January 2011 Archives

U.S. support of dictators in Arab countries has for decades highlighted the contrast between America's words and its deeds on democracy. Now that system is under stress across the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, as people take to the streets to protest their governments.

Youth organized online and then on the streets in Egypt, as tens of thousands of protesters in recent days have challenged the autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera in Tunisia broadcast user-generated videos of police abuse found on Facebook, which then inspired others to film and distribute their own content, which fed the cycle.

It is inspiring to see oppressed people take their futures back from a corrupt elite. One day the oppressed in Egypt or Yemen may find they have more in common with the dispossessed in Arizona or Guatemala than their own venal rulers. If so, it'll probably happen on Facebook or something like it.

ICE is at it again. Even as Barack Obama asks the nation why we are deporting talented youth, his agencies lock up and deport college students like Jonathan Chavez.

Sign the petition asking ICE to halt the deportation of Jonathan Chavez.

If Obama wants the support of pro-migrant voters in 2012, he should place a moratorium on deportation of DREAM-eligible youth. This wouldn't constitute passing the DREAM Act on the sly, such a moratorium would only benefit Dreamers in removal proceedings. There would be no path to citizenship, only limbo for Dreamers who would otherwise be deported.

If pro-migrant voters want immigration reform to move forward, we should not accept anything less from President Obama than a written policy of granting deferred action to Dreamers in removal proceedings. His actions thus far demonstrate that he will only move on immigration policy when pushed. So far, conservatives have pushed him a lot harder than the pro-migrant community has, and he has responded by deporting record numbers of people. This represents a strategic failure by advocates, one which occurred in part because D.C. immigrant advocacy organizations have represented the interests of Democratic politicians instead of the interests of immigrant communities.

How many young people like Jonathan Chavez will be deported before groups like RI4A, AILA, SEIU, and the National Immigration Forum confront President Obama for destroying immigrant communities?

How long will supporters of these groups continue to allow organizational leadership to disrespect immigrant communities in this way? Only as long as we let them ...

In case you missed it, Barack Obama had this to say about immigration during his State of the Union address last night:

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let's agree to make that effort. And let's stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.
Barack Obama (25 January 2011)

obama shaking hands.jpg

Some readers may wonder why I have spent so much time writing about Barack Obama and his action or inaction on immigration reform.

For example:

Obama Resumes Deportations to Ravaged Haiti
Obama and Fox News Latino Can't Have It Both Ways On Immigration
Pedro Gutierrez Asks President Obama to Defer His Deportation
Obama Praises DREAM Act While Deporting Dreamers
Obama: Deporting Immigrants So Republicans Don't Have To

And I'm not the only one:

Buyer Beware! Obama: The Deporter and Job Killer in Chief
"Obama is not the answer because he IS the problem"
Man the Deportations: Full Speed Ahead!
Halfway Through Term, Obama Still Hasn't Earned His Nobel Prize
Heroes and Zeroes of Immigrant Rights in 2010

... and many others.

But isn't the president a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act?

Didn't his Department of Justice sue Arizona to prevent implementation of the SB1070 racial profiling law?

Wouldn't it make more sense to spend time and energy pushing Republicans to compromise, to punish them politically for opposing comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act? Hasn't the real struggle moved away from federal legislation to the state and local level?

I think these are questions worth discussing, but I still believe the best national focus for action to achieve immigrant rights objectives is President Obama.

Each national politician who voted against the DREAM Act should be held accountable for betraying migrant youth. And there is a lot of work--both on offense and on defense--to be done on the state and local level.

But the immigrant rights movement should not neglect federal politicians or the 2012 presidential campaign, which has already begun.

First, Obama can be moved politically. The GOP's incentives are more mixed, and on balance run against supporting fair immigration reform.

Obama pensive.jpg

The failure of the Democrats to pass the DREAM Act in December prompted the Washington Post and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to declare President Obama's immigration reform strategy a failure. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum explained the "pickle of epic proportions" that the administration was in:

Republicans would now cry foul if the administration eased up on deportations, he said. But Latinos are losing patience with a strategy that has led to pain without gain for their communities.

Nevertheless, according to the Post, the Obama administration is doubling down on its "enforcement-first" strategy, having "no plans to pull back on enforcement just because Republicans are unlikely to support a bipartisan overhaul of immigration laws in the next two years."

