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December 2013

No White Christmas for Brown Immigrants

How the US Treats Those at the Bottom

No White Christmas for Brown Immigrants


The recent controversy over the comments made by Megyn Kelly—the new media darling of Fox News—telling kids on the air that Santa “is just white,” rings truthful for millions of brown, undocumented immigrants in this country. Latino immigrants who lack legal status will have something less to celebrate this year, once gain, since neither President Obama nor Congress has taken meaningful action to resolve their precarious and vulnerable status.

In this time of holiday celebrations, where families gather to feast on good food, open presents and count their blessings, the Obama administration continues to deport undocumented immigrants at record rates, whereby splitting immediate and extended families apart. For instance, according to recent data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the Obama administration has deported over two million immigrants in the past five years. Compared to former U.S. Presidents, this mark makes Obama the leader in the field of separating families and penalizing mostly hard-working individuals for the simple act of wanting a better future for themselves and their families.

While Obama supports a bi-partisan, immigration bill drafted by the so-called “Senate Gang of Eight,” where it passed in the Senate and remains stalled in the House, the House-dominated Republicans balk of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Although Democratic leaders in Congress and some immigrant advocacy groups begrudge Republicans for not acting on this “comprehensive immigration reform” bill, the legislation remains politically and ethically flawed for undocumented immigrants and their families. By focusing mainly on enforcement and security measures, such as the ongoing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border with thousands of additional enforcement agents, high-tech reinforcement and expansion of the wall, increased drones and military-related equipment, not to mention draconian employer-based measures to identify and deport undocumented workers, this bill does more harm than good for those who live and work in the shadows.

If the White House and Congress truly want to make progress in fixing the dysfunctional immigration system and not just penalize those on the bottom, both Democrats and Republicans need to accept the premise that undocumented immigrants represent mostly honest, hard-working individuals who contribute greatly to this country’s prosperity. While it’s politically convenient to blame Latino
huertaimmigrants for America’s economic downturns, why don’t America’s leaders and the public also recognize their strong work ethnic and daily sacrifice when they clean houses, raise children, care for the elderly, mow lawns, wash dishes, park cars and sell their labor on street corners?

When Obama talks about “American exceptionalism” in international affairs, he needs to seriously re-examine his domestic policies and how his administration treats the most vulnerable and exploited among us. Like all U.S. Presidents, Obama has enormous executive powers that he needs to exercise, providing relief for most undocumented immigrants living and working in this country. It’s not enough to provide temporary relief to some undocumented youth, Obama needs to halt the deportations and detentions for all undocumented immigrants (except for serious criminals) until Congress passes true comprehensive immigration reform based on humane principles, like dignity and respect for all.

Obama should also act immediately to prevent the senseless deaths of Latino immigrants who attempt to cross the border state, such as Arizona, resulting in a silent humanitarian crisis in this country. During the past decade, for example, over 2,000 immigrants have died in border states, especially in the desert where they lack access to water and succumb to heat exposure. This figure only includes those bodies that have been found, where families from Mexico and Central America mourn their missing and dead relatives. Where’s the public outcry? Who will fight and defend the interests of these human beings and future ones at risk of death, if not the federal government with its financial, technological and humanitarian resources at its disposal?

For those immigrants who survive the treacherous U.S.-Mexico border crossing, many of them face a nightmarish experience after being apprehended and imprisoned by ICE officials. Operated both by public officials and for-profit interests, these detention centers or immigrant prisons serve the function to criminalize, detain and deport immigrants with minimal rights and limited access to legal counsel. Too often, unaware or misinformed of their rights, many immigrants sign stipulated orders of removal, waiving their right to a hearing in front of a judge to plead their case. Morever, given that these men and women are desperate to escape their harsh imprisonment, by signing this “voluntary” deportation form, many of then are unaware of the legal ramifications, such as “agreeing” to a 10-year restriction on re-entry to the U.S. and other punitive consequences.

I find nothing “exceptional” about how the U.S. treats los de abajo / those on the bottom.

Thus, by taking decisive and humane actions towards resolving our dysfunctional immigration system, Obama will remind Kelly and her friends at Fox News that Santa doesn’t have to be white, after all.

Alvaro Huerta is a UCLA Visiting Scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).


How the Budget Deal Could Pave the Way for Immigration Reform

Don’t look now: Congress is actually getting stuff done
Did the bipartisan budget deal also put immigration talks back on the table?
Did the bipartisan budget deal also put immigration talks back on the table? (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

he two-year bipartisan budget deal passed by the House Thursday night potentially will do more than just dispel the atmosphere of chronic crisis in Washington, which has driven Congress’ approval rating to record lows. The Capitol stage is now set for an even bigger bipartisan achievement: Immigration reform.

The immigration issue was set to come to a head last fall, after immigration advocates ran circles around the Tea Party during the August recess to whip up support for the bipartisan Senate bill. While Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was resistant to the Senate’s comprehensive approach, he could not completely snub public pressure and promised the House would take action.

But instead of immigration, the fall season gave us the Syrian crisis, the government shutdown, and the botch, all of which demanded media attention that deprived immigration activists of the ability to maximize grassroots pressure. Momentum appeared to stall. The Hill even ran a two-part series in mid-November called “How Immigration Died.”

