Saturday, December 26, 2009
L.A. Times: It's time for immigration reform -- So far the Obama administration has been focused on enforcement, not the remedies the nation needs.
Friends, we need the passage of the DREAM Act and other aspects of reform:
Jason Kane writes for TC Palm:
Manuel Guerra Casas may soon be deported.
The 26-year-old from Indiantown has been forced to withdraw from Kaplan University and was denied scholarships at a seminary. And if pending court proceedings don’t go his way — he’ll also be heading back to Mexico.
So Guerra Casas plans to start walking to Washington D.C.
On Jan. 1, four young people will lace up their sneakers and head north from Miami toward the nation’s capital along U.S. 1. The group hopes that each step will bring more attention to the fact that thousands of undocumented individuals, many who have lived in the U.S. since they were small children, are barred each year from continuing their education in the U.S.
Guerra Casas, also one of the organizers, plans to walk with them from Hobe Sound to Fort Pierce.
“The purpose of all this is to let the American people, Congress and the president know that we are no longer afraid of being undocumented — that we are going to show who we are,” he said. “We are coming out of the shadows.”
They’re calling it the Trail of Dreams, and the youth — associated with Students Working for Equal Rights and supported by the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Reform Immigration for America — plan to complete their trek to the National Mall by May 1. Click here for the rest of the story.
A Decade of New Youth Activism
Around this time last decade, I was wading through clouds of tear gas and dodging rubber bullets from the Seattle Police Department. I was 24, it was the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests and a moment that I thought signaled the inauguration of a new youth activism that would hit the ground running with the new millennium.
I was right about the arrival of a new political engagement of young people for the decade, but wrong in my presumption that it would look and feel like the activist movements in America’s past that I had read about. I thought young people, 16 to 24-year-olds, were going to continue what my generation did -- fight for inclusion, to be part of the ongoing struggles over civil rights, immigration and the environment. Instead, they decided to lead them. They did so by redefining what it means to be an "activist," who could be one, and new ways to get the job done. They made history in the process, and did so on their own terms.
In Seattle, I was part of a “youth of color contingent.” In a mainly older, white anti-globalization movement in the United States, to define and pronounce ourselves was important. Our fight was just to be part of the fight, and that’s exactly what we did. Never before had we known what it felt like to completely take over city blocks, to make global financial powers nervous, or to freeze a major international convening. Emboldened as to what was possible, some stayed in the anti-globalization movement (a term that admittedly seemed horribly ahistoric at this point) but most of us returned to the places where youth activism would really be cultivated, our local communities.
Here, on the ground, youth movements sprang up out of necessity, creating new, organic forms that didn’t suffer the same insecurities my generation did in trying to replicate the activism of the 1960s and 1970s. This generation didn’t get in squabbles over who was more revolutionary, didn’t pull all-night, Marx-Engel study sessions, didn’t try to bring back the beret, and as it turned out, could care less about being called “activists.” They simply got to work on the issues that concerned them most and utilized their unparalleled ability to communicate quickly and effectively to anybody and everybody. Who would have anticipated that Myspace and texting would become political organizing weapons for the marginalized?
Never was the potential of youth activism more tangible then during the gigantic marches and student walk-outs of the 2006 immigrant rights marches, which were the largest mass demonstrations in U.S. history and started a new annual tradition. The organizing was done mainly in households, over kitchen tables, by Latino youth who wanted to protect their parents from anti-immigrant legislation. In every major metropolis, these youth prodded their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to take to the streets and out of the shadows. Youth of color didn’t need a contingent for this march; it was theirs. They organized school walk-outs through Myspace and text messages, and let an entire country know that they were a generation of protectors.
The great irony of this generation was that they had been called self-involved and apathetic, a generation that lived in isolated iPod worlds. Yet when their loved ones were being threatened, they erupted. No national coalition, no 10-point plan, just a raw flexing of organizing power.
History may cite the Obama presidential victory as the highlight of youth engagement for this decade. But for me the more heroic struggle was for those who can’t even vote -– not only the undocumented, but youth who can’t participate in the political process that can determine their fate.
In the 2008 California election, the quintessential “tough on crime” initiative, Proposition 6, was defeated. It would have put 14-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, mandated regular criminal background checks on families in public housing, and denied bail to undocumented immigrants facing felony charges. It marked one of the first times in California history that a pro-incarceration policy and "lock ‘em all up" politics was voted down. That tidal shift can be attributed to the young people who fought it tooth and nail. Not old enough to enter the voting booth, they made sure their presence was felt nonetheless. Across the state they made Facebook pages, posted videos, held banner drops, made rap songs, marched, held concerts, and sent text messages. The proposition was rejected by voters, 70 to 30.
And all across the country, young people, equipped with this sense of unprecedented communications know-how and an instinct to protect, fought for education reform, challenged the criminal justice system and battled for environmental justice.
