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Access Washington – Weekly Immigration Update

New America Media , News Digest, Wendy Sefsaf Posted: Jun 02, 2008

Editor’s Note: NAM’s Access Washington Weekly Immigration Update is a column summarizing key developments in the immigration debate. This column is produced by New America Media’s Washington, D.C., office and is available in Spanish, Chinese and Korean.

Traducción al español

Senate Drops Farm Worker Legislation
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a guest-worker amendment to an Iraq war spending bill recently, which would have given temporary legal status to 1.35 million illegal immigrant farm workers, as well as their spouses and children. The United Farm Workers and immigrant advocate groups favored the legalization. “Virtually every farm organization in the United States is in support of this legislation,” Feinstein said at a committee debate on the bill.

Feinstein added the agricultural guest-worker plan to the $194 billion emergency war-spending bill. The revised measure would have given the farm workers and their families, potentially numbering more than 1 million, temporary legal status for five years. However, without debate, Sen. Menendez, D-N.J., cited a rule against legislating on appropriations bills and the measure was dropped.

Head of USCIS Outlines Agency’s Processing Goals
At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acting Director Jonathan Scharfen outlined some of the goals of his agency in processing naturalization applications.

He began by defending his agency who he says received 1.4 million naturalization applications in fiscal year 2006, up from the 740,000 they normally receive each year. He explained the surge in applications was likely due to the debate over comprehensive immigration reform and the anticipation of increases in application fees.

To help with the backlog, Scharfen said the agency would be hiring more than 3,000 new employees by the end of 2008. He said in 2007 they processed 750,000 applications and in 2008 they will process more than one million applications that now have a 13-14 month wait time.

He also noted they have cleared all cases that are over four years old and they are down to a few hundred that are three years old. By July 2008 anything older than two years will be cleared and by November 2008 anything over one year will be complete. He added that by February 2009 anything older than five months will be processed.

By June of 2009 he said 98 percent of cases will be processed in 30 days and the rest in 90 days.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Blasts Anti-Immigrant News Anchors
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) recently held a press conference to discuss a report by media watchdog group Media Matters. The report “Fear & Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News” reviews prime-time news coverage of immigration and concluded that fear-mongering is being practiced by several anchors. The CHC believes these anchors are partly responsible for sabotaging last year's failed immigration reform.

According to the report, over the course of 2007, CNN anchors Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck and Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly perpetuated “a series of myths that feed viewers’ resentment and fears, seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria.”

Report coauthor Michael Waldman calls Lou Dobbs the “most obsessed” with immigration. Waldman said the CNN anchor, especially, pushes out a misperception that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes and is responsible for spreading urban legends regarding the trade relationship between Mexico and the United States.

CHC Chairman Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., said the report confirms what the CHC has long suspected, that these anchors provide “divisive, inflammatory and often misleading information that only creates fear, hatred and stereotyping of immigrants.”

To read the full report visit: mediamattersaction.org

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