What happened to immigration reform?

Among the many promises and priorities of the Obama Administration was immigration reform. If you’ve been watching the national policy conversation you’d think that health care reform was trumping all other priorities, except maybe the economy and stimulus.
In early August President Obama told Latino journalists at the White House that he hopes to have legislation drafted by early 2010. This is later that many had hoped, and if the health care battle is any indication, it’s not going to be an easy fight.
We’ve also been through this struggle before, albeit in a very different political climate. The failed immigration reform attempts in 2006 and 2007 have left a bitter taste in advocates mouths. The bills that were eventually negotiated left little to support and failed accordingly.
Meanwhile, New America Media reported yesterday that “the number of criminal prosecutions initiated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement rose during President Obama’s first five months in office.” In addition, the controversial immigration program 287g has been extended, which gives ICE authority to local police officers. E-verify was also extended, a program that allows employers to confirm employees immigration status, but advocates say it’s a faulty system that is creating “false positives” and resulting in flagging documented workers.
It’s hard to pit one priority against the next, but as our immigration system waits for a long overdue reform, immigrants in the US continue to suffer the consequences.

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  1. Gretel
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Why are North American indigenous people always used in these cartoons and portrayed as stereotypically as possible? Is he supposed to represent a Wampanoag from 1630? Or a contemporary indigenous person? Where’s this cartoon from?
    Also, there’s actually a myriad of opinions about immigration in Indian Country. I find the constant use (misuse in my humble opinion) of the indigenous experience for political cartoons troubling.

  2. Comrade Kevin
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    The White House would consider it a matter of legislative priority. Again, I am flabbergasted (maybe I shouldn’t be) at how resistant people are to an ambitious agenda of which health care reform is only one component.
    The system is clearly not designed for wholesale reform and I suppose it’s our job to prepare it for transformative change.

  3. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I was going to let the cartoon slide but luckily you said it all for me Gretel.
    I dislike constantly being dragged into the immigration debate as a clever aside instead of as a person with an opinion that has nothing to do with my indigenous heritage.
    I know Miriam meant no offense… and I’m not really offended. Just a little tired of hearing this stupid joke.

  4. argon
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I remember during one of the debates, they asked Obama to rank 5 issues in order of priority for him, and he ranked immigration at #5. (Do I remember this right?)
    I believe part of the problem is that amnesty isn’t a slam-dunk with the Democratic base the way health care is. The African-American community in particular has deep suspicions about open borders, and they know the Dem politicians just take the AA community and their votes for granted and often don’t listen to their concerns. The union workers also are less than enthusiastic. I believe a good first step is to get these pillars of the Dem base on board.
    FWIW, I’m generally in favor of amnesty with one caveat… we should promote English use and give citizenship priority to those who speak English. Or, make Spanish the national language and make everyone speak Spanish. I really don’t care, just as long as we have one united language for everyone. How can the AA community and Latino community understand each other if they literally don’t speak the same language?

  5. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    aragon, priority is already given to English speakers. There are more ESL classes for Spanish speakers being offered every day. We’re already making steps toward “one united language for everyone”.
    What is the point of a “national language”. If you want to be able to communicate with the Latino community, then learn Spanish. You shouldn’t have to be incentivized to do so by a piece of legislation declaring it the language of the land.

  6. crshark
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “Open borders”? “National language”? This comment strikes me as a collection of warmed-over anti-immigration dog whistles.
    Your comment states, “The African-American community in particular has deep suspicions about open borders.” Well, no one has proposed “open borders” (nor is Mecha scheming to return the U.S. southwest to Mexico for a glorious rebirth of the nation of Aztlán). If by “open borders” you meant amnesty, what evidence do you have to support this statement? In my years of immigration rights activism, this hasn’t been my experience at all.
    You also stated, “The union workers also are less than enthusiastic.” This statement is the opposite from the truth. During the immigration reform rallies in 2003 and 2006, there was no bigger supporter of the undocumented workers than the AFL-CIO, which organized Freedom Rides of undocumented workers to over 100 cities, advocating for reform. While this assessment of union attitudes may have been accurate in the early 1970′s, organized labor has recognized that organizing the industries that include a substantial component of undocumented workers, such as hotel and restaurant workers, will enhance and strengthen their influence.

