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  1. Bloggings: The Republicans move ahead with plans to impose their rich white males only agenda on America. What will the future of immigration be if the party of bigots and billionaires wins in November? By Roger Algase

    Everywhere, the signs are becoming clearer than ever that the Republicans cannot wait to impose their elitist, sexist and racist agenda on America. According to a report in the Washington Post, House Republicans are set to introduce a tax "reform" bill that will shift more of the tax burden away from the rich and on to the middle class and the poor. Meanwhile, Willard ("Mitt") Romney promises to defund Planned Parenthood the day he takes office as president.
    On the same day, Romney has also announced, he will order the Justice Department to drop its challenges to the anti-immigrant hate laws that have been passed in Alabama, Arizona and other states. There can be little doubt that Kris Kobach, the author of most of these laws and strong advocate of the voter ID laws that many states have adopted in order to disenfranchise minorities, the less well off and students, would have a great deal of influence in a Romney administration. Could he become our next Attorney General? 
    Could an open enemy of immigration such as Texas Republican Representative Lamar Smith or Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley be the next Director of the Department of Homeland Security? With every passing day, the Republican candidates, and the billionaires who are supporting them with unlimited Super-Pac money that Obama and the Democrats have no hope of matching, are making it even more clear what type of America they intend to bring about if they win the White House and Congress in November.
    It is not an America that will have very much room for immigrants. It is all too easy to forget what kind of immigration bill the Republicans passed when they controlled the House of Representatives in 2005. That bill, H.R. 3447, turned out to have been a model for the state laws which are now causing so much havoc in minority communities. Who can doubt that one like it, or even worse, will become the law of the land if the Republicans' unlimited billionaire money enables them to buy this fall's election?
  2. Pondering the Definition of Moral Turpitude

    By: Danielle Beach-Oswald and Karen Smith*
    Because some criminal activities and convictions can result in adverse immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens, a number of recent cases in federal courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (the Department of Justice's immigration court) have questioned which crimes may result in deportation or inadmissibility. The U.S. Attorney General advised courts on how to determine whether a particular crime involved moral turpitude in his 2008 decision, Matter of Silva-Trevino. Provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act make individuals who commit crimes of moral turpitude ineligible to enter the U.S. or deportable if they are already present in the U.S. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Attorney General's standard in the case of Prudencio v. Holder earlier this year.
    The Attorney General's test was established to create a uniform standard for assessing moral turpitude. One approach involves comparing the statutory definition of a crime with the definition of moral turpitude. The Attorney General defines moral turpitude to encompass more than illegality or criminality, and requires the perpetrator to commit a reprehensible act with some form of intent or knowledge that what they did was wrong. Another approach, if the criminal statute includes conduct that involves moral turpitude and conduct that does not, is to examine the documents pertaining to the conviction of the accused to determine whether the specific crime committed was one that involved moral turpitude. If judges cannot determine whether criminal conduct involves moral turpitude by using the first two steps, the Attorney General's decision permits them to "consider any additional evidence or fact finding" that is "necessary or appropriate to resolve the moral turpitude question."
    Unfortunately, the test does not clarify the inquiry that courts should use when they are deciding whether a crime involves moral turpitude. The Fourth Circuit rejected the test because it did not provide a clear statement regarding what additional evidence may be considered under the new, third step of the Attorney General's test. Rather than making it easier to know when a crime involves moral turpitude and when it does not, the test creates more uncertainty by giving judges the discretion to take into account any facts from a case that they wish to. It also creates evidentiary problems by allowing judges to consider facts that are alleged in the immigrant's criminal history, but not proven. Under the Attorney General's standard, a judge could potentially consider a police officer's initial impression of a crime as it was documented in an arrest warrant, even if the records of the police officer are later amended or corrected to reflect new information.
    The Attorney General's moral turpitude decision created a divide between courts that follow his test, and the Fourth, Third, Eighth, and Eleventh Circuit Courts, all of which rejected the Attorney General's third prong for finding moral turpitude. The differing standards applied by the courts result in confusion among immigrants who cannot be sure that their offenses will not have consequences for their immigration statuses, and headaches for immigration lawyers who do not have a clear test to apply to the facts of their clients' cases when they represent them in court.
    The Fourth Circuit was correct in joining its fellow courts and rejecting the Attorney General's standard. While there is no specific statutory definition of moral turpitude for courts to apply, prior case law provides a guide for determining when a criminal offense will qualify as a crime of moral turpitude. The attorney general should have provided a standard that sharpened the definition of moral turpitude and make it more workable, rather than one that made it more ambiguous.
    *Karen Smith is a legal intern at Beach-Oswald and a third year student at American University Washington College of Law.
    Photo Credit: Ahluwalia Law

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  3. Everyone in America suffers from letting anti-immigrant hate go unchecked, by Roger Algase

