Falsely Accused and Facing Deportation

The first thing I noticed about J is his accent. (Because he’s undocumented, I am only using the first letter of his first name to protect his identity).

“Growing up, I was just a regular person,” J says, in a New Yorker drawl. “School, friends, work. New Yorker life, of course. Subway rides, every day.”

J is 27. When he was little, his family moved from Mexico to the United States. When he was 10, they landed in Queens, and he’s been a true New Yorker even since. He loves the 7 train. There’s a moment on his train ride when you can see the whole New York skyline and the Empire State Building, he says with a smile.

J lives with his dad in an apartment in Queens. They’re both pretty into decorating. “You can figure out who I am in like a matter of seconds,” J jokes as he shows me his room.

You get that he’s really into books and movies and going out for a beer with his friends, like most people his age. He’s covered the walls in art and posters, like that photo of the couple kissing in Times Square after WWII and a bunch of his own sketches.

J’s a tattoo artist. He has tattoos on his neck, down his arms, and that’s usually the first thing people notice about him.

“When you see somebody with tattoos, you automatically think he’s a criminal,” J jokes, then turns serious. “You know people probably see me as a criminal — even though I am not.”

One Night

In fact, J had never been in trouble with the law—no warnings, no tickets, no nothing. Until one night in 2014.

He was walking back to the tattoo parlor where he works in Queens after dropping a friend at home. When all of sudden, he was attacked.

“I got hit with a blunt object. I got knocked out, and I got robbed,” J remembers.

His head was bleeding. He says when he looked up, he thought he saw the person who attacked him walking down the block. So, J followed him. He remembers yelling at him that he wanted his stuff back.

“And then all of a sudden, I see a police car approaching. I thought they were there to help me out,” J explains.

They weren’t. J was arrested and charged with burglary, a felony.

This was J’s first interaction with the police, and it marked the start of a long journey through the criminal justice system.

The police confirmed J’s arrest, but they still haven’t given me a copy of his arrest record.

According to records from his lawyer, the man who J followed alleged that J tried to break into his apartment and threatened him. So the man ran outside to escape J and call the cops.

Off to Riker’s

A view of buildings at the Rikers Island penitentiary complex (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

J was sent to Riker’s, a state prison in New York. His dad could have posted bail, but J’s lawyer advised him against it. The moment J was processed, he was flagged for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because he’s undocumented. So if he had posted bail, he would have been immediately detained by ICE, regardless of whether he was guilty or not.

J was adamant that he was innocent. He refused to plea to anything. So he sat in prison waiting for a court date for almost a year.

“I still to this day, I have no words to describe how that made me feel,” J explains. “You know it’s like, that’s what I hate, being blamed for something you didn’t even do. Why, why, why, am I even spending time here? Why I am I being accused of this at all?”

After more than 11 months, J got a trial in front of a jury. Unlike most defendants, he decided to testify.

“I told the story that I am telling you, and they heard. They listened. They didn’t saw tattoos. They saw who I was,” J remembers.

The jury found him not guilty. J was free to go. He went home and back to work.

A few months later, he applied for DACA – a program started under Obama that grants temporary relief to undocumented people like J who were brought to the U.S. as minors.

Yasmine Farhang, a staff attorney with an immigrants’ rights group Make the Road New York, is J’s immigration attorney.

Farhang works in a tiny, windowless office. A filing cabinet butts up against her desk chair.

DACA Hopes

She thought J had a good shot at DACA. She pulls out the stacks of papers they sent to the government: 12 letters of support, one from his father, his criminal defense attorney, his boss.

“We had an editor’s choice awards certificate for outstanding achievement in poetry. We had his high school diploma. We had college letters of acceptance from three different colleges,” Farhang leafs through the applications pages.

They submitted sterilization certificates from a local animal hospital to show that J takes good care of his pets. Over the years, he’s had a pit-bull, 2 cats, 4 birds.

“So what we submitted here was a thick packet to show them who he was as a person,” Farhang holds up a stack of paper an inch thick.

And what they got back?

“One short paragraph telling us that it would not be sufficient,” Farhang says.

J was denied.

