“We thank Dean for his support and his zero tolerance against Sanctuary Cities and Illegal Invasion,” the e-mail says. “He will meet with us and discuss our mutual interests and plans for Restoring the Republic. Please come & greet Dean. Dean has arranged a special meeting for us to answer any and all questions. Minutemen and Patriots in Alameda County can’t miss this!”
They’re convening the Q&A at the Bagel Street Cafe, 4101 Dublin Blvd. in Dublin, at 11 a.m., and afterward intend to do some precinct-walking for the candidate. Andal, a former Assemblyman and former Board of Equalization member from Stockton, is challenging freshman incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.
And McNerney’s going from there to one of his “Congress At Your Corner” constituent meet-and-greet sessions, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Richert Lumber Co., 5505 Sunol Blvd. in Pleasanton.
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Judd Gregg, R-NH, today introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at keeping America competitive in the global high-tech economy by making it easier for foreigners graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees to get green cards if they have jobs waiting for them here in the U.S.
“Ensuring that the U.S. is competitive in technology means making sure that future innovators are putting their knowledge to work here, not competing against us abroad,” Boxer said in her news release. “The best way to do that is to offer greencards to those foreign graduates with career opportunities in the U.S. I am proud to work with Senator Gregg to help keep America’s economy at the forefront of technological innovation.”
According to the American Society of Engineering Education, more than 1 out 3 master’s degrees and more than half of all PhDs in engineering awarded in the U.S. go to foreign national students. U.S.-educated scientists and engineers often end up seeking work in their home countries, or places such as India and China, not due to a lack of job opportunities in the United States but rather because of the limited number of work visas available to foreign nationals.
The Boxer-Gregg legislation would let graduates from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math get green cards without waiting in long lines, provided they have job offers from U.S. employers.
This “brain drain” was a topic of conversation at presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s campaign event with Silicon Valley executives a few weeks ago in Union City. There, MetricStream CEO Shellye Archambeau had noted the number of H1B visas available each year has fallen by two-thirds following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and more and more foreign students are being forced to return to their home countries as soon as they earn U.S. university degrees; these skilled workers should get visas with their diplomas, she said.
“Senator (Ted) Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through Congress,” McCain replied that day, accepting partial responsibility for the federal government’s failure to meet its responsibilities.
Said Woolsey, D-Petaluma, in today’s news release:
“Today’s ICE raids conducted in the Canal District sent shock waves throughout our streets, schools, and neighborhoods, both because of how the raids were conducted and the chilling effect they had on our community. These raids have resulted in widespread anxiety and fear, particularly among children.
“Some children reportedly witnessed parents being taken away, and local schools reported extraordinarily high rates of absenteeism. Three of the Canal District schools canceled their Open Houses planned for tonight out of fear for the safety of parents and students in the community.
“Members of our community have a right to know what has happened in their homes and neighborhoods. On the federal level, I continue to be in close contact with senior ICE officials to find out how members of our community can get more information; how the agency worked with the school, child service agencies, and other members of the community before and during the raids; and whether detainees have received the medical care they need.
“It’s clear that ICE humanitarian voluntary guidelines for conducting workplace raids must apply to all ICE raids, because, without them, the raids will continue to have a devastating and traumatic impact on our communities and our children. Perhaps these guidelines need to be mandatory.”
Among those testifying was Kathryn Gibney, principal of San Pedro Elementary School in San Rafael, who spoke about immigration raids in the San Rafael’s Canal District in March 2007.
“Traumatized by the vicious nature of the intrusions and terrified to take their children to the bus stop, many families held their children at home, in hiding,” Gibney said, describing the raids. “Other parents, recognizing that school might be the safest place, enabled their children to go to school. One child whose father had just been taken away was told by her mother to pack some essentials in her backpack and leave it by the door so that if, when she returned home she found no one there, she could go to her aunt’s home just in case her mother was seized and deported. Imagine this child’s frame of mind as she left for school that day.”
“The impact of these raids has been devastating. Absentee rates have soared. Test scores have dropped. Students who do make it to school remain distracted as they worry about whether their families will be at home when they return. Families lose sleep at night as they worry about possible home interrogations. Families whose breadwinners have been seized are struggling to survive.”
Woolsey during the hearing blasted ICE for not enforcing voluntary guidelines calling for its officials to coordinate with local social service groups when raids are conducted of more than 150 immigrants. “Even though ICE put into place guidelines to ensure the humane treatment of people being detained when conducting raids, they are not being followed in a consistent fashion,” Woolsey said. “As a result, we are still hearing heartbreaking stories of the impact on children. Unless ICE follows humanitarian procedures in conducting these raids, we are still left with traumatized children and communities.”
