Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fighting Misinformation - Part I

This is the first installment of the "Fighting Misinformation" series I decided to embark on.

As I mentioned in one of my posts, there is a lot of false information regarding the DREAM Act. This information has been mostly spread by the anti-immigration/anti-DREAM Act crowd. I realize that their minds cannot be changed; however, there are people (U.S citizens included) who would support this piece of legislation if they were aware of the facts surrounding it. One of the goals of this blog is to inform the few readers I might have about DREAM, and I thought this was the best way to do it.

Enough talking. Let's begin.

1) The DREAM Act is not amnesty.

Amnesty (n): an act of forgiveness for past offenses, esp. to a class of persons as a whole.

The idea of amnesty does not apply to DREAM Act beneficiaries. Amnesty, as shown above, implies that the person has committed a crime or offense. Students eligible for the DREAM Act did not commit a crime by coming to this country. They were children and infants, brought to the U.S. by their parents. The only "crime" they committed was to follow them.

Furthermore, DREAM Act students will not be "granted" citizenship after the enactment of the act. They will have to complete at least 2 years of college or 2 years in the military in order to be eligible for citizenship. They will also have to continue to show good moral character and have no criminal record in order to qualify. Furthermore, the DREAM Act legislation states that students will only be eligible for citizenship after 6 years have passed since the enactment of the law.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another easy way to contribute to the passage of the DREAM Act:

Go to Ideas for Changing America and vote for the "Pass the DREAM Act Now" idea. And don't forget to comment on it!

Why is this important?

The "Top 10 Ideas for America" will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day. We will then build a national campaign to advance each idea in Congress, marshaling the resources of Change.org, MySpace, and our dozens of partner organizations and millions of combined members.

Yes, you will need to create an account but it takes literally 30 seconds to do so! So to summarize this long post: visit, register, vote, comment, make a difference. Easy enough.

Update: We currently have 143 votes and are #1 on the whole site! Keep up the good work, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama-Biden Immigration Transition Team

The Obama-Biden transition team has released the names of two leaders working as part of the Policy Working Group on Immigration. The goal of these policy groups is to develop policy proposals and plans for the new Obama-Biden administration. This is good news for the pro-migrant movement as they are both in favor of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and seem to be very intelligent people, especially when it comes to immigration. Here's are their bios, taken from The Obama-Biden Transition Team website.

T. Alexander Aleinikoff has been Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center and Executive Vice President of Georgetown University since July 2004. He has been a member of the Georgetown faculty since 1997. Dean Aleinikoff served as General Counsel and Executive Associate Commissioner for Programs at the Immigration and Naturalization Service for several years during the Clinton Administration. From 1997 to 2004 he was a Senior Associate at the Migration Policy Institute, where he now serves on the Board of Trustees. He has written widely on immigration, refugee and citizenship law and constitutional law. Dean Aleinikoff is a graduate of Swarthmore College and Yale Law School.

Mariano-Florentino (Tino) Cuéllar is Professor and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School. His work focuses on how organizations manage complex regulatory, migration, international security, and criminal justice problems. During the Clinton Administration he served at Treasury as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Enforcement, where he worked on countering domestic and international financial crime, improving border coordination, and enhancing anti-corruption measures. He has served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Asylum Access and the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation. He has testified before Congress on immigration policy and separation of powers, and was appointed to the Silicon Valley Blue Ribbon Task Force on Aviation Security. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arizona Will Head Homeland Security

Arizona Demcratic Gov. Janet Napolitano has been chosen to serve as secretary of the vast and troubled Department of Homeland Security for President-elect Barack Obama, Democratic officials said. Napolitano is a border governor who will now be responsible for immigration policy and border security, which are part of Homeland Security’s myriad functions.
Napolitano brings law and order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State’s first female attorney general. One of the nation’s most prominent female elected officials, she made frequent appearances on behalf of Barack Obama during the campaign. She was reelected to a second four-year term in 2006.

Transition insiders have long expected that she would be offered a Cabinet slot, although she had also been mentioned for other posts, including attorney general.

Napolitano, 50, endorsed Obama in early January, just as the primaries were kicking off, and the female up-and-comer's decision to back the Illinois senator got widespread coverage.

In 2005, Time magazine named her one of America’s five best governors, calling her “A Mountaineer on the Political Rise.”

