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Noam Chomsky on the upcoming election

Another U.S. citizen deported for looking Mexican

The ICE raids and the legal processes which follow in their wake have been repeatedly criticized for their imperfections.  Raids rely on sometimes dubious tips and on a database of employment information that has been proven to be flawed.  Who is picked up and detained is often determined by who “looks” Latino or who fits the profile of an immigrant.  Then the legal system essentially requires people to prove their citizenship if they claim to have been falsely arrested.

I’m not sure anyone expects a bureaucratic system in the U.S. to work without its glitches, but that is hardly the point.  What our proclaimed system of rights and checks on government incursions on those rights must determine is whether the existence of the imperfections outweigh the injustice of their result.

For example, you may be comfortable with a death penalty which results in the wrongful death of one prisoner, but how about 100?  Where is the line?

The unfolding record of ICE and our immigrant deportation protocol is increasingly crying out for some kind of relief.  There is a human tragedy in people who are wrongfully deported and detained, to be sure.  But the greater tragedy is the slow and eroding protection of rights based almost entirely on race.

This story, from the print and online versions of Hoy, recounts the experiences of Guillermo Olivares Romero.  This U.S. citizen, who has a criminal record for burglary and forgery, was recently released after having spent two weeks in an immigration detention center.  He was released only after ACLU attorneys produced his birth certificate, vaccination and health records, and school records.

Olivares had been refused entry into the U.S. on two previous occasions.  In 2007, he was deported to Mexico after having served his time in state prison.

ICE claims Olivares said he was born in Mexico.  One part of his criminal record also mistakenly lists his birthplace as the same.  But would these bureacratic snafus (accentuated, no doubt, by Olivares’ own lack of skill at navigating the bureaucracy of the criminal justice system) have resulted in deportation if Olivares had looked different?  If his name were John Smith?

Here’s the story as it ran in today’s Hoy:

Ciudadano regresa a casa después de ser deportado

Paula Díaz
29 de octubre, 2008

Sentado en la sala de su hogar, Guillermo Olivares Romero respira tranquilo después de los momentos que vivió cuando estuvo detenido por Inmigración a pesar de ser estadounidense.

“No me creyeron. A pesar de que muchas veces les dije que había nacido aquí. Me decían que yo era mexicano porque me parecía a los mexicanos”, dijo Olivares. “Estuve muy estresado. Ahora estoy tranquilo”.

Olivares salió libre el 9 de octubre, dos semanas después de haber sido detenido, cuando la Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles (ACLU) presentó su certificado de nacimiento, las vacunas y los archivos de la escuela.

Olivares señaló que ha sido deportado dos veces y se le ha negado el ingreso al país en varias ocasiones. Su encuentro con las autoridades migratorias inició en el 2000, cuando fue detenido al intentar cruzar la frontera con un primo que llevaba el acta de nacimiento de él, y él llevaba la de uno de sus hermanos.

“Ese día me regresaron a México y mi mamá me llevó el acta de nacimiento. Después pude pasar”, dijo Olivares, cuyo récord penal incluye robo y estafa.

En el 2007 fue deportado a México, luego de pasar un tiempo en prisión y ser transferido a Inmigración. En ese entonces, él le había dicho a las autoridades de que no era mexicano pero ellos aseguraron de que él había firmado un documento diciendo que lo era, según él.

Olivares se fue a vivir con unos familiares a Jalisco. En verano quiso regresar porque su padre estaba enfermo y no le permitieron entrar al país. Debido a la gravedad de su padre, dijo, cruzó ilegalmente y fue detenido y deportado el mismo día que murió su papá. “Mi mamá fue por mí y tratamos de entrar legalmente y ellos no me creyeron que era ciudadano a pesar de tener mi acta de nacimiento y que mi mamá [residente legal] estaba conmigo”, contó.

Virginia Kice, vocera de la Oficina de Control de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE), dijo a HOY que Olivares fue dejado en libertad pero su caso continua en investigación. “Este hombre repetidamente afirmó a los agentes de ICE que el nació en México y firmó papeles indicando que nació en México”, señaló Kice. “Los archivos del Departamento de Corrección de California, porque el tiene récord criminal, reflejan que él es ciudadano mexicano”.

“Su caso está pendiente de una audiencia en una Corte de Inmigración. Obviamente, nosotros continuamos investigando. En la corte se presentará evidencia para determinar si es o no un inmigrante”, agregó Kice.

Jennie Pasquarella, abogada de ACLU que defendió a Olivares, dijo que este caso es un ejemplo de las fallas de Inmigración. “Lo que hicimos fue escribir una carta diciendo que ellos no tenían la autoridad de detenerlo porque él es un ciudadano americano”, explicó Pasquarella. “Entregamos copia de su acta de nacimiento, copia de sus vacunas y archivos de escuela y a las dos horas me llamó un oficial y me dijo que lo dejarían salir”.

Sin embargo, Olivares tendrá que presentarse ante un juez de Inmigración el 6 de enero.

The “Border Beat” (October 27, 2008)

Here is a round-up of some of the Latino-related news of the past week or two.

