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Senate Budget Means Bad News for Latinos

Posted by Jossie Flor Sapunar on 03/28/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Senator Vitter has proposed an amendment which would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of foreign nationals. Photo credit: Derek Bridges/Flickr

By: Luis Torres, LULAC National, Director of Policy and Legislation

After days of debate, the much anticipated vote-a-rama on the Senate budget resolution, S.Con.Res. 11, began on Thursday, March 26, 2015. While intended to be a general framework of priorities for government spending that sets parameters for the coming appropriations process, the budget is non-binding, which allows for broad overtures and grandstanding for party support. That aside, the budget debate—and its corresponding amendment process—offers politicians of both parties, at best, an opportunity to pitch priorities, funding ideas, and, at worst, a vehicle to push forward amendments aimed at steering funding to support radicalized views on a wide range of topics.

Unfortunately, this year is no exception. Some Senators are using the budget process to push forward amendments that, among other things, would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of immigrants (Sen. Vitter), make it easier to deport refugee children (Sen. McCain), and repeal/defund President Obama’s recent immigration-related administrative actions (Sens. Isakson and Vitter). Partial list and analysis of most egregious amendments are below – credit to AILA for their analysis and advocacy

  • McCain 359 - would direct additional resources to Southern border enforcement despite the border being more secure than ever. More resources are not needed to secure the border. The federal government has deployed more resources, agents, and technology to the border than ever before and the number of people apprehended crossing the border is at a 40-year low. Meanwhile, the number of border agents and removals at the border are at an all-time high.
  • McCain 360 - seeks to deter unaccompanied immigrant children from coming to the U.S. by undermining protections for such children and subjecting them to expedited removal process that provide almost no due process. McCain 360 would result in children asylum seekers who have come alone to the U.S. being sent back to persecution and other life-threatening dangers.
  • Grassley 469- aims to restrict access on a retroactive basis to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Already unauthorized immigrants cannot receive the EITC even though they pay federal taxes. But Grassley 469 will harm many immigrants who are lawfully present, including asylum seekers, people awaiting green cards, crime victims, spouses of those serving in the armed forces. It would also harm DACA and DAPA recipients. Grassley 469 would create a discriminatory two-tiered tax system that would hurt thousands of families who have U.S. citizen children living in poverty. People who are legally required to pay taxes deserve access to the same earned tax benefits as anyone else.
  • Vitter 507- serves no purpose whatsoever because it claims to prohibit unauthorized immigrants from obtaining affordable care act subsidies but they are already statutorily restricted from all such programs. Moreover, Vitter 507 would primarily harm U.S. citizens by adding more verification requirements.
  • Isakson 611 and 612- are intended to defund the President’s executive actions on immigration for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The amendment aims to prohibit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from spending fees collected unless approved through the annual approval appropriations process. This would severely obstruct the agency’s ability to conduct business for any future administration.
  • Flake 678- would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to federal criminal prosecutions of first time illegal border crossers. Already such prosecutions for illegal entry are among the most prosecuted crimes and are rapidly increasing every year. Moreover criminal prosecutions for immigrants charged with illegal entry raise grave concerns about fairness and due process. The amendment aims to prohibit any future policies that reduce such prosecutions and takes decision-making authority away from US attorneys to focus on more serious offenses. U.S. attorneys may need to target resources against narcotics or weapons smuggling offenses and other violent crimes, but Flake 678 ties the hands of law enforcement that is trying to protect the American public.
  • Cassidy 806- is intended to restrict Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from using any funds appropriated for processing and adjudicating naturalization applications for any other purpose. This amendment would restrict DHS from processing the President’s executive actions on immigration including the expanded DACA and DAPA programs. Furthermore, Cassidy 806 takes the extraordinary step of establishing a “point of order” against any future legislation that would allow the use of such funds for any other purpose.
  • Cassidy 807- is intended to restrict DHS from using any funds appropriated for the processing and adjudicating of immigration benefit applications for any other purpose than to process or adjudicate the specific benefit. This amendment targets the DACA and DAPA programs by restricting USCIS from using funds to process those applications. Furthermore, Cassidy 807 takes the extraordinary step of establishing a “point of order” against any future legislation that would allow the use of such funds for any other purpose.
  • Vitter 849- aims to redefine the 14th amendment in order to prevent the children of undocumented immigrants from receiving citizenship. The amendment would restrict citizenship for persons who are born in the United States only to those who have a U.S. citizen parent or a lawful permanent resident parent. Any restrictions on the rights of citizenship guaranteed in the 14th Amendment would offend this country’s most sacred values and Constitutional principles. Placing limits on citizenship rights would re-establish the very same discriminatory exclusion that the 14th Amendment was intended to remedy. Repeal of citizenship based on place of birth would create enormous administrative nightmares for most American citizens, who would no longer be able to use their birth certificates as proof of citizenship. Already Federal and local law enforcement agencies are aggressively prosecuting fraudulent “birth tourism” schemes using existing criminal statutes.
  • Vitter 850- aims to prohibit the allocation of funds to any agency for the purpose of administering any part of the President’s executive actions on immigration announced on November 20 and 21, 2014. The amendment would not only extinguish the DACA and DAPA programs but could also be used to target other programs announced last year that would help businesses, entrepreneurs, families waiting to reunite with loved ones in the legal immigration system, and those who plan to serve in the armed forces.
  • Grassley 960- aims to establish a mandatory electronic verification system. Though we recognize the value of an employment verification system, a mandatory system cannot be implemented in isolation without other reforms as it would devastate the agricultural industry and other sectors of the economy. Grassley 960 would likely harm about 150,000 authorized U.S. workers and put many out of work. Every year large numbers of people who are authorized to work are erroneously denied employment authorization by errors in the E-Verify system. Most wait for weeks to resolve the problems in the system frequently losing wages or even job offers during the delay. Small businesses would suffer significant disruption to operations and incur costs of about $2.6 billion.
  • Sessions 955- aims to prohibit unauthorized immigrants from qualifying for Social Security and Medicare. Unauthorized workers are already ineligible for Social Security benefits. Only upon obtaining authorized employment status can they receive credit for their contributions to the system and later have access to their earned benefits. Sessions 955 is also designed as an attack against recipients of the DACA and DAPA programs who obtain employment authorization. Session 955 would harm many immigrants lawfully presents including asylum seekers, people awaiting green cards, crime victims, and spouses of those serving in the armed forces. Finally, many unauthorized workers contribute to the Social Security trust fund but are never able to draw upon the benefits. The Social Security system estimates that unauthorized workers have paid $100 billion into the trust fund over the last decade, helping the system but not benefiting from it.

