Posts tagged with 'DHS'

Weekly Diaspora: The 2012 Budget and Our Unsecured Border

Posted Mar 3, 2011 @ 11:52 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

President Obama is taking heat from all sides this week for his 2012 budget proposal, which proposes increased funding for immigration enforcement and border militarization. While immigrant rights advocates are predictably up in arms over the proposal, House Republicans are (somewhat uncharacteristically) demanding significant cuts to border security funding — on the grounds that the Obama administration’s efforts to secure the border have been ineffective and fiscally irresponsible.

Obama’s future immigration priorities remain counterproductive

As Walter Ewing reports at Alternet/Immigration Impact, the proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget reveals the Obama administration’s consistently conflicted priorities on immigration. While the budget makes good (albeit modestly) on the administration’s promise to fund humane detention alternatives and better oversight of enforcement programs, the overwhelming bulk of the funding supports expansion of controversial and ineffective enforcement programs. Ewing writes:

The enforcement-heavy focus of the President’s proposed DHS budget is readily apparent in the top-line numbers. The budget for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be $11.8 billion; up 3 percent from FY 2011. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would receive $5.8 billion, up 1 percent from the previous year. And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would get $2.9 billion, down 5 percent from FY 2011. As is so often case, immigration services get the short end of the stick.

The administration’s continued emphasis on border security is particularly troubling in light of three recently released reports which suggest that increased enforcement efforts have proven to be totally ineffective at securing the border.

Despite increased funding, border remains unsecured

According to a newly released report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 93 percent of the American-Mexican border remains porous by DHS’s own standards. The American Independent’s Kyle Daly reports:

Of the 1,969 miles of the border stretching from California to Texas, just 873 miles are deemed secure, according to the standards of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Within those 873, only 129 miles were classified in the GAO report as “controlled,” meaning there are resources in place to either turn away or apprehend people attempting to cross into the United States illegally.

The finding flies in the face of DHS’s increasingly costly efforts to secure the border. Last August, the president signed into law a $600 million border security bill and, more recently, DHS raised funding for aerial border patrol drones to $32 million. The administration’s 2012 budget proposal is similarly gratuitous, including “nearly $300 million for border technology, $229 million for border personnel and more than 40,000 additional border patrol agents and officers,” according to Daly.

Costly border security fails to secure

Meanwhile, the National Immigration Forum and the Immigration Policy Center have each released policy briefs arguing that border enforcement has proven remarkably ineffective. As Nicolas Mendoza explains at Campus Progress, funding for border enforcement has increased exponentially in recent years with little apparent impact on either unauthorized immigration or crime rates at the border:

Border Patrol funding has been increasing dramatically since 2005, rising at an average of $300 million per year. […] This in spite of the fact that “crime rates were already down in the border region” before the National Guard was deployed, with border cities like El Paso, Texas and San Diego, Calif. boasting some of the lowest crime rates in the country. […] Meanwhile, the Immigration Policy Center’s report argues that “no specific policy decision to beef up border security in the last 20 to 30 years has significantly reduced the flow of illicit drugs and people into the United States.”

In fact, as one brief points out, the only thing that has managed to decrease unauthorized immigration is the economy; Inflows have decreased by 200,000 since the beginning of the recession, as employment (the chief pull factor for unauthorized migrants) has dried up.

House Republicans vote to cut border security funding

On the heels of mounting evidence that border enforcement is both costly and ineffective, House Republicans are retreating from their usual pro-enforcement stance on border security and demanding significant cuts to DHS’s 2012 budget.

Care2’s Robin Marty reports that House members would like to cut $272 million in funding for border surveillance systems and eliminate 870 Border Patrol agents — on the grounds that the Obama administration’s border security efforts have been ineffective at quelling unauthorized immigration. While that’s certainly true, Marty notes that the move may simply be an effort to obstruct Obama’s agenda — at whatever cost.

