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Honda claims victory on LGBT immigration issue

Rep. Mike Honda is declaring victory after a decision that LGBT relationships will be considered just like any other family relationships in exercising prosecutorial discretion in immigration and deportation matters.

In a letter sent in late July, Honda – along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and 82 other House members – had asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to explicitly recognize in writing that the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse can be a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases. A June 2011 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, dealing with prioritizing ICE’s resources and reducing excessive deportations, had said a key positive factor in exercising prosecutorial discretion is a “person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.”

Napolitano responded yesterday.

honda.jpg“After many conversations with President Obama’s administration, a strong push by the LGBT community, and with the help of my colleagues, Secretary Napolitano has announced that she will disseminate written guidance to immigration authorities that confirms the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ to include LGBT relationships — specifically the relationships of immigrants in same-sex marriages and partnerships with U.S. citizens,” Honda said today.

Honda said this small win underscores the need for more comprehensive immigration reform. “Current immigration laws are tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loves ones. No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system.”

Honda, D-Campbell, is the author of the Reuniting Families Act, H.R. 1796, which would recapture family and work visas that have gone unused and unclaimed due to bureaucratic delay; reduce the long backlog for families trying to reunite with their loved ones by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses and children as “immediate relatives” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration; provide equal treatment for all stepchildren and biological children under immigration laws; and more.

Honda said that bill “reunites same-sex couples and protects the civil rights of LGBT individuals and ensures that they are treated equitably through an immigration reform that is both comprehensive and inclusive.”

“The United States is a nation built upon the toil of immigrants hoping to build better lives for themselves and their families,” he said. “Our country deserves an immigration system that honors that legacy and keeps all families intact.”

Posted on Friday, September 28th, 2012
Under: Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Romney names Pete Wilson honorary CA chair

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today announced the endorsement of former California Gov. Pete Wilson, and named him the Romney campaign’s honorary California chairman.

“I’m honored to have Governor Pete Wilson’s support, because he’s one of California’s most accomplished leaders. As governor of California from 1991 to 1999, he led California from the depths of recession to prosperous economic recovery,” Romney said in a news release. “Taking office with an inherited revenue gap of over $14 million, he left his successor a surplus of over $12.5 million. Insisting on strict budget discipline and rehabilitation of the state’s then-hostile environment toward investment and job creation, Pete persuaded Democratic Legislative majorities to enact dramatic tax and regulatory relief especially helpful to small businesses.”

Wilson, in the same release, called Romney “an enthusiastic believer in American exceptionalism and has been a spectacular example of it: Mitt has been a success in creating American private sector jobs, a success as the rescuer of the Salt Lake City Olympic games, and as a public chief executive as the Republican governor in the challenging environment of heavily Democratic Massachusetts.”

“It is clear that he will be a success in the White House, as the strong leader America so desperately needs to reverse the unprecedented and utterly irresponsible borrowing, taxing and spending of the Obama administration,” Wilson said. “And as the most electable top of our ticket, his candidacy will attract the support of Republican, Independent and wise Democratic voters, and is rightly seen by down-ticket Republican candidates as the nominee most beneficial to them in their own races. He is the leader we need to rescue this great nation from the tragedy of a second Obama term that threatens grave and perhaps irreparable harm to both our economy and our national security. Mitt Romney will provide the leadership to create the confidence and certainty of judgment needed to stimulate investment that creates jobs rather than green taxpayer-funded bankruptcies. He will restore America’s strength and credibility, and win back respect for America from both our friends and our enemies.”

It should be interesting to see if this affects Romney’s chances with California’s significant Latino voter bloc, which certainly had no love for Wilson – his support of Proposition 187 of 1994 might’ve burned that bridge forever, as evidenced by Latino leaders’ reaction to Wilson’s support of Meg Whitman in 2010.

UPDATE @ 2:01 P.M.: “I think it will add to what has been a pretty consistently negative message from the Romney campaign to Latino voters in California and across the nation,” said UC-Irvine political science and Chicano/Latino studies professor Louis DeSipio, an expert in Latino politics and voting.