Time wrote: “The one issue Republicans think they can use against the popular Napolitano is illegal immigration, because the huge number of border crossings have left many Arizonans feeling overwhelmed and powerless. Her critics claim she came to the problem late, but she seems to have navigated it deftly. … Napolitano opposed … several bills that targeted illegal immigrants. Instead, she looked to the systems and people that make illegal immigration possible: She ordered state contractors to ensure that their employees are legal [and] set up an undercover unit to catch forgers of identity documents … In mid-August she declared a state of emergency in Arizona to direct more funds to protecting border areas from illegal crossings.”

The Democratic officials said Napolitano has not been officially offered the job but is likely to be named and to accept. The selection was first reported by CNN.

Her official bio says: “Janet Napolitano was sworn in as Arizona’s 21st governor on January 6, 2003. She is the first woman in the nation’s history to serve as U.S. Attorney, State Attorney General and Governor in immediate succession. Prior her election as Governor of Arizona, Napolitano served one term as Arizona Attorney General and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. Born in New York City and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she is a distinguished alumna of Santa Clara University and the University of Virginia Law School. She has lived in Arizona since 1983, when she moved to Phoenix to practice law.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In-State Tuition and the DREAM Act

There has been a lot of talk about in-state tuition and the DREAM Act over at Dream Act Portal.

It seems like there's a lot of misinformation floating around, which is to be expected from the anti-immigration crowd trying to scare U.S. citizens into opposing the DREAM Act. What I'm worried about is that they will actually believe these lies without getting better informed about it.

When it comes to in-state tuition, the DREAM Act leaves it up to the state to decide whether the student will be paying in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition. Just to clarify, this is only for students who reside in that state. For example, if a student resides in PA, it is up to this state to grant the student in-state tuition or not. If, however, that student decides to go to school in TX, they will have to pay out-of-state just like any U.S. citizen.

There are some anti-immigration people who still hate the thought of an undocumented student receiving in-state tuition, regardless of where they reside. There is an excellent post by RahmanIV over at Dream Act Portal that argues this point much better than I ever could.

The argument against offering in-state tuition to undocumented children has serious flaws. First, consider all of the 10 states that offer instate tuition to undocumented students. All of these states require graduation from instate high schools and some of them actually ask for a minimum number of years of attendance. I know NY requires at least three years of attendance in a NYS-approved high school. These states also ask for residency within the state for at least six months, with some mandating a minimum of 12 months.

Why do these requirements exist? In order to answer this question, we must consider why different tuition rates exist for public schools? The reasoning behind a lower tuition for state residents is to encourage a state's educational investment in its own residents. People who have lived within a state all their lives or for long periods of time are an asset to a state's tax rolls. Such behavior is also indicative of a resident's desire to continue remaining in the state for long periods of time. Since education is the gateway to an improved standard of living, higher earnings and thus higher taxes, the state has an implicit and explicit benefit for educating these long term residents. In-state tuition is both an incentive and a reward for a long-term resident. Yes, the state taxpayer subsidizes the in-state tuition but the state has recognized that these subsidies provide a higher rate of return in increased tax rolls.

The residency and high school graduation requirements, statutorily, satisfies the state's concerns that a person will be a long-term resident within the state. Undocumented students who have lived in a state for many, many years (as many of you have), who have paid taxes (sales taxes & property taxes are the state's largest revenues) satisfy a state's concerns of a long term resident. The 10 states have formalized this understanding in offering in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Our opposition likes to argue why their children are not offered in-state tuition. If your child has been educated, long-term, in the state and attends a public university within the state, then he/she definitely qualifies for in-state tuition. States don't offer tuition subsidies to out-of-state students because they haven't proved or satisfied concerns that these students will be long term residents of the state. Additionally, you, as a out-of-state taxpayer, haven't contributed to the other state's tax rolls. And your federal taxes don't count. A state's education system is almost exclusively funded by its own tax rolls. Federal educational spending is only a small percentage of a state's educational funds.

So ALIPAC, ask yourselves this. As a taxpayer in your state, would you be willing to allow out-of-state students, who haven't lived in your state, who haven't paid taxes in your state, who haven't graduated from high school in your state, the same subsidized tuition benefits at public universities? I believe the answer is no. And if you don't believe me, then consider Americans who have second homes in other states. Do you think they like to pay taxes for the school districts of their second homes? Why should they, their children are not attending school in those districts. Would you like to pay higher taxes for the school districts of a second home?

Immigration status and in-state tuition benefits are completely irrelevant. A person's immigration status doesn't satisfy a state's concern nor is it indicative of a person's potential to be a long term resident. Past behavior, namely continued residence within the state, provides the answer. This is why, the National Council of State Legislatures and the American Federation of Teachers support the DREAM Act.

