Progressive bloggers discuss immigration at upcoming Netroots Nation 2010 in Vegas

From Restore Fairness blog

Progressive bloggers like Restore Fairness ( will be presenting panels on immigration at Netroots Nation in the last week of July. Netroots Nation is an annual convention that amplifies progressive voices online and in-person and provides space for discussing ways to improve the use of technology to influence the public debate.

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Immigration detention reforms a distant promise as deportations rise dramatically

From the Restore Fairness blog.

An astounding 387,790 immigrants have been deported in 2009, indicating an all time high. And for those who justify the record in the name of security, two-thirds of these deportations are of people who have committed non-violent offenses. So it’s not surprising when a little girl asks Michelle Obama why the President is deporting more immigrants than ever, even as the immigration system remains irreparably broken.

But all hope is not lost. Senator Al Franken’s is slated to introduce the HELP Separated Children’s Act which will give special protections to those apprehended by immigration who are parents of a minor in the U.S., aimed at stopping the continuing separation of families that has vast implications on childrens’ emotional and physical well-being. A similar bill was introduced last year but did not pass.

Increasing deportations are accompanied by a deteriorating detention system, even as the administration announced plans for its reform in October 2009. The proposed reforms were to address chronic problems in the system such as overcrowding, inhumane conditions, unchecked detainee transfers and a lack of alternatives to detention. But seven months and many detainees later, it is difficult to be optimistic about the state of immigrant detention.

Such as the recent ruling from the Supreme Court exempting government doctors from personal liability for inadequate medical care of detainees. So what about an immigrant like Francisco Castaneda who was made to wait ten months in detention before getting a biopsy, despite having advanced penile cancer. Just before the results came in Francisco was released from custody so the government would not have to take responsibility for his treatment. Francisco’s case is indicative of-

…exactly what is at stake when detention standards are not only inadequate but unenforceable, and when there is broad immunity enjoyed by the persons responsible for the treatment of immigrants in their charge. With minimal accountability for how they treat people in their own custody, DHS continually fails to provide dignified or tolerable treatment of immigrant detainees.

The lack of adequate medical care and accountability is compounded by the rapid increase of numbers of detainees, resulting in the overburdening of the immigration court system that already has a huge backlog of untried cases. An analysis by TRAC shows the number of immigration cases awaiting resolution by the courts has reached all time record high of 242, 776, with a wait time of 443 days.

Translated into real terms, a recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU in Southern California yielded a list from the administration of 350 immigrant detainees in the Los Angeles area who have been held for periods longer than six months while waiting for their cases to be heard. Many are neither flight risks, nor a danger to their community, but continue to be locked up because of harsh laws and a lack of alternatives to detention. This includes people like Damdin Borjgin, a Mongolian man seeking asylum in the United States who has been in custody since November 2007 and has never had a hearing to decide if his is eligible for release. Detention reforms were supposed to address alternatives to detention for people like Borjgin, but have so far not kicked into effect.

The infinite problems with the immigration detention and deportation system are part of a broken immigration system that continues to deny people basic human rights, due process and justice.

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Buying a Senate Seat in Connecticut

She's spent $5 million so far and she's prepared to spend another $25 million of her own money on the object of her desire - a seat in the United States Senate representing Connecticut. She's Linda McMahon, the wife of wrestling kingpin Vince McMahon. From the New York Times:

She is a political novice seeking to unseat one of the most powerful Democrats in the United States Senate. But Linda McMahon does possess one big weapon: a vast personal fortune that she is already wielding to shake up the race.

Ms. McMahon has been saturating residents with television advertisements, pouring money into the campaigns of local elected officials and building a campaign organization that dwarfs its rivals.

The spending, roughly $5 million, more than 10 months before the election, has transformed Ms. McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, into a potent political force as she seeks the Republican nomination to challenge Senator Christopher J. Dodd.

The campaign of Ms. McMahon's main rival in the Republican primary, former Representative Rob Simmons, has responded with a wave of attacks as he suddenly finds himself contending with a formidable opponent.