Most Latino voters old enough to remember Prop. 187 won’t feel good about Wilson, he said, and “in the interim he hasn’t endeared himself to Latinos with his work for Meg Whitman, for example.”

“To the extent that the Romney campaign reaches out to Latino organizations, I think this will be an added barrier for them,” DeSipio said.

UPDATE @ 3:11 P.M.: Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said he thinks this means “that he’s getting really bad campaign advice.”

“Anybody on the ground in California who was hoping to peel away Latino voters in a general election wouldn’t put Pete Wilson front and center,” Vargas said. “To me it’s baffling. Meg Whitman learned what a mistake that was for her to do the same in 2010 when she ran for governor – it certainly didn’t work for her.”

Exit polls showed Whitman won only about a third of California’s Latino vote.

Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, Immigration, Mitt Romney | 3 Comments »

SF tech exec will be First Lady’s guest at SOTU

Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger of San Francisco will be among the First Lady’s guests at the State of the Union tomorrow night, a White House official said – a sign that President Obama probably will speak about the need for immigration policy reform that welcomes and retains high-tech talent from abroad.

Instagram is a free iPhone application that lets a user snap a photo; choose a filter to transform the image’s colors, mood, border, and tonality; and then share it via Facebook, Twitter or Flickr.

Mike Krieger, in an Instagrammed photo Krieger was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to California in 2004 to study computer science and cognitive science at Stanford University. After graduation, he worked for a year on his F-1 student visa and then later received an H-1B visa as a high-skilled worker; he’s now seeking a green card.

He and Kevin Systrom co-founded Instagram in 2010. TechCrunch reported in October that Systrom said Instagram had passed the 12 million user mark and continued to grow white-hot, carried in part by intense interest in Asia.

According to Instagram’s website, the company raised a $500,000 seed round from Andreessen-Horowitz and Baseline Ventures, and a $7 million Series A from Benchmark Capital and a small group of angel investors. Although they intend to keep the core product free, they’ll sell extra add-ons like special filters and they “plan to experiment with different models as we grow and learn what special value we can provide to the community to make their collective experience more engaging, exciting and useful.”

Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Under: Immigration, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

U.S. border chief to step down Dec. 30

The Obama Administration’s commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection – a former California Secretary of Education – is stepping down.

Alan BersinAlan Bersin, 65, has been the Homeland Security Department’s point man on illegal immigration and drug smuggling over the southwest border. He announced today he’s resigning effective Dec. 30, the day before his recess appointment expires.

He already was Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs – the “border czar” – when Obama nominated him for CBP commissioner in September 2009, and then later appointed him in March 2010 after the Senate failed to hold a confirmation vote.

Bersin from 1995 to 1998 was a federal prosecutor serving as the U.S. Attorney General’s Southwest Border Representative, coordinating law enforcement on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. From there he detoured into education, appointed in 1998 as San Diego’s superintendent of public education. He was still in that post when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped him to serve as the state’s Education Secretary in 2005-06.

In his statement today, Bersin called his time as CBP’s chief “one of the most rewarding experiences of my public life.”

“I am immensely proud of the significant and meaningful achievements we have made on our borders and at our nation’s ports of entry over nearly two years,” he said. “These extraordinary accomplishments are the result of the unstinting dedication, professionalism and sacrifice of the men and women of CBP. It has been my honor to serve with them and I depart with full confidence that they will continue to secure our borders and foster the lawful exchange of people and goods with vigilance, service and integrity.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano thanked Bersin for his service.

“During his tenure, CBP has taken historic steps to secure our borders while facilitating legal travel and trade,” she said in a news release. “Commissioner Bersin has also been instrumental in facilitating new international agreements and public-private partnerships as well as developing new paradigms throughout the world in combating terrorism and international crime. Commissioner Bersin has helped set CBP on a path to continuously adapt and seek new and innovative ways of keeping our country – and our communities – safe.”

Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
Under: Immigration, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Lawmakers sign brief vs. Alabama immigration law

The South Bay’s House members are among 39 Democrats who signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law, HB 56.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, joined in the brief filed Monday, which argued six sections of Alabama’s law are unconstitutional.