  7. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “…nor is Mecha scheming to return the U.S. southwest to Mexico for a glorious rebirth of the nation of Aztlán…”
    That made me lol.
    Thank you for saying what I wanted to say so much more eloquently, crshark.

  8. Toni
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    That cartoon reminds me of something I saw from Current TV. Native Americans were trying to keep pilgrims from coming to the New World. I’ll try to find it and post it her if I do.

  9. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Yes, and xkcd has done it too. It’s an old joke and it has very little to do with immigration reform.

  10. cattrack2
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Oh I don’t think the cartoonist meant to malign Native Americans here, or make statements on behalf of Native Americans. At least I didn’t get the impression that he was trying to speak for us. I think the point is that everyone in the Americas came here from somewhere else…and that’s a point that’s hard to illustrate in a single panel political cartoon.

  11. pluralist
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    “we should promote English use and give citizenship priority to those who speak English. Or, make Spanish the national language and make everyone speak Spanish. I really don’t care, just as long as we have one united language for everyone. How can the AA community and Latino community understand each other if they literally don’t speak the same language?”
    English is already the dominant language in the US – the barriers to people who cannot speak English are quite obvious: you can’t rise far above menial labour in most cases is you speak only one language. Furthermore, isn’t there a woman who speaks an obscure language from Mexico fighting for custody of her child on that basis alone?
    Also, consider the caricatures of Asians (including South Asians), Blacks, Hispanics, etc (and some lower class whites) that almost unfailingly deride them (atleast in part) for their inability to speak “proper” English. I’d go so far as to speculate there is a certain amount of privilege accorded to those who speak “correct” English.
    The solution is not to make everyone speak Spanish, or make everyone speak English, or make everyone speak a language we make up in an international symposium – but for people who have the privilege of education and leisure time to devote themselves more to learning other languages so that there CAN be communication between language groups.

  12. Miriam
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s true, political cartoons often use stereotyping to get their point across. Apologies if someone took offense to the cartoon.
    I do think it’s relevant to immigration reform as it points out the hypocrisy in all of it. The US is a country of immigrants, everyone here, with the exception of Native American folks, immigrated from somewhere else at some point in their family history. Remember the statue of liberty? Sometimes it’s seems those who are staunchly anti-immigrant have forgotten our history.

  13. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Miriam, I wasn’t the least bit offended. I understand the sentiment that “everyone is an immigrant,” I just don’t think it’s an effective argument. I agree that anti-immigration folk seem to have forgotten our history but reminding them of it doesn’t seem to do much good. As a native person I would just rather look toward the future.

  14. cattrack2
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Want to know why Obama hasn’t moved forward on immigration reform? Take a look at the above posts. If on a very progressive blog people can’t agree on even why immigration reform is needed, or what the goals are, then there’s no freakin way BO’s gonna get Republicans aboard too. It’ll make health care reform look like a friendly game of checkers…hell, they already think the guy’s some kinda Manchurian candidate.
    From where I sit, though, I’m not so sure we need immigration reform. I *think* the status quo tends to benefit immigrants more than the certain crackdown that would be entailed in comprehensive reform. I think, at best, immigration reform represents getting a normal life for illegal immigrants already here, but it might also entail a large number of them being forced to return to their homelands.

