June 14, 2008
New Americans Museum Opens in San Diego
After years of operating out of a tiny downtown office, San Diego's first-ever museum dedicated to immigration (The New Americans Museum) is opening its doors in Point Loma (near San Diego) next weekend.
Personal stories of the immigrant experience are a vital component of the New Americans Museum’s efforts to illuminate the many facets of contemporary immigration to the United States. The Oral and Visual Histories Project is intended to collect and preserve these narratives. An advisory council of scholars, immigrant leaders, and media experts will provide ongoing guidance. The archived stories will make accounts of the immigrant experience readily available to family descendents and researchers as well as the general public. The histories will be available at the Museum and on its web site, in audio and digital video format, and as part of interactive exhibitions. This project is slated for substantial growth in 2008, as it represents a core collection for the Museum.
The inaugural exhibition is on Teenagers and Immigration. To see the New Americans Museum website, click here.
Georgia's Immigration Law Remains Controversial
Apparently, no side of the immigration debate in Georgia is pleased with the state immigration law enacted two years ago. Dave Williams writes for the Atlanta Business Chronicle:
Beset by congressional indecision over illegal immigration on one side and voters clamoring for action on the other, Georgia lawmakers stepped out on their own in 2006 and passed a major reform bill.
Two years later, the only thing all sides of the debate over Georgia's unilateral crackdown agree on is they don't like how the law is playing out.
Opponents of illegal immigration say the law isn't being enforced.
Contractors affected by the law complain they're being forced to play immigration cops. Click here for the rest of the story.
World Refugee Day - June 20
Sacramento Celebration of World Refugee Day, June 20, 2008; 6 p.m.
Location: El Sendero De La Cruz Church, 1401 Florin Road, Sacramento, CA 95822
Keynote Speaker: Deborah Ortiz, Former State Senator
Special Recognition to Westminister Presbyterian Church, Long Nguyen (Retired Sacremento County Refugee Coordinator), Hach Yasumura (Retired Social Worker).
For more information, Call 916-492-2591
June 13, 2008
The Social Security Administration No-Match Program: Inefficient, Ineffective, and Costly
We have blogged often about the proposed no-match enforcement by the Social Security Administration. Marielena Hincapie, Tyler Moran, and Michele Waslin of the Immigration Policy Center write "The purpose of the no-match letter is to clean up the ESF and ensure that workers receive credit for their earnings. not only have the letters proven to be an ineffective means of achieving this goal, but they also have resulted in many unintended negative consequences for workers, employers, and SSA itself." http://www.ilw.com/articles/2008,0616-hincapie.shtm
National Guard Ends Mission Along U.S./Mexico Border
The National Guard marked the end of its tour of duty on California's southern border today after helping out the border patrol for the last two years. "The mission is ending," said Jon Guibord, a spokesman for the California National Guard.
Can Undocumented Status be used for Impeachment Purposes
Thanks to Professor Carter White, director of the UC Davis Civil Rights Clinic for this:
The Texas Supreme Court today granted review in TXI Transportation Co., et al. v. Randy Hughes, et al. Two of the principal issues in the case are whether evidence that a truck driver involved in a fatal truck-SUV collision was an undocumented immigrant was properly admitted for impeachment purposes and whether the trial court improperly overruled a Batson challenge to the plaintiff’s use of a peremptory strike against the only Latino prospective juror. The plaintiffs won over $15 million in compensatory damages and over $ 6 million in punitive damages. The state court of appeals, with one of three justices dissenting, reversed the punitive damages award, opinion here.
