Friday, October 20, 2006

IRN - Oct 19, 2006

Immigrant Rights News -- Thurs, October 19, 2006

NOTE: if this is the first time you are receiving IRN (and/or are receiving it sporadically), please rely with all your contact info to continue receiving. IRN comes out one to five times per week.

1. Rumbo: "Border Fence to Divide Three Native American Nations"

2. Washington Post: "Calif. Campaign in Turmoil Over Letters. Aide to GOP Candidate Sent Mailing Saying Immigrants Are Barred From Voting"

3. Seattle Times: "Fed chief urges revamp of Medicare, Social Security"

4. PRLDEF, et. al., media release: "Businesses Sue Riverside Over Vague, Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Ordinance"

5. New York Times Op-Ed: "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?"

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Border Fence to Divide Three Native American Nations

Rumbo, News Report, Rodrigo París, Translated by Elena Shore, Oct 06, 2006
(this article originally appeared in Rumbo )

Criticism by Native Americans who Live along the Border

Three Native American nations and 23 tribes live in the borderlands between the United States and Mexico. The construction of the border separation fence approved by Congress will divide in two the ancient history of these peoples.

"The land is the place God put us from time immemorial. I can't imagine that now it will be difficult to visit my family," because of the construction of the fence, said Louis Gussac, chief of the Koumeyaay nation located on both sides of the California border.

These sentences are repeated time and time again on the reservations' international limits.

The tribes' situation has been difficult since 2001 as a result of an increase in the Border Patrol, the presence of National Guard troops in the last four months and narco-traffic activities in some areas along the border.

O'odham, Cocopah and Kickapoo are the three Native American nations that will see their culture and land divided by a fence that is at least five feet tall and, according to Congress, is expected to be completed in May 2008.

"Although the project is meant to stop the undocumented, it affects our life," said Gussac.

Texas Has its own History Too

The Kickapoo nation resides in the Eagle Pass area. These Native Americans see the fence that will be built there as a tragic sign.

Congress approved a span of the fence that will go from five miles northwest of Del Río to five miles southeast of Eagle Pass.

"The territory of this reservation will be permanently divided by the hand of man," said anthropologist and Kickapoo expert Rebeca Brush.

Throughout history, the Kickapoo have had to change their traditions. In the 17th century, they lived in the Great Lakes region. A century later they were displaced to Kansas and Texas.

"It's one thing to change where you live, but it's something else to have a fence separate the members of a nation," Brush explained.

"It's truly a tragedy. The construction of the fence doesn't make any sense," says José Aranda, a member of the Kickapoo in Eagle Pass.

"This isn't the way to solve a problem that's more complicated and needs a more intelligent solution," explained Jaime Loiácono, the priest of a church in Eagle Pass.

"Fifty percent of the high school students on the reservation are Black Rocks. What's going to happen to them?" the priest asked.

The mayor of the city, Chad Foster, has expressed strong criticism of the fence. "It's a cure that is worse than the disease," he said before Congress approved the bill.

The Kickapoo, despite living in the United States for centuries, were not recognized as a nation until 1983.

Two decades later, various miles of fence will divide the land where they live, and the steel beams will be nailed like a threat to the preservation of their unity, family and customs.

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Washington Post

Calif. Campaign in Turmoil Over Letters
Aide to GOP Candidate Sent Mailing Saying Immigrants Are Barred From Voting

By Sonya Geis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 20, 2006; A04

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19 -- A California Republican's congressional campaign went into meltdown Thursday after he said a staff member was responsible for sending thousands of letters to new voters with Hispanic surnames telling them -- wrongly -- that it is illegal for them to vote if they are immigrants.

Tan Nguyen, the GOP candidate for California's 47th District, said in a statement that a staff member had sent the letters without his knowledge and has since been fired. Nguyen, himself an immigrant from Vietnam, has focused his campaign on keeping illegal immigrants out of the country, a deeply felt issue in suburban Orange County.

"The mailer was flawed and ill-conceived," Nguyen's statement said. "I will do whatever I can in the weeks before the election to encourage all citizens in this district to exercise the most important of their democratic privileges."

The Orange County Republican Party immediately called for Nguyen to withdraw from the race. He will hold a news conference today.

Written in Spanish, the letters advise recently registered voters that it is a crime for those in the country illegally to vote in a federal election, which is true. They also say, falsely, that immigrants may not vote and could be jailed or deported for doing so, that the federal government has a new computer system to verify voter names, and that anti-immigration organizations can access the records.

As many as 14,000 letters were sent in the district, now represented by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D). The letterhead identified them as coming from the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.

