Welcome to our immigration information clearinghouse, where you will find for the latest headlines, speeches and unique perspectives – from both sides of the aisle – surrounding illegal immigration in the United States. Where do the presidential candidates stand on immigration? What is the Department of Homeland Security doing to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants crossing U.S. borders? Cruise our site for the latest views – from Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue – focused on what is arguably the most debated topic in recent American history.
The heated illegal immigration debate has echoed through the halls of the U.S. Congress and into America’s Main Streets with singular fervor of late. Inevitably, the wrangling has focused on the economy, with critics arguing illegal immigrants steal jobs from U.S. citizens, while immigration proponents counter that undocumented perform jobs that most Americans are unwilling to do. American businesses, it must be noted – particularly those in agriculture, construction and manufacturing – have benefited most from the illegal immigration’s byproduct: cheap labor. But fearful of government reprisal and public outcry, businesses have kept from speaking out about immigration policy. Which makes one company’s recent advertising campaign all the more startling.
Immigrant Threat? Crime Rates Say ‘No’
U.S. immigrants are far less likely than native-born residents to commit crime, registering significantly lower rates of incarceration and institutionalization, according to a report released by the Public Policy Institute of California.
The findings challenge the longstanding fear that undocumented immigrants, because they tend to be poor and poorly educated, rise crime rates.
“The findings are striking because immigrants in California are more likely than the U.S.-born to be young and male and to have low levels of education – all characteristics associated with higher rates of crime and incarceration,” the report said.
While immigrants represent 35 percent of California’s population, the reports notes, they make up 17 percent of the state prison population.
Blame it on the sputtering economy. Or the lacking health care system.
Whatever the reason, illegal immigration has virtually vanished from presidential campaign parlance, replaced by hot-button topics like the Iraq War and the sinking economy.
While opposition to illegal immigration remains fierce in communities across the U.S., no doubt, the three remaining presidential candidates are shying away from the divisive issue, especially as the prospect of passing major immigration legislation in Washington wanes.
“It’s just too mush of a controversial issue,” Marisa Abrajano, an assistant political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, told the Houston Chronicle. “Certainly, I think there are many legislators who want to talk about immigration and get things done, but it’s something the candidates wouldn’t want to debate right now.
Hispanic immigrant workers are becoming an increasing target for Arkansas local police, who are authorized to perform immigration raids and other functions once left for federal immigration agents, the Associated Press reports.
Recent raids in northwestern Arkansas have rounded up scores of undocumented immigrants, but legal residents have been temporarily detained too.
“It feels like it is dangerous to be Hispanic,” activist Jim Miranda told AP.
Under program 287 (g) of the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement, federal immigration agents have been training local police authorities nationwide to identify and detain undocumented immigrants.
Since the program began in 2002, over 700 officers in dozens of local jurisdictions have been trained in California, Alabama, Massachusetts Oklahoma, Florida and other states.
The United States is witnessing staggering levels of racist hate, as 2007 saw a spike in the number of hate groups nationwide, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment, the number of hate groups spiked to 888 last year, up from 844 in 2006, capping a 48 percent increase since 2000. Additionally, about 300 anti-immigration groups have mushroomed in the last three years, the report notes.
“America is being destroyed from within by a modern version of Genghis Khan’s army,” the Emigration Party of Nevada told Southern Poverty Law Center. Don Pauly, the group’s leader, wants to send sniper teams to the border and sterilize Mexican women after a first child, the center reports.
The United Nations question the treatment of immigrants in the United States and urged U.S. officials to bolster efforts to combat discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities.
The critique by 18 independent members of the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called on the U.S. government to take several steps to fulfill its obligations under an international treaty it ratified in 1994.
The committee recommended the U.S. government take the following steps:
•Approve the Civil Rights Act of 2008 to ensure the rights of minority and immigrant workers, including undocumented workers.
•Combat nationwide racial profiling by law enforcement officials.
•Strengthen affirmative action legislation designed to combat discrimination.
The United States must loosen its caps on work visas if it expects to remain the world’s innovation leader, Microsoft founder Bill Gates told Congress in March.
Gates called on Congress to attract and retain foreign workers by increasing allotments of H-B1 visas, which allow skilled immigrants to work the U.S.
“We live in an economy that depends on the ability of innovative companies to attract and retain the very best talent, regardless of nationality or citizenship. Unfortunately, the U.S. immigration system makes attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants exceptionally challenging to U.S. firms,” Gates told the committee. “The United States will find it far more difficult to maintain its competitive edge over the next 50 years if it excludes those who are able and willing to help us compete.
Penalties for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants will increase, in some cases drastically, starting March 27, 2008.
The first increases in civil fines for employers since 1999 come amid other changes in federal immigration policy, including a tightening of border security and an increase in workplace raids, according to a recent joint statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Under the new rules, the minimum penalty for knowingly employing an undocumented immigrant increases from $275 to $375; the maximum penalty for first violation increases from $2,200 to $3,300.
The maximum civil penalty for multiple offenses jumps from $11,000 to $16,000.