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domingo, junio 04, 2006

6-04-06: Immigrant-Rights-Agenda Report

Oppose Repressive Immigration Legislation!
Total Amnesty Is Humane Sanity! Build Bridges, Not Walls!

Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta de Aztlan
Sacramento, California, Divided States of Amerika

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Key Blog:

Immigration looms large in Calif. race: Friday, June 2, 2006
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
Senate wimps on immigration: Friday, June 2, 2006
By Kathryn Jean Lopez / Story appeared in Editorials section, Page B7
Texas Governor Signs Order to Deploy Border Troops: Friday, June 02, 2006
The idea of America: Saturday, June 3, 2006 = By S. SHANKAR,0605-young.shtm
Breathe Free, Huddled Masses: A Personal Take On Illegal Immigration
by Cathy Young / Email:
The Senate immigration bill: Repackaging the attack on immigrants
June 2, 2006 | Page 3
Voices From the New Civil Rights Movement: June 1, 2006.
By Roberto Lovato, a Los Angeles-based writer. The Nation.
Activists Must Avoid Cultural Tripwires Over Immigration
New America Media, Commentary, Rene P. Ciria-Cruz, Jun 01, 2006
Schwarzenegger signs off on sending Guard troops to border: Thu, Jun. 01, 2006
States taking stand on immigration: Proposed restrictions often symbolic as frustrations grow = Monday, May 29, 2006
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News
Immigrants' rights groups decry sheriff's detentions: Mon, May. 29, 2006
5/27: Center for Human Rights & Constitution Law's Response to Senate Immigration Bill: Released 29 May 2006
Rules Collide With Reality in the Immigration Debate: May 29, 2006
Immigrant detentions irk some + Butler sheriff draws advocates' criticism:
Monday, May 29, 2006
Immigration Rights Protest In Butler County: May 28, 2006
Protections for pineros inserted into immigration reform bill
By Tom Knudson -- Bee Staff Writer = Published Saturday, May 27, 2006
Administration: Border troops will be armed when appropriate: May 24, 2006
By Gordon Trowbridge / Times staff writer


Immigration looms large in Calif. race: Friday, June 2, 2006
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Immigration and its politically controversial cousin, amnesty, are co-starring in the closing act of a House race with national implications, a close and costly production in Republican-friendly San Diego.

In a conservative district roughly 30 miles from the Mexican border, Democrat Francine Busby is under attack from Republican Brian Bilbray and the House GOP, depicted as an advocate of amnesty for illegal immigrants. "Busby even said she would protest making English our official language," says a GOP party ad. "Even worse, Busby opposes tougher visa regulations that would make it harder for terrorists to enter the country."

Busby is tied or slightly ahead in several recent polls after she and the Democrats fashioned a campaign around an anti-corruption theme the party hopes to ride to victory in this fall's midterm elections. Its local appeal seems obvious in a race to succeed Republican Rep. Randy Cunningham, who resigned from Congress and went to jail for accepting bribes. And she routinely refers to her opponent, a former congressman, as "lobbyist Bilbray."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running an ad that says Bilbray has taken thousands of dollars from Cunningham and his co-conspirator in the bribery scandal, a reference to campaigns Bilbray ran while serving in the House in the 1990s.

Immigration plays a role in the Democratic campaign, as well. "Even lobbyist Bilbray's conservative opponent stated that Bilbray failed to pass any laws to stop illegal immigration during his 12 years as a career politician and lobbyist," Busby claims in a radio ad that began running on Wednesday. She disputes advocating amnesty, and has used the words of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona to buttress her case. Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's vote, Democrats are already claiming victory.

"We've already shown that the message of change versus the status quo is especially salient, even in very Republican districts," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the DCCC. The organization has spent nearly $2 million to win the seat. It's a theme Democrats have vowed to use in races stretching from upstate New York to Columbus, Ohio, and Albuquerque, N.M., in their drive to win control of the House this fall. They need to gain 15 seats for a majority.

Carl Forti, a spokesman for the House GOP committee, said Republicans intend to base their campaign strategy on local issues. The party group has criticized Busby as a liberal prone to raising taxes, citing her record as a school board member.

"We've long maintained, change only works in a district where corruption has been a problem as it was in" the race to succeed Cunningham, countered Forti. "If that's a message Democrats intend to take in November, we're probably going to do very well."

As a measure of concern, the GOP campaign committee has spent nearly $4 million trying to retain the seat, an unprecedented amount made all the more striking given the Republican nature of the area. Cunningham dispatched Busby with ease in 2004, winning 58 percent of the vote, and President Bush won 55 percent en route to re-election. Vice President Dick Cheney has been in to campaign and Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., met privately this spring with one of Bilbray's primary rivals, helping to persuade him to abandon a potential third-party race.

McCain, too, agreed to campaign for Bilbray, but he abruptly canceled a recently scheduled visit when Republican strategists decided it might cause Bilbray political problems. McCain, a strong draw for GOP voters, is also a leading supporter of legislation that recently passed the Senate. The bill combines enhanced border security with a guest worker program and a shot at citizenship for many of the illegal immigrants in the country.

Busby supports the bill, and even before the visit was canceled, stressed her position. McCain issued a written statement of support for Bilbray in place of his trip, sent him a check and is expected to record an endorsement message to be telephoned to thousands of voters in the district. At the same time, Busby is hoping the presence of another rival will siphon off conservative votes that Bilbray needs - and that immigration will be the Republican's undoing.

"Independent William Griffith is endorsed by the San Diego Minutemen and San Diego Border Alert because he opposes guest worker programs, amnesty and the hiring of illegal immigrants," she said in one recent ad.

Bilbray's Web Site calls for several steps related to immigration, including construction of a fence "from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico," and banning "illegal aliens from any access to Social Security benefits." It does not oppose a guest worker program and offers no plan for treatment of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.


Senate wimps on immigration: Friday, June 2, 2006
By Kathryn Jean Lopez / Story appeared in Editorials section, Page B7

Immigration is a hot-button issue if ever there were one -- complete with angry protests in the streets and insults across the Beltway. The issue hits about every fault line there is, especially politics, religion and family. And yet, the immigration debate was actually a bit of a gift to some U.S. senators. Or at least it could have been, had they made full use of it.

For presidential hopefuls, immigration provided an opportunity to show some independence from the White House and show a little leadership. Not many answered the call. At least one took to the gutter.

In the end, just before recessing for Memorial Day, 39 Democrats and 23 Republicans voted for an immigration bill that the president encouraged and praised. One of those Republicans, John McCain -- who most obviously wants to run for president in 2008 -- uttered on the Senate floor what was probably the worst sentence of the entire debate (counting out the crazies).

In arguing for an earned income tax credit for illegal immigrants, McCain flippantly asked, "What's next -- are we going to say work-authorized immigrants are going to have to ride in the back of the bus?" There was never any doubt that McCain was pro-amnesty for illegal immigrants -- which is the president's position, albeit not what he calls it. But in the mind of this supposed statesman, Americans who oppose subsidizing illegal immigrants are akin to racist Jim Crow supporters of another day.

This was the same week in which he ticked off talk-radio audiences by allegedly calling the ever-popular Rush Limbaugh, among others, "nativists" at what was supposed to be an off-the-record event in New York. Word got around and anyone willing to give him some leeway likely abandoned their forgiving natures by the time he was dishing out the loaded bus rhetoric.

McCain may have been the worst of the pack, but he wasn't the only disappointment. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee had every rhetorical opportunity as leader to insist on the Senate taking an enforce-immigration-law-first approach to controlling the borders, rather than pushing through a waiver to those who have already broken our laws. Despite, at times, talking as if he were tough, he was a frustrating disappointment to many conservatives who support serious immigration reform, ultimately pushing the final bad bill.

As one Senate staffer describes the Frist immigration position: No one "was never sure where he was on things. Supported a strong border bill, then brought the amnesty bill to the floor without at least calling it amnesty. He then seemed to fight back, but then joined the amnesty 'compromise' presser last month. He seemed to be coming back our way this week, then voted for the bill. Frustrating."

Of the trio of most-talked-about 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls in the Senate, George Allen of Virginia, unlike Frist and McCain, was the only one to oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. But his willingness to lend his name and presence to the anti-amnesty crowd made it all the more frustrating that he did not make himself the Senate go-to guy on the issue. To his credit Allen was clear that the bill "rewards illegal behavior." But if you were looking for presidential candidates in the debate -- outspoken point men -- you'd more likely look to the likes of Alabama's Jeff Sessions.

In arguing against the bill, Sessions told his colleagues: "We are here to confront one of the big issues of our time, and to do it in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values and the values of the American people." Sessions continued, "This legislation … is unworthy of the Senate. … It does not meet our highest ideals. It does not create a system that is consistent with the national interests of the United States."

Sessions is a leader. He's one who stood out on this crucial issue. For many others in the Senate, though, it was an opportunity lost on an issue where polls showed that Americans were looking for real reform -- law enforcement first. Can we send McCain to the back of the 2008 bus now?
About the writer:
Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online .
Her column routinely appears in The Bee on Friday and occasionally on other days. She can be contacted at


Texas Governor Signs Order to Deploy Border Troops: Friday, June 02, 2006

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) authorizing the deployment of National Guard Troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start, under which the troops will support federal border security officers. The Governors of Arizona, California and New Mexico have also signed the MOU.

“The National Guard is already a part of Texas’ border security strategy, Operation Rio Grande, which brings together federal, state and local law enforcement and the National Guard to conduct joint operations to better protect Texans from border-related crime and violence,” Perry said. In February, Perry launched Operation Rio Grande, a comprehensive border security strategy that gives the state a leading role in coordinating intelligence and law enforcement assets within an 80,000 square mile region.

