The Safety of U.S.-Mexico Border

A major part of the reasoning for Arizona's alarming new law, S.B. 1070, is a presumed uptick in crime from undocumented immigrants.

Politicians, including a flip-flopping John McCain, have called for border security. McCain himself articulated, "complete the danged fence."

Turns out though, government data shows that the U.S.-Mexico border is quite safe.

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Weekly Diaspora: Thousands Protest SB1070; Arizona Gov. Braces for Lawsuits

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Over Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of people marched in Phoenix, AZ to protest SB1070, a law that immigrants to carry papers at all times and makes it possible for any police officer to detain on suspicion of immigration status alone.

At RaceWire, Jorge Rivas reports that “an official crowd estimate was not available for Saturday’s SB1070 protest,” but that “officials overheard on the police scanner estimated the crowd at about 30,000.” Marchers also demanded that President Barack Obama nullify SB1070 by means of a legal challenge from the Justice Department.

Phoenix has become well-known for its anti-immigrant hysteria. The city is part of Maricopa County, home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for racial profiling after targeting Latino neighborhoods and work sites for raids. The Sheriff has also garnered addition civil rights lawsuits and a pending investigation by the Justice Department relating to civil liberties violations in Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail.

Meanwhile, the fate of a comprehensive immigration reform bill is up in the air. The U.S. Senate is balking at the issue, even though reform proponents continue to participate in civil disobedience actions and marches.

Bring in the Justice Department

But there may be hope. Jessica Pieklo at Care2 writes that “It is becoming clearer and clearer that the only resolution to this issue will be a federal-state showdown, reminiscent of the ordered de-segretation of the South.” This week, unidentified Justice Department officials traveled to Phoenix to discuss SB1070, which be enforced on July 29th. They came to no consensus.

In response to the number of anticipated legal challenges against SB1070, not to mention mounting national pressure, Eric Lach reports for TPM Live Wire that Gov. Jan Brewer will “have outside counsel defend the state against legal challenges to the laws — not the state’s Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat and one of Brewer’s opponents in Arizona’s gubernatorial race.” The announcement came shortly after federal officials traveled to the state to discuss SB1070.

Cops against SB1070

Back at Care2, Pieklo also notes that SB1070 has polarized Arizona’s law enforcement community, with “Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some associations representing rank-and-file officers supporting it while a number of police chiefs have expressed growing unease with the law and see it as a means of driving a wedge between law enforcement and the Latino community, which represents approximately one in three legal Arizona residents.”

Where’s Congress?

The U.S. Senate has been notably absent from the immigration reform debate. Even though a reform proposal is already on the House floor, if the Senate doesn’t introduce a bill soon, immigration reform will likely fail this year. Despite two separate proposed drafts of plans for a bill in the Senate, nothing has been introduced officially. Even if a bill is introduced, the Senate still needs time to debate it, which makes for an uneasy race against the clock.

Immigration and elections

AlterNet reporter Michele Waslin examines the how the immigration issue has influenced recent electoral primaries. “For the last several years Congress has failed come up with a solution, despite the evidence that this is an important issue to their constituencies,” Waslin writes.

“Because Congress hasn’t acted and the problem isn’t resolving itself, some states and localities have taken action—some out of a genuine desire to fix the problem, and others to score political points. The newly passed law in Arizona and the various copycats are evidence that the states are not backing down.”

Currently, the chances that the Senate will have the gumption to take on a reform bill appear bleak, especially with a Congressional election in November.

‘We want common sense to rule’

Meanwhile, the White House’s decision to send 1,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border has drawn sharp criticism from border communities in Texas. Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz, who represents roughly 7,000 constituents along the Rio Grande,  lobbied against the troop deployment.

“Before Congress throws more money at the border, we’re asking them to take a step back and assess whether it’s working first,” Franz said in an interview with The Texas Observer. “We want common sense to rule. We don’t want wasteful spending, and we don’t need any more walls.”

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.

 

 

Arizona's SB1070 cannot answer what an undocumented immigrant looks like?

From Restore Fairness blog

After days of protests, petitions and phone calls, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 - Arizona's anti-immigrant and racist bill - into law. The news has hit hard as fears around racial profiling and civil rights violations become paramount. SB1070 gives police officers the powers to stop, detain and arrest anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is undocumented. It also allows people to be charged with harboring and transporting undocumented immigrants (which means if you have an undocumented immigrant with you in the car or at home, you could very well be in trouble) as well as gives police the power to arrest day laborers and those who hire them.

