David Bennion: April 2010 Archives

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Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva understand that the Arizona GOP is the easy target for anger about Arizona's new anti-immigrant law, SB1070, but not the most productive one. That would be President Obama, who remains mostly absent from the debate about immigration reform while his ICE foot soldiers carry out the deportation of each and every undocumented immigrant racially profiled by Arizona law enforcement.

While SB1070 has put immigration policy back in the national spotlight for the first time since 2007 and drawn the condemnation of President Obama, his Secure Communities initiative allows and encourages racial profiling to continue under the radar throughout the United States. Secure Communities facilitates information-sharing between ICE and local law enforcement in adopting jurisdictions whenever an arrest takes place, regardless of the nature of the crime or whether it ultimately results in a conviction. While all eyes are on Arizona, local police in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Bensalem, and all across the state of Pennsylvania are carrying out their campaign of quiet terror against the immigrant community. They continue to make race-based police stops, knowing that an arrest on any pretext can lead to deportation. Some don't even bother to make arrests, illegally stopping drivers based on appearance and calling ICE directly. These types of abuses are happening throughout the country.

Nevertheless, SB1070 would make things much worse, giving Arizona law enforcement express permission to make race-based police stops, and giving nativist citizens the right to sue law enforcement agencies if they weren't engaging in enough racial profiling. If President Obama truly opposes SB1070 and wishes to uphold Constitutional principles, there is a simple solution. He could instruct ICE, under established principles of prosecutorial discretion, to withhold prosecution of any individual turned over by Arizona law enforcement after SB1070 takes effect. This would effectively gut the law, removing deportation as the expected consequence of an arrest by local law enforcement.

That is why Rep. Grijalva made this comment on Tuesday:

You know, immigration is a federal law, and if we are asking the President for him not to cooperate in the implementation of this law through Homeland Security, through Border Patrol, through detention, and a non-cooperative stance by the United States government and the federal agencies, would render much of this legislation moot and ineffective.

And why Rep. Gutierrez said this:

"When the president," explained Gutierrez, "said to us it is because we have not enacted comprehensive immigration reform that we give an excuse to people in Arizona to pass 1070. Let me just say, every time the federal government said that you can carry out [a 287(g)] extension, you gave Arizona an excuse to do 1070."

287(g) is a program enabling local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement under the training and supervision of ICE, and Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County is the prime example of abuse of the program that has gone largely unchecked by the Obama administration.

Close observers of immigration policy like Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva know that President Obama, when asked to choose between upholding civil liberties and ramping up enforcement, has chosen the latter every time. So before the immigrant rights community gives the president another free pass because he said some unkind words about SB1070, we should take another look at the actions behind the rhetoric and understand that without ICE waiting in the wings to deport every undocumented person who is racially profiled in Arizona, SB1070 would be all bark and no bite.

[Image: Rep. Gutierrez in Arizona, Phoenix NewTimes]

What Matias said:

I don't know how we are going to do this time around. Maybe we will get to stop all the deportations of dreamers. Maybe we will pass CIR. Maybe we won't get legal status. If we don't, it will officially mark the beginning of the Great Latino Depression. I got sick to my stomach watching Fox News today, and seeing the complex anti-immigrant narrative being built. Kidnappings in Mexico, trouble at airport security screenings, live coverage from a burning house in Phoenix, AZ. There is a political campaign already well underway in the right-wing network.

I'm not sure our story can compete, the way we are telling it.

Next time we get a media request to write an op-ed or appear on TV, we gotta send Carlos, not Ali. Rachel, not Deepak. Olga, not Clarissa. Samantha, not Angelica. Tania, not Josh. Mohammad, not Markos. Faby, not Kent. Tolu, not Shu. Adey, not Marielena.

It's not about the dream kids. Kids no more: the things we have done and the things we have seen turn girls into women and boys into men. It's about getting these young women and men of the dream generation to the forefront of the movement. That's how we are going to change the way Americans analyze the question of our lifetimes: immigration.

The U.S. public is not ready for comprehensive immigration reform on the terms on which it is currently being presented. The story is wrong and the players are wrong. The story is built on the nativist narrative of the past 30 years, that the U.S. is a sovereign nation with an obligation to enforce its borders, and that Mexicans and Central Americans show particular disregard for U.S. immigration laws. The players in the current presentation are politicians and advocates, not the immigrants and family members who immigration policies affect.

That is why most politicians and most of the public doesn't care about immigration reform.

First because they don't understand the real story: the focus on border security and the dumbfoundingly complex immigration legal system is this generation's manifestation of the perennial American effort to exclude nonwhites and first generation immigrants from civic and economic participation. (More broadly, this represents the perennial human effort to exclude people who are different from themselves.) And the current focus on Mexicans and Central Americans is no accident. After the U.S. Congress shut down transatlantic immigration in 1924 in a fit of nativism, Mexicans were permitted free, illicit entry to provide American agriculture and business with a cheap, exploitable workforce. Central Americans entered the picture in the 1970s and 1980s as U.S.-supported governments killed their citizens and scattered large numbers of refugees to the wind.

