Looking forward to 11, we hope 2010 goes out with a bang (and a DREAM)!

From the Restore Fairness blog-

In this past year we witnessed many negative events: An all-time record number of deportations with over 400,000 men, women and children deported, most of whom were not guilty of crimes; reports of medical negligence, sexual assault and the denial of due process in detention centers; unfulfilled promises of immigration reform masked by the threat of raids; the introduction of harsh anti-immigrant legislation such as SB1070, mandating racial profiling and fueling anti-immigrant sentiment around the country; the expansion of partnerships between Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local police with the introduction of programs such as Secure Communities; the “anchor-baby” bill; the list goes on and on.

From anti-immigrant actions and racial profiling to bullying and homophobia; from fear mongering to the extreme, divisive rhetoric of the mid-term elections, it is difficult to look back at 2010 and feel hopeful. In the midst of this, however, it is important to note that these events engendered unprecedented activism, and the mobilization and coming together of diverse communities, resulting in a number of victories in the name of restoring dignity, justice and equality. The rigorous debate over Arizona’s controversial SB1070 law resulted in sports men and women, musicians, artists, politicians, faith leaders, business owners, young people, as well as the Department of Justice and President Obama, taking a stand against a law that was unjust and offensive, and finally deemed unconstitutional. The March for America in Washington D.C. on March 21st saw 200,000 people, workers, LGBT groups, faith-based groups, etc., come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform, and even without the passage of CIR, the momentum built during that time was palpable for months after. Most recently, following a rally against Secure Communities in New York City, a judge ordered ICE to be transparent and release documents related to Secure Communities and the ability for localities to opt-out of the program.

And two weeks before the end of the year, we are just hours away from a Senate vote on the DREAM Act, a legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for young people that came to the U.S. as children, have completed high-school, and want to pursue college or military service. Every year, around 65,000 young, undocumented boys and girls- including honor rolls students and star athletes- graduate high school and then find themselves high and dry, without the chance to pursue their careers. A number of them, like Eric Balderas, find themselves facing deportation with the chance of being sent back to a country they are supposed to call ‘home’ but have no memory of. For David Cho, a senior honors student at UCLA who can’t count on entertaining job offers the way that his friends are, there are not a lot of options. So instead of young, able, bright people like David and Eric following their careers, pursuing their dreams, giving back to the country by supporting the economy and making the most out of the taxpayers money that has paid for the k-12 education, they are busy mobilizing support to ensure that the Senate passes the DREAM Act tomorrow morning.

Since Sen. Reid announced that he would be holding true to his campaign promise and bringing the DREAM Act up for a vote in the Senate as a stand-alone measure, the DREAMers and all the activists who support the passage of the DREAM Act have been working extremely hard to put pressure on Senators to pass the bill. As it stands, the Senate will vote on the version of the bill that that was passed in the House last week, by around 10am tomorrow. In addition to the DREAMers themselves, who have come out of the shadows to tell their individual stories and have mobilized unprecedented support for the movement, the Latino community is seeing this as a pivotal moment. Speaking to the New York Times, Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) said-

This will be a watershed vote that Latinos will not forget. There is nowhere left to hide, in the minds of Latino voters. There will be members who choose to stand for innocent children and members who do not. This vote will be an indication of who stands for our families and our communities.

As we get closer to the vote, an increasing number of people are speaking up, urging Senators to vote in favor of the bill. Representatives from the Department of Defense, heads of educational institutions, religious leaders, heads of labor organizations and workers unions, officials from the Department of Homeland Security, and hundreds of others have spoken up in support of the bill and why it is crucial to the integrity and prosperity of the country. President Obama himself made calls to Democrat and Republican senators to garner support for the bill.

Currently, the legislation needs 60 Senate votes in order to be end debate, at which point the House-approved version of the bill will be finally voted on, on Sunday. If passed, it will go directly to President Obama for a signature.The momentum that has brought the movement to this point (since the DREAM Act was first introduced almost a decade ago) is solely the result of intense grassroots activism on the part of students. DREAMers and DREAMActivists have worked tirelessly, putting themselves on the line by coming out as undocumented and basically pushing this piece of legislation forward with their cross-country walks, vigils, hunger strikes and their storming of Capitol Hill online and off. But they can’t do it alone. So on the eve of this historic vote, and the eve of the New Year, call your Senators right now and tell them to vote YES on the DREAM Act.

What better way to conclude 2010 than by ensuring that the hard work and courage of the DREAMERs pays off and the DREAM Act passes in the Senate tomorrow morning, less than two weeks before the end of this year.

Pick up the phone, write a letter, and make a wish for the New Year. See you then!

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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New challenges and new hopes- immigrant voters hold their own in the elections

From the Restore Fairness blog-

As election fever passes and the nation takes stock, one thing becomes clear – even as Republicans have taken control of the House and Democrats remain strong in the Senate, no one can afford to ignore the immigrant voter.

