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MEXICO vs USA 5-0, Takes Gold Cup

July 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Copa Ora Goals and Highlights

Goals and Highlights (With Anthems)

¡Baila en la Calle!

As you can expect, the US team is a bit baffled, not to mention embarrassed and fuming. But these feelings and events and upsets are just what make sports fun to watch at all, eh? Especially in the specific case of these two teams. There’s a backstory and a continual undercurrent, as you might expect.

NEXT STOP? Azteca Stadium in el D.F., 12 de Agosto!

Weekly Immigration Wire: Post-Racial Hypocrisy

July 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

[For those new to UMX, The Weekly Immigration Wire is a (paid) weekly article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites (see end of post). This post originally posted at 08:14 (am) PST]

postracialWIW

By Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger

Nobody said becoming a post-racial nation would be easy. The United States has its first black president, but as the son of a Kenyan immigrant, his citizenship and legitimacy are still being questioned. In the meantime, the White House is advancing programs like the 287(g) agreement, which have been linked to racial profiling and civil rights violations. It’s a form of oppression made possible, perversely, by the very administration that many hoped would combat such injustices.

Not that the issue of race ever really went anywhere, but the topic is front and center in the news again since the June 18 arrest of Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard professor who was picked up by police in his own home. Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo runs through the “racially-charged attacks that have circulated against [President] Obama” since his comments on Gates’ arrest. Kleefeld notes that this rhetoric has been a regular focus of the Right’s attacks against Obama since “the phony rumors of a tape of Michelle Obama defaming whites.”

But that’s old news. Today’s paranoiac can tune into the strange campaign spearheaded by CNN’s Lou Dobbs known as “Birtherism,” which is the belief held by a very fringe element of the Right that President Obama was not born in the U.S. and is ineligible to hold office. Dobbs has been obsessively documenting the fact-resistant Birther debate, supposedly because the group needs representation and a voice in the media. The Washington Monthly‘s Steve Benen reports on Dobbs’ response to criticism from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: Lou is now calling Maddow names like the “Teabagging Queen.”

It’s hard to understand this despicable reaction to Obama’s remarkable story. Has the U.S. forgotten its own myths about the great opportunity available to each and any of us? Hawaiian Congressman Neil Abercrombie has come up with an interesting solution: A resolution that ostensibly celebrates Hawaii’s fifty years in the union, but also states that the President himself was born there. The “Anti-Birther’s Resolution,” as The Young Turks are calling it, passed the House unanimously on Monday. The resolution puts the GOP in the position of voting against a celebration of Hawaii, or in siding with the “Birther’s” fringiest of fringe elements.

The Young Turks also feature citizen journalist Mike Stark’s interviews with GOP elected officials about the Birther issue. Stark effectively documents the GOP’s hugely awkward position: They’re too weak to reject a small number of extremists on the Right, so they simply run from the questions.

All this furor over Obama’s birth certificate makes for a dangerous mix of hypocrisies, as New America Media points out. An “identical logic” is operating in both Lou Dobbs’ pet project and the White House’s recent decision to expand the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement with immigration enforcement powers. Ultimately, the program ends up empowering and encouraging police to target people “because they look foreign or have identifiably non-Anglo names,” as Marcelo Ballve writes. The 287(g) agreement “enables police resources to be funneled into a kind of birthers movement on a national scale, with local beat cops roaming our streets, ready to investigate those who look a smidgen exotic, on the presumption that they aren’t U.S.-born or properly documented.”

Amy Goodman explains the “serious reports of abuse” that have arisen from the 287(g) provision in a Democracy Now! roundtable with Aarti Shahani, founder of Families for Freedom, and Roberto Lovato, contributing associate editor with New America Media.)

Since the issue of immigration has become wrapped up in an anti-terror agenda, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are terrorizing communities, at times invading homes with machine guns and in teams. The 287(g) provision brings the border wars into the nation’s interior, according to Shahani. Further, she explains, the individuals that “self-select” into the 287(g) program are “Officers that want to be able to have the power to pick up Latinos, brown people while driving.” Shahani mentions an often unspoken disappointment: That many of us thought Obama, often attacked for his middle name, would do away with programs linked to racial profiling.

Lovato also writes about 287(g) at AlterNet, and argues that it’s “driven more by racial animus than by concerns about public safety.” He interviews Jaqueline Esposito of the Detention Watch Network, a group that was once very supportive of President Obama’s policies. They’re now troubled by the dissonance between Obama’s inspiring words and the White House’s support for programs like 287(g). Esposito says that the 287(g) provision “is a direct contravention of the President’s statements” as it has been “widely criticized by government officials, immigrant rights advocates and many others, for undermining community safety and for racial profiling.”

And where are these members of the community taken, once picked up? They are shoveled into a growing detention industry, where incarcerated children write letters begging for a better life (see image at left). RaceWire’s Michelle Chen does not shy away from a direct statement: “Tens of thousands of people are living in a legal no-man’s land within our borders, and the government wants to keep it that way,” she writes, based on findings from a recently released report by the ACLU of Southern California, the National Immigration Law Center and other legal advocates. The report reveals various abuses of detainees held by ICE officials, who have “Routinely blocked detainees’ contact with family members and advocates, cut off from critical health care services, and provided little legal recourse against maltreatment—all with virtually no meaningful oversight.”