In East Palo Alto, for example, a multi-million dollar toxic waste company called Romic was shut down after decades of poisoning a community that was predominately African-American, Latino, and low-income. The lead organization behind that historic victory is called Youth United for Community Action, and their executive director, Annie Loya, is 24. She got involved in the campaign when she was 13.
What is telling in her story, though, is why she got involved. She needed her mother and aunts to literally breath easier, without the pollutants coming from Romic, and for her cousins to know that living in East Palo Alto is not inherently a risk factor for cancer. They produced a video about residents who suffered from respiratory illnesses related to the plant, and went door to door showing it to neighbors on a laptop. The testimonials united the community across generation and race, and Romic toppled. The video producers were in high school. Annie’s 1-year-old daughter, Kierce, will grow up in an East Palo Alto with cleaner air.
And up the freeway, in Oakland, the police killing of Oscar Grant, 24, last year was perhaps the most significant measure of the struggles young people are still facing, and what they are doing that previous generations could not. Despite the new millennium and the arrival of a new black president, which was supposed to mean the nation’s transcendence of race, youth of color are still victims of police violence.
On New Year’s Day 2009, at an East Bay BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, Grant was shot and killed as he lay on his belly by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. The story of law enforcement killing a young black man is woven into the American experience since the country’s inception, but what is different is how the execution was publicly and widely witnessed.
Karina Vargas, 19, a receptionist at a mental health clinic, recorded the shooting on her cell phone and uploaded the video to Youtube. Now, there is a revitalized movement for police accountability in the Bay Area, changes to civilian oversight of BART police, and evidence that may secure justice for Grant and his family. Vargas was only doing what was natural to her generation--record, post, share (and as a result, protect). She never regarded herself as an “activist.” When asked why she recorded the incident, she told YO! Youth Outlook magazine, “When it happened, I figured people's rights were being violated right in front of my eyes. I thought to myself: 'Let me turn on my camera.’” Vargas’s impulse represents a new, ubiquitous deterrent to police violence. Any wrongdoing by law enforcement might be captured and made public on Youtube.
I often hear older activists asking where activism has gone. Where are the Martins and Malcolms of today? They may not have heard of Karina Vargas, Annie Loya, or the youth behind the immigrants’ rights marches. But they should know these youth are part of vital, evolving movements that are going places where prior movements could not go. And given the challenges this next decade will lay at their feet, they’re going to need to go even further. These young people might not fit the traditional mold of “activist” and that might be the best thing about them.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Happy holidays, everyone! bh
Chris Hedges writes in the NY Times:
Perhaps they were myths that were destined to fade, subsumed just as Saturnalia was by the Romans in the middle of the fourth century A.D. into Christmas itself. Images of sleighs, reindeer, snow-capped white clapboard houses and portly gentlemen in tweed toasting the Yuletide always seemed somewhat incongruous among the apartment blocks in Jackson Heights, anyway.
The Irish, the Italians, the Greeks and the Puerto Ricans in New York have always used Christmas to retreat into the cocoon of their lost worlds, ones where coins were baked into cakes or the Epiphany was celebrated as the date the divine was first revealed to humankind.
''We used to have nice decorations on Main Street,'' said Theresa Lanczki, 80, as she sat having a coffee in a Korean pastry shop in Queens. ''We used to have big Hungarian gatherings,'' she continued. ''We even had them after the war, but by the 1950's everyone became more and more American. The social clubs closed. I used to go to the library for Hungarian books. One day I stopped. I turned to English.''
The city's newest wave of immigrants, for whom Christianity is often an alien and mystifying religion, have even more radically sliced and cut, discarded what does not work and ignored what is inconvenient to fashion a palatable Christmas. The mutations represent at once the weary resignation of immigrants who must learn to accommodate, yet struggle to cling to the traditions and culture they have left behind.
Small trees go up, mostly for children conditioned in school and by television to expect them, and then disappear once the children are grown. Gifts are exchanged over curry dishes and traditional celebrations prolonged to merge into the strange American holiday. Click here for the rest of the story.
The new Arizona Law, HB 2008, which requires the Department of Economic Security DES employees report anyone in the country without authorization and who tries to apply for public benefits, is being applied to undocumented parents who has sought health benefits for their US citizen children. Click here for the story in the New Media. The law's chilling effect on such applicants means that citizen children otherwise qualified for benefits are not receiving them. As applied, this law conflicts with federal law on welfare benefits for immigrant and violates equal protection and should be delcared unconstitutional.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Eight Things President Obama Can Do To Reform Our Immigration System Without Waiting For Congressional Action
As the Obama administration pursues "enforcement now, enforcement forever" policies, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano often says that Congress must act on immigration for things to improve. For a contrary view, see "Eight Things President Obama Can Do To Reform Our Immigration System Without Waiting For Congressional Action by Harry DeMell."
