Thursday, June 30, 2011

Decades in the Making

from Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

Sonn Ke’s journey to America began in 1980. She and her six children escaped the brutal Khmer Rouge by trekking through the Cambodian jungle on foot and avoiding minefields at every turn. Eventually the family made it to the Thailand border, where they awaited their fate with 40,000 other refugees.

Five years later, Ke and her children received word that they would be sent to Fresno, CA. There, Ke’s children attended school, learned English, started their own families, and eventually became American citizens.

More than two decades after arriving in Fresno, Ke was the only member of her family left who was not a U.S. citizen. Her son, San Soth, says Ke worried that she would be sent back to her native country if she could not become a citizen.

Thirty-one years after it began, Ke’s journey finally reached its last leg. Yesterday she joined 58 other refugees in an official citizenship ceremony. At the age of 84, a wheelchair bound Ke grasped a miniature flag and was sworn in with her son at her side.

Upon receiving her citizenship papers, Ke smiled broadly and declared, "I'm happy to become a citizen. I don't want to go back to Cambodia."

Are you happy and thankful to be an American like Ke? What does being an American citizen mean to you? Tell us at

Ali Noorani
Executive Director, National Immigration Forum

P.S. Save the Date! The 2011 Keepers of the American Dream Awards event will be held Thursday, October 13th. Stay tuned for more details.

Illegal Aliens Step Boldly Out of the Shadows at DREAM Hearing

Hundreds of illegal immigrants were in the room when the DREAM Act finally started the Senate hearings. - - Donna Poisl

by Audrey Hudson

It’s not unusual for politicians on Capitol Hill to recognize citizens during hearings on legislation that would have a positive or negative impact on their lives.

But that tactic took a different turn this week when hundreds of illegal immigrants filled the largest hearing room in the Senate to openly participate in the proceedings.
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LULAC Reports on Latinos Living Healthy: State of the Nation and Solutions


CINCINNATI, June 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- America's health challenges include dramatic increases in diabetes, obesity, heart ailments and other diseases driven by sedentary lifestyles, obesity and poor nutrition.

Last week, Harvard University and Imperial College in London announced that the global incidence of diabetes has doubled since 1980. Furthermore, the United States ranks as the country with the highest body mass indexes which contribute to a number of disease states. LULAC and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, who is speaking at the convention today, worked hand in hand to pass the Affordable Care Act which will benefit millions of Hispanic families.

As part of today's press conference, conducted at the 82nd Annual National Convention, LULAC highlighted its commitment to improving health among the U.S. Hispanic population. One initiative, Latinos Living Healthy, is aimed at reducing childhood obesity among vulnerable populations. Spearheaded by LULAC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it seeks to enable all children to have access to nutrition information, foods that are healthy and affordable and access to safe spaces where they can engage in physical exercise.

"Hispanic health is often shaped by factors such as language and cultural barriers, lack of access to preventive care, and the lack of health insurance," remarked Margaret Moran, LULAC President. "Through proper relevant health care outreach and programming, we can make a difference."

LULAC hopes to reach 100,000 Latinos through health festivals, starting with one this fall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The festivals will provide free health screenings, healthy foods and sports competitions as well as salsa aerobics.

At the same time, the National Park Service launched its Healthy Parks initiatives. This program, announced at the LULAC convention, furthers the parks' century-long commitment to preserving the environment for responsible public access to our nation's beautiful parks and recreation facilities.

Additionally, Lisa Pino, deputy administrator for USDA food and nutrition spoke about her agency's efforts to ensure children have adequate access to healthy meals.

Studies suggest that lack of health insurance, language, and citizenship are key barriers that prevent many Hispanics from accessing health services and from receiving quality health care. It is significant to note that Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States.

For convention details log onto,

CONTACT: Paloma Zuleta, +1-202-812-4477,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sen. Durbin goes to bat for children of illegal immigrants

All these years talking about the DREAM Act and this is the first time it has gotten a Senate hearing! - - Donna Poisl

by erin kelly

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), trying to revive the legislation that has been under consideration by Congress for a decade, on Tuesday urged his Senate colleagues to work to pass the Dream Act.

The Dream Act, which would allow some children of illegal immigrants to become legal residents and eventually citizens if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military, has never passed both chambers in the same session.

Durbin presided Tuesday over the first public Senate hearing the bill has ever had.
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Democrats pitch DREAM Act as needed economic patch

We definitely need these kids to become educated citizens, starting businesses and paying taxes. Keeping them in low paying jobs or deported does NOT help. - - Donna Poisl

By Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The last time the Obama administration made a hard push to legalize some of the children of illegal immigrants, officials focused on some of the inspirational and sympathetic stories of honor students who could gain legal status through the DREAM Act.

As Democrats renew their push for that act in a Senate hearing Tuesday, the sales pitch will also focus on how those children can help the nation's foundering economy.
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Who Really Owns the 2012 Hispanic Vote?

A long piece, giving all sides to this question. Very interesting. - - Donna Poisl


As the 2012 Presidential campaign begins and questions loom about who the GOP front runner will be and Obama’s second term fate; there is one critical question that remains unasked, let alone unanswered: Who really owns the Hispanic vote?

It is clear that the Hispanic voice matters. This is overwhelmingly evident with President Obama’s recent visit to Puerto Rico and the GOP’s efforts in January to begin charting a course of action under the leadership of Jeb Bush – the proclaimed GOP ambassador to Latino voters. However, it is fair to say that progress is slow and both the Democrats and Republicans are being challenged in their efforts to solidify a trustworthy relationship with the Hispanic community.
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New life for DREAM Act

from Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator

More than 10 years ago, I wrote the DREAM Act to address an injustice: thousands of promising young people who were brought here as children -- without a choice -- and grew up pledging allegiance to the American flag are not able to fully contribute to this country.

The DREAM Act would allow this select group of students with great potential a chance to earn legal status if they: have good moral character, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, came here before the age of 16, earn a high school degree, and complete at least two years of college or military service in good standing.

I have been fighting to pass the DREAM Act ever since.

With help from you and 27,000 citizen co-sponsors of the DREAM Act, we now have a real shot at giving these bright young people a chance at the American Dream.

