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August 30, 2006

the tie clip says it all

PBS News Hour recently concluded a series on immigration. You can find all segments of this series online. While the content of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's interview did nothing short of make me want to move to Phoenix just to vote against him in two years, his interview should be viewed. Here is the interview with Sheriff Arpaio on the News Hour.

Among the other segments in this series was an articulate discussion by an immigration attorney who deals with the law and people every day. The News Hour interview with Priscilla Labovitz is well worth watching.

Finally, as commentary on Arpaio's tough-as-his-tie-clip enforcement measures, this Op-ed piece in the Tucson Citizen:


Blatant misuse of Arizona's "coyote law" - seeking to prosecute not only human smugglers, but also illegal immigrants as "conspirators" - has been an enormous failure, and rightly so.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has violated the intent of the law in his zeal to prosecute illegal immigrants. State Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, says the law he co-sponsored was intended to be used against human smugglers, not their contraband.

Thomas has applied conspiracy laws to the year-old anti-smuggling statute in 263 arrests, but he has yet to obtain one conviction of conspiracy to commit human smuggling.

The "coyote law" was designed to help law enforcement and prosecutors bring the heads of major smuggling rings to justice. Instead, Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are wielding it against those who are not even smugglers, much less conspirators, but are the easiest to apprehend and least able to defend themselves.

Aside from being a misuse of state law, this effort also is a major tactical error. Conviction of key smugglers could have some effect on illegal immigration here, whereas prosecution of a few dozen more illegal immigrants accomplishes virtually nothing.


Posted by almamia at 6:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2006

protest anti-immigration congressional "hearing"

The US Senate Budget Committee, hosted by Senator Wayne Allard, will hold a hearing on Immigration in Aurora, Colorado on Aug. 30. On that day the voices of immigrants will not be heard.

*Protest the Anti-Immigrant Sham Hearing
Wed. August 30, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Aurora City Council Chambers
15151 E. Alameda Pkwy, Aurora
Bring Signs with messages in support of Immigrant Rights!

For more information call 303.623.3464

Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), El Centro Humanitario, Colorado Jobs with Justice, Derechos Para Todos/Rights for All People, Front Range Economic Strategy Center, Padres Unidos, People for the American Way, Service Employees International Union Local 105, and others.

El Comité del Tesoro del Senado Federal con el Senador Wayne Allard convocará una Audiencia sobre la Inmigración en Aurora, Colorado el 30 de Agosto. El día 30 de agosto no se escucharán las voces de los inmigrantes.

­ *Protesta en contra de la Exhibición Anti-Inmigrante
El Miercoles 30 de Agosto, 2:30 a 4:30
Camara del Concejal de la ciudad de Aurora
15151 E. Alameda Pkwy, Aurora
Traiga Letreros con mensajes a favor de los Derechos de los inmigrantes

Para informes, llame al 303.893.3500

Patrocinado por: El Centro Humanitario, El Comité de Servicio de los Amigos Americanos (AFSC), Colorado Jobs with Justice, Derechos Para Todos, Front Range Economic Strategy Center, Padres Unidos, People for the American Way y Service Employees International Union Local 105 y otros.

Jordan T. Garcia
Immigrants Rights Organizer
American Friends Service Committee
901 W. 14th Ave. #7
Denver, Colorado 80204
303-623-3492 (fax)


Posted by almamia at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2006

beauty at the border

No author is mentioned, but the following report was found on the website of No More Deaths.

It’s mid-afternoon and the sun has taken its harsh toll since the morning hours of meeting deportation buses. By 10am we have given water, food, and medical care to more than two hundred people. Hundreds and hundreds of tired eyes, blistered feet, and hungry stomachs.

"We have another bus," shouts a volunteer who sees the large, white Homeland Security bus pull up next to the U.S. customs and immigration building at the Mariposa Truck Port of Nogales, Arizona and Sonora-Mx. By now we know the drill and we station ourselves to be a team of hospitality. Volunteers take on the roles of handing out fliers telling of migrant shelters and aid for migrants in Nogales, distributing baggies of bean burritos and 1-liter bottles of water, conducting interviews for abuse documentation and general statistics, and ready to provide medical care. From a distance we watch and count, twenty-three…thirty-eight…fifty-two…a full bus. My stomach sinks, however, when I see that among the figures walking in a line through the port and in our direction are quite few smaller figures as well.

"Looks like there are women and children," I add. As it turns out, they have been in the desert four to six days. The children’s clothes reek of urine and there is dirt smudges on their faces. They are disturbingly quiet and still for the bundles of energy normally characterizing the ages of 1.5, 3, and 5 years of age. They sit on the curb near our humanitarian aid station while we bustle around trying to provide care and aid as quickly and to as many people as possible before they move on.

