LWVCC Immigration Committee is Underway
The LWVCC Immigration Committee is meeting to learn from speakers about action being taken in our area on immigration reform, legislation, refugee assistance, and Sanctuary Cities. All League members are welcome to come to these meetings.
Our first speaker was Vivian Tseng, a Concord League member. With a background in corporate law, Vivian decided to learn about immigration rights after the 2016 election and chose to work with two organizations, PAIR (Political Asylum/Immigration Representation) and KINDS (Kids in Need of Defence), which provide pro bono services on detention, asylum and undocumented immigrant cases. She found that the failure of comprehensive immigration reform is the root of the problem.
She explained that in 2012, we had widespread consensus for reform. Democrats and Republicans both supported reform that would have
1. Recognized the mutual benefit of letting undocumenteds stay (if they pay taxes, etc.) and giving them permanent legal status.
2. Eased the path for future immigrants, including enforcement (border security, overstaying visas) so the problem would not re-occur.
Reform legislation passed the Senate but did not come to a vote in the House, because of the rise of the Tea Party, racism, and bias against non-English speakers.
Under President Obama's program of "enhanced enforcement", ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) required immigrants to "check-in". Then convicted criminals were deported, including juvenile delinquents. But ICE left alone the vast majority of undocumented immigrants who did not have criminal records. However, the Trump administration removed the distinction of criminal versus non-criminal immigrants, and all undocumenteds became subject to deportation.
Vivian is now working with two organizations, PAIR (Political Asylum/Immigration Representation), a Massachusetts organization which provides pro bono services in detention, asylum and unaccompanied minors cases, and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), a national organization started my Microsoft and Angelia Jolie to provide pro bono services to unaccompanied minors.
Vivian says that a majority of Americans still seem to want immigration reform, especially for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), undocumented minors brought here by their parents. However, President Trump has ended protections for DACA individuals as of March 2018.
Chris Carson, the National League president has spoken out in favor of the DREAM Act that would protect the 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. The Dream Act states that in order for DACA individuals to achieve Conditional Resident Status they must
- have proof they entered the U.S. before age 16 and have lived in the country continuously for five years,
- have graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED in the U.S.
- demonstrate good moral character
- pass criminal background checks and reviews
After obtaining Conditional Status, to gain Permanent Residency they must
- for at least 2 years either have attended an institution of higher learning or served in the U.S. military, and if discharged, have received an honorable discharge
- pass another series of background checks
- continue to demonstrate good moral character.
The LWVCC Immigration Committee plans to hold further meetings to learn about other issues including Sanctuary Cities, proposed legislation making Massachusetts a `Sanctuary State', refugee settlement assistance, and ways that we as League members can take action.
The Immigration Committee meetings will be publicized in the Monday Morning News, and all LWVCC members are invited to attend. For more information please contact Nancy Cronin at email@example.com
Immigration Committee Meeting
Jan. 25, 2018
Guest Speaker: Karen Price, Needham
Karen is a member of the Needham LWV and she is the LWVMA Legislative Specialist for Immigration. She was in the Peace Corps in Liberia and knows many student immigrants from there.
Karen handed out League information on immigration and reviewed the highlights:
- The National League supports a system for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status, including citizenship.
It opposes deportation of non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
It believes that immigration policies should promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; and be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises, and it has lobbied in support of the DREAM (DACA) Act.
- Congress has been unable to come to consensus on immigration over the last 10 years.
- Most of immigration law is federal; the states can do very little. Therefore, the League position is national.
- In Massachusetts the Lunn decision, a recent ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, provides that local law enforcement officials do not have authority to detain a person based solely on request from federal immigration authorities. Responding to this decision, Governor Baker has filed a bill specifying that Massachusetts state law enforcement officers may honor a request by ICE to detain a suspect if the person poses a threat to public safety and has been previously convicted of a serious crime.
- The Safe Communities Act, sponsored by Jamie Eldridge and Juana Matias, and co-sponsored by many other legislators, including Sen. Barrett and Rep. Cory Atkins, prohibits local police from arresting people solely because of their immigration status and prohibits them from working as deputized ICE agents in Massachusetts.
The LWVMA has issued an Action Alert - Jan. 31 to contact their legislators to support this bill and to call the Co-Chairs of the Public Safety and Homeland Security joint committee and request that they release this bill favorably..
- The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocates Coalition (MIRA) is the coalition of organizations supporting this bill, and it has a list of speakers.
- Other state legislation 1) Education Equity Act H644 is a bill proposed to give in-state college tuition to immigrant graduates of Mass. high schools, both DACA and non-DACA students. Hundreds of people testified for the bill last year. This year, they were too afraid to attend. 2) H3033, to prohibit state funding for ICE training.
- Other Resources and websites - National Immigration Law Center
- Recent press releases from LWVUS and League statements, including the League's "support of cities, towns, counties and states that make a decision not to cooperate with federal deportation and enforcement actions that include non-criminal undocumented immigrants."
- IINE, International Institute of New England, based in Lowell, assists refugees. They had so many local volunteers that they turned many away.
- Germany has a program to teach German to refugees. Vivian stated that her congregation has a similar program to teach English to immigrants. She will circulate this info to League.
- The upcoming races to replace Niki Tsongas and Cory Atkins will generate great opportunities to ask potential candidates to state their positions on immigration. Committee members should develop a list of questions.
- 6,000 bills were filed in January. Each bill is first assigned to a Joint Committee. All 6,000 bills must have a hearing. By Feb 7, each bill must be voted "out of committee" (or not) and onto the Ways and Means Committee, where it could be completely rewritten.
- The Safe Communities Act is presently in Joint Committee. Karen recommends focusing our call-ins to the House members, especially local reps and Committee chairs.
- New LWV Leagues have started in Framingham, Franklin County, Springfield, and Pittsfield.
- Discussion of working jointly with Bedford LWV in the future.
- Let our town officials know about the League's interest in immigration issues.
- Ideas for upcoming actions and programs on immigration. Karen recommended: Registering people to vote at Naturalization Ceremonies
- Future possible speaker: an immigration and detention lawyer.