How did the Democrats' immigration reform strategy fail so thoroughly? What went wrong? And why is President Obama still committed to a failed strategy?

Former U.S.-supported Haitian dictator and thief "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti this week after 25 years in exile, and President Obama resumed U.S. deportations to Haiti. The deportees will be detained upon arrival in life-threatening conditions in violation of U.S. human rights obligations.

One of the deportees was Lyglenson Lemorin, a lawful permanent resident and Haitian citizen who the federal government had charged with forming a terrorist plot. Lemorin was acquitted by a jury of all criminal charges, but ICE took a second bite at the apple and kept him jailed on immigration charges. Charles Kuck, past AILA president, represented Lemorin:

"Mr. Lemorin's removal is a high water mark in the injustice inherent in our broken immigration system," Charles H. Kuck, his attorney, said. "Deporting an innocent man should never be condoned."

But deporting innocent people is a bipartisan endeavor, one that President Obama has endorsed each day of his administration.

In a Racewire doubleheader, it looks like neither Fox News nor President Obama can make up their minds on immigration and the growing U.S. Latin@ population.

Fox News wants Latin@s to watch one of its channels, and white nativists to watch the other.

wants to be both Deporter in Chief and champion of immigrants.

If Obama doesn't become a true champion of immigrant communities and continues to deport record numbers of immigrants, he will lose in 2012. At this point, though, it's hard to see how the next president could be worse than this one for immigrants in the U.S. Getting him out of office would be a step forward, not a step back.

From Imagine2050 comes word of the Freedom from Fear Award, "a new national award that will honor ordinary people who commit extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees."

Fifteen individuals who have contributed to the immigrant rights movement will be chosen to receive the award and a $5,000 prize. Nominations close February 28. Here is the nomination form.

It's likely that many readers of this blog know a Dreamer whose local group could use $5,000, no strings attached, to build capacity and push for progressive immigration reform. Or a Dreamer who could, with that money, afford to take some time off from waiting tables or selling fast food to organize full time. Or to cover some of next semester's tuition. So let the nominations commence!

Jaya Ramji-Nogales discusses a pair of recent European court decisions applying provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the children of migrants. Most strikingly, a Dutch appellate court recently prevented the Dutch government from placing a failed asylum-seeker's children in foster care to facilitate their mother's deportation. According to Ramji-Nogales, "The court decided that the children's right to family unity overrode the state interest in immigration enforcement." Ramji-Nogales sums up:

For those of us beyond the jurisdiction of the ECHR, the decisions offer a tantalizing glimpse of the impact of a robust supranational human rights regime on domestic law and policy on the treatment of migrants. And though the holdings are modest, the use of human rights language with respect to undocumented immigrants and their children and the explicit prioritizing of their rights as individuals over the state's interest in enforcement (as compared to the federal preemption analyses used to assess the rights of immigrants in recent U.S. decisions) holds significant expressive power.

Julianne Hing, guest blogging at the Atlantic, struggles with the tension between the quest for the Perfect Immigrant and the reality of imperfect human beings. I was raised in a religious household, and sometimes scriptures still pop into my head. Reading Hing's post and some of the inevitable anti-immigrant comments it triggered, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" comes to mind.

And via Dee at Immigration Talk, reggaeton artists Wisin & Yandel created a music video to accompany their song "Estoy Enamorado" that captures the migrant struggle in a way too rarely seen in mainstream popular culture.

Via Vivirlatino comes news that Dreamer Pedro Gutierrez, who was due to present himself to ICE today to be deported, was granted a 30-day extension. Pedro's statement:

I now realize that the only way for me to be able to stay in Arizona, my home, is for President Obama to allow for me to stay. It is his choice whether I am deported to a country I do not know or if I am allowed to stay in Arizona and give back to my community. I ask President Obama to please let me serve this nation.

This is exactly right. At this point, it is President Obama's choice whether to deport Pedro and other Dreamers in removal proceedings, or to stand with the immigrant community on the side of justice.

Which will he choose?

MLK march Broad Street

An interfaith, multiethnic group of Philadelphians rallied and marched today to protest the detention and deportation of Cambodian refugees who came to the U.S. as children escaping genocide in their homeland.

About 300 supporters rallied at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, Philadelphia, before marching to the ICE District Office several blocks away. Speakers throughout the event referenced the words and life of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday was celebrated today.

