NATION OF IMMIGRANTS, MEET LAND OF OPPORTUNITY. This is a combination that has sometimes resulted in amazing happenings. Behold the United States of America, itself! Although to tell the true story of “America,” we’d have to talk about a whole lot of exploitation of brown people, wouldn’t we? The kind of stories that are not dwelled upon in high school, what with all the platitudes and paeans to Patriots.
But you know what? We don’t need to go that far back to tell those stories, either. Because exploitation and abuse of brown people is, sadly, The Neverending Story upinhyeah.
Gabby Ornelas, a former teller at the giant Bank of America Corp Ornelas was instructed to use her Spanish language skills and Latina heritage to sign up customers for as many kinds of banking services as possible, she said — services that led to lucrative fees for the bank and financial entanglement for many customers.
“We were coached every day to push multiple checking accounts, credit cards and debit cards even when the customer didn’t understand how to use them,” said Ornelas, who lives in Landover Hills, Md., a town with a large immigrant population and a per-capita income of less than $19,000.
In one case, she described a Central American mother of three who came back to see her at the bank, distressed about $300 in overdraft fees incurred after Ornelas persuaded the woman to open a second checking account.
Ornelas and eight of her colleagues leveled the accusations in recent interviews. They are being backed in their whistle-blowing by the Service Employees International Union, which is trying to organize BofA, the nation’s largest bank.
Bank of America officials flatly rejected the allegations, saying their policies are legal, adhere to industry standards and are helpful to customers, including immigrants seeking a toehold in the United States.
Yeah, a toehold, all right. That’s what they’re giving immigrants. They are giving them a blue sky, and deed on a cliff. Oh, and a toehold. Bank of America. Say it again. Bank of AMÉRICA.
Ornelas and three other former BofA tellers, all Latina women, said they and their co-workers were repeatedly instructed to seek potential new Spanish-speaking customers outside the bank. Some were instructed to go to embassies where recent emigres often wait in queue for visa and passport services.
I WAS ON a White House debriefing conference call on Friday (on immigration reform) and actually did much tweeting on it. (Talk about sentences you never thought you’d write….). I’ll post some of those as well as talk about my own thoughts, hopes, and fears on the matter tomorrow.
For now I’ll crosspost the New America Media (NAM) op ed I was sent by NAM and asked to publish. And I’ll also say that I’m definitely more in line with NAM’s op ed than I am with the strategerizing from some of these cats that were on the phone call or even with Chuck Schumer and his whole Sound Meaner When Talking About Immigrants line. (Not that he doesn’t deserve support for what he’s doing to advance this issue in the first place (Yay Chuck!) but I’m really hoping he’s not doing it for strokery but because he knows he is representing the ideals of the US, the wishes of his constituents, and more importantly, doing what is humane and right among humans.)
As a final note, I’ll add that the White House, the advocacy orgs, Chuck Schumer, and reportedly, President Obama personally are all quite confident they will act upon legislation late this year or next year. (That phrase about “late this year or next) is used a few times, so I tend to think the WH plans on actually moving the legislation next year, but still—). Also on board are the major union leaders like AFL-CIO. It’s a pretty rare atmosphere, it seems. So that is very exciting. Again, there’s more to say on all of this, but I don’t want to get out in front of this op ed too much more. It’s a good op ed and isn’t afraid or too shy to stand up for the whole moral enchilada. So that’s a refreshing and welcome change.
Time for Immigration Reform Is Now
The White House and members of Congress must move quickly on enacting a just and humane immigration reform package that will reunite families, reinvigorate the economy, and remove the term “illegal or undocumented immigrants” from the dialogue in this country. Ethnic media, which reaches over 60 million adults in the United States, calls on Congress to move decisively on immigration reform because there are few issues as important to the nation’s well-being as an overhaul of the inefficient, inhumane and economically debilitating immigration system. More importantly, we are also urging our readers and viewers to contact their Senators and Congressmen and let them know that immigration reform must be a national priority.
The immigration system is broken not just for 12 million undocumented immigrants, but also for specialized workers blocked from joining the American economy because of narrow quotas, and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who must wait for years before being reunited with their families.
Our nation needs comprehensive immigration policies that will replace a broken system of raids and roundups with one that protects all workers from exploitation, improves America’s security and builds strong communities. It’s time to end the division between workers, which has allowed big business to exploit both sides. Clearly, working-class citizens and immigrant workers have much in common – dreams of better homes, education for their families and quality healthcare. There is more that brings us together, than separates us. United we can be a strong force for change, changes that that bring more workforce safety and humane conditions.
Immigration is often portrayed as an explosive, divisive issue. In reality it’s not. Since the repeal of the national origins quota system in 1965, which discriminated against certain immigrants, a consensus has been building towards an immigration system that respects the country’s core values. These include economic opportunity, equality under the law regardless of ethnic background, and an embrace of the world’s most innovative, energetic and ambitious workers. Now, with the country facing serious competition from workers abroad, it’s more important than ever to create a world-class immigration system. It’s for the good for families, good for communities and good for America.
Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own
I’ll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see
You’ve got a friend in me
(you’ve got a friend in me)
Ben, you’re always running here and there
You feel you’re not wanted anywhere
If you ever look behind
And don’t like what you find
There’s one thing you should know
You’ve got a place to go
(you’ve got a place to go)
I used to say “I” and “me”
Now it’s “us”, now it’s “we”
Ben, most people would turn you away
I don’t listen to a word they say
They don’t see you as I do
I wish they would try to
I’m sure they’d think again
If they had a friend like Ben
(a friend) Like Ben
(like Ben) Like Ben
THESE DANCE-OFFS AND FLASHMOB JOYFESTS are great to watch. They make me smile, and laugh, and wish I was right there right now. Evidence why Michael Jackson will be remembered and painted in our memories and hearts with happiness and tones of warm brown, golden glimmerings, hot orange hues, vibrant splashes of green and blue and pink…and always to a badass beat.
I KEEP TELLING MYSELF it’s over. That twisting stab of loss…that feeling that something beautiful has left forever. I repeat to myself that all energy just changes shape and trades places…that the joy and the movement and the sound and the love and connection will live on.
And then I open the news to read something or I hear his music or a certain song, or a memory comes rushing back unbidden, and I start weeping again.
I tell myself crying over a dead pop star is silly. Put that way, it is. I read a post or two by somewhat detached or angry or above-it-all bloggers telling us we are wrapped up in celebrity culture. I say the same thing all the time, you know. It’s true.
And then I remember his eyes, and how he could radiate his excitement or fear or happiness to millions of people so well…and of how I have been one of them for over 30 years.
I play back my life in my mind and his music is in so many scenes and they keep coming to me, even when I think I’ve remembered them all.
ABC, 123 when I was so young I had no idea who was singing it. Wouldn’t put that one together until years later. I heard that in a sunny room at Ayrlawn Elementary, I may have been in 3rd grade. Or 4th.
In Gaithersburg, playing at some kid’s house I can’t even remember. I can’t remember that kid’s name, his face, or what we did. But I remember hearing Rockin’ Robin. It was so bright and happy…unlike the general playlist in my house…songs there felt deeper, stirring, full of exhortations for social justice. Fraught with angers I didn’t fully understand, but yet connected to far more than a happy boy singing about birds. That song was for a neighbor’s house, another world.
In Miami, looking at his smile and glowing socks on the back of Off the Wall…for hours. As the record played. She’s Out of My Life where his voice breaks and you feel that vulnerability and wide open love that could pour from his heart. Smiling years later when Eddie Murphy parodied it…but “parodied” with crazy respect. That’s what Michael meant to (some of) us…you couldn’t even mock him without loving him.
You Wanna Be Startin’ Something on my walkman, on tape, on cassette. Over and over. Mouthing Mama se mama sa ma mah coo sa and knowing the magic of the words as just another way to speak the magic that moved the bones.
Darker, then. Thriller. The video that shook the world. Or at least, the US. The one that played with guise, with transformation, with demons. That video was so huge the local Jamesway had it playing from sets in front of the store.
Beat It, which fused a true connection to my own spirit and gave me words I understood, words I used for fuel to refuse to be silent or quiet when they kick you and they beat you and they tell you it’s fair. Because they will. And they do.
I told you about the Thriller shirt I wore to school. It’s a good metaphor for what it meant at times to carry with you a visible love of MJ’s music for the later years. I wore that shirt to a school that had about 3 black people in it. From elementary to High School…three in the whole system. It was a school in rural NY, where I moved to from Miami (where Cubans, blacks, Haitians and so on were the majority). At the upstate NY school they thought of me as Puerto Rican when I first got there…cuz to them it was pretty much the same thing as Mexican. I have no idea how many Latino people were there, maybe a few. But no presence, no political unity, no student groups, nothing like that. So it was a pretty white school. And to tell you the truth, looking back at my life, I guess I bonded to a lot of artists who were POC during that time, and in that place. Part of it was natural, as I just love hearing/playing/dancing to music that is rhythm-strong.
Anyway, when I wore my Michael Jackson T to school (I was about 14), it earned me at least one solid punch and the query as to whether I was a “fag”—something my adoptive father used to like to ask from time to time, too. But I walked into that one. And I knew I was. As I wrote already, it wasn’t a cool move or anything to wear that shirt. No retro/anti/hipster-type statement to that at all. Rock was cool, there and then, and Thriller was current, not retro. Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Van Halen. MJ was simply seen as a freak. Then again…I’m still playing MJ and never bothered even briefly considering going back to any HS Reunions, so….
Jam, about ten years later as I drove faster than I probably should have behind black windows, hand on the stick, MJ blasting through kickers in the back. Scream, and during many nights of a nadir, Who Is It?
And I guess I didn’t realize how important all of that was in my life…until the person who was behind that music left this plane. I guess I didn’t realize how important it was to me that he kept making music…and that the demons lurking about him and peeking out of his eyes here and there not win the battle he was thrown into as only a child.
I Am the Damned
I Am the Dead
I Am the agony inside the dying head
This is injustice
Woe unto thee
I pray this punishment would have mercy on me
And then I’m crying again.
And like I said yesterday, I’m not even sure over what.
Death? Bad endings? Comebacks denied? Cruelty? Child abuse? Self loathing? An insatiable desire to be seen, to be loved? Seeing that desire become destructive? Crying for the misunderstood misfits among us? My past? Myself? For the world’s frenzied hunger for that which we can build up onto a pedestal so that, then, we may climb up screaming and shrieking, to clamor ever closer, close enough to finally touch, to smell, to shred, to fling from those starry heights so that we may for a moment stand even higher than our collective exalted?
They didn’t want me so they made me a star
All of it, I guess. More. Dunno.