Only about six percent of DACA applicants are rejected, about 94,000 people. There’s no way of knowing how many were denied because of run-ins with the law, but immigration attorney Genia Blaser, at the Immigrant Defense Project, says that these are people who are just more likely to interact with the police, whether they committed a crime or not.

“Particularly in low-income communities, communities where there are people of color, particularly in different Latino communities, there’s a lot of police presence,” Blaser says. “And so the police ticket and charge cases differently depending on who it is that they are talking to and what community they’re in.”

For example, minor offenses like being in a park after it closes, drinking on a stoop, or even yelling really loudly wouldn’t get you in trouble in some neighborhoods but could cause someone to be ticketed in places where there are more police.

“There is a lot more police presence in some of the outer boroughs in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens,” Blaser explains.

Queens, like where J lives.

No Hope for J?

Farhang, J’s lawyer, had hope for J’s application, but she says, once an undocumented person has a run-in with the law, no matter the result, it’s difficult to get relief from deportation.

J’s situation wasn’t good under President Obama, and now, under President Trump, it could get worse. Just five days into his presidency, Trump signed an executive order targeting undocumented immigrants. The order greatly expanded the list of reasons that a non-citizen could be deported to include immigrants who have been charged —but not convicted— of a crime.

Weeks later, the Department of Homeland Security released memos that could call for the deportation of anyone who is in the U.S. without authorization.

So Farhang worries that J’s old charge —that felony burglary charge will resurface. Plus, since J applied for DACA, immigration officials have his address and where he works.

“And we are obviously concerned, based on this new executive order, that his information will be used against him,” Farhang explains. “And he that might be considered a priority [for deportation] now.”

Farhang has told J what to do if ICE knocks on his door. They’ve made sure his dad has copies of all his documents and Farhang’s phone number. J even considered changing his address, but ultimately decided against it.

“I feel like that that’s going to be a big mistake,” he explains. “Cause you are running away from something that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. If they want to find me, they will find me. I don’t want to go back to being in the shadows.”

J reads the news every day —he buys two papers— one in English and one in Spanish.

J opens up El Diario, a Spanish-language newspaper. There are stories of possible raids, rumors of people being stopped, even on his train.

“Today I had to go to a Corona, and then I then had to take the 7 train, and then that’s when I was like, ‘Aww, man…’ I heard that they stopped the 7 train and started searching people. So I’m like…” J sighs.

J says he doesn’t believe all the rumors, but he is more aware. Like on the subway, instead of looking at his favorite skyline, he’s watching out for people who don’t fit, like big, bulky guys who could be undercover ICE agents.

But, he says, he’s determined to stay.

“I know I am part of this country in a way,” J explains. “I have so many memories, so many years, I have done so much. I am not going to give up. Doesn’t matter what they throw at me. I’m not giving up.”

New York is home, J says, and executive orders don’t suddenly change that.

Featured image of J by Ashley Cleek

The Political Punk of Downtown Boys

Before Downtown Boys became a band, Victoria Ruiz and Joey Defrancesco were both unionizing hotel workers in Providence, Rhode Island. Ruiz, who had never performed in a punk band before, said she learned how to sing by practicing the union chants at these rallies. This history of activism has bled into their present day role on the stage. You still see it at concerts where Victoria will voice some of these same issues — like racism, sexism and capitalism— but now, her platform is a literal stage.

Almost six years later, Downtown Boys continue to produce music that addresses labor rights, Chicana empowerment, and many other systemic problems the band sees happening around the country. Even at their live shows, they invite concertgoers on stage to either dance with them or to speak about local community campaigns. Political ideas bleed into musical ideas, with big brassy sounds and call-and-response lyrics. And much like a demonstration, Downtown Boys will take their political party music to wherever they can spread their message.

Featured image: Courtesy of Downtown Boys

No Longer Hiding in Plain Sight: Dalea Rundblad on Being Intersex

When Dalea Rundblad was 14 going on 15 years old, she eavesdropped on a conversation that changed her life.

But before that fateful day, she always had a feeling that something was “different” (as she puts it) about her body. Starting at age seven, she knew something was up when she kept having fainting spells, and her mother frequently took her to the doctor to have her hormone levels checked. But throughout the years, her mother kept her in the dark as to what exactly was going on.

