October 6, 2006

the face of american farming

Miller Farms 3.jpg

We recently spent a crisp fall morning at a nearby farm harvesting hundreds of pounds of produce. We were loaded onto hay wagons and towed around the fields in search of potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, etc. From the very start, I was having two separate experiences; two separate dialogues -- happy banter with my children and friends about every topic under the sun; thoughtful sidebars of conversation with my husband regarding the real story that day -- the story of the immigrant and American farming.

Miller Farms 2.jpg

At the outset of our adventure, I found myself wandering through the farm's produce stand. There I saw this mother, stocking shelves and attending to visitors, with her tiny infant in tow. I'd been at this farm a few years back -- on an even colder day -- and in the same produce stand another woman was working, a toddler at her side. A shudder went through my spirit to see that these women seem to have no other option than to bring their little ones along as they work in the wind and chill. Posing as though I were delirious with the thrill of a harvest outing, I took pictures of the produce displays and then zoomed in to captured the image of the mother and child to share here.

Miller Farms 1.jpg

Meandering toward the hay wagons, we passed an immigrant feeding the animals in the petting zoo while three more waited by the tractors that would pull us through the fields. Once we were loaded onto the wagons, we realized that among our group was a family of Eastern European immigrants. Elderly and middle aged ladies alike in their mismatched print skirts, sweaters, and headscarves. The men's faces rugged and timeworn. All held harvesting tools in gloved hands, it was obvious that they meant business -- they were there to harvest their maximum quota; to put up produce for the winter months. I enjoyed watching the cultural collisions as the farm workers tried to corral this group of very determined harvesters back onto the wagons when it was time to move along... "Amigos, we go now!" Sometimes slowly pulling away in order to gain their cooperation.

My husband wasted no time in befriending the farm workers and learned they had been at the farm for 6 years -- and were seemingly satisfied there -- but they had never been to the mountains, a mere 45 minute drive away. They lamented the fact that my husband had visited well known tourist attractions in their home town in Mexico -- places they had never had the opportunity to visit. Our new-found friends then started tipping us off to which area would have better harvesting -- seemingly to give us an advantage over the more serious harvesters in our group. Not that it was needed -- there was plenty for all.

In the ongoing conversation my husband and I shared, we observed that few people would think of an immigrant when asked what the American Farmer looks like. Images like this are more likely to spring to mind:

American Farmer.jpg

But it is an incomplete image at best. American Farming depends upon immigrant labor. Unfortunately, the media, politicians and the farming industry itself minimizes the contribution made by these immigrants. Although I exclusively saw immigrant workers on my two visits to Miller Farms, I was hard pressed to find evidence of immigrant workers on the farm's website. The only images I found were on the educational video where for a few seconds you will see a clip of workers with brown skin spreading seed with narration saying something to the effect of "Sometimes the farm workers help Farmer Joe."

Now, I'm all for Farmer Joe -- especially if he is providing fair wages and housing for his workers -- my point is that immigrants remain in the shadows largely because we keep them there -- for fear that acknowledging their contributions would diminish the American Fantasy.

Unfortunately for our farming industry, by keeping immigrants in the shadows, more than a fantasy is being shattered. From sea to shining sea agricultural profits are being shattered by the current farm worker shortage. Colorado's agricultural industry is set to lose millions this year because of a worker shortage prompted by the (most likely illegal) immigration laws passed in July.

As our harvest excursion drew to an end, the task of hauling our produce to the car loomed before us. Joking, my husband asked a teenage boy along on the outing how much he would charge to haul the bags to our car. He quipped, "$1,000 per bag." We all laughed. The truth is best spoken in jest.

And the truth is that you cannot pay an "American" worker to do these jobs.

Posted by almamia at 9:22 AM | Comments (1)

September 8, 2006

migrant and minutemen photos


The following caught my eye today... If you live in Denver, go check it out.

Regis University is pleased to announce a unique and rare display of photographs showing both sides of the immigration conflict. The Border Film Project features a collection of photos taken by undocumented migrants trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States, and by the American minutemen trying to stop them.


The exhibit was put together by the Border Film Project, three college friends with a passion for the immigration dilemma in common. More than 600 disposable cameras were sent to undocumented migrants crossing the desert and the American minutemen protecting our borders. The hope was to find a way of reaching a more personal, human understanding of the illegal immigration issue.


