Archive for the 'Uber-Hypocrisy' Category

Fauxccupy: The Selling and Buying of the Venezuelan Opposition

March 15, 2014

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MARCH 13, 2014 BY 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Latino Rebels contributor Roberto Lovato visited Venezuela last week and wrote the following opinion piece. As of this morning, according to reports, the death toll resulting from the protests in Venezuela is at 25. The most recent violent events have occurredin San Cristóbal, near the Venezuela/Colombia border.

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CARACAS—Reports and imagery coming out of Venezuela in the past weeks would lead the casual observer to conclude that the country’s youthful opposition are “peaceful protesters” following a long line of global youth activism seen during the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement or in other parts of Latin America. Such a conclusion would be false, as the news from Venezuela’s protests contains journalistic practices that are very questionable and on an unprecedented scale.

Consider, for example, how both sides have killed people. The corporate media (both in English and in Spanish) have failed to cover the eight (or more) pro-Chavista victims of student and other opposition violence. No one is investigating claims that the majority of the killings were committed by the opposition. The radical erasure of pro-Chavista victims is astonishing. The following image, for instance, allegedly shows Venezuelan opposition students setting up barbed wire that beheaded an innocent cyclist, 29 year-old Elvis Rafael Durán de La Rosa, whose death eluded most global media.

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Another example used in the carefully curated Venezuela media reports pertains to the images of rock-bearing youth wearing Guy Fawkes masks, a popular symbol of anti-capitalist movements, thanks to a Hollywood movie and, more recently, the Occupy protests.

Last week, I conducted interviews with opposition members, including dozens of opposition youth. Amost all of the youth were middle- to upper-class university students living in middle-class to ultra-elite neighborhoods of Caracas, the wealthiest in the Americas. Asked it they identified with  ”anarchists,” “Marxists”  or any of the other oppositional ideologies that have historically and which still define most opposition movements in the region, these students uniformly responded in the negative, with some even throwing in a “para nada!” or other Spanish equivalents of “hell no!”

Some interviewed even told me they identified with military men like El Generalísimo Marcos Pérez Jiménez, a much reviled former dictator. They also identified with Venezuela’s opposition, led by three elites —Henrique Capriles, María Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez— all of whom have direct familial ties to either the owners or top executives of the most important corporate conglomerates in Venezuela and the entire continent.

So ask the following question: If the Venezuelan opposition is led by millionaires in a poor country and if instead of fighting multi-million dollar US policy initiatives (as do most Latin American opposition movements) the Venezuelan opposition is receiving million$ from US policy, how do we account for all those images of students wearing a symbol associated with and used by leftist movements?

The answer is threefold. One is that the mask-wearing is part of the very sophisticated media training the students (and the opposition) received from OTPOR/CANVAS and other consultants bought with millions of US dollars. Second, students engaging in violent acts or those who fear retribution need cover. Finally, there is the logic of the market—people buying the masks because they’re cool and because someone saw a chance to make a buck, which is what I mostly documented in the photos I took last week.

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(Photos: Roberto Lovato)

Without closely analyzing the imagery and careful curation of the Venezuelan opposition, one would conclude that this opposition is just like Che Guevara or Occupy or the Arab Spring. And with Venezuelan student opposition leaders like Yon Goicochea receiving the $500,000 Milton Friedman prize and other funding from private sources as well as from the U.S. government, there’s much more behind the Guy Fawkes masks in Venezuela than meets the media eye. And we may be witnessing the birth of something altogether new and radically different in the insurgent continent of América: Fauxccupy.

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Roberto Lovato is a writer and dissonant dude. You can read more at his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter @robvato.

 

Venezuela’€™s opposition is united against Maduro, but internally divided

March 7, 2014
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History suggests it may be difficult to overthrow a Venezuelan government without support from the country’€™s have-nots

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Cristian Hernandez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

CARACAS — His face and muscular arms sweating, hands dirtied from the sand-filled sugar bags he dragged toward the makeshift rampart blocking half of his street, Emilio Palacios’ immediate political struggle was with his mother. “No, Mama, no!” he yelled toward his mother, Maria Bravo, a longtime resident of the Chacaito district of Venezuela’s capital. “No!” he repeated, after hearing her tell Al Jazeera that the purpose of the barricade under construction in front of their apartment was “getting rid of this government.”

Measuring his words, he offered a different explanation. “We’re here as students to protest against the insecurity in the country and scarcity and the killing of students by the National Guard,” said Palacios, an engineering student at Central University. “This is not a protest against the government. We’re sending a message to the government.”

“OK. We have differences,” responded Bravo, a 48-year-old publicity and marketing executive, while sitting in a plastic lounge chair alongside her dog, Bruno, who almost knocked over a makeshift sign saying “Resistencia SOS Venezuela.”

On the anniversary of the death of socialist President Hugo Chavez, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his 10-month-old government. Demonstrators frustrated by a long string of electoral defeats in municipal, gubernatorial and presidential election challenges to the Chavistas are exploring new strategies: taking to the streets to demand Maduro’s resignation as a solution for rampant crime and food shortages. But history suggests it may be difficult to overthrow a Venezuelan government without support from the country’s have-nots, and they have yet to be seen mimicking the burning of garbage or smashing of concrete seen in more well-off neighborhoods.

