The “Border Beat” (June 10, 2009)

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?  I’ve been meaning to call, but, well, you know, things got busy.  But I’m back.  You got the time?  Nice.  Well then, let’s get our nice clothes on, and our fancy shoes, because baby, THE BORDER BEAT IS BACK!!

• “State of Shame” (NY Times)
For those who thought agricultural workers faced deplorable conditions only in the West or South, this Times editorial teaches us about the ways the lack of legal protections for ag workers is exploited for, in this case, feeding ducks until they die.

• “How an immigration raid changed a town” (Christian Science Monitor)
The CSM provides this sad update on the town of Potsville, Iowa. About a year ago, Potsville found itself in the national headlines as ICE agents raided the town’s primary employer, their largest raid to date. Agriprocessors, once the largest kosher meat plant in the nation, is now bankrupt; the town has been abandoned by most of the immigrant workers rounded up on that day; and the future is very uncertain. You could say they got what they deserved, but you’d be wrong, trapped in your own limited visions of what is “right” and “wrong.” The question blowing in this breeze is, why?

• “Bill Proposes Immigration Rights for Gay Couples” (NY Times)
It’s called the Uniting American Families Act. It allows gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their long-term partners for a green card, the same way the law allows this for married, straight couples. It is fair, sane, and long-overdue. Now let’s hope it doesn’t get scuttled by reactionary homophobes who are calling it everything from an attack on “traditional” marriage to a continuing dismantling of our borders.

• “GOP risks losing Latino vote for decades” (SF Chronicle)
Ruben Navarrette is, perhaps, the most read Latino journalist in the U.S. His column is syndicated in papers across the nation. He is a paragon of neutrality and moderation, while consistently representing a “Hispanic voice.” I don’t often agree with him to the letter, but I can appreciate where he is coming from. Here, he opines on the tricky game Republicans are playing in trying to smear Sotomayor. The long-term consequence, says Navarrette, may be the loss of the Latino vote for the foreseeable future. You know what? He’s right.

• “US vows crackdown on illegal immigrant worker abuse” (Reuters)
While in Mexico City, John Morton–the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)–vowed to enforce the U.S. laws “responsibly, humanely and thoughtfully.” What does that mean? Well, one element, says Morton, is cracking down on employers who “abuse” illegal immigrants. “I intend to try to identify and prosecute those people much more vigorously than in the past,” he said. His elaboration of the nature of employers’ abusing practices (as distinct from their mere employment of them) is a welcome sign for those of us working for a more humane immigration policy.

• “Boy Scouts make big push to get Latinos to join” (Chicago Tribune)
[(Ding-dong!) What’s that? Somebody’s at the door? Finally! Looks like we have a social call!! (Ding-dong!) We just might have a date tonight! Yes! Somebody wants us. Hello? Who? Awww. It’s just the Boy Scouts.] Well, the Boy Scouts are trying to double the number of Latinos earning badges for canoeing. . . and all that other stuff, too. Seems they’re having some problems, though. Some are wondering if the problem is a lack of cultural familiarity, some fear and mistrust. As a former Boy Scout, let me suggest it is more a case of not wanting your child to look like he’s joined a youth paramilitary troop.

• “UFW Alums Battle Over Labor’s Future” (Beyond Chron)
There is an ugly fight happening out West in the labor movement. It is pitting some UFW legends against each other (again) and perhaps tearing apart some organizations that once had a tremendous amount of potential.

Obama may ease ICE raids

A story by Josh Meyer and Anna Gorman titled “Homeland Security shifts focus to employers” appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  The story reads, in part:

Stepping into the political minefield of immigration reform, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano soon will direct federal agents to focus more on arresting and prosecuting American employers than the illegal laborers who sneak into the country to work for them…

The policy is in line with comments that President Obama made during last year’s campaign, when he said enforcement efforts had failed because they focused on illegal immigrants rather than on the companies that hired them…

Homeland Security officials emphasized that the department would not stop conducting sweeps of businesses while more structural changes to U.S. immigration law and policy were being contemplated.

Agents, however, will be held to a higher standard of probable cause for conducting raids, the officials said, out of concern that at least one recent raid in Washington state and another planned sweep in Chicago were based on speculative information that illegal workers were employed…

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the Obama administration also needed to target employers who did not pay minimum wage and who exposed workers to unsafe conditions. But she said she hoped the new guidelines would mark a good first step by halting mass raids.

