Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Immigrant Justice Community Groups Come to Detroit to Say Another World Is Here Demanding Justice and Human Rights

Media Release
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

(Detroit) “The immigrant community’s fight to stop racist laws and ordinances is transforming our country’s vision of civil rights,” declared Catherine Tactaquin, director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), at the start of the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, Michigan. She said, “Immigrant voices lift up the Social Forum’s vision that ‘Another World Is Possible’ and that ‘Another U.S. is Necessary’ in a new way. NNIRR believes that that world is here when immigrant communities assert their rights and mobilize against hate laws and policies of criminalization.”

Some 30 member groups of the National Network (NNIRR), hailing from diverse regions of the U.S., including the U.S.-Mexico border region, the South and Southeast, and the East and West coasts, will present key workshops and participate in the People’s Movement Assembly on immigrant rights at the U.S. Social Forum.

Janis Rosheuvel, from New York-based Families for Freedom and member of the NNIRR board of directors, said, “The U.S. Social Forum is an amazing opportunity to envision another world for the people directly affected by the institutions that have control in our lives. We can say how change needs to happen with these institutions involving the criminal justice system around immigrant rights and the social justice movement in the work that we are doing.”

Member groups at the U.S. Social Forum, based in South Asian, Muslim, Latino, African, African American and Asian Pacific Islander communities, will lead workshop discussions focusing on grassroots organizing for rights; just immigration reforms, on globalization, migration and human rights; national security and immigrant communities; LGTBQ rights; and uniting interior and border communities against racism and militarism.

In closing, Monami Maulik of DRUM: Desis Rising Up & Moving and also a member of the NNIRR board of directors, added, “The U.S. Social Forum is a unique space and moment to reflect on the critical challenges facing all people of color, workers, women, including immigrant communities. DRUM with NNIRR members believe that not another world is not only possible but is being born in the struggles of migrant communities and of all the excluded and exploited. The Forum is an historic moment where you can hear all our their voices singing deep songs of justice and human rights for all.”

Click here to see NNIRR's schedule at the U.S. Social Forum

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

From Mississippi to Arizona: For freedom and human rights

Dialogue between rising Arizona movement against SB1070 and Mississippi Freedom Summer veterans

By Linda Burnham

The room was small, but it was filled with enormous possibility. And everyone in there knew it.

On Saturday, May 29th, after a long, hot day of marching, chanting and rallying, a group of activists met in a windowless room at the Phoenix Doubletree Inn. Many had worked non-stop for weeks on end, mobilizing the tens of thousands who poured out of their homes in support of justice for the migratory workers and families whose lives and livelihood are threatened by Arizona immigration policy. Their phone-banking and door-knocking and e-mailing and community meetings had produced sea of people who filled the streets with their bodies and their voices.

Obama, escucha. Estamos en la lucha.

Que queremos? Justicia. Cuando? Ahora.

And now, though their day had started before sunrise, here these activists were, 14 hours later, eager to engage in an historic dialogue with veterans of Mississippi Freedom Summer.

MacArthur Cotton [right, in photograph] came to
Phoenix from Kosciusko, Mississippi, Jesse Harris from Jackson, Mississippi, and Betty Garman Robinson from Baltimore, Maryland. These Freedom Summer vets came to march and rally against Arizona?s punitive legislation and to share their stories and their wisdom, gleaned from decades of struggling for justice. Arizona activists from the Puente Movement and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network have called for an Arizona Human Rights Summer to intensify non-violent resistance to SB1070, due to go into effect July 29, 2010.

The Doubletree meeting was meant to forge a vital connection between the summer of 1964, a season that changed the course of U.S. democracy, and the summer of 2010, a season that may yet do the same. The times are oh so different. For young activists -- the high schoolers who organize their massive walk-outs via text messaging, the college students trying to negotiate a college education without documents -- 1964 might just as well be a century or two ago. 21st century Arizona is not the Mississippi that clung for dear life to its profound distortions of democracy set in place in the post-Reconstruction period. And yet, the resonances are many.

Gross abuse of power by local law enforcement? Check. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the modern-day incarnation of the despotic, mid-20th century southern sheriff charged with keeping the Negroes in their place, even if that meant encouraging violence and vigilantism. Megalomania plus racism was a lethal combination then; it's just as lethal today.

Unjust, anti-democratic policy enshrined in law? Check.

A white population that is subject to being driven by fear of the brown tide, and that, consequently, has a very hard time getting on the right side of history? Check.

Demagogues bent on mobilizing mistrust of the federal government, gaining power through a states? rights agenda, and building the influence of a right wing populism firmly grounded in race hatred? Hate to say it, but check, check, check.

But there are hopeful resonances as well.

The massing up of the power of poor people who have had enough. Basta ya!