So when she was 14, she had grown tired of the secrecy. Her mother and doctor shooed her out of the room to discuss her lab results, but this time she planted her ear on the door and listened to their conversation.

She says what she heard made her knees go weak. “Back then they called it ‘testicular feminization,’ I think,” Dalea said to senior editor and guest host of Latino USA, Nadia Reiman. Later, Dalea learned that she has AIS, or Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, an intersex condition that results in a person having the typical physical traits of a female, but the genetic makeup of a male.

Dalea talks to Latino USA about how learning her diagnosis changed the course of her life, and how she didn’t let it define her.

To find resources for intersex people or people with intersex traits, visit Dalea’s websiteYou can also get a free download to her single, “Look Up to the Sky.”

Featured image: Courtesy of Dalea Rundblad

Churches as Migrant Sanctuaries Then and Now

When you hear the word sanctuary today, you probably think of sanctuary cities, something that the new administration is hoping to shut down. But that word meant something else in the 1980s and it all started at a small church in the Southwest.

Southside Presbyterian in Tucson, Arizona —under Reverend John Fife’s leadership— worked closely with churches in Mexico and Central America to help smuggle refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador who were fleeing civil wars in their countries in 1984. Priests, nuns, and pastors were smuggling migrants and giving them refuge in churches.

“There was a crisis in human rights at the border,” and the refugees who arrived at the border “were being captured and put in detention centers,” said Reverend Fife.

But despite having torture marks and what Fife called strong political asylum cases, the United States government wasn’t officially recognizing these migrants are refugees.

So at that point “the only ethical choice we had left was to help them cross the border safely,” Fife said.

The Reverend John Fife, of Tucson, Arizona/ (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

This went on for years and by the end of the movement about 200 congregations nationwide, including synagogues, were taking part in the sanctuary movement. But then the federal government indicted Fife and 16 other people involved in the movement. They were convicted of conspiracy and of harboring or transporting illegal aliens—all felonies. However, because of the international outpour of support for the clergy, the judge did not send them to jail and instead gave them five years of probation.

Not long after that, the U.S. started recognizing some Central American migrants as refugees and by 1992, peace accords were signed in Central America, bringing down violence in the region and making the church sanctuary movement less necessary.

It didn’t mean that violence stopped all together or that conditions didn’t worsen for people in Mexico and Central America over the 1990s and 2000s.

Throughout the decades, Southside Presbyterian itself has remained a sanctuary for immigrants in other ways. The parking lot and sidewalk have been a gathering place for day laborers. Inside there are often meetings with immigrant rights groups and sometimes there are workshops to help people apply for DACA. In the courtyard there is sculpture that honors the lives of those who have died in their attempts to cross the desert into the U.S.

Stones from the sculpture that carry the name of those who have died in their attempts to cross the border into the U.S. (Fernanda Echávarri/Latino USA)

Fast forward to 2014 when the same church that started the movement in the 80s opened its doors to a Mexican man facing deportation.

That was the beginning of the church sanctuary movement of the 21st century.

Since then, churches across the country have given sanctuary to immigrants who have been living here for years—most of them for decades. This time, clergy are not smuggling people across the border. Instead, they are shielding those already here from deportation.

That’s because of a 2011 policy directive by the Department of Homeland Security. Under President Obama’s direction, DHS told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to treat churches, schools and hospitals as “sensitive places.” That means agents are not going to enter those places to detain and deport people unless there is a threat to national security.

This is why Jannette Vizguerra, a 45-year-old Mexican immigrant, is living at the First Unitarian Society Church in Colorado right now.

But what could happen to the “sensitive locations” policy under the new administration?

Feature image: Fernanda Echávarri

What Is Happening in Peru?

Over the past week, you may have seen videos circulating on social media of flowing mudslides and intense flooding in coastal Peru. The South American country has received its worst flooding in 20 years, one that has resulted in at least 72 deaths and left more than 70,000 people homeless.

The floods are a result of torrential rains caused by exceptionally warm water in the Pacific Ocean. “The water is so warm, actually, that Peru climatologists declared a ‘coastal El Niño’ to communicate to the public the kind of conditions they should expect and prepare for,” wrote The Washington Post. The extent of damage El Niño’s climate pattern can do was last seen in 1998, when nearly 400 people were killed during a period of massive rains and flooding.

