Thursday, June 29, 2006

The buzz at CAIR-Chicago

Read up on the latest buzz in the CAIR-Chicago Governmental Relations Department as it launches exciting, new moblization initiatives. Log on to The Mobilizer to follow developments in the department, Project O, and exciting community news as the department tackles political projects and political developments on civil rights and liberties & immigration.

Get ready for the November Eection! Find out what is happening with the immigration debate as CAIR-Chicago and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights mobilize in the southwest suburbs of Chicago around comprehensive immigration reform and citizenship delay.

Want to know what type of organizing work the New American Democracy Project Fellow is doing? No problem! Updates on The Mobilizer will give you all the information you need from candidate forums to political rallies throughout the summer and into the Election!

Excited? CAIR-Chicago sure is for a summer of historically groundbreaking work as we begin to help make Muslims politically active constituents!

For more information on CAIR-Chicago, please visit:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

GOP Leaders to Hold Immigration Reform Hearings

The Senate and House are expected to meeting in a joint conference committee to come up with an immigration reform bill. House Speaker, Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has announced “hearings” on immigration that will continue through the summer. House GOP leaders are opposed to Bush’s push for an immigration bill that provides relief for undocumented immigrants and their families. Republicans have been divided with some favoring a comprehensive immigration reform bill that provides some protections while others are holding their ground on an enforcement only bill.

The Washington Post, June 21, 2006

In a move that could bury President Bush's high-profile effort to overhaul immigration law until after the midterm elections, House GOP leaders yesterday announced a series of field hearings during the August recess, pushing off final negotiations on a bill until fall at the earliest.

The announcement was the clearest sign yet that House Republicans have largely given up on passing a broad rewrite of the nation's immigration laws this year. They believe that their get-tough approach -- including building a wall along the border with Mexico and deporting millions of illegal immigrants -- is far more popular with voters than the approach backed by Bush and the Senate, which would create a guest-worker program and allow many illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.

House GOP leaders said yesterday that several committee chairmen will hold field hearings in congressional districts in the Southwest, the South and other areas where the issue of illegal immigration is especially potent. Those hearings will take place before the start of the formal negotiating process between the House and Senate, which could take months to complete given the complexity of the issue and the competing business, labor and social concerns. "I'm not putting any timeline on this thing, but I think we need this thing done right," Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said after a House leadership strategy session.

Senate negotiators played down the hearings, noting that informal talks had already started between the House and the Senate. "There's a general recognition that we need a bill," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), a key backer of the Senate legislation. "We're going to get together. We're going to sit down and try to work it all out."

Asked whether a deal could be struck with the Senate this fall, in the throes of a difficult reelection season, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) allowed: "I think that's possible. I don't know how likely it is." White House spokeswoman
Dana Perino sought to put the House announcement in a positive light, saying the
field hearings could "possibly provide an opportunity to air out issues" that
she conceded are "complex." But she added: "The president is undeterred in his
efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform."

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who is leading the fight against the Senate plan, said: "Odds were long that any so-called 'compromise bill' would get to the president's desk this year. . . . The nail was already put in the coffin of the Senate's amnesty plan. These hearings probably lowered it into the grave." Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the main authors of the Senate plan, called the announcement "a cynical delaying tactic."

The House move was widely viewed as a slap at Bush, who is seeking a comprehensive immigration bill along the lines of the one approved by the Senate on May 25, which would tighten border controls, establish a guest-worker program for future immigrants and offer most of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal residents a chance to become citizens. The announcement came shortly after Bush left on a trip to Europe.

House Republicans have long frowned upon the president's approach. In December, they passed a bill that would tighten border controls, clamp down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and declare illegal immigrants and those who assist them to be felons. Their position was solidified this month after Republican Brian Bilbray defeated Democrat Francine Busby by running against Bush's immigration plan in a hard-fought special election to replace imprisoned former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

Since then, House leaders have dragged their feet on naming negotiators to a House-Senate conference to reconcile the chambers' two bills. The field hearings, which will be conducted through Labor Day, will be held at the discretion of the chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, the Homeland Security Committee, the Government Reform Committee and any other House committee that can demonstrate tangential jurisdiction over immigration, GOP leaders said.
GOP aides said the topics could include the Senate's decision to allow undocumented workers to keep Social Security benefits earned while they worked in the country illegally; the Senate requirement that illegal workers be required to pay taxes on three of their last five years of income to become eligible to apply for citizenship; and the assertion that the Senate plan could allow as many as 100 million new immigrants into the country over the next 20 years. "We clearly want to solve this problem," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "But the House bill is very different than the Senate bill, and I think we want to have a clear understanding of what is in that bill."

