Immigrant Rights News - Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, April 23, 2008
IRN and other NNIRR posts are also posted at www.nnirr.blogspot.com
1. Truthout: “In
By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Report
Tuesday 22 April 2008
In The (
Passage of the bill was a setback to the political strategy that has shown the most promise of changing the old conservative power structure in the state, the "closed society" described by Professor Atkins. That strategy, building over the last several years, has relied on creating an electoral base of African-Americans, immigrants and unions. The new employer sanctions law, according to supporters of that strategy, is intended to drive immigrants out of the state by making it impossible for them to find work.
From 1995 to 2000, the state capital,
"We have the chance here to avoid the rivalry that plagues
The same calculus can apply across the South, which is now the entry point for a third of all new immigrants to the
MIRA is the fruit of strategic thinking among a diverse group that reaches from African-American workers' centers on catfish farms and immigrant union organizers in chicken plants to guest workers and contract laborers on the Gulf Coast, and ultimately, into the halls of the state legislature in Jackson. Activists look back to changes that started when
Through the '90s, more immigrants arrived looking for work. Some guest workers overstayed their visas, while husbands brought wives, cousins and friends from home. Mexicans and Central Americans joined South and Southeast Asians, and began traveling north through the state, getting jobs in rural poultry plants. There they met African-Americans, many of whom had fought hard campaigns to organize unions for chicken and catfish workers over the preceding decade.
It was not easy for newcomers to fit in. Their union representatives didn't speak their languages. When workers got pulled over by state troopers, they found themselves not only cited for lacking driver's licenses, but also often handed over to the Border Patrol. Sometimes their children weren't even allowed to enroll in school.
In the fall of 2000, labor, church and civil rights activists formed an impromptu coalition, and went to the legislature. At their heart was the core of activists who'd organized
Harden's efforts bore fruit when the drivers' license bill passed the Senate unanimously in 2001. "But they saw us coming in the House, and killed it,"
To build a grassroots base, MIRA volunteers went into chicken plants to help recruit newly arrived immigrants into unions. In the casinos, MIRA volunteers worked with UNITE HERE organizers. In
Then Katrina hit the Gulf. MIRA fought evictions and the cases of workers cheated by employers, and eventually recovered over $1 million. MIRA organizer Vicky Cintra and other activists participated in several celebrated cases defending guest workers, especially in the Signal International shipyard in
Not always that different, however. In Laurel and many other
In 2007, the Republican machine introduced twenty-one anti-immigrant bills into the state legislature, including ones to impose state penalties for hiring undocumented workers and English-only requirements on state license and benefit applicants, to prohibit undocumented students at state universities, and to require local police to check immigration status. MIRA defeated all of them. "The Black Caucus stood behind us every time," Evans says proudly. There are no immigrant or Latino legislators. Without the Caucus all 21 bills would have passed in 2007, and 19 similar bills in 2006.
The 2008 legislative session was different, however. Chandler describes three factions in the party - the Black Caucus at one end, white conservatives hanging on at the other, and "liberals who will do whatever they have to do to get elected" in the middle. After some Democratic candidates campaigned in 2007 on an anti-immigrant platform, MIRA wrote a letter in protest to Howard Dean, national chair of the Democratic Party. Those tactics, it said, were undermining the only strategy capable of changing the state's politics. "The attacks on Latinos, initiated by Republican Phil Bryant a year and a half ago, and joined by other Republicans, are now being echoed by Democrats like John Arthur Eaves and Jamie Franks," the letter said. State party leaders who "would go along to be accepted, rather than show the courage necessary for positive change ... are peddling racist lies against immigrants that violate the core of the party's progressive agenda." Anti-immigrant campaigning by Democrats was unsuccessful. Conservative Republican Hayley Barbour was returned to the governor's mansion and Phil Bryant was elected lieutenant governor. And in the legislative session that followed, some Democrats began to buckle under pressure from vocal right-wing groups, including the Klan.
