Weekly Diaspora: Texas Excludes Low-Income Latinos from Census, Expedites Visas for Wealthy Mexican Immigrants

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Newly released census figures show that the Latino population in the United States surged by 43 percent in the last 10 years, comprising 50 million people. According to New America Media’s Nina Martin, this marks the first decade since the 1960s when the number of Latino births exceeded the number of immigrants. But, the this increase notwithstanding, it seems that a sizable portion of the Latino population may not have been counted at all.

As Claudio Rowe reports at Equal Voice Newspaper / New America Media, officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, are planning to sue the federal government for failing to count as many as 300,000 Texas residents living along the U.S.-Mexico border. The residents, most of whom live in unincorporated subdivisions called colonias, are predominately U.S.-born Latinos (65 percent). Though community organizers spent months preparing families to participate in the census, the federal government failed to mail census forms to 95 percent of colonia residents—allegedly deeming them “hard to count.” The omission could lose the state tens of millions of dollars in social services funding over the next decade.

But that’s not all, as Rowe explains:

Aside from money, census undercounts can drastically affect political representation by triggering the redrawing of electoral districts. So across the nation, inaccurate population figures could affect elections for thousands of government offices over the next 10 years – everything from school board members to state representatives.

Texas redistricting discounts Latino population

In large part because of high Latino population growth, in fact, Texas is set to gain four new congressional districts—and the battle over their geographic make-up has already begun, despite the likely exclusion of several hundred thousand Texans.

Patrick Brendel of The American Independent notes that, while U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith (R) and Joe Barton (R) feud over whether the new districts should favor a particular political party, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) has filed a redistricting lawsuit against state leaders, alleging “that the population numbers being used for the State’s 2011 redistricting process “severely undercounts Latinos.” MALC’s petition adds:

“The creation of redistricting plans for Texas election districts using the defective 2010 census data discriminates against Latino voters and is not legally enforceable.”

Opponents argue that non-citizens shouldn’t be included in the census at all, because redrawing political districts to accommodate undocumented populations dilutes the voting power of actual citizens. How the U.S.-born colonia residents who were excluded from this census fit into that schema, however, remains unclear.

The whole debacle does elucidate one important point, though: Low-income Latinos and undocumented migrants are similarly marginalized by both state and local governments—regardless of their citizenship status.

Texas welcomes wealthy Mexican immigrants, rejects working class undocumented

At the Texas Observer, Melissa Del Bosque reinforces that point when she notes that, while U.S. immigration policy has grown increasingly hostile towards Mexican immigrants in general, the government has been remarkably accommodating toward wealthy Mexican immigrants. She reports that Texas border cities are doing everything they can to encourage Mexican investment in the state, even brokering deals with the federal government to expedite visas for wealthy investors eager to flee Mexico’s security crisis:

“If you are in Mexico City you would call Progreso Bridge and say, this is our credit card number, this is our plane, this is who is on it,” Hernan Gonzalez, the Weslaco EDC executive director, told the McAllen Monitor. “They would already be in a registry … and then the officers would come and clear you based upon when you are going to land.”

By contrast, only 2 percent of the 11,000 Mexicans who have sought asylum from cartel violence gained entry into the United States, according to the Texas Observer’s Susana Hayward. Del Bosque adds that “Mexicans who invest $500,000 or more in a company that creates at least 10 jobs can obtain U.S. residency in a matter of months,” thereby avoiding the growing immigration case backlog in the United States. (As of February 2011, the average waiting period for immigration cases was 467 days—a 44 percent increase since 2008.)

It’s a stark reminder that the escalating furor over immigration reform is as much about class as it is about race, nationality or culture.

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 Pulse: The Coming War on Health Reform, Government Cheese, and how CPCs Incubate Anti-Choice Violence

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Republicans don’t have the votes to repeal health care reform, but they are determined to use their newly-won control of the House to fight it every step of the way. Marilyn Werber Serafini gives Truthout readers a sneak-peek at the GOP playbook to attack healthcare reform in 2011.