Several Cambodian men now in their thirties were resettled as child refugees in some of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Raised by traumatized parents, in families that had been decimated by the Khmer Rouge, some strayed in their youth and were convicted of crimes in their teens and early twenties. They served their time and reintegrated into their communities, raising families and starting businesses. Many had become permanent residents but not citizens, not understanding the distinction or the consequences of not naturalizing.

A pair of laws passed in 1996 with bipartisan support are now tearing apart Philadelphia's Cambodian community. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) expanded the types of crimes which could result in permanent exile. They removed the ability of immigration judges to consider discretionary factors, such as length of time in the U.S. or family ties, in individual cases. Now, years after these men served their sentences, ICE has locked them up and begun deporting them. They will never be able to live with their U.S. citizen wives and children in this country again. They will be banished from their adopted country and sent back to the place where their families were slaughtered.

Via America's Voice, Pedro Gutierrez speaks about his difficult childhood and his dream to join the Marines.

[Take action here to help stop Pedro's deportation.]

Unfortunately, until President Obama takes targeted administrative action to defer the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible youth in removal proceedings, ICE will continue to deport Dreamers like Pedro. And for every Dreamer that we see in the papers, there are hundreds who are deported quietly, under the radar.

From the Economist on the Tucson shooting:

Opportunists who seek to gain political advantage by blaming the shootings on words would do America better service if they focused on bullets. In no other decent country could any civilian, let alone a deranged one, legally get his hands on a Glock semi-automatic. Even in America, the extended 31-shot magazine that Mr Loughner used was banned until 2004. As the Brady Centre, established after the Reagan shooting to commemorate one of its victims, has noted, more Americans were killed by guns in the 18 years between 1979 and 1997 than died in all of America's foreign wars since its independence. Around 30,000 people a year are killed by one of the almost 300m guns in America--almost one for every citizen. Those deaths are not just murders and suicides: some are accidents, often involving children.

The tragedy is that gun control is moving in the wrong direction. The Clinton-era ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 and, to his discredit, Mr Obama has done nothing to try to revive it. In 2008 the Supreme Court struck down Washington, DC's ban on handguns, and in 2010 Chicago's went the same way; others are bound to follow. In state after state the direction of legislation is to remove restrictions on gun use (those footling bans on bringing weapons into classrooms or churches or bars), rather than to enhance them.

I'm not sure what the Economist's definition of a "decent country" is, but I take the point to be that the U.S. far outpaces all other wealthy countries in both the rate of gun violence and overall homicide rate. Yet Americans continue under the delusion that guns keep us safer.

Pedro Gutierrez.png
Via Dreamactivist.org, please take action to stop ICE from deporting Dreamer Pedro Gutierrez:

1. Send a fax asking for his deportation to be delayed! (Thanks to America's Voice for their staunch support of Dreamers.)

2. Sign the petition urging members to step in and stop his deportation.

3. Make 5 calls for Pedro

Despite President Obama's expressions of support for Dreamers, under his supervision, ICE continues to deport Dreamers every single day. Until President Obama takes administrative action to defer the deportation of Dreamers in removal proceedings, his words of support remain just that: words.

At this moment, President Obama is the single person whose actions most directly negatively affect Dreamers, and he is also the single person with the most power to stop these deportations. He can only continue to say one thing and do another as long as he is not called out on this hypocrisy.

This article from Julie Shaw in the Philadelphia Daily News examines the heavy caseload that Philadelphia's immigration judges face, and ways that long court delays impact the people caught up in the immigration enforcement system.

The influx of cases into the court system is a direct result of escalated action by ICE under the Obama and Bush administrations. Obama's ICE is openly pursuing target deportation numbers, not for any coherent security or political goal, but simply because that is the logical endpoint of the enforcement-first narrative this government has embraced. This is reminiscent of the criminal justice system's turn in the 1970s towards locking people up en masse, abandoning crime prevention and rehabilitation for a more destructive, reactive, punitive approach. This response comes from fear, not from strength, and it feeds on itself, making what once would have been abhorrent seem commonplace.

Lewis and Zwerg.jpg[Image: Freedom Riders John Lewis (left) and Jim Zwerg; credit: Corbis]

PBS's American Experience is recruiting applicants for its 2011 Student Freedom Ride, "a journey retracing the historic civil rights bus rides that changed America." Forty college students around the country will be chosen to ride along with original Freedom Riders in May 2011 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original rides. Those who are interested can apply online here. (Note: the application deadline is this Monday, January 17.)