If you are not local to Denver or cannot get to the gallery, go check out the photos on the Border Film Project web site. There are 45 photos from migrant cameras and 40 from minutemen cameras.

Posted by almamia at 5:31 PM | Comments (0)

September 6, 2006



to my friend whose eyes shine with delight at child's play and upon children

who taught my girls to paint their nails with a red crayon

to my friend who followed her heart

and arrived at her father's bedside just before his passing

to my friend who loves her children more than life itself

and blesses them with love's legacy

to my friend displaced not by the few short miles, but by a system

whose reunion with her husband and daughters is uncertain

to my friend who is sustained by faith in God

who will never regret going back and we hope will return soon

we understand. and are so sorry.

Posted by almamia at 10:10 AM | Comments (1)

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 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 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)

July 30, 2006

colorado immigration event coming soon

Coloradans For Immigrant Rights Garden Party and Fundraiser—August 14

Come out and support the wonderful work of Coloradans For Immigrant Rights for an evening of great food and great company! VOLLEYBALL, PIZZA AND DRINKS, GIVEAWAYS, T-SHIRTS AND MORE!

For Immigrant Rights to gain support the general public needs to have a better understanding of immigrants’ struggles and contributions. CFIR is a group of volunteers Organizing Citizens to Support Immigrant Rights! Our members have been working tirelessly to change the hearts and minds of Coloradans to see Immigrant Rights as Human Rights for the past two years. They have published dozens of immigrant-positive letters to the editor, organized counter-protests, spoken to community groups about immigrant rights, contacted their legislators, turned out hundreds of allies for immigrant rights actions…the list goes on and on! CFIR always works closely with immigrant led organizations so that we are always in step with our common goals.

Please come and support this exciting project and its important contributions to the Colorado Immigrant Rights Movement! Together, immigrants and their allies will bring about justice for all and create strong, inclusive communities!

AFSC's Backyard
901 W. 14th Ave. Ste. #7, Denver, CO
Monday, August 14, 4:00pm to 8:00pm
Jordan Garcia 303 623-3464

Suggested donation $10-$20

Posted by almamia at 9:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2006

a glimmer of hope

I think we need to match up a No More Deaths Volunteer with each member of the Colorado GOP too...
The following article which was published on www.azcentral.com

Desert-rescue tales sway GOP legislator

Apr. 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Rep. Doug Quelland stuck out as he waded through the prayer rally on the lawn of the state Capitol. And not just because of his trademark handlebar mustache.

Quelland, a Republican who represents north Phoenix, has been a reliable vote on "get-tough" immigration measures. His name is listed on several bills this session, including one that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to be charged with felony trespassing and another that seeks to deny them benefits.

They're the kinds of bills the Tuesday rally was designed to protest. The group of religious leaders asked for humane immigration reform.

But there was Quelland, who once stood on the lawn to support anti-undocumented-immigrant legislation, standing on the lawn amid people pleading for sympathy toward border crossers.

Quelland said his position on illegal immigration hasn't changed as much as it has evolved.

"I think it's good intentions," he said of the legislation introduced at the Capitol. "But I would like all the people in the House and the Senate to open dialogue and talk with people. You don't get anything done by staying uninformed."

Quelland's education was partly aided by talks with the woman who was standing next to him. She's the daughter of a longtime family friend he met at church. She was a fair-haired 22-year-old, wearing a bandanna on her head and a long prairie dress. She seemed to be constantly smiling. Her name was Maryada Vallet, and as her T-shirt indicated, she was a volunteer for No More Deaths.

That's the organization that camps out in the Arizona desert during the summer looking to rescue border crossers in distress. Two volunteers from that group are facing federal charges after they drove three undocumented immigrants to get medical attention.

Vallet, who was the class president and homecoming queen at Centennial High School in Peoria, became intensely interested in border issues while at Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian college in California. Upon graduation, she volunteered to work a summer with No More Deaths.

She said her parents were not immediately supportive of her plans, not because they feared for her safety as much as they didn't support the cause. "I had to de-mythicize a lot of this," she said. Her parents, she said, watch a lot of Fox News Network. "A lot of what they thought is what most people think about migrants."