Finally, a different argument from Salon. In Immigrants Should Be Eligible for the Presidency, Michael Lind reviews how our laws about citizenship came to be, in what context, and what that might tell us today about our values. And perhaps most usefully, it encourages us to step away from the raving of Birthers and heartbreaking letters by imprisoned immigrant children, and remember what our country could celebrate if it wanted: The diverse and changing face of a People. Not just in the Oval Office, but throughout our entire nation. It’s the very countenance of Change, itself.

———————————–
Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s VoiceTalking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, MyDD, Open Left, FDL, The SanctuaryRabble

Nezua Snags America’s Voice Immigration Blogger Scholarship

July 30th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

NN-2THE ONLY WAY I AM ABLE to keep traveling to conferences and conventions and expos and such is that I am lucky enough to hit virtual jackpots and am flown via scholarships or other such jazztastic happenstance (not to mention the help from my friends along the way) and I am grateful in each instance for the honors, as well as the opportunities. These trips are expensive and many do not get to attend. Were it not for America’s Voice this year, I’d not, either.

I am proud today to thank America’s Voice for awarding me one of their eight scholarships to attend Netroots Nation 2009 as an Immigration Blogger.

As usual, if you live in the area, drop me a line. Maybe I’ll see you there!

ICE Engaging in ‘Widespread Constitutional Violations’

July 30th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

For Immediate Release: [Petition at Bottom]


Hard Hitting New Video Critical of DHS Immigration Inaction

Actions Planned Across the Country to Ask Sec. Napolitano to Focus on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Not Bush-Era Enforcement Measures

Washington, DC – On the heels of several reports critical of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) enforcement and detention tactics, America’s Voice has created a new video demanding that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano do more to reject the failed strategies of the Bush Administration and move forward on workable comprehensive immigration reform. Yesterday, grassroots activists in New York and Los Angeles launched events with the same theme. These grassroots actions will continue across the country for the next several weeks.

“Communities around the country are becoming increasingly frustrated with DHS’s continuation of controversial and ineffective Bush-era enforcement practices, and with good reason,” said Adam Luna, Political Director of America’s Voice. “President Obama promised a new approach to immigration, but recent developments suggest a gap between his promise of significant change and DHS’s follow through to fulfill this commitment.”

This video is based on a recently released public study of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s home raid operations by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, which found that immigration agents engaged in widespread constitutional violations over the course of several years. Some of the agents’ most egregious violations include entering and searching homes without legal authority, and seizing people without any basis other than their racial or ethnic appearance or limited English proficiency.

Although DHS deserves credit for shifting some enforcement priorities, and has dialed back the use of terrorizing residential and workplace raids as practiced under the Bush Administration, the Department has failed to investigate the widespread flaunting of the law by its agents. In fact, in response to the Cardozo report, whose findings were endorsed by leading law enforcement officials, DHS said only the following in an e-mail to the New York Times: “The men and women of I.C.E. are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation. We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness with the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter. While I.C.E. prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives.”

According to Luna, “Imagine the outcry and the investigations that would be already underway if those who had their doors kicked in and guns pointed in their faces were rich and powerful. It should be no different for hardworking immigrant families caught up in a dysfunctional immigration system. That is why advocates across the country are raising their voices and demanding that the injustices of the past and the excesses of the present be confronted and changed by our public officials.”

Sign the Petition Now

México Wants You. Healthy.

July 30th, 2009 § 5 comments § permalink

mxcity

TIMES IS HARD in these here United States, especially if you have medical procedures or dental work needed but not a lot of cash. In a twisted anti-shape of humane intelligence, the US’s healthcare system is currently utterly profit-based which leaves one feeling, at these times, that there are a lot more of empowered people who do not care about your life and health than who do.

But maybe Mexicans do. Hey! Check it out! The local government in Mexico City is offering tourists free medical care “in case of accidents or disease.” Included is everything from emergency dental care to flu treatment.

NOTE: Certain Latinolicious parties who are citizens of the US but traveling to Mexico for health care should be very careful to have lots of documentation for a smooth return across the Border.

Shatner Does Palin. A Study in Political Poetry.

July 29th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

And not paying much mind to any of them, William “I’ll Always Be the Real Kirk” Shatner reads Alaska ex-Governor Sarah Palin’s goodbye…speech.

(s/t Oliver Willis)

Colonialism, Neoliberalism, and Sweatshop Politics: On the March (Still)

July 28th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

oneworld-flagWhat the US is now doing to México by way of NAFTA and the overwhelming of México’s  market by US-subsidized Agribusiness (gutting their farming-based/corn-based market and glutting it with our own products, while employing many of their citizens at substandard rates and in substandard health conditions in order to help our own economy and prepare/manufacture/sell our food) it does directly in other nations through coups and forced legislation, Nations that are further from our border, and thus beyond the radar of the average US citizen. For example, Haiti, where the US’s Wilsonian fantasies and greed and neoliberalism led long ago to the destruction of the rice farmer’s ability to sustain him/herself and are a direct prerequisite to the food crisis they are experiencing now. USGOV has long been sucking the lifeblood of much of Latin America, and in the case of Haiti, refuse to let go the neck.

We can go further and talk about the undeniable thirst for the Strategic Crescent, the oil-rich Middle East, the wars to gain footholds (bases and massive “city within a city” embassies being built in Iraq as well as Af-Pak + lest we forget the “reservoirs of oil” that Iraq is “floating” atop). The US economy is collapsing, the nation is heavily armed, but hollowed out at the heart, waving numb fingers, and with a belly soon to feel real hunger pangs. It is supporting itself by draining the lifeblood of other nations and peoples. This is happening on many levels.