The original Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated south in 1961 shortly after the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. They were brutally beaten, their buses were firebombed, and many were arrested by local police in contravention of the Supreme Court's ruling.

The mainstream reaction was not favorable to the riders, who were viewed as unnecessarily provoking social division. Attorney General Robert Kennedy called for a "cooling off" period where activists would refrain from direct action, a request echoed by President Kennedy.

The violence that marks the minds and bodies of immigrant youth today is often hidden, coming in early morning raids that spirit young people away to unseen detention centers, camouflaged in official euphemisms like "security" and "removal." Still, the violence bubbles up in attacks on youth with names like Jose and Luis, fatal shootings of unarmed teenagers by the border patrol, and suicides by those who see no future for themselves.

The mainstream reaction to direct action is still often disapproval. Thoughtful challenges to the status quo provoke condemnation from the comfortable and the powerful, which confirms the effectiveness of targeted direct action.

I hope that young activists in the LGBT and immigrant rights movements consider applying to join the upcoming commemorative Freedom Ride. Dreamers risk long-term imprisonment and exile simply for showing themselves in public under the system of legalized injustice masquerading as immigration law. By selecting Dreamers to join the ride, PBS would ensure that it would be historic as well as historical. But first they need some applicants to choose--Dreamers, apply here!

I don't have much to write, today.  I'm up early preparing for a trip to see the family of Selvin ArĂ©valo, today.  For those of you that haven't been following, I put everything I had into getting Selvin out of detention in Maine.  Right after we got him out, we learned that his appeal for asylum was denied, and while we were able to file another appeal, he is still very much at risk of detention and deportation every day. 

I don't plan on letting him get deported any time soon, though, so I thought it would be good for me to visit his family while I was here in Guatemala.  I'm bringing a video of him for his family to watch and will try to bring a video back to Selvin.  If you're all lucky, and Selvin says it's okay, I'll be able to edit out something of the whole experience for all of you to see. 

Wish me luck in the meantime.  I'll be back in Boston on Friday and back to pushing full force to empower migrants. 

California Assemblyman Gil Cedillo reintroduced a bill today that would make undocumented college students in California eligible for in-state financial aid. Prospects for passage of the California Dream Act are brighter this year since Governor Jerry Brown said he supported a previous version of the bill, while Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it three times.

As a state measure, the law would have no effect on an applicant's immigration status, which falls under federal authority. Even so, passage of the bill would help undocumented residents of California pursue a college education and demonstrate the organizing power of migrant youth.

Please take a moment to sign the petition at DreamActivist asking Governor Brown and the California state legislature to pass the California Dream Act.

(Via DreamActivist and Colorlines.)

It's not about
win or lose
Cause we all lose
when they feed
on the souls of the innocent
blood drenched pavement
keep on moving
though the waters stay raging.
Matisyahu - 2009 
The reactions I've witnessed to the violence in Tuscon have made me physically sick.  Ever since I heard the news on Saturday, I've been glued to twitter, the television, and my computer screen, looking for someone to say something that makes some kind of sense.  It seems the only people that have anything worthwhile to say have been keeping mostly silent, using this time to reflect as we probably all should. 

Writing is one of the ways I reflect, taking the thoughts that swirl around me, sometimes wreaking havoc on my spirit, and channeling them into something tangible that I can take apart and make sense out of.  I publish these thoughts publicly here in deference to one of Hillel's famous ancient lessons: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  And when I am for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?"  In short, I'm sick of waiting for someone to say something worthwhile about a tragedy that has shaken me to my core, so I'm going to give it a try.

I haven't seen as much soul-searching, discussion, and fingerpointing within the immigrant rights movement as I expected after the 111th Congress ended with no measurable progress for the immigrant community in the U.S. Democrats spent the last two years claiming to be champions of the immigrant community but in the end accomplished nothing despite holding large majorities in both houses of Congress.

Since the DREAM Act was defeated in December, I haven't heard anything new from President Obama.

I haven't heard anything from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

From the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

From the Reform Immigration for America campaign.

From America's Voice or the National Immigration Forum.

From AILA.

