Things That Matter

In 2012, The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Fought And Defeated A Harsh Anti-Immigration Bill

It’s Black History Month and we want to celebrate by honoring African-Americans who have taken action to help Latino immigrants. Particularly, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC), which helped Latinos in an area of the country that isn’t particularly known for having a strong support system for immigrants—the South.

This group of individuals showed that different ethnicities and races can work together to meet a common goal.

The MLBC partnered with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) to defeat bill HB 488 in Mississippi back in 2012.

Credit: Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus / Facebook

Author David Bacon wrote in The Nation that at the time, Tea Party Republicans thought they would get a victory in Mississippi for their anti-immigration bill and had even brought in some additional ammunition to push the Mississippi bill through.

That secret weapon was Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who had helped co-author the dreaded Arizona SB 1070 bill. Kobach was also instrumental is disenfranchising Latino voters in Texas during the 2018 midterm elections.

The MLBC came out to win and they put up a fight in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

Credit: Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance / Facebook

At the start of 2012 legislative session, the Legislative Black Caucus started raising their voices to debate the bill.

HB 488 essentially would have made racial profiling the new normal.

Credit: Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance / Facebook

It could have stopped undocumented immigrants from receiving the most minimal of benefits such as a license for bicycles or a library card.

“We forced a great debate in the House, until 1:30 in the morning,” state Representative Jim Evans, the caucus leader in Mississippi, told the Nation. “When you have a prolonged debate like that, it shows the widespread concern and disagreement. People began to see the ugliness in this measure.”

The director of the the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) told Bacon black legislators spoke out against the bill throughout the night when the bill was introduced on the floor, debating the use of the term ‘illegal alien’ in the language of the bill while others said it could break families apart and promote ethnic cleansing.

Grassroots protests helped usher in a wave of support against the HB 488 bill.

From employers who had undocumented immigrants as employees to Catholics, Methodists, Jews, Muslims, black caucus members and the activists who worked for MIRA, the mission was simple—strike down bill HB 488 through constant protesting in the Mississippi state legislature.

Finally, the Tea Party supporters were thrown off their anti-immigration bill high horse.

The director of MIRA at the time, Bill Chandler, told the Nation that all of these alliances helped defeat the anti-immigrant bill.

Posted by Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Because of our history we had a relationship with our allies,” Chandler said. “We need political alliances that mean something in the long term — permanent alliances, and a strategy for winning political power.”

Looking back, history can always teach important lessons—including how seemingly unlikely allies can stand together to fight for a common cause.

To find out more about the defeat of HB 488, click here.

Are you an activist helping defend Latino immigrant rights? Tell us in the comments below!

Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

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Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa / Twitter

A new proposal brought forth by immigration officials might hike up the cost of immigrants entering the United States as children. According to a New York Times report, the Trump administration proposal would increase fees for applicants by more than 60 percent and handover more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Friday, the Trump administration proposed increasing a “range of fees” tacked onto applications for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship.

If it is sent into motion, the proposal would increase citizenship fees by more than 60 percent. Under the new plan, fees for applicants would skyrocket from $725  to $1,170. The proposal would also allow the government to charge asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. Such a rule would make the United States one out of four countries in the world to force asylum seekers to pay for applications. Australia, Fiji and Iran all charge for asylum protection. 

If instituted, the proposal would be yet another roadblock implemented by the Trump administration to restrict immigration through legal means.

Over the past few months, immigrants and immigration advocates have seen similar attempts at hacking through the rights of immigrants before. Recently the Trump administration issued a series of policies that work to withhold permanent residency to immigrants in the United States have been deemed incapable of financially supporting themselves. They have also blocked entry to immigrants applying for visas on the basis of health insurance status. On October 4, 2019, Trump published a Presidential Proclamation that prevents entry to visa applicants are unable to provide proof of their ability to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States. 

“Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance or the ability to pay for their healthcare.  Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the proclamation read. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.  In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years.”

 Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration called the new policy, “one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable.”