People in motion despite their profound vulnerabilities to the arbitrary exercise of state power.

Committed, tireless organizers, young, old and in between, who have decided to throw down, dig in, hold the line.

The creativity and fearlessness of young leaders coming into their own.

And the Arizona activists link themselves directly to the black freedom struggle and the civil rights movement. Placards for the march, quickly silk-screened by the dozens at Tonatierra community center, carried a trio of images: Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi. A portrait of King, along with one of Chavez, held pride of place in the restaurant owned by Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County supervisor, immigrant rights advocate and Joe Arpaio?s nemesis-in-chief. A banner reading ?From Selma to Phoenix, from Civil Rights to Human Rights? was on prominent display at the main stage for the rally in front of the state capitol.

So when MacArthur talked about the years of organizing that went on before the Mississippi Summer Project, the uncapitalized summer projects of 1961, 1962 and 1963, Arizona's on-the-ground organizers could relate to the slow and steady aggregation of forces and experience that constitutes the groundwork on which mass transformational movements are built. And they listened closely as Jesse described how Mississippi activists earned the trust of communities marked by both poverty and fear, and learned to marry a single statewide programmatic objective (the right to vote) with a wide array of locally generated tactics. Betty shared her experience with mobilizing resources in the north ? people, money, public opinion ? to support the southern struggle.

As the discussion opened out in that small room overflowing with both the past and the future, 45 activists grappled with tough questions: How do we protect the integrity, trusted relationships and hard-won gains of deep community organizing while situating that work as a building block in a burgeoning national movement? How do we reconcile different approaches, different organizing methods, different cultural and spiritual traditions in ways that build mutual respect and strength? How do we organize in communities where residents are so demoralized and despairing that they see no point in coming out to a meeting?

Those questions were certainly not definitively answered, but as one participant put it, "Anytime we get together and put our deepest challenges on the table, it's a good thing."

The Doubletree meeting brought activists and organizers together across regions, across generations, across races and nationalities, and, perhaps most importantly, across sectors of the social justice movement whose alignment cannot be taken for granted, but must be nurtured with care and broad vision. Our conversation prepared us to walk on a path cleared by the elders while at the same time breaking brand new ground.


Visit for the latest news about Arizona Human Rights summer.
Visit for more information about the ongoing activities of the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.

My thanks to Puente for receiving us with such grace, and to all the Mississippi Summer veterans who could not travel to Phoenix, but who were generous with their time and sage counsel. Special thanks to the Urgent Action Fund, whose quick turn around made the Mississippi-Arizona exchange possible.

Linda Burnham
Consulting at the Crossroads

All photographs by Arnoldo García, NNIRR.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

¿Qué es el neoliberalismo? Una breve definicion para activistas en los EEUU

por Elizabeth Martínez y Arnoldo García

Click here to read this essay on neoliberalism.

El neoliberalismo es un conjunto de políticas económicas que se ha difundido en los últimos 25 años. Aunque el término se utiliza muy poco en Estados Unidos, sus efectos se pueden apreciar claramente en el enriquecimiento de los ricos y el empobrecimiento de los pobres.

"Liberalismo" puede referirse a ideas políticas, económicas o aun religiosas. En Estados Unidos, el liberalismo político ha obrado como estrategia para impedir conflictos sociales, y es presentado a la clase pobre o trabajadora como "progresista" en comparación con el pensamiento conservador o derechista. El liberalismo económico es diferente. Los políticos conservadores que dicen odiar a los "liberales" (en el sentido político) en realidad no tienen problema con el liberalismo económico, incluido el neoliberalismo.

"Neo" significa un nuevo tipo de liberalismo. Entonces, ¿de qué se trataba el viejo tipo? La escuela del liberalismo económico se hizo famosa en Europa cuando Adam Smith publicó en 1776 "La riqueza de las naciones", en el que promovía la abolición de la intervención gubernamental en asuntos económicos: no a las restricciones a la manufactura, no a las barreras al comercio, no a los aranceles. El libre comercio era, según Smith, la mejor forma de desarrollo de la economía de una nación.

Tales ideas eran liberales en el sentido de que promovían la ausencia de controles. Esta aplicación del individualismo estimuló la libre empresa y la libre competencia, es decir, que los capitalistas pudieron acumular riquezas sin límites.

Desafío al liberalismo

El liberalismo económico prevaleció en Estados Unidos durante todo el siglo XIX y a principios del XX. Luego de la Gran Depresión de los años 30, John Maynard Keynes elaboró una teoría que desafió al liberalismo como la mejor política para los capitalistas. En esencia, Keynes señaló que el pleno empleo es necesario para el crecimiento del capitalismo, y que sólo puede lograrse con la intervención de los gobiernos y los bancos centrales. Estas ideas tuvieron gran influencia sobre el New Deal (Nuevo Trato) del presidente Roosevelt, que mejoró las condiciones de vida de muchas personas. Así, la creencia de que el gobierno debía promover el bien común fue ampliamente aceptada.

