What Can an Equitable Recovery Look Like?

Recovery from a natural disaster should be able to make survivors “whole.” However, when the starting point is life in one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the Western hemisphere, getting back to normal becomes a trickier proposition.  Haiti has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere.  In 2003, 80% of the population was estimated to live under the international poverty line.  As demonstrated by the extended recovery process from Hurricane Katrina, economic condition has a determinative effect on the ability to recover from a natural disaster, with the worst impact and least independent ability to recover suffered by the poorest residents.

Although this paints a bleak picture, and there’s no denying that the reality is grim, the only possibility for hope or optimism lies in a new roadmap for recovery.  Any attempt to rebuild Haiti must be developed with an eye to erasing past inequities.  It cannot be enough to rebuild the Haiti of January 11, 2010.  Most Haitians lived by subsistence farming.  With a lack of arable land, continuing deforestation, and destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure, Haiti’s economy must be rebuilt on a new basis.  If the country must begin anew, the opportunity to develop something entirely new exists.

The lingering effects of colonialism, racism, and poverty must be eliminated as the country begins to map out its future.  Internal and external factors that have perpetuated, and actually increased, the disintegration of Haiti – its infrastructure, its agriculture, and its people – must be left out of the country’s future.  The color line of Haiti’s elites must go.  An economy based on unsustainable agriculture must go.  Governmental instability and corruption must go.  Unacceptable mortality rates for infants, children under five, and women giving birth must go.  All of which leaves room for a new, more equitable, more self-determined Haiti – with the help of all of us.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Long Overdue - Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama took a pivotal step towards repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Approximately 16 years later, this repeal is far overdue.

It was in the middle of the speech, in one clear sentence, that America was reminded of a federal law enacted in 1993 that rips at the fabric of our nation’s core belief in liberty and equality.  President Barack Obama set a timetable to end the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy passed during former President Bill Clinton’s tenure.  “This year -- this year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

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Talking Race at the Tea Party Convention

A unique challenge faces advocates for meaningful dialogue on racial inequality and injustice in America. As people of color have made even modest gains in education, economic security, and professional opportunities over the past few decades, some Americans have increasingly insisted that racial discrimination is largely a thing of the past. Today that sentiment is more widespread and vocal than ever, with the election of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president.

A shocking example of remaining racial inequality took place at the first ever National Tea Party Convention. Former Representative from Colorado, Tom Tancredo decried "the cult of multiculturalism," and argued that President Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

Mr. Tancredo had to know that literacy and civics voting tests with impossible answers were notoriously used to prevent African Americans from voting during segregation—and were banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

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Fixing the Economy Means Fixing Immigration

During the past week, much has been made of President Obama’s 38-word mention of immigration during his State of the Union address. Understandably, some advocates were disappointed that immigration reform did not get nearly as much air time as the rebuilding the economy – the perception being that this administration will address the latter before the former. But even though the economy is likely to be the dominant political topic in 2010, there are avenues that reform advocates can take to inject immigration into that conversation.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup will cover the President's FY2011 budget proposal, new reports on immigration, and more...

The President has released his FY2011 budget proposal:
-$368 million proposed to keep 20,000 border patrol agents watching over 6,000 miles of U.S. borders.
-$110 million to improve the E-Verify program, which distinguishes between workers legally able to work in the United States and those who are not.
-$18 million to support integration for new immigrants (preparation for citizenship, ELL).
-Additional resources to relieve overburdened immigration courts nationwide, which are strained by case backlogs and staffing shortages.
-Funding to support reforming our immigration detention system.
-Funding to USCIS to improve and lower the cost of processing immigration applications.
Recently released Immigration reports:
Reforming the Immigration System: Proposals to Promote Independence, Fairness, Efficiency, and Professionalism in the Adjudication of Removal Cases” submitted to the American Bar Association.

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has released their final work in their series of "Solutions Papers" called "Future Flow: Repairing our Broken Immigration System" which highlights principles for visa reform.

"Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement" released by the Urban Institute examines the effects of parental arrest, detention, and deportation on the well-being of the children involved in these situations. 

Also in immigration news, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced their new partnership in strengthening immigrant integration efforts in Los Angeles through citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities.

Galen Carey, Dir. of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals discusses the many efforts that Evangelicals are putting forth in making immigration reform a priority.  The NAE, along with various partner organizations have held events all over the country as a call to action claiming that the "current system contradicts our nation's deepest values." 

Lastly, in a federal lawsuit against Signal International, depositions revealed that immigration authorities worked with the marine oil-rig company to discourage the organization and protests of skilled Indian workers contracted to work under the H-2B Temporary Worker Program.


Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: State of the Union and the 2010 Census

The State of the Union speech given last Wednesday by President Obama was a major event and the focus of several polls.  Though Gallup reported that, historically, support for the President is not affected by the State of the Union, a before-after survey conducted by CNN shows that the address bolstered viewers confidence in the administration.  How long this boost will last, and whether it can be generalized to the entire public, remains to be seen. Another significant upcoming event receiving increasing attention is the decennial census which will be conducted in March.

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Small Banks, Big Impact

President Obama faced a remarkable political challenge in his recent State of the Union.  Beset on all sides—by populists on the left and right who are highly suspicious of him and all of institutional Washington, by an economy that can produce GDP growth but not jobs, by an increasing consensus that he has failed to connect his legislative priorities to core values since the election—he succeeded in, if nothing else, reminding us of the energy and passion that helped him build a network of committed volunteers, grassroots campaign staff, and small dollar donors.  In the speech he offered a litany of new financial policy prescriptions, including one—rolling $30 billion of TARP funds that big banks have already repaid into smaller, local banks—that has not garnered many headlines, but which represents an affirmation of the critical role that our communities play in our economic vibrancy.  

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Corporate Cash Breeds Inequality

When the founding fathers gathered to declare independence, they were responding to consolidated power in the form of the monarchy and the church.  The system that they designed to govern the United States was intentionally complex and diffuse, with checks and balances in place to prevent any single individual or group from exerting undue influence over the process.  This past Thursday, with their ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court violated these intentions, enhancing the influence of a small handful of very powerful institutions and providing them with the tools to crowd out diverse voices.

Many critics of the ruling in favor of Citizens United, which lifted a six-decade-old ban on corporations using their profits to endorse or oppose political candidates as well as a set of rules about the timing of corporate-sponsored political advertisements, have focused on the degree to which it will further strengthen the power of special interests over policy decisions.  While this is true, it is also important to note that the ruling will almost certainly further limit the representation of women and people of color, who traditionally have more trouble raising the sums of money necessary to effectively compete in increasingly expensive elections.  By and large, the candidate who spends more money wins, and this has long contributed to the political underrepresentation of many communities.  Having to compete with not only a better funded opponent, but with freer-spending corporate interests as well, will cause many candidates not to run and many candidates who do choose to run to lose against the increasingly long odds.  And, as the voices of underrepresented communities are stranded further and further away from the halls of power, existing disparities in opportunity will almost certainly worsen.

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Three Steps We Can Take to Ensure Speedy Job Growth in Today's Economy

At this moment in our nation’s history, it is important that we close America's gaps in opportunity by ensuring speedy job growth and marshalling the resources of all groups and communities in our efforts to rebuild the national economy. 

Three steps we can take to expand opportunity for all people in the United States include:  (1) investing in community health centers in neighborhoods with few health providers; (2) supporting formally incarcerated people in their efforts to obtain employment; and (3) assisting skilled immigrants in obtaining jobs commensurate with their qualifications. 

I.  Invest in Community Health Centers in Neighborhoods with Few Health Providers

Health is central to both opportunity and economic security.  In our efforts to rebuild America’s economy, we need to do everything possible to support the health of all people here. 

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup includes the State of the Union Address, state news, new research on immigration, and more...

While immigration advocates are calling on California city councilman Bob Kellar to apologize for his "proud racist" comment at an anti-immigration rally, residents turned out in support of Kellar during a council session this week.

The deportation of immigration activist Jean Montrevil has been postponed due to the earthquake in Haiti.  After serving 11 years for a felony conviction from 1990, Montrevil, married to a U.S. citizen and father of four U.S. born children, was detained for deportation a week before the earthquake.  Click here to hear his interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Nearly 1,000 immigration advocates gathered and marched in Van Nuys, California this weekend to attend a panel discussion organized by the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.  Furthermore, in a protest against the lack of progress on immigration reform, 150 immigration advocates gathered outside of ICE headquarters to deliver their own version of the "State of the Union" address.

New census figures reveal changing perceptions of race and ethnicity.  This change in perception is largely driven by immigration with growing birthrates among the foreign-born and a rising number of children being raised by at least one foreign-born parent.

At the Migration Policy Institute, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton outlined his vision for immigration detention center reform consisting of reducing the number of detention facilities and contractors and launching an online detainee locator system among other alternatives to detention.

The California Immigrant Policy Center has released a study documenting that the Latino immigrant community has a higher rate of self-employment than native-born U.S. citizens. Click here for more research on "Immigrants Contributions to the Golden State."

On the other hand, California Representatives Duncan Hunter (R - 52nd District) and Tom McClintock (R - 4th District) among 18 other cosponsors have proposed the BRIDGE (Bipartisan Reform of Immigration through Defining Good Enforcement) Resolution which supports greater border security enforcement, mandating E-Verify among all business, and discourages any means of granting legal status to the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in this country.

Lastly, mixed feelings resulted from President Obama's mention of immigration reform in his State of the Union Address last night--"we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system - to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation."  Click here to see New America Media's coverage of what Latino Media are saying.




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