Posts tagged with 'Wiretap Magazine'

Weekly Immigration Wire: Women Central to Immigration Story

Posted May 21, 2009 @ 10:31 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

Celebrated stories of early American pioneers, explorers, and immigrants typically center around men of fortitude and bravery. Depictions of modern-day migrants are still very male-centric, and this cultural lens is a default in most cases. But women play a central and overlooked role in today’s immigration story. Even when not directly highlighted, women often bear the weight of keeping families together and helping them grow stronger.

New America Media has just released the results of a poll titled “Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century.” NAM surveyed 1,002 female immigrants from Latin American, Asian, African, and Arab countries. According to Sandy Close and Richard Rodriguez, “The story that has not been told is the story of the woman immigrant. This poll is an effort to capture her narrative, and what becomes clear in the responses–many to questions that seemed on their face to have nothing to do with family per se–is that the gold thread giving meaning to her life is family stewardship.”

The poll reveals that the typical model of migration, in which the man left to find work and send home money, has changed. Women are assuming head of the household duties, even if in their prior situation they were in less of a leadership role. The women interviewed for the poll named “securing family stability” as the most important motivator for seeking U.S. citizenship.

NAM also features a number of articles that break down the poll’s findings, all available on the Immigration Ladder. Some feature short videos such as the one below, titled Family, Work and Progress — Latina Immigrants Speak. In this video, Latinas talk about why they came to the U.S. The reasons range from political asylum to simply being able to raise and feed their children. These are hard-hitting pieces because we can see and hear people tell their own story in their own words.

A common line spouted by those in favor of a strong enforcement agenda is that immigrants come here to ‘steal’ or ‘take’ our jobs. The focus is on an abstract, shadowy fence-hopper from Latin America who encroaches on turf and swipes resources. Ironically, there is never a mention of NAFTA and the effect it has had on the Latin American economy in these particular discussions! Perhaps no families would need to migrate north if unfair economic practices hadn’t taken so many jobs from Mexico, Guatemala, and the rest of Latin America.

Quite different than recycled stock footage of a man sliding over a busted-up border fence, NAM’s poll and videos present the truth in its plain and sorry reality. While it may make for less thrilling copy, it’s important to hear a mother talk about leaving a child behind so that she can forge a better path for them both, or about being alone in a strange place with nobody to help; about spending as much on long-distance phone calls to your children as you would on bringing them across the border.

These stories are important. Watching and reading human dramas that demand emotional engagement combat the anti-immigration punditry’s characterization of immigrants. As a result, a question forms that won’t go away: Why are these women alone in their struggle? If they were perceived as U.S. citizens, we would move mountains to come to their aid. It isn’t surprising that some Feminists strongly support immigration, though there is an ongoing debate.

Enforcement tactics are also devastating on a large scale. Writing for the American Forum, Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas paints a clear picture of how the tactics deployed supposedly in the name of U.S. “security” do nothing to secure either happiness, safety, or a sound economy.

In Wiretap, 15-year-old Lupe Carreno tells about the day ICE took her father from her own home, and what that means to her life today: “When they began to walk down the stairs with my dad, it hit me. This could be the last time I see him for a long time. I looked away. I didn’t want to see them take my dad. When I looked down the stairs and didn’t see them anymore, I cried. My mom and my aunt told me not to cry, but this made me cry even more. The whole event only took 15 minutes.”

Lupe’s family has medical problems, but her father’s insurance is no longer there. The enforcement agenda has transformed a happy, cohesive family unit into a fractured cluster of pain and fear. Lupe lives in uncertainty now and worries her mother may be deported any day.

As in Lupe’s case, there are weaknesses in the system that do not provide for those with medical needs. Such as in the case of Xiu Ping Jiang, a Chinese immigrant who fled to the U.S. after being forcibly sterilized for having a second child. In Immigration Limbo for the Mentally Ill, Wiretap’s Brittany Shoot tells how Jiang was separated from her children by immigration officers, and shortly after, fell into a depression. Being an immigrant, she had no state-funded legal counsel to represent her. “This has caused her case to be drawn out for more than a year while she languishes in a detention center,” Shoot writes. “With a history of attempted suicide, her family members in the States grow increasingly fearful that they will lose their fragile sister inside the system.”

Will telling Xiu Ping Jiang’s story produce more than “[o]ne day of frenzied blogging” following the original reportage? Shoot seems to doubt it.

Returning to New America Media, we have the story What Am I Without My Leg? Eglis, an undocumented immigrant, lost her leg to an uninsured driver and is struggling to live with the consequences. Eglis’ story is a brutal example of the healthcare gap for immigrant women.

Finally, the Colorado Independent reports on a bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein D-Calif. that would create “a special ‘blue card’ status for undocumented immigrants who’ve worked a minimum number of hours in the agriculture sector in the past two years.” Some immigration advocates would call this a success. But true progress includes acknowledging in law and public dialogue what such a move truly indicates: That immigrants are not a threat to our nation, but in fact, a crucial and needed part of our way of life. Without them, we fall apart. This is what happens when you remove a mother from a family. This is what happens when you remove a workforce from a factory in Postville, Iowa. And this is what will happen if we continue to punish or forcibly remove immigrants from our nation.