Who are some of the top contenders in this coming battle? Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is a leading candidate to chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton is vowing, if elected chairman, to use the oversight powers of the committee to hold a flurry of hearings on alleged misconduct in the crafting of the Affordable Care Act. Barton plans to show that budget experts “covered up” the true projected costs of health care reform. In Barton’s world, the fact that there’s no evidence to support this allegation is all the more reason to investigate.

Other key players include James Gelfand, the director of health policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who has already compiled a wishlist of 31 investigations that he wants the newly Republican-controlled House to undertake. The Chamber spent millions to elect Republicans this cycle. Barton’s hearings will have to compete for political oxygen with those of Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), the chair apparent of the Investigations Committee, who is promising to gum up the works of government with at least to seven hearings a week for 40 weeks, a projected rate nearly triple that of his predecessor Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca).

Health care freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

If they can’t undo health reform in the corridors of Washington, conservatives are looking to the states and the federal courts. In The Nation, Nicholas Kusnetz reports on how a coalition of hard right groups are organizing against health care reform at the state level.

A group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is at the forefront of the drive to pass so-called “health care freedom acts” in the states to preemptively outlaw federal health reform before it can be implemented. ALEC claims to have filed or pre-filed bills in 38 states and passed 6 so far. Few expect these laws to stand up in court, if challenged, but they are part of ALEC’s long term strategy to fight health reform itself in the federal courts. A Virginia judge recently ruled that an ALEC-sponsored “freedom” law gave the state standing to challenge federal reform.

Kusnetz shows the close ties between ALEC officials and Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, and other Koch-Industries-funded conservative activist groups that are campaigning against health care reform in various capacities.

What about Medicare?

At the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen notes that many Republicans, including Senator-Elect Rand Paul (R-KY) successfully campaigned on a platform of repealing health care reform to save Medicare. Benen explains that repealing the Affordable Care Act would actually put Medicare in worse financial straights than staying the course. The Republican rhetoric of defending Medicare and railing against socialized medicine is a flagrant self-contradiction. It’s not hard to see which of these two projects they are more committed to.

As Brie Cadman points out at Change.org, the self-proclaimed “Young Guns” of the Republican Party are keen to privatize Medicare all together.

Government cheese: Corporate welfare edition

The USDA is scheming to make you eat more cheese. Tom Philpott of Grist explains how it works. Big Dairy produces more milk than Americans care to drink. Plus, consumers are increasingly demanding reduced-fat milk. That leaves a lot of milk left over to make cheese, but Americans aren’t eating enough cheese to make a dent in the national milk fat surplus.

Unsold milk fat could become a toxic asset on the books of Big Dairy. So, the USDA created a non-profit corporation called Dairy Management (DM) to convince fast food companies to spike their products with millions of tons more cheese every year. With the help of DM, Domino’s Pizza created a line of “Legend” pizzas with 40% more cheese. Who can forget the epic 2002 “Summer of Cheese” when DM teamed up with Pizza Hut to boost cheese consumption by an astonishing 102 million pounds? The average American now eats 33 pounds of cheese per year, three times as much as in 1970.

Officially, the USDA is supposed to help Americans eat better and support the agriculture industry. Cheese can be part of a healthy diet, but not in ever-increasing quantities. In practice, supporting the profits of Big Agra should not take precedence over preventing obesity or reducing the incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

CPCs: Incubators for anti-choice violence

In Ms. Magazine, Kathryn Joyce explores the shadowy world of “crisis pregnancy centers,” anti-choice ministries that pose as full-service reproductive health clinics, but offer no real health services. CPCs have a business model built on deceit. They seek to prevent abortions by tricking women seeking comprehensive reproductive health care, which might include abortion.

Activism rooted in such deceit and contempt for women’s autonomy can flare into violence. Joyce reveals that CPCs also serve as incubators for radical anti-choice activism. Radical groups like Operation Rescue encourage their supporters to volunteer. Scott Roeder, the assassin of Dr. George Tiller, got his start accosting women on the street outside abortion clinics as a volunteer “sidewalk counselor” for a crisis pregnancy center.