The group denied responsibility, and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer launched an investigation into possible violations of two state laws that prohibit intimidation to suppress voting. On a radio program, Lockyer confirmed that his office was focused on a Republican congressional candidate.

Sanchez said she has called for a federal probe into possible violations of the Voting Rights Act. "We would like to find who did this and have them prosecuted," she said.

Local Republicans have largely ignored the race, though Sanchez's seat is not normally considered safely Democratic. The district narrowly went for President Bush in 2004.

Nguyen, 32, was largely unknown to local Republicans until he beat out a favored candidate to face Sanchez. Two years ago, Nguyen ran as a Democrat in an effort to take the 46th District seat of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh said: "When I interviewed him to determine why he was becoming a Republican, I was less than convinced that he switched parties because he doesn't believe in the values of Democrats. Then, after getting the nomination, he wanted the Republican Party to carry him across the finish line. And I told him that's not how it works."

Nguyen had spent $427,000 of his own money on the race as of September, according to campaign filings.

His campaign materials describe immigration as the focus of his campaign. He praises the Minuteman Project and opposes Bush's proposed guest-worker program.

Nguyen himself immigrated to the United States at age 8, one of thousands of Vietnamese to flee in boats. He worked as a stockbroker before entering politics.

Orange County is known for heated immigration politics. One-third of its residents are Hispanic, according to 2004 census data, and the area is home to large populations of Vietnamese and Middle Eastern immigrants. It is also the birthplace of several anti-illegal-immigration movements. Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen, is a resident, as is Barbara Coe, founder of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.

"Certainly this is a very polarized area," Sanchez said. "When you have people like the creator of the Minutemen living there, and Gloria Tuchman, who worked on the anti-bilingual law, and Barbara Coe, one would say that it's a pretty volatile area."

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Seattle Times

Fed chief urges revamp of Medicare, Social Security

By Kevin G. Hall
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called Wednesday for an urgent overhaul of Social Security and Medicare, warning that failure to do so soon could lead to dire economic consequences.

Speaking to the Economic Club of Washington, Bernanke said projected funding shortfalls for Social Security and Medicare threaten "large and unavoidable" consequences.

Absent action soon, he warned, the nation could be forced to raise taxes sharply, trim retiree benefits, cut deeply into other programs, and run up the national debt - or some combination of all.

Beginning in 2008, the first wave of baby boomers - 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 - begin taking early retirement. Progressively, fewer active workers will be available to fund promised benefits to retirees.

To meet promises made under Social Security and Medicare, Bernanke said, taxes would have to increase by about 33 percent. That would take taxes from their current level, 18 percent of the nation's total output, to about 24 percent in 2030.

If politicians instead opted to spend less on other federal programs, they'd have to cut all other government spending in half, the Fed chairman said.

Citing an unpublished Fed research paper, Bernanke said that if today's savings rates remain constant, future generations would be forced to consume 14 percent less than they do now because they'll have to shift their money to pay for boomers' retirement benefits.

But if today's Americans cut current consumption by 4 percent and put that money into savings, that could stave off the 14 percent reduction in American consumption two decades from now.

"These numbers shouldn't be taken literally, but the basic lesson is surely right - that the decisions that we make over the next few decades will matter greatly for the living standards of our children and grandchildren," Bernanke said.

Bernanke also said a more liberal immigration policy would ease the burden of a shrinking work force. But, he cautioned, it would take annual flows close to 3.5 million immigrants, not today's 1 million, to replace retiring boomers.

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Businesses Sue Riverside Over Vague, Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

October 18, 2006

Contacts: John Garcia, PRLDEF; (212) 739-7513; Mary Moreno, PFAWF; (202) 467-2338;; Annu Mangat, ACLU-NJ; (973)642-2086;

Businesses Sue Riverside Over Vague, Discriminatory Anti-Immigrant Ordinance

A coalition of Riverside business owners and landlords and residents will file a lawsuit today against the Township of Riverside in state court, contending that the recently adopted Illegal Immigration Relief Act oversteps the city's authority, is too vague, unfairly puts businesses at risk and violates civil rights under state law.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, People For the American Way Foundation, Spear Wilderman, P.C, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Immigrants' Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and Ragonese Albano & Viola.

The ordinance is one of the most restrictive of the recent wave of anti-immigrant legislation passed by local governments across the nation. It attempts to ban immigrants from renting, residing, using property or being employed in Riverside. The ordinance, in very broad terms, applies to actions that "aid or abet" undocumented immigrants anywhere in the United States.

"All this ordinance does is create tension and hatred between neighbors," said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of the PRLDEF. "By pandering to the worst instincts of a few in the community, the Township is exposing the residents of Riverside to costly litigation expenses." PRLDEF's Latino Justice Campaign tracks local anti-Latino ordinances on their website,

The lawsuit is being filed today with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Burlington County. The case is captioned Riverside Coalition of Business Persons, et al. v. Township of Riverside.