  15. Brittanicus
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Guess we all knew the special interest groups, lead by the US Chamber of Commerce and a large majority of pro-illegal worker organization, would try to upend the US Federal court order from apply E-Verify in September? If I had my way I as a citizen would–BOYCOTT– any company, store, factory, farm or manufacturing plant that didn’t display an E-Verify notice in their working place. They certainly don’t care one-iota for the American workers jobless or not? Both illegal immigration and health care are tied into the same knot and will have a hard time passing. Immigration reform will be the battle of the century and all those politicians who sign up for it, are likely be signing up also for unemployment benefits.
    This piece of potential immigration reform legislation, is not being fully advanced to the public and veiled until after enactment? Legislators have dug there immigration reform grave and must now suffer the consequences. Accept they are looking for an easy avenue, to get out of the coffin they hammered in with their own nails. As with most civilized countries we are predisposed to treatment for any illegal alien in emergency hospitals. Except that this hospitals have become an open-house for any minor ailment to very expensive problems like dialysis?. In addition any public option, must have some stipulation in the bill that illegal immigrants from gaining access. The problem is there is absolutely nothing in this health care bill containing any text to–CLOSE LOOPHOLES–that would disallow millions of illegal immigrants from participating?
    Either way illegal Immigrants will get full access to THE PEOPLES health care, if the Democrats pass a path to citizenship or better known as BLANKET AMNESTY. The American people no longer believe in the propaganda that spills from the national press, about the illegal immigrant travesty, public health care from the mob in Washington? Perhaps we should look towards the single payer system that has succeeded in Europe? Instead of listening to the choking rhetoric from the special interest organizations that have erupted on radio and television.
    They can yell from the hills that there is only 13 million foreign nationals and families occupying our soil, but that number has been programmed into us for about 10 years. Most bloggers estimate at least twenty million plus, with more appearing everyday and more on the way if a path to citizenship is forced through the Congress? How counterproductive can this be in passing health care treatment, when the teeming numbers already here pay nothing in the emergency room? Even the employers who hire them pay nothing, then slink away and leave the debt for taxpayers to pick up or the hospital to absorb? Even if it could be calculated the amount of money in government expenditures over decades, given to support these invaders, it would pay for the wars our politician subject us too? When are these pandering lawmakers going to work for all Americans and protect their jobs. Which they didn’t establish in the original stimulus bills, but even then left a gaping loophole for illegal foreign workers.
    We must assure that all American workers are gainfully employed, not individuals who have no right to be in our nation? It makes me sick to see veterans of Korea, Viet-Nam, the Gulf war walking the streets homeless, while illegal immigrants get gratification from employers and lawmakers. WE NO LONGER CAN SUPPORT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. OUR COUNTRY IS NEAR BANKRUPTCY. DEMAND E-VERIFY TO CHECK THE IMMIGRATION STATUS FOR EVERY US WORKER, BY CONTACTING YOUR LAWMAKER AT 202-224-3121. VOTERS SHOULD COMMAND NO MORE WEAKENING OF ANY LAWS INCLUDING 1986 (IRCA) IMMIGRATION CONTROL & REFORM ACT. JOIN NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIAL WATCH AND BE STUNNED HOW MILLIONS OF VOICES HAVE MADE AN INCREDULOUS DIFFERENCE.

  16. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Having an official “National language” is too European-in-a-bad-way for me, but that said discouraging anyone in the US from learning English is doing them no favors (and I minored in Spanish).

  17. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Native Americans, in fact, also immigrated here. All humans have a common point of origin in Africa.

  18. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    aleks, I’m confused… again. Are you saying that my comment suggested that anyone should be discouraged from learning English? Or are you just adding to it?
    I majored in Spanish. I think everyone who has the opportunity should be bilingual.

  19. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    “If you want to be able to communicate with the Latino community, then learn Spanish.”
    I took that to mean that efforts shouldn’t be made to teach everyone in America English. If I misunderstood you I will apologize. In any case, while I’m against making English an official language, everyone in the US really really should learn it (and within a generation usually does). Everyone in America should probably learn at least functional Spanish as well.

  20. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s true. Just the other day a Mexican stole my job, spicied up my food with his jalopinos, and did the lambada with my daughter.

  21. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Or maybe they remember it. The fact that the 1492- immigrants decimated the local people, stole their land and marginalized their culture is pretty much what the Know Nothings think is happening today.

  22. allieb87
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    You mentioned that you teach ESL in Anti-Feminist Mailbag. I have taught ESL too. Many of my students couldn’t make it to class every single night. They had full time jobs and families. I didn’t. My privilege made it far easier for me to become bilingual. All I was suggesting is that anyone who has an interest in communicating with Spanish speakers should attempt to learn Spanish. Obviously, learning English is beneficial to Spanish speakers as well.

  23. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    You think it’s more realistic for everyone to learn dozens or hundreds of languages (and have all signs and all documents and all lessons in all classrooms given in every language that can be found) than for everyone to learn one language?

  24. aleks
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t mean that it was easy. I think it should be made a hell of a lot easier, in fact, because I do think having everyone learn the de facto national language is good for everyone. There’s nothing special about English, it’s self-contradictory and cumbersome, but it is the American common language, and to a large extent the international language.

  25. cattrack2
    Posted September 2, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Brittannicus–Ironic reinforcement of the fact that even those of us born here would benefit from a good ESL course…or two.
    And, Brittanicus, you might want to borrow a dictionary, while you got your nose buried in the encyclopedia.

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