But Vallet tells stories that put a face on the problem. She tells of Lorena, the 22-year-old she met who was crossing into the United States to make enough money to care for her sick son. She tells of Alberto, the corn farmer she found in the harsh Arizona desert. How she gives them water, tends to their blistered feet.

"It's very much like the good Samaritan," she said, referring to one of the parables told by Jesus in the New Testament.

Those tales softened her parents' views, she said. And apparently Quelland's. At least, it's made him take a second look.

"I don't know if my basic beliefs have changed," he said, "but I do know that there's some information out there that everyone should have, and they're just not getting it."

Part of it is faith based. The two share the same religious convictions, and Quelland seemed to get emotional as he heard this young Christian woman speak of her call to help the stranded in the desert.

And as we stood on the Senate lawn, and Vallet spoke of more experiences with No More Deaths, Quelland started openly weeping. "There's your story," he told me, pointing to Vallet. "Make her your story."

It will be a couple of more months before No More Deaths starts its summer saturation of the desert. Until then, the group might do some good by assigning a volunteer to each Republican member of the Arizona Legislature. A rescue mission to cool down their hearts.

Reach Ruelas at (602) 444-8473 or richard.ruelas@arizonarepublic .com.

Here is how we can help No More Deaths:

***Food and First Aid Kits Needed at the Border*** No More Deaths and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights (CFIR) need your help! We must take death out of the migration equation! The number of tragic, migrant deaths in the desert along the Arizona/Mexico border is continually increasing. Coloradans for Immigrant Rights (CFIR) is helping No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes collect the following items to distribute to migrants.

Needed Items:

For each Gallon-Sized Closable Plastic Bag, place 7-10 items, ideally 1 bag contains each of the following items:
„X Sports Drink
„X Pop-top lid meat or tuna
„X Nuts, Trail mix, dried fruit, chips, fig bars, or cookies
„X Granola, Power, or snack bars
„X Pudding or fruit cup (with spoon)
„X Peanut Butter or Cheese filled crackers
For each Small Closable Plastic Bag add the following items:
„X 4 to 8 bandages
„X Gauze Pads
„X Small first aid cream or ointment
„X Alcohol Wipes
„X Sunscreen, Chapstick, Hand Cream or Lotion
„X Foot care creams, powders, or Moleskin
„X Wrapped Candy or throat lozenges
„X Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil packets

What You Can Do!
1) Create a collection drive for the above materials at your church/organization/job etc.
2) Mail kits directly to No More Deaths, c/o St. Mark¡¦s Presbyterian Church, 3809 East 3rd Street, Tucson, AZ 85716.

Posted by almamia at 9:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 9, 2006

political tantrums: the advanced course

I've been holding my breath ever since Colorado's special legislative session began this past Thursday. Thankfully most of the awful measures have been killed by this point. News which is less than pleasing to the Colorado GOP and Governor Owens in particular.

Seems to me that somewhere in my fuzzy educational past I recall a concept called the balance of powers. legislative, executive and judicial (proud mom?). Well, Governor Owens seems to think this concept shouldn't affect him, which is why he called the special session to begin with... he (executive) didn't like the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court (judicial) on a flawed ballot measure that was likely unconstitutional and would certainly have been in the courts for years to come. Now, the Colorado House and Senate (legislative) have decided not to send the measure to the ballot, so Owens is throwing his weight around. Again. Thankfully, most of the Democrats are having none of it. (Although they are playing dirty too).

I like how House Speaker Andrew Romanoff described the original ballot measure, "... this is designed to fix a problem you can't explain by subjecting services you can't define to a ban you can't enforce," Romanoff said, "and then putting that unworkable formula into the constitution and inviting everyone in state to sue us when it doesn't work."

Exactly why I and all thinking people opposed it.

More for amusement than anything, read an article from today's Denver Post describing the tantruming in greater detail:

Republican Gov. Bill Owens launched a surprise attack Saturday on a Democratic plan to curtail spending on illegal immigrants, capping a tense day of stalled negotiations and bitter debate at the Capitol.

The governor blasted the proposal as an "ineffectual" alternative to the citizen-sponsored initiative that was knocked off the November ballot last month by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Owens made his comments to a Senate committee just hours after the Democratic-controlled House passed the bill on straight party lines after occasionally raucous debate.

