October 26, 2006

*sigh* the rule of law

This year the GOP mantra has been "the rule of law, the rule of law, the rule of law." People are expected, by the GOP, to abide strictly by the "rule of law" no matter their desperation or need (to which unjust laws have certainly contributed). But anyone watching Colorado's gubernatorial race has seen the contradiction in recent headlines.

GOP candidate Bob Beauprez' campaign is under FBI investigation for material in a campaign ad that could only have been accessed through a national law enforcement database by an authorized law enforcement officer for non-law enforcement purposes. Rather than supporting the rule of law over the informant, Beauprez has touted him as a courageous whistleblower.

You see, Bob wants it both ways. Here is a quote taken directly from his website -- in regard to "illegal immigration".

In fact, the rule of law--the idea that whether you are rich or poor, powerful or famous--you are subject to respect and abide by the law, just like everyone else (emphasis added). And the rule of law--that contract that we all enter into as citizens--is what distinguishes America from the rest of the world. If we send the message that the rule of law no longer matters in America, we risk losing the very essence of who we are as a nation, what has made us a beacon of hope to those that seek freedom throughout the world. Source: Bob Beauprez' official campaign website

Yet a recent Rocky Mountain News article shows us that Bob doesn't mean really mean everyone must "respect and abide by the law":

Bob Beauprez described the federal law enforcement agent suspected of leaking confidential FBI data to his gubernatorial campaign as a courageous "whistleblower," outraged by his Democratic opponent Bill Ritter's plea-bargains for immigrant offenders as Denver district attorney.

At a press conference today, Beauprez said the agent was justified in breaking the law to exposed Ritter's "obscenely lenient" practice of allowing immigrant drug traffickers to plead to felony trespass on farm land, which the congressman claims allowed them to avoid deportation.

"Our source, in my opinion, performed a great act of courage and public service in bringing this story to the public domain," Beauprez said.

The next day Mike Littwin had this absolutely brilliant commentary on the whole ugly scene:

In the shocking news development of the day: Apparently, it's OK with Bob "Black Hat" Beauprez if you break the law.


The man who would be your governor - the state's lawman-in-chief - says law-breaking is more than OK with him. It's fine with him. It's dandy with him. In fact, you can be his personal hero if you do it.

Not always, presumably. Not, say, if you're an "alien " - even a whistle-blowing "alien."

From what I was able to learn at Beauprez's please-stop-the-bleeding news conference Friday, to qualify as a heroic law-breaker, you have to be an American citizen and have a "belly-full." You have to be "fed up." It's the Alka-Seltzer defense.

And you have to come to his people with possibly illegally procured information - don't worry, no one at the Beauprez campaign will even ask - but only when the Beauprez campaign is 15 points down in the polls and especially desperate.

Well, Beauprez didn't say anything about being desperate Friday, although he could have.

He also didn't say he hopes Cory Voorhis, the ICE agent reportedly at the center of the investigation, broke the law in Denver, so at least he could plea down to ag trespass.

And he didn't say anything about moral relativism or how many other laws you can break heroically. And whether it's legal now for federal agents to torture you for it.

What he said instead was that it was all Bill Ritter's fault. Yes, Ritter's fault for exposing the fact that the Beauprez campaign may have come upon information illegally. (Follow the logic: Beauprez bashes Ritter for blowing the whistle on someone Beauprez claims heroically blew the whistle.)

It's strange, this sudden tolerance for lawbreaking, because Beauprez's entire campaign has been built around his contention that ex-DA Bill Ritter lives to put criminals back on the street - like someone, say, who illegally hacked into a federal database.

At the news conference, I asked Beauprez if he really thought that the guy was a hero if he broke the law to provide information for a political attack ad.

Q: "Do you still find him a hero whether he broke the law (or not)?"

A: "I think he did the right thing."

Even if the broke the law?

"I think he did the right thing."

Now, I'm not saying anyone broke the law. No one has been charged with anything. But I am saying Bill Owens put the CBI on the case, and the CBI brought in the FBI. And I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere the NSA is listening in.

And I'm saying there are heroes and there are heroes. And this guy got to be Beauprez's hero having a belly-full about a case that's three years old - which is a long time to nurse an upset stomach - and got that belly feeling better only by helping with a last-minute attack ad.

There are those who will accuse me of hypocrisy for hammering Beauprez. It's the press after all that loves to print leaked material and then insist on the right to protect sources.

I would protect a source. And like reporters I know, I might even go to jail to protect a source, although it's not, I admit, my first choice. I prefer accommodations with 24-hour room service.

I had to laugh, though, to hear Beauprez actually comparing himself to Judy Miller, who spent nearly three months in jail. Beauprez, by the way, has never mentioned the possibility of him actually doing any time.

Beauprez did, however, say the source might have to face the music. He also heroically put responsibility for meeting with the source onto his 28-year-old campaign manager, John Marshall, who may not see the humor two to five years from now.