The Empire, in yet another shape, sprawls and burps and bleeds and chews up humans as it moves into its final phases—the phases where it self-destructs as all Empires do, as all man-made power-suction gold-glory death machine-staircases to the halls of the Gods must always do when they forget their place in the overall family of creatures and balances. It isn’t pretty, it will get uglier, but we must be ready. Because the danger we are used to reading in books and seeing in movies, or hearing about happening in a faraway lands is crawling closer and closer to our front doors, and in more cases than many of us care to think about, has already woven its caustic threads into the tapestry of our small, ambitious lives.

Borders are illusions, and they are perhaps necessary to some degree in a world where spirit is somewhat bound by containers. But in many cases they are a deadly illusion behind which humanity chokes. The illusion is disconnection. The illusion is that our worth is greater on one side than en el otro lado. The illusion is Us and Them. The illusion is that we are in control of nature’s deepest rhythms.

How to wake ourselves up from these dreams that suffocate so many?

Your TV Wants You Dead

July 26th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Picture 5THIS IS A MOMENT THAT OCCURS over and over on TV day after day in one shape or another. Granted, it’s FOX TV (the channel that is known for showing “Baby Snatcher” type chyrons “accidentally” next to a photo of Barack Obama as well as naming anyone arrested for impropriety in government a “Democrat”, etc etc), but FOX is a massive voice in US culture, funded by billions and pushed out to millions.

So what’s going on in this moment?

Well, here you have three white dudes talking about how wrong and how it is an “abuse of power” that a hate crimes bill was added to a defense spending bill.

The three rich white men also discuss how the Defense spending bill omits cashola for their new lusty F22 plane which McCain laments has never seen action in either Iraq or Afghanistan. (Isn’t that a dear smile on the old chap’s face?)

So. They want more money to kill brown people oversees and they call the protection of brown people here in the US an “abuse of power” by US government. And they end by saying (as you can see by the lil subtitle at the bottom of the image) that this combo leaves ‘us’ with inadequate defense.

Which ought to make you wonder…Whatchoo mean “us”?!

The Melting Pot, Chapter 2009

July 25th, 2009 § 9 comments § permalink

The Famous Melting Pot T-Shirt

The Famous Melting Pot T-Shirt

HOLOCAUSTIC SHOOTERS, Teabagger protestors, Anti-immigrant hate groups, Hate crimes rising, Birthers, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck…these poor souls are having a very hard time facing reality. The nation’s cultural demographics are changing to better match much of the world. And specifically…the POTUS is black.

These types, as much as some part of them might desire, cannot give vent to what truly troubles their mind, so they twist up their thoughts and use mouthsounds like “Fascist” and “Socialist” and phrases like “that’s not a Birth Certificate, it’s a Certificate of Live Birth,” or as Liz Cheney recently drizzled “People are worried that he doesn’t seem to want to defend the country” and so on.

To break the hatecode, reference the key set out by Lee Atwater in his famous quote on the “Southern Strategy”:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites.

And that’s how those types talk about it now, too. And these same types of minds are going about harming very specific portions of the population in the same ways.

And the reaction this springs from? This fear that everything is upended and civilization is threatened by this strange unknowable “perversion” of time-honored power structures? It’s purely cultural in nature, of course. Otherwise, what is really changing so much? President Obama is a a political centrist. And a corporatist, essentially. And a hawk!! I mean, many important things aren’t changing a bit.

But even the President saying in a press conference what is simple fact—that blacks and latinos are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates, and harassed for being brown™—terrifies some people! Granted, the people most disturbed by this are a rather gross lot and (if ya don’t mind my saying so) a lot of them will die before toooo long. (Sometimes for change you simply need for old, stodgy, crazy minds to fade off the earth to give room for new thinking!) Especially if they keep loading up on Viagra and taking trips to the Dominican Republic in search of… ?

But meanwhile, for the President to even dance close to a truth that brings us toward discussing institutionalized racism…well. You get scaredycats talkin’ like this:

“We’re finding out that this guy’s got a chip on his shoulder. He’s angry at this country. He’s not proud of it. […] Let’s face it, President Obama’s black, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder. I think there are elements in this country he doesn’t like and he never has liked. And he’s using the power of the presidency to remake the country.”

—Rush Limbaugh (via thinkprogress)


RUSH LIMPLY:

Of course you’re not being honest, Mister Limp-paw. Just making jowl-sounds. This is just a clever way of tapping into the whole “WHO IS HE REALLLLY???” thing. You know. Furrener, Other, Manchurian, etc etc ad nauseum. Yawn.

“Chip on the Shoulder” is of course “Uppity.” It’s the whole “I don’t like your tone, boy” thing. It’s the whole “why aren’t you acting obsequious and below me???” It’s the shifting paradigm of power and the ailing, arrogant, radio host is stamping his feet because The Most Powerful Man in the Free World (funny how absent that phrase has been lately, eh?) is of a phenotype that Rush prefers to think of as inferior. Not very complicated.