“Yes, we’re here to support the students, to protest the waiting in lines for food like we were in Cuba,” Bravo continued. “But we’ll be in the streets until this nefarious government, until this dictatorship goes, until Maduro renounces!” Asked how the crisis affects her well-groomed mixed sheepdog, she said, “Four kilos of dog food costs 400 bolivares ($63). Four hundred bolivares! Absurdo!”

A visibly tense Emilio raised his eyebrows, nodded his head from left to right and rushed down the street to continue gathering tree trunks and sugar bags to fortify the barricade. The lines of burning garbage, rocks and dead trees were not clearly drawn. Neither are the political divisions within Venezuela’s opposition.

The family argument between Palacios and Bravo reflects wider differences in the opposition involving politics, strategy and tactics over the protests and street clashes that have left 18 dead, including some Chavistas. While Chavez built the base of his movement among Venezuela’s poor and working class, the current protests are centered in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods. The movement challenging Maduro is led by wealthy and privileged individuals, some of whose photographs feature regularly on the society pages of El Universal and other newspapers. And they seem unable to agree on whether change will be achieved via the ballot box and negotiation or through insurrection and violence — and also on who should lead the opposition. What they are united over is their desire to end crime and shortages, but also to reverse the Chavez legacy of major government spending in housing, education and other social programs, limits on profits that can be made by companies and other socialist initiatives.

The most visible leaders of the opposition — former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, the telegenic Harvard-educated former mayor of Chacao Leopoldo Lopez and Lopez’s closest ally, Maria Corina Machado — all hail from families that own or have powerful positions with conglomerates in media, food and other industries. All are connected to middle- and upper-class student groups currently protesting in the streets of Caracas. And WikilLeaks cables suggest that the key protest groups have, over many years, been the beneficiaries of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. “democracy promotion” assistance.

Despite efforts to project unity at recent rallies and marches, deep differences divide the opposition. Lopez and Machado are seen as promoting the more confrontational street actions to end Chavismo, but other opposition leaders fear that those tactics will alienate the larger public. Some opposition leaders even called for a moratorium on protests out of respect for commemorations of Chavez this week — a call that was ignored by student leaders and Machado.

Capriles and his key allies, including a number of industrialists, are more inclined to press for negotiations with Maduro, signaling discomfort with the more radical approach of the unyielding “Salida” (“Exit”) call by Lopez, Machado and many student groups on the streets who demand Maduro’s ouster. Capriles ally Lorenzo Mendoza, one of the wealthiest people in Venezuela, recently stood alongside Maduro to report on the National Conference for Peace, convened by the president and attended by leaders in politics and industry. “This is a convening to build a peace agenda,” declared a solemn Mendoza to a national audience.

Statements like Mendoza’s also reflect growing discomfort on the right with some of the student violence, like that which ended the life of Santiago Henrique Pedroza Longa. He was a 29-year-old motorcyclist who was beheaded by barbed wire put up by students at the behest of a pro-opposition retired general who had tweeted instructions on how to “neutralize the criminal hordes on bikes.”

And then there are the more radical student activists who distrust the close ties between fellow student groups and well-connected, well-heeled leaders of the political parties. “Leopoldo Lopez is a prefabricated martyr engaged in political theater designed to promote him as the new leader of the opposition,” said Joshua Cespedes, a 20-year-old working-class student protester and member of the Organization of Nationalist Students (ORDEN). “Capriles is the same, but he’s losing ground to him because people on our side are getting desperate and want quick solutions,” he said on Sunday at an opposition protest, standing next to a colleague hiding his face behind large, dark shades and a black poster with big white letters saying “Negotiation = Submission.”

Cespedes and other youth founded ORDEN after concluding that “politics in Venezuela is controlled by international interests. The opposition is controlled by the U.S. and Obama, and the government by Cuba. So the only solution is a nationalist solution.”

ORDEN traces its nationalist legacy to El Generalissimo Marcos Perez Jimenez, a former dictator, whose repressive policies eventually brought about his demise. Many years and several political defeats later, Perez Jimenez’s legacy still brings division to the right. After unfurling a banner with a picture of the smiling generalissimo, members of ORDEN were violently challenged by supporters of rival opposition groups during a widely televised opposition gathering on Jan. 23, 2013. “We were beaten with our own flags, punched, kicked at and dragged out of the conference — all at the hands of our ‘allies,’” said Cespedes. Despite the internal tensions, he said, he and the other members of ORDEN will “continue to organize and agitate in the streets.”

Striking a philosophical pose about the possibility of continued student clashes with Venezuelan government forces, 62-year-old Edith Mujica, Secretary for Organization for Caracas in Primero Justicia — the political party founded by both Lopez and Capriles — worried that the continued confrontation will not yield the desired results. “We may learn that all this excitement in the streets turns out to be an error,” said Mujica. “We might actually end up looking like we don’t want peace. We may even end up strengthening Maduro and the Chavistas. And we all agree we don’t want to do anything to make them stronger than they already are.”

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

April 2, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Anaheim Protesters Are Not to Blame, Police Are

July 26, 2012

Anaheim Protesters Are Not to Blame, Police Are

Roberto Lovato

Violence is eating away the moral core of Anaheim. For their part, local authorities are spending most of their time denouncing “outsiders” they say are a threat to the community.

“They chose violence and vandalism over respectful communications” Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait said at news conference following recent violence in his city, claiming most protesters are not from Anaheim. He denounced those trying to “create chaos in our downtown neighborhoods.” Anaheim Police Chief John Welter reinforced the anti-violence message: “We will not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone…” Such statements appear to indicate that Latino protesters pose an urgent threat to stability in Anaheim.