So many words I write, and yet I wonder if I can ever get any closer than my friend Kai, who put it so well, and with not too many words. So well it started me off on a jag that lasted well into the night, where I raised my glass to Michael and his soul, again and again, until I fell into a dreamless state of sleep.
“For me, and me alone, the word that comes to my mind when I think about Michael Jackson is “innocence”. To me, Michael was an innocent in a corrupt world. the world’s ugliness twisted him into a beast. he didn’t like it here anymore.”
Chalk n Sidewalk tribute to Michael Jackson - Luna H. & N. - June 26, 2009
Michael. Soul that was known as Michael Jackson: you will live on forever. In our minds, our memories, our hearts, our hips, our hats, our stories, our music. Rest in peace. Rest in joy. Fly onward, fueled and borne up by all the best parts of your being, now freed from the caustic, cutting, crippling, crazied chains of this world.
ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA, Michael “Savage” Weiner wanted not only to be a stand-up comic when younger, but also to photograph his friend Allen Ginsberg in “a provocative way.” Allriiiight! Learning this last part made me feel a lot better about him than I did before I knew about such proclivities.
Because personally, I think the man needs to relax. Grab a camera, yanno, whip a towel or two through the steamy air and run wild! I’d much rather he devoted himself to these invigorating pursuits than his usual endeavors: ranting and radiating a hostility and fear (even against other “photographers”); a stance that seemed to really take root after his having his application for Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California rejected. That was the point at which he apparently decided (after pathetically trying to sue the school for having good taste) to go into a full time career in whining and frothing against those he no doubt blames for shunting him into such a life.
I mean, the man is very confused. That’s what it comes down to.
Meanwhile, while “Savage” warns against the Muslims who ‘scream for Christian blood’ and the “Illegals who have destroyed California” and Teh Gays Wut Threaten Civilization, he has of course become known for “fostering extremism or hatred” and in May of this year, was actually named as one of sixteen people banned from entering the United Kingdom. 
Hey. Did you know that his son, Russell Weiner, is the founder of the Rockstar energy drink line? (I call it “WeinerDrink.”) Did you know that Michael Savage Weiner’s wife is the COO of Rockstar? Yup.
An aside: I am trying to figure out if the YELLOW STAR logo of the drink has anything at all to do with his general racial/immigrant lens. I linked you to a sound file above where he complains Obama is creating some kind of aura of hate against Jews. Is the choice of the Rockstar logo a remembrance in some way…of what my ancestors suffered?
In case you didn’t know, while half of my family came to the US from México (hola Abuelita Lucha Quintana!) the other half of my family came to the US (three generations ago) from Eastern Europe (Poland/Russia) fleeing anti-semitic violence. That was Mollie, my great grandmother, who stowed away on a ship with her brother to split the scene. As you know, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars to mark them as the Despised Other under Nazi rule.
Of course, I have no idea if the yellow star is related here. Never read anything saying so or even questioning. Just occurred to me now, actually, as I put this post together. Either way, I find it sad when people who desire consideration from racist/bigoted hate pour that same hate over others they’ve found that they can, in turn, Other. (Hola, Israel!)
But what is my point in all this? What’s my point in underlining how hateful and racist—and especially against Latin American migrants like Mexicans—Mister Weiner is? What’s my point in reminding you of how much money he makes (millions of course) and how many listeners he has (8-10 million) to whom he lends his spittle-flecked time in sneering and ranting against those people?
SOMERS, N.Y.–(FoodBizDaily)–The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. (NYSE: PBG) today announced a multiyear agreement to distribute ROCKSTAR Energy Drink in Mexico, part of PBG’s strategy to strengthen and diversify its global brand portfolio by expanding into high-growth segments.
Under the terms of the agreement, PBG will have exclusive rights to distribute ROCKSTAR products throughout all of its Mexico territories. PBG already distributes the brand in the United States and Canada.
PBG will begin distributing ROCKSTAR in Mexico in July. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“The investments we’re making to strengthen our brand portfolio are positioning PBG well to capitalize on the growth potential within the liquid refreshment beverage category,” said PBG North America President Rob King. “ROCKSTAR has already proven to be a great addition to our product lineup in the U.S. and Canada. Expanding our distribution to Mexico will unlock new growth opportunities and further enhance PBG’s standing in the energy drink space.”
And there it is. While the father rants all day about the scourge of border crossers trying to make a living, the son and wife lend their energies to a venture that will profit from…crossing borders and raking in profit.
For a second I want to talk about what he meant in my life. And how I see him. There will be plenty of time for endless conversations and accusations and equivocations and decimations of his person or at least his public image as one or another person has perceived it. I don’t think I’ll join in those too much. But I do want to mark the moment for myself.
I first heard Michael Jackson in grade school! The ABC, 123 song. And thena bit later, Rockin’ Robin, when I was about 11. I found Off the Wall when I began roller skating in rinks at about the same age. His music was with me for a long time. Thriller hit the scene when I was a teen, about 15 or so. Remember that album…I think that was the first time I thought his nose (surgery) looked a bit strange. But you know. Who cares, right? Who cared. The whole suit glowed. The album was amazing.
I wore a Tshirt around that time of his to school in high school. It was not a “cool” move and got me a few punches where I was living at the time. But I didn’t care. Because Michael Jackson the artist helped me reach places in my soul that transcend my every day existence. For years. That’s not how I thought of it! But…that’s what it is. This is what art and artists do at their best. And MJ was there in my life for a long, long time helping me do that. And I identify many things with him and his music. Freedom to move in a funky manner; freedom, as a male to dance in ways that males did not. Freedom simply to exercise the joy he seemed to tap into so easily. And how many times did I practice the moonwalk?
