November 2007 Archives

Samantha Contreras was recently selected as a scholar for the Drum Major Institute (DMI).  A representative of DMI asked if Ms. Contreras could write a blog post for Citizen Orange and I happily obliged.  Following are the words of future leader Samantha Contreras. 

I began my activism and passion to serve the public when I came close to the end of my educational opportunities and my dreams due to the lack of access for students who do not hold legal status in the country. To millions of people the word “immigrant” is one that is synonymous to “aliens” and “criminals.” To me, immigration is an issue of family, opportunity, and hope. In one word, the issue of immigration is me. Personally living the attacks on the immigrant community has forever impacted my life and I am wholeheartedly committed to altering the perception of immigrants as well as transforming the status of all underprivileged communities across this nation through progressive policy revamping.
(Picture of severe wearing of the teeth, or attrition, from smile-dr.com)

Anti-migrant advocates have been tremendously successful at labeling everything amnesty and then pushing an anti-amnesty agenda.  It's always easier to organize against something than it is to organize in favor of something.  With that in mind I've decided it's time pro-migrant advocates come up with their own anti-agenda: anti-attrition.

Attrition sounds innocent enough.  It's a clinical term.  An anti-attrition rallying cry might not seem very appealing at first.  But the same could have been said for amnesty.  Amnesty essentially means forgiveness.  If anti-migrant advocates were able to make amnesty a bad word in a God-fearing, Jesus-loving nation, then it can't be hard to do the same thing with attrition. 

What does attrition through enforcement mean?  Believe it or not, unlike amnesty, attrition through enforcement is something that leading anti-migrant organizations actually advocate for.  A dry definition of the term attrition is to wear something down, like a rock, through constant rubbing or friction.  But when applied to humans attrition has all sorts of horrible connotations.  Dictionary.com provides this definition:

A wearing down or weakening of resistance, esp. as a result of continuous pressure or harassment
To engage in attrition warfare is to wear down your enemy to the "point of collapse".  If these connotations haven't gotten you riled up yet, they should.

hello, citizens of orange

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Kyle has graciously invited me to post some migration-related ramblings here at Citizen Orange.  In the time I’ve been reading Orange in one incarnation or another, I’ve been impressed by Kyle’s passion, dedication, idealism, and his patience in trying to find common ground among disparate viewpoints.  I’ve also enjoyed Janna’s contributions, and look forward to hearing more from her.  Also, props to Nezua—this is a beautiful site.  I’ve not used Moveable Type or posted on a group blog before, so I hope I don’t bring the whole operation crashing down. 

Immigration has become a highly visible and polarizing political topic as of late, and there’s a lot going on under the surface even as Congress has stalled on taking action either to restrict or to liberalize the immigration laws.  As the likelihood of passing any legislation at all has diminished, anti-migrant rhetoric has been ramped up on talk radio, cable news, and conservative blogs.  Some in the left ‘sphere are starting to notice that there are clear positions to be taken on immigration within the progressive tradition, that it’s not as convoluted or morally ambiguous an issue as we’ve been led to believe.  They’re starting to suspect that the CW being pushed by “sensible centrist” consultants about the politics of immigration don’t stand up to close scrutiny.  The coming election year presents a unique opportunity for immigrant advocates to bring the national debate back from the precipice of resentment, fear, and parochialism at which we now stand.  It’s a chance to convince people who’ve not heard our side of the story that keeping millions of people in a legal shadowland is not a viable or sustainable policy.  

My goal is to write about the law and politics of immigration to try to deflate some of the misinformation floating in the ether and reframe the discussion in a global, re- (as opposed to de-) humanizing context.  I thank Kyle for sharing this space with me to post some thoughts, and hope I can do so without stepping on his or Janna’s toes.  In my experience, blogging is more about learning than teaching, and I expect to learn a great deal here.

My Computer Died

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After taking a long hiatus from Citizen Orange it's just my luck that the day I return, the laptop that I've been lugging around for four years breaks on me.  It was time.  I took that laptop everywhere.  I even took that laptop with me (well-hidden) on the migrant route from Guatemala into the United States.  I guess the sand from the Sonora desert finally got to it. 

