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During the election cycle the importance of Latino voters becomes even more apparent as either party attempts to garner Hispanic support. A recent Washington Post article outlined five myths about Latino voters. These myths include that Latinos:
Do not vote.
Are social conservatives who should lean Republican.
Favor increased government services and therefore are reliable Democratic voters.
Care most about immigration.
Are swayed by the presence of a Latino candidate on the ballot.
A critical observation made in the piece concerns the importance this community places on certain policy issues, such as immigration. It is often assumed that immigration is consistently the single priority issue for the average Latino voter. The media often shape the immigration debate in terms of border issues with Mexico, continued persecution, rising deportation rates, and the high number of Latin immigrants. Interestingly enough, the Hispanic population is worried about many of the same things as the rest of the United States. Polls have indicated that registered Latino voters are most worried about job creation and fixing the economy. Even though immigration reform is second in significance, it is closely followed by education and healthcare.
Through all the myths identified, it appears that the common theme is that this key group is misunderstood, due to many incorrect assumptions. What is the significance of these myths? For one, if they are mistakenly considered facts the inaccuracies have the potential to substantially affect the political process. Latinos are voting in great numbers and therefore politicians must be aware of this fact and cater to their interests, in garnering the Hispanic vote. Although the Hispanic population typically leans more right on topics such as abortion and marriage, these two issues do not decide the final party affiliation. For this reason, both parties are presented with the challenge of fighting for this key constituency and trying to reach some kind of compromise. Hand in hand with this argument is the assumption that Latino voters are always going to vote for the Democratic party due to a need for government services. But this is incorrect, as in the end the party affiliation is dependent on a wide range of factors.
The final myth is that Latino voters vote for candidates of Hispanic descent alone. This is highly inaccurate, because just like any other group, the Latino voter considers the entire package and which policy initiatives most directly correspond to his concerns and desires.
This analysis of the misinterpretation of the Latino voter is insightful since such mistakes are common across ethnic and socioeconomic group divisions. Politicians may pay particular attention to individual constituencies, but cannot forget to consider the entire package. Misinterpretations are common among the African American group as well, and only with further analysis and actual statistics may these myths be eliminated.
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Recently our nation's eyes turned to Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, where the two top presidential candidates sparred in a veritable battle of wits. The debate was held in a town hall style format with questions coming from undecided voters, and it got quite heated. Romney quotes regarding women went viral, with hundreds mocking a statement he made regarding "binder of women". Many also disapproved on the Alpha male attitude of President Obama.
Questions covered a variety of topics including the economy, energy, and even foreign policy. Perhaps the most critical takeaway from the debate, though, was both candidates seeming failure to address immigration in a comprehensive manner. When the question was raised, the candidates engaged in a lively back and forth. Romney accused Obama of failing to do anything about immigration over the last three years. At the same time, Obama claimed Romney would repeal the DREAM act, likened his plan to the controversial Arizona SB 1070, and accused Romney of encouraging self-deportation. This is from the same person who has encouraged deportation for over 400,000 which is twice as much as ever before.
It's hard to take what either of the candidates said seriously. Romney started out his pitch saying he wanted to "streamline" the system and then he said, "I don't think you have to -shouldn't have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally." Perhaps just a hopeful statement, but it really illustrates how much Romney is underestimating our problem and how little understanding he has of the complexity of immigration petitions. The system is broken in more ways than just its sheer complexity.
When moderator Candy Crowley, asked Romney to address the Obama accusations about self-deportation, he skirted the topic and did not deny it. The same went for an accusation that Romney's "top immigration adviser" was the author of the Arizona law. While Romney did not deny this, upon further investigation it seems that Kris Kobach, the author, has only been called an "informal adviser."
Sadly with the candidates jabbing back and forth, it's hard to get the big picture on immigration policy. Both candidates' claim to support keeping families together, increasing border security, and creating comprehensive legislation on reform. Mitt Romney maintains that he will not allow illegal immigrants to "cut the line" through amnesty or similar programs, perhaps a hint at opposition to the DREAM act.
