September 22, 2010

DREAM Act for Immigrant Children Derailed by Senate Republicans

DREAM Act dies with rejection of defense bill

By SUZANNE GAMBOA (AP) – 19 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The chance for hundreds of thousands of young people to legally remain in the U.S. evaporated Tuesday when Republicans blocked a defense spending bill in the Senate.

Democrats failed to get a single Republican to help them reach the 60 votes needed to move forward on the defense bill and attach the DREAM Act as an amendment. The vote was 56-43. Arkansas Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor voted with Republicans. Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted to block the bill in a procedural move that allows the defense bill to be revived later.

The DREAM Act allows young people to become legal U.S. residents after spending two years in college or the military. It applies to those who were under 16 when they arrived in the U.S., have been in the country at least five years and have a diploma from a U.S. high school or the equivalent.

Several young people who would have benefited from the legislation watched the vote from the gallery, some wearing graduation caps and gowns. Many sat stone-faced when the vote tally was read. A young woman dressed in a gold cap and gown wiped away tears.

Most of the young immigrants knew victory was unlikely, but in the hours before the vote they walked the hallways of a Senate office building trying to drum up support.

"I was kind of speechless. It's something that hurt, but we are not stopping. They only gave us a chance and more time to get even bigger," said Diana Banderas, who graduated from high school in May and plans to go to community college after earning the money she needs to attend.

Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics with the defense bill and the DREAM Act. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has supported legislation legalizing illegal immigrants in the past, said Democrats were trying to galvanize Hispanics and energize their voters by trying to tack the DREAM Act onto the defense bill.

The bill also included a measure to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.

"I don't think anyone in the country will hold it against us for voting against their way of doing business," Graham said.

Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans were "putting partisan politics ahead of the best interests of the men and women who courageously defend our nation" by blocking the bill, which would have authorized $726 billion in defense spending, including a pay raise for troops.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the majority whip, said repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and passing the DREAM Act were a matter of justice and fairness.

"We do not in this country hold the crimes and misdeeds of parents against their children," Durbin, D-Ill., said in reference to the DREAM Act. He has been trying to pass the legislation for about a decade.

Earlier Tuesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he sent a letter to Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backing the DREAM Act.

"America is the only country they know ... they deserve every opportunity to go further in life. Our country needs the benefits of their skills, their talent and their passion," Duncan said.

Congress has failed to take up a comprehensive immigration bill the past two years. President Barack Obama has been under fire in the Hispanic community for failing to keep his promise to tackle immigration reform in the first year of his presidency. Some have feared Latino voters will stay home in November because of the inaction.

Graham had been working with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to draft an immigration reform bill but dropped out of the process as he took criticism in his state. Democrats were unable to persuade any other Republicans to take his place.

In April, Obama said Congress lacked the "appetite" to take on immigration, essentially removing it from the legislative agenda.

As the prospects for a sweeping immigration bill looked bleak, young activists began lobbying Democrats to separate the DREAM Act from the immigration reform package and try to pass it on its own.

The students, risking deportation, protested at lawmakers' offices and tangled with immigration reform advocates who did not want the comprehensive immigration bill divided.

The Obama administration has deferred the deportation of some of the young people while the politics of the bill played out, drawing heavy criticism from some Republicans.

Graham said laws should be followed in regard to deportation of the students.

"What am I going to tell people in South Carolina when I legalize 2 million people here, when we haven't secured the border?" he said.

This summer, Obama signed a bill providing $600 million to pay for the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and to beef up other border and immigration enforcement.

Associated Press Writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Japan Immigration Bars Paris Hilton from Entering Japan

Japan bars Paris Hilton after Las Vegas drug plea

Associated Press -

September 22, 2010 12:42 PM PDT Story photo: Japan bars Paris Hilton after Las Vegas drug pleaU.S. socialite Paris Hilton speaks to the media as she leaves the departure lounge of Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010. Hilton was denied entrance into Japan and is returning home to the U.S. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)Associated Press

NARITA, Japan - Paris Hilton canceled her Asia tour and returned home when she was denied entry at Tokyo's airport Wednesday following a drug violation in the U.S. — running afoul of strict Japanese laws that have tripped up celebrities from Paul McCartney to Diego Maradona.