After years of patchwork repairs and monthly reformatting it finally just started dieing on me.  The fan had been acting up for over a month, and I recently I had resorted to taking the computer apart and cleaning out the fan.  On top of that my battery only had like 2 minutes of life in it.  I think the heat and problems with the battery just ended up being too much for it.

I don't know what I'm going to do in the meantime, but I'm itching to blog.  Some big things have been happening behind the scenes that I can't mention yet, but you'll hear about them soon enough.  I just want to thank everyone that's stuck by me through these years.  Especially Janna, who has really been picking up the slack for me as I've taken on all these projects.

It's time to stop talking about how new media communications can assist the pro-migrant movement and start doing it.  Those of you that stick around are in for a wild ride.

Buen Provecho

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Since I know there are some of us who will opt for the internet over football, here is some good Thanksgiving Day reading, courtesy of Luis Alberto Urrea.  Enjoy, and give thanks.
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Sowing the Seeds of a DREAM

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Catalino Tapia.jpgNPR is running a beautiful story today about a gardener who is helping migrant students live their DREAM.

Thanksgiving Week

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I likely won't be blogging on Thanksgiving week.  It'll be a much needed rest and I'm sure I will come back ready and raring to go!

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) recently partnered with Blue America in order to hold Rahm Emanuel accountable for his anti-migrant posturing as the representative of one of the most diverse congressional districts in the nation (Illinois' 5th Congressional District).

ICIRR began this fight with a rubber chicken campaign at YearlyKos (see left) in an effort to get Emmanuel to stand for migrant rights. 

The exact opposite happened.  After a close electoral fight in Massachusetts, Emmanuel assumed the role of Tom Tancredo of the Democrats, and issued this comment to the Washington Post:

“This issue has real implications for the country. It captures all the American people’s anger and frustration not only with immigration, but with the economy,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and an architect of the Democratic congressional victories of 2006. “It’s self-evident. This is a big problem.”
    - Jonathan Weisman - Washington Post
Democrats were running scared after the Massachusetts special election, but an overwhelmingly different picture was painted after the recent local elections in Virginia.  There Republicans failed miserably on an anti-migrant agenda and now the tides have changed.


Disappointment In New York

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New York state governor Eliot Spitzer has abandoned his plan to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.  After previously expressing sympathy for his plan, Hillary Clinton now opposes the idea, while Barack Obama continues to support it. 

Not only is this a setback for New Yorkers who were hoping for safer roads and greater accountability for undocumented people, and a let down for migrants who want to drive legally, but this looks bad for the Democrats, and adds one more reason to be disappointed in Hillary.


Out From Under the Trees

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Angelo Mancuso is seeking support for his new documentary on migrant agricultural workers, American Harvest.  Cast your vote and help this movie get a wider distribution!

Hat tip to Tomás at HispanicTips.com.

You'll see a lot of the folks listed on my blogroll in this Boston Globe article (h/t Latino Pundit). 

These intellectual challenges to mainstream and other viewpoints are some of the opinions Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander-American, and black bloggers are exposing on a growing number of sites focused on social, political, and cultural issues. The sometimes facetiously named blogs range from Angry Asian Man to The Angry Black Woman. Readers can find Latino viewpoints at Guanabee, The Unapologetic Mexican, or Latino Pundit. Those interested in information from an Asian angle head to Ultrabrown, Zuky, or Sepia Mutiny. Sites created by blacks include The Field Negro, Too Sense, and Resist Racism. But often these bloggers discard the handcuffs of their ethnic origins to tackle subjects affecting a range of racial or ethnic groups.
    - Vanessa E. Jones, Boston Globe
Always brings to mind the blogs that are missing.  Specifically, Culture Kitchen, Latina Lista, Latino Politico, and Para Justicia Y Libertad.  I come across new inspiration everyday, though, and I know I'm forgetting a few, so feel free to give me your own in the comments and I'll put them up.
Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.
    - Lyrics
I never thought I'd see the day when I could safely say that the pollsters, the pundits, and the establishment democrat bloggers would turn toward the light of migrant justice.  That day has come and it only affirms one of the Doctor Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s most hopeful themes.

