Posts tagged with 'NCLR'

Weekly Immigration Wire: Race to the Bottom

Posted Sep 17, 2009 @ 11:06 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

The immigration debate seems to be rushing forward on its own timetable—and without a structured frame to guide it, the effort is damaged from the start. As Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr., of Esperanza USA said during a call with media members yesterday, Democrats and Republicans are “running toward the harshest positions to show they can be the hardest on those who are the weakest.”

Worse yet, silence from the White House has left the stage empty for “Right wing and anti-immigrant groups to shape this conversation,” according to Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Now, “politics are driving policy” conversations, thanks to radical pundits, teabaggers, and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).

On September 9, Wilson heckled President Obama during a joint session of congress. “It was the shout heard ’round the world (at least the country),” according to Versha Sharma of Talking Points Memo. What spurred this blatant display of hostility and disrespect? The President’s truthful statement that undocumented persons would not be covered as part of health care reform. Wilson has since apologized, albeit insincerely: He continues to appear before cameras to defend his outburst. Not only that, but Wilson has lied about his professional expertise: He was never an immigration lawyer, despite his claims to the contrary.

Oddly, the White House didn’t rebuke Wilson—it capitulated. The Washington Monthly reports that “The White House on Friday said it would bar illegal immigrants from purchasing health coverage through a proposed insurance marketplace,” a measure the author, Steve Benen, categorizes as “wildly unnecessary.” Obama won’t please the likes of Wilson even if he outlaws the Spanish language. Creating a roadblock to health care by “preventing people who are already here from buying their own insurance with their own money” will simply shift the debt to the public at large. The truth of the matter is that preventative and regular treatment is much less costly than emergency room visits, where all taxpayers will shoulder the cost. It’s a puzzling move that has already spurred strong reaction from groups like NCLR, America’s Voice and individuals like Cortés, who asserted in yesterday’s call that “Congress has lost its moral barometer.”

In a piece for New America Media, Marcelo Ballve calls Wilson’s outburst “quite appropriate,” in the sense that his words, intention and energy are harbingers of the coming debate about immigration reform. No matter the issue, no matter how civilly Democrats approach it, “Republicans, and not a few Democrats, will scapegoat illegal immigrants for many of the nation’s problems.” But is the White House prepared for a debate that is bound to be “even more rancorous than the bile-filled health care fight”? Given how rapidly the White House retreated in the face a red-faced liar, it’s an important question.

Continuing along their apparent strategy to meet political process with inanity, Republicans chose ex-Birther Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La) to respond to the President’s speech. Birthers are a fringe element of anti-Obama activists that claim the President was not born in the U.S. When questioned on his beliefs, Boustany initally replied that in terms of Obama’s citizenship, “I think there are questions, we’ll have to see,” but has since retracted his words. Once again, Republicans are feeding destructive and negative energies in a volatile political landscape, rather than working for change.

Channing Kennedy, writing for RaceWire, asks “Why is our conversation around immigration so often driven to extremes, both of language and of policy?” Highlighting another extreme use of language seemingly embedded in the immigration dialogue, the post features a video from Rinku Sen’s “Word” series, which touches on how the term Illegal, when used to referenced the undocumented, is a “gateway to racism and exploitation.” Sen has a question of her own: “What terrible, scary things have these people done to deserve having their entire being replaced by a single word?”

Sen touches on an important point: The conversation about immigation, a issue that is so far-reaching in our culture, has been ludicrously reduced to one-word epithets (Illegal) and playground diction (You lie!). This obscures the very complex and social issues that must be addressed if we are to consider ourselves a sane and modern society in the world. New America Media reports on the results of a study of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s detention process. The study, which was conducted by the Detention Watch Network, reveals what many feared: “We don’t know who’s detained or why, that they don’t have a release process, that they don’t track family ties or make legal immigrants available for alternatives to detention.” This is not acceptable.

Nor is it acceptable that humans who sacrificed their bodies and health to help dig Manhattan out of the toxic rubble in September 2001 are being ignored. In “Eight Years Later, Undocumented Ground Zero Laborers At Greater Risk,” New America Media reports on another tragic consequence of ignoring immigration reform. The undocumented laborers who worked at Ground Zero “are at greater risk of chronic health problems because they are excluded from federally funded programs to treat ground zero workers.” As Jose Loja, who cleaned pipes at the site says, “We’re all suffering from the same diseases.” And yet since our current take on the undocumented is that they deserve less than the rest of us, we don’t all suffer the same fate when struck by those diseases.

