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Sunday, March 1, 2015

The 114th US Congress and the Politics of Immigration

House Passes One-Week Funding Extension for Homeland Security

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Congress and State of the Union -- Immigration on the agenda

Despite President Obama's executive action in November, immigration did not have a prominent place in the State of the Union address. However, immigration will clearly be on the agenda as the new Republican Congress tries to stop the Executive action via funding for the Department of Homeland Security. 

Illegal Immigration 2015 Poll: Obama Approval Rises After Executive Actions, Cuba Policy

But battles appear to be breaking out between GOP lawmakers:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama's Executive Order on Immigration - the details and more analysis

President Obama's Thursday evening speech was short on details of the executive action being taken to defer deportation for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Below are some summaries and links to the pertinent details:

A summary from the Law Firm of Karen Crawford:

November 21, 2014

a.       Age cap lifted – if you fulfill all other requirements, it does not matter how old you are now [this will impact journalist and activist Jose Antonio Vargas]
a.       He changed the date of entry– if you entered before your 16th birthday before January 1, 2010, you are now eligible (it was 6/15/07) 
b.      They will give permits for three years instead of two
c.       Rules will be released within 90 days
a.       Three year work permits for parents of US citizens and permanent residents
b.      You must have arrived before January 1, 2010
c.       The child must have been born by 11/20/14, but the age of the child doesn’t matter
d.      You must have been present in the US without lawful status on 11/20/14
e.       We do not know yet what documents are required nor the criminal eligibility, but the Immigration fee will be $465
f.        Rules will be released within 180 days
g.       In the meantime, gather evidence of identity (Passport or national ID), birth certificates of children and their resident cards if applicable, and evidence of your residence since 2010
a.       You can request your waiver before you depart the US
b.      Extended to anyone with a currently available visa – specifically spouses of residents and sons/daughters of citizens and residents

c.       It may be easier to prove extreme hardship

U.S. Department of Homeland Security sealThe Department of Homeland Security has a website with a summary of the executive action and series of memos detailing policy changes and implementation 

Fixing Our Broken Immigration System Through Executive Action - Key Facts

Taking Action on Immigration

More Analysis:

Is Obama's immigration action legal? A Q&A.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama takes executive action for undocumented parents of citizen children

Despite threats from GOP leaders, President Obama took a major step today to provide relief from deportation for approximately 4 million undocumented immigrants. After nearly two years of inaction by Congress, the President had been pressured by immigrant activists to take the action he had promised during his re-election campaign. He had originally planned to take action before the midterm election but was convinced by congressional democrats to wait. Some had urged him to wait until the new Congress was in place, to see if they would take action - the consequences of this executive action, including implementation, the response from conservatives and other issues remain to be seen:

Here’s Obama’s Immigration Speech In Full

Barack Obama

For those with a short attention span:

A quick recap from the WSJ:

The broad outlines of Obama’s actions tonight:
  • Would shift more resources to border enforcement
  • Would fix the immigration court system
  • Would grant more visas to victims of crimes or human trafficking
  • Would emphasize deporting criminals and persons suspected of involvement in terrorism or gang activity.
  • Would allow about 4 million immigrants to take a background check and apply for limited permission to stay in the country.
  • Would expand a deferred action program to cover more of the Dreamers — children of illegal immigrants brought to this country as children.

It's important to note that Obama's action does not extend to the parents of Dreamers (undocumented immigrants currently getting relief from deportation via Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA)

Analysis from the New York Times:

Analysis from the Los Angeles Times:

Silicon Valley lukewarm to Obama's immigration reform moves

Hot off the presses from the White House:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Time for a Latino Political Party?


Time for a Latino Political Party?

Frustrated Hispanic-American voters might strike out on their own. Then what?