But then there’s the community perspective.

“There were pieces of brain on the … darn grass, in front of all these children, in front of all these people,” Anaheim resident Theresa Smith told a news outlet after walking by her neighbor’s home, where Anaheim police shot Manuel Diaz, an unarmed man, in the back of the head. Smith knows well the pain of her neighbors. Her own son was killed by Anaheim police officers in 2009 in another highly controversial incident. “This traumatizes people, and these people (protesters) are angry.”

For her part, Genevieve Huizar, the mother of the Manuel Diaz, also feels deeply the violence that is destabilizing her community.

“I watched as my son took his last breath. I watched as his heart stopped beating for the last time.” When the community demanded answers about the violence that killed Diaz, police responded with more shooting rubber bullets and unleashing a police dog into a crowd that included children.

“They just started shooting everyone. They shot at little kids too!” a screaming Susan Lopez told a local news outlet following Saturday’s shooting.

What is most striking about these statements by local official and community members are the polar opposite messages they are sending. Anaheim officials have denounced violence from “outsiders,” not the police violence against residents. The officials are most passionate about “violence” – kicking police cars, throwing bottles, burning garbage cans – in the streets. Smith, Huizar and most community members locate the most destabilizing violence at 425 S. Harbor Blvd., the headquarters of the Anaheim police department. When it comes to violence, officials appear to be spending more time on the Disneyland side of Harbor boulevard than on the reality side of the street.

This extreme difference in perspectives points not just to the moral and political bankruptcy of the Mayor Tait and Chief Welter, it also points to the urgent need for “outsiders” to protect Anaheim residents from the police. In the face of the inability of Tait and Welter to rein in the escalating police violence that endangers Anaheim residents, these same residents are ironically calling on outside law enforcement, namely California State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to step in and protect them from the spiral of violence that is even impacting Anaheim children.

In a matter of days, more than 17,000 people California and the entire country have signed a petition from Presente.org calling on Attorney General Harris to protect the people of Anaheim by conducting a deep investigation into the killing of Diaz, the police violence against crowds that Tait, Welter and other ‘insiders’ have shown themselves incapable of investigating and acting on. While Tait’s recent moves to ask for an external investigation are encouraging and welcome, there are no confirmed reports of a thorough investigation. None. Also, these calls for assistance are very new and need to be amplified and followed through if there is ever to be true peace and safety in Anaheim.

The officer-involved killing of Diaz and another man killed by police, also under circumstances the community finds questionable, follow a growing number of Latino bodies impacted by the excessive and deadly force used by Anaheim Police. Attorneys General Harris and Holder must step in to investigate and deliver justice before this epidemic of killings, beating  and other abuses that Tait and, especially, Welter lack the political will to stop.

The cancer of excessive and deadly force by Anaheim Police against Latinos is profoundly disturbing. In the last year alone, there’ve been six officer-involved shootings (five of whom are Latino). Smith and other victims’ families have held weekly protests outside police headquarters for many, many weeks.

Rather than try to avert attention away from police violence, rather making passionate denunciations of “outsiders”, Tate, Welter and other Anaheim officials need to show passion -and compassion-for the families and communities suffering under the rotten boot of police violence. These officials must assert their roles and do everything in their power to encourage and enable Harris and Holder to clean up the bloody mess left not by violent “outsiders” but by those that eat away the moral core of Anaheim: the violent insiders of the Anaheim Police department.

 

Roberto Lovato, Writer, Co-Founder of Presente.org.

The Greatest Threat to Liberty on Its 125th Anniversary: Corporate Tyranny

October 28, 2011

Liberty turned 125 years today. The Statue of Liberty, that is. As we watch the celebrations of the anniversary of  the iconic statue symbolizing  Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, we should all take at least a moment to reflect on the state of citizenship and freedom -and unfreedom-in the United States.

In a word, freedom is in grave danger because of the most powerful Tyrant of our time: Corporations. There is no greater symbol of the destruction of freedom than Wall Street, which profits from all that has defined tyrants of previous eras: war, poverty, control of government, the lack of free speech, surveillance,  the denial of basic human and civil rights and even the the possible destruction of the planet itself.

The good news is that we are also witnessing an unprecedented global movement that’s trying to define freedom in the age of corporate tyranny. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, Spain’s “Indignados”, the Arab Spring and other movements are directly confronting the corporate control of everything from the culture, land, sea, air we inhabit to  our genetic code and the food we eat. Occupy Wall Street is nothing if not a reflection of the threat to freedom posed by the ways in which corporations dominate the Congress, the electoral system, the economy and the Presidency itself.

The duplicity and threat of corporate-controlled freedom can be found on the Statue of Liberty itself. Much is being made in the media about the “live web cams” that are part of the high-tech makeover of the Statue. Less (or not) reported are the dozens of infrared surveillance cameras, vibration sensors, experimental facial recognition monitors, and other now ubiquitous electronic surveillance devices that capture the image of visitors and send them to databases of national security agencies. The profits from this kind of multi-million dollar makeover of Liberty go to corporations invested in redefining freedom.