• “NPR Town Hall Offers Frank Assessment Of Race” (NPR)
This short but illuminating summary of some of the work NPR is doing in trying to uncover how American voters “bring race into the voting booth.” One of the struggles with race we have in this country is our inability to discuss it.  While this isn’t solved merely by discussing it (but rather by providing each other the kinds of tools we need to listen and critically analyze), this NPR project is nothing if not educational.

• “Guest workers win in court over low pay” (Christian Science Monitor)
The courts are finally standing up for the rights of immigrants, in this case, those imported into this nation as labor.  This story provides some solid coverage on the issues, while sounding like a concerned citizen who just learned this kind of abuse was so common.

• “White supremacists target middle America” (USA Today)
Wow.  It’s important to keep the spread of white supremacist hate groups in perspective.  When it comes down to it, they don’t represent more than the smallest fraction of the total U.S. population.  And, for tht reason, they’re not the problem with race in this country.  Still, you might be part of a white supremacist online community and not know it.  Nah, you know it.

• “Supreme Court to Decide ID-Theft Case” (Wall Street Journal)
Recently, some poultry workers caught in an ICE raid were sentenced to federal prison for identity theft.  Their crime was making up a social security number to get a job.  That’s it.  No attempt to impersonate another person, since they didn’t even know whose number they had chosen.  Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which will decide if this unknowing version of identity theft meets the standard of a felony under the current law.

• “U.S. to miss deadline on Mexico border fence” (Reuters)
You knew this was coming.  Maybe if they had better workers…

• “Hispanic baby boom has Texas ramifications” (Dallas Morning News)
This story from Texas describes the current trend for other parts of the Southwest as well.  Check out the comments after reading, you’ll be in for a treat.

• “As US economy sours, some migrants return south” (Associated Press)
More on the continuing economic exodus of labor migrants.

• “Economic strife drives Latino vote” (Los Angeles Times)
This interesting profile of Latino voters makes them look awfully “American” when it comes to their voting interests, doesn’t it?

Who are the “real Americans”?

One of the failures of the left has been their inability to claim the language of patriotism while the right has made it synonymous with their obectives.  This isn’t too surprising.  After all, some element of the left is troubled by any form of nationalism.  Many, many more are aware of the death and imperialism which has historially followed this kind of rhetoric making its use not only troubling, but also morally questionable.  But most, I think, are just uncomfotable with the unspoken assumptions behind it, about who is or isn’t part of this nation.

The following post from one of my favorite blogs is an exceptional take on this:

In defense of “real” Americans at 8Asians.com

“Public schools become focus of gay marriage ban”

From the Associated Press/Yahoo:

Public schools become focus of gay marriage ban

By LISA LEFF and JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writers
Wed Oct 22

SAN FRANCISCO – A girl in pigtails bounds into the kitchen after school and asks her mother to guess what she learned that day. “I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess,” she exclaims to her mortified mom.

This television advertisement for a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in California urges voters to “protect children” by approving the measure.

There’s not a word about education in Proposition 8, but what public schools will be required to teach about same-sex marriage has emerged as the central issue in the campaign.

The measure’s supporters warn that teachers will be forced to tell young children about gay marriage if the measure fails on Nov. 4.

Opponents of the measure say that’s deceptive because schools already are required to teach tolerance of gays and lesbians, and the ballot measure won’t change that.

“I’ve seen the spots on the TV, and (legalized gay marriage) just isn’t going to require any kind of teaching of personal relationships or lifestyle,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who has joined the state’s largest teacher’s union in opposing the measure. “That’s just not an accurate statement or portrayal.”

To combat anti-gay discrimination, California schools have addressed topics such as gay households, homophobia and sexual orientation for years, well before the state Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal this year. But how school districts choose to deliver that instruction is decided locally instead of mandated by the state, according to educators and legal experts.

Supporters of Proposition 8 — which would overrule the state Supreme Court decision — received fodder for their claims earlier this month. With parental permission, a public charter school took 18 first-graders on a field trip to San Francisco City Hall where their teacher and her female partner had just been wed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“The other side’s argument is (Prop. 8) has nothing to do with education. Our argument is this has everything to do with education,” said Chip White, a Proposition 8 spokesman. “It’s already happening.”

An estimated 52,000 children are being raised by two mothers or two fathers in California, which is one of 12 states with comprehensive anti-bullying laws that apply to gay students and children with unconventional families.

Some elementary schools have acquired books depicting families with same-sex couples, middle schools have taught students not to use anti-gay slurs, and high schools have sanctioned gay-straight alliance clubs. And school districts have been found liable for not taking steps to prevent anti-gay harassment.

The mother-daughter campaign ad refers to “King and King,” a children’s book about two princes marrying that became the subject of a lawsuit in Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The parents of a second-grader sued after the book was read in class, but the school district successfully argued that advance notice of the reading was not required because the book was not part of the sex education curriculum.

Critics of Proposition 8 point out that many schools in California already use “King and King” and other books to discourage discrimination against gay students or children with gay parents.

“The education code already has a high expectation that school districts are going to create an environment where respect for human dignity and acceptance of differences, including sexual orientation, are promoted,” said Laura Schulkind, a San Francisco lawyer who represents school districts across California. “I don’t see how the legalization of gay marriage or the passage of Prop. 8 changes that obligation.”

