3/23: State and Local Immigration Updates: SC, TX, AL, RI, AZ, LA (NCLR)
1. SC: South Carolina Immigration Law Exempts Sitters, Housekeepers, Farmworkers http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2012/03/19/south-carolina-immigration-law-exempts-babysitters-housekeepers-and-farmworkers/#ixzz1peqkMCld -- Immigration laws fuel fear in many immigrant communities, but in South Carolina, some undocumented immigrants have no need to worry about the state’s tough new law. The law, which seeks to crack down undocumented workers by requiring employers to verify their immigration status through a federal database, does not apply to farm workers, housekeepers and nannies.
2. TX: Jury Still Out on Local Immigration Enforcement http://www.texastribune.org/immigration-in-texas/immigration/what-does-farmers-branch-case-mean-texas/ -- Wednesday's ruling that the city of Farmers Branch does not have the authority to enact immigration legislation sends a stern warning to municipalities intent on enacting similar laws, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue. But they caution that it doesn’t mean every form of immigration enforcement passed by local or state agencies won't hold up in court.
3. AL: Delegation in Birmingham to look at impact of Alabama's immigration law on women and children http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/03/delegation_in_birmingham_to_lo.html -- We Belong Together, a delegation of women from 17 groups around the nation, was in Birmingham on Wednesday and today to look at the impact Alabama's immigration law has had on women and children. Today the group held a 2-hour roundtable discussion at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Birmingham to discuss the impact of anti-immigrant attacks on families and the role women can play in the struggle for immigrant rights. About 80 people attended today's event.
4. RI: Bill requiring R.I. companies to verify workers' immigration status introduced at Assembly http://news.providencejournal.com/politics/2012/03/bill-requiring-ri-companies-to-verify-workers-immigration-status-introduced.html -- Legislation requiring Rhode Island companies to verify that their employees are eligible to work in the U.S. has again been submitted at the General Assembly. The proposal, introduced by Rep. Peter J. Palumbo, D-Cranston, would require companies with three or more employees apply to participate in the national "E-Verify" program. The free Internet-based system, run by the federal government, lets businesses determine their employees' eligibility to work in the country.
5. AZ: U.S. argues Arizona immigration law unconstitutional http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2012/03/us-argues-arizona-immigration-law-unconstitutional-117932.html -- In a brief filed Tuesday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to find unconstitutional Arizona's law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants.
6. LA: New Orleans drawing undocumented workers from elsewhere in south http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/14/new-orleans-drawing-illegal-immigrants-from-elsewhere-in-south/ -- Humberto Guzman drove big rigs in Alabama for two months. As an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, he feared being deported everyday. “The police would come after us a lot,” Guzman said. “Where we parked was the problem because they always asked us for our papers.”
7. AL: Immigrants could take up slack for aging Alabama http://annistonstar.com/bookmark/17735894-Immigrants-could-take-up-slack-for-aging-Alabama -- Alabama has a real immigrant problem, says Yanyi Djamba. The problem is that there aren’t enough immigrants. “If anything, we need more of them,” said Djamba, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Auburn University at Montgomery. “In Alabama — especially in Alabama — if we look at the population of people who are over 65, it’s going to increase dramatically. At some point, we will face a shortage of skills and workers.”
Fox News Latino: South Carolina Immigration Law Exempts Sitters, Housekeepers, Farmworkers
March 19, 2012
Immigration laws fuel fear in many immigrant communities, but in South Carolina, some undocumented immigrants have no need to worry about the state’s tough new law.
The law, which seeks to crack down undocumented workers by requiring employers to verify their immigration status through a federal database, does not apply to farm workers, housekeepers and nannies.
The law went into effect January 1 and requires all private employers in South Carolina to use the federal E-Verify database to check newly hired employees' immigration status.
Bill supporter Sen. Chip Campsen says the loophole was necessary to get the legislation passed. The Charleston Republican says he opposed the exemption but said it doesn't make the bill ineffective.
Critics say it is unfair for legislators to create an exemption for select groups and not provide it to other small businesses.
The exempted groups also include ministers and fishermen working in small crews.
As in some others states that have passed anti-illegal immigration laws, some South Carolina officials have been mindful of the disapproval over such laws by many employers in the state’s $34 billion agribusiness sector.
