January 2012 Archives

In deportation defense work, immigrant rights organizers can work most effectively to stop a deportation when they collaborate with a reliable immigration attorney. Viewed from another perspective, an attorney can often better serve his or her client with the help of organizers. However, complications can arise with this type of collaborative work.

In recent years, collaboration between organizers and attorneys has most commonly involved Education Not Deportation (END) campaigns to stop the deportation of undocumented youth. END cases were rare before the summer of 2009. Now the federal government routinely agrees not to deport undocumented youth who would qualify for the DREAM Act, were it to be enacted, and who reach a certain threshold of visibility and public support. (The government routinely deports tens of thousands of DREAM-eligible youth who remain invisible to the public--and even some who have strong public support.)

I have worked on several END cases since 2009 as an immigration attorney. In my experience, an END case has the best chance of success when an attorney works closely with organizers and the client's existing support network. Attorneys have access to and relationships with immigration officials that organizers and family members usually lack. Organizers have the trust of the community and are not afraid to directly challenge the government. Organizers, attorneys, and others worked together on the early END cases and created the existing END model. Organizers and attorneys are better able to stop deportations when they work together.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Communication between the attorney and organizers sometimes breaks down, to the detriment of the client. Attorneys sometimes have a limited view of what is possible in a given jurisdiction, failing to acknowledge successes in similar cases elsewhere. Attorneys can be too cautious, apprehensive of damaging delicate relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys or deportation officers. Out of habit, attorneys can shut supporters and organizers out of the case, foregoing the collaborative model for a "what I say goes" approach. It's worth taking a closer look at how and why these problems arise, and what can be done to address them.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was listed as a "hero" for immigration reform by the pro-migrant political action committee, Immigrants' List.

I greatly value the work that Immigrants' List does, and encourage folks to donate to them. We need more pro-migrant PACs like Immigrants' List, and we need more money for them if we ever hope to have a pro-migrant impact. Of the ten heroes Immigrants' List cites, I agree with their selection of the other nine heroes. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), however, has to be one of the worst pro-migrant politicians in the country. That is to be distinguished, of course, from some of the worst nativists in the country, like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
I thought I'd begin this morning by resurrecting an old feature that symsess used to produce for Citizen Orange.  Unfortunately, it won't be the comprehensive link round-up that he used to put together, but I did want to put out a little bit of a link potpourri.

First, if you haven't heard, Presente.org, where I am a Campaign Associate, has a new Executive Director, Arturo Carmona. Jorge Rivas at Color Lines covered the announcement and here's Presente.org's official press release. After participating in a lengthy interview process, I can truly say that I'm really excited to work under Arturo's leadership, and having him on full-time this new year has already made a huge difference.

Second, Amalia Deloney of Latinos for Internet Freedom has a great post on why Latin@s should oppose SOPA/PIPA that's adds to my post on why migrants should oppose SOPA/PIPA.

Finally, Crooks and Liars published my post on Scott Douglas's interview on the Colbert Report, where he effectively states his opposition to Alabama's HB 56, the nation's worst statewide immigration law. Thanks to John Amato and the rest of the C&L team for continuing to be supportive of my pro-migrant blogging.

Happy Thursday everyone!
A new take on the language wars that frequently infect the immigration debate:

(Sombrero tip to Juan at dreamactivist.org)

I don't know if yet another take on the hypocrisy of mostly European migrants telling mostly Latino migrants to keep out will convince any nativists, but I find it funny nonetheless, and learned a little bit of Cherokee in the process.

If you don't want me to ruin the fun, stop reading here, but this also touches on a post I wrote earlier this week about the complexity of comparing one movement to another and about how the people best placed to do so are those who belong to both movements.

"Don't want to eat this SOPA" says dreamactivist.org, in one of my favorite word plays on legislation currently before Congress, SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate, that would sacrifice the free internet to satisfy a few big corporations who make their living off of outdated copyright laws. Today's got to be one of the largest demonstrations the internet has ever seen against something like this, with enormous sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Craigslist blacking out and others like Google prominently displaying their opposition and a way to take action.
I was going to write, today, about the amazing courage of Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle. The Obama administration, led by John Morton of ICE, is waging an all out propaganda war on Cook County and local pro-migrant elected officials like Toni Preckwinkle are standing strong against the harmful program that is S-COMM. However, it appears the real moment of courage will happen when the Cook County Board takes a vote, possibly as early as today. I encourage everyone to sign this petition to defend Cook County, sent out by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) an organization that also deserves to be commended for it's work against S-COMM.

Preckwinkle's messaging is pitch perfect because it's the truth. It's an outrage whenever someone is killed by a drunk driver, but that doesn't mean that the U.S. justice system should be skirted and that there should be a different set of laws for migrants and citizens. S-COMM is the most dangerous program facing migrant communities, today, and if migrant communities are put in danger, we're all put in danger.

The battle against S-COMM is a hard battle to fight.