“All of these sections are impliedly preempted by federal law and Congressional power and, if allowed to stand, will create an unworkable conflict between federal and state enforcement schemes and priorities,” the brief said. “Such a conflict will frustrate the orderly enforcement of federal immigration law and could jeopardize this Nation’s relationships with its closest allies.”

The brief also argues the law will harm the rights of all Alabamans, including citizens, under the First, Fourth, Sixth and 14th Amendments.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., spearheaded the effort to get lawmakers on board with the brief, including a Nov. 21 delegation trip to Birmingham, Ala., which Lofgren accompanied. Other signers of the brief included Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

“The Constitution is quite clear about the federal government’s preeminent role in immigration matters and having 50 inconsistent state policies towards immigrants is a level of chaos the Founders sought to avoid,” Gutierrez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force, said in a news release. “HB 56 adds layers of punitive measures targeting Alabama residents that are inconsistent with federal policy. Congress has the responsibility to balance many concerns in legislating federal immigration policy, such as law enforcement, the economy, family unity, education, civil rights, and so on. HB 56 has and will cause irreparable harm to communities and families throughout Alabama, but will also cause irreparable damage to Constitutional principles if allowed to stand. We join the U.S. Department of Justice, civil rights organizations, immigrant advocates, educators and people of faith in calling for HB 56 to be stripped from Alabama’s law books.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Under: Anna Eshoo, Immigration, Mike Honda, U.S. House, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Prize-winning journalist drops bombshell

(This is a guest post from Matt O’Brien, who covers immigration issues for Bay Area News Group – East Bay.)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who grew up in the Bay Area dropped a media bombshell this morning that took off with a brief post on his Twitter account.

“I am an undocumented immigrant,” announced Jose Antonio Vargas, a graduate of SF State and Mountain View High School who won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre for the Washington Post. Read about his saga, he added, in a gripping 4,600-word essay posted online this morning and to be printed in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

Vargas told of how his mother sent him from the Philippines to live with his grandparents in Mountain View when he was a 12-year-old in 1993. It wasn’t until years later that he found out he was living in the United States illegally:

One day when I was 16, I rode my bike to the nearby D.M.V. office to get my driver’s permit. Some of my friends already had their licenses, so I figured it was time. But when I handed the clerk my green card as proof of U.S. residency, she flipped it around, examining it. “This is fake,” she whispered. “Don’t come back here again.”

Vargas also went public with his story in an emotional TV interview that will broadcast on ABC News tomorrow:

Another video on his newly launched “Define American” website (www.defineamerican.com) shows that this disclosure is designed to make a powerful statement in the country’s ongoing debate over illegal immigration:

Vargas isn’t the only journalist, or Pulitzer winner, for that matter, to have lived in the U.S. as an unauthorized immigrant. Orange Coast magazine reported earlier this year on the story of LA Times reporter Ruben Vives, part of the team that uncovered the Bell city government scandal and the son of a Guatemalan nanny who brought him across the border when he was a child.

But the Vargas story has caused more of a stir because the journalist is still at risk of deportation and has been in this situation throughout his career, which included early internships at The Mountain View Voice (which was unpaid) and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Seattle Times denied Vargas an internship because of his lack of proper documents, and he kept his status a secret from top managers at the Washington Post.

It was the Post that planned to publish the Vargas account first, but as Chris Suellentrop, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, explained in a blog post this afternoon, the DC paper killed the story days before it was due to run.

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Immigration | No Comments »

See and read Obama’s immigration reform pitch

President Obama made his pitch for comprehensive immigration reform today with a speech at Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, declaring the border more secure than ever and laying blame for delayed reforms at Republicans’ feet. Meanwhile, the White House released the President’s “Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System.”

Earlier, the President toured the cargo facility at the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry, the largest of four crossings comprising the El Paso Port of Entry. The bridge processes inbound and outbound commercial, private vehicle, bus, and pedestrian traffic; of half a billion inspections conducted annually at 327 ports of entry across the nation, about 10 percent are at El Paso.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, issued a statement arguing that the border isn’t as safe and secure as the President made it out to be.