Maybe I haven't been paying attention. Or maybe I haven't heard much that is new, something that doesn't replicate the failed strategy of the past several years.

I know some have been taking time to decompress after a fierce extended campaign. I know others have been depressed and unsure of what comes next.

I have to accept accountability for the current situation as well ... I've been working towards the goal of legalization for a few years with as little success as anyone else. And drifting from necessary introspection to counterproductive acrimony is a real danger.

But the silence right now is deafening.

Whatever happens going forward, the immigrant rights movement can't repeat the mistakes of the past several years. I hope that this silence from those who formulated and implemented the comprehensive immigration reform strategy represents a tacit acknowledgment that something went badly wrong. And that now it is time to listen to new voices and new ideas. I hope that conditions now are favorable for more vibrant discussions, more brainstorming, and more openness to new strategies.

I hope there is more space in this movement now for undocumented leadership, for leaders whose incentives, information, and experiences are more closely aligned with undocumented communities than current leadership. Leaders who would personally benefit from legalization will almost always fight harder than leaders who wouldn't.

I'll be writing more about this soon, but for now one of the few in-depth attempts to debrief I've seen so far in the new year is this one from Daniel Altschuler. Another is my co-blogger Kyle's recent post on priorities for 2011. Check them out, share your thoughts in comments here or at these posts. Write your own reaction and post the link in comments or email it to me or Kyle, or let us know about pieces you liked that we might have missed. Let's start talking.

Citizen Orange was down for a couple of hours tonight after the Movable Type script "mt-comments.cgi", which is what makes the comments run here caused undue strain on the server that hosts Citizen Orange.  This is the second time something like this has happened to Citizen Orange.  The first time there was a problem with the Search script, which is why you'll notice the search box on the right doesn't work. 

Bluehost, as always, was very helpful and understanding in helping me to deal with problem, especially since I'm not as technologically saavy as I should be.  They told me what was wrong and for now I just basically deleted the "mt-comments.cgi" script, and will leave it that way until I can figure out a more permanent solution.  I don't believe this is a political attack on Citizen Orange, it's the just the result of a bunch of spam bots overloading the outdated Movable Type installation I have here. 

I've put the maintenance and updating of Citizen Orange off for much too long while focusing on the DREAM Act.  I'm going to be speaking with my co-blogger Dave, shortly, about the best strategy for Citizen Orange moving forward so that we can inject some much needed capital into getting this site up to date.  In the meantime, if you know of any Movable Type experts that can get the comments up and running on Citizen Orange again as a temporary fix, I'd appreciate the help. 

The Obama administration announced last month its intention to resume deportations in mid-January of certain Haitian immigrants convicted of crimes in the U.S. Some of those likely to deported have lived in the U.S. for decades and will be permanently separated from U.S. citizen family members. Some had been permanent residents themselves. All will face indefinite imprisonment as criminal deportees by the Haitian government in jails where they may contract cholera or tuberculosis and where the government relies on family members to bring prisoners food and safe drinking water. Furthermore, prisoners in Haiti are at risk of being killed by their own prison guards. A week after the earthquake last year, prison guards in Les Cayes summarily executed prisoners and then tried to cover up the crime.

The U.S. government will be deporting people to their deaths in Haiti--some of these deportees will not survive under these harsh conditions.

Via Jaya Ramji-Nogales, I learned that a group of human rights advocates filed a petition (pdf) last week with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking that it prevent the United States from resuming deportations to Haiti. The Commission is an organ of the Organization of American States that can be petitioned to make recommendations to member states to resolve cases of violations of human rights. While the Commission and the associated Inter-American Court of Human Rights lack significant enforcement authority, litigation in these bodies can be a way to pressure member states to more faithfully observe human rights.

For a country like the U.S. which has historically used the rhetoric of human rights both to define its national identity and as a foreign policy tool, being publicly called out for violating human rights should be a source of embarrassment. Ramji-Nogales outlines the specific human rights violations alleged in the petition:

The petition alleges violations of five provisions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (sic). The deportation of these Haitians abrogates their right to life given the inhumane prison conditions they will face at home, particularly during the cholera epidemic, which has hit prisons particularly hard. Their removal also breaches their right to freedom from cruel, infamous, or unusual punishments due to the severe lack of medical care and social services in post-earthquake Haiti. The arbitrary detention these criminal deportees will face upon return violates their right to security of person. The petition also argues that the failure of the U.S. immigration system to offer a humanitarian defense to deportation, either by measuring the impact of removal on U.S. citizen family members or assessing the gravity of conditions in their home country violates the Haitians' right to family life and their right to due process and a fair trial.