Just the presence of a CPC near an abortion clinic is correlated with increased violence against the clinic, as Joyce reports:

A recent survey by the Feminist Majority Foundation of women’s reproductive-health clinics nationwide found 32.7 percent of clinics located near a CPC experienced one or more incidents of severe violence, compared to only 11.3 percent of clinics not near a CPC. (Severe violence includes clinic blockades and invasions, bombings, arson, bombing and arson threats, death threats, chemical attacks, stalking, physical violence and gunfire.)

Doctors on the front line see the overlap between CPCs and more virulent forms of anti-choice activism every day. “[CPCs and violent anti-choice activists] have two different spheres,” OB-GYN Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the nation’s last remaining specialists in late-term abortions, told Joyce. “The underlying theory of both is never let the truth stand in the way of getting your point across. If you distort facts to women, there is no difference.”

Flip Benham’s slap on the wrist

One of the activists Joyce interviews in her piece is Rev. “Flip” Benham, director of Operation Save America/Operation Rescue. Robin Marty of RH Reality Check reports that Benham was found guilty of stalking an abortion provider and posting “Wanted” posters with the doctor’s picture on them, accusing him of being a baby killer. Benham was sentenced to 24 months probation.

In his defense, Benham claimed that this was a harmless gesture that never killed anyone. In fact, “wanted” posters for abortion doctors are a time-honored intimidation tactic that has been used repeatedly before the murders of abortion providers. Benham is deliberately cultivating a climate of fear and rage is conducive to violence.

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

 

 

Joe Barton funneling oil money to Republican candidates

Howie Klein wrote a must-read post at Down With Tyranny! about "a shady outfit called the Texas Freedom Fund":

If you've been following the news lately, you couldn't possibly have missed the dustup over Congress' most oily member, Joe Barton (R-TX). Turns out he's the sole owner of the Texas Freedom Fund and he uses it to funnel vast sums of cash from Big Oil executives and lobbyists into competitive campaigns around the country, particularly into campaigns where filthy oil money might prove embarrassing to the recipients. Now, keep in mind that Barton has taken more money from Big Oil than any other member of the House-- by far: $1,447,880, so far. And after his performance last week, apologizing to B.P. for being made to clean up their mess in the Gulf, there's every reason to believe that his own personal gusher will keep flowing strongly. As the Ranking Member of the House Energy Committee he is in a position to make sure the Oil Industry's agenda becomes official policy.

Click here to view a list of Republican members of Congress and Congressional candidates who have taken money from the Texas Freedom Fund this cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data. State bloggers should take a look and spread the word if Republicans in their area are taking oil money via Barton. British Petroleum's approval rating could hardly be lower, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

BP's Approval Rating In Context

This paragraph from NBC's Mark Murray might be the funniest thing I've seen all week. H/T 538's Twitter stream:

Indeed, the poll shows that only 6 percent have a favorable rating of BP. In the history of the NBC News/Journal poll, Saddam Hussein (3 percent), Fidel Castro (3 percent) and Yasser Arafat (4 percent) have had lower favorable scores, and O.J. Simpson (11 percent) and tobacco-maker Philip Morris (15 percent) have had higher ratings.

BTW, this is somewhat old news, but I wanted to make sure you saw that the always-reliable Rep. Steve King (R-IA) followed up his Obama-is-a-racist comments with a defense of BP, telling Laura Ingraham, "I think Joe Barton was spot-on when he called it a shakedown." So that's Reps. Barton, King, Bachman, Fleming, Nunes, the 100 members of the [House] Republican Study Committee, Sen. Cornyn, Senate candidate Paul, and commentator Limbaugh all claiming that BP shouldn't be held accountable for its mess. When the defenses are coming from that many corners, you know Rahm Emanuel was right to point out that this is the Republican governing philosophy, and the McConnells and Murkowskis lose credibility when they feign anger at the accusation.

