Weekly Diaspora: Justice for Brisenia as Minutemen Leader Convicted of Murders

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Days after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit against the federal government for allegedly failing to protect the state from a Mexican “invasion,” the high-profile murder conviction of a Minutemen border vigilante underscores the state’s misguided border priorities.

Earlier this week, a jury found Shawna Forde—leader of the Minutemen American Defense (MAD)—guilty of murdering 8-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Flores, Jr. during a racially motivated home invasion in 2009. Forde faces the death penalty for orchestrating the robbery and murders.

ColorLines’ Julianne Hing reports that Forde had planned a number of elaborate home invasions to raise funds for her border patrol activities—targeting individuals whom she (erroneously) believed to be drug dealers. Though no drugs were found in the Flores home, Forde—who, incidentally, has close ties to both the Tea Party and the conservative think tank Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)—nevertheless justified Brisenia’s murder on the grounds that “people shouldn’t deal drugs if they have kids.” After watching Forde’s accomplices shoot her mother and kill her father, Brisenia was shot twice in the face.

While Latino advocacy groups have characterized the Flores murders as hate crimes provoked—at least in part—by state leaders’ incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric, many regard Forde’s conviction as one of many indicators that the tables are turning on anti-immigrant politicos like Brewer who have curried political support through fear-mongering and misinformation.

Less tolerance for border vigilantes

As Valeria Fernandez reports at New America Media, the verdict comes just weeks after another Arizona court upheld a decision against rancher Roger Barnett who, in an act of unwarranted border vigilantism, assaulted a group of migrants traveling across his property. Barnett was fined $80,000. While the Forde and Barnett cases are only two incidents of a nationwide rash of anti-Latino crime, their convictions are particularly significant in Arizona, where state leaders have long tolerated and even encouraged border vigilantism as a necessary response to purported border-related violence.

A year ago, state politicians—including Brewer—fomented a national anti-immigrant mania (which handily ushered in SB 1070) by promoting false reports of border violence. As Valeria Fernandez reported at Feet in 2 Worlds last March, lawmakers were quick to attribute the shooting of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz to an unidentified, undocumented Mexican immigrant—though the sheriff in charge of the case later told the press that the prime suspect was not actually Mexican.

Brewer, for her part, gained national notoriety after fabricating tales of beheadings in the Arizona desert—which, as I wrote for Campus Progress at the time—generated support for her anti-immigrant political agenda while diverting public attention away from the reality that  most of Arizona’s border violence is directed at immigrants, rather than perpetrated by them.

Arizona’s countersuit against the federal government

Brewer’s recent countersuit against the federal government—which alleges that Arizona is under invasion from the south and that the feds have failed to protect the state accordingly—similarly conjures nativist fantasies of immigrant-fueled border violence. But, as Scott Lemieux posits at TAPPED, the suit idly and transparently villainizes immigrants:

It is (to put it mildly) a stretch to argue that Arizona is undergoing an “invasion.” Illegal immigration does not constitute a military threat or an attempt to overthrow the state government; anti-immigration metaphors are not a sound basis for constitutional interpretation.

Like those propagated by state lawmakers during Arizona’s nativist heyday last spring, this new offensive belies the reality that, while anti-Latino hate crimes have risen by 52 percent nationally in recent years, border crime has been on the decline for quite some time—a fact noted by Alternet’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd in her coverage of the countersuit.

Yet, in an effort to further their extreme, anti-immigrant agenda, Arizona’s nativist lawmakers determinedly maintain the myth that Latin American immigration somehow generates a groundswell of violent crime—even when doing so requires the hasty revision of a rancher’s death, and the callous disregard of an innocent child’s murder.

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: Why Sexual Violence Against Latina Farmworkers is a Hate Crime

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

This week, two high-profile trials involving the racially motivated murders of Latinos in Pennsylvania and Arizona are exposing the unsettling implications of growing anti-immigrant sentiment. But while antagonistic political discourse and incendiary policy are shown to provoke ethnic violence—correlating with a 52 percent increase in hate crimes—they also indirectly drive sexual violence against immigrant women. The combination of stricter enforcement and increased cultural animosity toward immigrants renders undocumented women workers more susceptible to workplace rape and sexual exploitation—violent crimes that don’t generally register as hate crimes but that nevertheless bespeak of racially charged motives.

