Immigration | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Monday, July 2, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge Weekend Pittsburgh protests focus on Antwon Rose Jr. and immigration reform
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Activist Jasiri X (right) and others protested Sunday outside of East Liberty Presbyterian Church
Typically marked by backyard picnics and fireworks, this past weekend before the Fourth of July instead continued Pittsburgh’s protesting trend.

More than 100 protesters shut down an intersection in East Liberty around noon Sunday. It was the latest of about a dozen protests in the wake of the shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr., killed by East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld on June 19. The Sunday demonstration was focused on the faith community’s role in advocating for the late Rose.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge Chicago immigration advocates travel through Pittsburgh, request federal support for DACA
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth DeAvila
The Faith Life and Hope Mission immigration advocates
President Donald Trump has renewed his intense criticism of the U.S. immigration system and immigrants in general. He called undocumented immigrants that cross the U.S.-Mexico border “animals” during a recently televised conversation about immigration policies and the MS-13 gang.

His rhetoric isn’t stopping immigration advocates from calling for protections, including a Chicago-based walking from Illinois to Washington, D.C.

On May 25, 31 advocates from Chicago’s Faith Life and Hope Mission church passed through Pittsburgh on their march to Washington. Elizabeth DeAvila of Faith Life and Hope Mission says the group is on its 28th day of walking and spent time with fellow immigrant-rights advocates at Casa San Jose in Brookline.

This group, led by Father Jose Landaverde, is marching to gain support for policies such as stopping deportations, reigning in immigration enforcement and providing protections for recipients of federal programs — including Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“We support DACA,” says DeAvila. “These parents brought these kids to U.S. to get away from violence and to avoid hunger in their home countries. We believe Christ would never close [the] doors to people who are hungry and need shelter.”

DeAvila says the group supports an effort currently in the U.S. House to force a clean vote on DACA. Currently, 213 members of the U.S. House have signed a discharge petition which would force votes on a series of immigration bills, including one that would give DACA recipients a chance to stay permanently in the U.S. Five more signatures are needed to force a vote in the House.

Nine U.S. Reps. from Pennsylvania have signed the discharge petition, including Pittsburgh-area representatives Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) and Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills). Three Republicans from moderate Pennsylvania congressional districts have also signed on, including Ryan Costello (R-Bucks). However, Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), who also sits in a moderate congressional district, has not signed the petition.

DeAvila says the group's time walking through Southwestern Pennsylvania has been a mixed bag. People in Pittsburgh have generally been welcoming, but DeAvila notes her group has been harassed in rural areas. This group is primarily composed of Latinos and is made up of two DACA recipients, three TPS holders and 26 U.S. citizens.

“We are walking these 800 miles with a lot of dignity and courage,” says DeAvila.

The group will walk to Greensburg on Saturday.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 5:30 PM

click to enlarge Duquesne University students volunteer to help integrate and educate Pittsburgh refugees
Photo courtesy of Jewish Family Community Services
Duquesne University student working with a young refugee
One of the most daunting tasks for refugee children in integrating into an American lifestyle is something most Americans take for granted: speaking English. According to Dr. Jennie Schulze, an assistant political-science professor at Duquesne University, language skills are one of the biggest barriers in getting refugee children properly educated in the U.S.

“There is a need to close that gap and help integrate these refugee students into our society,” said Schulze in a press release.

But Schulze and Duquesne students are being proactive about this issue and are volunteering their time to help Pittsburgh refugees. At an after-school program at the Pittsburgh Gifted Center in Crafton Heights, Duquesne students work with refugee children from Syria, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, helping them with homework and practicing English.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Feb 16, 2018 at 11:25 AM

click to enlarge Former border-patrol guard Francisco Cantú to visit Pittsburgh to share immigrant stories
Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan
Francisco Cantú
There’s a lot of misinformation being thrown around about undocumented immigrants. Some people equate being undocumented with being a criminal, even though people’s first immigration violation is a civil, not criminal, offense. Many also believe that undocumented immigrants don’t speak English. But, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute report, 62 percent of undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania either only speak English or speak English well.