“Currently, USCIS is conducting its biennial fee review, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, to study the agency’s revenue, costs and needs,” a spokesperson for USCIS told BuzzFeed News. “As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the federal register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made.”

Immigration advocates on social media have been quick to slam the proposal as unfair. 

“The proposal to get rid of fee waivers is a whole statement and stand against the poor. From the public charge stuff to this. Worse thing too is this is how people actually feel,” film director Angy Rivera wrote in a thread that lambasted the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security’s plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14. Make sure to flood them!”

Other users who quick to underline the significance of taking the funds from these applicants and transfer them to  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to “transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.” 

“At this point I feel like they are just putting numbers in hat, and tossing it around. This is money we use to live and maintain our families, minimum wage ass job won’t cover this. This is just business to make money, y’all taking advantage of us,” Cristal Ruiz Rodriguez wrote in a tweet.

There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants is a wealth tax.

The Trump administration’s new policy would not be applicable to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum. 

Melissa Rodgers is the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and told the Washington Street Journal that the proposed fees would be unaffordable for those who could have had a chance at citizenship.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”

A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

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A New Investigation Uncovered Another 1500 Children Separated By Trump Zero Tolerance Policy

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During two months in 2018, the Trump Administration inflicted the separation of undocumented families at the border who were seeking asylum or attempting to cross the southern country line. The policy was called “zero-tolerance,” and at the time of the announcement, former General Jeff Sessions firmly stated at the border that “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.” He also added, “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” That’s exactly what they did. When all was said in done, after the uproar of seeing crying children being taken away from their families and placed in cages, federal courts ordered the Trump Administration to end the policy. The government initially admitted that they had separated almost 3,000 kids from their parents. It turns out they were way, way off. 

A new report shows that the Trump Administration separated 1,556 more children on top of the 2,737 children they previously had admitted to releasing.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

On Oct. 24, after a federal judge ordered the government to release data about the children that were separated in 2018 in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) finally got the figures after six months. 

“The Trump administration admitted to a federal court that it ripped an additional 1,556 parents and children from each other under its illegal family separation policy,” the ACLU said in a statement. 

The court order came after the ACLU sued the government for information on the children after an earlier report in which the government admitted they didn’t know exactly how many children were separated, but it was probably “thousands.”

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

In January, the Department of Health and Human Services and the inspector general said they couldn’t know for sure how many children were separated because they didn’t have proper records

“The total number and current status of all children separated from their parents or guardians by United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and referred to Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) care is unknown,” the report states. That report is what prompted the lawsuit from the ACLU demanding a thorough investigation to find those children. 

Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the family separation lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had this reaction to the final figures: “It is shocking that 1,556 more families — including babies and toddlers — join the thousands of others already torn apart by this inhumane and illegal policy. Families have suffered tremendously, and some may never recover. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.”

The ACLU has been diligently working hard on finding the children and also suing the government for the trauma they caused the separated families.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

The ACLU filed the class action lawsuit — Ms. L v. ICE — against the government for illegally separating families and instilling lifelong trauma on the victims. 

“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” Gelernt said in a statement. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”

The “Zero-Tolerance” Policy began in April 2018 and was forced to end in June 2018. In just that short time, so much damage was caused on vulnerable people seeking asylum. 

While the policy was supposed to end in June of 2018, it was reported that families were still being separated long after that. A New York Times article said that at least 900 families were separated after June 2018.

Credit: customsborder / Instagram

“The administration is still doing family separation under the guise that they are protecting children from their parents, even though the criminal history they are citing is either wrong or shockingly minor,” Gelernt told the New York Times in July. “This is just circumventing the court’s order.”

During a panel at a Forbes event, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was in charge during this period, said she had no regrets over making sure the “zero-tolerance” policy was being enforced because she was doing her job. The only reason she left her post was that she was saying “no” too much. 

“I don’t regret enforcing the law, because I took an oath to do that,” Nielsen said, according to CNN. She added that she was there to “enforce the law, not to separate families.”

READ: Government Officials Report That Reuniting Separated Families Will Take Two Years