These are just some of the most extreme measures being considered as part of the vote-a-rama that began on Thursday, March 26 and which is set to continue throughout the day today. CSPAN has live coverage of the spectacle here and Roll Call has the minute by minute here. LULAC weighed in with a letter to the Senate urging opposition to these amendments and will continue to monitor the ongoing budget process. To view a copy of the LULAC letter, click here.

Luis Torres is the Director of Policy and Legislation for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Prior to LULAC, he served as Legislative Director for Congressman Silvestre Reyes, former-Chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was one of a handful of Latino Legislative Directors in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, Torres also served as a high school teacher in Washington, D.C. as part of Teach for America. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology from Georgetown University, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from American University.

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Veterans' Day Salute

Posted by Jossie Flor Sapunar on 11/10/2014 @ 05:31 PM

Ernest Eguia, Former LULAC Member in Houston, Texas

This article was originally featured on the University of Texas at Austin webpage. Read the original post here. Special h/t to Russell Contreras for the story.

By Stephen Stetson

Ernest Eguia spent a lifetime on the cutting edge. Rising above the crippling poverty of the Great Depression, Eguia was at the forefront of the Allied Invasion of Normandy during World War II and was also on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement, pioneering the movement for Latino integration in the Houston area after the war.

Few people who knew Eguia as a salesman would have known about his incredible journey from Lockhart, Texas, his heroics during the Second World War or his leading role in the Houston Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). His story spans decades and details a trans-continental struggle for freedom.

Born Nov. 7, 1919, to Narciso Eguia and Maria Lara Eguia, Eguia is the oldest of six children. The family moved to Houston shortly after his birth during the Depression. Narciso worked as a railroad pipefitter for Southern Pacific, but the Eguias still struggled to make ends meet.

