Archive for the 'LATINO VOTE' Category

Thoughts On the Decline and Fall of That Most Ignoble of Terms, “Illegal immigrant”

April 2, 2013

AP NO MORE

Today’s stunning  announcement by the Associated Press that it dropped the racist term “Illegal immigrant” from its AP Stylebook, the BIble of  journalistic usage, marks a historic juncture. The history of the decline and fall of the term “illegal immigrant” and it’s derivatives (“Illegals”, “illegal alien” and the like) is one that should be recounted, IMHO.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the long how and the deep what of this collective accomplishment, this latest victory, because victories, including linguistic victories, are one of the defining characteristics of major social movements. One need look no further than  the social and linguistic change engendered by the movements of black power (“N” word, African American), women (“B” word & others), queer communities (“F’ word & others), disabled people (“C” word) and many others. Many, many did indeed work on this and we should all celebrate. In the words of Ivan Roman, former President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which led the fight in the quiet of editorial rooms throughout the country since the late 90’s,

“Thanks to lots of work by a lot of people and more intense work more recently by a certain cluster of folks, it’s finally happened! Kudos!”

Journalists and the poc journalism orgs led and were the most consistent in this fight for many years and that needs to be underscored because it is less-known.

undocumented

Within that most recent “cluster” Ivan mentions, I identify and salute Jose Antonio Vargas & Define American, Oscar Chacon & NALACC, DREAMers, Presente.org, artists, linguists and lots of local, regional and national groups who mounted different initiatives with different outlets in different cities at different times in the past 3.5 years that defined that cluster moment. Of special note are Rinku Sen and the Applied Research Center (ARC) and their Drop the I  Word campaign for the money,  for the full and part-time staffing and for the consistency that, since 2010, carried the campaign to national scale and attention, far and beyond the polite (and sometimes impolite!) conversation of the editorial room.

And I know of no single person who spent more time thinking about, who worked more hours (slept fewer hours!) with more groups in more cities and with more media outlets to drop the I-Word than Monica Novoa, ARC’s former Drop the I-Word Coordinator, current Define American team member;  These facts I want not to be lost in the thrill and buzz of victory.

monica_novoa_CLdrop the i word

In terms of the deep what of what was accomplished, we should recall that the roots of the Associated Press’ decision-and the campaign that brought that decision- lie  in the history  and confluence of the Jewish and the Salvadoran experiences of violence- and the dehumanization that enables it. Unbeknownst to most is that the language activism of  Drop the I-Word and the immigrant rights movement that informed it was itself a continuation of the work begun- en Español-  by Salvadorans organizing the “Nigun Ser Humano Es Ilegal”campaign in the 1980’s. In support of the right of Salvadorans in the 1980’s to legal status in the U.S. under international political asylum statutes, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Elie Wiesel gave the Salvadoran sanctuary movement the now storied phrase, “No Human Being is Illegal.” “Yes, I gave that term to the Sanctuary movement, Wiesel told me some years ago. “It was wrong to deny them (Salvadorans and Guatemalans) (legal) status. I was happy to support the cause.” And there,  in the marriage of Jewish and Salvadoran dignities, was born the beginning of the end of the ignoble term “illegal immigrant.”

vallen_no_human_illegal

Speaking with Wiesel and with Salvadorans, Guatemalans and other victims of extreme violence, one thing about language becomes tragically obvious: violent, oppressive language is a necessary precursor to both violent, oppressive policy and violent, oppressive physical and psychological action; What also becomes clear is that eliminating such language does, in fact, make bad policy and violent behavior that much more difficult and avoidable. This alone is reason to celebrate.

Let us now add this ignoble term to the dustbin of dead and offensive language that includes “nigger”, “faggot”, “cripple”, “chink”, “jap”, “bitch” and too many others in a country born of a noxious blend of Biblical language and the language of exploitation and officially-sanctioned violence.

Let us rejoice that, over time, our children will learn you don’t refer to human beings as “illegals”, “illegal immigrants” and other dehumanizing (to referent and to speaker) terms.

Over time, we will all proudly remember that we held our own faith and were resolute in delivering the Word: Ningun Ser Humano Es Illegal.

To Protect & Defend or to Report Honestly?: Media Responses to Obama’s Radical Deportation Program Deportation Vary

October 19, 2011

The Big Media had a broad set of responses to yesterday’s conflict between the Obama Administration, which announced a new record -400,000- on deportations and those of us that are calling for an end to SCOMM (cynically named “Secure Communities”), the mass racial profiling program that is one of the main drivers of deportations and other failed immigration policies.

Some of the reporting opted to uncritically accept the Obama Administration’s claims that most of the 400,000 deportees were the “serious criminals” that President Obama’s top Latino Advisor on immigration,Cecilia Munoz, has been in the habit of repeating ad nauseum lately. Among the more banal and dangerous because banal is this piece in USA Today. The title, “Most illegal immigrants deported last year were criminals” reads like it was written by the White House press office.

Guilty before proven human

The USA Today article fails to note, for example, that, of the 400,000 “criminals”  deported in 2010, a little over 50,000 were people that allegedly committed murder (1,100), sexual and or drug offenses (whatever the Obama Administration means by “drug offenses”). Nobody asked, what are the alleged “crimes” of these 350,000 other “criminals”? Had USA Today or other uncritical media outlets attended yesterday’s anti-SCOMM actions in 10 cities, they would have found the answer: women who call the police to report domestic violence and end up in one of the Obama Administration’s immigrant gulag’s, that’s who; men who drive without a license and are deported, that’s who; women stopped for a broken traffic light and then get put into “detention” where they are raped, that’s who the Obama Administration is labeling and treating like “criminals”.

CBS News: Checking facts, reporting without White House talking points

What USA Today and other uncritical outlets missed in yesterday’s botched opportunity is all laid out in serious journalistic colors in Lost in Detention. And this piece by Stephanie Condon at CBS News is by far the best in terms of connecting the Obama deportation announcement and yesterday’s national day of action against SCOMM. and to do so within the context of the 2012 elections,where, as Condon notes, Candidate Obama faces an electoral crisis precisely because of his immigration policies.The CBS article also managed to inform readers about the Obama Administration’s radical racial profiling of Latinos. Citing an important report released today by the Cardozo law school, Condon states that, “The (Cardozo) report also found that 93 percent of individuals arrested through Secure Communities were Latino, even though Latinos make up 77 percent of the undocumented population.” 93 percent Latino. This difference of 16% proves clearly that looking “Latino” (whatever that looks like) means looking “criminal” in the eyes of the Administration. These little facts matter, but somehow continue to be under-reported  and ignored by most of the Big Media.

Whether the Obama Administration decides to do the right thing and abolish SCOMM of whether he continues his current path-deny wrongs,  divert attention and have surrogates try to silence oppostion remains to be seen. Either way, we need to watch the media and hold them accountable to tell the truth about immigrants and about Obama.

To (Re)Gain Latino Voter Trust, Obama Must End SCOMM

October 18, 2011

A piece I wrote about the record-breaking, family-breaking pace of the imprisonment and deportation regime that is the Obama Administration’s preferred policy.

 

 

 

Last Sunday, during a speech made at the dedication of the monument honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King, President Obama declared, in King-like cadences, that the slain civil rights leader “stirred our conscience.”

The president, who is desperately trying to win back Latino votes lost since 2008, went on in the speech to say that King reminds us “to show compassion to the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of are just a few generations removed from similar hardships.” He has also taken to engaging in high-profile appointments and meetings with Latino media executives, like Univision’s president, César Conde, and Latino superstars like Shakira.

While Obama’s meetings and his words of compassion for immigrant families are most welcome, the president’s deeds – and their effects on immigrant families – provide a stunning and tragic contrast.

As documented in Tuesday’s broadcast of PBS Frontline’s ‘Lost in Detention‘ documentary, President Obama’s policies have led to the record and heart-breaking deportation of more than 1 million immigrants, the separation of thousands of families, and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands forced to live in subhuman conditions in what some of us are calling “Obama’s Immigrant Gulag.” Detainees fall victim to rape and sexual abuse, racism, having to eat worm-infested and rotten food, physical and psychological abuse, the denial of basic rights and other humiliating conditions.

At the heart of this immigrant tragedy is a radical racial profiling program known as “Secure Communities,” or S-COMM, which turns local and state law enforcement officers into immigration officers who are beginning to ask everyone – citizen and non-citizen – for their papers simply because they look a certain way.

By the tens of thousands, Latinos, one of the groups most profiled under S-COMM, will watch the documentary, which will speak to the concerns about the president’s immigration policies and about which an increasing numbers of us are growing angry and impatient.

Polls, like the Latino Decisions-ImpreMedia, conducted in August 2011, tell us definitively that most Latino voters know one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Presente.org and its allies in 10 cities will call on the Obama Administration to do away with the rotten fruits of S-COMM and other immigration policies he promised to either alter or abolish altogether. The absolute failure and damage of these immigration policies have been thoroughly documented by lawyers, immigrant rights groups and, increasingly, journalists like those responsible for tonight’s unprecedented documentary.

Trying to cover up and divert the attention of the public, especially the now very fed up Latino voter public, will not work. Trying to blame the failure of S-COMM, a program of the executive branch of government, by handing over responsibility to Congress, the legislative branch, as Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s top advisor on immigration, has done repeatedly, will not work.