Unfortunately, if they succeed on the first count, they’ll likely succeed on the second. The GOP has long stated that it would not move forward on comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secured, and the administration has attempted to meet that demand by putting off reform in favor of increasing border enforcement funding and capacity. In return, House Republicans have thumbed their noses at Obama’s border security efforts, painting him as incompetent on immigration and security issues and, in doing so, making it quite clear they won’t help him move forward on comprehensive immigration reform.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Diaspora: Lawless Judges, Immigrant Soldiers, and Deportee Pardons

Posted Oct 28, 2010 @ 11:03 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Here’s the harsh truth about our immigration system: When 392,000 immigrants are detained per year and 33,000 more are detained everyday with limited staff and minimal federal oversight, institutional misconduct is inevitable.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving record-breaking numbers of immigrants through its ancillary agencies and, in the process, immigrant women are being raped by Border Patrol agents, LGBT detainees are being sexually assaulted at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, and citizens and legal residents are certainly being deported.

How can such things come to pass? Simple: a combination of overworked and overzealous officials are enforcing overly broad immigration laws. It should be no wonder that people, inevitably, slip through the cracks—whether immigrant, citizen, or soldier. (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: Will $600 Million Border Security Bill Target Innocents?

Posted Aug 12, 2010 @ 10:47 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Anti-immigrant forces have adeptly shaped the ongoing immigration debate into an issue of crime and punishment. Now, the pending passage of a $600 million border security bill could breathe new life into the narrative of the criminal immigrant – despite the increasing safety of our border communities.

The sentiment is familiar, if false: Crime in Mexico fuels migration, which breeds violence on the border, which must then be combated within our cities. The undocumented must be punished for stealing our jobs, stealing our services and ruining our neighborhoods. In Arizona, lawmakers like state senator Russell Pearce (who claims that his ring finger was shot off by a Latino gang member) used just that rhetoric to justify the passage of SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant laws.

The reality is far different. Not only do Mexicans and immigrants experience the worst of drug-related border violence, immigration enforcement programs have shifted their resources from combating trafficking to deporting non-criminal immigrants. (more…)

Weekly Diaspora: ICE Perpetuating Human Rights Abuses

Posted Dec 24, 2009 @ 10:52 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: This week’s Diaspora is short due to the holidays. We’ll be back to full-length next week.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, apparently isn’t beholden to US or international law. In The Nation, Jacqueline Stevens reveals the “clandestine operations, akin to extraordinary renditions” carried out by ICE.

Beyond the department’s public list of detention facilities—many of which are already sites of alleged abuse—ICE is also “confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices” around the nation. According to Alison Parker, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, these secret detention centers may violate the UN’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory.

But what’s most appalling is ICE’s assertion that the department is some sort of super-police with powers of rendition. James Pendergraph, former executive director of ICE’s Office of State and Local Coordination, said in late 2008 that “if you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally, but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” The boldness with which a law official would state such an idea is confounding; the confession, if true, is criminal.

Last week, The Diaspora wrote about the introduction of the CIR ASAP immigration bill by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Freshman Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is a recent addition to the list of 87 cosponsors on the bill, as The Colorado Independent reported last Wednesday. This is a positive step forward. The bill will most likely be sponsored in the senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). CIR ASAP establishes a basic layout of progressive immigration reform, but the final bill will probably become more focused on enforcement in Schumer’s hands.

Finally, David Moberg reports on the Obama administration’s controversial use of “audits” to purge employment payrolls of undocumented workers for In These Times. While the audit method is much quieter and less likely to make headlines, it is also ineffective. Not only do audits rely upon “flawed federal databases” to judge who is documented, they also purge immigrants who are “legal.”