As far as the rest of the quote, well, I’m guessing that any person who runs for president sort of sees things about the world they don’t like and desires to change them. This, ah, might actually a prerequisite for becoming President, eh? But again. Some people, when they raise their voice are being “confident,” and others will be perceived as “threatening.” Depends on your sex, your phenotype, and your class. Rush is underlining traits that never bothered him in Bush, and not even in Clinton! Nobody ever said that Bill Clinton was trying to remake the nation!! That would have been like complaining that speaking people are using their mouths to send sounds into the world…and that’s bad.

But again, Rush is not using language to communicate truth. He is simply stoking racial prejudice. He is shouting in code to his listeners: BLACK MAN HAS POWER OVER YOUR LIFE. THE BLACK MAN IS CONFIDENT. THE BLACK MAN HAS POWER OVER YOU. IT’S EVEN POSSIBLE HIS PENIS IS LARGER THAN YOURS!

Rush is a lowlife with a chip on his shoulder trying to use the power of his pulpit to remake the country that he cannot accept as-is. He is just jealous that Obama’s pulpit is bigger than his. (And without pharmacological aids, either!)

[sudden daydream of obama leaning back in his chair, puffing up on a fat cigar and laughing at rush’s agitation heartily…’ha ha ha! chip on the shoulder? i’ll open up a can of chips on your ass, rush! and once you have one stack, you won’t go back!]

Okay, reluctantly turning away from Mister Limply’s victim mentality, we can now address


LOU DOBBS:

LeprousLou2-by-nezuaAh, Lou Dobbs the Birther.

For those who don’t know, “Birthers” are the Internet crazies who think the US is so haphazard you can become President without being vetted for citizenship status. Or to be more honest, they are racists who are sublimating their distrust and revulsion at seeing a black man in the White House into a ridiculous question about the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

Lately, Lou Dobbs has taken on the cause. It seems his bosses at CNN aren’t taking to it to kindly, telling him now that it’s a “dead story.” And other places, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, are making statements of their own: Lou Dobbs should be fired.

We have a bit of a special relationship here at UMX with Lou Dobbs, as you can tell by reading the tagline on the header above (unless you are not reading the actual blog). He’s a clown. He’s a bigot, and he tries to use the power of popular outrage to remake the world the way he wants it to be. He has a chip on his shoulder. No. Wait, that’s a huge flake of skin. Nevermind. MAKEUP??!

Lou is baffled at the atypically strong pushback because he is used to doing what he does, and is a tiny bit behind the nation’s true zeitgeist due to his living in a bubble of his preferred reality, as well as under 1/8 inch of pancake TV makeup. This has kept his thinking process moist and primordial and it has yet to really sink in (nor for Rush) that Obama is both BLACK and PRESIDENT. So the things they are used to saying and doing are, in relation to the new terrain, now completely new actions with an entire new resonance. And thus, garner new reaction. As we can see playing out.

Others, too, are struggling with the reality that the nation did not just elect someone who appears black, but who has a bit of the non-white experience in him. In otherwords, sometimes he is gonna “think black,” if I may presume a tiny bit.

Others, like the Cambridge cops.

CAMBRIDGE PO-PO

Obama commented on the Skip Gates arrest. You know about the Skip Gates arrest? Dude (Harvard dude, that is) was bringing his luggage into his house from his porch (oh, Famous Black Academic Harvard dude, I should mention) and a neighbor called the 5-0 on him. (Which is probably the weirdest part to me.)

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

The police report said Gates was arrested after he yelled at the investigating officer repeatedly inside the residence then followed the officer outside, where Gates continued to upbraid him. “It was at that time that I informed Professor Gates that he was under arrest,” the officer wrote in the report.

Gates, 58, declined to comment today when reached by phone.

The arrest of such a prominent scholar under what some described as dubious circumstances shook some members of the black Harvard community.

Henry_Gates_Porch_072109

(Bill Carter/Demotix Images)

He was arrested in his own house! Well, the cops asked him to step outside first. (It’s like a vampire thing, they have to be invited in by either you or a judge or the imagined sense that they “smell something.”) Then they cuffed him and took him to the station to do all those humiliating things they do to you in a booking. Search you, strip you, print you, (sometimes) x-ray you, treat you like meat and so on. So you can imagine the well-respected law professor was pretty pissed off about that. People not experienced with this process will meet the shock that comes when you realize the law allows for anyone to be controlled and caged and deprived of rights you personally might feel are inalienable. It’s upsetting. It’s especially upsetting when all you were looking to do was leave the encounter with some dignity, which is usually one of the first things a cop takes from you. That is, you know that when you have to be quiet and pretend you don’t mind being disrespected or bullied to avoid getting shot or tazed, then you have given up your dignity. (The spreading of the cheeks for a cops flashlight search for possible drugs? You’re across the bridge from Dignity at that point!)

Well, commenting on the issue, Obama spoke to the press, who reportedly “audibly gasped” as a whole (this cracks me up) when POTUS spoke up in defense of his friend and fellow-black man, and mentioned the harassment Blacks (“as well as Latinos”) face often, at the hands of the police (and we might add Asian Americans, Indians, other non-whites). I won’t get into how much I imagine was strategy (an eloquent gifted speaker using “stupidly” in such a charged situation surprised me right away and I wondered if it were a way to back off a “hastily uttered” statement later), but the pushback from many corners was tangible and vociferous, either way.

That right there is the part I want to weave into this narrative.