That's because tomorrow, I will be chairing the first-ever hearing on the DREAM Act to discuss how it will make our country stronger.

But I need your help to convince a few more of my colleagues to support its passage.

Will you ask your friends and family to join you as a citizen co-sponsor of the DREAM Act? Click the headline to use our simple tell-a-friend tool -- and help give a select group of bright immigrant students the chance to contribute more fully to America.

I know we don't have an easy road ahead, but I am hopeful that tomorrow’s hearing will provide us with the platform needed to illustrate how these young people -- who have lived in America much of their lives, sat in our classrooms, and know no other home -- deserve the chance to be legal, fully contributing members to society.

Please, help me give them that chance.

Thank you for standing with me, and for helping me do right by these young people.


Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator

So, who will pick the fruit? Kicking out immigrants has a high price

I have been asking this question for years, no one cares. - - Donna Poisl


What would happen if the illegal immigrants didn’t show up?

Look around and get a few hints. See Georgia, for instance, where with great fanfare the Legislature passed an immigration enforcement law that did Arizona one better.

Among many provisions, such as authorizing local police to investigate and jail illegal immigrants, it makes it a crime to use fake identification to get a job, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 fines.
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Academy for immigrant students to open

The Rochester International Academy is starting a new program which concentrates on new immigrant students to give them a good start in school. - - Donna Poisl

Written by Tiffany Lankes

Within days of their arrival, young immigrants find their way to the school system.

Many come with limited English skills, or little schooling in their native country. They must not only acclimate to their new surroundings, but learn academic skills appropriate for their age level.

Now, city school administrators hope that a new program designed for students new to the country will help those young people get a jump-start on the social and academic skills they need to succeed in school.
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Bill would freeze Obama's power to grant illegals amnesty

We must hope this bill fails to be passed. - - Donna Poisl

By Jordy Yager

The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is crafting a bill that would temporarily freeze the Obama administration’s power to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

The measure is in response to a memo issued by the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week that approved a broader breadth of discretion for agency officials when considering whether to deport someone through the Secure Communities program.
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LULAC Supports Immigration Reform and Amnesty for DREAMers


Senator Durbin Leads Hearings on DREAM Act

CINCINNATI, June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- With the backdrop of the 2011 National Convention & Expo in Cincinnati, the Ethnic and Ancestry Branch Chief for the U.S. Census Bureau, Roberto Ramirez, analyzed the most recent findings from the 2010 Census.

From Washington State to Key West, the Hispanic population growth is everywhere. Fueled primarily by natural growth, only 35.8 percent of the increase is due to immigration. Some of the most significant growth between 2000 and 2010 were in middle America states that previously were not typical Hispanic communities. South Carolina saw a 148 percent increase in its Hispanic population; Alabama’s grew 145 percent; Tennessee’s Hispanic growth spurt was 134 percent; Kentucky’s Latino community expanded 122 percent while Arkansas’s increased 114 percent.

"These are not just numbers," said LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes. "It is an indication that our country has changed demographically, yet our government and communities have not changed their practices to address the needs of our society. If we don't do it now, we'll pay the price in the future.

In fact, Cincinnati was selected as the venue for the 82nd annual convention, in part, because this city of immigrants, a key stop on the Underground Railroad, is now home to 125,000 Latinos.

"Our country historically has opened its doors to the tired and the poor. This indeed is part of what makes the United States so great, and one reason why people have always wanted to call it home," remarked Margaret Moran, LULAC President, at a press conference with the U.S. Census Bureau. "Today is a very special day as hearings begin in Washington on the DREAM Act."

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, (D-IL), chairs the first-ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.

"It is un-American to punish our youth who excel in school or serve selflessly in our military," added Moran.

Durbin has been working on the DREAM Act for over ten years. In that time, it passed the House of Representatives, and received a bipartisan majority vote in the Senate, only to fall because of a filibuster. Durbin is expected to give examples of how the DREAM Act will make our country stronger by giving undocumented students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.

LULAC believes our nation urgently needs an effective and practical immigration system that will reflect the best of America's values. LULAC supports a reform that will reduce the backlog of individuals seeking residency or citizenship and restructure the naturalization process in a manner that is streamlined, consistent, fair, and equitable for those seeking US Citizenship.

For convention details log onto,

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest and largest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health, housing and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating nearly 900 LULAC councils nationwide.

NOTE TO EDITORS: For media credentials or interviews, please contact: or call 210-244-2129.

CONTACT: Paloma Zuleta, +1-202-812-4477,

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Judge blocks parts of Indiana immigration law

The law against illegal immigrants in Indiana has been partially blocked by the courts. - - Donna Poisl

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS - A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked parts of an Indiana immigration law cracking down on illegal immigrants, in a ruling handed down a week before the bill was to go into effect.

The preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker comes as a blow to lawmakers in the Republican-dominated state legislature who this year have taken a get-tough approach to immigration.

Barker's decision was in response to a lawsuit filed with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the National Immigration Law Center.
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Hidden lives of Baltimore's Irish immigrants unearthed for first time

The true story of Irish immigrants in Baltimore in the middle 1800s is finally being discovered and told. - - Donna Poisl

Provided by University of Maryland

An archaeological team from the University of Maryland is unearthing a unique picture of the Baltimore-area's early Irish immigrants - of city children taught to read and write at home before widespread public education and child labor laws, as well as insular rural residents who resisted assimilation for one hundred years.

The excavation in the city represents the first formal archaeological research to focus on Baltimore's early Irish settlement and labor force.

"Behind the closed doors of their modest Baltimore homes, beyond the view of their bosses, these unskilled railroad workers maintained a rich social, religious and family life," says University of Maryland archaeologist Stephen Brighton, whose students just finished digging in the backyards of 19th century Baltimore immigrants.
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Help To Ease Transition To Queens

This woman who was a new immigrant here 15 years ago is helping new immigrants get through their struggles. - - Donna Poisl

By Jason Banrey

Pursuing the American Dream can be a long and arduous journey. Many of the immigrants who arrive in this borough often lack the adequate educational, social and technical skills necessary to seamlessly integrate themselves into American culture.