A young girl, twelve years old named Isabel, sits with her head between her knees. She has been vomiting and from the touch of my palm seems to have a fever. Her younger siblings and mother sit beside her, with the other young families nearby. I ask some of the mothers if they drank the dirty water from cow tanks in the desert, infamous for parasites, bacteria, even Giarrdia; indeed they have. The youngest ones, in diapers, have diarrhea as well. As a surface-level response to this situation, I’ve heard debates coming from others of my socio-economic background automatically blaming the parents of neglect for putting their young children in such a dangerous position. A twisted position to take in light of this reality.

Worried and thinking medically of what I know about the rapid physical deterioration of a severely dehydrated child, I find myself almost lecturing one of the mothers while distributing glasses of Gatorade and clean socks. "She must drink a lot, especially electrolytes," I say in my basic Spanish, "It is very dangerous for children to be so sick in the heat. It is very dangerous out there..." and I stop myself. The dark, weary eyes of the mother are staring back at me.

I feel as if my deep concern and genuine intentions are patronizing. I was telling her something she already knew, talking about the very dangers that have turned over in her mind so many times they haunt her like chronic pain in the bones. She has endured this emotional distress ever since she made the decision to make this journey with her children from the far away southern state of Oaxaca to join her husband who is working in Atlanta. My concern quickly turned into respect. Despite governmental and economic systems that do not allow a livelihood for her family in their native land, she was using her feet to demand to live and prosper. Most of all, she was demanding the human right to provide opportunity for her children and to reunite their family.

Suddenly the popsicle cart carrying fruit-filled "paletas" comes strolling by and the eyes of the young ones light up and they surrounded the cart. The mothers scold that they do not have money for that expense, 5 pesos each—about fifty cents. "It’s okay," I say, even though it is not within our protocol to give beyond what we have for all. "Paletas all around!" I reach for change in my pocket reasoning, of course, that they needed to cool their body temperatures and needed the sugar intake anyway.

Simply, I want to give the best possible care and the largest doses of compassion to these people who move quickly through my life and forever strengthen my soul, hundreds each day, knowing that I am sharing moments with the human rights heroes and heroines of our time.

Posted by almamia at 7:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2006

a slave by any other name...

If you read my post about Los Pineros, you realize that the existing "guest" worker program is about as hospitable as Cinderella's wicked stepmother. While I'm sure there are plenty of companies that treat their guest workers with fairness and dignity, there are plenty of others exploiting their workers. Because of this, comprehensive reform must include an overhaul of the guest worker program to include job portability. The Southern Poverty Law Center is fighting for this change. They recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of immigrant workers (with honest-to-goodness visas) being exploited by their employer:

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on behalf 82 guest workers, the suit alleges Decatur Hotels, LLC and its president, F. Patrick Quinn III, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when the company failed to reimburse workers for the exorbitant fees they paid to aggressive labor recruiters working as agents for the hotel chain. Decatur owns about a dozen luxury hotels in New Orleans and is one of the largest locally owned hotel chains in Louisiana.

To pay labor recruiters in their home countries, the workers from Peru, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic plunged their families into debt. Recruiters charged workers between $3,500 and $5,000 to take them to New Orleans under the federal government's H-2B guest worker program.

"Four thousand dollars is a lot of money in Peru," said Humberto Jimenez, one of the hotel workers. "I mortgaged my house to work for Patrick Quinn. I came here to make enough money to see my child through college. If I had known the truth I would never have come."

Recruiters under Quinn's employ promised workers 40 hours of work per week and plenty of overtime. Instead, they found themselves working about 25 hours a week, sometimes far less. Under current immigration law, they are bound to their employer and unable to legally work for anyone else.

"They're on a dead-end road," Bauer said. "Their profound debt makes them desperate to work -- but Decatur doesn't give them enough hours. And if they switch jobs, they're breaking the law. In effect, they are captive workers in a situation of virtual debt peonage."

Said Teresa Ortiz, another worker, "It's modern-day slavery. What are my options? I go home to Bolivia, poorer than when I got here and deeper in debt. Or I break the law to find another job."

Tracie Washington, a New Orleans civil rights attorney and co-counsel in the case, said, "This guest worker program is a continuation of the racial exploitation that began with slavery in this country. It's corporate-driven; Decatur profits from it. And it's state-sponsored; the Department of Labor signs off on it."