This election wasn’t about immigration – much of it was dominated by the issue of jobs and the economy. But the issue of immigration, even if it wasn’t front and center, did play a crucial role in winning Senate seats. In California, Meg Whitman’s strong anti-immigrant stance yielded no results, while in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet received support from Latino voters, and in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s positive stance on immigration brought in Latino voters who formed 16% of the entire electorate. In an analysis on the Washington Independent-

“Harry Reid beat out Sharron Angle (R), who ran a campaign that relied heavily on anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo lost the race for Colorado governor… Angle claimed Reid supported a number of policies to help illegal immigrants and seemed to be attempting to capitalize on ethnic fears in ads that showed angry-looking Latino men set to dramatic, if untrue, statements. Tancredo also campaigned largely on immigration policy… Republican Meg Whitman lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. Whitman tried to reach out to Latino voters after her primary, but was hindered by allegations of mistreatment and illegal employment by an undocumented maid who worked for her for almost a decade.”

In a poll conducted by Latino Decisions with the support of National Council of La Raza, SEIU, and America’s Voice, among Latino voters in 8 states, they found that when asked whether the issue of immigration was an important factor in their decision to vote and in their choice of candidate, 60% of Latinos said it was either “the most important” issue or “one of the most important” issues, staying ahead of other important issues like education, taxes, and housing. In Nevada and Arizona, two of the states with the most polarizing immigration debates going on at the moment, sentiments were even stronger. 69% of Latino voters in both Arizona and Nevada said the immigration issue was one of the most important factors in their decision to vote, and who to vote for.  In Arizona, 40% said immigration was the single most important issue in their voting decisions, and 38% in Nevada said the same. Moreover, a high percentage of Latino voters said that their decisions to vote and who to vote for were also motivated by divisive immigration debates, and especially by anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment expressed in the electoral campaigns of candidates like Sharron Angle and Tom Tancredo.

The election results, particularly the Republican take over of the House, will have deep consequences for the future of immigration policy. With Lamar Smith, R-Texas slated to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee overseeing all immigration issues, and Steve King, R-Iowa heading the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, pressure for “increased border security and enforcement actions targeted at undocumented immigrants in the workplace” will increase. Mr. Smith’s track history around the issue of immigration over the past few years does not yield a pretty picture, with him supporting Arizona-Style Immigration Enforcement, measures to ending birthright citizenship and a push for mandatory E-Verify regulations. And judging by last weeks request by seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “detail exactly how much funding” would be needed to “ensure that enforcement of the law occurs consistently for every illegal alien encountered and apprehended”, a strong pushback from Republicans in both the House and Senate would not be surprising.

But instead of running away from ugly bills, we need to confront them. Because looking at 2012, it is clear that no one, Republicans or Democrats, will be able to win an election without the strength of the immigrant voter, and particularly the Latino voter supporting them. Be it in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, this election has shown that in races with the Latino and immigrant vote, one can create victory and show strength.

It’s time to listen and stay fixed on the goal with a clear, progressive call for change that respects due process and fairness for all.

Photo courtesy of www.fronteras.org

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Amid Oil Spill Crisis, U.S. Authorities Search for Undocumented Immigrant Clean Up Workers

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Talk about misplaced priorities. In the midst of a national crisis over the gargantuan BP oil spill that is destroying the water, marine eco-systems, and coastal livelihoods along the Gulf Coast, Federal immigration officials have decided to focus their resources on checking the immigration status of the people that BP has finally employed to begin cleaning up the massive destruction that the oil is causing along the coast.

Check out this amazing exclusive report co-produced by Feet in Two Worlds (English) and El Diario (Spanish)-

Federal immigration officials have been visiting command centers on the Gulf Coast to check the immigration status of response workers hired by BP and its contractors to clean up the immense oil spill.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Louisiana confirmed that its agents had visited two large command centers—which are staging areas for the response efforts and are sealed off to the public—to verify that the workers there were legal residents.

“We visited just to ensure that people who are legally here can compete for those jobs—those people who are having so many problems,” said Temple H. Black, a spokesman for ICE in Louisiana.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, thousands of Hispanic workers, many of them undocumented, flocked to the region to help in the reconstruction of Louisiana’s coastal towns.  Many stayed, building communities on the outskirts of New Orleans or finding employment outside the city in oil refineries and in the fishing industry.

These Hispanic workers have been accused of taking away jobs from longtime Louisiana residents, and the tension has grown as fishing and tourism jobs dry up, leaving idle workers to compete for jobs on the oil spill clean-up effort.

Black explained that ICE and Border Patrol began to monitor the response efforts shortly after job sites were formed following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began on April 20 and has yet to be contained.