Owens, who rarely testifies at committee hearings, used his bully pulpit to remind lawmakers he will only sign substantive, not symbolic, legislation that comes out of the special session he called on immigration reform.

House Bill 1023 fails to meet that test, he said, because it does not include a list of banned services, nor does it have a strong way to enforce the ban.


Senate President Joan Fitz- Gerald, D-Jefferson County, who was presenting the bill to the Senate Business Affairs Committee, said she was frustrated by the governor's tactics.

"I thought I had your support on this," Fitz-Gerald said. "It's surprising to me I do not."

Her staff, along with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, had been negotiating Friday night and Saturday with the governor's office on the bill.

The committee, which had delayed its starting time by an hour so the parties could continue negotiating, approved the bill Saturday on a 4-3 party-line vote. The full Senate, which had expected to debate the bill Saturday, postponed discussion until today.


Saturday's cantankerous exchange hit a sore spot for Grossman and many other lawmakers.

"It's so emblematic of this whole special session," Grossman said, "inserting ourselves into areas where we have no constitutional authority, absolutely no experience and no data."


Owens' attack came several hours after a bitter debate in the House, which voted 35-28 to send the bill to the Senate.

Rep. Ted Harvey, R- Highlands Ranch, was jeered by Democrats during his speech.

"Now are we going to be a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants under the age of 18?" Harvey said. "We have a huge gang problem in the state of Colorado with people from Mexico coming up here and influencing our cities."

Rep. Mike Merrifield, D- Manitou Springs, roared: "Racist! Bigot!" While Rep. Dorothy Butcher, D-Pueblo, jumped to her feet and said: "Take him out!"

Posted by almamia at 8:46 AM | Comments (1)

May 30, 2006

knowledge is power -- immigrant rights

Last week I had an interesting experience helping an immigrant friend get a restraining order. In the process, I learned of the U-visa for which victims of particular crimes can apply. Now, I've come across this article which gives some specifics about general rights for all immigrants. Good information:

Undocumented Immigrants Should be Aware of Basic Rights

Sing Tao Daily, News Feature, Wu Min-Yi, May 26, 2006

NEW YORK – As the immigration reform debate heats up in Congress, rumors of immigration raids have spread widely in immigrant communities. Consequently, undocumented immigrants have tried to stay under the radar, many of them avoiding going out because they fear the raids. Immigration lawyers are advising immigrants to keep in mind that immigrants, documented or undocumented, have protected rights under the United States Constitution.

Chen Pei-Yi, a New York attorney who is running for District 2 judge, said that before any immigration reform bills can take effect, the Senate and the House of Representatives must first reconcile their votes.

Chen said, however, that undocumented Chinese immigrants often don’t know their basic rights. When they are questioned by the police, their lack of knowledge often results in deportation.

Undocumented immigrants should know that they have the right to remain silent as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution when questioned by the police. In many states, people questioned by the police are required by law to give their true name, but only a judge can order a person to give more information. When questioned by the police, Chen advised, the less you say, the better.

Chen also emphasized that any law enforcement must have a search warrant to search private property. The search warrant should show the reason for the search. If a police officer does not have a search warrant, people can refuse to be searched.

However, police officers can search any person’s clothing to see if he is holding a weapon. In such a situation, Chen advises that people retain witnesses who can testify that the person was searched against his or her will.

Whether documented or undocumented, everyone has the right to see a lawyer, Chen said. The police must stop questioning if a person requests to see a lawyer. Chen advised people to carry the contact information for their lawyers.

If a police officer stops you, Chen said it is important to put both hands where the police officer can see them. If you feel ill or are injured while stopped by the police, you must request medical help and get contact information from witnesses at the scene.

Chen said that many Chinese who don’t know English might be pressured into signing documents that they do not understand, thinking that if they signed, then they can go home. But signing these forms might have serious consequences. For example, you might inadvertently give up your right to see an immigration judge. Chen emphasized the importance of seeing a lawyer to make sure that you understand the forms. Although undocumented immigrants do not have the right to a government-provided attorney, immigration officials have the legal obligation to provide a list of pro-bono lawyers who can help undocumented immigrants. source

Posted by almamia at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2006


I can't even begin to say how fabulous this post is:
Sometimes Laws are Wrong

Check it out.