Second, the public doesn't know the right players, namely all the undocumented activists Matias mentions and more. They don't know them because they often pass as citizens. Or are forced into the shadows by the fear of lifelong exile from their families and communities.

But these things are changing, as DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, or "Dreamers," come out of the shadows to take their rightful place as leaders of the immigrant rights movement. Now, will the immigrant rights movement let them lead? This question will be moot once Dreamers realize they don't need to ask permission.


In my inbox from the New York State Youth Leadership Council today:

Dear Friend,

The Trail of Dreams New York is well under way, with our four courageous marchers, Marisol, Gabriel, Jose Luis and Martin, having traveled 100 miles. Although their feet are blistered and their bodies are weary, their spirits are high due to the major gains that the Trail has achieved for the Dream Act.

Last Monday, after being invited to the Newark TODNY Press Conference, Senator Frank Lautenberg of NJ co-sponsored the Dream Act.

Also last Monday, after being asked to meet with TODNY, Representative Pascrell of NJ co-sponsored the Dream Act.

Last Tuesday, after meeting with TODNY, Representative Payne of NJ agreed to become a co-sponsor of the Dream Act. Also, Representative Hinchey of NY became a co-sponsor of the Dream Act.

Last Thursday, after being asked to meet with TODNY, Representative Brady of NJ co-sponsored the Dream Act.

Last Friday, after being asked to meet with TODNY, Representative Edwards of MD co-sponsored the Dream Act.

Today, TODNY will hold a press conference in Philadelphia. Senator Specter of PA will reaffirm his commitment to the Dream Act. Also in attendance will be a representative of Senator Casey of PA, who has not yet co-sponsored the Dream Act.

**Please sign the PA Dream Act petitions to urge Senator Casey and other PA legislators to support the Dream Act TODAY!**

The walkers have also touched hearts and minds as they tell their stories to people throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They have held events on college campuses and at community organizations, as well as spoken with people they met along their route.

THE TRAIL OF DREAMS IS WORKING, BUT THE MARCHERS NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO CONTINUE THEIR WALK AND MAKE IT SAFELY TO DC. If you have already contributed, we thank you and ask that you consider making an additional contribution. If you have been following the journey but have yet to contribute, now is the time.

Please make your contribution here



the Youth Leadership Council

[Ed.: Read the bios of the TODNY walkers to be inspired.

See why they are walking and why my knee is still sore today.

Once again, Pennsylvania residents, please ask Senator Casey to cosponsor the DREAM Act.

Read about today's TODNY welcome event and press conference at the University of Pennsylvania. TODNY and DreamActivist PA led the local evening news on Univision! Watch this space for the YouTube as soon as I track it down.]

ICE = Obama

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What Luis said:

"It is open season on the Latino community in Arizona. In Phoenix, Tucson, and across the state, people in Latino neighborhoods are afraid to leave their houses, afraid to be apart from their children for even a minute, and afraid to walk the streets because they feel their arrest on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant could happen at any moment. It is a horrifying glimpse at what our future holds across the country if we continue down the path the Obama administration is leading us on immigration.

This week, we saw how destructive things are getting. The combination of a harsh piece of anti-immigrant legislation advancing in the Arizona legislature and a massive, well-publicized federal enforcement action against a broad human smuggling network has sent the unmistakable message to Arizona's one million immigrants and two million Hispanics: there is a target on your backs and authorities are coming after you.

President Obama, who promised immigration reform but has failed to make it a priority or use his office to make good on his campaign promises, is now able to see what lies ahead. The Obama administration has escalated mass deportation as our singular approach to immigrants and this has combined in Arizona with anti-immigrant hysteria that is festering to the point that state and local elected opportunists are taking matters into their own hands - with complete federal acquiescence.

We are now deporting people at a rate of 1,000 per day . . .

. . .

And we have heard nothing from the President.

A man who told the Latino electorate that he saw undocumented immigrants as future citizens, not criminals or deportees, has not lifted a finger. It isn't as if his administration doesn't have a clear immigration policy; they do. It's called deportation only. And they are removing immigrants, mostly Latino, at a faster pace than the Bush administration ever did. All of the rhetoric that a new enforcement strategy targeting serious violent criminals was being adopted has been revealed as empty rhetoric.

When the Washington Post published internal memos from Homeland Security headquarters to their field agents instructing them that their job performance would be judged by filling deportation quotas for simple visa and immigration violations, all of the President's lofty promises about a new approach went out the window. Either the President, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, and ICE Assistant Secretary Morton have been misleading the American people and Congress about their enforcement priorities or they have no control over what their agencies are doing."

Via Dee.

Yes, this is a sad attempt at photoshop--consider it a request for a better version from you, dear Reader. Direct me to your ICE Agent Obama in comments.