“The testimony that we heard today, and the stories that many of us have heard from our constituents who have been affected by these raids, was heartbreaking, and often times difficult to hear,” Woolsey said at a press conference afterward. “We all recognize the need for a broader immigration policy. All that we’re asking for is that these enforcement activities are handled with care and that the needs of the most vulnerable among us, our children, be taken into account.”
OAKLAND — Ongoing enforcement tactics by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel caused panic to erupt at several East Bay school districts Tuesday, although ICE officials said that many of the rumors that swirled among parents and school staff were false or overblown.
“This whole experience is so terrifying that it really brought out the greatest fear in everybody,” said Mark Coplan, a spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District, where the schools superintendent issued a recorded phone message to parents Tuesday promising that he “will not allow any child to be taken away from the school.”
Some of the rumors — for example, that Berkeley middle school students were being carted off in vans — turned out to be false. But others — for example, that ICE agents were conducting surveillance near an East Oakland elementary school — were true and prompted Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and others to rally outside the school in protest.
“We were not at a school,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. “We were at residences. There may be a situation where a residence is near to a school.”
Local elected officials are seriously peeved.
“I find today’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence at our schools reprehensible. The Bush Administration espouses the virtues of No Child Left Behind and yet they provide no funding. If the President wants to help our nation’s children he should send funding — not federal agents to our schools,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. “It is clear that ICE raids jeopardize the stability of our communities and families. There should be an immediate freeze on ICE raids directed at school children while legislation aiming to fix immigration is considered.”
And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said she’s “deeply troubled and concerned about the tactics employed by ICE. Conducting an operation of this nature in Oakland is a direct violation of the spirit of the city’s sanctuary resolution.”
“Although ICE officials assured my district office that they did not physically enter public school property, the presence of the ICE van near or parked in front of the Esperanza Academy and Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy is of grave concern to me,” Lee said. “In an effort to address the controversial tactics that have been used by ICE, my district office has been in contact with them to convey my concerns. I will be working with my colleagues to oppose the use of this troubling approach, and I am personally committed to reviewing any ICE policies that may create a culture of fear and intimidation, especially near a school or place of worship.
“To conduct such an operation near or around a public school campus is a violation of the sanctity of the education process, and is intentionally meant to intimidate those who live in the community,” Lee continued. “I do not support these intimidation policies and I am planning a district outreach event in the future to hear directly from my constituents about their experiences with agency officials.”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will speak on cyber security to the 2008 RSA Conference, a big gathering of information security professionals, at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, April 8, at the Moscone Center, 747 Howard St. in San Francisco. Ordinarily I’d say this would be the Bay Area’s “event most likely to be protested” for the week, particularly given Chertoff’s recent decision to issue waivers bypassing the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections for construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence — thereby angering environmental activists AND immigration activists in one fell swoop.
But this is a special week, of course: The Olympic torch will be carried through San Francisco this Wednesday, April 9, starting at McCovey Cove at 1 p.m. and following a six-mile route mostly along the Embarcadero, looping through North Beach and returning to finish at Justin Herman Plaza at about 3:30 p.m. The big protest against China’s human-rights abuses in Tibet will coalesce at about 10 a.m. in Ferry Park, between Washington and Clay streets off Drumm.
SCAAP stands for State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, the federal government’s reimbursement to state and local governments for the costs of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens. The office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent out a news release about half an hour ago noting the Senate today had unanimously approved her budget amendment increasing SCAAP’s budget authority for FY 2009 to $950 million.
“State and local governments bear the burden of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens, and SCAAP is the only means of reimbursing these costs,” she said in the release. “This is a federal responsibility, and the federal government should not shortchange state and local governments. This would be patently unfair, because it penalizes state and local governments for the failure of federal immigration policy. This amendment will provide much-needed relief to state and local governments.”
Actually, no, it probably won’t — it never does.
President Bush’s FY 2009 budget requested no funding for SCAAP — just as in past years. The Senate Budget Committee voted $417 million for the program, but SCAAP is authorized at $950 million for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2011, so Feinstein’s amendment aims to restore $533 million to the program.
But Congress dances the SCAAP tango every year. The President proposes not to fund it at all. Then some money is restored, then all of it — and then, invariably, it’s pared back by about half. Congress approved $250 million for it in 2003; $296.8 million for 2004; $301 million for 2005; $405 million for 2006; $399 million for 2007; and $410 million for 2008, with governors including Arnold Schwarzenegger — whose state usually gets about 40 percent of the total allocation, but pays out more than $700 million a year to incarcerate illegal immigrant felons — calling for full funding each year and never, ever getting it.
And so, on to the House of Representatives… cha, cha, cha!