National Guard troops operating in Texas as part of Operation Jump Start will remain under Perry’s command, although the federal government will cover the cost of the mission. Troop activities may include detection and monitoring, engineering, transportation, logistics, vehicle dismantling, analysis, road building and language support. The temporary deployment is expected to be phased out as new Border Patrol agents are hired.

Operation Jump Start planners immediately will be dispatched to the border to lay the groundwork for the full deployment of guard troops. About 2,300 Texas guardsmen and airmen are expected to be involved, although troop levels and deployment details are still being finalized.

“The Texas-Mexico border is becoming an increasingly dangerous and violent place for peace officers and the citizens they protect. We are pleased that we will soon have more resources and personnel to address the border threat,” Perry said. “However, we will continue to urge Congress to meet its long term responsibility, and provide the manpower and resources to secure our border.”

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it has cut homeland security funding for Texas – the state with the longest international border – by 31 percent from last year. Perry said this funding disparity, combined with continued federal inaction “jeopardizes our security and reinforces my belief that Texas must never wait for Washington to act.”

On Thursday, Perry announced Texas will soon provide additional funding for local law enforcement along the border, seek a long-term financial commitment from the Texas Legislature to support ongoing border security operations, and create a virtual border watch program.

A copy of the MOU is available at
News8 Austin: Camp Mabry gears up for border deployment
6/2/2006 1:35 PM [Note: actually this story was running Thursday afternoon--gm]
By: Allie Rasmus

Plans are being finalized to send Texas National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start. Guard leaders don't know exactly when they'll deploy or how many will be needed, but officials at Camp Mabry in Central Austin expect to go sometime this summer to support the U.S. Border Patrol. Col. Bill Meehan said a handful of planners from the Texas guard are already at the border.

There's no set date on when the mission will start because the state and federal government still have some details to work out. Gov. Rick Perry's office said a contract between the state and federal government is in final planning stages. The federal government is responsible for the funding, but Perry made it clear he doesn't want to give up control of the guardsmen. So now the state and federal government need to work out a contract on exactly what the National Guard will do at the border. Col. Meehan has a general idea.

“We expect to be supporting with aircraft for transportation. We expect to be fixing roads, working on equipment," he said.

Some immigration groups are worried about keeping a National Guard military presence at the border. But Meehan doesn't view their presence as militaristic. "We are citizen soldiers from the Lone Star State. We're from here, and we're going to be doing this mission in our own neighborhoods," Meehan said.

It's not clear how many of the 6,000 National Guardsmen at the border will come from Texas. Texas spans 65 percent of the U.S./Mexico border. While questions linger on the number of troops, Texas isn't waiting to dedicate more money to border patrol. Perry announced a new three-part plan to fill gaps in border security.

The plan will provide $20 million for law enforcement and also seek a long-term financial commitment from the state legislature to support border security operations.

Perry also wants to place surveillance video cameras on private ranches along the border in known hot spots for crossings. He compared the effort to a neighborhood watch program. He said the Texas Department of Public Safety would have access to the cameras but gave no details on the number of cameras or how far apart they would be placed. He estimated the cost at $5 million and said Texas citizens and law enforcement will be able to monitor video footage. It will include night vision and will be posted on the Internet in real time. Perry said he'll allocate $20 million in this two-year budget cycle to continue Operation Rio Grande, an ongoing border security plan. That money will pay for officer overtime and equipment. Perry said he'll ask the Texas Legislature next year to authorize $100 million to continue the operation.


The idea of America: Saturday, June 3, 2006

Why is immigration such a hot issue in a country that prides itself on being a nation of immigrants? At stake is America's cultural and racial conception of itself.
The border between Mexico and the U.S. has always been porous enough to permit the development of cross-border intimacies of many kinds.
Staking claim: Immigrants protesting in Washington D.C. recently. Photo: AFP

IS immigration the new civil rights issue of the United States? That is the question in many people's minds as massive marches and rallies focusing on the rights of immigrants erupt all over the U.S. On April 10, declared a national day of action by the organisers, 5,00,000 people marched in Washington D.C. On May 1, hundreds of thousands of immigrants all over the U.S. kept away from work, school and shopping to demonstrate their economic clout. More recently, President Bush has gone on television to address the country on this issue. Hardly a week goes by without some action somewhere or the other. Immigration seems to have become the political issue of the day in the country, hotter even than the Iraq war, though popular discontent over this misadventure too is hopping hot, especially for President Bush.

On April 10, marchers in Atlanta carried signs reading, "We Have a Dream, Too," echoing Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech from the 1960s. King's famous speech spoke of a dream of winning equal rights for African-Americans. Like King's speech, the new immigrant rights movement too is laying claim to equal rights to America, and like that speech, it expresses different things to different people. To some it is about the dream of equality and of dignity as human beings. To others it is simply the dream of making it — of buying a house in the suburbs with a well-tended lawn, of sending children to college, or perhaps even of just eating well. For those ranged against this new movement, however, immigration is no dream. It is a nightmare, captured by the words "illegal immigration". In this nightmare, immigrants, pouring across the borders without a visa or overstaying their permits, break the law. Plain and simple.

Complex issue: Unfortunately, reality is not plain and it's not simple. It's not a dream and it's not a nightmare. There are an estimated 11 to 12 million immigrants without documents in the U.S. More often than not, these immigrants have broken no law other than immigration laws, and are in fact in great demand in the fields of California, the restaurant kitchens of New York, and the meat packing factories of the Midwest. Large sectors of the American economy would grind to an abrupt halt without the cheap labour of these immigrants. This is why powerful business as well as labour interests are to be found on the side of the immigrant rights movement.

Immigration is a difficult issue for the U.S. On the one hand, it prides itself on being "a nation of immigrants". Except for the indigenous people of the continent, every American has come from elsewhere or is the descendant of people who have come from elsewhere. A Nation of Immigrants is the title of a book President John F. Kennedy wrote to fuel reforms to immigration legislation in the 1960s. Those reforms, mostly undertaken by Kennedy's successor Lyndon B. Johnson, changed laws that excluded or disproportionately restricted immigrants from many parts of the world and led to a period of massive immigration. Many of these new immigrants came from parts of the world formerly not so well represented amongst immigrants to the U.S., such as India. The reforms were seen as continuing a grand tradition of American settlement of an "empty" continent (never mind the Native Americans and other indigenous people displaced by this settlement).

So much for the U.S. as a welcoming haven for immigrants. Who would deny that there is some truth to it? On the other hand, it continues to be a largely white, monolingual country. The new immigrants who have entered in the last 30 years, come largely from Africa, Asia, and, above all, Latin America, challenging America's cultural and racial conception of itself. Are racism and linguistic chauvinism ("Why don't all those Mexicans learn English?" some ask) behind the opposition to immigration? Whites will soon be a minority in California, the most populous State in the Union. For some time now, Miami has been the cultural capital of the Spanish-speaking world. For many monolingual white Americans, joined sometimes by African-Americans, these developments are anxiety producing.

More than any other ethnic group, Mexicans are at the heart of these anxieties. Because the U.S. shares such a long border with Mexico, more Mexicans than any other ethnic group cross into the U.S. without proper documents. Some come seasonally to work in the fields of the Southwest. Others, even without proper documents, have now lived in the U.S. for years, sometimes decades. Their children have often been born in the U.S., so that they are now the parents of U.S. citizens. They come out of economic need, mainly from the economically devastated towns and villages of Northern

Mexico. Complicated history: They also come because the history along this border is complicated. Before the U.S. annexed them in the 19th century, California and Texas were part of Mexico. That was a long time ago, but memory too is long, and the border between Mexico and the U.S. has always been porous enough to permit the development of cross-border intimacies of many kinds — economic, social, cultural and political. This is what explains the fact that Bush, a staunch conservative on so many issues, is actually more moderate than many in his party in wanting to provide avenues for undocumented immigrants to become documented and come above ground. He is from Texas, a State that shares a long border with Mexico, and no doubt has an opportunistic political eye on its large Mexican American population.

But on the other big issue of the hot immigration debate — the issue of controlling the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent crossings — Bush is not moderate at all. On this issue, all politicians in Washington D.C. seem united. No doubt the border with Mexico will be increasingly fenced and patrolled in days to come. This seems a foregone conclusion, though the prospect scares many ordinary Americans, for it would be a mistake to think such militarisation would be without dire consequences for many who live along the border, on both sides. Men with guns, pumped up on interdiction, can do wild things.

The division of opinion amongst the political elite in Washington D.C., then, is more on the issue of undocumented immigrants already within the U.S. On this issue immigrants may have real clout. The millions turning out for marches and rallies demonstrate numbers. These immigrants have economic might — their indispensable cheap labour is a powerful weapon — and even political might. Many of them can't themselves vote, but their children and relatives and friends and employers can. It will not be so easy for politicians to ignore the claims of these people, document-less though some of them may be.

Forcing a debate: The numbers the immigrant rights movement has demonstrated has surprised many and forced a national debate that raises foundational questions for the country. Ultimately the debate is about the country's very character. What kind of a country is the U.S.? Is it a country looking out into the world, expansive and tolerant in its view of itself? Or is it inward looking and anxious and jealous? Behind the hot action and hotter rhetoric, the choice between these two worldviews is at issue. In its time, the old civil rights movement — the movement of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X — held a mirror up to the U.S. and exposed its fallibilities to itself. The new civil rights movement may be doing the same.