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WHAT: A press conference on Monday, April 19th, at 11 A.M. to welcome a group of immigrant youth walking 250 miles from New York City to Washington D.C. On April 10th, 2010, these students departed from New York City and are walking to Washington D.C. to highlight the need to fix our broken immigration system and call for the passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

The DREAM Act is a bi-partisan bill currently pending in Congress that would provide undocumented youth a path to legalize their status after meeting strict requirements, including showing that they entered the U.S. before age 16, have a high school diploma or GED, can demonstrate good moral character (no criminal record), have lived at least five years in the U.S., and will complete two years of college or military service.

WHO: Four immigrant students from the New York State Youth Leadership Council, as well as immigrant students, educators, and community members from DreamActivist Pennsylvania, who advocate for the rights of immigrant youth and passage of the DREAM Act.

WHERE: The press conference will be held at University of Pennsylvania, Meyerson Hall, Room B3. The address is 210 South 34th St. Philadelphia, PA (at Walnut).

WHY: These brave immigrant students are risking their lives, leaving family and friends behind, in order to help Americans understand the hardships immigrants have to go through as a result of a broken immigration system. Every year, 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school nationwide with few prospects for further education or employment and absolutely no way to obtain legal status. Many were brought here as young children. 850 of those students graduate each year from Pennsylvania schools. Passage of the DREAM Act would finally allow these students to be recognized for the efforts they have made to follow their dream, the American Dream. This bill would allow them to reach their full potential, contribute back to their communities, and fully participate in the economic recovery of our country.

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Nineteen-year-old Julio Martinez was released from immigration detention on Thursday after two weeks of intensive organizing on his behalf by supporters in Kentucky and Chicago. As in other cases of Dream Act-eligible youth around the country, Julio's local community refused to accept the harsh laws that mandated his deportation after growing up in the U.S. Julio's crime was missing a court date as a child, something over which he had no control. Absent the efforts of Julio's supporters in Kentucky, including members of his church, friends of the family, local college students, and organizer Erin Howard, he would have been deported already just like the thousands of Dream Act-eligible youth who have slipped under the radar.

But Julio's lawyer, Rachel Newton, says he is not out of the woods yet. While he is not detained right now, he is still in removal proceedings and under a very real threat of deportation. First, the immigration judge handling the case must agree to reopen the removal order Julio received when he was nine years old, no sure thing. Then, "[o]nce the case is reopened, Julio still has to convince the judge that he is eligible for and should be granted some form of relief from removal," according to Newton.

"These cases are very hard to get approved, even under better circumstances."

From Flavia at DreamActivist yesterday:

Today, Julio is on a church retreat, catching up with his family and friends. This wonderful outcome is a direct result of the outpouring of support from his Frankfort, Kentucky community, his representatives Congressman Chandler and Senator Bunning, and you, DREAM Act students and allies from across the country. Today we see our tremendous collective power, we express our gratitude for Julio's release, and we thank Julio's congressional represenatitves. But most important of all, today we say this fight is far from over and we resolve our determination to keep Julio from being deported. After his 12-hour drive home to Kentucky, Julio thanks us all with this sentiment: "I am so happy I am out. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. And I will be in touch with you all very soon because this is not over; its not over for me nor all the DREAMers waiting to truly be free."

Julio still faces deportation despite all of our best efforts. With few legal options remaining to him, we must ensure he stays in his community united with his family. Senator Bunning and Congressman Chandler must introduce a private bill on Julio's behalf into congress. They will not do this without feeling the pressure, without every single one of us - yes, you too - calling them and hearing our sense of urgency. If they do not act now, their efforts will have been futile. Make sure your message is heard loud and clear - We thank you for all of your support so far, ensure justice and keep Julio reuited with his family - introduce a private bill on his behalf NOW!

Below are the contact numbers for their offices:

1) Senator John Bunning: (202) 224-4343
Ask Senator Bunning to introduce a Private Bill for Julio immediately. Julio is an outstanding young person who knows no other home but the United States. His case has exceptional circumstances and he should not be forced to leave his home and his family.

3) Call Congressman Ben Chandler: (202) 225-4706
Ask Congressman Chandler to introduce a Private Bill for Julio immediately. Julio is an outstanding young person who knows no other home but the United States. His case has exceptional circumstances and he should not be forced to leave his home and his family.

Julio still needs our support, but his release represents a tremendous victory for Julio's supporters in Kentucky and the Dream Act network that helped organize to stop his deportation.

Julio's case affirms my belief that most Americans with little prior knowledge of the immigration system who get to know a local Dreamer and understand that there is nothing that person can do to avoid deportation under current law respond with disbelief and anger. They mobilize to stop a deportation. Even politicians who typically fall on the enforcement side of the debate respond favorably to that kind of community engagement, Senator Bunning's support of Julio being a case in point.

This is a primary reason organizers and advocates should turn efforts away from the chimera of comprehensive reform in 2010, the elusive silver bullet that the Democratic leadership persistently refuses to move on, and work to pass the Dream Act this year.

Pass the Dream Act. Pass it now.