Driver's licenses and other state benefits are at the heart of a new battle in the national immigration debate. President Barack Obama's new immigration program will mean some undocumented immigrants will be granted driver's licenses -- and some will not, depending on where they live. It's the first sign that states will differ dramatically in their implementation of the President's program.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer fired the opening salvo last week, on the same day that federal authorities began accepting applications for a program aimed at helping tens of thousands of young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
Brewer ordered officials in her state not to provide driver's licenses or any other benefits to immigrants granted "deferred status" under the new federal program, which allows accepted applicants to remain in the United States and work without fear of deportation for at least two years
A lot of these issues are in uncharted waters. In this particular area, which is how do you treat people that are deferred action, there's very little legal precedent to go by," said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's office at the New York University School of Law. "States are making their own judgments."
That means the actual benefits recipients see could depend on where they live.
Governors in Nebraska and Texas have already followed Brewer's lead.
"The state of Nebraska will continue its practice of not issuing driver's licenses, welfare benefits or other public benefits to illegal immigrants unless specifically authorized by Nebraska statute," Gov. Dave Heineman said Friday.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said that the federal immigration "directive does not undermine or change our state laws," writing in a letter to the state's attorney general that the federal guidelines "confer absolutely no legal status whatsoever" on any immigrant who qualifies.
But California is moving toward granting licenses to the influx of undocumented immigrants expected to take advantage of the federal policy, as is Oregon.
"We're still trying to sort out what this new limbo category means for states," said Ann Morse, program director of the Immigrant Policy Project at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Under the new policy, people younger than 30 who arrived in the United States before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat, and were successful students or served in the military, can get a two-year deferral from deportation and apply for work permits.
A memo outlining the Obama administration's policy states that the program does not grant legal status. But it does provide for a work permit and, presumably, the benefits that come with it.
A Texas driver’s license is among the top documents that undocumented immigrants need to get to a job. A new initiative to provide work permits and “deferred action” on deportations for certain illegal immigrants quickly raised questions about whether those approved for work permits would get driver’s licenses, too.
The answer is yes, say officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The work permit, known as an employment authorization document or I-766, is one of the primary documents used for a limited period driver’s license. Various kinds of noncitizens, from refugees to temporary residents, now receive these temporary driver’s licenses.
“Someone who has been granted “deferred action” and presents an employment authorization document (EAD or I-766) meets the Department’s current lawful presence and identification policy,” said Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Public Safety Department. “If they are otherwise eligible (i.e. have met residency, SSN, and other requirements), they can be issued a driver license set to expire when the EAD expires.”
With a temporary work permit, the immigrants can then apply for a temporary Social Security card, if they qualify for the initiative known as deferred action for childhood arrivals, said Vanna Slaughter, the immigration services director for Catholic Charities of Dallas. In similar cases, such Social Security cards have qualifying language that ties validity to the work permit, Slaughter said.
In Arizona, home turf to huge battles over immigration initiatives, Gov. Jan Brewer said last week her state wouldn’t provide driver’s licenses. Ditto for Nebraska.
In a letter dated Aug. 16th to state agencies, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sounded tough, but nuanced. Perry wrote, “To avoid any confusion on the impact of the Obama administration’s actions, I am writing to ensure that all Texas agencies understand that Secretary Napolitano’s guidelines confer absolutely no legal status whatsoever to any alien who qualifies for the federal ‘deferred action’ designation.”
Perry added, “These guidelines do not change our obligations under federal and Texas law to determine a person’s eligibility for state and local public benefits.”
While the federal initiative on deferred action doesn’t provide legal status under immigration, law, it apparently meets the past definition of lawful presence within the state of Texas and the past practice within the state.
Perry has also supported in-state tuition for immigrants in the U.S. without proper documents. And Perry’s letter doesn’t directly mention driver’s licenses.
“He is really doing a balancing act,” said Dan Kowalski, an Austin-based immigration attorney who edits an immigration law website. “He is placating the Tea Party and trying not to [anger] Latino voters.”
The Migration Policy Institute in Washington estimates as many as 1.76 million illegal immigrants could eventually be eligible for the initiative. Applicants cannot be older than 31 and must have arrived in this country before June 15, 2012 and have five years of continuous residency, among other criteria.