S. Shankar is a novelist and cultural critic. His latest book is the novel, No End to the Journey.


Breathe Free, Huddled Masses: A Personal Take On Illegal Immigration
by Cathy Young / Email:

Immigration is a hot topic in America these days. An immigration reform bill is stalled in Congress; pro-immigration demonstrators, many of them illegal immigrants, are filling city streets. One side argues that regaining control of our borders is a vital national security issue; the other says that extending a welcome to all who want to live peacefully and work in our midst is a fundamental American value. This debate touches many Americans in a personal way as children and descendants of immigrants. It is doubly personal for me: I came to the United States with my family in 1980, at the age of 17, from what was then the Soviet Union.

Time and time again, we have had calls for decisive action to halt illegal immigration. So far, no tough new laws or policies have succeeded in stemming the flood. Anti-immigration conservatives lament that this is due to a fundamental lack of will to really do something about the problem. Many are outraged by proposals to offer amnesty and legalization to illegal aliens, a move that they claim rewards people for breaking the law.

But most Americans are deeply conflicted. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found three-quarters of Americans think the government is doing too little to prevent illegal immigration. Yet three out of five, across party lines, are in favor of allowing illegal immigrants who have lived here for years to gain legal status and eventually become citizens. Only one in five endorsed the House bill that would make it a felony to live in this country illegally. So why don't more people nod in agreement when right-wing talk show hosts thunder, "But they broke the law!"? Maybe because they instinctively understand the peculiar nature of the law in this case.

Recently, a guest on the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends jeered at the pro-immigrant rallies by announcing that he and some friends were having a rally in support of "illegal murders." This dumb joke highlights something important: There is no such thing as legal murder. Murder is illegal by definition, while immigration is not. The same act—entering the United States—is legal for some people and illegal for others, sometimes depending on something as arbitrary as a lottery. Law, in this case, may be more a technicality than justice.

Indeed, how many of the same conservatives who are enraged by the idea of amnesty for illegal residents would be in favor of jailing—or even putting out of business—a woman who had run an unlicensed home-based daycare center, providing safe and excellent care?

Present-day descendants of immigrants who pride themselves on the fact that their ancestors came here legally should remember that the immigrants of that time faced far fewer hurdles. When my family and I came here, we automatically received refugee status on the grounds that we were fleeing oppression. While I am immensely grateful for this, I am also well aware that I got a special break due to Cold War politics, and that a lot of people around the world who had as good a claim to escaping oppression or persecution did not get the same break. So my reaction is not, "I came here legally and that makes me better," but more like, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Yes, we need more effective border control, particularly in the age when terrorism is a real concern. But it should also be a concern that anti-immigrant panic has been all too often responsible for ungenerous and sometimes downright inhumane policies unworthy of America.

After the "immigration reform" of 1996, people who were brought to this country as children and never went through the process of getting citizenship were suddenly subject to deportation to native countries they barely remembered because of a minor brush with the law—such as a barroom fight at the age of 20—that suddenly made them "deportable." People adjudged by immigration agents to be attempting to enter the country illegally, often because of a glitch in the paperwork, have been barred from reapplying to enter this country for the next five years—even if they are married to an American.

To me, that is far more outrageous and far more damaging to America than extending forgiveness to people who came here illegally and are earning an honest living. At the risk of sounding very corny: The Statue of Liberty should not turn its back on the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Reprinted with permission from Cathy Young. This column originally appeared in the Boston Globe.
About The Author:
Cathy Young is a Reason contributing editor. She is the author of two books: Ceasefire!: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality (The Free Press, February 1999), and Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood (Ticknor & Fields, 1989).


The Senate immigration bill: Repackaging the attack on immigrants
June 2, 2006 | Page 3

A NATIONWIDE hunt for undocumented workers, an apartheid-like classification scheme for immigrants, a guest-worker program that guts workers rights, a Berlin Wall-style barrier along a militarized U.S.-Mexico border, a discriminatory English national-language law--all backed by a Big Brother plan to hand over Social Security data to the Department of Homeland Security to check immigration status.

These and other repressive and racist measures are jammed into the “compromise” bill on immigration recently passed by the U.S. Senate, named for its main backers, Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

How can this be happening in the wake of the millions-strong demonstrations for immigrant rights--especially with the support of supposed friends of the protests in the Democratic Party? Has the biggest May Day protest in U.S. history somehow led to a victorious backlash by the right, as George W. Bush sends National Guard troops to the border?

In reality, the fight is still in its earliest stages, as the struggle over immigration becomes a key element in the growing social and political polarization in U.S. society.

The immigrant rights movement took off early this year after the House last passed anti-immigrant legislation--known as the Sensenbrenner bill, after its author Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)--that would turn an estimated 12 million undocumented workers into felons overnight and criminalize those who helped them.

The Sensenbrenner bill reflected the overconfidence of the Republican right--its assumption that something this vicious would go unopposed--as well as political desperation over George W. Bush’s falling poll numbers in advance of the 2006 midterm elections. But the massive protests of immigrants and their supporters put Sensenbrenner and his allies on the defensive.

Meanwhile, Corporate America, which wants to maintain a steady flow of immigrant labor, advanced its own program of “reform”--including a guest-worker program promoted by Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). These efforts led to the Hagel-Martinez bill, backed by both the liberal Kennedy and George W. Bush as the “rational middle ground” of immigration reform.

In reality, Hagel-Martinez is an attempt to combine Corporate America’s priorities with enough racist and repressive measures to appease Sensenbrenner and the immigrant-bashers. Hagel-Martinez would create a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. more than five years, allowing them legal status after six more years--as long as they pay fines and penalties and prove that they know English. It would also create a guest-worker program for 200,000 low-wage immigrants each year and boost fourfold to 650,000 the number of visas granted to high-tech workers.

This is opposed by Sensenbrenner and the Republican right, which would rather slam the border shut, period--or at least posture about doing so until after the election, when some might do the bidding of the corporations and support a guest-worker program. For now, though, Sensenbrenner is taking a hard line in advance of the House-Senate conference committee assigned to bridge the differences between the two bills.

At the same time, Bush’s plan to militarize the border has legitimized the Minutemen and other far-right border vigilantes, whose racist views are presented as a legitimate politics in media ranging from Fox News to National Public Radio. The right’s aggression and the ravings of Republican conservatives have allowed some in the immigrant rights movement to portray the Hagel-Martinez bill as the “realistic” alternative.

For Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the passage of Hagel-Martinez is “a major step forward in a debate that is vital to our community and to the nation.” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Vice President Eliseo Medina called the passage of Hagel-Martinez a “step in the right direction,” while calling for “significant improvements.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said that Hagel-Martinez, while “imperfect,” would provide “the right architecture and the right elements for comprehensive immigration reform.”

“Imperfect” is hardly the word to describe legislation that would assign millions of immigrants to second-class citizenship--not dissimilar to the situation faced by African Americans during the era of legalized Jim Crow segregation after the abolition of slavery.

Under Hagel-Martinez, guest workers who lost their jobs would be forced to leave the country in 60 days unless they found another employer. That would qualify the guest-worker program as what the U.S. State Department considers “involuntary servitude” in other countries--a situation in which “people become trapped in involuntary servitude when they believe an attempted escape from their conditions would result in serious physical harm or the use of legal coercion, such as the threat of deportation.”

Indeed, Hagel-Martinez is studded with the kind of human rights violations that showed up on the State Department’s annual human rights report. Somehow, it’s state repression when China compels the Tibetan people to study the Chinese language, but it’s in the American interest for the Senate to impose English as a national language. It’s wrong for Iran to deport 140,000 Afghan refugees, but it’s okay to require 2 million immigrants to leave the U.S. immediately and millions more who have lived in the U.S. more than two years and less than five to exit and re-enter.

Re-enter, that is, if they haven’t been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors, which would bar them completely. Also barred would be those who committed what will be considered, after the fact, an “aggravated felony” under the proposed law--including the use of fake documents or Social Security numbers.

Keeping tabs on all this would be the Department of Homeland Security, which--thanks to an amendment sponsored by liberal hero Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)--will verify Social Security numbers given by employees. If the authorities get it wrong, too bad--Hagel-Martinez would almost totally deny immigrants access to the courts to appeal decisions by immigration authorities.

Border Patrol agents--whose numbers under the legislation would more than double to 25,300 by 2011--would be authorized to arrest, detain and deport immigrants stopped anywhere within 100 miles of the U.S. and Canadian borders, all without a hearing before an immigration board or a judge. The world’s busiest border, already heavily fortified, would see the construction of 370 miles of a triple-layered fence, along with 500 miles of barriers.

The fact that the SEIU and the National Council of La Raza can call such barbarisms a “step forward” reflects the fact that their orientation is toward the pro-business Democratic Party and inside-Washington politics, rather than the new mass movement for immigrant rights.

By contrast, a growing number of immigrant rights groups have concluded that it is better to have no immigration legislation at all than to accept Hagel-Martinez. “These trade-offs and deals are based on election-year campaigning and demands by business lobbyists, rather than on the best interests and voices of immigrant communities,” the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights declared in an April 27 statement endorsed by dozens of organizations. “We say, ‘No deal!”

Rejecting fake immigration “reform,” though crucial, is only one item on the agenda ahead for the immigrant rights movement. Washington’s “debate” about immigration has been accompanied by stepped-up raids by immigration authorities, which are aimed at intimidating the new movement. Activists need to mobilize to defend undocumented workers who are targeted. What’s more, the politicians’ anti-immigrant rhetoric is giving legitimacy to the far-right immigrant bashers and setting the stage for organizations like the racist Minutemen to grow.

No mainstream political figure can be counted on to challenge the lies and myths perpetuated about immigration and border enforcement--leaving the way uncontested for the right to gain a wider hearing. In these circumstances, the vigilantes are bound to have a larger presence in the coming months--and need to be challenged.

