October 2008

Universities and colleges will need a licence to enrol foreign students as part of plans to clamp down on illegal migration, the Home Office said. Students from outside Europe will require sponsorship from licensed institutions before they can enter the country. The measures will come in to effect in March with licences given out by the UK Border Agency. Ministers hope they will cut the number of bogus colleges set up to allow foreigners to live and work in the UK. From March students will also have to prove they have the money and qualifications to take their course under the new points-based system.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas said: “International students contribute 2.5bn pounds to the UK economy in tuition fees alone. The student tier of the points system means Britain can continue to recruit good students from outside Europe. “Those who come to Britain must play by the rules and benefit the country. This new route for students will ensure we know exactly who is coming here to study and stamp out the bogus colleges which facilitate lawbreakers.”

Universities warned the information was being released too late to be included in this year’s prospectus. Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK said she was “very concerned” about Home Office IT system that will run with the new system. [I would be concerned too. The British government and computers don’t seem to get along well at all] She said: “We remain very concerned about the IT system that will support the new arrangements. Sufficient time needs to be allowed to enable universities to provide input to the IT specification and for testing to take place, both in the UK and overseas. “Students have a short period of time in which to make their visa applications and if the IT system does not work during this window, students will miss the start of their programmes and may decide not to come to the UK.”

The Liberal Democrats said the system wouldn’t work unless students were counted on their way out of the country. Home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Without exit checks it is impossible to know who was here, who should be here or who actually is here. Unless they are reintroduced, any changes to the immigration system will be purely cosmetic.”



She’s not very keen on illegals at all

There is a fair amount of talk about illegal immigration, but many immigrants have done things the right way, waiting their turn and going through the entire process to become an American citizen, so what’s their take on the influx of illegal immigrants? Newschannel 3 spoke to a legal immigrant on Thursday.

One year ago you might have thought that the issue of immigration could tip the balance in the 2008 election, but immigration’s barely been mentioned on the campaign trail.

Christina Schumacher immigrated from Burma, she’s in her thirties and she’s never had the right to vote, until November 4th comes along. “Polls open by 6:00, I should be there by 6:30,” Schumacher said. “When I left Burma when I was 18 I couldn’t really vote, but when I came to the the U.S. I wasn’t ready to be an American citizen but I couldn’t vote in the last few elections.” Schumacher is an immigrant from a war-torn country, she came here for a better opportunity when she was 18, and she says she didn’t have to sneak in. “I feel very serious about being in this country, be able to vote, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, I can say it loud now that this is my country,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher went through the long and expensive immigration process, being sponsored by her mother who came to the United States sponsored by her relatives. “Processing for the immigration part, it was quite a long period, but at the same time it’s worth it, and quite expensive as well,” said Schumacher.

Schumacher is a legal immigrant outraged that an estimated 12 million immigrants have come into this country illegally. “It’s just a matter of time, they can get into the country legally,” Schumacher said. “I don’t support the illegal crossing the border or jumping out of the ship system, it’s not right for residents here in the United States.”

Illegal immigration is an issue that very likely will not go away, and a new president may have to deal with a new problem, one of increasing pressure to get something done as a weakening economy is making Americans feel uncomfortable about welcoming new people into the country. Whether a guest worker program is put in place or illegal immigrants receive recognition is anyones guess.

Schumacher says she’s ready to vote for the first time in this country, but she’s still undecided which candidate is best. “I just want to make sure the government will be fair to the people of the United States and also welcoming the new immigrants in a legal way, the right way,” Schumacher said. Experts say both candidates will likely be pro-immigration presidents with differences about how low-wage workers should be treated.


Future immigrants to Quebec will be required to sign a declaration promising to learn French and respect Quebec’s “shared values,” the government announced on Wednesday. In a document with echoes of the controversial code adopted last year by the rural town of Herouxville, immigrants will be informed that Quebec is a democracy where men and women are equal and violence is prohibited. “Quebecers have said yes to immigration, but they said yes to immigration on the condition that these immigrants integrate into our society,” Immigration Minister Yolande James said as she announced the policy, which takes effect in January. She added that immigrating to Quebec “is a privilege not a right.”

With Liberal Premier Jean Charest expected to call an election next week, critics denounced the initiative as an attempt to undermine the opposition Action Democratique du Quebec and Parti Quebecois, which have both made defence of “the Quebec identity” a battle cry. “There is a political calculation here that the Liberals want to make sure they have arguments to get PQ and ADQ support,” said Daniel Weinstock, a professor of philosophy at Université de Montréal. It is aimed at voters in the Quebec hinterland who approved of Hérouxville’s initiative, which among other things informed newcomers to the town northeast of Montreal that it is prohibited in Canada to stone women or throw acid on them.

While the content of the Quebec government declaration is banal enough to be rendered meaningless, Mr. Weinstock said, it sends a negative message to newcomers. “It’s as if the Jews, the Muslims, the whatever who come here are all indisposed to the equality of men and women, and we have to tell them what’s what,” he said. “It’s cheap symbolism, and I can’t express how depressed it makes me.”