If we must talk about the controversial reality of his apparent physical transformation (and I do think that is an important conversation at some point) I would say that to me The Standard of Whiteness and US Suckcess is a lot of what destroyed Michael Jackson. I watched his arc with both awe and horror…watched his skin get bright white over my lifetime. His nose get smaller…and then…alien, even. Watched his lips get surgicalized. He seemed to me someone who wanted to escape the bind of both race and gender…and himself. I know that over the years I watched his eyes fill with pain. And I felt that pain in part…or thought I did.
But the truth is I don’t know his pain. And neither do you. He is a star. He is there for us to project our feelings and thoughts on, and we do. Our adulation or hatred. Our judgment. And if we must condemn him, I would remind you that it is a judgment that sits upon us as a society, as well.
Words come back to me that John Lennon sang: “They didn’t want me, so they made me a star.”
Some people (I can hear them even now, clamoring for the mic) are going to jump right into sizing up his life and calling him deviant or criminal, an abuser, a bad parent, a weirdo. I don’t know. He may be those things. Not talking about that, nor do I have the whole picture. Nor do I know what happened to or with him all along the path of his life, though I do watch the same media as you. If he is or isn’t any of those things, I hope it’s clear that just as not having a green icon on Twitter is not indicative that I want the Theocracy to succeed in Iran, neither is my celebration of Michael Jackson’s music and my mourning of his passing any indication that I don’t also care about children that are harmed anywhere at any time should that be the case. I do. So I’m not warming much to hearing people sneer now about how ugly they find his past, his accusations, his life. Regardless of what might be the truth of all of that, the simple fact that you are banging a drum about it at this moment—when you know so many around you are taking space to grieve—well, that sort of marks you as the ugly one in my way of seeing things.
It was his music. The energy in his eyes. The spirit that moved through him in the form of his dancing and happiness and art. That is what I celebrate right here.
Goodbye, Michael. Rest in peace.
And when the groove is dead and gone
you know that love survives
so we can rock forever…
[For those new to UMX, The Weekly Immigration Wire is my weekly (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites (see end of post). However today I am posting a version of this post that varies from the one that is edited & published on the TMC blog.]
By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger
Once upon a time, Barack Obama told the nation that we could not afford to approach immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion, and that his administration would tackle the issue in 2009. The surety of this sentiment has since trickled down into distillations fraught with equivocation and the apparent reality that there will be no legislative movement this year. While many advocates are hopeful that today’s meeting will result in tangible legislation instead of acting as a stall, aggressive stances by even key Democrats raise the question of how effective a result could possibly be when couched in terms of punishment.
At at time when the deportation industry shows no sign of slowing, hate crimes are rising and hate groups are being mainstreamed, this week’s Wire looks at the growing polarization between advocates and foes of immigration reform.
Writing for New America Media, Jun Wang reports on the disappointing consensus that emerged from at least one panel of immigration activists last Thursday, In Immigration Reform? Wait ‘Till Next Year. The panel was titled “Are We On Our Way To Immigration Reform?” and its roster included Nancy Ramirez, western regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Gary Toebben of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and anti-immigration hate group FAIR’s Ira Mehlmen. The overall agreement was that legislation will not, in fact, happen this year, which doesn’t bode well for the rising hate crimes against Latinos/as which are compounded by other instances of othering and racism, such as “employers in conservative cities” learning that “they are better off not hiring people who are ‘foreign looking or having foreign sound names.’” These reactions only reinforce the idea that Latinos/as are to be singled out and demonized and practically, they hurt the community’s ability to survive and earn a living.
Not content with simply raiding homes, workplaces or storming 7-11s, Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE) is pulling unprecedented moves as of late, such as demanding to see the papers of 16 year old brown girls at train stations who are on their way to school and coercing them to sign away their rights to see an immigration judge right before they are deported out of the country. Also from New America Media, Three Deported Students Return to the U.S., Hiram Soto reports on the joint operation between the Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Representing the three minors who were deported and then brought back while they fight deportation, Immigration attorney Lilia Velasquez said she “hasn’t seen anything like this in her 25-year career,” regarding the children being let back into the US. The fact that “[a]fter analyzing everything, it was determined that it was in the best interest of the young people and their families, and also the United States, for them to return to the country on a conditional basis” seems a dangerous admission for Border Patrol agent Daryl Reed to make. Because one can extrapolate that logic to argue the entire destructive deportation fetish that has swept the Department of Homeland Security the last few years and is increasingly producing ridiculous results.
Also feeding the violent and anti-immigrant/anti-Latino/a energy in today’s US are hate-pundits like Michael Savage. In Things That Make You Go, “OMFG STFU,” Samhita Mukhopadhyay at Feministing reports on one of many broadcasts she deems are created “for the purpose of inciting violence against immigrants and to fuel racial tension.” Exposing his “paranoid” and fearful obfuscation of reality, Samhita clears up the anti-immigrant propaganda by pointing out that despite Savage’s tortured logic, the truth is that Immigrants are the “working base” of California, and not the ones creating a drain upon it. California’s immigrants pay roughly $40 billion in taxes every year.
