Best Weapons Against Anti-Immigration Bills: Inter-Ethnic Coalitions, Economy

Best Weapons Against Anti-Immigration Bills: Inter-Ethnic Coalitions, Economy

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SAN FRANCISCO – Join forces with members of different ethnic groups and bring the debate back to the economy: these are the recommendations of immigrant rights advocates in the fight against the harsh anti-immigration bills that have been introduced this year in state capitols across the country. Immigrant rights organizers from Florida to Nebraska reported from the frontlines of the immigration battle in a teleconference call this week with more than 60 reporters from the U.S. ethnic media. The call, titled “Tracking the Crackdown,” was organized by New America Media and The Opportunity Agenda.

The immigration debate took a new turn earlier this week as President Obama, in a meeting with police chiefs, prominent mayors and business, labor and faith leaders, pledged to give immigration the same attention he gave health care and the budget. But the frontline of immigration policy no longer seems to be Washington, D.C. As states across the country look to enact their own immigration laws, many of them modeled after the legislation passed in Arizona last year – the debate has shifted to state capitols.

One year ago, Arizona passed SB 1070, a hardline anti-immigration law that made it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant. The controversial law, the first of its kind, split the country over whether states and municipalities should take it upon themselves to enforce federal law. While the law is being challenged in federal court, similar pieces of legislation have been introduced in other states.

The Georgia Legislature recently became the second state legislature in the country to pass an Arizona-style bill, which is now on its way to the desk of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of March 31, state lawmakers had introduced 52 immigration-related omnibus bills in 30 states, bills that address everything from the enforcement of immigration laws to employment verification, and the denial of public benefits to the undocumented. Many of them contain provisions similar those contained in Arizona’s law.

But immigrant rights organizers from various states said there are things that organizers can do to fight back.

Catherine Han Montoya, field manager at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, emphasized the importance of rallying different ethnic communities to the cause against anti-immigration laws. In Mississippi, the African-American community was “instrumental” in defeating an Arizona-copycat bill. Thanks to a coalition between immigrant-rights groups, the Black Caucus and lower-income communities, an equivalent piece of legislation is currently being held up in the South Carolina House.

“We can no longer talk about immigrant rights as solely an immigrant rights issue,” Montoya said. “We must build strategic alliances, not only for the benefit of the immigrant rights movement, but for the benefit of all communities of color across the country.”

Her comments were echoed by Darcy Tromanhauser, program director for immigration integration at Nebraska Appleseed, and Patricia Fennell, president and CEO of the Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, who both reported that the roles played by the NAACP as well as Asian and Native American allies have been crucial in Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Subhash Kateel, community organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, pointed out that members of the Latino Republican Caucus in Florida only began to take a stand against anti-immigration bills after they took notice of the mobilization among immigrant-rights advocates.

As new census data showed that the Latino population has increased by at least 80 percent in 18 states and more than doubled in nine of them, the next elections may be determined by the solidity of the ties between ethnic communities. Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress, stressed that this was not a partisan issue. “Both Democrats and Republicans need to be afraid of angering the community and taking it for granted,” she said.

The panelists also warned against potentially disastrous economic consequences of passing Arizona-copycat laws across the country, and suggested that immigrant rights advocates may have found an unlikely ally in the business community. According to Fennell, more than 25,000 Latinos left Tulsa in 2007, after the Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill that made it illegal to provide transportation to suspected undocumented immigrants. The impact on business was such that the U.S., Oklahoma City and Tulsa chambers of commerce joined forces in 2008 to sue the state over the law.

A study conducted by the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress found that mass deportation of undocumented immigrants in Arizona could result in the loss of 581,000 jobs and shrink the state’s economy by $49 billion dollars. Conversely, granting them legal status would add 261,000 jobs and increase tax revenue by $1.7 billion.

Boycotts have also proven effective. In the six months after Arizona passed the legislation, local businesses lost $141 million in cancelled conventions and conferences, prompting 60 CEOs and business leaders to send a letter to State Senate Leader Russell Pearce, who introduced SB 1070, asking him to abandon the law.

In Florida, prospective tourists and investors have been urged to sign the I Won’t Visit Florida petition, a promise to spend money “someplace else” as long as immigrants are treated as criminals in the state.

“If it wasn’t for Latino and Caribbean immigrant investment, labor and consumption, Florida would be in a full-fledged recession,” said Kateel. “You can’t say that this bill is going to be good for the economy, because no one will believe you.”

This argument should give hope to immigrant-rights advocates as they turn up the pressure on politicians to vote against such bills.

“You can have a very sober economic conversation that takes the politics out of it,” Kelley said. “Given how fragile our economy remains, that may be a smart place for all of us to go.”

 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Apr 22 2011


I have read somewhere on the news that something like "Penny Health Insurance" is offering lowest health insurance rate for low and middle income families so search online and find them.

Anonymous

Posted Apr 23 2011

should pass the bill

Ugly American

Posted Apr 23 2011

It is easily agreed that the right place to start the discussion is with economics. There are also issues concerning the social fabric and sovereignty of the nations involved that need to be addressed, though many would find those to be rather delicate.
The laws that so many question and call "anti-immigrant' are actually not focused on any one race or nationality. They are immigration laws that apply to everyone from everywhere. Every country has them, many much more strict than America's. They're meant to control population growth from outside sources.
When millions of people come uninvited from other nations to America, it does put strains on the economy, social fabric and culture.
And the people, although their nations would like us to see them as "immigrants" are not that at all. Immigrants seek permission or at least register with the nation they move to. Whether they like it or not, they are unregistered foreign nationals and don't have the same rights as "immigrants."
That different states take various approaches to controlling the number of foreign citizens in their jurisdiction says volumes about the problem.
Whether the long term economic impact on states will be positive or negative is worth discussing but the laws of Utah and Arizona should provide some empirical data for that discussion in time.
For the moment, the sending nations should stop using slur campaigns to try to defend their citizens who broke American laws because our laws, even SB1070, are actually more liberal than theirs.

Anonymous

Posted Apr 23 2011


“You can have a very sober economic conversation that takes the politics out of it,” - should read
“You can have a very sober economic conversation that takes the racism out of it.”

Anonymous

Posted Apr 25 2011

As usual the articles on this website tend to blur the distinction between legal and illegal immigration.

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