In her dissent Justice Anne Gardner wrote:
“[Plaintiffs’] counsel did not mention, much less did they emphasize, Rodriguez’s illegal status in closing argument. They did not need to. Trial lawyers learn early that the most vital impressions on a jury are made in the first few moments of a trial. [They had called the driver as their first witness, showing the jury his videotaped deposition.] Moreover, they made sure the jury did not forget. Throughout the trial, at least forty references to Rodriguez’s status as an illegal alien were made, through questioning of Rodriguez as well as other witnesses, reminding the jurors of Rodriguez’s prior residence, his driving experience, and his years as a driver in Mexico, his prior arrest for illegal entry and deportation to Mexico, his use of a false social security number to obtain his commercial Texas driver’s license in 1996, his making of false statements to prospective employers regarding his immigration status, and even his current status as an immigrant while continuing to drive for TXI. Additionally, although not noted by the majority, Appellants complain that [plaintiffs] were allowed to introduce evidence of Rodriguez’s conviction . . . for illegal entry into the United States [which was a misdemeanor, not a felony, and therefore should not have come in for impeachment under the Texas Rule of Evidence].
“Whether Rodriguez was an illegal immigrant had nothing to do with whether he crossed over the center line of Highway 114 before the collision. His immigration status was equally irrelevant on the issues of his driving experience, which was considerable, and his driving record, which was clean, . . . . Appellants tied this evidence to Rodriguez’s use of a false social security number to obtain his commercial driver’s license in Texas. But whether he had a false social security number was likewise irrelevant.”
The Texas Supreme Court has been criticized in recent years as being pro-business, and a cynic might suggest that it becomes concerned with prejudicial evidence about immigration status only when such evidence may cost an insurance company several million dollars. But a reversal in TXI Transportation would set a precedent to exclude this evidence in other cases. The court will set the case for oral argument sometime this fall.
The parties’ briefs in the Texas Supreme Court are here.
The differences between Obama and McCain on Immigration
Roberto Lovato of New America Media analyses the more subtled differences in the candidates positions on immigration. For his article click here.
Latinos Workers return to the fields
The Wall Street Journal reports that latinos working in construction are returning to the fields in the face of construction slowdowns. For full story, click here.
McCain and Obama split over Gitmo Decision
The New York Times reports that the presidential candidates took differing positions Thursday on the Supreme Court decision granting foreign terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts. Senator John McCain expressed concern about the ruling, while Senator Barack Obama lauded it. For the full story, click here.
The Center for Constitutional Right's legal analysi of Boumediene v. Bush/Al Odah v. United States
Yesterday we wrote you to share the news as soon as we heard about our tremendous victory in the Supreme Court and to thank you for all your support. Today, after having a few more hours to digest the ruling and the stinging rebuke it provides to the Bush administration's failed detention policies, we've produced a more detailed legal analysis for those of you who are interested.
Yesterday, June 12, the Supreme Court ruled in an historic decision in Boumediene v. Bush/Al Odah v. United States that the detainees at Guantánamo Bay have a constitutional right to habeas corpus, to challenge their detention before a neutral judge in a real court. The men at Guantánamo have been struggling for this basic right to be recognized since 2002, when the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo Bay, and when CCR's first challenge to their detention was filed. In 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court upheld the detainees' statutory right to habeas corpus, and in 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the high court rejected the Bush administration's framework for military commissions and upheld the rights of the detainees under the Geneva Conventions.
In the decision, the Court strongly criticized the President and Congress's attempt to declare that because Guantánamo was outside the sovereign territory of the United States, the Constitution did not apply. The Court firmly stated that "To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say 'what the law is.'" Furthermore, the Supreme Court held that the procedures created by the Detainee Treatment Act were not an adequate substitute for real habeas hearings and emphasized that the length of our clients' detention required an end to further delays.
Now, moving forward from this historic victory for Executive accountability, we hope that the lower courts will quickly move to hold hearings in the over 200 pending individual habeas corpus cases where detainees are challenging their indefinite detention without charges. We anticipate that many of these cases will be decided swiftly because the government lacks any factual or legal basis for imprisoning the men. Without this decision these men might have remained in detention forever without ever having a real chance to argue for their release before an impartial court. With habeas these men - so many of whom have been officially cleared for release by the military - would never have been locked up and abused because no court was watching. We believe the majority of them will be released once the executive is forced to show up in front of a federal judge and justify their detention with hard evidence.
The attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, alongside our co-counsel, have been representing the men at Guantánamo for over six years, have produced a brief analysis of the decision and its implications. Please visit CCR's website to read this timely analysis of a critical Supreme Court decision and an important victory for the Constitution against the lawlessness and impunity of the Bush administration.
Obama promises immigration reform in the first year in office
In an interview with Jorge Ramos in Spanish Obama pledged not only to revisit the raids immediately after taking office but also to reintroduce comprehensive immigration reform in the first year in office, if elected. For the full story as reported in Spanish in El Mercurio, click here.
UT Working Group Submits Briefing Papers to Inter-American Commission on the Southwest Border Wall
AUSTIN, Texas (June 13, 2008) - A multi-disciplinary working group of faculty and students at The University of Texas at Austin claimed today that human rights are being violated by the United States through construction of a wall on the Texas/Mexico border. The working group submitted a series of briefing papers to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “Commission”), an inter-governmental body of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) composed of seven independent experts. The Commission’s mandate is to examine and monitor compliance by member States of the OAS, including the United States, with human rights obligations established in international law.
“The planned wall along the Texas/Mexico border has not only engendered widespread opposition while remaining ineffective in fulfilling the United States government’s immigration control and anti-terrorism objectives, it also violates international human rights law,” said Denise Gilman, one of the members of the working group and a clinical professor at The University of Texas School of Law.
The working group has analyzed and documented a series of human rights violations taking place as a result of plans to construct segments of wall along the Texas/Mexico border. They include:
1. Violations of the right to property and equal protection guaranteed under international human rights law. The United States is taking property to build the wall in an arbitrary and unjustified manner without properly considering other alternatives for controlling the border. In addition, the
U. S. government has not explained its unequal treatment of property owners on the border. Numerous small landowners will lose property to the wall while more lucrative developed properties are not included in the wall’s path. Based on a statistical analysis of demographic factors, Dr. Jeff Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences at The University of Texas at Brownsville, concluded that: “The border wall and the necessary taking of property resulting from its construction will disproportionately impact poor Latino immigrant families.”
2. Severe degradation of the environment and violations of the government’s human rights obligation to consider harm to the environment when undertaking public projects. In its construction of the border wall, the U.S. government is bypassing numerous domestic laws designed to protect the environment and the people who utilize and enjoy it. The negative impact of the wall on important and scarce natural resources, including the ocelot, jaguarandi and other wildlife populations, will be severe. The environmental degradation will cause significant harm to the residents of the Texas/Mexico border area who have traditionally held an important connection to the Rio Grande River and wildlife of the border area.
3. Violations of the rights of indigenous communities protected under international human rights law. The wall will directly impact the lands of the Lipan Apache, Kickapoo and Tigua (Ysleta del Sur) indigenous communities living along the Texas/Mexico border. Yet, the U.S. government is planning to take portions of these lands to construct the wall without engaging in meaningful consultations with members of the indigenous communities.
Given the gravity of the human rights situation created by the construction of a wall on the Texas/Mexico border, the working group is requesting that the Commission immediately consider the issue during its July 2008 period of sessions and initiate an investigation. The working group has further requested that the Commission hold a general hearing on the Texas/Mexico border wall during its October 2008 period of sessions.
“While it is a shame that we must go before an international body to address the actions of the United States on its own border, I’m pleased that this crucial human rights perspective on the wall will be brought to bear and I am hopeful that the United States will reverse its course of action,” stated Margo Tamez, a member of the Lipan Apache community who has been an outspoken opponent of the wall, which will run through land that has been in her family’s possession for more than two centuries.
For further information please contact:
Denise Gilman Sarah Cline
The full text of the briefing papers will be available on June 13, 2008, at:
The Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall – The Working Group is a multi-disciplinary collective of faculty and students at The University of Texas at Austin, which has gathered to analyze the human rights impact of the construction of a border wall on the Texas/Mexico border. This project is facilitated through the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at The University of Texas School of Law and is supported by The University of Texas Office of Thematic Initiatives and Community Engagement. The Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall includes faculty and students from the UT Geography Department, the UT Anthropology Department, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the UT Law School’s Immigration Clinic, Environmental Clinic and Rapoport Center. The Working Group is collaborating with affected individual property owners, indigenous communities, environmental groups, Environmental Sciences faculty at the University of Texas at Brownsville and other academics and advocates in carrying out work on this project. In May 2008, a delegation of the Working Group traveled to the Rio Grande Valley area of the Texas/Mexico border to conduct fact finding regarding the impact of the border wall on human rights and to speak with individuals affected by the construction of the wall.
