Thursday, August 29, 2013

MD U.S. House Members Respond to Survey on Deportations // Only 1 Congressman Speaking Out To End It Now - Guess Who!

Below Maryland Juice writer Dan Furmansky presents the results of a fascinating poll he conducted of our state's Democratic members of the U.S. House: Elijah Cummings, John Delaney, Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Chris Van Hollen. Furmansky previously called on Maryland's U.S. House Democrats to help end the Obama administration's record-setting number of immigrant deportations. Today, he presents a follow-up article with commentary from a range of Maryland's Democratic Congressman, but only one agreed to sign a letter to President Obama calling for a suspension of further deportations of those who would be eligible for deferred action under proposed immigration reform legislation. Guess who the one Maryland Democrat is to speak out clearly on this issue? The answer is within Dan Furmansky's article below. In the meantime, I'll remind you of some of the key facts Furmansky raised in his previous article on mass deportations:
  • The United States is now deporting people at a faster rate than at any time in our modern history — an estimated 1,100 people per day. 
  • According to data obtained by the news website Colorlines, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deported nearly 205,000 parents of U.S. citizen children from July 1, 2010 to Sept. 31, 2012.
  • A report from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute released earlier this year found that the United States spent more money on immigration enforcement — nearly $18 billion in the 2012 fiscal year — than on all of its other law enforcement agencies combined.  
  • More than 410,000 undocumented workers were deported last year, an all-time high.
  • The government spends about 15 times more on immigration enforcement than it did in the mid-1980s, adjusted for inflation, the report found. 

DAN FURMANSKY: A few weeks ago, I urged Maryland’s congressional delegation to call for a change in the terms of the immigration reform debate by asking the President — also known as the “Deporter in Chief” in some circles — to use his power to halt all deportations. There are a host of reasons why this is a good idea, and this is the right time to put such an idea into action. In case you missed it, here is more of the logic and background on the President’s zeal for deportations:

BACKGROUND: Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva and Rep. Yvette Clarke are circulating to their Congressional colleagues a sign-on letter to President Obama, urging him to suspend any further deportations and expand the successful deferred action program to all those who would be potential citizens under immigration reform.

I reached out to our state’s congressional offices about the letter and heard back from most of them. Unfortunately, despite repeated outreach, there was radio silence from Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, aka the man who still can’t decide if he is running for Governor, and a couple others. Also, I confess I got a little lazy and didn’t bother to reach out to Rep. Andy Harris’ office but — really — can you blame me?

Only one member of our Congressional delegation stated that at this point they would sign the letter to President Obama and urge a halt to all deportations now. And who, you ask, possesses the most willingness to publicly stand up against the repressive policies that are tearing apart immigrant families? Congressman John Delaney.

My fellow Juicer, aka Mr. Maryland Juice himself, was recently critical of Rep. Delaney for taking a right turn on some issues. So it’s particularly refreshing to see that Rep. Delaney is willing to step out on this important issue. Congressmen Delaney: Thank You.  Here’s the statement the Congressman’s office released when they notified us of intent to sign the letter calling for a halt to President Obama's mass deportation practices:
JOHN DELANEY: Last year, deportations of undocumented workers reached an all-time high.  I’m proud to join my colleagues in writing President Obama encouraging him to support common-sense use of selective enforcement of deportation to prioritize those who commit crimes and pose a public safety risk.  At the same time, I encourage the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and come together in a bipartisan manner to implement comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented workers.
Unfortunately, for the time being, at least, our other Democratic members of Congress from Maryland are banking on movement from Republican House leadership, which I fear may be like Waiting for Godot.  Here are some statements from other Maryland Democrats (Note: We did not receive official statements from Rep. Elijah Cummings and Donna Edwards by press time):
Office of Congressman Hoyer: Mr. Hoyer strongly supports President Obama's decision to defer deportation action against DREAMers and remains hopeful that Congress will address our broken immigration system by taking a comprehensive approach that will secure our borders while establishing a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, their families, and all law-abiding, undocumented individuals. He believes the House should take up comprehensive legislation, such as the bipartisan Senate bill, as soon as possible and is confident the Obama administration will fairly enforce existing law until Congress takes comprehensive action to fix our broken system.
Office of Congressman Sarbanes: Congressman Sarbanes looks forward to connecting with his colleagues on efforts to ensure that the United States implements a rational and humane deportation policy, particularly as we anticipate passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Congressman Sarbanes believes such reform must include a pathway to citizenship that keeps families together and in other key respects is fair and respectful of our nation's values and traditions.

