Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Expands ‘Alternatives’ to Detention

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The immigration reform bill introduced this week in the Senate would significantly expand immigration enforcement programs on the border and in the U.S. interior. But hidden deep in the bill are also provisions that could open detention center doors for some immigrants and provide greater protections for detainees.

Alternatives To Detention

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to consider “alternatives” to detention for non-citizens facing deportation proceedings. Currently, many immigrants convicted of a long list of crimes as well as asylum seekers are subject to mandatory detention laws. Immigration authorities have generally considered this to mean these non-citizens must be locked up. The new provision clarifies that immigrants who fall under the mandatory categories can be released from prisons and placed in other supervised programs, including the use of tracking devices.

While these protections may provide some immigrants a way out from behind bars, the bill does not do away with mass detention. Congress currently ties the $2 billion it allocates for detention to a rigid detention bed quota that’s been interpreted to mean ICE must detain 34,000 on any given day. Over 400,000 people were detained last year.

“[T]he overall goal of these changes must be to reduce the use of detention drastically. This is not possible without the repeal of mandatory detention.” Andrea Black, director of the group Detention Watch Network, said in a statement.

Access to Legal Help

The bill also expands detainees’ access to legal help. Immigrants facing deportation do not have a right to appointed legal counsel because immigration law is civil not criminal. About 85 percent of detainees face deportation without an attorney.

The legislation would provide funds to expand to all federal detention centers the Legal Orientation Program, which uses non-profit attorneys to provide detainees with legal information. Detention facilities would be required to provide the trainings to immigrants within 5 days of their arrival.

The Senate bill would allocate funds for the Justice Department to appoint and pay for attorneys for detainees with mental illness and other “particularly vulnerable” immigrants. It also guarantees free legal assistance to children who enter the country alone. Last year, close to 14,000 unaccompanied minors, largely from Central America, were placed in a network of federal detention facilities specifically for this population. These children currently have no right to appointed legal counsel.

Detention Conditions

Because the Department of Homeland Security contracts out detention to private and country jails, conditions in detention can vary dramatically from facility to facility. The immigration bill would prohibit immigration authorities from contracting with a facility unless it complies with Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards. It imposes fines on facilities that violate these standards. Critics say the requirement remains weak because the bill creates no independent oversight over the facilities.

Though the Senate legislation could protect many non-citizens on a path to citizenship from detention and deportation, an unknown number will remain undocumented because they arrived after the bill’s December 31, 2011 deadline or because they cannot pass a criminal background check or afford the $500 initial fee to begin down the path to citizenship. These immigrants could in the future be detained. And all immigrants on and off the path to citizenship will remain vulnerable to detention if they are convicted of a criminal charge.

Oscar Grant Film Heading to Cannes Film Festival

Oscar Grant Film Heading to Cannes Film Festival

The film based on the fatal 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a BART by police officer is heading to the Cannes Film Festival. The film, which up until this week was known as “Fruitvale,” is now titled “Fruitvale Station,” and will compete in the “Un Certain Regard” category.

The “Un Certain Regard” category includes films that present “a certain glance or a particular outlook” at the annual film festival held in Cannes, France every May. Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” based on the true story of Los Angeles teenagers who broke into celebrities’ houses to steal clothes and jewelry, will open the category.

“Fruitvale Station” will have a wide release in the U.S. on July 26, 2013. The film was written and directed by 26 year-old USC grad Ryan Coogler and stars Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz.

Sen. Grassley Conflates Immigration Reform With Boston Violence

Sen. Grassley Conflates Immigration Reform With Boston Violence

As news from Boston continues to break, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved ahead this morning with a hearing on the comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced earlier in the week. As I noted after the Boston attack, immigration reform has a troubled history when it’s conflated with terrorism. At the hearing this morning, at least one Republican began to associate the Boston bombing with immigration reform.

“While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee’s ranking member.

“How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil,” he added.

There are varying reports about the immigration histories of the suspects in Boston.

Later in the short hearing, which ended before noon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who sponsored the immigration bill, warned against assuming the events in Boston have anything to do with immigration laws.

