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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

domingo, junio 25, 2006

6-25-2006: Immigrant-Rights-Agenda Report

1 comentario

Table of Contents: Links to Original Articles
National Grassroots Immigrant Strategy Conference
Friday - Sunday July 28-30, 2006
At Front Line of Immigration Debate = Sunday, June 25, 2006
Immigrant detention plan blasted = June 25, 2006
In LA and NYC: Activists plan immigrant rights campaign
Gov. Refuses Bush Request for Border Troops = June 24, 2006
Immigrant-Rights Activist Slaps Opponent, San Bernardino Police Say
= June 24, 2006
Nine face charges after raid = Saturday, June 24, 2006
Migrant rules, official English go to ballot = Jun. 22, 2006
Immigration forum tonight: Thursday, June 22, 2006
GLOBE EDITORIAL: Rethinking immigration: June 21, 2006
Troopers would arrest immigrants: Romney seeks federal OK to expand powers = June 21, 2006
Campaigners win broad support to place SEP candidate on ballot in California By Joe Kay = 21 June 2006
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ and,0,1459397,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines
GOP's Call for Hearings Puts Immigration Overhaul in Limbo:
Wednesday 21 June 2006
Black-Latino Summit Way Too Tame -- Next Time, Invite Gang Bangers, Black Minutemen = Jun 21, 2006
Mexican and Central American Labor: The Crux of the Immigration Issue in the U.S. = 20/06/06
Labor, Immigrant Rights Groups Call for Justice at World's Largest Pork Processing Plant = Tuesday June 20, 2006
Rally calls for immigrant rights: Mon, Jun. 19, 2006
New developments in immigrant rights struggle
= Mon, Jun. 19, 2006
Immigration rights advocates contemplate their next steps: Mon, Jun. 19, 2006

At Front Line of Immigration Debate = Sunday, June 25, 2006
Ariz. Governor Favors Tough Enforcement But Humane Treatment
By John Pomfret / Washington Post Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Two decades ago, lawyer Janet Napolitano represented a Tucson church battling an investigation into whether it smuggled illegal immigrants into the United States from Central America. In 1990, a federal appeals court ruled the Immigration and Naturalization Service could not send undercover informants into the Southside Presbyterian Church services on mere fishing expeditions to try to gather intelligence.

Over the next 20 years, Napolitano served as U.S. attorney for Arizona, as the state's attorney general and, since 2002, as governor. Now Napolitano's old clients view her as a defector, in the words of John Fife, the former pastor of Southside Presbyterian, who led what was called the sanctuary movement for illegal immigrants.

The Immigration Debate:
The Washington Post's coverage of the immigration issue, from the politics of revising the nation's immigration laws to the impact of illegal immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border and the Washington region.

Among the nation's top Democrats, Napolitano has developed some of the toughest policies against illegal immigration. She was one of the first major politicians to call for deployment of the National Guard along the border and declared a state of emergency in her state's counties nearest Mexico. She has aggressively pursued smugglers in Arizona. In February, she joined with Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) to outline a plan for immigration reform that called for more funding for border security, more visas for foreign workers and no blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Her Republican critics here, however, say she has not gone nearly far enough and has routinely blocked legislative efforts against illegal immigration.

Napolitano's transformation from crusading lawyer to a tough-minded governor is reflective of the political reality of Arizona, which, more than any other state, has become the battleground for what the nation should do about illegal immigration. And her too-tough for some, not-tough-enough for others stance reflects the political difficulties the issue presents here.

In Arizona's congressional delegation, conservative Republican J.D. Hayworth of Scottsdale wants to place troops on the Mexican border, while liberal Democrat Raul M. Grijalva of Tucson favors granting citizenship to many illegal immigrants. In Maricopa County around Phoenix, the sheriff has begun arresting suspected illegal immigrants on smuggling charges, while to the south in Pima County, the school superintendent is defying a state order to reveal how many children of illegal immigrants are in the school district.

"We've got all kinds here," said Robin Hoover, head of Humane Borders, a Tucson-based interfaith organization devoted to stopping deaths among illegal immigrants as they cross the desert. "We've got people who all say they want to save America -- and they're fighting like cats and dogs."

At the center of the debate is Napolitano, a native New Yorker raised in Albuquerque, who is running for reelection. Despite being a Democrat in a state where the legislature is controlled by Republicans, she boasts an approval rating of 60 percent. Napolitano was on Sen. John F. Kerry's list of possible running mates in 2004, and, in 2005, Time magazine named her one of the nation's five best governors.

"My challenge is to devise a policy that makes Arizonans confident that some things are being done," Napolitano said, "without going overboard and just throwing money at the problem to make it look like I'm 'tough,' whatever that means."

Despite sharing a 350-mile-long border with Mexico, Arizona was not always a frontline state in the immigration debate. For decades, California and Texas bore the brunt of illegal immigration through San Diego and El Paso. In the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration built walls and launched enforcement efforts around both cities, and the illegal flow shifted to Arizona's deserts. Federal authorities promised a similar enforcement program for Arizona, Napolitano said, but it never happened.

"The thing was allowed to fester and fester and fester," Napolitano said. "Not only did the traffic move to Arizona, but it was left untended by the feds for so long, you had this growing public frustration and perception that control of the border in Arizona had been lost."

Napolitano said her views on immigration began to change during her tenure as U.S. attorney in the mid-1990s with the crush of immigrant smuggling cases.

Ruth Ann Myers, who led the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Arizona from the days when Napolitano was battling her agency in court through the beginning of Napolitano's tenure as U.S. attorney, recalled Napolitano's transformation. "As U.S. attorney," Myers said, "she was very enforcement-minded."

In recent years, the Border Patrol estimated that more than 6,650 people were attempting to cross into Arizona from Mexico every day and an estimated 4,000 were succeeding. The state's hospitals were routinely handing out tens of millions of dollars in free medical care to ailing illegal immigrants, according to state data, and the Medicaid bill ballooned from $200 million in 2001 to $1.2 billion in 2003, at least partly because of illegal immigration.

While toughening her stance on the border, Napolitano has also opposed what she terms "inhumane" restrictions on illegal immigrants. In 2004, Arizonans passed Proposition 200, which directed the state to stop all non-federally mandated assistance to illegal immigrants. Since then, Arizona's attorney general, with Napolitano's support, has ruled that the law only pertains to discretionary state programs and not to federally funded entitlements such as food stamps and subsidized school lunches. The proposition's backers have sued the state to demand what they call full implementation. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the legislature voted to let voters decide whether to deny more state services, such as state-funded child care, to illegal immigrants, and whether to make English the state's official language. Napolitano opposes both measures.

"This governor has dragged her feet and tried to stop all improvement and changes with respect to illegal immigration problems within the state," charged Randy Pullen, a Republican activist who was among those suing Napolitano. "She talks a great story, but she believes in open borders. Every time we try to get something done, she vetoes it."

These days, Napolitano finds herself back in the position of a gadfly to the feds -- the same feds she sued 20 years ago and then led, as U.S. attorney, in the 1990s. Napolitano says she was forced to take a tougher stance on immigration because she, like many state politicians in the West, believes "our federal immigration policy is broken." Still, she blasted the idea of simply increasing border security without a comprehensive solution that involves Mexico and new regulations on visas and employers.

"We're not going to seal the border; we can't," she said, referring to vast stretches of forbidding desert. "When I hear congressional and media people saying, 'Shut the border,' I think to myself, 'They've never seen the border.' You can't possibly have been to the Arizona-Mexico border and believe that is possible."


Immigrant detention plan blasted = June 25, 2006
NEW YORK -- The sweeping immigration bills in Congress would add thousands of beds to the patchwork network of detention facilities that hold illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers -- places that critics say are over-costly and under-regulated.

Already, activists say, far too many non-threatening people are held for too long in demoralizing conditions.

"I'm not against homeland security," said Edward Neepaye, a pastor and human-rights campaigner from Liberia who was detained in New Jersey for four months. "But the greatest nation on earth must come up with a remedy that accords immigrants some respect, rather than throwing them in jail like animals."

On any given day, the system overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has about 21,000 people in custody -- most for a few weeks, some for years.

Some, like Neepaye, are asylum seekers; others are illegal immigrants or foreigners who had U.S. residence cards but face deportation because of run-ins with the law.

More than 200,000 people are detained over the course of a year in any of three types of facilities. ICE runs eight of the facilities itself. For-profit companies run six, and 57% of the detainees are held in 312 county and municipal jails that have won lucrative federal contracts. Advocacy groups call it a hodgepodge system that is expensive and difficult to monitor.

"ICE hasn't done a good job with the facilities they directly manage, much less the ones they contract out," said Judith Greene, a New York-based prison expert. "Talking about doubling or tripling this system, without some kind of restructuring, is a recipe for a nightmare."

ICE defends its performance, saying it has reduced the average detention from 90 days to 20 days as it speeds deportation proceedings. Gary Mead, an assistant director of ICE's detention and deportation division, said the agency has 300 inspectors who examine each facility annually to ensure standards are upheld. At least two have lost contracts because of shortcomings. The Department of Homeland Security, ICE's parent agency, says it needs 35,000 more detention beds to hold all the illegal immigrants awaiting deportation.

As of Dec. 30, there were 544,000 such people who had absconded. ICE blamed the bed shortage for fueling what they termed "an unofficial mini-amnesty" for high-risk aliens.


In LA and NYC: Activists plan immigrant rights campaign
By Heather Cottin = Jun 24, 2006 8:53 AM

Activists on both coasts met on June 17 to launch a summer of struggle for immigrant rights and worker unity. The March 25th Coalition in Los Angeles and the May 1 Coalition in New York convened planning conferences to address Washington’s reactionary policies, which are geared to incite racism and worker disunity in the U.S.

The two coalitions have been working in tandem since early spring to build a national movement. They helped organize millions to march on May Day for immigrant rights.

