration announced that illegal aliens who take advantage of the “Deferred Action” rule, (DACA), will not be eligible for heath insurance under Obama Care.

The reason given for the denial is that illegal aliens applying for Deferred Action do not meet the definition of “lawfully present.”

In that Oregon’s driver license law, (SB 1080) requires “legal presence in the United States” it appears that Governor Kitzhaber's plan to grant driver licenses to DACA beneficiaries cannot proceed.  The Oregon Department of Justice is reviewing that decision now.

Read the New York Times article.

Limits Placed on Immigrants in Health Care Law

WASHINGTON — The White House has ruled that young immigrants who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy will not be eligible for health insurance coverage under President Obama’s health care overhaul.

The decision — disclosed last month, to little notice — has infuriated many advocates for Hispanic Americans and immigrants. They say the restrictions are at odds with Mr. Obama’s recent praise of the young immigrants.

In June, the president announced that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, attended school here and met other requirements would be allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

Immigrants granted such relief would ordinarily meet the definition of “lawfully present” residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of “lawfully present.”

At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation “shall not be eligible” for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said in the Federal Register that the reasons offered for the immigration initiative “do not pertain to eligibility for Medicaid,” the children’s health program or federal subsidies for buying private health insurance.

Nick Papas, a White House spokesman, said the deferred-deportation policy “was never intended” to confer eligibility for federal health benefits. The White House describes that policy as “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” allowing law enforcement officers to focus on immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety. Administration officials declined to elaborate as to why beneficiaries of the new immigration policy were ineligible for coverage under the new health law.

The move might help Mr. Obama avoid a heated political debate over whether the health law is benefiting illegal immigrants. The possibility of such benefits has drawn criticism from many Republicans, including Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who shouted “You lie!” as Mr. Obama addressed the issue before a joint session of Congress in 2009.

The restrictions on health coverage may also save money by limiting the number of people who receive health insurance wholly or partly from the federal government. Federal subsidies for insurance under the new health care law are expected to average $5,300 a year for each person subsidized in 2014, and the cost is expected to rise to $7,500 a person in 2022, the Congressional Budget Office says.

Several immigration lawyers and health policy experts have criticized the restrictions, saying they will make it more difficult to achieve the goals of the health law and the immigration initiative, which Democrats consider two of Mr. Obama’s most significant achievements.

Jennifer M. Ng’andu, a health policy specialist at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic rights group, said: “We do not understand why the administration decided to do this. It’s providing immigration relief to children and young adults so they can be fully integrated into society. At the same time, it’s shutting them out of the health care system so they cannot become productive members of society.”

Ricardo E. Campos, 23, of Wheaton, Md., an illegal immigrant who came to the United States from El Salvador at the age of 12, applied for the deferred-enforcement program two weeks ago with help from a community organization, Casa de Maryland.

He is attending a community college and said he desperately needs affordable health insurance. After doctors discovered that he had bone cancer, he underwent a 36-hour operation in 2009 and was in a wheelchair for a year.

“I want to become a doctor, in internal medicine or oncology, so I can save lives just as my life was saved,” Mr. Campos said.

“What if one day the cancer comes back and I don’t have health insurance? That’s scary.” (Just before his surgery, Mr. Campos got coverage through a state-sponsored plan with high premiums, after commercial insurers had turned him down.)

Under the new federal health law, insurance subsidies are available not only to citizens, but also to low-income immigrants “lawfully present” in the United States. That group will still include green card holders and people granted asylum.

The Pew Research Center estimates that up to 1.7 million unauthorized immigrants could eventually seek deferrals of deportation under the exercise of executive authority announced in June by Mr. Obama. Those immigrants will continue to be able to receive health insurance from employers, but many are likely to struggle to obtain coverage if they do not have a job that provides it.

In the absence of a significant change in immigration law, young immigrants granted temporary relief from deportation have no clear path to green cards or citizenship.

When he announced the new immigration policy in June, Mr. Obama hailed the patriotism and promise of young “dreamers” — illegal immigrants who could have gained legal status under a bill known as the Dream Act, which has been bottled up in Congress for 11 years. Mr. Obama said the young immigrants were Americans at heart and should be able to work legally and live openly in this country without fear of being expelled.

Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants, said: “We had been working closely with the administration, so we were quite surprised and shocked by the new restrictions on health coverage. This is a shortsighted, reactionary and bad public policy.”

Republicans in Congress have criticized the deportation deferrals as a form of backdoor amnesty for immigrants who broke the law by entering the United States illegally or by overstaying visas. They say Mr. Obama does not have the legal authority to do what he did — a claim also made in a lawsuit by 10 immigration law enforcement officers who are challenging the policy in Federal District Court.

The politics of the issue cut in several directions. The Gallup tracking poll shows Mr. Obama with a wide lead over his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, among Hispanic voters. At the same time, administration officials have tried to avoid alienating swing voters who are concerned about illegal immigration, and they have emphasized steps taken to secure the borders.

In the primary campaign, Mr. Romney said he would veto the Dream Act because it could create a magnet for illegal immigration. Ryan M. Williams, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, said Mr. Obama’s deferred-deportation policy had “ruined an effort in Congress to forge a bipartisan long-term solution” for illegal immigrants brought here as children.

Some immigrants and their allies worry that the restrictions on federal health benefits could be used to justify similar actions by state officials. Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a Republican, has issued an executive order denying driver’s licenses and public benefits to young immigrants who are granted relief from deportation.
 