McNerney tours the border: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said Monday morning he was enjoying “a very impressive tour” of the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County, meeting with Border Patrol officials and other federal agencies about their efforts to stem the tides of illegal immigration and drug trafficking. “What these agencies are facing is an immense challenge… They’re doing good work and we need to support them with any resources they require. It’s hard to understand the depth of the challenge just from reading over briefings and going to hearings,” he said, adding he’d like to see Washington ratchet down the fiery rhetoric of recent years and work toward a bipartisan immigration-reform solution. The National Republican Congressional Committee, striving to see the freshman lawmaker unseated later this year, issued a hit-piece yesterday assailing McNerney’s past votes: “Here’s a hint for Jerry McNerney about what ‘isn’t working’ in the federal government’s efforts to stem the flow of illegal border crossings: Voting in favor of taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants only provides greater incentive for illegal immigrants looking to cross the border. Instead of scrambling to spin his damaging record of supporting taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants, McNerney should stop pandering to his liberal leaders in Washington, and start spending more time listening to the voters in his district when it comes to an issue as important as border security and immigration reform.”
Eshoo, Honda win Gold Mouse awards: The Web sites of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, are among 26 House members’ sites singled out by the Congressional Management Foundation — a nonprofit, nonpartisan management consulting and research group — for being the best in Congress. (Honda won the “Gold Mouse” last year, too.) Sites were graded on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks deemed critical for effectiveness: audience, content, usability, interactivity, and innovation. An evaluation framework was developed by CMF and their research partners at Harvard University, Ohio State, and the University of California-Riverside that would be fair and objective while still taking into account qualitative factors that affect a visitor’s experience on a Web site. Said Eshoo: “As a member of Congress, it’s important to provide a website that serves my constituents with timely information and a convenient way to contact me with questions or concerns. I’m proud that the Congressional Management Foundation has judged my website to be one of the best in Congress. My constituents certainly deserve the best.” Read the whole 2007 Gold Mouse report here; it’s part of the CMF’s broader research project “Connecting to Congress,” funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Lofgren endorses Obama: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, yesterday announced her endorsement of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for president, saying he “has the unique ability to unite Americans, and he’s building a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents that will allow us to win the White House in November and to bring the changes we desperately need. Obama understands that change does not begin in Washington, it begins by mobilizing Americans to take on special interests and to address the challenges we face. When it comes to pursuing a clean energy future, innovating to restore American competitiveness, and providing affordable health care for all Americans, Barack Obama is the leader who will bring change we can believe in.” For those keeping count of Bay Area endorsements, that’s Lofgren, Barbara Lee and George Miller for Obama, and Ellen Tauscher and Lynn Woolsey for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; all the other local House members have stayed mum thus far.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, announced today he’ll lead a two-day Congressional delegation trip to the California-Mexico border Sunday and Monday, seeking “a firsthand perspective from Border Patrol agents about what is working and what isn’t in stemming the flow of illegal border crossings and drugs entering our country,” the news release says.
McNerney; Joe Sestak, D-Pa.; and Paul Hodes, D-NH, will be briefed on aspects of the border-control operation in the San Diego Sector, covering 66 linear miles of the boundary with Mexico, and will tour part of the border and meet with Border Patrol Agents. Specifically, the three House freshmen will tours of several Ports of Entry, meet with the San Diego Sector Chief, and eyeball some of the specialty teams and equipment used to monitor and patrol the border.
Illegal immigration and drug trafficking are significant problems. This trip to the border is important because you can only understand so much from reading the newspaper, watching television, or even reading briefings or hearing testimony from experts. Sometimes, it’s important to actually go and see it for yourself.
In particular, I am looking forward to talking to Border Patrol agents and California National Guard troops who serve on the front lines. I’d like to hear what kind of trends they are sensing and if they have found any particularly effective strategies to combat illegal border crossings and drug running.
The San Diego Sector’s territory traditionally has been some of the most active in both illegal immigration as well as drug trafficking, McNerney said in his release; a 1994 Government Accountability Office report estimated that over half of all the apprehensions of those attempting to cross the border illegally took place over just 18 miles out of the entire 1,600 mile U.S.-Mexico border: 13 miles in San Diego and 5 miles in El Paso, Texas.
Since then, the San Diego Sector has made progress in reducing the amount of illegal border crossings through measures implemented under the controversial Operation Gatekeeper program launched in 1994, McNerney says. Operation Gatekeeper represented a shift from a policy of apprehending and returning illegal immigrants to their country of origin to a policy of actively deterring illegal border crossings. While apprehension of those crossing the border illegally has decreased, drug trafficking remains a major concern at the San Diego-Mexico border.