They are putting forward a slate of demands: full legalization of all undocumented persons; no border walls; no detention and deportation of immigrants; protection of civil rights for all; no “guest worker” slave labor program; opposition to the “criminalization” of immigrants; full worker rights for all; reunification measures for immigrant families; repeal of sanctions on employers of undocumented workers; and no to both the Sensenbrenner bill (HR-4437) and the Hegel-Martinez bill (S-2611).

The New York conference met at a school in Jackson Heights, Queens, a community of diverse nationalities from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America. It broke down into committees that addres sed legal, economic and social issues.

One group discussed opposition to so-called free trade agreements, specifically the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Together with the World Trade Organization and “structural adjust ment” programs imposed by the Inter national Monetary Fund, these mechanisms have increased poverty and unemployment all over the world and have forced millions of people to migrate from their home lands to more developed countries while enriching the transnational corporations.

This committee also went on record opposing the 1947 Taft-Hartley Bill, which the CIO has dubbed a “slave labor act.”

Legalized slave labor is an intrinsic part of the immigration bills presently before Congress. It is the reason Washington wants a so-called “guest worker” program. Congressional collaborators with capital are looking to bring back the Bracero Program under which millions of Mexican farm workers provided low-wage labor in U.S. fields for more than two decades after World War II. This push to resurrect a system of legalized slavery is designed to provide cheap labor for everything from megastores to meatpacking, from farm labor to food preparation, from construction to landscaping.

“The immigrant rights issue is a workers’ issue,” said Brenda Stokely, a leader of the Million Worker March Movement who headed the New York workshop on building alliances with labor unions. Vicente “Panama” Alba of Local 108, Labor ers’ International Union of North America, spoke of strengthening unity with anti-war, environmental and other progressive groups. Many have been slow to take up the cause of immigrant rights.

The May 1 Coalition intends to produce literature exposing the reactionary and racist campaign against immigrants and showing how the Hagel-Martinez bill would declare war on the undocumented. The bill could lead to imprisonment and deportation for millions of workers and their families. It is engineered to divide the immigrants, deporting millions while promising legal residency to others who have lived here for over five years. But anyone who ever used false identification could be punished by deportation. As Beatriz, a Colombian from the Legali zation Workshop, said, “Just about everyone who came here without documents obtained fake papers to get a job.”

The conference ended with a plan to endorse national demonstrations for immigrant rights on July 15 and to support the National Grassroots Immigrant Stra tegy Conference, July 28-30, at American University in Washington, D.C.

The March 25th Coalition in Los Angeles devoted its planning conference to organizing a summer of protest. A teach-in on immigration will be held on July 15, followed by a rally in late July in support of day laborers. The coalition is also planning a rally in solidarity with the Black community at UCLA. The state has cut back affirmative action programs so drastically that Black enrollment at the university is at record lows.

The March 25th Coalition will join unions and unorganized workers in the Labor Day march in Los Angeles in what they hope will be part of a national day of protest and support for immigrant and worker unity.


Gov. Refuses Bush Request for Border Troops = June 24, 2006
Concerned about overextending the state's National Guard forces, Schwarzenegger won't send 1,500 more soldiers to assist federal agents.
By Peter Nicholas, Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said Friday that he turned down a White House request to more than double the number of California National Guard troops that will be deployed to the border, fearing the commitment could leave the state vulnerable if an earthquake or wildfire erupts.

Three weeks ago, Schwarzenegger and the Bush administration worked out a written agreement in which the state would send 1,000 troops to the Mexican border as part of a 6,000-strong deployment aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

On Wednesday, the Bush administration asked the governor's office for 1,500 more soldiers. The additional troops were to be sent to Arizona and New Mexico, according to a California National Guard official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Schwarzenegger took less than a day to give his answer: No.

"The governor did not feel that it was appropriate to send additional Guard out of state," said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's communications director.

A White House spokesman suggested Friday night that Schwarzenegger's position could disrupt the Bush administration timetable for fortifying the border with National Guard troops. Under that deadline, the 6,000 National Guard soldiers from different states are to be in place by Aug. 1, assisting federal Border Patrol agents.
"We are reviewing how this decision by California's governor may affect the overall deployment schedule of National Guard troops to the border as part of 'Operation Jump Start,' " said Blain Rethmeier, a White House spokesman.

Asked why the Bush administration wanted more troops from California, Rethmeier referred the question to National Guard officials in Washington, who were not immediately available Friday night for comment.

Soon after Bush announced a plan in May to use National Guard troops to shore up the border, Schwarzenegger made it plain that he was unhappy about the operation.

He said he would agree to dispatch soldiers only if certain conditions were met. He capped the number of troops to be sent and insisted on a two-year deadline for their return, predicting that any kind of open-ended commitment would stretch for years and possibly decades.

It was a carefully crafted position that seemed mindful of the larger political context.
Though the role envisioned for the Guard is rather mundane — repairing trucks, fixing roads and operating surveillance cameras — the deployment has been swept up in a volatile mix of immigration politics and campaign strategy.

Schwarzenegger is running for reelection this year — at a time when his support among Latino voters is sagging. Recent polls show Schwarzenegger has the support of 25% of Latino voters — 7 points below what he received in the 2003 recall election.
If the governor aligns himself with the part of his Republican base that wants tougher measures to police the border, he risks offending Latino voters. Schwarzenegger doesn't want to be seen as militarizing the border.

Yet a Schwarzenegger mantra is that the border is not secure — too easily breached by drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants. So it would have been awkward for him to refuse the president's initial plea for the 1,000 Guard troops.

This latest White House request is another matter. Polls show Bush's approval rating in California at record lows. By saying no to the president this week, Schwarzenegger demonstrates his independence from the president without seeming completely uncooperative.

Democratic officials said Friday that the back and forth between the White House and Schwarzenegger appears orchestrated.

Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-Southgate) said of Schwarzenegger, "This is a way of letting him have it both ways — having the National Guard there, but at the same time letting him be the bulwark against placing additional troops on the border."

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) offered a more qualified criticism. Nuñez commended the governor for turning down the request but said he should never have approved the deployment of troops in the first place.

"I'm glad the governor chose not to comply with the president's request," Nuñez said. He added that it was a mistake to relinquish "any of our National Guardsmen when just around the corner we have the summer wildfires looking us square in the eye."

Schwarzenegger, too, worries about stretching the Guard too thin, a spokeswoman said. The California Guard numbers about 20,000 troops. About 2,200 are posted overseas. Assigning 1,000 to the border wouldn't jeopardize California's safety, state Guard leaders said at a recent news conference. But sending an additional 1,500 troops to the border might prove risky, press secretary Margita Thompson said.
She said the state needs to have enough Guard troops in place in the event of a disaster. Another concern was disrupting the training of Guard troops by sending more to the border, she said. With the election approaching, Schwarzenegger's opponent isn't buying it.

Bob Mulholland, an advisor to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, said: "This so-called request [from the White House] was a phony political request to try to give Schwarzenegger political cover: 'Look it. I'm standing up to Bush.' But last week Schwarzenegger was a French poodle in Bush's lap — authorizing 1,000 stressed-out, overextended National Guard members to spend weeks and months at the border, even though many of them have done two tours in Iraq."

Schwarzenegger's campaign office declined to comment, referring questions to the governor's state staff.


Immigrant-Rights Activist Slaps Opponent, San Bernardino Police Say = June 24, 2006

At a hearing for an anti-illegal immigrant ballot measure in San Bernardino, the two argue outside the courthouse
By Ashley Powers, Times Staff Writer

In another twist to the brewing battle over an anti-illegal immigrant ballot measure in San Bernardino, an immigrant-rights activist was cited for battery Friday after allegedly slapping the proposal's author following a court hearing on the measure.

Roberto Valentine, a member of the Riverside-based group National Alliance for Human Rights, was questioned by San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies after the incident outside the courthouse in San Bernardino. If convicted, he could be fined or jailed for the misdemeanor.

The confrontation began outside the chambers of Superior Court Judge A. Rex Victor, where several dozen people waited to learn the fate of a voter initiative that would ban illegal immigrants from renting apartments in San Bernardino.

San Bernardino's city attorney, who has requested that the measure remain on the ballot, asked for the court review because of questions raised about the number of required signatures.

After the judge announced that he would decide on Monday, the measure's sponsor, Joseph Turner, and several immigrant-rights activists began arguing in the hallway outside the courtroom. Sheriff's deputies escorted the group outside, where things escalated until Turner and Valentine were nearly nose-to-nose and Turner used an insult. Valentine reached for Turner and was blocked by others in the crowd, but then appeared to strike Turner on the cheek with an open palm.

The court hearing was the latest test for the proposal, which has angered immigrant-rights groups since Turner began the initiative petition process in October. His plan would effectively ban day-labor centers, punish employers who hire illegal immigrants and require city business to be conducted only in English. In May, Turner submitted the required 2,216 signatures, forcing the City Council to consider the measure.

A divided council rejected it, but under the City Charter the measure must then go on the ballot. However, a city resident has filed a challenge, contending that Turner needed more than double the number of signatures he had gathered.

The legal decision turns on the interpretation of the City Charter. The charter says a petitioner must gather enough signatures to equal 30% of voters "at the last preceding city election at which a mayor was elected."

When Turner began collecting signatures in the fall, San Bernardino officials determined that the "last preceding city election" was a November 2001 ballot that drew a mere 7,385 voters,

San Bernardino attorney Florentino Garza contends that the city should have used February's mayoral runoff election, because that balloting took place before Turner submitted his petitions for the initiative. If that election, in which 15,902 people cast ballots, were used, Turner would be required to gather 4,771 signatures.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Comment: This is one of the best analysis I have read so far, especially in terms of looking at the causes for migration and thinking outside the box ~in our case~ outside the borders of the continental United States. Between here and death we should boldly advocate and activate the toppling of the Amerikan Corporate Empire altogether!

How many immigrants regret coming out of the shadows only to be left in the spotlight without a strong Latino-Chicano Liberation Movement to keep the momentum going?

This whole immigration reform approach was weak, half-ass and liberal from the start and resulted in more fascist repression against undocumented immigrants.

