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Month: July 2011

Georgia: Volunteer Immigration Enforcement Review Board

In a previous post, we mentioned that, as federal immigration reform has seen arguably little change, some states are taking charge with new laws of their own. Georgia is one such state. This month, Georgia governor Nathan Deal has appointed a board of unpaid volunteers that will be able to issue fines of $5,000 to state and county offices who do not comply with immigration reform laws. Examples of violations include not checking immigration status when processing employment or food stamp applications.

Some areas and establishments have already seen labor shortages as a result of the law, while some individual protesters and citizens disagree with the existence of the newly-created board, calling it a “mini-McCarthy panel” and a “radical privatization of government power.” Others, such as representative Matthew Ramsey, consider the law a compromise, suggesting that perhaps individual citizens, rather than an appointed board, should instead have the right to sue violators.

There are no set standards of eligibility for the seven members of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, and appointments are set to be made by the governor in the next few months. The panel will begin work in January 2012.

Click here for more information about state immigration reform

One Viewpoint: Illegal Immigration from Mexico Decreasing

In recent decades, immigration to the United States from Mexico has been at an all-time high. However, this trend may have changed.

According to the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, current Mexican emigration to the United States is at its lowest point since the 1950s. How much lower? In 2010, based on census data, the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 100,000 illegal immigrants came to the United States from Mexico in 2010- a high number, but significantly less than the 525,000 each year from 2000-2004.

Reasons why illegal immigration may have decreased are numerous, but the reasons that many are choosing to stay in Mexico relate strongly to the reasons why Enrique and his mother chose to leave Honduras in Sonia Nazario’s book.

Damien Cave, a New York Times correspondent based in Mexico City, identified many of these factors in a recent article. One is smaller family sizes, which have decreased the number of job seekers in Mexico significantly since the 1990s. In addition, thanks to new educational opportunities, many students say they are more educated than their parents, and have no desire to go to the United States, especially as wages in Mexico have also increased in recent years. Some maintain that it is increased border patrol that is discouraging potential immigrants.

At the same time, illegal immigration from other regions, such as Central America, where Enrique began his dangerous journey, have not slowed as significantly.

For more information, read “Better Lives for Mexicans cuts Allure of Going North.”

The Dangerous Trek: Problems Migrants Face During Their Journeys

Much of what readers learn from Sonia’s novel is about the dangers that Hispanic migrants risk while they attempt to make their way to the United States in hopes for a better life for themselves, for their children, and for their families. As migrants make their trek, they hope to avoid being robbed, brutal injuries from riding on freight trains, rapings, beatings, and kidnappings, which are just some of the problems that many migrants face.

In a Fox News Latino article about a kidnapping of at least 80 migrants in Veracruz, we see that these problems persist though “the government says it is ‘lowering crime rates and doing a lot to combat kidnappings…” These migrants, including women and children, were abducted off a freight train by gunmen with three large SUVs and taken to an unknown location. This is just one case of many kidnappings, and “at least 11,333 migrants…were kidnapped in Mexico between April and September 2010…” This pressing issue leaves government officials with a lot of work to do as far as how to control these criminal gangs who are performing such violent actions. Read more about this article here.

This article, along with Enrique’s Journey, vividly portray the unimaginable experiences migrants face as they journey through Central America and Mexico. And to think, some migrants fail to make it to the United States time and time again, but continue to attempt such a risky quest. Sometimes you wonder, is it all really worth it? This seems to be a question throughout Sonia’s novel, whether or not it is worth risking your life and in many cases leaving your loved ones behind.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on these issues.

Jessica Waala
Undergraduate Student

Immigration in America Today: What’s the Real Story?

Information about the immigration is widely available on the Internet, yet it can be difficult to find nonbiased news sources and government information.

The New York Times “Times Topics” section gives a good first overview of the immigration issue, breaking down the Bush and Obama administration’s policies. Until recently, little has been done in terms of immigration reform since a failed push in 2007. According to the Times, in 2010, 11.2 million illegal immigrants were living in the United States. Both parties agree that reform is necessary, but a course of action has not been settled upon.

In 2004, President Bush called for change in immigration law. In 2005, a federal bill was passed, making living in the country illegally a felony, and mandating a huge increase in fences along the border. In subsequent years, additional laws were passed to slow illegal immigration, and to help assimilate those in the country. Deportation also increased. The publication of Enrique’s Journey in 2007 falls during this time in the Bush administration, making it easy to understand how Enrique’s dangerous journey related to these changes in legislation.

In 2008, President Obama’s election was greatly affected by supportive Hispanic voters. Thusfar, however, Obama’s policies have continued to follow the lead of the Bush administration. However, some enforcement changes are underway, such as a move to change detainment centers from prison and prison-like locations, and changing the process of federal immigration raids on factories and farms. While Obama’s campaign intended to make immigration reform a priority, the recession and job losses by American citizens has affected the strength of Democratic propositions. Click here to read Obama’s May 2011 speech about immigration reform.

While federal change appears slow, states such as Arizona and Alabama have taken matters into their own hands, passing laws intended to bar immigrants from obtaining work and education.

For more details, click here to read the “Immigration and Emigration” Times Topic, which also includes links to Times articles about immigration.

What is the next step that the government should take in immigration reform? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Don Bartletti, Enrique’s Journey Photojournalist

Sonia Nazario has a prominent presence in Enrique’s Journey. Less present in the text is photojournalist Don Bartletti, who also made the harrowing journey for the story. Bartletti is the artist behind the photos in the book, including the cover art of a young boy riding atop a train.

Bartletti has traveled over five continents and received over 40 career awards for his work, including the Pulitzer Prize for the LA Times Enrique’s Journey series. He is quoted by the L.A. Times as saying, “Photojournalism is an adventure that falls somewhere between cultural anthropology and a scavenger hunt. “

As you read Enrique’s Journey, don’t forget to view Bartletti’s photos, a reminder of Enrique and other migrants’ real-life roles in this nonfiction book. Visit Bartletti’s LA Times biography to view an extensive photo gallery, or click here to see pictures and learn more about his Pulitzer Prize.

Fourth of July Weekend Naturalization Ceremonies

What does Independence Day mean to you? For 24,000 individuals this year, it means United States citizenship.

Between June 27th and July 4th, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is holding 350 naturalization ceremonies to welcome new citizens to the United States. Not all of these ceremonies will be held on U.S. soil. Eight will be held overseas for members of the armed forces in Baghdad, Kabul, and Kuwait.

Interested in seeing a naturalization ceremony? Click here to see live streaming TODAY of a ceremony in San Diego. The ceremony will take place at 9:45 am PDT (that’s 11:45 CDT).

Visit the USCIS website for more information about these ceremonies, naturalization, and other immigration topics.