No one understands the difference between immigration myths and facts better than author Francisco Cantú. Cantú worked as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent from 2008 to 2012. He patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, and also grew up near the border while his mother worked at National Parks in the Southwest.

He wrote a memoir about his experience as a border-patrol agent called The Line Becomes a River. Cantú studied international relations in college, and he describes in the book how he wanted to join the border patrol so he could experience the actual border, instead of just studying theory in the classroom.

The book has received praise from critics across the country for its authentic portrayal of law-enforcement officers and undocumented immigrants. Cantú will be at the City of Asylum bookstore at Alphabet City, in the North Side, on Feb. 17 for a free reading of his new book.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 5:02 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Dreamers urge Sen. Bob Casey to fight for a clean Dream Act
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Liz Fishback (left), of Sen. Bob Casey's office, with Dreamers Lesly Moran (center-left), Hortencia Ortiz (center-right) and Ana Alberto (right)
The immigration debate in the U.S. Senate has begun, and it already looks like a standalone bill to grant recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a path to citizenship is off the table. DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, and have since been given temporary-protected status and are allowed to legally work in the country.

This week, starting on Mon., Feb 12, the U.S. Senate opened up the floor to allow debate on a number of immigration issues. By and large, Democrats are looking to provide protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and Republicans are looking to bolster border security and reduce the number of immigrants entering the U.S. through family reunification (in which immigrants can sponsor family members to join them in the U.S.).

But instead of starting with that debate, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) proposed an amendment to defund so-called “sanctuary cities,” municipalities that limit communication and cooperation with U.S. immigration officers. The Atlantic Monthly reported on Feb. 13 that Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) struck down Toomey’s amendment and complained it “does absolutely nothing to address DACA, does absolutely nothing to address border security.”

(It also should be noted that in 2016 when asked if he supported a path to citizenship in concert with ending sanctuary cities, Toomey told City Paper that those were “separate” issues.)

Although the Senate’s immigration debate is off to a rocky start, Pittsburgh-area Dreamers are still hopeful their needs will be met. On Feb. 14, three local Dreamers delivered letters to the Pittsburgh office of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D-Scranton). Ana Alberto, Lesly Moran and Hortencia Ortiz are DACA recipients and are asking Casey to protect DACA and to pass a clean Dream Act, meaning a path to citizenship for Dreamers without any attachments like increased border security.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 5:15 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh immigrant workers win wage-theft case for work they did at Robinson hotel
Photo courtesy of The Thomas Merton Center
Members of Pittsburgh's Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Thomas Merton Center celebrate winning the wage-theft settlement
Last month, four immigrant workers and their supporters braved single-digit temperatures to protest against a subcontractor they claimed never paid them for more than two weeks of work they did at a Courtyard Marriott in Robinson Township.

Antonio, one of those workers who only gave his first name in a Jan. 6 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said in Spanish to the crowd of protesters, “We’re calling on the hotel to put pressure on the [sub] contractor to get our pay.”

The group of four Latino immigrants were hired to paint and clean rooms at the Marriott by a subcontractor, Oscar Benitez, of Atlanta, that advertised for workers at Las Palmas grocery store in Brookline, according to Guillermo Perez of Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. The subcontractor was hired by National Custom Inc., a Georgia-based construction company. Perez says the workers’ initial contract was for $300 a room and after 10 days of work and no pay, Antonio walked off the job. The other three other workers negotiated a new contract for $12 and hour and were paid for 30 hours, but then were not paid for an additional seven days they worked.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 5:09 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Jewish activists join immigrant groups in calling for path to citizenship for Dreamers
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Jewish activists and immigrant-rights advocates march on the South Side on Jan. 30
Ever since President Donald Trump's administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last fall, the future for hundreds of thousands of immigrants has been in limbo. DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, are undocumented immigrants who were brought across the border as young children and have since been given work permits and temporary legal status in the U.S. In March, Dreamers will no longer be able to apply for DACA and could face deportation.