Tamanna Yasmin of Jackson Heights understands that predicament all too well. After arriving in the United States from Bangladesh in 1996, she said she had no choice but to embrace the challenges of assimilation head on.

“When I came to this country, I was facing the same problems as immigrants today face,” Yasmin said. “I figured if I can get through those [challenges] I can help others who are going through what I did.”
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Illegal immigrant youth 'come out' in reform push

Young activists all over the country are fighting for immigrant reform and rights. - - Donna Poisl


ATLANTA (AP) — Eighteen-year-old Dulce Guerrero kept quiet about being an illegal immigrant until earlier this year, when she became upset after a traffic stop that landed her mother in jail for two nights. The arrest came as Georgia lawmakers were crafting what would become one of the nation's toughest immigration crackdowns, and Guerrero feared her mother would be deported.

"I feel like that was my breaking point, when my mom was in jail," said Guerrero, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 2. "I felt like, well, that's it, it can't get any worse than this. My mother has been to jail."
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World Refugee Day Celebrates Survival

World Refugee Day was celebrated around the world and also in New Haven. - - Donna Poisl

New Haven-based refugee organization, IRIS, celebrates World Refugee Day with art, theater, music, dance and food.

By Noah Golden

Hundreds of people from the Greater New Haven area gathered at the Henry L. Luce Hall on June 22 to celebrate World Refugee Day.

While World Refugee Day is celebrated all around the world, this event was sponsored by Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), the New Haven-based organization that, according to its website, “resettles approximately 200 refugees each year...[and] provides some services to asylees and other immigrants.”
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Click the headline to read stories from this week from the Immigration Policy Center.

An illegal immigrant shares story

This opinion piece has a very good idea, I imagine he could fill this Hall of Fame fairly quickly. - - Donna Poisl


I’ve had this idea for a couple of years now to start a Former Illegal Immigrants Hall of Fame.

The concept is to honor individuals who at some point would have been considered undocumented but later found a way to citizenship and went on to make important contributions to our community or nation.

There’s a lot of folks like that out there, you realize, and they aren’t all of Mexican origin, although I suppose a large percentage are. They either entered the country by sneaking across the border or intentionally overstayed a visa. Some were brought here by their parents, while others came on their own.
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Tell President Obama to help Jose Vargas

from Marissa Graciosa, Reform Immigration FOR America

Jose Vargas Comes out of the Shadows
Administration relief needed now

Millions of hard-working undocumented immigrants face the possibility of deportation

Yesterday, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Vargas came out from the shadows and bravely told his story as an undocumented immigrant.

Jose came to the United States when he was just 12 years old and first learned of his undocumented status when he was 16. Since then he has worked hard, contributed to society, paid taxes and even won a Pulitzer Prize… all while living in fear.

But now that Jose has come out from the shadows and told his story as an undocumented immigrant, he faces possible deportation.

Tell President Obama to stop the deportation of immigrants like Jose. Click on the headline.

The President is our only hope right now. Congress has proven they won’t act, so President Obama must provide relief not only for Jose, but the millions of DREAMers and undocumented immigrants just like him.

Tell the Administration to defer deportations and allow immigrants to come out of the shadows.

Thank you,

Marissa Graciosa
Reform Immigration FOR America

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sen. Menendez Introduces “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011”

For Immediate Release

A Framework for Lasting Reform:
Sen. Menendez Introduces “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011”

June 22, 2011

Washington, D.C. - Today, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011,” a bill that seeks to fix a system that has been broken for far too long. The legislation proposes a balance of solutions, such as enhanced enforcement measures and a mandatory E-verify program which is paired with strategies to address the current population of undocumented workers, improvements to regulating future flows of legal immigration, a commission to study and regulate temporary worker programs, as well as efforts to support the integration of immigrants into America.

The following is a statement from the American Immigration Council’s Executive Director, Ben Johnson:

“We welcome the introduction of the 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011’ the first immigration reform bill of the 112th Congress that proposes a framework for lasting reform. Senator Menendez and co-sponsors should be commended for offering the country an alternative to the enforcement-only bills proposed by immigration restrictionists. While some politicians propose mandatory E-verify without any counter-balancing attempt to help needed workers retain their jobs, the Menendez bill proposes a strategy for the current population of unauthorized immigrants to get right with the law, implementing mandatory E-verify only in the context of broader system reforms.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act' presents Congress with a clear choice between enforcement-only bills that squander the country’s resources and human capital, and thoughtful, long-range legislation that puts in place the tools for a 21st century immigration system. Members of Congress have, thus far, provided only simplistic enforcement-only solutions and sound bites. The Menendez bill, however, gives Congress the chance to prove that it is willing to put good policy over political expediency, engage in a serious and constructive debate over immigration reform, and focus on realistic solutions rather than passing this year’s political Band-aid.”


For press inquiries contact Seth Hoy at or 202-507-7509.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Even Baptists want immigration reform

Baptists have decided it is impossible to deport all the immigrants and it is not humane either -- the same as most Americans have decided. - - Donna Poisl

Conservative denomination backs path to legal status.


What better evidence can there be of the continuing need to reform America's immigration laws than this? The Southern Baptist Convention, a proudly conservative denomination, last week approved a resolution supporting a path to legal status for illegal immigrants.
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‘Rooftop Baron’ George Loukas achieves an immigrant’s dream

A terrific story about an immigrant and how he succeeded in this country. - - Donna Poisl

By Mark Konkol Staff Reporter

A rooftop view of Wrigley Field changed everything for George Loukas, the gym teacher son of an immigrant Southeast Side steelworker.

In the spring of 1974, Loukas and his brother Angelo scraped together enough cash to buy a decrepit apartment building on Sheffield with an unfettered view of the hapless Cubs in action.