California and Texas are estimated to have the largest number of young immigrants who qualify for the initiative, according to the Migration Policy Initiative.
Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Luis Gutierrez released a video message to the DREAMers on August 6 that is one of the most irresponsible and dangerous public messages from a voice of authority in living memory. It is a deep disgrace that supposed champions and co-sponsors of the DREAM Act would advise young people who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, "Do Not Hire a Lawyer." Yet Sen. Durbin said those words, doing a huge disservice to the very vulnerable class of people they are ostensibly trying to help.
These elected representatives perpetuate a dangerous source of confusion between unscrupulous "notarios" who engage in the unauthorized practice of law, and licensed, trained attorneys who are subject to ethical rules and have the ability to advise DREAMers properly on the process and potential consequences of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
An experienced immigration lawyer who has carefully reviewed the applicant's background and documents can ensure that DREAMers file applications which will have the best possible chance of success. This is why Senator Durbin's patently false claim that "Virtually everyone will be able to go through this process without a lawyer," is so disturbing. Perhaps he has already forgotten that the Deferred Action application process includes no right of appeal, and permits no motions to reopen. This is a one-shot opportunity. Applicants must get it right on the first try, or else they face a discretionary denial that is final and cannot be reviewed.
Perhaps Sen. Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez have also forgotten that both USCIS and ICE have extremely poor track records with respect to granting any forms of discretionary relief to applicants who are unrepresented by counsel. The memos of June 2011 from ICE Director John Morton authorized broad use of prosecutorial discretion for those already in proceedings who have no criminal convictions, but the rate at which such relief has been granted in immigration courts is less than 2%. Self-represented applicants who misunderstand any of the Deferred Action criteria and thus fail to interpret their own eligibility correctly, or who get the standard right but provide documentation that USCIS regards as insufficient, or who believe that the information they provide will remain confidential, may be placing themselves and their families at risk of deportation. These are some of the key reasons why it is so very important for DREAMers seeking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to consult with a knowledgeable
immigration attorney or legal service organization, and why the message from Messrs. Durbin & Gutierrez will do real harm.
Governor Deval Patrick on Friday vetoed a bill designed to keep illegal immigrants from registering motor vehicles in Massachusetts. The bill Patrick vetoed would have required the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain “proof of legal residence” from anyone registering a car in Massachusetts. Lawmakers pushed the measure in response to the outcry following several fatal auto accidents caused by drivers who were in the country illegally.
In his veto message, Patrick argued that the measure would force the Registry to “identify and police undocumented people,” even though he said that is the duty of the federal government, not states. The governor argued that the measure would force the Registry to ‘identify and police undocumented people.’
The recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law “underscores the importance of states treading lightly in the enforcement of federal immigration rules,” the governor wrote. Patrick also argued that it is hard to understand how a “nonresident” simply owning a vehicle in Massachusetts jeopardizes public safety. Indeed, he said it would improve public safety if the Registry keeps a record of every car, regardless of the owner’s residency status.
Lawmakers could override Patrick’s veto but they would have to act quickly because formal sessions end on Tuesday. Senator Richard T. Moore, an Uxbridge Democrat who supports the bill, said he was disappointed but not surprised that Patrick rejected it. The governor has been an outspoken critic of efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants.
Moore said he hopes legislators commit to an override vote.
“The public deserves the protection of knowing that people who are on the roads are on the roads legally,” he said. “It’s clearly a public safety issue, and that’s why the Legislature supported it.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has started taking "bets" on its website over when Sen. Charles Grassley will die, after the Iowa Republican scolded the Department of Agriculture for advocating a vegetarian diet.
The USDA drew the ire of rural state lawmakers over a newsletter urging department employees to embrace "Meatless Mondays." The USDA later retracted the newsletter and said it wasn't properly vetted, but Grassley vented on Twitter that he plans to "eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation."
PETA, on its website, accused Grassley of fighting for Americans' right to be "sick and fat."
"We're taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease," the post said.
"From his reaction, it seems like a pretty safe bet that he's already got high blood pressure," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said on the site. "Were he a physician instead of a politician who truly puts his rancher money where his mouth is, he'd be guilty of malpractice."