"These courageous workers are exposing guest worker programs as an opportunity for predatory employers to seek out and exploit cheap labor," said Marielena Hincapie, director of programs at the National Immigration Law Center, which is also co-counsel in the case. As guest worker programs are increasingly seen as the answer to future migration, Hincapie cautioned against expansion of a historically flawed system.

"The solution is for all workers to be afforded decent work opportunities with a living wage in the just reconstruction of the Gulf South," said Washington. full article

Posted by almamia at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2006

it is a question of race

In this excellent article by Ruben Navarrette, we see how the Hutchison-Pence proposal reveals the true motives of the immigration hardliners.

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Immigration restrictionists can be so dishonest.

They've said all along that all they care about is that border security be the first priority of any immigration reform plan and that illegal immigrants not be given amnesty. They insisted that they aren't motivated by racism and that they have no problem with immigrants, if they are here legally.

Now we learn otherwise in light of the opposition to a middle-ground immigration reform plan proposed by two anti-amnesty, pro-border security Republicans: Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.


Pence and Hutchison are pragmatists. They came up with this: As the first priority, secure the U.S.-Mexico border. For the first two years after the bill becomes law, the emphasis would be on beefing up the border patrol. Once that happens, it would be up to the president to certify to Congress that the border is secure.

Then we'd move on to goal No. 2: establishment of a guest-worker program that would require millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to return to their home country for a couple of weeks to register at privately run "Ellis Island"-type placement centers, where they would receive temporary work visas that could be renewed every two years for a maximum of 12 years.

At that point, workers convert to a new type of visa. And then, in five years -- or 17 years after enrolling in the program -- we'd move on to goal No. 3 in which workers could apply for U.S. citizenship.

You would think that GOP hard-liners could live with this. You'd be wrong. The Pence-Hutchison plan is under fire. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, criticized it for favoring low-skilled workers and not offering preference to immigrants who speak English.

And, during an interview last week with The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, flirted with nativism when he said that his concern is that the plan would provide "unlimited immigration from Mexico and Central America."

Now we're getting to the heart of the matter.

The Hutchison-Pence plan forces the anti-amnesty crowd to level finally with the rest of us about what really bothers them. If it is that people are here illegally, or that the border isn't secure, then the plan has that covered. But if it's the fear that Anglo-Saxon culture and the English language are being eroded by Spanish-speaking foreigners, and that the country is going down the tubes because of it -- then this plan doesn't offer much relief.

After all, under it, the immigrants get to be legal, but they also get to stay. For some people, that's the real problem. As far as those people are concerned, the Hutchison-Pence plan doesn't offer much comfort.

What it does offer is something this debate could use more of: clarity. link

When this proposal was first mentioned a few weeks ago, I asked several undocumented individuals, "Would you do it?" (Leave temporarily to be reprocessed through an Ellis Island center.) Without exception, their response has been "No."

I'm not a big fan of this proposal. I think it leaves too much room for sabotage by the restrictionists. Here are a few problems I see:

1. Unless the trigger is an either/or situation (i.e., either the border is certified as secure by the president, OR two years -- whichever comes first), we're looking at an indefinite time line. It would be like an endless road trip with a constant peppering of "Are we there yet?"

2. It isn't acceptable to allow our immigrant communities, families and churches to be torn apart for an indeterminate period of time -- ICE will not slow their raids while waiting for border security. Is it okay to continue oppressing a people group until we deem it time to acknowledge their needs and humanity?

3. As efforts to strengthen the borders increase, so will the quantity of illegal crossings. The borders will be flooded by immigrants attempting to cross in order to participate in the guest worker provisions of this bill.

4. Nearly 500 immigrants have died in attempted border crossings each of the past 6 years. How many more mothers, fathers, children will die before legalization measures take effect? How many more needless deaths can you live with?

5. The immigrant community will be very hesitant to trust the process of self-deportation and the "Ellis-Island" centers. This will be compounded as some applying for re-entry will most certainly be denied.

As a complete aside, the quote by Sen. Jeff Sessions in Navarrette's article made me wonder if the suspected terrorists arrested in the U.K. plot speak English -- maybe they're even highly-skilled. Just a thought.

Posted by almamia at 9:49 AM | Comments (2)

August 8, 2006

migrant deaths

According to this Houston Chronicle article, 291 immigrants have died in attempted border crossings in the past 44 weeks. The deaths Monday, also mentioned in the article, bring that number to 300. With 8 weeks remaining in this fiscal year, the deaths are on track to surpass the 400 mark, as they have over the past 6 years. Additional troops at the border have only served to push the crossings back into California. The number of deaths has not been reduced.

