Immigration :

Dream ActWESPAC is a member of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition which is working hard to change the public discourse around immigration:

Behind the Latest Version of the DREAM Act:
Is This Legislation We Should Support?


"When that [DREAM Act] passes, millions of children will be able to get the education they need to contribute to our economy," stated Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) during his press conference announcing that he would include the DREAM Act in the Defense Authorization Bill on September 21. Almost immediately, Republican leaders came out against the move in spite of the commonly held belief that the DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation. "I intend to block it, unless they agree to remove the onerous provisions," said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

While Republicans are accusing Democrats of playing partisan politics in an effort to maintain their footing this coming November, mobilizations have been taking place across the nation for months now in an attempt to get Congress and the Obama administration to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Immigrant youth, especially, have trekked across state lines, protested in congresspersons' offices, and flooded Congress with letters urging them to pass the DREAM Act. Called DREAMers, they have come out and risked being deported in the hope of gaining legal status.

What is the DREAM Act?

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act has been floating in Congress for nearly a decade now, first introduced in 2001 as H.R. 1918 and S. 1291 in the House and Senate respectively. In 2007 Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) filed to place the DREAM Act as an amendment to the 2008 Department of Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2919), but it failed to pass. A last-ditch effort was made later that year by introducing the DREAM Act as a stand alone bill, nevertheless, the 60 votes required to avoid a filibuster were not there.

The version now being included as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill by Sen. Reid was introduced in March of 2009 by senators Durbin (D-IL), Lugar (R-IN), Reid (D- NV), Martinez (R-FL), Leahy (D-VT), Lieberman (I-CT), Kennedy (D-MA), and Feingold (D-WI).

If passed, the DREAM Act of 2009 would give young undocumented immigrants from any country of origin who are under 35 years old and who arrived in the United States before age 16 the opportunity to gain legal status by either attending college or joining the military. However, only those who have obtained a high school diploma or GED and have not left the United States in the last five years are eligible to gain conditional Legal Permanent Residency (LPR).

Once eligibility has been ascertained, LPR status would be granted on a conditional basis and valid for six years, during which time the student would be allowed to work, go to school, or join the military. After six years, if the person has shown good moral character and either completed a minimum of two years of higher education toward a bachelor's degree or higher, or served in the military for two years, the conditional status would be removed and full LPR would be granted.

With any chance of passing CIR now declared dead by many Democratic leaders, including President Obama, we are being told the DREAM Act is Plan B , the only viable proposal for addressing the immigration issue. Just last week Univision's Jorge Ramos proclaimed that there will be no legalization for the 11 million undocumented this year. Nor, perhaps, next year — nor the next. Senator Reid, himself, said, "I know we can't do comprehensive immigration reform — I've tried to. I've tried so very, very hard."

A Rift Has Developed

But although the DREAM Act has unconditional supporters in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and other Latino organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), in particular, a rift has begun to appear within the movement that has emerged around the DREAM Act.

Community groups like San Diego's Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) has opposed the armed forces provision of the DREAM Act for years. More recently, even the young activists who have participated in acts of civil disobedience across the country have not only questioned the military component but the way in which the Democrats are contributing to the argument that the parents are criminals who broke the law by crossing the border illegally in an attempt to provide a better life for their children. "They are vilifying and criminalizing our parents and [arguing] that undocumented students shouldn't pay for the sins or illegal behavior of their parents," wrote Raul Al-qaraz Ochoa, one of the protesters arrested at Sen. McCain's office in Arizona this summer.

Still, the majority in the movement uncritically supports the DREAM Act because they believe its passage will benefit millions of young undocumented immigrants while also serving as a stepping stone for CIR down the road. If we examine the legislation closely, however, some issues arise with these arguments.

First, the simple fact that Democrats are attaching the DREAM Act to the defense bill speaks to its militaristic orientation; the DREAM Act forms part of the Department of Defense's FY2010-12 Strategic Plan to help the military shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.

According to UC San Diego professor Jorge Mariscal, the DREAM Act was largely developed by the Pentagon. One need only read Senator Durbin's testimony. It was not about education. It was strictly about making a pool of young, bilingual, U.S.-educated, high-achieving students available to the recruiters.

This is further evidenced in the 2009 policy report "Essential to the Fight: Immigrants in the Military Eight Years After 9/11," authored by Margaret D. Stock, retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. In it she writes, "Despite the important contributions of immigrants to the military in the ongoing conflicts, one proposal that would allow more immigrants to serve in the armed forces [DREAM Act] has made little headway in the past eight years. … Because attending college is a very expensive proposition, … joining the armed forces is a likely choice for many of the young people who would be affected by the bill (p. 8).