Back then, tenants were mostly poor folks and the occasional drug dealer. Rent was 75 bucks a month for a two-bedroom. Cubs games were sparsely attended novelties. Local bars were dives. Latin Kings controlled the dope trade. Prostitutes worked the corners. Junkies slept in alleys. And there was nowhere to get a half-skim, no-foam latte.
Loukas and a pal had a barbecue on the rooftop at 3700 N. Sheffield, which the brothers bought for just $135,000.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Immigrants no threat, Mexican consul says

The Mexican consul general says Mexicans are not a threat to our security, they are just here to work. - - Donna Poisl

By Georgia Pabst of the Journal Sentinel

Waukesha - Immigrants are not and never have been a threat to U.S. security, but they are an important factor in the economic prosperity of this country, the newly arrived Mexican consul general in Chicago said here Thursday.

"We are not the enemy," Eduardo Arnal Palomera said at the Manos Juntas (Hands Together) biennial conference on Latino and migrant issues at the Country Springs Hotel.

He called Mexican immigrants who come here "hard workers and taxpayers who contribute to the economy." But, he said, there's an anti-immigrant sentiment that creates hate and hostility.
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Baptists support legal 'path', not 'amnesty,' for illegal immigrants

Another religious group is supporting a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. - - Donna Poisl

By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Southern Baptists adopted a resolution Wednesday that supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but clearly states they reject "amnesty."

After heated debate at their annual meeting in Phoenix, the Baptists approved a statement that called for secure borders and "a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures" for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
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Alabama targets immigrant students

This new law is worse than Arizona's law. - - Donna Poisl

Alabama's new law requires public schools to report the number of illegal immigrant students to state officials. Putting children in the crossfire of a political battle is unacceptable.

Editorial, LA Times

This month Alabama enacted the harshest anti-immigration legislation in the nation, surpassing even Arizona's controversial efforts to drive out illegal immigrants.

The new law requires police to check the immigration status of those they stop, bars undocumented immigrants from receiving public benefits or even enrolling in state colleges, and makes it a crime to give a ride to an illegal immigrant. At least four other states have adopted similar measures. But Alabama's law goes a step further. It requires public schools to determine the immigration status of their students and report the number of those who are here illegally to state officials.
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GOP Slow To Reach Out to Hispanic Voters

Hispanics probably will not vote Republican this time either. But they MUST VOTE, not sit it out. - - Donna Poisl

by Jackie Kucinich

Republican leaders have repeatedly stressed the need for their 2012 nominee to win the growing Hispanic vote, but most of the party's presidential contenders have no outreach focusing specifically on Hispanics.

Although it's early in the process, this is when Hispanic outreach needs to start, GOP consultants say, rather than at the end of a general election campaign.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

US bishops’ immigration campaign urges opposition to E-Verify expansion

Another group against the E-Verify law. - - Donna Poisl


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign is urging Catholics to oppose the expansion of E-Verify in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform. E-Verify is the federal government’s Internet-based system that allows employers to determine whether workers are eligible to work in the United States.
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Anti-Immigrant Bill in Congress

Adam Luna, America’s Voice

Have you been wondering what the new far-right leaders in Congress have up their sleeves on immigration? Well, wonder no more.

Today, a dangerous new anti-immigrant bill began a fast-track through the House of Representatives.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this bill is the single biggest threat to immigrant communities we’ve seen in many years, and we must defeat it.

The proposed legislation is called “Mandatory E-Verify” and its stated purpose is to get all undocumented workers in America fired from their jobs and prevent them from getting new ones.

Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director here at AV (and our resident policy guru) did a great job of breaking it all down in her article today. She writes:

Two of the masterminds behind the GOP's mass deportation (of immigrants) strategy, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly are introducing new legislation intended to bring about their extremist fantasy: the expulsion of 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families.
Read the rest of the article and share it with your friends.

The extremists have developed a strategy to force millions of immigrants out of the country: Make the lives of immigrants so unbearable that they are forced to make the painful decision to uproot their families and leave on their own. Depriving immigrant families of an income -- exactly what mandatory e-verify aims to do -- is the cornerstone of their morally backwards plan.

Our movement has proven time and again that we can win real victories for real people, and I’m confident that we have the power to win this one, though this victory will not come easily.

The first step towards building this successful campaign is to know the facts. Please click the headline to read more about Mandatory E-Verify and what’s at stake.

Thank you for all that you’ve done, and for all that you will do in the upcoming fight.


Adam Luna
America’s Voice

Afghan immigrant's long journey to head of class

from Fatima Lopez, Development Director, National Immigration Forum

Growing up in Afghanistan, Auranous Abhar was taught the alphabet by her older sister in their family living room because girls were prohibited from attending school. She came to the United States as a refugee in 2000, along with her parents and eight siblings.

The girl who spoke no English upon entering this country has just graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class.

Auranous attributes her drive and work ethic to her father, who died of lung cancer in 2005. “Education meant a lot to him. He didn’t want his kids to be stuck in Afghanistan, where his kids, especially his daughters, couldn’t go to school,” she says of her father, a surgeon and humanitarian worker who had been imprisoned by the Taliban before bringing his family to the United States.

Auranous calls her father’s passing the “wake-up call” which drove her to set goals for herself and treat them as dreams with deadlines: “I do believe in the American dream. My dad believed in the American dream. My American dream in high school was to be the valedictorian, and I have achieved it.”

Auranous credits her father’s influence, declaring, “I just wanted to make him proud.”

Father’s Day is this Sunday! Like Auranous, did your father inspire you to continue pursuing your American dream? Dedicate a square to your Dad and tell us about it at


Fatima Lopez
Development Director, National Immigration Forum

Region ranks high in skilled immigrants

Ohio has two of the top cities in the country with highly skilled immigrants. - - Donna Poisl

Written by Mark Curnutte

LOCKLAND - Amadou Thiam brought with him a college degree from his native Mauritania when granted asylum in the United States in 1996.

He went to work that same year as a food processor at Club Chef, then in Lockland. With his wife and five children back in Africa, Thiam went back to school at ITT Technical Institute in Norwood and earned a bachelor's degree in technical management. He was later promoted to supervisor at Club Chef, now in Covington.
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Farm industry's dilemma highlights need for reform

Something or someone had to wake people up about the harsh new immigrant laws, maybe farmers will be the ones that make everyone listen. - - Donna Poisl

from / Opinions

Nothing exposes the flaws in a bad law quicker than vigorous enforcement.
That axiom makes a proposal that would prevent farmers from hiring illegal immigrants intriguing -- and frightening.