The same will to profit from the decimation of Liberty can be found in today’s naturalization ceremony being presided over by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. While Salazar is leading the naturalization ceremony of a small group of citizens at the foot of the statue, the Obama Administration is feeding the multi-billion dollar industry that persecutes and jails, surveills and deports more than a million immigrants since Salazar and the Obama Administration took the reigns of executive power. Such a situation has in essence has rendered meaningless the “New Colossus,” the poem by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the monument in 1903. The anniversary of “Lady Liberty” should give us pause to reflect on these words in the Obama era:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The golden door has become an iron cage; the masses are being huddled into private prisons whose stocks and profits now light the lamp of Liberty brighter with each new immigrant prisoner; The language of the “wretched refuse” on the “teeming shore has morphed an “anchor baby” that corporate-sponsored Republicans and even Democrats decry.

Such a situation points to how non-citizens, especially undocumented immigrants, are being used to divert from and disguise and the sad fact about citizenship in our age: corporate citizenship has humiliated and practically destroyed human citizenship. The buying of politicians by corporations has become synonymous with “democracy” in this New Gilded Age. But, instead of putting responsibility for the death of citizenship on the Corporate Colossus, there is a huge industry invested in blaming the “huddled masses” described in the New Colossus poem.

In the New Gilded Age, freedom and citizenship have become commodities that can be bought and sold.Freedom has become synonymous with “Free Trade”; “Freedom of the press”, to quote the great journalist AJ Liebling, “is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Religious freedom is centered at the altar of quick profits in a society forced to worship Wall Street.

If we are to alter this humiliation of Liberty, we have no choice to look not at the technofied torch and eyes of Liberty, which are monitoring us even as the torch shines forth the false image of “freedom”, but at the invisible chains that shackle the feet of Liberty. At the moment,  bottom-up, street level movements like the Occupy Wall Street movement stand at the feet of Liberty, trying to unshackle us from the chains of corporate tyranny.

May we still yearn to be free.

Occupy Oakland and the “Post-Racial” Repression of the Obama Era

October 26, 2011

While President Obama was telling the small crowd at a $7500-a-plate fundraiser in San Francisco that “Change is possible,” Pooda Miller was across the bay trying to get her plate back from the Oakland Police Department. “They came, pulled out rifles, shot us up with tear gas and took all our stuff,” said Miller, at an afternoon rally condemning the violent evacuation of more than 170 peaceful, unarmed Occupy Oaklanders by 500 heavily-armed members of the Oakland Police Department and other local departments yesterday morning.

With a long metal police fence separating Miller and other members of Occupy Oakland from their confiscated items—tents, water, food, clothes, medicine, plates—and now possessed by the police, Miller grabbed a big blue and white bullhorn that looked like it was almost half of her 4-foot, 5-inch frame. “Give us our stuff back! It don’t belong to you!” yelled Miller, who also expressed relief that her baby was not camped out with her that morning.

The sound of Miller’s ire shot across the protective masks of all of the officers standing at alert on the other side of the metal police fence, but her loudest, most acidic anger was saved for the baton-wielding officer who, like herself and other officers, was a young African-American woman.

“Who are you serving?” screamed Miller at the top of her high pitched voice, turned raspy from hours of denouncing. “You’re being used. You’re getting paid with our tax money to put down your own people! Why are you doing this to your own people?”

Miller’s questions about the role of race in the policing of Occupy Oakland points to what is and will continue to be the larger question in Oakland and other U.S. cities where former “minorities” are becoming majorities: What does it mean when those charged with defending elite interests against multi-racial and increasingly non-white activists are themselves multiracial and non-white? The ongoing protests, mayor recall, phone calls, emails and other pressure and pushback of Occupy Oakland are no longer aimed at cigar-smoking white men. They are aimed at a power structure in Oakland whose public face looks more like Miller and other non-white protesters.

Miller and others are calling for the recall of Jean Quan, who made history as Oakland’s first Asian-American mayor (full disclosure: Quan’s daughter is my Facebook friend); and they are complaining about the use of excessive police violence authorized by Interim Chief Howard Jordan, an African American. Such conflicts between former minorities are becoming the norm in what more conservative commentators call the “post-racial” era ushered in by the election of Obama.

Quan and Jordan are in the throes of dealing with a police department plagued by officer-involved shootings and killings, corruption and other crimes—crimes that have forced a federal consent decree to reform the department, after officers were convicted of planting evidence and beating suspects in West Oakland. Taking her cue from the Obama campaign of 2008, Quan announced Jordan’s appointment at a public safety forum titled “Creating Hope in the Community.”

Many like Miller and other Occupy Oaklanders are having second thoughts about what feels like the affirmative actioning of policing and state violence. Others, like Ofelia Cuevas of the University of California’s Center for New Racial Studies, see the workings of a not-so-21st-century pattern of policing and power.

“Having people of color policing people of color is not new,” said Cuevas. “This was part of policing history in California from the beginning. In the 1940s, while the federal government was interning Japanese Americans in camps, officials in Los Angeles were starting to recruit black police officers as a way to decrease police brutality.”

Cuevas noted that big city mayors like Quan or Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are, by electoral and structural necessity, required to act like any of their predecessors, who headed up police forces that attacked, surveilled and even killed those perceived as a threat to the establishment. The Bay Area police’s violent modern history stretches from OPD’s assault on the Black Panther Party—which was founded just blocks from the center of Occupy Oakland, re-named Oscar Grant Plaza—to the killing of Grant, a young black man shot in the back by a transit police officer at a nearby train station.