The police are outraged that Obama would dare factor in race. (When some—including myself—would like to see the idea extrapolated to all the situations where it applies.) That Barack Obama would suggest—by casually citing facts usually ignored in polite society—that race came into play at all in the treatment of Henry “Skip” Gates. The stunned police demand an apology or recantation just as the Birthers and Lou Dobbs demand he produce a Birth Certificate to their liking and approval.

You know. It’s not about the words “the police acted stupidly” and it’s not about, per se, the idea that Obama”brought race into it.” That’s not really what’s under the outrage. Just as the Birthers’ demands are not really about the piece of paper they claim to thirst for (and thus can never be sated, which makes Lou Dobbs’ exploiting their complaints dangerous and unethical and plain stupid.)

It’s about shifting the power back into the paradigm these people rely upon like an emphysema patient relies on an oxygen tank; it’s about DEMANDING something (like “keep your eyes on the floor” or  “watch your attitude” or “get your hands up”) and having the black/brown/yellow/red man respond, listen, nod, agree, obey. This will soothe their outraged sense of hierarchy. Nevermind that fact that Obama irritates some members of the black community with his statements about personal responsibility (the MSM loves that “Tell the blacks to stop loafin off” junk, but hearing about racial profiling…not so much!)

These people—all in their own ways—are struggling greatly with the reality that is gradually being revealed for this nation. Because the illusion of white supremacy blankets mainstream culture in many invisible ways. Some of the most entrenched are institutional, it’s true. But many are in the dim storage rooms of our own minds; the stacks and lists and shapes of inventory where we assign importance and worth and acceptable roles and thus behavior to other people and types of people.

These outraged stances by Rush, Lou, Birthers, the GOP, the cops…they aren’t just strategy to throw us off the rails or distract us. They are real reactions. (Though the cable news networks may milk them because they titillate.) As much as the dominant culture arranges its media messaging to obscure the standard of Witeness as the invisible Normal, it’s not so invisible when the reference points shift. For these people mentioned above (and sadly, many more), to upend the hierarchies written in blood and for hundreds of years is like them waking to find that MC Escher has redecorated their homes overnight. They can’t find the back door and are worried any moment that their bed will turn into a car and sink to the top of the ocean.

It’s important for our society to start recognizing publicly these dynamics. But in the name of clarity, these essays on Whiteness are not an attack on just any person who happens to be fair-skinned or European. This is about a view, and about behavior. And I come to this place to do it, as I have been for over three years.

But I think Elon James’ recent writing on this made a good point. (The entire post is a great read):

So here I am. I’m Blacking it up even NOW. I have the appearance of a angry, fist-pumping, screaming, militant Negro. Please note: I am NOT an angry, fist-pumping, screaming, militant Negro. I’m not sitting here with my big afro thinking about how I’m going to take down the White man. I am an Average Black Person. I would much rather play my Xbox 360 and watch reruns of Scrubs (yes, I said it). I would much rather argue why Batman can, in fact, take down ANYBODY. I don’t want to rant and rail against the system and the perceptions of Blacks: I’m FORCED to. Why? Because I’m not deaf, dumb, and blind. If I had those three ailments perhaps I wouldn’t be able to tell how NOT post-racial America actually is.

I, too, would rather not talk about white supremacy, would rather not upset people and have to be ready for the lashback; would rather not have to deal with the hate mail that comes from online lurkers, not deal with the sting left by old friends who have walked away from me because they don’t understand this aspect of mine that feels so hurtful to them. (Stop identifying with a destructive mindset, taking it personally, and join me in the anti-racism fight!) I don’t want to rant and rail either. I, myself, love playing video games! I laugh at Scrubs! Hell, my white half even loves mayonaise and tries to buy hard rock electric guitar-heavy albums when the rest of me is busy dancing to Control Machete. ;) You know. I just want to enjoy my days! And like Elon mentioned in another part of his essay, I have had plenty of moments over the years where I thought Okay, enough. You’ve made the points clear, and you’ve learned what you needed to. Time to start the foto-blog on body-art and leave UMX behind.

And then…on your way to the store, or a search engine, or across the radio dial, you’re hit with the wakeup again. That there remain a lot of people in power who just want people like me, and like some of my family and friends, kept in a certain place. And the fact that I hid from my Latinidad for years is directly due to the pain I felt from media messaging like the kind these lowlives are still sending forth, every day, without remorse.

So for now, this is where I’ll be. Doing what I do.

Oh, and PS: buen trabajo, Señor Presidente. Keep on with—ahem—ya bad self.

Friday UMX Música con Señor Rojo!

July 24th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

RED – I Should Tell Ya Momma on You

He’s blowin’ up on YouTube and has found his way to iTunes now! He won’t be homeless much longer, pienso.

But after we’re done enjoying his tune, do you wonder what the lesson is? Neustra cultura América would have us talking about one man’s talent and rise up from the dirty streets, would have us reify the superpowered individual narrative. And we all know it’s important to have a bit of that in our minds if we are going to make it through some long, hard moments out there in life.

But what’s another way we could take this? What other inspiration can we take away from stories like this—aside from the inspiration of poppin’ the neck just a bit and swaying, which is always joy!

(sombrero tip to @asialakay)

Weekly Immigration Wire: It’s a Multicultural World, After All

July 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

[For those new to UMX, The Weekly Immigration Wire is a (paid) weekly article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites (see end of post) and is written, overall, in a more formal voice than other blog posts found on UMX.]