Posted by almamia at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2006

it is a creepy time

I am outraged that the Department of Homeland Security considers it a priority to lock up not only undocumented immigrants, but ENTIRE FAMILIES -- CHILDREN INCLUDED, yet creepy registered sex offenders can be returned to society. I have two sex offenders living within half a block of my house. Now today, I read of another local who was not arrested until FOUR developmentally disabled women filed complaints against him. What is wrong with this country?! And when you get down to the article about the local creep, I want you to notice that never once is he referred to in any disrespectful way -- even though he is a CREEP. No, he is a "psychotherapist" a "doctor" a "man" But the undocumented are referred to as "illegal", "criminal", "scourge", bacteria-ridden", "an invasion" and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Read some exerpts from the following AP article:

WASHINGTON — China is refusing to take back an estimated 39,000 citizens who have been denied immigration to the United States and have clogged detention centers at federal expense, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday.

...Currently, 687 Chinese are being held in federal detention facilities, at a daily rate of $95 each, while some 38,000 have been released on bond or under a monitoring program, such as wearing an electronic surveillance bracelet, the Homeland Security Department said later yesterday.
Illegal immigrants can be held for 180 days before they are released.
Chertoff also said Homeland Security would open detention facilities in the next few weeks to house entire families of illegal immigrants who hope to bring their children along in order to avoid jail time. "It'll be humane, but we're not going to let people get away with this," he said. (emphasis not in original)
Chertoff's remarks comes as the Homeland Security Department aims to end its "catch and release" immigration policy by Oct. 1. After that date, all illegal immigrants will be held in U.S. detention centers until they can be returned to their nation of citizenry.

Contrast that with this:

A psychotherapist is accused of sexually assaulting developmentally disabled clients, including two women in their Loveland homes. Dr. Donald Ellsworth Fish, 66, turned himself in Wednesday at the Larimer County Detention Center to face three felony charges of sexual assault of an at-risk adult by a psychotherapist — allegations that, if proved, could carry a collective maximum of nine years in prison.

The Fort Collins man has not entered a plea to the charges and could not be reached Wednesday.

While Fish has no prior criminal charges against him, he was disciplined by the state for having a sexual relationship with a client in 1995.

read full article

Posted by almamia at 4:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2006


This story of an immigrant family from Rwanda is a breath of fresh air.

Posted by almamia at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2006

immigration raid tears families apart

We knew the stories would come.

Read of how two housewives suddenly have to find work, pay the rent, save for bus fare and provide for children. Alone.

Their husbands were 2 of the immigrants arrested in Wednesday's raid.

One of the gals left school at age 10 to become a tomato picker and has never learned how to drive.

Place yourself in her shoes for a few minutes...

Posted by almamia at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

Legal Immigrants Awaiting Deportation

Of the hundreds of immigrants I've known, I only know of two who have been deported.

In one case, her spouse is a U.S. citizen, but I'm not certain of her immigration status.

My other friend, however, is a grandmother in her 60s who was in the U.S. legally. She very dutifully got on a Greyhound and returned to Mexico every six months to comply with her visa and to see her doctors in Mexico.

This year as she was returning to the States, she was turned back at the border because the customs officials didn't believe that she wasn't employed.

The thing is that she never was employed here. She lived with her daughter and helped raise her grandchildren while her daughter worked.

So this devout Christian, grandmother and LEGAL immigrant must now remain outside of the U.S. for 5 years.

All for a "crime" she didn't even commit.

We need immigration reform that will not just be slapped together by a bunch of vote-hungry politicians. There are so many holes in the system that victimize those who have done everything possible to comply with immigration law.

In this video, the CAIR organization interviews legal immigrants awaiting deportation -- including one who is being deported for a choice her mother made when she was 12. It runs about six and a half minutes and is worth watching to the very end.

Posted by almamia at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2006


What comes up when I Google the word "desperate"?

Yep. That's right.

Desperate Housewives.

Maybe those wives will get so desperate that they'll pack it up and stow away to Hong Kong.

What part of "desperate" don't we get?

I'm desperate for a back rub. Desperate for a good cup 'o Joe. Desperate for different countertops.