“Being mayor is being pro-police. They perceive that it’s their job to crush what they consider threats to the status quo,” said Cuevas.

Regardless of who is Mayor or police chief, keeping the status quo is the last thing that Gaston Lau, a 21 year-old english major at University of California, Berkeley, sees as an option. “[Quan’s] support for this amount of police brutality here is ridiculous,” said Lau, who held a placard that said “Down, Down with Jean Quan.”

“The future power struggles are not just going to be about fights between one race and another,” said Lau. “They’re mostly going to be about class, which is a big part about what the whole Occupy movement is about.”

Lau is hopeful that the movement will inspire younger Asian Pacific Islanders to engage with the issues of the Occupy moment, but worries about the generational conflict such a political engagement entails. “Some older Chinese might see having one of our own as mayor as a source of pride, but we need to help them understand how Quan and police act against us.”

Despite the internal and external challenges posed by multicultural powers putting down multicultural movements, Lau is, like his Occupy Oakland peers, undeterred. Clashes between Occupiers and Oakland police continued into last night as protesters tried to reclaim the park and police met them with tear gas. The movement has vowed to continue attempting to return to the space. “Whether or not the mayor is Asian,” Lau said, “when she acts against the people, then we will respond as the people.”

Healing the Hurt of War and Violence: Guatemalan Government Apologizes for US-Sponsored Coup of 1954

October 21, 2011

Huge spiritual news from Guatemala. Today’s New York Times reports that

More than a half-century after Guatemala’s elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown in a coup planned by the C.I.A. and forced into a wandering exile, President Alvaro Colom apologized on Thursday for what he called a “great crime.”

While much of the media adopted the ‘too little, too late’ theme in their headlines ( NYT-An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later, BBC’-Guatemala ‘sorry’ for Arbenz coup) I actually saw this story and thought “What a colossally great thing!”  “Great” because, for anyone that has some sense of the staying power of violence-induced trauma in Guatemala and other Central American countries during the wars of the 1980’s, it’s obvious that today’s apology represents a colossal contribution to the necessary  healing of the collective psychic wounds of war & violence. The apology institutionalizes and attacks directly the erasure of memory that keeps these psychic wounds of war and violence perpetually festering. Makes one look (momentarily) past the political calculations that likely inform this move by the failed left (allegedly) government of President Colom.

Nonetheless, this is psychically huge for un pais tan sufrido like Guatemala.

As important is that the United States respond to former President Jacobo Arbenz, who, after the coup, declared “Here started the injustice and I [call on] the United States to recognize their errors.” The US sponsored the military and deployed the CIA in the political and human tragedy that followed the coup:systematic assassinations, disappearances, torture and other crimes against humanity. The US government should follow the lead of the Guatemalan government with a formal apology to the Guatemalan people for its Definitive role in the 54 coup-and its bloody laundry list of crimes against humanity in Guatemala (and throughout the world) One Fine Day.

Still, I join my Guatemalan friends in celebrating this victory of Truth over Amnesia…

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.

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.

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

August 10, 2009

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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

What Kind of “Hope” is Obama Offering Honduras and Latin America?

July 10, 2009

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For a U.S. audience, to watch as the wet, pinkish-red jelly — the brains of Isis Odem Murillo, the young man killed last Sunday by the U.S.-trained Honduran military — spill onto those who carried the Christ-like victim was to watch another tragedy unfold in a far off land.

But for those of us familiar with countries in the region like Honduras and El Salvador, where in 1989 U.S.-trained troops literally shot out the brains of six Jesuit priests, their maid and her young daughter, we see reminders of the possible return of the terror that takes friends, family and colleagues.

Such traumatic memories inform the sense of the past in the Americas, the same past that President Barack Obama recently told his hemispheric audience that he wants to break with. We see this, for example, in repeated references to the “past” Obama made during his important speech before the Summit of the Americas meeting in April (“To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements.” Or: “I didn’t come here to debate the past — I came here to deal with the future.”)

Noticeably absent in the forward-looking Obama’s messages to Latin America is one of the two words we all identify him and his presidency with: hope.

Whatever the reasons for this omission, Obama would do well to remember that, in the bloodied streets of Honduras, and throughout the Americas, there exists a powerful political tradition in which esperanza (Spanish for “hope”) is often defined by overcoming the pro-military policies of the country that took as its own the name given to the entire continent — “America.”

Regardless of the outcome of negotiations to end the standoff in Honduras between the de facto military government and the only recognized leader of the country, President Manuel Zelaya, Obama must view the Honduran crisis as an opportunity to support and negotiate with the forces of esperanza on the continent.

He must do so if he is to overcome the past and move forward as he said in his summit speech: “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.”

In the insurgent region of Central America, tiny Honduras is nothing less than ground zero for the first encounter in the hemisphere between the tradition of esperanza and Obama’s still-untested notions of “hope.”

Contrasted against Obama’s still-being-formulated-as-we-speak notions of “hope” and “change” in the region, the movements flying the ancient banner of esperanza have delivered historic shifts across the Americas, as can be seen in the leaders elected in recent years, leaders with no less startling and inspiring stories as Obama’s. Indigenous leaders such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales; socialist single mothers, and former torture victims, like Chile’s Michelle Bachelet; and former steelworkers like Brazil’s “Lula” — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In times of great crisis, times in which Obama has yet to consolidate a sense of “hope” about the U.S. system in terms of things like health care, banking and jobs, the U.S. president has little to offer Latin America in the way of an alternative to the strides toward universal health care as in Venezuela and Cuba, the nationalization oil and other wealth redistribution programs of Bolivia or the democratization efforts of the deposed Zelaya in Honduras.