After a period in which the far right has been relatively marginal and inactive, the ground has been laid for organized racists to raise their heads and their profile. They need to be confronted wherever they do. Organizations built out of the massive pro-immigrant demonstrations of the last few months can take the movement forward. Those protests showed that the potential is there to meet the challenges we face--and build a movement that can achieve genuine justice and equality for immigrants.


Voices From the New Civil Rights Movement: June 1, 2006.
By Roberto Lovato, a Los Angeles-based writer. The Nation.

Immigrant rights activists aren't just focused on legalization; they have a vision of helping create a more progressive nation. Under cover of an oak tree on a tobacco farm deep in the heart of rural North Carolina, Leticia Zavala challenges the taller, older male migrant farm workers with talk of a boycott and legalizacion.

"We will not get anything without fighting for it," declares the intense 5-foot-1 organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Pen and notebook in hand, Zavala hacks swiftly through the fear and doubt that envelop many migrants. She speaks from a place, an experience, that most organizers in this country don't know: Her earliest childhood and adolescent memories are of migrating each year with her family between Mexico and Florida. "We have five buses and each of you has to decide for yourselves if you want to go to Washington with us," she says. After some deliberation most of the workers, many of whom have just finished the seven-day trek from Nayarit, Mexico, opt to get on another bus and join the May 1 marcha and boycott. They trust her, as do the more than 500 other migrant workers from across the state who heed the call from one of the new leaders of the movimiento that is upon us.

Asked why she thinks FLOC was so successful in mobilizing farm workers (the union made history after a stunning 2004 victory that secured representation and a contract for more than 10,000 H-2A "guest" workers who labor on strawberry, tobacco, yam, cucumber and other farms), Zavala talks about "the importance of networks" and the need to respond to the globalization of labor through the creation of a "migrating union." She and other FLOC organizers have followed migrant workers to Mexico, where the organization has an office--and then have followed them back over several months. She also points to the vision, strategies and tactics shared by her mentor, FLOC founder Baldemar Velasquez, who passed on to her the advice that Martin Luther King Jr. gave him during the Poor People's Campaign in 1967: "When you impact the rich man's ability to make money, anything is negotiable."

But when you ask her what is most important in the twenty-first-century matrix of successful organizing, the bespectacled, bright-eyed Zavala will bring you back to basics: "One of the biggest successes of the union is that it takes away loneliness."

The 26-year-old Zavala's vision, experience and learning are a telling reflection of how the leaders of the movimiento merge traditional labor and civil rights strategies and tactics with more global, networked--and personalized--organizing to meet the challenges of the quintessentially global issue of immigration. While it's important to situate the immigrant struggle within the context of the ongoing freedom struggles of African-Americans, women (like Zavala, an extraordinary number of movimiento leaders are mujeres) and others who have fought for social justice in the United States, labeling and framing it as a "new civil rights movement" risks erasing its roots in Latin American struggles and history.

The mainstream narrative of the movement emphasizes that single-minded immigrants want legalization--and how "angry Hispanics" and their Spanish-language radio DJ leaders mobilized in reaction to HR 4437 (better known as the Sensenbrenner immigration bill, which would criminalize the undocumented). But Zavala and other movimiento leaders across the country say that while it's true that the Sensenbrenner bill provided a spark, explaining this powerful movement of national and even global significance as a reaction to DJ-led calls to "marchar!" leaves many things--and people--out of the picture.

This time, there is no Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez centering and centralizing the movement. Instead, grassroots leaders like Zavala mix, scratch and dub different media (think and text messaging, radio and TV, butcher paper and bullhorns) while navigating the cultural, political and historical currents that yoke and inspire the diverse elements making up this young, decentralized, digital-age movimiento.

At the older end of the age and experience spectrum (the average Latino is 26) is 44-year-old Juan Jose Gutierrez. He started organizing in the late 1970s, distributing mimeographed copies of the radical newspaper Sin Fronteras to immigrant workers in the face of hostility from the anti-Communist right. The director of Latino Movement USA and a key figure in the recent (and, to some, controversial) May 1 boycott, Gutierrez has logged thousands of miles and met hundreds of leaders in his efforts to build one of many vibrant movement networks. "Since January, I've been to about thirty-five different cities and seen old and new leadership coming together to create something that has never been seen before," says Gutierrez, who migrated to Los Angeles from Tuxpan, Jalisco, Mexico, when he was 11. "The [Spanish-language] DJs played a role, an important role, but they let us put our message in their medium. You can trace this movement all the way back to 1968."

Unlike the movimiento leaders who cut their teeth organizing in left-leaning Latin America, Gutierrez traces his political roots to post-civil rights East LA; he and many of the most important Mexican and Chicano immigrant rights leaders in LA--including union leader Maria Elena Durazo, longtime activist Javier Rodriguez and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--came out of the Centro de Accion Social Autonomo (Center for Autonomous Social Action), or CASA, a seminal Chicano political organization founded by legendary leaders Bert Corona and Soledad "Chole" Alatorre in 1968. One of the central tasks of CASA, which from its inception had a strong working-class and trade union orientation, was organizing undocumented workers. Gutierrez and others who have covered the country spiderlike for years see a direct line from the organizing around the amnesty law of 1986, which legalized 3 million undocumented workers, to immigrant rights organizing in California (home to one of every three immigrants in the United States), the fight against Proposition 187 of 1994 (which tried to deny health and education benefits to the children of the undocumented) and the historic shift of the AFL-CIO in 2000, when it decided to undertake immigrant organizing.

Having hopped back and forth among many of the more than 200 cities and towns that staged actions in April and May, Gutierrez sees different kinds of leaders emerging from the grassroots: "There are, of course, the undocumented, who are also leading things in local communities; there are legal immigrants getting involved, because they have friends and family who are affected by the anti-immigrant policies; and there are immigrants from different countries who bring their own political, sometimes radical, experiences from places like Guatemala and El Salvador."

One of the "radical" legacies that New York immigrant rights leader Miguel Ramirez has carried with him since fleeing El Salvador is an intensely collective outlook on personal and political identity. Ramirez, who heads the Queens-based Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan, recalls how one of his US-born colleagues told him to "correct" the resume he used to apply for his first organizing job in New York. "He [the friend] told me I had to take out the 'we,'" says 53-year-old Ramirez, whose bushy mustache often lifts to reveal a disarming smile. "I didn't know it was wrong to write, 'We organized a forum, we organized a workshop, we organized a network.'"

The experience and approach of Ramirez, who left his homeland in 1979 after many of his fellow students at the University of El Salvador were persecuted and killed, show that the US movimiento is as much the northernmost expression of a resurgent Latin American left as it is a new, more globalized, human rights-centered continuation of the Chicano, civil rights and other previous struggles that facilitated immigrant rights work here.

Ramirez, who estimates that since migrating he's helped organize more than 100 marches--all of them "very disciplined and without incidents"--is informed by the experience of organizing students, campesinos and others in revolutionary El Salvador, where one of every three Salvadorans adopted radicalized politics during the war. Lacking the wealth and pro-US government politics of Cuban-Americans and other, more conservative immigrant groups, Ramirez and many Salvadoran immigrants (most of whom were denied legal status and benefits granted to Cubans, Vietnamese and others) created organizations that then formed vast multi-issue, mass-based networks challenging the foreign and domestic policies of the most powerful country on earth.

This robust legacy energizes Ramirez and Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan, which organizes around worker rights, housing and immigration, as they play definitive roles in the construction of local networks like the Immigrant Communities in Action coalition. Through the coalition, Centro joined Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Filipino, Bangladeshi, Indonesian and other groups that have organized some of the country's most diverse marches.

Reflecting the historic and ongoing tensions between more election- and legislative-focused immigrant rights advocates in Washington and local and regional players, Ramirez, like the younger Zavala, calmly insists the movimiento must look beyond the upcoming elections and even the pending immigration bill. "In the end, it's an issue of power, one that can only be addressed by constant organizing."

US-born Latinos also feel Ramirez's urgency about organizing around immigration. Their ranks include teens and twentysomethings relatively new to politics, along with veterans like Wisconsin's Christine Neumann-Ortiz, who was influenced by several Latin American movements as well as the struggle against California's Proposition 187.

"To see those thousands of people marching against Prop 187 was an inspiration," says Ortiz, who heads Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant worker center in the belly of the anti-immigrant beast, James Sensenbrenner's Milwaukee. "I was very impressed that there was that kind of response [to Prop 187]. We used that as a lesson," says Ortiz, who was one of the main organizers of marches of 30,000 and 70,000 people, some of the largest marches ever in a state with a storied progressive past.

Ortiz was not caught off guard by the movimiento. "I'm happy to be alive to see this shift," she states from one of Voces's three offices in Wisconsin, "but I'm not at all surprised. We've been building up networks of people over many years."

She and other activists point to years of service and advocacy on behalf of immigrants, which built up good will and trust in the community, as being defining factors in the ability to rally people into political action.

Founded in Austin, Texas, with a mission to build solidarity between US and Mexican maquiladora workers following the signing of the NAFTA accords in nearby San Antonio in 1994, Voces de la Frontera embodies a local-global sensibility. Ortiz started the Milwaukee Voces in November 2001 in response to the growing needs of Milwaukee's fast-growing Latino immigrant population. Like the settlement houses and mutual aid societies and other organizations that supported German and other white European immigrant workers of previous, more progressive eras in Wisconsin and elsewhere, Voces provides a critical support structure for the mostly Mexican and Central American workers in the agricultural, hotel and restaurant, construction and manufacturing industries in HR 4437 country.

