June 2011 Archives

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight delivers what I think is one of the most succinct and accurate critiques of Barack Obama, yet, by comparing his leadership style to that of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's.

If you haven't read it, yet, Michael Barbaro's article in the New York Times provides a clear window into how change is made by describing Cuomo's behind-the-scenes maneuvering to make same-sex-marriage a reality . That's the sort of leadership we need in this country.


In many ways, the U.S. has already lost the war on terror. Even our grandmothers have been forced to sacrifice their dignity for the illusion of safety.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Benjamin Franklin (11 November 1755)


By now, you've probably already heard of Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who came out as undocumented in the New York Times Magazine. Memeorandum and Mediagazer, sites which aggregate political and media news, are exploding with his story. Matthew Yglesias even dropped his academic pretensions for a bit to shed a tear or two for Vargas. I say that with love.

If you're as moved as Mathew Yglesias has been moved, and there's only one thing you do in reaction to Vargas' story call Barack Obama through Presente.org and ask him to stop deporting people like Vargas.

Media Matters has a good round-up of the nativist conservatives that are committing demographic suicide by going berserk over this story. I'll write more on the nativists, later, but Vargas' story has highlighted, yet again, for me, how far progressives and the mainstream media have to go before they can begin to cover these stories accurately and with a semblance of humanity. Let's start with Heather Horn staff writer at The Atlantic:

Whatever you think of the illegal immigration issue, it's hard to dispute that there's a fundamental injustice occurring if Vargas gets let off the hook, while hundreds of thousands of other illegals get deported. Even those who want to see productive illegal immigrants granted amnesty might admit that making exceptions purely based on prominence isn't right. What if there's someone as intelligent and productive as Vargas--but not as famous--out there right now?
Heather Horn - The Atlantic (22 June 2011)
Wow. I don't even know where to start. I already told people who are concerned about the "hundreds of thousands" getting deported to call Barack Obama. So I'll start simple with Horn's use of the term "illegal". More people have referred to Vargas as an "illegal immigrant" at this point than I care to count. Not only is that phrase dehumanizing, it's legally innaccurate. No human being is illegal. The word illegal should be used to describe acts, not to define people. Horn, however, goes a step further than dehumanization and legal innaccuracy and gets into butchering grammar with her use of the word "illegals." Sorry Ms. Horn, the word "illegal" is not a noun. Maybe you and the nativists who dehumanize people with the term "illegals" should start taking English lessons from undocumented people like Vargas. If you haven't signed the pledge to Drop The I-Word, please do so.

To Horn's central point about fairness, I'll bring in Nick Baumann at Mother Jones:

I'm sympathetic to Matt Yglesias' view that we should empathize with all people who come to the United States in search of a better life, even if, unlike Vargas, they do so knowing that what they're doing is illegal. But I've also worked with foreign-born journalists who've paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and waded through miles of red tape and seemingly senseless regulations--including, sometimes, returning to their home countries for a period--in order to work in this country.* (This applies outside of journalism, too, of course.) I wonder how they're feeling about Jose Antonio Vargas this morning.
Nick Baumann - Mother Jones (22 June 2011)
It's difficult for me not to descend into sarcasm after reading this. Does Baumann really think that foreign journalists envy Vargas' position, right now, or for the last decade and a half, for that matter? Would Baumann care to get any of those foreign journalists on record so we know who those heartless bastards are? I thought the supposedly liberal Mother Jones magazine really took a step forward when reporter Tim Murphy stopped using the word "illegal," but Baumann just put the magazine another huge step backward in the anti-migrant direction with this post. Finally, I'll refer to Bryan Preston over at Pajamas Media whom I believe most succinctly provides the nativist view:

He took at least two jobs that otherwise would have gone to others who are here legally.

He used false documents -- a fake green card, a fake Social Security card, and a fake passport to get the fake Social Security number.

Despite having lived in America for over 14 years, he has never bothered himself to get right with the legal system.

[...]

He got a scholarship that presumably would have gone to someone else.

He established a network of friends who helped him continue to skirt immigration law, as an adult.

