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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "immigration"

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A Step Forward for Guestworkers in the United States

February 23, 2012 ·

The Department of Labor recently said that it would take new steps to improve protections for at least one category of vulnerable workers, workers in the temporary work permit (H-2B) program. It has announced new rules for the H-2B program that are a significant step for the protection of U.S. workers and guestworkers who work alongside each other in many industries.

Break the Chain Campaign has worked with exploited household workers since 1997, providing direct social and legal services to survivors of human trafficking and severe exploitation in the DC metro area. Many of these workers arrived on temporary work visas in the B-1, A3, and G5 programs. We have witnessed severe exploitation and even human trafficking that we believe could have been prevented or ameliorated with stronger protections and oversight of the temporary visa programs. In our research and work with other advocacy groups, we have learned that the number of cases of trafficking and severe exploitation of men and women on guestworker visas is growing, and we are energized by this news.

Workers in the the H-2B program do important and vital work for our country, for example helping to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, yet they are often invisible and left unprotected against retaliation and abuse. We are energized by the news from the Department of Labor earlier this month that they are taking steps to improve protections for at least one category of vulnerable workers.

Daniel Castellanos, a founding member of the National Guestworker Alliance, whose Congressional testimony was cited by the Department of Labor in support of the new rules, describes the victory this way:

“For too long, guestworkers have been lured to the U.S. with false promises of an American Dream, and instead faced deep debt and exploitation. Because these rules contain real worker protections and expand our right to organize, we can win fair wages and working conditions for all workers.”

Key components of the new rules include:

  • The new rules eliminate debt servitude among guestworkers by prohibiting employers and recruiters from charging recruitment fees. Currently, guestworkers enter the United States with exorbitant debt from recruitment fees and travel costs. This allows employers to use threats of firing to repress workplace complaints, knowing that workers would face deportation into crushing debt they cannot repay back home.
  • The new rules prohibit employers and recruiters from retaliating against workers who file a complaint, exercise their rights, or help other workers to do so. This ensures that when employers or recruiters do violate the program rules, U.S. workers and guestworkers have the same rights to speak up and organize to protect themselves.
  • The new rules require employers to provide at least 75% of the hours promised to guestworkers in their contracts. This ensures employers do not over-recruit guestworkers to build a captive, desperate work force that employers can use to undercut U.S. workers.
  • The new rules bar temporary staffing agencies and job contractors except in narrow circumstances. Temporary staffing agencies and the employers they provide workers to must both have a temporary or seasonal need. They must both agree to be jointly responsible and follow H-2B program rules. This helps to ensure employers do not use the guestworker program to turn permanent jobs into temporary work.

Break the Chain Campaign applauds this important step by Labor Secretary Solis and the Department of Labor to protect worker rights. We are excited to continue a partnership with the National Guestworker Alliance to help spread awareness of these new protections and to ensure that they are implemented across the United States in a way that protects U.S. workers and wages by stopping employers from exploiting guestworkers to undercut the local labor force. We believe that preventative worker protections like these new rules will prevent some of the most severe forms of exploitation that we have seen over the years in the anti-trafficking field.

Why Washington Should Be Like Chicago and Stand Up to ICE

January 9, 2012 ·

A difficult case in Chicago highlights the choices local governments have to make when forced to deal with complex immigration enforcement measures by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Cook County in Illinois made headlines last year when it became the only jurisdiction to disregard immigration detainers from ICE. Now it faces public scrutiny after Saul Chavez, a suspected drunken driver charged with murder, is AWOL.

Local police units are under Janet Napolitano's jurisdiction. Photo by Center for American Progress.Saul Chavez is accused of killing a pedestrian on a northwest side of Chicago street last year. Days after, he went in front of a judge who set bond at $250,000. He paid ten percent of that, and walked free. Soon after, he was gone and has not gone to court since.

In his absence, the family of the victim is blaming Cook county’s breakup with ICE as the reason for their anger, as the Chicago Tribune reported:

"My anger is more directed at the fumbling and bumbling of Cook County agencies," said McCann's younger brother, Brian. "I'm more angry at the system than the offender. I know that sounds crazy."