Until “hope” has some heft besides military heft to back it up, “esperanza” of Latin America will reign supreme — and be defended ferociously.

Once called “America’s Backyard” by Obama’s predecessors, América the continent has torn down the fences of what political scientists call the “unipolar” power of the United States in the region as the forces of esperanza usher in a new, more multipolar moment.

For example, many Latin Americans were not just united in calling for an end to Obama’s continuation of the $42.5 million in economic and military aid for Honduras in 2009. (Obama’s just-announced cuts in Honduran military aid can be viewed as either the victory of esperanza or the negotiation between esperanza and hope). Polls show that Latin Americans are also fairly unified with regard to their skepticism about U.S. motives in the hemisphere.

According to a widely quoted poll by the respected Latinobarometro Corp. in November, Latin Americans have a more favorable opinion of Spain, Japan and the European Union than they do of the United States — an unprecedented development — and two-thirds of all Latin Americans say they “don’t believe that the change of leadership in that country (the U.S.) will change the attitude of that country towards the region (of Latin America).”

China, whose foreign aid is mostly non-military (U.S. foreign aid varies between about one-third to two-thirds mostly military aid, as in the case of Colombia), which makes it one of the most important providers of foreign assistance to the region, is tied with the U.S in popularity ratings (58 percent favorable rating) — and trending upward.

He Li, a political scientist at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., the rising popularity of China reflects a resurgent Latin American sovereignty and independence of action. Writing in the North American Congress on Latin America magazine, Li stated, “the Beijing consensus (in Latin America) represents an attractive alternative to its Washington counterpart, largely because Beijing respects the sovereignty of Latin American nations, not meddling in their affairs and certainly not dictating their policies.”

Plus, when compared with the fact that Latin American families who live and work in the U.S. send $50 billion to their families at home — exponentially more than what the U.S. government gives in aid — the fountain of U.S.-led “hope” in the Americas appears to have dried up in Washington.

In the land of esperanza, Obama must recognize that talk of “hope” that is accompanied by continued military funding for governments like those of Honduras or Colombia rings as hollow. And are as increasingly vapid as the political slogans, such as “Si Se Puede” (Yes We Can), deployed by politicians and corporations pilfering beer, burgers and bad foreign policy.

Although the diplomatic dance between the Obama administration and Latin America has just begun, the initial steps in tiny Honduras may not be taken to the tune of “hope,” but to that of esperanza.

(This article appeared originally in Alternet http://www.alternet.org)

Latin América’s Neda: Video of Killing of Isis Oved Murillo

July 6, 2009

The parallels -mass protest against military governments, military killing non-English-speaking millenials, worldwide denunciation-could not be greater. But the differences between coverage and official treatment here in the U.S. of the situation in Iran and the situation in Honduras couldn’t be starker. Why? I am working through a piece on this for later. In the meantime, check out this video and see for yourself what most U.S. media and many elected officials in the U.S. are mum about (Warning: this video is extremely graphic, gut wrenchingly so):

Death, Detention and the Dream of Legalization: GritTV Panel on Immigration Reform

July 3, 2009

This show about the possibilities of immigration reform this year was deftly done by the folks at GriTV. Host Laura Flanders steered panelists in what I think is one of the better discussions on this topic I’ve seen. Check out show which includes Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough, Ravi Ragbir who spent two years in immigration detention and is a member of Families for Freedom, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice and yours truly. Issues hidden away in the shadows of the debate are brought to light and the results are really infromative. So, check it out the clip below! And if you like it, then check out the full episode here.

Of América Quoted in France’s Le Monde About Honduran Coup

June 29, 2009

LeMonde.fr

This article from France’s Le Monde newspaper, quotes this site on the situation in Honduras. For those of you who read French, here you go:

Honduras : Obama amorce un changement de cap politique
LEMONDE.FR | 29.06.09 | 14h13

epuis 1983, et un coup d’Etat retentissant au Guatemala, l’Amérique centrale n’avait pas connu pareille crise politique. De ce point de vue, la destitution dimanche du président hondurien, Manuel Zelaya, par une junte militaire – et son exil forcé au Costa Rica – marque un nouveau tournant. En particulier pour l’administration américaine, désireuse de donner un nouvel élan à sa diplomatie et d’opérer une rupture manifeste avec l’ère Bush.

//

Barack Obama se savait d’autant plus attendu que les deux pays entretiennent de longue date une étroite collaboration sur le plan militaire, une “task force” (corps expéditionnaire) américaine étant basée non loin de la capitale hondurienne, Tegucigalpa. Sans aller jusqu’à condamner ouvertement le coup d’Etat perpétré contre M. Zelaya, comme l’a fait la communauté internationale, le président américain a tenu des propos mesurés, exprimant sa vive inquiétude et appelant tous les protagonistes “au respect des normes démocratiques, de l’Etat de droit et des principes de la charte démocratique interaméricaine“. “Toutes les tensions et tous les différends qui peuvent exister doivent être résolus pacifiquement par le biais du dialogue et sans ingérence extérieure”, a-t-il affirmé, alors même que le Honduras s’est associé à l’ALBA (Alternative bolivarienne pour les Amériques, alliance politique de gauche). Des propos qui tranchent singulièrement avec ceux de son prédécesseur, George W. Bush.