In the late 1800s, disgruntled farmers in the Midwest and South decided they could no longer support the Democratic or Republican Parties. Neither of the major parties was responsive to their concerns amid crop failures and falling prices during a recession, so the farmers decided to throw their weight behind an upstart, the Populist or People’s Party. White and black farmers joined together, even in the South, to support candidates who called for the federal government to provide credit and financial support during a time of low crop yields and economic downturn. They succeeded in electing governors, congressmen and hundreds of minor officials and legislators, primarily throughout the Midwest. The party was geographically concentrated, which allowed them to focus their efforts to elect congressional candidates.

The Populists lasted only a few years as an independent entity, but their success clearly got the attention of the mainstream parties. Most important, it had a lasting impact on policy, even beyond the issues pushed by the farmers. Many of the Populists’ demands became law by the 1920s—including the direct election of U. S. senators, the development of a progressive federal income tax and the availability of short-term credit in rural areas.

Latinos in the United States are now confronting a dilemma similar to the one faced by the farmers. A recent Gallup poll indicates that the number of Latinos ranking immigration as a top issue doubled since the first half of this year. Yet Latinos have been forced to endure bitter disappointment from a Democratic president who has broken many immigration promises, in no small measure because the Republican-led House of Representatives refuses to act on immigration reform in Congress. The president’s decision to defer deportation of newly arrived children—a decision announced just five months before the 2012 presidential election—increased enthusiasm for Obama among Latinos; 71 percent of the record 11.2 million Latinos who turned out to vote cast their ballot for Obama.

Many of them are now deeply disappointed. The president—who had campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to reform the immigration system—again promised to make the issue an early and top priority during his second term. Congress stymied those efforts, so Obama pledged to take executive action—only to delay it until after the midterms. No wonder a new Pew Research Center poll shows that a majority of Latino voters think the Democratic Party is doing a poor job on immigration, and a different recent survey indicates substantially dampened enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats among Latino voters because of inaction on immigration reform. Even as the president tried to smooth over differences this week at an appearance before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus annual gala, some frustrated Latino activists are contemplating deliberately sitting out the midterm election to make Democrats pay a price at the polls.

Many of them are now deeply disappointed. The president—who had campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to reform the immigration system—again promised to make the issue an early and top priority during his second term. Congress stymied those efforts, so Obama pledged to take executive action—only to delay it until after the midterms. Now wonder a new Pew Research Center poll shows that a majority of Latino voters think the Democratic Party is doing a poor job on immigration, and a different recent survey indicates substantially dampened enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats among Latino voters because of inaction on immigration reform. Because of their profound disappointment with the Democrats’ inaction, some frustrated Latino activists are even contemplating deliberately sitting out the midterm election to make Democrats pay a price at the polls.

But are these the only alternatives—stay home and sulk, or accept the better of two bad options? Could it be time for Latinos to follow the path forged by the disgruntled farmers? Or follow the model in Europe, where third parties are fairly common?

In Europe, minorities and special interests often form their own parties when they feel their issues are not being championed by larger parties. This is most easily done in countries with proportional representation, which allows more than one representative for each district and—unlike winner-take-all systems like most of the United States—allocate seats based on the percentage of votes garnered by each contender. In such a system, minor parties are often able to gain enough support to win seats in legislatures. Examples include Basque nationalists in Spain, as well as Green and far-right parties across Europe. In places like Britain that have majoritarian systems with single-member districts, geographically concentrated parties like the Scottish National Party are able to win seats in Parliament. Even here in the United States, the occasional small party or independent can win a seat, including in the U.S. Senate. (One example: Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats.)

As relative newcomers, immigrants often don’t have the money or other resources needed to start a new party. Far-right party leaders, on the other hand, tend to come from existing parties and have a built-in support network.

Indeed, in Europe’s multi-party system, it has been anti-immigrant far right parties that have taken hold. We have an analogue in the Tea Party in the United States. Yet the Tea Party is not truly a separate party—at least for now, it is a faction within the Republican Party that has managed to set the agenda on issues like immigration.

By and large, majoritarian electoral rules like ours produce two-party systems. There is no hope in the foreseeable future that those rules will change and that means that small parties, like the Populist Party, inevitably disappear or, like the Libertarian and Green Parties, remain on the fringes of a system dominated by the two major parties.