Stock concludes, "Without them, the military could not meet its recruiting goals and could not fill the need for foreign-language translators, interpreters, and cultural experts. Given the unique and valuable functions that immigrants often perform in the military, they are a critical asset to the national defense. Immigrants have been and continue to be essential to the fight" (p. 11).

At the same time, by attempting to pass the DREAM Act before the November mid-term elections, Democrats seek to rally support from Latinos who comprise the largest sector of the immigrant community and who are a key voting bloc for the Democratic Party.

It was this voting bloc that handed Obama the presidency in 2008, based largely on the promise that he would deliver CIR during his first year in office. Having failed to do so — and, on the contrary, having increased the repression on the undocumented community through raids, employer sanctions, and the militarization of the border — more and more Latinos have grown increasingly discontented with the Democratic leadership.

It is difficult to imagine a Democratic victory in Congress without the Latino vote. The Democrats know this and are offering the DREAM Act as appeasement, claiming there is no political will to pass CIR. Yet, it took no effort to pass the $600 million border militarization bill this past August.

Other Objections

Second, according to Sen. Reid and other proponents, passage of the DREAM Act would benefit millions of undocumented immigrants. Although it is difficult to know the exact number of undocumented youth in the United States, the Migration Policy Institute's 2010 study "Dream vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries" claims that there are approximately 2.1 million who could potentially be eligible.

However, not all would qualify for LPR status. Only an estimated 825,000, or 38%, would be able to gain full LPR. For those undocumented youths who do not meet the requirements after the six years of conditional status there is no guaranteed that they would not be deported. The legislation also authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to share information with other law enforcement agencies.

Third, the choice of attending an institution of higher learning, as opposed to joining the military, in order to qualify for LPR is only feasible for a small number of undocumented youth. For example, Latinos in general, compared to other ethnic groups have the lowest number of college attendees — only 1.9%, compared to 3% for Blacks, 3.8% for whites, and 8.8% for Asians. The national high school drop-out rate among Latinos is around 40%. In California the drop-out rate is 36%.

Moreover, a significant percentage of the 1.5 generation coming to the United States without papers arrive with very little schooling and come to work to contribute to the family income. These undocumented youth would not even qualify for conditional LPR status.

The college option of the DREAM Act must also be looked at within the new higher education framework where the cost of attending college becomes another barrier. Throughout the country — and in California especially — the tuition or university fees at public universities have skyrocketed … a whopping 32% increase at the UCs and CSUs last year and 54% at community colleges; not to mention the cap enrollments and repeal of affirmative action also affecting ethnic minorities.

Under the DREAM Act students would not be eligible for federal financial aid — only loans and work study. Moreover, the DREAM Act gives states the prerogative to decide if these students qualify for in-state tuition (repealing Section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996).

De-Facto Choice to Gain LPR Status

The military option then becomes the de-facto choice to gain LPR status for most undocumented youth. There are already non-citizens in the armed service who are seeking citizenship for themselves and their loved ones through fast track established by former President Bush in 2002 as part of the War on Terror.

However, as Professor Mariscal points out, the promise of a green card is not always assured. Military service does not guarantee citizenship and tragically for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, posthumous citizenship [is] a purely symbolic gesture with no rights or privileges accruing to the deceased person's family.

With the continued occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as the increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, it is very likely that those joining the military under the DREAM Act will see combat. And although the DREAM Act asks for only two years of military service, we must be aware that there is no such thing as a two-year military contract. In 2003 Congress passed the National Call to Service Plan as part of the Military Appropriations Act. This mandated that all of the services must create an enlistment program offering a two-year active duty enlistment option, followed by four years in the Active Guard/Reserves, followed by two years in the Inactive Reserves. This is a total of eight years.

If that were not enough, low-income and youth of color tend to see most of the direct combat. Professor Mariscal writes, "Latinos and Latinas are bunched together in the private and corporal ranks (or lowest ranks) and therefore are among the most likely to receive hazardous duty assignments. … [In 2001 they] made up 17.7% of the Infantry, Gun Crews, and Seamanship occupations in all the service branches. Of those Latinos and Latinas in the Army, 24.7% occupy such jobs and in the Marine Corps, 19.7%.

It is important to remember that Latinos make up only 13.5% of the general population. In contrast, in the elite and most highly romanticized military special operations units such as the Navy Seals, people of color are virtually non-existent given the stricter educational admissions criteria.

For a DREAM Act With No Military Strings Attached!

The DREAMers and the movement they have built together with their allies have fueled the immigrant rights movement in spite of other setbacks like SB 1070. Undocumented youth are tired of the vast inequities and limited opportunities afforded to them because of their citizenship status.

Although the DREAM Act would only benefit a small number of undocumented immigrant youth, what the DREAMers are fighting for — the right to education for all, the right to have a job that helps our families get out of poverty, the right to live without fear of incarceration and deportation, the right to keep families together — is the right thing.