By GrayRiv on the Daily Kos:
Here are some of the lessons pro-immigration reform forces would be wise to keep in mind if and when immigration reform moves forward:
You will think everything is lost 12 times along the way and be wrong: On health care, only a week ago – and throughout the last several months – there were moments when all seemed lost. The onslaught of lunacy and outright lies that exploded at the Town Halls in August will pale in comparison to what is in store from the opponents of immigration reform. In the last weeks, moneyed interests in health care have steered the debate away from a public option and may be successful, and yet the movement forward has continued and we are on the verge of cracking the armor of inertia that has prevented any change on health care for 60 years.
On immigration, the fight has lasted at least 20 years and the inertia – and outright hostility to legal immigration – is formidable. Already, fear and a loss of hope are cropping up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is lowering expectations that immigration reform will be on the House agenda, pointing to a Senate-first strategy as the only way immigration will move. But those who see immigration reform as already DOA are wrong and will be wrong for many months to come. Take a breath, chill, fight and organize and let someone else throw in the towel, when and if that becomes necessary.
Pundits and the media will focus on the wrong battles and miss the real story: Conventional wisdom will overstate the power of those opposed to ANY change and understate the differences between those allied FOR change: The chattering punditry of conventional wisdom shapers have a lot of TV, radio, Internet and newspaper space to fill, and will do so whether they understand the actual pulse of the American electorate or the dynamics of our dysfunctional Legislature or not. Out of convenience, expedience or laziness, they tend to magnify the strength of the most vocal, passionate, and photogenic protagonists, whether they are actually powerful protagonists or not.
On health care, the weakened power of base Republican activists has received way too much attention, while the quiet, workmanlike efforts of the health insurance industry and their impact on Congress have been underreported. The same will happen on immigration.
Opposition to immigration reform is loud but not nearly as large as it sounds. Groups like NumbersUSA, FAIR, and ALIPAC – that are opposed to legal immigration but have seized on illegal immigration as a target of opportunity – are joined by allies who share an interest in defeating Democrats – the Republican Party, Tea partiers, and big-money conservative donors – and have the liability of a hard-core fringe of genuine nativists who drag them to the margins of acceptable politics. But the Minutemen and Teabaggers showed us that if you make noise, say outrageous things, and manufacture outrage, they (the media and pundits) will come, regardless of your ability to spell or your truthiness.
However, that coalition of opponents to any change is not nearly as politically potent as the coalition that will fight for immigration reform. The proponents of immigration reform extend well beyond the Latino, immigrant, or Asian communities that are perceived as the driving forces (and which are hugely significant in their own right). Faith, labor, business, civil rights, and progressive advocacy organizations are deeply engaged and as a coalition command a lot of power. Furthermore, those who accurately grasp the political power of the immigration issue to forge a new and long lasting base of power for the Democrats in key states want to win this issue – or at least want to give Republicans enough rope to hang themselves by opposing reform and frankly, opposing immigration and the aspirations of immigrants and their broader ethnic communities.
Labor and business have deep pockets and their goals in reform are different but can be reconciled with each other and with the broader coalition. This will be extraordinarily difficult, especially as we get closer to actual bills and actual votes that matter in either house. More important are the splits within business and the splits within labor that could bust apart the coalition along the way. This is where the critical make or break deals and compromises will either fly or fail. They will not get much attention because they will not happen in the open, so almost all of the noise reported in the media will therefore be mostly irrelevant to what is actually happening.
Make the right choice when it comes to Democratic unity vs. bipartisanship: In health care, there was way too much energy spent attracting Republican votes that were never – and would never be – there. Two moderate, pseudo-renegades in the entire Republican Caucus ever took the opportunity to put country above Party and vote with the Democrats. The tougher job of addressing the great oxymoron of Democratic unity turned out to be much more important.
Alas, the opposite is true of immigration. Democratic unity is unachievable. On the right, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), wheeled to the floor in the dead of night to vote for cloture on health care, will probably never support an immigration reform bill also supported by members of the Democratic Caucus. On the left, a Senator like Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who begrudgingly voted for cloture on health care despite losing on key aspects of the compromise, will be a very hard vote to get for politically viable immigration reform.
Unlike health care reform, moving immigration will require at least a dozen House and Senate Republican votes to make up for at least a dozen House and Senate Democrats who will not hold ranks with their Party. The question is whether there is enough common ground to forge a compromise that keeps things moving forward and whether a slightly fractured Democratic Caucus can make up the difference with a few renegades from a much less fractured Republican Caucus. I think so, but focusing too much on Democratic unity – like focusing too much on bipartisanship for health care – could derail things.