I'm not sure how exactly you get to be heroic for disingenuously attacking plea bargains. Or for charging a 12-year DA with being soft on crime when everyone knows you become a prosecutor to put bad guys away. It's like accusing a firefighter of not wanting to put out fires.

It's a feeble attack, but it's the best Beauprez has. And, at the news conference, he says this controversy is really about revealing Ritter's "dirty little secret."

Here's the real dirty little secret: It's almost impossible for any Republican to be running 15 points behind against a Democrat with no legislative experience, who is himself running an unexciting, take-no-risks campaign that basically comes to this: I'm not Bob Beauprez and he is.

And, in case you had any doubts, here's the latest boffo ad from the Beauprez campaign: Beauprez is wearing, stunningly, a black hat. Wearing the black hat, he is standing on the wrong end of a horse, saying - and, remember, the ad appears just as this scandal has broken - "There's that smell again."

Hold your noses. Because there's something, finally, we can all agree on.

And now you know just what xenophobia smells like.

Posted by almamia at 9:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2006

respect for english language learners

In my time floundering around teaching adult ESL classes, I learned a couple things: 1) Attending ESL classes is like making regular visits to the gym -- everybody wants to do it, but few darken the doorstep more than a few times, and 2) as with fitness, adults who stick with a plan -- at work, in a class, or at home -- deserve tremendous respect.

It is a tough, uphill climb.

In yesterday's Houston Chronicle, an excellent article explored the challenges faced by adult English language learners.

"Many immigrants don't speak English, but it's not because they are lazy or don't want to learn it or want to make everyone else speak Spanish or Vietnamese. They just have other priorities like providing for their basic needs," says Nelson Reyes, executive director of the Gulfton Area Neighborhood Organization.

I've asked myself, why do some succeed while others don't? I think of some I've known to succeed (not all have been my students):

I think of my mother-in-law who learned over the years by watching cartoons with the kids and grandkids, listening to English-language radio and laughing at her mistakes (she still won't say sabana (sheet) in English -- for fear of cursing).

Of Angel who told his boss about my ESL class -- resulting in the boss taking him under his wing -- and teaching him English on the job.

Of Carol who has attended classes on and off for years at her local library -- and is now in the advanced course.

And of Neilys who stuck with my class, faithfully did her homework and used English whenever possible -- she now works as a Wal-Mart cashier interacting with the public every day.

Why did they succeed? Natural ability? Persistence over time? Supportive family and community? Asking questions? Great curriculum? Teacher competence? Fearlessness?

I'm so proud of those who have succeeded, but also concerned about those that haven't. Did I in any way contribute to their discouragement? Did they feel that they couldn't succeed in my class. I confess that I most enjoy teaching those with high literacy levels (some high school or greater). It is hard for me to effectively teach those with lower literacy levels -- not because of an inability to learn, but rather, because of my struggles to teach without relying on text.

Perhaps it is my very framework of teaching that needs to change. Maybe it isn't about transmitting information and more about leading the students on an exploration...

...so where does the teacher go to learn?

Posted by almamia at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2006

white, republican, suburban male with no college degree

So this morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and the laptop to check the daily headlines.

Top on the list was an article in the Rocky Mountain News reporting on a poll it had conducted with CBS 4 Denver on the immigration issue. The poll really didn't shed any new light on anything for me... It found that "Nearly two of every three Colorado voters think illegal immigrants should be allowed to become U.S. citizens if they pay taxes, learn English and meet other requirements" and that "Only 15 percent of those polled favor mass deportations."

That "there's a silent majority that is supportive of a more middle-ground approach."

That "illegal immigration remains a top concern among the state's voters and will be a key issue in the governor's race." (one reason Bill Ritter is getting my vote).

That Bob Beauprez will need to "take advantage of the issue", yet as he raises the issue will "have to defend his record in Congress on this issue." (one reason he is not getting my vote)

That "Voters clearly see that there's more to do on this issue."

And that "61 percent said they support an earned citizenship approach, allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country and eventually become citizens if they meet certain requirements."

Yada yada yada. We already know this.

But then buried deep into the otherwise unenlightening article, they threw in this statistic: "The typical voter who listed illegal immigration as the top issue this election is a suburban, white, Republican man without a college degree."


Posted by almamia at 8:03 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2006

clergy denounce good ol' boy tancredo


Tom Tancredo (AP Wide World Photos)

Today's Rocky Mountain News reports that Denver Clergy have denounced Tancredo's appearance at a neo-confederate hate group event. (Full Article)

The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance and the Latino clergy group Confianza said they were outraged that Tancredo spoke at an event Saturday at the South Carolina State Museum where the Confederate flag reportedly was on the podium and Tancredo joined the crowd in singing the Southern anthem Dixie.

The controversy began when an anti-racism group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, posted an online article calling the gathering a "hate-group event."


Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa has accused the law center of intentionally fabricating facts to discredit the congressman. He acknowledged that there were Confederate flags in the room and said Tancredo joined in singing Dixie.