“It seems premature to discuss immigration policies when thousands of criminals continue to cross our border – many of whom enter completely undetected,” Bishop said. “In his remarks today, the President failed to acknowledge the rampant criminal activity occurring on public lands throughout the southern border region. Gaining full operational control of the border should be our number one priority. If your bathtub is overflowing, your first step isn’t to start bailing out water, it’s to turn off the spigot. The same practice should apply to the border.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform had blasted the President yesterday before the speech’s text even was released.

“In his effort to shore-up support from his political base, President Obama is choosing to reignite a divisive debate about amnesty for illegal aliens. At the same time, he is refusing to enforce immigration laws he does not like or finds politically inconvenient,” FAIR President Dan Stein said in a news release. “Sacrificed in the President’s political pandering are the concerns, interests and security of the American people – the true stakeholders of our immigration policy.”

“As the President gears up for his re-election bid, we are seeing a desperate effort on the part of the administration to use immigration as a wedge issue,” he continued. “Any pretense of honoring President-elect Obama’s pledge that, ‘I will listen to you, especially when we disagree,’ or even carrying out the responsibilities of his office on immigration have completely disappeared.”

But Rep. Michael Honda, D-San Jose, said the President “reiterated his commitment to reforming our country’s immigration system through compassionate, comprehensive legislation,” and that he and many of his colleagues in Congress “have been waiting for this moment and stand ready to work with the President on this legislation. The President should help guide Members by laying out a legislative model of what he envisions in the reform process.”

Read the President Obama’s speech in its entirety, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Under: Immigration, Obama presidency | No Comments »

PPIC on voter priorities, term limits, immigration

I wrote a story today about the latest Public Policy Institute of California survey ‘s results on Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan, but there was a lot more in the survey that’s worth unpacking.

About half of Californians (48 percent) say that if they were setting national priorities, the focus would be on spending to help the economy recover, while 44 percent say it would be on reducing the federal deficit. Likely voters feel differently: 36 percent would spend to help the economy and 58 percent say reducing the deficit is a higher priority.

But dissatisfaction is widespread: 62 percent of all adults and 64 percent of likely voters think Congress and the Obama administration are not doing enough to help create jobs.

Nearly all Californians say the federal deficit is a very serious (63 percent) or somewhat serious (28 percent) problem. When asked about three major areas of spending in the national budget:

    • 75 percent want to protect Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly. Across parties, demographic groups, and regions, adults want to spare the program from significant cuts.
    • 67 percent want to protect Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor. Partisan differences emerge on this question, with 77 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents wanting to spare the program and half of Republicans saying it is more important to reduce the deficit (51 percent) than protect Medicaid from significant cuts (41 percent).
    • 51 percent of adults say it is more important to reduce the deficit than prevent cuts in defense spending, while 40 percent say sparing the Pentagon from big cuts is a priority. Independents (57 percent) and Democrats (54 percent) prefer to reduce the deficit than protect defense spending; Republicans are more divided, with 46 percent favoring deficit reduction and 49 percent favoring prevention of defense cuts.

Even with these federal budget woes, California remains true “blue:” Almost half of Californians – 48 percent – say President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are doing a better job on efforts to agree on a federal budget, while only a quarter say the Republicans in Congress are doing a better job.

Two months after Republicans gained control of the House and with rancorous budget negotiations still in progress, 56 percent of Californians and 52 percent of likely voters approve of the president’s job performance; 38 percent of all adults and 44 percent of likely voters disapprove.

But dissatisfaction with Congress is widespread and bipartisan. Most Californians (58 percent) and likely voters (69 percent) disapprove of its job performance; 61 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of independents disapprove. As with the state Legislature, however, Californians have more positive views of their own member of the House of Representatives. In the U.S. Senate, 45 percent of all adults and the same proportion of likely voters approve of Barbara Boxer’s performance, while Dianne Feinstein’s numbers stand at 48 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

In other findings, the economy and jobs was named as the most important issue facing the state — as it has since March 2008 — by 53 percent of all adults; far fewer mention the state budget (14 percent) or education and schools (10 percent) as their top priority, and gas prices are now mentioned by 4 percent. Most Californians – 59 percent – say the state is headed in the wrong direction, but that’s more optimistic than one year ago when 76 percent felt that way.

