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Weekly Immigration Wire: White House meeting a first step to reform

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After postponing twice, President Obama finally met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on June 25 to discuss moving immigration reform legislation forward. The meeting was applauded by activists and advocates for immigration reform, as the issue seemed to have stalled, and the acrimonious tone of the debate has proven deadly. All parties emerged from the meeting with positive feelings about the prospect for progress, as I heard on last Friday's White House debriefing conference call. A confluence of positive factors are contributing to the momentum: Major labor leaders are united for reform, Democrats are leading much of Washington, and voters in the U.S. clearly want to see reform passed.

President Obama made his intention to pass reform very clear and the White House predicts the process will begin late this year or early 2010. New America Media calls the meeting a hopeful beginning, but makes it clear that nothing is guaranteed this year—despite the pressing need. And we can't wait too long for reform to begin. 2010 is the beginning of the 2012 Presidential election cycle and the issue could be "too easily politicized" at that time. Wiretap Mag's M. Junaid Levesque-Alam writes that, while Obama complimented Senator John McCain for taking risks, he seemed averse to boldly stating what he hoped to see or would stand behind; that "nothing [Obama] said indicated significant political movement" on the issue. But, Levesque-Alam hypothesizes that Obama's caution is related to tension caused by "core contradictions not simply between but within the political parties." The immigration issue is contentious, even among members of the same party.

GritTV and The Nation teamed up to present a panel asking Is Immigration Reform Dead or Alive? (video). The panelists discuss a potential future in which immigration reform does not pass. Their predictions make a grim scene, centered around the horrors of a growing detention industry. Children are incarcerated in these facilities. Over 90 people have died in detention and they are damaging families. Guest Ravi Ragbir, now a member of Families for Freedom, spent two years in a detention center. Ragbir's young daughter was so disturbed by the sight of her father in shackles that Ragbir requested she no longer visit while he was detained. A Truthdig article titled America’s ICE Backwards Approach to Immigration details the broken legal system that further clouds the immigration process.

Over 200,000 immigration cases are backlogged and the number of government attorneys who argue for deportation has risen by 35%, stressing the court system accordingly. Add a declining number of judges and a sharp increase in the number of border guards and the result is a setting where "the equivalent of death penalty cases" are heard "in a traffic court setting," according to Judge Dana Leigh Marks, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. New America Media also explores the results of a study that finds a low rate of crimes are committed by the undocumented, which is a stark contrast to the accusations of right-wing pundits. The undocumented population in Utah grew from 70,000 to 110,000 in the last four years, according to a new study released by the Sutherland Instituate, but the number of incarcerated undocumented increased by only 28. That's 28 people, not percent. In fact, the crime rate for undocumented immigrants in Utah is only 3.9% and dropping. Finally, RaceWire's Michelle Chen reports on the impact of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative on Mexican Americans who want to deliver children using a midwife. The Initiative, which went into effect yesterday, "requires Americans passing across the Canadian and Mexican borders to have a valid U.S. passport or passport card." Previously, only a valid driver’s license was required. This is yet another policy that refuses to recognize the long pattern of movement over the border area, and is culturally antagonistic to Mexican Americans. Law indicates humankind's attempt to be just; it is an extension of a civilization's morality. Immigration reform must come soon; it is a moral duty. It must pass not just for the benefit of the undocumented community, but so we can live up to our national ideals, and also, to decisively stave off a destructive energy made possible by the lack of humane law.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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