HEADLINES: Immigration

The Alabama legislature approved Wednesday changes to the state’s controversial immigration law – keeping key portions intact while adding a new provision to publish the names of undocumented immigrants who appear in court, regardless of the trial’s outcome, according to reports. The state’s House and Senate approved changes to the law that would require the Department of Homeland Security to post a list of undocumented immigrants who appeared in court for violations of state law, even if they are not eventually convicted of a crime, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. The bill kept in place the immigration measure that has generated the most controversy: the requirement that police verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being undocumented, according to Reuters. The Justice Department filed suit against the state over its tough immigration law last year. “Today’s action makes clear that setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility that cannot be addressed through a patchwork of state immigration laws,” Holder said in August. In October, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked parts of the law that would require schools to verify the immigration status of students. The Supreme Court is currently waiting to rule on a case challenging a similar immigration law in Arizona. That case was heard in April. [Politico]

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, has been representing immigrant victims of domestic violence for 15 years. In all of the hundreds of cases she has worked on, she says, “I’ve never had a case where the abuser did not use his immigration status as a tool.” Often an abusive American citizen or permanent resident with an immigrant wife will threaten her with deportation, which could separate her from her American children. Or he’ll begin the paperwork to sponsor his spouse for a green card but threaten to withdraw it. “You have no rights in this country,” an abuser will tell his victim, says Ruiz-Velasco. The Violence Against Women Act offers these women some protection. But on Wednesday, House Republicans passed a reauthorization bill that significantly weakens it, claiming that VAWA facilitates immigration fraud. “For those of us who’ve been in the antiviolence movement for the last 30 years, some of the biggest victories are being completely turned on their head by what’s going on,” says Mallika Dutt, president and CEO of Breakthrough, a human-rights organization that has worked closely with immigrant victims of violence. The White House has threatened to veto the House’s version of the VAWA reauthorization bill, which removes protections for Native Americans and for gays and lesbians written into the Senate version of the bill that passed with 68 votes in April. But the most startling thing about the House version, and its most significant departure from current law, is its elimination of long-standing protections for abused immigrants. [The Daily Beast]

To forgo a repeat of last year, when labor shortages triggered an estimated $140 million in agricultural losses, as crops rotted in the fields, officials in Georgia are now dispatching prisoners to the state’s farms to help harvest fruit and vegetables. The labor shortages, which also have affected the hotel and restaurant industries, are a consequence of Georgia’s immigration enforcement law, HB 87, which was passed last year. Georgia’s law, similar to those in Alabama, Arizona and a few other states, gives police the authority to demand immigration documentation from suspects when they detain them for other possible violations. The law also makes it more difficult for businesses to hire workers and creates harsher punishments for those who employ or harbor undocumented immigrants. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that some 425,000 undocumented immigrants lived in Georgia when the legislation was passed – seventh highest in the nation. Those numbers are now down but not without the state’s economy paying a heavy price. [Forbes]

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