Still, there are some reasons—42 million of them, to start with—to think that a Latino party could be different. Various ethnic groups have historically wielded a great deal of influence within political parties, particularly at the local and state levels. The German-American Alliance, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (“the oldest and largest Irish Catholic organization in the United States”) and the Immigrant’s Protection League all mobilized against the restriction of immigration in the early 20th century. Latinos also have an important advantage which supports the idea of starting a separate party: They still tend to be geographically concentrated in such states as California, Florida and Texas which allows them to focus their efforts, like the Populist party did in the 1890s.

Another relevant historical example is the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Fifty years ago Fannie Lou Hamer appealed to the conscience of the Democratic Party, asking for the Democratic National Committee’s credential committee to recognize their delegation in place of the all-white Democratic delegation from the state. The leadership came to a compromise and agreed to seat two members of the delegation, but the white delegation walked off and wouldn’t accept the compromise. Nevertheless, the example set by the MFDP would have a clear impact on the Democratic Party in the South going forward. Despite the prospect of losing white support in the South, the Democratic Party supported civil rights legislation and gained the support of a majority of black voters.

An ethnic party did arise in the United States in the late 1960s as the Chicano Movement organized and called for a third party to focus on self-determination for Mexican-Americans. The main focus of organizers was in Texas, where La Raza Unida party won seats on city councils, school boards, and even ran a candidate for governor in 1972 and 1978. However, the party’s support declined as party activism slowed in the late 1970s.

Hispanic Americans are in a better political position today than either the MFDP was five decades ago or even La Raza Unida was in the ‘70s. In terms of representation, there is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the 113th Congress has a record number of Latino elected officials, with 35 representatives and three senators. Most of these representatives are Democrats, and the immigration issue has been a high priority, as evidenced by the scathing criticism recently lobbed at the president by Representatives Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) and Luis Gutierrez (Ill.). Organizations like the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and a variety of pro-immigration organizations have lobbied for immigration reform and deportation relief. How long will it be before such groups grow exasperated with the Democrats’ failure to move these issues forward?
A Latino party might even help solve the biggest obstacle to greater political clout—boosting turnout. At the time of the last midterm election, data from the Pew Research Center shows, Latinos chalked up a sharp increase in the number of eligible voters, while the number of actual voters is increasing more slowly. Also, as Pew notes, “even among eligible voters, Latino participation rates have lagged behind that of other groups in recent elections.” For example, 31.2 percent of Latino eligible voters said they voted in 2010, compared with nearly half of white eligible voters and 44 percent of black eligible voters. An independent Latino Party or a cohesive Latino bloc within an existing party that focused on the issues most important to Latinos could spur increased participation—and thus more political clout.

The smartest approach in the short run might be for Latinos to work within the existing party system, even as they continue to organize and swell their ranks within the electorate. In the long-term—especially if Democrats and Republicans continue to disappoint—they will need to assess their potential for working together as a voting bloc and whether this could lead to support for a party. Is this a long shot? Yes, but it’s better than sitting on the sidelines or waiting for others to act. How long will it be before Hispanic-Americans’ patience runs out?

Terri E. Givens is associate professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Legislating Equality: The Politics of Antidiscrimination Policy in Europe, with Rhonda Evans Case. Her website can be found at and she is on twitter @TerriGivens.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Muslim integration in Europe

The Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog is hosting series of blogs this week on Muslim integration in Europe, starting with a post by Terri Givens and Pete Mohanty of the University of Texas at Austin:

A left-right divide in European attitudes toward immigrants

Friday, September 19, 2014

Obama's delay continues to impact party politics, election in Sweden raises concerns on immigration

Fallout over President Obama's decision to delay taking executive action on immigration continues...

The response from the Hispanic Caucus tries to address the concerns of activists who are unhappy with the Democratic party:
Protesters gather at Democratic Party headquarters, call for immigration reform

Meanwhile the number of Central American's crossing the border has dropped dramatically:

In Europe, the success of Sweden's anti-immigrant party has raised concerns about the immigration issue: