Leaked White House Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, Politics | Leave a comment

Here’s the 45 page text of the White House immigration reform bill. What do you think? Send us your comments or questions to, or post them on our Facebook page. We want to hear your thoughts, so share with us!

Need A Work Permit? Place Yourself In Deportation

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 4 Comments

Today, in a letter to Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 21 other Senators, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Administration has established a new process for handling the deportation cases of DREAM Act students and other sympathetic individuals. If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations.

I’ve personally been dreading this bit of news since I heard about it a couple weeks ago. This is President Obama’s solution to an immigration system in shambles as a response to immigrant youth who are increasingly speaking out against the criminalization of immigrant communities, taking action against Secure Communities and capturing the media airwaves on issues beyond just the narrowly-tailored DREAM Act.

Here is how the new process works:

Under the new process, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) working group will develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on “positive factors” from the Morton Memo, which include individuals present in the U.S. since childhood (like DREAM Act students), minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services, and individuals with serious disabilities or health problems. The working group will develop a process for reviewing cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria.

On a regular basis, ICE attorneys will individually review every case scheduled for a hearing within the next 1-2 months to identify those cases that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. DHS will also begin reviewing all 300,000 pending cases to identify those that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

This “change” is actually putting into effect the guidelines in the new “Morton memo” or the older “Meissner memo.” It’s too early to say whether the new cosmetic change would fetch changes to the lives of real immigrants in proceedings but it certainly doesn’t do anything for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows .

It is a real wonder how Obama suddenly finds that he has some power over immigration matters when it becomes politically convenient for his re-election campaign. The guidelines clearly gives undocumented youth more incentives for putting themselves in removal, which is hard to do. And I won’t go into how to do it here. The blueprint comes after months of organizing by undocumented youth asking to stop the deportations of DREAM students so it is a direct answer to a persistent request and a win of sorts but that doesn’t mean DREAM-eligible youth won’t find themselves in deportation proceedings.

I also wonder what is “low priority” as opposed to “high priority.” Are undocumented immigrants arrested for minor traffic infractions going to be “high priority” for deportation given how the Obama Administration is hell-bent on expanding the notion of criminality and crime?

In sum, as Attorney Cyrus Mehta states, “the White House announcement is a promotion of Morten memo on prosecutorial discretion rather than a new form of administrative relief.” Only time will tell whether it actually has any tangible effect. From one point of view, undocumented youth could already place themselves in proceedings and get work permits so this is really nothing new. And yet, this is the first time, the Obama Administration has actually set out to follow its defined immigration priorities.

Here’s my problem — 501(c)(3) advocate are rushing to call this a victory or good news when it doesn’t directly impact their lives. President Obama should not be let off the hook or praised for doing something considerably small. It’s a small fix to ensure that the system keeps working as immigration courts become increasingly clogged with useless cases year after year. Instead of buying into this re-election sham, immigrant rights activists must keep up the pressure and continue to hold his feet to the fire.

Nothing has changed yet — families are still being torn apart. ICE raids and Secure Communities continue to terrorize us. And I still need a job to make any of this count.

How To Place Yourself In Deportation Proceedings

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 6 Comments

If you are undocumented, you cannot just walk into a local ICE office and demand a “Notice to Appear” issued for you. They’ll tell you that there is nothing they can do for you. You can occupy Congressional offices and shut down traffic for hours on the busiest streets in Los Angeles, but ICE will simply pay you a visit in jail, tell you not to do it again and leave you alone. It takes real skills and a lot of hard-work to get yourself placed in proceedings so here is a list of how to do so:

1. Drive while brown or black. Do something outrageous like barking at a dog while you are at a stop-light or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign.
2. Walk home drunk with a few other brown friends.
3. Look for a day-job to make a living for your family and make sure to stand out in a totally white neighborhood rather than a random Home Depot.
4. Get lost looking for a McDonald’s and accidentally drive into Canada and try to talk your way back into the U.S.
5. Try to leave the country through the Southwest border. You are likely to get arrested and placed in jail before any sort of hearing. Actually, you may not even get a hearing.
6. Travel on Amtrak within 100 miles of the border for graduate school orientation. You should know better as a brown person — seeking higher education is a huge offense.
7. File for asylum at the border after facing horrific persecution in your home country. Wait many years for the claim to be adjudicated, build a life and family here and then get your asylum claim denied.
8. Be quadriplegic or better yet, a four-year-old U.S. citizen.
9. Call the police for help when your spouse abuses you, or better yet, divorce your abusive H-1 spouse.
10. Turn 21 — age-out — after waiting for years for the priority date of a family visa petition and insist on filing for adjustment of status anyway because you think it is preposterous that your mother isn’t your “immediate relative.”

***This post is supposed to be satire. It is not meant as legal advice.***

Deconstructing the New DHS S-Comm Announcement

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 3 Comments

“ICE has determined that a [memorandum of agreement] is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction” — Director John Morton in letter to states saying no agreement is necessary on their part for S-COMM.

I read through press releases from major immigration advocacy groups and each statement failed to analyze why DHS came out with this announcement.

Most immigrant rights advocates simply don’t understand how S-Comm works. There’s actually no opting out of the growing archipelago of federal surveillance. But we also regretfully need legal professionals to explain the eleventh hour announcement.

In lawsuits filed against the Secure Communities programs, DHS has been pressed to show how it is not imposing on states’ rights and to clarify whether the program is truly optional. If Secure Communities is a regulatory program imposed upon local and state jurisdictions, then it is constitutionally suspect. Lately, DHS has been pushing the idea that S-Comm has nothing to do with agreements between state and federal governments in order to avoid the main argument behind the lawsuits.

ICE Director John Morton stated at the AILA Conference that there is a “fundamental misconception about Secure Communities is that somehow the program involves an agreement by the state for the exercise of federal immigration authority.” Principal Legal Adviser of ICE, Peter Vincent, also argued that the program does not even require local cooperation but upon the fingerprinting of a person in custody, the data is shared between two federal branches of government — the FBI and DHS. This latest announcement is just a culmination of those statements that serves a legal purpose: S-Comm is simply a federal program requiring no local or state cooperation.

Detaining and deporting thousands of undocumented immigrants on minor infractions does not affect the constitutionality of Secure Communities. Infringing on local and state authority does render the program unconstitutional. Nullifying all existing agreements and contracts is a clever legal step. Legal advocates will have to figure out a new strategy to stop the spread of the mandatory surveillance program.

In the meantime, it is advisable to go the way of San Francisco. No local and state cooperation should mean precisely that.

Watch this space for when our national advocates agree to S-COMM in exchange for a moratorium on DREAM-Act deportations and call it a victory.

I’d rather get deported.

DREAM Perception

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Favianna Rodriguez, who is a really badass and talented Oakland-based artivist, just did some pieces on DREAMERS and our/their complexities. You can read about it on her blog. The image on the left is a portrait of me by Favianna inspired by one of my various rants. It’s always interesting to see how others see, perceive and envision you. How they present you to the world. And compare it to the image you have of yourself. I recognize my nose.

The exhibit runs June 11 – August 20th at Intersection for the Arts. 925 Mission Street at 5th Street in the iconic San Francisco Chronicle Building. In other words, it is hanging somewhere down the street from me. Maybe I should make an effort to gaze into those fiery eyes and learn something from the perception.

“I Am Undocumented” T-shirts

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 1 Comment

I know $24 (which includes shipping and handling) is a lot to shell out for a t-shirt but you’ll be supporting a worthy cause.

Buy them here

Plus, I’ve been told that we make being undocumented pretty sexy and the t-shirts are awesome.

I won’t get into the gender and sexuality politics of that right now.

Morons of the Week: California State Bar Association Turns Into ICE

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 6 Comments

I thought lawyers usually became criminals after joining the bar but if you are undocumented, you need to try harder.

I know several attorneys who are undocumented but passed the bar and practice in California. Hence, it thoroughly disgusts me that the California state bar has started to act like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is requiring hard-working undocumented student law graduates for their “papers please.”

Sergio Garcia was brought to this country from Mexico when he was 17 months old by his parents, the Daily Journal (sub. req.) reports in a lengthy article. The state bar only recently began asking applicants about their immigration status, so there apparently are other California lawyers already admitted to practice (the newspaper talked to at least one) who aren’t legal residents of the U.S.

Sponsored by a relative, Garcia says he’s been waiting 17 years for a green card and expects it could be another 15 years before he gets one. Noting that the vetting process is supposed to be about character and fitness to practice, he says “What was my moral duty at 17 months?”

Read more here.

Let’s be real. This isn’t just a bar on undocumented immigrant lawyers. It’s a bar on people of color lawyers.

I know lawyers who have admitted to using drugs and passed the “character and fitness” test. I know lawyers who have been arrested more than a dozen times and still passed this so-called “character and fitness” test. But I suppose the bar is concerned more with “fraud” and the use of fraudulent documents than real crimes.

I don’t understand how being undocumented can negatively affect the “character and fitness” of the student. If anything, any undocumented immigrant who can get through the highly prohibitive cost of law school and pass the tough bar in the state of California has more character and fitness than the average American can ever fathom. Maybe that is the problem: we are too good for the bar association and they need to up their standards.

What’s more perplexing is that the California State Bar should know that being undocumented is not a permanent immutable condition. Oftentimes, becoming a lawyer or holding an advanced degree is the ticket to becoming legalized through an EB-2 or H-1B visa. A matriculated and undocumented law student graduate is also more likely to gain prosecutorial discretion and legally gain work authorization from DHS without having been admitted to the United States. So placing a bar on undocumented immigrants is highly counter-productive and hateful, making no sense at all.

It’s morally despicable that someone is on trial for being undocumented when this country should be on trial for creating conditions that compel people to come here without papers and then stay here without papers so they are not separated from their loved ones.

I can’t wait to be in front of this panel.

Schizophrenia of Capitalism

Posted on by Prerna in Anti-Capitalism, Immigration | Leave a comment

I’m learning that one can be an agent of production and reproduction, but not change or take control of her own production and reproduction. At least, that is what I am told while my body and story is appropriated for some grand project in ways that I don’t always appreciate. I’m trying to live, act and breathe within this complex dilemma of vying to stay with my American family even while rejecting my belonging to any project that perpetuates the American Empire. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone. But this unique experience has created me. I wish that instead of being cast as part of one grand narrative or another, people could understand my beautiful complexity, the deep sense of love and loss inside me, and my ultimate desire to simply be whole again — whatever that may mean.

Crowdsourcing Immigrant Dreams

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

Image via Wikipedia

Those who are afraid to fail never really come close to succeeding.

I’ve had old school activists look down at our use of social media. That’s fine. I am not in the business of changing how people organize (unless I am getting paid for it). Social media cannot replace door-to-door advocacy. Rather, it is a readily accessible tool and we don’t need to look to Egypt or Iran to see how people can use it to drive social change in their own communities. We have it right here at home, in the form of undocumented immigrant youth using social media for the advancement of their right to live in the United States.

Organizing for the DREAM Act is the sexy part of the immigrant rights movement. Almost everyone wants to be on the bandwagon. I would even say that it has become the “marriage equality” of the immigrant rights movement. But it wasn’t always the case. We had to fight really hard to get there.

It started innocently enough. In late 2007, seven undocumented students came together in a virtual chat room on a DREAM Act forum to talk about the need for an action-oriented site for the DREAM Act. They purchased a domain called for merely $10. Having virtually no organizing or social media skills beforehand, they taught themselves how to use the technology and resources available to them to build a new powerhouse in the world of immigrant rights with a following that rivaled and went beyond multi-million dollar beltway groups. It didn’t really take money — it just took attitude and initiative.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win. And that’s how it went down. For years, these young immigrants were ignored by larger advocacy groups. As they formed communities online and across the country, they were told that their demands for a standalone DREAM Act and a progressive immigration reform bill was completely out of question. Fueled by millions of dollars, immigration reform advocates (never to be mistaken for immigrant rights advocates) ridiculed immigrant youth and their efforts, often using these youth as tokens.  Immigrant youth were shut out and shut down during meetings and conferences where backdoor deals were hatched. At the same time, they were also used to lead organizing trainings across the country. And after all was said and done, the very organizations who fought against Dreamers but could not jump start their own vehicle had to jump on board a dingy that was beating them hard and fast. And since they knew nothing about steering, it helped no one as the reform part of the immigration battle sunk without trace.

Part of the success of the DREAM movement for immigrant rights has to do with the willingness of undocumented students to plan and carry out highly strategic civil disobedience actions around the country as a community of advocates who are undocumented, unapologetic and unafraid. But this was not always the case. Social media has been critical in planning and advancing these goals and getting undocumented youth from the depths of oblivion to the heights of public-policy making in the White House.

It was in the deep periphery of the internets when a few undocumented youth started sharing their stories. It started with “My name is _______ and I am undocumented.” This small but vocal group of DREAM youth refused to be silenced. They connected with other youth in similar youth across the country. Narratives are a powerful organizing tool. But narratives that connect people to one another threaten to build community. Soon, they were ready to reveal their faces, organizing hunger strikes across the country, shutting down traffic in various cities and risking their lives. The small but powerful network they had built made them feel like an almost invincible force, ready and willing to take on even the President of the United States.

There is certainly power in organized clicks as immigrant youth activists use what is available to them online for specific campaigns such as ending the deportation of a particular student or tell Obama to quit campaigning using the DREAM Act while he is deporting more people than any other President.

But more than that, what undocumented students have done online is build a community of activists across the country who identify with one another through a cause: the passage of the DREAM Act. In this particular community, people may have never met one another but they share a trust and bond that is grounded in recognition that they are in similar circumstances and united for a common purpose. The battle for the legislation created a community of activists that continue to fight for their rights in several spheres. More than strategy or money, that is what fuels the movement.

Want to stop the deportation of an undocumented student? Shoot a video and upload it to Facebook. Write a message accompanying it and then tweet and facebook it. Within hours, it will likely go viral. An insurmountable network of immigrant rights allies will pick it up and take it upon themselves to stop the deportation.

Want to connect with other undocumented students? Check out the long list of undocumented students on Twitter who converse daily on everything from horoscopes to sex to immigrant rights.

As always, this is a work in progress.

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E-Verify Plus DREAM Act: No Deal

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

Scanned image of author's US Social Security card.

Image via Wikipedia

Ever since Harry Reid hinted at the possibility of attaching the newly introduced DREAM Act to E-verify legislation, the blogosphere has buzzed with this possibility. And now Lamar Smith is using the DREAM Act as a carrot, hoping we will chew the e-verify bundle of sticks like eager bunnies.

He obviously doesn’t know us very well.

To be honest, this isn’t a new conversation. We’ve been here before. But maybe it is time someone stood up and told both Lamar Smith and the Democrats where to put their lousy ideas.

I’m an e-verified dreamer. The funny thing about e-verify is that if you are undocumented and employed using a different identity as in a borrowed or stolen social security number, e-verify will not detect you. In fact, e-verify fails to work more than 50 percent of the time. 50 percent!

And it even ensnares unsuspecting U.S. citizens. My long-time U.S. citizen uncle was almost fired from his job at FedEx because the E-verify employee eligibility program failed to locate him. In fact, every former legal permanent resident and now naturalized U.S. citizen who forgets to inform the Social Security Administration of his/her change in status may fail e-verify and face the pink slip at work.

E-verify is not about ensuring jobs for every American. It is about extending the reach of the police state into our workplaces and our lives. It is a gateway to a national ID card system. We already have a Gestapo in the form of an unaudited and unaccountable Department of Homeland Security. The last thing the American public needs is a gateway to a bigger police state.

In many ways, e-verify spells doom for immigration reform advocates. Big business is hesitant to jump on board this ship. Civil libertarians will fight vehemently against such a system. And I have major doubts as to whether the immigrant rights movement would ever support such a trade-off.

It’s a ship that is going nowhere, quite like the Titanic of comprehensive immigration reform sank without even giving us a good love story.

And yet, some of our “civil rights leaders” are toying with this idea. Go figure.

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