WIW-multicultrl

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common to hear the phrase “melting pot.” Many people said our nation’s greatest strength could be found in its multitude of cultures, languages and histories. This sentiment has been lost, as right-wing pundits and politicians increasingly espouse a dread of anything different and a fear of the Other.

This retrogressive, inflexible mindset reduces complex arguments to one thing: Us vs. Them. But the world never has been that way, and approaching it as such could be disastrous. Everything is connected: Our food systems, economies, and cultures. Large corporations no longer belong to any one nation, but are global in scope. In an increasingly connected world, our immigration policy is impacts the health and well-being of many peoples and economies.

As covered in last week’s Wire, the U.S. and Cuba are resuming immigration talks that stalled in 2003. But, as AlterNet made clear, things aren’t too promising. Discussions will be constricted to immigration issues alone, according to at least one international policy expert. Wayne Smith, a Cuba expert at the Center for International Policy in Washington, says that holding these talks without broadening them to related issues is dishonest and should cease “until the Cuban people are able to exercise their fundamental human rights and civil liberties, and until the conditions in U.S. law are fully met.”

This is an interesting point, and could also be applied to U.S.-Mexico relations. For example, in 2008, the Mérida Initiative was signed into law under the Bush administration. The Mérida Initiative’s legislation enables the U.S. to aid Mexico’s Drug War. The aid includes training for police and military, equipment including surveillance technology, and intelligence assistance. But the militarized assault on Mexico’s thriving drug economy has claimed an unacceptable number of lives—over 12,000 since it began in December of 2006.

Is this much death and displacement acceptable, given the scope of this complex social issue? According to a recent mid-term vote in Mexico, no. The vote, which favored the largest opposition party, was largely seen as a rejection of the Mexican president’s violent model of engagement. The U.S. should take a stand against the many human rights abuses that our taxpayer dollars are essentially funding.

New America Media has video on the drug war’s impact on citizens, which contains footage of Mexican troops attempting to take their cities back “street by street.” Thousands of military troops now occupy their own country, patrolling the towns and highways, acting as police and creating an aura of fear and tension in a newly-instituted and potentially lethal “semi-war zone.”

BELO TV’s Angela Kocherga sees first-hand the Mexican people’s frustration with the Calderon government’s war on drugs, especially those living on the border. This profile highlights her coverage of Mexico’s narco-violence, including an expose on women being used as gunrunners by drug cartels.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a modern-day master of ignoring the larger picture. Currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for racial profiling and violating civil rights, Arpaio is currently crusading against Latino/as and immigrants. Feministing’s Ann Friedman writes that Arpaio “functions as a conduit for the worst impulses in our society.”

If Arpaio were to take a broader view of immigrants, even the undocumented, he might realize that his stunt-centric stances on immigration are harming everyone.

Food production is also closely related to U.S. immigration policy. RaceWire gets to the meat of the issue in Food Inc. Shines a Light on the Immigrant Labor That Makes That 99c Patty Melt Possible. Julianne Hing breaks it down:

“For people who can’t stand the presence of immigrants in their neighborhood, but spring for the $0.79 per pound holiday ham, news flash! A largely invisible workforce works for severely depressed wages to make that ham so cheap for you.”

In related news, the Colorado Independent features a new documentary on the Swift & Co. raids and “its effects on both the people involved and the larger local community” of Greeley, Colorado.

Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is definitely in need of a more generous view on immigration, if not a wider lens through which to see it. Last weekend, Tancredo opined that young conservatives ought be invested in halting all immigration. A young audience member critiqued Tancredo’s viewpoint as “narrow-minded,” as “We’re really strapped [for] nurses, we don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough OB-GYNs.” Perhaps there is hope for the future of Conservativism after all!

Perhaps no one can be credited with promoting a wide-angle view of society more than Ronald Tanaki, who is often called the “father of multicultural studies.” New America Media commemorates Takaki’s life and work. From 1967 to 1987, Takaki’s contributions to the academic world and larger society were numerous. He taught the very first African American history course at UCLA and helped organize UCLA’S first Black Student Union, to start. Takiki studied, wrote, and taught about what he called “the hopeful ties that bind” us all together here in this nation. The comparative multicultural course he started at UCLA grew as he taught it over the years, eventually focusing on seven groups: Americans from China, Japan, Africa, Mexico and Ireland, as well as Native Americans and Jews from Russia. Takaki’s life and work made clear the always changing nature of our society, what role immigration has played in it, and that we still ought not fear these things.

A final positive note from the Iowa Independent: Officials from the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are considering lifting a two-decade-old ban on HIV-positive immigrants. As Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine told MSNBC, this will end “the discriminatory practice for a disease that doesn’t warrant exclusion for coming into this country.” And it seems a healthy move. These people are carrying two potential stigmas upon entering the U.S. Let’s afford them a bit more opportunity, if we can. In the long run and in the bigger picture, helping those in need benefits us all.

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Also featured at The Sanctuary, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, MyDD, Open Left, FDL, Rabble

Immigration Advocates Issue Statement Condemning Expansion of 287(g)

July 20th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

saintjoeARIZONA’S SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO is the unholy patron saint of the disastrous 287(g) agreement, a patch-job stopgap of a law that deputizes local cops and gives them the extra work of acting as Federal immigration agents. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is, for sure, a crackpot or at least a racist and that is obvious. The Department of Justice is investigating him for civil rights violation and racial profiling—all of it nearly inevitable fallout from the 287(g) provision, even were this horrifically bad idea of a law wielded by non-crackpot sheriffs. It’s simply not a good idea to give police, who are (in ideal) in existence to help the community, the powers to enforce the borders of the nation—a job that is normally in the province of the military, and one seen as one of “National Security” at least since 2003, when INS withered away in the Post 9/11 atmosphere and ICE/DHS sprung up in its place.