One of the loudest politicians adding to anti-immigrant (and consequently, anti-Latin@) hostility is Tom Tancredo. So it may not be too much of a surprise to read The Colorado Independent’s article Tancredo linked to Minuteman group accused of Arizona double-murder in which the affinities, solidarity, and gratitude of Tom Tancredo are expressed in a letter to alleged murderer and leader of the anti-immigrant group The Minuteman American Defense (MAD) for organizing a rally. It turns out that not only was this beaming “boilerplate rejection letter” (as campaign chair Bay Buchanan hopes to position it) sent to Forde, but a story published by the Everett Herald in 2007 places official Tancredo campaign staff at the event. The connections don’t end there, however and only grow more unsettling.
But those fighting for justice and on the side of human rights are hardly laying low. Undocumented immigrant Sonia Guinansaca writing for RaceWire tells an engaging and personal story in Mock Graduates Lobby for Dream Act in D.C. in a guest column. Tuesday, over 500 students from all over the US were mobilized to Capitol Hill in a “Mock Graduation ceremony” which was intended to both draw attention and show support for the DREAM Act, before heading into legislative meetings with members of Congress and Representatives. Guinansaca reminds us, gently, of the US’s most inspiring ideals: to be a land where any child believing their dreams are as real and worthy as any other child’s. To be a nation where “[n]othin’ is impossible.”
RaceWire also brings us more news of youth behind change in Immigrants’ Kids File Lawsuit Against US, and Other News. In this political lull, where immigration laws strain terribly in their inadequacy and in the lack of reform, “hundreds of deported parents are filing a lawsuit against the government claiming their constitutional right to stay in the US is violated by the deportation of their parents.”
SHOULD I BOTHER LINKING to any of the posts where we talk about how the energy of stalled immigration combined with lunatics like Michael Savage combined with the hateful energy of groups like the Minutemen combined with the Democrats’ obsessions with appearing vicious in order to get love from GOP have all resulted in a toxic brew of anti-Latin@ hate in this nation with very drastic consequences? I mean why? You, being a regular reader, already know all about it and read it almost every day. Then again, maybe someone new needs to find out about all this. I don’t know.
Something needs to change, when US citizens already suffering from a terrible loss are attacked by other citizens en masse, and for what? For having Spanish names! Wow. I feel like the past has reared up, the days of Civil Rights era struggle, the days of anti-Greaser hate, the days of Los Vatos Locos and the dangerous fabled Pachuco. We are still fighting. La Lucha Sigue.
WASHINGTON – The family of a woman killed Monday is dealing with more than just grief in the aftermath of Metro’s deadliest accident in history.
The family of Ana Fernandez says they have been getting hate-filled telephone messages about whether or not Fernandez, a mother of six, was a legal immigrant.
Are there, truly, such people out there? They read a Hispanic last name, read that she had immigrated years ago from El Salvador, read all of this in an article about her death in a public transportation crash, and call her sister and six children to badger them with cable news-esque spittle about their deceased family member’s immigration status?
I am, however, prouder than ever of my heritage, my name, my family. You will not beat that out of me or terrorize that away from my community. Nor will the Democrats be able to walk back from what they are helping to bring about. Even if Democrats take to swinging sticks at errant Latinos on the street, they won’t please either the GOP or the hate groups like FAIR.
President Obama and others: you can talk all you want. Know, meanwhile, that only action will push back on this terrible trend of hate and violence unleashed in our nation. Dally at risk.
IS ICE ASHAMED of its tactics? No. A Department like ICE has no conscience, of course. Just directives (like “make 400,000 arrests this year”) and a great concern for its public image. After all, ICE needs to keep functioning to funnel cash to the Corrections Corporation of America. That is why, obviously, they are so tight lipped, issuing only steel-plated machine-stamped public statements stinking of the PR room or flat, faceless (and sometimes false) phrases like “We did everything by the book.”
Is it “by the book,” I wonder, to hang out on train platforms or stations and interrogate brown high school girls? Ask for their papers and when they cannot produce any, to solicit confessions about legal status, have them sign a paper “agreeing to voluntarily return to Mexico without seeing an immigration judge” and then ship across the border?
Is that really “the book” the Obama/Napolitano administration is using?
SAN DIEGO—Three high school students who were arrested last month on their way to school and sent to Mexico by Border Patrol agents have been allowed to return to the United States. The teenagers, ranging from 15 to 17 years old, returned Wednesday to San Diego after the federal government allowed them to stay with their parents while they fight their cases in immigration court. …
The students’ arrests on May 20 at a trolley station in Old Town San Diego provoked outrage among immigrant rights advocates who questioned whether border agents should be arresting children.
Lilia Velasquez, an immigration attorney representing the students, said authorities didn’t follow required procedures, and failed to give the students a special form that outlines their right to speak with an adult.
“They treated this as any other raid,” Velasquez said. “I think it is implicit of the mere fact they agreed to this rare type of procedure of paroling the students back into the U.S. that they did something wrong. And they want to do damage control.”
Stephanie Jiménez, 16, surrounded by her family Photo by Laura Embry, Union-Tribune
If DHS/ICE has to resort to loitering in train stations and bullying high school girls into Mexico, they have no game plan whatsoever. And I’m not surprised they are trying to hide acts like this. How pathetic. But you know. For ICE, it’s just another day of terrorizing the Latin@ community.
THAT SOUND YOU HEAR is the moan of the Newspaper industry as readers abandon the pulpy, stinking ship in droves. The newspaper industry is trying to rebrand, reshape, go “Web 2.0,” install pay-barriers, dress up advertisements as front page images….all kinds of fun stuff. Hasn’t quite occurred to them that newspapers had, somewhere along the line, come to be seen as a way for us to read provoking thought, to read the truth about our world, to inform us. Somewhere along the way, the corporate masters thought the People were too stupid to notice when the Paper was gutted of essence, and instead offered either advertisements or word-collections that served as advertisements. For war, for government control, for wiretapping, for torture….