Peta de Aztlan
Sacra, Califas

From: "Marianna Rivera" Email:
To: "'Arnoldo Garcia'" Email:,
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 10:58:09 -0700
From: [] On Behalf Of CIEPAC
Sent: Friday, June 23, 2006 9:03 AM
Subject: [Ciepac-i] English Chiapas al Dia 505

“Chiapas Today” Bulletin No. 505
May 12th, 2006


From the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, June 2005

We shall continue to struggle for the indigenous peoples of Mexico, but no longer solely for them nor solely with them, but for all the exploited and dispossessed of Mexico, with all of them, throughout the country. And when we say all the exploited of Mexico we are also speaking of our brothers and sisters who have had to go to the United States to seek work in order to survive.

From Vicente Fox, May 11, 2006, on an official state visit to Austria, before an audience at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna:
“The best option for a Mexican is to migrate to the United States.”[i]

SUMMARY: The recent marches and demonstrations of Latinos in the US announced the birth of a new movement in favor of migrants’ human and labor rights. Yet the demands articulated so far by the main pro-immigrants’ rights groups are limited in scope. They don’t address the push factors behind the emigration of thousands of migrants, e.g., the dysfunctional neoliberal economic policies promoted by the US, and supported by supine local governments. Given that the US is one of the principal backers of these policies, a growing Latino movement could and should redirect attention towards the root structural causes of migration.

In recent weeks millions of people demonstrated in numerous cities in the United States to repudiate the growing anti-migrant hysteria sweeping the country and the repressive migratory bills pending in the US congress. The response of Mexicans, Chicanos, Latin Americans, US citizens and migrants from diverse corners of the world broke records for the size of demonstrations in several cities.[ii] These past few weeks were a milestone for the US Latino population in particular. Their numbers, strength, presence, economic and boycott power, their rage and pride, finally became visible to the average “Anglo” American. Latinos are no longer the “secret” labor force that Time magazine portrayed on its cover on February 16, 2006, barely a month before the first signs of discontent appeared on the streets.

The record-breaking demonstrations were the response to measures proposed, and approved in some states, that repress and oppress the most recent wave of immigrants, of the many that the United States has received throughout its 230-year history. Now it’s the Latinos’ turn, particularly the Mexicans, to face growing xenophobic sentiments in the US. Demonstrations began on March 25, 2006, grew throughout April, and culminated with a successful “Day without Migrants” on May 1st when millions of people again took to the streets. Now, both documented and undocumented migrants are planning to establish a national coordinating body to press for legal reforms that guarantee respect for migrants’ human and labor rights.[iii]

Latinos in resistance:
The unity of millions of voices sent a message to Washington legislators: witch-hunts against migrants will provoke resistance and rebellion rather than subjugation. Repercussions were soon felt, since several repressive aspects of HR4437 (the Sensenbrenner bill) approved in the lower house were removed in the Senate version of the migratory reform bill. Yet compromise legislation between the lower and upper houses is pending and doubts exist whether an agreement will be reached before the present legislative session adjourns in the run up to the November 7 elections.

The main pro-migrant organizations in the US have pushed for reforms that will grant full rights to migrants. Migrants work in the US, contribute to the country’s economy, pay taxes and keep entire industries afloat that would otherwise flounder or disappear. Likewise, pro-migrants organizations are striving to insure that undocumented migrants are granted the opportunity to legalize their stay, bring close relatives from their country of origin and become US citizens if they so choose.

Still, the laws presently being debated in Congress are an unacceptable response to the migratory phenomenon. What is never debated in any country is the right to NOT have to migrate, e.g., the right to a decent life in one’s own country, entailing mainly a job at a decent wage. Without having to migrate under inhumane conditions in order to survive.

Some facts and figures help to understand that unless efforts are made to address the problem of why millions of people lack the right to NOT migrate, solutions will forever elude us. For example, some bills pending in the US congress contain provisions for the expansion of “guest worker” programs. The Martínez-Hagel amendment calls for the granting of 450,000 work visas every year.[iv] Hardly an adequate response. The amount might be satisfactory given the labor needs of US companies. Or it might be a politically convenient number given the anti-migrante sentiment prevailing in the US. But it has nothing to do with reality.

There is no way to know exactly how many people enter the US without documents. Migration-affairs analysts give widely varying figures that run from 800,000 to 2 million per year.[v] It is clear that an increase of 450,000 new work visas per year will not legalize more than a fraction of the migrants entering the US. So there will continue to be a significant migratory-worker population lacking full rights.

Even with these laws, migrants unable to obtain a visa will continue to face repression. In other words, no matter what sort of compromise legislation is hammered out in the US congress, qualitatively nothing will have changed. More work visas will mean that there will be less people who risk their lives crossing border deserts, rivers and mountains, but the migratory flow itself will continue unabated. It will not be stopped through more walls, more border patrol agents, or even the National Guard. The overwhelming majority of migrants have no choice. They will continue to try to cross until they are successful. Or die in the attempt.

An aspect missing in the pro-migratory debate in the US:
Doubtlessly the new Latino militancy in the US is a positive sign. But the limited nature of its discourse is, from our vantage point in Mexico, indeed perplexing. In a world of globalized economic relations, it is remarkable that US activists’ demands and alternatives are so shortsighted that they go no further than the US border.

The newly strengthened Latino movement in the US and the pro-migrants activists in general must incorporate a more global viewpoint, given its strategic location in the “belly of the empire”. For a quarter century the US has been the most aggressive promoter of economic policies that have failed to promote prosperity (except for large corporations), so it behooves the Latino movement to incorporate the causes, and not just the effects, in its proposals regarding emigration from Mexico and Central America.

The mass exodus has to do with neo-liberal economic policies that have tied the hands of countries in the global South, with the perverse agreement of its servile governments. In the name of “free trade”, these policies strictly forbid establishing or maintaining protections for the neediest sectors of the population, who are suddenly thrown into competition with foreign goods. This lack of protection has led to the ruin of family agriculture and has bankrupted companies of all sizes. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has left millions of Mexicans without work, and the same provisions were reproduced in the recently approved CAFTA.[vi]

These treaties aggravate unemployment and thus stimulate emigration, but their negotiated clauses say nothing about human displacement, apart from insisting that all countries have the right to defender borders as they see fit. In other words, there is absolute freedom for capital, goods and services to migrate, but absolute repression for labor migration.

These and other absurdities have led to attempts to renegotiate NAFTA. In Mexico a campesino (small landholder) movement “The Countryside Can’t Take Any More” was successful in questioning NAFTA, when 100,000 campesinos marched on Mexico City in December 2003 and January 2004. One called for the removal of the entire agricultural sector from NAFTA’s purview. Both the American and Canadian governments refused to even entertain the possibility. Unfortunately, conflicts within the movement led later to the weakening of the movement’s demands and to members disbanding.

In the US, there are few efforts within the pro-migrants’ rights discourse to link the migratory phenomenon to its economic roots and to propose alternatives. Demands made by the activist organizations, migrants and their allies who demonstrated a few weeks ago are of a political (not economic) nature, all framed within US legislation.

The demands made in the US are stopgaps ­in the best of cases­ for the effects of migration, carefully eschewing all discussion of the causes. We believe that policies that respond solely to the “pull” factors and not “push” ones are bound to fail. Further, this myopic viewpoint has an implicit interpretation: it’s as if the causes (current economic policies) were immutable, a “given”, that doesn’t merit attention. As if only the effects were worth bothering about.

In the mid to long-term, the Latino movement must incorporate a demand for changes in the economic policies that expel millions of people and prevent the exercise of a basic right of not having to migrate to survive. This more complete perspective would be an important step towards a “solution” to the enormous social costs of present economic and migratory policies.

Are we heading towards open borders?:
In today’s world, run by the rules of corporate globalization, we are witnessing the repetition of events that occurred centuries ago, when internal markets were created within countries by eliminating domestic tariffs on trade. Over time, the opening of national markets included the free movements of human beings, in order to match labor deficits in certain areas of the country with labor surpluses in other areas.

This same phenomenon is occurring today worldwide due to the globalization of capital. The free movement of capital, goods and services has enabled some markets to become totally integrated, but with repressive restrictions on the movement of labor. There are examples of integrated markets, such as the European Union, with free movement of human beings, as long as they are citizens of a country within the Union, but repression continues for those who enter without permission from outside.

Academics and specialists in migratory affairs review the tendencies of capitalism over the past 200 years and claim to see the future. They say that there will be free movement of human beings throughout the world within 50 years, again, in order to solve labor bottlenecks.[vii] Others even say that the free movement of people could exist now. But the “identities” created by nation-states, our sense of belonging to a “nationality”, as well as some current institutions will first need to be transformed. Still, these specialists argue that the needs of capitalism will take care of these details.[viii]

Specialists who favor open borders claim that some common fears are unsubstantiated. For example, open borders will not lead to the feared “invasions” of foreigners. Academics point to historic tendencies to back their views.

First, in general people do not want to migrate. They prefer to remain close to home, family, familiar customs and to the friends and social networks they have known since childhood. Open borders are not in themselves the main motive in deciding to migrate. Second, open borders would allow migrantes to return home. In general migrants choose not to move permanently, even when forced to do so given the lack of opportunities at home.[ix] They tend to leave for relatively brief periods to better their income or education, but with a goal of returning home. Open borders would permit this circulatory migration pattern. This tendency holds in Mexico’s case. When fewer restrictions existed to cross into the US, Mexican migrants spent less time there. Currently, harsher measures at the border have increasing the “cost” of crossing (both out-of-pocket expenses and the risk of losing one’s life) and brought results opposite to those sought by US authorities. Studies confirm that Mexicans and Central Americans are in effect opting to stay longer.[x]

Other common migration myths are similarly groundless: that migrants abuse social services of the receiving country, that salaries in the receiving country tend to drop due to the presence of large numbers of migrants with lower educational or training skills.