Many agricultural employers have said strict immigration laws could leave them with a shortage of labor. Many employers have said such laws -- though drafted for people who are undocumented – tend to scare off legal immigrants, too.
State legislators recently put aside legislation that would eliminate the state Migrant Farm Workers Commission, a resource of sorts for farm workers.
The plan had been to incorporate the duties of the commission – made up of six farmers appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican -- into the Commission for Minority Affairs.
But critics said the commission was crucial. It handles a myriad of things – including health, labor conditions and transportation – concerning the workers.
“Our state would be flat on its face and prostrate without migrant labor, and I don’t want to do anything that would negatively affect (it),” said Republican State Sen. Danny Verdin, according to Savannahnow.com. “We’re already in a fragile environment as it is relating to others aspects — immigration law.”
Texas Tribune: Jury Still Out on Local Immigration Enforcement
By Julian Aguilar
March 23, 2012
Wednesday's ruling that the city of Farmers Branch does not have the authority to enact immigration legislation sends a stern warning to municipalities intent on enacting similar laws, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue. But they caution that it doesn’t mean every form of immigration enforcement passed by local or state agencies won't hold up in court.
In the Farmers Branch case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision that a city ordinance that banned illegal immigrants from renting housing in the Dallas suburb was unconstitutional because immigration enforcement falls under the purview of the federal government.
“Because the sole purpose and effect of this ordinance is to target the presence of illegal aliens within the city of Farmers Branch and to cause their removal, it contravenes the federal government’s exclusive authority over the regulation of immigration and the conditions of residence in this country,” the court ruled.
Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund who argued the case before the Fifth Circuit in October, didn’t downplay the significance of the ruling, which she said came from one of the most conservative appellate courts in the country.
“This is a stern message from the federal court that ordinances that target people for expulsion based on their race or ethnicity are unconstitutional, even if you dress them up as local immigration laws,” she said.
But while the ruling is a victory for immigrants in the realm of housing, she said the effects on other aspects of immigration law cannot be easily predicted. That’s because immigration laws are often packaged into big omnibus bills, she said — including some pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“A lot of these laws are a smorgasbord,” she said. “Some have to do with police, some have to do with employment, day laborers, solicitation of employment, some with housing.”
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in Arizona’s case against the federal government next month. Federal courts blocked portions of Senate Bill 1070, the state’s controversial immigration legislation, including a provision that makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and another that requires local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
The bill is considered the landmark legislation that led several other states including Texas to pass or attempt to pass their own forms of immigration laws. The Texas Legislature tried twice in 2011 to pass a bill that would have denied state funds to local or state entities that prevented their law enforcement officers from inquiring into the immigration status of a person arrested or detained. The legislation, dubbed the “sanctuary cities” bill, failed to make it to Gov. Rick Perry's desk despite being deemed an emergency item.
Perales said no matter what the court’s ruling in the Arizona case is, it would be difficult to use it as a litmus test to forecast outcomes on other immigration cases.
“It’s hard to make a prediction about whether any portion of an SB 1070 ruling would inspire further anti-immigrant laws,” she said. “What we have in Farmers Branch is aimed at housing. It’s different than a law that may address employment.”
To illustrate the complexity of the issue, Perales pointed to an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a different immigration law passed by the Arizona Legislature. In Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting, the court ruled 5-3 that the federal government’s Immigration Reform and Control Act did not preempt the state government from revoking the business licenses of employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. And it upheld Arizona's ability to mandate the use of E-Verify.
State Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, the author of a Texas-based immigration enforcement bill last legislative session, said Thursday that he suspected lawmakers would wait and see what becomes of the Arizona law before considering another attempt. But he said the issue would remain heated regardless of the ruling.
“I suspect someone will try to move forward with [legislation],” he said. “There will still be attempts and I think that is going to continue until we see a national [immigration] reform.”
In the Farmers Branch case, the appellate court also touched on the notion that the immigration system is broken and needs a nationwide solution. Judge Thomas Reavley said that while millions of Latinos live in the country illegally, “a great majority live quietly, raise families, obey the law daily and do work for our country.”