All of us in the immigrant rights movement and our allies should applaud and support their cause and denounce the Democrats for attempting to usurp the struggle. We should not be asked to assist in the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or in any new militaristic adventures in Latin America, Iran, or elsewhere in order to obtain papers for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Nor should we have to subjugate those who look like us in foreign lands or on the border.

We in the immigrant community are not discouraged by the lack of political will in Washington. We will continue to fight for a new and just immigration policy based on human and workers' rights.
More than ever, it is necessary to (re)build an independent mass movement for legalization. It will take huge mobilizations and strikes like those that took place in the spring of 2006 to force the ruling elite to grant our just demands.

We must champion the DREAMers movement — that is, a real DREAM Act without any militaristic strings attached — while also calling for:

– No to the militarization of the border; tear down the Wall of Shame!
– Stop the raids and deportations!
– No to the E-Verify Law and to the criminalization of immigrant workers!
– No to Guest Worker Programs!
– No to the separation of immigrant families!
– Repeal the "Free Trade" and Military pacts in Latin America (including the dismantling of all U.S.
military bases in the region)!

As immigrant rights activist Raul Al-qaraz Ochoa aptly wrote, "Strong movements that achieve greater victories are those that stand in solidarity with all oppressed people of the world."



We write this statement to raise our voices as Latino youth working and living in the Bronx, New York in opposition to the DREAM ACT as it stands. We demand that we return to our original DREAM ACT that had a community service option instead of a military one. The military has been losing their numbers due to the multiple wars the US has begun. The DREAM ACT would hand us over on a platter to fight these unjust wars. The DREAM ACT has been warped over the years to draft Latino youth into the military, as they need more and more soldiers to fight their wars.


We have been living under harsh conditions. Our communities have been historically underprivileged, with militarized streets, schools that seem more like jails than educational institutions, and poverty that pushes people to desperation and sadness. We have grown up with the trauma of having our family members and friends detained, jailed, and deported. But we are strong and determined, so we keep onwards. We have stood next to our parents as they worked as street vendors, as they were ticketed, arrested, and sometimes assaulted by police for trying to make a living. We, as youth, have also been ticketed and arrested alongside our parents. We have come to understand what it is to be humiliated and then stand and fight for what is right, what is principled, what is just. Our parents’ unrelenting strength to fight for us and their rights have taught us to always stand up for what is right and never sell out.


We have asked ourselves “Is the DREAM ACT an advantage or disadvantage for us as immigrant youth?” Many of us were excited about the possibility of getting documents and finally being able to be recognized as human beings, be able to get a job, an education, and help our families. Along with our teachers and mentors we delved into community organizing and becoming politically conscious. We began learning about our history and our people’s resistance. We then expanded to other cultures and histories and began to appreciate them. We marched side by side with youth from all over the world including South Asia and the Middle East. We saw that within our hearts there was no difference, and enjoyed each other’s company and diversity. Our spirits were momentarily paralyzed when we began learning about the effects of war and how their families and communities had been destroyed. We began to ask ourselves “How can we stop these wars, how can we help?” Our political education allowed us to see through the military propaganda and the army recruiters in our blocks and schools. Speaking to our peers we saw how the military was using them to fight wars that didn’t concern us and killed our friends. This forced us to look at the DREAM ACT a lot closer.




In order to qualify for the DREAM ACT you have to have migrated before the age of 16 and have proof of residence in the United States for 5 consecutive years since the date of arrival. Also, you have to have graduated from high school or have a GED. This would eliminate many of our older youth, those that did not finish high school, and recent arrivals. You must then complete the following:


1. Serve two years in the military, or;

2. Finish two years of bachelor’s program or higher degree in the US.


What happened to the community service option that the original DREAM ACT contained? Why did our supposed advocates allow for the removal of the community service option? Was it because it became in this form the DREAM ACT became winnable? At what expense?


Two Years of College


The first option on the DREAM ACT is to go to school for at least 2 years; this is great for people who can afford the high tuition rates. But what about those of us who do not have enough money for the tuition, the books, and personal expenses? Also let’s not forget about our families who have more than one undocumented child who needs to go to school to get their papers.


DREAM ACT proponents say that most people will not go to the military, that they can afford school if we work. Unfortunately those folks are distanced from our realities and don’t understand our economic hardships. We broke down the cost of each year in school without the aid of Pell Grants or Financial Aid for attending 2 years of a 4 years University; our calculations were the following for a university in Ohio, which does not allow in-state tuition for undocumented students:


Cleveland State University: Out of State

12 Credit Hours – $7,884.00 X 2 = 1 Year = $15,768.00 X 2 years = $31,536.00

Expenses for Students Living at Home with their Parents = $6,568.00 X 2 years = 13,136.00

GRAND TOTAL = $44,672.00


Only 10 states allow for undocumented students to pay for in-state tuition. The majority of undocumented youth would have to pay amounts as stated in the example above. We are lucky to be in New York as it is one of the states that allow undocumented youth to apply for in-state tuition. At the same time we understand that by accepting the terms under the DREAM ACT most youth would not have the same opportunity we do here in New York. Undocumented youth in states like North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico would be forced to take the military option in large numbers as they would not be able to pay the high prices of education. For this reason we do not support the DREAM ACT.


2 Years of Military Requirement


We, the VAMOS UNIDOS YOUTH, do not support the DREAM ACT due to the military component. The fact that it has been introduced as a defense appropriation bill adds insult to injury.  The DREAM ACT is a de facto military draft, forcing undocumented youth to fight in unjust wars in exchange for the recognition as human beings, a Green Card. This is a trick by the politicians, Democratic Party, and DC immigration advocates. The same way many supposed “advocates” for immigrant rights sold out the community with Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), they now sell us out with the DREAM ACT. We stand against any militarization- whether it is of the border, our communities, or our status. We will not kill innocent people in exchange for Green Cards. Our parents have firmly stated in their fight for immigration reform, “We will not accept papers tainted with the blood of our people still crossing the border and dying,” in regards to CIR and it’s militarization of the border component. We say the same “We will not be used for the wars of the corporations and the rich in any part of the world in exchange of blood-stained immigration papers.”


            We make a call out to all community organizations and allies to stand firmly on what is principled, against the DREAM ACT if it contains the military provision. Our fight will not be won in one or two years. We are prepared to organize our communities and struggle for many years. We cannot negotiate out our lives, our dignity, and the lives of others. We must rethink our strategies and take control away from the DC immigration advocates which have shown us they don’t have our interest. They have watered down good legislation at a very high cost to the community. Our communities need to decide and take control. We stand with our brothers and sisters affected by wars; we feel their pain and desperation. We will not be used to decimate other countries and their people. Thus, we stand together against the DREAM ACT with the militarization component and fight for what is principled, even if it takes us a very long time.

 In Solidarity,


On this day immigrants and their allies will march across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in solidarity with Arizona in the spirit of bridging borders and uniting cultures to demand:

Policies that affirm Family Unity, Due Process and Fairness;

That local law enforcement in Arizona and across the country focus on protecting our communities, not destroying them; and

That President Obama and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately halt the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities, 287(g), and all partnerships between ICE and local law enforcement
SPONSORED BY: Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH), Families for Freedom (FFF), American Friends Service Committee?NJ (AFSC), New York New Sanctuary Coalition (NYNSC), Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), Wind of the Spirit, The Black Institute, & Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR)
Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:30am
Gather at Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn at 9:30am to March (take A/C trains to High Street, OR 2/3/4/5/R trains to Borough Hall) and assemble at 11:30am Foley Square, Manhattan for Rally (4/5 to Brooklyn Bridge OR N/R/W to City hall)
YOU, all people of conscience who want to raise their voice for immigrant justice
Families for Freedom (646?290?5551), Churches United to Save and Heal (718?469?8900), New York New Sanctuary Coalition (646?395?2925)
Stop Deportation NOW!



27 June 2010

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
endorses and supports the call for Boycott of Arizona on account of its
manifestly racist laws, HB1070 and SB 2281.

SB1070 calls for police officers to require documentation from people to
establish resident status. The law essentially requires police to engage in
racial profiling and discrimination on the basis of appearance.1 SB 2281
outlaws the teaching of ethnic studies in Arizona schools. It builds a
pretext for the censorship of books and suppression of historical texts
which are perceived by the state as political literature.2

USACBI calls attention to the similar plight of Palestinians in occupied
Palestine.3 Analogous to Arizona’s policies, Palestinian narratives are
suppressed by the state of Israel, including a new piece of legislation
outlawing the commemoration of an nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine
in 1948.4 Israel also requires identification papers of Palestinians in
order to engage in routine and essential daily tasks. These ID cards, which
not all Palestinians are granted, forces many Palestinians from the diaspora
to be foreigners in their own land and often denies them entry into their
own country or results in expulsion from it.5

Palestinians, like many Mexicans and Mexican Americans, are forced to resist
borders that were imposed on them by foreign powers. In this context we also
call attention to stark similarities between Israel’s Apartheid Wall and the
U.S. Apartheid Wall.6 Israel’s Apartheid Wall confiscates Palestinian water
and land for the sole benefit of illegal Israeli settlements, and strangles
the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians.7

The two walls have much in common – not only because both are built on land
that was occupied by conquest, that displace indigenous people, and that
separate families, but also because these walls are built by the same
colonial forces. The Israeli firm, Elbit Systems, played a leading role in
the construction of both walls.8 Naomi Klein warned that the U.S. Apartheid
Wall (which the U.S., like Israel, calls a “fence”) will have similar
consequences to the one on Palestinian land:

In April 2007, special immigration agents with the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security, working along the Mexican border, went through an
intensive eight-day training course put on by the Golan Group. The Golan
Group was founded by ex-Israeli Special Forces officers and boasts more than
3,500 employees in seven countries. “Essentially we put an Israeli security
spin on our procedures,” Thomas Pearson, the company’s head of operations,
explained of the training course, which covered everything from hand-to-hand
combat to target practice to “getting proactive with their SUV.” The Golan
Group, now based in Florida but still marketing its Israeli advantage, also
produces X-ray machines, metal detectors, and rifles. In addition to many
governments and celebrities, its clients include ExxonMobil, Shell, Texaco,
Levi’s, Sony, Citigroup, and Pizza Hut.”9

The U.S. Wall will further segregate border communities, break families
apart, and increase the number of deaths on the border as migrant workers
are pushed deeper into the desert.

Both walls protect imperial interests, not those of indigenous people whose
rights are violated by these states and their structures. Like Israeli
, militia organizations like the Minute Men have found legitimacy
for attacking economic refugees crossing the border. These armed, racist
groups find their counterparts in groups of Israeli settlers shooting at
Palestinian farmers attempting to access their own land, visit families, or
travel between home and work.

USACBI expresses its solidarity with organizations that strive for equality
and justice of oppressed indigenous peoples, particularly the move to
boycott Arizona until it reverses these racist laws. We call on others to
join us in the boycott of Arizona10 and to build divestment campaigns
targeting companies like Elbit that profit from the oppression of indigenous
people on stolen land whether in the U.S. or Palestine.11


1 Guy Adams, “Arizona boycotted over ‘Nazi’ purge of migrants.” The
. 14 May 2010.

2 Jessica Calefati, “Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies.” Mother Jones. 12 May

3 “Solidarity Letter from Mexico to the Palestinian People.” Palestine
Monitor. 20 April 2008.



6 “Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Socialist Worker. 7 March 2009. and Jimmy Johnson,
“Palestine-Mexico Border.” Tadamon. 3 May 2010.



9 Naomi Klein, *The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism*. (New
York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 438.

10 Dave Zirin, “Who’s afraid of a boycott?” Socialist Worker. 12 May 2010. Sean
Michaels, “Rage Against the Machine Lead Arizona Boycott.” Common Dreams 27
May 2010.

11 Adri Nieuwhof, “Scandanavian financial institutions drop Elbit due to BDS
pressure.” The Electronic Intifada. 19 February 2010.



Comprehensive=Inclusive Immigration Reform

US Immigration law is based upon the principle of family unification, and when an American citizen or legal permanent resident falls in love with someone from another country, they are allowed to petition to bring their fiancé or spouse into the US.


This does not if you’re gay or lesbian and I learned this first-hand when I met my partner.


I’m a US citizen, born and raised in New York. My grandparents came to the US as immigrants and that was about as familiar as I was with our immigration laws – completely ignorant of how next-to-impossible it is to come here legally.


After discovering there was no legal way for me to bring my partner here, I moved to Europe in order for us to be together. A year later, a former employer contacted me and offered me a job back in the US. After lengthy e-mail and phone call discussions, they agreed to sponsor a training visa for my partner, good for 18 months, so he could move with me. Shortly after arriving in the US, our attorney advised us to approach the employer to file for a skilled worker visa, which would give us more time here and a possible path to a green card. The employer agreed to do this, but we had to cover the expenses (both visas totaled over $10,000).


Later that year, we travelled back to Europe and received the skilled worker visa, and then a few months later, the company almost went bankrupt. They let my partner know his position was being eliminated, and after consulting with the attorney, discovered this meant we’d have to leave again (once a work visa is ended through job loss, the employee becomes undocumented). It felt like the whole world came crashing down that day. We rushed to find another job for my partner, and luckily, miraculously, within a week we did, and they agreed to sponsor another visa and possibly a green card down the line.


After this, everything was moving along great. We bought an apartment together in Westchester and were enjoying the life we were building here with family and friends. Then the economy took a turn for the worst and my partner’s new employer notified him that they would be eliminating his job. Once again, our world was turned upside down. Imagine being told you’d have to sell your home, leave your family and friends, and not know when – if ever – you’d be able to return together. It felt like we were screaming in a vacuum and nobody was listening.


When we explained all of this to the employer, they agreed to reduce my partner’s hours and allow him to search for another job.


Forcing gay and lesbian Americans into exile in order to stay with the person they love hurts American families, businesses and communities. America is losing talented, tax-paying citizens, and American companies are losing talented employees because they are forced to move abroad to keep their family together.