Alternatives to the current migratory conundrum would have to be framed in one of two ways. Within the prevailing system. Or outside of it. The two options lead to different possibilities, different strategies. If we accept the capitalist system and its historic tendencies as an inexorable “given”, then current corporative globalization is its next “logical” step. The hypothesis that capitalism will pry borders open in order to build one global marketplace ­including a single labor market­ seems likely. In other words the free movement of labor is a question of time. This then calls into question the billions of dollars that the US is throwing at the border to try to impede, oppress and repress the movement of human beings that, in the light of capitalism’s historic tendencies, is as “natural” as it is inevitable.

Remaining within this framework, US corporations are clamoring for the labor that migrants offer. So, in this sense, the “crime” is not so much that Mexicans and Central Americans are crossing the border into the US, but that huge and costly efforts are being made to stop them, with deadly results. The death of thousands of migrants along the border (at a rate of one or two per day) are thus the more tragic and unnecessary, given the fundamental contradiction between freedom for capital movement and repression for labor movement. But, fortunately, we believe the system is not immutable. Nor do we have to put up with its contradictions.

This leads us to the second option ­thinking outside of the prevailing capitalist model. Thinking of a future where governments first attend to the needs of the people, where resources flow first towards satisfying human needs, instead of facilitating corporations’ main objective of maximizing profits. A future where, yes, borders cease to exist, with unrestricted freedom for human mobility and creativity, but in an environment with adequate employment, health, education and housing conditions, where human beings will have the unrestricted liberty of NOT having to migrate in order to survive.

Alternatives exist. In fact, they abound. We include in an appendix herein one such alternative, which, if implemented, would strengthen the right to not migrate. It is the People’s Trade Treaty, originally proposed by Bolivia’s new president Evo Morales.

The Latino movement in the US and the “other world” movement in general must move beyond its reformist discourse and limited demands regarding the migratory phenomenon. To break out of this narrow framework, we believe there can be no more fruitful and stimulating meetings than the ones scheduled for the near future among activists and organizations in the US and the Zapatistas’ “Other Campaign” from Mexico, followed by the Intergalactic Forum (to be announced in the coming weeks).

Appendix 1
Ten principles of the People’s Trade Treaty (PTT)
More information is available at

1. The People’s Trade Treaty (PTT) – proposed by President Evo Morales – is a response to the failed neo-liberal model, based as it is on deregulation, privatization and the indiscriminate opening of markets.

2. PTT understands trade and investment not as ends in themselves, but rather means towards development. Therefore its aim is not total market liberalization and the shrinking of the State but rather seeking benefits for all peoples.

3. PTT promotes a model of trade integration between people that limits and regulates the rights of foreign investors and multinationals so that they serve the purpose of national productive development.

4. PTT does not prohibit the use of mechanisms to promote industrialization nor does it prevent protection of areas of the internal market which are necessary to preserve the most vulnerable sectors of society.

5. PTT recognizes the right of peoples to define their own agriculture and food policies and to protect and regulate national agricultural production in order to prevent domestic markets being inundated with excess products of other countries.

6. PTT considers that vital services must depend on public companies as exclusive providers, regulated by the State. The negotiation of any trade agreement must hold as a central principle that the majority of basic services are public goods that cannot be handed over to the market.

7. PTT proposes complementarity instead of competition; co-existence with nature against irrational exploitation of resources; defense of social property against extreme privatization.

8. PTT urges participating countries involved in a process of integration based on solidarity to give priority to national companies as exclusive providers to public entities.

9. With the proposal for a People’s Trade Treaty, Bolivia is proposing a true integration that transcends economic and trade considerations – whose philosophy is based on achieving an endogenous just and sustainable development based on community principles that takes into account national differences.

10. PTT proposes a different logic of relationship between human beings, in other words a distinct model of co-existence that isn’t based on competition and the urge to accumulate which takes advantage of and exploits to the maximum human labor and natural resources.

Miguel Pickard


[i] Cited in Martinelli, Luca, “Messico: Fox vende all’Europa un Paese che non esiste”, Liberazione, May 12, 2006, section “Mondo”, available at .
[ii] The Mexican weekly Proceso indicated that on April 10, 2006 that there were “massive Hispanic demonstrations” in more than 130 cities in the US. See Esquivel, J. Jesús, “La incertidumbre”, Proceso, Mexico, No. 1537, April 16, 2006, pp. 46-49. James Petras indicates that “between March 25 and May 1, 2006, some 5 million migratory workers and their sympathizers demonstrated in some 100 cities in the United States.” See “Mesoamérica llega a EU”, La Jornada, April 30, 2006.
[iii] More information available at .
[iv] This amendment was later rejected, and the number of guest-worker visas in the approved Senate version was set at 200,000.
[v] For example the 800,000 figure comes from “Growing Global Migration and Its Implications for the United States”, National Foreign intelligence Board, NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) 2001-02D, p.13. The 2 million figure is from John Judis, “Immigration Confusion: Illegal Substance”, The New Republic Online, April 6, 2006, available at:
[vi] The Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. states that “the mere existence of CAFTA, as in the case of NAFTA, will not reverse established migratory patterns”. See Cohen, Salomon, “CAFTA: what could it mean for migration”, April 1, 2006, available at .
[vii] Harris, Nigel, “Open borders: a future for Europe, migrants, and world economy”, Open Democracy,
[viii] Morgan, Peter, “Capitalism Without Frontiers?”, International Socialism, No. 74, March, 1997.
[ix] Throughout the world migrants (people outside their country of birth) number around 150-200 million, a relatively low figure in terms of world population, less than 3%. What is surprising is not this figure but rather the 97% of the population that has not moved outside its home country. See Harris, Nigel, “Migration without Borders. The economic perspective”, UNESCO publications, March 31, 2004, available at
[x] Nigel Harris, in a radio interview available at
Centro de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria, A.C.

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Nine face charges after raid = Saturday, June 24, 2006
By The Associated Press

SIOUX CITY — Nine people have been charged with illegally entering the country after authorities conducted a raid on egg farms in Wright County. The raid was conducted June 14 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at several DeCoster egg farms and yielded 36 arrests. Charges were not announced until Friday.

It was the third raid at DeCoster farms in Wright County since 2001 that has led to the detention and possible deportation of illegal immigrants, Sheriff Paul Schultz said. A trial has been set for Aug. 10. The suspects are from Guatemala and Mexico, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.


Migrant rules, official English go to ballot = Jun. 22, 2006
Legislature tries end run around governor's vetoes
Matthew Benson and Carrie Watters / The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Legislature on Wednesday sent measures to the November ballot that will ask voters to make English the state's official language and prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving a variety of state services.

As the session neared its end, lawmakers were on the verge of placing nearly a dozen referendums on the Nov. 7 ballot. But just as importantly, they voted against several of the most controversial measures being considered for the ballot. They decided against referring to the ballot measures that would have penalized employers who hire undocumented workers and appeared likely to reject a proposal that would have created obstacles for communities trying to condemn private property. advertisement

Ultimately, several measures did go to the ballot in a flurry of final-day legislative action that likely set the stage for an equally harried election campaign season. Once again, immigration dominated discussions.

Immigration measures referred to the ballot will enable voters to:

• Block undocumented immigrants from being awarded punitive damages in lawsuits. Other proposals would put state subsidies off-limits to migrants, including child care and adult education as well as in-state tuition rates and state financial aid for college.

• Prevent local communities from enacting so-called sanctuary policies that bar area law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration law.

• Amend the Arizona Constitution to make English the official language of state government.

The last-minute measures, especially those affecting children and students hoping to attend college, drew criticism from Democrats. Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, suggested legislators were "repressing ourselves to the Alabamas and Mississippis of the 1960s."

"What we are doing here today is wrong," added Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix. "We are hurting our own state. We are hurting our own community."

The ballot measures amount to an election-year end run around the veto stamp of Gov. Janet Napolitano. Sen. Dean Martin conceded as much. The Phoenix Republican called the ballot a last option for legislation on immigration and other issues already vetoed by the Democratic governor.

"That's why you're seeing it as the last thing on the last day. We've tried everything else," Martin said. "Going to the ballot is an unfortunate circumstance. I'm not disappointed in us; we've passed the bills."

Legislators didn't refer to voters a measure that would have expanded the state's trespassing statute to criminalize undocumented immigrants for their mere presence in the state. That provision was included in a pair of bills vetoed by Napolitano this session. The Legislature also took a pass on sanctions for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Rep. Russell Pearce, a leading voice for get-tough border enforcement, had drafted a measure for the ballot but was unable to put it to a vote.

Earlier this week, the Mesa Republican called the employer sanctions measure "the most critical piece of the (immigration) package" and had stern words for legislators whom he feared might stand in the way of the proposal at least getting a vote.

"I'll name names," Pearce declared at the time. "These people ought to be removed from office that refuse to enforce the law."

Besides immigration, lawmakers were considering assorted other issues for the ballot. Lawmakers were considering tougher hurdles for communities trying to use eminent domain to obtain private property. That measure would allow such private-property owners to seek a jury trial to determine the worthiness of the government's bid. Some referendums resembled legislation booted by the governor, but a measure about the governments right to take private property went much further than an eminent domain bill she vetoed earlier this month.

The vetoed bill would have narrowed city and municipal governments' ability to take blighted areas for redevelopment.


Immigration forum tonight: Thursday, June 22, 2006
As Congress heatedly debates its bill on immigration, three Arlington groups are organizing a forum on immigration to be held on Thursday, June 22.….

The Immigrant Rights Forum at the UU Church is wheelchair accessible. Refreshments will be served and Salvadoran crafts will be on sale. For further information, please contact Susan Lees at 781-316-1618 or Beth Soltzberg at 781-648-1445.


GLOBE EDITORIAL: Rethinking immigration: June 21, 2006

BUILD A fence. That's one low-tech, low-imagination idea being batted around Congress. It's as if addressing illegal immigration is like keeping rabbits out of lettuce patches. Congress has to do better, coming up with a sweeping plan.

Illegal immigration is often a global story about how people pursue wealth, going from poor countries to richer ones in search of jobs that sometimes only pay a fraction of what middle-class Americans call a salary.