He even managed to get around the Secret Service and visited the White House as a journalist. If he can do that, who else can do that?
Bryan Preston - Pajamas Media (22 June 2011)
There's two myths, here, which nativists frequently rely on to trick people into anti-migrant sentiment. The first myth is the idea that a job or a scholarship given to one person is a job or a scholarship taken away from someone else. This is fallacious zero-sum logic. Conservatives who pride themselves in economic literacy and knowledge of the free market should know this to be false. A job given to one person is not a job taken away from another because that person in turn supports the jobs of others once he's employed. What's most ridiculous is how clear this myth is in this case. If Vargas hadn't gotten that scholarship, or received his job, we could have all been deprived of his Pultizer Prize winning reporting of the Virginia Tech Massacre, which was of value to more people than I would like to try and count. The second myth is just a basic misunderstanding of the U.S. immigration system, the idea that it's possible for undocumented people "get right with the legal system." As Vargas makes very clear in his New York Times piece, he would have had to leave and wait for 10 years before he could even begin the process of waiting for decades to get back into the U.S. which for all intents and purposes means he would never be able to come back. The 10 year bar is just one of many ridiculous elements of a complex, conflicting, and fundamentally broken immigration system. Reason Magazine has a good graphic conveying the complexity of the system. Pay attention to the fact that if you are a low-skilled worker with no family in the U.S., there is no real legal route for you to migrate here. For the vast majority of unauthorized migrants, there is no line, to get in the back off.

Finally, I'll get to what I believe is most courageous about Jose Antonio Vargas, which is his admission of the laws that he's broken as an unauthorized migrant. I'm one of the U.S. citizens who is part of the modern day underground railroad that Vargas describes through his website, Define American. I've helped stop at least half a dozen deportations, and supported many more undocumented youth in their decision to come out just as Vargas has. Vargas is the first undocumented person I know, though, that has so publicly admitted to some of the laws he had to break to get ahead. David Leopold, President of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA) describes some of the risks:

"I think he has taken a huge personal risk by coming forward," says [David] Leopold. "For example, he admits that he checked 'U.S. citizen' on his I-9 forms. This is a serious civil violation for which there is no waiver under the immigration law as written. If it is construed as a false claim to US citizenship, it could lead to criminal sanctions. The same would hold true for knowingly using a false social security card, drivers license etc. There could be a statute of limitations defense depending on when these occurred. But, nevertheless, it could lead to prosecution and or deportation proceedings."
John Hudson - The Atlantic (22 June 2011)
It's important to put the laws Vargas has broken into perspective, specifically: (1) Using a fraudulent social security number, and (2) fraudulently applying for a drivers' license. Nativists get outraged when unauthorized migrants don't pay federal income tax (they of course pay property and sales taxes like everyone else), but when they get a social security number to pay taxes into a system that they'll never get back, then nativists get outraged at them for committing fraud. Isn't it better for Vargas to pay those taxes then for him not to? I would also much rather have Vargas driving having trained to get a license than driving without one. Still, these are laws that Vargas knowingly broke, and he clearly feels guilty about having done so and having misled others in the process.

However, if the immigration system is unjust, and I think most everyone who has studied the system or dealt with it agrees that it is unjust, then don't we have a duty to resist that injustice as Vargas has done? Would it have been nobler for Vargas to hang his head low, stay stuck in one place without a drivers' licence, give up on an education, and not pursue his passion in journalism? Most importantly, what would you do in Vargas' situation? There are unjust laws throughout history that needed to be resisted against.  Where would you have stood then and where do you stand now?

I've already made my choice. The stories of people like Vargas long ago convinced me that I needed to resist against this broken system with everything I had in me. I hope all of you will stand with me, and do the same. Again, if you haven't called Barack Obama to ask him to stop the deportations of people like Vargas, please do so.


Cuentame's latest video is power. It's about time that someone in the pro-migrant movement throw a punch right at the nose of the prison-industrial complex. Stand with Cuentame's Immigrants For Sale campaign if you haven't done so yet.