Office of Congressman Van Hollen: The President’s deferred action for DREAMers has been a resounding success and Congressman Van Hollen remains committed to passing immigration reform to provide a pathway to citizenship for those DREAMers, their families, and other undocumented individuals.  His focus is on convincing House Republicans to stop obstructing the will of the people and permanently fix our broken immigration system. The Congressman is confident the Obama Administration will enforce the existing law in a fair and appropriate way.”
Unfortunately, the President is not enforcing existing law in a fair and appropriate way. Every day, families are being ripped apart. Children are being kept from their parents who are kept in detention, sometimes to the benefit of the private prison industry. And there are estimates that 30,000 people were deported in August alone. Here is just one example of a case that highlights the injustice:

MARYLAND CASE STUDY // A FATHER FACING DEPORTATION FOR A YOUTHFUL PRANK MANY YEARS AGO? - A Maryland of father of two — Manny Shoemaker — is being kept from his wife and two children (who are U.S. citizens) in a Worcester County Detention Center. Manny is the primary breadwinner for the family and covers them on his health insurance. This man has been in this country since he was 4-years-old, and has been a legal permanent resident since then. But Manny apparently committed a “crime of moral turpitude” as a youngster. He tried to steal a golf cart from a local golf course with a group of friends. His U.S. citizen friends got off with probation, while he served 6 months in jail. Now, years and years later, he is languishing in detention, which makes zero sense. You can learn more about Manny Shoemaker's case and join me in signing a petition on his behalf here.

Signing these petitions, incidentally, is crucially important when it comes to immigration cases like this. In fact, in many cases, community attention is the only thing that successfully defers deportation in these situations and keeps a parent with his or her children. Sadly, this case is hardly unique. It’s but one, sad example among millions.

In addition to the glaringly cruel deportation policy that taints this country every day — a policy that the President has the power to change — it is entirely unclear that movement is possible in the House on the bill passed by the Senate. According to the AP, voices opposed to immigration have been muted during this August recess, with some Republican Party activists claiming the focal point of energies have been trained on opposing the Affordable Care Act, not immigration reform. Pro-reform advocates claim they have turned some Republican members during this congressional recess. According to the AP, whether this adds up to the House taking up the Senate-passed bill is iffy at best (excerpt below):
ASSOCIATED PRESS: GOP House leaders have rejected that approach, vowing instead to proceed with bills addressing individual immigration issues, beginning with border security. And although by advocates' count more than 20 House Republicans have now declared their support for some kind of citizenship path, the majority of House Republicans remain opposed, creating a potentially unbridgeable divide between the House and the Senate. Congress also faces looming deadlines on the debt ceiling and spending bills to keep the government running. It all adds up to a tough environment for getting an immigration bill to Obama's desk. 
Nonetheless, pro-immigrant advocates are claiming success in their August recess efforts to pressure House Republicans to act on immigration in the fall. An unusual and deep-pocketed alliance of Catholics and evangelicals, labor unions, business groups and others have been targeting dozens of GOP members viewed as open to hearing them out, and say they'll have momentum on their side when Congress reconvenes. 
"The big story I think of the August recess is that we haven't seen what some had predicted, this major anti-immigrant movement where members of Congress would be heckled into inaction," Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, said on a media call this week to announce a $400,000, 14-state radio ad campaign in support of immigration reform. "We've seen very much that that has been a muted voice, but actually the pro-immigrant voice has been rather prominent at many of the town halls that we have observed."
Unfortunately, other signs aren’t sign promising. House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told a radio host that he opposes a path to citizenship even for young documented people brought to the United States as children. And The Hill reports that even Rep. Luis Guitierrez is feeling despondent (excerpt below):
THE HILL: The veteran Democrat is known as one of the Capitol’s eternal optimists, but as he chats with reporters before a rally in a Republican district, he is struggling to chart a path to final passage for comprehensive immigration reform, the issue he has championed for two decades in the House. “I was hopeful we would be in a better place today,” [Rep. Luis] Gutierrez (D-Ill.) conceded.

I’m not saying we should give up on passing comprehensive immigration reform. Hardly. I am saying that while the Senate bill languishes (a Senate bill that already possesses laboriously long waiting periods for immigrants to obtain citizenship) and the Republicans continue to drag their feet on crafting their own likely-Draconian proposal, the President can take the same bold action he took one year ago via executive order and at the same time dramatically propel the conversation forward....
Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, often says it best:
PABLO ALVARADO: Anyone who thinks the President should suspend deportations as a "Plan B" is missing the point.  The President should make a suspension of deportations and an expansion of deferred action part of a "Plan A" precisely to help move a bill forward in Congress.  His decision to grant deferred action to childhood arrivals (DACA) showed that we can make incremental progress and galvanize momentum for an omnibus bill at the same time.  But it also begged the question:  Why isn't the President doing more?
In a quote being spread widely, GOP Senator Marco Rubio said that Obama could issue “an executive order as he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen,” and doing so doesn’t require the intolerable compromises we’ve seen in Congress.  Rubio goes on to say, “We won’t get any E-Verify. We won’t get any border security. But he’ll legalize them.”

The precise action being discussed here makes Republicans very nervous. Let’s use that, shall we? And at the same time, we can put into practice the compassion we tout as Democrats committed to making life better for all families.

- Dan  Furmansky

P.S. You can read the full letter from Representatives Grijalva and Clarke to President Obama below:

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