How Immigration Became Hate Speech

This morning, two journalists were killed by a man who, reportedly, was angry about racial issues. In a moment, two young lives were cut short and a nation again reeled into stunned silence. But, this isn’t about gun laws or gun restrictions. That is left for another day. What this is about is the level of hate and hate speech that seems to be apparent these days. Honestly, it is heartbreaking.

Turn to any media outlet and what you hear is hate. Hate because of race, hate because of gender, hate because of sexual preference, hate because of religious beliefs and hate because of national origin. Hate has become the message no matter what the topic.

When tragedy strikes, communities rally, they rise in solidarity and give each other comfort. But then, it all goes back to being the same. Nothing changes. Hate speech continues to be spewed and the media continues to give it a stage. Are we not better than this?

As the focus of the nation shifts to the elections in 2016, candidates have taken to spreading hate not only for each other, but have also begun advocating a hatred toward one another. Divisive speech has become the norm. Why do we continue to allow this?

America is a unique place. It is great in its ability to stand as an example of people from everywhere living and thriving in harmony. But, this harmony is at risk. As hate speech gains traction, the fabric of America is at risk of being torn. Can we really allow this to happen?

Immigration has become the latest weapon of choice. Instead of celebrating our differences, the speech has become toxic, pitting one group of people against another. Those who are in leadership roles, or who want to be in leadership roles, have made it their calling to exploit the fears and insecurities of groups of people. But how is this leadership?

As the debate heats up over birthright citizenship and walls at the border, all that is gained is more divisive, hate speech. What are missing are real solutions to difficult, complex laws that often cause more heartache than people ever hear about or understand. Honest dialog that reasonably examines issues of citizenship, the long time delays of an overburdened immigration system and the backlogs that cause immigration cases to linger in immigration courts across the nation are often left with a cursory review. The often harsh reality of a system that provides limited to no relief for families, employers and those fleeing hostile lands is lost in the sound bites that take over the 24 hour news cycle. So how does this change?

The preamble of the Constitution begins, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Perhaps time has come to step back the hate speech and come together as a people to demand that our leaders be defined in their ability to bring us together, to encourage tranquility, and protect this and future generations. It is after all what the founding fathers had set out to do so long ago.


The Border Security Myth: A Kansas City Attorney’s Take

The stories below are based off real client experiences. However, all names and specific details have been altered as a matter of privacy and confidentiality.

Republican politicians continually state that the U.S. needs to secure the U.S.-Mexican border before Congress can pass any other immigration reforms. This statement may rile up conservative supporters but it does not have much basis in reality.

There are more border patrol agents and miles of fence at the border than ever before in U.S. history. Overall, apprehensions and deportations at the border are higher. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are effectively securing the border. This should not be a hurdle in comprehensive reform. In fact, further security measures without reforms may hurt the U.S. and immigrants alike.

The militarization of the border, without any meaningful immigration reform, has led to several unintended consequences. First, it has forced people attempting to enter the U.S. without authorization to resort to drastic and often life-threatening alternatives. These people are forced to trek through rough desert terrain to cross the border. Many others are forced to use smugglers who may have no concern for immigrants’ health or safety.

Additionally, due to the increased security and the danger of entering the U.S., many people are forced to remain in the U.S. rather than return to Mexico. It’s important to understand the motivations for Mexican and Central American migration to the U.S. The motivations are overwhelmingly economical or relate to a fear of their home country.  Migrants have families and few opportunities for employment. There only hope of providing for and protecting their family is to migrate to the U.S.

Take for example, Oscar. He lived in rural southern Mexico. His family owned a small batch of land for farming. The family barely grew enough crops to feed the family. There was rarely enough to sell. Oscar lived in a one room house with his wife and two children. The house had dirt floors, and his family had limited access to running water. He had nothing to support his family. He has little education because he was forced to help his family at the farm growing up. He could not find jobs elsewhere in Mexico because of his poor education and his status. He had no business connections and no transferable work skills. So he traveled to the U.S. Were he met a cousin, who helped find a job for him in the agricultural industry. Oscar sent money back to his family for support. He wanted to visit them, but he knew the dangers of crossing back to the U.S. and the likelihood of getting stuck in the same Mexican poverty as before. So he stayed. Eventually, his family joined him in the U.S. and stayed also.

The U.S. does not need more border security, it needs smarter border security and comprehensive reform. It needs to consider the motivations for migration, like Oscar’s, and encourage lawful immigration through expansion of temporary worker visa program and other programs. It also needs better training for its border agents.

Instead of actually addressing the real issues, Republicans in Congress recently introduced a border bill increasing the amount of fencing along the border and setting priority deadlines to increase security. The director of the Department of Homeland Security called these priorities “unworkable” and “not a serious effort at legislating border security.” Furthermore, we are about two weeks away from a potential DHS shutdown, which would force the agency charged with securing our borders to operate without sufficient funding. Congress is playing politics rather than debating the issues and passing comprehensive reform that would go a long way in resolving some of the most pressing immigration issues.



DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. If you are in removal proceedings or need legal advice on your immigration case, please contact an immigration attorney.

Michael Sharma-Crawford Joins Panel of Public Policy Symposium

The Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy Symposium, Perspectives on Immigration Reform will be held at the University of Kansas School of Law on February 22, 2013. Michael Sharma-Crawford, principal of the Sharma-Crawford Law Firm will join a distinguished panel of educators, policy scholars and thought-leaders as they tackle a number of current immigration reform topics.

Sharma-Crawford will join the Panel Discussion: Perspectives of Meaningful Immigration Reform. Other panel members include:

  • Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City
  • Michael O’Neal, President, Kansas Chamber of Commerce
  • Leon Versfeld, Immigration Law Practitioner, Versfeld & Hugo

Innumerable stakeholders want their voices heard in the immigration debate. This panel discussion will view the immigration debate through the lens of practitioners, advocacy groups and religious groups. Each participant will raise the immigration policy goals for his or her respective constituency to give attendees the opportunity to see both how these stakeholder goals work together and how they do not.

The Public Policy Symposium will be held on February 22, 2013 at Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP Lecture Hall | 104 Green Hall.

Click to learn more.

Gearing up for impact on young illegal immigrants seeking work permits under new policy change

Michael and Rekha Sharma-Crawford expect their office phones to begin ringing today – and for weeks to come. Their Kansas City immigration law firm has been affected by almost every administration and court decision regarding immigration legislation over the past nine years. Today’s announcement by the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security is significant.

“Politics aside, decisions like this and changes in policy stir up questions and activity throughout the immigrant community,” said Michael Sharma-Crawford. “Today we must understand the Administration’s policy announcement and advise a large segment of the Kansas City community on how this might impact individuals and families for years to come.”

According to today’s announcement, the Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives.

The policy change, announced today by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants nationwide and a large Kansas and Missouri population who have lived in fear of deportation.

According to early reading of the Administration’s policy, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16, are currently  younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years, with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

“Regardless of how politics impacts this decision in the weeks and months to follow, we do know that many lives in our local Kansas City immigrant community are significantly affected by today’s decision,” added Sharma-Crawford.