If nothing else, the Republican defense of BP should put to rest criticism of Democrats as "the Mommy Party." It's the progressives, not the conservatives, who are looking at BP and saying, "Who do you think I am, your mother? Clean up this mess!"

Risky Business

“The first step in the risk management process is to acknowledge the reality of risk. Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” - Charles Tremper

Is it just me or have we entered a stage in American business life where corporations and in some cases entire industries have thrown risk management out the window and have decided that all risk is acceptable? There was a time when companies did a series of calculations where risk was measured against not just the corporate good but the societal good, but that time has passed. It has passed because as we have allowed corporations to undermine our political and regulatory bodies their exposure to risk has been greatly reduced not because of better management techniques or greater technological advances but by the corresponding greed of our elected officials. As more money has been deposited into the already murky waters of Washington and state capitals the American public has seen its share of risk underwriting increase in direct relation to the reduction of underwriting by corporations.

As the disaster in the Gulf continues to play out instead of having a real national referendum on the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy technology we are treated to elected officials apologizing to corporations for their having to pay for the worst natural disaster in American history. The sad part is that this was not some natural disaster that no one could foresee it was a calculated series of premeditated violations and oversights for the sake of cost cutting and profits. Once again Mr. Paul with all of your teabagging cronies we see what happens when corporate America is left to its own devices. According to Mr. Paul the free market will protect us from these types of disasters because it was not in BP’s interest to drill a hole in the bottom of the ocean that they could not plug up, just as it wasn’t in Goldman Sachs interest to market and purchase credit swaps and derivatives. The crazy part about the smaller government crowd is that even despite the massiveness of this disaster their lesson from this is that government doesn’t work because it can't plug up a hole in the bottom of the ocean? That's like the lesson from Vietnam was that we should have stayed longer.

What corporations have earned from all of that campaign cash and straight up bribes is that the new risk mitigation program is the American taxpayer. Bring the economy to the brink of another Great Depression, no problem the taxpayers will bail us out. Drill a giant hole in the bottom of the ocean, no problem the taxpayers will pay for it. Unless of course you have a gangster government from Chicago in charge that does shakedowns of poor innocent corporations who were just minding their own business when out of nowhere this giant hole appeared under their deep water drilling platform. So what does the Supreme Court decide? That we don’t have enough corporate money in the process let’s give them unlimited access to public officials.

The sad truth is that what we are watching is the same thing that other empires and cultures have witnessed during the days of their demise. It isn’t the American people who will bring about the final demise of America (although in a sense it will be but through apathy) it will be the greedy and immoral political and economic leaders. The same leaders who are willing to risk our long term future not only as a nation but as a species on this planet for their short term profit. It has always been the corrupt rulers of an empire or culture that has brought about the destruction of that empire or culture. The role that we play as citizens is that we become so apathetic and jaded that we quietly sit with our heads between our legs while the plane is crashing. Where is the uproar? Mr. Barton should have been tarred and feathered and ran out of Washington on a rail. Unfortunately for America it is going to take some greater disaster than this for us to finally realize that the cheap oil party is over. It will take gas going up to 5.00 a gallon and electricity prices doubling before we will take clean energy serious and demand that our political leaders pass real energy reform legislation.

Just like every other monumental change in American history it is never from the top down that things get done, it is always from the bottom up. There will be no good guy riding in with the white hat on the white horse to save us. As long as we continue to accept that Chevron is in the human energy business, that banks are in the rebuilding America business, and that corporations are our benevolent friends whom we could never survive without then we will continue to have messes like this to clean-up. We have to understand and accept that it is not the President’s job to get Mitch McConnell, Joe Barton, and the rest of the corporate apologists on board, it is our job. It’s not like the President is the only one who is elected in this country. We have an opportunity to change the debate and the direction of this country forever and that thought is scaring the hell out of all of the energy companies. Will we demand the future or will we continue to cling to the past? The choice is ours.

If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. - Dan Quayle

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