Well, this itself is old news, of course. That’s why the blogosphere has taken off and in part, why some bigmouth like myself can gain a platform that grows larger every day. That, too, is why groups like the Commonweal Institute are introducing new projects such as this one:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Commonweal Institute Announces Progressive Op-Ed Program
Summary: Commonweal Institute, a Northern California-based think tank, will produce and distribute weekly progressive op-ed columns, available for publication in print and online news outlets.
Menlo Park, California (June 16, 2009) – With the goal of providing an opportunity for local and national news outlets to publish opinion and commentary from a progressive political perspective, Commonweal Institute—a Northern California-based think tank—announced today it will produce and distribute weekly op-ed columns starting July 1, 2009.
Commonweal Institute Fellows, public intellectuals who have organically developed large audiences and authority in their field through their blogs, publications and academic work, will write the columns on a rotating basis. …
Commonweal Institute’s op-ed columns will be available for reprint free of copyright restrictions, with the only requirement that the authors be identified as Commonweal Institute Fellows.
Among the topics that will be covered in the op-ed columns: Sustainable Living (food, design, architecture and urban planning); Corporations and Society (civil justice, labor rights and transparency); Progressive Strategy (psychology, progressive political infrastructure, the conservative movement); Justice and Equal Rights (LGBT rights, gender equity, immigration and racial justice).
So I’ll link you when those come out, or just keep an eye on it.
Finally, a heartfelt thank you to the Commonweal Institute, and a big WASSSUP? to my fellow, er,Fellows.
I RECEIVED AN EMAIL on a list-serv I’m on, and the email was calling for “Stories of Decisive Moments From Immigrants” and the idea was that you submit your story to this site/group and they will at some point (soon?) make a documentary from them. The person who passed it on is someone known to me, I trust them, and so do I trust the list. I checked out the link announcing the project, and it felt okay. I went to the site itself…and I was reminded once again of how easy it is in this day and age of representational identity, of virtual reality, to “become” something or present as an entity…but without any verifiable or worthwhile connection to anything. A site asking for your most personal stories (and you may not even be documented, or may be living with or related to those undocumented) and offering you NOTHING in return as far as safety, identity, history, agenda.
I’m seeing more and more of this, and in an age where all you need to “be” something online (now a world unto itself) is a web designer, an artist, a writer, and a check-writer.
Lately I am very much on my guard to protect both the integrity of the Latin@ movement (as I define it of course) and my community. More and more so as the days go by.
We are now in what I jokingly (O and NOT bitterly!) call “The Second Gold Rush,” as everyone and their brother suddenly realizes the market is in All Things Immigrant or All Things Latino, and everyone from well-meaning advocacy groups to entrepreneurs to opposition groups are panning to Hit It Big in SOME way.
Yeh, “panning” is a reference to the original rush in Califas which was, of course, once part of México and shortly after it “became” the US’s (thanks to a Bush-like Polk who launched such an unethical land-grab war as to provoke Thoreau into refusing to pay taxes to support it) proved to be so lucrative as to finance much progress and early US beginnings while so many Mexicans, Chileans, Chinese, and others bled and sweat behind that only to be obscured and robbed and forgotten.
Now, not even much later in the land of redacted history, we are in an age where nobody thinks much about the US invasion of Mexico, and very few refer to it as a time when “the United States took control from Mexico in an imperialistic war in the 1840’s.” It’s basically unAmerican to talk about how the US stole half of Mexico, and what that move did for “US”…and while many people are aware of the vampiric tradition of draining madre México (and Latin America todo) still rolling on in shapes like NAFTA and CAFTA (not to mention the vile Ronald Reagan’s Project X) the Right Wing Media Capos lean on any pundits who suggest these treaties aren’t the Greatness de Shiz. At this moment, I’d have to say that the USGOV is not too much like Germany—a nation with demonstrable conscience for global deeds. A nation that feels sorrow and even enacts laws behind that sorrow and collective shame for actions unbefitting a great power that have scarred global neighbors.
Oh…! But wutsup I’ve gone on a tangent, haven’t I? Hardly accidental, as this is history I factor into my political awareness. And so you are aware of why a part of my spirit bristles at the fractals. Why I get sniffy when I see the horizon suddenly thick with marketers and New Shiny Latino Site!s and offers targeted (often very clumsily) to us, or those rising up to claim to represent us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning love and support and good souls joining a fight. I hope that’s clear.
I’ve written from time to time of the Love-struck Locust, and that’s why this phenomenon gets under my skin. All this attention to any ethnic group always comes hand-in-hand with growing assault or demonization or exploitation of that same group. So while we have children left without parents and crying because they can’t understand a world that we find acceptable, one that yanks the dearest people away from them and calls it “Justice for All,” we also see a horde of “pro-latin@” or “pro immigrant” groups&orgs fighting over petition signatures and power in a way that interferes with the campaigns ostensibly designed to help gente.
At times it makes me feel a bit ill. Second Gold Rush. (I will have to add this and the Love-Struck Locust (finally) to The Glosario.) Anyway. Back to the Choosing America site which is—let me stress—doing nothing inarguably deviant, or evil. Just being bright and airy and asking for Your Story.
