Posts tagged with 'Janet Napolitano'

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

Posted Aug 12, 2010 @ 10:47 am by
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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 Immigration Wire: Congress Signals Change for Immigration Policies

Posted Mar 12, 2009 @ 10:32 am by
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by Nezua
TMC MediaWire Blogger

Since the Obama administration came into power, the absence of movement on immigration issues has made activists on both sides of the debate anxious. Most reasoned that there was so much on the new President’s agenda, critical issues would have to wait for their turn.

But when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went forward with the raids that were born under the Bush administration (much to the apparent surprise of the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security), tension mounted. Over 8,000 people in Arizona gathered last weekend to protest the way agreement 287(g)) has played out in the hands of local law “enforcers” like Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio,who is well known for stunts like marching immigrants in chains through town. (287(g) hands civil immigration enforcing powers to local criminal law forces.) Racewire reports in Immigration Advocates Want Action From Obama.

But the protesters didn’t pin all the blame on Arpaio. They issued a call to President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, echoed by a powerful op-ed published in the Times, to step up and take responsibility for ending the inhumane policies and terror practices that have become all too commonplace in this country.

Protestors picket against Sheriff Joe Arpaio on February 28
Image courtesy of The Center for Community Change. Taken on February 28, 2009

Is this call being answered? Public News Service reported that Arizona Congressmen Rep. Raul Grijalva and Ed Pastor joined with Illinois Representative Luis Guiterrez at an immigration reform rally on Sunday night at an immigrant rights rally. “The leadership has made public commitments; President Obama has made public commitments. With the enforcement part and other things, it’s become an issue in which more and more people want Congress to react. And I think we need to, and as a consequence of that, I think we have a much better chance this year than we’ve had the last four or five.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also has signaled a strong stance against the ICE raids and subsequent “tearing families apart.” On March 8, Pelosi’s noted her position is that “Taking parents from their children” is “un-American.”

In an exciting move, on March 10th, the US Department of Justice announced its “first civil-rights probe related to immigration enforcement,” referring to an investigation into Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County’s policing. In response, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox admits, “I think they’re going to find racial profiling, which is a civil-rights abuse.”

News items like these, considered collectively, may lead one to feel confident that positive change is coming in the area of immigration reform. More importantly, that reason can begin to reclaim its place in the conversation, not to mention a sense of decency and humanity. These can be important imperatives in a time of economic downfall. But it is precisely at these times that minority and immigrant communities become vulnerable to scapegoating and potentially worse.

On AlterNet, Kevin Tillman addresses a popular example of the tendency to target the immigrant community in Stimulus Spin: Unauthorized Immigrants Will Get Construction Jobs. Tillman reminds us that even if undocumented workers benefit along with the rest of the nation, this is on cause to reject the stimulus package nor to visit hostility upon the immigrant community.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care, and neither should you. Because the whole argument obscures the larger issue. …[T]here is no doubt that if we create a bunch of new jobs — especially in construction — unauthorized workers will get some of them. After all, they make up about 4-5 percent of the American workforce. And that’s fine, because stimulus spending is not just about creating jobs.

At the same time, the administration’s moves toward approaching immigration from a different angle are muddied by other interconnected realities. On March 10th, Air America posted a clip of Rachel Maddow’s interview with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano , with the theme “Mexico bad and getting worse” to which the solution offered was the Mérida Initiative, or what many opponents call “Plan México.”

Mérida is dubbed Plan México after Plan Colombia, in which the US (under President Bill Clinton) enacted legislation targeting the drug commerce in Colombia, specifically the coca crops. (The legislation was funded and further expanded under President Bush.) Plan Colombia has been soundly criticized because of paramilitary and police abuses by the Colombian armed forces, as well as the abject failure to reduce cocaine production, which instead has greatly increased.

The Mérida Inititiative is a plan that could only be enacted by a government that has learned nothing from Plan Colombia’s miserable failure. The Mérida Initiative is a program crafted by the minds of the Bush administration, and like so much legislation of that era attempts to introduce oppressive and authoritarian measures in response to predictable phenomena, and all without examining the true causes. Suggesting that Plan México is “change” from the policies of the Past is ridiculous. As Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy (CIP) wrote:

“…[T]he militarized approach to fighting organized crime, couched in terms of the counterterrorism model of the Bush administration, presents serious threats to civil liberties and human rights. In Mexico, this has already been clear particularly among four vulnerable groups: members of political opposition, women, indigenous peoples, and migrants. … Because Mexico cannot receive any cash under Plan Mexico, the entire appropriations package translates into juicy contracts for arms manufacturers, mercenary firms, and U.S. defense and intelligence agencies.

Perhaps Plan México will bring about more border cities being taken over by the military. Such as on March 4th, when reported that the Mexican government sent over 2,000 troops into the border city of Ciudad Juarez to “try and regain control” as “more than 2,000 people have been murdered over the past year.” This violence was, of course, instigated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s unprecedented attack on the Cartels. So these conflicts intensify and the proposed answer—in the form of Mérida—is more funding, more weapons, more surveillance.