Sin embargo, la crisis o reducción de ganancias que vivió el capitalismo en los últimos 25 años inspiró a la elite empresarial a revivir el liberalismo económico. Esto es lo que lo hace "neo" o nuevo. Ahora, con la globalización de la economía capitalista, el neoliberalismo se practica a escala mundial.

Una memorable definición de este proceso fue la ofrecida por el subcomandante Marcos, en el Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neoliberalismo, realizado en Chiapas (México) en agosto de 1996 con los auspicios del movimiento zapatista: "Lo que la derecha nos ofrece es convertir el mundo en un gran centro de compras donde se pueden adquirir indígenas aquí, mujeres allá", y podría haber agregado "niños, inmigrantes, obreros e incluso un país entero como México".

El neoliberalismo incluye entre sus conceptos principales:

Gobierno del mercado. Liberación de las empresas privadas de cualquier control impuesto por el Estado, sin importar cuánto daño social ello produzca. Mayor apertura al comercio y a la inversión internacionales, como en el Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN). Reducción de salarios mediante la "desindicalización" de los trabajadores y la supresión de derechos laborales obtenidos tras largos años de lucha. Eliminación de los controles de precios. En definitiva, libertad total para el movimiento de capitales, bienes y servicios. Para convencernos de que esto es bueno para nosotros, nos dicen: "Un mercado desregulado es la mejor forma de aumentar el crecimiento económico, que en definitiva nos beneficiará a todos". Este concepto equivale a la economía del "goteo" de Ronald Reagan, sólo que la riqueza no gotea demasiado.

Reducción del gasto público en servicios sociales como educación y atención de la salud. Reducción de la red de seguridad para los pobres, e incluso recorte del gasto en mantenimiento de caminos, puentes, suministro de agua; todo en nombre de la desregulación estatal. Por supuesto, los promotores de esta política no se oponen a los subsidios gubernamentales ni a las exoneraciones fiscales para las empresas.

Desregulación. Debilitamiento o eliminación de toda norma gubernamental que pueda disminuir las ganancias de las empresas, incluidas las leyes que protegen el ambiente y la seguridad laboral.

Privatización. Venta de empresas, bienes y servicios públicos a inversores privados. Esto incluye bancos, industrias, vías férreas, carreteras, electricidad, escuelas, hospitales y aún el suministro de agua potable. Aunque en general las privatizaciones se realizan en nombre de una mayor eficiencia, a menudo necesaria, tienen el efecto de concentrar la riqueza aún más en unas pocas manos y de hacer que el público deba pagar más para satisfacer sus necesidades.

Eliminación del concepto del "bien público" o "comunidad", y su sustitución por el de "responsabilidad individual". Presión a los más pobres de la sociedad para que atiendan por sí mismos su salud, educación y seguridad social.


El neoliberalismo ha sido impuesto en todo el mundo por poderosas instituciones financieras como el Fondo Monetario Internacional, el Banco Mundial y el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, y es incontenible en América Latina, donde se aplicó por primera vez en Chile (con la ayuda del economista Milton Friedman, de la Universidad de Chicago) tras el golpe militar respaldado por la CIA contra el gobierno del socialista Salvador Allende, en 1973. Le siguieron otros países, y algunos de los peores efectos se sintieron en México, donde los salarios disminuyeron entre 40 y 50 por ciento en el primer año de vigencia del TLCAN y el costo de vida aumentó 80 por ciento. Más de 20.000 pequeñas y medianas empresas quebraron, y más de mil compañías públicas fueron privatizadas. Como dijo un analista, "el neoliberalismo significa la neocolonización de América Latina".

En Estados Unidos, el neoliberalismo está destruyendo programas de bienestar social, atacando los derechos de los trabajadores (incluidos los de los inmigrantes) y recortando programas sociales. El "contrato" republicano es neoliberalismo puro. Sus partidarios trabajan duro por negar protección a los niños, los jóvenes, las mujeres y el planeta mismo, y tratan de que aceptemos esto con el argumento de que nos liberará del peso del Estado.

Los beneficiarios del neoliberalismo son una minoría de la población mundial. Para la vasta mayoría sólo produce más sufrimiento que antes: un sufrimiento sin los pequeños y difíciles logros de los últimos 60 años, un sufrimiento sin fin.