As the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Executive Vice-President Eliseo Medina explains, workers fired as a result of ICE probes or audits do find other, lower-paying jobs that offer even less protection to the worker. Ultimately the number of undocumented workers in the US remains the same, and the entire exercise but “a losing game of musical chairs.” Medina stresses that SEIU is not suggesting the law shouldn’t be enforced, simply that it be enforced in a way that works.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Building Up to Change

Posted Apr 23, 2009 @ 11:05 am by
Filed under: Economy, Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

As the U.S. moves closer and closer to enacting immigration reform, the situation on the ground is evolving as well. Nothing is static for an issue that touches so many people across so many communities. This week’s wire follows up on trends observed last week: holding mainstream media accountable, enforcement tactics, and immigration’s positive effect on the economy.

But if you’d first like to get up to speed on immigration reform fundamentals, stop over at Feministing’s interview with Christine Neumann-Ortiz. (And definitely don’t miss Feministing’s call to action to stop the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)

Last week, the Wire highlighted the importance of  holding mainstream media accountable—especially when it comes to giving proper context to quoted sources. This week, Texas Observer’s Melissa del Bosque writes that “[t]he truth differs wildly from the perception.” when it comes to the actual political situation in Mexico and the image cultivated by mainstream media. While some outlets continue to develop an image Mexico as lawless and volatile, the actual scenario is not as dramatic.

Following up on enforcement tactics, Marcelo Balivé, writing for New America Media, explores the “backlash against immigrants” that “continues to rage countrywide.” According to Balivé, anti-immigrant sentiment is bleeding over into American perceptions about Mexican culture, “casting a pall on all Hispanic immigrants, whether they entered the country illegally or not.”

On a more positive note, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) head Janet Napolitano’s recent statements that ICE will henceforth target employers rather than workers is a move in the right direction, though she gives no indication of how that might manifest on a practical level. Napolitano also admits that there will be “no halt to arrests of undocumented workers.”

This is unfortunate. The effects of ICE raids, and the ongoing hunt for “illegals in our midst” is hurting most Latinos in the U.S., even citizens. Even the so-called “Sanctuary” cities, which refuse to enlist local law enforcement to federal duties like immigration control, are no longer offer a feeling of safety. San Francisco, much like Postville, Iowa, is now feeling the devastating effects of the ICE raids. I’m not sure how the Democratic party intends to square its support for community-shattering raids with previous promises to a large part of their constituency.

In the American Prospect, Ann Friedman writes that nearly one year after the raid in Postville, “The lingering effects of the raid make depressingly clear how misleading the “immigrants take from our communities” narrative really is.” Friedman asks that we consider what a community loses when we act as if a huge part of that same community is “illegal.”

Following up on last weeks coverage of immigration as an economic issue, Pramila Jayapal and Renee Radcliff Sinclair argue that  Immigrants Keep Washington’s Economy Strong for the American Forum:

The Office of Financial Management estimated that in 2007, Washington households with at least one foreign-born member contributed $1.48 billion in tax revenue, or 13 percent of the state’s total tax revenue. Even low-income immigrant households earning less than $20,000 a year contributed a total of $50 million in tax revenue.

And in other immigration news, Wiretap’s Naima Coster writes of an ethical conflict of interest when “anti-immigrant policy and the capitalist ambitions of pharmaceutical giant Merck” are joined. Is it right to federally mandate all women immigrants to receive the Gardasil vaccine, which has claimed approximately 20 lives and produced “thousands of cases of adverse effects”?

Women have good cause to be concerned with the immigration issue “because of the displacement and separation of families—and the inherent link … between women and family life,” writes Elisabeth Garber-Paul for RH Reality Check. It’s a point also implicit in Made in LA, an Emmy-winning documentary that follows the lives of three Latina immigrants fighting for labor protections and the right to pursue freedom, happiness and a fair living.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Obama Can’t Play Centrist on Immigration Crisis

Posted Feb 26, 2009 @ 11:33 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua
TMC MediaWire Blogger

The Obama Administration seems quite capable of centrist positioning on many issues, including immigration reform. While some argue centrist position allows Obama to effectively reach consensus, immigration reform is an issue that he cannot play sides with.