Sensenbrenner "wants to leave a legacy. So did McCarthy. Immigrants in Wisconsin know his hypocrisy better than anyone," says Ortiz, whose German and Mexican immigrant heritage portends the not-so-distant future of once wholly white Wisconsin. "He is encroaching on his own base. Dairy farmers in his own district are revolting because he's attacking their economic base. This can't last in the long term," she says, as if eyeing developments in post-Prop 187 California, where short-term anti-immigrant backlash led to a longer-term movement that gave Los Angeles its first Latino (and progressive) mayor--and gave the movimiento a vision of its potential.

Like organizers in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, Ortiz and Voces have built strong and deep relationships with the local Spanish-language media. But they're also keenly aware of who's leading the charge. "We had lists of more than 4,000 workers before the radio stations or Sensenbrenner came into the picture," Ortiz explains.

As they continue to organize and lobby around the immigration debate in Congress, around the inevitable backlash at the local and state levels and around a more proactive agenda, Ortiz and many of the other leaders of the immigrant rights movement are keeping their eyes on a larger prize, beyond the issue of immigration. "We're going to change this country," she says, adding, "We've gained public sympathy for immigrants. We've gained recognition and power, and we are an inspiration to the larger movement for change." She is especially motivated when she describes the effect of the movimiento on the generations to come. Like the "Hmong students who went to a Sensenbrenner town hall meeting in South Alice [a Milwaukee suburb] and chanted 'Si se puede, Si se puede' at him." Asked if the backlash will damage the movimiento, Ortiz responds, "In the long run this will make us stronger and build our movement."


Activists Must Avoid Cultural Tripwires Over Immigration
New America Media, Commentary, Rene P. Ciria-Cruz, Jun 01, 2006

Editor's Note: Immigrant rights activists are self-critically examining ways to improve their movement's relationship to the African-American community, and there's reason to be hopeful, writes NAM editor Rene Ciria-Cruz.

SAN FRANCISCO--Latino and African-American activists are trying to lessen the static between their communities generated by the massive immigrant marches of the past few months. The time is ripe. Black hostility could be a serious blow to the political aspirations of both communities.

Several meetings have taken place in cities like Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., with organizers frankly discussing the tensions and the ways to address them.

Some commentators have pointed to what they describe as irreconcilable differences, particularly the African-American perception of displacement in jobs, neighborhoods, schools and even political office. Conclusions drawn from anecdotal examples of such displaceent -- the post-Katrina dispersal of blacks and the influx of Latinos in New Orleans for reconstruction jobs is often cited -- are often hard to dispel, activists say. Accurate economic and sociological data and analyses are needed to explain the complex impact of immigration and challenge the zero-sum generalization that the more Latinos and immigrants there are, the fewer opportunities for African-Americans.

Activists on both sides, however, point to cultural tripwires that the immigrant rights movement can avoid to improve relations in the short term.

First among these is the self-characterization of the immigrant protests as "the new civil rights movement." The implication, says Maria Blanco of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, is that the "old" movement is over, when the fact is, it still has much unfinished business.

The immigrant rights movement "must be sensitive to that reality," writes Blanco, and see itself as a part or a continuation of the struggle for voting rights, affirmative action, equal education and criminal justice, all of which paved the way for immigrants to pursue their rights today. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow/PUSH mobilized for the giant May 1 march in Chicago, echoes this view.

Latino community leaders must also guard against triumphalism over the rapid growth of the Latino population, which is also the fastest rising voting bloc. Comments like "It's now our turn at political power," activists say, must be challenged as divisive. Protest signs such as "We came here to work hard" or "We're not criminals" or "We're not on welfare" may be perceived as invoking negative black stereotypes as a way to distinguish Latinos. Unchecked, such statements will only deepen the divide between the communities.

The absence of many prominent black leaders in the March and April marches tended to highlight that divide, says political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who claims that it indicates black politicians are "looking over their shoulder," cautiously aware of "black fury" against illegal immigration. Although Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee -- she has a large Latino constituency in her Texas district -- sponsored a liberal, pro-immigrant bill, she may be an exception, Hutchinson says.

Some black leaders have said they "weren't invited" to join the cause. But Andre Herndon, editor of The Wave Newspaper Group, an African-American newspaper chain in Los Angeles, says that is "a sorry excuse. If you think a cause is just, you'll be there with or without invitation."

But Latino activists, overwhelmed by the enormous momentum of the marches, now also admit that they were remiss in expressly reaching out to black leaders and media to join the mobilizations. Some black activists have told them of a hesitance to jump in, out of a sense of propriety, or fear of being accused of taking over another community's struggle. They could have used extra encouragement.

Immigrant rights activists must also ensure that their mobilizations are not seen as a purely Latino initiative. While Latinos will continue to be the main force of the immigrant protests, organizers need to highlight the participation of Chinese, Somalis, Haitians, Irish and other immigrants in the movement's profile.

The largely spontaneous protests have shown an amazing ability for self-correction, such as when marchers immediately began carrying more American flags after being criticized for waving Mexican flags in earlier rallies. Therefore, Latino and African-American activists in groups like the California Coalition for Civil Rights and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, are optimistic that the movement's shortcomings can be rectified and that a Latino-African American coalition, which is absolutely necessary, is achievable.

Ironically, it's now the fashion among many pundits to dismiss America's concern with racial diversity as passé --"been there, done that." But as the very real cultural and political tripwires over immigration illustrate, we're just beginning to grapple with diversity in a multiracial society that's no longer just black and white, with masses of newcomers searching for a place in the proverbial ladder.

thumbnail image by Kevin Chan
Comment @ Websource


Schwarzenegger signs off on sending Guard troops to border: Thu, Jun. 01, 2006

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger formally agreed Thursday to send as many as 1,000 California National Guard troops to the Mexico border, ending more than two weeks of jockeying with the Bush administration over details of a federal plan to place 6,000 citizen soldiers along the border states.

The governor said he was committing the troops "reluctantly," as a temporary measure to help stanch illegal border crossings, and set the end of 2008 as a firm deadline to pull them.

His agreement with the federal government promises full federal funding for a mission that Guard leaders estimated would cost about $6 million to $8 million per month in California.

The Bush administration has pushed for troops to arrive on the border within a few weeks, but Guard officials in California said they plan to have them there July 15, but only after federal officials set aside specific funding.

Schwarzenegger and state Guard leaders also said they plan to deviate from the Bush administration's strategy of rotating citizen soldiers to the border in place of their annual two-week training sessions. Guard brass consider the short-term rotations inefficient, and fear the loss of training time will hurt troop readiness for federal military and state missions. Schwarzenegger likened the Bush plan to "doing surgery on someone and rotating the doctors out every two to three minutes."

Instead, the California Guard will mostly seek volunteers to serve border stints of six months to a year, the governor said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. In all, about 1,000 guardsmen would go to the border. Finding volunteers is not expected to be a stumbling block, said Brig. Gen. Louis Antonetti, director of the California Guard's Joint Staff. An informal call for volunteers has so far yielded 700 willing citizen soldiers, he said.

Still, the state may tap other states for guardsmen depending on specialties needed for the mission. Under the plan, guardsmen will not enforce law and order on the border. Instead, they will support border patrol agents in tasks ranging from surveillance to vehicle maintenance to camera operation. The idea, said Antonetti, is to free up border agents for direct law enforcement.

Most of the California Guardsmen will not be armed, but some will likely carry sidearms for protection, at the discretion of their commanders, said Col. Dave Baldwin, director of Guard operations.

"Our soldiers and airmen will have the inherent right of self defense," he said.

Bush administration officials insist that the Guard mission is temporary, and plan to reduce the number of border troops by half after the first year. The idea is for the National Guard to recede from the border as the administration boosts the number of border agents by some 6,000 by the end of 2008.

Schwarzenegger set the Dec. 31, 2008, deadline out of concern that the federal government had no clearly defined plan if it failed.

"We believe the (federal) timeline is overly ambitious," Baldwin said. "That's why one of the constraints we have is a defined exit strategy."

Under the Bush plan, the Guard soldiers remain under the command of the governors. Regardless of his deadline, Schwarzenegger could pull the troops at any time, unless the administration shifts the troops to federal status. Schwarzenegger has openly and repeatedly questioned Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff over details of a plan that Bush announced May 15 with scant input from the states and little warning.

Schwarzenegger repeatedly asked for an end date and goal for the mission, whether soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will be tapped for border duty, and whether the state will be fully reimbursed. Still, he has suggested for more than a week that he ultimately would agree to send troops, saying he favors a stronger border and fears an influx of potential terrorists.
"We have gotten the answers that we needed," he said Thursday. "We wanted to make sure the California taxpayers don't get stuck with that bill."

State funding for the border mission quickly become political bait in Sacramento. Several state lawmakers balked at the Bush plan, and Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, pledged to budget nothing for it without an assessment of its impact on Guard readiness.
Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or


States taking stand on immigration: Proposed restrictions often symbolic as frustrations grow
= Monday, May 29, 2006
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News

The sheriff from Umatilla County, Ore., was fed up. The cost of housing illegal immigrants in his jail hit a whopping $318,843 last year, leaving little for the services residents expect. So he sent a letter to Mexican leader Vicente Fox, politely asking him to pay up.

It's been three months, and Sheriff John Trumbo still hasn't heard from Mr. Fox. But he's gotten a lot of "attaboys" from nearby neighbors and distant admirers. "I wrote the letter initially to get the attention of my local citizens," the longtime lawman said recently. "Because of that expense, a lot of the things they expect out of my office we can't provide."