Success and tragedy pave the road from Mexico to the United States. Money can buy a reliable smuggler and false identification documents. The poor face the dangers of walking through the desert, sometimes with children. Others hitch rides on trains and in horrific cases fall off and have limbs severed. People scramble through rivers. Women are raped. It's a human rights disaster.

Roughly half of Mexico's population lives in poverty. So for many it's common sense to find work in the United States, even illegally. In Guatemala, where poverty is even worse, people leave to find better options in Mexico.

For years, the United States has simultaneously raged about and ignored the issue. Politicians lividly denounce illegal immigration as a flagrant flouting of US law. But on Monday, the Washington Post reported that the federal government has been winking at the problem: prosecuting 182 employers for hiring illegal immigrants in 1999, and three in 2004.

What to do? Building a bigger fence on the southern US border can't possibly stem the tides of global poverty and human hope. And fences do nothing to stop those who come here on temporary visas and don't leave. The House's enforcement-only bill would essentially be little more than a fence with a sign saying, ``Stay home."

The Senate would more wisely mix enforcement and a legalization program for workers. Employers would have a fast way to check a job applicant's legal status. And employers who did hire illegally would be more severely punished -- a key step toward shutting down the ample and alluring supply of jobs for illegal immigrants. The Senate bill would also authorize funding to hire 11,000 new investigators to focus partly on worksite enforcement.

A conference committee has to hammer out the differences. But the House is foot- dragging, calling for more hearings.

While reform of United States law is vital, real progress also means that the United States has to work more closely with other countries to increase global prosperity. Poor countries need investments that create job opportunities and keep their residents at home. Any member of Congress who isn't calling for sweeping global reform isn't serious about solving the immigration problem.


Troopers would arrest immigrants: Romney seeks federal OK to expand powers
= June 21, 2006
By Yvonne Abraham and Scott Helman, Globe Staff

Governor Mitt Romney is seeking an agreement with federal authorities that would allow Massachusetts state troopers to arrest undocumented immigrants for being in the country illegally.

Currently, State Police have no authority to arrest people on the basis of their immigration status alone, said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. If they arrest immigrants for violations of state law, troopers can call a centralized US Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Vermont to check on their status, and can detain immigrants if federal officials request it.

Under the agreement Romney is seeking, troopers would have greatly expanded powers: They could check an immigrant's legal status during routine patrols such as during a traffic stop and decide whether the immigrant should be held.

``It's one more thing you can do to make this a less attractive place for illegal aliens to come to work," Romney said.

The governor has instructed his legal counsel to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin the process. The powers, Romney said, would give the State Police a way of ``finding and detaining illegal aliens in the ordinary course of business."

Federal immigration authorities would provide the troopers with 4 1/2 weeks of training in immigration laws and procedures, civil rights, and avoiding racial profiling.

If the proposal is approved, Massachusetts would join a handful of states and localities that have entered into such pacts since they were first authorized in 1996. That list includes Florida, Alabama, and a few counties in California and North Carolina, where a limited number of officers have been trained to enforce immigration laws.

The agreement would not require legislative approval, said Fehrnstrom.

The arrangement is likely to be controversial in Massachusetts, where Cambridge, for example, has passed a resolution declaring itself a sanctuary for immigrants, and moves are underway in other cities to follow that example.

Immigrant and civil rights advocates derided the plan yesterday, saying that turning troopers into immigration enforcement agents would lead to racial profiling and have a chilling effect on immigrants who might otherwise report crimes.

``This will overwhelm the State Police force, it will hinder real law enforcement, real community law enforcement, and it clearly will lead to racial and ethnic profiling," said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. ``That's not effective law enforcement, or effective immigration policy."

Police across the state have put great energy into convincing immigrants that they should report crimes without fear of drawing scrutiny from immigration authorities, said Rose and others, and empowering state troopers to enforce immigration law against undocumented immigrants who have broken no state laws would undermine that trust. Domestic violence advocates said they also feared that the agreement would make immigrant victims afraid to report those crimes.

``If we are going to encourage people to call the police for help while in danger, but those police might come to their door and ask for their green card, people are going to hide even more than they already do," said Laurie Holmes, executive director of Chelsea-based HarborCOV, a domestic violence organization.

Fehrnstrom rejected those criticisms. Undocumented immigrants have broken the law just by being here, he said, and the state needs to take action against them.

``It's not a very effective argument to say that people who are in the country illegally will be less likely to report crime if they themselves are arrested," he said. ``If we applied that principle across the board, we wouldn't arrest anybody for anything for fear it would deter crime reporting."

The proposal greatly pleased those who favor stricter immigration control. Some officials are feeling frustrated with the lack of action in Washington to address a rapidly growing immigrant population.

``I think that's a good thing," said Representative Marie J. Parente, a Milford Democrat whose community has enacted licensing regulations that make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to settle there. ``We need to do something," Parente said. ``I think that will be a message, that the state of Massachusetts welcomes you if you're within the law."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security, has received many calls from states and counties seeking information on the agreements and is working with a dozen government entities to craft memoranda of understandings tailored to their needs, said Mike Gilhooly, communications director for the department's New England division.

The agreements give federal authorities more muscle, Gilhooly said. ``It's a force multiplier," he said.

Most of those already in place are narrow in scope: in Florida, 63 officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who are already focused on domestic security, have the authority to act when they encounter undocumented immigrants. In Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties in California, Mecklenberg County in North Carolina, and in Arizona, jail officers have been trained to locate undocumented immigrants among those being held and to begin deportation proceedings with federal authorities.

Alabama's agreement, which is similar to what Romney is seeking, authorizes 44 state troopers to enforce immigration law.

``They are enforcing immigration law in the course of their duties," Gilhooly said. ``They are not involved in major immigration operations on a daily basis. They are performing their duties, and when they encounter immigration violations or criminals who are illegal aliens, they can and do take action."

A spokesman for the State Police said officials were not available yesterday to respond to Romney's proposal.

(Clarification: A Page One headline yesterday on Governor Mitt Romney's plan to seek expanded powers for State Police when encountering immigrants during routine patrols did not fully describe the proposed change. Troopers could arrest only undocumented immigrants who are illegally in the state.)


Campaigners win broad support to place SEP candidate on ballot in California
By Joe Kay = 21 June 2006

Supporters and members of the Socialist Equality Party in the 29th District of California have won substantial support from workers and young people to put John Burton on the ballot for US Congress…..

In total, of the more than 2,500 US soldiers killed in Iraq, 258 are from California, more than any other state in the country…..

Another issue that the SEP has sought to raise prominently in the campaign is the extension of full rights for all immigrants. This perspective has received a strong response from Hispanic workers, who make up a substantial portion of the population of the district. In the spring, hundreds of thousands of workers, mainly Hispanic, marched in Los Angeles in opposition to right-wing attacks on immigrant rights. Petitioners have raised the need to connect the struggles of immigrant workers with the struggles of the working class as a whole.

One worker who has been in the United States for 27 years as a resident voiced concern over the growing attack on immigrant workers. “It’s never been like this before,” she said, referring to the atmosphere of hostility toward Hispanic workers promoted by the political establishment. She agreed very strongly with the SEP’s condemnation of both sides of the official political debate in Washington. On the one hand, a section of the Republican Party has sought to whip up national chauvinism in order to divide workers and channel discontent over social conditions behind the scapegoating of immigrant workers. On the other hand, the Democrats and a section of Republicans, including the Bush administration, have sought to implement a “guest worker” program, which would ensure a ready supply of cheap labor for US corporations. (See “SEP candidate in California: Extend full rights to all immigrants!”).

Though the resident could not sign the petition because she is not a citizen and is not registered, she took a number of pamphlets and statements to give to her relatives. The SEP has encountered many workers who wanted to sign the petition but could not because they are not citizens. Campaigners have raised the demand for the extension of full political rights to all workers in the US. No one should be denied the ability to participate in the political process.

Petitioners have countered the reactionary positions of the Democrats and Republicans with the struggle to build a unified movement of working people of all nationalities, throughout the US and around the world…..

To contact the SEP and help with the campaign, click here.
To donate to the SEP, click here.
Visit the SEP Campaign web site at


GOP's Call for Hearings Puts Immigration Overhaul in Limbo:
Wednesday 21 June 2006
By Nicole Gaouette / Los Angeles Times

Washington - President Bush's push for a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws was dealt a major blow Tuesday when House Republican leaders announced they would hold public hearings on the Senate bill that they strongly oppose.

The plan, unveiled almost a month after the Senate measure passed, is the latest sign of reluctance among the GOP House leadership to try to negotiate a compromise bill that would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Conservatives say that element - a central part of the Senate measure - is the equivalent of amnesty.

House leaders insisted Tuesday that they still hoped to negotiate with the Senate. But the schedule for the hearings, set for July and August across the country, makes it unlikely that the two chambers can reach a final agreement before the November elections.

When Congress reconvenes in September, most lawmakers will be preoccupied with their campaigns; traditionally, little important business gets done at that time.

Failure to produce a bill would be a huge setback for Bush, who has prodded lawmakers to pass immigration legislation that - like the Senate legislation - would toughen border enforcement but also create a guest worker program and offer millions of illegal immigrants a way to gain legal status.

Democrats interpreted the House decision to hold town-hall-style meetings as an effort to stop the Senate legislation. "The Republican House wants to defeat the immigration bill," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "This is a stall."

House Republicans denied the charge, arguing that they needed the time to review the legislation. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) "believes that we should focus on getting a bill done right and not be pressured by some during an election year," said his spokesman, Ron Bonjean. He added that the House would select negotiators to work on a final bill only "after we go through the Senate … bill with a fine-tooth comb."

House leaders informed Bush of their plan a few days ago, aides said, although Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) had known about it for several weeks.
A spokeswoman for Frist, Carolyn Weyforth, said her boss welcomed the hearings and the desire of House members to have time to catch up on the Senate bill. When asked whether he thought the call for hearings was an attempt to kill the Senate version, Frist said, "I don't think so."

But in announcing the hearings, House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said one purpose would be to discuss "provisions in that bill that I have concerns about."

