Media

Delayed Citizenship Processing is Voter Suppression

Shakeel Syed, Executive Director, OCCORD

 

Since 2009, we at OCCORD have helped thousands of Orange County residents apply for U.S. citizenship. These aspiring Americans come from a variety of backgrounds, but they have at least one thing in common: all of them are eager to become part of our community and democracy.

Yet there is currently a backlog of 729,400 applications for citizenship applications before USCIS. This is an 87.59% increase of backlogs in the past two years. Now lawfully present immigrants who have filled out the 21-page naturalization application, paid their $730 fee, and submitted their fingerprints for a background check may have to wait as long as 20 months before their applications are processed, and they can take their naturalization exam and be sworn in as U.S. citizens. These numbers are not just concerning on paper. In our work with naturalization applicants in Orange County, we have watched many of our clients wait over two years for naturalization after completing the process.

 

We believe this is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to suppress voters and undermine our democracy.

 

The USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration provides data on the number of people eligible to naturalize in the United States. In Orange County, they estimate that there are 175,167 lawful permanent residents, or “green card” holders, who are eligible to apply for citizenship. This is 7.4 percent of Orange County’s total population. About 27 percent of lawful permanent residents in Orange County are Asian, while about 63 percent identify as Latino.

 

If they all naturalized, they would increase the citizen voting age population by 9.1%. That’s right, just about 1 out of every 10 voters is being denied their constitutional right to participate in our democracy.

 

Not only has USCIS already accumulated a huge backlog of applications, but the newest data shows that the agency has decreased its processing of applications and that the backlogs have increased in almost two dozen states and territories. The states  with the largest numbers of pending citizenship application are California with 137,538  applications, Texas with 97,788 applications, New York  with 94,491 applications,  Florida with 87,722 and New Jersey with 30,896  applications.

These growing backlogs come during a political climate in which the Trump administration has increased immigration enforcement, targeted people who have legal immigration status or potential forms of relief, including DREAMers and hundreds of thousands of Temporary Protected Status recipients, and shocked the nation with different forms of inhumanity in their immigration policies.

USCIS itself is not immune to these anti-immigrant policies. In February 2018, the agency changed its mission statement to remove the words "nation of immigrants" and inserted language focused on "protecting Americans" and "securing the homeland," presumably from immigrants, the same people they are intended to serve. USCIS recently took the unprecedented step of opening an office to strip the citizenship of naturalized citizens. Francis Cissna, Director of USCIS, is also reportedly a part of a working group comprised of White House advisor Stephen Miller and officials from different executive agencies that are planning new attacks on immigrants in advance of the midterm elections.


As the adage goes, ‘better to light a candle than cry in darkness.’ In this instance we invite you to join us in lighting up the switchboards of our elected representatives. Call your Representatives and Senators and let them know that America is a country of immigrants, and our immigrant citizens deserve their rights and their votes. USCIS is not a weapon to be used against our friends and neighbors. Democracy deserves your five minutes. Reach out today and find them here.


Tell Amazon to stop doing business with racist hate groups!

Violent, authoritarian ideologies, including neo-Nazism and white nationalism, are on the rise. And Amazon, the so-called “everything store,” serves as a platform for individuals and groups pushing these ideas to grow their movements and make money.

A report by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families finds that despite its stated policies, Amazon enables those who traffic in hate by allowing the sale of hate symbols and imagery on the site, including confederate, anti-Black, Nazi and fascist imagery — even in products that are targeted toward children.

Sign the petition today!


Human Smuggling by Boat Increased in OC and So Cal

Orange County is likely to see more human smuggling in small fishing boats or rafts along the coast, like two cases in June, due to “zero-tolerance” federal enforcement of immigration rules on the California-Mexico border, said U.S. Border Patrol spokesman William Rogers.

“As we have been concentrating more on enforcement at the border, it definitely pushes the smuggling organizations to try riskier things,” Rogers said in a telephone interview. “They’re definitely becoming more desperate and are going to more dangerous lengths and it’s definitely concerning.”

Since October 2017, the Border Patrol has counted 20 attempts by human smugglers to land pangas—fishing boats—along the California coast from Imperial Beach in San Diego County to Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, according to Rogers. He called it a “substantial” increase from the 11 that occurred between October 2016 and September 2017.

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THOUSANDS OF ‘LAWYER MOMS’ WILL SWARM CONGRESS TO FIGHT FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN

'We have a reaction as mothers to what’s been going on.'

What began as an online support group for lawyers with children has become a mobilizing force for thousands of people planning to bombard congressional offices nationwide on Friday in protest of the federal government’s treatment of migrant children and their parents.

Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigration attorney in Texas, wrote that she recently hit “the lowest moment in [her] career” when she met with an asylum seeker who had been separated from her son under the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy. According to Lincoln-Goldfinch, the woman had been holding the 5-year-old in her lap when an officer approached and informed her that he would be taking the boy “to the other side.”

My son clung to me and said he didn’t want to leave me,” she told Lincoln-Goldfinch. “The official grabbed him out of my arms and took him away and I just stayed there crying and crying.”

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Janus decision

Today, the Supreme Court overturned more than four decades of precedent by making fair share fees for public sector workers unconstitutional in the Janus v. AFSCME case. This decision makes it easier for anti-worker extremists to divide working people and further rig the economy.