“The U.S. weather agency has put the chances of an El Niño developing in the second half of 2017 at 50-55 percent,” reported Reuters.

Peruvian news station RPP Noticias shared aerial shots of the affected areas, mostly in the north, and on-the-ground footage of bridges collapsing and how residents are living in wake of the tragedy.

For Peruvians living abroad, the cries of their paisanos were heard and shared through Facebook and other digital spaces. Peruvian embassies in different countries have opened accounts and online fundraising pages to receive donations in a secure manner.

Many users online are using #PeruEnEmergencia and #HelpPeru to bring more attention to the natural disaster.

ICE Releases First List of Declined Detainers to Comply With Trump Executive Order on Immigration

This past Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published its first weekly report that is says “shows those jurisdictions with the highest volume of declined detainers, and includes a list of sample crimes associated with those released individuals.” According to ICE, the agency is publishing this list to comply with President Trump’s “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order from January 25.

In that order, Trump said that “to better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”

This first declined detainer report from ICE is 35 pages long and provides a deeper look into an agency that rarely provides public information about the people it apprehends and detains. According to ICE, from January 28-February 3 (the week before 680 people were arrested in immigration sweeps), the agency “issued 3,083 detainers throughout the United States.” However, in presenting the information beyond the total number of detainers, ICE explains that many counties in the United States are not cooperating with ICE and stated that 206 detainers were declined during the time period of the report.

Detainers, as stated by ICE, are issued “to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to provide notice of its intent to assume custody of a removable alien detained in federal, state, or local custody. A detainer requests that the law enforcement agency notify ICE as early as practicable —ideally at least 48 hours— before a removable alien is released from criminal custody and briefly maintain custody of the alien for up to 48 hours to allow DHS to assume custody for removal purposes.”

ICE defines a declined detainer as the following: “When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, they have declined an ICE detainer. This undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission. Federal immigration laws authorize DHS to issue detainers and provide ICE broad authority to detain removable aliens.”

This the full ICE report:

A closer look by Latino USA shows that out of the 206 declined detainers, only 44% of them were individuals with criminal convictions, while 56% of them were people who were charged with a crime. The most common convicted crime was Driving Under Influence (DUI) and the most common charge crime was Assault. There was one convicted crime for rape and one charge for homicide. Minor crimes such as Traffic Offense and Liquor were also listed.

BREAKDOWN BY CHARGE vs. CONVICTION  
ChargeConviction
Arson01
Assault3615
Battery01
Burglary86
Carrying Prohibited Weapon02
Cruelty Toward Wife01
Damage Property10
Domestic Violence1116
Driving Under Influence1722
Drug Possession107
Failure To Appear10
Family Offense02
Flight to Avoid01
Forgery12
Fraud02
Hit and Run10
Homicide10
Identity Theft01
Illegal Entry01
Indecent Exposure03
Indecent Exposure to Minor20
Intimidation20
Kidnapping10
Liquor10
Obscene Material - Possession01
Possession Of Weapon10
Probation Violation01
Prostitution10
Public Order Crimes10
Rape01
Resisting Officer12
Robbery31
Sex Assault70
Sex Offense60
Traffic Offense11
Vehicle Theft10
Violation of a Court Order10
TOTAL11690
TOTAL DECLINE DETAINERS206
PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL56%44%

The report also listed the individuals’ countries of origins. The vast majority (more than 95%) of individuals are from Latin America, with about 70% are from Mexico.

This first ICE report is not associated with the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office that President Trump also called for in his January 25 executive order:

Sec. 13.  Office for Victims of Crimes Committed by Removable Aliens.  The Secretary shall direct the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take all appropriate and lawful action to establish within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement an office to provide proactive, timely, adequate, and professional services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the family members of such victims. This office shall provide quarterly reports studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States.

Near the end of its declined detainer report, ICE listed those jurisdictions that “limit cooperation” with the agency, saying that “all jurisdictions and their corresponding detainer ordinances listed in this document are based upon public announcements, news report statements, publicly disclosed policies, and/or information given directly to ICE personnel in the field regarding these jurisdictions’ new level of cooperation with ICE detainers.”