Solid majorities of Californians (61 percent) and likely voters (70 percent) say current legislative term limits are a good thing, although 68 percent of all adults and likely voters favor the general idea of an initiative proposing to restructure term limits that already has qualified for the ballot.

Most Californians – 65 percent – say illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the United States for at least two years should have a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status, while 30 percent say they should be deported. A majority – 68 percent – also favor a law that would let illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children gain legal resident status if they join the military or attend college.

And, questioned before the U.S. and its allies launched air strikes on Libya, most Californians – 64 percent – said the U.S. does not have a responsibility to actively promote democracy around the world.

Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, economy, Immigration, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Bittersweet day for California’s Senators

California’s U.S. Senators are overjoyed that the U.S. Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy limiting gays’ and lesbians’ participation in the U.S. Armed Forces. It now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

For the record, Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against cloture on the DADT repeal, but then voted in favor of the repeal itself – perhaps having their political cake and eating it, too?

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., after the cloture vote:

“The first vote today to move forward with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was 63-33 to end discrimination against gay men and women in the United States military. Seventeen years ago, the vote was exactly the opposite, 33-63. One-third of support has changed to two-thirds of the United States Senate supporting the repeal of Don’t ask, Don’t Tell over the past seventeen years.

“I strongly believe that is emblematic of the change of thinking in the United States. Over these last years, gay Americans have established themselves as heroes, as professionals, as academicians, and as brave warriors for our country.

“There are millions of stories that demonstrate this, but I will share just a few that stand out. In 1975, I was there in San Francisco when a woman carrying a gun attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. It was a gay man who grabbed her gun which deflected the shot aimed at our President.

“In 1982, I remember when a plane crashed on the 14th Street Bridge in Washington and passengers were on the verge of drowning in the ice-covered Potomac River. It was a gay man who jumped in the freezing water to save them.

“It was a gay woman serving as an Army medic in Iraq who saved the lives of innocent civilians who were critically wounded after a car bomb exploded in their midst. I can go on and on.

“Gays and lesbians are not the first group of Americans to be denied their civil rights. And they are not the first group to fight in service for the cherished freedom and equality which they have been denied.

“They have struggled long and hard to see this day. They have fought and died for their country, and they are out there on the battlefield today as we stand here debating whether they deserve their rights. I am proud to see this vote for them today.”

And from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“This is a historic vote for equality, civil rights and a stronger America. This vote is a continuation of our nation’s march toward full equality for all.”

But both are disappointed that the DREAM Act – which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students who go to college or serve in the military – fell five votes short of the 60 it needed in order for cloture to be invoked, debate to end and a final vote to be called.

Said Feinstein:

“I am deeply disappointed. I looked up in the galleries which were filled with bright young faces of young people whose only desire was to be good Americans – to better themselves, to become educated, to earn a living, to be willing to fight for this country, and be proud of the fact that they are American. They have no hope of becoming American without the DREAM Act.

“The DREAM Act is important to the United States. I have no doubt that this legislation will be debated on the Senate floor again. To the young people who watched this vote today and feel deep despair- keep fighting.

“For those that did not support this legislation, I ask that you think about the years that these bright young people will spend in limbo. These young people could be putting their education to good use but instead will be unable to realize their potential and give back to the country they consider home. I look forward to when I can cast my vote in favor of the DREAM Act again.”

And, from Boxer:

“It is a sad day for our country when we turn our backs on some of our best and brightest young people who grew up in America, love America and want to serve America.

“I commend the brave young men and women who have stepped forward at great personal risk to call America’s attention to this injustice, and I will not rest until the DREAM Act is the law of the land.”

Posted on Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Immigration, U.S. Senate | 11 Comments »

‘Oakland, where all bets are off for sanity’

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, speaking this morning on Fox & Friends, blasted Oakland for its plan to issue ID/debit cards:

Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, immediately called her bluff on that whole “most of us can’t get a thousand dollars on our debit cards” thing, noting Newsweek recently estimated her annual income at about $7 million. It also noted the program’s goal is to help city residents, including but not limited to illegal immigrants and homeless people, who might have trouble getting state-issued ID or scraping together enough money to open a traditional bank account.

Posted on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Under: Immigration, Oakland | 3 Comments »