Tag Archive: comprehensive immigration reform

Don’t Let Dogma Dictate Immigration Policy

President Trump wants to cut the legal immigration in half over a 10-year span, creating a “merit-based system” that caters to green card applicants who speak English and have technical skills. It would eliminate the diversity lottery visa, reduce the…
Read more

Unaccompanied kids fleeing from violence need more help in New Jersey

Last week at the Texas border Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said, “The message has to be that our border is not open to illegal immigration and we are sending people back … You will be sent back.” In contrast, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees produced a report Children on the Run that included a study “which concluded than 58% of the 404 fleeing children interviewed at the Mexican border were forcibly displaced because they suffered or faced harms that indicated a potential or actual need for international protection.” While the U. S. is urging countries to provide refuge for Syrians fleeing violence, it is taking a hypocritical and contrary position within its own borders. Homeland Security refers to these people as aliens and illegal immigrants, and on Wednesday, President Obama said, it was likely that most would be sent back to their countries.

However, Rep. Rush Holt has a different take on the matter. Last week while meeting with NJ immigration advocates including First Friends of NY/NJ, he stated, “They are refugees. That’s how we can start, by using the appropriate language.”

Below are suggestions as to how we can further help these frightened, endangered refugees arriving in New Jersey.  

Unaccompanied kids fleeing from violence to the U.S.: A morning in NJ’s Immigration Court

While comprehensive immigration reform is flailing in the murky waters of midterm congressional elections and Republican intransigence, the humanitarian concern for unaccompanied children escaping from violence in northern Central America and seeking refuge in the U.S. has captured the attention of many. Since October according to Homeland Security there have been 52,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. – double the number from last year.

The kids are generally first sent to detention centers where they are screened and catalogued and then dispersed throughout the country to family members, foster care or other facilities. According to a law signed by President George W. Bush those who come unaccompanied from countries not contiguous to the U.S. such as Central America can not be immediately returned to their land of origin. Instead they are entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge and an opportunity to seek asylum – a drawn-out procedure with no public defender, a confusing legal system, and slim chances for gaining legal status.

Some of the children end up in New Jersey where there are two immigration courts but only one with a juvenile docket. It is in Newark on the twelfth floor of the Federal Building on Broad Street. I spent a few hours at the court, passed through slow, rigorous security at the entrance, talked with several of the children (I speak Spanish), and at one point was ordered by a judge to appear before him to explain who I was and why I was taking notes. But this is a story about the shy, quiet, and nicely dressed kids appearing before judges who have the authority to deport them back to a tumultuous, dangerous existence.  

What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/31/2013

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

As 2013 fades into history, let’s look forward to tomorrow. There is plenty of unfinished business to occupy our attention in 2014. Here are some suggestions:

  • Budget Safety Net: The poor and the middle class are not a priority for Gov. Christie, but with an upcoming strained budget they must be for the legislature.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Continue local efforts in support of this national initiative and urge your congressman to support it.

  • Drug Courts & Sentencing: Gov. Christie supports drug courts but more funding is needed. It is time to reduce prison entries for nonviolent offenders and revamp existing drug laws.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Gov. Christie should restore the credit to 25%.

  • Economy: Reduce wasteful subsidies to large corporations and invest more in good schools and a well-trained, highly-educated workforce.  

  • Education: Expand State-funded pre-school classes for needy kids and reduce inflated college costs.

  • Financial Assistance for Dreamers: The other half of the Dream Act.

  • Gun Control: The legislature should reintroduce bills vetoed by Gov. Christie.

  • GWB Scandal: Find out the truth behind the lane closures and reform the Port Authority.

  • Halfway Houses: Reform this system which is a bonanza for corporations and politicians but no help for inmates or the public.

  • Health Insurance & Medicaid: Provide education and assistance to assure more enrollment into better quality ACA insurance and into the expanded Medicaid program.

  • Housing: Gov. Christie should end his raiding and obstruction of the affordable housing program.

  • Infrastructure: New Jersey has about $70 billion worth of infrastructure work and the price tag will only increase if the state continues to put off making the needed improvements.

  • Marriage Equality: Continue discussion as to whether ME should be passed by the legislature, and create a veto-proof majority.

  • Millionaire Tax Surcharge: Implement this fair and essential method to increase needed state revenue.

  • Pinelands & Fracking: There should be no gas line through the Pinelands. There should be no fracking or transportation or disposal of its waste in NJ.

  • Property Tax: Encourage (and remove barriers to) consolidation and sharing services.

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Christie withdrew NJ from RGGI. It’s time to rejoin the initiative.

  • Retire Rep. Scott Garrett (CD 5): Will a worthy opponent please stand up.

  • Sandy Recovery: Start with transparency, bring an end to discrimination, assure financial aid to those most in need, strengthen the State-wide plan (including safe location for buses and trains) and insist on resiliency.

  • Solar Power: The administration should move forward with plans for offshore facilities.

  • Supreme Court Nominees: Christie has already placed two Republicans on the court. He should nominate a Democrat and grant tenure to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner or the Senate should continue ignoring his nominees.

  • Womens’ Healthcare: Gov. Christie should fund Planned Parenthood.

    Open thread: What is on your agenda for 2014?