Latinos are not stupid. We will not accept the false statements and diversionary tactics of apologists for the abominable immigration policies of the administration.

To (re)gain trust of Latino voters, Obama must make fundamental changes to the immigration laws he can change at will, as he proved on August 18, when he announced slight changes to immigration policy after groups across the country protested his campaign offices, including his campaign headquarters.

Until President Obama makes more fundamental changes to his dangerous immigration policies, we will take back the slogan that Obama the candidate borrowed from Latinos – “Sí Se Puede/Yes We Can” – and use it for our efforts to both stop S-COMM and abolish Obama’s Immigrant Gulag.

Roberto Lovato is Co-Founder and Strategist at Presente.org.

 

Obama’s King Memorial Speech Calls for “Compassion to the Immigrant Family”, Obama’s Actions Don’t

October 16, 2011
“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed.” Mohandas K.Gandhi
During a speech made at dedication of the monument honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King today,President Obama declared in King-like cadences that slain civil rights leader “stirred our conscience.” Obama, who is desperately trying to win back Latino votes lost since 2008, went on in the speech to say that King reminds us “to show compassion to the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of are just a few generations removed from similar hardships”

While Obama’s words about compassion for immigrant families are most welcome, Obama’s deeds and their effects on immigrants provide an astonishing contrast. As documented in Tuesday’s upcoming broadcast of Frontline’s Lost in  Detention, President Obama’s policies have led to the record-and-heart-breaking deportation of more than 1 million immigrants, the separation of thousands of families and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands more. Lost in Detention documents how President Obama is exposing human beings, immigrant families held in immigrant prisons to rape and sexual abuse, racism, having to eat worm-infested and rotten food, the denial of basic rights and other subhuman and humiliating conditions.

You can the difference between immigrant fact and immigrant fiction, between words of change and deeds of degradation in the video clip we at Presente.org put together (see below). And don’t forget to watch Lost in Detention on Tuesday night and see for yourself.

Occupy Wall Street Must End the Dictatorship – of Corporations

October 6, 2011


Our Berlin Wall is breaking. The furious waves of marchers in yesterday’s Occupy Wall Street mobilization have cracked the dark marble and teflon walls protecting the Dictator of our age: Big Corporations.

While baffled Teapartyers, Democrat-leaning progressives and most of the media ignored, ridiculed and then fought the nascent movement, the forces of Occupy Wall Street won a stunning ideological victory over the US Dictator. The history that allegedly ended after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marches on on Wall Street and on Main Streets throughout the United States- and the world- of 2011. The heavily-buttressed and beatified idea that Wall Street-the fortressed embodiment of Big Corporate Control of our land, our sea, our air, our country and even our DNA- is invincible just got Occupied.

Though the unprecedented popularizing of the “Wall-Street-as-US-Dictator” meme implicit in the movement’s message is growing and impressive, the real success of Occupy Wall Street, the great struggle of our crisis-ridden lives will be defined by one thing: definitively ending the Dictatorship of Big Corporations. Put another way, the real human beings that make up the citizenry will have to destroy the fake Citizenship of the non-persons that control Republican and Democrat, Obama and Boehner alike.

Failure to fundamentally alter Wall Street’s control of our political, economic and personal lives will lead to even greater devastation of real citizens. The good news is that we in the United States have finally started recognizing, naming and fighting back against the power behind a White House, a Congress, a Pentagon and an entire political and economic system beholden to fantastically rich and powerful corporations controlled by less than 1% of the population.

The history of the future will record how the Occupy Wall Street movement began informally after many of us stood by and watched as the great martyr of our times, Citizen Troy Davis, was denied his fundamental rights, was denied life itself; Historians will document how we watched and grew in anger as Corporate Citizens like the GEO group and other prison construction firms that profit from warehousing Davis and other Death Row inmates suck up all the rights of our citizenship- and none of the responsibility.

Whether they profit financially from the death penalty or from manufactured and unnecessary wars or whether they destroy the Gulf of Mexico or the earth’s climate, Corporate Citizens face no death penalty for their crimes. Only we human citizens do.

Like dictators, Big Corporations act with an unfettered arrogance and a dangerous impunity that profits from death, from war, from poverty and from the destruction of the planet itself. Many of us in the immigrant rights movement see the will to protect the powerful at the expense of the weak in how the Obama Administration jails more than 400,000 poor immigrants a year all the while not making a single banker serve serious time for what should be called ‘Economic Crimes Against Humanity.’

Occupy Wall Street represents a Great Awakening to the need to rescue our free speech and other democratic spaces humiliated by Big Corporations that the Supreme Court protects legally; that the police protect physically; that the media protects culturally and that White House and Congress protect politically.

Like the powerful social movements that are reshaping the Arab world, Latin America and even Israel, Occupy Wall Street must build enough power to avoid the multiple and often carefully disguised attempts by corporate interests to divert and water down our insurgent energy.

While the first line of Wall Street’s defense of its dictatorship is the more openly right wing, hard-line approach of trying to downplay and attack Occupy Wall Street thru any and all physical, political and media means, the next stage of defense will be subtler- and Democrat-led: try to divide and coopt the movement. Among the principal means will be the attempt to align and define the Occupy Wall Street movement by identifying it with the Democratic party and the Obama Administration. Already, the White House has started deploying Treasury Secretary -and Wall Street insider-Tim Geithner to create some sort of wedge between President Obama and Wall Street.

Obama allies in the progressive, immigrant rights, civil rights, environmental, labor and other movements are already trying to do what they did during the our last insurgent moment, the anti-Bush era: channel the insurgent energy into support for Democrats in the elections, in our case the 2012 elections. Failure to recognize these more subtle machinations of the corporate dictatorship will be fatal to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Key to recognizing these machinations is the urgent need and willingness to expose the disturbingly deep connections between the Obama Administration and the dictators of Wall Street. Any attempt to revive the thoroughly dead American Dream that does not detail how the Wall Street-heavy Obama Administration’s economic, military, immigration, environmental and other policies have destroyed the dreams of millions should be deemed questionable, at best.

Reviving Hope and Change will require nothing less than swiftly -and surgically-separating them from an electoral system corrupted by the Corporate Dictator that thoroughly controls both the Democrats and the Republicans. For the moment, real Hope and Change, (i.e. the kind that does not cost a billion dollars of Wall Street and other money to promote)-have returned to their rightful place in the streets and hearts of marchers and those hungry for justice.

Like those courageous souls who tore down the Berlin Wall or the wall of silence surrounding Tahrir Square, we must have the courage to confront the dictatorial menace of our time. In our case, the menace is neither communist nor a blatantly totalitarian dictator. Rather, it is a “Citizen” that none of us voted into office, but who all of us are becoming indebted to and imprisoned by. Before doing the urgently necessary work of (Re)Occupying -and redefining-our Citizenship, let us take a moment to Occupy our breath and take in our Great Awakening as we continue and expand the fight of and for our lives.

White Nationalist Anger and Violence: A Preview of Even Greater Anti-immigrant Violence?

August 10, 2009

https://i0.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_eQFMSrewFec/R5tmWA7LUjI/AAAAAAAABac/9uJWfK3IKFM/s320/hate1.jpg

Though its primary subject is the rise of violent white nationalism, this important article by Eric Ward and our friends at Imagine 2050 has indirect and seriously bad implications for the not-so-distant immigrant future.

I say this because I think and fear that recent developments- the acidic anger seen during the Sotomayor hearings, the deadly absurdity of the “birther” frenzy in the media and the outbreak of violence seen in the health reform debate- preview what will likely be even greater levels violence we will see during the immigration debate, if and when Obama and the Democrats decide to move forward with their proposal.

Given what I believe anyone traveling throughout the country sees and hears-that immigrant violence grows exponentially- we should begin preparing on how to deal with the more open anti-migrant warfare that those invested in promoting false ideas of immigrant criminality are working towards.

I say “even greater levels of violence” only because the violent cat of anti-migrant violence has already been let out of the white nationalist bag: spikes in anti-Latino, anti-migrant hate crimes, increased murders and only God knows how many unreported cases there are; The overwhelming number of hate crimes, especially those targeting the most vulnerable, undocumented have been perpetrated without ever being documented. And we can only imagine what it’s like in most places in the country, places that have never created systems to document such crimes as in Los Angeles, where we will likely see those systems diminished by budget cuts. I fear that such a situation make the anecdotal descriptions of violence I encounter with unrelenting intensity throughout the country a preview of things to come.

Beyond building and saving existing hate crime reporting infrastructure, by far the most important thing the immigrant rights movement can do is stop the debate from including any more legislation that directly or implicitly reinforces the constitutionally dangerous notions of immigrant criminality.

In other words, in an environment in which visual, verbal and physical anti-migrant violence has gone viral, there should be a moratorium against ANY AND ALL LEGISLATION PREMISED ON DANGEROUSLY FALSE NOTIONS OF THE IMMIGRANT AS CRIMINAL NEEDING AND DESERVING PUNISHMENT FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Such notions only further legitimate similar notions proferred by pols -Republicans and Democrats-, mainstream media and the racial extremists whose ideas they give a platform to.