    For most of this new century, the Republican party, with only weak opposition from the Democrats, has lost few opportunities to exploit hatred against Latino and other minority immigrants in order to appeal to the Republican base. This began just before the turn of the century when a Republican congress rammed through IIRIRA in the dead of night without debate at the end of September, 1996 and attached it to a veto-proof defense appropriations bill just over a month before the presidential election. 
    This continued after 9/11, when the Bush administration tried to make immigrants from Muslim countries, including devout Christians (a group of whom I spoke in front of at the time), and other non-Muslims, scapegoats for the terror attacks through the since discredited "Special Registration" program. It moved ahead with the "Real ID" Act, and in December 2005, with a draconian anti-immigrant bill in the Republican-controlled House, which never reached the Senate. In many respects, that bill anticipated some of the harshest features of the controversial state laws in Alabama, Arizona and other states which are now being challenged (and some of the worst features blocked) in various federal courts. 
    However, until recently, there was also a more tolerant streak within the Republican party, as far as immigration was concerned. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, joined Ted Kennedy (who had helped bring about the immigration reform of 1965 eliminating overt racial discrimination) in introducing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate (before, half-heartedly, trying to backtrack during that year's presidential campaign).
    Even two of the original crop of Republican presidential candidates this year, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, had supported in state college tuition for unauthorized immigrant students, and a third, Newt Gingrich, advocated providing some form of legal status for immigrants who had been in the US for a certain period of time and had strong ties to the US. 
    But any kind of reason or humanity in dealing with unauthorized immigrants has long since gone out the window of the Republican party. Romney and Perry quickly renounced whatever token tolerance toward unauthorized immigrants they might have shown before. Perry campaigned together with Sheriff Joe, and Romney has embraced Kris Kobach, the two leading symbols of anti-immigrant and anti-minority hate in America. Rick Santorum has gone beyond even these two by suggesting that the diversity lottery should be abolished and "chain immigration", a racist code phrase for family immigration by Latinos, should be restricted.
    As for Michele Bachmann'a and Herman Cain's comments on immigration, I will not impose on ID readers by beating dead horses. The reaction of the Democratic opposition and most of the media to the above assaults against not only the rights, but the humanity, of minority immigrants has been muted and equivocal, to say the least. When Perry and Newt originally urged "having a heart" on immigration, many mainstream pundits took that as a sign merely of bad campaign judgment on their part.
    Even on liberal channels such as MSNBC, there was little mention of the immigration issue, and there still is quite little, compared to the focus that progressive spokespersons such as Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz and even Al Sharpton, who has given more time to immigration than the others, are spending on other important issues such women's rights.
    The tendency was to look at immigration as being in a box by itself, separate from other issues. This may have been because, of course, non-US citizens do not vote. More likely it was because immigration, more than any other issue in America today, deals with race, always the most sensitive of all political issues.
    But anti-immigrant hate, which the Republicans have exploited so relentlessly in this year's campaign, cannot be kept in its own box any longer. It has now become a cancer, spreading throughout America's body politic in general. First, it metastasized into the movement to take away birthright US citizenship from the US born children of minority immigrants, using their parents lack of permanent resident status as a pretext (even if the parents have legal temporary visas).
    Then, this cancer spread to the laws, which have now been adopted in many Republican states, to restrict voting rights for millions of minority US citizens through discriminatory photo ID requirements and a host of other related measures. Now, the use of hate for political reasons, which began with minority immigrants has spread to America's majority - women. Hate is no longer something only associated with the anti-immigrant movement. It has now gone mainstream in America. From anti-immigrant bigots such as Joe Arpaio and Kris Kobach, the line of hatred runs directly to Rush Limbaugh.
    The latest example of this is the Republicans' insane threat to repeal the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which protects all women, both US citizens and immigrants, from violence and abuse. This is taking hate to a new and even more dangerous level, beyond any possible rational political calculation. What is next? Some Republicans want to repeal the 14th Amendment provision granting birthright citizenship. Do they also want to repeal the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote?