The move comes as Republicans are seeking to energize their core voters in the months before the midterm elections. This month, Brian Bilbray, a Republican from Carlsbad in San Diego County, won the House seat vacated by disgraced Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham by campaigning almost entirely on the need to get tough on illegal immigration. His victory encouraged House conservatives, who say border security and enforcement must come first.

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), the leader of a 101-member caucus that advocates tough enforcement, interpreted the scheduling of the summer hearings as a sign that House leaders had little desire to try to find common ground with the Senate. "Odds were long that any so-called compromise bill would get to the president's desk this year," said Tancredo, citing the tight legislative schedule and the distance between the House and Senate approaches to immigration. "The nail was already put in the coffin of the Senate's amnesty plan. These hearings probably lowered it into the grave."

Tancredo added that the hearings were designed to build support for an enforcement-only approach adopted by the House in a bill it passed in December.
"This is an issue that we can run on and win in November," Tancredo said. "By training Americans' focus on the Senate's amnesty pact, we'll create momentum for an enforcement-first bill after November. As more light is shed on the Senate's bill, more and more Americans find reasons to oppose it."

Boehner and his staff said that the hearing dates and locations had not been decided, but that they would involve several House committees that hold jurisdiction over different aspects of the bill. Some of the hearings are expected to be held in areas in the South and Southwest where the immigration issue has been particularly divisive.

A Boehner spokesman detailed a few of the Senate provisions that might be examined in the hearings. They include a measure that would allow immigrants who gain legal status to receive Social Security benefits for work they did while illegal, and another that would require immigrants eligible for legalization to pay back taxes.

Even before the hearings were announced, progress on a final bill was stymied by a procedural problem that is blocking the Senate from choosing negotiators to work with the House.

Republicans and Democrats blame each other for the delay, which shows no sign of resolution. Senate Republican aides said Tuesday that they doubted there would be much movement on the issue until the House hearings were completed. And some senators said they thought it was a good idea for the House to take the time to consider the Senate version.

"The problem with the Senate bill is that it is a tremendously important issue that had very little serious thought given to it," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who voted against the measure. "The House can provide the nation an opportunity to find out what's in the bill."

One architect of the Senate bill said that since the House had only debated enforcement measures, the hearings might offer members a chance to learn about a broader overhaul.

"I realize that the House has not addressed two of the three major aspects of the Senate bill," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who added that he was optimistic about the Senate's approach.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said some delay might help the chances of getting a bill with a guest worker program and path to legalization through Congress. "My own view is that Republicans want to use it as a campaign issue," she said. "I think it is a good idea to let this thing settle for a while."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a critic of the Senate bill, said some Republicans wanted to put off the discussion until after election day, when Congress will likely hold a lame-duck session. He added that backers of the Senate bill would have to accept some compromise. "I think it's clear the Senate will have to move closer to the House position to get it resolved," Cornyn said.

But many saw the hearings as an attempt to scuttle the immigration overhaul altogether.

"This is clearly a delay tactic by the House Republicans, who have been dead set against comprehensive reform from the beginning," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), an author of the Senate legislation. "One has to wonder why there are going to be continued hearings … other than just to delay and kill the bill."
Times staff writer Maura Reynolds contributed to this report.


Black-Latino Summit Way Too Tame -- Next Time, Invite Gang Bangers, Black Minutemen = Jun 21, 2006
New America Media, Commentary, Daffodil Altan, Photos by Ryan Furtado,

Editor's Note: Black and Latino forums must reach beyond the rhetoric of political elites and bring new voices to the table -- those of the undocumented, the formally incarcerated and even the black Minutemen. Daffodil Altan is a writer and editor at New America Media.

LOS ANGELES--It was hot as hell a couple of weeks ago in L.A. The air was musky. I was on my way to the "first annual historic summit" between black and Latino leaders, in a large mosque near downtown.

I won't lie. I wanted the meeting to be sexy. I was looking for edgy. Revelatory. I was feeling nostalgic for something I'd never experienced firsthand: the steamy roomfuls of people who used to pack into churches and mosques on hot afternoons like this one, to be shaken by Malcolm or Dr. King or Cesar. I think we can all agree: those oratorical fests were damn sexy. They literally woke people up. Inspired them. Changed them.

"I look forward to making history tonight because this is the first First Annual Summit," said state Sen. Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles). OK, I thought. Hit me with something good, Gloria. It's hot, we're here. We're ready.

This coalition -- officially the Latino and African American Leadership Alliance -- had sprung up in L.A. following reports of racial tension between African American and Latino residents. This reported tension seemed to be fueled in a new way by the explosion of a mostly Latino-driven immigrant rights movement. Were Latinos taking jobs from blacks? Should the immigrant rights movement be compared to the Civil Rights movement, or were Latinos eclipsing blacks politically, too?

"This is a serious discussion; no holds barred," organizer Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE, said at the beginning of the summit. "The only way both groups can understand each other is through an honest discussion."

Two things struck me. First, Ali was speaking as if this conversation had never, in the history of black and Latino relations, happened before. Second, if the conversation was to be blunt, why was no one saying anything about the cluster of black Minutemen stationed outside the mosque? They were protesting because one of their founders, Marvin Stewart, a regal looking African-American, had been first given, then denied a spot on the panel. (Ali said he invited Stewart to sit on the panel because he didn't think the panel should be homogenous. But the committee that planned the summit voted Stewart off).

When the summit finally began, I found more of what I've seen since the immigrant rights movement kicked off -- political leaders coming together after the fact, not doing anything particularly new, and not saying anything particularly revealing. We need to be more united, panelists repeated. Look at the jails, look at the schools.

"It's important that we stay together," said Eric Perrodin, mayor of Compton, a city he said is now 60 percent Latino and 40 percent African-American. There was mild rhetorical disagreement here and there, but nothing punchy. They were chummy with each other. Watching them, I got the feeling that they'd all been at some cocktail party the night before, sipping on drinks with little umbrellas in the heat and lamenting the state of black-brown relations. They were a manifestation of the thing that happens once people go to school, learn history and ascend economically, intellectually, politically.

That's when it hit me: If the panel wanted to begin to address the threads of real tension that exist out there, then bring on the black Minutemen. "I don't think I would have felt comfortable with a Minuteman on the panel," Romero told me. "That would be like inviting the Mexican Mafia to sit in."

And why not invite a former member of that prison-born gang, I wondered. "Every Cinco de Mayo the Latinos kick off a riot against the blacks," Perry Jones, a young African-American man who served 10 years in the juvenile prison system, told me in San Francisco. He remembers one of his closest friends, a young Latino, was bound by a strict gang conduct code to participate. "It 'aint got nothing to do with no race, with no politics, it probably has something to do with gang politics. They got a code and they gotta follow it."

Why not also bring in groups already engaged in positive dialogue, the on-the-ground coalition builders? I thought of Robert Battles, a young black community organizer in South Central L.A. who works daily with dozens of black and Latino high school students from the area. Ask those kids from South Central to tell you what they learned at their own "black-brown" retreat. Let them articulate it themselves. It might not be pretty, but it would be authentic.

One of the panelists did have something new to offer, but her comments went largely unnoticed. Today, "we're moving towards a multiracial community globally," said Anike Tourse, media consultant for the Coalition for Humane and Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. Tourse has black and Mexican roots. "Brown" people, she implied, have never been solely brown. They are black, white, and everything in between. This makes it difficult -- and obsolete -- to talk about things in terms of "black and brown."

I understand, and respect, what this "alliance" was going for. But as a "brown" woman with black (and indigenous and white) roots, I was bored. Maybe at the next meeting, someone will bring some of the Latina housecleaners who are organizing themselves. Many of these women have black employers and they're all finding ways to get along, despite language and cultural barriers. Maybe next time they will ask Marvin Stewart, an ordained minister, why on earth he decided to found the Minuteman Project.

Maybe they'll introduce him to Estela Garcia, who was forced to leave her daughter in Mexico to come work here. Two days after history was made at the summit, I rode three buses and four metros with Estela from North Hollywood to Carson, a mostly black neighborhood, where she cleans the houses of several black families. She's undocumented. I stood on the neatly cut lawn of the house she was cleaning and spoke with her employers. "I love her," an older African-American woman told me. "And I support her struggle."

Figuring our way through some of the real tension that exists between blacks and Latinos in various communities -- from the jails to schools to the neighborhood -- is less about an intellectual "dialogue" between the upper tier of black and Latino leaders and more about bringing to the table those people on the ground who are dealing daily with these issues. They will be the ones to tell us how people are finding solutions to those tensions, or where they're getting stuck. I bet then the voices bouncing off mosque and church walls will get people to sit up a little, and really listen.

Mexican and Central American Labor: The Crux of the Immigration Issue in the U.S.
= 20/06/06
by Richard D. Vogel

Capitalism's demand for cheap labor is the thread that runs throughout the history of immigration in the U.S. and remains the central issue today. Currently, the crux of the immigration issue is the status of the undocumented Mexican and Central American labor force working in this country. Just how closely the U.S. economy is linked to these immigrant workers from south of the border is illustrated in Chart 1:

Click on the chart for a larger view.
Download the chart as an Excel file.

Chart 1, based on reports from the Pew Hispanic Center (, tracks the correlation between the performance of the U.S. economy (as measured by the national employment rate) and the estimated number of migrants who arrived in the U.S. from Mexico annually. Additional analysis by Pew researchers firmly establishes that economic "pull" factors in the U.S. are far more powerful than "push" factors in Mexico in accounting for these migration trends.

The trend lines in Chart 1 suggest that, especially since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1995, the migration of Mexican and Central American workers and their families to the U.S. closely correlates to the manpower needs of the U.S. economy. The chart shows that both trends peaked during the boom years of the 1990s and dropped precipitously during the economic recession of 2001. The graph also indicates that a recovery in both trends began in 2004, and preliminary data for 2005 suggests that the recovery continued through the end of last year. Though it is impossible to specify the exact degree that the performance of the U.S. economy depends on cheap Mexican and Central American labor, the link between them is beyond question.

