Stark co-authors mental-health bill: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was joined by Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., today in introducing the Healthy Transitions Act of 2009, which he says will help millions of young adults with mental illness who fall through the cracks when moving from youth into adulthood. This bill is a response to last year’s Government Accountability Office report (requested by Stark and then-Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore.) which found that the nation’s estimated 2.4 million young adults with serious mental illness have a hard time finding services to aid them during their transition to adulthood because services that are available for mental health, housing and employment are not always suited for and directed to their age group. The bill would offer planning grants to states to develop coordination plans and implementation grants to execute those plans, as well as create a committee to coordinate federal programs helping mentally ill adolescents and young adults; to provide technical aid to states; and to report back to Congress.
Your voices in Congress helped introduce a slew of legislation this week.
For example, Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairwoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, yesterday was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1463 by Homeland Security Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee chairwoman Jane Harman, D-Venice, which would condition U.S. military aid to Pakistan on whether U.S. officials have access to Pakistani nuclear arms expert A.Q. Khan and have assurances he’s being monitored.
“A.Q. Kahn is one of the most dangerous men in the world because he has done more to increase the threat of nuclear terror than anyone in history,” Tauscher said. “Now that a Pakistani court has all but freed him from house arrest, it is just common sense that our government, as well as the Pakistani government, does everything in its power to fully assess the damage he has caused to the international arms control regime.”
“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!