But a funny thing happened two weeks after that obituary: President Obama publicly accepted Boehner’s position that the House pass a series of piecemeal immigration bills instead of a single comprehensive bill like the Senate’s. Obama removed a political roadblock, putting the burden on Boehner to either follow through on his own pledge or shoulder all the political consequences for failure.

Boehner may not be eager to force his party to vote on an issue that divides its members, but neither does he want Republicans to take the blame for inaction and lose an entire generation of Latino voters.

A few days later, Boehner surprised Washington by hiring a new immigration policy aide from the Bipartisan Policy Center who supports what Democrats insist on but what many Republicans resist: A pathway to citizenship for the currently undocumented.

This week’s deal is another signal that congressional leaders are ready to close the curtains on the budget kabuki and bring immigration back to center stage. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who negotiated the budget deal, already has made clear his support for reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, and has an interest in lowering the political temperature through this agreement. In turn, his negotiating partner Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) made sure to point out that the reduced tensions should help get immigration done.

Also of note, Boehner raised eyebrows this week by lashing out at conservative groups that opposed the budget deal before it was announced. After declaring they have “lost all credibility,” Boehner was asked at a press conference if he wanted them to “stand down.” He coldly responded, “I don’t care what they do.”

The public display of anger by the normally poker-faced speaker suggests he is less inclined to bow to those on his right flank after they drove the GOP into the shutdown ditch, which should free Boehner up to compromise on immigration. In fact, prominent conservative pundit Erick Erickson fretted on Twitter, “Is Boehner picking this fight with conservatives to lay battle lines for the immigration fight?”

Congress doesn’t have a lot of time left. The deeper we get into the 2014 campaign season, the more the two parties will be focused on drawing blood, not cutting deals.

But they certainly have until the spring, when filing deadlines for primary challengers begin to expire, reducing far-right, anti-immigrant pressure on incumbent Republicans inclined to deal.

Skepticism and cynicism have clouded the immigration reform effort for months. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. And the actions of Boehner and Ryan this month suggest there is a will.

How to Find an Immigration Attorney TITLE PHOTO
I received a notice from DHS, who should I go to?
Not all immigration attorneys are made equal. Finding a competent immigration attorney can be a challenge. I frequently get asked how to go about finding immigration attorneys. Here are some tips on how to locate an immigration attorney in your area and getting competent advice.
  • First, check out the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) website,, and do a “find a lawyer” search. This website provides resources on immigration laws, processes, and immigration attorneys.
A family member recommended this attorney to me. Should I hire them? If you already have an attorney in mind, do some background research. Here are some pointers to consider:
  • Is your attorney actually licensed to practice law? Attorneys must be licensed through their individual state bars. Ask you attorney where they are licensed to practice law and then verify that they are actually listed.
  • Watch out for disciplinary notices! In addition to licenses, you can search for any history of disciplinary notices in your state’s bar association. Be wary of attorneys with a history of suspensions or reprimands. Do not hire an attorney that is currently suspended or is no longer eligible to practice law!

I have a complex asylum case, do you know a good asylum attorney?

  • Experience is key! Whether you are interested in family petitions, asylum, or deportation defense, ask the lawyer’s office how many years of experience they have practicing in the area of immigration you are interested in.
  • An experienced attorney should be able to tell you the number of years they have practicing immigration law and specifically, representing clients in your immigration area of interest.
This law school offers an immigration legal clinic, should I go to them?
  • Shop around! Immigration consultations can range anywhere from free to $300.00 depending on the area of law and geographic location. Local law schools also often provide quality immigration services, but these may not always be available in your area.

To get every penny’s worth out of a consultation, here are a few tips:

  • Call around and find out the consultation fee and duration of consultation. Most immigration attorneys offer flat fee agreements. Don’t be afraid to ask about payment plans.
  • Be proactive! In addition to asking about experience, write down your immigration questions before the scheduled consultation.Trust your instincts! During the consultation, you should feel comfortable with the answers to your questions. If you are confused, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification!
  • In order to obtain the best immigration advice, bring all the immigration documentation you think will assist the attorney.
Lastly, don’t feel pressured! Remember, you don’t have to hire the attorney on the spot. This is your case! You should feel confident regarding the attorney’s experience and level of knowledge in the immigration area of your interest.
Tip for Finding an Immigration Attorney
For more citizenship and immigration resources, check out the Research Tools page.

Exámenes: ¡Sácate un diez!

¡Tiempo para exámenes! ¿Como se puede preparar? No les tengas miedo. Aquí hay algunos consejos para lograr tus metas:

Primero: Apaga tu Facebook y cualquier otra distracción. Estudios muestran que estudiantes que usan redes sociales pasan menos tiempo estudiando y tienen promedios más bajos que estudiantes que no usan las redes sociales. Tus amigos pueden esperar por algunos días.

Segundo: Cambia de panorama. Quizás la biblioteca no sea el mejor lugar para estudiar para un examen. De acuerdo a estudios, el cambio de localidad puede ayudar a la retención de más información.

