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music for the national rummage sale

March 31st, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Fogerty, with an amped up version of Fortunate Son. I usually only listen to the original recording because when he first sang it he just rang it out of his throat, just ripped up his heart and belly and it gives me goosebumps to feel it. Recordings after that don’t often replicate the vibe to me. From what I’ve read, CCR recorded that album in one night, and so by the time they got to that song, he was pretty hoarse and he just belted it out. This one doesn’t match it, but it has it’s own energy so I’m giving it its day in court.

To me this song carries the urgency and feelings of the time period and situation perfectly. I think it does okay today, too. Turn it up.

Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue!
And when the band plays Hail to the Chief
Ooh, they point the cannon at you

It aint me, it aint me, I aint no senator’s son, son
It aint me, it aint me; I aint no fortunate one, no

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, dont they help themselves!
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale

It aint me, it aint me, I aint no millionaires son!
It aint me, it aint me; I aint no fortunate one

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, lord
And when you ask them, how much should we give?
Ooh, they only answer more! more! more!

It aint me, it aint me, I aint no military son, son
It aint me, it aint me; I aint no fortunate one

Weekly Immigration Wire: Obama’s Hard Line on Immigration

March 26th, 2009 § 22 comments § permalink

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger


Last week, President Obama announced his intention to address immigration reform in the next few months in a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The statement came as a relief to many, especially with recent reports of human rights abuses within the U.S. detention system. But, as most of the President’s statements seem crafted to appeal to warring political constituencies, his actual intentions are still elusive.

Jorge Rivas of RaceWire, for one, wasn’t wholly won over by the President’s speech during a town hall meeting in California, and noted that Obama got “a little nasty.” Stressing ethnocentric arguments such as “You will learn English” while pointedly avoiding any comment on the suffering tied to the detention process makes for a poor juxtaposition:

You’ve got to..say to the undocumented workers, you have to say, look, you’ve broken the law; you didn’t come here the way you were supposed to. So this is not going to be a free ride. It’s not going to be some instant amnesty.

What’s going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. You are going to — you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don’t get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally.

March 18, President Barack Obama, Orange County, California

Perhaps his strategy is to soften opposition to migrant rights, but lines about language fuel the anti-immigration culture war. Do all immigrants have a problem with English? Or is he talking specifically about the demographic that Sheriff Joe Arpaio targets? If so, why?

President Obama is no Joe Arpaio. But, in this climate, anti-immigrant sentiment does not need to be fed. Our President is a smart and oratorically gifted man. In light of the current economic crisis, he could speak about how the current immigration crisis is tied directly to our trade practices.

Obama also spoke about joining militarily with Mexican President Calderón in efforts to stamp out the violence flaring up since his attacks against the deeply entrenched Cartel families. Democracy Now! has a roundtable discussion on the implications of further militarizing the border.

But the implications aren’t fully drawn out for the American public. In the modern world, borders do not separate families, nor commerce, nor soldiers, nor bank accounts and their owners. We need to begin addressing cross-border issues. For example, if NAFTA is supposed to help Mexico’s economy, why are Mexican farmers on tractors in the streets protesting the policy, as Michelle Chen reports. NAFTA has allowed Mexico’s corn crop to be so devalued that Mexico—the land where the plant was born roughly 5,000 years ago—now imports corn. Streams of campesinos have migrated north…where we lock them up.

Just as the economic crisis is very real to the people losing jobs, the Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE) raids are very real for a large faction of America. New America Media reports on the President’s second town hall meeting in California, where immigration reform activists showed up to “remind him we’re still here,” according to Nativo Lopez, state and national president of the Mexican-American Political Association. The President did not address immigration issues at this event, however.

President Obama speaks of beefing up security on our border, but avoids the growing immigrant detention industry and the problems that accompany it. At the same time, Mexico is flooding the country and its border cities with troops. But what does all the enforcement get us?

Mother Jones covers the resurrection and subsequent destruction of one town’s economy due to ICE raids in A Year Without A Mexican:

The 389 arrests [in Postville, IA] eliminated more than one-third of the meatpacker’s workforce and nearly one-fifth of the town’s population. It also prompted an exodus of hundreds more Hispanic residents who were either afraid of being targeted or simply opted to escape the town’s inevitable tailspin. Postville’s businesses began to suffer almost immediately.

The article paints a grim picture of a warm, thriving community that is decimated. Postville is now a strange, “open-air prison,” with various residents wearing visible electronic shackles. Rowdy citizens have been bused in to fill the place of the deported workers.

