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MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.
By CARA FOSTER-KARIM
"I came [to] America like everybody else who imagines America as a great nation," says Yiheyis Derebew. “At first I worked as a parking lot manager at Logan Airport, but I was always looking for a way to introduce the great culture of Ethiopia to this country.” When Derebew arrived in Massachusetts in 1997, he was surprised to realize that Americans’ main impression of Ethiopia, and Africa in general, was one of famine, poverty, and desperation. Determined to set the record straight, he and his wife saved up enough until they were able to open their own business. Their store, Lalibela, is located on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and sells Ethiopian clothing, jewelry, books, and traditional food items such as teff flour, spices, and coffee beans. In response to people’s misconceptions, he says, “I wanted to show that that was not the right picture of Ethiopia. It’s the only non-colonized country in Africa, with very nice weather, very good soil, and rich history and cultural traditions.” Although his store primarily serves Ethiopian and other African customers, Derebew says people frequently walk in off street, intrigued by the window displays, who have never even heard of Ethiopia.
Yiheyis Derebew is one of many African immigrant entrepreneurs in Massachusetts who not only contribute to the local economy, but also help to enrich their neighborhoods by sharing their culture. According to a recent Boston Globe article, immigrant-owned businesses in Massachusetts generate $2.8 billion in income annually, 14 percent of the state’s total. Immigrants are also twice as likely as native-born residents to start a business.
As many Democrats and Republicans have cautioned, those who prevent the passing of immigration reform often commit political suicide. Yet unfortunately, a large portion of Republican members of the House of Representatives seem to be digging their graves right now. Instead of taking up the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, House Republicans together decided to take a piecemeal approach, and not to deal with the issue until after the long August recess.
In response to the House’s inaction, a New Orleans-style funeral procession—complete with an energetic jazz band quartet and makeshift coffin held high-- made its way on a recent Wednesday from the Massachusetts Republican Party Headquarters at North Station to the historic Granary Burying Ground. There rally-goers symbolically laid inaction to rest . Passersby paused to get a better look, and cars honked in support as a couple dozen marchers from community-based groups holding signs to “Keep Our Families Together!” This mock-funeral mourned the demise of a political party that has continued to ignore the pleas of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
By Elizabeth Maguire, Citizenship Program Intern
Inna Ivers first came to the United States from Bulgaria 13 years ago as a library sciences student looking for work experience and to improve her English.
Last Wednesday in Washington, hundreds of families, DREAMers, and immigration reform supporters rallied on the steps of the Capitol chanting “si se puede.” Just inside, House Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, made the crippling decision to scrap the Senate’s resolution for reform, turning away from the human face of this debate to look only at fence lengths and border-patrol numbers.
On June 27, hope for comprehensive immigration reform made some real headway when a bill passed through Senate on a bipartisan vote. Both parties agreed on things like a flexible guest-worker program and providing more visas for highly skilled workers, as well as paving a path to citizenship. Democrats had hoped for a 70 vote victory in the Senate, and in the end they came up just two votes shy of their goal. With 15 Republicans voting for the bill, they proved that democratic compromise could work, creating a wave of optimistic momentum as the bill moved into the House. However, the price of the agreement was over-the-top border security, an endeavor that would cost nearly $46 billion.
Yet it still wasn’t apparently enough for Republicans in the House.
On this terrible day of tragedy and uncertainty in Greater Boston, we at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition extend our deepest condolences to the family of officer Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty yesterday. We also offer our hopes for a speedy recovery to those hurt, and our prayers for continued safety and security to all residents of the Bay State.
By Sarang Sekhavat, MIRA Federal Policy Director:
After what seems like an eternity of waiting, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally issued the final rule for provisional waivers of inadmissibility, what advocates are calling the “Family Unity Waiver”. DHS initially announced back in January 2012 that it would make changes to the way that undocumented relatives of US Citizens could re-enter the United States after leaving the country to obtain an immigration visa abroad. In April, DHS issued an interim rule and requested comments from the public. On January 3, 2013, DHS released the final rule which incorporates some of the suggestions from public comments, but leaves many of our major concerns untouched. The final rule will go into effect on March 4, 2013.
The Old Rule
The new rule is necessary because of the unfair way that the federal government processes I-601s, Applications for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), certain undocumented relatives of US Citizens who benefit from a family-based petition had to leave the United States in order to obtain their immigration visa from a US consulate. The problem is, once an undocumented individual leaves the country, they are subject to a 10-year bar to returning. So essentially, the person is leaving the country to obtain documents required to be here legally, but once they leave, they are not legally allowed to return for 10 years. The INA does allow an individual to file the I-601 to request permission to return to the United States prior to the 10 years, but current regulations say that the individual must file the I-601 outside the country. That means that the beneficiary of the immigration visa must leave the country and be subject to the 10 year bar first, then file the application and hope they are allowed back into the country.
A new report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells another, less familiar part of this story, though one well-known to those paying attention: the growing role of immigrant workers in these same STEM industries, where the foreign-born account for 26.1% of workers with PhDs and 17.7% of master’s degree holders.
With the first debate focusing on domestic topics and the third debate covering foreign policy issues extensively, only the second meeting between the Presidential candidates provided insight into either’s plan for immigration reform.