Two murder cases highlight senseless violence against Latinos

The trial of Minuteman border vigilante Shawna Forde, and two other individuals charged with the 2009 murder of a nine-year-old Latina girl and her father, began this week in Arivaca, Arizona. Julianne Hing at ColorLines reports that Brisenia Flores was shot twice in the head by home invaders allegedly enlisted by Forde, who is accused of sanctioning racially motivated home invasions to finance (via robbery) her border patrol activities. Flores’ parents were also shot, but her mother, Gina Gonzales, survived.

As Hing notes, Forde had strong ties with both the Tea Party movement and prominent anti-immigrant groups, including the influential conservative think-tank Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):

Forde had a habit of ending her emails with the sign off, “Lock and Load” and had close ties with tea party groups. She was involved with the Minutemen American Defense—her supporters claim she was once a Minuteman National Director—a loose affiliation of anti-immigration border activists who took to policing the border on their own with guns and surveillance equipment. Forde has also had ties with the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform. These groups have all been labeled hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Immigrant rights groups and Latino community advocates alike have characterized the grisly crime as part of a growing anti-immigrant hate crime epidemic plaguing many divided communities across the country.

One such community, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, recently saw the close of another hate crime case, in which three police officers were accused of covering up the racially motivated murder of 25-year-old immigrant Luis Ramirez. As New America Media reports, a Shenandoah jury issued a split verdict against the officers who were charged with obstruction of justice, falsifying records and conspiracy for their alleged attempt to protect Ramirez’s teenage murderers. Former police Chief Matthew Nestor was found guilty on the first two counts, but found not guilty of conspiracy. Former police Lt. William Moyer was similarly found guilty of making false statements, but acquitted of all other charges, as was former police Officer Jason R. Hayes. Latino advocacy groups have characterized the officers’ actions as a stark example of politicized community leaders privileging white criminals over their Latino victims.

Death of 17-year-old farmworker brings to light workplace exploitation

As antagonistic immigration discourse and prejudicial policies foster violence, immigrant workers are increasingly susceptible to workplace exploitation. In the case of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, that exploitation proved deadly.

Change.org’s Antonio Ramirez reports that Jimenez, who was two months pregnant, died of exposure while pruning grapes on a field owned by California’s Merced Farm Labor. The company had been fined previously for violating heat regulations, but still failed to ensure that its workers received legally mandated access shade, water and breaks. Now, Merced’s owner, Maria De Los Angeles Colung, as well as its former safety coordinator, Elias Armenta, are charged with involuntary manslaughter in Jimenez’s death but, as Ramirez notes, they’ve accepted a plea bargain which would only mandate community service.

Jimenez’s preventable death highlights rampant exploitation of immigrant workers in the U.S. food industry—particularly of women. As Alternet’s Jill Richardson reports, immigrant workers are increasingly the victims of wage theft and are routinely exposed to toxic pesticides and other hazardous conditions while women workers regularly contend with a variety of workplace sexual abuse and harassment. Richardson summarizes the phenomenon thusly:

In addition to the fondling and groping the women endured on the job, women also engaged in consensual relationships with supervisors to gain “a secure place in American society, a green card, a husband — or at the very least a transfer to an easier job at the plant.” […]

And then there’s the nonconsensual stuff: A 2008 piece in High Country News revealed that farmworkers refer to one company’s field as the “field of panties” because so many women workers are raped by supervisors. And as far back as 1993, the Southern Poverty Law Center found in its own study that 90 percent of female farm workers cite sexual harassment as a serious problem.