“What happened during the Bush administration is unconscionable,” she said. “At the end of the day, it really targeted a group of vulnerable workers who just were trying to bring the food to the table.”

For the full story, click here.

What you gonna do, Mr. Obama?

The recently released report from the Migration Policy Institute, “DHS and Immigration: Taking Stock and Correcting Course” [downloadable here], got written up in today’s NY Times.  The report outlines the current problems and abuses in the Department of Homeand Security’s immigration efforts and offer a list of policy recommendations for the current administration.

Detailing such inefficiencies as the $4 million per mile “border fence,” as well as the fear inspiring ICE raids, the report  advocates for a more humane immigration policy, one rooted in greater sensibilities regarding how unauthorized migrations work and can be curtailed.  In both its fundamental assumptions and its prescriptions for change, the report is a veritable testament to moderate and balanced policy formation (neo-liberal doctrine, for those interested).

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The report–like the government’s policies–is problematic at various points.  An assumption of  human rights as a foundational principle would have produced a report far more damning of the federal government.  It would also challenge our misguided belief that immigration is some kind of labor pressure valve we can turn on and off at will to suit our needs.  Many of the recommendations offered by the repor hinge on the use of the E-Verify system, or at least an statistically-improved version of electronic verification.  Anybody who works in the government knows such fantasies of a flawles system are just that, fantasies.  At the same time, as this report and a growing number of people of conscience recognize, any verification system is only as strong, useful and just as it inaccuracies.

Irrespective of this one report, it is clear that the time has come for the Obama administration to start the process of amending DHS’s current proactice.  more importantly, it is time to institutionalize (as best that can be done) a fair and just immigration policy whose practices meet the standards of international human rights.

The “Border Beat” (January 5, 2009)

The first “Border Beat” of the new year has a little something for everybody: averted political scandal; drug smuggling; religion; labor importation; and blood.

• “WWII guest workers from Mexico apply for back pay” (Arizona Republic)
During WWII, in order to combat an increasing labor shortage, the U.S. and Mexico entered into an agreement called the Emergency Labor Program. For two decades, some version of the “temporary” program existed to provide affordable labor to (mostly) Western agricultural interests. Sadly, these workers were never given the full pay promised to them. In the late 1990s, a decades-old quest of surviving workers to get their back pay entered the courts. It seems their struggle may be over; it also seems, for most, justice will never be served.

• “Obama faces Mexican drug war” (Washington Times)
The drug-related violence in Mexico and the U.S. is one of many issues the next President inherits which is both a growing catastrophe and a complex of few easy answers, politically that is. The nature of this context of violence is exceedingly reflective of the kinds transnational connections which bind us as a globe: government funding here, death there; and drug demand here, drug supply there. But they are also a reflection of the collapsing of divisions that have provided an illusion of our distance.

• “U.S. dioceses recruit foreign priests” (SF Chronicle)
This is a delightfully in-depth article relating the the inability of the U.S. Catholic Church to meet its own “labor” needs. At the same time, the Church is reflecting a kind of U.S. cultural arrogance which views its needs as more pressing than those of the rest of the (Catholic) world. For those interested in the intersections of immigration, religion, and culture, this is a must-read.

• “Tijuana’s bloodiest year” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
This is a more Mexico-centered detail of the drug violence at the border. The human cost of the current situation is tragic to a degree possessing a sense of urgency. In addition to the numbers, I was equally drawn to the description of the killers:

Mexican authorities say that the killers are typically between 18 and 25, members of broken families lured by easy money into a life of crime, recruited in Tijuana and other parts of Mexico. They belong to a new generation of criminals operating with fewers (sic) controls as drug cartels evolve from traditional hierarchies to networks of smaller, semi-independent cells.

• “U.S. smooths away an illegal border crossing wrinkle” (LA Times)
The border initiatives of the United States literally alter the earth. They’ve filled “Smuggler’s Gulch”:

The canyon has been all but wiped off the landscape, its steep walls carved into gentle slopes, its depths filled with 35,000 truckloads of dirt as the federal government nears completion of an extensive border reinforcement project at the southwesternmost point of the United States.