“For all that they contribute to our welfare, they live in constant dread of being apprehended as illegal aliens and being evicted, perhaps having their families disrupted," he wrote. "As unsatisfactory as this situation is it is the immigration scheme we have today. Any verbal and legal discrimination against these people, as Farmers Branch exemplifies by this ordinance, exacerbate the difficulty of that immigration scheme.”
Though Wednesday’s decision was limited to housing, Perales said it’s a major victory because it addresses the racial profiling potential attached to the ordinance.
“The early part of the opinion says that the purpose of the ordinance is to push Latinos out of Farmers Branch, so you see a recognition in the decision that there was a strong racial element to what Farmers Branch had done,” she said.
The City of Farmers Branch has three options, Perales said: drop the case altogether, request a review by the entire Fifth Circuit Court or petition to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Birmingham News: Delegation in Birmingham to look at impact of Alabama's immigration law on women and children
By Kent Faulk
March 22, 2012
We Belong Together, a delegation of women from 17 groups around the nation, was in Birmingham on Wednesday and today to look at the impact Alabama's immigration law has had on women and children.
Today the group held a 2-hour roundtable discussion at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Birmingham to discuss the impact of anti-immigrant attacks on families and the role women can play in the struggle for immigrant rights. About 80 people attended today's event.
The delegation spoke about the different stories they had heard on Wednesday from various illegal immigrant women living in Alabama.
Among the seven stories the group said they heard was a woman with a disabled child who fears she will be separated from her son as she faces the threat of deportation each day.
One of those stories came from a 14-year-old middle school student from Jefferson County, whose name was given only as Nancy because she is an illegal immigrant. She told the crowd today that her mother, step-father, and 3-year-old sister moved back to Mexico because of the fear of being arrested soon after HB56 became law. She said she decided to stay in Alabama with her uncle so she could continue school.
"I dream of being the first one in my family to graduate college and have a career," Nancy said. "I want to be a doctor."
Nancy said her mother is trying to get a visa to return legally to the United States. "I don't want to give up all my dreams. I want HB56 repealed," she said.
Delegation members, which represent various civil rights', womens', and child advocacy groups around the nation, said that with the trip to Alabama they hope to mobilize the effort to repeal Alabama's law.
"What has struck me is the way in which HB 56 has impacted the daily lives of immigrant families and the extent to which they live in fear everyday -- fear of deportation both from the mother's perspective but also from the perspective of children," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a Washington D.C.-based policy, communications and legal action group focused on racial justice. "The way it is ripping families apart is incredible."
Parts of that law have already been stayed by federal courts as the issues are considered by appeals courts. Alabama legislators also may consider changes to the law.
Those who oppose Alabama's immigration law say it is the most restrictive of the states' laws enacted in the past few years to address illegal immigrants, touching on almost every aspect of immigrants lives.
Many of those who support Alabama's and other states' laws regulating immigration say they are needed because the federal government is not doing its job in enforcing existing illegal immigration.
We Belong Together delegations have also gone into Arizona and Georgia, which also have enacted state immigration laws.
Bill requiring R.I. companies to verify workers' immigration status introduced at Assembly
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March 9, 2012 12:39 pm
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Legislation requiring Rhode Island companies to verify that their employees are eligible to work in the U.S. has again been submitted at the General Assembly.
The proposal, introduced by Rep. Peter J. Palumbo, D-Cranston, would require companies with three or more employees apply to participate in the national "E-Verify" program. The free Internet-based system, run by the federal government, lets businesses determine their employees' eligibility to work in the country.
Similar proposals have been approved in recent years in Rhode Island's House of Representatives, but not in the Senate.
Rhode Island's government used to require firms doing business with the state to use E-Verify, before Governor Chafee took office in 2011 and repealed the mandate.
Politico: U.S. argues Arizona immigration law unconstitutional
By Josh Gerstein
March 19, 2012
In a brief filed Tuesday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to find unconstitutional Arizona's law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants.
"Petitioners assert that Arizona’s status as a border State that is particularly affected by illegal immigration justifies its adoption of its own policy directed to foreign nationals. But the framers recognized that the 'bordering States…will be those who, under the impulse of sudden irritation, and a quick sense of apparent interest or injury,' might take action that undermines relations with other nations, and regarded that possibility as a further reason to vest authority over foreign affairs in the National government," says the brief filed by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
The Framers' quote is from Federalist No. 3, written by John Jay. Even taking that point, though, it's worth noting that the Obama administration has filed similar suits against three other states over their new immigration-related laws: Alabama, South Carolina and Utah. None of those are border states (unless you count the coastline for two of them), so presumably those states' alleged excesses would have to be explained or critiqued in other ways. (I don't immediately see any references to the other states' laws in the federal brief, which is posted here.)