"I'm going back home, and I look forward to coming back to Japan in the future," a smiling Hilton told reporters before departing on her private jet.

The 29-year-old celebrity socialite had arrived at Narita International Airport, outside the Japanese capital, two days after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge in Las Vegas. Japan has strict immigration laws that bar entry to those convicted of drug offenses, although exceptions are occasionally granted.

Hilton was to appear Wednesday at a news conference in Tokyo to promote her fashion and fragrance lines. She arrived Tuesday evening, but was stopped at the airport and spent the night at an airport hotel after being questioned by officials.

"I'm really tired," said Hilton, wearing a black baseball cap and a navy sweat suit.
Hilton also abruptly canceled planned appearances in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Her publicist, Dawn Miller, said Hilton plans to make the trips at a later date.

"Paris is very disappointed and fought hard to keep her business commitments and see her fans, but she is forced to postpone her commitments in Asia," she said in a statement. "Paris understands and respects the rules and laws of the immigration authorities in Japan and fully wishes to cooperate with them."
A Japanese immigration official said she was denied entry Wednesday after a total of about six hours of questioning over the two days.

The country has taken a tough line with famous figures in the past.
Soccer icon Maradona was initially banned from entering the country during the 2002 World Cup finals for past drug offenses, but was eventually given a 30-day visa as a "special delegate."

The Rolling Stones struggled for years to gain entry to Japan and were eventually allowed in despite drug convictions among the group's members. In January 1980, former Beatles member McCartney was arrested for marijuana possession at Narita airport. He was deported without carrying out a planned concert tour by his rock group Wings.

Kazuo Kashihara, an immigration official at Narita International Airport, said if Hilton had applied for an entry permit farther ahead of her arrival, there might have been a chance for Japan's justice minister to consider an exception in her case. "She just showed up the day after (pleading guilty)," he said.
Just before taking off, Hilton tweeted a message to her fans.

"Going home now. So disappointed to miss my fans in Asia. I promise to come back soon. I love you all! Love Paris xoxo."

September 01, 2010

CBP Boarding Trains & Asking for Papers!


On the Lake Shore Limited

Published: August 31, 2010

To see what immigration hard-liners really have in mind, ride the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York or Boston. It is a daily Amtrak train that is regularly boarded and searched by the Border Patrol, even though it does not cross any international border.

The Hard Way Home

My friend and immigration attorney colleague, Jody Santiago, is quoted in this article.

September 01, 2010

Arizona Living

The hard way home

by Richard Ruelas - Aug. 31, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

When Oscar Vazquez left the United States as an illegal immigrant a year ago, leaving behind a wife and baby daughter, it was so he could try to do the right thing - become a legal resident of the country he called home.

Even as he crossed into Mexico, the Arizona State University engineering graduate knew it could be years before he could legally be allowed to return.

But on Monday, Vazquez, 24, was visiting his old high school, his wife at his side and legal documents in his pocket. It was an unexpected outcome for the now-legal U.S. resident.

"Even though it took a year, I feel it came out good," said Vazquez, who had lived in the U.S. since the age of 12 when he and his mother crossed the border near Douglas.

The prospects for Vazquez's return were slim, as he initially was denied re-entry, his case deemed not strong enough. But publicity about his struggle and the intervention of a high-ranking U.S. senator spurred the government to allow Vazquez back in.

Vazquez graduated from ASU in 2009. He was one of three graduates whose stories were told before the crowd at Sun Devil Stadium and in front of that year's commencement speaker, President Barack Obama.

But Vazquez knew that his legal status meant he wouldn't be able to use his degree. And he was weary of politicians dragging their feet on the promise of immigration reform.

So he took matters into his own hands. Shortly after his graduation, he deported himself, asking for legal permission to return. His story was told in The Arizona Republic, on CNN and on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Vazquez said he was contacted by the office of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Durbin, the Senate majority whip, supports the DREAM Act, legislation that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who entered as children and had attended college or joined the military.
With Durbin on board, Vazquez said, "it was fast."