Across the country, local and state officials, tired of federal heel-dragging on immigration, are taking matters into their own hands – unlike in Texas, where a rich history of cross-border relations tempers emotions. Proposals include penalizing landlords that rent to illegal immigrants, denying health care benefits to illegal immigrants and even detailing what documentation may be used to rent a keg of beer.

"There seems to be a hunger to debate these issues," said Ann Morse, program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "We're seeing a lot of states acting because of the federal gridlock."

Critics doubt the local efforts will have much effect. "Immigrants are not leaving those states, and they're not leaving the United States," said Michele Waslin, director of Immigration Policy Research for the National Council of La Raza. "I don't think a single immigrant has ever moved to Mexico because he couldn't get a driver's license. I think it's forcing immigrants to go further underground."

Though the measures may be more symbolic than effective, such efforts are widespread. By the end of April, more than 460 immigration-related bills had been introduced in 43 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The seven other states, including Texas, don't have a regular legislative session this year or the legislatures have not convened yet. But even when lawmakers return to Austin, observers don't expect such efforts to gain much traction.

Quiet Texans: Except for a federal border security plan – Operation Rio Grande, which funds additional personnel and equipment to boost local law enforcement's efforts along the border – Texans have been remarkably quiet on immigration. "I haven't heard of incident No. 1 where a city is involved," said Bennett Sandlin, general counsel for the Texas Municipal League, an organization of Texas cities. "We just haven't heard much about it."

Experts attribute the silence to the state's long border and intertwined history with Mexico, which gives the Lone Star State a different perspective on immigration. "We have had an ability in Texas to live together, historically more so than other states," said Dr. José Limón, director of the center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. "We learned to get along."

Dr. James Hollifield, director of the Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University, agreed. "This is something we've lived with for decades in Texas, really a century or two or three, " he said. "I do think Texans are more level-headed on this issue than what you find in other parts of the country."

Illegal immigration also is not particularly touchy in Texas, Dr. Hollifield said, because the immigrant population is widely dispersed and Texas is relatively les generous with welfare dollars.
California, for instance, which is more generous with benefits, has felt a larger financial wallop from illegal immigrants than Texas, raising the ire of taxpayers, Dr. Hollifield said.

Going to the voters: That anger led to recent efforts in San Bernardino, Calif., to impose sweeping restrictions on illegal immigrants.

The measure proposed to the City Council called for prohibiting landlords from renting to illegal tenants, requiring day laborers to prove legal residency, banning taxpayer-funded day labor centers, conducting city business in English and denying permits to businesses that hire illegal immigrants. City staff members said the cost of defending legal challenges to the measures could be high, and some City Council members complained it would force the city to perform federal duties. Rather than adopt the measure, the council opted to let voters decide – which promises to divide the town where about half of the 200,000 residents are Hispanic.

Outside the border states, the illegal immigration issue has come to the forefront relatively recently, as large numbers of workers ranged farther north. Despite Sheriff Trumbo's action, and rumblings by candidates, Oregon is not one of the leaders in immigration reform. That distinction goes to Arizona and California. But while border states have wrestled with illegal immigration for decades, even states farther north and east, such as Colorado and Georgia, are now pressing for changes.

"The size of the unauthorized immigrant population has really captured the public's attention," Ms. Morse said. "It's now one in three foreign-born. That is a sizable piece." And it's "spread throughout the country because people are following the jobs. They're following poultry plants and meatpacking plants in the heartland of the country. They're following furniture maker plants in Georgia, and they're picking crops as they always have. Most of the bills passed at the state level this year relate to law enforcement and employer sanctions,” Ms. Morse said.

Ms. Waslin, of La Raza, is particularly concerned about a wide-ranging bill in Georgia. The bill would increase penalties for human trafficking; require employers to participate in worker-verification systems; require state agencies to verify the "lawful presence" of individuals before awarding state benefits; establish a fee on money transfers to a foreign country for noncitizens or nonpermanent residents; and require authorities to try to determine the citizenship of a person charged with a felony or drunken driving.

Fear and intimidation: "It really raises the level of fear and intimidation in the community," Ms. Waslin said. "A lot of people will be denied benefits and services that they need – and it's not like undocumented immigrants are eligible for a lot in the first place."

Such laws may hurt all residents, Ms. Waslin said, because they result in more people without health care, more residents afraid to report crimes and more unlicensed drivers on the road.
Such policies "are clearly aimed at making immigrants' lives miserable, to the extent that they can, and hoping that they will go away," she said. But the state and local efforts do "vent frustration," she said and eventually influence politicians at the federal level, where immigration policy is made, she said.

Sheriff Trumbo realizes that his letter to Mr. Fox was symbolic. "I have no visions of doing anything else," he said. "Because there's nothing I can do at my level. It's up to the federal government to step up to the plate now and address this issue."


Immigrants' rights groups decry sheriff's detentions: Mon, May. 29, 2006

HAMILTON, Ohio - Immigrants' rights groups have banded together in the face of the sheriff's controversial decision to detain 18 illegal immigrants, calling the move grandstanding and an attempt to intimidate employers and illegal immigrants.

The detainees were later released, but the groups and the American Civil Liberties Union say the sheriff overstepped his bounds, infringing on duties reserved for federal immigration officials.

"It's a national problem that requires a national solution, not vigilante activity. And that's really all the Butler County sheriff is doing," said Scott Greenwood, an attorney for the ACLU.

Rick Jones, sheriff of the county north of Cincinnati, has come under fire since deputies responded to a call about a potential fight between Mexican and American construction workers at a building site last week. When they arrived at the scene, deputies detained and questioned 18 men suspected of being illegal aliens. Jones said none had valid identification papers and that some were carrying obvious forgeries. All 18 were released later that night, but immigration rights activists question whether Jones had the right to detain the men at all.

The Cincinnati U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement office has federal jurisdiction over immigration issues in Butler County. Local authorities generally only take suspected illegal aliens into custody if they are being charged with violating state law.

The sheriff maintains that immigration officials are stretched too thin to control his county's swelling immigrant population. He also said his office can investigate because he thinks state tax law might have been broken.

At a news conference on Sunday, immigration rights groups claimed Jones' deputies harass Latino workers and threatened to pull over Latino-looking people to check for valid driver's licenses.

"Serious people are engaged in debating a solution to the issues of this broken immigrant system. ... He is engaged in intimidating the community and grandstanding. Immigration is a federal issue. There's a process for local authorities to be authorized to enforce immigration law. As far as we know, the sheriff of Butler County has not gone through this process," said Jeff Stewart of the Immigrant Worker Project.

Stewart said many local law enforcement agencies shy away from immigration issues out of concern that immigrants are less likely to report a crime if they think the local authorities are going to detain or deport them.


5/27: Center for Human Rights & Constitution Law's Response to Senate Immigration Bill:

Telephone: (213) 388-8693 Facsimile: (213) 386-9484
For Immediate Release May 27, 2006
Contact: Andrew Stevenson (213) 388-8693, Peter Schey (323) 251-3223

Statement by Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law President Peter Schey: While Immigrants Rise Up, Congress Falls Down

As the principle legal organization that has represented hundreds of thousands of immigrants in court cases seeking legalization under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), and having assisted the Congress when it addressed IRCA for several years and again when it drafted the LIFE Act in 2000, and having worked extensively over the past several months with members of the Senate and local coalitions and community-based organizations to arrive at a comprehensive immigration reform package, we are deeply disappointed with and must now oppose the Senate's recently passed immigration bill unless it is dramatically improved in a Conference Committee, the chances of which are now exceptionally slim.

We are fully dedicated to and recognize the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform that fully protects U.S. and foreign-born workers within our borders and addresses the nation's legitimate national security concerns, The bill adopted by the Senate on Thursday entirely fails to satisfy these fundamental principles.

Nevertheless, with immigrants and others in favor of fair and rational immigration reform now on the march throughout the country, we believe that the drive for positive immigration reform is irreversible. Upcoming elections could well change the complexion of the House of Representatives making real immigration reform much more likely. We intend to work with local coalitions, community-based and national organizations, and concerned members of Congress to make sure that the goal of comprehensive immigration reform remains on the legislative table until it is accomplished.

While some have applauded the architecture of the Senate immigration bill, a careful review of the entire bill discloses one disastrous and irrational provision after another. Taken as a whole, the bill will not come close to legalize the majority of undocumented immigrants. In fact, it will undoubtedly greatly increase the size of the undocumented population over time because of its draconian enforcement measures that entirely block traditional avenues for undocumented immigrants to legalize their status. If the bill becomes law, within 20 years the undocumented population will reach about 20 million. The bill is designed to drive undocumented immigrants deeper underground and intensify their fugitive status, which will simply increase their exploitability and whatever adverse impact they have on U.S. workers.

The three-tier legalization program is absurdly complex, unworkable, and will likely not include even half the undocumented people already residing permanently in the U.S. No more than 3 million immigrants (according to IRCA data) will qualify for tier one legalization based upon more than five years of continuous residence. Even these immigrants will only obtain 'temporary' status for eight years (given current visa backlogs of over 20 years), and will wait about 16-18 years to become citizens and be able to vote for the first time. Relatively few migrants will ever qualify for permanent residence under the second tier 'temporary worker' and third tier 'guest worker' programs because they will not have the necessary family relationships or qualifying low-skilled jobs to win permanent resident status. For those who do succeed, they must wait over 20 years before they can become citizens and participate in the democratic process. This is an obstacle course to legalization and citizenship, not a reasonable path.

