by John Hawkins | September 27, 2007 9:00 am
Two bits of good news on immigration.
The NIGHTMARE Act is out of the picture for now. But, like all immigration amnesties, it’s not really dead, it’s just resting:
The prospects for immediate Senate action on the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants, disappeared Wednesday amid Republican opposition.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged that senators would vote on the the measure, which is strongly opposed by anti-illegal immigration groups, before the Senate finishes its work for the year in mid-November.
“All who care about this matter should know that we will move to proceed to this matter before we leave here,” he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., had sought to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill. But Reid announced Wednesday night that Democrats were shelving the effort because of difficulties getting past legislative roadblocks.
“Unfortunately, some Republicans are opposed to this proposal and are unwilling to let us move forward on this bill,” Reid said.
‘Issue doesn’t stop here’
Durbin and immigrant rights advocates were dismayed by the setback but vowed to find other means to pass the legislation, which they have sought since 2001.
“There is no question that this issue doesn’t stop here,” said Cecilia MuÃ±oz, senior vice president of the National Council of La Raza. “The longer we wait, the more talented young people we close the door of opportunity to.”
The bill — officially the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — would allow illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and who have lived here at least five years, to receive conditional legal status if they have graduated from high school and have a clean record. After six years, they could become permanent legal residents if they serve in the U.S. military for at least two years or complete at least two years of college. As with most green card holders, they could apply for citizenship after five years.
The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates that slightly more than 1 million high school graduates and children still in class could gain legal status under the legislation.
60 votes needed
With conservatives being barraged with calls, faxes and e-mails from anti-illegal immigration groups that view the DREAM Act as amnesty, some Republicans who supported the measure in the past have been reluctant to do so now. Durbin needed 60 votes to surmount an expected filibuster.
Meanwhile, attrition is working:
Illegal immigrants living in states and cities that have adopted strict immigration policies are packing up and moving back to their home countries or to neighboring states.
The exodus has been fueled by a wave of laws targeting illegal immigrants in Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and elsewhere. Many were passed after congressional efforts to overhaul the immigration system collapsed in June.
Immigrants say the laws have raised fears of workplace raids and deportation.
“People now are really frightened and scared because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Juliana Stout, an editor at the newspaper El Nacional de Oklahoma. “They’re selling houses. They’re leaving the country.”
Supporters of the laws cheer the departure of illegal immigrants and say the laws are working as intended.
Most provisions of an Oklahoma law take effect in November. Among other things, it cuts off benefits such as welfare and college financial aid.
There’s no hard demographic data on the trend, partly because it’s hard to track people who are in the USA illegally. But school officials, real estate agents and church leaders say the movement is unmistakable.
In Tulsa, schools have seen a drop in Hispanic enrollment.
About 60% of Kendall-Whittier Elementary School’s 950 students are Hispanic, Principal Judy Feary says. Since an enrollment report Sept. 10, she says, 14 have left. Four more said last week that they would move.
Three weeks ago, one couple dropped their three children at school, then returned after lunch with their belongings packed in an SUV and trailer. Feary says they took the kids and said they were moving back to Mexico. “They were afraid and cited the immigration law,” she says.
Marshall Elementary, where enrollment is 60% Hispanic, has lost about 10 students this year to the immigration law, Principal Kayla Robinson says. Most moved to Texas. “These are families that have been here for a long time,” she says.
Illegal immigrants also are leaving Georgia, where a law requires companies on government contracts with at least 500 employees to check new hires against a federal database to make sure they are legally authorized to work.
Mario Reyes, senior minister at the Tabernacle of Atlanta, says his church lost about 10 families this summer. His daughter, a real estate agent, is helping them sell their homes.
Churches across the city report similar losses, says Antonio Mansogo, a board member of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.
“There’s tension because you don’t know when immigration (agents) might show up, and a lot of people don’t want to take those chances,” he says.
Real estate agent Guadalupe Sosa in Avondale, Ariz., outside Phoenix, says migration from the state began about three months ago, shortly after Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, signed a law that will take effect in January. Employers who hire illegal immigrants can lose their business licenses.
Of the 10 homes Sosa has on the market, half belong to families that plan to leave because of immigration tensions.
This content was used with the permission of Polipundit.
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