During the 2007 elections, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally of 500 people in front of the
The Klan's web site says "it's time to declare war on these illegal Mexicans.... The racial war is among us, will you fight with us for the future of our race and for our children? Or will you sit on your ass and do nothing? Our blissful ignorance is over. It is time to fight. Time for
The web site has links to the site of the Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (the state affiliate of the Federation for American Immigration Reform), directed by Mike Lott, who sits in the state legislature. After MIRA's Erik Fleming urged Governor Barbour to veto the employer sanctions bill, saying it would be "devastating to our economy and community here in
For those threatened by changing demographics and the political upsurge they might produce, SB 2988 law is a finger in the dike. The fight to implement it is not over, however, and MIRA has assembled a legal team to challenge its constitutionality in court.
Border Patrol "spot checks" on ferries provoke outrage in
By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter
But for many of the 17,000 people of this island county, the normal rhythms of small-town life have hit a dissonant chord lately.
A couple of months ago, the U.S. Border Patrol began occasional "spot checks" of every vehicle and passenger arriving in Anacortes off state ferries, the lifeline between these islands and the mainland.
For some here, it seems like a good idea or, at worst, a minor inconvenience. But for a vocal and active faction, the federal agents' aggressive questioning and demands for identification have spurred outrage.
In the islands' coffee shops and the editorial pages of the local paper, then in a crowded, heated meeting last month, a number of people have complained that islanders are being unfairly treated and questioned, even though they haven't left the country and normally wouldn't be subject to such scrutiny.
Terms like "police state" are hurled around, as they say the searches are illegal, unconstitutional — and just a ruse to catch illegal immigrants and petty drug users.
The Border Patrol responds that the stops are annoying but necessary, the cost of keeping the country safe. It maintains that a terrorist could easily use the same maze of waterways and islands here that for generations has harbored smugglers, rumrunners and drug dealers.
But in this comparatively affluent county, where there isn't a single stoplight, angry islanders are unsatisfied. They've complained to their congressional delegates and recently asked the American Civil Liberties Union to monitor the situation and provide legal advice.
And they have rallied around a family who immigrated illegally from
The Border Patrol's actions are "hurting good people, even if they are undocumented," said the Rev. Raymond Heffernan, priest at
Island residents "are concerned about the invasion to their own privacy and the damage it's doing to good people — people who are contributing to the community," said the 77-year-old priest.
With their location 20 or so miles from
And the Border Patrol says terrorists could be next.
San Juan Islanders are used to customs inspections in Anacortes if they take the ferry that comes from
That changed in February, when federal agents started corralling everyone off domestic ferries into a fenced-off area in Anacortes and questioning them about their citizenship. It now happens once, maybe twice a week; no one has any way to know if they will be stopped.
When islanders talk about taking a ferry to the mainland, the joke around town these days is, "I'm going back to
"There's a great surge of indignation underneath the surface here," he said.
So much so that local attorney Carolyn de Roos recently asked three
Their advice: Don't answer any questions.
Because island residents who board domestic ferries don't cross an international border, they "have a right not to reveal anything about their legal status," said Matt Adams, an attorney with the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and a member of the ACLU.
"Once they're inside the country, Immigration doesn't have the right to detain someone without reasonable suspicion,"
But if someone admits to being in the country illegally, Border Patrol can arrest the person.
"It's a vulnerability"
Joe Giuliano, the Border Patrol's deputy chief patrol agent for the
But he stresses that the threat of terrorism is no joke.
It's conceivable that someone could get to the islands by plane or boat, or board an international ferry in
"It's a vulnerability and we're worried that it could be exploited," he said.
"You have to catch it all to make sure you're not dealing with a terrorist issue. And, if an immigration issue walks up to you, you're pretty much compelled to act on it."
As for residents who refuse to cooperate or answer questions, Giuliano said, agents will still run their license-plate numbers and search databases, detaining them until it can be determined whether they are here legally. But if an agent doesn't have enough information to make that determination, or doesn't have probable cause to arrest someone, "the thing is let go," he said.
Between late February and last week, 43 people — 38 of them from
"Oh, no. They've got us"
Late last year, rumors began circulating among the islands' Hispanics that the Border Patrol was snaring illegal immigrants who rode the ferries to Anacortes.
So for three months, the Sanabria family — Antonio, Amelia and their daughters Guadalupe, 18, and Carmen, 15 — never left
When they didn't hear of any arrests, they decided to chance it in February so Guadalupe could take her driver's-license test on the mainland.