The Working Poor in Mexico
No Rest for the Working Poor
By Laura Carlsen
Globalization continues to break down its own myths, especially in developing countries.
In Mexico, the promise of more jobs withered shortly after NAFTA went into effect, when it became clear that displacement outpaced job generation. Now, its twin promise—that globalization would create better jobs and improve standards of living—has finally committed public suicide as well.
Ford and General Motors change their operations in Mexico. Ford announced a major investment in Mexico of over $2 billion this week. Alongside the self-congratulatory remarks of industry representatives and government officials, was an interesting tidbit of information. According to an AP report, at the Ford plant to be expanded in Cuautitlan—on the outskirts of Mexico City where the cost of living has been going up sharply—workers' wages would be cut in half from their current level of $4.50 an hour. Mexican union leaders stated that this was necessary to compete with China.
The same week, General Motors announced a $1.3 billion investment in its Coahuila, Mexico plant and the creation some 875 jobs (note the low job-to-investment ratio). It also announced the eventual closure of plants in Janesville, Wisconsin and Morraine, Ohio. The Mexican press noted that the company first hinted at the closure of its plant in Toluca, which elicited an immediate promise from the union leadership to accept wage reductions. It soon after announced it will remain open but cut back on operations and lay off some of the workers. Although the new contract terms were unavailable at the time of this writing, the trend is written on the wall.
The companies justified further gouging into the fragile economy of working families by pointing the finger at global competition. As long as China offers wages of as little as $2.00 an hour, Mexico has no choice but to follow suit if it wants to attract investment.
The only legal floor to this race to the bottom is Mexico's minimum wage of about $5 per day. And the same week, the Mexican government made it clear it has no plans for relief in that area. In classic patriarchal style, Sec. of Labor Javier Lozano explained that raising the minimum wage would trigger "a salaries-prices race and it would be an illusion for workers, it would be deceiving them, since while they might think they have more money to purchase goods, these (prices) would keep going up."
The problem is that prices are already going up—the price of the basic food staple, the tortilla, went up from 5 pesos at the end of 2006 to 12 pesos in some parts of Mexico today. That alone places Mexico in the growing camp of nations threatened by the global food crisis, where even full-time workers find it difficult to assure a basic diet.
In a June 9 speech at the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Lozano expounded on the perils of granting living wages to the working poor: "The legitimate aspiration of higher wages for workers should come about through increases in productivity and not artificial measures such as generalized price controls or emergency wage hikes." As Sec. of Labor, you'd think that Mr. Lozano might have seen just one of the dozens of studies that show that Mexican manufacturing has experienced a marked increase in productivity accompanied by a fall in real wages. But the use of the word "artificial" belies his conviction that anything outside the dictums of the neoliberal market is "unnatural." So whatever reality serves up that contradicts these dictums continues to be treated as an inconvenient anomaly or ignored completely.
Funny that raising substandard workers' salaries is presented as the villain in the crusade to control prices for the good of all, whereas other causes—such as monopoly market control—receive no mention whatsoever. Funny, but not in a laughable way. Mexican workers are being urged to resist their lower instincts of wanting to eat regularly and provide a future for their families, and to have faith in the same macroeconomic policies that have failed them for years. That's a tough order in a society where the cost of basic items rose 47% between December of 2006 and May of 2008 while wages went up a little over 4%.
Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(@)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program www.americaspolicy.org in Mexico City. The Americas Mexico Blog is found at www.americasmexico.blogspot.com.
