Jan 18, 2008

Dreams Deferred: Immigrants wait more, pay more, vote less

ICIRR Policy Director Fred Tsao journeyed to Washington this week to testify before a Congressional Subcommittee about the impact of the tremendous backlogs to obtaining citizenship that immigrants across the country now face. The agency that processes citizenship applications, USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), was not equipped to handle the recent influx of new registrations, which was caused by the agency’s own decision to steeply increase citizenship fees last July (by 70%).

This processing backlog of sixteen to eighteen months means that legal residents who had rushed to become citizens in time to vote in the 2008 elections will be left out to dry, their dreams of full participation in our country needlessly placed on hold.

"'The price of USCIS's failed leadership and poor planning is the disenfranchisement of those immigrants who have played by the rules,' said Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union," in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Read ICIRR Policy Director Fred Tsao’s testimony here, download the press release, or read more in the Wall Street Journal or Chicago Tribune.

Jan 10, 2008

Conservative Pundit Shuns Anti-Immigrant Tactics

New Hampshire primary, Iowa caucus results shift debate...

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s losses in Iowa and New Hampshire and the victory of Senator McCain in New Hampshire, conservative pundit Victor Davis Hanson is urging the Republican Party to move away from the rhetoric of mass deportations and towards workable compromises.

Read about it in the article “CIR Back On The Table.” Let’s hope the candidates begin to understand, as ICIRR Executive Director Joshua Hoyt illustrated in last Sunday’s op-ed: “That anti-immigrant dog just don’t hunt!”

Jan 5, 2008

Anti-Immigrant Politics Fails to Move Votes

If common decency isn't enough to convince politicians to stop using anti-immigrant tactics in their campaigns, the results from Iowa should help. In a recent Chicago Tribune article, ICIRR Executive Director, Josh Hoyt, writes: In a state where voters had a clear choice to vote for former Massachussettes Governor Mitt Romney’s tough stance on illegal immigration in the Republican Caucuses, instead they turned out in historic numbers to vote Democratic. There they picked Senator Obama, who has unabashedly advocated an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented. [...]

Romney was beaten by the very same Huckabee who he blasted in thousands of commercials for not denying access to higher education to those Arkansas children who had the bad luck to be brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Even John McCain, given up as political roadkill over the issue of immigration, surged to a shockingly strong finish.

Immigrant bashing is simply not an effective strategy to win elections, as was proven in the 2006 elections, in Virginia and New York in 2007, and in Iowa in 2008.

Here's the full text:

Immigration issue fizzles again

By Joshua Hoyt, ICIRR Executive Director, Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2008

One of the rituals of going after that elusive big-game target, the "Middle-America White Male Voter," is the hunting trip. The day after Christmas, Mike Huckabee tromped through the Iowa fields with a contingent of newspeople. Huckabee's hunting party bagged three pheasants.

Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney boasted, "I've been a hunter pretty much all of my life," before it was revealed that his experience actually consisted of two hunting trips, separated by 45 years.

In Iowa's GOP presidential caucuses, one of the vote-hunting strategies for that Middle-America White Male Voter was some good, old-fashioned immigrant bashing. So how well did that anti-immigrant dog hunt? Once again we learned that the tired, old dog is all bark and no bite.

It always seemed odd to some of us that much of the Republican field thought that illegal immigration would be the defining wedge issue in a state that is 95 percent white and where the number of undocumented immigrants totals a bit more than 2 percent of the population.

But the pundits all said that finally, this year, illegal immigration would move votes for tough-talking politicians. So Tom Tancredo, a backbench congressman who appears to live only to bully immigrants, ran a commercial that claimed, "Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil," and ended with a backpack exploding in a shopping mall. The Colorado Republican congressman's "Before-it's-too-late" campaign to terrorize us into electing him president was thankfully interrupted by his withdrawal from the race, but Tancredo endorsed Mitt Romney on the way out.

