Immigration

The Border Effect

The fence along the U.S.–Mexico boundary has helped reduce the flow of illegal immigrants, but the human and environmental toll has been enormous.

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)
(AP Photo/John Miller) The tree-lined San Pedro River moves north near Palominas, Ariz., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007. The federal government contends the fence is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drug-runners through the area, but environmentalists say it will have a devastating impact on wildlife and the environment. F or the aid workers who found 14-year-old Josseline Jamileth Hernández Quinteros in the Arizona desert, it is hardest to forget the little things, the beaded bracelet around a tiny wrist, the bright green sneakers, the pink-lined jacket, and the sweatpants with the word “Hollywood” across the backside. She was a wisp of a girl, barely 5 feet and 100 pounds, no match for the rough terrain or subfreezing temperatures. No one can say for sure that Josseline died because of heightened security measures along the U.S. border with Mexico. Yet, to the volunteers who found her lying under a bush, her head resting on a rock in an unnamed creek bed, Josseline’s death...

Who’s Sovereign Now?

(AP Photo/Chris Greenberg, File)
Hard to say what’s more bizarre about Antonin Scalia’s furious dissent against the Supreme Court’s decision striking down most of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law: his railing at President Barack Obama’s executive order stopping the deportation of immigrants brought here as children (which wasn’t remotely the subject of the case at hand) or his basis for upholding Arizona’s law—that Arizona is a sovereign state with the rights generally claimed by nation-states. “Today’s opinion,” Scalia writes, “deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there.” This power, he continues, has been recognized as far back as 1758, when the Swiss philosopher Emer de Vattel, in his book The Law of Nations , wrote, “The sovereign may forbid the entrance of his territory either to foreigners in general, or for certain particular purposes.” Vattel was writing about nation-states, of...

Give Them Papers, Please!

The long-term solution to the federal-state standoff over immigration isn't litigation.

(Flickr/HalinaV)
In the legal battle over Arizona's "papers, please" law, SB 1070, the only part left standing after today's Supreme Court decision is the "papers, please" part. The Court found that Arizona does not have the authority to make unlawful presence in the country a separate state crime; to make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or seek work; or to arrest someone without a warrant if there is "probable cause" they've committed a deportable offense. (For more on the legal implications of the decision, see Garrett Epps's analysis .) But the Court upheld SB 1070's most contentious provision, Section 2(b), which allows police officers to try to determine the immigration status of someone they have "reasonable suspicion" is in the country illegally. The justices, however, said they were open to reviewing civil-rights concerns with the provision once it had been implemented. Because the law was written in a way that forbids racial profiling—at least in theory—the Court gave it the...

What the SCOTUS Ruling on SB 1070 Means for Other States

(Flickr/ Fibonacci Blue)
Two years ago, when the Arizona Legislature passed the controversial SB 1070, immigration rights activists feared it was only the beginning. The anti-immigrant measure put new and significant burdens on non-citizens while seemingly encouraging law enforcement officials to rely on racial profiling. Many worried similar laws would start cropping up around the country, perhaps even more extreme versions. It wasn't a pretty picture. Since today the Supreme Court struck down three of the four central pillars to SB 1070 , it's an occasion to note that this scary vision of the future has not come to pass. Since SB 1070 became law in Arizona, copy-cat laws have only appeared in five other states. In all of them—Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah—at least some provision of the law has been blocked by the courts. Consider also that, according to the National Council of La Raza, in 31 other states, efforts to pass such a law have gone nowhere —lawmakers have either voted the...

Supreme Court Strikes Most of Arizona Immigration Law, Making Scalia Very Angry

The oral arguments earlier this year on the SB-1070, the infamous Arizona immigration law, made it difficult to read how the Court was going to rule on most of its provisions, although the Court seemed on balance more sympathetic to Arizona's position. Given how things looked after that, today's decision in Arizona v. United States must be considered a pleasant surprise. Most of the key provisions of the Arizona law were struck down, and the provision that was not could still be subject to future challenges depending on how it is applied. Rather than the usual 5-4 split, the case was decided 5-3 (with Justice Kagan recusing herself); surprisingly, Chief Justice Roberts joined Justice Kennedy and the Court's four Democratic appointees but did not write. Roberts apparently wanted there to be a five-person majority rather than having most of the Arizona law upheld because of a tie that left the lower court decision undisturbed. The majority, through Kennedy, decided the case based on a...

