Archive for the ‘Legislation’ Category

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2012 Hill and Government Days

In Academic,Legislation,NLLSA,Politics,Race,U.S. Government on January 27, 2012 by NLLSA Chair

Please join the National Latina/o Law Student Association and the National Black Law Student Association for the 2012 Hill and Government Days to take place on February 8 and 9, 2012!

Please register at the following link: http://www.nblsa.org/hillandgovdaysregistration

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Mexico: The Other Side of the Story

In Foreign Policy,Immigration,Latin America,Legislation,Mexico,Politics,U.S. Government on April 18, 2011 by ppuentec

Students and activists gather during a drug protest against Mexico’s drug violence in Mexico City on February 17. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Every day we hear, read, and watch that hundreds of people are dying in Mexico due to the war on drugs. We also hear of complaints regarding the current Mexican administration and its law enforcement. What we don’t hear about in the news is what is causing the chaos and madness that is going on in America’s backyard.

Mexico has been the target of negative publicity, which continues every day whether it is regarding the war on drugs or the United States complaining about the immigration problem. What many people do not understand is that there are two sides to every story.

I. Immigration

Prior to 9/11 there were discussion of liberalizing the United States’ immigration policy under the Bush administration, but all discussions ended with 9/11. Once 9/11 happened, the focus of the war on terrorism was directed toward securing the borders, specifically the Mexican border. The focus was to keep terrorists from entering the United States through Canada and Mexico. Little effort has been devoted to the security of the Canadian border, however, despite the fact that just a few years ago at least one terrorist sought to enter the United States from the north.

One of the most disastrous projects was the border fence, which failed and has cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. During this time, all the energy and negative publicity was focused on the U.S./Mexico border. Stricter enforcement policies and a dramatic increase in deportations and immigration raids have occurred.

Increased border enforcement on the southern border with Mexico obviously has had, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on Mexican citizens. Among other effects, enhanced border enforcement tends to exacerbate the problem of human trafficking of migrants – an industry that has grown substantially over the last decade – from Mexico.

There are false contentions that undocumented immigrants are a burden on American society, but it is the American corporations who exploit undocumented workers and who hire them. Law review articles have discussed that the United States does benefit from undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants purchase items, pay property taxes, have insurance, etc. Their contribution to our economy isn’t a large-scale number, but it is still in the millions.

We all agree that there needs to be some type of immigration reform, but not with the measures that Arizona has taken. Arizona’s stance with immigration is conflicted. The whole point of securing our borders was to prevent terrorists from coming in. As my Immigration Professor at Valparaiso said, Mexicans do not fall from the sky or appear mysteriously at the point of entry. When dealing with immigration it is important to note the intent and the history behind such measures. Arizona has failed to do this and our alienating our neighbors that we benefit from. The United States, specifically the border area, depends on the Mexican trade.

II. Mexico’s War on Drugs

In 2006, President Calderon declared a war on drugs. Since then there have been mass graves, dismembered corpses, and entire towns besieged. Rival gangs have escalated their turf battles over smuggling routes and thousands of lives have been lost. The drug criminals have expanded their shadow by intimidating police forces, using kidnapping and extortion, and trafficking migrants.

A Man digs the grave for a funeral of a Mexican policeman murdered in Juarez by members of a drug cartel (Nadav Neuhaus)

I read an article from the Huffington Post by former NLLSA Chair David Perez titled “Mexico’s Last Stand”, which talked about how Mexico’s time is running out because they are at the end of President Calderon’s term. What was interesting was that the article stated that Mexico cannot back out on the war on drugs. It is now or never. What the article failed to state was what the United States is doing to combat the demand of drugs and the supply of arms to Mexico.

People walk past symbolic chalk outlines during an April 6 march in Cuernavaca called out by poet Javier Sicillia after the death of his son, whose body was found along with six other dead inside a car a week ago in Cuernavaca. Nationwide protests against Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s war on drug cartels that has claimed more than 37,000 lives since late 2006 were planned all over Mexico and in cities as far as Bueno Aires, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. (Margarito Perez/Reuters)

What has been the cause of all this? Drugs. The United States demands them and Mexico supplies them. The same goes with weapons. Mexico receives its weapons from the United States. As long as the demand is there the supply will continue to meet this demand and lives will be lost. Back in March of 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington must do more to stop limit the movement of weapons into Mexico and to address the drug demand. Little has been done, however. Drugs continue to be smuggled in and the problem worsens.