But, Espinosa said earlier this week, "These aren't racist people who spew out hate. These are just people remembering and cherishing their past."

That comment angered the Rev. Steven Dewberry of New Horizon Christian Community Ministries in Denver.

"To join in singing Dixie, (and) to walk into a room that has a huge Confederate flag in it, that should have been his notice to walk out," Dewberry said Thursday.

"Their past is our anguish, our slavery, our lynchings. It breaks our heart to think we still have some white brothers and sisters in (Tancredo's) district that agree with this wild behavior of his."

I found the Confederate Flags, singing of Dixie and Espinosa's comment that "These are just people remembering and cherishing their past" a little ironic and puzzling.

I could swear that NOTHING so gracious was stated when Tancredo was all worked up about the Mexican flags and Spanish language chants at the April and May immigration rallies.

Link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's report here. Additional details and commentary on Tancredo and the event can be found in the September 13th & 14th entries on Tancredo Watch.

Posted by almamia at 9:11 AM | Comments (0)

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 7, 2006

drugs, violence and corruption

This article in today's Houston Chronicle should shed some light on the immigration issue for those scratching their heads and wondering why on earth folks from Mexico don't just "stay home".

By MARION LLOYD Houston Chronicle Foreign Service

MEXICO CITY — Masked gunmen burst into a nightclub early Wednesday and flung five human heads onto the dance floor in what was easily one of the most shocking incidents of drug violence in Mexico this year.


The gruesome episode brought to at least 13 the number of people decapitated so far this year in Michoacan, a normally tranquil state that has been drawn into a horrific, increasingly violent turf war between rival cartels.

Nationwide, drug violence this year has claimed a record 1,500 lives, including more than 300 in Michoacan, known for lush pine forests and the charming colonial cities of Morelia and Patzcuaro.

Federal authorities are alarmed.

''Mexico is witnessing extreme violence like we've never seen before," said Santiago Vasconcelos, the country's drug czar.


That is little comfort to residents. Even many of the police in Michoacan — 13 have been killed this year alone — are terrified.

''Any sane person would be scared," said Marco Antonio Gonzalez, mayor of the cattle town of Tepalcatepec, where four severed heads were recently found hanging on a roadside cross.

Interviewed at the town hall, he admitted he was considering fleeing with his wife and newborn baby. But, he added, "Where would we go?"


It's not just the frequency of the violence that frightens Mexicans. It's the brutality.

Traffickers' increasingly gruesome methods include: blowing their victims up with grenades, cutting them to pieces or chopping off their heads.

Gang members are also more brazen in choosing their targets. On Aug. 17, suspected hit men gunned down a federal judge. Judges, who are rarely attacked, are now demanding police protection.

Mexican officials say the violence is the result of their own success in beheading the nation's drug cartels.

''Their heads have been deactivated and put in a jar," Vasconcelos said in an interview.

In response, he says, traffickers are waging an internecine war for control of the drug routes and Mexico's increasingly lucrative domestic market.

''The criminal organizations have no way of reacting other than with violence," he said. ''And violence begets violence."


But for now, Michoacan must cope with the violence. With just 4 million residents, the state now ranks third in the number of victims behind Baja California and Tamaulipas, which borders Texas.

''Michoacan is looking like Medellin and Cali in the worst of times," said writer Homero Aridjis, a native of the state.


Narcotics officials point to Michoacan's strategic importance as a transshipment point for South American cocaine. After landing on the Pacific coast, the drugs are often trucked to Apatzingan, a bustling agricultural town two hours inland, then they are flown to points north from nearby Guadalajara. And the traffic is expected to grow with plans to convert the state's main coastal city, Lazaro Cardenas, into a major container port.

But there's another critical factor fueling the violence: Michoacan is the country's leading producer of crystal methamphetamines, or ice, which has been rising in popularity in the U.S.


The surrounding fertile region also has a long history of producing marijuana and poppies for making heroin, along with cotton, lemons and papayas.

These days, however, some locals are shunning agriculture in favor of the more profitable synthetic drug trade, Mexican officials say.

And signs of their prosperity are easy to spot. Some locals snap up Hummers at a dealership that recently opened outside Apatzingan. Others cruise through the town in gleaming pickups with tinted windows.

Some police officers can't help but join the action.

In August, 24 municipal police officers from Apatzingan were indicted on charges of conspiring with the powerful Gulf cartel, whose bloody rivalry with the Sinaloa cartel is blamed for much of the violence nationwide. The traffickers have also corrupted state and federal police, narcotics officials say.

''The only way to stop the violence in Michoacan would be to replace the entire police force at all levels," said a state intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''You can't imagine what a huge problem we have here." full article

Posted by almamia at 9:15 AM | Comments (0)

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)

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)

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 27, 2006

can't spell congress without a big con

The U.S. House Republican Conference has a new immigration page on its website.

