IMMIGRATION REFORM AND BORDER SECURITY

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THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The effort in Washington to pass immigration reform is headed for a potential showdown over border security – with the Senate and White House plans putting different emphasis on the issue, and Democrats and Republicans appearing to disagree over the extent of the problem.

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The likely conflict was highlighted earlier this week when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared U.S. borders secure and said Republicans have a flawed argument about border security needing to precede comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe the border is secure,” Napolitano said Monday in San Diego, during a three-day swing of the Southwest border. “I believe the border’s a safe border (but) that’s not to say everything is 100 percent.”

She said the Republicans have failed to recognize yearly improvements in contraband seizures and the number of people caught trying to cross the border illegal. They also think border security is unrelated to interior immigration enforcement such as visa tracking and employment verification and the pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States, Napolitano also said.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

While the plan by President Obama, who has made immigration reform a second-term priority, includes tighter border security, the plan by a bipartisan Senate panel is contingent on securing the borders. Still, both sides agree that border security has improved since the Bush administration.

Roughly 365,000 people attempted to cross U.S. borders illegally in fiscal 2012 — a nearly 50 percent drop since fiscal 2008 and 78 percent drop from its peak in fiscal 2000, according to a Feb. 1 report by the U.S. Border Patrol, which based the findings on apprehensions. Borders agents also seized more than 4.2 million pounds of narcotics and $100 million in unreported currency over that period, the report states.

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AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite

However, Republicans on the eight-member Senate panel, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, says more needs to be done. “There remain several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people’s homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night,” he said last month in a statement. “But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years.” Still, the situation is far from perfect.

Chris Crane, president for the union for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, told a House committee Tuesday that agency morale is sagging in part because the country is allowing illegal immigrants to stay.

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“Agents cannot make arrests because of overstayed visa,” Crane said. “It’s not illegal anymore. … The agency is falling apart, morale is at an all-time low.”

The Senate plan calls for improving border security through more agents, improved technology such as unmanned drones and the better use of existing resources. The National Guard in December purportedly agreed to a one-year extension with the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the Southwest border. Roughly 1,200 Guardsmen began patrolling the region with Board Patrol and U.S. Customs agents in 2010, but their ranks have been trimmed to about 300 and their role is now largely to support the roughly 18,000 U.S. Border agents in the region – including more aerial observations.

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Despite Napolitano arguing that Republicans have missed the point about border security being tied to visa tracking and employment verification, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican on the Senate panel, publicly made the connection weeks earlier. Rubio told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that his goal is to ensure border security is part of the reform plan because “if not the workplace enforcement, the visa tracking … don’t happen.”

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“Then we are going to be right back here again in five to 10 years with another three, four, five million people who are undocumented,” he said.

The Senate plan includes a component to evaluate the Southwest border – a commission composed of governors, attorneys general and community leaders from that region to monitor security progress and make recommendations. However, the weight of their findings and to what extent border security is included in the potential-but-likely legislation remains unclear.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to discuss,” Rubio told Hewitt. “That’s part of turning a principle into a bill, into a law. … It’s important that we have input from the people that are affected by the border, because it’s one thing to say that the border is certified from, you know, an air conditioned office in Washington. Another thing is to have to deal with it on the ground as a law enforcement person.

Read more: FOX NEWS

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WHAT IS THE “SECURE COMMUNITIES” ACT: DON’T MEND IT…END IT!

Photo courtesy of ICE

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Photo courtesy of ICE

Any day now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will announce a second round of “reforms” to the disgraced “Secure Communitiesdeportation program, S-Comm. And once again, it appears that ICE is more interested in spin than substance. The timing of the announcement–immediately before the DHS Office of Inspector General Report–seems primarily designed to take the pressure off of ICE rather than an honest attempt to address the fundamental flaws of the program.

We’ve been here before. In 2010, ICE tried the same tactic by announcing “reforms” to S-COMM’s predecessor, the 287(g) program to try to save the agency from the embarrassment of that year’s Inspector General report that described the program as an unmitigated disaster.

“Secure Communities” turns local police into defacto agents of deportation, forcing them to enforce unjust immigration laws, inviting racial profiling, and undermining community safety. It’s a program that has been leading to the “Arizonification” of the country, and has placed ICE under fire since it’s start in 2008. The only way forward on S-Comm is termination.

Since its inception, “Secure Communities” has gained fame for outright deception, starting with its very name. And now, after the release of thousands of internal emails and the agency’s own deportation data, there is no longer any doubt that ICE lied to local lawmakers, Congress, and the American public.

So-called “Secure Communities”, “S-Comm” or “In-Secure Communities” as it has been dubbed is the most recent attempt of ICE-DHS to control the immigration “problem”. This anti-immigrant program allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement agencies to share all fingerprints processed at local jails. This mandated sharing occurs regardless of the type of crime and even if the charges are dropped. The inaccurately named program, “Secure Communities” was said to have been initiated to target “level one” criminals (kidnappers, drug dealers, murders), but in practice has been successful in targeting jay-walkers, victims of domestic violence, mentally challenged citizens, and those who do not look “American”.

So why is the Administration holding on to a program that has a very public record of deception? One that law enforcement officers, Governors, cities, and Congressional representatives reject as damaging to public safety. And why is it continuing to operate the program in places like Georgia, with its unconstitutional anti-immigrant hate law, HB 87, while finally suspending it–at least partially–in Alabama and restricting it in Maricopa County? Clearly, this violates common sense. It also demonstrates a distorted sense of priorities.