While immigration reform advocates cheered the passage of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill (SCHIP), there is also considerable upset concerning Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s “finessing” of crackdown tactics begun under President Bush. And more trouble is brewing.

While President Obama speaks of improving our approach to immigration, he has yet to call for a moratorium on the ICE raids that are devastating the communities and economies where they take place. And he has yet to address the detention crisis specifically. The first raid of the new administration occured in Bellingham, WA on Feb. 24.  As Hatty Lee writes for RaceWire, “In these times of economic hardship, detaining hardworking men and women and dividing families is just perpetuating more fear in our communities. We need to bring the people together not push them further apart.”

One wonders how much supervision ICE is actually operating under, as Secretary Napolitano was surprised to hear about the raid:

Napolitano told lawmakers during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that she did not know about the raid before it happened and was briefed on it early Wednesday morning. She has asked U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted the raid, for answers.

“I want to get to the bottom of this as well,” she said.

Statements like this do not gel with recent actions that indicate Napolitano’s desire to overhaul U.S. detention practices, such as creating a new advisory position to focus on these issues.

Through a more cynical lens, the gap between statement and action can be seen as typical political maneuvering, and specifically, Democratic doublespeak. There are factions on the left that disagree on many issues. Even among immigration advocates there is a rift regarding how to present the issue to the voting public. This conflict may be what we see playing out before our eyes.

The division among liberal advocates of immigration reform came into focus after 2006 and 2007‘s failures to pass immigration reform. Democratic party leaders have adopted Right wing stances on the issue, just as they have regarding National Security. Party leaders are  using words that imply harsh and punitive action, and eschewing morality or heart in the name of strategy.

These stances are based on the advice of a number of immigration advocacy groups such as the National Immigration Forum (NIF), and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), who felt that the focus must come away from what was best for migrating human beings and onto what was in the national interest. This stance was outlined in a confidential report called Winning The Immigration Debate, which was given to Democratic party leaders in 2007.

The report calls for tougher language, but 2007’s McCain/Kennedy bill contained more punitive wording and it failed. Are we now to repeat this error, even while the Democrats hold such power in Washington?

It will not do to simply “require” immigrants to “come out of the shadows,” to borrow lingo from 2007, and let the Department of “Homeland Security” continue its traumatizing actions on the community. ICE has not lived up to its promises, and worse, resorted to unethical means to justify its continued operations. Already, we’ve read many heartbreaking stories about those who suffer greatly or die in ICE’s custody. As AlterNet reports, we can now add those suffering from mental illness to the list of those impacted.

The number of mentally and developmentally disabled detainees in South Texas federal immigration detention centers has surged during the past year, according to area attorneys who call the trend “alarming.”

The AlterNet report details the Kafkaesque case of Pierre Bernard, a Haitian immigrant ordered to undergo six months of psychiatric treatment but who ended up, instead, in an ICE detention center.

Women migrants are also subject to exploitation, rape, and other abuse. But now, as Kevin Sieff writes in the Texas Observer, women in U.S. dentention centers are now being denied basic reproductive rights. “For pregnant women in immigration detention facilities, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion,” Sieff writes. In 2008, nearly 10% of detained women were pregnant.

Yesterday, Janet Marguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, responded to the Bellingham raids, and the challenges now facing the Obama administration.

Escalating immigration raids and local police crackdowns over the past eight years have spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat to the United States and who have lived peacefully and productively within our borders for years. Most have worked hard, paid taxes, lived productive lives, and been good neighbors. Many have children and spouses who are U.S. citizens. Many have served in our nation’s defense. Yet over the past eight years, U.S. policies have sought to criminalize this population, raid their homes and workplaces, suspend their civil liberties, put them in chains, and ultimately deport them.