Grassley's office rebuked PETA, calling the comments "shameful and way outside the mainstream."
"Sen. Grassley is representing his constituents," spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said. "He'd like USDA to remember who it's supposed to work for, too."
But a PETA spokeswoman told Radio Iowa that Grassley is "gambling with his own health" with his pledge to eat more meat.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., previously complained about the USDA newsletter, as did the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
"Never in my life would I have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers," Moran said in a statement.
The offending comments came in an online newsletter to employees about "greening" efforts. The update schooled employees on ways to save energy, by using energy-efficient light bulbs, installing specialized roofs on buildings -- and participating in what's known as the "Meatless Monday" initiative.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration's new plan to grant temporary work permits to many young, illegal immigrants who otherwise could be deported may cost more than $585 million and require hiring hundreds of new federal employees to process more than 1 million anticipated requests, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The Homeland Security Department plans, marked "not for distribution," describe steps that immigrants will need to take — including a $465 paperwork fee designed to offset the program's cost — and how the government will manage it. Illegal immigrants can request permission to stay in the country under the plan by filing a document, "Request for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," and simultaneously apply for a work permit starting Aug. 15.
Under the new program, which President Barack Obama announced last month, eligible immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years, are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also must not have a criminal record or otherwise pose a safety threat. They can apply to stay in the country and be granted a work permit for two years, but they would not be granted citizenship.
The internal government plans obtained by the AP provide the first estimates of costs, how many immigrants were expected to participate and how long it might take for them. It was not immediately clear whether or under which circumstances any immigrants would not be required to pay the $465 paperwork fee. The plans said there would be no waivers, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress last week that the government would grant waivers "in very deserving cases." She said details were still being worked out.
"We anticipate that this will be a fee-driven process," Napolitano said.
A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, Peter Boogaard, said the plans obtained by the AP were "preliminary documents" and the process is still being worked out. Boogaard said processing immigrant applications under the program "will not use taxpayer dollars" because of the fees that will be collected.
Fee waivers could dramatically affect the government's share of the cost. The plans said that, depending on how many applicants don't pay, the government could lose between $19 million and $121 million. Republican critics pounced on that.
"By lowering the fee or waiving it altogether for illegal immigrants, those who play by the rules will face delays and large backlogs as attention is diverted to illegal immigrants," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "American taxpayers should not be forced to bail out illegal immigrants and President Obama's fiscally irresponsible policies."
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services estimated it could receive more than 1 million applications during the first year of the program, or more than 3,000 per day. It would cost between $467 million and $585 million to process applications in the first two years of the program, with revenues from fees paid by immigrants estimated at $484 million, according to the plans. That means the cost to the government could range from a gain of $16 million to a loss of more than $101 million.
The government estimated that as many as 890,000 immigrants in the first year would be immediately eligible to avoid deportation. The remaining 151,000 immigrants would likely be rejected as ineligible.
The plans estimated that the Homeland Security Department could need to hire more than 1,400 full-time employees, as well as contractors, to process the applications. Salaries were included in the agency's estimates of total program costs.
Once immigrants submit their applications, it could take between two and 10 days for the Homeland Security Department to scan and file it. It could take up to four weeks longer to make an appointment for immigrants to submit their fingerprints and take photographs. A subsequent background check could take six more weeks, then three more months for the government to make its final decision before a work permit would be issued.
Napolitano said new information about the program should be made available by Aug. 1. She has said immigrants would generally not be detained by immigration authorities while their application is pending.
By: ALICIA A. CALDWELL , AP
WASHINGTON – The warnings about the Internet problem have been splashed across Facebook and Google. Internet service providers have sent notices, and the FBI set up a special website. But tens of thousands of Americans may still lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago.
Despite repeated alerts, the number of computers that probably are infected is more than 277,000 worldwide, down from about 360,000 in April. Of those still infected, the FBI believes that about 64,000 are in the United States. Users whose computers are still infected Monday will lose their ability to go online, and they will have to call their service providers for help deleting the malware and reconnecting to the Internet.
The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world. When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realized that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.
In a highly unusual move, the FBI set up a safety net. They brought in a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.But that temporary system will be shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT Monday, July 9.
Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their Web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.But popular social networking sites and Internet providers have gotten more involved, reaching out to computer users to warn of the problem.
According to Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, many Internet providers are ready for the problem and have plans to try to help their customers. Some, such as Comcast, already have reached out.
The company sent out notices and posted information on its website. Because the company can tell whether there is a problem with a customer's Internet server, Comcast sent an email, letter or Internet notice to customers whose computers appeared to be affected.
Grasso said other Internet providers may come up with technical solutions that they will put in place Monday that will either correct the problem or provide information to customers when they call to say their Internet isn't working. If the Internet providers correct the server problem, the Internet will work, but the malware will remain on victims' computers and could pose future problems.
In addition to individual computer owners, about 50 Fortune 500 companies are still infected, Grasso said.
Both Facebook and Google created their own warning messages that showed up if someone using either site appeared to have an infected computer. Facebook users would get a message that says, "Your computer or network might be infected," along with a link that users can click for more information. Google users got a similar message, displayed at the top of a Google search results page. It also provides information on correcting the problem.
To check whether a computer is infected, users can visit a website run by the group brought in by the FBI: http://www.dcwg.org .
The site includes links to respected commercial sites that will run a quick check on the computer, and it also lays out detailed instructions if users want to actually check the computer themselves.
We're not finished cheering, hugging and laughing with joy, but the hard-nosed among us are raising a red flag: DREAMers who may be eligible for Deferred Action and work permits under the new policy announced by DHS and President Obama need to protect themselves from notarios and other scammers.
Thieves of all stripes are drooling at the prospect of nearly a million kids, hungry for documentation, willing to pay almost anything for a work permit. No doubt hundreds, perhaps thousands of young people have parted with precious savings in the hopes of a quick fix, even though the ink is not yet dry on the new policy.
Immigrants have always been a vulnerable population, and kids doubly so. It's critical for immigrants seeking Deferred Action and work permits under the new policy to get accurate information and representation by licensed (and experienced) attorneys or "Accredited Representatives."
Accredited Reps, as they are known, are non-lawyers who are authorized by the federal government to advise and represent individuals in immigration cases. They have passed an examination and are supervised by experienced immigration attorneys.
Every major city has one or more low-cost or free legal service provider well-versed in immigration law. They often are staffed by a potent combination of attorneys and Accredited Reps. DREAMers seeking work permits and Deferred Action should turn first to those agencies, and firmly reject the enticements of the corner notario and similar wolves.
Now more than ever, immigrants, especially young DREAMers, need to explore this Deferred Action initiative with the right representation, and to avoid victimization.
Atlanta, Ga. – Agricultural and restaurant business leaders say Arizona-style laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration threaten their industry.
They're appealing to Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform to avert what they describe as a crisis.
Our immigration system is broken; it can only be fixed at the federal level. We urge Congress to immediately address this issue that is so important for jobs and for our business community.
- Larry Wooten, President of the North Carolina Farm Bureau
The leaders took part Monday in what was billed as the first immigration summit in the Southeast, where agricultural businesses are prevalent and where an increasing number of immigrants -- many undocumented -- have settled in the last decade.
The summit, titled "Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America," drew nearly 200 business owners, farmers, clergy, political leaders and police from such states as Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee as well as Georgia, the site of the gathering.
“Agriculture is a very labor-intensive industry," said Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. "Farmers across the nation want — and need — an adequate, legal work force. Our immigration system is broken; it can only be fixed at the federal level. We urge Congress to immediately address this issue that is so important for jobs and for our business community.”
Wooten told the audience that states must not have their own immigration laws because it is a complex matter as necessary for the federal government to take control over as are things such as "managing our military or our money supply."
He said agriculture is a $70 billion industry, with more than one million workers, of whom nearly 75 percent are undocumented.
He balked at the assertion by proponents of strict immigration enforcement that businesses that heavily employ undocumented workers are simply choosing to exploit cheap labor.
Many proponents of strict immigration laws say that Americans will do jobs they are accused of refusing to do if employers pay better wages and make more of an effort to make those jobs appealing. Such proponents are firmly opposed to immigration measures that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to legalization; they condemn that as "amnesty."