Car, si sur la forme le verbe est prudent, sur le fond, c’est bien un changement de cap qui semble s’amorcer. En témoignent notamment la volonté de dialogue avec les militaires honduriens et les propos de l’ambassadeur américain à Tegucigalpa, opposé à toute reconnaissance d’un nouveau gouvernement sur place. Le New York Times s’en fait d’ailleurs l’écho lundi : “La condamnation rapide [d’Obama] offre un contraste saisissant avec la façon de faire de l’administration Bush”, souligne le quotidien américain, évoquant l’éphémère tentative de coup d’Etat contre le président vénézuélien Hugo Chavez en avril 2002 ; tentative “soutenue tacitement” par George W. Bush, comme l’ont révélé depuis des documents déclassifiés par la CIA.

Le Time partage cette analyse. Et va même plus loin, en invitant directement Barack Obama à ne pas reproduire les erreurs de son prédécesseur : “Le président Obama doit garder en mémoire combien le souvenir du coup d’Etat avorté de 2002 est encore prégnant en Amérique latine et combien beaucoup, dans la région, demeurent convaincus, non sans raison, que l’administration Bush l’a soutenu.” Pour l’hebdomadaire américain, pas de doute, la stratégie adoptée est la bonne, car elle est la seule à même de briser, ou du moins d’atténuer, la rhétorique “anti-Yankee”. “Son appel contre l’ingérence extérieure et au respect de la souveraineté nationale ce qui apparaissait comme trop souvent ignoré sous l’ère Bush est très subtil”, juge-t-il. “Les gouvernements de gauche d’Amérique latine attendent qu’Obama perde son sang-froid. Mais ce n’est pas le cas […]. Cela les désarçonne complètement”, confirme Michael Shifter, vice-président de l’Inter-American Dialogue (centre d’analyse politique) de Washington, cité par le Time.

Prendre des mesures rapides et ne pas laisser le doute s’installer, c’est aussi ce que recommande Roberto Lovato, éditorialiste reconnu aux Etats-Unis, dans une tribune intitulée “Obama must strongly and unequivocally condemn the coup in Honduras” (“Obama doit condamner fermement et sans équivoque le coup d’Etat au Honduras”). “Si le coup d’Etat représente une formidable occasion de forger de nouvelles relations avec les Amériques, le fait de ne pas le condamner rapidement et sans aucun doute possible nuira considérablement à […] l’image, déjà fragile, des Etats-Unis dans la région”, estime-t-il. Une image d’autant plus écornée, selon lui, qu’elle est encore teintée de soupçons d’implication dans des coups d’Etat en 2006… au Venezuela et en 2008 en Bolivie.

Aymeric Janier

Obama Has the Power-and Responsibility- to Help Restore Democracy in Honduras

June 29, 2009

Supporters of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya demonstrate in front of the presidential residence

Viewed from a distance, the streets of Honduras look, smell and sound like those of Iran: Expressions of popular anger- burning vehicles, large marches and calls for justice in a non-English language- aimed at a constitutional violation of the people’s will (the coup took place on the eve of a poll of voters asking if the President’s term should be extended); protests repressed by a small, but powerful elite backed by military force; those holding power trying to cut off communications in and out of the country.

These and other similarities between the political situation in Iran and the situation in Honduras, where military and economic and political elites ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya in a military coup condemned around the world, are obvious.

But when viewed from the closer physical (Miami is just 800 miles from Honduras) and historical proximity of the United States, the differences between Iran and Honduras are marked and clear in important ways: the M-16’s pointing at this very moment at the thousands of peaceful protesters are paid for with U.S. tax dollars and still carry a “Made in America” label; the military airplane in which they kidnapped and exiled President Zelaya was purchased with the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid the Honduran government has been the benefactor of since the Cold War military build-up that began in 1980’s; the leader of the coup, General Romeo Vasquez, and many other military leaders repressing the populace received “counterinsurgency” training at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the infamous “School of the Americas,” responsible for training those who perpetrated the greatest atrocities in the Americas.

The big difference between Iran and Honduras? President Obama and the U.S. can actually do something about a military crackdown that our tax dollars are helping pay for. That Vasquez and other coup leaders were trained at the WHINSEC, which also trained Agusto Pinochet and other military dictators responsible for the deaths, disappearances, tortures of hundreds of thousands in Latin America, sends profound chills throughout a region still trying to overcome decades U.S.-backed militarism.

Hemispheric concerns about the coup were expressed in the rapid, historic and almost universal condemnation of the plot by almost all Latin American governments. Such concerns in the region represent an opportunity for the United States. But, while the Honduran coup represents a major opportunity for Obama to make real his recent and repeated calls for a “new” relationship to the Americas, failure to take actions that send a rapid and unequivocal denunciation of the coup will be devastating to the Honduran people — and to the still-fragile U.S. image in the region.

Recent declarations by the Administration — expressions of “concern” by the President and statements by Secretary of State Clinton recognizing Zelaya as the only legitimate, elected leader of Honduras — appear to indicate preliminary disapproval of the putsch. Yet, the even more unequivocal statements of condemnation from U.N. President Miguel D’Escoto, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Presidents of Argentina, Costa Rica and many other governments raise greatly the bar of expectation before the Obama Administration.

