Morning News, 7/15/09

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1. Gov't re-engages Cuba
2. System accommodates minors
3. PASS ID act repeals REAL ID
4. MA program cuts LPRs
5. Closure reflects exodus

U.S.-Cuba talks end; more likely
Cuba and the U.S. delegates discussed immigration issues for the first time in six years and all but set a date to meet again.
By Lesley Clark
The Miami Herald (FL), July 15, 2009

New York -- The first talks between the Obama administration and Cuba ended Tuesday with an invitation for U.S. diplomats to visit Havana in December, marking the official beginning of the first dialogue between Havana and Washington in six years.

The invitation came as the head of the Cuban delegation characterized the six-hour gathering as a ``fruitful working session.''

''Progress was made in the identification of areas in which both countries should work and cooperate . . . '' Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, Cuba's deputy foreign minister, said in a statement.

Cuban Proposal

The Cuban delegation said it had submitted a proposal to U.S. representatives for a new immigration agreement and ``more effective cooperation to combat illegal alien smuggling.''

It also underscored its opposition to U.S.-Cuba immigration policy, saying that ''legal, safe and orderly migration from Cuba would not be achieved'' under the U.S. ''wet foot/dry foot,'' policy which the Cubans said ''encourages illegal departures and human smuggling.'' The policy allows most Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil to stay.

The State Department didn't say whether it had accepted the invitation for talks in Havana, but spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. delegation ``reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to promote safe, orderly, and legal migration.''

The talks were led by Craig Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The delegation included representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and U.S. Coast Guard.

The last previous talks took place in 2003. President George W. Bush suspended them the following year, citing a lack of cooperation from Cuba.

Since taking office, the Obama administration has sought to thaw frosty relations between the two governments.
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Under Age and Alone, Immigrants See a Softer Side of Detention
By Ann Farmer
The New York Times, July 14, 2009

Dobbs Ferry, NY -- Jose was 14 when he left his home in Oaxaca, Mexico, and paid a smuggler $1,200 to sneak him across the border. He made it to Phoenix and started on a long and familiar odyssey as he scratched out a living, first picking oranges in Florida, then cooking in restaurants in Connecticut.

But his modest existence was upended in March after he was stopped for speeding in Connecticut and the police discovered that he did not have a driver’s license. Eventually, officials determined he was in the United States illegally, and he was taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security. Because Jose told a judge he was 21, he was held in an adult detention center in Massachusetts.

After Jose’s brother, with the help of the Mexican government, was able to prove to immigration officials that Jose was just 17, he was transferred in April to a shelter for immigrant youths in Westchester County.

Jose’s case represents one of the thornier aspects of the immigration debate: how to treat the roughly 7,200 unaccompanied minors apprehended in the United States each year.

Jose, whose last name was withheld because of his age, was detained at the Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, one of 41 facilities across the country contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services to hold unaccompanied minors until they are either allowed to remain in the United States or are deported. (Jose ultimately returned to Mexico voluntarily.)

Despite an alarm system and locks, conditions in the Tudor-style bungalow at the Children’s Village where young detainees live are a vast improvement, immigrants’ advocates say, over the federal detention centers where such unaccompanied minors used to be held.

The housing of young detainees in the same places as adults, often without access to education, proper medical care or translators, led to a class-action lawsuit in 2001. As a result, Congress in 2003 shifted responsibility for unaccompanied minors from immigration officials to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of Health and Human Services.

Besides separating minors from adults, the office has established standards for accommodating minors in less restrictive settings, while providing a variety of social services. Among other things, Homeland Security officers are required to take any unaccompanied minor they apprehend to a juvenile facility, usually within 24 hours.

The new procedures have created some tension between Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, which believes that law enforcement standards should apply equally to all illegal immigrants, no matter their ages.

The Justice Department ultimately determines if unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay, ruling on whether they qualify for special immigrant juvenile status because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned and need long-term foster care. Such status can lead to a green card, which permits permanent residence in the United States.

Some supporters of strict enforcement of immigration laws are critical of the juvenile green cards and say parents in other countries must be discouraged from sending their children to the United States illegally.
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PASS ID Weakens Drivers License Security, Opponents Argue
By Mickey McCarter
Homeland Security Today, July 15, 2009

PASS ID Act would not save states significant time and money and it would not meet recommendations by 9/11 Commmission, critics say

Opponents of the PASS ID Act (S. 1261) faulted the legislation Tuesday for provisions that would repeal requirements for electronic verification of birth certifications and loosen physical security standards for motor vehicle departments, thereby weakening secure driver's license laws to the point where they do not comply with a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

The arguments came a day before Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was slated to provide a favorable assessment of the PASS ID Act before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Janice Kephart, director of National Security Policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, criticized the PASS ID Act for ignoring the 9/11 Commission's recommendation to set federal standards for the issuance of secure drivers licenses and the verification of birth records thus repealing a key provision of the REAL ID Act (Public Law 109-13).