At this point, almost all are in accord that 287(g), while perhaps once plausible on paper, is a trainwreck in how it is playing out amongst living people. It has been proven that the costs of 287(g) outweigh the benefit, the communities suffer, and one only need look to Arpaio’s district to see that actual “crime-solving is down and racial profiling and budget expenditures are way up.” [pdf report by Immigration Policy Center]. Who would possibly defend this program when the police themselves want nothing to do with it?

As the National Immigration Forum puts it, “287(g) has been the worst thing to happen to law enforcement since John Dillinger.”

It is no surprise, then, today’s news:

ADVOCATES ISSUE STATEMENT CONDEMNING OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S
EXPANSION OF DHS’S FAILED 287(g) PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2009

Media Contacts:
Adela de la Torre, Communication Specialist, National Immigration Law Center, 213.674.2832 (office), 213.400.7822 (cell)
Andrea Black, Coordinator, Detention Watch Network, 202-393-1044 ext. 227 (office), 520-240-3726 (cell)
Judith Greene, Director, Justice Strategies, 718-857-3316, jgreene@justicestrategies.net

Civil rights and community groups across the country denounce Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano’s plans to expand the highly criticized 287(g) program to eleven new jurisdictions around the country. The program, authorized in 1996 and widely implemented under the Bush Administration, relinquishes, with no meaningful oversight, immigration enforcement power to local law enforcement and corrections agencies.

Since its inception the program has drawn sharp criticism from federal officials, law enforcement, advocates and local community groups. A February 2009 report by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research firm, found widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures by local law enforcement agencies granted 287(g) powers. Justice Strategies recommended the program be suspended. “We found evidence that growth of the 287(g) program has been driven more by racial animus than by concerns about public safety. The expansion of this deeply flawed program cannot be justified before a thorough test of corrective actions shows solid proof that they have been effective,” reports Judy Greene, Director of Justice Strategies. A March 2009 Government Accountability Agency (GAO) report, criticized DHS for insufficient oversight of the controversial program.

Also in March, the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, to determine whether Arpaio is using his 287(g) power to target Latinos and Spanish-speaking people. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff’s Office has used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a license—was forced to give birth while shackled to her bed during labor. Preliminary data indicate that in some jurisdictions the majority of individuals arrested under 287(g) are accused of public nuisance or traffic offenses: driving without a seatbelt, driving without a license, broken taillights, and similar offences. Such a pattern of arrests suggest that local sheriff’s deputies are improperly using their 287(g) powers to rid their counties of immigrants, by making pretextual arrests that are then used to forcefully deport people. “We need only look at the example of Maricopa County to understand the devastating effects the increased 287(g) program will have on our communities,” said Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The Obama administration must recognize that the 287(g) program is predatory and ripe for corruption and profiling that will harm community stability and safety for everyone.”

The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Major Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal immigration law undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities, overburdens cities’ already reduced resources, and leaves cities vulnerable to civil liability claims. “When victims and witnesses of crime are afraid to contact police for fear of being jailed or deported, public safety suffers,” said Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center.

Napolitano’s July 10 announcement that DHS has granted 11 new jurisdictions 287(g) powers stunned advocates who had been expecting a major overhaul of – or end to – this failed program. “DHS is fully aware that the abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous to community safety. It is surprising Napolitano did not simply shut this program down. Expanding this failed program is not in line with the reform the administration has promised,” said Andrea Black, Coordinator of the Detention Watch Network.

Signatory Organizations:

A Better Way Foundation, New Haven, CT
All of Us or None, San Francisco, CA
Border Action Network, Tucson, AZ
Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, NY
Center for Media Justice, Oakland, CA
Detention Watch Network, Washington, DC
Families for Freedom, New York, NY
Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami, FL
Grassroots Leadership, Austin, Texas
Homies Unidos, Los Angeles, CA
Immigrant Defense Project, New York, NY
Immigrant Justice Network
Immigration Law Clinic, UC Davis School of Law, Davis, CA

Immigrant Legal Resource Center, San Francisco, CA
Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY
Justice Strategies, New York, NY
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, CA
Main Street Project, Minneapolis, MN
Media Action Grassroots Network, Oakland, CA
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles, CA
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, Boston, MA
Partnership for Safety and Justice, Portland, Oregon
Project Rethink
Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA

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FREE EFREN

July 18th, 2009 § 13 comments § permalink

EFRENARRAIGNMENTUNFORTUNATELY, all- or mostly-white juries and in mostly-white towns aided by white lawmen who institute their own type of justice disproportionately against people of color have a long history in the US. From Rubin Carter to Luis Ramirez; from Amadou Diallo to Billey Joe Johnson, the names change, but the stain of a dark refrain refuses to fade.