As a leader of the global chorus condemning the Iranian government and as one of the primary backers of the Honduran military, the Obama Administration will feel increasing pressure to do much more.

Beyond immediate calls to continue demanding that Zelaya and democratic order be reinstated, protesters in Honduras, Latin America and across the United States will also pressure the Obama Administration to take a number of tougher measures including: cutting off of U.S. military aid, demanding that Hondurans and others kidnapped, jailed and detained be released and accounted for immediately, bringing Vasquez and coup leaders to justice, investigating what U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, did or didn’t know about the coup.

With the bad taste left by the widely alleged U.S. involvement in recent coup attempts in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008), countries led by Zelaya allies Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, the Obama Administration faces a skeptical Latin American audience.

Latin American skepticism of U.S. intentions is not unfounded. Throughout his administration, Zelaya has increasingly moved left, critiquing certain U.S. actions and building stronger ties to countries like Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. COHA, a non-profit research organization, wrote in 2005:

While Honduras signed onto the U.S.-led Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2004, and the U.S. currently is Honduras’ primary trading partner and the source of approximately two-thirds of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI), Zelaya has, within the past year, joined Petrocaribe, Chavez’s oil-subsidy initiative, as well as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the Venezuelan-led trade bloc. Honduras’ Congress ratified its membership in Petrocaribe on March 13, by 69 votes, and Zelaya signed ALBA membership documents on August 22.

The Honduran president has said that apathy on the part of the U.S. as well as by the international lending institutions toward rising food prices and deepening poverty in his country — one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with per capita income around $1,600 — compelled him to turn to Caracas.”

Obama’s meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Monday, whose government has been condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international organizations as one of the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere, both complicates and will be complicated by Sunday’s’ resurgence of militarism in Honduras.

Zelaya, who continues denouncing the coup from Costa Rica, outlined the long term threat to Honduran and U.S. interests in the region, “I think this is a vicious plot planned by elites. Elite who only want to keep the country isolated and in extreme poverty,” he said adding that, “A usurper government cannot be recognized by absolutely anybody.”

(This article appeared originally on Alternet: http://www.alternet.org)

Why Was Alex Sanchez Arrested? Uprising Radio Interview

June 27, 2009

https://i0.wp.com/feministing.com/imageStorage/uprising.jpg

Interview by Sonali Kolhatkar with former Sanchez lawyer, Alan Diamante, and your truly. Hope it’s of interest:

Uprising Radio Interview

RED ALERT: Schumer, Dems and their Allies Ready to Support National ID Cards

June 25, 2009

national-id-papers-please

RED ALERT: Influential Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), some Dems, some DC groups (I’ve interviewed a couple) and even the SEIU’s Mike Garcia appear ready and willing to support a NATIONAL ID CARD. According to the L.A.Times,

“As the immigration reform debate begins to heat up again, some observers expect that one of the biggest and most controversial new elements will be a proposed national worker identification card for all Americans.

A “forgery-proof” worker ID card, secured with biometric data such as fingerprints, is an idea favored by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), the new chairman of the immigration subcommittee. Schumer, who will lead the effort to craft the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, called the card the best way to ensure that all workers were authorized.”

ACLU and others I’ve spoken with are already gearing up to condemn and fight this (if you want to understand why national ID’s are a big problem, see the ACLU’s “5 reasons” tip sheet). When I interviewed some, including national immigrant rights organizations in DC about this yesterday, their first tact was to prevaricate and confuse by saying something to the effect of “It’s not a national ID. it’s different.” Having covered the electronic surveillance beat when I first started doing journalism, I recognize when somebody’s BS’ing about these crucial, but complicated issues. Letting the DC operatives know that I know electronic surveillance caused a shift in the rhetorical strategy of folks like the person who told me, “Well, the bill is not out yet. So we can’t really argue about this now.” I truly hope that the “tradeoff” desperation of those who spent millions of dollars to get legalization for some undocumented is not so great that they are willing to lend themselves to support reactionary policies like the national ID proposals that’ve been rejected by people of many different political creeds time and time again. I really do.

This national ID move is either a labrynthine charade designed to give Obama and the Democrats a way out of their commitment to immigration reform-even the conservative, punitive “get tough approach of CIR”- or a very dangerous move to continue the Bush surveillance project under the guise “immigration reform.” Either way, this National ID proposal -and its supporters- must be roundly and rapidly condemned before they get Obama to back it with his wealth of political capital. And watch out for the MULTIBILLION dollar interests of Lockheed, Larry Ellison and Oracle, who have lobbied unsuccessfully for national ID cards for many years. It appears that the those eating and profiting at the anti-immigrant trough are now trying to turn a profit by denying fundamental rights to the non-migrant among us. Even many right wingers oppose national ID proposals as when Ellison shamelessly tried to promote his national ID project right after September 11th. He appeared to be “offering free of charge” the software to build such a national ID. But what he nor other backers of national ID didn’t and won’t tell you is that, like other open source software, Ellison and Oracle stand to make billions from upgrades to the national ID software. go figure.

In any case, some in DC will try to hide behind the “but there’s not even a proposal yet” logic that masks nefarious dealings in much the same way that that logic hid the disgusting parts of McCain-Kennedy. This stuff moves us beyond the neglect of detainee and deportee issues and into issues of state control of the entire populace. This needs a powerful push back , regardless of whether it’s backers speak Spanish or can say “Si Se Puede” to further eroding the fundamental rights of people in this country.