Tercero: ¡Toma una siesta! Sí, estoy hablando de una siesta corta a medio día. La siesta te puede ayudar a consolidar información y ayudar con tu memoria de largo plazo. Ahora tienes una buena escusa para esa siesta.

Cuarto: Date un espacio de descanso durante tus estudios de materia. El descanso ayuda a la memorización.

Quinto: ¡Muévete! Un estudio de la universidad de California encontró que hasta seis minutos de ejercicio mejora tu habilidad de recordar lo que estas aprendiendo.

¡Ahora ya tienes las herramientas para sacarte un diez!

Para más información, visita:

AFL-CIO immigration ads impact on Latino voter opinions

A new survey by Latino Decisions finds that Latino registered voters who saw recent immigration advertisements run by the AFL-CIO were significantly more likely to rate immigration as a critical issue, and more likely hold negative views of the GOP. The Spanish language ads were aired in Denver, Orlando and Atlanta media markets during November and were critical of Republicans in Congress for stalling immigration reform.  The Latino Decisions poll surveyed a total of 1,000 Hispanic registered voters who regularly watch Spanish TV in the three media markets, as well as a comparison group of Latino voters who were not exposed to the ads. (See results in toplines and slide deck)

Overall, a majority of Latinos have negative evaluations of the Republican Party and hold them culpable for the failure of immigration reform to date. However, the recent ad campaign has had a noticeable and statistically significant effect on Latino voter attitudes, creating even stronger dissatisfaction with the GOP among Latinos who were exposed to the ads.  Voters who saw the AFL-CIO ads in the three markets reported 20 – 25 points more negative attitudes towards Republicans than those in a comparison group who did not see the ads. The findings suggest that messaging on immigration could well be a critical and effective tool to mobilize the Latino vote in 2014 with significant partisan implications if the GOP continues to stall or block immigration reform.

Overall, a large majority of Latino voters who watch Spanish TV reported seeing the immigration-themed ads in Denver, Orlando and Atlanta: 70% said they recalled seeing ads on Spanish TV about immigration reform, 58% said they recalled the ads were about efforts in Congress to block a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Among those who saw the ads, over 85% said they saw the ads multiple times during the month of November, suggesting the campaign was quite effective in reaching Latino voters.


According to the poll findings, not only were the ads seen by Latinos, but they caused Latinos to further view Republicans as anti-immigrant.  42% of those who saw ads in the three markets thought the phrase “is an anti-immigrant party” described Republicans very well, versus 21% who agreed with this characterization in the comparison group who saw no ads.  Further, this carries over to a general anti-Hispanic view of the GOP.  45% of those who saw ads disagreed strongly with the phrase “the GOP cares about people like me” contrasted to 19% who disagreed in the comparison group.


Further, 80% of Latinos who saw the ads said the anti-immigrant said the anti-immigrant statement by Republican members of Congress featured in the ads made them less favorable to the GOP, and 59% thought that such sentiments were shared by a majority of Republicans, not just a select few.  While 60% of Latinos in the comparison group said it was very or extremely important for Congress to pass immigration reform before the 2014 election, a resounding 79% of Latino voters who saw the AFL-CIO Spanish ads want to see immigration reform passed prior to the 2014 election.


The ads also made clear that it was House Republicans who were stalling immigration reform and this sentiment was shared by those who saw the ads. 73% of Latinos in the ad markets felt immigration reform did not pass in 2013 because of Republicans while 44% blamed Republicans in the comparison group which did not see the ads.  Not surprisingly 71% who saw the ads had a favorable view of Democrats in Congress and just 24% had a favorable view of Republicans in Congress.


Perhaps the most significant finding in the poll is how the ads have appeared to shape 2014 vote preference among Latinos who watch Spanish language TV.  Among those who saw the ads in the three markets, 69% plan to vote Democrat, 11% Republican, and 20% undecided.  Among those in the comparison group who did not see ads, 49% plan to vote Democrat, 29% Republican and 23% undecided.

In a previous report, Latino Decisions identified as many as 44 GOP-held House districts in which Latino voters could swing the results in 2014, including 24 in which Latino influence was quite strong.  What the findings from today’s poll demonstrate is that with an appropriate and targeted messaging campaign, the Republican party has a great deal to lose in terms of Latino support, which could have significant consequences for control of the House in January 2015.

Matt Barreto is principal co-founder of Latino Decisions.

About the poll.  Latino Decisions interviewed a total of 1,000 Latino registered voters who regularly watch Spanish-language TV in two geographic areas.  First, a total of 600 respondents were interviewed in the Denver, Orlando and Atlanta media markets where the AFL-CIO ran Spanish language advertisements.  Second, 400 respondents were interviewed in a national comparison group that excluded these three media markets.  Subjects were interviewed in Spanish or English at their discretion by bilingual interviewers and contacted in landline and cell phone-only households.  The poll contains a margin of error of +/- 2.3% for the full sample, +/- 4.0% for those in the media markets with ads, and +/- 4.9% for those in the comparison group.  Interviewing was conducted from November 22 – 30, 2013 by Latino Decisions. (See results in toplines and slide deck)

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