And while Hilda Solis, the daughter of immigrants, has been confirmed as Secretary of Labor, and Obama has given another straightforward speech to congress and the nation (critiqued here by The Real News), DHS appears to be still mucking through the Bush agenda.

The so-called “Enforcement first” or ICE-centric approach to immigration is not a solution. It asks too much of ICE, it is not practical, and it is not going well. Such an approach is egregiously incongruent with the nation Obama asks us to envision under his administration. We truly are a “nation of immigrants,” and we must rethink our current treatment of migrants. To continue this destructive approach while speaking eloquently and carefully to the Press is a line the President cannot successfully straddle.

The administration is now faced with a confluence of reality and ideals. Some things you cannot split down the middle.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Abuses Rampant in US Detention Centers

Posted Feb 6, 2009 @ 12:59 pm by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua
Media Consortium Blogger

In political circles, we sometimes use the phrase “police state,” to describe losses of civil liberties or the encroachment of penal processes into our lives. But how does such a thing manifest in our every day experience? Some would point to the all-too-casual use of electric shock devices by legal authorities. Others would quickly mention the United States’ swiftly growing enterprise of detention centers, barbed wire and concrete compounds or camps managed by Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE).

These centers are at the forefront of this week’s Immigration Wire, due to a riot at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas—the “second uprising in recent weeks,” according to RaceWire’s Feb. 4 article:

The protest began after a group of immigrant prisoners attempted to meet with the detention facility’s authorities, demanding that a gravely ill detainee be released from solitary confinement and be taken immediately to a hospital. The prison authorities refused to listen and did not take action. The detainees responded by protesting after being ignored.

In Desperation in Detention, Michelle Chen reveals other abuses related to the riot and quotes Wallace County, TX district attorney Juan Guerra, who warns that these conditions are a nation-wide trend. Guerra is right. While the conditions at Reeves County are shocking, they are not new developments.

In July of 2008, Alternet’s Joshua Holland moderated a workshop called How to Win the Immigration Debate and Beat Back ICE’s Emerging Police State, where he spoke of Hutto Prison in Texas. Latino Politico’s Man Egee liveblogged the event:

Guantanamo Bay receives global condemnation, but right here in the US the poorest of the poor are being rounded up in a migrant gulag. Many are not charged with crimes, health care access is withheld, etc.

30 minutes to the north of Austin, the T. Don Hutto, half of the detainees are children, as young as three years old. It is a medium-security prison that has been changed very little to house families.

New America Media’s Feb. 3 article, Fear and Hate Policies Along the Border: R.I.P., clearly defines the inhumane conditions at work in detention centers across the country.

Here, in the United States, there is an entire detention system set up to house thousands of migrants, including women and children. They are generally incarcerated without rights, without due process and without trials. In Texas, the Hutto detention facility (also operated by CCA) continues to inhumanely imprison migrant children, separating them from their families. According to the recently released “Unseen Prisoners” study, by researchers from the University of Arizona, some 300 migrant women were being held in 2007-2008 in three detention centers (two are operated by CCA), subjected to unwarranted and inhumane conditions.

For those of you looking for additional reporting on immigration,  The Sanctuary is tireless in their efforts to expose what goes on in these facilities, as New Report Details Abuse at Privately Run Ice Detention Center illustrates. The Sanctuary also casts some light on the Reeve’s operators in Feb. 1’s Prison Riot Underway Due to Inhumane Treatment & Death! GEO Group cited for Worst Prisons Ever!

…The GEO Group is an international corporation that operates prisons around the country and is frequently in the news for its abuse of prisoners in its care resulting in many preventable deaths. At least eight people died at the Geo Group-operated George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, the state’s only privately run jail. Several of those deaths resulted in lawsuits by family members who say the facility did not provide adequate medical care or proper supervision for inmates.