Meanwhile, No More Deaths continues their tireless work of washing immigrants' feet and providing them life-giving food and water on both sides of the border.

Don't be fooled by those who argue that tighter border security will solve our immigration issues. They are tragically mistaken.

Posted by almamia at 8:51 AM | Comments (1)

August 7, 2006

meanwhile, at the hacker convention

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Except when it is a room full of hackers learning how to breech Radio Frequency Identification Technology used in new super-secure passports.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (AFP) - High-tech passports touted as advances in national security can be spied on remotely and their identifying radio signals cloned, computers hackers were shown at a conference.

Radio frequency identification technology, referred to as RFID, used in cash cards and passports, can be copied, blocked or imitated, said Melanie Rieback, a privacy researcher at Vrije University in the Netherlands.

Rieback demonstrated a device she and colleagues at Vrije built to hijack the RFID signals that manufacturers have touted as unreadable by anything other than proprietary scanners.

"I spend most of my time making the RFID industry's life miserable," the doctorate student told AFP. "I am not anti-RFID. It has the potential to make people's lives easier, but it needs to be used responsibly."

Rieback and university compatriots expected to have a reliable portable version of their device, RFID Guardian, finished in six months and "had no plans to immediately mass-produce these things."

A cheer rose from the legion of hackers in the conference room when Rieback announced that the schematics and the computer codes for the device would be made public.

"The industry and government needs to not be scared of us," Rieback said. "They need to talk with us and to work with us. Hopefully, together we can come up with some kind of reasonable compromise."

Sounds like fightin' words! The article continues,

Smart chips have been crafted into German passports and are being put into US passports. Stores have experimented with using the tags not only to track inventory, but to bill shoppers for purchases invisibly as they leave.


"If you are using RFID on cows, who cares?" Rieback asked rhetorically. "But, with a passport, it only takes one breach at the wrong time and it could wreck it for the RFID industry."

The potential exists for unauthorized reading of cards, cloning, and tracking people who carry them, Rieback said. (full article)

My personal theory is that the more "secure" we become -- as individuals or as a nation -- the more vulnerable we become.

You see, when we depend on technology, barriers or locks we become less and less dependent on our neighbors. Because we don't need them to help watch out for us, we don't develop relationships with them. Because we don't develop relationships with them, we don't trust them. Because we don't trust them, we protect ourselves from them.

In the midst of the immigration debate and Senate approval for more fences on the Southern Border it is interesting to see this piece about hackers. No wall, no high-tech passport, no militia will make this country safe. Comprehensive reform is necessary because only by caring for our neighbors and restoring mutual trust will our true security increase -- the security of a neighbor who has got our back.

Posted by almamia at 9:10 AM | Comments (0)

August 4, 2006

action alert -- call your senators

This today from the American Friends Service Committee:

Today the Senate overwhelmingly voted to add an amendment proposed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R -AL) to an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense. Sessions amendment will "provide $1,829,100,000 for the Army National Guard for the construction of 370 miles of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles of vehicle barriers along the southwest border." The Senate is expected to approve the appropriations bill (with the amendment attached) later this week.

Senator Sessions told the Washington Post that "By passing my amendment today, we are sending a signal that we are serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants over the border." (The phrase 'sending a signal' is interesting in many ways...)

Sessions has been among the most vocal members of Congress who has been calling for enforcement-only immigration reform. He was among the Republicans senators who did not vote for the Senate immigration bill back in May.

Today's action is disturbing in many ways:

1. Today's vote could herald the future of immigration reform. For months, Congressional representatives have threatened to pass other immigration enforcement provisions by attaching it to must-pass legislation if no immigration bill is passed in this Congressional session. Actions like this are more difficult to rally opposition against, especially when they are piggybacking on unrelated legislation that are likely to pass.

2. Almost all of the pro-comprehensive reform senators (both Democrat and Republican) voted for this amendment. Senators appear to think that voting for tougher enforcement is a definite vote-getter for their parties. Standing up against further militarization of the border seems too dangerous for them to consider.

3. The substance of the bill is alarming. Adding more fencing and border enforcement in no way addresses the root causes of why people take such risks to enter the United States without documents. To date, beefed up border enforcement has resulted in thousands of deaths by forcing migrants to cross in areas that are dangerous. More enforcement pushes people to even more desperate means of entering the U.S.

ACTION STEP: Call your Senators today (202.224.3121) and tell them that you do not agree with this amendment. Tell them that we need a truly comprehensive approach to immigration reform.

