Immigration Across The Nation 11/18/2009

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►Obama advisor says new immigration law is still on the table

Senior advisory David Axelrod said in a recent CNN interview that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is still being discussed and that it could become law early next year. “I think some good work is being done on both sides of the [political] aisle to achieve that,” said Axelrod.

In basic details, the plan looks similar to the one both presidential candidates outlined in their campaigns: the many undocumented immigrants in the country would be able to attain legal residency and citizenship after paying back taxes and fines.

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The difficulty is in creating a viable standard for undocumented immigrants while continuing to discourage illegal immigration. “We have to hold accountable and responsible the 12 million people who are here illegally,” Axelrod said. “And they have to pay a fine and a penalty, and have to meet certain requirements in order to get in line to earn citizenship.”

Comprehensive immigration reform remains a major focus of immigrant advocacy activities, including most recently a prayer service in Cincinnati, OH. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added that she also is in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

►Arpaio announces another immigration sweep

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A local journal, the East Valley Tribune of Phoenix, Ariz., passed on an announcement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that despite pressure from the State of Arizona and the federal government, he will continue to pursue arrests of undocumented immigrants in a new county-wide sweep which began this week.

The sheriff maintains that he is under the protection of state and local laws that allow him to arrest illegal immigrants on human smuggling charges, though he cannot make arrests based on federal immigration law, especially since his forced exit from the 287(g) program last month. This is his second sweep since his withdrawal from the program, and this thirteenth of Arpaio’s tenure.

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He continues to draw fire from minority advocacy groups and is under a US Dept. of Justice investigation for suspected racial profiling after several of his detainees turned out to be American citizens and legal residents of Latino heritage, in addition to allegations of unconstitutional forced entries, searches, and seizures of property, and human rights violations.

►US Bishop speaks in favor of immigrant rights at international conference

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Bishop John C. Wester of the Cahtolic Diocese of Salt Lake City had harsh words for the federal government’s treatment of immigrants and urged the Vatican World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees to advocate for such individuals, noted an article from the Catholic News Service.

“The U.S. government has turned to the detention of immigrants as another weapon in the ‘war on terrorism,’” said Bishop Wester, who also presented a number of statistics on US immigration to the Congress. He also noted that the policy of detaining all undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers makes it very difficult for priests and ministers to gain access to their faithful, especially since not all institutions co-operate with religious visits. He then quoted a report from the Jesuit Refugee Service that found that detainees rarely have access to religious literature either.

His comments were echoed by representatives from other countries, such as Msgr. Giorgio Caniato, who serves as Inspector General of Chaplains for the Italian government. The percentage of prisoners from foreign countries, he said, had doubled in Italy. The Msgr. added that such prisoners need to be visited and represented even if they are not Catholic. “The difference, diversity or absence of religion does not impede the chaplain from being an evangelizer, even for the non-Catholic or non-believer prisoners.

In addition, Catholic chaplains must lobby to ensure that those prisoners have access to spiritual guides from their own religious communities,” Msgr. Caniato said. Jewish, Methodist, Episcopelian, Unitarian, Lutheran, Sikh, Islamic, and Mennonite organizations have joined recent Catholic campaigns in favor of immigration reform in the US.

►Agriprocessors’ Rubashkin found guilty of business fraud

Sholom Rubashkin, owner and manager of the Postville, Iowa Agriprocessors plant that was raided by the ICE last year, has been convicted of 86 of the 91 financial charges the federal government had raised, noted a report from the Associated Press.

Rubashkin faces what could amount to a lifetime prison sentence for various counts of business fraud such as creating falsified invoices and receipts and using these to convince his bank to give him new and larger loans. His lawyers have requested that the judge take note of the fact that it was not demonstrated that he used any of the money for personal gain, but only to raise money for the company.

Rubashkin has yet to face trial for a number of immigration charges. But former Agriprocessors employees did testify during his trial that he scrambled to acquire documents for his immigrant workers days before the raid.

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