The US Government discriminates against gay and lesbian couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born partners or spouses for residency the way straight couples can. No matter how long we’ve been together, no matter if we are married or in a civil union or domestic partnership in any of the States or Countries that grant this right – we are not afforded this basic dignity in the US. At least 19 other countries provide equal immigration benefits to gay and lesbian couples, including most of our closest allies.


Like many other gay and lesbian bi-national couples, we are forced to ‘visa-juggle’ to stay here legally. If we were a straight couple, all we’d have to do is get engaged or married to gain permanence legally.


The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA – H.R. 1024/S. 424) would end this discrimination and would allow me to sponsor my partner for immigration, with the same process, procedures and penalties applied to straight couples – including imprisonment for up to five years and a $250,000 fine for fraud.


The UAFA does not redefine marriage and it would not repeal the Defense of Marriage Act law. We simply want the same opportunity to prove that our family deserves to stay together.


Comprehensive immigration reform is not comprehensive unless it includes all families – including gay and lesbian families. We are hoping Congress remembers this when they draft the next immigration reform bill.


To learn more, please visit:


Thank you,


[email protected]

Citizenship Summit in Albany

I went to the New York Immigration Coalition’s Citizenship Summit yesterday. The talk of the Summit was the move by many New York Congressional Representatives who had been lukewarm supporters of immigration reform over to the “firmly committed” column. Now this does not mean that we are well on our way to reform. The other side is organizing using the Tea Parties and other conservative gatherings to identify supporters. In fact, Chung-Wha Hong of the Coalition said that the anti-immigrant groups have a list of 900,000 supporters they think they can mobilize against our push for change. She did say that we are also getting better organized and noted that a few weeks ago the immigrant rights groups generated 20,000 electronic messages to Congress calling for immigration reform.

David Hansell, Commissioner of the state’s agency dealing with immigrants, spoke of the need to confront anti-immigrant hate crimes, particularly in Suffolk County. The state is going to initiate a campaign against bias crimes like the killing of Marcelo Lucero. Hansell also debunked the rhetoric of the anti-immigrant movement which portrays immigrants as a drain on New York’s economy. “This is contrary to the facts”, he said, adding “it is in our best interests to continue to welcome immigrants and encourage their integration”. He said that, in spite of the current climate, New York State expects to receive 100,000 new immigrants every year as well as 5,000 refugees.

He didn’t just talk about citizenship. Hansell helped initiate a new state program to assist the victims of human trafficking and he is looking at ways to improve services for trafficking victims while the cases against their traffickers are going through the legal system. In the short time the program has been in place, 55 trafficking victims have been helped. New York is one of the few states with a law that not only provides penalties for traffickers, but also provides services for victims. This was a law that the New York Immigration Coalition helped guide through the legislative process and that local groups like CARECEN and Catholic Charities pushed.

Larry Frank of New York State’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (BRIA), one of the really great civil servants in Albany, introduced a panel of people from Utica. The first speaker called Utica the City that Loves Refugees. Utica, like many upstate cities, has faced tough economic times over the last thirty years. At the beginning of the city’s economic slide, its political leadership made the decision to try to arrest the loss of population, which has killed places like Buffalo and Rochester, by entering into an agreement with the Federal government to resettle refugees. The small city of 60,000 people is now home to 13,000 refugees, one of the highest proportions of any city in the country. The Mohawk Valley Refugee Center helps 400 refugees each year prepare for American citizenship. Elizabeth Bowers from ConMed, a medical manufacturing firm, said that when her workers get sworn in as citizens, their co-workers and supervisors often go along to support them. She said that it really expands the horizons of the native-born workers to have co-workers from all over the world.

Larry Frank’s boss, Tom Hart of BRIA, gave the Summit participants the good news that among the seven states with the largest immigrant populations, New York has the highest percentage of immigrants who are eligible for citizenship who actually become citizens. This has to have something to do with the State’s own efforts to fund community groups that prepare immigrants for citizenship.

Chung-Wha Hong emphasized that citizenship “is a piece of a broader immigrant integration agenda”. She said that “we need to ensure that immigrants are contributing their maximum to our state”.

Anti-immigrant politicians may cling to a view of the foreign-born population as a mass of “illegal aliens” who can be targetted for political points and who are too tame and powerless to strike back. But they are missing the point. Immigrants are becoming citizens in record numbers and they are voting in unprecedented percentages. And they are reading the newspapers to find out who their political friends are.

April 19, 2008

To the People of the Hudson Valley:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, oppose any efforts to enlist state and local police authorities in the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws. We believe such actions will undermine trust and cooperation between police and the communities they are sworn to protect, divert law enforcement resources away from far-more-important policing activities, lead to costly mistakes and civil rights violations, and make us all less safe.