Nor are we to have a clear idea of who even makes up the current social body, if the rift between those who feel the undocumented should boycott the 2010 census and those who feel the idea is “insulting” or even “stupid” continues to grow. Nor will 30,000 Haitians who live here have their case heard for why “Undocumented Haitians Deserve to Stay Here.”

Until we address the needs of the immigrant community that lives in shadows that President Obama pledged to banish, people will continue to suffer. Until the White House steps up as boldly as Joe Wilson, who will guide the immigration discussion in a humane fashion? The national immigration dialogue, if delayed, will continue to degrade.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration and is free to reprint. 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: Legalize the Undocumented, Help Fix the Economy

Posted Apr 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am by
Filed under: Economy, Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

The dialogue on immigration has, historically, been contentious and cyclical. There are times when hysteria peaks, and rational thought struggles to enter the national dialogue. There are also moments of truth. This week, independent media debunked many myths about the undocumented and made the case for the positive impact of immigrants in the US, including the positive effect of legalizing the undocumented on the economy and how citizens are holding elected representatives accountable for votes against pro-immigrant measures.

Wendy Norris, writing for the Colorado Independent, held the New York Times to task for using questionable sources in an article about President Obama’s push for immigration reform. Norris exposes the background of quoted anti-immigration groups like NumbersUSA, CIS, and FAIR, who have ties to white supremacy groups and eugenics promoters and calls the New York Times out for quoting organizations “repeatedly discredited as hate groups.” When hate groups are quoted as legitimate sources, society suffers from the misrepresentation.

Also in New America Media, Jacqueline Esposito and Jumana Musa explore the kinds of “enforcement” that groups like NumbersUSA and FAIR claim is the most important part of Immigration Reform. Esposito and Musa cite the case of Guido Newbrough, a detainee who made multiple requests for medical attention; there was a treatable bacterial infection in his heart. Newbrough was locked in an isolation cell and died of the ailment.

“As the country moves forward on comprehensive immigration reform,” they write, “We must uphold American values by ensuring that all people, no matter where they come from, are afforded fundamental rights, including the right to a fair day in court before being deprived of liberty and the right to be free from inhumane conditions of confinement. As a nation, we cannot stand for anything less.”

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) would no doubt agree with that sentiment, as Beatriz Herrera reports for Wiretap. Apparently, the DCCC voted 20-1 against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to preserve Sanctuary ordinances for juvenile offenders. These ordinances ensure that offenders have a chance to prove their innocence instead of facing immediate deportation.

During the 2008 election season, voices calling for reason in the immigration debate were often drowned out by the near-hysteria that certain elements of the Right called forth. Another encouraging sign that we are, perhaps, at a new juncture: Today, even democratic state senators are being held accountable. Colorado Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) was recently forced to defend her vote against SB 170, the tuition bill was one that would provide in-state tuition equity for undocumented Colorado high school graduates, on the air.

According to the Colorado Independent, Sen. Morgan appeared on progressive talk radio host Mario Solis-Marich’s show on April 10—after “a week of being beat up in the press and on the blogs” for her opposition to the bill.

In Public News Service, Doug Ramsey has news about a report which focuses on the benefits of legalizing currently undocumented workers. Compiled by the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Center, the report breaks down how legalizing the undocumented community would increase the amount of income that the immigrant community brings into the economy. Rather than immigrants costing us, “legalization would boost tax collections at all levels of government by $66 billion over the next few years.”

Public News Service also explores the economic benefits to bringing the underground economy above ground. According to David Kallick, an economist with the Fiscal Institute, billions of dollars are simply “lining the pockets of employers who hire folks in the underground economy and avoid contributing to payroll and other taxes.”

And OneWorld US reports that Hispanic rights advocates are eager to hear the president’s plan for immigration reform and note that very reform is key to economic recovery. Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the US notes that “the path to a strong economic recovery includes strategies that lift wages, increase revenue, and create a level playing field—and immigration is a crucial element of that equation.”

Even the American Prospect‘s Ezra Klein is writing about immigration in a more proactive light. Just last week, Klein wrote Why Immigration Reform Won’t Happen. He is now making The Political Case for Immigration Reform.

