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Dan Moffett

Immigration Issues Blog

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Colleges in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Indiana Among Worst For Unauthorized Immigrants

Saturday May 31, 2014

While the trend is that more states are allowing in-state tuition rates for unauthorized immigrants, several holdouts -- Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and Indiana -- have taken extraordinary measures to exclude foreign students with immigration status problems.

Predictably, Arizona ranks as the worst place for unauthorized immigrants to try to get a college education. The state's legislature has passed the nation's most restrictive immigration bill and that also has approved measures that restrict college access to immigrants.

Having Republican Tea Party-favorite Jan Brewer for governor doesn't help, either.

Georgia requires students to provide verification of "lawful presence" in the country before they can gain admission to colleges. Even Indiana requires that students sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that they have legal status in the country.

Still, the number of states that now allow in-state tuition rates for unauthorized immigrants has grown to 20, with Florida getting onboard in May.

President Obama Nominates Castro For Cabinet Post as HUD Secretary

Monday May 26, 2014

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has been a rising star in the Democratic Party since 2012 when he was chosen to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Last week, President Obama accelerated Castro's rise by nominating him to become the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From an immigrant family of Chicano activists, the Harvard-educated Castro, 39, has wide appeal among Hispanic and Latino voters who want comprehensive immigration reform and are expecting Democrats to deliver it. Beyond HUD, the party is grooming Castro for bigger things.

Just as the Republicans are pushing Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to draw Hispanic votes, the Democrats are countering with Julian Castro.

"Just because you are of modest means does not mean that your aspirations or your opportunity ought to be limited, and it certainly means you can have the talent to succeed and achieve the American Dream," Castro said after accepting the president's nomination.

Another Poll Shows Wide Support For Immigration Reform Bill

Monday May 19, 2014

A poll of likely voters released this week by POLITICO shows broad support for comprehensive immigration reform -- even among Republicans.

Researchers found that 64% of GOP respondents said they want comprehensive reform, compared with 78% of Democrats and 71% of independents, six months before the midterm elections.

The POLITICO poll is just the latest in a long line of national surveys that has found overwhelming support for comprehensive immigration reform, though Congress has been able to get nothing done on legislations since the Senate passed its sweeping bill last June.

Predictably, Hispanics and Latinos "strongly support" comprehensive reform, with 85% of those respondents in the POLITICO survey saying it was "important" and 53% saying it was "very important." Hispanics helped carry the Democrats and President Obama to an easy victory in 2012.

Overall, only 12% of those polled said they "strongly oppose" reform. Most of that opposition comes from Republican conservatives and Tea Party members.

The new poll was designed by SocialSphere and conducted by the research firm GFK in Spanish and English as an advance look at November's midterm elections.

Florida OKs In-State Tuition Rates For Unauthorized Immigrants

Monday May 12, 2014

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that will allow immigrant students living in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at the state's public colleges and universities.

The new law makes Florida the 20th state to enact such a measure. At least 15 state legislatures have passed in-state tuition bills in the last four years, a reversal of a trend during which the states were passing Arizona-style laws with restrictions aimed at unauthorized immigrants.

At least some of the motivation for the reversal is political. Hispanics and Latinos are a fast-growing part of the electorate, and in Florida, Gov. Scott, a Republican, faces an uphill battle for reelection against Democrat Charlie Crist, a former governor.

Immigrant advocates and Democrats have been unable, however, to get DREAM Act legislation moving in Congress, though President Obama has offered a "deferred action" alternative through executive order.

When Scott signed the bill, he said it was a "great day for all of our students that want to live the American dream."

Spouses of H-1B Immigrants To Get Chance at Employment in U.S.

Wednesday May 7, 2014

Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker have announced a new initiative that will allow spouses of H-1B visa holders being sponsored for green cards by their employers to work in the United States.

Mayorkas, who announced the new regulations with Pritzker, said the change could affect as many as 97,000 people in the first year and about 30,000 annually going forward. He said the purpose was to encourage highly skilled, specially trained immigrants to remain in the U.S. and contribute to the economy.

"These individuals are American families in waiting," Pritzker said. "Many tire of waiting for green cards and leave the country to work for our competition. The fact is we have to do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to do that."

Congress sets aside 85,000 new H-1B visas each year, about 20,000 of them reserved for highly skilled immigrants and those with advanced degrees. But the government hasn't allowed employment opportunities to their spouses.

Under the new plan, spouses would become eligible after the visa holder is on track for a green card through his or her employer. The Obama administration has said for months it intends to do what it can to attract more high-skilled foreign workers through executive action, since comprehensive immigration reform legislation remains bogged down in Congress.

Two Refugees, Keflezighi and Abreu, Win Big in Boston and Chicago

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Two refugee athletes, who came to the United States in search of a better life, turned in big performances in April.

Meb Keflezighi, who as a child escaped civil war in Eritrea, became the first American in three decades to win the Boston Marathon. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Keflezighi wore the names of the 2013 Boston bombing victims on his jersey.