In the U.S.’s detention centers, human rights violations abound. In March of 2008, there was the outrageous treatment of Francisco Castaneda, who died shortly after being released from the San Diego Correctional Facility as a result of what U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson deemed “one of the most, if not the most, egregious ‘violations of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment that the court has ever encountered.’”

And in August 2008, Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng died in the custody of ICE with advanced cancer and a fractured spine. His family has not given up the fight for justice, as New America Media reported on Feb. 4:

Ng’s family seeks answers about his treatment during his detainment at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls, RI, which allegedly denied him use of a wheelchair and failed to take him to scheduled medical appointments.

A Rhode Island court is expected to decide this month if the Wyatt Detention Center, which contracted with ICE but is not part of ICE, must turn over the records.

No matter what your position on immigration law happens to be; no matter how many generations your family has been rooted in this soil, these kinds of abuses are unacceptable. Treating our fellow humans in these ways simply is not, as they say, American. As more and more people understand the origins of the strongest resistance to immigration reform, there is hope that reason and a sense of decency will lead the conversation as we move forward.

In the wake of the Decider, we are left with abuses of power, broken laws, and remnants of symbolic and wasteful movements, like the 669 miles of fencing along a minuscule part of the border between the US and Mexico.

Fear and persecution of the Immigrant come in cycles: We’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. How will we handle it today? Will Obama’s agenda extend to migrant communities?

When President Barack Obama made it his first act in office to shut down Guantánamo Bay prison, effectively ended one shameful chapter in our country’s embarrassingly large book of human-rights abuses. It was not so much redemption as a reminder that this country has a long, long way to go when it comes to detention, due process, and the Geneva Convention. It’s not just alleged terrorists that are suffering from our inhumane treatment. […] Children and families have suffered inexcusable indignities under this new policy, which treats them like convicted criminals instead of asylum-seekers and potential citizens. —The American Prospect, The Big Business of Family Detention, February 2, 2009

Maybe we truly are leaving behind some of our darkest days. There are signs here and there of positive change. Glimmers of hope.

Meanwhile we keep at it. At the least, we can do like the child who slipped a note into the hand of an adult visiting Hutto prison asked: “help us and ask questions.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Marching Toward Justice!

Posted Jan 22, 2009 @ 12:10 pm by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua
Media Consortium Blogger

Welcome to the new White House administration, in which we  move forward with purpose. On President Obama’s very first day in office, immigrants and allies marched on ICE headquarters to signify their desire for change. Racewire reports that yesterday, “hundreds gathered in DC, a day after inaugurating our new president, to demand A New Day for Immigration.”

George W. Bush waved goodbye by commuting the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two former border guards who shot a man trying to escape arrest and then tried to cover their deed up. Bush claimed Ramos and Compean had “suffered enough” after serving a fifth of their sentence and set them free, though he did not pardon them. Air America reports on the controversial decision in Bush Commutes Border Agent Sentences (video).

I understand Bush’s reasoning for mercy. But I dare say that the only way you’ll see two Chicanos set free so dramatically is if they shoot a Mexican national. And a note: the victim was not an immigrant, as implied with articles that call him an “illegal alien,” but a smuggler. They are not the same thing. But never mind my cynical humor at a time like this. Let’s take a lesson from a Salvadoran immigrant, whose words about the new administration sparkle with beauty and optimism in New America Media’s Immigrant Worker at Latino Inaugural Ball Shares Hopes for Obama Era:

Maria Perez speaks little English. For more than 20 years now, she has worked as a cleaner at Union Station [in Washington, DC], six days a week, earning slightly more than the minimum wage. She is proud to be among the millions of Latinos who voted for Barack Obama and helped to make him the 44th U.S. president. […]

“I am a Latino. My soul is a Latino, and I am happy I am support Barack,” Perez said in broken English. “Tonight I like it. All people here is happy and beautiful.”

Maria goes on to talk about specific issues such as health and education for her children, both areas that President Obama has pledged to devote attention to.

