3.31.2006

Careful What You Wish For

AP: "The only vote of the day came on a proposal by Frist for a study of the number and causes of deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border. It passed 94-0." More of the lovely decorum displayed by our well educated, well spoken, high public policy-minded lawmakers here.

Um, Senator? Please visit our bibliography page here. We have a link to the official GAO report "INS's Southwest Border Strategy: Resource and Impact Issues Remain After Seven Years." Or download it here.

We know what causes the deaths, Senator. How can it be that you and your colleagues do not?

In USA Today Today

USA Today asks: Aren't people who provide humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants only encouraging more people to cross the border illegally? Robin answers: There is no evidence whatsoever that the presence of some water in the desert encourages migration. If you want to carry that kind thinking to its logical end, then we would have to tear up the interstate highways because people are using interstate highways to smuggle dope. Those are ridiculous reductionist arguments. All of the humanitarian groups that I know of that operate in California and Arizona go to great lengths to warn migrants of the explicit dangers before them. I would say we're actually doing a better job of trying to manage the migration than the folks that are throwing rocks at us.

3.27.2006

Cooler Heads May Prevail

From the AP covering the Senate Judiciary Committee:
The panel ... decided on a closer vote to make sure that humanitarian organizations are sheltered from prosecution if they provide non-emergency assistance to illegal residents.
Ummm. what about real emergency assistance? The full Senate starts debate tomorrow on its version of the House bill. Here's our list of key Senate contacts.

3.26.2006

500,000 Peacefully March

That's a half-million in L.A. alone, folks. Look at this picture.

3.24.2006

Thousands March For Migrants

We knew this was coming. AP reports: Thousands of people across the country protested Friday against legislation cracking down on illegal immigrants, with demonstrators in such cities as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta staging school walkouts, marches and work stoppages.

3.23.2006

Hooover At Fresno State

Humane Borders' president Rev. Robin Hoover will speak at Fresno State March 29 for the Chavez observance. Here's the Fresno State press release.

3.22.2006

What Hillary Clinton Said

Nina Bernstein writes in the New York Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the Bible yesterday to criticize a stringent border security measure that, among other things, would make it a federal crime to offer aid to illegal immigrants.

"It is hard to believe that a Republican leadership that is constantly talking about values and about faith would put forth such a mean-spirited piece of legislation," she said of the measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives in December and mirrored a companion Senate bill introduced last week by Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and the majority leader.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," she said. "We need to sound the alarm about what is being done in the Congress."
More here, but registration is required.

What Cardinal Mahony Said

Today on the New York Times op-ed page, Cadinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles made a strong case for faith-based humanitarian aid:
I've received a lot of criticism for stating last month that I would instruct the priests of my archdiocese to disobey a proposed law that would subject them, as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties. The proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week, would among other things subject to five years in prison anyone who "assists" an undocumented immigrant "to remain in the United States."

Some supporters of the bill have even accused the church of encouraging illegal immigration and meddling in politics. But I stand by my statement. Part of the mission of the Roman Catholic Church is to help people in need. It is our Gospel mandate, in which Christ instructs us to clothe the naked, feed the poor and welcome the stranger. Indeed, the Catholic Church, through Catholic Charities agencies around the country, is one of the largest nonprofit providers of social services in the nation, serving both citizens and immigrants.

Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.

Current law does not require social service agencies to obtain evidence of legal status before rendering aid, nor should it. Denying aid to a fellow human being violates a law with a higher authority than Congress — the law of God.

That does not mean that the Catholic Church encourages or supports illegal immigration. Every day in our parishes, social service programs, hospitals and schools, we witness the baleful consequences of illegal immigration. Families are separated, workers are exploited and migrants are left by smugglers to die in the desert. Illegal immigration serves neither the migrant nor the common good.

What the church supports is an overhaul of the immigration system so that legal status and legal channels for migration replace illegal status and illegal immigration. Creating legal structures for migration protects not only those who migrate but also our nation, by giving the government the ability to better identify who is in the country as well as to control who enters it.

Only comprehensive reform of the immigration system, embodied in the principles of another proposal in Congress, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration bill, will help solve our current immigration crisis.

Enforcement-only proposals like the Border Protection act take the country in the opposite direction. Increasing penalties, building more detention centers and erecting walls along our border with Mexico, as the act provides, will not solve the problem.

The legislation will not deter migrants who are desperate to survive and support their families from seeking jobs in the United States. It will only drive them further into the shadows, encourage the creation of more elaborate smuggling networks and cause hardship and suffering. I hope that the Senate will not take the same enforcement-only road as the House.

The unspoken truth of the immigration debate is that at the same time our nation benefits economically from the presence of undocumented workers, we turn a blind eye when they are exploited by employers. They work in industries that are vital to our economy yet they have little legal protection and no opportunity to contribute fully to our nation.

While we gladly accept their taxes and sweat, we do not acknowledge or uphold their basic labor rights. At the same time, we scapegoat them for our social ills and label them as security threats and criminals to justify the passage of anti-immigrant bills.