Like many young men in that era, Eguia began contributing to the family at an early age, bringing home food from the farmers market and helping his siblings gather toys when no money was available. He shined shoes at a barber shop and hawked newspapers at the corner of Washington and Houston Avenues, demonstrating the industriousness and dedication that would follow him through the remainder of his life.

Although Eguia excelled in the classroom, he dropped out of Sam Houston High School after the 10th grade and got a job in a menswear store, Buck's Dry Goods, where he made connections that would profit him after his return from the war. In October of 1941, he was drafted.

Eguia was shipped to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and then moved to Camp Roberts in California for basic training.

After basic training, Eguia received specific artillery training at Fort Lewis in Washington. There, he focused on coastal defense. The United States, in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, claimed to fear an assault on the country's west coast, even though it would have been difficult for the Japanese fleet to extend a sustained naval power projection over such a distance.

Specializing in 155-millimeter guns, Eguia got trained to be a forward observer for artillery. Scanning the surrounding area, he acted as a lookout for artillery cannons, calculated trajectories and surveyed for potential targets. Later, from January through September of 1944, he was stationed near Santa Barbara, Calif., with the 144th Field Artillery Battalion of the VII Corp, 1st Army.

After a stint of training in the Mojave Desert, Eguia was shipped across the ocean. There, he was part of the invasion of Europe at Normandy in France on June 11, 1944. After witnessing some of the most brutal fighting on the face of the European continent, the Allies managed to drive the German military backwards through France.

Eguia remained in occupied Germany after Berlin fell and helped to promote the restoration of German society. By encouraging the rebuilding of German infrastructure and performing various logistical duties, the Americans were able to withdraw from Europe at the end of the war.

"I thought that coming back to Texas, things would have changed," Eguia said, referring to race relations.

But within a week after his return, as he drove on a Houston street with some friends, a police car swerved in front of their car. Eguia yelled at the police car and the officers stopped their vehicle, guns drawn.

"I asked, 'What's going on? We didn't do anything; they had to pull their guns,'" Eguia said. "I was the one talking the most, and they took me to the police station."

Eguia recalls the arresting officer referring to him as "a smart boy,” and saying, “He's a smart Mexican." "And I said, 'I see things haven't changed since I left here four years ago,' he recalled, "And the sergeant heard that, he said, 'You been in the Army four years?' I said, 'Four years.'"

The sergeant released Eguia.

In 1945, he took a job with Warren Petroleum Company. Warren had been founded in 1922 and eventually was purchased by Gulf Oil. Eguia applied his military skills in a civilian capacity. The same techniques that once shelled German positions in the French countryside were used to build a pipeline across Texas from Huffman to Galveston, crossing through some of the most densely packed pipeline areas in the country. After leaving Warren, Eguia eventually took a job with his pre-wartime employers at Buck's Dry Goods. Eventually focused on men's clothing, he built a solid career at Buck's.

But Eguia’s days as a clothing salesman and store manager only tell a small part of his post-war life. Defying the defense-industry led paranoia about Communism, Eguia joined LULAC. Despite a concerted effort by the military to demonize collective mass movements, he was prompted to join LULAC after hearing the story of Macario Garcia, who received a Medal of Honor, but because he was a Mexican American, was denied service at a hamburger joint. Eguia says he wanted to put an end to some of the anti-Latino racism in Texas at the time, and LULAC was one of several organizations created to gain equal treatment for Hispanics.

Spearheading projects to integrate Latinos into various levels of Houston city government, Eguia's LULAC Council was part of a larger renascence of Hispanic activism. The high number of Latinos in Texas made the Houston Council of LULAC one of the nation's most prominent.

Holding several posts in the Houston Council, as well as at the national level, Eguia and LULAC were involved in getting Houston to integrate its police and fire departments. At the time of his interview, Eguia continued to participate in LULAC events and lived in Houston with his wife. They have four children, all of whom attended college and all received business-related degrees. Eguia also remained committed to preserving the memories of WWII and veterans' issues, staying active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Mr. Eguia was interviewed in Houston, Texas, on February 3, 2001, by Claudia Garcia.

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Today, the Ernest Eguia Scholarship Fund awards educational financial assistance to deserving college students of Latin American descent who demonstrates a thirst for knowledge, a dedication to completing their education, a willingness to encourage other Latin American students to continue to pursue higher education, and a financial need to complete their studies.

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