A Durbin aide, who spoke only on the condition his name not be used, confirmed that the office made the Department of Homeland Security aware that the senator was monitoring the case.

Vazquez expects to receive his Social Security card in about two weeks and will start looking for work in the engineering field.
Vazquez was on the Carl Hayden High School team that beat out several colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an underwater-robotics competition in 2007. The triumph of the four undocumented high-school students was featured in Wired magazine. On Monday, Vazquez showed up at the Phoenix high school to talk with his robotics coach, Faridodin Lajvardi. Two other members of that four-person team were there, making for an impromptu reunion of that victorious team.

Lorenzo Santillan, one of the four, said he had tried to gain legal status but found he couldn't. He doesn't have the family ties that Vazquez does.

"He's an example of what can happen," Santillan said of Vazquez, "but it's hard."

It was an unexpected ending to a story that began last summer when Vazquez applied for residency. His application was denied, and he was asked to submit additional evidence of hardship to his wife and daughter, both U.S. citizens. He was told a final decision would come in March.

So Vazquez waited, living in Magdalena del Kino, a dusty town in Sonora, Mexico, working at an auto-parts factory. Karla Vazquez visited regularly with Samantha, 2.

Vazquez's story was told July 4 in The Republic. Durbin got involved soon after.

Senator was key

Without Durbin, Vazquez likely would still be waiting. Because he stayed in the U.S. so long after he turned 18, Vazquez faced a 10-year wait to apply for legal status. Waivers of that bar are difficult to obtain, said Jody Santiago, an immigration lawyer who grew up in Mesa and now practices in San Francisco. Applicants must prove that their absence from the United States causes an extreme hardship to family members who are citizens.

"It's nebulous," she said of the standard. "It's a term of art which no one really has an exact definition of."

Santiago said that "getting the story out in the paper and getting the attention of senators and representatives really helps."

Just 10 days after Oscar's story appeared, Karla Vazquez, received the letter saying her husband's visa waiver had been approved.

Karla was about to head to Mexico for another visit when she checked the mail.

"It just said, 'Your waiver was approved,' " she recalled.

Karla told her husband the good news as soon as she arrived.

"We were just looking at it (the letter)," he said, "just to make sure it was true."

The couple kept the news to themselves; even their Facebook posts made no mention of the government's decision. They didn't want to jinx their good fortune.

Vazquez met with the U.S. Consulate on Thursday and received paperwork Friday that allowed him to cross back into the United States.
Little fanfare

It was a much different entrance from Vazquez's first one when, at age 12, he and his mother dashed across the border near Douglas into a van waiting in a Walmart parking lot.
His entry as a legal resident was short on ceremony. Vazquez said a clerk simply stamped his passport and told him that his visa allowed him to live and work in the United States.

Vazquez stepped onto U.S. soil and waited for the bus to Phoenix. In the meantime, he ate at KFC.
His wife met him at the Phoenix bus station.
"It's just hard to describe," Vazquez said about seeing his family, holding documents that mean he no longer has to look over his shoulder. "It's amazing just to be back home."

Vazquez said he realized his was a unique case and that he was aided by political pressure. Had it not been for Durbin's intervention, he thinks his waiver would have been denied.

"A lot of people think that, 'Why don't you do it the right way?' " he said. "But many people can't."

If his waiver had been denied, the Vazquezes had discussed moving to Mexico City, Canada or Europe.

Instead, they spent a weekend together at their home in south Phoenix, the happy reunion starting as soon as Vazquez stepped off the bus early Saturday.
On Monday, Vazquez and his wife went to surprise Lajvardi, the man who got Vazquez started in robotics. Lajvardi gathered his current students around him and introduced Vazquez. His students had seen video of Durbin telling Vazquez's story on the Senate floor.

"All that time, I kept telling you how you need to fight, fight, fight," Lajvardi told the students. "It worked."

The team gave Vazquez a group hug.