Even Democrats close to the Dodd campaign acknowledge concerns about facing Ms. McMahon in a general election, given the huge sums of money she has been willing to spend in the first few months of the race. Her campaign says she is prepared to spend at least $30 million to win the seat.

Thirty million is quite the tidy sum considering that in the 2008 cycle the most expensive Senate race in the country was the contest between Al Franken and Norm Coleman up in Minnesota. To win the seat, the challenger Franken raised and spent $22.5 million and the incumbent Norm Coleman raised and spent $19.3 million. But of that $41.8 million, a combined $15 million was spent by both candidates in the legal challenges that arose from the close contest that led to a recount and its ensuing six month long court battle. In other words before election day, Franken and Coleman spent $26.8 million combined. McMahon may exceed that amount on her own.

Still, a bruising primary fight may be what the doctor ordered for flailing Chris Dodd who has spent $1.8 million on the race as of September. As for the other Republican in the race, Rob Simmons, he has spent $900,000 so far. Still he's being outspent 5 to 1. While the race in Connecticut has seen a grand total of $11,034,712 spent so far according to Open Secrets, that's only good enough for second place right now. In Arizona, $11,813,091 has been spent.

Just for the record, after Minnesota the two next most expensive Senate races in the 2008 cycle were in Kentucky with a combined $32.1 million spent (McConnell spent $21 million to defend his seat) and in Texas with a combined $23.0 million spent (Corynn spend $19 million to defend his seat). In the 2008 cycle, the average winner of a Senate seat spent $8,531,267. And the overall record belongs to Jon Corzine who spent $62 million to win a Senate seat from New Jersey in 2000. Combined with his winning and losing runs for governor in 2005 and 2009, Jon Corzine spent an estimated $131 million of his own money in his three runs for office.

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"Yeah, That Number is Zero"

A word to the moronic, otherwise known as conservatives, if you're going to come to a Congressional hearing that is graced by the presence of Senator Al Franken, come armed with facts or don't bother opening your mouths. Yesterday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Medical Debt: Can Bankruptcy Reform Facilitate a Fresh Start," Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a Senior Fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, claimed that that moving towards a European-style system of universal health care would increase bankruptcies.

Odd because the United States leads the world in medical bankruptcies. In fact, a Harvard study released earlier this year shows there has been a 50 percent increase in bankruptcies linked to illness and medical bills since 2001. In most of the cases, the people who filed for bankruptcy protection had health insurance. The study found that 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States in 2007 cited medical costs as the driving factor.

In the exchange, Senator Franken repeatedly pressed Ms. Furchtgott-Rott to back her case with facts. Problem is that conservatives seem allergic to facts. She didn't "have those numbers." Could be because the number is zero and they undermine her case.

FRANKEN: I think we disagree on whether health care reform, the health care reform that we're talking about in Congress now should pass. You said that the way we're going will increase bankruptcies. I want to ask you, how many medical bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don't have that number in front of me, but I can find out and get back to you.

FRANKEN: I can tell you how many it was. It's zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don't have that number, but I can get back to you if I like.

FRANKEN: Yeah, the number is zero. Do you know how many were in Germany?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: From the trend of your questions, I'm assuming the number is zero. But I don't know the precise number and would have to get back to you.

FRANKEN: Well, you're very good. Very fast. The point is, I think we need to go in that direction, not the opposite direction. Thank you.

The answer remains single-payer national health insurance program and moving the country in that direction is a national imperative. Otherwise, we are just spitting money into the wind and ruining people's lives for naught.

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Thirty US Senators Voted to Defend Gang Rape

It is stunning that 30 Republican members of the United States Senate would vote to protect a corporation, in this case Halliburton/KBR, over a woman who was gang raped. The details from Think Progress:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Offering Ms. Jones legal relief was Senator Al Franken of Minnesota who offered an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Seems simple enough. And yet, to GOP Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama allowing victims of sexual assault a day in court is tantamount to a "political attack" at Halliburton. That 29 others, all men, chose to join him in opposing the Franken amendment is simply mind-boggling.

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