Pew researchers discovered a second major trend in Mexico-to-U.S. migration that is depicted in Chart 2:
Click on the chart for a larger view.
Download the chart as an Excel file.

Chart 2 compares the ratio of unauthorized to legal migrants, by decade, beginning in the 1960s and projected through 2010. The graph shows a marked increase in the share of immigration accounted for by unauthorized migrants as compared to legal permanent residents (i.e. legal immigrants) over the past 45 years. The trend has risen from a low of 13 percent in the decade of the 60s up to 35 percent during the 70s and 80s. The decades immediately before and after the turn of the century have seen unauthorized migration, most of it from Mexico and Central America, rise to be in excess of 40 percent of the immigrants entering the country. Clearly, all the evidence indicates that the demand of the U.S. economy for cheap labor has undermined national immigration laws for the last 30 years.

The full implications of the South-to-North migration trends illustrated in Charts 1 and 2 become apparent when they are considered in historical perspective.

Mexicanos y centroamericanos: U.S. Capitalism's Reserve Labor Supply

The exploitation of Mexican labor began with the U.S. conquest of Mexico in the mid-19th century and has continued ever since. In the wake of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that transferred almost half of the territory of the Republic of Mexico to U.S. ownership, Mexican workers, many of them former landowners, were used extensively as wage laborers to develop the American Southwest. In addition to working the land and tending livestock, Mexicans were employed extensively in mining, transportation, and the construction and maintenance of railroads in the American West.

It was, however, the manpower shortages created by World War I that sparked the first mass Mexico-to-U.S. migration. Mexican workers replaced not only the native farm workers in the American Southwest and Midwest but also many of the native factory workers of the nation who were drafted for military service. Despite the vital contributions that Mexican workers made to the U.S. war economy, they did not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor for long. The onset of the Great Depression saw the first mass deportation of Mexican and Central American workers and their families in U.S. history. This informal but effective deportation campaign employed compulsory and coercive tactics that targeted legal and illegal immigrants, temporary workers, and permanent residents. In many communities, the pressure was so great that immigrants were forced to abandoned private businesses, homes, household goods, personal possessions, automobiles, and even active bank accounts and uncollected pay. In some communities where Mexican children had previously been allowed to attend public schools, they were expelled, and many were separated from their families during the exodus. Deportees were transported en masse to the border where they were dumped, often destitute, on the Mexican side.

Ultimately, an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 Mexicans and their American-born children returned to Mexico between 1929 and 1939. As a result of the expulsion, the Mexican population in the U.S. dropped 40 percent. Indiana lost three-fourths of its Mexican-born population and 12 states -- Colorado, Illinois, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming -- lost over half. Five years after the purge of the Great Depression, the vicious cycle began all over again.

The manpower demands of World War II eclipsed those of World War I, and again masses of Mexican and Central American workers, with the official blessings of both governments, migrated north to fuel the booming U.S. war economy. It is estimated that between 1944 and 1954 illegal border crossings increased by 6,000 percent. And again, it was the downturn of the U.S. economy that robbed the immigrant workers of their gains. At the bottom of the post-Korean War recession (1954), when their labor was no longer needed, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service launched "Operation Wetback," a paramilitary campaign complete with psychological warfare operations, against migrant workers in the U.S.

Again the results were the widespread disruption of families and communities. This time the deportees were transported by land, sea, and air deep into the interior of Mexico to discourage their return. This mass repatriation campaign, twice the size of the purge that accompanied the Great Depression, displaced over 1.3 million men, women, and children of Mexican and Central American origin. It is worth noting that, in the same year when "Operation Wetback" was launched against Mexican communities in the U.S., Congress voted to extend the Bracero program, ensuring that the supply of cheap Mexican and Central American labor for U.S. agribusiness was not disrupted.

It appears that the historic South-to-North immigration in America is currently in the middle of a third, and this time, titanic cycle. The beginning of the current mass migration dates back to the mid-1960s when the Civil Rights Movement curtailed the super-exploitation of native minorities and women and Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced that the U.S. would begin looking south of the border for cheap labor. The consequent development of the predominantly U.S.-owned maquiladora factory system in Mexico and the implementation of NAFTA in the mid-90s, coupled with a gatekeeper border policy, has consolidated U.S. capitalism's hold on Mexican and Central American labor on both sides of the border.

This brief historical overview indicates that the current South-to-North migration trends depicted in Charts 1 and 2 are the result of the latest refinement in U.S. capitalism's long-standing practice of exploiting the Mexican and Central American people as a reserve labor supply. The advantages to American industry of this labor arrangement are manifest: enhanced profits through the payment of substandard wages, non-payment of employment benefits, and avoidance of legal and political liabilities for the social costs of production. Now, the Mexican and Central American labor force is, irrespective of international borders, a reserve army of labor that can be drafted and discharged at the will of U.S. capital.

A concerned witness of the Depression Era repatriation campaign posed the fundamental question regarding Mexican labor in the U.S.: "Are Mexican immigrants to be sent for again when prosperous times return, to be treated as 'cheap labor', and then to be returned penniless to poverty-stricken relatives [in Mexico]?" This central question, though unasked in the mainstream media, is pending again -- as the U.S. economy begins to wind down, anti-immigrant agitation is on the rise.

As in the past, Mexican and Central American workers are the crux of the immigration issue in the U.S., and the essential question is: will there be social and economic justice for these hardworking and long-suffering people this time?

The Prospects for Justice

At first glance, the prospects for justice might seem slim. The immigration issue is before the U.S. Congress and the court of public opinion, but the economy is teetering on the brink of recession. The U.S. government is in war mode and the question of national security casts a pall over all political discourse. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is now under the command of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the same detection and interdiction technologies used by armed forces on the battlefield are available to the U.S. Border Patrol. Today, the U.S. government has the capability to mobilize military operations against immigrants that would eclipse previous anti-immigrant campaigns like "Operation Wetback," and the recent news that 6,000 National Guard troops will be moved to the Mexican border over the next year signals that a crackdown on Mexican and Central American migrants has begun.

A replay of past repatriation campaigns, however, is unlikely. The current Mexican and Central American communities in the U.S. are markedly different from those of the 1930s and 50s; they are primarily urban and their roots go much deeper than did those of their predecessors. Current immigrants are deeply integrated into the U.S. economy and their success has provided them with resources to fight deportation. Families predominate and the education levels of the children of migrants are higher than in the past. The economic stakes are also higher than ever -- home and business ownership by immigrants is widespread as is the level of dependency of family members left behind in the South. The prospect of abandoning all they have worked for and returning to poverty in the South is not a viable option for current immigrants.

The mass demonstrations in support of immigrant rights that were held across the country on April 10 and May 1 indicate that the demand for economic and social justice is high. The festive mood and reserved behavior of the men, women, and children who participated in the marches and rallies did not obscure the intensity of their commitment to justice, and their well-articulated demands, delivered by event speakers and through spontaneous slogans, demonstrated that immigrants have a clear understanding of the economic and political issues at hand.

The huge crowds of immigrants and their supporters that paralyzed cities from coast to coast surprised authorities and suggest that officials have grossly underestimated the size of the Mexican and Central American migrant population in the U.S. and their hunger for justice. It behooves us all to support the immigrants in their demands because the alternative to liberty and justice for all is privilege and license for the few. The fight for immigrant rights offers an opportunity to turn back the forces of reaction and conservatism that oppress all working people in the nation.

Nativo López, President of the Mexican American Political Association, summed up the strategy of the emerging immigrant movement succinctly: "You get what you're ready to fight for."
Richard D. Vogel is an independent socialist writer. He has recently completed a book, Stolen Birthright: The U.S. Conquest of the Mexican People.
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Labor, Immigrant Rights Groups Call for Justice at World's Largest Pork Processing Plant = Tuesday June 20, 2006
Pressure Causes Smithfield to Announce 'When a New Election is Called, We Will Fully Comply'

NEW YORK, June 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Workers at Smithfield Foods' largest pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina traveled to New York City and joined local faith, immigrant and civil rights groups, as well as members of organized labor, including the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW today to launch a national campaign in support of 5,500 workers at the plant.

Smithfield has been found liable in several National Labor Relations Board and Federal Court decisions for assaulting, intimidating, threatening with deportation and unlawfully firing employees during attempts to form a union. Workers at the plant have been trying to form a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers for ten years. The union lost elections to organize in 1994 and 1997, but the results were thrown out after the NLRB and the courts found that the company had prevented the union from holding fair elections.

The rally, which took place at The Praise Tabernacle in Brooklyn, comes just days after the company bent to pressure and announced that it would end the appeal process with the NLRB. While not admitting any wrongdoing, the company said in a prepared statement that "when a new election is called, we will comply fully with the NLRB's remedies to assure a fair vote that represents the wishes of our plant's employees ... we recognize that we have lost our case in court."

These actions indicate that efforts such as the Smithfield Justice campaign work, and that by banding together, community groups and organized labor can have a real impact on the lives and working conditions of workers. The Smithfield Justice campaign marks one of the first times such a widespread community-based campaign has been coupled with an organizing effort by a major international union. It is the largest manufacturing organizing drive by any union in more than a decade.

Three Tar Heel employees were also at the demonstration to share their experiences. "The conditions are very hazardous at the plant," said Lenora Bailey, who has worked at Smithfield for two and a half years. "The company doesn't care about the employees. I'm here because we need help; we need people to speak out as many of the workers are afraid to speak up because they think they are going to get fired.

"Someone needs to hear us and someone needs to help us," Bailey continued.

Two reports by the internationally respected organization, Human Rights Watch, have documented widespread violations of basic human and labor rights. Workers cite dangerous and unsafe conditions, including blinding line speeds that leave many workers permanently disabled. Employees are routinely fired when they are injured, workers report, and are often denied worker's compensation. The Human Rights Watch reports' author, Cornell professor Lance Compa, was also at the Brooklyn rally.