Since in-state tuition has been excluded from the DREAM Act, ask your Senators and Representatives to go further and mandate that all states provide in-state tuition benefits to all citizens, regardless of their residence in the state. We'll just sit back and watch the national fury over why an American taxpayer should subsidize the education of another state's resident.

Thanks RahmanIV!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crossing Over: Movie Draws Attention to DREAMers

For those lucky enough to have some money left over to go to the movies, I highly recommend Crossing Over.

Crossing Over is a multi-character canvas about immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. The film deals with the border, document fraud, the asylum and green card process, work-site enforcement, naturalization, the office of counter terrorism and the clash of cultures.

The movie follows several people, one of them being an undocumented high school student. I know this will hit close to home for thousands of students in the same situation. And maybe it will shed some light into this issue that is often forgotten amid the immigration debate. This movie also has an all-star cast; including Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, and Ray Liotta. Hopefully it will change some minds!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Peter Thiel: Billionaire Facebook's Investor's Anti-Immigrant Heresy

Insiders at Clarium Capital, the $5.3 billion hedge fund run by Facebook investor Peter Thiel, are buzzing about their boss's $1 million donation to NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant group. The donation is an open secret within Clarium, and it has enraged several staff members who joined Clarium because they believed Thiel shared their libertarian ideals. When I asked Thiel if he'd made the donation, an underling passed on a nondenial saying the company didn't comment on "gossip and heresy." A typo — he meant to say "hearsay" — but a suggestive one. Thiel has fallen under the sway of Robertson "Rob" Morrow III, a Christian right-wing thinker who has personally donated to NumbersUSA, and persuaded Thiel to make his own, much larger donation. Source

A Facebook group has been created calling for Thiel's removal from Facebook's Board of Directors. Join the group and invite as many people as possible. Everyone should be aware of the type of people that are in charge of running this social network and hold them accountable for their actions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Migrant Students Still Pursue American Dream

TEMPE — Diego Medina found himself studying for one of the toughest semesters in nursing school yet.

“I knew it would be hard, but never thought the stress would be like a shot of adrenaline,” Medina says.

Medina, a nursing junior at ASU, was raised in Phoenix since the age of 8, when his parents brought him with them from Mexico. He went through the Arizona K-12 educational system and graduated high school with a 3.5 grade point average.

Medina was admitted into Arizona State University before he graduated from high school and was awarded a full ride scholarship to ASU along with a $500 scholarship from the Phoenix Union High School District.

But after November 2006, undocumented students like Medina were denied financial aid. That’s when voters passed Proposition 300, which restricts access to all public monies for undocumented aliens to continue their college education.

At Arizona State University alone, more than 200 students who were unable to show documentation proving legal residency in Arizona dropped out without the assistance of financial aid.

Prior to the passage of Prop. 300, undocumented students in the state of Arizona did not have access to federal financial aid. Prop. 300 further restricted accesses to state monies, such as merit-based scholarships and discounted in-state tuition.

Medina’s immigration status had never been thought of as more than an inconvenience on his daily life.

“Your immigration status wasn’t something that just came up during lunch hour,” he jokes.

Students like Medina were left without funds substantial enough to cover the $12,000 tuition difference between in-state to out-of-state status.

“I thought to myself, ‘my salary is nowhere close to enough to pay for tuition as a full-time student,’ so I just decided I would have no choice but to take once class per semester,” Medina says.

His dreams of becoming a dentist and making his parents proud soon became blurred in the light of the controversial referendum.

“I didn’t think the law would actually pass,” Medina says. “I thought this was only going to be a scare to the state for more rigid regulations in the system, but I never really thought it would go through until it did.”

In 2007, after the law was enacted activists who opposed the law created a program to help those students now illegible for scholarships they previously held. The new scholarship for undocumented students was called the Sunburst Scholarship.

Continue reading this article

Diego Medina is a perfect example of the kind of people we want and need in this country; hardworking, studious, perseverant. Just like Diego, there are thousands of students in the same situation. And even though we're going through this, we are truly some of the smartest and most dedicated students out there. We just want a chance to study and contribute to the only country they call home, The United States.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't Just DREAM.. Act!

As I said before, the DREAM Act is something I have been a sponsor of in the past. Dick Durbin, my senior senator from Illinois and I have worked diligently on the issue. I was a supporter of the DREAM act when I was in the state of Illinois and we were able to get it passed. I think it is the right thing to do. I think it is something that I will continue to work on. -Barack Obama

After this historic election, we now have a democratic president who is an outspoken supporter of the DREAM Act. We also have 57 democrats in the Senate, along with 255 democrats in the U.S House of Representatives. While the odds are certainly in our favor, this does not mean that the road to victory will be easy. We still have our work cut out for us and we should not, in any way, stop fighting for DREAM's passage now. On the contrary, it is now when we need to work harder than ever to make our dreams a reality.

