Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Colbert Brings 'Truthiness' to Immigration Debate

Famous faux news anchor Stephen Colbert made real news Friday when he provided 'expert' testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugee, Border Security and International Law.  

Drawing attention to the plight of migrant workers appeared to be the goal of the appearance by the Emmy-winning host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.  Colbert expressed “hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-SPAN I.” And perhaps it worked.  The panel’s chair, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, who invited Colbert to appear, noted that the chamber had not been so packed since the Clinton impeachment proceedings.

For much of his appearance, Colbert testified in character.  At one point he commented that “the obvious answer” to farm labor shortages is “for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And, if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started.”

In a few serious moments, Colbert stepped out of character, commenting that “[i]t just seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result,” he said.  Colbert spent a day picking beans and packing corn in upstate New York. Testifying about his experience, which was documented on his show Thursday, Colbert expressed his belief that many Americans would be unwilling to do work of that nature.

The high profile testimony from Colbert came as part of the subcommittee's effort to examine the guest worker program, which allows people into the country temporarily to do farm work.  Many growers say they must hire the immigrants because they have a hard time hiring U.S. workers.  Opponents of the guest worker program argue that hiring immigrants depresses wages and leads to poor working conditions, making the jobs unattractive to U.S. residents. 

Watch Colbert's testimony here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Virginia DMV Ups Requirements for Immigrant Driver Licensing

The Virginia DMV will no longer accept federal employment documents provided to immigrants as proof of legal presence for purposes of state driver's license or identification card applications.

The change comes amid concerns raised recently in the Montano case where an alien with two drunk driving convictions was involved in a crash in Prince William County that left a woman dead and two others seriously injured.  Montano received a federal employment card while deportation proceedings were already under way. According to the governor's office, he later used the document to apply for a state identification card.

Opponents of the change point out that it has the potential to harm persons with valid work visas, potentially jeopardizing their employment.

The DMV is now seeking an opinion from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli about which federal documents should be accepted as proof of legal presence going forward.

Read the full article here.

Secure Communities Program

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Secure Communities Program is yet another immigration issue stirring up controversy and new coverage in recent weeks.

The program was started under the Bush administration and has been rapidly expanded under the Obama Administration with the goal of modernizing the criminal alien enforcement process by identifying criminal aliens with enhanced biometric technology used by local law enforcement.  In plain language, the program takes fingerprints gathered by local law enforcement during the booking process and checks them against FBI criminal history records and DHS's immigration records.  Where matches are found, Immigration and Customs Enfocement (ICE) is notified and determines whether further action is necessary.  DHS claims the program will increase the agency's ability to efficiently and accurately identify high priority criminal aliens for removal.

The program is being rolled out in phases, with new localities being added frequently.  Currently, 100% of Virginia's local jurisdictions have implemented the Secure Communities Program.  DHS plans to have the program fully implemented nationwide by 2013.  Unlike the 287(g) powers recently requested by Governor McDonnell,  the Secure Communities program does not give local law enforcement any immigration enforcement powers.

As might be expected, not everyone is a fan of the Secure Communities program.  Some argue that it has the potential for misuse by local police, who may be more likely to find a pretext to arrest those they suspect of being undocumented in hopes that a fingerprint scan will result in ICE instituting removal action.  Others argue that immigrant communities may become hesitant to seek aid from or cooperate with local law enforcement due to their involvement with ICE, leading to communities that are actually less secure.

As a result of these concerns, some localities have attempted to opt out of the Secure Communities Program. While ICE appears to concede that the program is voluntary, it appears that no one, including ICE, knows exactly how a locality may opt out.

Find out more about the program and the opposition below:

ICE Secure Communities Fact Sheet
National Immigration Forum Fact Sheet
ICE's "Setting the Record Straight" Memo Responding to Opposition
Opt Out Controversy Article

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vandeventer Black Immigration Attorney Art Serratelli Featured on ABC affiliate KAIT 8 "Region 8 News" in Arkansas / Missouri

Arthur Serratelli, chair of the Immigration Law Group, was interviewed for a recent news article by ABC affiliate KAIT 8 "Region 8 News" in Arkansas / Missouri.  Mr. Serratelli was one of a number of professionals who spoke to students about career paths at the ASU Career Management Event.

Take a look here.