The Nation highlights a documentary on detention called “The Least of These.” The video explores the T. Don Hutto Residential Facility, “a for-profit prison”, where Latin American families live in a converted prison environment. They don’t get enough sun, they don’t get enough exercse, and the children draw crayon pictures of the American flag, with tiny, fragile letters spelling out Please help us. How long should they wait?

In Up Against The Wall, RaceWire reports on the growing indications that the Obama Administration may not break with Bush policies regarding immigration. In fact, it may increase enforcement measures while siphoning money away from worker protections in the U.S.

And all this “just days after huddling with Latino members of Congress on immigration issues.” If Obama isn’t careful, he will give the Republican party a foothold to regain trust with Latino voters. I suspect that in any approach to Immigration, compromise is inevitable. But, if the Latino community feels used or betrayed by unkept promises, it could be disastrous for Democrats.

Curious Inversions of Perception

March 23rd, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

I FOUND THIS to be a very interesting and worthwhile read about publishing today and the transitions we are living through, now that the Internet has taken a big hammer to the Newspaper. It’s long and totally worth it. The writer tells us that the problem is not that the Newspaper/News industry didn’t see the shift in models coming up as the Internet grew strong, it did. And in the 1990s, various models of dealing with the changeover were crafted. There was only one problem. The one eventuality nobody wanted to discuss is the one that came to life.

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. …

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke. …

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead. …

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

sombrero tip to amigo Nadir, from an email

President Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Immigration Reform

March 19th, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

Gracias a America’s Voice


And after all this stalemate and silence, it’s a good, clear talk, finally, on the subject. Of course, Obama gives the nods to all the Enforcement-Junkies by being very clear that this is Not A Free Pass and there is talk of the Back of the Line and such (I hope he realizes that some of the people he’s trying to please don’t care if he says “it’s not instant amnesty or anything” cuz I have no doubt they started shrieking AAAAMNESTYYYY the moment he got six palabras into this piece). He subtly and indirectly (almost) slips in a point about himself, the POTUS, being an immigrant, as well as his aunt being one. (What’s the status on Auntie’s deportation process, anyway?)

His idea of multiple pressure points sounds intelligent and practical. I wonder how it will play out. It’s a big, sticky, inter-national agenda. But someone has to take it on sooner or later. We honestly can’t afford for things to get much worse in this area.

I do wish he’d talk a bit on the horrific conditions in detention as well as what the ICE raids are doing to communities. Sure, people cheer for “They will have to learn English” but would they cheer for “They have to be afforded the rights and protection against abuse and exploitation that we’d want our nation to show any human being”? I wonder.

If Obama locks this one down I suspect the GOP will be shut out of any sizable portion of the Latino/Hispanic vote for quite a while. And that has some pretty big implications, politically. Of course, that’s not really where my focus is in all of this. Though I sure would love to start posting on some positive news when it comes to immigrants, Mexican@s, detention centers, raids….

I also suspect that since now all can clealry see which way the winds are blowing, not only will more hesitant or previously “strategic” minded media sites feel safe in getting behind this more vocally (or at all), but so will we see more and more of these kinds of articles. (It’s a good one.)

It all helps.

(Full text of President Obama’s speech below)

THE PRESIDENT: I just met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus today, which Congresswoman Sanchez is a member of — (applause) — to talk about this issue directly. As many of you know, during the campaign I was asked repeatedly about this, and I reiterated my belief that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, I know this is an emotional issue, I know it’s a controversial issue, I know that the people get real riled up politically about this, but — but ultimately, here’s what I believe: We are a nation of immigrants, number one.

Number two, we do have to have control of our borders. Number three, that people who have been here for a long time and put down roots here have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows, because if they stay in the shadows, in the underground economy, then they are oftentimes pitted against American workers.

Since they can’t join a union, they can’t complain about minimum wages, et cetera, they end up being abused, and that depresses the wages of everybody, all Americans. (Applause.)

So I don’t think that we can do this piecemeal. I think what we have to do is to come together and say, we’re going to strengthen our borders — and I’m going to be going to Mexico, I’m going to be working with President Calderón in Mexico to figure out how do we get control over the border that’s become more violent because of the drug trade.

We have to combine that with cracking down on employers who are exploiting undocumented workers. (Applause.) We have to make sure that there’s a verification system to find out whether somebody is legally able to work here or not. But we have to make sure that that verification system does not discriminate just because you’ve got a Hispanic last name or your last name is Obama. (Laughter.)

You’ve got to — and then you’ve got to say to the undocumented workers, you have to say, look, you’ve broken the law; you didn’t come here the way you were supposed to. So this is not going to be a free ride. It’s not going to be some instant amnesty. What’s going to happen is you are going to pay a significant fine. You are going to learn English. (Applause.)