Many people are aware of how false the stereotypes concerning the undocumented population can be. But some might be surprised by the tenacity and work ethic of Maria, or the inspiring story of Prerna, a friend and colleague of mine whose recent organizing accomplishments are chronicled in New America Media’s Undocumented Students Raise Voices Online for DREAM Act.

Welcome to Web 2.0 undocumented student activism. Youth in the usually-somber waiting rooms of history are bustling with renewed enthusiasm and energy. Trapped in marginal status, ignored by the mainstream media, with their backs to the wall and everything to loose, undocumented youth are emerging as leaders in their own movement for passage of the DREAM Act.

Let me emphasize that: Anyone interested in the power of online organizing ought really read this article. And if you are interested in learning more about the DREAM Act. is a good place to get the specifics.

Jim Hightower serves up a spirited and informative rant on the “charm” of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Why The Homeland Security Department is so Beloved. Hightower defines DHS’s charm as “swaggering lunacy” and reveals plans for a 40 ft. high wall in the middle of a “unique 1,000-acre preserve along the Rio Grande.”

The most critical part of the wildlife habitat, and even the home of the preserve’s manager, would be cut off by the wall, effectively destroying the park, which is home to two kinds of endangered wildcats and a rare palm forest.

Read on. It gets worse.

I think we can agree that a 40 ft. tall fence is not going to fix the strained relationship between the US and Mexico. The Economic Populist veers from its normal reporting, alarmed by news of violence down south. In Trouble at the Mexican Border, we read about the possibility of Mexico as a failed state: “The violence, corruption and drug cartels are now so out of control in Mexico, analysts are saying, not only is Mexico one of the world’s security threats but Mexico itself might collapse.”

The drug cartels are, by and large, the focus of these types of discussions. But we have to examine how government oppression, corruption and laws that do not serve the greater population create systemic problems for a society.

The United States is completely ignoring what is going on in Mexico but if one compares the daily beheading stories, murder, kidnapping and corruption….if one didn’t know the story was about Mexico one would swear they were reading something about Iraq in 2003/2004 time frame.

I’ve been following news from Mexico for a few years now, and I agree that most US media ignores Mexico to our detriment. This is baffling to me because our cultures, our land, our labor, and our peoples are so intertwined as to be two parts of one whole. It is easy to forget this in the midst of much rigid talk of maps, borders, and walls. But reality is knocking at our door. President Obama has put Bush on notice. Change is at hand and a sizable portion of Obama’s constituency has made their needs clear, as New America Media reports in Immigrant Activists March on ICE on Day After Inauguration.

The post-inaugural march is only a beginning. […] Across the country, advocates plan for more actions, coordinated through an increasingly sophisticated communications network, to build a groundswell in favor of reform.

Good morning, America!

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Connecting People and Policies—From Mumbai to Arizona

Posted Dec 4, 2008 @ 10:52 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

It was immediately obvious this week that the Mumbai attacks would be the source of much loss and pain in India. As the US is a land of immigrants, it is always worth remembering how connected to any world event some segment of our population will be in these moments. So is the case now, and Rupa Dev of New America Media presents us with insights gleaned from interviews with a collection of young South Asian Americans in Mumbai Attacks Hit Home For Young South Asian Americans.

Living here in the United States, do you feel detached from violence in India?

Urvi Nagrani, 21, Student, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA

Maybe I’d be able to feel detached if I lacked personal ties to the situation, but I’ve been to all of the sites that were attacked, I have family members who live very close to all the sites. I was unable to enjoy the luxury of apathy.

For those who have immigrated to the United States, this makes for a powerful overlap in causes and a unified struggle for rights here in the land we now share, as is touched upon in Asian Americans Reluctant to Stand Up for Immigration Issues.