This situation affects the dignity of millions of our fellow human beings and makes immigration, ultimately, a moral and ethical issue. That is why the church is compelled to take a stand against harmful legislation and to work toward positive change.

It is my hope that our elected officials will understand this and enact immigration reform that respects our common humanity and reflects the values — fairness, compassion and opportunity — upon which our nation, a nation of immigrants, was built.

Give A Migrant A Camera

And look what happens.

3.17.2006

Frist Muddies Waters

Charles Hurt writes in the Washington Times:
Adding further pressure to Mr. Specter's committee, Mr. Frist announced that he will bypass Judiciary and introduce his own border-security bill to the Senate floor when Congress returns March 27 from the St. Patrick's Day recess.

"Our country needs security at our borders in order to slow the flow of illegal immigration and make America safer from foreign criminals and terrorists," said Mr. Frist, who has been mentioned as a 2008 presidential candidate. He told reporters that he expects a guest-worker program to be added on the Senate floor.

Mr. Specter called Mr. Frist's proposal to draft a bill on the floor a "colossal mistake." Mr. Frist's bill mirrors the proposal that Mr. Specter offered, but without the provisions dealing with the nation's estimated 12 million illegal aliens or any guest-worker program.
We've compiled a contact list of the Senators on the committee here. Contact them!

3.13.2006

Napolitano's Hand

Chip Scutari of the Arizona Republic writes:
Trying to get the upper hand on the brewing battle over border security, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano Wednesday issued an executive order to expand the National Guard's presence at the state's border with Mexico to combat undocumented immigration.

Napolitano said a measure the Legislature is expected to pass Wednesday violates the state Constitution by usurping her authority to command the National Guard. Republican leaders say if she vetoes the measure, she will violate her promise to beef up border security.

"There is one commander in chief, not 90," Napolitano told reporters Wednesday. "The Legislature is about to send me a bill which they know is unconstitutional because it mandates use of the guard. I've issued an executive order for the guard to be on the border."

Traffic Up Through Sasabe

Arthur Rotstein of the AP writes: "U.S. Border Patrol officials are seeing a significant increase in the number of illegal immigrants being smuggled through what's known as the Sasabe corridor southwest of Tucson." Why?
Since last summer and fall, areas cutting through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, with its diverse vegetation and shorter distances from the border to well-traveled roads in some instances, have gained currency as smugglers try to evade capture by Border Patrol agents.

CampusTap Immigration

We recently heard from the good folks running CampusTap, a sort of blog/calendar/meetup site for Harvard University students where, "Members of the university contribute content and share their ideas with the university community and the general public through personal blogs and participation in group blogs." They have an excellent section on immigration. So excellent, in fact, they we've loaned them some photos. And we're happy now to include them in our links list, at right.

3.08.2006

How Big? Soooo Big

Rep. Kolbe, no friend to the build-a-wall-and-kick-'em-out crowd, took some of his esteemed colleagues on a little tour of the big border recently, far from the hallowed halls of Congress where it's oh-so-easy to hold forth on so much with so little knowledge. As reported by Mike Madden in the Arizona Republic:
During the tour, lawmakers flew along the border between Naco and Douglas in Customs and Border Protection Blackhawk helicopters, with Kolbe and Border Patrol agents pointing out trails used by immigrants to cross into the United States illegally and mountainous terrain that agents can't easily cover. They visited the Naco Border Patrol station Saturday night as agents processed more than 30 undocumented immigrants caught earlier in the evening. They also watched cameras track suspected border-crossers near the Naco fence.
Whether the tour changed any minds is hard to tell. But here's a telling quote:
I just can't get over how massive this is, compared to (the border) in California," said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., a Los Angeles-area lawmaker who co-wrote the House bill's mandate for miles of fencing, including some in Arizona. "In California, it's so tiny. The prospect of a wall is kind of a tough, tough thing (in Arizona).
Yes, Congressman. That's right.

3.03.2006

Senate: Work Legally

Arizona Republic's Mike Madden writes:
Millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before 2004 could work legally under a new plan that the Senate will start debating next week. If passed, it would bring sweeping changes to border security and immigration laws.
Everyone knows this will be hard.
"The committee must grapple with a realistic means of bringing out from the shadows the possible 11 million illegal aliens in the United States," Specter wrote.
(They're talking about the Senate version of this bill.)

Knight-Ridder's Dave Montgomery writes:
As a starting point for the Judiciary Committee's deliberations, Specter last week unveiled a 305-page bill that includes a guest-worker program as well as toughened law-enforcement provisions. Specter's compromise package includes elements from two other major bills — one co-sponsored by Cornyn and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and the other by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

The committee took no votes Thursday, but opening statements by members suggested Specter faces an arduous task in trying to find a compromise.
Here's the challenge:
"If we go forward on a temporary worker program, our problems will get worse," declared Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Ash Wednesday, El Tiradito

Tucson Citizen's Claudine LoMonaco writes:
Four-year-old Maya Luna stared through her mop of blond curls as the Rev. Bob Carney gently placed a cross of black ashes on her tiny forehead.

Maya Luna was the youngest of nearly 100 people who observed Ash Wednesday with a special service in honor of the more than 3,000 people who have died trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States.