We no longer need to give extremists and their ideas a platform by legitimating them thru “tradeoffs”, “compromises” and with toxic talk of more enforcement and punishment. There has to and is another way: stop. Regardless of whether the messenger advocating for more punitive policy is Republican or Democrat, Minuteman or “immigrant advocate”, anyone promoting even more punitive legislation (don’t we have enough punitive laws as it stands?) should be called out for fomenting policies premised on dangerous ideas of immigrant criminality that enable further violence against immigrants and others.

If hate crimes are any indicator, the idea that comprehensive immigration reform will do anything to diminish hatred is proven painfully wrong by the broken bones, bruised faces and cracked ribs of the citizens and residents attacked for their appearance. Hate crimes against migrants are rapidly rising worldwide. Just imagine how vast the toxic sea of violence against migrants in the US is.

There is another way and it begins at the border between policies that equate immigrants with criminality and those that don’t.

Honduras: ¿quién le paga a Lanny Davis?

July 26, 2009
Lanny Davis
“Si quiere comprender quién es el poder verdadero detrás del golpe de estado” [hondureño], dice Robert White, presidente del Centro de Política Internacional con sede en Washington D.C., en una reciente entrevista, “halle quién le paga a Lanny Davis”.

Davis, un aliado de la familia Clinton mejor conocido como el abogado que defendió a Bill durante los procedimientos de enjuiciamiento presidencial, se presento recientemente en Capitol Hill para cabildear entre miembros del Congreso y prestar testimonio en el Comité de Relaciones Exteriores de la Cámara de Representantes contra el exiliado presidente Manuel Zelaya. White –quien sirvió previamente como embajador de Estados Unidos en El Salvador– creía que esa información sobre quienes eran los clientes de Davis sería “muy dificil de encontrar”.

Pero fue facil. Davis, un socio del bufete de abogados Orrick, Herring, & Sutcliffe, los nombró abiertamente. Sus clientes son los mismos poderosos detrás del golpe de estado militar. “Mis clientes representan CEAL, la sección hondureña del Concejo Empresarial de América Latina”, dijo Davis el jueves pasado en su oficina. “Y no represento al gobierno ni hablo con el presidente [Roberto] Micheletti. Mis principales contactos con Camilo Atala y Jorge Canahuati. Me siento orgulloso de representar a empresarios comprometidos al gobierno de la ley”, dijo Davis. Atala, Canahuati y otras familias con intereses corporativos y que son representados por Davis y la CEAL se hallan en la cúspide de una pirámide económica en la que el 62% de la poblacion vive en la pobreza, de acuerdo con el Banco Mundial.

Jorge Canahuati

Jorge Canahuati

Para muchos hondureños y observadores de Honduras, la confirmación de que Lanny Davis trabaja para familias poderosas y establecidas en Honduras es significativa. Para ellos, demuestra que Davis está al servicio de los intereses empresariales que administraron, reprimieron y pusieron en la ruina a Honduras en las décadas previas al viraje hacia la izquierda del gobierno de Zelaya.

“Los golpes de estado no suceden porque un buen día a algunos militares y políticos se les ocurre una buena idea”, dijo White cuando se enteró para quién trabaja Davis. “Los golpes de estado ocurren porque hay gente muy muy rica que quiere que sucedan y ayudan a que sucedan. Es gente acostumbrada a considerar el pais como una máquina de hacer dinero para ellos y para quienes toda legislación social que beneficie a los pobres como una amenaza sus intereses. El salario medio de un trabajador en zonas libres de impuestos es de 77 centavos la hora”.

“La tragedia es”, agrega White, “que los Canahuatis y los Atalas y otros grandes empresarios no comprenden que es para su beneficio ayudar a que la gente gane decentemente, se reduzca la cesantía y se aumente el salario mínimo”.

Davis no está de acuerdo. Cree que la tragedia de Honduras radica en Zelaya y que el presidente causó el golpe. “Es innegable que Zelaya violó la Constitución. Mi deber es aclarar los hechos”.

Al preguntársele si le molesta representar a empresarios vinculados con gobiernos golpistas denunciados e irreconocidos por Naciones Unidas, la Organización de Estados Americanos y muchos países en todo el mundo, incluyendo Estados Unidos, Davis responde que “hay hechos referentes a Zelaya que el mundo no conoce. Me enorgullece representar clientes que apoyan la decisión de la secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton de apoyar la mediación del presidente Arias en el conflicto. Pero mi principal preocupación es la seguridad de la gente de Honduras”.

Davis no es el único preocupado con la seguridad de la gente de Honduras. El Comité de Familias de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), una ONG de derechos humanos, publicó la semana pasada un informe que documenta más de 1.100 violaciones a los derechos humanos, desde detenciones arbitrarias, ataques físicos, asesinatos y ataques contra los medios de comunicación por parte del gobierno y elementos clandestinos afines a éste. Todos ocurrieron después del golpe del 28 de junio.

COFADEH responsabiliza del golpe y el terror que causó de manera directa a muchos de los fundadores de la Alianza para el Progreso y Desarrollo de Honduras (APROH), un predecesor de CEAL. Aunque ya no existe, APROH unió en sí a varios de los mismos intereses empresariales y militares que componen el núcleo político y económico de la extrema derecha hondureña, incluyendo a los Canahuatis, los Atalas y otras familias y negocios de CEAL representados por Davis.

El prontuario de cumplimiento de los derechos humanos por parte del predecesor de CEAL es menos que estelar. En 1983, el diario hondureño El Tiempo filtró un documento de APROH que recomienda una solución militar para los problemas de Honduras y el resto de Centroamérica, a la Comisión Kissinger de Ronald Reagan, un comité bipartidario que estaba encargado en aquel entonces de formular la política estadounidense en la región. Más revelador aún, APROH es considerado por COFADEH y otras organizaciones de derechos humanos como la eminencia gris detrás de las ejecuciones de los escuadrones de la muerte conocidos como el infame Batallón 316 durante los años ochenta.

Enterado de las declaraciones de Davis, José Luis Galdamez, un periodista de Radio Globo, ríe: “Davis, o ignora Honduras o a sabiendas ensangrenta su nombre y el de los Clinton a cambio de mucho dinero”, dice. Galdamez tuvo que bajar a la clandestinidad recientemente después de que miembros de las fuerzas armadas y elementos paramilitares le agredieron a él y a sus colegas. Los militares cayeron sobre la estación de radio, golpearon a los empleados y les amenazaron por trabajar en uno de los pocos medios de comunicación dispuesto a “informar lo que realmente sucede en Honduras”, dice Galdamez.

“Me gustaría que Davis viniese aqui, donde estoy escondiéndome, para mostrarle cómo se siente estar amenazado, no solamente por [el presidente de facto] Micheletti y el ejército, sino por los Canahuatis y otros grupos de poder que él representa”, dice Galdamez.

Galdamez, así como Gilda Rivera del Centro para Derechos de la Mujer y otros entrevistados para esta historia temen que al contratar al aliado de Clinton Davis, Canahuati, Atala y CEAL utilicen el brillo liberal del partido Demócrata de Estados Unidos para desviar la atención de la historia detrás del actual golpe de estado en Honduras.

Camilo Atala

Camilo Atala

“Los ricos simplemente envían a matarte y matan con impunidad. Jamás investigan quién mató a quién, porque los grupos en el poder controlan los medios de comunicación, el poder judicial y ahora tienen nuevamente el control del gobierno”, dijo Galdamez. “Davis trata de legitimizar a gente que utiliza la violencia y la intimidación psicológica. Representa los intereses de un estado terrorista”.

En una reciente declaración en la que condenaba el golpe, COFADEH describió a sus seguidores como “el mismo grupo que durante los ochenta era conocido como la Alianza para el Progreso y el Desarrollo de Honduras, que mantiene el terror a través de escuadrones de la muerte”. El informe de COFADEH contiene documentos sobre cuatro casos de asesinatos extra judiciales, incluyendo la muerte a tiros, el 5 de julio, del joven Isis Obed Murillo de 19 años, que fue expuesta posteriormente en un vídeo explícito colocado en YouTube.

En cuanto a las violaciones de los derechos humanos cometidas por el gobierno de Micheletti, Davis nuevamente culpa de la crisis a Zelaya. “He investigado los hechos de lo que ocurrió durante la presidencia de Zelaya. El condujo la violencia de la turba y eso se puede ver en un video de YouTube”.

Cuando insisto acerca de la toma estremecedora de la muerte de Isis Murillo, Davis responde: “¿Se ve en el video a quien disparó? Hay que conocer los hechos”. Agrega: “Si me demuestran en los hechos que mis clientes están implicados en violaciones de libertades civiles, renunciaré”.

(Este artículo fue inicialmente publicado en The American Prospect. Gracias a Gabriel Lerner y nuestros amigo(a)s de HispanicLA por su exitosa traduccion del articulo.)

Act Now to Stop the Obama Administration’s Racist 287G Immigration Policy

July 24, 2009

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Groups across the country are mobilizing to put pressure on Department
of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Obama to
end the devastation caused by the Obama Administration’s 287G program.