Over the years, DACA recipients have gathered allies amongst many liberal, and even some conservative, groups, because many Dreamers have known no other country than the U.S. And here in Pittsburgh, a group of Jewish activists is providing Dreamers a boost, too.

On Jan. 30, about 50 people gathered to protest in front of Pittsburgh’s U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement office, on the South Side. The group was made up of members of Bend the Arc Pittsburgh, a progressive Jewish organization, as well as local Latino-advocacy groups Casa San José and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

Tammy Hepps, a Squirrel Hill resident and member of Bend the Arc, said during the protest that the action was meant as a reminder to Trump, in advance of his State of the Union address that same evening, to focus on keeping Americans united in their embrace of immigrants.

“Let our people stay,” said Hepps. “A diverse America is a better America.”

Hepps also said that Pittsburgh’s Jewish community stands in solidarity with undocumented immigrants because the Jewish people have been mistreated throughout history. She sees parallels between the Jewish experience and present-day treatment of undocumented immigrants.

“We don’t need a calendar to remind us what can happen when people choose to scapegoat other people and harden their hearts to those seeking refuge,” says Hepps, alluding to how the U.S. and other Western nations initially refused to take in Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.

During the rally, local rabbis read letters from local Dreamers, and the group sang Jewish worship songs and other protest songs.

Casa San José’s Monica Ruiz, who works with the undocumented community in Pittsburgh, told the crowd she was grateful for its support. She said many Dreamers she knows are anxious about their future, considering that “everything they know could go away in one tweet,” referencing Trump’s habit of issuing policy guidelines on Twitter.

Ruiz told the crowd that Pittsburgh’s DACA recipients have acted as model residents their whole lives and they deserve full, legal status in the U.S.

“These folks need a pathway to citizenship,” said Ruiz. “If not them, then who?”

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Pittsburgh’s African-immigrant group responds to President Donald Trump’s ‘shithole’ comment about African countries
Photo courtesy of Facebook
Attendees of 2017 Union of African Communities of Southwestern Pennsylvania Diversity Awards in Pittsburgh
On Jan. 11, President Donald Trump referred to African immigrants who utilize the U.S. lottery system as coming from “shithole countries.” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who was in the Jan. 11 meeting discussing immigration with Trump, said during a Jan. 12 press conference that the president’s comments were “hate-filled, vile and racist.”

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Mango doesn’t seem to understand the economics of immigration
Photo courtesy of the campaign
Paul Mango
Gubernatorial candidate and former business consultant Paul Mango (R-Richland) released a video on Dec. 1 decrying so-called “sanctuary cities” (municipalities that limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers). “As your next governor I will guarantee you this: We are not going to tolerate sanctuary cities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Mango in the video. He was referencing a recent court ruling in San Francisco, where an undocumented immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in the accidental shooting death of Kate Steinle.

Critics claim that San Francisco’s sanctuary policy allowed the immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, to avoid deportation even though he had been convicted of some drug charges prior to the shooting. After the shooting, Zarate was still convicted of illegal firearm possession, and will likely be deported. However, immigration experts, like Pittsburgh immigration lawyer Abbie Rosario, say that sanctuary policies encourage immigrants to report crimes and keep neighborhoods safer. Rosario says that politicians like Mango who criticize sanctuary cities aren’t necessarily focused on policy, but are more interested in espousing “racist undertones.”

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 5:33 PM

click to enlarge Protesters gather in Pittsburgh area and Washington, D.C. to defend DACA
Photo courtesy of Monica Ruiz
Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 5, about 60 people took a bus from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). One of them was Monica Ruiz, an organizer with Latino-rights organization Casa San Jose.

In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper on Sept. 6, Ruiz said it was an emotional day for the travelers, who were comprised primarily of Latino DACA recipients and their families and friends.

“It was very emotional, many were crying and their parents were crying,” said Ruiz. “For one parent, it was the first time she heard her son talk about his future and his dreams.”

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