Here in New York, the idea of deputizing state and local police as immigration agents is being promoted by State Assemblyman Greg Ball (R–Carmel), who is convening a meeting with local law enforcement officials and anti-immigrant groups to sell the idea on April 19th. Mr. Ball is calling on local law enforcement agencies to enter into agreements with the Department of Homeland Security under section 287(g) of immigration law, authorizing police to carry out the functions of federal immigration officers, at local expense.

Enlisting state and local police to enforce federal civil immigration laws is bad public policy for many reasons:

Undermines community policing efforts. Police depend on relationships with and cooperation from the entire community. People will be less likely to go to the police if they fear that they or their family members could end up being deported. Victims of domestic violence will hesitate to report their abusers. If crime victims or witnesses are fearful of approaching the police or reporting suspicious behavior, the entire community is less safe.

Diverts resources away from fighting crime. Checking immigration documents and holding suspected undocumented immigrants who have committed no crime diverts law enforcement resources away from responding to 911 calls and investigating real crimes. Our police should be focused on the real criminals who prey on communities, not on immigrants who are simply working to support their families.

Results in serious mistakes and civil rights violations. Determining whether someone has violated immigration laws or regulations is not a simple matter. Enlisting police to enforce complex immigration laws is likely to lead to increased racial profiling and civil rights violations, as well as mistakes, all of which can expose state and local governments to lawsuits and expensive judgments and settlements.

Shifts federal responsibilities and expenses to local government. The federal government provides no new funds or reimbursement to towns and cities that take on immigration law enforcement. In an era of tight budgets, the last thing we need is to be doing the job of the federal government at our own expense. Congress needs to fix the broken immigration system, not shift responsibility to local municipalities.

The 287(g) agreements do nothing to help us fight crime. State and local police already have the authority to arrest and detain immigrants who are involved in criminal activities and to call federal immigration agents. They do so every day. The 287(g) agreements, however, go far beyond criminal enforcement, authorizing state and local police to go after immigrants who pose no criminal threat. Such efforts would only push immigrant workers and families further underground, making them easy targets of crime.

Like all Americans, we are concerned about public safety and security. We want to protect our families and our communities from crime and terrorism. We also understand that serious and comprehensive immigration reform is needed to resolve our country’s immigration problems. But having state and local police act as immigration agents will not solve these problems, and will only create a whole host of new problems. We urge you to join us in opposing any efforts to involve state and local police in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Anti-immigrant politics must not be allowed to trump common sense.



AntiRacist Alliance
Citizens for Open Government
Concerned Families of Westchester
Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action, Manhattanville College
Elias Foundation
The Emergency Shelter Partnership
The Grand Council of Guardians
Hispanic Federation of New York
Hudson Valley Progressive Democrats
Mt. Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council
National Latino Officers Association of America, Anthony Miranda, Executive Director
National Black Police Association, Westchester Chapter
NY Civil Liberties Union Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, Linda S. Berns Executive Director
Open Door Family Medical Centers
Orange County Peace & Justice
Orange County Democratic Alliance, Michael Sussman
Organization of Chinese Americans, Westchester & Husdon Valley Chapter (OCA – WHV); Jeannette Wang, President; William H. P. Kaung, Vice President
Philipstown for Democracy
Putnam Community Action Program, a component of Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc.
Rosemarie Bahr, Director
Marisa O’Leary, Assistant Director
Riverdalians for Free Inquiry
Rockland Immigration Coalition – Gail Golden
Rural and Migrant Ministries – Rev. Richard Witt, Executive Director
Somos la Llave del Futuro, Yonkers – Carlos Orellana
Summerfield United Methodist Church, Portchester: Reverend Rafael Garcia
Victims Assistance Services, Elmsford, NY; May Krukiel, Director
Walkabout Clearwater Sloop Inc
WCLA – Choice Matters
WESPAC, Nada Khadar
Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Luis Quiros., Chairperson
Westchester Hispanic Coalition – Graciela Heymann
The Westchester Progressive Forum – Gloria Karp
Westchester Women’s Agenda
Workers’ Rights Law Center of NY, Inc.