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: Resurrecting a Failed War on Drugs

Posted Apr 2, 2009 @ 10:59 am by
Filed under: Immigration     Bookmark and Share

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

In 2008, a disturbing trend developed in mainstream media regarding Mexico. While Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón began his aggression against the Cartels roughly two years ago, the resulting uptick in violence was of no real interest to mainstream media. But when the U.S. Joint Forces Command report Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008) was issued in November, 2008, and declared Mexico and Pakistan nations in danger of a “rapid and sudden collapse,” mainstream news outlets and certain politicians began broadcasting fears of violence spilling over into the US.

Coverage quickly snowballed into a cycle of reporting grounded in unsubstantiated fear, which led to calls to further militarize the border. Democracy Now! highlights how President Obama’s readiness to deploy the National Guard to the border is directly linked to the sensationalized mainstream coverage. In an interview with host Amy Goodman, Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Policy Program for the Center for International Policy, says:

When we started to look at some of these articles talking about spillover of Mexican violence into the United States, what we found is that there’s no evidence of that whatsoever at this point. … In the case of using statistics, like there’s a lot of talk about the number of kidnappings in Phoenix, it turns out that many times those statistics are spurious, and they have no backup. They’ve been invented, or they’ve been twisted in many cases.

This is a real warning sign for us, because when we see an exaggerated threat assessment, as we’re seeing right now in terms of spillover of Mexican violence to the United States, it’s generally a prelude to militarization.

And it is: Truthdig reports on “a crime-fighting operation targeting Mexican drug cartels on a scale not seen since the battles against the US mafia” in F.B.I. Runs for the Border.

The War on Drugs has returned, via aid/force packages like Plan Mérida that simply recycle failed plans (like Plan Colombia). Under increased militarization, drug production actually goes up, as does the body count, but the seizure of drugs decreases.

In the interests of full disclosure, the increasing exploitation of the Mexican people and militarization of border towns like Ciudad Juarez and El Paso—my father’s birthplace—affect me on a deeply personal level. My father was the first of Herreras in my family to be born here. I am a citizen. He makes sure to remind me that my abuela (grandmother) gained her green card legally. I read of harm done to people like my grandmother—legal and undocumented and citizens alike—in jails teeming with neglect and hatred and it disturbs me. Immigration must be discussed as a human, not military issue.

In the below video from GritTV, Rosa Clemente, Immigration Campaign Director for Amnesty International USA, talks about the lack of response from the Obama Administration on immigration, even though ICE is predicting 400,000 arrests in 2009 and our 2009 budget allots 6.1 billion to the construction of new prisons. How many of those prisons will be detention centers?

Opponents of immigration reform (and often immigrants themselves) often imply that they really do adore legal immigrants. Joshua Holland makes it clear how very tenuous that line is in AlterNet’s I Married an Illegal Immigrant. Holland writes that “the difference between legal and illegal is often a matter of simple chronology rather than a reflection of the character of the person in question.”

Disguising undocumented “aliens” as an unwanted, criminal horde, rather than productive members of our own society runs counter to American ideals of freedom and equality. It becomes easier to simply lock down the border and take a harsher stance,  even if many of those who migrate were displaced by our own government’s actions in the first place.

The Drug War model is a failed method of dealing with immigration, even though Obama seems intent to resurrect it. Writing for The Progressive, Yolanda Chávez Leyva says:

For more than twenty years, those of us who live on the border have witnessed the increasing militarization of the border. The border wall is a daily reminder of this, as are the helicopters that fly over our neighborhoods, the checkpoints manned by the Border Patrol and local law enforcement, as well as the daily harassment of citizens who happen to have darker skin. We are frequently the target of various “wars” —against undocumented migration, against terrorism and now against drugs. I am tired of living in a war zone.

The model of “war” has not worked, and it will not work.

President Felipe Calderón—who Democracy Now! reports was elected in “the most controversial election in Mexican history”—is spoken of glowingly by our politicians, who are  full of praise for his violence against the Cartels. Elena Shore details some of this language for New America Media.

Going back to Lauren Carlsen’s interview with Democracy Now!: “It’s completely unacceptable to ask a society to accept higher levels of violence as a sign that we are winning the drug war.” She’s right. We will never “win” the “drug war.” The body count is growing. More prisons are being built. People of color are the primary victims. And now, President Obama talks of sending the military down to meet Mexico’s military at the border. But what about the people caught in the middle? What about the people suffering in ICE’s custody today? What about the 400,000 more that ICE plans to capture in 2009?

We need better solutions than more guns and more soldiers. Militarization simply leads to more violence.

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 Audit: How Predators are Profiting from the Economic Collapse

Posted Mar 10, 2009 @ 9:05 am by
Filed under: Economy     Bookmark and Share

While the economy sinks into the abyss, some of the financial industry’s most egregious scam artists are already back on the prowl looking to take advantage of troubled borrowers.