The whole idea of an "industrial complex" is a difficult one to grasp, but an important one in U.S. democracy as it represents a wholesale corruption of the system. I know of three "industrial complexes" that affect my life, the military-industrial complex (the original), the prison-industrial complex, and the non-profit-industrial complex. Each has its own flavor, which I won't describe here, but Iist them all together to make the point that they describe similar phenomena. The phenomena becomes clear when President Dwight D. Eisenhower's original phrase is used, the "military-industrial-congressional complex."
Good news.  Following my post on ethanol subsidies, the Senate voted to end them by a vote of 73-27. Most surprising to me is the anti-migrant vote that Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) took on this one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom I mentioned in my post, thankfully took the right stance on this one. It's difficult to say whether or not ethanol subsidies will actually end, but I'll be watching closely and I encourage you to, as well.

The media has also been doing a little bit of of a better job covering how this affects rising food prices. Megan Woolhouse at the Boston Globe has a decent article on how ethanol subsidies affect the cost of ice cream. It almost seems like a joke, though, that people are talking about ice cream prices then about how this is starving the majority world. Such is the systemic violence of the world we live in.


This was originally posted on Crooks and Liars.

At Netroots Nation, Felipe Matos of the Trail of Dreams caught White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in two lies, yesterday: (1) Obama "hears from DREAM Act Students all the time," and (2) Obama "does not have the executive authority [to stop the deportations of DREAMers]."
Last Wednesday, Mass. State Rep. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that undocumented rape victims "should be afraid to come forward" to the police. Fattman's comments were a reaction to the [In]Secure Communities program (S-Comm), wherein the Obama administration essentially wants to turn every local police officer into a border patrol agent by decree in two years.

A week later, the reaction has been deafening, along with the silence of Masschusetts Republicans.

Almost 3,000 people have signed a CREDO Action petition asking Fattman to apologize and rescind his support for S-Comm.

Almost 3,000 people have signed a Change.org petition started by New Hope Inc, a Massachusetts-based organization that works to end domestic violence, asking Fattman to apologize and the Mass. State House to publicly denounce his comments.

Almost 700 people have signed a Care2 petition telling Massachusetts Republicans that "women deserve basic equal rights, regardless of status."

If you haven't signed my change.org petition yet targetting Mass. Republican Leadership, including Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) who endorsed Fattman, please do so. I'm going to continue to push to get as many people involved in this fight in whatever capacity they can, while I try to compile the collective impact.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, Massachusetts Republicans have nothing to say on the subject of immigration. They're strategy seems to be to try and ignore outcry. Good luck. As long as I'm a resident of this Commonwealth, it's going to get worse the longer they try to remain silent.


Without Corn There Is No Country
Peasant Produced Food For Mexico
Hunger Doesn't Wait!

I've got to admit that these stories snuck up on me. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), are pushing to end ethanol subsides and House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are trying to hold the Obama administration accountable for getting involved in yet another war. Is this opposite day or just a continuation of the Republican strategy of opposite Obama? Add all of this to Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich's rebuke of LeBron James, and for some reason I feel like I woke up this morning in an alternate reality where I'm a Republican.

Normally, I wouldn't find time to write about all of this, especially as I'm trying to hold Mass. State Rep. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) accountable for stating undocumented rape victims "should be afraid" to the police. However, I can't help but try to bring some perspective to what has up until this point been muddled and, in effect if not in intent, violent media coverage of a globally important issue.
NOTE: If you signed the Drop The I-Word Pledge, yet, please do so.

UPDATE: I just started a twitter petition asking @ezraklein to drop the I-word.

I'm happy to report that progressive-leaning journalists continue to move away from using the word "illegal" to in-effect dehumanize people.   I reported here on Citizen Orange that Adam Serwer of the American Prospect dropped the I-Word after previously using it.

Now, it looks as if Tim Murphy of the liberal magazine Mother Jones is moving in the same direction.  Just over a month ago, when describing the Alabama immigration law, Murphy used the phrase "illegal immigrants."  It's always been grating for me when Murphy uses that phrase because he does some otherwise pretty admirable reporting on a subject that too few people take interest in.  As readers of Citizen Orange will know, thanks to my co-blogger and talented immigration lawyer Dave Bennion, the phrase is not only dehumanizing, it's innaccurate and effectively waves away the due process that all migrants are entitled to.
[Editor's Note from Kyle de Beausset: At the recommendation of Jocelyn Sherman at the United Farm Workers, I just read Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement. One of the best reads I've gotten through in a long time because it gets right into the details of how change is made from the ground up.

