Weekly Diaspora: Obama Deploys Troops to Border Amid Rising Civil Disobedience

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he would be deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to beef up security along the Río Bravo. This surprise move has garnered criticism from immigrant rights supporters, who argue that it will dehumanize and endanger immigrant and Latino communities.

Julianne Hing at RaceWire offers more details on the plan, reporting that an extra $500 million has also been allocated to law enforcement along the border.

“Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week,” Hing writes. “But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border.”

With the militarization of the border there is a heightened sense of danger not only for immigrants, but also for residents. It’s happened before. Esequiel Hernández, a US citizen and high school student, was wrongfully killed by Marines 13 years ago, near the border in Texas after increased militarization.

The deportation race

Even more disheartening, John Morton, Assistant Secretary for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, boasted that deportations of undocumented immigrants had already increased by 40 percent this year alone, and were sure to surpass last year’s total of 400,000, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.

“At the same time, a breakdown of the deportation numbers makes it clear that it’s not just criminal immigrants that federal immigration officials are targeting,” Khimm  writes. “There’s been a small decrease in the number of non-criminal immigrants who’ve been deported, but they still make up a large majority of deportations.”

A storm of civil disobedience

In response to inaction on immigration reform and the increased enforcement, a civil disobedience campaign to pressure ICE and the White House to stop deportations continues. At the Real News Network, Jesse Freeston documents the growing civil disobedience relating to immigration reform, which at the beginning of the month included a 35 protesters sitting down “ in front of the White House fence, where they were eventually arrested. This included [Democratic] Congressman Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been heavily critical of the president’s inaction on these issues.”

Immigrant rights advocates in New York City demonstrated outside of Federal Plaza this week, with more than 35 people peacefully arrested. These demonstrations follow arrests in Washington DC, Seattle and Arizona for similar actions.

AlterNet notes that those arrested in New York included state assembly member Adriano Espaillat, City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, and dozens of other reform allies with unions, churches and community groups.

Consequences looming large

Make no mistake—there are political consequences for states like Arizona, where ultra right-wing politicians have passed a new laws targeting undocumented immigrants. As Steve Benen writes in the Washington Monthly, Latinos voters in Colorado and Arizona are quickly moving  to support Democratic candidates.

Benen reports that a new “NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows a similar trend at the national level, where ‘Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers.’”

‘Skin heads and Nazis’

On a different front, former Colorado Congressman and anti-immigrant polemic Tom Tancredo is apparently too radical for many anti-immigrant groups. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), a national right-wing group that has linked Latinos and immigrants to rapists and murders on its website, parted ways with the ex-lawmaker.

ALIPAC has pulled out of June 5 anti-immigration rally in Phoenix, citing Tancredo’s supposed connections to white power groups, according to John Tomasic at The Colorado Independent.

Tomasic writes that “[ALIPAC director] William Gheen, who has battled accusations of racist associations in the past, explained that he had raised concerns with Tancredo about event organizer Dan Smeriglio, an activist with long unabashed ties to ’skin heads and Nazis,’ as Gheen put it.”

Great power, many responsibilities

In light of increased enforcement, The Uptake has video of Obama explaining his position on immigration reform. “Government has a responsibility to secure the border and enforce laws,” Obama said. “Washington has an obligation to set clear, common-sense rules, including rules that no longer punish and divide families that are doing the right thing and following the law.”

But Yes! Magazine columnist Kety Esquivel cites different responsibilities. “If history has taught us anything, it is that once human rights are eroded—once we allow ourselves to overlook the humanity of certain groups of people—we have stepped onto a slippery slope,” she writes. “If no one stands up to the injustice, the erosion of human rights continues.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: What the #$@!, Arizona?

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

While federal lawmakers cautiously mull over the possibility of dropping a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year, legislators in Arizona have passed yet another law that criminalizes undocumented immigrants. What’s more, the Arizona House is advancing a bill that would require the Arizona Secretary of State to review President Barack Obama’s birth certificate before his name is allowed on any ballots.

The Arizona crackdown

Arizona lawmakers just passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighbourhood Act, which is arguably the toughest immigration law in the country. It forces local police to check the immigration status of people if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might be undocumented. The bill is an invitation to racially profile residents.

The bill, which now goes the states’ Republican Governor Jan Brewer for final approval, has sparked an organized campaign to defeat the measure over concerns that the bill is inhumane would discriminate against Latinos.

Valeria Fernández with the Inter Press Service reports on the bill, which “includes a number of provisions that go beyond authorizing the arrest of undocumented immigrants on ‘reasonable suspicion.’ It targets day laborers by making it a crime to look for work on the street, and would fine anyone who harbors or transports an undocumented immigrant, including family members.”

Outbreaks of civil disobedience have accompanied the bill. “On Tuesday, nine students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after they chained themselves to the entrance doors of the capitol building in an act of civil disobedience against the proposed law.” Fernández reports. “Authorities arrested them as soon as they said they wouldn’t leave until the governor took action on the law.”

John Tomasic with the Colorado Independent also notes that “On Capitol Hill, Prominent Latino Reps. Luis Gutierrez [(D-IL)] and Raul Grijalva [(D-AZ)]denounced Arizona’s controversial immigration bill and urged [Brewer] to veto the legislation. “

Eyes on Washington

While anti-immigrant legislation passes in Arizona, optimism for federal immigration reform this year is growing dimmer. While a proposal has already been introduced in the House of Representatives, the issue of citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants could be shelved indefinitely if a bill isn’t introduced in the Senate soon.

The Senate will need time to debate the issue, and if it isn’t introduced in the next few weeks, potential fallout from the upcoming Congressional elections may make passing reform even more difficult.

ALIPAC attacks

As Kai Wright notes over at RaceWire, the congressional debate is not off to a civil start. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the only Republican Senator openly working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, was verbally attacked by anti-immigrant groups this week.

“The rabidly anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has launched a campaign professing to out Graham as gay,” reports Wright. “In a speech to a Tea Party rally — which is making the web rounds via YouTube — the group’s leader, William Gheen, speculated that Graham’s being blackmailed into participating in immigration reform because of his ’secret.’ ‘I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it,’ Gheen said.

McCain veers right

Mother Jones reports that ALIPAC is also targeting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a lawmaker who co-sponsored a immigration reform bill in 2007 with the late Ted Kennedy. The 2007 bill didn’t pass, and since then McCain has backed away from vocally supporting reform now that he’s facing a primary challenge to his Senate seat.

“The motivation for McCain’s rightward shift is obvious,” Suzy Khimm writes. “The Arizona senator authored the Senate’s last comprehensive reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. His Tea Party-backed primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth, has attacked him relentlessly for doing so. Hayworth has been endorsed by [ALIPAC], a right wing anti-immigrant group that’s trying to stir up Tea Partiers to revive the conservative crusade against ‘amnesty.’”

Just this week, McCain introduced a bill in the Senate that would 3,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border, “an intervention that critics say would be both costly and ineffective,” according to Khimm. McCain also come out in support of Arizona’s news anti-immigration law.

But despite vicious attacks from the right, there is still hope. Immigration reform supporters are planning rallies in dozens of states on May 1 to keep pressure on the Senate to propose a bill. To organizers working on the ground to pass reform, Arizona exemplifies why the broken immigration system needs to be fixed on a national level, and now.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

 

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