"State law simply does not permit Riverside to exclude immigrants from the Township," said James Katz of Spear Wilderman, P.C., who is cooperating counsel for the ACLU-NJ and ACLU-IRP in the case. "Nor can they regulate the rental or hiring decisions of Riverside businesses and landlords."

Business owners and landlords decided to sue because they felt the law is difficult to comply with and exposes them to enormous risk. It could require them to take unreasonable and expensive measures and possibly invade the privacy of their clients in order to comply, all at great detriment to their businesses. They are also concerned that the divisive ordinance is fomenting ugly sentiments against immigrants, and destroying the community's business climate and its spirit of tolerance and cooperation.

The ordinance is not currently being enforced, but has had a profound impact on the town, said David Verduin, a Riverside business owner and a plaintiff. He estimated the ordinance has "scared off" about one-third of Riverside's immigrant population causing some businesses to close, while others have seen sales decline by as much as 50 percent.

"The ordinance almost authorizes a vigilante-type of attitude," Verduin said. "Everyone lives in fear." He added, "Immigration is too complicated an issue for us to make a judgment on. Even federal agents need a court's help in deciding who is here illegally."

The lawsuit also charges that the ordinance goes far beyond the authority of Riverside under state law.

"This ordinance is so vague and overbroad that it's virtually impossible to obey and appears to ban a large amount of innocent conduct," said Elliot Mincberg, Vice-President and Legal Director for PFAW Foundation.

"Even a hospital or church that allows an immigrant on its premises could be charged with a violation."

In support of this lawsuit, New Jersey Appleseed and Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice will file an amicus brief on behalf of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey and a broad coalition of non-profit organizations working with immigrants.

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New York Times

October 17, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?



FOR the past several months, I've been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?"

A "gotcha" question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don't think it's out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I'm not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who's on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn't British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.

A complete collapse in Iraq could provide a haven for Al Qaeda operatives within striking distance of Israel, even Europe. And the nature of the threat from Iran, a potential nuclear power with protégés in the Gulf states, northern Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, is entirely different from that of Al Qaeda. It seems silly to have to argue that officials responsible for counterterrorism should be able to recognize opportunities for pitting these rivals against each other.

But so far, most American officials I've interviewed don't have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

My curiosity about our policymakers' grasp of Islam's two major branches was piqued in 2005, when Jon Stewart and other TV comedians made hash out of depositions, taken in a whistleblower case, in which top F.B.I. officials drew blanks when asked basic questions about Islam. One of the bemused officials was Gary Bald, then the bureau's counterterrorism chief. Such expertise, Mr. Bald maintained, wasn't as important as being a good manager.

A few months later, I asked the F.B.I.'s spokesman, John Miller, about Mr. Bald's comments. "A leader needs to drive the organization forward," Mr. Miller told me. "If he is the executive in a counterterrorism operation in the post-9/11 world, he does not need to memorize the collected statements of Osama bin Laden, or be able to read Urdu to be effective. ... Playing 'Islamic Trivial Pursuit' was a cheap shot for the lawyers and a cheaper shot for the journalist. It's just a gimmick."

Of course, I hadn't asked about reading Urdu or Mr. bin Laden's writings.

A few weeks ago, I took the F.B.I.'s temperature again. At the end of a long interview, I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau's new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. "Yes, sure, it's right to know the difference," he said. "It's important to know who your targets are."

That was a big advance over 2005. So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed. "The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following," he said. "And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following."

O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran - Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. "Iran and Hezbollah," I prompted. "Which are they?"

He took a stab: "Sunni."


Al Qaeda? "Sunni."


AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam's Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

"Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?" I asked him a few weeks ago.

Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: "One's in one location, another's in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don't know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something."

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. "Now that you've explained it to me," he replied, "what occurs to me is that it makes what we're doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area."

Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

"Do I?" she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. "You know, I should." She took a stab at it: "It's a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it's the Sunnis who're more radical than the Shia."

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda's leaders follow?

"Al Qaeda is the one that's most radical, so I think they're Sunni," she replied. "I may be wrong, but I think that's right."

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials' puffery when they came up to the Hill?

"Oh, I think it's very important," said Ms. Davis, "because Al Qaeda's whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you've got to understand, and to know your enemy."

It's not all so grimly humorous. Some agency officials and members of Congress have easily handled my "gotcha" question. But as I keep asking it around Capitol Hill and the agencies, I get more and more blank stares. Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don't care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we're fighting. And that's enough to keep anybody up at night.

Jeff Stein is the national security editor at Congressional Quarterly.

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