Supporters, opponents of rule affecting non-citizens speak out

Testimony on a provision banning non-citizens from serving as the City of Keizer’s youth councilor ranged from blasting the group for lost opportunities to support for the rule of law.

A work session Monday night at the Keizer Civic Center drew more than 50 people for what might ordinarily be a little-discussed topic: Rules and procedures for the city council.

Of course, this was no ordinary meeting: It was held at the behest of CAUSA, an immigrant rights group who requested to speak with Mayor Lore Christopher.

Francisco Lopez, executive director of CAUSA, questioned the timing of the decision: It came the same night Hugo Nicolas, a former Keizer youth councilor, received an award from the City of Salem and within days of speaking to numerous media outlets about his status as an illegal immigrant.

Lopez also asked how it would be enforced.

“How are you going to make a determination? Based on the color of skin? Or their last name?” Lopez said.

The council’s supporters came back to one theme: The rule of law, and whether allowing students whose parents brought them to the country illegally bends those laws too far.

State Rep. Kim Thatcher, R – Keizer, compared the situation to relatives who own land in another part of the state and live there part-time.

“They could contribute to their community all day long and they couldn’t run for city council because they don’t live there full-time,” Thatcher said. “There just has to be lines that are drawn (and) what you’re drawing is sensible.”

Nicolas himself addressed the council, saying he felt shame as he came to the Keizer Civic Center to volunteer as a police cadet or in the youth council role, then go home to a crowded house, with relatives sleeping in the garage.

“Here in Keizer and around the country we share a city, but not a community,” Nicolas said. “… We learn to only share a common fear.”

Councilor David McKane said earlier in the meeting the revised council rules had been in the works for about a year, and that the changes were not associated with Nicolas personally.

“It has nothing to do with you and people that say that should be ashamed,” McKane said.

Peter Dane testified that rules should maintain accountability for parents to follow the law for the sake of their children.

“To keep demanding more loopholes in the law … is selfish and egregious,” Dane said.

Dennis Koho, a former mayor who is unopposed in his candidacy for city council, said a system shouldn’t penalize children for their parents’ decision as of where to live.

“We can best help those future leaders by being inclusive rather than saying we’re only going to take a look at a certain type of young person,” Koho said.

Eduardo Angulo, chairman and executive director of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality, said volunteer opportunities for immigrant children help bolster the area, comparing it favorably to troubled neighborhoods in southern California and New York City.

“You’re excluding a great deal of the population of Latino youth … who could be part of the solution,” Angulo said.’

Judy DeSpain said Nicolas was a victim of his parents’ lawlessness.

“Illegal immigrants cannot have the same rights as U.S. citizens,” DeSpain said. “To do so means our laws and citizenship are meaningless for all.”

Rule bars non-citizens from youth volunteer jobs

An Oregon immigrant rights organization and its supporters testified at Keizer City Hall on Monday in hopes of stopping a new rule that would bar non-U.S. citizens from serving as youth councilors.

Supporters of the new rule also testified, saying participating in the government process should be a benefit of citizenship.

On Aug. 20, the Keizer council approved an update in the volunteer program for youths, indicating that candidates for the position must be eligible to vote if they are 18 years old.

The rule would keep non-citizen immigrants, regardless of legal status, from participating.

The youth volunteers advise the council on issues that affect young people in the community.

A key issue for the immigrant rights advocates was the timing of the council’s action. It came shortly after Hugo Nicolas, 19, a former Keizer youth councilor and undocumented immigrant, went public with his status and applied for the Obama administration’s deferred action program.

Nicolas and Francisco Lopez, executive director of Causa, stopped short of accusing the City Council of acting on the rule in response to the attention surrounding Nicolas. Considering the timing of developments, they said, it’s hard to believe it was a coincidence.

“That’s the question that we have today,” Lopez said. “Why now?”

Councilors and Mayor Lore Christopher maintained that the rule was revised as part of a review of all of the council’s rules and procedures.

Councilor David McKane said the citizenship rule was added as an eligibility requirement to make it consistent with the rules the councilors and mayor must meet to be serve in local government. They must be citizens of the state, he said.

It was the subcommittee’s hope that the youth councilors could eventually serve as city councilors, he said.

Nicolas gave emotional testimony, his voice shaking. He thanked the council for allowing him the opportunity to serve as youth councilor two years ago.

But the new rule sends an unfortunate message to youths, he said.

“We share a city but not a community,” he said.

Nicolas went over the three-minute time limit, set by Christopher because of the lengthy speakers list.

But councilor Mark Caillier allowed him to continue, asking, “Hugo, what else do you want to say?”

When Nicolas finished, his supporters applauded. City officials responded, apologizing about the timing of the council’s action.

McKane told Nicolas that the rule had nothing to do with him.

“If there’s anything that I can do or we can do to help you, all you have to do is ask,” he said.

Nicolas recently garnered media attention when he traveled to Portland to apply for the deferred action program. If eligible, he could be shielded from deportation for two years. He could also apply for a work permit that would allow him to work legally in the U.S.

Nicolas was brought illegally to the U.S. from Veracruz, Mexico, when he was 11.

Less than a week after the Statesman Journal story about Nicolas’ journey was published, Keizer City Council made a decision that would prohibit youths such as Nicolas from volunteering.

Two days later, Nicolas received the Mayor’s Youth Achievement Award from the city of Salem. The award is presented to a youth or youth group involved in a volunteer project benefiting the city.

Lopez said he hoped the City Council would reconsider the rule, and involve more people in coming up with a solution.

 

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