Governor Romney stated that we are a "nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My father was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann's dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American." This seems to suggest that is if you come in legally on a family or employment based visa for which you may have waited for years then you are welcome. However, if you are one of the 12 million plus illegals then you are not and you should chose to leave.
President Obama made a number of errors in his explanations that were factually incorrect. He stated in the debate, " the first thing we did was to streamline the legal immigration system to reduce the backlog, make it easier, simpler and cheaper for people who are waiting in line." Have you looked at the visa bulletin from the Department of State lately or the backlogs in Immigration court extending into 2015 for immigration hearings in this area, Mr. Obama? Clearly, he also hasn't looked at immigration fees that constantly are increasing including HIB fees that employers must pay and the $1490.00 fee that one person pays to USCIS to get a green card based on their US citizen spouse.
While Romney claims Obama has failed at immigration, he did enact a policy earlier this year DACA which allowed youth with characteristics matching DREAM act criteria to avoid deportation. At the debate, though, Obama really pushed the envelope, saying in reference to these youth that "we should make sure that we give them a pathway to citizenship. And that's what I've done administratively." While he has granted deferred action to these youth, the initiative does not actually grant a pathway to citizenship. In fact, it only might give to some of the applicants a work authority valid for 2 years if the can show an economic necessity. In other words, a 30 year old gainfully employed and making a good income would not qualify for the work permit.
What both Obama and Romney agreed on was that legal immigration should be simplified; that children of illegals /students should have a pathway to legal status; and that the deportation should focus more on the criminals. This is rather ironic considering that Obama has already in less than four years deported more than twice as many persons, most of which are non-criminals, just overstays in this country, than any other prior administration. To date over 420,00 persons have been physically removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE).
The result is that at best we have a murky picture of their policies. Both candidates are vying for the Latino vote, a factor which many political analysts have said could decide the entire election. With the high importance of the vote, both candidates need to solidify their immigration experience and objectives. Sadly, with such inaccuracies riddling the public forum, we can expect that neither candidate seems to have to the necessary knowledge to truly reform our immigration system.
A recent report, titled "Invisible in Isolation," documents the growth of immigration detention facilities and investigates the nature and procedure of the confinement therein.
Facilities used for detaining immigrants in the United States are equivalent to facilities in which convicted criminals are housed. Many county jails and traditional detention centers are used for these purposes simply by contracting with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
These complexes are characterized by the same features that we associate with traditional prisons - barbed wire and other security measures, confinement to a small area indoors, lack of outside contact, etcetera. While this has been public knowledge for some time, the new report release by The National Immigrant Justice Center and Physicians for Human Rights details the usage of solitary confinement and other strict confinement measures against immigrants.
The report shows that since 2006, Immigrant detention rates have been on the rise. While detention was at about 20,000 immigrants at that time, it has since risen to about 33,000, an over 60% increase. This markedly significant increase in quantity of detainees prompted further investigation that has indicated mistreatment in many cases.
Many facilities restrict outside privileges of the detainees, some going to extremes such as a Facility in Cobb, GA which limits outdoors activity to once every thirty days, or the Fairfax County Jail which has completely restricted all outdoors activity.
The most troubling find of the report, however, is the usage of solitary confinement on detainees without appropriate justification. Solitary confinement, also commonly referred to as isolation, is when a prisoner is kept in a specific room and removed from all contact (even with fellow detainees and prison staff). This process can last for extended periods and is known to be extremely detrimental to the mental and physical health of prisoners.
The report details many instances of solitary confinement. In some cases, solitary confinement was even implemented on mentally ill detainees. In many examples usage was arbitrary or based on sexual orientation.