The field hearings "will be about forming a credible strategy and a credible plan to secure the borders," said Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.), the House GOP's chief deputy whip. "That's what the issue is. Once we can accomplish that, we can begin to talk about the rest of the equation, the 12 million illegals here, et cetera."
Hastert added: "Right now, I haven't heard a lot of pressure to have a path to citizenship."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

National Day of Citizenship: "We Are America" Democracy Summer Kickoff

As the national immigration debate intensifies, millions of people are calling for comprehensive immigration reform. However, in order to necessitate meaningful change members of the immigrant community must mobilize and form a true constituency. On July 1st, CAIR-Chicago in partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), will kick off its "We Are America Immigrant Democracy Summer" campaign to help mobilize eligible individuals to become citizens and voters between now and Election Day 2006. The "We Are America Immigrant Democracy Summer" kick-off event will be held at Little Village High School at 9:00 AM on Saturday, July 1st. As a celebration of citizenship and civic duties, it will include a naturalization workshop and voter registration.

In order to put pressure on policy makers to enact comphrehensive immigration reform and hold lawmakers more accountable, the Muslim community must be an informed and united presence at the ballot box. This event will serve as an opportunity for the Muslim community to unite in civic engagement and make real steps towards positive change. For more information on the "We Are America Immigrant Democracy Summer," please contact us at

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

So What's the Deal Again?!

We heard about the contentious debate in the Senate from the end of April to May 26 on immigration reform. Amendments floated in and out of debates; some were picked up and others were shot down and the debate trudged on. That wasn’t all; the marchers trudged on too. They flooded the streets, coast to coast, from New York and Chicago to Los Angeles and Dallas. What was the impact? The Senate finally struck a deal and passed its version of immigration reform.

Is it really immigration reform? I don’t know if that’s what I would call it but then again, we have to start somewhere. It includes some good and some bad but only time will tell what will happen in the upcoming year. The Senate version is no doubt different from the House version of “immigration reform” and people have been wondering why. Let’s start from the beginning.

James Sensenbrenner, sponsor of the REAL ID Act (the one that mandates the establishment of national identification cards) proposed a very enforcement heavy bill on immigration and decided to fast track it right before Congress broke for the December break (basically, the debate was limited and the bill passed in the House a week after it was introduced). No doubt, the bill was condemned by immigrants and activists alike. Why? Simple, it made all undocumented individuals criminals and people who did so much as give an undocumented individual a ride from point A to point B felons. It also broaden detention provisions so that people being held for immigration issues could spend years under federal custody, until their fate was decided, if ever.

We all saw the rallies in Chicago. Most of us were there, marching alongside activists demanding comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate decided, after long weeks of debate, on S.2611. It’s different from the House version alright! This version provides millions of people with the chance to apply for legalization. The DREAM Act gives students the chance to go to college based on good grades and behavior. It tries to clear the backlog on family visas so your aunt and uncle who have been waiting for 22 years to come to the US may be finally able to come in the next few years! Sounds great right? So what could the problem be?!

Well, the legislation has some “low-lights” too. For example, local police would be able to enforce national immigration laws; they’d be encouraged and reimbursed for trainings etc (. Detentions are still indefinite; DHS would get to add more beds to detention centers to house more detainees. Such individuals can be held for years with no hope to getting out until they get deported. A few million people would have to leave the country and may not be able to come back because they don’t meet the requirements of the tiered path to legalization (people who have been in the US more than 5 years get to pay a fine and apply for legalization; those who have been here between 3 and 5 years have to leave the country then come back and people who have been here less than 2 years, have to go back without any guarantee of coming back. Of course there are more rules in fine print).

Though the bill passed in the Senate, it is so drastically different that a lot of the details will need to be negotiated in a joint conference committee. This committee will have members of the House committee as well as the Senate committee. Chances are, nothing will get done until after the elections, until the immigrant communities put their money where their mouths are and mobilize by the thousands to the polls.

So what’s the deal again? Absolutely nothing!

Voter Education Guide

After a month of preparation, this week we’re getting a new project off the ground: the Voter Education Guide. Our aim is to produce an informative, easy-to-understand, concise guide to candidates running for U.S. Representative and State offices. It’s a solution to the difficulty that many working men and women have when it comes to getting objective, nonpartisan information about the candidates in their district. Too much of the information that voters receive comes from campaign ads, press coverage, or other mediated paths. This affects the reliability and objectivity of the information. We hope that this guide will serve voters’ need for a nonpartisan summary of their candidates’ platform.

We’ve just finished a questionnaire to send out to the candidates and hope to send it out soon. This is an exciting time for our Project and we can’t wait to share the results. If you’d like any more information about the Voter Education Guide, or any other CAIR-Chicago projects, feel free to email George Tobin at