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice
    - Doctor Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

(Esteban Felix / Associated Press)

Center-left candidate Alvaro Colom beat out right-wing candidate Otto Perez in what should largely be interpreted as a victory for the rural poor of Guatemala.  This picture (left) from the Prensa Libre election special (pdf) says it all:

Guatemala Election Results 2007.PNG
(Click to see the picture in greater detail)

The picture above shows that Colom won the vote in every single rural, poor, and indigenous department in Guatemala.  While there were problems with the election I can safely say that I am proud to be a Guatemalan citizen.  In my life I have only known a democratic Guatemala, and soon the country will be led by people that have known freedom instead of war. 

Renata Avila of Global Voices has a compilation of the challenges Guatemalan bloggers have for the next President.  Colom does not have a cakewalk in front of him, that's for sure.

It's been difficult to follow Guatemalan politics from abroad, but it doesn't take much digging to highlight problems with the international press coverage of the country.  U.S. press has misinterpreted a narrative of low-voter turnout that has effectively undercut the legitimacy of Colom in the eyes of the international community.

I just voted in Cambridge today in municipal elections that will be lucky to have 25% voter turnout and MSNBC has an entire story dedicated to low voter turnout at 41%?  Give me a break.

Data Biscotti and a Hot Cup

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“Facts are to the mind what food is to the body.” - Edmund Burke.


When it comes to fighting the ever-increasing wave of ill-informed, and sometimes willfully ignorant, rhetoric from those who seek to vilify the undocumented people in our country, it's sometimes necessary to resort to cold, hard facts.  Supported by numbers mined from studies and statistics, facts can be a refreshingly lucid shot of reality, amidst what is normally a murky brew of emotions and opinions mixed unappetizingly with politics and religion.  Unadorned by commentary, facts allow one to draw her own conclusions.

This is not to say that data can't be skewed sometimes, depending on who has funded and conducted a study, how the data is presented, who has published it.  Data can be used to further one's own agenda.  So you still have to use your head when looking at data, check the sources, and consider the motivation behind the researchers.  But there is an undeniable comfort in delving into facts and figures.  You leave behind the necessity of reading between the lines, and allow yourself to bask in the clear light of fact for a little while.

Furthering my agenda here - to urge understanding of the roots, causes and effects of the unfathomably complex issue of human migration, in an attempt to arrive at workable solutions that respect the dignity and rights of all people - is exactly my goal.  Compiling and presenting data on a particular subject in a way that compels one to actually read it is no easy task, however.  No one wants to try to digest a wall of numbers.  Lucky for us all, the hard work of making immigration related data accessible and verifiable, has already been done by Luis Alberto Urrea.  He has created a mind-blowing, but effortlessly readable, list of relevant facts from Harper's Index.  He has also compiled an impressive list of things you need to know, culled from a variety of sources, that feels warmer than raw data, but stark enough to inform without the baggage of anyone's interpretation but your own . 

In the time it takes to sip a mug of coffee, you can find your ability to form opinions and arguments greatly enhanced by the relative reality of numbers.  Go ahead, indulge.  If you prefer to skip the philosophical intros, just scroll down a quarter of a page.  The entirety of each entry, though, is worth your time.



(Peter Pereira / New Bedford Standard-Times)

I can safely say that this is the saddest story I've had to tell of an individual suffering from U.S. immigration policy.

I've written story after story about the suffering of individuals. No matter how much suffering migrants go through U.S. citizens just seem not to care, in effect, if not intent. Anti-migrant advocates actively ridicule dead migrants, and most progressives do nothing about it.

The New Bedford Standard-Times (please counter the hate people are spewing on this article) just published a story on the death of Ricardo Gomez Garcia.  He left an autistic child and his wife behind after the horror of New Bedford.  After fighting for five months in detention to stay in the U.S. he was deported back to Guatemala, where he made the choice to try and re-enter the U.S. again.  He met up with his family after the harrowing journey that I know so well, and fell ill.  After just 24 hours with his family, he died.

Skip to the end for how you can help.

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