Wooten, as well as others in the farming business who attended the summit, argued that there are jobs Americans do not want to do, and that agricultural jobs are chief among them.He said that agricultural employers who advertise jobs -- as is required for those who are part of the federal guest worker program -- for nearly two months get little to no response.
"We have no choice," Wooten said. "We must use immigrants."
Tim Rabon, human resources manager for a family farming business in South Carolina that, like others in the industry, heavily relies on immigrant workers, said in an interview with Fox News Latino that his company advertised work in Mississippi for six weeks and got 15 responses.
"Some people just didn't qualify, even though harvesting is not 'highly skilled' labor. It is very specialized and you need to be really skilled," Rabon said. "It's very hard work. Those who did qualify didn't last long -- they just quit. The person who lasted the longest stayed on the job five days before quitting. Why did they quit? They said the work is just too hard."
He said tougher immigration laws -- or the prospect of a state adopting a tough immigration law -- have scared away many immigrants, including some workers and prospective employees.
As recently as three years ago, he said, his farm company -- which harvests greens, such as collard and kale -- had no trouble attracting about 20 people a week looking for work.
Now, they barely get one or two people, he said, because so many immigrants have fled the state or are afraid to seek employment.
Rabon says his company has been in farming 85 years, and makes sure to check employment eligibility documents when considering hiring someone. They have about 120 employees, he said.
"If someone presents documents that appear valid, we have to accept them," he said.
Summit organizers hope to hold such gatherings around the country to build up momentum for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would include tighter, more focused enforcement as well as a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants who meet a strict set of criteria.
The summit was held as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a decision on Arizona's law, SB 1070, which is aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration by criminalizing it. The U.S. Department of Justice, which brought a lawsuit challenging the law, argues that it usurps federal authority on immigration. The Supreme Court ruling, expected by the end of June, is expected to influence whether other states attempt to pass their own immigration laws.
More than 30 states considered new laws targeting illegal immigration last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of them were modeled after Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.
Census figures show that Hispanics -- who now are the nation's largest minority group, at 48 million -- contributed more to population gains than blacks in 13 of the 16 Southern states over the last decade, compared with seven states for Hispanics from 1990-2000.
Tensions -- over immigration, measures proposing English as the official language -- have arisen along with the growth of Latino presence in these Southern states.
"The Department of Justice is challenging Arizona’s law, arguing that it is intruding on the federal government’s exclusive authority to make and enforce immigration laws," said former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush and was the summit's keynote speaker. "But with authority comes also responsibility, and our national leaders have failed us. It's time for our federal officials to step up, show leadership and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Roughly half are people who enter legally, but overstay their visas.
According to the New York Times, New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The Bloomberg administration has championed a series of aggressive regulations, including bans on smoking in restaurants and parks, a prohibition against artificial trans fat in restaurant food and a requirement for health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows, along with calorie count for menu items.
Mayor Bloomberg's heavy-handed efforts to promote healthy living are nothing new. He's already taken on many of life's most enjoyable vices, including smoking, salt, alcohol, and trans-fats. The Bloomberg administration had made previous, unsuccessful efforts to make soda consumption less appealing. The mayor supported a state tax on sodas, but the measure died in Albany, and he tried to restrict the use of food stamps to buy sodas, but the idea was rejected by federal regulators.
When the mayor imposed his ban on smoking I made this comment in an article in Jornal:
These crusaders take small bites, eating away, bit by little bit, our right to decide these questions for ourselves. If the Mayor can tell a restaurant not to put trans fat in the meal it serves, what is to prevent him from prescribing the size of the portions they serve? Rather than putting a label on food spelling out the calories, the dietitian-in-Chief can ram through a law setting a legal limit on the size of portion the restaurant is allowed to serve.
When the mayor pushed through a ban on the use of Trans fat in restaurant food he said the ban is “not going to take away anybody’s ability to go out and have the kind of food they want. . . . We are just trying to make food safer.” It’s for our own good. But who appointed the Mayor director of menu development and dietitian-in-chief? This is utterly tyrannical. First it was Trans fat, then cigarette smoke and now sodas.
Even so called good foods can put our health at risk. And the only way to control our intake is to limit the portions we consume. Does this mean that nanny Bloomberg will soon be after the food on our kitchen table?