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Ethnic Media Grade Obama on Immigration Reform

New America Media, Media Roundup, Posted: Jul 24, 2009

Editors Note: This month, 300 ethnic media outlets ran an op-ed written by New America Media calling for immigration reform. NAM editors called them to ask them to grade President Obama on his performance on immigration reform after his first six months in office.

Khalil AlHajal, Community Editor, The Arab American News (Dearborn, Mich.)

A Detroit-area Palestinian immigrant who volunteered his translation skills for The Arab American News is leaving the country next week because he couldn't get permanent resident status. Some of his children are U.S. citizens. All of them grew up in the U.S. Yet the family is being divided and uprooted, even though the man could have contributed to society and his children had promising academic careers.

The system is still broken, and thousands are still languishing in immigration detention units around the country. It's disappointing to many Arab Americans that President Barack Obama hasn't yet been able to focus on sweeping immigration reform, but they are seeing baby steps through occasional measures, court decisions and Congressional bills, like the Reuniting Families Act, introduced in the House in May.

Antoine Faisal, Publisher, Aramica (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

We have several crises: the economic situation, health care, Iraq, Afghanistan. The government is like a big ship that is sailing slowly. Our hope is that they'd go 10 times faster, specifically regarding immigration. It will be cheaper to deal with it before it explodes. We see immigration protests every year and this is a reminder that there is a problem.

Right now I would not give him a grade--I can't. We are still in a 'wait and see' period.

Pamela A. Mulumby, Publisher and Editor, East Africa in Focus (Columbia, Mo.)

The expansion of 287(g) [an agreement between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.] is an idea that is largely wasteful. It appeases voters, but raises other concerns, particularly, how to mesh this into the 4th Amendment, which protects Americans from arbitrary search and seizure.

The continuation of [sending] Social Security no-match letters [to employers] will raise a lot more cases of racial profiling, because the "suspects" will be mainly non-whites.

Battered women filing for residency is a bag of mixed fortunes. Overall, this is a good idea but implementation must be well thought out, so as to weed out undeserving cases.

Erica Gonzalez, Op-ed Editor, El Diario/La Prensa (New York, N.Y.)

We give him a C-. We think that hes shown good intentions, meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the commitment hes made, but expanding the 287(g) policy makes no sense. You cant take something fundamentally flawed and change the window dressing.

We havent written him off. We still have hope.
This is not about a messiah Its about a movement propelling this forward.

Sunil Adam, Editor, The Indian American, News India Times, Desi Talk (New York, N.Y.)

The Obama administration so far seems to be dealing with immigration reform only from the vantage of illegal immigrants. Focus on illegals is fine, but that is only a small part of the issue. If you ask immigration attorneys, they will vouch that the whole system is in a state of paralysis. Most of the permanent residency applications, the H1B [specialized work visa] quotas, have been put on hold, adding to the already long backlog. This is impacting not only hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, tax-paying alien residents, but also the businesses that employ them.

Richard Springer, Staff Reporter, India West (San Leandro, Calif.)

I would give the Obama administration a C- as an overall grade. First, he gets an F for delaying immigration reform. The administration's piecemeal approach, with various policies being implemented while overall reform languishes, will backfire on Obama when his popularity rating declines.

He gets an A for allowing battered foreign women to apply for asylum. No brainer.

Sending out letters to employers whose Social Security numbers don't match federal databases is a sop to Congress. It only makes sense if it was the only way to placate conservatives for not persisting in federal raids of worksites. As others have pointed out, there are mistakes in the federal database that could result in citizens being harassed. D+.

I personally think that convicted felons who are have an illegal status should be subject to deportation, after a valid hearing with appropriate legal representation, so I have no problem with communities turning them over to immigration authorities.

Esther Misa Chavez, U.S. Director of Sales, Inquirer.net (Daly City, Calif.)

After six months in office, President Obama has the right priorities. Homeland security and economic stability, and everything else falls into place. What is apparent is that President Obama seems to have the pulse of the nation and hear the general clamor for reform on immigration and having minorities in positions of importance in his administration. Consider his nomination of Judge Sotomayor.

While immigration reform is imperative, it is a complicated issue. And the government should still monitor those who are illegally working the system. There should be controls or there will be chaos. I applaud the little victories accorded battered women, widows and widowers. This is a grand gesture that the president places importance on the safety of women and the weak, and is family-oriented.

Nekessa Opoti, Publisher, Kenya Imagine (St. Paul, Minn.)

I have written a lot about how women in the African immigrant community in Minnesota are abused by their partners because their immigration status renders them powerless. It is encouraging that in championing the rights of women around the world, the Obama administration will allow for abused women to seek asylum in the United States. I would be interested in seeing regulations that would allow for compassionate consideration because it is difficult for some of these women to prove abuse.