Where is the United Nations and why aren’t they addressing the flagrant human rights violations due to the mass killings and political assassinations in Mexico? Where is the transitional justice? Countries with similar human rights violations such as South Africa, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone have received assistance from the United Nations. There are several different initiatives that countries have adopted as approaches to transitional justice: criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, amnesty, monetary compensation, symbolic compensation, and institutional reform. The mass murders and the political assassinations are violations of international law and the United Nations should have stepped in by now. On October 18, 2010, 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia became the police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Mexico. She later fled to the United States to seek asylum because she feared for her life and the life of her child. Innocent people are dying in Mexico every day because of the war on drugs. The result: people are fleeing to the United States.

The United States government is ignoring what is going on in Mexico and should be focusing its efforts on the people who are demanding the drugs and supplying the weapons. Instead it is focusing on undocumented immigrants. As long as Mexico is continuing to destabilize, there will be more immigrants trying to enter the United States. The United States’ efforts should be toward helping Mexico combat the war on drugs and taking responsibility for the drug demand. “Ignoring the sending country as an explanatory variable yields a sad sort of policy solipsism.” Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).

Sources:

Kevin R. Johnson and Bernard Trujillo, 9/11 Five Years On: A Look At the Global Response to Terrorism: Immigration Reform, National Security After September 11, and the Future of North American Integration, 91 Minn. L. Rev. 1369 (2007).

Bernard Trujillo, Mexican Families & United States Immigration Reform, 38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 415 (2010).

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Priscilla Puente-Chacon is a second-year law student at Valparaiso University School of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Public Relations Director.

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Turning a Negative Into a Positive: Finding Benefits in a Recent Texas Immigration Bill

In Immigration,Legislation,NLLSA on March 25, 2011 by Barbara Tagged: , , , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, a proposed bill in Texas caused some surprise. As proposed, House Bill 2012 would create tough state punishments for those who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” hire an unauthorized immigrant. Violators could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. But there is an exception included in the bill that is drawing attention. Those who hire unauthorized immigrants would be in violation of the law — unless they are hiring a maid, a lawn caretaker or another houseworker. See the link to this CNN article http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-01/politics/texas.immigration.bill_1_immigration-bill-unauthorized-immigrants-issue-of-illegal-immigration?_s=PM:POLITICS.

Now let me tell you, living in Arizona for about 3 years now, proposed anti-immigrant bills are no surprise to me anymore. It has become a common day thing here in Phoenix and even though they are infuriating and cause me sadness, the passage of these bills is reality. However, this bill kind of stunned me. Why? Well because at first I thought it was hypocritical that you would let undocumented workers in the country only for the benefit of rich Texans (and I am sure other states will follow). Secondly, I am originally from Texas and I never really thought Texas would follow suit with Arizona, as we have the second largest Hispanic population in the US and Latinos (both US born and not US born) in Texas essentially benefit the economy, diversity and everything else in Texas. Riddle’s chief of staff, Jon English, admitted that the exception was to avoid “stifling the economic engine” in Texas. So as I continued to think about the impact this bill would have in Texas and on people, I remembered that my graduation paper (in Critical Race Theory) was on undocumented domestic workers and workplace rights. At that point my focus on this bill being wrong and hypocritical shifted to the possible positive impact this bill could have on undocumented immigrants.

In my paper (which is more concise than this and I am not giving it justice), my central thesis revolves around making an exception to the immigration law so as to allow these people- house workers, nannies, caretakers, etc- to stay in the country. Not only does it benefit the economy but the people themselves as they will be able to stay in the country legally. However, and this is the most important part, there have to be security enforcements in place so as to give these workers full work-place rights, which for the most part they do not have. People treat these people as indentured servants, sometimes even worse. There are plenty of horror stories from undocumented workers working in these jobs, so after looking through various immigration statutes I came to the conclusion that new laws have to be written so as to allow these workers things such as worker’s comp, back pay if there is a dispute, reasonable work hours, access to the courts, etc. Although there are some laws in the books speaking to these things, they are either rarely enforced or the person is too afraid they will get deported or just do not have the means to go through a process like this. Thus, workplace rights for these people can be enforced and should.

So in conclusion, if such a bill is going to be brought up, then I think all these other factors should be part of the discussion as well. We cannot allow such a bill to pass just because “When it comes to household employees or yard workers, it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers.” “It is so common, it is overlooked.”If this bill is going to “benefit” anyone or anything, it should benefit everyone! Now, if Arizona could only take some of this into account, it would be a different environment right now, but this is not the case- Arizona simply wants to get rid of all of their Mexican population.