I found it fascinating that they can't see their nose in front of their face... front and center on their immigration page:

Since 1995, the Republican Congress has dramatically increased spending on border security and immigration enforcement – from $1.2 billion to $12.7 billion – and more than doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, from 5,000 to 12,000. However, despite these improvements, illegal immigrants continue to flood across our borders and make their way into our country. It’s clear that we need a new approach to border security, and that’s exactly what House Republicans are working to provide.

House Republicans want strong border security legislation that the President can sign into law this year. We’re holding hearings and conducting site visits to talk to the people who deal firsthand with the problem of illegal immigration. This is not a time for half measures and band-aids – we are going to take the time to fully address this problem and give the American people the strong border security bill they deserve.

It is what immigration advocates have been saying all along... if any legislation was a failure it was the 1995 border security laws, not the 1986 amnesty laws. Amnesty in fact was a huge success. The 1995 Border Security measure a complete failure. Yet, the GOP insists on increasing those measures as a solution to the current immigration crisis.

First time shame on you. Second time shame on me.

November is coming.

In the meantime, maybe you can get into one of the GOP's upcoming "hearings" announced today. More hustle at taxpayer expense.

The House leadership is no longer trying to disguise their true motives: House Majority Leader John Boehner said, "We believe that these hearings will help strengthen our hand as we negotiate with our counterparts in the Senate and hopefully get a bill to the president some time this year." source

Strengthen our hand. Great. That's so humane.

Posted by almamia at 5:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2006

Yeah! What he said!

A lesson from history -- today in the Washington Post.

...the only way to gain control of the border -- is through reform of the kind championed by President Bush and the Senate that liberalizes our immigration law.

Liberalize to get control? No, it doesn't make sense at first blush. But this is the paradox at the heart of immigration reform. Yes, our existing law is inadequately enforced, both on the border and in the workplace. But one of the main reasons for this endemic failure is that the law itself is so unrealistically strict, so out of sync with our labor needs as to be -- like all unrealistic law -- practically unenforceable.

The best analogy is Prohibition: No matter what enforcement resources we threw at that unrealistic ban, we couldn't make it stick(emphasis mine). But realistic regulation of alcohol use is another matter entirely -- easily achieved with modest means, such as liquor licenses and import duties.

So, too, with immigration. As the law stands now, we admit only about two-thirds of the labor we need to keep our economy growing, and the additional third -- some 400,000 to 500,000 workers a year -- must get here some other way, illegally. No wonder the Border Patrol is overwhelmed.

The logic behind reform is that if you create a legal way for these now-illegal workers to come into the country you'll take the pressure off the border. After all, once we've filled every available job -- every job for which an employer can't find an American worker -- with an authorized immigrant, there should be little incentive for other foreigners to risk their lives making the trip. The bulk of those now coming illegally would enter lawfully and be processed on the way in, while the illegal traffic would slow to a trickle, far more easily turned back by the Border Patrol.

Posted by almamia at 10:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2006

republicans leak immigration spin

I came across this on the Migra Matters blog back in May. I had intended to post it then and somehow got off track. At that time, Duke had linked to a 25 page document of leaked Republican spin on immigration. He then wrote a comprehensive post analyzing the document in detail.

I actually had printed out the leaked document and was intrigued to recognize many of the "words that work" from interviews and articles I'd observed in the national news. It is sad that our politicians are being spoon fed such horrible policy without actually studying the issue themselves. I really hope you will take the time to read the entire document.

Here is an example of some of the leaked Republican "words that work" that I could swear I'd heard on a news interview (but couldn't track down which show):

“We need to say to those who commit crimes: ‘you’re out of here.’ We’re not going to fund you in jail, we’re not going to pay for your food, and we’re not going to allow you to work out on weights. We’re not going to pay for your cable television. You are gone. One strike and you are out of this country. We will deport you within 72 hours, and we will insist that the country of your origin take you and be responsible for you or it will have an impact on the trade we do with that country.”

Posted by almamia at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2006

evangelicals promote illegal immigration

Okay, well maybe it isn't "illegal" technically. They get legitimate visas under a false pretense.

Many evangelical churches and individuals support overseas missionaries who have settled in a country under pretext.

Let's just say that all I've known are now or have been in "Asia"

Without exception they do not receive mailings directly to them, all mail has to be screened. God, Christianity, Bible, etc are taboo words. Emails are encrypted and some have had to write with code words. They give the code to friends prior to leaving their homeland.

The real purpose of the mission is to spread the love of Jesus to nations where doing exactly that is ILLEGAL. Are they being "law-abiding" -- yes and no. But that's okay. And I'm fine with it.

But I'm also fine with the father who comes here out of desperation to feed his family, or the mother who follows him determined to keep the family united.

And that is where my practical theology parts with many evangelicals.

If I am asked to pray for someone who is "coming" to the States, I pray for God's protection over their lives and for the reunification of the family.

Many evangelicals (but not all) are living contradictions. Apparently they believe God's law takes precedent over the law in OTHER countries, just not in this one.

There is a misperception that the U.S. laws are already consistent with God's laws. And I just don't get it.