“Before I get to the bill, I’d like to ask that all of us not jump to conclusions regarding the events in Boston, or try to conflate those events with this legislation,” Schumer said.

He added, “Two days ago, as you may recall, there were widespread, eronious reports about arrest that were made.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had been scheduled to testify before the committee this morning. She did not appear because of the situation in Boston, according to the Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Grassley’s full comment on Boston and immigration reform below:

“Given the events of this week, it’s important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system. While we don’t yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system. How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil. How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the United States. How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us.

We have a long road ahead of us to pass immigration reform.”

CNN’s John King Fails to Explain His ‘Dark Skinned’ Comment on Twitter

CNN's John King Fails to Explain His 'Dark Skinned' Comment on Twitter

Last night CNN correspondent John King took to Twitter to offer more context on how he ended up reporting that a suspect, described as a “dark-skinned man” had been arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing. CNN ran with King’s “exclusive news” of the “dark-skinned” suspect for an hour until they announced their report turned out to be false.

“Source of that description was a senior government official. And I asked, are you sure? But I’m responsible,” King tweeted on Thursday evening. “What I am not is racist.”

King offered his explanation only after the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and the National Association of Black Journalists called him out for his inflammatory reporting.

Even the FBI released a statement asking journalists to be more thorough because his action lead to real world effects.

“Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting,” the FBI statement read.

King was quick to point out on Twitter that he was no racist but the online community was quick to remind that “racism is about effects, not just intent.”

Check out some of the responses below: (If you’re on a mobile device and don’t see content below please scroll down and select “desktop view.”)

The Post-Boston Islamophobic Hate Crimes Have Begun

The Post-Boston Islamophobic Hate Crimes Have Begun

On Wednesday, a white man harassed and punched a Palestinian woman in Medford, Massachusetts, calling her a “terrorist” and blaming her for the deadly bombing attack at the Boston Marathon.

Hema Abolaban, a physician, was walking down the street with a friend when they were approached. Malden Patch reported:

“He was screaming ‘F_ you Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions! F_ you!’” Abolaban remembered. “Oh my lord, I was extremely shocked.”

She said the man - described as a white male in his thirties wearing dark sunglasses - kept shouting and walking toward her as she backed away.

“I did not say anything to him,” she said. “Not even that we aren’t terrorists…he was so aggressive.”

Abolaban is not alone. The New York Post reports that a Bangladeshi man was beaten up by Latino men outside a Bronx Applebee’s restaurant. He, too, was blamed for the Boston bombing.

HBO Picks Up Whoopi Goldberg’s Documentary on Comedian Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley

HBO Picks Up Whoopi Goldberg's Documentary on Comedian Jackie 'Moms' Mabley

HBO announced on Thursday that the cable network has acquired all U.S. broadcast rights to “Moms Mabley: I got somethin’ to tell you,” from first-time director Whoopi Goldberg. The feature-length documentary follows the life of Jackie “Moms” Mabley, the late African-American comedian who became one of the first bona fide female stand-up comedy superstars.

HBO describes the film:

Breaking racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering comic talent, the African-American stand-up comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley has long been an icon in the comedy world. In I GOT SOMETHIN’ TO TELL YOU, Goldberg explores Mabley’s legacy through recently unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage and the words of numerous celebrated comedians, entertainers and historians, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Mabley tackled topics such as gender, sex and racism, making her one of the first triple X-rated comedians on the comedy circuit. Once billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she performed on stage and in television and film up until her death in 1975. A true passion project for Goldberg, MOMS MABLEY: I GOT SOMETHIN’ TO TELL YOU shows Mabley’s historical significance and profound influence as a performer vastly ahead of her time.

“Moms Mabley has been a huge inspiration to me and so many others, but not a lot of folks outside of the comedy world know about her legacy,” said Goldberg in a statement. “There are a lot of us who wouldn’t be working today without pioneers like her. HBO gave me my first break on TV, so it’s only fitting that Moms has a home there now.”

“Moms Mabley: I got somethin’ to tell you,” will have its world premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 20.

