Migrant Emancipation: March 2008 Archives

Over the weekend, I was emailed by Roberto Lovato about the death of a musical genius, Israel "Cachao" Lopez.  I hope he doesn't mind if I respectfully quote his email, because I think it describes perfectly why a tribute to "Cachao" is so important:

After reading the mediocrity and ignorance of the press obituaries about Cachao, I found myself frustrated at how the big media devalues the life the dead with the same ferocity with which it devalues the living, as in the case of undocumented among us.

So, I decided to write and share my own tribute (below) in the knowledge that, if we do not celebrate our own, if we do not make their light brighter in this still troubled country, nobody will. Cachao's accomplishments were of the first order, deserving of much more than the "mambo guy" sidebars slapped sloppily onto the pages of most media.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the principal immigration agency in the U.S. and successor to the INS, is in dire need of reform from top to bottom.

The agency has completely failed to keep up with the predictable (and predicted) surge in naturalization applications last year stemming from upcoming elections and a substantial fee increase for naturalization applications—from $400 to $675.  In addition, a new instance of bribery and malfeasance at USCIS in New York shines light on a system predicated on arbitrary decisionmaking and very little oversight, conditions that breed corruption and abuse. 

Preemptive Update: After writing most of this post, I saw that Nina Bernstein at the NY Times has blown the Baichu story wide open (I initially saw a shorter version reported in the NY Daily News).  I’ll definitely have more to say about this later.

A new Rapid Response Network Hotline (1-800-308-0878) has been launched for migrants in New York and New Jersey to call at the time of contact with ICE.  Please distribute this information in any venues likely to reach migrants living in NY/NJ.  You can find the press release (pasted below) and promotional posters here.

Please note:

  • This number is not intended for nationwide use.  Unfortunately at present this number can only serve migrants in the New York/New Jersey area. 
  • This number should NOT be used for routine immigration inquiries.  It is meant to be called in emergencies only: DURING an ICE raid or upon contact with ICE officers.  This is a crucial time during which detention can potentially be avoided or negative legal consequences mitigated.
Together, we can help prevent raids and avoid the severe disruption to migrant communities that they cause.  We do this by informing migrants of their constitutional rights and by standing up for what we believe against an unjust and inhumane enforcement regime.

[Begin press release]

Apparently an incarceration ratio of 1 in 100, while good enough for U.S. citizen adults, is a little low for immigrants in the eyes of the feds. 

From Anna Gorman and Scott Glover at the LA Times (via Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings):

Federal authorities are cracking down on immigrants who were previously deported and then reentered the country illegally -- a crime that now makes up more than one-third of all prosecutions in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, a Times review of U.S. attorney's statistics shows.

Most of these prisoners were probably removed through an administrative removal proceeding after coming to the U.S. previously.  Most probably didn’t have access to counsel the first time around, which is just one of the due process violations prevalent in the pseudo-judicial immigration system.  But it’s ok, the government argues, because it’s “just a civil matter.”  No jail time involved—just “detention” on your way out of the country if you try to fight your case. 

But there are serious consequences if someone previously deported decides to come back to be with their children or spouse, or out of economic desperation.  Then the outcome of the previous administrative proceeding is used against them in criminal court.

Image: From logik789 Flickr

It's no secret that we are losing the battle. Despite all the positive developments in the pro-migrant blogosphere, despite all the heroic people standing up for our humanity, every we day we allow migrants to live through this fear and government oppression is a day we lose.

Today I bring you the story of two migrants, rendered faceless by national media.  These are people, PEOPLE I say, that matter so little to the national press that I haven't been able to find pictures of them.  Their stories are shocking enough to merit words on a page, but they are not personally important enough to be humanized through a picture.  Despite the suffering they've gone through they are till "others" in the United States.  I don't care if you think migrants economically impact U.S. citizens, no person deserves to be treated as these individuals have been treated.  I hope that anti-migrant advocates see the type of country their creating, and the sort of suffering they are inducing.
The restrictionist strategy of enforcement through attrition claimed another hardworking taxpayer last week.  A Brooklyn woman finally gave up her fight to stay in this country.  Already past retirement age, she works long nighttime shifts caring for disabled people.  Her employers and patients have nothing but praise for her.  But the stress of long years of trying to resolve her immigration status, after a string of mistakes committed by USCIS (including at one point sending her a welcome notice signaling the start of permanent resident status, then denying the case without informing her), finally led her to abandon her quest to stay in the country.  Nativists everywhere, rejoice--the low-wage ambitions of another softspoken terrorist grandma have been thwarted!

The combination of burdensome and incomprehensible rules, unjustifiably high fees (e.g., $340 for a work permit, often baselessly or mistakenly denied by USCIS, and $585 to appeal the decision--over $1,000 for a bare-bones DIY green card application), race-based decisionmaking cloaked in administrative discretion, and extraordinarily punitive enforcement measures have created a climate of hate and fear.  This situation didn't arise organically, nor is it an inevitable consequence of natural social and economic forces, as restrictionists would have us believe.  It is the carefully planned result of years of conservative organizing and legislative action, spearheaded since 1999 by the nativist caucus in the House.   

what is the what cover.jpg

I'll continue now with the second part of my review of What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, by Dave Eggers.  The first part was here, in case you missed it. 

The book illuminates a rather serious problem for migrants and migrant advocates.  Migrants often come to the U.S. or other wealthy countries with unreasonable expectations.  I remember from elementary school the song from An American Tail: "There are noooo cats in Ame-ri-ca, and the streets are filled with chee-eese."  The intrepid mice quickly find both these assumptions to be false.  Likewise, many Lost Boys seem to have believed their problems would be over once they made it to the U.S.  They were wrong:  

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Migrant Emancipation category from March 2008.

Migrant Emancipation: February 2008 is the previous archive.

Migrant Emancipation: April 2008 is the next archive.

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