The Senate's interior enforcement provisions will criminalize all immigrants who entered the country unlawfully, although making them guilty of misdemeanors, rather than felonies as proposed by the House in the Sensenbrenner bill. Evading inspection is made a 'continuous' crime that doesn't end until the immigrant is 'discovered.' With other provisions and laws that encourage local police to get involved in immigration enforcement, the criminalization of those who enter without inspection will result in mass warrantless arrests and detentions of Latino and other people of color in communities throughout the country.

The Senate bill also criminalizes the use of false or altered documents to obtain jobs, and makes any immigrant who worked using someone else's name or social security number ineligible for visas in the future. These provisions will impact most undocumented workers. They will become criminals because they used someone else's name or documents to obtain employment in order to survive and feed their families. They will be ineligible for visas in the future, but are unlikely to ever leave the country. These provisions, like many other iron-fist measures in the bill, will not force people to leave the country. These measures will simply drive immigrants deeper underground, make them more exploitable, and over the next several years bloat the size of the undocumented population.

The Senate bill overturns recent Supreme Court decisions in order to permit the 'indefinite detention' of immigrants believed to be removable. It forces immigrants to abandon their right to appeal erroneous deportation decisions in order to preserve their right to 'voluntary departure.' It makes it even more difficult for legitimate asylum seekers to win protection from deportation to countries where they face torture and imprisonment. It broadens the definition of 'aggravated felonies' to crimes that are neither felonies or aggravated, and then provides for mandatory detention and deportation of all such 'felons' regardless of their present immigration status or length of residence in the country. It will cause the deportation of thousands of immigrants who have United States citizen children. It also strips the federal courts of their historic role in reviewing and correcting unlawful policies enforced by immigration officials in violation of laws enacted by Congress, as well as erroneous decisions reached in individual cases. These court-stripping measures will permit prejudice, ignorance of the laws, and even wide-scale lawlessness to permeate the decisions and policies of immigration officials.

If the Senate bill included only its legalization provisions, as flawed and short-sighted as they are, we would support such a bill as offering something that was better than nothing. If the bill offered only the Dream Act to legalize the status of certain immigrant students, we would fully endorse it. If the bill included only provisions to increase the availability of visas and reduce the current massive visa backlogs, we would unquestionably support it. However, as presently constructed, the bill offers a hopelessly flawed legalization as a velvet glove to some immigrants, and a sledge-hammer approach to all other immigrants. This approach may grant something akin to indentured servitude to a few million immigrants, but it will drive the majority, as well as new entrants, far deeper underground, intensify their fugitive status, increase their exploitability, and over time substantially expand the size of the undocumented population. That's a combination that we, as a human rights organization, are bound to reject.

National Immigrant Solidarity Network
No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights!

Los Angeles: (213)403-0131
New York: (212)330-8172
Washington DC: (202)595-8990

The National Immigrant Solidarity Network (NISN) is a coalition of immigrant rights, labor, human rights, religious, and student activist organizations from across the country. We work with leading immigrant rights, students and labor groups. In solidarity with their campaigns, and organize community immigrant rights education campaigns.

From legislative letter-writing campaigns to speaker bureaus and educational materials, we organize critical immigrant-worker campaigns that are moving toward justice for all immigrants!


Rules Collide With Reality in the Immigration Debate: May 29, 2006

MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. — Six years after he came here from Mexico, David E. has a steady job in a poultry plant, a tidy mobile home and a minivan. Some days he almost forgets that he does not have legal documents to be in this country. David's precarious success reflects the longtime disconnect between the huge number of Mexican immigrants the American economy has absorbed and the much smaller number the immigration system has allowed to enter legally.

Like many Mexicans, David — who spoke in Spanish and whose last name is being withheld because he feared being fired or deported — was drawn by the near-certain prospect of work when he made his stealthy passage across the desert border in Arizona to this town among the cucumber fields of eastern North Carolina.

"If I had the resources and the connections to apply to come legally," said David, 37, "I wouldn't need to leave Mexico to work in this country."

In the foundering immigration system being debated in Congress, immigration from Mexico is a critically broken part and, researchers and analysts say, central to any meaningful fix. By big margins, Mexican workers have been the dominant group coming to the United States over the last two decades, yet Washington has opened only limited legal channels for them, and has then repeatedly narrowed those channels.

"People ask: Why don't they come legally? Why don't they wait in line?" said Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization in Washington. "For most Mexicans, there is no line to get in."

The United States offers 5,000 permanent visas worldwide each year for unskilled laborers. Last year, two of them went to Mexicans. In the same year, about 500,000 unskilled Mexican workers crossed the border illegally, researchers estimate, and most of them found jobs.

"We have a neighboring country with a population of 105 million that is our third-largest trading partner, and it has the same visa allocation as Botswana or Nepal," said Douglas S. Massey, a sociology professor at Princeton.

Several guest worker programs exist for Mexicans to come temporarily to the United States. But there is general agreement that those programs are inefficient, and employers often avoid them.
The 11.6 million people born in Mexico who now live in the United States account for one-third of all residents who were born overseas, census figures show. About six million of the Mexican immigrants are here illegally, more than half of all the illegal immigrants in the country, Professor Passel estimated.

For generations, starting with the Bracero program in the 1950's, Mexican men came to the United States to work for a few months each year before returning home to their families. But in the last 20 years, Mexicans "have settled in the United States; they have kids born here," said Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. "Clearly there are some migrants who attempt to maintain an economic foothold in Mexico," Mr. Cornelius said. "But their main project is to build their lives in the United States."

And so communities of illegal Mexican immigrants have sprung up in places like Mount Olive, a town far from the border with a famous pickle factory and a population of 5,000. Grocery stores on country roadsides carry corn tortillas — authentic ones imported from Mexico. A Pentecostal church has services in Spanish only, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patroness, is a common image on key chains and mobile home walls.

In North Carolina, the immigrant population has nearly tripled since 1990, the biggest increase of any state in the nation, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group in Washington. By far the biggest group of new immigrants in the state is illegal Mexicans.

Stephen P. Gennett, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, which represents commercial builders, said Mexican immigrants filled an important gap in the labor market. "We have a problem here: a people shortage," Mr. Gennett said. "In the 90's, we began to feel the stress of an inadequate work force," he said. "The Hispanics have been filling those jobs."

As Mexican immigration has accelerated, the United States has cut back on the permanent-resident visas available to unskilled Mexicans and shifted the system progressively away from an emphasis on labor, to favor immigrants with family ties to American citizens or legal residents, or who have highly specialized job skills.

The Bracero program was closed in the mid-1960's. In 1976, Congress imposed an annual limit of 20,000 permanent visas on each country in the Western Hemisphere, including Mexico. In 1978, in 1980 and again in the 1990's, further changes resulted in reductions of resident visas for Mexican workers.

In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement unleashed a surge of cross-border trade and travel, but at the same time the United States initiated the first in a series of measures to reinforce the border with Mexico to block the passage of illegal workers.

For Mexicans who try to immigrate legally, the line can seem endless. A Mexican who has become a naturalized United States citizen and wants to bring an adult son or daughter to live here faces a wait of at least 12 years, State Department rosters show. The wait is as long as seven years for a legal resident from Mexico who wants to bring a spouse and young children.

Although David E. graduated from a Mexican university, he does not have an advanced degree, a rare skill or family ties to a legal United States resident that might have made him eligible for one of the scarce permanent visas.

Instead, he said, after he despaired of finding work at a decent wage in his home city, Veracruz, he discovered an alternative immigration system, the well-tried underground network of word-of-mouth connections. Contacts he made through the network helped him to make the trek to Arizona, traverse the country in a van loaded with illegal Mexicans and land a job eviscerating turkeys at a poultry plant in Mount Olive three weeks after he arrived. David has been at the plant ever since, rising to become the chief of an assembly line but still working as much as 12 hours a day on a red-eye shift that ends at 3 a.m. From time to time he has made inquiries about becoming legal. But he said he was detained twice by the Border Patrol when he first tried to cross into the United States, and with that record, he feared that any approach to the immigration authorities might end in deportation.

Juvencio Rocha Peralta, the president of the Mexican Association of North Carolina, an advocacy group, said Mexicans felt trapped in a system that seemed contradictory. "You make us break the law because you don't give us an opportunity to be legal," said Mr. Peralta, who came here as an illegal farm worker years ago but was granted amnesty in 1986 and is now a naturalized American citizen. "You take my labor, but you don't give me documents."

Not far from here, on the outskirts of Raleigh at the Foxhall Village mobile home park, with its orderly grid of streets, illegal immigration is an open secret. Most residents are Mexicans who have been in North Carolina for a decade or more. Many work two jobs, and many are making payments to buy the mobile homes they occupy. In April, many residents, galvanized by disputes over rent increases with the mobile home park management, joined the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn, and staged a protest march. More than a dozen residents who gathered for a boisterous conversation at the park on May 16 acknowledged their illegal status, but said they had to risk coming forward to resolve their fight with park managers.

One park resident, Blanca Florián, 30, whose husband is a skilled construction worker, said she feared losing her mobile home if she did not speak up. "I can't be hiding any longer," Ms. Florián said.


Immigrant detentions irk some + Butler sheriff draws advocates' criticism:
Monday, May 29, 2006

HAMILTON - Organizations that advocate for immigrants and for civil rights have lashed out at the Butler County sheriff for detaining 18 alleged illegal immigrants, calling his move unconstitutional, racial profiling and beyond his authority.

Scott Greenwood, a lawyer for the Cincinnati chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Sheriff Rick Jones has exposed the county to a potential lawsuit that could cost tens of thousands in damages. "It's a national problem that requires a national solution, not vigilante activity. And that's really all the Butler County sheriff is doing," Greenwood said.