Individual signors

Carolyn Adessa, Mamaroneck, NY
Rev. Paul Alcorn, Bedford, NY
Rachel Alexander, Chappaqua, NY
Judy Allen, Putnam Valley, NY
Mary Ann Baily, Cold Spring, NY
Barbara Batchelor
Murray Beaver, New Rochelle, NY
Carlos Bernard, Hartsdale, NY (Board member, Westchester Hispanic Coalition)
Catalina Berti
Jerome Bibuld, Danbury, CT
David Birn Cold Spring, NY
Joyce Blum, Garrison, NY
Barbara Bonham, Orange County, NY
Mariana Boneo, Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaronek
Carol Bouton, Mount Vernon, NY
Frank Brodhead, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Elizabeth Bucar, Wurtsboro, NY
Lisa Buck, LCSW
Andrew Campbell, Mahopac Falls, NY
Jacobo Cancinos, Elmsford, NY
Lauren A. Carner, PhD, Putnam Valley, NY
Anne Carter, Somers, NY
Rev. John Collins, New Rochelle, NY
Sheila Collins, New Rochelle, NY
Janet Couch, Pawling, NY
Betty Cypser, Katonah, NY
Rudy Cypser, Katonah, NY
Dorothy Shays Dangerfield, Fishkill, NY
Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson, Chappaqua, NY
Don DeBar, Ossining, NY
David Eisenhower, Cold Spring, NY
Ruth Eisenhower, Cold Spring, NY
Debra Feiman, Mahopac, NY
Diane Ferretti-Perillo Chelsea, NY
Felix J. Flores, Ossining, NY
Robin Fox, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Seth Freach, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Margery Freeman, Bronx, NY
Pam Forde, Putnam Valley, NY
Linda Fried Katonah, NY
Carol Gable, Mamaroneck, NY
Lillie Galan, Yonkers, NY
Sue Gamache, Kent, NY
Mary Gault Beacon, NY
Hall Gibson, Town of Southeast, NY
Alan Goldston, Democracy for New York
Dawn S. Gorlitsky, Psy.D., ABSNP
Karin Greenfield-Sanders, Putnam Valley, NY
John Haines, Garrison, NY
Peter B. Hanson, Brewster, NY
Dan Herman, Katonah, NY
Grace Heymann, Chappaqua, NY
Thomas Heymann, Chappaqua, NY
Bryan Hickey Garrison, NY
Janet Howe, Warwick, NY
Delores (Dee Rod) Hughes, Beacon, NY
Judith Johnson Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Phil Johnson, Beacon, NY
David Keaton, Garrison, NY
Nancy Kennedy, Maryknoll Magazine, Ossining, NY
Rev. Kwang-il Kim, Brewster, NY
Judy Kropf, Garrison, NY
May Krukiel, Director, Victims Assistance Services, Elmsford, NY
The Rev. Joan LaLiberte’ Callicoon, NY
Vane Lashua, Beacon, NY
Michelle LeBlanc, Putnam Valley, NY
M. Laura Leonard, President NOW NY Putnam County Chapter
Alan Levine, Esq. New York
Peggie Lieb, Somers, NY
Blanca Lopez, Community Leader, Port Chester, NY
Marcia E. MacLean, Callicoon, NY
Barbara Mair, Action for Social Concerns of Community Unitarian Church, Pleasantville, NY
Jackie Mann, Elias Foundation
Anibal Martinez, Brewster, NY
John McBride, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Prof. Vanessa Merton, Pace University School of Law
David Mitchell, Rockland County, NY
Jeannette Morales, Mahopac, NY
Raymond Morales, Mahopac, NY
Nick Motern,
Solange Muller, Cold Spring, NY
Jennie Murphy, Hastings on Hudson, NY
James O’Barr, Cold Spring, NY
Betsy Palmieri, Westchester County, NY
Norma Pereira-Mora, Carmel, NY
Gilda Mora Bravo, Carmel, NY
Nancy Petschek-Kohn, CSW-R, Briarcliff Manor, NY
Luis Quiros, M.P.A.,M.S.W., Fordham University Adjunct Professor of Social Work, Mamaroneck, NY
Martha Quiros, CPA, Mamaroneck, NY
Sheelagh Rabo, Armonk, NY
Darren Rigger, Peekskill,NY
John Riley, Brewster, NY
Joan Rose, Mahopac, NY
Leonard Ruderman, Yonkers, NY
Ann Marwick Russell, Mahopac, NY
Gordon Russell, Mahopac, NY
Raul Santana
Nancy Sayles-Evarts, Garrison, NY
Nancy Shatzkin, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Robi Schlaff, Chappaqua, NY
James A. Schmitt, Monroe, NY
Mary Schmitt, Monroe, NY
Roxanne Seitz, White Plains, NY
Bobbi Siegelbaum, Bronx, NY
Steve Siegelbaum, Bronx, NY
David N. P. Simington Brewster, NY
Martin Smolin, Ossinning, NY
Ralph Stein, Pawling, NY
Bidu Tashjian, Cold Spring, NY
Celeste Theis, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Michael J. Tully, Garrison, NY
Virginia Villegas, Carmel, NY
Henry Villegas, Carmel, NY
Roy Volpe, Kent, NY
Ann E. Wright, Hartsdale, NY
Margaret Yonco-Haines, Garrison, NY
Andrew Zeigler, Mt. Vernon, NY

WESPAC is a member of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition that is working together to encourage immigration solutions that include and work for everyone, to expand the conversation about our diverse community and the value it brings to the people of the Hudson Valley.