One interesting note about the U.S. Government brief: it was signed by State Department Legal Adviser (and former Yale Law School dean) Harold Koh, underscoring the foreign policy-related argument against the Arizona statute.
Arizona's opening brief is posted here. The case is set to be argued before the high court on April 25.
CNN: New Orleans drawing undocumented workers from elsewhere in south
By Nick Valencia
March 14, 2012
Humberto Guzman drove big rigs in Alabama for two months. As an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, he feared being deported everyday.
“The police would come after us a lot,” Guzman said. “Where we parked was the problem because they always asked us for our papers.”
Last week, two more parts of Alabama’s tough immigration law, which makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in the state, were blocked by a federal appeals court. Another piece, requiring schools to check the immigration status of students, was put on hold last year. The entire law is being challenged by the federal government and activist groups.
Anticipating the worst, around the beginning of the year, Guzman packed his belongings and headed for Louisiana. He was familiar with the state. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, illegal immigrants like Guzman flocked to the city. They came in droves, drawn by the high paying jobs.
“Louisiana is a state where [police] don't bother you. Over [in Alabama], you can’t even eat in peace,” Guzman said of the reason why he chose to come to the state, instead of stopping in Mississippi on his drive-in from Alabama. “The governor from here has been very kind to us…and he’s Republican!”
Despite Guzman’s sentiments, Louisiana did pass two immigration laws in May 2011, which Governor Bobby Jindal signed. They are both designed to make sure businesses check that their workers are legal. A much tougher bill was introduced in the same session– and withdrawn.
Louisiana law has not stunted the flow of unauthorized immigrants or the businesses who hire them. In 2010, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated the illegal immigrant community to be around 65,000 people in Louisiana. By comparison, neighboring Mississippi had an undocumented population of about 45,000.
Hiberto Apolo owns the hauling business that contracts Guzman. Apolo, originally from Ecuador, came to Louisiana looking for work after Hurricane Katrina. Now others are coming to him looking for a similar opportunity.
“The reality is many have come here and they've said to me, "Sir, can you help me get work? Can you give me work? I have problems in Alabama and they're supposedly going to deport me," Guzman says.
Of the 13 workers that Apolo currently contracts, about a third came from Alabama in the last few months. More are coming, he says.
“The truth is here is a bit calmer, I see that. But what I hear on the news is that everyone is afraid of what’s happening, so who knows? That fear could touch here too,” Apolo says. “We may have to run here too, but at this stage it’s beautiful in Louisiana, and we thank God that they treat us well.”
Although most of the work for undocumented workers is found in New Orleans, many immigrants have chosen to settle in nearby Kenner, Louisiana. Some areas of that city have seen a dramatic shift almost overnight. Latinos now make up about 25 percent of the population of Kenner—nearly a 10 percent increase since before Katrina, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
With the boom comes adversity. Jacinta Gonzalez is the head of the Congress of Day Laborers, an organization that supports undocumented immigrants. She says the wave of anti-illegal sentiment that led to strong laws in Arizona and Alabama is already impacting reality in Louisiana.
“I think many residents want people to be part of the community but it seems like the only institution in the city that's really receiving them is the criminal justice system,” Gonzalez says. “We're really seeing an upsurge in people that are being arrested and that are being kept in the jails for very minor incidents”
At the day laborer site where Guzman hangs out, the tension is clear. Just as a CNN crew arrived on the scene, a security guard from a local business was chasing them off the grounds. A day later, a police car was parked in a lot overlooking the workers.
So far Guzman has been able to avoid arrest. It’s easier to do that in Louisiana than Alabama, he says.
“I don't understand, I don't understand over there what the reason is that they bother us so much, because here…here in New Orleans, it's not said that the laws have to be the end of you,” he says.
For now he’s glad to be out of Alabama and looking forward to helping New Orleans rebuild.