It's hard to imagine that the stalemate about immigration reform could survive the mess that would ensue. But the staggering economic cost is too high a price to pay.

U.S. ag sales topped $297 billion in 2007, according the Department of Agriculture. Any hit to the industry would ripple through the nation's already shaky economy.

And the agriculture industry predicts much more than a hit. Officials see disaster if Congress goes ahead with a plan to require all employers to run their workers through the E-Verify system.
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Immigrants may help fund downtown revitalizatio

Many countries offer immigrants a visa to bring money and start businesses, the U.S. visa is called EB-5 and 10,000 are available every year. - - Donna Poisl

NewsChannel 10's Laura Rojas

AMARILLO, TEXAS - It took Gerardo Torres 17 years to get his residency card after coming here from Mexico. Gerardo says at times desperation set in and his case seemed hopeless, but soon wealthier immigrants may be able to speed up that process to just six months by investing $500 thousand to $1 million in downtown Amarillo revitalization.

"That provides a source of funds that can be used for a source in projects that would otherwise not be available," Joe Esch of Developer Wallace Bajjali said. "Our goal has been how to make a public private partnership work. Here's a source of funding that is that is a federal source that could potential be of assistance to the project."
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Hispanic Start-Ups on the Rise

More immigrants are starting their own businesses, but not many of them have employees. Hopefully they will grow and be able to hire. - - Donna Poisl

by Staff--HispanicBusiness

Hispanic entrepreneurship is on the rise. According to the latest Kaufmann Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the Hispanic business-creation rate rose from 0.46 percent of Hispanics per month in 2009 to 0.56 percent in 2010, the highest rate over the 15 years the Kaufmann Foundation has been compiling this data.

The overall creation rate in the United States was 0.34 percent of American adults creating a business a month in 2010, the Kaufmann Index noted. That rate remained consistent with 2009 and represents the highest level of entrepreneurship over the past 15 years.
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Coming Soon: DREAMer the Movie!

from Jesse Salmeron, Writer/Director

My name is Jesse, I’m a writer and a director. Right now I am working on a movie called 'Dreamer.'

Dreamer is a movie about Joe Rodriguez, an All-American young man. He's amiable, well-educated and attractive. He's graduated from college and is working and excelling in his field. He's on his way to achieving the American Dream. That is until his employer discovers his undocumented status and the life he's worked so hard for begins to crumble around him. He must face the possibility of losing his livelihood, his family and, even, himself.

Become a fan of the movie on facebook: 'like' it!

Does this narrative sound familiar? I am sure you have heard stories of DREAM-eligible youth going through the same exact struggle. That same reason is what drove me to do this script and push this movie to happen, the need to get the story of Dreamers into the mainstream.

The planning for the movie is going well right now, the script is attracting a lot of great people and we have a phenomenal lead actor attached, Jeremy Ray Valdez. We are also talking to other known actors to see if they are willing to jump on board.

As expected, when it comes to money we need a little bit of help. Right now we are about $50,000 behind schedule, if we don't meet our budget we'll have to delay for another year. Our story needs to be told now and I’m coming to you for help. We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the remaining amount.

I know as a community we can pull this off. This film has huge potential and I am glad you can be a part of it!

Click on the headline.


Jesse Salmeron
Undocumented Productions

Stop Coach Miguel's Deportation

from Gaby Pacheco, END Coordinator, United We Dream

Throughout our lives, we all have people who inspire us to become better individuals. These people are those who guide us to improve, who coach us through tough times and who celebrate our successes with us.

Today, we bring you the story of Coach Miguel, a man who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of countless young men in Arizona by coaching the Alhambra boys’ cross-country team for 12 seasons. Unfortunately, due to our broken immigration system, Miguel is due to be deported this Friday!

Please take action to stop Coach Miguel’s deportation! Click on the headline.

During his time in Alhambra High School, Miguel helped lead the boys’ cross country team to state championship victories in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and has sent many young men to college with academic or athletic scholarships. The Alhambra boys’ cross-country team considers Coach Miguel to be part of their family.

Take action now: Stop Miguel’s deportation.

May justice prevail!

In solidarity,
Gaby Pacheco
END Coordinator
United We Dream

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sign petition: ask Obama administration to help Alabama immigrants

from Mohammad Abdollahi, co-founder of

If you thought Indiana, Georgia or Arizona passed bad laws then just do some research on Alabama's HB56! Last week the Governor of Alabama signed the bill, it is expected to go into effect pretty soon.

Ask President Obama to step it up for Alabama. Click on the headline.

The Alabama law will require K-12 schoolchildren to not only verify their own legal status, but also that of their parents! This is only a small part of how bad this law would make living in Alabama for immigrants.

Last year, when SB1070 passed in Arizona, President Obama stepped in with the Justice Department and filed suit against the state. The most harmful parts of the Arizona measure where halted before going into law. The Alabama bill is so bad that there should be no reason why the Obama administration would not do the same.

Sign the petition asking the Obama administration to step up for immigrants in Alabama. Please pass on this ask to your friends and family. This is a bad bill. It needs to be overturned.

Thank you,

Mohammad Abdollahi
co-founder of DreamActivist.or

Immigrants aren’t demons or angels

A person's view of immigrants often depends on the part of the country he/she lives in. - - Donna Poisl


America is gridlocked on immigration law reform and it’s because both sides in the debate grip tenaciously to their preferred side of the two dueling immigrant narratives that dominate the news coverage.

You’ll recognize the two basic immigrant archetypes as the “educated and good” or the “impoverished and bad,” which, not surprisingly, correspond to where you live.
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Many Vietnamese immigrants find careers in beauty business

It is interesting to see how and why certain ethnic groups settle into one line of work, especially when it needs very specific training and tests, in English. - - Donna Poisl

Written by Tom Tobin

It's hard work doing nails. It's a pampering thing for the customer, but for the nail technician it takes precision, patience, a sense of both beauty and design.