Anger at the system is what took pro-immigrant organizers to seek the change in policy. Before Cook County’s actions, ICE detainers trapped Chicago residents who clearly did not deserve to sit around in jail waiting for an immigration hearing.The Chavez case is horrific - witnesses say he dragged his victim for more than 200 feet - but his immigration status is less dangerous to the common good than his drunk attempt to operate a motor vehicle.

Another case shows why Cook County should not automatically detain every undocumented person they come in contact with. On July 12, 2011, Marcelo Castañeda’s family member contacted the police in Illinois to assist her in getting into her locked car. He was then placed in deportation proceedings and held by Cook County for a week. Highlighting that he lived in the U.S. for most of his life, Castañeda’s supporters were able to win his release.

The reason why Saul Chavez has more to do with how courts handle bails, than how police units should handle immigration law. In this context, President Obama has tried to spook American citizens (“We are going after the worst of the worst!”) in justifying his support for increased deportations through programs that encourage local involvement in immigration enforcement, such as Secure Communities.

With the District of Columbia’s city council considering a detainer policy change similar to Cook County’s, the issue might soon be hot news in this area. Like Chicago, the city of Washington could benefit from a more productice immigrant population if it stands behind them in their aspirations for a legal ID, an education, and a trusting relationship with the Metropolitan Police Department. Last week, supporters of changing the detainer policy packed the room at a judiciary committee hearing.

ICE Records Don't Match Deportation Claims

January 4, 2012 ·

In the rush to try to deport 400,000 people per year, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) might have forgotten to file some paperwork.

ICE's impact is felt in communities across the country, but not seen in their official paperwork. Photo by ICE.The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has just published a report analyzing case-by-case records provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The data, provided to TRAC almost two years after it was requested, shows a 34 percent discrepancy between the number of people ICE claimed to have removed and those shown to have been removed by the paperwork.  Overall, TRAC says ICE statements claimed almost five times more individual apprehensions than revealed in the data, as well as 24 times more individuals deported and 34 times more detentions. From TRAC:

In its initial FOIA request in May 2010, TRAC asked for specific information about all individuals who had been arrested, detained, charged, returned or removed from the country for the period beginning October 1, 2004 to date. In its initial and incomplete response, however, ICE so far has only provided TRAC with information through FY 2005. The agency said it would provide detailed information about the more recent years later.

Looking at the small data sample provided by ICE, TRAC’s analysts say that ICE either made exaggerated claims about the number of people who were deported during that time, or they are withholding information on a massive scale. I feel there could be another explanation: armed with the power to conduct massive raids, Bush-era ICE agents thought they could skip some of the paperwork altogether. With ICE unilaterally imposing a $450,000 “FOIA processing fee,” the public might never find what happened in the last few years at ICE. Making matters worse, restrictionists might use these findings to claim there really have not been as many deportations as the Obama administration has claimed. Put another nail on the “looking tough on immigration” Obama strategy.

As someone who has been deported on paper, but not in real life, I should feel lucky that ICE sometimes exercises discretion. But seeing this dysfunctional agency hold the power to do so much damage to the people of this country tells me this is bad fortune for everyone involved. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a creation of the post-9/11 era, and the enlargement through executive powers of the national security state.

A Wish for the Holidays: Children's Voices Ringing through the Halls of Congress

December 13, 2011 ·

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 I was part of a delegation that delivered over 5,000 letters to members of Congress that had been written by children from all across the nation.

The event was organized by the We Belong Together Campaign and was held in celebration of International Human Rights Day. Children of all ages and backgrounds were talking about their wish to be together with their parents and families (during the holidays and beyond), without fear of separation or deportation. 

Some of the kids were U.S. born citizens of immigrant parents, some of them were undocumented themselves, and some of them wrote letters because they were worried about the families of their friends.