The need for such awareness training was brought home to California in February, when a 15-year-old who sometimes wore feminine clothing and talked about being gay was shot to death at his Oxnard junior high school. A classmate has pleaded not guilty to murder and hate-crime charges.

“We have to address harassment and bullying, and there is no way to do that in America without talking about gay people,” said Debra Chasnoff, an Oscar-winning filmmaker who has made four documentaries to address anti-gay harassment in schools.

The opposing sides have debated what, if anything, schools must teach about marriage now that gays have the right to wed.

The state education code specifies that marriage should be discussed in sex education classes. But school districts are not required to hold the classes and parents can have their children excused if the course conflicts with their moral values. The vast majority of California districts teach sex ed.

“Current state law does not require school districts to teach anything about marriage or same-sex marriage,” Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley wrote in ruling on Proposition 8’s ballot arguments. He added, however, that the state “may require” such instruction in the future.

Robin Sinks, the health education specialist for the 90,000-student Long Beach Unified School District, does not think what is taught in California schools will change much regardless of what happens on Election Day.

Teachers in large, diverse districts now strive to make their sex education lessons relevant to straight, gay and bisexual students, Sinks said. “We’re talking about really refraining from using things like, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, those kind of things, and just say ‘partner,'” she said.

Gary Marksbury, a history teacher at Lakewood High School in Long Beach, plans to let his students debate Proposition 8 during a mock election, but he is so strongly opposed to gay marriage that he donated $1,000 to support the measure.

Marksbury said California should give parents more latitude to pull their children out of courses that offend their religious beliefs. “In today’s world,” he said, said, “it seems like tolerance is a one-way street for some people, so if you don’t like the idea of same-gender marriage you are immediately labeled a bigot.”

California gives local districts authority — and in the case of sex education, the imperative — to adopt curricula that reflect community mores while meeting certain standards. So what students hear about homosexuality in Long Beach schools may be different from what they learn in the more conservative Central Valley.

Wendy Robertson, a teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Fremont, is not worried about having to explain same-sex marriage to her pupils. During her 17 years teaching kindergarten, Robertson says no one has ever told her to talk about any kind of marriage with her pupils.

If one of her pupils asked if he could marry his best buddy, Robertson said her answer would be age-appropriate.

“I would say, ‘Wait and see, you have to be grown-up first,'” she said.


Joe Arpaio’s Racist War Against Latinos

From the New York Times comes this editorial on the draconian (and horrifically offensive) tactics of Arizona’s modern incarnation of the old Southern racist lawman, Joe Arpaio.

October 20, 2008

A War on Janitors

The Wild West weirdness of the nation’s immigration policy reached new extremes last week in Mesa, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb where the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has gone off the rails as the self-appointed scourge of people without papers.

About 2 a.m. on Thursday, Sheriff Arpaio sent out a strike force of 30 detectives and 30 members of his volunteer “posse,” with semiautomatic weapons and dogs, to look for illegal janitors. Acting on a tip to the sheriff’s immigration hotline, they raided Mesa’s City Hall. They raided the public library. They raided the local headquarters of Management Cleaning Controls, the company with the janitorial contract for city buildings.

Three janitors were arrested at the library. Thirteen other people were picked up at their homes. All are “illegals,” according to the sheriff’s office, which keeps a running total of its immigration arrests on its Web site.

In most other parts of the country this would be seen as a stunning misuse of firepower, a waste of resources and a bizarre intrusion by one government agency onto another’s turf. Neither the mayor nor Mesa’s Police Department had been warned about the raids. And the city had already been investigating the company’s hiring.

But this happened in Maricopa County, where for months Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies have been staging high-profile sweeps, stopping drivers and pedestrians and demanding their papers. The crackdowns have terrorized and infuriated Latino residents of Phoenix, America’s fifth-largest city, where citizens say they have been stopped and harassed for the crime of being brown-skinned. They have spurred lawsuits and led the Phoenix mayor and others to plead for a federal investigation.

Sheriff Arpaio’s crusade is unconstitutional and repugnant. But it is where the rest of the country could be headed. Immigration has vanished from the presidential race, but its problems are still with us, distorted by opportunists and poisoned by fear.

The system has too few visas, too many shadow workers and no way to bring a huge and vital undocumented labor force into compliance with the law.

The new president will not only have to stand up for something better; he will have to stand against the repulsive scapegoating that hard-liners like Sheriff Arpaio, who is up for re-election next month, have waged for short-term political gain.

He will, in short, have to reassure immigrants, Latinos especially, that America’s welcome is secure.


Arpaio is only the most vivid and extreme demonstration of a new racial reality exemplified daily in this country, from major cities like Los Angeles to towns like Potsville, Iowa.  It is time more of us spoke out against such human rights abuses, in particular these kinds that proclaim their rightness in their adherence to laws.  They detract from any meaningful reform policies relating to the migration of international labor, nurture a climate of fear and repression among Latinos, and violate the ideological spirit of our nation, in both law and substance.