CHC Lays Out Guiding Principles on Immigration We Should All Live By

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

This week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) held a press conference to announce a set of principles to guide the upcoming push for comprehensive immigration reform.  The principles are thoughtful, fair, humane and pragmatic.  They also reflect the unity of the Latino community—regardless of subgroup, geography, or party affiliation—on the issues surrounding immigration.

Our community wants to see permanent relief for DREAMers, a path to legality and citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers, and the preservation of family unity at the core of our immigration policy.  We realize that these measures, together with smart and humane enforcement, are integral to restoring law and order to our country’s immigration system.  Without such steps, our country cannot successfully attract and integrate hardworking immigrants from all over the world to maintain an innovative and competitive economy.

While it is true that immigration is not the top issue that our community faces, it is also true that the positions candidates have on immigration were the key motivating factor in getting a record numbers of Hispanics to vote on Election Day.  Thus, we believe it would be a very wise move for everyone who is interested in moving forward on this issue with the Latino community to give as much attention as possible to what the CHC is saying.  We must swiftly work together to deliver the solutions our country has been waiting for.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus, “ONE NATION: Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream”

Foreign-Born Service Members Exemplify the Best of What It Means to Be American

On Veterans’ Day we honor all of the men and women who have chosen to serve our country by joining the military.  We pause to acknowledge the profound debt owed to those who have fought, sacrificed, and died to protect the United States of America, and to those service members currently defending our nation overseas and at home.

We include in our gratitude those members of the military who, though not born within our borders, demonstrate their love for and commitment to our country by serving in the armed forces.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported last year that since September 2001, 74,977 members of the military have become U.S. citizens through naturalization ceremonies in places as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Thailand.  With deep appreciation, NCLR recognizes our foreign-born service members who have decided to pursue the American Dream and their fullest potential as citizens.

We take pride in our veterans and in our servicemen and servicewomen pursuing citizenship.  In 2010 NCLR partnered with Texas Affiliate the Mexican American Unity Council to host a special USCIS naturalization ceremony for several military personnel before the 2010 NCLR Annual Conference.  You can view scenes from that ceremony in this video after the jump.

Thank you to all of our service members who have committed their lives to the defense of the United States of America.  Your selfless example inspires and educates us all on the dedicated and courageous character of American citizenship.

Immigration Reform Back on the Table

What a difference an election makes.

The Huffington Post is reporting that Senate Democrats and White House officials will make a push for immigration reform as soon as the president is inaugurated.

From HuffPost:

A Democratic Senate source who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Huffington Post that the full push for reform won’t happen immediately, but will begin soon after Obama starts his second term. The Dream Act, which would give legal status to undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, will be included in the efforts, according to the source.

“This isn’t going to happen during lame duck,” the source said.

The Obama administration has been a bit coy on what it views as its list of second-term priorities, with much of the early focus being spent on fiscal and tax policies that will take effect at the end of the year. But one close Obama advisor, not authorized to speak on the issue, said it made eminent political sense to try immigration reform at the top of the second term. And the president himself seemed to preview his intentions of doing just that during an interview with Univision late in his campaign, saying it was among his biggest failures.

There are no concrete details yet as to what a proposal would look like, but this is certainly encouraging news. We’re ready for this fight. We hope you are, too.

Does Sergio Romo Look Illegal to You?

This is definitely our favorite image today.

Image courtesy of SFgate.com; Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

This was the scene yesterday, during the San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade.

From “The Splash” blog on SFGate.com:

“In between bounding out of his car and high-fiving fans, TV cameras caught Giants closer Sergio Romo wearing a shirt that said, “I just look illegal.”

Romo, who is of Mexican descent, was born in Brawley, Calif., less than 30 miles from the Mexican border. Growing up, he crossed the border to play baseball in Mexicali during the winter.”

The Latino pitcher hasn’t commented on the shirt yet, but we’re not sure that he needs to.  It’s pretty obvious where he stands on anti-immigrant laws like Arizona SB 1070 and its copycats.

Romo’s shirt certainly adds some levity to the very serious issue of immigration, but it’s also a great reminder that these laws are still on the books.  These laws have to go yesterday!

So, Romo only looks illegal.  What about the folks in the video below?  Do they look illegal?

Is it Time for the Media to Stop Using “Illegal?”

By Ricky Garza, Communications Department, NCLR

In the ongoing debate over immigration reform, the topic seems to finally have shifted to the people affected themselves—the over 12 million undocumented people living in the U.S. without papers, their children, and their family and friends.

When I first arrived at Georgetown University four years ago, I was struck by the nonchalant way some of my new peers in Washington referred to the “illegals” crossing the border and to our “immigration problem.”  It was jarring given where I had come from:  the majority Hispanic Rio Grande Valley in Texas.  For most of my life, a variety of immigration statuses among neighbors and friends was an accepted fact of life, and an unfortunate side-effect of a patchwork immigration policy applied in one of the most heavily Hispanic regions of the United States.

Some people were citizens, others legal residents, and others went without papers or even driver’s licenses, although those facts were hardly advertised.  To ask or assume whether someone was in the country legally—and skin color definitely isn’t a factor in McAllen, Texas which is 85% Latino—was impolite at best and downright discriminatory at worst.

Our identities were not defined by a “legal” or “illegal” status worn on our sleeves.  My friends in high school worried about grades, joined clubs, and applied to colleges for the most part not concerned about who was or wasn’t undocumented, or if that friend who spoke Spanish more than English was really “American enough.”  My whole life was lived not imagining this could be the most important aspect about someone.  But traveling outside of my hometown and listening to the national news, I found a very different story—widespread talk of “illegal immigrants” overrunning our country and taking our jobs.  In that climate, one might never have guessed that the daily life I experienced in McAllen could be possible.

News outlets like the New York Times and the Associated Press often use the term “illegal immigrant” as a concise way of signifying a person who entered the country without permission.  But how can a person be illegal?  Adding the “illegal” adjective to a noun representing a person makes the person himself, rather than any act he committed, illegitimate.

Those who support using “illegal” often say, “They committed a crime, so they are illegal,” but this is a highly dubious and inaccurate assertion.  Entering the United States without authorization is a civil offense, not a criminal one.  Does committing another civil offense like getting a speeding ticket once, perhaps even decades ago, make you an “illegal driver” for life?  No—but our continued use of this term to characterize those who committed the civil offense of entering the country without documentation betrays a deep prejudice and skepticism about the legitimacy of America’s largest minority group.

The use of the term “illegal” is more than an issue of semantics; it is about offense and dehumanization.  Describing undocumented Americans this way shifts the focus to the circumstances of their national entry and rejects the totality of their varied identities and personhood.  Parents, students, and college graduates are suddenly reduced to an act that they may not even remember committing.

Ending the use of these words in the media won’t by itself create immigration reform or quickly improve the lives of those affected, but it can provide for a much-needed change in the conversation where empathy for the real people concerned is felt by Georgetown students and Texas border residents alike.  Acknowledging this and the offense the phrase “illegal immigrant” creates in the Hispanic community, the San Antonio Express-News, Huffington Post, ABC, and NBC have all agreed to end their use of the term.

For the sake of accuracy and respect for the 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States today, it’s time for the rest of the media to follow suit.

Ricky Garza is an intern with the NCLR Communications Department.  He is currently a senior at Georgetown University majoring in International Relations.