There are perhaps 200 nail salons in upstate New York and as many as 60 in the Rochester region. Some focus on manicures and pedicures while others offer a range of cosmetology or beauty services, from hair to spa.
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Measures target illegal immigrants

Another state might enact very tough immigrant enforcement laws. - - Donna Poisl

If bills pass, N.C. would line up more with Ariz. and Ala., considered states with the strongest immigration laws.

By Franco Ordoñez

Four immigration enforcement bills gaining momentum in the N.C. General Assembly would, if passed, make North Carolina an even tougher place for illegal immigrants to reside.

One bill prevents foreign-born residents from using their home country's IDs as legal identification. A second requires all businesses with at least 25 employees to check the legal status of new hires using a federal system called E-Verify.
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AJC Joins in Launching Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus


WASHINGTON, June 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC, together with members of the U.S. House of Representatives, will launch the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus at an event tonight on Capitol Hill. The establishment of the Latino-Jewish Caucus was strongly supported by AJC's Latino and Latin America Institute.

Caucus co-chairs Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL) will address the June 14 reception. Also slated to speak are the Israeli and Mexican ambassadors to the U.S. Dozens of Latino and Jewish leaders will be in attendance.

"The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus will provide for further collaborative engagement between U.S. Latinos and Jews on domestic and foreign policy issues of joint interest and concern," said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute. The AJC institute was created in 2005 to advance the global advocacy organization's collaborative relations with the largest and fastest growing minority in the U.S.

Others who so far have joined the caucus include Reps Shelly Berkley (D-NV), Joe Baca (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Charles A. Gonzalez (D-TX), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Rivera (R-FL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Albio Sires (D-NJ).

"The strong ties between the Latino and Jewish communities make this Caucus a perfect forum to address a variety of policy issues such as religious freedom, anti-Semitism, and the growing influence of Iran and its proxies in the Western Hemisphere," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. "I thank the American Jewish Committee for its leadership and assistance in organizing today's celebration of the launching of the Caucus."

AJC has pioneered American Jewish relations with Latino communities for decades, working to deepen mutual understanding and to collaborate on key public policy issues, such as immigration reform, free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, and support for Israel.

"The Latino-Jewish coalition is more critical than ever," said Siegel Vann. "The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus certainly can provide significant impetus to creating new joint initiatives and furthering cooperation."

CONTACT: Kenneth Bandler, AJC Director of Media Relations, +1-212-891-6771, +1-917-449-1259 (cell),

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cities Recognized for Public Safety Programs in Immigrant Communities

Seventeen cities are recognized for having programs to teach and protect their immigrant residents. - - Donna Poisl


WASHINGTON, June 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In order to efficiently maintain public safety throughout a community, cities are recognizing that police must have open relationships and effective communication with immigrant populations. A new report from the National League of Cities' (NLC) Municipal Action for Immigrant Integration (MAII) program, Public Safety Programs for the Immigrant Community, highlights programs from across the country that incorporate successful public safety-immigrant relationships.

Click here to read and download a copy of the report.

The report outlines four key suggestions for public safety programs: communication (create two-way information sharing between police and the immigrant community); outreach and community relations (provide formal and informal opportunities for police and immigrant interaction); diversity (improve representation and understanding within a city's public safety forces); and collaboration (organize partnerships to strengthen programs, outreach and resources).
Click on the headline above to read the FULL REPORT and the rest of this release! This is only a small part of it.

New Effort to Protect Immigrants From Tricks

Fake immigration lawyers have tricked immigrants for many years, a new campaign is underway to stop them. - - Donna Poisl


Immigration officials are teaming up with federal and state prosecutors, the Federal Trade Commission, lawyers’ groups and immigrant advocate organizations in a new nationwide effort to combat an epidemic of schemes by people posing as immigration lawyers.

The campaign, which will begin in Washington on Thursday, is an effort by the Obama administration to step up one form of assistance to immigrant communities, which have intensified their criticism of President Obama as they have faced a record pace of deportations in the last two years.
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Report documents dramatic shift in immigrant workforce’s skill level

This country is attracting skilled immigrants and we definitely need them. - - Donna Poisl

By Tara Bahrampour

Highly skilled temporary and permanent immigrants in the United States now outnumber lower-skilled ones, marking a dramatic shift in the foreign-born workforce that could have profound political and economic implications in the national debate over immigration.

This shift in America’s immigration population, based on census data, is summarized in a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution. It found that 30 percent of the country’s working-age immigrants, regardless of legal status, have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 28 percent lack a high school diploma.
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Deportation Guide: questions answered

from Mohammad Abdollahi, co-founder of

We have exciting news!

For the past several months, along with the Asian Law Caucus and Educators for Fair Consideration, we have been working on a project that will help you and your friends. We know you get e-mails from us all the time about youth facing deportation and actions to take to help keep them here. Many of you respond to us asking how we do it and what you can do to help someone in a similar situation.

Well we hope we can make that an easier process for everyone, we have created a really useful guide titled, "Education Not Deportation: A guide for undocumented youth in removal proceedings." This guide is meant to serve both youth facing deportation and their attorneys.

This does not mean we are not going to help you out with your case, we still urge you to reach out to us if you or someone you know is facing deportation. We just hope this guide will help answer some questions you might have and if you choose to go at it with your own support team, a framework as to how you can do it.

We know not everyone is in touch with someone in deportation so another helpful action you can take is to demand President Obama take action and defer the deportation of all DREAM-eligible youth. Please pass the petition onto your friends.

Thank you,

Mohammad Abdollahi
co-founder of

P.S. If you are on twitter or facebook help spread the word: "RT: guide 'how to stop deport of #dreamact youth' is out!! U should not b afraid of #deportation"

Latino newspaper's editor gives a voice to immigrants

The editor/owner of this newspaper was honored at a dinner for his work with the Latino community. - - Donna Poisl

By Tom Eblen — Herald-Leader columnist

Journalists are often not popular. People love to fuss about their local newspaper.

But you would not have known that Saturday night. A dozen Latino groups and businesses threw a fancy dinner party that packed the Bell House to pay tribute to Andrés Cruz, editor and publisher of La Voz de Kentucky.