"This is only the beginning," said supporter Reverend Grayland Hagler, head of Ministers for Racial, Social, Economic Justice representing more than 600 congregations involved in the effort. "This is the start of a more aggressive labor movement. This is a chance to say no to a racist, anti- immigrant company that feels they can terrorize workers at will. We are issuing a moral appeal to consumers and supermarkets to think twice about purchasing Smithfield products. We are telling people to say no to blood on their bacon."

Similar demonstrations are being held in Richmond, Chicago, Atlanta, Raleigh, Washington, DC and Boston on June 19-22 as part of the nationwide consumer education campaign about conditions at the Tar Heel plant.
Source: Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW


Rally calls for immigrant rights: Mon, Jun. 19, 2006
Woman who died from injuries in jail spurs protesters
BY BAO ONG / Pioneer Press

Moved by the recent death of a jailed Ecuadorian woman who was awaiting deportation, about 80 people rallied on the state Capitol grounds Sunday demanding humane treatment for immigrants.

Immigration rights supporters strung a yellow banner for Maria Inamagua Merchan, who died after collapsing from a brain parasite and hitting her head in the Ramsey County jail. Merchan lapsed into a coma at Regions Hospital and died April 13.

"It's one individual case, but I think it's representative of what's broken in the justice system," said Deborah Rosenstein, a St. Paul resident who attended the rally.

Relatives said authorities did not take Merchan's complaints of health problems seriously. The woman, who was imprisoned for two months, was taken to the hospital four hours after being found in her jail cell. She hit her head while climbing down a bunk bed.

Immigration rights supporters said they were outraged by Merchan's case and hoped it spurred immigration reform. For attorney Peter W. Brown, who spoke at the rally, Merchan's death was a human-rights issue. State laws require jails to provide proper medical aid, Brown said.

Merchan's husband, Patricio Flores, said their 6-year-old daughter cries every time she looks at her mother's picture. "They never helped her," Flores said of his wife. "We need to take care of people better."

Merchan's brain parasite was determined to be a pre-existing condition according to the Public Health Department, said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher. "There's little that could have changed the ultimate outcome," Fletcher said. Fletcher said nurses and jail staff followed protocol in dealing with Merchan's health.

Bao Ong can be reached at or 651-228-5435.


New developments in immigrant rights struggle = Mon, Jun. 19, 2006
By LeiLani Dowell

Two recent victories in the struggle for immigrant rights show the continued need to step up the struggle. In Colorado, a ballot initiative that would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving “non-emergency services” was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court on a constitutional technicality.

And in New York, bill A612B, which would allow immigrants access to drivers’ licenses regardless of immigration status, passed in the State Assembly transportation committee. The passage of the bill, supported with some reservations by the New York Coalition for Immigrants’ Rights to Drivers’ Licenses, is the result of a two-year struggle that included rallies in the immigrant communities of Queens long before the movement for immigrant rights hit the spotlight.

With the need for struggle on the streets in mind, activists on the East Coast will be coming together on June 17 for a public meeting to plan the next major immigrant rights protest. The event’s press release states: “The Coalition that organized the huge march and rally in New York City for immigrant rights at Union Square on May 1 is sponsoring a meeting of hundreds of immigrant rights activists from around the region.

“On June 17, the May 1 Coalition and others will meet to plan the next big protest. The meeting is open to everyone, especially all of those who have marched and rallied for immigrant rights over the past three months.

“Organizers for this major all-day planning meeting expect organizers from across New York City and State, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut to participate. The meeting will be conducted in English and Spanish.

“A march for justice in Jackson Heights will follow the meeting. In the morning, workshops will include the status of immigrant legislation in Congress, and coalition building with labor and civil rights movements. In the afternoon [we] will focus on planning actions.

“Teresa Gutierrez, a spokesperson for the May 1 Coalition, said, ‘The immigrant bill the U.S. Senate passed recently is unacceptable, just as HR 4437 was unacceptable, because it does not give full legal rights to all undocumented workers. We must continue our struggle for full rights for immigrants, no deportations, and rights for all workers.’ Gutierrez added, ‘Congress is trying to forget about the millions who marched and boycotted on May 1, so we will be planning dates to go back to the streets to remind them that immigrants will never be invisible again.’”

Organizations participating in the planning meeting include Asociación Tepeyac, Association of Senegalese in America, Latin American Workers Project, Justice 4 Immigrants Filipino Coalition, Freeport Community Worklink Center, Guyanese-American Workers United, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, Centro Guatemalteco Tecun Uman, Congreso Nacional Domini cano, La Peña del Bronx, LIUNA Local 108, Teamsters Joint Council #16, Casa Freehold, Congreso Nacional Domini cano, Chinese Staff and Workers Association, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Million Worker March, Philippine Forum and Break the Chains Alliance.

For more information, visit
or call (212) 633-6646 (718) 389-1900
Email: / Español:


Immigration rights advocates contemplate their next steps: Mon, Jun. 19, 2006
By Nathaniel Hoffman / CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Guillermo Armando Campos-Guevarra saw the writing on the wall in December.
After the U.S. House of Representatives passed a strong immigration enforcement bill, the injured construction worker from Antioch decided it was time to become a U.S. citizen. He wants protection from deportation and a chance to better influence the debate. "I worry about my family," said Campos-Guevarra, a native of Honduras. "We want the tranquillity and peace (of citizenship)."

Millions of people took to the streets in March, April and May on behalf of immigrant rights, saying they wanted an end to the fear and worry that come with being undocumented. Now the nonprofit organizations, soccer teams, health clinics, churches and hometown associations that brought people to the streets are sitting down to figure out what to do next. One of their goals is growing the ranks of immigrants who vote.

Campos-Guevarra was among two dozen Spanish-speaking immigrants filling out naturalization applications at a recent Catholic Charities workshop in Concord. Nearly all the workshop participants agreed that the pending immigration legislation inspired them to seek citizenship.

Catholic Charities offices in Santa Rosa, Tucson, Ariz.; Wichita, Kan.; and Blackfoot, Idaho all noticed dramatic increases in citizenship or residency applications in the first part of this year.

"A lot of it is just people have been awakened to feeling, 'OK, I just need to say something, to do something,'" said Sheila Chung, director of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.

In Contra Costa County and in regional and national meetings being held throughout the summer and fall, immigrant organizers are talking about a Latino agenda, pushing citizenship and voter registration and trying to turn the turnout from May 1 into a national organization.

"Those people who attended the march, we need to listen to them" said Hector Rivera Lopez, a county psychologist who emceed one of the May 1 marches in Concord. "The other part that nobody's touching is that we don't have leaders in this community that bring together this community," he said.

Latino activists in Contra Costa say the county is too divided between west, central and east. As they develop a response to the congressional immigration debate, Latino activists are trying to unite the county and the greater Bay Area.

"The big thing here in Contra Costa County is that mobilizing and organizing has been a challenge for the Latino community for a very long time," said community health educator Arturo Castillo. "You have these invisible barriers with West, Central and East County."

A battery of volunteer community health educators who work with Castillo at Clinica de la Raza in Concord are on the front line in keeping the Latino community informed.

"Although I have not been here long, I wanted to participate in something big," said Fernando Bautista, a 24-year-old volunteer with the clinic. Bautista and his fellow outreach workers are credited with turning out large numbers of people May 1 in Concord and Brentwood. They decided to organize immigration forums this summer to help unite the county.

While local groups are working in many small ways to keep immigrants organized, the passage of a Senate immigration bill at the end of May has confused and divided immigrant advocacy groups.

"It's divided because these organizations that basically went for the (Senate) compromise have created a lot of confusion and division in the community," said Nativo Lopez, national president of Mexican American Political Association and a key organizer in the Los Angeles immigration demonstrations.

The majority of Bay Area immigration rights activists and many grass-roots groups across the country oppose the Senate's version of comprehensive immigration reform and believe that the best possible outcome is that both the House and Senate immigration bills die in committee.

"There was a relatively open mind as to where the Senate might go," said Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a prominent immigration law firm in Los Angeles. "People are definitely waking up and seeing that this is not what they marched for in March, and this is not what they marched for in May."

Schey said that in the 1980s Congress debated immigration reform for four years before the 1986 amnesty passed. This time around, the House acted with almost no debate or testimony from experts, and the Senate took only a shade more time.
"The politics of fear pretty much always works," Schey said.

The National Immigration Forum, an umbrella group that has been instrumental in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, acknowledges that there are problems with the Senate bill but hopes they can be fixed.

"It is a really common occurrence that those who work in Washington are accused of taking a more pragmatic view, and those who work in the field take a somewhat more principled view of the way the policies come out," said Angela Kelley deputy director of the forum. "The best defense against this enforcement-only (House plan) is an strong offense."

But many of the grass-roots immigration groups feel the forum and other "D.C.-based groups" compromised too much.

"They were part of this compromise -- of the compromise bill in the Senate," said Mariana Bustamante of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project. "They have pushed it for a very long time. They say it's going to benefit 8.5 million people, and I don't know where they got that number. This schism is going to become more acute after we know what's going to happen with the legislation."

She said that one of the worst messages to come out of Washington was the oft-repeated slogan that "immigrants are doing jobs that Americans won't do," a notion that is particularly offensive to African-Americans and other under-employed groups.

"We need to look beyond the legislation, and one of the things that is crucial to the immigrant-rights movement is not losing the alliance with African-American groups," she said.

A new organization formed last month in the Bay Area seeks to do just that.

"Historically, there is a very close relationship between the black community and Mexico," said Phil Lawson, a retired Richmond pastor and founder of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. "Mexico was our strongest ally during slavery."

With two versions of immigration reform stalled in Congress, immigration groups are taking the time to build a notion of what kind of legalization program and rights they expect. It is a message that echoes in Latino communities large and small.

"We're definitely still pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform," said Teresa Flores, a 17-year-old organizer with the Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee. Flores, who is from Brentwood, said the network of churches she works with has taken one element of the Senate bill -- the DREAM Act -- on as a priority. They are pushing representatives to support the program allowing the children of undocumented families a means of going to college.

"I definitely think that the movement will be sparked again."


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