Jaydon, a ten year old boy from California wrote

One day I got home and watched TV. Then my dad walked in and said "There are some people here". So mom got up from scrubing the floor and some weird people walked in and went in the basement. With my dad and my mom walked up stairs and started crying. Then she said, "they're taking your dad away." And before I knew it they were gone. My dad even forgot to say "good-bye. After my dad was taken away for a while, I thought we weren't a family anymore. I was so sad and mad I couldn't think clearly.

As I was carting one of the boxes over to the Hart building for the press conference, I took a peak at some of the other letters.  Their words and their pictures impacted me. It struck me that all they could do was hope that members of Congress and the Obama administration would listen to their stories and do something to make their young lives a little less precarious, lonely, and uncertain. What sort of reaction did we get from the staffers who received our letters?

A group of congressional staffers seem perplexed at the unusual delivery. Photo by Celia Perez Garcia.My role that day was to visually document the events that unfolded so I was keenly aware of their faces and their attitudes. I was traveling with a group of four Spanish speaking women from Tenants and Workers United. Some of the “anti-immigrant” congressional offices looked at us as if were aliens from another world- blank stares of indifference. One of the “pro-immigrant” congressional staffers did stop and engage in conversation with us. It was great.

Sadly, many of the individuals who wanted to come out and participate in the day’s events were kept at bay because they were afraid of random document checks. Maybe these letters will do something to persuade politicians to pursue more humane legislation (such as the HELP Act) that allows immigrant families to speak, act, and live without this fear. Given the recent news that the Supreme Court has decided to review  Arizona’s less than immigrant friendly immigration law, perhaps we are moving in the right direction.

Celia Garcia Perez is a 2011 fall intern with the Break The Chain Campaign.

Electrified Fences And Herman Cain's Sense Of 'Humor'

November 10, 2011 ·

I don't know about you but i have about had it with Herman Cain. I never agreed with his politics but the more that i see him perform in front of white audiences the more it feels like a political minstrel show. His sense of so-called humor, including his bizarre ad that ends with cigarette smoke being blown into the camera, has reached the level of insulting.

Herman Cain has a warped sense of humor. Cartoon by DonkeyHotey.

The particular ''joke'' that sticks in my craw, however, is his comment concerning the putting up of an electrified fence across our southern border in order to stop immigrants from crossing illegally into the USA. When pushed about this comment--that not a few people took quite seriously--he claimed that it was a joke. A joke? It starts to remind me of action on the streets where someone talks about someone else's mother but keeps a smile on their face. A joke, Mr. Cain? 

What is so funny about people attempting to escape desperate and oppressive situations? Nearly a century ago, many of the ancestors of today's African American population took dramatic and dangerous steps to escape the vicious oppression and lawlessness we faced in the Jim Crow South. Hundreds of thousands began the trek north, facing death and torture along the way. The ruling elite in the South wanted African Americans to remain in the South serving a subordinate role. As World War I hit, industry in the North desperately needed labor, much the way that various industries in today's USA have looked for cheap labor. They encouraged African Americans to migrate to fill these roles in cities like East St. Louis, Illinois; Chicago; Detroit; Youngstown; and Pittsburgh. As these masses of migrants moved into these cities they were met with the most intense push back coming from white workers who saw the African American migrants as people who had arrived to steal their jobs and undermine their living standards. Rather than focusing on the way that big business was playing off white workers against blacks, these whites did everything they could to chase our ancestors out. The bloody Red Summer of 1919 with the race riots that mirrored a mini-civil war was one example.

I keep wondering whether Mr. Cain thinks that, perhaps, an electrified fence should have been put around the South to keep migrants penned in like animals? I keep wondering whether Mr. Cain is ignorant enough to not understand that the migration from Latin America and the Caribbean is directly related to the domineering policies of the USA towards these countries and the resulting underdevelopment? 

A joke, Mr. Cain? Perhaps he would do better reading a little history. Sometimes, as my father would say, it is better to remain silent and to be thought a fool than open your mouth and prove it.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

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