Posted by almamia at 4:36 PM | Comments (1)

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 10, 2006

hatred toward immigrants swells kkk ranks

This in the Rocky Mountain News today:

The International Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan said Monday that the immigration debate has boosted membership, including a chapter in Olathe, a town of 1,500 on Colorado's western slope.
Railton Loy, the self-identified International Imperial Wizard, said the Klan chapter in Olathe was formed about four years ago and invited him to speak at an anti-immigration rally on the Montrose County Courthouse steps about a year and a half ago. He said the chapter was small and couldn't raise enough money to pay his expenses, so he put off the trip.

"It's just a little klavern," he said.

To form a klavern, or KKK chapter, at least 15 members are required, he said.

Olathe Mayor Wayne Blair said the town heard about the klan chapter last month, but hasn't been able to identify a single member although the group does have a post office box in town.

The KKK website has a map with chapters around the country, including one in Olathe. source

Posted by almamia at 9:46 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)

June 1, 2006

pardon me, where's the line?

What? No line?

On May 27th, Migra Matters linked to the leaked Republican document which is essentially a cheat-sheet of spin on the immigration issue. When I read the document, I immediately started scouring the internet, certain that I'd already read some of the nearly-exact phrasing from Republican Senators. (I've yet to find the particular article I recall, but when I do, I will post it.)

Now today a great post. If you really want to talk intelligibly about the immigration debate, this is absolutely essential reading. It will reveal the truth about the fabled "line".

By my calculations, if the "line" forming in Mexico continues to move at its current pace, the whole process will only take a mere 250,000 years to reach those currently "at" the rear.

Surely that isn't too much to ask of a man desperate to feed his children.

Posted by almamia at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2006

this could be more effective than writing senators

I've been keeping an eye on a couple new sites over the past month or so. The first is matt.org which stands for Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together. Some creative things are happening there including surveys;, articles and videos about Matt in the news; and information on a bilateral immigration forum to be held next week. Matt.org is a fully bilingual site, so encourage any monolingual Spanish-speakers to express their views on it.

The second is the I Am A Proud American campaign. This campaign, in its early stages is gaining momentum and has developed a radio ad along with encouraging voter registration.

Posted by almamia at 1:09 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2006

i'll take this over a wall any day

Check out the excellent post on Migra Matters. Here is a taste...

What if could we set up something independent of elected government, something similar to the way the Federal Reserve is set up? An independent panel to set the immigration levels, how many of each visa class to issue each year, how many green cards etc.

Think about it this way ... if we let elected officials set the fed interest rates they'd be 0% in election years, and 30% in off years, that's why they can't be trusted to do it. The same should be true with immigration. Between pressure from big business, the natural tendency of politicians to pander for votes and other political calculations, we would be better off if the basic nuts and bolts of immigration were handled by those whose only concern is both the well being of ALL the American people and the immigrants that want to join them.

Talk about reform! And for more discussion with those seeking workable solutions, check out www.matt.org which stands for Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together.

Posted by almamia at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2006

intimidation campaigns

Businesses with significant Hispanic immigrant clientele have been the targets of a canvassing campaign in Denver's north metro area. Friends arrived early one morning to find a flier taped to the door of their tortilleria. Considering the business is open from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. Monday through Friday; 7 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturday and 7 A.M. to 3 P.M. on Sunday, you would think the info-thugs could have managed to come to the store at a time when they could held a personal dialogue with the owners regarding their concerns.

In spite of the flier's official looking formatting, the purpose was clearly one of intimidation:

Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements

SAVE Program

This is an urgent message from the citizens of the United States of America

It has come to our attention that many employers are hiring illegal alien labor. It is our duty to inform you that if you have employees of illegal migrant status, that you are, as of right now committing a Federal Crime (US Code TITLE 8, Chapter 12, Sub. 2, Part 9, 1234a).

Many employers may not be aware that their employee's documents are FRAUDULENT. Illegal Aliens who present false I.D. to you are guilty of a FELONY. The sophistication of the documents is such that it could be difficult to identify the fake ones.

We are giving you notice NOW, before your business incurs costly fines, confiscation of property and audits from the Federal and State governments. Not to mention the shame and loss of clientele that could come with public exposure of illegal hiring practices.

We are therefore urging ALL businesses conducted within the US borders to immediately begin to implement the S.A.V.E. (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) program. Under the Basic Pilot Program, employers can easily verify document claims for future hires. The program is FREE and available in all 50 states.

US citizens and legal residents are becoming frustrated with the amount of illegal labor they are witnessing in this country. In the near future, do not be surprised if customers begin to inquire whether or not you are VERIFYING the immigration status of your hires! As more and more people become aware of this simple government program, there will no longer be an excuse for "accidentally" hiring those who are unlawfully here. Here is the information you need to protect your business.

The process is VERY simple
SAVE: 1-888-464-4218
Register online: http://uscis.gov/graphics/services/SAVE.htm#tw

The SAVE program is actually geared for government offices, but it does have a pilot program for employers. Here is the official description:

The SAVE Program enables Federal, state, and local government agencies and licensing bureaus to obtain immigration status information they need in order to determine a non-citizen applicant's eligibility for many public benefits. The SAVE Program also administers employment verification pilot programs that enable employers to quickly and easily verify the work authorization of their newly hired employees.