Danielle Short
Human Rights Program Director
American Friends Service Committee
901 W. 14th Ave. #7
Denver, CO 80204
303-623-3492 (fax)

Posted by almamia at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

Gov. Owens defends Lamm's racist remarks...

...and publicly humiliates his children in the process.

This in today's Denver Post:

Republican Gov. Bill Owens today defended former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm's remarks that Asians and Jews have more ambition than Hispanics and blacks, saying that the outcry over Lamm's remarks has been "knee jerk."


Owens went on to say that he wishes his three children had more of a Jewish and Asian work ethic.

"There are many days ... when I wish they'd have more aspects of Jewish and Asian culture. I wish they'd get up earlier in the morning, I wish they would work harder and in many respects that's what we do see out of many of the Asian and the Jewish culture. My kids are all Anglo, they're Irish, English and they're wonderful kids and I wish they'd work a little harder sometimes. Sometimes, I wish that I had some more of those traits.

To give you a little sample of what is provoking the "knee-jerk" reactions, here is an excerpt from a Rocky Mountain News article about Lamm's book:

"Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettos and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning and ambition," Lamm wrote.

"I suggest that the best wand for society and for those who live in the ghettos and barrios would be the second wand."

I am horrified.

Posted by almamia at 6:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 3, 2006

thoughts on a paralyzed community

For the past month, we've noticed depression, anxiety and fear among our local immigrant friends. We've been asking other friends living in Denver's metro area if they've noticed similar attitudes. To some extent they have, but it seemed to us that the fears were more pronounced here in Northern Colorado.

We're not the only ones noticing.

"Immigrants here are living in constant fear - fear to go grocery shopping, fear of driving their children to school, or even to go to church," An article in today's Rocky Mountain News states that advocates in Northern Colorado claim law enforcement is singling out Hispanics.

From January to May (5 months), Larimer County turned 3 people over to ICE for deportation. From May to the beginning of August (3 months), they've turned over 41. Larimer County Sherriff Jim Alderden denies any racial profiling, but I too question it.

How have the families in our circle been affected? Two weeks ago, one family disappeared. Phone numbers have been disconnected. The apartment is empty. We're trying to contact them through friends in New Mexico. Another couple is moving to the East Coast in one week. A husband and father was detained by ICE for one and a half weeks. His paperwork had been in process but he had allowed it to lapse. He should be able to reinstate his status, but at great expense to himself and his family. Employers are afraid. Workers are afraid and in some cases jobless. A food bank ministry in Broomfield has gone from serving 70 families per week on average to serving 150 families per week. The sharp increase happened 5 weeks ago. It was the same time when we noticed the fear grip our community.

The changes that Governor Owens signed into law are not as horrendous as he and the Colorado GOP had hoped, but they are pushing our immigrants into other states. Good for political posturing, a shame for Colorado.

Rather than end this post on a depressing note, here are some ways to take action. The National Immigration Law Center's series, Know Your Rights, is a tremendous resource.

Some of the titles you'll find are: "Know your rights at home and at work"; "What to do if you are arrested or detained by immigration"; "Know your rights when taking action"; and "Immigrant Protests: What every worker should know"

Most of their articles are available in English and Spanish. Some are also in Chinese and Korean. Use these resources proactively to educate yourself, your friends and your neighbors.

Go to www.matt.org and participate in the polls and dialogue there.

You can grab your elected official's attention by sending a work glove as a pro-immigrant statement.

Above all, pray for and be a friend to the immigrant.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Matthew 25:35-36

Posted by almamia at 6:56 AM | Comments (3)

August 2, 2006

update on victim of houston pipe beating

In May I wrote of the horrific beating endured by an Hispanic boy outside of Houston. For months I've wondered about his recovery. The Houston Chronicle printed an article Saturday in which I found a report.

The boy, who is not being named since he was the victim of a sexual assault, has come a long way since he was found unconscious in Gus Sons' backyard.

He wasn't expected to survive the attack. Now, he has begun to make gains toward at least a limited recovery.

He remains at Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he recently began to walk short distances, Leon said. A tracheotomy tube, which prevented him from talking, has been removed. He can now talk but not well. He does not remember being assaulted.

Although he was kicked in the head with steel-toed boots, he does not appear to have suffered brain damage. He continues to undergo surgeries to repair damage to his internal organs and has begun rehabilitation to regain basic physical skills.

"If this had happened to someone my age, I'd be dead," said Leon, 37. "It happened to a pretty strong 17-year-old kid. That's why he's improving." full article

Posted by almamia at 6:54 PM | Comments (0)