Denounced by l(some) police chiefs, several government officials and
many, many community groups, 287G is the program that allows local and
state law enforcement officials act as enforcers of federal
immigration law and provides the legal means for the racial profiling,
mass and arrests and other violations of the most basic civil and
human rights. The program enables the widespread and illegal practices
of notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Join the increasing numbers of Latinos, civil and immigrant rights
groups and others who are growing impatient about what they consider
the hypocrisy and duplicity of President Obama with regard to racial
profiling. In light of the massive amount of racial profiling taking
place under his recently expanded 287G program-a program Obama and
Napolitano recently expanded- many find lees-than-credible President
Obama’s statements concern about how the recent arrest Professor
Louis Gates reflects “a long history in this country of
African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement
disproportionately.”

The current target of what will be a series of actions to pressure the
Obama Administration is tonight’s appearance by Secretary Napolitano
on the Bill Maher show. Community groups are asking Maher to raise
racial profiling and other 287G issues during his interview

You can take several actions including:

Contact the Bill Maher Show on Facebook and ask them to raise the
issues with Napolitano- http://www.facebook.com/Maher?ref=t

And on twitter here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23billmaher

Press release for the action (complete with lots of hyperlinks) is
here: http://jornaleronews.ndlon.org/?p=349

And those of you in Los Angeles can join the protest and press
conference at Bill Maher’s studio tonight (more information below_

For Immediate Release // Excuse Cross Postings // Please Forward

Contact (Engish y Español): Loyda Alvarado, (323) 434- 8115
What: Press Conference, Rally, and Demonstration
Why: To Urge Bill Maher to Ask Secretary Napolitano about DHS
Racial Profiling Practices, 287(g), Joe Arpaio
Where: 7800 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA (Near corner of Beverly
and Fairfax)
When: Friday, July 24, 2009
Time: 5:30 to 7 pm

(Los Angeles) Immigrant, civil, and labor rights advocates will hold
a rally and press conference outside the taping of Real Time with Bill
Maher on Friday at 5:30 pm. Protestors will urge Mr. Maher to ask
tough questions of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano about her
relationship with the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
Specifically, Secretary Napolitano should be asked why DHS has not
severed its contract with Arpaio (Napolitano’s hometown sheriff), and
why DHS opted last week to expand a failed experimental Bush
immigration enforcement policy that has demonstrably resulted in mass
racial profiling.

During his press conference yesterday, President Obama used very
strong language to denounce racial profiling practices by local
police. However, last week week, Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the expansion of the
widely-criticized 287(g) program, which outsources federal
immigration enforcement authority to local sheriffs. In recent
years, Joe Arpaio has become a symbol of the program’s failure, as his
use of 287g has resulted widespread allegations of racial profiling.
The Department of Justice recently launched a high-profile
investigation of Arpaio’s practices. Indeed, Sheriff Arpaio’s
relationship with neo-nazi’s has been noted by Phoenix Mayor Phil
Gordon; Arpaio himself has said it’s an honor to be called KKK; and he
has even posed for photos with high-profile neo-nazi’s. The New
York Times has published several editorials calling for the
termination of the 287(g) program in general and Arpaio’s contract in
particular. Those editorials are available here, here, here, and
most recently, here.

Salvador Reza, a community leader in Phoenix, issued the following
statement: “Secretary Napolitano has the legal authority and the
moral obligation to end Arpaio’s reign of terror in her hometown of
Phoenix. Instead, she is expanding the 287(g) program and intends to
make the country look like Maricopa County. We hope Bill Maher has
the courage to ask hard questions of Secretary Napolitano.”
###

Immigrant Rights Leaders Issue Unprecedented Statement “Condemning the Obama Administration’s Expansion” of Racist 287G Policy

July 17, 2009

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More groups and individuals going against the “Washington Consensus” -legalization in exchange for even more enforcement-on immigration.

Please distribute this far and wide as President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano are trying to cover their political a..ses by announcing their continuation and expansion of the radical and racist 287G policy below the clouds-and some fog- of excitement around the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. Rather than announce it at a time when it would draw attention to iteself, the Obama Administration chose to announce it last Friday, as the country and media buzz prepared for this week’s Sotomayor hearings. The Obama Administration would prefer we gaze at the smiling visage of soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor instead of the scowling face of the greatest benefactor to date of the infamous 287g program: rabidly racist, anti-immigrant Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

This statement by a host of groups including the Detention Watch Network, National Immigration Law Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and many others, (see list below) “Condemning the Obama Administration’s Expansion” is the clearest statement to date of the growing disapproval of Obama’s willingness to support racist, dangerous and ultimately failed immigration policy. That some of these groups have not previously made statements against Obama and that they waste no time using language still unheard of in the echo chamber of Washington (ie;”Condemning”) provides, I think, an interesting preview of where and how Obama’s credibility may rapidly drop in immigrants rights and Latino communities. It also indicates that, more and more, the monopoly of groups sanctioned and bankrolled by powerful liberal interests- the big Democratic party, big foundations, big media and, in some cases, big corporate interests- to be the official Latino and immigrant “voice” is starting to crumble.

Contrary to what you may or may not be hearing from your Latino aides and others of a more institutionally pliant bent in Washington, there are, Mr. Obama, limits to how much deadly garbage policy some of us are willing to swallow silently. You’re committing a strategic error if you believe that you can count on our unconditional support in the name of both giving you cover and securing legalization for the most desperate among us.

Our failure to follow Detention Watch Network and other groups in their condemnation will communicate that we too are willing to go along with what his recent actions-continuing racist control policies like those institutionalized by 287g while waving the affirmative action flag embodied by the nomination of centrists of color like former corporate lawyer and prosecutor, Sonia Sotomayor-do. And that President Obama then goes on to deliver what the reliably uncritical MSM calls a “stirring” civil rights speech to the NAACP says much about 2 things: the analytical and political abyss we inhabit and how utterly commodified conceptions of civil rights have become.

So, again, please do distribute this important statement by these courageous groups, as the media and those with access to the mainstream will do nothing to
echo this important statement by so many important groups. Having run an organization like those making the statement, I can tell you that it’s not easy to make such statements when you have to worry about alienating Democratic Congress members, big foundations and others who can hurt you by cutting your funding, politically isolating you and other repressive measures taken by the powerful of a more liberal bent.

R

ADVOCATES ISSUE STATEMENT CONDEMNING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S

EXPANSION OF DHS’S FAILED 287(g) PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2009

Media Contacts:

Adela de la Torre, Communication Specialist, National Immigration Law
Center, 213.674.2832 (office), 213.400.7822 (cell)

Andrea Black, Coordinator, Detention Watch Network, 202-393-1044 ext.
227 (office), 520-240-3726 (cell)

Judith Greene, Director, Justice Strategies, 718-857-3316,
jgreene@justicestrategies.net

Civil rights and community groups across the country denounce
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s
plans to expand the highly criticized 287(g) program to eleven new
jurisdictions around the country. The program, authorized in 1996 and
widely implemented under the Bush Administration, relinquishes, with
no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law
enforcement and corrections agencies.

Since its inception the program has drawn sharp criticism from federal
officials, law enforcement, advocates and local community groups. A
February 2009 report by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research
firm, found widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially
motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures by
local law enforcement agencies granted 287(g) powers. Justice
Strategies recommended the program be suspended. “We found evidence
that growth of the 287(g) program has been driven more by racial
animus than by concerns about public safety. The expansion of this
deeply flawed program cannot be justified before a thorough test of
corrective actions shows solid proof that they have been effective,”
reports Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies. A March 2009
Government Accountability Agency (GAO) report, criticized DHS for
insufficient oversight of the controversial program.

Also in March, the United States Department of Justice launched an
investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, to
determine whether Arpaio is using his 287(g) power to target Latinos
and Spanish-speaking people. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the
Sheriff’s Office has used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented
immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while
fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a
license—was forced to give birth while shackled to her bed during
labor. Preliminary data indicate that in some jurisdictions the
majority of individuals arrested under 287(g) are accused of public
nuisance or traffic offenses: driving without a seatbelt, driving
without a license, broken taillights, and similar offences. Such a
pattern of arrests suggest that local sheriff’s deputies are
improperly using their 287(g) powers to rid their counties of
immigrants, by making pretextual arrests that are then used to
forcefully deport people. “We need only look at the example of
Maricopa County to understand the devastating effects the increased
287(g) program will have on our communities,” said Chris Newman, Legal
Programs Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
“The Obama administration must recognize that the 287(g) program is
predatory and ripe for corruption and profiling that will harm
community stability and safety for everyone.”

The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of
Police, and the Major Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that
deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal
immigration law undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant
communities, overburdens cities’ already reduced resources, and leaves
cities vulnerable to civil liability claims. “When victims and
witnesses of crime are afraid to contact police for fear of being
jailed or deported, public safety suffers,” said Marielena Hincapie,
Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center.

Napolitano’s July 10 announcement that DHS has granted 11 new
jurisdictions 287(g) powers stunned advocates who had been expecting a
major overhaul of – or end to – this failed program. “DHS is fully
aware that the abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current
slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous
to community safety. It is surprising Napolitano did not simply shut
this program down. Expanding this failed program is not in line with
the reform the administration has promised,” said Andrea Black,
Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network.

