Flint, MI: A Bastion of Community Values

 As the American economy claws its way back from the edge of a cliff, Michigan serves as a powerful example of just how bad things are in some places, and, indeed, how bad they could get for the rest of the country.  The state continues to have the highest unemployment of any state, and, while the auto bailouts appear to have prevented the wholesale collapse of the industry, there is no question that American automakers will cease to exist if they do not thoroughly reform themselves, which would send the state’s unemployment rate still higher.   And yet, in Flint, a city at the center of the storm, where more than a third of residents live in poverty, citizens refuse to give up on their community.

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When Our Dreams Step Forward

Forty years ago, NASA made dreams come true, as humans stepped foot for the first time on the moon. What has impressed me is hearing over and over the praises of former NASA directors who recall the importance each member of the team, which was in the hundreds if not thousands, had in making the mission a reality. Indeed, it's a perfect example of the power we have as a nation—when we realize that we're not in it alone.

Tough challenges require team work. And as we look ahead at the challenges we face as a nation—the economy, health reform, immigration, etc.—there's a lot we can learn from the thousands of nameless laborers who helped Neil Armstrong take that giant leap.

President Obama has done an excellent job in returning our country's focus back on to "We The People," shifting it from what I would argue has been the mantra of American life during the housing boom of this past decade, a culture that cried in its rush for individual prosperity, "Me The People."

The moon landing, more than anything, brought America together during a tumultuous time. It lifted up our founding values of community and opportunity, reminding us that no dream was too big when we all come together. Perhaps, in this new era, our sea of Tranquility can be realized in the dreams for a fair and just economy, in a world that respects the dignity and rights of all, in a future that doesn't rely on fuels that hurt our own beautiful planet. When three astronauts looked down upon our small green and blue rock forty years ago this week, they realized how much we truly were connected, how we were all in it together. Our job is to carry this knowledge forward, as we work toward finding solutions that bring security, mobility, opportunity, and all our other treasured national values within the reach of every person who calls our own rock home.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

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Immigrants Cut From Massachusetts Universal Health Care Plan

In a time of rising economic uncertainty, Massachusetts is moving away from its attempts to provide health care for all.  The new state budget eliminates coverage for approximately 30,000 legal immigrants in an attempt to help close a budget deficit.

This is a mistake.

Health care is not commodity but a basic human right.  Massachusetts had taken a strong, significant step in this direction.  Their experience is particularly crucial right as the federal government works towards expanding health care to everyone across the country.  And public opinion is behind dramatically expanding health care.  Nationally, 89% of Americans believe that access to health care is a human right and 77% believe that the government has a responsibility to guarantee access for everyone.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's immigration blog roundup discusses last week's White House meeting on immigration reform, police chiefs speaking out for reform, a new study about stress on immigration judges, and noteworthy editorials.

Last Thursday’s White House meeting marked what many immigration reform advocates are hoping will be a crucial turning point toward comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama sat down with members of Congress from both parties to discuss next steps about immigration reform. For the past three years with different issues on the agenda, immigration reform has challenged both parties. However, because of an energized campaign and push by many groups invested in comprehensive reform the momentum has finally culminated to a commitment from the administration. The New York Times noted that it now seems more likely than before that President Obama and the administration’s working group on immigration reform are ready to lead the way.

Big-city police chiefs from around the country urged Congress on Wednesday to draft measures that would improve public safety by integrating undocumented immigrants into the legal system. Chiefs John Timoney of Miami, Florida, Art Acevedo of Austin,Texas, and former Chief Art Venegas of Sacramento, Calif., participated in a panel discussion in Miami organized by Americar's Voice. The Chiefs updated recommendations made in 2006 by the leaders of more than 50 urban police departments. The police chiefs have spent most of their careers in cities with large immigrant communities, and know first hand the need to reform the current immigration system.

A new study called "Inside the Judges' Chambers: Narrative Responses from the National Association of Immigration Judges Stress and Burnout Survey" finds that many immigration judges trying cases of asylum seekers suffer from symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and job burnout. According to the researchers from UC San Francisco, these symptoms may shape their judicial decision-making processes.The unique study uses direct quotes from judges themselves (immigration judges are prohibited from speaking with outsiders about their nature of their work without Department of Justice permission). The study also includes recommendations for additional resources for the nation's immigration courts, including improving education and training for judges, and adding adequate support staff and tools.

New America Media's editorial"Time for Immigration Reform is Now" delivers a poignant message that brings with it a strong sense of urgency.

"Our nation needs comprehensive immigration policies that will replace a broken system of raids and roundups with one that protects all workers from exploitation, improves America's security and builds strong communities. It's time to end the division between workers, which has allowed big business to exploit both sides. Clearly, working-class citizens and immigrant workers have much in common; dreams of better homes, education for their families and quality healthcare. There is more that brings us together, than separates us."

Another editorial by Walter Ewing, a senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center, discusses the persistent blame from local and state governments facing budget deficits placed on immigrants in the current economic climate. Ewing comments on the studies that fail to account for the incomes and tax contributions of immigrants over time, and the various other economic contributions of immigrants, and their children.

Note: The Opportunity Agenda has done work on this issue. We believe to address the economy, we need workable solutions to immigration that move us all forward together. For talking points about addressing immigration in the current economic climate, please contact us at contact@opportunityagenda.org.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda's website.

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A Soldier's Peace, A Documentary Premiere in Second Life

To date 4,311 men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have perished in a 6-year war on foreign soil in Iraq.

For many of us, the ever-increasing count of American and Iraqi dead has been a central fact driving our political lives since it became clear that Bush was intent against all reason on pursuing a preemptive misadventure in Iraq.  It is what drove us to the blogs, to march and to protest, to speak out.

For those in Red States, where opportunities to voice opposition with any real effect have seemed too few and far between, few examples of principled dissent have been more inspiring than that of Sgt. Marshall Thompson, who--on his return to Utah from a year in Iraq as an Army journalist--undertook to walk the state's length to talk with everyday Utahns about war and peace.  The award-winning 2007 documentary A Soldier's Peace by Kristen and Marshall Thompson chronicles his remarkable 500-mile journey into activism.

Netroots Nation in Second Life and Virtually Speaking are very proud to announce the Second Life premiere of this simple yet powerful film.

More below the fold.

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