Under our current laws, all employers have to do is make a reasonable effort to review documents at the time of hire. They can't even fire someone if notified of discrepencies with their SSN. SAFE allows them a further verification after the time of hire and participation in the program is probably helpful should the company's practices ever come into review. It is voluntary and participants can choose to leave the program if it isn't a good fit for them. Here are the FAQs regarding the Employer Pilots:

Q. How do I join the Basic Pilot Program?

Answer: Employers interested in joining the Basic Pilot Program must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. On July 7, 2004, the SAVE Program began offering a Web-Based Access Method for the Basic Pilot. To register and complete a MOU for participation in the Basic Pilot go to https://www.vis-dhs.com/EmployerRegistration, and follow the instructions.

Q. How much does it cost to participate in the Basic Pilot Program?

Answer: There is no charge to the employer. The government provides the verification services at no cost to employers.

Q. What equipment is needed to participate in the Basic Pilot?

Answer: You will need a personal computer with access to the Internet.

Q. What are the advantages for employers to volunteer to participate in the Basic Pilot Program?

Answer: The Basic Pilot removes the guesswork from document review during the Form I-9 process; it allows the employer to confirm the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees; it improves the accuracy of wage and tax reporting; and it protects jobs for authorized workers.

Q. Can I verify the work eligibility of all employees in my company?

Answer: No, you may only verify the employment eligibility of employees hired after you signed the MOU.

Q. When would I perform a verification query?

Answer: You would perform the automated employment verification query after an employee has been hired, and the Form I-9 process complete. This automated query must be initiated within 3 business days of hire. It is important to remember that the system may not be used to pre-screen an applicant for employment.

Q. Does participation in a pilot program eliminate the requirement of completing a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form?

Answer: No, Form I-9 requirements remain the same with the exception that all "List B" identity documents must contain a photograph.

Q. Can I use the system to re-verify the employment eligibility of an employee whose employment eligibility document has expired?

Answer: No, the system should not be used to re-verify employment eligibility. You would follow the procedures currently in place by completing Section 3 of the Form I-9.

Q. Have steps been taken to safeguard individual privacy in connection with the pilot programs?

Answer: Yes. The pilots are designed with safeguards to ensure that employer and employee information is protected.

Q. If I join the program, am I obligated to participate in the pilot until it ends?

Answer: No, if you join the program and decide that the pilot is not what you wanted or expected, you may drop out of the pilot. You would do this by sending written notice to the SAVE Program that you no longer want to participate in the pilot and give a brief explanation as to why.

Posted by almamia at 11:13 AM | Comments (1)

May 4, 2006

pay no attention to the cartel behind the curtain...

Talk to folks from Madera, Chihuahua in Mexico and you will learn that the police warn the drug dealers prior to any federal raids... the city is squeaky clean by the time the raid gets there. The police wear far more jewelry and fine clothes than should be afforded on their meager state salary. Where do the funds come from? I'll give you a hint... it starts with Car and ends with tel.

I met a gal last year whose husband had worked as a police officer in Mexico. She told me that she had prayed for a chance to come to the States because she knew her husband could not be a police officer and a Christian.

Although the Mexican police force is corrupt through and through, there are some good guys fighting hard... and at times paying for it with their lives. In Acapulco on April 20th, the heads of Commander Mario Nunez and Officer Jose Alberto Ibarra, were placed outside government offices along with a sign that read, "so that you learn some respect." Their bodies were found later. One report reads:

The killings came a day after Guerrero state Governor Zeferino Torreblanca awarded Acapulco police 32 million pesos ($2.9 million) to buy guns, vehicles, and uniforms as part of a statewide crime-fighting package.

In Guerrero, heavily armed enforcers for the Gulf cartel, dubbed the ''Zetas," are battling a group known as the ''Pelones," or ''Baldies," loyal to a drug gang from the western state of Sinaloa.

Newspapers reported that the two murdered policemen belonged to a rapid response team that was involved in a shoot-out with a heavily armed drug gang in the La Garita district in January, in which four drug traffickers died.

More than a dozen people have been gunned down in attacks attributed to organized crime in Acapulco this year.

Earlier this month, five people were injured in a grenade attack in the city.

In January 2005, Mexican President Vicente Fox declared an all-out war on drug gangs. Since then, more than 1,500 people have been shot, beaten, or suffocated to death by the drug gangs.

So last year Fox declared an all-out war on drug gangs, but now he is legalizing drug possession in small amounts. hmmm. The most curious quote I read is this:

Proponents note that current Mexican law already allows [drug] charges to be dropped if a person can prove that he or she is an addict.

I'd swim the widest ocean and climb the highest mountain to get my kids out of there too.