Romney was a worthy recipient of the Tancredo mantle because Romney ran commercials that aired more than 12,000 times, mostly in Iowa and New Hampshire, promising to be rough and tough when it comes to illegal immigration. Romney used the debates and his commercials to blast his challengers, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Huckabee, for being soft on illegal immigrants. (All the while, Romney suffered from that peculiar hypocritical blindness that this issue seems to engender. Romney, it turns out, once employed a landscaper who used undocumented workers to landscape Romney's stately Massachusetts home. Romney continued to use the landscaping firm after that was reported, but dismissed the company when it was caught a second time using undocumented gardeners.)

Giuliani and Huckabee quickly turned themselves into political pretzels, trying to be what they had never been in real life: tough, enforcement-first upholders of our broken immigration "rule of law." Only McCain tried to maintain his self-respect on the issue.

The results are in. In a state where voters had a clear choice to vote for Romney's tough stance on illegal immigration in the Republican caucuses, they instead turned out in historic numbers to vote Democratic. There they picked Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who has unabashedly advocated an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented.

On the Republican side, Romney, despite his overwhelming funding advantage, came up short. University of Iowa polls showed that 57 percent of Iowa voters favored earned citizenship for the undocumented and only 23 percent favored deportation.

This is consistent with national polling. In 20 of 22 separate public opinion polls conducted between March and December, somewhere between 55 percent and 83 percent of the respondents favored some form of earned legal status. In the remaining two polls, the majority favored this option.

Immigrant bashing just does not move votes. The 2006 elections were a disaster for anti-immigrant demagoguery. Not only did the issue fail to stave off the Republican loss of the House and Senate, but leading Republican anti-immigrant campaigners such as Reps. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and John Hostettler of Indiana and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania all lost their races. And in a telling portent of the future, Latino support for the GOP dropped to 26 percent from 44 percent.

Last November, Republicans trotted out their anti-immigrant dog again, trying to gain ground in Virginia and take advantage of Gov. Eliot Spitzer's botched attempt to grant driver's licenses to the undocumented in New York. The results: Democrats took the House of Delegates in Virginia and the Republican assault in New York was negligible.

Is there a take-home lesson that Republican leaders and politicians should learn from Iowa? Yes. Voters are concerned about our broken immigration system, but they want sensible solutions, not just loud barks from a toothless hunting dog.

Dec 10, 2007

Dobbs Gets Daily Radio Show Despite Fact-Twisting and Hate

There's been a flurry of activity surrounding Lou Dobbs since our protest...

If you haven't read it yet, check out the seminal NYTimes article attacking Dobbs' journalistic integrity by David Leonhard: “Truth, Fiction, and Lou Dobbs". In this article Leonhard exposes a few of the most salient examples of Dobbs' demagoguery: his misrepresentation of the number of leprosy and tuberculosis cases in the U.S. which he then attributed to undocumented immigrants without any scientific evidence; his gross misrepresentation of the numbers of undocumented immigrants in federal and state prisons; and his insinuations of a Mexican conspiracy to invade the U.S. and retake certain territories.

Numerous journalists have attacked Lou Dobbs for his inaccuracies and lack of journalistic integrity; even more immigrant rights groups have been vocal in their outrage over his hateful messages. However, mainstream media venues like CNN continue to feature Dobbs as a credible journalist, and now he has signed a contract for a 3 hour, daily radio show.

Also check out last week's NYTimes article by David Brooks, “Follow the Fundamentals”. Brooks perceptively breaks down Dobbs’ rhetoric, pointing out that it “rests on fears that the America we once knew is bleeding away. And that’s just not true.”

Also last week: Journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Dobbs and confronted him about these lies on their show, Democracy Now. They then went on to highlight his multiple connections to the white nationalist hate group, Council of Conservative Citizens. If you don’t have the patience to watch the entire interview with Dobbs, take a look at Amy Goodman’s weekly column summarizing their findings: http://www.alternet.org/rights/69769/.

Congressman Gutierrez was also featured as a guest on Dobbs' show last week. It was an excellent interview. Check out blogger Kyle Debs' video here. They spent a good amount of time debating the merits of his proposal for immigration reform, the STRIVE Act. It was an excellent debate that showed just how people like Cong. Gutierrez are working hard to find solutions to our broken immigration system, while Lou Dobbs does nothing but demagogue and manipulate the American public with his inflammatory rhetoric and false statistics.