Conclusion: Health care reform and immigration reform are very different issues but they each have the potential to move forward in the current political environment. Having apparently opened a small crack in Washington’s rock-solid inertia, will the President and the Democrats decide they have had enough? Will they seek a 2010 of "safe votes" and political wedging over an aggressive agenda to make the first two years of the Obama Administration monumental and change the game for the next elections? Democrats are not known for seizing on political moments to snatch victory from defeat, but one can hope and pray that the momentum created by health care reform gives them a jolt of adrenaline and that they have the confidence that they are correct and hold popular positions and can change the country they lead.
Susan Carroll writes for the Houston Chronicle:
Immigration prosecutions in southern Texas increased by more than 28 percent during the past fiscal year, helping to drive overall federal prosecutions to an all-time high, according to newly released data.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University reported Monday that overall federal prosecutions peaked at 169,612 during the past fiscal year, which ended in September, up nearly 9 percent from the previous year.
Immigration prosecutions helped to fuel that jump, the report found, totaling 91,899 last year — an increase of nearly 16 percent over the prior year. According to TRAC, immigration filings accounted for more than half of all felony and misdemeanor prosecutions at the federal level during the past fiscal year.
Much of that boost came from the Southern District of Texas, which led the nation with more than 32,200 immigration prosecutions last year — more than one-third of such filings nationwide, according to the TRAC data. Click here for the rest of the story.
The UC Davis Immigration and Civil Rights Clinics win big! After a lengthy trial in the Northen District of California before Judge William Alsup, the court ruled that Herbert Flores-Torres, who is currently detained and presumably will soon be released, in fact is a U.S. citizen. The court determined that Flores-Torres became and remains a U.S. citizen upon the naturalization of his mother in 1995. See Flores-Torres v. Holder, No. 09-CV-3569-WHA, N.D. Cal. (Dec. 23, 2009).
The El Paso Times reports on the role of the University of Texas at Austin Law School Immigration Clinic in two cases involving the notorious Juárez women's murders. Clinic work contributed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling against the Mexican government, and to a successful asylum claim for the family of one of the slain women. Professor Denise Gilman supervised law students at the university's Immigration Clinic that worked on Benita Monarrez and her family's claim.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Wow, according to Imagine 2050, Steven Camar0ta is the Scrooge of the Year when it comes to the anti-immigrant crowd. He beat out the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and that's amazing:
It looks like Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies is going to win this year’s anti-immigrant scrooge award! Congratulations to Steven, he’s beaten out dozens of other candidates within the anti-immigrant movement to take home this year’s big honor.
Not only does Camarota like to bash immigrants, he also likes to deny Christmas gifts to poor children. Mr. Camarota has represented his organization well. To clinch the prize he managed to trample the holiday spirit and the American spirit at the time! Let’s take a look back at Camarota’s five scroogiest moments. Click here for the rest of the piece.
From the Detroit News:
This month Time magazine has been running a contest to see which advertising agency produces the hippest campaign to attract young creative Americans to live in Detroit. The city should expand its focus to concentrate on residents who are already proving to be extraordinarily beneficial and open to Motor City living: immigrants.
A revealing report shows how impactful immigrants are in southeastern Michigan -- not only in repopulating struggling neighborhoods but in economic growth.
Immigrants make up 9 percent of Metro Detroit's population yet their economic output represents 11 percent of gross domestic product or economic output, according to the "Immigrants and the Economy" report. It was produced by the Fiscal Policy Institute, a research group based in New York City. Click here for the rest of the editorial.
Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow Council on Foreign Relations, has written an interesting article concerning the different treatment that one of the post-9/11 immigrant detainees (the Brooklyn MDC detainees) has received in the Canadian courts compared with the way similar cases have been handled in the United States, such is in the Supreme Court's Iqbal decision.
Big news from Arizona. More than 250 lawyers and activists gathered on the steps of a Phoenix courthouse on Monday to protest Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's legal actions against county officials and local judges. Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are garnering criticism after filing a racketeering suit accusing the county board of supervisors and at least four judges of corruption in connection with the construction of a $340 million court office tower. They have also filed bribery charges against Judge Gary Donahoe. Clickhere for more on this story.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Here is a nine minute video by Tom Miles summarizing 600 years of Mexican immigration. On the related topic, you may want to check out Gerald Lopez's seminal article, Undocumented Mexican Migration, 28 UCLA Law Review 615 (1981). I also discuss the economic and political history of Mexico in my forthcoming book, Ethical Borders: NAFTA, Globalization, and Mexican Migration (Temple University Press 2010).
Professor Huyen Pham's Article "When Immigration Borders Move" (61 Florida Law Review 1115) deals with the growing need for immigrants to prove their legal immigrant status to participate fully in American life. Pham equates these restrictions to permanent borders barring immigrant participation in everyday life and analyzes the legal significance of such restrictions. See Download Pham_BOOK