|March 21st, 2011, 07:17 PM||#1|
Dont Feed the Cyco
Join Date: 11-05-05
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Finally somone gets it
Michigan weighs crackdown on illegal immigrants
As a 9-year-old living near Tijuana, Mexico, Dayanna Rebolledo could stand on her tiptoes and peek over a fence at the United States. Across the fence was a safer country, a place where she could get a better education, a land of opportunity.
Now 21, having lived as an undocumented immigrant for 12 years in Detroit, Rebolledo wonders if she was wrong about that opportunity. She can't get a driver's license. She's attending Henry Ford Community College, but she won't be able to get a good job without a Social Security card.
"I don't know where my life is going to go," Rebolledo said.
Her uncertainty is compounded by a package of bills that would crack down on undocumented immigrants who live and work in Michigan. One bill is similar to a controversial law passed last year in Arizona that empowers police officers to check the immigration status of people they suspect are undocumented.
It would also call into question Detroit and Ann Arbor's status as "sanctuary cities," where police look the other way concerning residents' immigration status.
The other two bills would mandate that state agencies as well as temporary employment agencies verify the status of job applicants before hiring them.
To Rep. David Agema, the bills' sponsor, the issue is simple: Undocumented immigrants are breaking the law, taking jobs away from Michigan residents and costing the state millions in public services. "I don't care what country you're from — legal is legal and illegal is illegal," said Agema, R-Grandville.
The bills follow a nationwide trend, with Arizona-style bills introduced in at least 16 states this year. There are more than 60 measures addressing immigrants in the Texas Legislature alone, including one that would make it a crime to hire an undocumented worker for anything except work for an individual homeowner, such as gardening or working as a maid or nanny.
"It's happening now because state legislatures are responding to citizens' outcry for border security," said William Gheen, director of Americans for Legal Immigration, which supports tighter immigration enforcement. The group, based in Raleigh, N.C., provides help to state legislators trying to crack down on undocumented workers. "We expect more legislation to pass in 2011 than any year prior."
A recent poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports, a conservative polling firm, found 67 percent of Americans favor automatic police checks of immigration status.
While Michigan's measures haven't gotten the national attention of the bill in Arizona, they have prompted protests in Detroit and Lansing by immigrant rights organizations, as well as farmers who count on migrant workers.
"Everybody recognizes the chilling effect," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's Michigan office. "This is legislation that will touch everybody's lives."
Hamad's organization held a meeting of immigrant leaders recently to discuss concerns about the legislation. While there are far fewer undocumented residents from Arab countries than from Mexico or Central American countries, Arab-Americans have often been the target of racial profiling, Hamad said.
He said Arab-Americans fear the law would stoke tensions between police and Detroit and Dearborn's large Arab communities.
"They're making it look like if you're against the bill you're hurting the safety of Michigan," Hamad said. "We should talk facts and not emotion."
The Rev. Kevin Casillas, pastor of First Latin American Baptist Church in Detroit, said the bills also have an impact on legal immigrants.
"When you criminalize some immigrants, they all feel like criminals," Casillas said. "It's closing the door to legal immigrants who won't see Michigan as a welcoming place."
Few undocumented in state
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Michigan has among the lowest percentages of undocumented residents and undocumented workers in the country. An estimated 150,000 people living in Michigan are doing so illegally, or about 1.5 percent of the population, compared to a national average of 3.7 percent. About 2 percent of Michigan workers are estimated to be undocumented, compared to 5.2 percent nationally and 7.1 percent in Arizona.
"I think the law would make (undocumented) people a lot more fearful," said Jose Franco, 23, of Detroit, who came from Mexico with his family when he was 2 and is undocumented. "They're trying to get people to self-deport themselves."
Deportations from the region that includes Michigan and Ohio have been fairly steady in recent years. In 2010, there were 8,054 deportations, 8,276 in 2009 and 8,010 in 2008, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.
Agema cites estimates from the Federation for American Immigration Reform that illegal immigrants cost Michigan $900 million a year. Those costs include imprisonment, as well as public education. Public schools must accept all children, whether they are documented residents or not. On average, Michigan schools are given $7,800 per student from the state.
Agema introduced six immigration bills last year, but none came to the floor of the Democrat-controlled house for votes. He hopes for a more sympathetic reception this year, with Republicans taking control of the chamber.
Agema said he believes undocumented workers are an important economic issue in a state with an unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent. "We need to have these jobs go to Michigan residents," he said.
Fruit growers worried
Michigan fruit and vegetable growers hire about 45,000 migrant workers each year, many of whom are undocumented. Growers have "given up" trying to get year-round Michigan residents to work the hot, back-breaking jobs, said Denise Donahue, director of the Michigan Apple Committee.
A few years ago, growers ran a statewide ad campaign looking for workers. "We got a total of about 12 calls," Donahue said. "And out of those calls, we got two or three workers."
Donahue said a crackdown on illegal immigrants would affect the growers' ability to attract migrant workers.
Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said he doubts the immigration bills will gain traction anytime soon, because Gov. Rick Snyder wants to focus on the budget.
"Snyder and those who want to focus on the budget are getting frustrated to see these cultural issues have been getting more attention than the budget," he said.
Casillas said the immigration bills may provide short-term political gain, but will hurt Republicans in the long term in the eyes of legal Latino voters, who make up the state's fastest-growing population.
"The way they're appealing to a fringe element within the party is going to bite them," Casillas said. "I'm a conservative evangelical, but this is going to be counterproductive."
Responded Agema: "If I were trying to play to the Hispanic vote, I'd have never introduced these bills. I would not be doing my job as a state representative if I didn't protect the citizens of Michigan."
|March 21st, 2011, 08:27 PM||#6|
November 7, 1958 - July 22, 2011
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|March 22nd, 2011, 12:57 PM||#7|
Grumpy old man.
Join Date: 11-05-05
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