Albert Hong, Politics and Community Reporter, Korea Daily (Washington, D.C.)

I dont think theres any noticeable achievement regarding immigration reform. So far, Obama has given a lot of speeches on what he would do, but nothing has been done. Moreover, it is a bit disappointing to watch as his strong will to reform immigration laws seems to be shrinking. I would give him a D.

Even though they live in the center of politics, many Koreans in Washington, D.C. are not very interested in politics. Many Koreans tend to think that immigration reform is other peoples problem or only a problem for Latinos. However, reports show that there are numerous illegal Korean immigrants in the D.C. area. It is obvious that immigration reform will bring greater opportunities for them. We dont often hear about their struggles because they are living in the shadows.

Jos Merino, Editor, La Estrella de Tucson (Tucson, Ariz.)

Probably a D. I think theres been progress bringing Janet Napolitano to his Cabinet was a good move because she understands the issue but theres still a lot to do.

Arizona is a very different scenario than the rest of the country. Our state laws have been making it harder for immigrants.

I dont think Obamas policies have made an impact here. If anything, his lack of policy, and the fact that he hasnt delivered on what hes promised, has made it worse for people.

By him not moving forward on immigration reform, we in Arizona are being kept in the same black hole.

Rodrigo Cervantes, Editor, Mundo Hispnico (Atlanta, Ga.)

I think President Obama has a big weight on his shoulders and that weight is called hope, the hope of immigrants.

But hes sending mixed messages, like with 287(g). More counties are getting this agreement, like Gwinnett County, Ga., which has the largest Hispanic community in the state.

There havent been any federal decisions on issues that may affect everyone, so the local governments are making the decisions.

Tom Arviso, Editor, Navajo Times (Window Rock, Navajo Nation, Ariz.)

We'd give Obama a B because the policy being formulated right now will incorporate a better understanding of peoples right to make a living and come into this country with good intent. Obama has at least taken into consideration the opinions and feelings of immigrants themselves.

As native people, we believe everyone should have the right to try to do things -- such as immigrate -- to make life better for themselves. We're supportive of immigration reform because we understand why immigration is important for this country.

A B grade might be a bit generous because it's still early. Right now, his immigration policy is still a plan. We'll see what formulates from it.

Cristina DC Pastor, Managing Editor, Philippine News (New York, N.Y.)

Theres nothing to grade. President Obama hasnt done anything of substance as yet. But he strikes me as the kind of leader who does not leave unfinished business, so Im hoping immigration reform would be decided with finality during this presidency.

Jess Del Toro, Editor, RUMBO (Houston, Texas)

I think the immigrant community of Houston still has confidence and still believes Obama is doing the most he can to push for reform. Some are skeptical but immigrants are always skeptics because immigration reform has been promised so many times and not delivered.

The idea of implementing the 287(g) program in Houston right now is a little problematic. The Obama administration has put guidelines on 287(g), but the community fears that the guidelines might not be fully respected.

I think the community would give him a B. But its a B+ because they understand why these things cant be done too fast.

Ning Wang, Editor in Chief, Sing Tao Daily (New York, N.Y.)

Weve noticed that Obama isnt pushing immigration reform in full force as he promised in his campaign. But this is understandable given that he is taking care of the economy and health care system. But we worry that Obama may put all his political resources into health care reform, leaving him with less power to enact immigration reform.

Immigration remains one of the most important issues in the Chinese community. Our readers come from different backgrounds. They hope immigration reform can address issues such as family unification, H1B quotas, waiting time for green cards and legalization of undocumented immigrants.

Dzung Do, Editor, Viet Herald (Westminster, Calif.)

President Obama still isnt paying much attention to immigration reform. He is focusing on issues that the majority of Americans care about. Mr. Obama is still scared of talking about immigration since he may upset a lot of voters that he needs in order to win reelection.

T.S. Won, Editor, World Journal (New York, N.Y.)

We cannot wait any longer.

We demand comprehensive immigration reform at the earliest time to free the people and to jumpstart the economy.

Immigration reform will not succeed if it does not recognize the family unity as one of the core values of Asian American communities. Right now the average waiting time for legal family-based immigration is about six to 10 years. That is too long.

It must legalize those who entered the country and who overstayed their visa. Those people already provided huge low-wage labor. Any attempt to remove them abruptly will impact the daily life of thousands of people and their families.

We support the creation of a new system of legalizing these people by including the consequences: paying a reasonable penalty, paying taxes, learning English and waiting in line behind those who played by the rules.

It must stop the abuse and reform the current federal detention facilities around the country to prevent incidents like the horrifying death of Mr. Hiu Lui (Jason) Ng at federally run Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island.

It should double the current H1B visa quota. In the 21st century, America needs more talented and qualified people. The current 65,000 quota for the foreign H1-B visa is not enough to meet the demand of hi-tech industries and to compete internationally.

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