• “California Supreme Court to take on state law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants” (LA Times)
It looks like California’s monumental educational access measure AB 540–which allowed undocumented students who had been long-term residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities and colleges–will face judicial review.

And, finally…

• “Richardson Won’t Pursue Cabinet Post” (NY Times)
Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination to head the Commerce Department. That leaves only two Obama cabinet appointments who are Latino. We’ll see who he names in Richardson’s place.

••And what you gonna do about it President Obama?

And now the real work begins.

The RISE Movement–the grassroots effort whose recent rotating fast served as one of the more righteous actions in the late election season–are but one of a growing number of progressive coalitions agitating for change from the new President-Elect.

In an online petition I would encourage you to sign, RISE is advocating for Obama to issue an executive order to end all ICE raids.  The full text is below:

President-elect Obama, we congratulate you on your historic victory, and we celebrate this moment with great hope that under your leadership we will finally be able to achieve a humane, inclusive immigration policy that unites families and offers a path toward citizenship for the undocumented. Fundamental reform of our broken immigration system is an urgent national priority. The first step, that you can take through executive order, is to immediately end all Immigration & Customs Enforcement raids.

The enforcement of the unjust laws of our broken immigration system is tearing our country apart. The workplace and neighborhood raids by squads of ski-masked ICE agents armed with automatic weapons are the most brutal and outrageous part of this enforcement. They tear our families apart. They terrorize our communities. And they routinely violate the civil and constitutional rights that define our nation.

The ICE raids must end now! President-elect Obama, Latino and immigrant voters responded to the promise of change you made to our nation and voted for you by huge margins and in record numbers. We call on you to uphold that promise and honor our support by declaring an immediate and unconditional moratorium on ICE raids until just and human immigration reform is passed and implemented.

I gladly signed the petition, and these particular kinds of political mobilization are not my favorite.  But I sincerely hope it is a wasted effort.  If President Barack Obama isn’t already planning to end ICE raids within one month of taking office, then he is more talk than action in my book.

This is the easiest thing the new president can do to take a bold and vocal stand for human rights.  Additionally, this is a quick pro-Latino stance he can take.  Win-win?

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?

The “Border Beat” (October 13, 2008)

Today is the United States’ official observance of Columbus Day. I encourage you to take pause and think about the millions of lives lost in the brutal processes of global imperialism. These were human lives, human cultures, confronted by a European tradition that saw their culture and religion as better, their racial composition as supreme, and their economic needs as a justification for their abuses. How far we have come!

This week, LatinoLikeMe will be focused on the issue of California’s Proposition 8, the measure seeking to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. In recognition of this, today’s “Border Beat” is featured in abbreviated form.

“Civil Rights Group Stays Puerto Rican at Heart, but Now Has a Broader Reach” (New York Times)
“In N.C., Pro-Immigration Hispanics Face Threats” (NPR)
“McCain, Obama seek to avoid fray on immigration” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Enforcement Policy For Illegal Immigration Raises Ethics Questions” (Washington Post)
“Experts compare current immigration situation to deportation of Mexicans in 1930s” (Dallas Morning News)
“It’s time for Latinos to reach their voting potential” (La Prensa-San Diego)
“Growing Latino Population Redefines Small Town” (NPR)

The “Border Beat” (October 6, 2008)

The combination of the upcoming presidential election and the catastrophe that is the U.S. global economy are but two of the sets of forces shaping the world Latinos live in.  To our shared human detriment, thousands of lives are being tragically and inhumanely affected in government round-ups, deportations, and imprisonments, not to mention layoffs.

The lessons of this week are a testament to power, of the powerful to maintain their status at the expense and excuse of those with little.

• “Statewide immigration raids result in 1,157 arrests” (Los Angeles Times)
This is a powerful demonstration of the ways this society “criminalizes” immigrants as media blindly help the government manufacture the context for its own actions.  In a widely publicized effort involving “fugitive operations teams,” ICE and local law enforcement dedicated themselves to hunting down over a thousand human beings recently.  They made special efforts to advertise how these efforts targeted criminals like child abusers and drug dealers.  In truth, well over half committed no other crime than struggling for survival in this country.  For a treat, watch the accompanying video.