ICE also noted the following near the end of the report:

  1. Some field offices ceased issuing detainers to known uncooperative jurisdictions. ICE field offices have been recently instructed to issue detainers on all removable aliens in a LEA’s custody. As a result, the number of issued detainers is expected to increase over the next several reporting periods.
  2. Currently, uncooperative jurisdictions prevent ICE from knowing when an alien has been released from custody. Consequently, active detainers exist for aliens who are no longer incarcerated. The field offices are in the process of reviewing outstanding active ICE detainers, potentially affecting the list of jurisdictions listed in future reporting periods.
  3. ICE field offices are also being instructed to update the criminal history information contained within ICE’s records at the time of detainer issuance, as ICE does not normally enter criminality until it assumes custody post-processing. Hence, the list of crimes reported for aliens subject to detainers that are subsequently declined may be temporarily under-reported until this new change improves data quality.
  4. At present, ICE does not document, in a systematically reportable manner, the immigration status of an alien at time of detainer issuance. ICE sends detainers to law enforcement agencies, which requests aliens be turned over to ICE prior to release, if ICE possesses probable cause to believe that the alien is removable from the United States.

Detroit Cockfighting Sting Results in Dozens of Immigration Detentions, Stirring Fears in Community

DETROIT — The scene in a neighborhood on this city’s southwest side over the weekend looked, according to Jose Franco, like the type of immigration sweep many in this predominantly Latino community had been fearing for months.

Swarms of nearly 150 local and federal agents had cordoned off several blocks. Residents warned each other not to speak to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at the scene. Others stayed put in their homes, to avoid being rounded up in the chaos.

“My [Facebook] timeline was filled with friends and friends of friends posting photos and videos [of the raid]”, Franco said. “I drove over there to see what the hell was going on.”

The multi-jurisdiction operation turned out to be part of an investigation of an illegal cockfighting and gambling den in an abandoned building. But the operation nonetheless resulted in widespread immigration enforcement. In all, 50 people were taken into federal custody on suspicion of violating immigration law, a civil offense. Only one individual was arrested on criminal offenses, ICE officials have confirmed.

An ICE spokesman said the detainees have been taken to a facility in Youngstown, Ohio, and that their court proceedings will be held via video teleconference with a court in Kansas City, Missouri.

New, “Harsher” Realities

For immigration attorneys and others who advocate for the community, the case provided clues on what immigration policy will look like under the Trump administration.

“People are dealing with realities that are much harsher than they have been for a long time,” said Susan Reed, lead attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

Reed told Latino USA that that new reality includes several tactics as noted in a series of memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year. In addition to increased ICE enforcement actions in U.S. cities along the Mexican border, all undocumented immigrants present during criminal or immigration raids —regardless of whether they are engaging in illegal activity— are subject to detention.

Examples of this enforcement strategy are already taking shape across the country.

Last month, 55 people were detained on immigration-related charges, following searches of eight Asian restaurants in Mississippi as part of a years-long criminal workplace investigation. In Santa Cruz, California, tensions flared among city officials who accused ICE of conducting a “secret immigration raid” during an investigation of an international gang that led to the detention of 11 undocumented immigrants from several locations (10 of those taken into custody were subsequently released).

The latest Michigan case also concerned advocates because the detainees were transported some five hours east of Detroit to Youngstown and will face deportation proceedings in a third city (Kansas City), leading to confusion of how or where to obtain proper legal counsel. Reed said such a practice was somewhat common during the George W. Bush administration, but not so more recently.

“It’s an incredible challenge for someone who walked down street from their home in Detroit… and to end up in another state, not knowing if they need an attorney in Ohio or Kansas City,” said Reed.

Know Your Rights

Michigan has among the toughest laws in the country for animal fighting, with penalties that can include prison time, hefty fines and seizure of any property that’s been found to be used in the illegal activity.

But unlike during the final years of the Obama administration, which focused primarily on deporting immigrants with violent criminal histories, Reed and others are reminding people that even just being in the presence of such illegal activity now can be cause for detention.

According to Michigan state representative Stephanie Chang (D), whose district encompasses parts of southwest Detroit, she and her staff became aware of Saturday’s incident when, like Franco, she began to hear of panic in the neighborhood that immigration officials were conducting the sort of sweep taken place in other parts of the country.