Mitt Romney Pretends Congress Doesn't Exist

Trust me, this'll be easy. (Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Mitt Romney went before a group of Latino public officials today to offer some remarks on immigration. Calling it a "plan" would be too generous, although there were a couple of details, some of them perfectly reasonable, like giving green cards to people who get an advanced degree at an American university. But the part everyone has been waiting for—his reaction to President Obama's recently-announced mini-DREAM Act—was pretty disappointing, because it engaged in a kind of magical thinking that has become increasingly untenable: Some people have asked if I will let stand the President's executive action. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President's temporary measure. As President, I won't settle for a stop-gap measure. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a long-term solution. I will prioritize measures that strengthen legal immigration and make it easier. And I will address the problem of illegal...

Lethal Injection and the New Immigration Policy

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In March 197 7, two Tulsa horsewomen went to a church parking lot to meet an man who claimed to have Morgan horses to sell. Not long afterwards, their bodies were found near Sallisaw, Oklahoma, buried on land leased to Larry Leon Chaney. Chaney was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Chaney’s case forms the legal backdrop to the announcement last week that the Department of Homeland Security would begin to “defer action” against undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who have lived most of their lives in the United States and have served in the military or gotten an education. The decision has been widely reported as an “executive order” suspending parts of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Representative Steve King (R-IA) vowed to file suit against Obama for “planning to usurp the Constitutional authority of the United States Congress and grant amnesty by edict to 1 million illegal aliens." In fact, the policy change is not an executive order—it was a memorandum...

What's Wrong With Politics-Driven Policy?

Flickr/Antonio Villaraigosa
Today's big news is that the Obama administration, through executive action, is enacting a kind of mini-DREAM Act to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children. We'll get to the details in a moment, but one thing we know for sure is that Republicans are going to be very, very mad, or at least they'll sound very, very mad. They'll make three separate arguments: First, they'll have a substantive argument about why it's a bad idea to allow any undocumented immigrant to work here legally. Second, they'll have a process argument about why it's an appalling power-grab for Obama to do this without congressional approval. Of course, they're quite happy with all sorts of executive orders and similar actions when a Republican is in the White House, but that hypocrisy doesn't necessarily make them wrong on that point. Finally, they'll say this is blatant "election-year politics" meant only to secure Latino votes in the fall election. Which it may well be, at least in...

Arizona Asks the Court Not to Trust the Feds

(Krista Kennell/Sipa Press)
This term’s last oral argument ends next week with yet another blockbuster case— Arizona v. United States , the challenge to Arizona’s harshly anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 . This case poses vitally important questions about individual rights, racial profiling, and the future of individual equality in the United States. But don’t expect to hear them argued openly next week. Instead, arguments will be couched almost entirely in the language of “federal preemption,” a subject so abstruse and technical that it induces coma in even the hardiest law-review editors. But lurking underneath the talk of “conflict preemption” and cigarette-labeling statutes are issues of human equality and the emerging constitutional question of our time: When, if ever, are Congress and the executive branch owed deference by the states and by their special protector, the Roberts Court? The issue is whether four sections of S.B. 1070 usurp the federal government’s role in regulating immigration matters—a power the...

Not Sweet Home Alabama

Civil rights leaders help undocumented immigrants fight against HB 56 in the state.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Recently, Scott Douglas III, a civil-rights activist in Alabama and executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries, appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss his involvement as a plaintiff in an American civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the state of Alabama. The case challenges the state's infamous HB 56 law, which imposes a litany of sanctions on undocumented immigrants. The law: mandates that law enforcement officials obtain proof of citizenship from people they suspect of being in the country illegally; prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving any public benefits; bars undocumented immigrants from attending public colleges or universities; requires public school officials to ascertain student citizenship status and turn in a tally of the number of their students they think are undocumented; prohibits renting property to illegal immigrants; prohibits transporting or harboring illegal immigrants; When it comes to employment, the law requires large and small...