Signatory Organizations:

A Better Way Foundation, New Haven, CT

All of Us or None, San Francisco, CA

Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ

Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY

Center for Media Justice, Oakland, CA

Detention Watch Network, Washington, DC

Families for Freedom, New York, NY

Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL

Grassroots Leadership, Austin, Texas

Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, CA

Immigrant Defense Project, New York, NY

Immigrant Justice Network

Immigration Law Clinic, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA

Immigrant Legal Resource Center, San Francisco, CA

Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY

Justice Strategies, New York, NY

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, CA

Main Street Project, Minneapolis, MN

Media Action Grassroots Network, Oakland, CA

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA

National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Boston, MA

Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland, Oregon

Project Rethink

Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA

A Voice of Reason & Courage in the Wilderness of Immigration Reform: Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO)

July 16, 2009

Amidst a toxic, confusing climate of a Washington on the verge of “immigration reform”, a climate in which some “immigration reformers” find themselves pondering the possibility of supporting national identification cards, increased enforcement and very punitive approaches to legalization, the voice of Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) sounds, well,…. strange. This is the same climate in which President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano just announced the “Si Se Puede” of their continued and increased support for one of the most heinous Bush-era immigration policies: 287G, the program that facilitates the racism, humiliation, profiling and generalized injustice of local law enforcement officials like Arizona’s nototorious Joe Arpaio.

Announced in the late Friday haze and buzz preceding the confirmation hearings of centrist former corporate lawyer and ex-prosecutor Sonia Sotomayor, the Obama Administration’s continuation of the dreaded program heard nary a complaint from most immigration reformers. Such silence around programs that will jail more migrants provide an empty echo chamber amplifying the voice of Polis. A member of Congress calling for the reform of an immigration detention system that’s killing, sickening and unjustly jailing tens upon tens of thousands of people? Yes, it’s true. See for your self

Polis should be commended-commended loudly for his courage in saying things most of his Congressional peers, most “reformers” and the Obama Administration are unwilling to include as part of the the legalization and enforcement-centric approaches that some call “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” There are tens of thousands of detainees for whom CIR will only mean more crowded, filthy and deadly living conditions as even more and more enforcement measures are added to a immigration system that has caused the exponential rise in Latino detention, to the point where the number of Latinos-mostly immigrant Latinos- has surpassed the number of African Americans in federal prison:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/us/19immig.html

So, given the lack of political will do anything around detention except support a CIR that will jail even MORE migrants,Polis’ John the
Baptist-like lonely voice in the wilderness of Washington is refreshing. His gumption and character are to be commended. Visiting detention facilities should be mandatory for any and all “reformers”. I think that if we could have some people become “detainees for a day” as part of their in service training, some would push as vociferously for real detention reform as they do for legalization and the increased enforcement that will jail more of those families, more of those children that Polis is concerned about.

If you appreciate Polis’ courage and honesty with regard to immigration reform, please show that appreciation by calling his office:

202-225-2161

Gracias!

Justicia!: Sotomayor and the Long March of Puerto Rican History

June 18, 2009

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NEW YORK — Inside the red brick walls of the Bronxdale housing projects, 24-year-old mother of two Geisha Sas says she still hears echoes of music from the 1950s, when her building’s most famous former resident, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, lived there. “Older people still listen to Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri inside their apartments,” said Sas, a salsa and hip-hop fan. Before morphing into the embodiment of urban decay that they became in the 60s and 70s, these public housing projects provided the young Sotomayor the new, lower-middle class housing that facilitated her early pursuit of justice. For Puerto Ricans of Sas’s generation living here, the Bronxdale experience of justice is quite different.

“I’ve also heard gunshots and saw a boy killed on that grass,” said Sas, looking at a large patch of grass surrounded by several seven-story buildings. Asked what expectations for justice she has from fellow Bronxdale Boricua (Puerto Rican) Sotomayor, Sas declared, “I hope she knows how to tell the difference between justicia and injusticia. I hope she does the right thing and that she doesn’t forget where she’s from.

Sas’s clamor for justice echoes the very particular concerns expressed by many Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans in New York). Lost in debates about Sotomayor’s “ethnic allegiances” and what they consider the story of her rise from poverty, are the contributions of the silenced majority living in and beyond the Bronxdale projects: the Puerto Rican community whose political thought and action made Sotomayor’s rise possible.

“The media keeps telling us that she (Sotomayor) has a ‘one in a million’ story,” says Miriam Jimenez Roman, a visiting scholar in Africana Studies at NYU and director of the Afro-Latino Project. “But what they forget to tell us is how the million made the one possible. Many people struggled so that she might become the first Latina on the Supreme Court.” Roman notes that, for example, most news reports and commentaries about Sotomayor frame her life as an up-from-the-bootstraps story of individual accomplishment. This story, says Roman, is partial, at best, in that it excludes mention of the many and ongoing efforts of Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and other areas who fought to improve educational, health, employment, electoral, and other institutions.

Most importantly, says Roman, Sotomayor was very likely exposed to a broad spectrum of political thought about “justicia” that is not mentioned in the current national discussion surrounding her nomination. “I suspect that she heard and was influenced by the Puerto Ricans who were fighting for social justice,” said Roman. “We’re all glad about the nomination. But collapsing the story of an entire people into the story of a single individual is extremely problematic.”

Groups like United Bronx Parents, ASPIRA and the Puerto Rican Student Union organized for improved educational opportunities for young Puerto Ricans like Sotomayor, who herself was active in student access and curriculum issues while at Princeton. More militant groups like the the Young Lords, the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement and the Think Lincoln Committee took over Lincoln Hospital — one of the only health facilities in the Bronx — and forced it to provide better services and greater access to the community when 16-year-old Sotomayor lived in Coop City. A long line of Puerto Rican independistas (those who support ending what they consider the colonial status imposed on the island by the United States), from Pedro Albizu Campos and the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to the activists who took over the Statue of Liberty, have kept the issue of Boricua identity in the minds of many like Sotomayor, who wrote her graduate thesis about Luis Muñoz Marin, the former nationalist who went on to become the island’s first elected governor. And the hometown associations that doubled as political organizations — fighting housing discrimination, racism and police brutality — were the first to organize the annual Puerto Rican Day parade that took place last weekend along Fifth Avenue.

Beneath the signs marchers in last Sunday’s parade were holding in support of Sotomayor was the long march of Puerto Rican political history, a history many believe helped raise the judge to the pinnacle of legal and political power as much as her much-lauded personal efforts. “There were many institutions that have helped her (Sotomayor) and many others,” said Angelo Falcon, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

“Different people took different routes to social justice,” said Falcon, who knows Sotomayor and supports her nomination. “She took the legal route, but is still a product of her community.”

Roman, who is around the same age as Sotomayor, agrees. She says she hears the workings of Puerto Rican political struggle in the music heard in Bronxdale since the 50s. “Back then,” said Roman, “even listening to booglaoo and salsa — Spanish language music created in the United States by the children of immigrants — was a statement, an assertion of our history and culture. It was normal for us to listen to it, but, in the larger context of an English-speaking country, it was radical in a way.”

Sotomayor’s Confirmation Hearings Will Be a Trial-of the GOP

May 27, 2009

The Huffington Post

As she faces what is already expected to be a host of hostile questions from the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in her confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, should remember one thing: that it is not she who will be on trial, but the Republican Party.

Rather than allow herself to be put at the center of another racism and sexism-laden political circus around the qualifications of a candidate who brings more real-life prosecutorial and actual judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in the last 100 years, Sotomayor should consider another strategy. She – and we – should instead view those hearings as nothing less than a trial to determine whether the GOP is ready to make restitution for its role in a number of judicial and political wrongdoings perpetrated in the Bush era. Those wrongdoings include unleashing unprecedented and dangerous political attacks on Latinos, and breaching the political and electoral contract the “new GOP” said it wanted with Latinos, one of the country’s most important voting blocs.

The Sotomayor hearings will determine whether members of the Republican Party are ready to renew fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law.

Consider the case of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Cornyn supported the nomination of the last Latino to be considered for a high office dealing with matters of justice — disgraced former Attorney General and Republican Alberto Gonzales. Even after Gonzales’s role in crafting the now infamous “torture memos” became apparent, Cornyn raised none of the “red flags” and “lots of questions” he now says he has about Sotomayor.

During the Senate Judiciary hearings around the Gonzales nomination, Cornyn declared that the candidate would be vindicated by history: “The growing consensus behind the president’s decision that al Qaeda terrorists are morally entitled to humane treatment but not legally entitled to the special privileges afforded to prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 provides compelling vindication to supporters of Judge Alberto R. Gonzales’ nomination to be our nation’s 80th attorney general.”

Even when Atty. Gen. Gonzales came under fire for his role in the firings of a group of United States attorneys in late 2006, Cornyn and other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary defended Gonzales as an “honorable and decent man” who “finds himself in a bad situation.”

Though Gonzales will likely turn into the invisible brown GOP man, or go on a long vacation during the Sotomayor confirmation, millions of Latinos will watch what for them is a historical event of the utmost political and intimate importance. Many of these Latinos will be watching to see any signs of the racism and xenophobia many Latinos blame the GOP for and voted overwhelmingly against in the last election. Latino voters will, for example, be vigilant about what GOP Senate Judiciary members like Jeff Sessions say before and during the hearings.

Earlier this month, reports linking Sessions, the ranking Republican on the committee, to anti-immigrant groups filled Spanish-language
media. According to the Washington-based America’s Voice, the Alabama senator has appeared at several events organized by the Center for
Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, as well as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was designated by the Southern
Poverty Law Center and other organizations as a “hate group.”