ICE, who is responsible for the detention of immigrants, has not provided consistent training or instruction for the facilities with which they have contracted. In fact, they have yet to develop clear regulations on isolation or segregated confinement in general. As a result, immigrants are being mistreated, and, in many cases, have to live in worse detention conditions than even dangerous criminals do. It is time that this unconscionable treatment of immigrants is put to a stop. Most of the immigrants in ICE's custody are not dangerous criminals, but disadvantaged people seeking to start a new life and to pursue the American Dream. Help to end the injustice. Click here to read the full report and to take action to change current conditions.
It seems like when you hear immigration today, everyone is centered on migrant workers seeking unskilled jobs, but there is a huge section of immigration that is often overlooked. Take for instance, the American Scientist Shortage--that is to say, the lack of graduates for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) fields. While the American job market is not good for graduates, students in these fields are having no problem finding work, and that's because there is a huge shortage of viable candidates for these jobs.
With America short on skilled workers, many large tech firms seek immigrants to fill these positions, usually under an H1-B Visa. This visa allows companies to temporarily employ foreign workers for specialty positions. But Congress has the yearly limit set to 65,000, and that's not enough to satisfy the demand for STEM work. At the same time, Congress is at an impasse on immigration, and many openings remain vacant with viable candidates unable to enter the US.
With much of the federal government at a standstill on immigration legislation, some people are getting impatient. This has sparked some incredibly creative ideas. For example, a Silicon Valley Startup called Blueseed, is working to purchase and convert a large cruise ship to skirt the visa shortage. The ship would rest in international waters twelve miles off the coast of California, with residents working and living on board. This puts people close to the firms that desperately need STEM employees and are conveniently just out of the reach of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (http://blueseed.co/)
Others have come up with less radical ideas; Microsoft hopes to influence action on the issue by presenting their own legislative framework for immigration reform. Microsoft currently has 6,000 job openings for high skilled computer positions and is the leading employer of workers with H1-B Visas.
The Microsoft plan calls for an increase of 20,000 in H1 - B visas, as well as an added 20,000 green cards extended to professionals in the STEM fields. Additionally, a raised filing cost of $10,000 is suggested. The added cost is intended to raise money for education reform in American schools, without which the STEM shortage will never go away.
While Microsoft cannot enact legislation on its own, the plan raises some important issues. America is in the middle of a scientist shortage and our government is doing nothing about it. Without education reform, America cannot produce more scientists, and without a change in immigration law, thousands of positions will remain vacant. Sadly, it seems like the government is willfully unaware of this growing void in the sector. Plans like Microsoft's might prompt a move in the right direction but as long as Congress neglects to act, the problem can only get worse.
At the debate on Tuesday night, President Obama and Mitt Romney clashed over the question whether Romney had stated that the entire Arizona S,B. 1070 law was a model for the nation, or only the e-verify part.
This is what Romney actually said during a CNN debate in February in Arizona:
"You know, I think you see a model in Arizona. They passed a law here that says - that says that people who come here and try to find work, that the employer is required to look them up on e-verify. This e-verify system allows employers in Arizona to know who's here legally and who's not here legally.
And as a result of e-verify being put in place, the number of people that are here illegally has dropped by some 14 per cent, where the national average has only gone down 7 per cent. So going back to the question that was asked, the right course for America is to drop these lawsuits against Arizona and other states that are trying to do the job Barack Obama isn't doing.
And I will drop those lawsuits on day one." (Emphasis added)
Technically, based on the above quote, Romney was right in claiming that he only stated that e-verify was a model, not the entire Arizona law. But in stating that he would withdraw the "lawsuits" against Arizona [and, clearly, other states with similar immigration laws], Romney obviously endorsed the entire Arizona law, not just the e-verify part.
This mischaracterization of the Arizona law as consisting of nothing more than e-verify allowed Romney to have it both ways. On the one hand, he could endorse the entire law, making the Republican right wing anti-immigrant base happy, but on the other, he could also argue that he only meant to hold out e-verify as a model for the entire nation.
And Barack Obama - is anyone saying that he does not hold out e-verify as a model for the entire nation, not to mention Secure Communities, which neither of them mentioned? Neither candidate scored very high marks for truth about the immigration issue on October 16.