Hmmm. Webster's has a different take:

Pronunciation: 'des-p(&-)r&t, -p&rt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin desperatus, past participle of desperare
1 a : having lost hope a desperate spirit crying for relief b : giving no ground for hope the outlook was desperate
2 a : moved by despair victims made desperate by abuse b : involving or employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration made a desperate leap for the rope
3 : suffering extreme need or anxiety desperate for money
4 : involving extreme danger or possible disaster a desperate situation
5 : of extreme intensity
synonym see DESPONDENT
- des·per·ate·ly adverb
- des·per·ate·ness noun

I'm annoyed by the seemingly endless articles and news programs that presume to explain what drives immigrants to the U.S. "Oh, they just want to suck Medicaid dry." "Well, it is the draw of the education system." "They want to take jobs from American workers."


Do they really think a mother is going to allow her child to be transported inside the trunk of a car for the chance at better schooling?

Do they see American workers lined up to clean 15 flithy hotel rooms in an 8 hr shift? Or suburban moms streaming into Burger King in the hopes that they will get to work 40 hours a week on the grill and fryers?

Oh, sure, they could find a handful of folks filled with adventure and bravado to serve as the poster children for their viewpoint, but for every one they find, I can find 500 for whom the converse is true.

People immigrate illegally because they are truly desperate. And this is true the world around.

Findings in the desert near Sonora

Chinese stowaways caught in Seattle

African Illegal Immigrants Describe Trip

We sponsor those living in the dumps of far off lands, sifting through rubbish for food. Their pictures grace our abundantly filled refrigerators and we occasionally even remember to offer up a little prayer.

But heaven forbid that an impoverished person grows weary of their desperate situation and decide to immigrate *gasp* by whatever means possible.

Once here to gather the spoiling fruits of the American garden they are criminals. Then they do not deserve mercy. Pack 'em up and ship 'em out boys. The same way they came in.

Have mercy on us.

Posted by almamia at 8:44 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2006

the most vulnerable

Father and Son.jpg

Last Sunday, some friends and I were talking about the forced Mexican repatriation in 1930. The response of one father surprised me. He said, "If they've deported U.S. citizens in the past, they could do it again. We should send copies of our children's birth certificates to my mother in Mexico."

Unfortunately, fairly recent events demonstrate that it is more likely that parents would be deported and the children left behind. In a raid on July 26, 2005 in Arkadelphia, AK, nearly 100 children had one or both parents suddenly deported -- some children went for days without knowing what had happened. In another story from 2004, Virginia Feliz was left behind when her mother was deported in April of the previous year. While this is one of the risks that undocumented immigrants live with every day, few prepare a plan, thus leaving the children vulnerable.

As churches and individuals, we need to acknowledge that parents place their families at risk when living here as undocumented immigrants. In the case of deportation, they need to have a plan in place -- so that they are not hastily making arrangements for their children or letting that task fall to Social Services. They also need to be prepared to tell the truth gently to their children in the case of deportation proceedings -- not a "white lie" like Virginia's parents did. Since I could find nothing online that addresses this situation, I've come up with a few steps(mostly advice all parents should follow even if deportation isn't a risk):

1. All parents should have local emergency contacts. This contact should be extremely trustworthy and should be a legal resident or U.S. citizen. Be sure your children's schools and daycare providers have this person's contact information -- and update that information as phone numbers and addresses change.
2. The emergency contact should have documented authorization to seek medical attention for the children and to keep the children in his/her custody until arrangements can be made to relocate the children with the parent or with long-term guardians. Both the emergency contact and long-term guardian(s) should have notarized copies of a form authorizing Temporary Guardianship of a Minor Child. (Click here for a sample form found on the internet).
3. The emergency contact should have complete information on how to contact long-term guardians (as this could be a family member who lives in another state).
4. The emergency contact should have a spare key to the home and know where to find important documents: birth certificates, social security cards; passports; insurance cards; vaccination records; doctor's information; and contact information for family/parents in the home country.
5. Parents may wish to prepare other items such as letters, pictures, recordings, and other items that would bring comfort in case of separation.
6. Conversations regarding a worst-case-scenario should not take place in the children's presence.
7. Think through how to tell the children in a gentle, but truthful way about the situation.

Remember that the reasons for immigration are just as complex as the solutions. Until good solutions are in place, we need to encourage parents to take proactive precautions to provide the best protection for their little ones.

If anyone comes across any helpful information or has additional advice, please email me or post it as a comment.

Posted by almamia at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)