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Weekly Mulch: Cochabamba Summit to Combat Climate Change Innovatively

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

On Monday, climate activists, nonprofit leaders, and governmental officials will gather in Cochabamba, Bolivia, to look for new ideas to address climate change. The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, organized by leading social organizations like 350.0rg, “will advocate the right to “live well,” as opposed to the economic principle of uninterrupted growth,” as Inter Press Service explains.  In the absence of real leadership from the world’s governments, the conferees at Cochabamba are looking for solutions “committed to the rights of people and environment.”

The United States certainly isn’t stepping up. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), were supposed to release their climate legislation next week, just in time for Earth Day. But yesterday the word came down that the release was being pushed back by another week, to April 26.

No matter when it finally arrives, like other recent environmental initiatives, this round of climate legislation falls short. Even if Congress manages to pass a bill—and there’s no guarantee—it will likely leave plenty of room for the coal, oil, and gas industries to continue pouring carbon into the atmosphere. And a wimpy effort from Congress will hinder international work to limit carbon emissions: As a prime polluter, the United States needs to put forward a real plan for change.

Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman

Although the text of the bill is not public yet, it is likely that this attempt at Senate climate legislation will limit carbon emissions only among utilities and gradually phase in other sectors of the economy. On Democracy Now!, environmentalist Bill McKibben called the bill “an incredible accumulation of gifts to all the energy industries, in the hopes that they won’t provide too much opposition to what’s a very weak greenhouse gas pact.”

Climate reform began with a leaner idea, a cap-and-trade system that limited carbon emissions while encouraging innovation. The Nation’s editors document the transformation of climate reform from the Obama administration’s original cap-and-trade proposal to the behemoth tangle  it has become. Both the House and the Senate fattened their versions of climate legislation with treats for the energy industry. The Senate’s new idea to gradually expand emissions reduction through a bundle of energy bills only opens up more opportunities for influence.

“Some of these pieces of legislation may pass; others may fail; all are ripe for gaming by corporate lobbies,” the editors write. “Kerry-Lieberman-Graham would also skew subsidies in the wrong direction, throwing billions at “clean coal” technologies, nuclear power plants and offshore drilling, a questionable gambit favored by the Obama administration to garner support from Republicans and representatives from oil-, gas- and coal-producing states.”

Even with these goodies, the climate bill may not pass. The Washington Independent rounds up the D.C. players to watch as the next fight unfolds, including the Chamber of Commerce’s William Kovacs and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson.

Green leftovers

In theory, the climate bill should not be America’s only ride to a greener future. But the other vehicles for green change choked during start-up. The EPA was going to regulate carbon emissions, but Congress has reared against that effort. The climate bill could snatch away that power from the executive branch.

If companies won’t limit their carbon emissions, individuals still have the option for action. But as Heather Rogers explains in The Nation, carbon offsets, one of the most popular mechanisms for minimizing carbon use “are a dubious enterprise.”

“To begin with, they don’t cut greenhouse gases immediately but only over the life of a project, and that can take years–some tree-planting efforts need a century to do the work. And a project is effective only if it’s successfully followed through; trees can die or get cut down, unforeseen ecological destruction might be triggered or the projects may simply go unbuilt.”

The pull of carbon offsets should diminish as energy use in buildings, cars, food, and flights gains in efficiency and uses less carbon. But if the green jobs sector is any indication, that revolution has been slow in coming. ColorLines reports that “there are no firm numbers on how many newly trained green workers are still jobless. But stories abound of programs that turn out workers with new, promising skills—in solar panel installation and weatherization, in places like Seattle and Chicago—and who nonetheless can’t find jobs.”

Cochabamba’s unique approach

These failures and setbacks don’t just affect Americans; they keep our leaders from negotiating with their international peers. The United Nations led a conference last winter in Copenhagen that promised to hash out carbon limits, yet produced no binding agreement. This coming winter, the UN will try again in Mexico, but if the United States shows up with the scant plan put forward by Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman, those negotiations have little promise.