You are going to — you are going to go to the back of the line so that you don’t get ahead of somebody who was in Mexico City applying legally. (Applause.) But after you’ve done these things over a certain period of time you can earn your citizenship, so that it’s not — it’s not something that is guaranteed or automatic. You’ve got to earn it. But over time you give people an opportunity.

Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it.

So we’ve got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. (Applause.) That’s the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. All right. Okay. (Applause.)

Weekly Immigration Wire: ‘Systematic Failures’ in U.S. Detention Healthcare

March 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger


This week, two comprehensive reports on the health of immigrant detainees were released by Human Rights Watch and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. As Public News Service reports, “Immigrants are, literally, dying for decent care.”

There have been many cases of inadequate medical treatment or neglect leading to death in U.S. detention centers. The cases are horrific—ranging from an ignored broken spine to deadly metastasized genital cancer—and must stop immediately. But, a thorough accounting of the realities of detention is needed if the United States can engage in an honest dialogue about immigration policy.

RaceWire doesn’t shrink from offering an incisive analysis in Health in Detention. Michelle Chen writes that “Part of the problem is that the mission of ICE’s Division of Immigration Health Services isn’t really to ensure that all detainees receive the care they need, but rather, to keep people essentially well enough to be kicked out of the country before they die.” Chen adds that in some cases, that low bar isn’t met.

There are many causes. After 9/11, the U.S. stopped aiming for a “more perfect union” of its diverse population. The Bush administration responded (starting in Florida) to the immigrant community with suspicion and force. And so it has continued, ultimately leading to the conditions outlined in this week’s reports. The poor treatment of immigrants in U.S. custody reveals a very ugly side of the country, but it’s hardly a new side. AlterNet’s Lynn Tramonte offers a scathing indictment of how dangerous Agreement 287(g), which recruits local police to enforce immigration law, has become to communities.

The stalemate on immigration reform is sometimes portrayed as a disagreement over “safety” and “security” and “jobs.” But, in many cases, it’s a disguised resistance to the always-changing face of America. It’s an old game of Tug-of-War. Wiretap reminds us how long this culture battle has been going on in the below video. It recalls eerily familiar past attitudes:

We don’t know why the human race has such a short memory when it comes to cyclical xenophobia. It’s confounding, especially in the U.S.: How can we be so proud of our own families’ immigrant roots, but not wish that happiness for others? If a mother, daughter, or sister is called “immigrant”—in the U.S. or the Middle East—she’s suddenly worth less.

Going back to the aforementioned Public News Service article: According to Human Rights Watch researcher Meghan Rhoad, “the detention system routinely subjects women to suffering and humiliation. It is a system that needlessly shackles pregnant women with no criminal background, that ignores requests for care, and does all of this with impunity.”

But confront ICE officials, even their spokesperson, with the many documented cases of medical neglect or human rights abuses, and reporters will be given the standard statement that the agency is “committed to humane and safe treatment of detainees.” The inadequacy of the answer mirrors their effectiveness.

Speaking of inadequate approaches, we now turn to the investigation into Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). On March 12, RaceWire reported on the positive reaction to the investigation from local activists and community groups in Arizona. Click through to see photos of Members of Maricopa Citizen for Safety and Accountability (MCSA) delivering the Sheriff numerous “pink slips” or see letters the DOJ delivered to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on March 10.

In other immigration news, The Texas Observer reports on non-profit consumer advocate group Public Citizen’s suit against DHS on behalf of Denise Gilman. Their efforts are helping shed some light on the construction of a border fence.

It also appears that Speaker Pelosi was actually forecasting a change in immigration policy last week. Yesterday President Obama met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and announced his intention to move forward “possibly within the next two months” with the unveiling of a legislative package that will address immigration reform. Hours later, at a town hall meeting in California, he repeated his conviction to do so.

Some have expressed concern that President Obama is taking on too much at once. But all of these things, the economy and immigration and healthcare, are intertwined. For example, the growing detention center industry will continue to take the place of productive workers and damage a healthy economy.

It is in our nation’s best interest to veer sharply away from the path that George W. Bush set us upon. Obama’s announcement yesterday is exciting news, considering how long the nation’s immigration laws have languished and how many humans have suffered because of them. The change that President Obama promised the nation seems to be coming for one and all.

Happy St. Patricks Day! ¡Que Vivan Los San Patricios!

March 17th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

LET ME RAISE MY COFFEE to Los San Patricios and later, it will be a fine, heavy, sweet, locally brewed Oregon stout. Damn, do they make some fine beers here. Anyway, not much to write today on St. Patrick’s Day. I think I said most of what I have to say (so far) in the post I wrote today, last year. Give it a read.