One extremely easy way to help is to go to Change.gov - Of the People, By the People and take a few minutes to let them know that passage of the DREAM Act should be a priority for 2009. Don't let the President-Elect forget about his promise to undocumented students.

Write letters, make calls, e-mail your senators and representatives, help combat the many lies that are spread about the DREAM Act, get informed, etc etc. There are many ways to get involved and do your part to make this happen. Now is not the time to sit around and wait for it to pass on its own. Now is the time to act!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chancellor's Message to the President-Elect

Dear Mr. President:

As America awakens this morning, you will already be taking on the heavy mantle of leadership. You will be looked upon to solve, among other things, the problems of our faltering economy, failing health care, increased global warming and an uncertain energy future, and the war in Iraq. In the midst of all this, I want to remind you of a precious resource that is ready to help and one that is outstandingly good America's higher education system.

Higher education in the United States, both private and public, is the envy of the world. We lead the world in education, research and innovation. We have a National Academy of Sciences formally charged with advising government. The National Academy of Sciences pointed out in a report that we must bolster science and engineering if we are to retain America's global leadership in innovation. The Department of Energy supports almost 50 percent of all federally funded research in the physical sciences and the National Institutes of Health is paramount for support of research in our health and life sciences. These investments are critically important for the nation not only to provide support to faculty to carry out basic and applied research but to attract and train graduate students who will be the next generation of discoverers and innovators. We must also broaden support for humanities and social sciences as part of a strong research ecosystem. Today's great global challenges cross many disciplines and require solutions that bring perspectives that are social and humanistic as well as scientific.

There is much incontrovertible evidence of the benefits of higher education both to individuals and to society. According to the US Census Bureau, the national median annual income of college graduates without advanced degrees is $51,700, while those with only a high school education earn just over $30,000 and those without a high school diploma earn less than $20,000 a year. Those with only a high school education are twice as likely to be unemployed and three times as likely to require public assistance as college graduates. Better-educated people are more likely to vote and to participate in the civic life of their communities. Education helps with the development of the critical thinking skills that are necessary to succeed in a global society. To give every qualified student the opportunity for a college education, we must look at significantly increasing financial aid for those with need. This must be done through increasing grants, not loans. Students who are already financially disadvantaged as they enter college should not also graduate disadvantaged with high debts. Programs that offer loan forgiveness to encourage college graduates to go into public service positions, which are often low-paying, should be aggressively implemented.

There is one group of students in particular who need your immediate attention-undocumented students. Our failure to give these students a path to success and to citizenship is a terrible waste of young talent-talent that this country desperately needs. Each year across the nation, 50,000 to 60,000 undocumented students graduate from high school after having spent at least five years in this country. The Dream Act, which provided access to financial aid and a thoughtfully mapped-out path to citizenship, became entangled in the failed immigration bill. It is time to revive and pass the act on its own merits.

Finally, you should know that universities genuinely want to provide the best education possible to our students. We value our autonomy and understand that with that privilege comes responsibility to those who support us. We have always been and will continue to be fully accountable. Proposals to tax our endowments and to impose upon us highly bureaucratic measures of accountability will take us in the wrong direction. We should preserve the policies that have made it possible for our higher education system to be the envy of the world. In that way, we can pledge our help to you, Mr. President, to bring the power of our unparalleled system of research and education to work in support of a better America and a better world.

Robert Birgeneau is the chancellor of UC Berkeley


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Call Him President-Elect Obama!

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
-President-Elect Barack Obama (Nov 4, 2008)

History was made last night as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States of America. After all the struggles and hardships of the Civil Rights Movement, America has elected its first African American president. I wish Martin Luther King was alive today, so he could see what he helped make possible.

Last night was unreal and I can't wait 'til we can finally make our DREAMs come true!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Final Rove Electoral Map Sees Large Obama Win Over McCain


According to this map, Obama would win tomorrow's election by a landslide. As of right now, Rove gives Obama 338 electoral votes and McCain 200 electoral votes. The most striking thing about this map is Obama winning both Virginia and Florida. CNN's polls show Obama leading by 3 points and 4 points, respectively. If he's able to hold this lead, there's no doubt Obama will win both states and the election.

I'm both nervous and excited. I can't wait 'til they announce the winner (hopefully Obama) tomorrow night!