It has also made me feel a lot more connected to what is happening in California with the UFW in the present which made me feel like I had to get something up on this piece of legislation that's moving. I wish I could have written something myself but Dylan Anderson has graciously offered to allow me to put this up as a guest post.]


SB 104: Providing Farm Workers a 75-Year-Old Protection
By Dylan J. Anderson
United Farm Workers

Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act." Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state's more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses' threats and other interference. If a simple majority - more than 50 percent - of workers signs the ballots, their jobs would be unionized.
UPDATE: CREDO Action just sent an action alert out to 15,000 people in Massachusetts regarding Rep. Fattman. 800 People have already signed.

For the first time I can remember, as long as I've been a resident of Massachusetts, local Republican leadership has been silent on the issue of unauthorized migration.  It appears State Representative Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), has finally crossed a line too far by suggesting that undocumented rape victims "should be afraid to come forward" in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  Over 100 people have signed my petition asking that Mass. GOP Leadership clarify their position on undocumented rape victims, and almost 500 people have signed a petition started by local women's rights group, New Hope, Inc., asking the Mass. State Assembly to censure Rep. Fattman. If you haven't signed my petition, yet, please do so:


Massachusetts Republicans love to beat up on the pro-migrant community. The entire Republican infrastructure, along with local conservative newspapers like the Boston Herald, and talk radio like WRKO AM 680, beat up on us so much it's hard to know which punches to defend. Folks who follow me know that I don't say that as a partisan. In fact, I think it's partly the pro-migrant community's fault that we've allowed ourselves to be punching bags for Republicans, and the first ones to be sold out by a state that is run almost entirely by Democrats. We're not as well organized as we should be, but you can help us start to build the power we need to take on this nativist infrastructure.

As the pro-migrant community tries to build power here in Massachusetts, we have the gift of a rare misstep by the miniscule Republican caucus, through Rep. Fattman's remarks, to shine the light of truth on the horrific anti-migrant policies that local Republicans advocate for and local Democrats enable. I wouldn't be pushing this if Rep. Fattman had apologized. However, it's clear from his "clarifying" statement (which doesn't do much clarifying),and the silence of Republican leaders, that they are refusing to take responsibility for his statements. Rep. Fattman's statements discourage undocumented rape victims from coming forward, and encourage rapists to focus on undocumented women.

As I stated in my first post about this, this isn't an attempt to play political games, nor is this a hypothetical situation. Unauthorized migrants are frequently preyed on by people who know they're too afraid to go to the police. Furthermore, this situation gets to the heart of the debate that advocates are having over what I think is currently the greatest threat that migrant communities face across the nation, the [In]Secure Communities program (S-Comm).
Please sign this change.org petition asking the leaders of the Massachusetts Republican Party to clarify their stance on Undocumented Rape Victims:



The narrative is turning on the backlash to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's decision to stand up to [In]Secure Communities (S-Comm), easily one of the greatest threats to migrant communities around the nation.  There's been a national outcry against the comments of State Representative Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), who in a statement to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, suggested that undocumented rape victims "should be afraid to come forward" and report the crime committed against them. Care2, Daily Kos, Firedoglake, Mother Jones, and Think Progress have all covered Rep. Fattman's remarks.  Fattman's attempts to clarify his comments did not contain an apology, nor did they clear up what an undocumented woman should do if she's raped.

Proponents enforcement-only migration policy solutions are likely to see the uproar over Fatmann's comments as much ado about nothing, or worse as some sort of cynical political attack. In truth, this uproar gets right to the heart of the matter of the debate over U.S. immigration policy, which is really a debate over what type of country the U.S. should be. Does the U.S. want to be a country that does nothing when a migrant is raped for the simple act of trying to seek a better life for herself and her family?

This isn't a hypothetical situation. Unauthorized migrants, some of the most vulnerable people among us, are routinely raped as they attempt to seek a better life in the U.S. It was Maria Bolaños, a undocumented victim of domestic violence, who most dramatically brought the problems with S-Comm to light when she confronted the director of the program, David Venturella, with her story. In Massachusetts, people regularly impersonate ICE agents in order to assault and rob unauthorized migrants. What does do Massachusetts Republicans think unauthorized migrants should do in these situations? Should we allow this violence to go unchecked in a quixotic attempt to enforce the broken laws of our outdated immigration system? Do Massachusetts Republicans want to live in a country where we make conditions so miserable for migrants, that they are forced to return to the majority world countries they're fleeing from?