According to The World Journal, a survey of 412 Asian Americans [showed that] 80 percent of [those polled] were “very concerned” or “concerned” about immigration. The study shows that 58 percent of Asians are sympathetic to undocumented immigrants and 52 percent of them are supportive of the idea of legalizing undocumented immigrants. About 33 percent of the Asian Americans surveyed said they would become involved in collecting signatures on petitions for immigration issues, but only nine percent said they were willing to do anything further, such as participating in public protests.

The headine positions the data as revealing a failure among Asian Americans to “stand up” for Immigration Issues, but why? Thirty-three percent of a community willing to collect signatures seems not a bad amount to this writer! Do you agree that the only way to “stand up” for rights is to “protest”? 

Regardless, there is a tension in the national dialogue, there is no denying that. And if this conflict is represented in the Asian American community, that is not surprising. We see the dichotomy in many places, also represented in the discussion taking place around Barack Obama’s choice of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as the President-elect’s choice of Homeland Security Secretary. Roberto Lovato explores this in Immigration Reform Trapped in Political Dualism.

[N]ews of Obama’s likely appointment of Arizona Governor and former Clinton-U.S. Attorney appointee, Janet Napolitano, to lead the Department of Homeland Security only reinforced the belief that political dualism may define the Obama legacy on immigration; Napolitano has enthusiastically supported “emergency measures” like militarizing the border to “fight” the “threat” posed by immigrant gardeners, meatpackers and maids like my cousin, Maria; But she has also vetoed at least a few of the more than 75 anti-immigrant measures introduced in Arizona home to the infamous Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

And so the political football game of immigration reform goes on, and has yet to coalesce into action which solves problems like this:

A report published recently by the Mexican Congress indicates that 90,000 children were deported from the United States to Mexico during the first seven months of 2008. Of these, 15 percent, or about 13,500 children, were abandoned on the Mexican side of the border without any governmental protection.

As noted, these are not abstract events to the communities from which these children (and others) belong. They are very real and very painful and dire. In In These Times’ The Crisis of Wage Theft, by Kim Bobo, we learn that “[b]illions dollars in wages are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year.” And New America Media reminds us that adolescent Latinas have the highest rate of “attempted suicides among groups of teenagers in the nation,” and also tells of a new program aimed at helping.

Also aiming for a positive solution to much of the Latina/o community’s current needs is an article by Jessica Gonzales-Rojas called The Power of the Latina Vote. Gonzales-Rojas talks about organizing around issues important to the community because “[i]t is undeniable that the Latino vote had a tremendous impact on the election.” She goes on to inform us how much of that impact was brought about by mujeres (women), and what should be next.

Now that we have new leadership in place, we advocates, activists and organizers must rise to the occasion. We must take the momentum of this election to our everyday organizing and activism, placing women’s ability to care and provide for their families at the center of our platform. […] What does this new era mean? What do we want for our families and communities? What does a Latina agenda for reproductive justice and immigrant rights look like?

Because the fact is, “[t]he great transformational politics of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ do not translate to tangible benefits for new immigrants. In fact, many health and career services for immigrants are cut back or all together shut down due to lack of federal and state funds.” So Diana Jou writes in the personal and fun essay Coming to America. And as David Bacon makes clear in a post on The Nation called Change Immigrants and Labor Can Believe In, “[a] new administration that has raised such high expectations should look for new ideas in the areas of immigration reform and trade policy, not recycle the bad ones of the last few years. The constituency that won the election will support a change in direction, and in fact is demanding it.”

But there is tension in the dialogue. John Riley of The Dallas Morning News covers the same ground but muses that “Mr. Obama is focused on the economic crisis and may not make immigration legislation a priority early in his administration.” However, Riley begins his article with the recognition that “huge increases in Latino voter turnout” are coupled with “credit for helping to propel Barack Obama into the White House” in the minds of Immigrant Rights groups.

Let’s hope for the nation’s sake that some of the recently-trumpeted change makes its way to the communities now in dire need of it.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit for a complete list of articles on immigration. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out and This is a project of The Media Consortium , a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.