Anything in this must-see Latino political event resembling the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has been Sessions’ trademark will cost his party for years to come. Such concerns about GOP leaders among Latinos, who are only beginning to realize their enormous political potential, pose a gigantic dilemma to a Republican Party that must make inroads among Latino voters if it is to have a political future.

Whatever they say in the hearings, Republicans will be at a great disadvantage when it comes time to counting votes in a Democrat-controlled Senate that will be at, or very close to, the filibuster-proof 60-vote majority needed to confirm Sotomayor.

So it will be the GOP and not Sotomayor that will be on trial in this high-stakes judicial confirmation of the post-Bush era of Republican dominance. Latinos will watch to see if GOP leaders will use the Sotomayor hearings to distance themselves from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others many Latinos consider to be anti-immigrant extremists.

And we should all be watching to see if Republicans are prepared to use the Sotomayor confirmation as a way to communicate a willingness to redeem themselves for the great injustices of our recent past.

Climate of Hate Means Immigrant Rights Organizations Should Commit to Excluding Punitive Policies in Any Reform Proposal

May 5, 2009

This post was inspired by another post by my friend, Alisa Valdez, who uses the MSM’s coverage of the Markoff “Craig’sList Killer” case to draw our attention to how twisted -and dangerous-the values of the media ecology we inhabit have become. Reading Alisa’s tight analysis alongside reports of that the racist killers of immigrant Luis Ramirez were declared innocent (and of course, the daily bread of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate found on radios, TV’s and websites everywhere), triggered concerns made even clearer during a recent visit to Europe to cover the UN conference on racism. More specifically, Alisa’s piece provided me with the spark to say something I’ve been mulling for while: the dangerous even murderous anti-migrant climate requires that immigrant advocates commit not to support any “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (CIR) proposal containing punitive immigration policies.

The piece below floats the seemingly uncontroversial idea of a petition asking immigrant rights orgs-and their leaders- to commit
to excluding, not supporting any and all punitive policies in any “comprehensive immigration reform.” Seems pretty obvious,
but the absence of such accountability allows the noxious policies-and the immigrant=criminal logic undergirding them- to pass
with the apparent support of that segment of the “immigrant rights movement” that can afford media flaks, PR spinsters, bloggers
and others allowing them to speak for the entire immigrant rights movement. Hopefully, this is non-controversial, but let’s put it to a test.

Neither aggressive, nor hostile, such a petition simply commits its signatories to excluding policies that, in such a radically hateful
climate, enable further hatred, terror and death in immigrant communities. how could anyone purporting to be a defender of immigrants
not agree to something so basic?

I encourage any comments, suggestions or disagreements those of you reading this might have. Gracias, R

Here’s the response to Alisa’s piece:

That a crazed murderer would be described with such fawning language while maids, gardeners and immigrants and other Latinos are described in the harshest, most hateful language speaks powerfully to how perverted the “values” of this decadent “civilization” have become. Reinforces a theory I have about how we’ve moved beyond the rather stale notion that legalization or increases in the Latino vote will do anything to diminish the rise in hate towards Latinos.

Between radical demographic shifts (young, rapidly growing Latino population, aging, diminishing white population), editorial rooms chock full of old- and young- still mostly white “editors” who normalize lethal logics and the companies that capitalize and profit from “news”programs, talk shows premised on promoting Darwinian racial ideologies, what we have is the possible institutionalization of perpetual race war targeting Latinos, especially immigrant Latinos, who are suffering the brunt of hatred, death and devastation.

In such a lethally charged climate, at such a decadent moment in the history of this country, we need to raise the cost of promoting or enabling the radical racial logic of the newsrooms described so cogently by Alisa. This is why I propose, for example, that we start eviscerating any trace of the racially charged immigrant=criminal logic in our own “community.” We can start addressing this by developing and circulating a petition or some document demanding that any “immigrant rights organization” commit itself to excluding any and all punitive immigration proposals they might advocate in the name of “legalizing the 12 million” or whatever spin people come up with in their efforts to legitimize the now deadly immorality known in legislative circles as a “tradeoff” (legalization in exchange for more punitive policy). We can then extend the commitment to the Hispanic Caucus and other members of Congress and move forward into the editorial rooms with greater force and unity of purpose.

As the possibility of “comprehensive immigration reform” rears its head again, we might want to consider the possibilty that, in allowing or even supporting punitive policies, we in the “immigrant rights movement” are unconsciously accepting the logic of criminality by allowing or supporting laws premised on now extremely lethal notions of immigrant criminality manufactured in hate groups, “think tanks” and the news rooms Alisa aptly describes. Make no mistake, in times when hating immigrants is proven to yield daily profits for news organizations and their advertisers, times when you can kill an immigrant and go scott free (or even hailed as heroes as in the gross distortion that is the Compean case), “tradeoffs” mean we are willing to accept logic that kills, the same logic of the racists disguised as editors use. I also think that the institutions-news orgs, hate groups, political parties, including Democrats- invested and investing in this radical, deadly turn deserve the same treatment we used to give those who enabled the slaughter of innocents in El Salvador: pouring colored red liquid symbolizing the blood of the dead and maimed on their offices-or even their suits and dresses. Things, have, I believe, reached that point of urgency-but the “news” will not report it or, if they do, they’ll do so in the most banal terms possible. Such are the rotten fruits of decadent “civilization.”

Thanks again for your work on this, Alisa. Good writing should spark discussion and debate and you succeeded.

Best,

R

New Republic Attacks Judge Sotomayor With Sexist, Racist “Angry Latina” Meme

May 4, 2009

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It’s that time in the political year when, in addition to “swine flu” crisis, there’s also a sudden outbreak of another dreaded disease: expertise around Latino politics on the part of the fatally ignorant. Consider this specimen (handle such disguised hatred with extreme caution) from The New Republic’s (TNR) John Rosen, who makes the case against nomininating federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court:

“But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

This double sexist, racist whammy has an old, even ancient history, a very deadly history (yes, Latinos have history, despite their absence on the History Channel and other outlets, Mikey) Rosen seems to draw upon with ease. See the whole article here.

Lest we forget, this is the same New Republic that pushed the “Latinos-will-not-vote-for-a- black-candidate” meme during the elections, elections in which almost 70% of Latinos voted for Obama. What’s fascinating is how TNR and other liberal publications, media where Latinos, Latino issues, Latino writers brillan por su ausencia (shine for their absence), are suddenly demonstrating expertise on Latino issues, Latino pols, judges, etc.

This is ripe for powerful pushback. Time we started challenging and hitting sexists, racists of the liberal variety too. Right wing Jewish groups of the extreme and liberal varieties waste no time attacking some of us as “anti-Semitic” when, for example, we join the chorus of global denunciation (including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Intl.) around the slaughter of Palestinian babies, using cluster bombs and other depredations and war crimes of the Israeli government. For those of you tempted to find an excuse to divert attention from the issues at hand, namely the racism and sexism of TNR, my statement means, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT AS OPPOSED TO JEWISH PEOPLE. so,please save it for Fox News watchers, the lobotomized or someone else with time to waste.

The opportunity here is to build out political space, political clout establishing that we will not tolerate such garbage from sexists, racists of the right wing or liberal variety.

U.S. Immigration Policies Bring Global Shame on Us

February 26, 2009

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As one of the five full-time media relations specialists working for Maricopa County Sheriff and reality TV star Joe Arpaio- “America’s Toughest Sheriff” – Detective Aaron Douglas deals with the world’s media more than most. Though he is a local official, his is often the first voice heard by many of the foreign correspondents covering immigration in the United States.

“We talk to media from literally all over world: New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Mexico, Chinese and other parts of the Orient,” Douglas drawled in a Southern accent. “We just did a series with a TV station from Mexico City about the isolation of illegal immigrants and why we’re putting them in a tent.” He was referring to a controversial march reported and discussed widely by international media and bloggers last week.

Alongside reports on Pres. Barack Obama’s announcement in Phoenix last week of his plan to revive the American Dream by fixing the U.S. housing crisis that led to the global economic crisis, millions of viewers, listeners and readers around the world also got stories reminiscent of the American nightmare Obama was elected to overcome, Guantanamo. “Immigrant Prisoners Humiliated in Arizona,” was the title of a story in Spain’s Onda Cero radio show; “Arpaio for South African President,” declared a blogger in that country; an op-ed in Mexico’s Cambio newspaper denounced “the inhuman, discriminatory and criminal treatment of immigrants by Arizona’s radical, anti-immigrant Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.” Stories of this week’s massive protest of Arapaio will likely be seen and heard alongside reports of Obama’s speech to Congress in media all over the world, as well.

The proliferation of stories in international media and in global forums about the Guantanamo-like problems in the country’s immigrant detention system- death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards; prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrants (including children and families) denied habeas corpus and other fundamental rights; filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; denial of basic health services – are again tarnishing the U.S. image abroad, according to several experts. As a result, reports from Arizona and immigrant detention facilities have created a unique problem: they are making it increasingly difficult for Obama to persuade the planet’s people that the United States is ready claim exceptional leadership on human rights in a soon-to-be-post-Guantanamo world.

Consider the case of Mexico. Just last week, following news reports from Arizona, the Mexican government, which is traditionally silent or very tepid in its criticism of U.S. immigration and other policies, issued a statement in which it “energetically protested the undignified way in which the Mexicans were transferred to ‘Tent City'” in Maricopa County.