In a sickening turn of events, financial professionals who profited from the predatory Wall Street mortgage regime are now remodeling themselves as specialists to help consumers avoid foreclosure. The Nation Institute helped fund a devastating expose written by Alyssa Katz on the mortgage broker makeover. published in Katz details how an industry that once pushed people into unaffordable loans with deceptive marketing and misleading documentation is now raking it in by helping people who are behind on their mortgages obtain modified loan contracts.

“The problem is that the majority of loan mods are lousy deals for homeowners,” Katz writes. “Federal banking regulators recently determined that more than half of all mortgages that were modified by lenders in early 2008 ended up heading into foreclosure again in less than six months. Most loan modifications, in fact, dig borrowers deeper into debt.”

These predators cash in on setting borrowers up for a fall, and instead of being barred from the banking world or prosecuted, end up raking in again to help them renegotiate their mortgages.  Loan modifications almost never reduce how much borrowers actually owe on their mortgages. Often, whatever amount a borrower is behind by is added to the overall debt burden, giving banks a bigger pool to collect interest on. Nearly half of all loans modified in the fall of 2008 did not even result in a lower monthly payment for borrowers.

Over at Colorlines, Dom Apollon highlights the rise of a new mortgage company called PennyMac run by former Countrywide executives—the same Countrywide that is being sued by local governments for destroying communities with abusive subprime loans. PennyMac plans to buy delinquent mortgages on the cheap, alter the terms of the loans to keep borrowers in their homes, and pocket the difference between the new mortgage payments and what it paid for the loans as profit. If you think that is going to end well for the homeowners, then I’ve got a few condos in south Florida to sell you.

People who cause massive problems are not usually the best people to solve them. That’s why when the U.S. government agreed to bail out the world’s largest insurance company, AIG, policymakers kicked out CEO Martin Sullivan. But even after being nationalized, AIG has continued to drain taxpayer coffers, coming back to the bailout trough twice for a total of over $160 billion. To put that number in context, it’s about what the entire savings and loan crisis cost taxpayers back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Josh Marshall has a series of excellent posts on the AIG drama for Talking Points Memo. When the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department refused to let AIG fail back in September, it was supposedly because letting AIG default on its enormous credit default swap business would be a disaster for the financial system. Credit default swaps were originally designed as insurance for loans. If a Goldman Sachs made a loan to Bank of America, Goldman could get AIG to insure the loan against default. Goldman would pay AIG a few dollars a month in insurance premiums, but if Bank of America failed to pay up, AIG would reimburse Goldman for the entire value of the loan. Eventually, however, the process got crazy. Companies started taking out “insurance” on transactions they had no involvement with. JPMorgan could go to AIG and agree to pay a few dollars a month in case Bank of America defaulted on its loan from Goldman Sachs– essentially betting with AIG on whether Bank of America would pay Goldman back. The same contracts could be used to insure mortgage-backed securities against default. Wall Street eventually put more money in credit default swaps than an entire year’s worth of global economic output.

By keeping AIG running on taxpayer support, Marshall notes, the government is essentially using the company as a conduit to funnel tax dollars to other major financial firms who made credit default swap bets with AIG. Who is getting the AIG bailout money? Neither the Treasury or the Fed will say, and Marshall points out, the government refuses to even explain why it will not tell us who is getting money. Maybe the government is worried that investors will pull their funds out of companies who are scoring big paydays from the AIG bailout, deeming them nonviable without government support.

That may very well happen. But indefinitely pouring federal money into Wall Street companies through AIG is not a solution, and taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent.

But at least one system for fleecing taxpayers seems to be on its last legs if President Barack Obama has his way. About four-fifths of student loans are made by private lenders who are subsidized by the government, while the remaining 20% are made directly to students by the Department of Education. The problem with the private-sector partnership plan is its inefficiency: a lot of that subsidy money goes to paying student loan company executives, while some of it simply ends up as profits for the bank. How much? According to Aaron Tang of Wiretap Magazine, Obama’s budget proposal would kill the subsidy program and instead invest that money in the direct loan program, freeing up $4 billion a year, enough to help millions of students pay for a college education.

The Obama administration’s willingness to end irrational financial policies should not end with the student loan program. Predatory lenders who created the mortgage meltdown should be barred from the banking industry, and the Treasury needs to be honest with taxpayers about who it is paying off.

One Last Note
The unemployment numbers keep getting worse: after losing almost 600,000 jobs in January, the U.S. economy shed another 651,000 in February, sending the unemployment rate all the way to 8.1%. As Steve Benen notes for The Washington Monthly, the accelerating job losses may not be surprising at this point, but they are painful nevertheless. The only good news for the labor market over the last week was the roll-out of, a site dedicated to informing workers on their legal rights on everything from COBRA health insurance benefits to getting employers to actually deliver final paychecks workers have already earned. The site, which is funded and managed by Interfaith Worker Justice, comes at an important moment, according to Wendy Norris of The Colorado Independent, who highlights that the unemployment rate would be a massive 14.8% if it included people who have been looking for a job for more than a year and people who want full-time work but are can only get a part-time position.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit and for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration 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.