In Cochabamba, leaders from inside and outside the government will attend a summit to discuss the future of climate change action. In The Progressive, Teo Ballve writes that,

“One of the bolder ideas is the creation of a global climate justice tribunal that could serve as an enforcement mechanism. And conference participants are already working on a “Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights” meant to parallel the U.N.’s landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.”

With U.S. government action paling, it might take outside ideas like these to revitalize the push towards a green future. By the end of next week, we’ll see if the Cochabamba group made any more progress than the bigwigs at Copenhagen.

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

 

 

Weekly Mulch: Politics Confuse Public Perception of Climate Change

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Americans don’t know what to think about climate change anymore. A few years ago, the public more or less trusted the science that said human activity was raising global temperatures, but now that Congress and the Obama administration have hemmed and hawed about climate issues, we’re not longer so sure.

Forty-eight percent of Americans—more of us than ever before—believe that reports of global warming are “generally exaggerated,” according to a new Gallup poll. Climate science hasn’t changed, so it’s not crazy to look at these numbers and think that conservatives’ incessant critiques of climate change may be working.

A perfect political storm

These shifts in opinion started around 2008. Aaron Wiener at the Washington Independent argues that the politics of climate change are driving American opinions about the reality of global warming. The percentage of Americans willing to put the blame for climate change on humans is about equal to the percentage of Americans still behind President Barack Obama’s agenda, he notes.

“What was once a broad moral and scientific issue is now a centerpiece of the Democrats’ legislative agenda,” he writes.

Republicans have taken a political stand on climate change, too, one that reinforces the message that we can afford to ignore global warming. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum links the Gallup numbers to confusion about Copenhagen and to negative “Climategate” stories about a few climate scientists’ unprofessional emails.

But taking a wider view, Drum points out another big problem: “The Republican Party has largely decided that climate change simply doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax,” he says.

Green xenophobia

It’s also politically convenient for a party that throws a tantrum every time the president produces a policy idea. But in another corner of the right’s world, conservatives are eager to defend the country’s environment against the burden of immigration.

Jamilah King reports for ColorLines that Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), which is linked to a conservative anti-immigrant group, is warning that immigration “is pushing our country deeper into ecological deficit.”

King refutes this notion, citing reports that population and pollution are not directly linked. “In fact, newly arrived immigrants are probably among the most ecologically friendly folks around,” she writes. “They’re more likely to use public transportation and less likely to waste food.”

Impacts of climate change

Conservatives who’d prefer that immigrants stay on the other side of the border would do better to worry about Republicans’ studied blindness to climate change. Without action, global warming could send waves of people north, as places like Mexico grow warmer and can no longer support the same amount of agriculture.

Inter Press Service lays out some of the detrimental effects of climate change on poorer countries, particularly on the female half of the population. Women are more vulnerable to the natural disasters that accompany global warming, and the tasks that they take on, like collecting water and firewood, will grow harder as water becomes more scarce.

Overall, Thalif Deen reports, “The negative fallout from climate change is having a devastatingly lopsided impact on women compared to men.”

Slow Senate progress

The Senate is trying to move forward on climate change legislation. A key group of Senators met this week at the White House with President Obama, but coming out, the legislators had only “vague observations” to share about progress, according to Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard.

Part of the problem with the Senate’s process is that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) have already said that they’ll likely discard the sort of cap-and-trade provisions that the House bill used to regulate carbon emissions. From an environmental point of view, the Senate is getting close to doing nothing at all.

“It’s really clear that whatever attains 60 votes in the US Senate at this stage in the game is at best an extremely incremental step forward,” Gillian Caldwell, campaign director at the environmental group 1Sky, told Sheppard.

The new progressive energy

The Senate seems more eager, along with President Obama, to embrace nuclear energy as a climate solution.

“I happen to be one of the Senators who’s concerned about waste,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at a recent summit, reports TPMDC. “But most progressives in the Senate believe nuclear power is part of the solution at this time.”

“If we don’t expand nuclear power, there are going to be more coal plants and more oil plants,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) added. “Nuclear power has been accepted as part of the solution [to climate change] among progressives.”

Considering the political will the Senate has been able to muster behind climate legislation, one might as well believe that reports of global warming are “greatly exaggerated.” After all, you’d think that if there was a potentially catastrophic threat looming in the future, our elective representatives might want to, you know, do something about that.

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

 

 

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