The petition is addressed to the leaders of the Massachusetts Republican Party: Chairman Jennifer Nassour, Executive Director Nate Little, and Communications Director Tim Buckley. Sen. Scott Brown, who endorsed Fattman, should also be forced to clarify his position on this issue.

Rep. Fattman, who refused to apologize in his clarifying statements, or even do much clarifying for that matter, should unequivocally apologize immediately or resign. Public officials have to use their words responsibly and the fact of the matter is that his statements effectively encourage sexual predators to prey on undocumented women, and discourage undocumented women from reporting rapists. If he can't take responsibility for that then he has no business being a public official.
I found this heartening gem as I continue to spend too much time consuming a cacophony of media. It looks like pro-migrant demographic changes are going to force some important nativists out of Congress.  If you don't know who Elton Gallegly is, you're not alone.  I'm not even sure I know how to pronounce his name, correctly, yet.   

House Majority Leader John Boehner unexpectedly appointed the lesser-known Gallegly, over the more notorious Iowan nativist, Steve King, as Chair of the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration. Gallegly has been less vocal than King but his policies are no less horrific.

Now, according to Aaron Blake of the Washington Post, it looks as if Elton Gallegly, along with another notorious Californian Republican nativist, Brian Bilbray, are going to be losing their seats in the redistricting battle following the 2010 Census. Brian Bilbray, for those who don't know, is on the board of the nativist hate group, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
It appears that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now officially and publicly pro-migrant (sombrero tip to Memeorandum):

The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.

The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.
Official Statement (10 June 2011)

Generally, as far as I understand it as a non-Mormon, it is the position of the Mormon Church not to get involved in politics. There's certain issues that the Mormon Church does take a stand on though. For example, see the film Prop 8: The Mormon Proposition to see how effective the Mormon Church was in attacking LGBTQ equality in California.

It's good to see the Mormon Church starting to devote some of the energy they've spent on attacking LGBTQ people, towards empowering migrants. It's a major victory for the pro-migrant community. Nativists (whom I prefer not to link to) know it and that's why they've been so quick to attack.


I'm a little late to this, but t's good to see Morgan Freeman supporting Carlos Santana's courageous stand against Georgia's nativism in this CNN Interview (sombrero tip to ColorLines):

"What would you do with Carlos Santana? Send him back? He's a national treasure. What would you do with him? The legislature here in Georgia, the legislature there in Arizona, that is absolutely un-American--completely. That's the kind of discrimination that we now have to--it's gonna be our next civil rights struggle--is immigration. We are a magnet for people, we want to continue to be that. If you're not that, then you're not who you say you are. What does it mean to be an American anymore?"
Morgan Freeman - CNN (24 May 2011)

Freeman hits on something which I've always found so ridiculous about nativism. I grew up in a country, Guatemala, that people want emigrate from. It's a privilege to live in a country that people want to immigrate to. Nativists seeking to destroy that privilege hurt not only migrants, but all of us.

Barack Obama, through his Department of Homeland Security (DHS), wants to turn every local police officer into a border patrol agent by 2013 through his Secure Communities program (S-Comm).  Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, whom we all thought used to be a friend to the pro-migrant community, is not only happy to support Obama doing it, he's throwing the entire U.S. justice system under the bus in the process.

According Immigration and Custom's Enforcement's (ICE) own statistics, Boston has one of the worst records in the nation of deporting actual criminals under S-Comm. According to ICE, of the 256 people who were deported from Boston under S-Comm between Nov. 2008 and Sept. 30, 2010, only 24, or 10.67% were level 1 offenders and over half, 135, or 52.73% were non-criminals.

It was in the face of statistics like these, and a strong statewide campaign led by Centro Presente, that Gov. Deval Patrick decided to take a stand against S-Comm.

Call Gov. Patrick to thank him at 617-725-4005 and tweet him at @massgovernor if you get a chance.

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