There are no voices telling us, yet, how using greater weaponry and surveillance and increased military powers are going to quell the national appetite for drugs that makes this conflict possible. Nor how even a government or two can hope to match that source of funding. Nor is anyone yet advising us on why we should be content in 2009 to watch complex issues of society be reduced to issues of force and more and more of our society handed over to military control. Especially when we surely have learned that this is not beneficial to the People.

One hopes that the current confluence of crises will inspire bold thought and a momentum capable of breaking away from the fearful and violent mindset that seems to have dogged so much national policy for almost the last decade. We need to make a different world for ourselves. And for others.

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 Administration Absent on Immigration

Posted Mar 5, 2009 @ 12:20 pm by
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by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

President Obama is shaking up the established political and corporate order with a bold economic agenda. Sadly, immigration reform remains untouched by Obama’s energizing blueprint for Change. Immigration policy and programs are still tied to President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff: Paramilitary-style raids, detention centers, and the deputizing of otherwise-engaged local police forces continue to stand strong. Even as President Obama moves to close Guantánamo (though some argue his method), the promise of change in the U.S. remains tainted as long as the detention industry grows.

Roberto Lovato sums up this hypocritical inattention to immigration reform for New America Media:

The proliferation of stories in international media and in global forums about the Guantánamo-like problems in the country’s immigrant detention system- death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards; prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrants (including children and families) denied habeas corpus and other fundamental rights; filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; denial of basic health services – are again tarnishing the U.S. image abroad, according to several experts. As a result, reports from Arizona and immigrant detention facilities have created a unique problem: they are making it increasingly difficult for Obama to persuade the planet’s people that the United States is ready claim exceptional leadership on human rights in a soon-to-be-post-Guantanamo world.

Our current immigration policy is not thoughtful, measured legislation crafted by a consensus of experts. It is, in most cases, a patchwork of painfully and barely functioning laws, like a bone that knits crooked simply because it was never set properly. While those who benefit from unchecked ICE raids boast that “we can make a person disappear,” the rest of us can only wonder how “American” such a goal is. It’s a policy wrongly reliant on public loathing and lack of oversight. It supersedes U.S. laws to target “the Other.”

Agreement 287(g), which bestows immigration-enforcement powers on state and local police forces to relieve some of the federal government’s duties, has been disastrous in practice. Aarti Shahani and Judith Greene report on the particular fusion of civil and criminal law that is resulting in such chaos for New America Media. They aptly characterize the 287(g) agreement as “a state and local bailout of the federal government’s failed immigration enforcement business.”

Some background: The amendment of section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act was made under the radar of public attention and passed by a Republican Congress under Democratic President Bill Clinton. This change was a part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). President Clinton let the ammendment stand. Florida, under the guidance of Gov. Jeb Bush, was the first state to use the provision to target the immigrant community following 9/11.

Critics of the merge between federal obligations and state enforcement charged that “turning police into deportation patrol would result in racial profiling, and make immigrant victims afraid to call 911,” write Shahani and Greene.

In actuality, 287(g) has played out poorls. Fanatics and TV-star wannabees like Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been given power at the expense of hard-working men and women. Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a congressionally commissioned report on the 287(g) program and, in essence, pronounced it a “misuse of authority.”

And in the face of all this, we have but weak and startled declarations of ignorance by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and silence from the Oval Office. Public News Service reports on the many human beings are “living in limbo“as they wait for the Obama administration to push forward on immigration reform. Even President Obama’s Aunt Zeituni is facing deportation. In an interview with Katie Couric on Nov. 2, 2008, Obama deflected the issue by claiming he hasn’t “been able to be in touch with her” but that immigration laws, “have to be obeyed.”

In WireTap’s Crickets Louder Than Obama As Aunt Faces Deportation, Beatriz Herrera responds with some passionate and true words: “Laws need to be obeyed, huh?” Herrera writes. “What about the fact that his Auntie Zeituni came here seeking asylum because Kenya’s politicians couldn’t obey their own laws, and as a result civil war broke out, forcing her to immigrate to the US?”

By working to close Guantánamo, peppering his speech with talk of law and order, and restoring US image to the world abroad, Obama risks muddying up his accomplishments with a blatant hypocrisy. We simply cannot  lead the way when investing in detention systems from Arizona to Iraq. When did prisons become the solution to so many of our problems? The below video is from GritTV and features excerpts from a documentary on the U.S. detention system.

Perhaps the President is arranging his legistlative actions carefully and we have yet to see how we will make the change that millions are waiting for. But from the ground level, silence and the continuation of the Bush administration’s failed policies speaks louder. Returning to Wiretap, Beatriz Herrera speaks her heart about Obama’s absence from these issues. I’m sure she speaks for many of us as well:

I don’t want to turn my back on My First Black President, but having solidarity with him means he needs to have solidarity with me and my community of immigrant people of color, and he could start by taking an Air Force One flight to Auntie Zetuni’s house in the projects of South Boston and find out what the hell is going on.

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: Connecting People and Policies—From Mumbai to Arizona

Posted Dec 4, 2008 @ 10:52 am by
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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.