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

April 30, 2006

t-shirt designs

Since pro-immigration t-shirts are a little hard to come by around here and I don't have time to order any online, I am going to make my own -- DIY style -- with my computer and iron. Here are my designs (art is royalty-free).

immigration tees - welcome.jpg

immigration tees - bienvenidos.jpg

immigration tees - pro.jpg

immigration tees - scripture.jpg

immigration tees - take note.jpg

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

April 29, 2006

do the math

T. Don Hutto Correctional Center in Taylor, TX has been renovated to house families of undocumented immigrants (non-Mexican) until they can be deported to their home countries. In this report and video, it is said that the Center could house up to 600 families. Other reports have said 600 individuals. The county will receive $1,000 per day for each immigrant housed.

So lets go with the low figure... 600 people (instead of families) x $1,000 x 365 = 219 MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR to house immigrants who pose the absolute lowest security risk to our country.

That's right. Let our most violent criminals roam the streets, but be sure to lock up all the hardworking families escaping impoverished conditions. Brilliant.

I just can't wait to see the pictures these little ones draw of their new "home". Yet Focus on the Family and other Family groups say the immigration issue "lies beyond the scope of their agenda". article

To truly be pro-life and pro-family is to be pro-immigrant.

Posted by almamia at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2006

this is a must read

on the increasing violence and racism directed at those advocating for immigrants and the immigrants themselves. Click here.

Posted by almamia at 10:13 AM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2006

internment camps "temporary immigration detention centers"

While it looks like Frist is going to keep immigration reform on the agenda, and I agree that some sort of appropriations have to be passed in order for a reform bill to get through, I'm getting the willies over the "construction of detention facilities" part. Perhaps because a Haliburton subsidiary was awarded the contract for such centers months ago. Internment camps anyone?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Majority Leader Bill Frist intends to seek Senate passage of immigration legislation by Memorial Day, hoping to revive a bill that tightens border security and gives millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, Republican leadership aides said Friday. In a gesture to conservative critics of the measure, Frist and other Republicans also intend to seek roughly $2 billion in immediate additional spending for border protection. The aides said the money would allow for training of Border Patrol agents, construction of detention facilities for immigrants caught entering the country illegally, the purchase of helicopters and surveillance aircraft and construction of a fence in high-traffic areas. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt a formal announcement. full article
The Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract worth up to $385 million for building temporary immigration detention centers to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary that has been criticized for overcharging the Pentagon for its work in Iraq. KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space, company executives said. KBR, which announced the contract last month, had a similar contract with immigration agencies from 2000 to last year. full article

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

April 20, 2006

1,187 immigrants arrested yesterday

Yesterday, DHS conducted a massive raid on IFCO Systems. The raid encompassed 26 states and 1,187 undocumented workers were arrested. A plant in Commerce City, CO, where 38 workers were arrested, was among those raided. My heart goes out to the families affected by this, however, not to the executives and managers who will face stiff penalties. They face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each undocumented worker. ($250,000 x 1,187 = $296,750,000 -- just 199,150,000 less than the company's generated revenue for 2004. source)

New York State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett said, “It is disturbing that there are businesspeople who have decided to exploit illegal aliens for the sole purpose of their own financial gain. Compounding the issue is the fact that corporation officials also engaged in tactics to obtain false identifications; instructed illegal aliens on how to avoid detection by law enforcement officials; and, practiced deception with government agencies regarding the true identifications of the workers.” source

This brought to mind again how important it is for all parents (documented or undocumented) to have an emergency plan in place for their children. I blogged about this last week. I am also glad to see the quick response in Indianapolis of those concerned for the children:

The sweep at IFCO Systems may have been the largest in the city for more than 10 years, according to a longtime advocate for immigrants. The Rev. Thomas Fox was among the activists who rushed to the federal office building near 10th and Illinois streets where detainees were being processed. "We're concerned mostly for the families," said Fox as he stood in front of the building. "It's causing a lot of fear and there are women and children who are afraid to come out."
The raids come less than two weeks after Fox and other advocates rallied 20,000 people to march in Downtown Indianapolis over proposals to reform the nation's immigration laws. Fox was joined Wednesday by at least two other activists outside the federal offices. Inside, Mexican Consul Lorena Alvarado tried to calm detainees. The raids were poorly timed, coming so close to the protest this month, Alvarado said, but assured the workers that the raid targeted IFCO Systems and not them. Alvarado planned a news conference today in an effort to ease fears in the Latino community. source

While the timing of this raid is raising many eyebrows (mine included), I place myself in the shoes of the investigators and think that if I had been working for a year to put together a solid case against this company, I might do the raid before legislation could pass too. Some activists are calling for President Bush to declare a moratorium on immigration enforcement while the issue is being debated in Congress.

To be honest with you, I think that is just about as silly as the Minutemen insisting Bush start building a fence. Do these people think we live in monarchy?!

Unfortunately, undocumented workers live in fear of raids everyday and are all too often taken advantage of by unscrupulous executives and managers. I feel sad for the workers and their families, but this is their reality right now.