David Brooks, U.S correspondent for Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper, believes that immigrant detention stories hit Mexicans closer to home because those reportedly being abused in detention are not from a far off country; they are family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. In the same way that Guantanamo erased the idea of U.S. leadership in human rights in the Bush era, says Brooks, who was born in Mexico, practices in immigrant detention facilities like those reported by global media in Maricopa County may begin to do so in the Obama era if something does not change. “Mexicans have never seen the U.S. as a great model for promotion of human rights. But with Obama we take him at his word. We’re expecting some change,” said Brooks. “But that will not last long if we see him continuing Bush’s [immigration] policies: raids, increasing detention, deportation. Regardless of his excuse, he will quickly become mas de lo mismo (more of the same) in terms of the experience down south.” If uncontested, the expression of such sentiments far beyond Mexico and Mexican immigrants could lead to the kind of American exceptionalism Obama doesn’t want.

In a March 2008 report, Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants, concluded that “the United States has failed to adhere to its international obligations to make the human rights of the 37.5 million migrants living in the country a national priority, using a comprehensive and coordinated national policy based on clear international obligations.” Asked how his report was received in different countries, Bustamante said, “The non-governmental organizations have really responded. In the United States and outside the United States- in Mexico, in Guatemala, in Indonesia and other countries- NGO’s are using my report to frame their concerns and demands in their own countries- and to raise criticism about the United States.”

For her part, Alison Parker, deputy director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, fears a global government “race to the bottom” around immigrant detention policies. “My concern is that as the rest of world sees the United States practices, we increase the risk that this will give the green light to other governments to be just as abusive or more abusive as the United States.”

If there is a positive note to be heard in the growing global chorus of critique of and concern about U.S immigration policy, it is to be found among those human rights activists and groups doing what W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson and other civil rights activists did in previous eras: bring their issues to the global stage. Government documents from the civil rights era, documents that were released just a few years ago, illustrate how members of the Kennedy and Johnson State departments and even Kennedy and Johnson themselves were acutely aware of and sensitive to how denunciations in global forums of racial discrimination in United States had a devastating impact on the U.S. prestige abroad.

Such a situation around the rights of migrants today, says Oscar Chacon of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, a Chicago-based global NGO run by and for immigrants, creates an opportunity out of the globalization of the images of both Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Barack Obama. “The world will be able to see him as the rogue sheriff that he is” said Chacon, who was in Mexico City attending a conference on immigration at which U.S. detention practices were criticized. “And it will be up to the Obama Administration to show the world that Arpaio is not a symbol of the rest of the country when it comes to immigration.”

Yes We Can Raid: Latinos, Immigrant Advocates Denounce Obama Administration’s 1rst Raid

February 26, 2009

https://i1.wp.com/www.ctdispatch.com/images/January_24_2008/obama.jpghttps://i2.wp.com/images.salon.com/news/feature/2007/07/27/ice_raid/story.jpg

While Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Janet Napolitano testified before a Congressional subcommittee about changes to Bush Administration immigration and security policies, DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Washington state were signaling no change: they launched the Obama Administration’s first major immigration raid. This story in the Seattle Times describes the raid on the Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham.

Shortly after announcement of the raid, immigrant rights and Latino organizations across the country condemned the actions of the Obama Administration.“President Obama told us to believe in change as he prepared to work on behalf of all Americans. “Workplace raids are remnants of failed immigration policies that have done nothing to solve the undocumented immigration problems we face,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “We need immediate actions that support our President’s personal commitment to the American electorate, including the more than 10.5 million Latino voters, that a just and humane immigration solution is a priority,” added Cabrera. Even groups that have called for “tough and smart” enforcement as part of an immigration reform “tradeoff” for the legalization of 12 million undocumented workers denounced the raid., groups like America’s Voice and the National Council of La Raza, whose Executive Director, Janet Murguia, declared in response to the raid, “At a time when messages of change and hope abound, we are left to wonder how change will come to these failed policies.

That Obama and Napolitano’s loud roar of “Si se Puede Redar” (Yes We Can Raid) was received with such uniform and vociferous condemnation bodes well for the immigrant rights movement, which has too often, been divided between those emphasizing legalization and those concerned about detention, raids and other enforcement issues. At the same time, the universal condemnation also serves as a measure of the depths of the immigrant detention abyss the country is mired in; It may indicate that stories of a “softening” on immigration by Obama hard-liners like Rahm Emanuel may not be sufficient for many in the immigrant rights movement to drop their guard. We’ll see.

——————————

On the action front, should these policies continue, my own preferred response would be to create a petition asking the President to cease and desist from using the “Si Se Puede” slogan and its English language variant, “Yes We Can” and to instead adopt the increasingly popular “Si Se Pedo” slogan, which Of América can give him exclusive rights to.

Those of you wanting to denounce these actions by the Obama Administration can join the National Network for Immigrant and Refugees Rights call for letters, phone calls and other actions (see below.)
Call President Obama and Congress

Demand an End to ICE Raids & Abuses

Dear NNIRR members, partners, allies & friends,

Please call President Obama and your Representative and two Senators to denounce the brutal ICE raid against immigrant workers that took place yesterday in Bellingham, Washington (see background information below).

Call (202) 456-1414 and tell President Obama:

Ø The ICE raid yesterday in Washington state violates the rights of immigrant workers, harms the economy and makes our communities vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Ø You must end all raids and suspend all detentions and deportations.

Ø Restore and protect our Constitutional rights

Ø Please investigate ICE abuses and end the inhumane treatment immigrants are suffering in detention and deportation.

You can also send fax President Obama at: (202) 456-2461

Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s and Senators’ offices, tell them:

Ø The ICE raid yesterday in Washington state violates the rights of immigrant workers, harms the economy and makes our communities vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Ø End all raids and suspend all detentions and deportations.

Ø Restore and protect our Constitutional rights

Ø You must hold hearings to investigate ICE abuses and end the inhumane treatment immigrants are suffering in detention and deportation.

You can also get full contact information for your Congressional delegation at:

http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Please take action today!

For more talking points and messages to our elected officials, see NNIRR’s letter with signatures

to President Barack Obama at

www.nnirr.org

The Age of Crimmigration is Upon Us: Latinos New Majority-In Federal Prisons

February 19, 2009

A Rising Share:  Hispanics and Federal Crime

A recently released report provides another startling indicator of how Latino demographics are being used to lead the United States into a new age, the Age of Crimmigration. Produced by the Pew Hispanic Center, the report found that Latinos are now the largest single ethnic group in the federal prison system.

Fueled, in large part, by changes to immigration law that have multiplied exponentially the ways in which undocumented immigrants can be prosecuted and jailed as criminals, the new Latino federal prison majority documented in the report provides definitive proof of the “crimmigration” thesis developed by legal scholars like Juliet Stumpf of the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon. Stumpf’s groundbreaking paper, “The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime, & Sovereign Power,” predicted how a lethal combination of forces-changes to immigration laws, political shifts, intensified prosecution and enforcement – would lead to what she called, in 2006, “the most important development in immigration law today: the convergence of immigration and criminal law.” On a less legalistic level,the news of the new Latino federal prison majority also means the convergence of hundreds of thousands of the poor white, black and Latino families in terms of their dealings with a prison system fed increasingly with immigrant bodies. Nearly half of all Latino offenders were convicted of immigration-related crimes, crimes that only became crimes as a result of relatively new sentencing laws and policies.

Although normalized over the course of several years by a confluence of separate but symbiotic interests – opportunistic politicians (Republican and Democrat), nationalistic and race-baiting media personalities, multi-billion dollar security and prison-industrial interests, “immigrant rights advocates” (and the major foundations that fund and legitimate them) promoting “smart” & “tough” immigration policies in exchange for legalization for 12 million undocumented-the immigrant=criminal axiom is, in legal terms, a relatively recent historical development. And it will likely worsen without major mobilizations from below.

As the new Latino federal prison majority overtakes the sizeable populations of whites and African Americans in federal facilities, it should be noted that the criminalization of immigrants and immigration policy described by the crimmigration thesis comes as an extension of previous legal and other institutional practices. For example, the exponential increase in laws facilitating the mass incarceration of mostly Latino migrants appears to follow the same pattern and logic that led to the exponential increase in the disproportionate drug sentencing laws and policies that led to the mass incarceration of African and other, mostly poor Americans. Without radical intervention from below or a definitive change of heart from above- or both, immigration laws will join drug laws as the drivers of the prison system in the Obama era.

Latinos already account for 40 percent of those convicted of federal crimes, a percentage that has doubled from 1991 to 2007 (see chart below). And, according to this report in the New York Times, “Of Latino federal offenders, 72 percent are not United States citizens and most were sentenced in courts from one of the four states that border Mexico.” (contd. below chart)

(from NY Times)

nyt-crimmigration-stats

Because crimmigration combines two political third rails -criminal justice and immigrant rights-, legal reform, enforcement and prosecution and detention issues in immigration policy have been and may continue to be largely ignored by elected officials and other policy influentials. That candidate and now President Obama and his allies have remained largely silent on the crisis of incarceration and criminal justice in black and Latino communities does not bode well for the “hope” that the Obama administration will be willing to take on powerful lobbies of the fast growing immigration prison-industrial complex: aerospace, surveillance and prison-building industries like Halliburton and Boeing, prison guard unions (whose fasest-growing group are Latino prison guards), and super predatory private prison management firms like GEO. Soon, we will likely see increasing numbers of immigrants themselves joining the ranks of those profiting from mass imprisonment of immigrants.