Thank You Kristin Roth

Arizona Daily Star's Lourdes Medrano writes:
University of Arizona President Peter Likins has issued a formal written apology to a Mexican official whose Spanish-language talk Friday was cut short by immigration restrictionists who loudly demanded that he speak in English or provide an interpreter.
Into the fray steps Kristen Roth:
Kristin Roth, a Humane Borders volunteer who doesn't speak Spanish but attended Farah's talk to show her support, welcomed Likins' apology.

"I'm happy that the president is doing what he can to rectify the situation. It was just shameful that it happened," said Roth, one of several Tucsonans who discussed the incident with Likins Friday.

H.R. 4437: Speak Up!

More from the NYT editorial:
The cardinal's focus of concern is H.R. 4437, a bill sponsored by James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Peter King of New York. This grab bag legislation, which was recently passed by the House, would expand the definition of "alien smuggling" in a way that could theoretically include working in a soup kitchen, driving a friend to a bus stop or caring for a neighbor's baby. Similar language appears in legislation being considered by the Senate this week.
Or leaving water to help prevent more death in the desert?

The bill now comes under the jurusdiction of the Senate bJudiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship.

Here is the subcommittee page.

Here are the subcommittee members. Members' names link to their contact pages. Contact them. Remember: The reason this law has progressed this far is because somebody's hollering louder than we are. Speak up!

Republican Members

John Cornyn, TX (Chairman)
Charles E. Grassley, IA
Jon Kyl, AZ
Mike DeWine, OH
Jeff Sessions, AL
Sam Brownback, KS
Tom Coburn, OK

Democratic Members

Edward M. Kennedy, MA (Ranking Democrat)
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., DE
Dianne Feinstein, CA
Russell D. Feingold, WI
Charles E. Schumer, NY
Richard J. Durbin, IL

The Gospel vs. H.R. 4437

From an editorial in today's New York Times:
It has been a long time since this country heard a call to organized lawbreaking on this big a scale. Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest, urged parishioners on Ash Wednesday to devote the 40 days of Lent to fasting, prayer and reflection on the need for humane reform of immigration laws. If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.
The House recently passed H.R. 4437. Here is the bill. (If the link doesn't work, go here, copy and paste the bill # into the search field, click the "search by bill number" option and click "search."

Here's the section to be concerned about:

SEC. 274. (a) Criminal Offenses and Penalties-
`(1) PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES- Whoever--
`(A) assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to come to or enter the United States, or to attempt to come to or enter the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to come to or enter the United States;
`(B) assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to come to or enter the United States at a place other than a designated port of entry or place other than as designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security, regardless of whether such person has official permission or lawful authority to be in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien;
`(C) assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States;
`(D) transports or moves a person in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to enter or be in the United States, where the transportation or movement will aid or further in any manner the person's illegal entry into or illegal presence in the United States;
`(E) harbors, conceals, or shields from detection a person in the United States knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to be in the United States;
`(F) transports, moves, harbors, conceals, or shields from detection a person outside of the United States knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien in unlawful transit from one country to another or on the high seas, under circumstances in which the person is in fact seeking to enter the United States without official permission or lawful authority; or
`(G) conspires or attempts to commit any of the preceding acts,
shall be punished as provided in paragraph (2), regardless of any official action which may later be taken with respect to such alien.
`(2) CRIMINAL PENALTIES- A person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1) shall--
`(A) except as provided in subparagraphs (D) through (H), in the case where the offense was not committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain, be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(B) except as provided in subparagraphs (C) through (H), where the offense was committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain--
`(i) in the case of a first violation of this subparagraph, be imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both; and
`(ii) for any subsequent violation, be imprisoned for not less than 3 years nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(C) in the case where the offense was committed for commercial advantage, profit, or private financial gain and involved 2 or more aliens other than the offender, be imprisoned for not less than 3 nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(D) in the case where the offense furthers or aids the commission of any other offense against the United States or any State, which offense is punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year, be imprisoned for not less than 5 nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(E) in the case where any participant in the offense created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person, including--
`(i) transporting a person in an engine compartment, storage compartment, or other confined space;
`(ii) transporting a person at an excessive speed or in excess of the rated capacity of the means of transportation; or
`(iii) transporting or harboring a person in a crowded, dangerous, or inhumane manner,
be imprisoned not less than 5 nor more than 20 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(F) in the case where the offense caused serious bodily injury (as defined in section 1365 of title 18, United States Code, including any conduct that would violate sections 2241 or 2242 of title 18, United States Code, if the conduct occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States) to any person, be imprisoned for not less than 7 nor more than 30 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both;
`(G) in the case where the offense involved an alien who the offender knew or had reason to believe was an alien--
`(i) engaged in terrorist activity (as defined in section 212(a)(3)(B)); or
`(ii) intending to engage in such terrorist activity,
be imprisoned for not less than 10 nor more than 30 years, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both; and
`(H) in the case where the offense caused or resulted in the death of any person, be punished by death or imprisoned for not less than 10 years, or any term of years, or for life, or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both.