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MIRA Blog

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.

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The Waiting Ends for the End of Waiting

waitingBy 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.

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STEMming the Tide

A TelescopeImmigrantslament of education reformers in recent years has been the declining share of U.S. college students entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions—and the loss of opportunity for both those students and the U.S. economy as a whole.

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.

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The Other Elephant in the Room: Immigration and the Debates

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.

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Brown v. Warren: An untouched topic and untapped electorate

As the race for the Senate seat in Massachusetts heats up and Election Day draws near, it is important to consider the effects the outcome will have on the state’s minority and immigrant communities – and vice versa.

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Political Grandstanding: more from the town of Milford

The town of Milford has been surprisingly successful in drumming up media attention around its agreement with ICE to sign on to its "IMAGE" program, which would give the city access to the controversial E-Verify system. Although we would like to ignore this piece of political theater, we are obliged to state our reservations concerning the program.
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Targeting undocumented immigrants - Globe editorial by Eva Millona

The Boston Globe's blog "The Podium" published an editorial by MIRA's executive director, Eva Millona, explaining why the new RMV provision won't make Massachusetts any safer. Read the article or see the full text below. Take action on this issue!

Targeting undocumented immigrants

By Eva A. Millona | JULY 24, 2012

The Legislature recently pushed through a provision in the state budget that clearly targeted undocumented immigrants, requiring the RMV to ask for “proof of legal residence” before applicants could register their vehicles. In seeking to amend that language, Governor Patrick noted that “it serves the public’s safety interests to know, through registration, the name and whereabouts of the owner of every vehicle on the Commonwealth’s roads.” But the Legislature sided with state lawmakers from Arizona to Alabama who want to dedicate state resources to the federal issue of immigration checks — by the Department of Transportation’s estimate, the provision will cost over a million dollars to implement.

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Free Citizenship Clinic and a BIG thanks!

This Saturday, MIRA will join the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative (GCBI) in hosting our only Boston-area citizenship clinic of the summer. These free clinics provide legal permanents residents (LPRs) with the guidance, referrals and materials needed to successfully complete their application, pass their citizenship test, and become fully integrated and engaged U.S. citizens.


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A much-needed spark to the DREAM

In the lyrics of Sam Cooke, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know…a change is gonna come.”

Today, President Obama will announce lifting the threat of deportation for some undocumented students and granting them work authorization on a temporary and renewable basis.

In a memo released this morning from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, an estimated 1 million young people could be eligible for DHS’s “deferred action” directive. Students in the U.S. who are already in deportation proceedings or those who qualify for the DREAM Act, will not be deported and will be eligible for work permits.

To be eligible, applicants must be between 15 and 30 years old and have resided in the U.S. for at least five years continuously. Students can either be presently enrolled, graduated, received a high school diploma/GED, or be honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces.  People who have one felony, one serious misdemeanor, or three minor misdemeanors will be ineligible to apply. Minor traffic violations such as driving without a license, will not be counted. Deferred action will last for two years and can be renewed, meaning long-term relief is still be predicated upon legislative change.

Republic Senators blocked the DREAM Act in 2010, after it passed the House – the furthest it has gone in the legislative process.  The DREAM Act offers a pathway toward permanent residency for young people who have completed some college or military service. This year, House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has already said he would not hold a hearing on the DREAM Act in his committee.  Recently, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has expressed support for a scaled-back version of the bill.

This announcement is a much-needed boost to our nation’s spirits and economic vitality. While this is a milestone for the immigrant rights movement, and a long overdue help for the young people who have known no other home other than the US, it is important to recognize that this does not alleviate the need for congressional action and comprehensive legislation.

The administration’s action today is not guaranteed immunity or categorical amnesty. Instead, the process will still be subjected to the discretion of individual field officers. Today’s directive and broadening of criteria is certainly promising, but it is important to prevent the spreading of false information and exploitation of immigrants.

Further details regarding the detailed process and implications on access in-state tuition, conditions for travel, etc. are forthcoming.

Tune in at 1:15 p.m. for the President’s statement.

(Photo: Massachusetts student activists advocating for the DREAM Act in front of the State House in 2010)

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The Obama administration to stop deporting DREAMers

Breaking news this morning via Associated Press:

The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin giving work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of a growing Latino electorate that has opposed administration deportation policies.

The administration’s decision will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants. Two senior administration officials described the plan on condition of anonymity ahead of its expected announcement Friday.

Stay tuned for details.

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MIRA Turns 25 in the Sky

This year’s Give Liberty a Hand gala also marks MIRA’s 25th anniversary. While MIRA is honored to celebrate another year of continued positive influence in the community, we are especially eager to honor the longevity of the organization.  The sustained presence and expansion over the years is a point of particular pride for all of those who have remained steadfastly involved with MIRA and its core mission of advocating for immigrant and refugee rights in the Commonwealth.  To those organizations and individuals who have contributed to this continued success, we extend our deepest gratitude.


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