But, if there’s an opportunity to be found (and there always is) in the cloudy complexities of crimmigration policy it is the realization that the silver lining is actually and truly black and brown. Growing Latino majorities in the already overcrowded federal penitentiary system are nothing if not an unprecedented opportunity to create a visionary, mass-based movement of blacks and Latinos and others committed to ending the disgrace that makes us the largest carcereal country on earth. Rather than operate piecemeal and in separate silohs, criminal justice and immigrant detention activists can together lead a powerful movement the likes of which this country has never seen. Crimmigration represents as much a historic opportunity as it does a great danger in times of economic and political crisis.

Homeland Security Chief Napolitano Outlines Top Immigration Priorities: Militarism & Militarism

February 16, 2009

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Looks like Napolitano’s -and Obama’s- version of “hope” and “change” on immigration means pressing down on the undocumented with even more boots and guns, according to this interview on NPR.

Given the spikes in anti-immigrant hate crimes that continue spilling blood on our streets and given the colossal humanitarian crisis festering in detention centers throughout the country , such a militaristic approach to immigration policy is nothing less than immoral and inhumane. Such an approach begs the questions, “Where is the hope?” and “Is this what you meant by “change?”

If the Obama Administration continues along this deadly path, I predict that the immigrant rights movement and growing numbers of Latinos will start politically attacking Obama and his backers in DC in anticipation their support for policies that will worsen further the growing humanitarian crisis in detention. I also predict the Dems and their allies will counter with a modified version of the PR strategy used to promote McCain-Kennedy: focus media on legalization while avoiding or simply paying minimal lip service to detention, raids enforcement and other issues involving the most vulnerable. By adding more jaded chants of “Si Se Puede” to such grotesque policies, Obama and Napolitano will only make even more of us hear even more clearly the echoes of “Si Se Pedo” politics: sounds similar to something good until you get close to the smell that’s toxically bad.

In a such a dangerous climate, a climate in which economic decline worsens the undocumented condition -death in jail, hate crimes, death in deserts, daily doses of dehumanizing media-, it is our duty to reject as extremely dangerous and in the most forceful terms any of the “smart enforcement” and other militaristic language and policy used by Napolitano, GOP & Dems and some “immigrant rights advocates.” Without a powerful pushback against these powerful interests who claim to be “liberal” and “progressive” on immigration reform, their institutional advantages – government bully pulpit & policy leadership, massive foundation funding for polls, media work and even blogging, media predisposition to be DC-centric- will again push non-legalization issues into the gulag of neglect, the further normalization of the nefarious things we’re seeing in the treatment of the undocumented.

So, beware: the workings of “hope” and “change” lurketh on the horizon.

Immigration Reform Debate Must Regain a Moral Compass

January 15, 2009

Immigration Reform Debate Must Regain a Moral Compass

New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Jan 15, 2009

Review it on NewsTrust

NEW YORK—The buzz filling Blackberrys, busy halls and spacious deal-making rooms in Washington appears to signal that spring arrived early this year for immigrants. In the last week alone, several prominent figures—outgoing President Bush, incoming President Obama, Mexican President Calderón, Los Angeles Cardinal Mahoney, to name a few—have discussed the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform. And, as in the previous failed attempts at reform in 2006 and 2007, legalization for the more than 12 million undocumented among us occupies the center of forums, speeches and other public statements of Democratic and civic leaders in the beltway.

“Immigrants must be brought out of the shadows so they can fully contribute to our nation’s future economic and social well-being,” declared Cardinal Mahoney during a recent teleconference.

While laudable in its intent, the legalization-centered approach of Mahoney and others may not be the best way to deal with the tragic legacy of failed immigration reform: spikes in anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hate crimes, deaths in decrepit immigrant prisons, thousands of families separated, children and families terrorized by heavily armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raiding their homes.

These efforts are inadequate because, contrary to the new Washington consensus on immigration, the greatest single need in immigration reform is not legalization. Rather, what is most needed is moral imagination.

The predominance of the “practical” considerations – “immigrants are good for the economy,” “we need tough and smart enforcement,” etc.— framing the arguments in favor of comprehensive reform should be balanced by a simple, but now elusive fact that smashes any of the discursive frames prevailing on either side of the immigration debate: undocumented immigrants are first and foremost human beings whose lives are as sacred as that of any other being.

Although all advocates surely believe this, not all voice it as much as they used to.

Thankfully, the possibilities of the political moment reflected in the election of Barack Obama and a new, more Democratic Congress offer us the best opportunity to return morality to the center of an immigration debate that has reached dangerous levels of absurdity, if the spate of murders of immigrants here in “liberal” New York and other cities are any indicator.

Although Mahoney, Bush and other backers of immigration reform have included some moral arguments as part of their case, the Washington, D.C., realpolitik of the past decade has pushed moral considerations into the shadow of the legalization-centered approach. Consider, for example, how Mahoney, Bush and other backers of the failed McCain-Kennedy immigration reform package of 2006 to 2007, were willing to “trade off” the more than 700 pages of punitive immigration policy—increased incarceration, deportation, militarization of the border—for less than 100 pages of punitive approaches to legalization contained in the bill.

While morality cannot be legislated, moral considerations can and must be part of immigration legislation. This is the way it was before the mid-1990s, the period when Washington decided to de-emphasize moral arguments in favor of the realpolitikal legalization approach provided by high-powered pollsters and public relations consultants. This was when the now familiar immigration reform jargon—”smart and tough,” “practical” and “comprehensive”—entered our national discourse on immigration reform. I still remember how uncomfortable I felt during teleconferences organized by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Immigration Forum (NIF) and other Washington groups at the time. Hearing pollsters and advocates tell us, “Moral arguments don’t work with the voters,” made me nervous. Hearing them then call for “necessary tradeoffs” (code for accepting even more punitive immigration policies in exchange for legalization) as part of “comprehensive immigration reform” scared me.

Then—after the failure of immigration reform in 2006 and 2007—NCLR, NIF and other members of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform produced a confidential report, “Winning The Immigration Debate,” in January 2008 advising Democratic candidates to adopt a “get tough” immigration message. This message made me wonder if some were blind to the anti-immigrant violence infecting the cultural climate like a virus. The report calls for a message that “places the focus where voters want it, on what’s best for the United States, not what we can/should do for illegal immigrants.”

It made me realize how far we had strayed from the halcyon days when moral frames of the immigration debate prevailed among most advocates.

While the responsibility for the surge in anti-immigrant hatred, violence and even murder goes to the GOP, right-leaning Democrats, right-wing media personalities and well-funded hate groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, many of us in the advocate community must come to grips with a disconcerting fact: We allowed the humanizing and protective shield of morality to be eviscerated from the discussion about human beings who happen to be immigrants.

There’s no malicious intent behind the political strategy of the “get tough and smart” approach to immigration reform. But it is problematic that, with few exceptions, none of the high-profile advocates of immigration reform has publicly admitted any errors of judgment with regard to either accepting punitive policies or enabling the evisceration of the moral frame from the immigration debate.

Rather than point fingers after the fact, it is best to put political energy and resources into doing for detention, raids and other immigration policies what many advocates are already doing around detention and torture in Guantanamo: reigniting the moral imagination that must inform the debate.

Such an approach to immigration reform will do much to address what is now a deep cultural problem in a country that has come dangerously close to normalizing hatred of immigrants in its media, in its legislatures and in its streets. If we have learned anything from the civil rights struggle we are about to commemorate on Martin Luther King, Jr. day, it is that sometimes we have to go against what pundits and pollsters say and simply do what is right.

Secretary of Labor Designate Hilda Solis: One to Celebrate

December 19, 2008

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In what will be the first progressive appointment of his administration, President-elect Barack Obama invited Southern California Congresswoman, Hilda Solis, to join his cabinet as the Secretary of Labor. This is especially welcome news to labor and immigrant rights groups who have constituted Solis’ primary base in her rise to national prominence. The daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrant laborers, Solis brings the most solid progressive credentials of any member of the Obama cabinet-including Obama himself. She has won abundant praise and wide support because of her positions on labor rights, immigration issues, environmental protection and women’s rights, to name a few. Her appointment reflects the growing power and influence of the labor and immigrant struggles of Southern California and across the country as her trajectory, like that of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, took rapid upward turn thanks to the political energy and power unleashed after the struggles against Proposition 187 in California. For those looking for hope in the great labor and immigration struggles we’re still engaged in, look no further at what your work has wrought: Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor.

(Full disclosure: I know and have worked on a number of issues with Hilda since we fought Proposition 187 in California in the early 90’s and have, since then, found her to be nothing, if not a smart and capable fighter and an upright person. In addition to celebrating Hilda’s political capabilities, I am also likely being moved by the fact that I’ve never seen someone whose extraction so closely resembled my own (Central American immigrant unionist household) enter the Star Chamber of global power, except maybe to clean it. May she enlighten it with the warmth and brilliance of Southern California and the Américas. In sum, I can say without reservation, that this really is one to celebrate as I am about to go do as soon as the this period in my sentence drops….