Hunger Strike, Student Government, New Laws and the Constitution: A day in the Life of Immigration Reform

Education, politics, a hunger strike, constitutional law, the cost of sb1070 and a surprising revelation are all part of immigration news across the country. Let me put it in some semblance of order.

We’ll start at UTSA, where a group of students is into its eighth day of a hunger strike in support of  immigration reform. According to the San Antonio Express-News “the students claim they will not eat until U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison votes in support of the DREAM Act.” The 12 hunger-strikers see this as their last resort because all of their previous efforts have been unsuccessful. The Express-News reports that “On Thursday, Hutchison met with so-called “DREAMers” from Texas in Washington, D.C., according to Lisette Mondello, a Hutchison spokeswoman. Hutchison was told the students would end the hunger strike if she met with them, Mondello said.” And what does UTSA Pres. Ricardo Romo have to say about all this? So far, the reports are that he’s signed a petition in favor of the DREAM Act.

An interesting story to go with this is one reported on CNN International. The student body president at Fresno State University outed himself as an undocumented resident. His name is Pedro Ramirez, and his parents brought him to the US when he was 3 years-old. He assumed he was a citizen until he found out he wasn’t when he was a senior in high school. His residency status has been pretty much a secret, so now his position as student body president is being challenged because, it is alleged, he lied to the student body during his campaign by not revealing his secret.

Here’s the CNN story:

By the way, Ramirez is a political science major.

On to the Constitution. It seems the GOP is gathering its troops to attack the 14th amendment. They’ve placed their sights on the idea of birthright citizenship, which denies citizenship to children born in the US to undocumented mothers. At present, as established in the 14th amendment to the constitution, all persons born in the United States have automatic citizenship. The GOP wants to do away with that.

And a study done by The Center for American Progress says that Arizona’s sb1070 has cost that state 141 million dollars in lost revenue to date. According to an AFP story “meetings and conferences canceled in protest at what critics considered draconian, anti-immigrant measures would also cost the state nearly 2,800 jobs over the next two to three years…” The report goes on to say that “the job losses would trigger over a quarter billion dollars in lost economic output and more than 86 million in lost wages.”

There are some legislators in Texas who don’t want to be left behind such prosperous trends. It’s well known by now that state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, has filed a law (HB 17) that does its best to parrot Arizona’s 1070. But it seems she couldn’t even get that much right. The Houston Chronicle reports that “while Arizona’s anti-immigration law is 17 pages long, Riddle’s Texas bill is barely more than a page and only deals with identifying and removing undocumented immigrants during police stops if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect is in the U.S. without proper documentation.” The problem (there are many but I’ll highlight one) with HB17 is that, again according to the Houston Chronicle, “the law makes no allowance for legal immigrants, like refugees awaiting court hearings or H-1B visa holders awaiting word for an extension on their visa. Both groups are legally in the U.S. but cannot prove it to police officers. Therefore, HB 17 would drive away many documented immigrants from the state.”  There’s more: “According to the Kauffman Foundation, a leading group on entrepreneurship research, 540 out of every 100,000 immigrants start a new business every month. For Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, the rate is 480. The native-born rate of business creation is 280.” HB17, says the HC, will affect Texas’ competitiveness.

And finally, HB17 is not the only measure on the Texas legislative docket that can affect immigration. America’s News Online posted a good list of other proposals in the pipeline. Among them: HB22, HB 183, and HB296.


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