Senator Menendez Decries Racial Profiling in Immigration Raids
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) took to the floor of the Senate to deliver a major speech on immigration raids and detentions. He cited the numerous incidences of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents of Hispanic or other minority descent getting swept up in raids and the fear this has engendered in minority communities.
Senator Menendez announced that he will be introducing legislation to prevent the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. “The legitimate desire to get control over our borders has too often turned into a witch-hunt against Hispanic Americans and other people of color,” said Senator Menendez. American citizens “are targeted because of their race, targeted because of their color--denied every fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Common sense repeatedly loses out to hysteria, and agents of intolerance repeatedly jump over the legal protections to which every single American is entitled.”
These are strong words coming from a U.S. Senator and give a sense of why Latina/os are so concerned with immigration enforcement.
P.S. States Without Nations relays the story of a U.S. CITIZEN who has twice been arrested by ICE.
UPDATE Representative Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) also sharply criticized the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and declared she would push for measures to reduce the fear she said agents have caused East Bay immigrant families."
Immigrant of the Day: Rupert Murdoch (Australia)
Rupert Murdoch (born Melbourne, Australia March 11, 1931) is a global media mogul. He is the major shareholder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation. Beginning with newspapers, magazines and television stations in his native Australia, Murdoch expanded News Corp into the UK, US and Asian media markets. In recent years has become a leading investor in satellite television, the film industry, the Internet and media.
News Corp is based in New York. According to Forbes, Murdoch is the 32nd wealthiest American, with a net worth of $8.8 billion.
Fox News Channel is part of Murdoch's empire A native Australian. Murdoch studied at Oxford and inherited Adelaide, an Australia newspaper at age 23.
Murdoch's success came in U.S.. including the New York Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Fox film studio, broadcasting network and cable news; 38% stake in DirecTV.
Murdoch bought MySpace.com for $580 million last year.
Murdoch is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
June 12, 2008
ICE raids in Rhode Island
The Boston Globe reported that ICE arrested 42 persons in Rhode Island in an operation targeting "fugitive" immigrants; that is, persons who did not comply with their removal orders. Click here for story.
The Absconder Apprehension Initiative was established, making the apprehension of absconders, or fugitives, a priority within the Department of Homeland Security.
According to 2007 ICE statistics, ICE eliminated more than 100,000 fugitive alien cases and reduced the backlog of fugitive cases for the first time in history.
Lou Dobbs for Governor of NJ?
Rumor has it that our favorite anti-immigrant zealot -- besides Horace -- is considering a run for Governor of New Jersey. Press reports say that CNN's Sweet Lou Dobbs is considering entering the race.
POSTSCRIPT My friend Bill Hinchberger (www.brazilmax.com) in Brazil says that one benefit of Lou Dobbs as governor would be that he would no longer be on CNN (at least presumably).
Border Wall Not Effective Dissuasion Tool
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, offer counterevidence for the claims that the wall
has been an effective dissuasion tool agains migrant crossings. Here are links to the studies.
BREAKING NEWS: Gitmo Detainees Win in Supremes!
SCOTUSBLOG reports that the Supreme Court ruled today that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion. In a second ruling on habeas, the Court decided unanimously that U.S. citizens held by U.S. military forces in Iraq have a right to file habeas cases, because it does extend to them, but it went on to rule that federal judges do not have any authority to bar the transfer of those individuals to Iraqi authorites to face prosecution or punishment for crimes committed in that country.
Big FGM Victory in Second Circuit!
In a scathing opinion, a federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday that immigration judges and the appellate system established as a check on their decisions committed “obvious errors” by denying asylum to three Guinean women who claimed that they were victims of genital cutting back in Africa. The three women — Salimatou Bah, Mariama Diallo and Haby Diallo — had all appealed their asylum cases from immigration courts to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The board, in separate decisions, ruled that because their genitals had already been cut, they had nothing more to worry about. In a unanimous decision, the Second Circuit overturned the board’s rulings and ordered it to hear the cases again.
For the N.Y. Times story on the case, click here.
The decision can be found at here.
The the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law filed a supporting brief on behalf on the women.