White Nationalists Agree: Multiculturalism Is Bad

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Right-wing members of Congress have never shied away from associating with fringe agitators, but appearing with a white nationalist is beyond the pale. On Thursday afternoon, Iowa Representative Steve King jovially appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigrant author that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has termed a white nationalist. Brimelow wrote Alien Nation and founded the online community VDARE, which SPLC describes as "a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants." King had no qualms about associating himself with Brimelow when I caught up with the congressman after the panel. "Consider the source, I'm not in a position to judge people in the fashion that they seem to be so free to do," King said of the SPLC. King was not on the public schedule for the panel held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and showed up as a surprise guest an hour after the panel started. Hosted...

Outsiders Everywhere

"Why do you stay in the U.S., then?" I asked the German-born historian whose last professional job in Germany ended two years ago. Since then, she has been doing piecemeal work and relying on a much thinner social safety net in the U.S. than she would have in her country of origin. There, she'd have her family, health care, lower housing costs, and other social and economic guarantees. She had just told me how much Germany had come to life since her youth: instead of "don't walk on the grass" signs, there's a lively public culture; instead of beige houses, there's an explosion of color; instead of the grim and clenched authoritarian culture for which Germany was once famous, there's playfulness. So why stay in the U.S.? I wasn't challenging her; I was genuinely curious. It takes a certain kind of person to leave your culture behind and be unfamiliar with everything forever after. No matter how long she's been here, she can never be part of certain shared cultural conversations, which...

Honk If You Support Immigrants

As 2011 draws to a close, the immigration situation in the U.S. remains a mess. Arizona's infamous SB 1070, which required law-enforcement officials to check immigration status during routine encounters if there was "reasonable suspicion" someone was in the country illegally, sparked a nationwide outcry when it was passed in 2010. But in the past year, lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, and South Carolina have followed suit, passing a host of copycat bills. In Alabama, schools are even required to check the immigration status of students, which has resulted in hundreds of Hispanic children being kept home from school. But there is a quiet backlash taking shape. Across the country, a number of grassroots organizations have recently kicked off awareness campaigns that welcome immigrants. Uniting NC, a grass-roots group in North Carolina, has raised funds online for billboards all over the state featuring images of smiling immigrants and the headline, “Community, we’ll get...

The Arpaio Effect

Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report saying that under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s leadership, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has violated the Fourth Amendment and Title VI through a consistent “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing.” “MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos,” the report found. One expert quoted in the report said it was “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature.” No one familiar with Sheriff Arpaio will be surprised at the findings of the DOJ investigation—the self-described publicity hound’s exploits, which include making prisoners wear pink underwear and housing prisoners in tent cities, are well documented. But the fact that the DOJ called the sheriff out in a tangible way is a switch in direction for the...

Showdown at the Docks

Occupy Wall Street protesters celebrated the movement's three-month anniversary by taking the fight to major ports.

Protesters at the Port of Oakland Monday. Photo/Aaron Bady
On Monday, occupiers set out to shut down ports across the West Coast. Targets included SSA, which is largely owned by Goldman Sachs, and the Port of Longview, which multinational EGT is trying to operate as the West Coast’s only port without members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The actions, which shut down operations at Longview, Oakland, and Portland, were opposed by ILWU leadership. They led to intense debate among and between occupiers and unionists over tactics—who the blockades hurt, whether they’re worth the legal risks—and democracy, namely, how democratic the ILWU and the Occupy movement each are, and whether workers should have a veto over actions where they work. This week saw the continuation of two hunger strikes, one by occupiers in New York demanding an occupation space, and another by occupiers in DC demanding full congressional representation for the district. Activists continued taking foreclosed homes, including a “Home for the Holidays...

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