Modest Racial Profiling Protections In Senate Immigration Bill

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

As I noted this morning, the Senate Gang of Eight immigration reform bill invests in a vast expansion of border security including lots of new equipment, drones included, and at least 3,500 more border patrol agents who will join the 21,500 already there. One of the concerns about this growing enforcement network is that it’ll deepen an already out of control and reckless border patrol (for a sense of the scope of this messiness, check out Andrew Becker’s border reporting for the Center for Investigative Reporting).

One of the biggest problems that rights groups have with CBP is the widespread use of racial profiling as a tool of border enforcement. The immigration bill includes several provisions to reign in these practices. The bill reads:

“In making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as ordinary traffic stops, Federal law enforcement officers may not use race or ethnicity to any degree, except that officers may rely on race and ethnicity if a specific suspect description exists.”

The provision notably excludes national origin, which leaves plenty of room for immigration agents to target immigrants because of characteristics that might suggest a particular country of origin but ultimately are really about race.

The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security to begin collecting and compiling data on the race and ethnicity of people stopped by immigration agents. Though the data collection does not lead directly to greater oversight, it may provide transparency needed for advocates and oversight bodies to push for changes in practice.

Here’s Video of CNN Spreading Rumors About A ‘Dark Skinned’ Boston Suspect

On Wednesday afternoon a handful of news outlets falsely reported that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombings.

The Boston Globe, Fox News and The Associated Press all reported a suspect had been captured but were forced to retract their reports when the FBI issued a statement saying “no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack.”

CNN’s John King, citing multiple “exclusive” sources, was the first to broadcasts the faulty information. He’s taking the brunt of the false reporting not only because he broke the misinformation but also because he offered a physical description of the supposed individual who was arrested.

King described the “dark-skinned” suspect on CNN Wednesday around 1:45pm EST:

A physical description was given to me of the suspect. Wolf, I want to be very careful here because this is very sensitive information, but the description given to me, once again, it’s a dark-skinned individual. And I want to just stop there. Further descriptives were given by this source —— but it was a background conversation.

After reporting the false news for an hour, CNN retracted their statements. Minutes later the FBI called them out for not going through “appropriate official channels before reporting.”

“Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting,” read the FBI statement.

No Obamacare or Safety Net While on Senate’s Path to Citizenship

No Obamacare or Safety Net While on Senate's Path to Citizenship

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

There’s lots of fanfare about the path to citizenship in the Senate’s immigration reform bill, but the bill leaves serious questions about how newly legalized people will survive once on that path. This is perhaps nowhere more concerning than in the context of the full exclusion of newly legalized immigrations from Obamacare health insurance exchanges and other federal benefits.

Under the bill, immigrants on the 10-year path to citizenship—what’s called the Provisional Registered Immigrant status, or RPI—would be excluded from all means-tested federal benefits. Let’s just make clear what this means. Millions of people who work overwhelmingly in low-income jobs and who owe several thousand dollars in fines and in some cases need cash for mandatory English classes (in addition to paying the regular taxes that all workers pay) will be barred completely from programs meant to keep families afloat. That’s Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash assistance, Social Security Insurance and Obamacare’s insurance exchange.

It’s not just that these folks are left out. It’s that they’re left out even though they will have paid for years into the programs through payroll taxes.

Top WNBA Pick Brittney Griner on Being Gay: ‘Don’t Hide Who You Really Are’

Top WNBA Pick Brittney Griner on Being Gay: 'Don't Hide Who You Really Are'

Top WNBA draft pick and Baylor University senior Brittney Griner nonchalantly became one of the highest profile LGBT athletes in the country recently when she confirmed in an interview that she is gay.

In an interview with ESPN, Griner joined fellow draft picks Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne in a wide-ranging interview that covered everything from bullying to sexuality.

“Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are,” Griner told ESPN, before going into more detail about her decision to come out publicly. “It really wasn’t too difficult,” she said of the decision. “I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that. I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

Griner, who was selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury, is one of the most decorated female athletes to ever play college basketball. She’s a three time All-American, a former AP Player of the Year, and has more blocked shots than any player in men’s or women’s college basketball.