Peep it. The site is all stars, flags, rainbows, USA shapes, happy children, and clouds. Crisp, white, red, blue. Airy design, readable font. Welcoming…in a way. Like a sterilized countertop, or brand new patriotic poster. Okay, fine. Standard US Patriotic vocabulary of iconry and design. Very safe.
The Choosing America Project is a creative initiative, not affiliated with any organization.
What we are interested in gripping human interest stories that will reflect the diversity of the American immigrant experience, past and present. Among the people involved in this project are journalists, writers, documentary filmmakers, editors, screenwriter, producer and more….
Really? Affiliated with NO organization? So you’d think it was just individuals. And if so, you’d think they gathered together due to a common interest or cause, no? How else to individuals gather around a project? I’ll get to the bios and backgrounds in a bit. “Put a tack” in that badboy, as they say. Bios and backgrounds.
Also, can I just say…”What we are interested in is…” I have to laugh. At the rhetorical device. Anyway.
We don’t have any political/social perspective. We have placed no value judgment on the stories we hope to elicit and subsequently film. We are open to hearing everything, good bad, angry, satisfied. We want the stories to be true, diverse and colorful to reflect reality and of course – to be interesting.
Let me interrupt. Having no political/social perspective is reserved for the dead and the heavily sedated or utterly apathetic. And filmmakers and communicators most certainly DO have points of view and “social perspectives,” and often more defined and active than most. Which is…why they make film. Unless they are only doing it to cash in. In those craven instances, okay. Maybe no social perspective needed.
Back to “their vision”: [my bolded emphasis]
As for copyright and intellectual property issues: by sending us their stories, the writers do not waive intellectual rights or copyrights. If and when the project moves to the next stage, professional individual contracts to formalize these issues will be created and signed with every writer who will take part in the project.
The bios of the developers of this project do not appear on this site simply because we don’t want the project to be affiliated with any particular background or country. All we are prepared to say at this point is that we ourselves are immigrants to the US.
I mean, are you serious? Do you really need me to point out that you are going about this ENTIRELY the wrong way? I don’t even know where to begin. But let me just pick the point that led me to the title of this post.
We know the nation’s dialogue is stacked against immigrants. We know there are rising currents of racism in our nation, the likes of which haven’t seen such popular platforms since perhaps the civil rights era. We know there is death and murder and assault happening behind these currents. We know the government spies on us. We know they read our emails. We know cops can kill you now with electricity even if you are innocent, disabled, old, in a wheelchair, etc. We know that ICE breaks down doors (like others who are in the business of hunting the undocumented or those who “look” undocumented), we know they ride in unmarked vans, we know they operate on quotas, we know they can be very cruel and inhumane, we know that detention is a horrible and deadly thing in many cases. We know all this and we understand the requirement for trust and community in light of this, in any area involving immigration or belonging to a group not included under the safe umbrella of Dominant Culture in the US.
what on earth would make you think you can vacuum up information, possibly sensitive information, in an era where information is GOLD, in an era where immigrants are hunted—without giving up any info as to who you are or where your money comes from, or what you have done in the past?
I mentioned the Related Links page. There is only one, and only one person connected visibly to the site by name: [Their italicized emphasis]
This link was recommended by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, who has provided assistance for the project.www.germanoriginality.comis a web site for German American heritage
Interesting. Not foreboding, though not extremely comforting or revealing in the context of all the rest of the site and what is missing.
Finally, the Contact Us page asks for a lot—your address and phone number information—but it will send without your filling that in.
Back to our story.
Trusting the sources who sent me this info for the most part, I almost simply reblogged the paragraph without thinking much on it. (And if it all feels fine to you, by all means, go visit and tell your story!) But I find the site too bare, and the wording in a few places frankly, freaks me out a bit. I mean, “All we are prepared to say at this point is that we ourselves are immigrants to the US”??? Prepared to say? Who do you think you are?
I’m a bit more sensitized now, because this is not the first time that I’ve bumped into this thing, where a few people put up a site that looks hot, they smartly leverage trust, smoothly lay their fingers on top of the zeitgeist, and present themselves as some large and powerful entity working for the people—when there is hardly any roots to feel out or history to track at all.
The last time was an incident with Presente.Org, and I went to bat for them 100% before slowing down and asking myself how I got so knee-deep in pushing them with the weight of all my credibility and reputation without really knowing a ton about them. [Note: I am not saying Presente.Org is nefarious or that I regret doing outreach for them; just that I learned a lesson about what I back with my own voice, or what process I need to go through before doing so.]
Thing is, anyone can throw together a site. Anyone can begin a Google Group. Anyone can open a Twitter account. Anyone can hire an artist to tie it all together and brand it. (Hello!) Everyone lately is hungry. For cash, for work, for power. This is being a human, and a human right now, right here. Due to all this, those of us who do care about the community need to be careful about whom we give our trust to, whom we lend our resources to, what information we give up.
I use this era, this time, these days of intensity and increased scrutiny and intensified curiosity as a time to draw closer to those en la lucha who I already know are tried and trusted. And a time when I put more distance in between myself and those who refuse to identify themselves or prove their history and connections, if not immediately visible or verifiable. I don’t mean to be closed or suspicious, but I’m no fool about human nature.
What you do in this (or of course ANY instance!) is up to you. But when I have these feelings, I also feel I owe it to you to talk about them. I don’t know what they mean or what they are worth in any empirical or absolute sense. What might they mean combined with your own thoughts and intuitions? It gets interesting.