The shared values spelled out in the declaration are: Quebec is a free and democratic society; church and state are separate; Quebec is a pluralist society based on the rule of law; men and women have equal rights; and rights and freedoms are exercised while respecting those of others and the general well-being. It also stresses that French is the official language of Quebec, as laid out in Bill 101. Signatories will declare their intention to learn French if they do not already speak it.

The Immigration Department plans to bombard potential and new immigrants with messages stressing Quebec values. There will be a section on values added to the immigration forms filled out overseas and an explanatory pamphlet will be distributed. Immigrants will also receive a DVD on shared values and be directed toward a new Web site whose name translates as “shared values of Quebec.” Information sessions on shared values will be offered to immigrants after they arrive. “Once our new Quebecer has got off the plane at the airport, she will follow a course on how to live in Quebec, how things work here, what the socio-economic realities are,” Ms. James explained.

Victor Armony, professor of sociology at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, said he is disgusted by the government’s approach. Many immigrants to Quebec are successful businesspeople or professionals in their native countries. “They don’t need Quebec society to patronize them,” he said. He immigrated from Argentina in 1989. “When I came here, I valued democracy perhaps more than many Canadians, because I grew up in a dictatorship,” he said.

Mr. Charest first raised the notion of forcing immigrants to sign a declaration last May when the Bouchard-Taylor commission released its report on reasonable accommodation. The issue of integrating cultural and religious minorities had been an emotional topic in Quebec since late 2006, and it gave the ADQ a boost in the March 2007 election. After a year of research and public hearings, the commissioners did not recommend such a declaration for immigrants.


Young Australians wanting to work in the United Kingdom should find it easier under new visa rules being introduced by the British government. Britain is revamping its working holiday visa scheme to allow 18-to-30-year-old Australians to find jobs in their chosen profession for a full two years. They will also for the first time be able to line up jobs to go to in Britain before leaving Australia. Under the old scheme, Australians faced a host of restrictions before being granted a working holiday visa, including how long they could stay in the one job.

British high commissioner to Australia Helen Liddell said the changes would make working in the UK even more attractive for Australians. “Some of the old restrictions are going and the visas will be cheaper by half,” she said. “Britain’s immigration system rewards those who come, work hard, bring their skills and strengthen cultural ties and Australians fit the bill very well.”

The new youth mobility visa scheme will come into force on November 27 and cost STG99 ($255.85), down from STG200 ($516.86) price of the working holiday visa. Those applying for the new visa will also have to show they have the equivalent of STG1,600 ($4,134.9) to cover living expenses for the first few weeks in the UK. Australia is one of just four countries Britain is allowing to take part in the new visa scheme. The others are New Zealand, Canada and Japan.

During the last financial year, the British High Commission in Canberra issued 15,204 working holiday visas to Australians. “Because of the changes, we wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers increase next year,” a British High Commission spokesman said. The changes are part of wide-ranging alterations Britain has been making to its immigration policies, including introducing an Australian-style points system for would-be migrants.


A U.S. citizen held at a border immigration center for 15 days has been released after an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer showed a birth certificate to federal authorities.

Guillermo Olivares Romero, who has robbery and forgery convictions and has been deported twice, was taken into custody at San Diego’s Otay Mesa detention center on Sept. 25. The 25-year-old Los Angeles man was released Oct. 9 when an ACLU attorney presented birth, school and vaccination records. Olivares told the Los Angeles Times immigration authorities don’t believe him when he shows his birth certificate.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice says Olivares has claimed in the past that he was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and his criminal record shows he was born in Mexico.


The Harris County [Texas] Sheriff’s Office today became the first local law enforcement agency in the nation to test an automated fingerprint check system that gives jailers full access to suspects’ immigration history, officials said. The new program provides a seamless and simultaneous check of immigration and criminal history by linking the FBI’s database with the Department of Homeland Security’s database, known as IDENT (the Automated Biometric Identification System), officials said Monday.

Gregory Palmore, a spokesman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston, said the Sheriff’s Office was selected to lead the pilot program in part because Houston has “one of the largest criminal alien populations in the United States.” In February 2007, Harris County was selected as one of a handful of law enforcement agencies to test a more limited version of the integrated databases. That earlier version of the database contained records from ICE and information on people rejected for visas by the Department of State based on specific criteria.

Under the new system, Harris County jailers will have full access to millions of immigration records in the IDENT database, Palmore said. When a suspect is booked into the Harris County Jail, his fingerprints will be checked against the FBI system and the immigration database simultaneously.

Palmore said the Sheriff’s Office will not require additional training to run the checks through IDENT since the process is automated. Any “hits” for non-citizens will be referred to ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center for more investigation, officials said.

Palmore said improving the link between the two databases is part of ICE’s Secure Communities program, which aims to identify and remove immigrants convicted of crimes. ICE estimates that it screens foreign-born inmates in only about 10 percent of the nation’s estimated 3,100 jails. ICE estimated that to identify and remove the most serious criminals – those convicted of crimes including murder, rape and drug trafficking – would take at least 3 1/2 years and cost up to $1 billion.