“A lot of people look at it and say, ‘Look how ugly New Orleans is,’” Guzman says. “But I hope that one day more people will understand how beautiful it is here. And it’s with our [Latino] hands that this city will move forward.”
Anniston Star: Immigrants could take up slack for aging Alabama
By Tim Lockette
March 4, 2012
Alabama has a real immigrant problem, says Yanyi Djamba.
The problem is that there aren’t enough immigrants.
“If anything, we need more of them,” said Djamba, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Auburn University at Montgomery. “In Alabama — especially in Alabama — if we look at the population of people who are over 65, it’s going to increase dramatically. At some point, we will face a shortage of skills and workers.”
Djamba is one of a handful of experts who keep track of Alabama’s population and make predictions about where it’s headed. He — and others in the field — see a state that is aging rapidly, with a senior population set to double, and too few working-age residents to take care of them.
Immigrants and Hispanics — two sometimes-overlapping groups that often bear the brunt of harsh political rhetoric — could become the very groups who turn that trend around, demographers say.
An aging state
State and local governments have to do population projections in order to predict future needs for services, but those projections often turn out to be wide of the mark. Moreover, current events — such as Alabama’s immigration law and the struggling economy — have created headaches for demographers trying to update the state’s years-old growth projections.
Carolyn Trent, who does population predictions for the Center for Economic and Business Research at the University of Alabama, said the center will likely be a couple of months behind schedule in issuing new official numbers.
“I’d like to get in touch with schools and other agencies to see how much the immigration law affected their numbers,” she said. “Making projections this year has been tricky.”
But by and large, the demographers agree on a few significant trends.
One is that Alabama’s population is aging quickly.
The first people born in America’s 20-year post-World War II baby boom are just now hitting retirement age — which means the over-65 population will nearly double between now and 2030. The Census Bureau and various state agencies offer slightly different numbers, but all predict the number of seniors in Alabama will top 1 million, rising from 13 percent of the population now to about 20 percent in 2030.
Another trend is a decline in the birth rate. Alabama couples are producing fewer children than they used to and as the median population gets older, the birth rate will get even lower.
“We are already below the replacement rate,” Djamba said. To see what that will lead to, he said, look at Europe, where childbirth has been below replacement rate for years.
“You see churches and schools being closed,” Djamba said.
A homegrown state
The aging population means a child born today — one who turns 18 in 2030 —would enter a work force in which each working-age person is supporting more non-working people. Some of that support would come in the form of Social Security and Medicare, which are federal programs. But the state budget could also pick up some of the tab in the form of Medicaid.
According to Trent’s most recent numbers, for every 100 Alabama workers, there are 68 people who are either too old or too young for the work force. Nearly two-thirds of those non-workers are kids.
But by 2030, in Trent’s projection, that number grows to 85 dependents for every 100 workers. Nearly half of those dependents will be over 65.
The biggest variable in this scenario is in-migration — the number of people moving into the state, whether from other states or other countries. If people come into Alabama, particularly people of child-bearing age, the working-age population will grow, demographers say.
Lately, that isn’t happening much. The 2010 Census numbers show about 100,000 people leaving the state, and nearly the same number coming in. Those numbers count only the people who filed tax returns in Alabama — most of them likely legal residents. The numbers of illegal immigrants could be much higher, though it’s hard to tell.
But demographers say Alabama lags behind neighboring Southern states in the number of people moving in. Census numbers, as compiled by Governing Magazine last year, indicate that just less than three-fourths of Alabama residents were born here. That places the state in the top 10 for residents born in-state.
Why Latinos matter
For many Alabamians, a small, homegrown population may be just the ticket.
“People here are very place-oriented,” said Bobby Wilson, a geographer at the University of Alabama.
But that same approach can pose a challenge for economic growth.
Nationwide, the states with the lowest homegrown population — Nevada and Florida — were the ones that flamed and fizzled in the past 10 years. But the most-homegrown included Rust Belt basket-cases like Ohio and Michigan, as well as Alabama’s usual companions on the bottom socioeconomic tier — Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“You don’t necessarily want to be one of the fastest-growth states,” Trent said. “That may mean you’re headed for a crash. But you do want to have some growth. Right now, we’re way below the average for Southern states.”
Migration from other states, if it starts to happen, could fill the gaps in the state’s wo
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