Thursday, July 7, 2011

Competition between illegals and "refugees" in Utah

A culture clash reminiscent of many in American history is surfacing here as Latino immigrants find they have new competition for service-sector jobs.

The clash occurs after an immigrant population gets a firm hold on the lower rungs of the economic ladder and then sees competition from a newer immigrant population.

Today's competition affecting the Latino community comes from refugees, about 1,100 of whom will arrive in Utah during the year, mostly from southeast Asia and Africa. The new arrivals join a population of about 25,000 in Salt Lake County whose journey here began with refugee status.

Reported jitters among the Latino workforce at the Grand America Hotel, for example, has brought to light some of the angst the Latinos have with refugees. Tony Yapias, director of immigrant activist group Proyecto Latino de Utah, said housekeeping workers at the hotel say they are getting letters from Immigration and Customs Enforcement with requests for more documentation about their residency status.

The workers' concern is they won't be able to satisfy requirements of the new federal E-Verify system, which allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, and they will lose their jobs to refugees.

Neither the hotel nor immigration officials are talking about potential job actions, and the hotel turned down a request to talk about the challenges of managing a workforce of both Hispanic immigrants and refugees from other parts of the world.

Regardless of the hotel involved, the clash is nothing new in American society nor to potential employers who work with both groups. And no hotel wants to be singled out as the focal point of the debate, said Michael Johnson, executive director of the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association.

"I don't know whether any hotels have found a difference between (the two groups) as workers, but I think hotels would, at this point, be likely to hire a refugee and very unlikely to hire somebody who's illegal," Johnson said. "The demographic has changed."

One of the significant differences between the Latino immigrant and refugee populations is that each refugee — placed in Utah with the involvement of international relief organizations and the State Department — arrives here with short-term financial and health benefits, a caseworker and permission to work.

"They have papers. They have Medicaid and everything else," Yapias said of the refugee community. The only government involvement the Latino immigrants have is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said, which is seen as a communitywide threat, not a help. "The only resource (the Latino) has is contact with a friend or a family member."


Georgia Prepares to Fight Federal Ruling Blocking Immigration Law

The Georgia state attorney general's office is preparing to file an appeal challenging a federal judge's ruling blocking parts of its immigration law. A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office announced that it has filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

The spokeswoman, Lauren Kane, says the official appeal has not yet been filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 11th Circuit filing will include a brief that will lay out the state's objections to the ruling. Kane did not specify a date for the appeal.

Federal Judge Thomas Thrash on June 27 granted a request filed by civil liberties groups to block two sections of Georgia House Bill 87 from taking effect until a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality has been resolved.

One provision that was blocked authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects without proper identification.

Other blocked sections authorize authorities to detain undocumented immigrants and penalizes people who knowingly and willingly transport or harbor unauthorized immigrants while committing a crime. Parts of similar measures in Arizona, Utah and Indiana also have been blocked by the courts.

Other parts of the law, passed by the Georgia Legislature this year, took effect Friday, including one that makes it a felony to use false information or documentation when applying for a job.

Another provision creates an immigration review board to investigate complaints about government officials not complying with state laws related to illegal immigration.


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