The bilingual newspaper, which publishes more than 8,000 copies every other Thursday and online at, has covered Central Kentucky's growing Latino community for a decade.
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Click the headline to read stories from this week from the Immigration Policy Center.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

High-skilled immigrants pursued to boost Michigan economy

Our country needs more skilled immigrants and investors and Michigan is giving them an opportunity to help with the state's recovery. - - Donna Poisl

Kim Kozlowski/ The Detroit News

Gov. Rick Snyder has launched an initiative to attract more foreign investors and entrepreneurs to bring their talent, ideas and business plans to help boost the state's economy.

Known as Global Michigan, the effort is modeled on a program the governor created while he was in Ann Arbor that he now wants to expand on a state level. Experts say it is a pioneering effort in the United States, one that follows similar attempts in other nations.

"He has long been interested in this topic and sees the value foreign nationals can play in the new economy," said Amy Cell, senior vice president of talent enhancement, at the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
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States clarify tuition policies for undocumented students

More states are enacting their own DREAM Acts for their kids. - - Donna Poisl

By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY

New laws clarifying tuition charges for undocumented immigrants at public colleges are poised to go into effect in three states this summer, bringing to 13 the number of states that allow such students to pay lower, in-state rates and to five the number that forbid it.

Maryland will join 11 other states this summer in allowing undocumented immigrants attending public colleges to pay in-state tuition, and Connecticut's governor has said he will sign a similar bill passed last month in that state. Indiana's governor has signed legislation making it the fifth state to deny the lower resident rates to such students.
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Helping immigrants won't end with retirement

This woman, who came here in the '60s as an immigrant, remembers her struggles then and is continuing to help immigrants. - - Donna Poisl

Written by Mark Curnutte

Margarita Brewer had the benefit of an education - including formal English - and an American GI husband when she moved to the United States from her native Panama at age 22.

Still, her transition was difficult. She remembers the loneliness of those early years in North Carolina during the 1960s.

"You are homesick, you miss your family, you miss your food and your music," she said. "You feel like you are dropped onto another planet, no matter where you come from. It was so hard for me because of pronunciation."
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Bridgeton hosts summit on Latino, immigrant worker safety

More than 12 workers (many are immigrants) die every day in preventable accidents, more conferences like this should help. - - Donna Poisl

By Greg Adomaitis/The News of Cumberland County

To toil in the Garden State, some must deal with pesticide exposure or risk heat exhaustion on a daily basis.

Sunday’s Southern New Jersey Action Summit for Latino and Immigrant Workers aimed to educate and protect its target audience — specifically migrant workers from labor intensive industries.

“Know the heat stroke and stress symptoms,” Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Marlton area office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick told the audience.
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Immigration: What the U.S. does right

A recently released report shows that the US has a much better immigration system than most countries in the world. But we know it needs some work. - - Donna Poisl

By Jacob L. Vigdor

The nation recently received two contradictory signals about the importance of immigration reform. President Obama stood near the Mexican border in El Paso on May 10 and called (again) for immigration reform. The next week, Gallup released a poll showing that a scant 4% of Americans consider immigration to be the nation's most important problem. That's down from 11% four years ago.

What's happened to our national immigration angst? Clearly, the economic slump that began in late 2007 has given us other things to worry about. The long recession and slow recovery have had more direct effects on our perception of immigration problems too.
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Possible U.S. crackdown on illegal workers alarms agriculture industry

Farmers need different work visas right away for farm workers or many will go out of business. - - Donna Poisl


WASHINGTON -- The agriculture industry fears a disaster on the horizon if the bit of new immigration policy that Congress seems to agree on becomes law.

A plan to require all American businesses to check their employees through E-Verify, a program that confirms that each is legally entitled to work in the U.S., could wreak havoc on an industry where 80 percent of the field workers are illegal immigrants.
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Support the DREAM Act

from Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator

Over the past two weeks, more than 16,000 people have signed on as citizen co-sponsors of the DREAM Act at

It's a great start — but I need your help, right now, to build even more public support for this important bill.

Thousands have shared it via Facebook, Twitter, and email, too. Please take a moment to continue spreading the word by clicking the headline.

I’ve always known that giving these great kids a fair shake is the right thing to do. And so do a majority of Americans, according to recent polls. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues on Capitol Hill still aren't on board.

That's where you come in: The large and growing list of citizen co-sponsors at helps bring this issue into the public square, showing each one of my colleagues that the American people support the DREAM Act — and will be watching when it comes up for a vote.

Thank you for continuing this fight to keep the American Dream alive for our young people.


Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator

Friday, June 03, 2011

Cassidy: Citizenship ceremony is a reminder of immigrants' role in building Silicon Valley

This speaker at a ceremony for 423 new citizens from 64 countries reminded them that many of our very successful companies were started by immigrants. Perhaps they will do that too. - - Donna Poisl

By Mike Cassidy, Mercury News Columnist

My little speech must still have been ringing in James R. Taylor's ears when he pulled out his cellphone and called me.

A voice mail from the newly minted U.S. citizen was waiting for me when I got back to the office after speaking at Silicon Valley's main monthly citizenship ceremony. The British native, who spent time in El Salvador while growing up, wanted to give me a heads-up on the cloud-based company he was going to launch.

It's the Silicon Valley immigrant story, isn't it? Immigrants from around the world start up companies here to make better lives for themselves while figuring out a killer way to make life better for the rest of us. Whatever the obstacles, they know they can't be bashful.

"As of today," Taylor, of Livermore, said when I finally reached him, "I'm an official citizen."
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Immigrants in US Take Job Training

Immigrants in this city are getting help from a free career enhancement program at a Goodwill store. This three week class will help them get much better jobs. - - Donna Poisl

by Deborah Block

Many Americans donate items, especially clothing, to Goodwill Industries. The non-profit organization sells the items at lower prices in their stores in the United States, and other countries. The money is used to provide job training for the disabled and disadvantaged, including immigrants in the U.S. Our reporter visited a Goodwill store and training center in Arlington, Virginia, where some immigrants are learning how to search for a job.