Elizabeth Martínez es una activista de los derechos civiles y autora de varios libros, entre ellos 500 años de historia chicana en fotografías. Arnoldo García es miembro del Comité Emiliano Zapata, de Oakland, afiliado a la Comisión Nacional para la Democracia en México. Esta traduccion aparecio en Revista del Sur.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life

Coalición de Derechos Humanos
The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life
May 25-31, 2009
A 75 mile walk from Sásabe, Sonora, MX to Tucson, AZ

The precarious reality of our borderlands calls us to walk. We are a spiritually diverse, multi-cultural group who walk together on a journey of peace to remember people, friends and family who have died, others who have crossed, and people who continue to come. We bear witness to the tragedy of death and of the inhumanity in our midst. Lastly, we walk as a community, in defiance of the borders that attempt to divide us, committed to working together for the human dignity of all peoples.

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2010
Contact: Lynda Cruz: (520) 437-7551

* Interviews can be done in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Arabic, and Kiro (Sierra Leon) throughout the trail. We will not have access to internet so please call the cell phone listed above only.

Press Conference:
Migrant Trail Walk Arrives in Tucson

56 Local, National and International Participants Complete the Final Day of a 75-mile Journey Through the Sonoran Desert

Sunday, June 6, 2010; 11:30am
Kennedy Park, Ramada #3 Tucson, Arizona

Tucson - An international group participating in the seventh annual Migrant Trail Walk from Sásabe, Sonora to Tucson, Arizona will arrive on Sunday, June 6th. The 75-mile Walk will culminate in a press conference, followed by a community gathering at Kennedy Park in Tucson, Arizona. The Migrant Trail, a walk through the most traveled corridor on the Arizona-Sonora border, sponsored by a coalition of local and national organizations, bears witness to the thousands of women, men and children who have lost their lives in an attempt to provide a better future for themselves and their families.

Emma Ari Beltrán, a first time walker from Vancouver, Canada commented, "The Migrant Trail has reinforced my conviction that what is happening on the México-U.S. border is not a political issue, but a humanitarian crisis of extraordinary dimensions. Hundreds of people are dying every year in their attempt to find a decent job that will allow them to provide for their families."

For the seventh year, an diverse international group of friends and allies has gathered to walk the Migrant Trail though the Altar Valley in the Sonora Desert, along the most heavily traveled migration route where the vast majority of human remains are recovered.

Arizona has gained national and international attention recently for its anti-immigrant and xenophobic atmosphere that include an 800-agent ICE raid, the passage of SB 1070 (the "Papers, Please" legislation), and the passage of HB 2281, an anti-Ethnic Studies measure. As a result, massive mobilizations and resistance have taken place across the United States. The ongoing human rights crisis of deaths along the border is only another piece of the larger strategy to funnel vulnerable migrants into Arizona's deadly desert. Participants of the Migrant Trail walk not only to bear witness to the tragedy of death, but the intentional dehumanization and militarization of border communities.

"We call for an end to the brutal and irresponsible policies that cause the deaths of thousands of workers in our borderlands," says Tom Kowal of Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, a Colorado-based sponsor of the Walk. "We call for humane reform of U.S. immigration laws that re-unites families, and that recognizes the human dignity and the vital contributions of our immigrant brothers and sisters. This is the human rights challenge that faces our country today."

The Migrant Trail Walk will begin the final 6.7 miles of their journey at 9am at the BLM campsite on Ajo Way and San Joaquin Road. Participants will be welcomed home at Kennedy Park with speakers, music, food, and testimonies from participants and supporters. This event is free and open to the public.


The Migrant Trail
c/o Arizona Border Rights Foundation
P.O. Box 1286
Tucson, AZ 85702

Tel: 520.770.1373

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

What is Neo-liberalism? A brief definition for U.S. activists.

Haga clic aqui para leer este ensayo sobre el neoliberalismo en español

EDITOR'S NOTE: In the U.S. neo-liberalism was more commonly known as "Reaganomics," after the policies and measures that were inaugurated under the Republican Administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. We are offering this early work produced in 1996 by Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia as background information to help develop and engage discussions to build-up and promote the U.S. Social Forum. The U.S. Social Forum will be starting when thousands of activists, organizers and community leaders and members of U.S.-based social justice movements converge in Detroit the week of June 21, 2010.


What is “Neo-Liberalism”?

A Brief Definition

By Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo García

Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right-wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neo-liberalism.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, a Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called The Wealth of Nations. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged “free” enterprise,” “free” competition -- which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President Roosevelt’s New Deal -- which did improve life for many people. The belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos at the Zapatista-sponsored Encuentro Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism) of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: “what the Right offers is to turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here, women there ...” and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico.

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics -- but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply -- again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves -- then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar said, "Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and cutting back social programs. The Republican “Contract” on America is pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself -- and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will “get government off my back.” The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.


Elizabeth Martinez is a longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including “500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs.” Arnoldo García is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico. Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neo-liberalism, held July 27 -August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.

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