Janet Napolitano announces record high deportations at ICE headquarters in Washington. Photo: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

In its blind quest to meet its arbitrary deportation quota of 400,000 people per year, the Obama Administration is driving a wedge between communities and local police, making it more difficult to solve crimes, and turning a blind eye to the fact that people are being placed into deportation through unconstitutional arrests. Civil immigration enforcement above public safety and constitutional protections? Really?

The upcoming announcement will be a significant opportunity for the President to demonstrate leadership on a program that has come to symbolize his broken immigration promises. Will it be business as usual or will the Obama Administration finally abandon their growing legacy of deportation? Will the Obama Administration stop attempting to convince the public that ICE may reform itself, despite every indicator that it’s incapable? Will the Obama Administration embrace the consensus against S-Comm or continue gripping onto the program despite its failure?

The next few days will tell. For the communities that are left to cope with the disasters of the Administration’s draconian immigration enforcement policies, the commitment to break ICE’s hold continues regardless of this month’s announcement. Communities reeling from this growing crisis have already documented the conclusive demand that S-COMM be terminated. Their pledge to restore trust and to break ICE’s hold on their community and the country will only grow stronger.

READ MORE: THE HUFFINGTON POST 

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DOES A LATINA RUN THE GIRL SCOUTS: CELEBRATING 100 YEARS WITH CEO ANA MARIA CHAVEZ

In This Photo: Anna Maria Chavez Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images North America)

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Latina leader to her Girl Scouts: Prepare to lead

When 10-year-old Anna Maria Chavez joined Girl Scout Troop 304 in the small town of Eloy, Arizona, she never thought the experience would eventually lead her to occupy a colorful office just off Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan.

While about half of all women in the United States were Girl Scouts at some point in their lives,  today, one in 10 of those girls are Latina. One of them is Chavez, who last year became the first Hispanic CEO of the organization.

At the headquarters of Girls Scouts Inc., Chavez is celebrating the organization’s 100th anniversary surrounded by apple-green walls and shelves of memorabilia. Instead of magazines in the small waiting area, there are cookie jars.

“I never ever imagined that I would become the national CEO of Girl Scouts,” she said. “You need to understand where I came from.”

In This Photo: Anna Maria Chavez Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images North America)

Chavez was the only daughter in a Mexican immigrant family that came to the U.S. to work on farms. Hers was the first generation in the family to attend college.

Chavez said when she was a girl her own family had no knowledge about Girl Scouts and what they do. “I went home to my abuelita, my nana, and I said, ‘Nana I’m gonna be a Girl Scout,’ and she said ‘Y eso? Que hacen?’ you know, ‘What do they do?’” Chavez recalled.

For a young Chavez, camping and meeting girls from different backgrounds helped her to become more confident and independent. That helped in her teen years, when she moved from Eloy to Phoenix, and entered a large school where she was one of about a dozen Mexican students.

Her undergraduate education was at Yale, where a high SAT score helped her get accepted and earn a scholarship.

“When I got in, people were shocked and dismayed because nobody in our high school had gotten into this school. ‘You’re Latina, don’t you think you should stay in state?’” she said. “And I was like ‘Wait a minute, I have no boundaries!’”  She credits her Girl Scouts experience with helping her to make that decision.

Gallery: The first Girl Scout: Daisy Gordon Lawrence

Her tenure in the Girl Scouts also helped her make her career choice. Chavez remembered a family picnic during childhood, when she discovered a cave with Native American drawings that had been scribbled over with graffiti. Her outrage, she recalled, turned into a desire to become an attorney and “make laws” to stop things like this from happening.

“Only the Girl Scouts could charge me in a way to understand that even as a small girl, I could make a difference…” she said.

So after Yale, she returned to Phoenix to get a law degree and went on to become a successful attorney, eventually working for former Arizona Governor – and Girl Scouts alumna – Janet Napolitano. Later, she took up regional direction of Girl Scouts in San Antonio, Texas.

The position paved the way for her current job at the helm of the organization in New York.  “Girl Scouts and my family taught me to dream big,” she said. “Nothing was impossible.”

Now, she’s on a mission: To help the Girl Scouts of today become the leaders of tomorrow, like she did.

“If you look across the country, the top 10 job sectors, only 18 percent of leadership positions in those sectors are held by women,” she said, citing a survey conducted by Girl Scouts. “What were saying is, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could increase women in these leadership roles?’”

That message of leadership especially resonates with Latina mothers, who “want their daughters to succeed; they want their daughters to explore other options in their lives,” Chavez said.

According to the Girl Scouts, there are three million girls and women volunteers in the United States alone. The organization is present in 90 countries and claims to have made an impact in the lives of more than 59 million members in the course of its history.

As the scouts turn a century old, Chavez is intent on revamping the organization’s image. “People love Girl Scouts… they see our brand and they smile and think cookies, camp and crafts, but we want them to see premier leadership organization for girls in this country, if not this world,” she said.

Her vision for the future was already working in Queens Village, New York, where several troops met to commemorate World Thinking Day, a celebration of Girl Scouts around the world and a chance for scouts to pin new badges to their vests.

READ MORE: CNN IN AMERICA

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