Sunday, January 1, 2012

White House sets new obstacle to immigration enforcement

An administration Dec. 29 memo declares that illegal immigrants may have to be held until they’re convicted in local courts before the federal government will begin deportation proceedings.

The declaration “means lots of criminal aliens will be released if the locals don’t have the resources or inclination to prosecute, or if the [suspect] is found not guilty because of a technicality,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The new rule shows “the administration wants to give up one of the most important tools in preserving public safety,” said Krikorian. “We’ll have more and more instances of illegals released by police because [federal immigration officials] wouldn’t take them [and] who then go on to commit some heinous crime.”

President Barack Obama’s campaign aides frequently say they’re seeking Hispanic support to win crucial states, such as North Carolina and Arizona. On Dec. 19, for example, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina released a video in which he said Arizona was winnable because “hundreds of thousands” of people in the state have not registered to vote.”

The campaign is using Hispanic ethnic lobbies, such as La Raza, to help register Hispanics and to persuade them to vote in November.

But the ethnic lobbies have their own demands. They want easier immigration for their ethnic or religious groups, including Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, Irish and Muslims.

The public and Congress oppose amnesty bills, so the lobbies’ demands have prompted administration officials to roll back enforcement of immigration laws.

In recent months, Eric Holder, the scandal-plagued attorney general, has launched lawsuits against successful reforms implemented by several states — including Arizona — and has sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s police department in Arizona.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has let her political deputies end routine checks of travelers in bus depots and has stopped legal proceedings against many illegals. Her department has ordered immigration officials to largely ignore illegals who have not been convicted of major crimes. She also released the new memo on Dec. 29.

The Dec. 29 memo also announced a new 24-hour legal-aid hotline for illegal immigrants and a revised checklist for federal immigration officers.

The checklist is dubbed a “detainer” form, which federal officers have long used to request a state or local counterparts hold an illegal immigrant for an extra 48 hours beyond that allowed by local courts.

The new “detainer” form includes an additional box that federal officials can tick to make the detainer request conditional “upon the subject’s conviction.” The Dec. 29 memo says officials can “make the detainer operative only upon the individual’s conviction of the offense for which he or she was arrested.”

The political impact of the rollback policy is unclear because most Hispanics voters tell pollsters that their top political priorities are the economy and education, not immigration.

Pollsters say Hispanics’ voting is heavily influenced by candidates’ apparent insults or compliments of their community. That respect factor works to the Democrats’ advantage because many GOP candidates’ support for the enforcement of immigration law is portrayed as personal animus towards Hispanics.

Obama’s approval among Hispanics is down from its 2008 level, however, it remains above 60 percent.

The effort to rollback enforcement of immigration law follows the refusal by the White House to push for an amnesty bill.

The White House balked, in part, because the public and Congress oppose any amnesty that would bring more low-skilled workers into an economy where unemployment is above 10 percent among low-skilled workers, Hispanics and African-Americans.

Unemployment is so high that fewer than 50 percent of African-American males aged between 20 and 30 have a full-time job.


Georgia's immigration crackdown is about to expand

This is for anyone who relies on public benefits, owns a large business or needs professional licenses to work in Georgia: Major parts of the state’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration take effect this Sunday.

Requiring those applying for public benefits to present a “secure and verifiable” form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining benefits they are not entitled to receive.

Among those provisions is one that will require people to show certain forms of identification before they can get public benefits, including grants, loans and professional licenses.

Also starting Sunday, Georgia businesses with 500 or more employees must start using the federal work authorization program called E-Verify to ensure their new hires are legally allowed to work here.

Those requirements are part of a sweeping new law Georgia enacted this year. Some parts of that law took effect on July 1, including one that punishes people who use phony identification to get jobs here. Other parts are tied up in federal court amid a legal challenge brought by a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights groups.

Requiring those applying for public benefits to present a “secure and verifiable” form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining benefits they are not entitled to receive.

This provision is already expected to create some unintended consequences. For example, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been warning in recent weeks it could create months-long delays in issuing professional licenses for tens of thousands of accountants, nurses and others. State law requires certain professionals, including dentists, to obtain licenses before they can perform their jobs in Georgia.

Georgia business leaders are concerned the delays could slow commerce amid a struggling economy. Alarmed by Kemp’s warnings, organizations representing accountants, nurses and other professionals have been urging their members not to wait until the last minute to renew their licenses.

Judy Paull, who oversees more than 1,700 nurses at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, worries such delays could sideline some of her nurses, force her to require others to work overtime and affect her hospital’s bottom line. Statewide, more than 50,000 nurses must renew their license before Jan. 31. “This is a very serious and worrisome situation,” said Paull, the Macon hospital’s chief nursing officer. “So the best I can do is be constantly reminding people and checking to see how many of our nurses have already renewed and are current on their licensure.”

Bill Harshman, a certified public accountant based in the Norcross area, said he and others who need professional licenses shouldn’t have to present their identification documents more than once. “Once you have established citizenship it seems unnecessary to have to reconfirm that,” he said.

Kemp said this month that he had reached out to the author of Georgia’s immigration law about tweaking it to avoid the license delays. The law’s author — Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City — confirmed in an email to the AJC that he was willing to look at how the law is being “implemented and interpreted” to ensure it was being used as intended.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he was pleased with Georgia’s new immigration law and does not plan to seek changes to it in the upcoming legislative session. “We have only had six months for it to work,” Ralston said. “Let’s give it some more time. Let’s see what the courts do with what some believe to be constitutional issues and move on.”

Meanwhile, Georgia businesses that have 500 or more employees are preparing to start complying with the part of the law that requires them to use E-Verify. It’s meant to prevent companies from hiring workers who are not legally allowed to work here. Some supporters of the law contend illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Georgians at a time of high unemployment.

The E-Verify requirement will kick in July 1 for employers with 100 or more workers and July 1, 2013, for companies with 11 employees or more. Those who have 10 or fewer employees are exempt.

These requirements have been triggering some thorny questions and confusion among Georgia employers in recent months. Some have asked whether they apply to seasonal employees and workers based in other states. The answer is yes if they are employed on Jan. 1 during the year those businesses must confirm for the state they are using E-Verify, Ramsey confirmed.

Officials at several large Georgia businesses said they are already using E-Verify or plan to start using it in compliance with the law.

For example, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has more than 80,000 employees worldwide and is already using E-Verify, said a Delta spokeswoman. The Coca-Cola Co., which has more than 9,000 employees in Georgia, has been using E-Verify nationwide since 2010, said a spokesman for the Atlanta corporate giant.

A spokesman for Home Depot — which is headquartered in Vinings and employs more than 300,000 workers — said the company already uses the program in five other states. “So we’re prepared to comply with the law here.”


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