Immigrants ICEHouse Speaker John Boehner’s most recent delay tactic in preventing passage of an immigration reform bill has been to state that Republicans have “widespread doubt about whether [the Obama] administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”  As anyone paying attention to the immigration debate is aware, this is a ridiculous statement—the Obama administration has steadily increased the number of deportations conducted compared to previous administrations.  The most recent statistics show that almost 420,000 immigrants were deported in fiscal year 2012, more immigrants deported in a single year by any president.

A recent essay in the D.C. news website The Hill by a retired immigration judge makes a powerful argument against that ridiculous claim.  Retired Judge John Gossart, Jr. remarks:

“In my thirty-one years as a United States immigration judge, I have never had as many people come through my courtroom as I have over the last six years. During this time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of non-citizens that the United States detains and deports, and the detained number of individuals appearing in immigration courts today is unprecedented. Read More

Immigrants ICEA recent court settlement in Alabama should serve as a warning to North Carolina legislators who still seek to pass anti-immigrant laws. Alabama agreed to settle two law suits brought against it after the passage of its harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, in 2011.  Both immigrants’ rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice sued Alabama over different parts of the law, and both those suits settled last week.

Previously many of the harshest provisions of the Alabama law had already been temporarily blocked by courts, and in the new settlement, Alabama agreed that those provisions would never go into effect, including a provision requiring public schools to verify the immigration status of students, and one preventing all contracts with undocumented immigrants. The permanent blocking of those harmful provisions is a huge victory for immigrants in Alabama and across the nation.

Most of the parts of the law that are now permanently blocked in Alabama never made it into North Carolina’s omnibus immigration bill, HB 786, which was proposed in 2013.  However, several provisions in Alabama’s law were identical or similar to those proposed here, and their fate in this recent settlement should be of interest to state lawmakers.

North Carolina legislators, for example, Read More

A North Carolina House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on the “RECLAIM NC” Act today, an Arizona-style immigration bill sponsored by Rep. Harry Warren and 13 others (including a key member of Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, Rep. Ruth Samuelson). The proposal includes a raft of anti-immigrant provisions, including making it harder for undocumented immigrants to post bond for minor criminal offenses, requiring them to pay for their own incarceration time, and making it easy to seize and impound cars of people caught driving without insurance or a proper license. 

The bill also includes the odd and controversial twist of “requiring” all undocumented immigrants to register for a “restricted driving permit,” which would not the same thing as a driver’s license. Representative Warren claims that the driver’s permit requirement is intended to make all drivers safer by identifying folks who are driving on state roads.  This claim is belied, however, by the fact that bill: a) requires undocumented immigrants to register for a state ID card even if they have no intention of driving at all, and b) excludes many people from obtaining the driving permit at all.

Probably the most telling moment of this morning’s hearing was when the committee discussed the “show me your papers” provision, and Representative Rick Glazier asked  Warren how a law enforcement officer could form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone was in the country without papers. Watch the exchange here:

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As you can see, Read More

On Friday I told you about Senator Kay Hagan’s amendment to the big health care reform bill that would, in effect, exclude most farmworkers from coverage. As reported on Friday night, Hagan’s office called to complain about the post — arguing that I was too harsh in my characterizations of the bill. Since that time, I have dug a little deeper. Here’s what I found:

A closer look at the amendment reveals that it is, essentially, a blanket exclusion of agricultural employers from the “employer mandate” provision of the Affordable Health Choices Act.  In fact, it states that “temporary and seasonal agricultural workers….shall not be treated as employees for the purposes of determining the size of an employer.” 

Hagan’s staffer said that all small businesses under 25 employees are excluded from the employer mandate provisions of the bill, and that the rationale for the amendment excluding agricultural employers of temporary workers was to protect employers who might only “briefly” have more than 25 employees from having to pay a penalty if they fail to provide health insurance.  However, her amendment does not protect employers of any other industry who might “briefly” take on more than 25 employees, so the short duration of the workers’ employment could not have been the only consideration in putting forth this amendment. 

And although the amendment only excludes agricultural employers of “temporary” workers, anyone who works with farmworkers knows that “temporary” workers can remain anywhere from a few months to nine, ten, or eleven months of the year.  And the work they do during those months—planting, harvesting, and packing—is what allows the employer to bring in 100% of his revenue for the year. True small farmers will never exceed 25 employees and will always remain within the same protections that cover other small business owners. This amendment will only end up protecting the large agricultural operations that bring in large crews of workers during the growing season

The amendment says, at its essence, that we consider it an offense worth punishing if any other type of large employer fails to provide health insurance coverage to its employees. But if a large agricultural employer does it, well, we just can’t be expected to punish those folks. The amendment (like so many workplace-related laws in decades past) treats farmworkers as “lesser” employees worthy of fewer workplace protections, and treats agricultural employers as “exceptional”—not worthy of punishment when they fail to provide the same basic workplace protections that other employers are required to provide. 

The bottom line: The amendment is still a major disappointment. Its main effect is to assure that some of our most vulnerable unisured workers will remain that way. Senator Hagan could still do a lot better.