While the sexual abuse of (largely undocumented) women farmworkers doesn’t register as a hate crime in the same way that the racially motivated murders of Luiz Ramirez and the Flores family do, the nature of their exploitation is clearly gendered and racialized. As immigration enforcement tightens, effectively pushing undocumented workers further underground while discouraging undocumented victims of violent crimes from coming forward, farmworkers will continue to be targeted for exploitation based on their gender, race and nationality—the same criteria upon which Ramirez and the Flores family were targeted for deadly violence.

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.

 

 

IRAQIS ISSUE 'THE U.S. STUDY GROUP REPORT'

Reprinted from The Satirical Political Report http://satiricalpolitical.com

While all of the media attention has been sucked up by The Iraq Study Group, flying under the radar is a parallel report on the United States,prepared by a bipartisan group of Iraqi clerics.

"The U.S. Study Group Report," also known as the al-Sadr Report, after the radical Shiite cleric, concludes that the condition of the United States is "grave and deteriorating."

The Report points to a dysfunctional electoral system, an inability to devise coherent immigration or health care programs, and America's disturbing obsession with crass game shows that feature scantily-clad women holding up dollar signs.

CONTINUED at: http://satiricalpolitical.com/?p=448

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HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT. USED `TERROR-ALERT' CHARTS FROM IRAQ

Reprinted from The Satirical Political Report http://satiricalpolitical.com

As if the rampant lies and deceptions of the Bush Administration were not already of epic proportions, an anonymous source has told The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh that the terror-alert charts used by the Department of Homeland Security were actually prepared for Iraq.

As recently disclosed by The New York Times, the military has used a color-coded chart to display the growing chaos and civil war in Iraq. The chart, titled "Index of Civil Conflict," shows a color-coded bar with "peace" marked on the left and "chaos" on the right. An arrow puts the current situation inside the red area on the far right, much closer to chaos than peace.

Now, it appears that Karl Rove and company "borrowed" the "Iraq terror charts" to scare the bejesus out of Americans about false domestic terror threats, particularly around election time.

However, many independent experts contend that the Administration's "dual use" of the charts was not particularly misleading. As historian Douglas Brinkley asked, "can you think of a better example of chaos than New Orleans during Katrina?"

CONTINUE READING at: http://satiricalpolitical.com/?p=389

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Racial Politics This Week -- A Roundup

It's a grey Saturday here at Jack and Jill Politics. The perfect weather to spend listening to the soothing bluesy sounds of "The Incredible Jimmy Smith" album: Back at the Chicken Shack. Don't take my word for it. It says right on the cover art over the chicken coop and above the black-and-white dog in big red letters that he's incredible.

First a word: Jack and Jill Politics is looking for local minority-authored blogs to start building a blogroll. We want to find more progressive blogs covering politics in the states like CTBlogger (CT), Where Is the Outrage (NC), Vivian Paige (VA) and Black At Michigan (MI) with voices that can add new perspectives. If you are a local minority blogger or know a local minority blog that deserves a little more attention, please leave the link in the comments or email us at jjpolitics at gmail.com. Thanks in advance!

Mama's got a lot to do today and I bet you do too. So I'm gonna hit you with some quick links to check out in our weekly roundup of what's happening at the crossroads where minorities and politics meet.


* First, this Mark Foley Predatorgate coverup thing is not partisan despite Republican efforts to make it so. That's why they are going to lose and lose big in the elections. It's not Democrat vs. Republican; it's Right vs. Wrong. The cover-up caused even conservative Christian Black blogger La Shawn Barber to dig deep and question her loyalty to the current GOP leadership. Furthermore, Wanda Sykes would like you to know that Foley is giving alcohol a bad name. (Thanks to the Huffington Post for the link!) I would like to know why Mark Foley is in rehab and  not in jail. Isn't what he did somehow against some law somewhere?

* Republic of T breaks it down on attempts to connect homosexuality and pedophilia. This is wrong and ignorant, Margaret Cho agrees. Hopefully, pastors will keep that in mind in church this Sunday. Let's keep the hate where it belongs: directed at child molesters and not at the GLBT community, ok?

More after the jump...

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