ICE, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, visited two command centers, one in Venice and the other in Hopedale, twice in May. ICE agents arrived at the staging areas without prior notice, rounded up workers, and asked for documentation of their legal status, according to Black.

The command centers, located in the marshes a few hours east of New Orleans, are among the largest, with hundreds of workers employed at each site.

“We don’t normally go and check people’s papers—we’re mostly focused on transnational gangs, predators, drugs. This was a special circumstance because of the oil spill,” said Black.

“We made an initial visit and a follow-up to make sure they were following the rules,” he said.

“These weren’t raids—they were investigations,” he added.

There were no arrests at either site, according to the ICE spokesman. But he said if undocumented workers had been discovered, they “would have been detained on the spot and taken to Orleans Parish Prison.”

BP and one of the companies that holds a large contract in Hopedale, Oil Mop, did not return calls requesting comment. A high-level employee for another contractor in Hopedale, United States Environmental Services, who did not give her name, said, “I just got a phone call. I heard they were visiting.”

St. Bernard Parish, where the Hopedale site is located, assured that the local government had nothing to do with the checks and had no knowledge of them.

The ICE agents who visited the sites reminded subcontractors of immigration laws and their obligation to use programs including E-verify, an electronic system run by the Department of Homeland Security which checks workers’ immigration status.

An Oil Mop subcontractor called Tamara’s Group has hired more than 100 Hispanic workers from the region to work at the Hopedale site. The owner of Tamara’s Group, Martha Mosquera, said that when ICE came in the first week of May, “they gathered them all in the tents and they asked for their papers.”

One of the workers in this group, a 61-year-old Mexican woman named Cruz Stanaland, rememberes ICE’s visit: “They were civilians, they weren’t wearing uniforms and they were driving in cars that didn’t have the Immigration logo…dark cars with tinted glass.”

Another worker from the same group, Etanlisa Hernández, who is 30 and from the Dominican Republic, said, “There were five or six men. They were very polite.”

 

Although Mosquera said her company had no problems because all of her employees were legally employed, some pro-immigrant leaders criticized the government’s quickness to enforce immigration requirements during a crisis.

“It’s like, ‘round everybody up and leave the oil on the beach,’” said Darlene Kattan, Director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana. “In a catastrophic situation like this, I think we should be more well-reasoned.”

“People are desperate for jobs,” she added, “And they think that if someone looks like an undocumented immigrant they’re taking the food from their mouth.”

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group in Washington DC, said, “the clean-up effort is a gargantuan effort and we have to ensure that the crews are working in a way that protects their health and safety, and that should be the priority.” She added, “if ICE thinks that there are bad apple employers, they should go directly to them instead of harassing clean-up crews that we all know are doing a crucial job.”

Despite the visits by ICE, some undocumented workers have been hired by BP contractors. One fisherman from El Salvador, who didn’t want to reveal his name because he was afraid of being deported, has been laying down boom alongside the marshes for a week.

“You’re always afraid Immigration is coming,” he said.

He explained that although he didn’t feel safe doing the clean-up work, he took the risk because the job pays $360 a day. “I came because I have a wife, and kids, I came to give them a better life. My uncle’s family lent me money to come here. Maybe this will help me pay them back.”

Listen this week to NPR’s Latino USA for Annie Correal’s report on the latest from the Gulf Coast.

Photos courtesy of news.feetintwoworlds.org

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What did civil rights polls reveal 50 years ago?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

The passage of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law has thrown the issue of immigration and race into the limelight. With many in Arizona deeply concerned about the specter of racial profiling that SB1070 brings with it, the law has brought attention to the frustration many feel at the federal government’s inaction on immigration reform.

It’s this very frustration that a recent poll by the Service Employees International Union, National Council of La Raza, Latino Decisions and Grove Insight tap into, through a poll conducted across Latino and non-Latino voters in Arizona about SB1070 and it’s electoral implications.

The poll conducted across 500 non-Latino voters reveal that while 60% favor SB1070, 73% favor a smart, workable, comprehensive, federal solution to immigration reform. Poll results reveal a vast majority of voters frustrated with the failure to take comprehensive action on immigration, and in the absence of responsible action on the part of Congress and the White House, willing to lend support to an irresponsible law that unfairly targets minorities.

Amongst Latino voters, an overwhelming 82% oppose SB1070, spanning all generations, from first generation Latinos to fourth generation Latino-Americans who believe it will lead to racial profiling. After the passage of the law, immigration has become the most important issue for Latino voters, rising from 36% before the law passed to 59% after. Looking towards the November elections, the poll found that Latino voters are extremely dissatisfied with both parties-

The law, which is seen as a personal attack against all Latinos, has ignited Arizona Latino voters’ frustration…and galvanized them to move away from candidates – particularly Republicans – who play politics with the issue. Leadership on the issue is essential for Democrats if they want to nurture the support they gained from Latinos in 2008. And leadership is crucial for Republicans if they want to address and move the issue off the table so they can start repairing their relationship with this critical electorate.