In Immigration Bill, More Criminal Prosecutions For Deportees Who Try To Return

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

One of the things I’m looking for as I cull through the Senate immigration bill are places where immigration enforcement expands. The U.S. already deports more 400,000 people each year and spends more on the border than at any point in U.S. history. It’s been widely reported that at least on the border, more is coming. Before any currently undocumented immigrants will be allowed to apply for a green card in a decade or citizenship three years later, the Department of Homeland Security will spend as much as $6.5 billion to deploy 3,500 additional border patrol guards and add walls, fences, drones and checkpoints to the southern border.

But here’s a piece that’s gained less attention. As part of this buildup, the bill expands the number of immigrants who will face criminal prosecutions for trying to come back to the country after they’re deported. People get sent to federal prison for crossing the border. They’re locked up for years.

A Synopsis (in Progress) of the Senate’s Immigration Bill

A Synopsis (in Progress) of the Senate's Immigration Bill

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

Yesterday, I spent the day reading an 844-page piece of legislation that promises to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. The big picture is this: the immigration reform bill pulls in two very different directions, as it attempts to codify the country’s troubling understanding of good and bad immigrants.

On the one hand, the bill tries to fix a system that’s done incalculable harm to millions by separating families and leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. For example, it:

On the other hand, the bill adds more restrictions, more punishment and draws more lines in the sand about who’s welcome and who’s not. For instance, it:

In the end, the bill retains all the trappings of American public policy’s manic relationship to citizenship and migration: the country embraces some and despises others, thinks some immigrants are good immigrants and other immigrants are bad. Perhaps this is a given, but to make these decisions, it’s important to remember that these distinctions and the trades that come with them are not just about political compromise, they’re about who is included in the path to citizenship and who is left behind. About what kind of enforcement is built into the bill and who gets locked up or excluded as a result. And about whether the legal immigration system becomes more or less inclusive. It’s about lives.

I’ll be back in the details of the bill today, trying to answer a set of questions that I couldn’t get to yesterday. Follow along in our What’s in the Bill tag.

On Visas, Senate Bill Clears Family Backlog, But Closes Diversity Door

On Visas, Senate Bill Clears Family Backlog, But Closes Diversity Door

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the immigration bill does to change existing pathways for legal immigration. Everyone in the political universe seems to agree that the country needs an expansion of visas for “high-skilled” immigrants—people with degrees in science and technology fields. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wants more of those visas. But Republicans often argue that in order to make space, Congress will need to cut other legal immigration routes. They usually go after two targets for the cuts: family-based visas and the Diversity Lottery program.

They appear to have won. The Senate bill makes cuts in both of those categories. The changes will strike a blow to many families and to geographic equity in who can immigrate.

Same-Sex Couples Are Not Part Of Immigration Reform Bill

Same-Sex Couples Are Not Part Of Immigration Reform Bill

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The immigration reform bill released today by the Senate’s Gang of Eight will not include same-sex couples. Many advocates for LGBT families and for immigrants had hoped that the reform bill would include sections that side-step federal marriage laws and allow bi-national gay and lesbian couples to petition for green cards for non-citizen partners. No such language is in the bill.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, bars same-sex couple from marriage and from federal benefits that come with legal partnership. This includes exclusion from immigration benefits. A 2011 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA estimated there are at least 40,000 same-sex couples who were barred from applying for immigration benefits available to straight couples with similar immigration status. That estimate is intentionally low and there may be many more families in this situation.

As I wrote last week:

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a stand-alone [Uniting American Families Act] to provide immigration petitioning rights to gay and lesbian couples. The bills drew support from a few Republicans but appear unlikely to pass on their own. Some members of Congress, including Rep. Jared Nadler, D-N.Y., who introduced one of those bills, said this week that the [same-sex couples] provision could be inserted into reform legislation once the Senate and House bills are conferenced.

“I will fight like hell to ensure that LGBT-inclusive language remains in any House and Senate conference report,” Nadler told the Blade.

But most acknowledge that the best chance for bi-national same-sex couples rests in the Supreme Court, which is currently considering the constitutionality of DOMA. If the justices overturn it, gay and lesbian couples in states with marriage equality laws could petition for green cards like other married couples.

“The reality is that when the Uniting American Families Act is not in there,” Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, told Metro Weekly yesterday. “[T]here is nothing in here for [LGBT] families, and that is not comprehensive.”