Ramji-Nogales points out that U.S. petitioners to the Commission must reference the Declaration since the U.S. has refused to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights, a legally binding treaty. The U.S. is joined by Cuba and a handful of other states in refusing to ratify the treaty, again showing the U.S. to be an outlier in its faltering dedication to the protection of human rights. As demonstrated by its resumption of deportations to Haiti, the U.S.'s commitment to observing human rights in practice does not match its rhetoric.

If you disagree with the Obama administration's decision to send these Haitians to their death, please sign this petition at change.org asking ICE to suspend these deportations.

In my inbox tonight from Democracia U.S.A.:

Democracia Saddened, Outraged at Attack Against U.S. Congresswoman, Staff, and Others at Tucson Event

Today, Democracia U.S.A., the nation's largest Hispanic voter registration and civic empowerment organization, joined the nation in expressing sadness and outrage at the senseless shooting in Tucson, Arizona which led to the death of Federal Judge John Roll, and several innocent civilians and critically injured others, including Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. The motive for the shooting is yet to be determined.

"We send our condolences to the families of those who were murdered today, our thoughts and prayers are certainly with them. We also want to express our vigorous support for our friend Congresswoman Giffords; we are praying for her full and speedy recovery," said Jorge Mursuli, President of Democracia U.S.A.

"Congresswoman Giffords has been a determined leader and advocate in the U.S. Congress for the Latino community on issues like health care and immigration reform. She was also a strong ally in trying to help combat the anti-Latino rhetoric that dominated many of the mid-term races in Arizona," continued Mursuli, President of Democracia U.S.A. "She is one of our nation's best; a dedicated and principled politician. We hope that whoever is responsible for this is brought to swift justice," concluded Mursuli.

See updates and suggestion below.

Another year has passed and guess what?  People still hate migrants.  People have hated migrants for millenia, and they probably will hate migrants for millenia more (if society lasts that long).  It's cynical to write that out, but at the same time, when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, it helps to ease my anxiety when I meditate on this.  To understand that the struggle will always go on forces you to hold fast to the things that matter, today, and to keep yourself healthy for the struggle, tomorrow. 

I hope everyone was able to rest, relax, and spend time with loved ones over the holidays.  I want to express gratitude to my co-blogger Dave for sacrificing his time during the holidays to keep content fresh, here.  I continue to be privileged with the opportunity to escape the harsh New England winter to bask in the Land of Eternal Spring here in Central America.  I'll be returning to Boston late next week.  I have yet to find or know a more beautiful country on this earth than Guatemala, and I fight for the day when, emancipated from inhumane and unjust immigration laws, my undocumented brothers and sisters in the U.S. can witness this beauty alongside of me.  You never leave my thoughts and prayers. 

What follows is an outline of the pro-migrant strategy I'm going to try and pursue in the coming year.  These are just initial thoughts, subject to change, and input is always welcome, here.  I've discussed this over the phone with several people already, and I thought it would be good to write it out for reference.

As among the adherents to any major religion, there is a spectrum of views on migration among Mormons. This is one pro-migrant Mormon reading of kinship networks and migration. Here is an excerpt:

This is what a gentle Mormon radicalization looks like. This is how our fellow Mormons can become empathetically sensitized to the suffering of strangers: through the pedagogy of kinship, and the liberal urge to expand its lessons to others. It isn't the kind of radicalization that traditional revolutionaries pine for: it is no open insurrection against the government, no systematic critique of coercion or capital; not a declaration of insurgency or even any promise of a refusal to compromise in the future. Instead, it is a quiet, even a meek, refusal to accept the tyranny of the state, in one case, when it became just a little bit too much to stomach, and a decision to choose friendship and family instead.

In this post, Tristan discusses two types of kinship relations: vertical and horizontal. By vertical, he means traditional blood or legally-recognized relationships. Horizontal kinship refers to a universal human kinship which is a core precept of the Mormon faith and many others, that we are all brothers and sisters before God.