Scott Douglas, Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, nailed it on the Colbert Report, last night not only diction but also in tone, as he made his case against Alabama's HB 56, the most harmful and dangerous immigration law in the nation. Sometimes people try to go on Colbert and be funny, but it's hard to outfunny Colbert. It's better to just play it serious and let Colbert be the comedian, and Scott Douglas did that just as he said he would. More important, were his profound words which were almost always applauded by Colbert's audience.

There are few more difficult people to write about than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (gotta give the man all his titles). MLK has long since become more about the people invoking his name, than about the man himself.

If I were to recommend one short article to read on MLK, today, it would be this 2005 Harvard Crimson article written by Brandon Terry, a friend, and one of the wisest people I know. He writes about the intellectual strands of MLK that have been long forgotten, namely "elements of Third World radicalism, black nationalism, and Marxism." Brandon also gives one of the best recommendations I can hope to give, on this day, to those who are interested in learning about the real MLK. Read the book "A Testament of Hope," a collection of MLK's writings which has effectively become my MLK bible.

I should end this post here. I'm tempted to say that if you haven't read through "A Testament of Hope," you have no business writing or even thinking that you know what MLK is about.


There has been a lot of talk lately about Mitt Romney being the poster child for vulture capitalism. This referring to the practice of opportunistically feeding off of struggling workers, prioritizing making profits for shareholders of big corporations over the creation of good jobs for working families. But what about the effects of vulture capitalism on immigration?   

"#TRUTH Nuestra gente, truth" are the words these captioned photos were described with as I first came across it on the "Latino Rebels" facebook page. I'm not sure where these photos or captions originated (please say so in the comments if you know), but as I write this the Latino Rebels post has 30,749 likes and 27,505 shares.

Until I find the genius who put these two photos together with that caption, I'll comment on how much #truth there is here.
NOTE: This is a draft with typos and without links. I might refine it and cross-post it elsewhere, but since it's been so long since I blogged, I thought I'd just put it up as is, now, rather than let it sit into irrelevance as so many of my other drafts have.

Yesterday, Cecilia Muñoz got promoted, and another 1000 people got deported. The Obama administration deports over a thousand people, every day, more than any administration before by many counts. The Obama administration tells us most deportees are criminals, nativists say it's not enough, but the truth is the vast majority of those being deported are noble people, heroes even, who are seeking a better life for themselves and for their families, and who make those they live among better off.

If the idea of over a thousand deportations a day doesn't strike you as cruel, make no mistake, only a violent system can forcibly remove that many people a day. Economic, psychological, spiritual, and physical violence are all involved, from the terror migrant communities live in, to the moment ICE agents bust down the doors to peoples homes, to the horrific conditions in which people are imprisoned, to the shackles and drugs used to force people onto planes. If you've gotten to know just one person caught in our broken immigration system you'll know the violence that these laws are doing to the strangers among us. It's the law, nativists will say, but as the wise have said for as long as imperfect human laws have existed, an unjust law is no law at all.

Increasingly, the Obama administration has made Cecilia Muñoz the face of this violent and unjust system and I say that without condemnation.
Birthright Lottery cover

Last year, I read Ayelet Shachar's important book, The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality.  She discusses the book herself here, and I won't replicate that concise summary (though it is worth reading).  The book's core insights are powerful:

  • Birthright citizenship is a form of property entitlement by which relatively wealthy people transfer a bundle of rights and opportunities to their children.  

  • The global citizenship regime acts to seal poor people into enclosed political and economic systems which limit their life opportunities.  The result of these limitations, backed by the full force of the sovereign state, is that only 3% of the global population migrate from their countries of origin. 
  • This regime is unjust.  It is based solely on accident of birth.  It is grossly inconsistent with democratic principles held in liberal societies.  
Shachar's premises seem obvious once seen in print, and  you wonder why these ideas aren't more widely acknowledged.  In Birthright Lottery, she builds a new legal framework for defining citizenship based on those premises.  

The existing citizenship regime is built upon two legal principles: jus soli (citizenship defined by place of birth) and jus sanguinis (citizenship defined by blood).  These principles represent an improvement upon previous regimes based on transfer of rights and property within bounded family groups alone, and have led to a just legal and political theoretical framework within liberal sovereign polities. 

But the framework falls apart in an anarchic international political system of sovereign states of radically disparate wealth and power, and becomes instead a mechanism for perpetuating inequality.  Those who are excluded from the citizenry of wealthy states do not have political equality or equality of opportunity.  Meanwhile, a global educated elite can travel, and often live and work, abroad.  Members of the cosmopolitan elite have easier access to membership in polities outside of their countries of origin.  They can freely transfer capital across sovereign boundaries.  They are not constrained by the international political system; rather, the system works to preserve the elite's wealth and status much as the aristocratic transfer system of Old Europe did in years past.  

Shachar proposes a new legal principle for defining political membership groups: jus nexi.  This new framework would "[establish] that the social fact of membership offers a valid foundation for access to political membership" and would "[highlight] the significance of developing ties and identification with the country over time as the basis for bestowing citizenship and its benefits on long-term residents."

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