Tim Wise on Understanding the Power of Whiteness, Terrorism and Privilege

Tim Wise on Understanding the Power of Whiteness, Terrorism and Privilege

Anti-racist writer and educator Tim Wise published an essay yesterday that explores white privilege in the context of the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon. 

Wise’s essay entitled, “Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness,” explores the cultural fallout that could result if the person (or persons) responsible for the violent marathon events turns out to be a person of color.

An excerpt from Tim Wise’s essay is below:

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Byron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

Read Tim Wise’s entire essay on at TimWise.org.

Immigration Bill’s Criminal Checks Include ‘Gang Affiliation’ Without Conviction

Immigration Bill's Criminal Checks Include 'Gang Affiliation' Without Conviction

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The immigration reform bill made public today by the Senate’s Gang of Eight will tighten ties between the criminal justice system and the immigration system. It will require all applicants to the path to citizenship, what will be called the Registered Provisional Immigrant status, to pass a stringent criminal background check. And immigrants who have been deemed to have affiliation with a gang can be barred from the provisional visa even if they’re not convicted with an actual crime.

Background Checks

Immigrants with convictions for felonies, three misdemeanors, or what’s called an “aggrevated felony” in immigration law, will be barred from the RPI status. The bill does create an exception if one of the three misdemeanors directly related to the fact of being undocumented. The provision is aimed at state laws, like those in Arizona, that attempt to criminalize immigrants for lacking papers. Broadly though, immigrants with many minor run-ins with police will be ineligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant status.

Aggravated Felonies and Judge’s Discretion

The bill does little to roll back what for years immigrant rights advocates have labeled a draconian fast track from conviction to deportation. In particular, the bill maintains a set of 1996 immigration laws that revoked judges’ discretion to stop a deportation in cases involving so-called “aggravated felonies.”

Through the phrase evokes serious crime, aggravated felonies include minor drug, theft and fraud charges, as well as failure to appear in court, and many offenses by people who were previously deported and then comes back. In these cases, judges have no power to stop a deportation even if an immigrant has lived in the U.S. nearly all of their life and has family here. Thousands of non-citizens, including green-card holders, are deported for crimes they were convicted of decades ago.

In some cases that don’t involve aggravated felonies, the bill would expand judge’s discretion to weigh the impact of deportation on family or communities members.

New Criminal Categories

The bill adds several additional categories of criminal system involvement that will bar immigrants from provisional visas and make them deportable. These include a gang related crime or association with a gang and drunken driving.

According to several people familiar with the bill drafring process, who spoke to Colorlines.com on background, these provisions were added at the last minute because several Republicans members of the Gang of Eight perceived the legislation to be tilted in favor of Democrat’s demands.

The bill changes existing law so that any immigirant “who has been convicted of an offense for which an element was active participation in a criminal street gang” will be ineligible for legalization and can be deported.

The bill goes further, though, and bars from the path to citizenship any immigrant with established gang affiliations even if there’s no criminal charge against them. The bill reads:

“An alien who is 18 years of age or older is ineligible for registered provisional immigrant status if the [Homeland Security] Secretary determines… by clear and convincing evidence, based upon law enforcement information deemed credible by the Secretary, has, since the age of 18, knowingly and willingly participated in a such gang with knowledge that such participation promoted or furthered the illegal activity of such gang.”

As I reported in February, these gang affiliation provisions often feed on questionable police practices that peg young people of color as gang members without cause:

Belinda Escobosa Helzer, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, says that laws like these cast an overbroad net that encourages racial profiling. “What we’ve seen in practice in California is that a lot of youth of color are being documented as gang members because of where they live, who they went to school with, who they were walking with,” she said, not because they’ve committed a crime.

The bill also expands the consequences of drunken driving. Currently, immigrants can be deported for drunken driving convictions. But the bill would automatically remove any immigrant with three or more DUI convictions. Further, immigrants who are convicted of a single DUI after the legislation becomes law would be ineligble for immigration status.

The bill also expands punishment for non-citizens who were deported and reenter the U.S. I will get to these provisions in another post.

This post has been updated since publication.