• “Phoenix sheriff adored, reviled on immigration” (San Francisco Chronicle)
Joe Arpaio has become a national (and to some extent international) celebrity for his radical stances on immigration and his wholesale persecution of Latinos in Maricopa Country, Arizona.  To paraphrase Marlon Brando, Arpaio is a pimp.  What is really important here are the sectors of this society who elevate him to the status he enjoys, who glorify it, and who will continue to support it.

• “Mexican children struggle when they return home” (Houston Chronicle)
In the 1930s, when local law enforcement throughout the Southwest conspired with regional corproate interests to deport well over a million Mexicans from the U.S., one of the greatest casualities were the children who “returned” to a nation they never knew.  This very human story found its most tragic embodiment in the literaly hundreds of thousands who were legal U.S. citizens.  Now, resultant to both increased governemnt deportations and a faltering economy, history is repeating itself.  While many or even most of these children may be “illegal,” they have no less of a claim to being “American” than did their forebearers.

• “Fewer People Entering U.S. Illegally, Report Says” (New York Times)
Here is the paper of record covering the story which ran in nearly every paper this week.  The Pew HIspanic Center released a report analyzing current immigration trends.  Among them, “illegal” immigrants are entering the country at a rate lower than “legal.”

• “Over 1,300 gang members arrested in past 4 months” (Yahoo/AP)
In what is becoming an annual effort to target (mostly) Latino gangs, the government is advertising their successes this year.  Undoubtedly, the vast majority of those arrested here are–by any definition–criminals.  The human tragedy is no less present, however.  More importantly, is the ease with which the “criminal” Latino male can find the attention of the power that be, and as compared to the “lawful.”  [See previous post on this story.]  You may also be interested to learn of the growth and spread of organized Latino crime.

• “ICE arrests 78 illegals in week-long Pa./Del. sweep” (Sussex Countian)
It isn’t just California and the West.  Immigrants–Latinos and others–are being rounded-up accross the country.

• “New citizenship exam brings new questions and new fears” (Los Angeles Times)
There’s a new test for proving you’re “American.”  I suspect the majority of so-called “Americans” would flunk.  And then what would that make you?

• “Drawing Parallels Between Immigrant Experiences” (New American Media/Pacific Citizen)
Let’s end on a happy note.  For all the myopic, fearful folk in this nation there are also empathic humanists.  Members of the Sonoma County (CA) Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a group with strong roots in the Japanese community stretching back to the era of internment, have spoken up and out in support of sanctuary and immigrants’ rights.  There is hope and, in this case, in comes in the memory of the past.

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Historical Photograph of the Week

Mexicans being deported from Los Angeles, circa 1931.  [Source]

The “Border Beat” (September 8, 2008)

The “Border Beat” is back with all the news that manages to sneak into my browser, despite tall firewalls and a bunch of crazy retired people keeping watch.

• “‘Poli-Migra’: New Spanish Word for Blurred Line Between Police and ICE” (New America Media)
New tactics and a new culture of fear bring with them many changes in the daily lives of brown people. This article spotlights some of them, in addition to the linguistic reflection of this new era in the policing of brown bodies.

• “Immigrant raid divides a Mississippi town” (Los Angeles Times)
The “Black vs. Brown” quagmire–a growing favorite of the national print media–is spotlighted here in the recent account of ICE raids in Mississippi. Sad when a growing number of poor and working class people of all colors start to blame each other for their lot instead of the decades-old and government-endorsed exportation of manufacturing, cuts in wages and benefits, and death of union jobs.

• “Immigration is factor in global warming” (Statesman Journal)
Some crazy white guy in Oregon finds something else to blame Mexican for. Okay…and I guess all the non-immigrants were somehow forced to drive polluting vehicles and support corporations emitting harmful greenhouse gases? Right.

• “White to Lose Majority Status in U.S. by 2042” (Wall Street Journal)
Listen, I don’t want you to worry. We’re going to treat you all just like everybody else, like the human beings that you are. That said, bet right about now you wish you hadn’t systematically dismantled affirmative action, huh?

• “Border First: Regain Control of Immigration” (Washington Times)
Bob Barr–former “Contract with America” Republican who voted for all four counts in the impeachment indictment against Clinton–is the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party.  Between you and me, he doesn’t sound very libertarian.  [“Federal law requires hospitals to provide care irrespective of ability to pay, so emergency rooms across the American southwest are filled with Mexican citizens. Pregnant women come to have their children born in American hospitals.”]  He just sounds loco.