  4. One Century Later, Still Much Work to be Done to Achieve Worldwide Equality of Women

    By: Danielle Beach-Oswald and Karen Smith*
    International Women's Day was March 8, 2012. The holiday was first proposed by Clara Zetkin of Germany in 1910, during the Second International Conference of Working Women. The holiday was observed for the first time on March 19, 1911, in the countries of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The date for the holiday was later changed to March 8, and it has been observed on this day ever since 1914. The holiday served as a platform for men and women to rally in support of women's suffrage, the right of women to hold public office, and the right of women to be treated equally in the workforce.
    Today, International Women's Day is recognized as an official holiday in nearly thirty countries (the United States is unfortunately not included among this group). It has even captured the attention of the United Nations, which has held special International Women's Day conferences to celebrate the holiday. In keeping with its roots, this holiday brings together people from across the globe to celebrate the achievements of women and rally for the end of discrimination against women. Events are held online and at locations in many of the countries whose citizens celebrate the holiday. These events include campaigns to raise money to support women, film screenings of documentaries about women's rights activists, and programs that give training to aspiring female entrepreneurs.
    The employees at Beach-Oswald see firsthand the progress in women's equality, and recognize that there is still much to do to achieve full and fair participation of women in all parts of society. As immigration attorneys, we regularly work with female clients who are victims of forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and assist them with their asylum, VAWA, or U visa applications. We enjoy learning about our clients' backgrounds and helping them obtain better lives in the United States.
    Child marriage, or forced marriage, is commonly practiced in Africa and Asia. It exists in poor, rural communities because families cannot afford to care for young girls and parents choose to marry their daughters off at an early age so they will not continue to be financial burdens. Female victims of forced marriage continue the cycle of poverty, as they do not obtain educations since they are pulled out of school to be married, and they are expected to raise children and do housework rather than participate in the workforce.
    The World Health Organization estimates that around 92 million girls, ages 10 and above, have been subjected to female genital mutilation, a procedure that involves the cutting, removal, and stitching back together of a young woman's reproductive organs. The practice holds no health benefits for women and is not medically necessary, but it is a cultural practice that is observed in many parts of the world because it supposedly denotes a woman's purity. Female genital mutilation may result in death or serious medical problems, including complications during childbirth.
    Activists are working to put an end to forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The International Center for Research on Women has programs in communities in Nepal and India that educate people on the negative consequences of child marriage and find ways to delay marriage for girls. The World Health Organization works with international monitoring bodies to condemn female genital mutilation, and pushes for the enactment of laws in African countries that prohibit the practice.
    We hope that this article will raise awareness of forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and motivate more people to advocate for the end of these dangerous, discriminatory practices. The more voices there are speaking out against these practices, the more pressure governments will feel to make positive change.
    *Karen Smith is a legal intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates and a third year student at American University Washington College of Law.
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  5. Immigrants Face Red Tape in Obtaining Visas


    Photo Credit: The Republican | Michael S. Gordon
    By: Danielle Beach-Oswald and Karen Smith*
    Immigrants who wish to obtain visas for the first time, renew their visas, or change their immigration statuses often face difficulties in dealing with the United States immigration system. The Immigration Policy Center attributes the problems in part to the current structure of the system. It gives the example of employment based visas and argues that the cap on the amount of visas that may be allocated each year, as well as the inability of a temporary worker to change his or her status and obtain permanent employment visas, does not give employers the flexibility they need to hire immigrants to fill in openings in the United States labor market. The Center's report also cited backlogs in processing and rigid bureaucratic procedure as another problem.
    Baijun Li, and his wife, Xi Wang, serve as real examples of how these problems impact lawful immigrants. The Chinese couple came to the United States on temporary visas twelve years ago, and their story was recently documented in the news. They attempted to get their green cards so they could stay in the United States permanently, but their applications were denied. Bajijun Li was laid off from his job and was unable to qualify for a green card because he did not have a permanent job offer in the United States. USCIS did not believe that Xi Wang, a famous professional dancer in China, possessed the "extraordinary ability" that would qualify her for a green card under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  They have appealed the decision on Xi Wang's application, but even if it is approved, they will have to go through a long waiting period before their green cards are issued.
    Baijun Li has an advanced degree in chemistry and has used his knowledge in his work with manufacturing plants, but this was ignored when his application for a green card was under consideration. Similarly, USCIS rejected the contribution that Xi Wang could make to the arts in the United States with her dancing talents when it denied her application. The couple said that it seemed unfair that a person whom they did not even know had the authority to decide their future. They also said they disliked having to spend hours filling out paperwork and listening to automated recordings on the phone, rather than being able to work with a real person to get their applications processed.
    Since their temporary visas will expire soon, Baijun Li and Xi Wang may be forced to return to China even though they have spent a considerable part of their lives in the United States and their daughter was born in the United States. If immigration policy consistently allowed transition between temporary work visas and permanent employment visas, they would be able to stay in the United States, assuming that at least one of them received a job offer. Instead, current policy prohibits most temporary worker visa holders from transitioning to permanent visas. Due to the high demand for visas and limited resources, applications are often approved or denied without any communication between applicants and the officials in charge of their applications, and applicants have to endure long waiting times while their applications are being processed, as this couple's story illustrates.
    It is the hope of the employees at Beach-Oswald that stories like Baijun Li and Xi Wang's will make more people aware that reform of our immigration system is needed. We feel that every immigrant's background and unique abilities should be considered when they apply for immigration relief.
    *Karen Smith is a legal intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates and a third year student at American University Washington College of Law.
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