“I had no idea it was about cockfighting,” said Chang. “I heard that there were a bunch of Border Patrol agents. I was like, ‘what was going on?’”

Chang’s office has been encouraging constituents to know their rights: don’t offer information to immigration officials about national origin, don’t carry a foreign passport and do not provide a false name, which makes it harder for family members to locate loved ones through ICE’s online detainee locator.

Beyond that, Chang, herself a first-generation American, has been vocal about her opposition of policies that she said hurt children of immigrants.

Last month, she and fellow Michigan representatives Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) publicized their dismay over the DHS memos.

“Families in southwest Detroit are literally afraid to go to church on Sundays because they fear that ICE will conduct a raid,” Chang said in a joint statement. “Immigrant serving organizations are already getting multiple calls each day about ICE arrests in our community. I am extremely concerned that this implementation memo will stoke even greater fear in young children who are afraid they will lose their immigrant parents to deportation. Rounding up undocumented immigrants who aren’t violent criminals on the street, and separating families, is simply inhumane. The families in my district deserve better than this chaotic mess, which is going to have a high cost to taxpayers. I am heartbroken for the residents who will feel the impact of this un-American policy, especially our youngest residents who will undoubtedly end up losing their parents.”

Immigration: The US vs. Canada

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

Immigration is a word that has been on everybody’s lips as of late. The looming new policies are sending immigrants and green card holders into uncharted tumultuous territories and leaving the rest of the country apprehensive about the future.

When Donald Trump was announced as the new president, after what was deemed as the most dramatic presidential race of all time, the Canadian immigration website crashed. As millions sought solace in the neighbor to the north, the United States was left wrestling with the fate of millions of undocumented (and even documented) immigrants.

Canada is continuously pushing immigration boundaries by improving its system and making sure its attract the best and brightest from across the world. Even President Trump complemented Canada’s immigration system. The country’s Express Entry program, a direct pathway to quickly obtain permanent residency, further accentuates the contrast between both countries’ policies and views on immigration.

Could a system like this work in the United States? Is it really easier to immigrate to Canada than to the U.S.? Here is a breakdown of the ins-and-outs of immigration of both sides of the border.

The American Corner

Those who want to settle permanently in the United States must first obtain an immigrant visa. There are a few ways to get an immigrant visa. A foreign citizen can be sponsored by a relative who is either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or a prospective employer, for example. In Canada, those with education and experience are required to pass a language aptitude test and show that they have enough money to support themselves, and their families, if they have one, for the first few months. This will lead to a permanent immigration visa, and both spouses have the right to work under the Canadian skilled immigration program. In the U.S., the H1-B visa for new skilled immigrant workers, limited at 85,000 annually, is a temporary visa, and it is not extendable to the spouse.

Contrary to Canada, in the United States, many perceive immigration as a threat to the American workforce. While Canada favors economic immigrants, U.S. Immigration is focused on family-based immigrants. In 2016, for example, the U.S. capped extended family-based green cards at 226,000 versus 140,300 for economic immigrants. The federal government’s approach to labor market policy has generally handled foreign labor demand through temporary visas and guest-worker programs, rather than with permanent residency. In fact getting a green card is a lengthy and expensive process. Talented immigrants, like engineering doctorates and physical sciences doctorates, are frequently “forced” to leave the United States and end up settling in Canada.

The Great White North

Canada has created a clear and easy immigration program for skilled workers. It is without a doubt much easier, and faster, for professionals to immigrate to Canada than to the United States.

Foreigners who want to live in Canada permanently are required to fill out a form that does not take more than 15 minutes to complete. This form includes information like the applicant’s age, resume, language skills, education—to find out what immigration programs they are eligible to apply for. While skilled workers in the U.S. have to wait anywhere from five to 11 years to get green cards, the waiting time in Canada averages at about six months.

The simplicity of the Canadian immigration infrastructure ranks applicants based on a points system and has no quotas or caps. The system consists of a possible 100 points, and only 67 are needed for an entry visa. Applicants can get points based on English and French language skills (28 possible points), education (25 points), experience (15 points), adaptability (10 points), age (12 points) and job offers (10 points). Highly-ranked applicants are pre-screened by the federal government and invited to apply for permanent residency. Those who do not obtain enough points can stay in the database for up to a year, making it easy for employers looking for foreign talent to find them, and safe in the knowledge that they can likely have them start working within six months.