President Obama Says He’s Not Jay-Z’s Travel Agent

President Obama Says He's Not Jay-Z's Travel Agent

DREAM Act in Senate Bill Includes No Age Cap and Faster Path to Citizenship

DREAM Act in Senate Bill Includes No Age Cap and Faster Path to Citizenship

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The comprehensive immigration reform bill released today includes a broad version of the DREAM Act that will allow undocumented immigrants who came to the country before the age of 16 to apply for a green card after five years.

The DREAM Act provisions include no upper age limits for applicants, which means an immigrant who came to the U.S at the age of 10 and is now 60 can apply for a green card after five years. Past iterations of the bill that did not pass have excluded immigrants over the age of 30 from applying for permanent residency.

Leading advocates for the DREAM Act say the provisions are as strong as they could have hoped.

“We’re really excgted about these parts,” said Myrna Orozco, field director for the group United We Dream. “It’s a long time coming, and there are really good measures in it.”

But she said, the group is concerned that the broader path to citizenship will take too long. In the past, UWD has called for a 7 year path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“Thirteen years is very long time, especially for older people, for our parents and grandparents,” she said. “We’ll fight to change that.”

Under the DREAM provisions, most immigrants who entered the country as children and who have been enrolled in college for two years, graduated from college or served in the military for at least four years will be allowed to apply for a green card five years after they’re granted the new Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Most other immigrants have to wait 10 years for a green card under the bill. Like all other immigrants, DREAM applicants will have to pass a criminal background check.

The DREAM movement, a vast network of young undocumented immigrants, has transformed the political landscape on immigration reform in recent years. DREAM-eligible youth have led coming-out campaigns to reveal their status to the public and demand a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. Last year, the Obama administration granted DREAM youth “deferred action” from deportation and the right to work in the U.S. The program was a major victory for the movement, but DREAMer groups kept their eyes honed on citizenship.

Immigration Bill Includes Protections for Families Broken Up by Deportation

Immigration Bill Includes Protections for Families Broken Up by Deportation

The comprehensive immigration reform bill, released early this morning by a group of eight Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, includes provisions to reunite families separated by immigration detention and deportation. It also includes provisions to keep U.S. citizen children of deported parents from languishing in foster care, a problem Colorlines has documented, and to protect deportees from losing parental rights.

Since 2011, Colorlines.com has reported on the the fallout of immigration enforcement on families and children. An investigation we released in late 2011 found there are thousands of children stuck in foster care with deported parents. Data I obtained in December revealed that approximately about 23 percent of deportees have U.S. citizen children. Over 200,000 moms and dads of U.S. citizens were removed in a period of just over two years, according to government records. An unknown number of deportees leave their partners or parents behind.

I reported on Monday that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would allow some deported immigrants with U.S. citizen children, parents or spouses to petition to return to the United States and apply for the Registered Provisional Immigrant visa—the 10 year visa that leads to a green card. That’s the case, though the path back may not be an easy one. The bill also includes protections so that children of deportees are not stuck in foster care in the future.

The Senate Immigration Bill Has Arrived! Here Are Its Basics

The Senate Immigration Bill Has Arrived! Here Are Its Basics

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The long awaited Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill was released early this morning by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The landmark bill promises to dramatically realign the U.S. immigration system by creating a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants and others, while overhauling the existing systems to immigrate to the United States. The so-called Gang of Eight, a group of four Republicans and four Democrats has been drafting the bill for months, wrangling over the fine points and the always heated politics of migration.

The bill, at its core, is a product of compromise and, as with all attempts at immigration reform in the last generation, it tilts to the right. It leaves some undocumented immigrants without solutions by cutting them out of the path to citizenship with prohibitive fees, date cutoffs and strict criminal background checks. And the bill allocates billions of dollars to border enforcement, including resources to prosecute criminally greater numbers of people crossing back into the United States after deportation.

At the same time, on a number of points—including the bill’s inclusion of a path to legal status for some deportees with spouses and children in the U.S., and an inclusive version of the DREAM Act—the legislation goes beyond what many reform advocates believed attainable.

This obvious point-counterpoint is what President Obama suggested when he said yesterday, “This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185