JosÚ Abreu, the power-hitting first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, set a slugging record for rookies in April and won an American League Player of the Week Award.

Last year, Abreu fled from Cuba, defected to the United States and signed a multi-million-dollar contract with the Sox. Cuban refugees are afforded special treatment by U.S. immigration officials, a legacy of Cold War politics.

Hillary Clinton Promises To Push Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Monday April 21, 2014

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, says she is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the path to citizenship for theá nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants.

Speaking at the Clinton Foundation in New York last week, the former secretary of state said Republicans should lift their opposition to comprehensive reform and pass legislation this year.

"I'm a huge supporter of immigration reform and a path to citizenship and will continue to advocate for that," Clinton told an audience at the foundation's "No Ceilings" initiative.

When a young woman who identified herself as an undocumented immigrant asked Clinton what she'd do about immigration, the former New York senator made it clear that reforming the broken system would be one of her priorities.

Clinton told the young woman: "I believe strongly we are missing a great opportunity by not welcoming people like you and 11 million others who have made contributions to our country into a legal status so you don't have to worry, you can go to school, you can work, you can pursue your dreams."

Clinton is also a supporter of the Obama administration's "deferred action" initiative for young unauthorized immigrants who would benefit from congressional approval of Dream Act legislation.

Jeb Bush Defends His Comments About Unauthorized Immigrants

Monday April 14, 2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is feeling the heat from his comment earlier this month that unauthorized immigrants are not committing a felony but rather, an "act of love."

"I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place," Bush told Fox News on April 6. "The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn't come legally ... and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family."

Bush quickly became the target for criticism from the right wing of the Republican Party. Conservatives and Tea Party members charged him with condoning illegal immigration, undermining the rule of law and compromising the party's principles.

At a GOP dinner in Connecticut last week, Bush defended his remarks: "I made some statements about immigration reform (that) apparently generated a little more news than I anticipated," said Bush, adding "You know I've been saying the for the past three or four years. I said the exact same thing that I've said regularly."

However, in March 2013, Bush released a book on U.S. immigration in which he appeared to reverse his longstanding position that unauthorized immigrants should be allowed a pathway to citizenship. In Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, written with attorney Clint Bolick, Bush rejects the idea of U.S. citizenship for undocumented residents. So it's easy to see why many are confused about where Bush stands on immigration.

Bush now says that with the right approach to comprehensive immigration reform, the country could enforce its laws and still treat immigrants fairly and with sensitivity.

Republicans have been working overtime trying to agree on a plan for reform since Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, due largely to a huge advantage for President Obama among Hispanics and Latinos.

Immigrant Baseball Players Will Contribute Mightily to MLB

Monday April 7, 2014

The Major League Baseball season is underway and once again, with 223 foreign-born players on opening-day rosters, immigrants will have a lot to say about deciding who wins the World Series.

Foreign-born players make up 26.1% of MLB rosters, according to the commissioner's office, down from 28.2% last year and 28.4% in 2012.

Not only are the immigrants here in big numbers they are also bringing big talent, with stars such as Jose Fernandez, Luis Pujols, Yasiel Puig, Miguel Cabrera and Robbie Cano primed for huge seasons.

Immigrant players come from 16 countries, the most since MLB started tracking the numbers six years ago. The Dominican Republic continues to lead the way with 82 players, down from a high of 99 in 2007.

Venezuela follows with 59 players, followed by Cuba with 19, Puerto Rico (players who by birth are U.S. citizens) with 11 and Canada with 10. Japan and Mexico have nine each. Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes became the first Brazilian to make an opening-day roster.

The minor leagues are even more reliant on foreign-grown talent with immigrants making up 47.8% of the players.

Most foreign-born players come to the United States with visas reserved for talented athletes, and many of them have gone on to become permanent residents or even naturalized U.S. citizens.

Supreme Court's Inaction Is Victory For Immigrant Rights Advocates

Monday March 31, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on two much-anticipated cases involving local immigration enforcement in March, and the justices' inaction was good news for advocates for immigrant rights.

The high court decided against hearing the appeals of cases involving Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa. The two towns had sought to overturn appeals court rulings that found their immigration ordinances had overreached and infringed on federal immigration law. The justices let stand the appeals court rulings.

The court also stayed out of the debate over local authorities' power to arrest people on immigration violations by not hearing a Frederick County, Md., case involving a Salvadoran immigrant.

In that case, Roxana Orellana Santos said she was arrested in October 2008 after being questioned by county sheriff's deputies while she was eating her lunch in an outdoor area at the restaurant where she worked as a dishwasher. Santos sued the county after 45 days in jail, saying that the arrest violated her Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.

Immigrant advocates said it was a clear case of profiling by police who used "Arizona-style tactics."

Two years ago, the justices struck down several provisions of the controversial Arizona law that has become the model for local immigration lawmaking in places like Farmers Branch and Hazleton.

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