So maybe we’re figuring it out as we go. The costs of letting parts of our country fail and fall away are more than economic, they are moral and profound. We have time to act, but opposition voices are gathering in number. There are many anti-immigrant myths, and many oppose a truly progressive stance on immigration. But we have the will for the struggle and the payoff will come not only in a healthier economy, but in a sounder national soul.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

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: Detention Industry Surges in Economic Crisis

Posted Feb 19, 2009 @ 12:23 pm by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua
Media Consortium Blogger

The nation’s eyes are fixed upon a trembling economy. It affects our ability to survive, to thrive, and even think rationally. Today’s economic crisis is also impacting the lives of immigrants and immigration reform on multiple levels, be it through provisions to the economic stimulus bill, individual lawmen exceeding the bounds of their office, or a scrambling Pentagon viewing immigrants as easy recruits.

It is understandable, though ironic, that the immigrant community is prey to multiple factions during hard times. Fear of survival makes it easy to point at “the other,” especially when we are worried about our resources. During the Great Depression, Mexican Americans bore the brunt of this type of fear. In light of today’s economic crisis, we haven’t come very far.

Voices are clustering on the Right to encourage this dynamic and immigrants are being scapegoated with no heed to how it might play out amongst a scared citizenry.

As Lisa Navarrete reports for Alternet:

He may have a new gig as a National Review columnist, but … [Mark Krikorian of the National Review] smears pro-immigrant and civil rights organizations, wrapping his divisiveness in the cloak of freedom of speech.

Krikorian is hardly the only example. We are repeating this terrible process without learning from previous experience. It’s tragic that the economic crisis is also helping feed the growing network of detention centers and raids that prey on migrant families, justifying them with talk of jobs and income.

As RaceWire reports, the detention centers sprouting up all over country are an industry that capitalizes on persecution. And the immigrant detainee population has tripled since 1996 according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own records, as revealed by New America Media. It seems economically unsound and profoundly amoral to remove workers from producing areas of our economy to invest instead in an inflated prison system. Our current prison system includes the detention center industry and the 287(g) agreement, which enlists local law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration law.

ICE’s reach is growing and filling quotas has corrupted their purpose. Public News Service reports on a New York-based investigation that showed ICE “shifting focus” from the “most dangerous undocumented immigrants to just making lots of arrests.” ICE is casting a wider, sloppier net as part of the United States’ broadening security apparatus.

Alternet explains the terrifying relationship between ICE, migrants, the age of terrorism and a bloated detention system in The New Political Economy of Immigration:

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 drastically altered the traditional political economy of immigration. The millions of undocumented immigrants — those who crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas — who were living and working in the United States were no longer simply regarded as a shadow population or as surplus cheap labor. In the public and policy debate, immigrants were increasingly defined as threats to the nation’s security. Categorizing immigrants as national security threats gave the government’s flailing immigration law-enforcement and border- control operations a new unifying logic that has propelled the immigrant crackdown forward.

It is understandable that after being attacked, a nation would draw in and lean toward suspicion. But where has this gotten us? Are we more secure? Or are we simply enabling more systems in which the most vulnerable suffer?

As reported in past Weekly Wire articles, immigration reform supporters are coming together and speaking out in greater numbers. Even today, NDN and National Council of La Raza are holding a Washington D.C. event that is open to the public and that will “serve as a platform for identifying strategies that will move immigration reform forward in 2009.”

And yet, as Roberto Lovato writes for Alternet, we should be wary. The Obama administration and some allies, even, will not be as receptive to changing the national response to immigration as many hope.

In a such a dangerous climate, a climate in which economic decline worsens the undocumented condition — death in jail, hate crimes, death in deserts, daily doses of dehumanizing media — it is our duty to reject as extremely dangerous and in the most forceful terms any of the “smart enforcement” and other militaristic language and policy used by Napolitano, GOP & Dems and some “immigrant rights advocates.”

At the same time, the Democratic Party ought to be at least a little wary of the GOP using immigration as a wedge issue, as Angelo Falcón warns in New America Media. And Rahm Emanuel indicates he has “an appreciation for the high Hispanic voter turnout and support for Democrats in 2008 that dramatically shifted the political landscape.”

Which direction will we go? Which America will 2009 show us to be? We both work and wait to find out.

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.