Ripped piece of 'paper' from old UMX blog on St Patrick's Day

It pretends to be about Free Market philosophies leading to the starvation of many, but really is about the beauty of solidarity in general, and the Irish in specific, and what they did in the name of Mexico, but more so in the name of freedom.

Happy St. Patty’s Day! ¡Que Vivan Los San Patricios!

Thursday Renewal Music

March 12th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

way before i was a blogger i was a mixer upper compactor rearranger augmenter redactor fusing the world’s stories into my own rewrit chapters grabbing music thoughts and words from convos and programs and songs i’d heard but soon enough school gave me the word and work taught me right and everyone got me straight on the copyright and ownership and DRM locked down a power trip cuz thieves like me don’t get on TV but there’s a reborn truth in the poetry that’s born of melding the worlds stolen dreams all in one place where you can feel what it means…

—nezua, on kutiman

Kutiman-Thru-you – 03 – I’m New

background and a sweet commentary on Kutiman

Weekly Immigration Wire: Congress Signals Change for Immigration Policies

March 12th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

Photo by PaisleyPitbull

Photo by PaisleyPitbull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:I was notified of this story when I was just finishing the post, but I should really add this link. [sombrero tip to sylvia]


Nancy Pelosi Speaks Out Against ICE Raids

March 8th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

NANCY PELOSI made some amazing statements in San Francisco’s mission district on Saturday that seem to signal a new direction for immigration issues.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined hundreds of families Saturday evening at a church in San Francisco’s Mission District demanding an end to the immigration raids and deportations that separate parents from children across the United States.

Pelosi, who has said securing U.S. borders is a top priority, used the forum to call for a comprehensive immigration program that recognizes the broad contributions immigrants have made to the fabric of the country.

“Our future is about our children,” Pelosi told a crowd of mostly Latino families at St. Anthony’s Church.

No matter if those families arrived two days ago or centuries ago, Pelosi said “that opportunity, that determination, that hope has made American more American.”

She said, “Taking parents from their children … that’s un-American.”

I’ve not heard anything this definitive yet and it sure gives me lots of hope.

Weekly Immigration Wire: Obama Administration Absent on Immigration

March 5th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also featured at: The Sanctuary, TPM, Open Salon, Daily Kos, MyDD, Open Left, Huffington Post, Firedoglake, The Media Consortium.

Government Accountability Office: ICE are Agents of Chaos and Confusion

March 4th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

For Immediate Release

GAO Report Adds To Bevy of Analysis Revealing Deficiencies of 287(g) Program

March 4, 2009

Washington D.C. – Today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its congressionally commissioned report on the 287(g) program. The Government’s review of this program, which deputizes local law-enforcement officers to act as immigration enforcement agents, confirms what community members and criminal-justice experts have been saying for some time: the program is not being used to target dangerous criminals, and there has not been adequate federal oversight of the local police departments participating in the program.

Findings of GAO Report:

The GAO report found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not clearly articulated the objectives of the 287(g) program or the guidelines that participating police departments must follow, thereby creating confusion and mismanagement. Furthermore, ICE has not demonstrated effective oversight of the 67 partnership agreements and 950 officers who have been trained, potentially resulting in “misuse of authority.”  Finally, participating police agencies have not consistently documented their activities, making it impossible to measure the success or failure of the program, or to justify the high costs associated with it.

Statement by Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center:

“The GAO report is sounding an alarm we’re confident the Homeland Security Secretary will hear. The report echoes the conclusions reached by others who have studied local law enforcement of immigration laws. The costs of these policies are enormous to communities’ safety, civil rights, and pocketbooks. As Secretary Napolitano and her staff begin their review of immigration enforcement tactics, we urge them to consider the totality of evidence coming from the community and acknowledge the full scope of the problems presented by 287(g). We are confident that this administration will find a new way forward and advance policies that restore the rule of law and respect civil rights.”

Other 287(g) Research and Information:

Two other recently released reports examine the community impact of these ICE-local partnerships and provide detailed analyses of the mistakes, racial profiling, and fear resulting from inept implementation of a program which was designed to target criminals, but has instead been used to target the Latino community as a whole:

IPC’s latest publication demonstrates that many law-enforcement officials have opposed taking on the role of immigration agent because doing so destroys their relationship with the communities they are supposed to serve and protect.

Additionally, the Chatham County North Carolina Board of Commissioners recently issued a statement, reported by the Chatham Journal, opposing county participation in the 287(g) program because it is ineffective in crime prevention, increases the risk of racial profiling, and is unnecessary because local law enforcement already has the authority to fight crime. The Board concluded that “the federal government’s immigration policy has been a failure and is dysfunctional. We believe that it is wrong to pass that failure on to local governments, which are not equipped to handle federal immigration laws.”

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