Right at Home

Mossville, Louisiana is an historic African American community in the southwest part of the state. Like too many similar communities around the country, it is surrounded by 14 industrial facilities that release millions of pounds of toxic chemicals annually. Mossville residents point to studies by governmental and private sources linking the pollution from these facilities to their exposure to dioxins, noxious odors, and unhealthy air and water quality throughout the community. And they have documented how the burdens of toxic pollution and environmental hazards are disproportionately visited upon Louisiana communities that share their racial complexion.

A safe and healthy environment and freedom from discrimination are basic human rights that everyone should enjoy and that all governments should protect. Yet Mossville residents’ efforts to seek relief from their government—both state and federal—have yielded only excuses and inaction.

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Women Hold Up Half the Sky

In light of International Women’s Day and the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on Tuesday, March 9th, the Urban Agenda’s Human Rights Project, The National Council on Research for Women and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership joined together with The Opportunity Agenda to hold a side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Women from around the world coalesced in New York to take the front seat in the social justice debate. Regardless of dialect, religion or ethnic origin, there was one theme uniting them all in the room: women, and more specifically, women of color, are hurting in the shadows of the recession.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover state and federal updates, new research, and more...

A bill authored by Republican Sen. Kathy Campbell proposes providing prenatal care for all pregnant, low-income women regardless of immigrant statutes under the Children's Health Insurance Program in Nebraska.  Until a few months ago, the state offered prenatal care to all pregnant women through its Medicaid program, that is, until the federal government notified the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services that federal Medicaid policy does not cover the "unborn child."  The bill is being backed by a diversity of organizations including pro-life and immigrant advocates.

Minorities make up almost half of the children born in the U.S. and are expected to become the U.S. majority in the next 40-50 years. Read more here.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a plan by lawmakers to implement a national biometric identification card that all American workers would be required to obtain.  The plan, backed by Senators Schumer and Graham who are spearheading comprehensive immigration reform for 2010, attempts to offer an alternative to the much flawed E-verify system to discourage an influx of undocumented immigrants once CIR passes.

The Arizona House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 2632 which would require police to make a "reasonable attempt" to determine the immigration status of anyone they come into contact with during an investigation, give them the authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe that they are undocumented, and criminalizes transporting, harboring, or shielding anyone if the person knows or disregards the fact that they are undocumented.  Go to the Border Action Network website to read more.

After reporting in November that the number of deportations increased 47 percent under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security is now saying that it was a mistake and the actual increase was only 5 percent.  The 387,790 undocumented immigrants removed by ICE last year however is still a record.

The Immigration Policy Center has released its research on the economic and political impact of immigrants in Washington State.

Join the Reform Immigration for America Campaign in the March for America on March 21st in Washington, DC! Get more information here.



Framing and Reality TV

In her blog today, Arianna Huffington asks if CBS’s new reality offering, Undercover Boss, is the most subversive show on television. It’s a provocative question, as most of us would like to think that a reality show existed that could turn the genre on its head.  Maybe spotlight some of the reality that real Americans face, rather than spotlighting primarily those obsessed with fame. In the show, CEOs infiltrate the lower ranks of their organizations, often service industries, to see how business is going on the ground. Huffington proposes that in revealing the reality and conditions of low-wage work and workers, the show allows audiences a somewhat unprecedented look at what it really takes to get by in this country, while also illuminating the stark divide between the haves and have nots.

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International Women's Day is a Day for Action

President Obama and the First Lady recognized International Women’s Day earlier this week with a moving and sometimes funny ceremony in the East Room. The President said that “the story of America’s women, like the story of America itself, has had its peaks and valleys. But as one of our great American educators once said, if you drew a line through all the valleys and all the peaks, that line would be drawn with an upward curve. That upward curve—what we call progress—didn’t happen by accident.

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A Government that Reflects America's Values

According to a 2007 poll, Americans define human rights as the rights to equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, a fair criminal justice system, and freedom from torture or abuse by law enforcement. Despite the current political wrangling over how to reform it, a majority of Americans even believe that access to health care is a human right.

There was a time when America’s leaders echoed those sentiments. President Franklin D. Roosevelt embraced them when he told Congress, “Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” And in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act, forming the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Commission was intended to conduct critical reviews of social needs and public policy – in essence, to be the conscience of the nation. Regardless of circumstances or leadership, the body was to operate as an independent voice for the broad range of civil rights issues facing the country.

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Women Wouldn't Have Named it the iPad

However, the lack of women in technology jobs is similarly striking. The San Jose Mercury News has been forceful in highlighting the issue. The newspaper conducted an analysis of ten of the Valley's largest companies. Their numbers are from 2005 but they still highlight a disturbing trend. In their analysis of these ten companies (including Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Cisco, eBay, and more), women made up just 33 percent of the workforce. This is even down from 1999, when women made up only 37 percent of all employees at these organizations.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup


From Reform Immigration for America:

On March 21st, we will march on Washington, DC to demand immigration reform and economic justice for all Americans. Our vision of reform includes immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens working shoulder to shoulder to achieve better wages, working conditions, and labor protections, and of an American that’s back to work, with a fair balance between main street and wall street.

People from all across America will lend their voice in the fight for reform. We will come together as one voice on the National Mall for a strong America – for families, for workers, for businesses, and for security.

Join thousands from across the country in the March For America in DC on March 21st, and demand Congress act NOW to pass immigration reform and move quickly to put all Americans back to work

Where: National Mall, Washington DC
When: March 21st, 2010 – Interfaith Service at 1:00 pm, March at 2:00 pm

Sign up here to MARCH!


Framing and the Facts

Here at The Opportunity Agenda, we talk a lot about values, and the importance of building communications around them. In fact, we built a whole organization around six core values that drive our work and the way we talk about it. We do this, of course, because these values matter to us.  Seeing them realized and supported are central to our goals. But as NPR explained recently, leading with values is also a savvy communications strategy. In a story on people's beliefs about climate change, reporter Christopher Joyce describes findings from Yale's Cultural Cognition Project that people form their views about climate change, among other things, based more on their existing worldview - and values - than on the facts presented to them.

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The Politics of Heartlessness

The economic collapse and ensuing high unemployment rates have reminded us that no one is immune to the vagaries of the 21st century economy.  While there has been significant disagreement about how to jumpstart the economy, motivated as often as not by partisanship, most people in Congress understand that, at least in the short-term, basic human decency demands that our social safety net remain accessible to the millions enduring hardship because of the extended recession.  For one Senator, though, it is simply too expensive to provide even modest support to those among us who are have been hit hardest.


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