Both this poll, and a number of other polls show that a majority of Americans, across ethnic and party lines, believe that it is important for government to address immigration before the elections in November 2010. A CBS/New York Times poll 57% of Americans who believe immigration law should be the domain of the federal government and 64% who were in support of legal status for undocumented people already in the country.  However, the same poll also showed 51% support of Arizona’s law and 9% who felt that it “doesn’t go far enough”.

An interesting blog post by Imagine 2050 compares the results of current immigration polls to surveys of public opinion on civil rights and racial desegregation issues conducted 50 years ago. Out to prove that the “tyranny of the majority” is a continuing narrative of American history, it says -

A half century ago, polls found strikingly similar results with regard to civil rights. In spite of gaining the approval of some 55% of Americans in the spring of 1954, five years later a majority believed that the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education “caused a lot more trouble than it was worth.” During the 1960s a Gallup Poll found most Americans gradually came to support “racial equality in public places” but a consistent plurality wanted to take a “go slow” approach to racial change. In the South, not surprisingly, Gallup found that 80% of those polled in 1964 disapproved of civil rights legislation.

While opinion polls are crucial to understanding how people in different areas are responding to the issue, it is important not to lose sight of the human aspect of this debate, and the fact that millions of people are dealing with the implications of a broken system on a daily basis. Inspired by a true story, and no doubt representative of the true stories of many people in the United States, an award-winning film Entre Nos is playing in theaters now. It tells the story of Mariana, a single mother who fights against all odds to fend for herself and her children after her husband leaves her, undocumented, poor and alone in an unfamiliar city, speaking a language she barely knows. Watch co-director and actress Paola Mendoza talk about the film as a tribute to her mother who gave up everything to ensure the American dream for her children.

Photo courtesy of Sridhar Ranganath

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Can the All-Star game and SB1070 co-exist in Arizona?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

A week ago we had given a shout out to all the baseball players who were taking a stand against Arizona’s new anti-immigration legislation, SB1070. Baseball plays a large role in the culture in Arizona, and given that 27% of baseball players are Latino, it is no surprise that players like National League star Adrian Gonzalez see the new law as a violation of human rights, and by extension, an assault on baseball culture.

Given that the next All-Star game is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011, there has been a lot of buzz about the sport making a statement by boycotting Arizona and moving the game to another state as long as the racist law continues to be in effect. As more and more stars have said that they will boycott the All-Star game if it takes place in Arizona, there has has been increasing pressure on the commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB), Bob Selig, to move the game to another state. Senator Robert Menendez, the only Hispanic-American in the Senate, has been urging players to boycott the 2011 All-Star game to protest the law. He wrote a letter to the executive director of the MLB Players Association, Micheal Weiner thanking him for issuing a statement against the law and urging him to take a stand against SB1070. His letter reads-

The Arizona law is offensive to Hispanics and all Americans because it codifies racial profiling into law by requiring police to question anyone who appears to be in the country illegally. As you and I both know, Major League Baseball (M.L.B.) is truly a multicultural, international sport…Imagine if your players and their families were subjected to interrogation by law enforcement, simply because they look a certain way..That would truly be an embarrassment and an injustice, not only to M.L.B., but to the values and ideals we hold as Americans.

On a call held yesterday, Latino advocacy and immigrant rights groups came together with labor groups and progressive bloggers to officially call on MLB Commissioner Bob Selig to move the upcoming All-Star game from Arizona. Additionally, they urged teams to re-locate their spring training sessions to a different place in the country. A letter was sent to Bob Selig asking for his support in the sport’s boycott of the unjust law. It said-

In this moment of crisis, these players – and baseball’s millions of Latino and immigrant fans – deserve a loud and clear message that the league finds this law unacceptable.

In order to take this forward, Presente.org and Fenton Communications have started a campaign called “Move the Game,” which has a list of players from the MLB who have spoken out against the law, as well as a petition urging the MLB Association to take action by moving the game from Arizona and sending a clear message to Arizona lawmakers. Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and John Amato, founder of the blog, Crooks and Liars, made statements about the need for Bob Selig to break his silence and speak out on behalf of the community of players by boycotting the law. Doug Gordon, the founder of Move the Game said that the campaign had already received 100,000 signatures. Speaking about the economic impact this could potentially have for the state, he said-

We believe it is time for Major League Baseball to step up to the plate, follow the precedent set by the NFL in the early 1990’s, and move the game. Bud Selig may think he can ignore the fans and his players but we are betting he can’t ignore the All Star Game’s corporate sponsors. They will be our next target.

So if you’re a baseball fan and you believe in the values of diversity, integrity and respect that symbolize American culture, sign the petition to tell Bob Selig to boycott Arizona by moving the All Star game to a state that is more cognizant of those values.

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