In my experience, the pressures, challenges, and opportunities faced by the contemporary immigrant rights movement has resulted in many members of the movement developing strong horizontal kinship relationships with one and other. Dreamers (and a few allies) are a tightknit bunch, much closer than many families, and in some cases, closer to each other than to their own families. Yet immigration law prioritizes vertical kinship relationships, which in turn has lead the immigrant rights movement to focus rhetoric and strategy on vertical kinship. I don't like seeing families broken up by the Obama administration, and vertical kinship relations provide value and stability to many people. But we could benefit from thinking more intentionally about the role of horizontal kinship relationships in immigrant rights messaging, policy goals, and organizing.

The Obama administration is trying to defuse a trade skirmish with Mexico by proposing to allow long-haul Mexican trucks access to the U.S. after banning them from U.S. roads in March 2009. Like many industries in which U.S. workers feel pressure from non-Americans willing to do the same work for less pay, U.S. truckers are upset, judging by the negative reaction from Teamsters president James Hoffa. But did he have to dredge up the bogeyman of border violence to make his case?

the proposal by the Transportation Department was denounced by the Teamsters union, which represents long-haul truckers and fears that expanded Mexican trucking within the United States will threaten jobs.

"I am deeply disappointed by this proposal," the union's president, James P. Hoffa, said in a statement. "Why would the D.O.T. propose to threaten U.S. truck drivers' and warehouse workers' jobs when unemployment is so high? And why would we do it when drug cartel violence along the border is just getting worse?" Mr. Hoffa also raised safety concerns.

The Teamsters make a stink, and Democratic politicians don't know what to do, not wanting to take a strong position on the issue that will upset either labor or immigrant rights constituencies, or both.

In situations like this, business has the last laugh. Transnational corporations move capital and goods more or less freely across borders, and move management from country to country with relatively little trouble. But workers are stuck in the countries they were born in, either fighting to cross borders in contravention of business-oriented immigration laws or fighting to send workers just like them back to the countries they escaped from. Why is the assumption about low-wage migration always that when workers have more options and more freedom, workers will lose? Why do workers always end up pitted against each other across borders instead of working together, while corporate profits keep rolling in? It doesn't have to be this way.

There's a cosmopolitan, classically liberal element of business that is aligned with an open borders immigration policy. But business in the U.S. has generally been focused on increasing the flow of high-skill, high-wage workers, ceding control over conservative messaging to nativists. Business has not pulled its weight in recent years in promoting liberal immigration reform, it had delivered a paltry number of Republican politicians for any compromise bill and has by now lost even those. Business's families aren't being separated every day, business isn't getting locked up and deported, business isn't dying in the desert. Business is doing just fine under the status quo.

When the Teamsters play to nativist sympathies to keep immigrant workers out of the U.S. or stuck in the underground economy, they are ultimately not doing any favors for U.S. workers.

(Check out Mexico Trucker Online for "straight talk about Mexico and Mexican trucks.")

As the GOP implodes in a fit of nativism (today's CNN headline says it all: "Immigration Foes Target Baby Citizens"), the binational human rights organization Breakthrough has introduced its "I Am This Land" video contest.

Here are the rules:

1. Make a video about diversity
2. Use the phrase I AM THIS LAND & tell friends to vote
3. Win $2500, Activision games, 1-Day internship at SPIN Magazine, and more by uploading your video

Change.org's Immigrant Rights page is a good source of information and a portal for taking action through targeted online petitions. (Disclosure: I used to blog there.) Petitions are no substitute for other types of offline action, but I have seen their effectiveness in leveraging other forms of support in deportation defense cases. Targeted petitions can bring visibility to individual cases that otherwise would be swept under the rug by the Obama administration. I speculate that they might also be a type of "gateway" activism, informing and engaging participants who are then more likely to pick up the phone to call legislators, attend rallies, and meet like-minded people offline.

With that in mind, here are three recent immigrant rights petitions on change.org. If you would like to add your voice to those who have already signed, jump on in:

Ask President Obama to save Florinda and halt ICE's "Secure Communities" program.
Florinda is the mother of U.S. citizen children, and is at risk of deportation because of the notorious "Secure Communities" program. "Secure Communities" puts local police at work enforcing immigration law - misusing local resources and undermining of community/police relations. U.S. citizens, babies and kids are separated from their parents and family members because of "Secure Communities."