This system has overturned the traditional, first-come-first-serve model that Canada and the United States have long followed. And while the U.S. focuses on keeping families together, Canada is pickier—opting for high-skilled immigration.

The United States and Canada have clear and diverse views regarding immigration. Canada has cultivated an immigrant-friendly reputation, championing newcomers as an asset to both the economy and multiculturalism. The U.S. is currently left struggling with the divisive nature and tone set by the new administration.

Immigrants want to come to the United States because they see opportunity and because they want to become a part of the fabric of a country that is free and diverse to its core. And while it’s hard to determine the impact of Canada’s new system, what is clear is that many are choosing Canada over the United States, where there are fewer hurdles to overcome and where the approach is much more welcoming to outsiders.

America Ferrera: Representation ‘Is How Most of Us Learn What Is Possible’

America Ferrera delivered a rousing speech on the importance of representation beyond the media at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles Gala Dinner on Saturday.

The 32-year-old actress was presented with HRC’s Ally for Equality Award during the ceremony, and in her acceptance speech broke down why it’s important that people of color and in marginalized communities see themselves reflected in culture.

“We know that representation matters. We know this. Not just in the media but in our schools, in our hospitals, in our boardrooms, in our halls of power ― we know that it makes all the difference to see ourselves reflected by culture, with dignity, with humor, with compassion,” Ferrera said in a video of her speech posted Monday.

Read more at HuffPost Latino Voices.

Seattle Mayor Contrasts Irish and Japanese Immigrant Experiences as Call to Unite Country in Immigration Debate

At a national press call organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors announcing a Cities’ Day of Immigration Action on Tuesday, Seattle mayor Ed Murray contrasted his own immigrant family past from Ireland to the history of his husband’s family from Japan to highlight why it is “dangerous” during the Trump administration to pit people against each other in a highly-charged immigration debate.

“[Seattle] bears the scars of the expulsion of the Chinese in the 19th century and it bears the scars of the internment of our Japanese-American fellow citizens during the Second World War,” Murray said during the call. “Let me close with this example about how dangerous it is to make these distinctions. My grandparents came to this country from Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. My husband’s grandparents came to this country from Japan at that same time.”

“My grandparents, although they faced those signs ‘No Irish Need Apply,’ didn’t face what my husband’s grandparents faced. My grandparents could become citizens,” Murray continued. “My husband’s grandparents could not. My grandparents could vote. My husband’s grandparents could not. My grandparents could own their bakery in New York. My husband’s grandparents could not own their laundry in Spokane, Washington, but had to put it in the name of their children. They weren’t allowed to vote, own property or become citizens until the 1950s. So one of the most important things I think we are doing today is standing up to those divisions and those attempts to stigmatize any group of people.”

Murray was one of seven mayor to share public remarks about the Cities’ Day of Immigration Action, which has been tweeting under #MayorsStand4All. Other participants included Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (D), Providence mayor Jorge Elorza (D), Anaheim mayor Tom Tait (R), Austin mayor Steve Adler (D), Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia (D) and Gresham (OR) mayor Shane Bemis (R). Complete audio of the press call can be accessed here.

As of this posting, here is the list of mayors who participated in the day’s events or issued statements:

Mayors

“Mayors speak a common language, which is action,” Garcetti said. “I think all the mayors on this call are just too pro-family to see families divided. Are too pro-law enforcement to see our law enforcement officials turned away from their local law enforcement responsibilities to become immigration agents. We’re too pro-economy to lose the momentum in cities like Los Angeles, where we have over fifty percent of our businesses started by our immigrants.”

All the mayors on the call discussed the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform at a federal level, saying that the current actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not making their communities any safer.

“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, or an East-West Coast issue,” Tait said. “This is a bipartisan, a universal value issue. I believe as mayors we have much credibility on this because we are closest to the issue. We live it. We keep people safe. We protect rights. And we have a broken system.”

During the call, the U.S. Conference of Mayors also confirmed that it would be meeting next week with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.