Yafet Deferesu, from Ethiopia, and Perline Rasoanoromalala, from Madagascar, are working on their resumes in hopes they will get a job.
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Immigrants learn math from immigrant tutor

This immigrant to the US is teaching math to other immigrants so they can get their GED and get better jobs. - - Donna Poisl

By Judy Masterson

ROUND LAKE PARK — An immigrant and a teacher of immigrants, Paul Shiels of Mundelein, like generations of volunteers before him, offers testimony to the claim that in giving, there is also receiving.

Shiels, a retired electrical engineer and native of Belfast in Northern Ireland, began volunteering at Mano a Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park in 2002, after learning that more than 200 people were on a waiting list for the agency’s GED classes. He saw an opportunity to put the “poquito” of Spanish he picked-up as an exchange student in Spain — he holds a degree from Queens University, Belfast — to use.

He not only used his Spanish, he became fluent in the language.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Illinois to Create Private Scholarship Fund for Children of Undocumented Immigrants

This legislation has already passed the IL House, the private fund would help these kids, who have gone through IL schools, go on to college. - - Donna Poisl

from Fox News Latino

Illinois is on the verge of becoming the first state to create a private college scholarship fund for the children of undocumented immigrants.

The Illinois House, which on Thursday passed a state version of the DREAM Act by a 61-53 vote, sent a bill to Gov. Pat Quinn that would set up a state fund that would route privately funded college scholarships to as many as 95,000 children of undocumented immigrants.

The children would be able to obtain private college scholarships and enroll in state savings programs.
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From I To We

This is the story of this immigrant child who grew up in New York City and how she became the woman she is today. - - Donna Poisl

by Aleksandra Polonetskaya, she emigrated from Odessa, Ukraine to New York in 1997

My first memory of New York City was sitting in the backseat of my cousin’s car, listening to my parents yelling with excitement, but having no urge to join in because I felt like my bladder would burst with every bump on the road. My second most vivid memory is of myself sobbing, begging my mother to take me back to Odessa so that I could see my grandfather, demanding why we had to leave. It didn’t make sense to my seven year old self that I had to be ripped away from my beloved grandfather, from home, and from my friends, only to come and live in a three bedroom apartment that was shared by eight people.

I wondered about this for several years until my grandparents finally came to America. Then it didn’t matter that much anymore. Later on, in high school and college, I was introduced to characters and events such as Stalin, Hitler, the Holocaust, anti-semitism, things that I had heard about at home, things that people would make jokes about at the kitchen table then laugh with their mouths, while their eyes would stare blankly at a spot on the opposite wall. These things were mere concepts to me for so many years were now becoming real, and as a Russian Jew, whose history included all of these “concepts,” I recognized that I wasn’t quite connecting everything.
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Immigrants from India find a home in Pittsburgh

The 2010 Census shows that Pittsburgh's Indian immigrant population has grown lately. They are becoming an important part of that city, including in the recent elections. - - Donna Poisl


When Siddhartha Srinivasa told friends and family in 1999 that he was moving to Pittsburgh to study robotics, few people knew the city about which he spoke.

"Everyone asked why I was not going to MIT or Stanford or Berkeley," said Srinivasa, 32, a native of South India who earned a doctorate in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. "I think that impression is changing. Now when I go to India, they recognize the city more."

Since they began immigrating to the country in the 1960s, members of the Indian-American population have contributed to the cultural, technological and, more recently, political landscape of Western Pennsylvania. And their numbers are booming.
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Why big business is really against Arizona enforcing work status law

This piece tells why big business prefers that the government NOT enforce immigration laws. They want it to continue the way it has been, with undocumented workers working for them. - - Donna Poisl

By Dennis Wyatt, Managing Editor,

It is time to end the farce.

Last week, the US Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law that allows that state to put everything from fast food chains to farmers out of business for hiring illegal immigrants.

Just how devastating that can be was reflected in the words of Janet Napolitano - who was the governor in 2007 when the legislation was passed. Napolitano called it “the business death penalty” when she signed it into law.
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Click the headline to read stories from this week from the Immigration Policy Center.

California 5th Grader Wins National Immigration Essay Contest

For Immediate Release

June 1, 2011

Washington D.C. – The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce the winner of its 14th Annual “Celebrate America” Creative Writing Contest. Maya Young Wong of Altadena, California, won for her poem entitled “My Grandfather Ben.” Maya’s entry was chosen out of more than 6,500 entries from fifth graders across America. As the grand prize winner, Maya will attend the American Immigration Council’s annual benefit in San Diego, California where she will read her winning entry.

Maya’s poem describes the life of her grandfather coming from his Guangzhou village in China to America, his “Gold Mountain.” In less than 500 words Maya, a student at Castelar Elementary School in Los Angeles, was able to tell the saga of her grandfather’s journey to the United States, working in a laundry business, becoming a soldier and getting married.

From China sailed my Grandfather Ben.
He came to America when he was four plus ten.
His Guangzhou village was small and poor
And he helped his mother with farming chores.
Every morning he gathered bits of firewood
And drew water from the well as much as he could.
From morning to night he slaved like an ox.
But it was never enough to fill the rice box.
So his parents said, "You'd better leave home
And go to America where you can roam".
Until you find a great place of your own.
America, Gold Mountain, is the place to go
Big and wide, and high and low.

To read the poem in its entirety go to
or visit

Maya never knew her grandfather who died before she was born. But, she heard of his adventures from her grandmother who Maya describes as a “super, super, amazing storyteller.” Maya admits it was hard choosing between the stories of her grandfather and grandmother but ultimately she thought her grandfather’s tale should be told “because he needed to be recognized for all the great things he did in his life.”

Maya’s teacher, Ms. Dianne Manke, has been teaching at Castelar Elmentary School in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown for 40 years. According to Maya, “Ms. Castelar has been teaching us how to write poetry since September and will help us put together poetry books of our writings for graduation.”

The top entries from each participating chapter of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Assocation were reviewed by a panel of teachers, immigration attorneys and authors who narrowed it down to a top five. The top five were ranked by celebrity judges including Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling, Henry Cejudo; the President of the America Federation for Teachers, Randi Weingarten; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Gerda Weissman Klein; and Senator Dan Inouye. The winning entry will be read into the Congressional Record and the top five winners will receive a flag flown over the Capitol in their honor.


For more information contact Claire Tesh at