In August, nine Harris County jailers participated in ICE’s 287 (g) program, which trains local law enforcement to help identify illegal immigrants. Through that program, the trained jailers already had the ability to check the DHS databases, but had to run fingerprints separately through the FBI and immigration systems.

Now, instead of checking only people referred to jailers with specialized immigration training or ICE agents, all inmates will be run against the database, officials said. “We have a full-court press on to make sure these violent criminal aliens don’t step back into the community because we miss them in our identification process,” said David Venturella, the executive director of ICE’s Secure Communities program.

In a statement, Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas called illegal immigration “a complex issue,” adding that “the best solutions to complex issues are found when law enforcement agencies at all levels work together, in cooperation with the community.”


A federal appeal for a 2006 case that put Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta in the spotlight will be held five days before he faces U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski in their race for Congress. Two years ago, Barletta gained national attention by supporting Hazleton’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act. The law never took effect, and a federal judge in Scranton overturned it last summer. The U.S. Circuit Court in Philadelphia plans to hear an appeal in the case at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

During the appeal, three judges selected by computer will listen to arguments and ask questions of attorneys representing the city and the law’s opponents, led by the American Civil Liberties Union. Each side will have 30 minutes to present a case, and the judges aren’t expected to decide the appeal for months.

Still, the hearing might revive an issue that initially attracted voters to Barletta. “It will allow Mayor Barletta to demonstrate yet again that he has been fighting for the people of Hazleton and by extension for the people of the district,” political science Professor Thomas Baldino of Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, said. “Where there has been a lapse on the part of the federal government to take steps to remediate the problem, he took the initiative, passed the ordinance in Hazleton. It is his strongest issue.”

In their stances on immigration, little separates Barletta, a Republican, from Kanjorski, a Democrat, who represented the 11th District in Congress for 24 years. Both favor strong enforcement of the nation’s borders and sanctions for hiring illegal immigrants. They oppose amnesty for people who are in the country illegally.

Immigration, barely mentioned in the presidential campaign, factors significantly in the Kanjorski-Barletta race. In mid-September, 17 percent of voters said immigration was the most important issue driving their vote, according to a poll by the Center for Opinion Research and Floyd Institute for Public Policy at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster. “I was shocked that it polled as high as it did,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the center at Franklin & Marshall. In polls of other districts, immigration only hits single digits, Madonna said.

Immigration did drop in importance by the Oct. 15 poll when 12 percent of voters said it was driving their vote. Barletta’s lead over Kanjorski fell to 5 percent from 9 percent between the two polls. Of those who say immigration drives their vote, 81 percent favored Barletta in the October poll.

Barletta said immigration isn’t the most important issue in the race, but he thinks the way he responded to the issue gained him support. “That’s why I believe I’m winning this election right now. It’s not because of illegal immigration. It’s because people see someone who had the courage and the guts to stand up and do something that was affecting his community,” he said to the editorial boards of the Standard-Speaker and The Citizen’s Voice, Wilkes-Barre, on Oct. 16.

Kanjorski, writing in the two newspapers on Oct. 19, said illegal immigration depresses wages and threatens national security. “Last November, I helped introduce the SAVE Act, which aims to halt illegal immigration in the United States through stronger worker verification. If enacted, this bill would mandate that employers check the status of potential employees through an online E-Verification system that would quickly assess a potential employee’s eligibility to work in the United States,” he wrote.

Hazleton’s proposed Illegal Immigration Relief Act also would have made use of the system for verifying the immigration status of job applicants. Companies that hired illegal immigrants would have risked losing their Hazleton business licenses under the act. Landlords would have faced fines in Hazleton if they rented to illegal immigrants.

Dr. Agapito Lopez testified against the act during the federal trial in Scranton in March 2007 and said last week that Barletta used the act as a platform in his contest against Kanjorski. Lopez dislikes the law, in part, because it blurs the distinction between illegal immigrants and Latinos. “Undocumented immigrants are not the same as Latinos because there are Latinos doing some positive things in this town. Latinos have the same worries . We have common ground in trying to improve our houses, trying to improve security,” Lopez said.

Groups that filed friend of the court briefs said they oppose Hazleton’s law because it shows hatred toward immigrant groups, Wilkes Professor Kyle Kreider said. By enacting the law, Hazleton fell into conflict with court decisions that say only the federal government – not states, cities or counties – can regulate immigration, said Kreider, a political science professor who specializes in constitutional law. “There has been a long-standing tradition of courts striking down local ordinances, especially, but also state laws regarding immigration,” he said.

Two recent decisions counter the trend. Federal circuit courts upheld an Arizona state law and a law in Valley Park, Mo. that punish businesses for hiring illegal immigrants. A federal judge last month issued a temporary restraining order against a law in Farmers Branch, Texas that restricted the lease of housing to illegal immigrants.

In the Hazleton appeal, Kreider thinks judges will concentrate questions about whether the law regulates immigration. He expects Hazleton will argue, instead, that the law regulates housing and businesses licenses, which cities have authority to do. In general, federal appeals courts only overturn rulings 12 percent of the time, Kreider said, “so statistically, it’s not in Hazleton’s favor.”


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