President Reiterates Commitment to Immigration Reform at Summit Meeting
By Jennifer Yau
Migration Policy Institute
April 1, 2005
Policy Beat In Brief...
President and State Secretary Affirm Temporary Guest-Worker Proposal
President Bush reiterated his commitment to immigration reform at a summit
meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul
Martin on March 23.
A new "Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America" initiative
aimed at expanding free trade and coordination on security was announced at
Although immigration was not on the official agenda, President Bush did make
a public pledge to President Fox that he would continue to push Congress for
immigration reform in line with principles he has put forward since proposing
a temporary guest-worker program in January 2004.
Bush tempered his remarks, however, by pointing out that he could not pledge
Congress would act since he is not a member of the legislative branch. President
Bush's proposals for immigration reform have met with particularly strong
political opposition from Republican Party members.
In the summit meeting, Bush also criticized an American group called the Minuteman
Project, which will patrol the Arizona-Mexico border from April 1 to April
30 for undocumented immigrants. Bush called the group "vigilantes."
The group claims its activities are limited to observing and informing the
Border Patrol of questionable activities. However, the Mexican government has
asked US officials to monitor the group to ensure that laws and consular rights
The three leaders also announced a proposal to standardize rules for screening
persons and cargo arriving at any port of entry across the US, Mexico, and
Canada. The proposal calls on cabinet secretaries to form working groups, which
will outline implementation steps during the 90 days following the summit.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Mexico earlier in March
in preparation for the summit talks. The visit has been largely noted as a
diplomatic move to reduce tensions between the two nations arising from a recent
US State Department report criticizing Mexico's human rights record,
and from remarks by the American ambassador to Mexico concerning high levels
of border violence. Mexico has disputed the report and the ambassador's
Secretary Rice also communicated the White House's disapproval of the
Minuteman Project while stressing the need for cooperation on border security
in light of possible attempted entries by terrorists. She also reaffirmed the
administration's interest in promoting the temporary guest-worker proposal.
Congress Considers Merging Immigration and Customs Enforcement with
Customs and Border Patrol
House and Senate oversight committees have begun considering a merger of the
Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) bureaus.
In congressional hearings, proponents of the merger called the separation
of responsibilities an artificial division that hampers immigration enforcement
and border security efforts. The merger's opponents view realignment
as a premature reaction to problems arising from the creation of DHS two years
The two bureaus were formed when components of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service and US Customs Service were reorganized and placed into the Department
of Homeland Security, with ICE assuming responsibility for interior and investigative
functions, and CBP overseeing border security.
Continued infighting, financial challenges, poor information sharing, and
low morale have prompted the current merger proposal. ICE in particular has
come under criticism for poor management and its lack of a defined mission,
and the agency has recently experienced financial shortages (for more detail
on these financial shortages, see the December
The idea of the merger, first seriously proposed in a report by the Center
for Strategic and International Studies and the Heritage Foundation, is also
the subject of investigations launched by the DHS Inspector General's
office last month.
- To view the report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies
and the Heritage Foundation, click here.
Supreme Court Okays Ruling Barring Employers from Asking About Immigration
Status in Job Discrimination Suits
The Supreme Court let stand a lower court's ruling that an employer
cannot inquire into the immigration status of an employee who has filed a lawsuit
for job discrimination. The Court concurred with the Ninth US Circuit Appeals
Court, concluding that such an action would discourage undocumented immigrants
from reporting unlawful workplace practices.
The workers filing the suit stated that their immigration status had been
verified at the time of hiring.
The specific case in question involves a group of Hispanic and Southeast-Asian
women who sued their company, NIBCO Inc., for discrimination after it required
them to take an English-only job skills test.
The company, which produces piping products, demoted, transferred, and later
fired the women after they performed poorly on the skills test. Legal status
questions came into play as fact finding in the case proceeded.
- To view the opinion of Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., click here.
US Withdraws from International Court of Justice Oversight on Consular
The US has withdrawn itself from a protocol granting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) oversight of its observance of foreign nationals' consular
The withdrawal comes after the ICJ ruled last year that the cases of 51 Mexican nationals
on death row should be reopened because US authorities failed to notify Mexican
officials. The case was originally brought to the ICJ by the Mexican government.
The ICJ based this decision on the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,
which obligates member countries to notify the governments of arrested or imprisoned
foreign nationals, and to inform them of their right to contact a consulate.
President Bush initially responded to the ruling with a February 28 order
requiring state courts to examine whether the lack of consular notification
prejudiced the trials or sentencings of the Mexican nationals. If so, retrials
will be required. Administration lawyers have cited "foreign policy interests" for
the presidential order.
However, concerns about the ICJ's interference with national and state
courts caused the US to subsequently withdraw itself from the court's
jurisdiction on consular issues. The State Department announced the withdrawal
March 10. The US remains a signatory to the Vienna Convention.
While the cases involving the Mexican death row inmates must still adhere
to the ICJ's ruling, the ICJ will not be able to adjudicate any future
challenges to the US concerning the consular rights of foreign nationals.
The Supreme Court heard arguments on March 28 for the case of Jose Medellin,
a Mexican national on death row in Texas, to decide whether Medellin should
be given a new hearing based on the ICJ ruling. Before the presidential order,
a US Court of Appeals had ruled that the ICJ's decision was not enforceable
under US law.
- To view the International Court of Justice's press release on the case, click here.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Makes Three Rulings in Favor of Asylum
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made several rulings expanding the grounds
on which individuals can seek asylum. The rulings affect only the courts of
nine Western states.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 7 that a homosexual man
from Lebanon is eligible to seek asylum based on fear of persecution from the
Lebanese government and Hezbollah paramilitary forces.
The court's opinion regarding Karouni v. Gonzales disagreed
with US immigration authorities who argued that the defendant had not demonstrated
a reasonable fear of persecution, and that he could avoid such persecution
by refraining from homosexual acts.
In another Ninth Circuit case decided on March 8, a Chinese man whose wife
had been forcibly sterilized in 1985 under Chinese population policies was
deemed eligible to seek asylum. The ruling, for the case Qu v. Gonzales, found
that involuntary sterilization denies one of his or her "reproductive
freedom" and thus "one who has suffered involuntary sterilization,
either directly or because of the sterilization of a spouse, is entitled" to
Although a federal immigration judge had ruled that the man had no valid fear
of persecution because his wife already had undergone the procedure, the Ninth
Circuit stated the past sterilization represented a "permanent and continuing
act of persecution."
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that a young Somali woman could
seek asylum based on her past subjection to female genital mutilation in her
home country. The March 10 ruling in Mohammed v.Gonzales rejected
an argument by immigration authorities that female genital mutilation by itself
cannot be a basis for a claim of past persecution because it is "widely
accepted and widely practiced."
The court concluded that a woman who has undergone such a procedure has suffered
a "continuing harm" that automatically makes her eligible for asylum
without having to prove fear of future persecution.
- To view the ruling of Karouni v. Gonzales, click
- To view the ruling of Mohammed v. Gonzales, click
Policy Beat in Brief
Border Control. FBI Director
Robert Mueller stated in congressional testimony that people from countries
where Al Qaeda is active have been able to cross the Mexican border into the
US. In a separate hearing, James Loy, the Department of Homeland Security Deputy
Director, also testified that illegal entry from Mexico may be viewed as "more
advantageous than legal entry" by terrorists. However, both officials
did not claim knowledge of specific entry by Al Qaeda members across the Mexican
Refugee Admissions. The State Department
projects a reduction in the number of refugees it will be able to resettle
in the United States this year to slightly more than half the 70,000 authorized
by President Bush, or just 40,000 people. Congress has approved $764 million
for refugee and migration assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2005, only a 2.2 percent
cut from the $781 million in FY 2004. However, the department has stated that
the costs have escalated to $3,500 per refugee from $2,200 in 2001 because
of requirements for more thorough background checks as well as rising fuel
prices, among other factors.
Inspector General's Report. The
Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General has found that land
ports currently lack the ability to collect information on visitors upon their
exit, thus preventing the identification of nonimmigrants who may have overstayed
their visa terms. The report also expressed concern over the large number of
travelers exempt from the US-VISIT program, which tracks the entry and exit
of foreigners, as well as the time required by officers manning the program
to perform background checks.
Mexican Migrant Survey. A recent
Pew Hispanic Center survey of Mexican migrants in the US shows that most are
interested in settling in the US, but would participate in a temporary guest-worker
program requiring them to return home after a few years of legal status. The
study presents data on their demographics characteristics, how long they intend
to stay in the US, and their willingness to participate in a temporary worker
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