This decision was the result of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by corporate billionaires over decades to take away working people’s freedom to stand together in a union – but these efforts will ultimately fail.

No court decision can extinguish the desire of working people standing together in unions to create better lives for our families and communities. We will not allow a court decision to stand in the way of the fight for living wage jobs, safe workplaces, equal pay for women, fair treatment of immigrants and dignity at work for everyone.

California needs strong unions to stand up to the rich and powerful who rig the economy against workers, and workers aren’t about to let these corporate billionaires reverse the progress that our movement has made. That’s why it’s more important than ever for us to keep our unions strong. No court decision or politician can stop us from standing together in a union to get a better deal for our hard work.

Now, more than ever before, we must show the world we are proud to be union strong! We urge you to talk to friends, family, and coworkers about why you support unions. Tweet or post on Facebook about why you support workers rights to stand together for better pay and conditions (use the #Union or #UnionStrong hashtag). Even add a #UnionStrong graphic to your Facebook profile photo.

Today, we commit to not only continuing to sustaining the labor movement – but strengthening it so more working people can negotiate a fair deal in return for their hard work. Despite this decision, we will continue to lead the fight for a balanced economy that gives everyone a fair shot at the American Dream.

In solidarity,

Shakeel Syed
Executive director

 


Anaheim $18 Minimum Wage Initiative Advances to November Ballot

Voters in November will decide whether Anaheim Resort-area companies that receive city subsidies should be required to pay their employees $18 an hour by 2022, after a split Anaheim City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday to place a union-backed initiative on the November general election ballot.

Council members Kris Murray, Lucille Kring and Stephen Faessel voted no, saying they want to ask for an economic impact report before placing the item on the ballot.

If approved by voters, the initiative would require any company within the Anaheim Resort district receiving a city subsidy – and potentially businesses with contractual relationships with those companies – to pay at least $18 an hour by 2022, with the minimum wage increasing each year after that based on cost of living increases.

A coalition of worker unions supporting the ballot measure gathered more than 21,000 signatures in less than three weeks for the initiative, with the county Registrar of Voters confirming at least 13,185 of those signatures are registered voters in Anaheim, the qualifying threshold to appear on the ballot. Verification of signatures stopped once that threshold was reached.

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Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention

On the morning that Jose Azurdia died, an officer at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California told a nurse Mr. Azurdia was ill and vomiting. The nurse told him “she did not want to see Azurdia because she did not want to get sick.” This began a series of unconscionable delays in getting Mr. Azurdia care for what turned out to be a fatal heart attack.

Thongchay Saengsiri suffered from the symptoms of congestive heart failure for most of the 15 months he was detained at the LaSalle Detention Facility in Lousiana, including fainting, swelling, anemia, coughing, and shortness of breath. Instead of properly diagnosing and treating these classic symptoms, a nurse recommended he increase his fluid intake, which likely increased his risk of heart failure.

Rafael Barcenas Padilla died from bronchopneumonia after a delay in transferring him to the hospital from the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, where nurses recorded his dangerous low oxygen levels over the course of three days that should have prompted immediate hospitalization. 

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Citizenship Fair 6-9-18 La Quinta HS Picture Album

The June 9, 2018 citizenship fair was held at La Quinta High School. Click here to view the photo album.

 


Living Homeless in California: The Uneasy Sanctuary of Shelters

“What was scary about that place was the men were right there,” says one formerly homeless woman. “They were on one side and we were on the other, where we were sleeping. People hallucinated and some sleep-walked.”

For the 31 percent of the homeless population who are women,
staying in a shelter can be terrifying .


Why don’t the homeless just go to a shelter?

It’s an easy question to ask when you see people sleeping on sidewalks. The short answer — if you are one of the 53,000 homeless in Los Angeles County and 5,000 in Orange County — is that sometimes you can’t.


Sometimes the mesh of private and public efforts that make up the current shelter system is too daunting. Sometimes a shelter can’t admit you because they have too few beds. Or maybe they won’t admit you because of requirements that you can’t or won’t meet — you may not be allowed to bring your pet, or you may have to sleep separately from your partner, or you may have to join a 12-step program.

 

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Santa Ana Halts City Council Redistricting, Points to New Lawsuit

Santa Ana City Council members abruptly canceled their effort to re-draw district boundaries, instead relying on a lawsuit by a civil rights group that seeks to require the city to switch to district-based elections and re-draw existing lines.

The lawsuit, by the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles, alleges the city’s at-large election system disenfranchises Asian-American voters in the city’s west end, and violates the California Voting Rights Act. It was filed April 25 in Orange County Superior Court.

“Because of the racially polarized voting in Santa Ana elections, the City’s at-large method electoral system has prevented Asian American voters from electing their candidates of choice and influencing the outcome of City elections,” the lawsuit states.

The California Voting Rights Act, it adds, “was enacted to remedy precisely this kind of dilution and abridgment of rights of racial minority groups.”

The suit seeks a court order banning the city from holding any more at-large elections for City Council members, and requiring the city to adopt “fairly constituted districts that do not dilute or abridge Asian American voting strength or otherwise discriminate against Asian Americans.”

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