A Border Patrol agent approached their pickup truck as they got off the ferry in Anacortes. Antonio Sanabria whispered to his family in Spanish: "Oh, no. They've got us."
It never occurred to them that they could refuse to answer the agents' questions, said Guadalupe Sanabria, who was 2 when her parents illegally came to the
The family was sent to a federal detention facility in
As it will in small towns, news spread fast. Members of the community managed to raise enough money to get the family out on a $30,000 bond, and they were back in
Even so, the Sanabrias know they will probably lose their bid to stay in the
"I'm really thankful our community helped us because if not for them, we wouldn't be back," Guadalupe said. "It's in God's hands. We just hope someday there's a way for us to be legal."
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Immigration, taxes, crime darken Houston Area Survey
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
The survey, conducted annually since 1982 by
The survey found 63 percent agreed that new immigration should be limited, up from 48 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, 61 percent of those polled said illegal immigrants are a ''very serious" problem, up from 43 percent in 2006.
This year, 56 percent favored granting citizenship to illegal immigrants who have learned English and didn't have a criminal record, down from 68 percent in 2007. And today, 43 percent believe immigrants contribute more than they take, down from 52 percent in 2002.
The pessimistic attitudes toward immigrants are striking in an area as diverse as
The local attitudes reflect a nationwide fear of a rapidly growing population of immigrants who don't embrace American culture, reduce the prominence of English and increase poverty that will strap taxpayers, the survey noted.
The backlash against the mostly Latino immigrants is comparable to past resentment over large-scale immigration from
Feeling surfaced in 2005
''Whenever there have been large waves of immigrants arriving in the country — the Irish in 1840s and 1850s or the Greeks, Italians and Poles at the turn of the century — Americans have always responded with antagonism and fear," he said.
This increasingly negative feeling about immigrants, both legal and illegal, first surfaced in the Houston Area Survey in 2005, he said.
''Each year there has been deepening anti-immigration attitudes, and this is happening despite the evidence of successful assimilation and upward mobility" of new arrivals, said Klineberg. ''All the evidence suggests Latino immigrants moving up and out of poverty, learning English and becoming Americans at least as rapidly, if not more rapidly, than Greeks and Italians did 100 years ago."
But the positive indicators are little comfort to some.
Robert Bracht, a 71-year-old retired
Bracht said attitudes about illegal immigrants have soured because of the perception they're responsible for increasing crime, a sentiment expressed by 23 percent of those surveyed.
However, 48 percent of those surveyed said their primary concern was the strain illegal immigrants placed on public services. Thirteen percent said the newcomers were taking jobs away from Americans.
''The crime is probably the biggest thing, and maybe the fact that here in
Other academics, including Raul A. Ramos, an assistant history professor at the
Ramos said Mexicans in particular are targets because current resentment taps into anti-Mexican sentiment dating to before the Mexican-American War of 1848.
The shifting attitudes are due to ''a continued security concern combined with a major economic downturn, so the conditions are right for anti-immigrant sentiment to take root," Ramos said.
Houstonians should not ignore contributions made by immigrants, one Spring resident said.
''More than anything, people should remember ... they do very good work for little money," said Griselda Rivera, 34, a baby sitter who became a
Klineberg said the shift in attitudes has implications for
''As the older Anglos move into retirement, the young people who will be the citizens, the workers, the taxpayers and voters will be increasingly non-Anglo and increasingly Hispanic," Klineberg said. ''So these attitude changes are consequential for
OTHER KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
Traffic called the biggest problem
• Crime no longer top concern: Traffic congestion surpassed crime this year for the first time since 2005. The percentage of respondents citing crime dropped to 24 percent from 38 percent in 2007, while the percentage citing traffic grew from 35 percent to 25 percent.
• Not as optimistic about economy: Positive assessment of the local economy dropped to 57 percent from 60 percent in 2007, even though the official local unemployment rate has fallen.
• Abortion attitudes unchanged: Support for the right to choose remains strong, with 54 percent agreeing that "abortion should be legal for any reason." The figure has been stable in recent years.
• Katrina effect lingers: 70 percent believe that those fleeing the hurricane have been "a bad thing for the city," up from 65 percent last year and 49 percent in 2006. However, 67 percent this year said
HOW IT WAS DONE
The 2008 Houston Area Survey of 702 randomly selected
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Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados
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