My hope is that this raid will be an eye opener for those who would villify the immigrant. The contributing factors to the immigration crisis are complex. Which is exactly why we need a good, solid piece of comprehensive reform that won't be slapped together by backroom wheelers and dealers.

Watch raw video of the Houston raid from KHOU.

Posted by almamia at 3:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2006

have we forgotten our proudest moments?

It seems to me that the sum and the whole of the extreme right's argument against immigration reform is "Should we reward lawbreakers?" Few choose to accept responsibility for some of the United States' irresponsible involvements in other countries leading to their instability. Few choose to accept that they hold a double standard: they oppose illegal immigration while being addicted to the goods and services it provides. Few choose to accept that some of history's greatest moments have been created by those violating an unjust law.

the prophet Daniel

Sam Adams

Boston Tea Party

Thomas Jefferson and signers of the Declaration of Independence

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Mahatma Gandhi

Rosa Parks

Martin Luther King

One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted by almamia at 5:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 8, 2006

a question of pigment

Forced Mexican repatriation in the 1930s is a little known part of U.S. history. Many of the children forced to leave were actually U.S. citizens. The laws passed then are hauntingly similar to some of the dialogue now.

We must not watch in silence.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted by almamia at 9:11 PM | Comments (0)

pro-Immigration events

Check for a pro-immigration event coming to a city near you.

Wear a white shirt and carry an American flag.

Posted by almamia at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 3, 2006

receiving immigrants with dignity

Although I am in favor of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, last Friday, I suggested that immigration rates will not decline in the long run until the immigrant's homelands are more stable politically and economically. I think history bears this out. Consider the following excerpts about European immigration to Brazil and Argentina:

Dom Pedro II, the ruling Brazilian monarch, was a learned and cosmopolitan man, who abhorred slavery (it was abolished by an imperial decree in 1888) and who thought that Brazil would only achieve progress by bringing in more European immigrants. He thus strongly encouraged immigration from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, Middle East, Russia and other regions and countries which were exporting lots of their own people to the New World from 1860 on, due to the accumulation of political and economical crises in Europe. (emphasis not in original) At the same time, Brazil's economy, which was eminently agrarian (coffee, cotton, tobacco, rubber and sugar cane being the main crops) at the time, needed able laborers once slavery of black people was stopped. (Source)
The majority of immigrants, since the 19th century, came from Europe, mostly from Spain and Italy, but with a substantial influx of British and Germans. Also notable were Jewish immigrants escaping persecution. (emphasis not in original) Between 1860 and 1930, newcomers from Spain and Italy countries accounted for 80% of the total immigration. [1] The total population of Argentina rose from 4 million in 1895 to 7.9 million in 1914, and to 15.8 million in 1947; during this time the country was settled by 1.5 million Italians and 1.4 million Spaniards, as well as Poles, Russians, French (more than 100,000 each), Germans, Portuguese, Yugoslavians, Czechs, British, and people from many other countries. (Source)

My hope for our immigrant's is that their homelands will stabilize soon. In the meantime, let's receive our immigrants with all the dignity and respect they deserve as humankind.

Posted by almamia at 1:33 PM | Comments (0)

April 1, 2006

we just don't get it

Rally 1.jpg

This is a picture I took at Denver's Rally to protest HR 4437 on March 25. There has been a lot of backlash about the quantity of Mexican flags at the Denver rally, and others nationwide.

The thing is that mainstream America makes all sorts of associations when they see a flag... nationality, patriotism, form of government, etc. Some even feel threatened and call it an invasion, an insult, a conspiracy. But while Mexican immigrants dearly love their land and culture I can't think of any who love the Mexican government. But we just don't get that. The U.S. government has been stable for 200 years. Mexico has not enjoyed such stability.

That being said, a political protest is meant to send a message, but the flags are getting in the way.

If you plan to march on April 10, "National Day of Action," bring plenty of water, wear good shoes and don't forget the red, white and blue.

Posted by almamia at 9:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2006

bubble, bubble, toil and trouble

a pinch of protectionism, a dash of fear... that'll make our immigration troubles disappear!

As the Senate continues brewing the latest immigration reform potion, I'm left wondering about the end result. Will immigrants be given an opportunity to earn legalization? Will visa caps be structured to flux with labor demands? Will there be fewer deaths in the desert? At this point, I'm doubtful that anything will pass. And perhaps that's the best outcome we can hope for.

But let's allow our imaginations to run wild for a second and pretend the Senate and House will come up with fabulous immigration reform. Will it have a significant effect on immigration from Latin America? In the short term, probably. However, so long as the governments and economies in Latin America are unstable, I think immigration rates will remain the same.... and the U.S. hasn't always contributed to Latin American stability.

When was the last revolution in the U.S.? 200 years ago. When was the last revolution in Latin America? Oh wait, there's a new one brewing.

So blame it on the borders if you will, or maybe it is just the chickens coming home to roost.

Posted by almamia at 3:14 PM | Comments (1)