My boyfriend was brought to the U.S at 3months old by his father, he is now 19yrs old and has been here all his life, his dad was going to help get his legal status but his dad passed away when he was 4years old and his grandma who had legal status had a petiton set up for him and other grand kids to get their legal status but during the process she died and they canceled everything. He was currently attending school to get his diploma, he was riding his bike home to get clothes to go camping with us and got stopped for riding without a light, now hes been in jail for almost 2 months on no charges, hes never been in trouble. In a second his life changed, he didnt ask to be brought here. Everyday he is calling us crying so scared that he will get deported to a country hes never been to and has no family or place to live.

Don't Hold Tucson's School District Hostage For Teaching Hispanic Heritage

The Tucson school board, student activists, Ethnic Studies teachers and educators agree -- the Ethnic Studies program is a great asset to students in Arizona. Tell the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education to overturn Horne's ruling and keep this valuable program running.

Three weeks ago, a group of Palestinian youth posted a manifesto on Facebook excoriating every internal and external political force at work in Gaza today. The manifesto begins:

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

The whole thing is worth reading, as well as this follow up by the Observer. I was struck by certain parallels between the situation of Gazan youth and undocumented youth in the U.S.

There are many differences, of course. War does not touch the borders of the U.S., while Gazan youth have faced invasion and occupation. Gazan youth are not at risk of exile simply because of the passport they hold, as Dreamers are. But rather than engage in the dread oppression olympics, I'd like to draw out certain similarities between both groups.

Both groups are physically trapped, unable to travel beyond the borders which confine them. Both have been jailed by their own governments. Both sit beyond many of the benefits and protections of the purported democracies in which they live. Both face depression, suicide, and other social maladies that come from living life without a future.

Both have started to raise their voices. From the manifesto:

Stanley Renshon of the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant think tank, wrote last week about the DREAM Act:

Anyone with a heart as well as brain recognizes that children brought here by their parents illegally at a very young age are different in many ways from those old enough to know better but who choose to break our immigration laws almost wholly to satisfy their own self-interest.

The question is: what to do about this difficult set of circumstances?

The answer is simple: Pass the DREAM Act.

But Renshon and the two other "compassionate" conservatives he cites in his blog post--Mark Krikorian and Debra Saunders--don't support the DREAM Act in its most recent form. Instead, they discuss some future DREAM Act to be written by conservative lawmakers which would "not include egregious loopholes."

I am skeptical for a few reasons.

my-turn-visa-SC50-wide-horizontal.jpg[Image: Choo Youn Kong / AFP-Getty Images]

Sometimes I wonder what people who get riled up about immigration would do if they actually knew how the laws worked, instead of relying on the lies that have been spun into conventional wisdom.

Utah State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom wants Utah to pass a SB1070-style law that would drive undocumented immigrants further into the shadows. He told the LA Times one of the reasons he has become Utah's leading anti-immigrant politician is that it is so hard for immigrants to come through legal channels.

Sandstrom became fluent in Spanish and sponsored one family that wanted to immigrate to the United States. He was shocked at the hurdles they had to surmount. They had to sign a form pledging to refuse all U.S. government benefits for five years. Sandstrom thought of the people here illegally who accessed those benefits. It didn't sit right with him.

There are a couple of inaccuracies repeated in this short paragraph. First, the passage suggests that all it takes to immigrate to the U.S. is a financial sponsor like Sandstrom and a pledge not to access benefits. This is incorrect. It's true that each applicant for permanent residence must locate a U.S. citizen or permanent resident financial sponsor to sign an "affidavit of support," a requirement derived from the long-standing prohibition on accepting immigrants who will become a "public charge." But to apply for permanent residence in the first place, applicants must have an employer or close family member in the U.S. able and willing to file the underlying petition for them.

Most people who want to emigrate to the U.S. can't because they lack such a petitioner. A financial sponsor alone gets you nowhere. Yet most Americans believe that the U.S. takes all who wish to come, as long as they wait in the famous "line." This line is a fantasy. It only exists for the small number of people who have close family members in the U.S. or an employer willing to wade through the red tape and expense of an employment petition. And some of those fortunate enough to be able to wait in the line must wait 10, 15, even 20 years for a visa.

But the other myth that Sandstrom repeats to this reporter is perhaps even more pernicious, the myth that undocumented immigrants are on the dole, stealing money from taxpayers.

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