As a final (and admittedly lesser) note on filmmaking itself (I’ve a littleexperience), I also find this whole “soliciting stories” shtick a bit lazy and off-putting. Yes, I know that a huge part of Building an Internet Empire these days involves using the readership to examine documents, crowdsource, do research, give tips…there’s two sides to that. One is that it’s great. The people are involved, its’ “Web 2.0” which goes both ways, it leverages the power of the crowd. The other is that it’s not really so cool because it builds the power of the entity without really paying back the people for their work aside from getting a nice warm feeling. (From what I’ve seen so far.)
So, see it as you like, but as a filmmaker, I don’t understand why you don’t grab your camera and just talk to the people in your community. There are so many stories out there. If you want to make films, especially documentary films, you really ought not sever yourself from the human contact of it. That is what makes these films strong, to my way of thinking. Not some person with a blank face, blank history, blank agenda anonymously asking for heartfelt googah.
But who knows. Maybe all this human and authentic concern is the “old” way. After all, it’s a brand new mishmashup, digitally-lifted, utterly-appropriated, and instant-upload type of world now, qué no? Find your way….
WELCOME TO ANOTHER SORDID CHAPTER in the Sherrif Joe Arpaio Freak Show. I know the regular UMX crowd is well too aware of this sad, aging, dinocreptastic remnant of an era screeching into our past and not gracefully and with guns—but if you are new to the “good sheriff’s” antics, well. Lo siento, I’m very sorry to hear that.
This is a YouTube vid dealing with his latest daring act of wackery, raiding a car wash. Because, as has been made clear by small radioactive rotten-cheese fragment newspaper demons in Sheriff Joe’s nightmares, ALIENZ are sneakily sudsing your cars into a Salsa-centric state of mind and we can’t have that in this here United States.
Watch for the chica, Katherine Figueroa, who tells it from her angle. You see, it was her parents scooped up in this raid. She learned about it from watching the news that day. And remember: this is the America we are making, every day.
President Obama. You can searchEl Grito to see how passionately and often this blog defended during your heated candidacy against those who claimed you were “nothing but pretty speeches.” Oh yeah, I lost a “friend” or two over that whole primary.
So. Enough with the speeches on how much you plan for immigration this year, or even the lectures to Fathers on how they should father. Eh? Tell it to Katherine Figueroa. And since your words can feel so magical (as both Will.i.am and myself would be happy to testify to) why don’t you also tell it to all the other children suffering in this barbaric anti-immigrant/anti-Latin@/anti-family onslaught which is doing nothing so much as lending more and more power to thosewithhate in their hearts.
On May 30, 29-year-old Raul Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia Flores were shot to death, purportedly by a group of far-right anti-immigrant activists who broke into the Flores home by posing as police officers. On Friday, Shawna Forde, anti-immigrant activist and Executive Director of the Minutemen American Defense, (MAD) along with accomplices Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola were arrested on two counts of first-degree murder and burglary charges related to the Flores murders.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes that the MAD website denounces the murders, but wryly adds that the distancing is “a tad belied by headlines down the page,” like “Subhuman Mexicans (God’s Children?) Prey on Countrymen.” The Flores murders are part of a palpable political and social climate of hostility and revulsion toward Latin American immigrants that is running amok in our nation.
As Democracy Now reports, the FBI has noted a rise in hate crimes against Latinos, which isn’t difficult to verify anecdotally. And, according to Laura Flanders at GritTV, “economics, racial panic, immigration, [and] right wing rhetoric” all play a crucial role in this rise. If our government continues to spend resources that help portray people as both predatory and “subhuman,” it will continue to foster a perception that violence against this class can be committed in good conscience.
This national, anti-immigrant fervor has resulted in a courts system in which “countless immigrants are subjected to harassing or denigrating treatment” and “have no assistance in navigating the byzantine court process,” writes Mary Giovagnoli at AlterNet. She reports that “misguided deportation-only strategies have led to a breakdown in our immigration court system.” The system is overloaded, backlogged, and not operating effectively or humanely.
The U.S. immigration process is in disrepair due to neglect and improper stopgap measures (like agreement 287(g)), just as broken bones will fuse in any manner if not set correctly. We are mired in an interim period and tensions will continue rising until we take on the challenge as a nation. In any part of the process, from application to arrest to detention to deportation, there are glaring problems. RaceWire touches briefly on the lack of accountability in the detention system.
Is the increasing absorption of virulently racist mentalities into mainstream groups a terrible confluence of unrelated factors, or a predictable reaction to the “browning” of this country? At the same time the U.S. military has relaxed its rules on accepting recruits with ties to white supremacist movements, so have circumstances allowed for “a new crop of anti-immigrant groups to enter the mainstream dialogue, even though many have ties to hate groups with violent records,” as Miriam Zoila Pérez writes for Feministing.
The video above depicts Shawna Forde as a spokesman for one of these hate groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR made news on Tuesday for disingenuously presenting statistics that demonize immigrants as a strain to the economy. At AlterNet, Walter Ewing exposes the tortured logic FAIR employs and makes the case that “once … inconvenient truths are taken into account, FAIR’s ‘cost’ evaporates.”
It wasn’t long ago that we reported on how many anti-immigrant pundits were using the Swine Flu to create a toxic anti-immigrant/anti-Latino climate. And sadly, none of those people understand how hate speech leads directly to violence. Talking Points Memo makes the alleged murderers’ ties to the anti-immigration movement clear.