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Grisel Galvan is a third-year student at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Mountain Regional Director.

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Maryland State Senate to Vote on Critical Immigrant Issue

In Academic,DREAM Act,Immigration,Legislation,Politics on March 7, 2011 by NLLSA Policy Initiative Director

The Maryland State Senate is preparing to vote on March 8th on whether or not to give undocumented students who reside in Maryland the right to pay the in-state tuition rate that documented students pay to attend the state’s public institutions of higher learning.  The measure has passed through the Senate Committee on Education and has gained considerable momentum.

The bill was introduced by freshman Senator Victor Ramirez and it would open the door to higher education for many Maryland students.  One of the bill’s key amendments would require undocumented students to attend a community college and transfer into a university prior to receiving the in-state tuition rate.  Nevertheless, this state bill will be happily embraced by the undocumented student community who were discouraged by the defeat of the national “DREAM Act” legislation that failed to pass through the United States Senate after passing through the United States House of Representatives.

The full story can be found here.  Hopefully the Maryland State Senate can pass the legislation and provide relief to thousands of students.  The success of this measure can have a significant effect on the prospect of national legislation affecting the education of undocumented students.

10 States (Washington, California, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, and New York) already provide in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.  Maryland would become the 11th if this bill were to pass.

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Illegal Immigration and the U.S. Military: The Challenge of Reconciliation

In DREAM Act,Immigration,Legislation,Politics,U.S. Government on February 19, 2011 by NLLSA Treasurer

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported the story of decorated soldier Luis Lopez, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to his commander, Mr. Lopez was “a critical part of the success of his unit fighting the global war on terrorism” and has over a dozen awards to prove it. 

Up until last week, the 28-year-old staff sergeant was also an undocumented immigrant.  Mr. Lopez was discharged from the Army in late December after he informed military officials that he applied for U.S. citizenship.  His illegal status—Mr. Lopez arrived from Mexico at the age of 8—prevented him from seeking employment while waiting for immigration officials to review his case.

Amid the national immigration debate, one section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act is often overlooked.  The statute provides that foreign nationals who have “served honorably” during wartime may secure citizenship “whether or not [they have been] lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.”

As the article points out, this highlights the federal government’s “seemingly inconsistent” stance on immigration and the military.  Undocumented immigrants cannot legally enlist in the armed forces, but if they find a way to do so, they are given an opportunity to seek naturalization.

The statute has garnered attention recently during Congressional consideration of the DREAM Act.  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R–AL), an opponent of the legislation, has argued that the DREAM Act is not needed because “there is already a legal process in place for illegal aliens to obtain U.S. citizenship through military service.”  He notes that under 10 U.S.C. § 504, the Secretary of Defense can provide undocumented aliens the authority to enlist.  

The position advanced by Senator Sessions requires that undocumented aliens come forward and seek military enlistment by first getting approval from proper government authorities.  However, obtaining such approval is only possible under the statute if it is determined that the enlistment is “vital to the national interest.”  Short of meeting this arbitrary threshold, such military candidates must essentially falsify official documents, such as birth certificates, thereby breaking the law.  This falls short of providing the solution offered by the DREAM Act, which is a truly legal means of enlisting and securing citizenship. 

Mr. Lopez was granted citizenship after the WSJ began asking immigration authorities questions about his case.  He participated in a naturalization service last week, thereby finalizing the citizenship process.  Unfortunately, Mr. Lopez represents the exception.  Congress must now tackle the issue by giving undocumented men and women who want to serve in the U.S. military an opportunity to do so.

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Larry Banda is a third-year student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Treasurer of the National Latina/o Law Student Association.

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The American DREAM

In Academic,DREAM Act,Immigration,Jobs,Latin America,Legislation,Mexico,NLLSA,Politics,Supreme Court,U.S. Government on August 21, 2010 by nllsachair

From a recent article on the Huffington Post’s website written on behalf of NLLSA:

Given the increasing importance of a college education, it’s finally time for Congress to end this absurdity and pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”). The DREAM Act, a bipartisan proposal, would provide qualifying students the opportunity to go to college or enlist in the military. To qualify an immigrant must have lived continuously in the United States for five years or more, have good moral character, and either earn a two-year degree from an accredited college or serve at least two years in the U.S. military within a six-year span.

If passed, the DREAM Act would restore every student’s right to finish her studies and to continue dreaming.

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Indeed, immigrant students who go to college later step into higher-paying jobs, increasing our tax revenue and consumer spending. This is a win-win for America: more education and more jobs.

Read the full piece here.