The 9/11 Commission made the recommendation in 2004, the same year that the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) issued a security framework that called for identity verification and document authentication on information such as an applicant's date of birth, passport information, and legal status when applying for a driver's license, Kephart said.

The REAL ID Act builds on those guides to set a deadline for states to verify the identity of applications seeking drivers' licenses, noted Kephart, formerly a staffer to the 9/11 Commission.

Under REAL ID, states are required to digitize their birth records and to provide network connectivity to their vital records so that any other state may check them. PASS ID, by contrast, would change the law so that states need only validate the identity of applicants by checking their paper documents, Kephart explained at a forum sponsored by The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

REAL ID requires a secure driver's license to board a commercial aircraft, to enter a federal building, or to carry out some other official purpose, while PASS ID would eliminate that requirement, Kephart said. REAL ID requires states to submit security plans to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to meet security and privacy standards, but PASS ID would eliminate that requirement as well.

In addition, REAL ID requires the creation of a network of state databases to enable states to verify that applicants do not hold multiple licenses in multiple states under the principle of "one driver, one license," but PASS ID would repeal directives to set up that network, Kephart added.

But Kephart's main complaint was over the PASS ID's proposed elimination of birth record digitization and verification, which would negate any possibility of PASS ID adhering to the 9/11 Commission recommendation for secure drivers' licenses, she said.

Indeed, states are on track for digitizing their birth records, Kephart noted. Three years ago, only three states had digitized their birth records back to 1935, as required by the REAL ID Act. But as of today, 15 states and New York City have digitized their records, she added. Five more will have done so by the end of 2009.

All states would be compliant with the birth record digitization requirement by the last REAL ID deadline of May 2011, according to projections by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS), the nonprofit overseeing the project.

The costs of the digitization and verification projects are also very affordable, Kephart asserted. The total cost of connecting all states and territories through a shared network is $3.8 million, which already has been provided. The cost of digitizing and cleaning up e-records in all states is less than $102.5 million (perhaps as low as $75 million), by NAPHSIS estimates based upon a survey of states three years ago.

Kephart did reserve praise for a provision of PASS ID that would allow the secretary of Homeland Security to certify enhanced drivers' licenses as compliant with national secure identification standards. Many border states are adopting these enhanced drivers' licenses to provide their residents with an identification that meets the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires a tamperproof identification for US citizens traveling over the border to Canada or Mexico.

The certification of enhanced drivers licenses as secure identification would make a worthy amendment to the REAL ID Act, Kephart acknowledged.
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Massachusetts Takes a Step Back From Health Care for All
By Abby Goodnough
The New York Times, July 15, 2009

Boston -- The new state budget in Massachusetts eliminates health care coverage for some 30,000 legal immigrants to help close a growing deficit, reversing progress toward universal coverage just as Congress looks to the state as a model for overhauling the nation’s health care system.

The affected immigrants, permanent residents who have had green cards for less than five years, are now covered under Commonwealth Care, a subsidized insurance program for low-income residents that is central to the groundbreaking health care law enacted here in 2006.

Critics of the cut, which would save an estimated $130 million, say it unfairly targets taxpaying residents and threatens the state’s health care experiment at a critical time.

“It either sends the message that health care reform cannot be done, period,” said Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, “or it opens the door to doing it halfway and excluding immigrants from the process.”

Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed restoring $70 million to the program, which would partly restore the immigrants’ coverage. But legislative leaders have balked, saying vital programs for other groups would have to be cut as a result. The cut, which would affect only nondisabled adults from 18 to 65 years old, would take effect in August unless the legislature approves Mr. Patrick’s proposal.

“The governor has made a very good and compelling case relative to providing for legal immigrants,” Robert A. DeLeo, the speaker of the State House of Representatives, said Monday. “On the other hand, there is only so much money that we have.”
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Food City closings reflect dwindling Latino population
By Daniel González
The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), July 15, 2009

The decision by Bashas' Supermarkets to close three Food City stores illustrates how much businesses that cater to the Hispanic community are suffering as the economy and immigration crackdowns have driven Latinos out of Arizona.

No one knows exactly how many Latinos have left the state, but advocates, business owners and experts who track the Latino market believe the number is significant. The collapse of the state's economy eliminated many labor jobs tied to growth industries.

Edmundo Hidalgo, chief executive officer of Chicanos Por La Causa, a non-profit social-services and community-development organization that primarily serves working-class Latinos, said the number could be as high as 200,000.

Chandler-based grocer Bashas', which filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday, says it will close two Food City stores in Phoenix and one in Glendale next week. Its Food City was among the first supermarket chains to target the surging Latino population in Arizona.

"It's obviously a very tragic situation for the neighborhood and the employer," Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo and others say it's not just supermarkets that are hurting.

"We get a lot of calls from businesses that are suffering," Hidalgo said.

The business difficulties represent a remarkable reversal from just a few years ago, when businesses were rushing to Arizona to cash in on the booming Latino market, said Loui Olivas, a retired business-management professor and assistant vice president at Arizona State University.
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