Not so, says Jones, who has continued to investigate the employer of the alleged illegal immigrants and says the federal immigration system is so bogged down in bureaucracy, it's basically impotent.

For instance, he said, just the other day a man claiming to be an illegal immigrant tried to turn himself in at the jail.

Deputies called the Cincinnati office of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement but agents there said they couldn't come get him. He would have to turn himself in to them in downtown Cincinnati, the sheriff said.

"What if we stop bin Laden?" the sheriff wants to know. "What are we supposed to do? Say, 'Oh, you can go right on, sir, have a nice day. And stop by ICE's office and maybe turn yourself in.' It's gotten that ridiculous."

Last week, Jones was criticized after the Hispanic men were taken into custody and questioned at length. Deputies had been called to a reported fight among work crews at a Wayne Township home construction site. Deputies said some of the Hispanic men presented obviously false identification. Others had no identification, they said. And when asked, all the men admitted to being illegal immigrants, deputies said. So, the sheriff's office took them to jail. But Jones had to release the men later that night because local law enforcement cannot enforce federal immigration laws.

The sheriff's department does continue to investigate the men's employer, and raided an office last week. Jones says he has the authority to investigate because he suspects state tax laws may have been violated.

ICE conducts detailed investigations - like the recent case involving Northern Kentucky-based Fischer Homes - not random job site checks, said Richard Wilkens, resident agent in charge of Cincinnati's office. They lack the staff to do them. About 50 ICE agents cover all of Ohio, and they also investigate child pornography and some narcotics cases, he said.

Some Butler County officials and residents say last week's episode underscores their concern: that the federal government has been charged with enforcing immigration laws, but won't.

"Even the ICE people are in a bad position. They understand the unspoken policy is 'Don't ask, don't tell, don't act,' " Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox said. "So they have to keep a balance between appearing to enforce the law while not creating too many problems."

Wilkens disputes that. "We are out there everyday," Wilkens said. "You may not see us all the time but we are out there working."

Meanwhile on Sunday, several immigrant groups called a news conference to criticize Jones.

"Illegal harassment of workers has broken up families, left women and children alone, shut down business operations and brought the country face-to-face with the abuse of power to deny people their basic human rights," says Sylvia Castellanos of the Cincinnati-based CODEDI, the Coalición por los Derechos y la Dignidad de los Inmigrantes - the Immigrant Rights and Dignity Coalition of Ohio.

Representatives from at least four immigrant groups from around the state held the press conference in Hamilton outside of the Butler County Jail. They claim the sheriff's office has engaged in persistent, illegal, harassment of Latino workers, including threatening to stop Latino-looking individuals to check for driver's licenses, confiscate vehicles and deliver them to the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

These actions are unconstitutional and are outside the jurisdiction of the office of the sheriff, but this hasn't stopped the threats, Castellanos said. The result, she added, has been than many people are afraid to go to work, to church, to buy food. Some employers have shut down temporarily because of lack of workers.

Jeff Stewart, with the Immigrant Worker Project in central Ohio, said of the sheriff, "Serious people are debating a solution to the issues of this broken immigrant system. ... He is engaged in intimidating the community and grandstanding. Immigration is a federal issue. There's a process for local authorities to be authorized to enforce immigration law. As far as we know, the sheriff of Butler County has not gone through this process."

What's more, he said, many sheriffs and police departments across the country have spoken against having a role in enforcing immigration law, because it compromises their public safety role. The immigrant community, Stewart said, will be hesitant to report crimes to law officers, which creates problems for the entire community.


Immigration Rights Protest In Butler County: May 28, 2006

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Butler County has been getting a lot of attention for its sheriff's controversial crackdown on illegal immigration. Sheriff Richard Jones has billed the federal government for the cost of jailing illegal immigrants and has even rounded up and detained some illegal immigrants who were working at a construction site. Some of those who say he's gone too far voiced their opposition outside the jail Sunday night.

About a dozen members of a group called the Coalition for the Dignity and Rights of Immigrants held a small protest outside the Butler County jail Sunday night. They're accusing the sheriff of harassing illegal immigrants as well as saying that he is over-stepping his authority.

"Now is the time for Latinos," said said Beatriz Maya, one of the protesters."We are the new immigrants. We are here to contribute. We are going to make this country better," said Maya, "just give us a chance."

"We work. We are hard-working people," said Sylvia Castellanos, one of the protest organizers. "We contribute to the economy of this country, to the other countries. We want our families to live in dignity," said Castellanos.

Dignity is what this group of protesters says all immigrants -- whether legal or not -- deserve.

They stood across the street from the Butler County jail Sunday night -- a jail where there is a sign out front that says, "Illegal Aliens Here" -- to say that Sheriff Richard Jones has gone too far.

Jones has drawn national attention for billing the federal government more than $150,000 since last year to cover jail costs for illegal immigrants charged with crimes. And just in the last couple of weeks his deputies detained 18 men who admitted to being here illegally. The sheriff's department was called to a home-building site on the report of a fight when they discovered the illegal immigrants. But deputies had to release them that night because local law enforcement does not have the authority to detain illegal immigrants unless they're charged with a crime.

Another controversial crackdown on illegal immigration in Butler County is one proposed by county commissioner Michael Fox. It would require homebuilders to sign pledges that they will not hire illegal immigrants and the county would enforce it by conducting random spot checks.
"We're directing it not towards immigrants, we're directing to those that are here illegally" said Fox, "but more importantly, those who hiring them. I mean, I just don't wanna round up everybody and put them on a bus and send them back," said Fox.

"What I want to do, is protect this country, enforce our laws, and bring some sanity out of the chaos that we're dealing with," said Fox, "so that the costs that our community is bearing, and across this country, is off our backs."

Fox says it costs taxpayers in Butler County over a half-million dollars a year just to jail illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) already has its eyes on that proposal, calling it illegal and in violation of civil rights. There will be meetings about that proposal in the next few weeks, and it will be one that will be watched not only by the Tri-state but also across the country, as well as across the border by our neighboring countries. So as the national debate on immigration reform rages on, the spotlight remains on Butler County.


Protections for pineros inserted into immigration reform bill
By Tom Knudson -- Bee Staff Writer
Published Saturday, May 27, 2006

An amendment approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday as part of its sweeping immigration reform package would make it easier for Latino forest laborers toiling legally in the United States as guest workers to battle abusive employers in court.

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, amendment No. 4055 -- informally known as the pinero amendment -- would allow such workers to seek help from federally funded legal aid lawyers, a right now available only to guest workers in agriculture.

Guest workers who labor in the woods planting trees and thinning brush, on public and private land, "have been asked to come to the United States because of a labor shortage," Bingaman said this week on the Senate floor. "They are here legally. They pay U.S. taxes."

His move is the outgrowth of a November series published in The Bee, "The Pineros: Men of the Pines," that reported widespread wage exploitation and hazardous working conditions among Latino forest workers.

A hearing on the issue was held in March before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. At the hearing, "We heard that making H2-B forestry workers eligible for legal aid is the single most effective thing Congress could do to address the problem of exploitation of forestry workers," Bingaman told the Senate.

Michael Dale, executive director of the Northwest Workers' Justice Project in Portland who testified at the hearing and advocated just such a fix, reacted positively to Bingaman's action. "I think it's great," Dale said.

Bingaman's amendment was folded into a larger package of generally noncontroversial amendments and approved by the bill's bipartisan sponsors, Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Its fate remains uncertain because the Senate bill, which calls for an expanded guest-worker program and a path to legalization for millions of undocumented workers, must now be reconciled with a more conservative House immigration bill.

Scott Miller, a legislative aide for Bingaman, said the amendment is a small piece of the debate over immigration reform but an important one for pineros, who are among the country's most neglected work forces.

"This will be the first domino that, after three decades, will clean up the industry," Miller said.
About the writer:
The Bee's Tom Knudson can be reached at (530) 582-5336 or

NOTE: See the great Sacramento Bee Report:
The Pineros: Men of the Pines {Part I ~ Part 2 ~ Part 4}


Administration: Border troops will be armed when appropriate: May 24, 2006
By Gordon Trowbridge / Times staff writer

National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border will not chase down illegal immigrants or drug smugglers, but will be armed when appropriate and allowed to defend themselves if necessary, Bush administration officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“It is our expectation that as appropriate, they will be armed and there will be uniform rules on the use of force,” Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, told the House Armed Services Committee. The Bush administration plans to send as many as 6,000 Air and Army National Guard troops to the border, with the first guardsmen arriving as soon as June 1.

Wednesday’s hearing highlighted the politically charged atmosphere into which those troops will deploy. Republicans, including Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana, pushed McHale and other officials to give Guard troops broad authority to pursue and detain those crossing the border illegally, while several Democrats said they were concerned that putting military personnel on the border would send a chilling message to Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Hostettler said he believed immigrant smugglers and other criminal elements on the border had armed themselves with grenade launchers and heavy machine guns. He asked if Guard troops be allowed to engage in combat against such elements, if the Guard could pursue suspects across the border, and if anyone they seized could be treated as an enemy combatant — the same legal classification the Bush administration has used to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, who spent 26 years in the U.S. Border Patrol. “I used to find it amusing — now I find it dangerous — that people from Indiana and Florida and Colorado and Ohio have all the answers when it comes to border security,” Reyes said. “When people describe the border as being a DMZ … I think they should be called to account for that.”

For their part, Pentagon and border security officials told lawmakers that Guard troops would not be involved in directly policing the border. Instead, they will help free Border Patrol personnel from administrative duties, help build roads and barriers across the border and provide transportation and intelligence assistance to the Border Patrol.

NNIRR Statement: Fair and Just Immigration Reform for All: April 2006


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