Publicly paid and celebrated cirrhotic-souled ghouls do their part to broadcast the message that whites are superior and the rest hardly human (tho perhaps hot-blooded or able-ballers), and the rest of the institionalized hatemachine roars into action. The only good thing about the tide of race-based violence that has sprung up since the immigration debates sprawled through this political era, ungainly and littered with slur and a smoked-over lens half the time, is that the mainstream dialogue is beginning to accept some of the factuality of bias, of institutionalized racism and consequent violence and injustice that is evidencing itself rather baldly, and especially so since President Obama was elected. That means those of us already aware of this embedded racism can spend less time fighting “allied forces” over the fundamental ideas upon which these particular battles for justice must spring from, and spend more energy in the actual battle.

I was asked by Efrén Paredes, Jr.’s mamá Velia to try and raise awareness for Efrén’s case. And I am. Because 21 years in prison with a lifetime to go is a long time to be shut away from justice. And there are far too many of us there already. There’s a couple things listed after this post that you can do to  help. If you do nothing else, please read through and consider at the least, writing Efren a letter of support or just to say hi. These things mean a lot on the inside. His address is at the bottom, and his story begins with the headline—15-YEAR-OLD LATINO HONOR STUDENT SERVING THREE LIFE SENTENCES FOR CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law, and with the colors of justice.” —U.S. v. Jannottie, 673 F.2d 578, 614 (3d Cir. 1982)

Efren15Learn about innocent 15-year-old Latino former high school honor student named Efren Paredes, Jr. who was wrongly convicted in 1989 for a murder and armed robbery he did not commit; a crime to which others plead guilty. The crime occurred in St. Joseph, Michigan (Berrien County), USA. Efren was tried and convicted only three months after his arrest on March 15, 1989 and convicted by 11 White jurors and one Black juror in a city whose racial composition was 95% White.  The judge, prosecutor, and all the investigating police were also all White.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Berrien County ranks among the top 25 most segregated metropolitan areas in the country.   It is also important to note that all the youth in Berrien County who have received life without parole (LWOP) sentences have been children of color. Efren is also the only Latino youth in Berrien County history to receive a LWOP sentence. The case against Efren was entirely circumstantial and based primarily on the statements of other youth who received reduced charges and sentences from the prosecutor in exchange for their incentivized testimony.

efrenscared

Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sepic knowingly committed professional misconduct when he allowed a man, who would later become the jury foreman, to be seated on the jury who worked with the aunt of the victim’s widow in Efren’s case. The information about the juror’s connection to the aunt was brought to Sepic’s attention on two occasions, once before the trial began and once after it began by the victim’s widow.  Sepic has openly acknowledged that he knew this information, most recently at Efren’s December 4, 2008 public hearing. Appellate courts have held these acts of unprofessional and conspiracy by Sepic were “harmless error.” There was no physical evidence linking Efren to the crime, no eyewitnesses to the crime, and Efren was home with his parents and two brothers when the crime occurred. Despite all this Efren was sentenced to two life without parole sentences and one parolable life sentence. He is now 36-years-old.

Picture 9

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office and police investigating the crime provided false and erroneous information to the media in an attempt to convict Efren in the media before trial. Their unethical conduct and betrayal of the public trust infected every level of the legal process and contributed to Efren’s unlawful conviction. Efren has the support of several notable scholars and activists across the country including Dr. Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, Director, Institute for MultiRacial Justice, author, and activist; Dr. Carlos Munoz, Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, author and activist; Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, historian, educator and Chicano studies scholar; Dr. Jorge Chinea, Director of Chicano-Boricua Studies Department, Wayne State University, author and activist; Juana Alicia, muralist, printmaker, educator, and activist; Favianna Rodriguez, political printmaker, digital artist, activist; Dr. Martha Grace Duncan, Professor of Law, Emory University, and author; Dr. Walter Garcia-Kawamoto, Journal of Adolescent Research, Manuscript Consulting Editor; Elena Herrada, Director of Centro Obrero, activist, and writer;Elisha Miranda aka E-Fierce, filmmaker, writer, and activist; and others.

Efren also enjoys the support of world renowned wrongful convictions expert Paul Ciolino, a veteran private investigator. Ciolino is the author of numerous articles in professional publications and the book “In the Company of Giants: The Ultimate Investigation Guide for Legal Professionals, Activists, Journalists & the Wrongfully Convicted”. In addition he co-wrote the best-selling and critically acclaimed textbooks “Advanced Forensic Criminal Defense Investigations” and “Advanced Forensic Civil Investigations”. Ciolino is chief investigative advisor to Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Medill School of Journalism, and DePaul University Center for Justice in Capital Cases. In 2003, when former Illinois governor George Ryan granted clemency and pardons to 167 death row inmates, he cited Ciolino’s investigative work, which helped free five innocent men, as one of the reasons for the en masse commutations. According to Ciolino, “There is not one shred of credible evidence to suggest that Efren was involved in the murder. No weapon, no eyewitnesses, no physical evidence, no motive, no prior conduct to suggest that a 15-year-old student athlete, and honor role student with zero criminal background, would have planned, participated or committed this murder. The community and jury were sold a bill of goods based on the words of drug dealers and thieves.”

EFRENARRAIGNMENT

Letters of support from these individuals can be viewed in the “General Information” tab on the above-left-hand-side of this page. The National Lawyers Guild has also endorsed our efforts to free Efren. The National Lawyers Guild is a membership of progressive civil rights attorneys.  It is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system.  Through its members — lawyers, law students, jailhouse lawyers and legal workers united in chapters and committees — the Guild works locally, nationally and internationally as an effective political and social force in the service of the people. n1016517846_9862 Tuesday, February 10, 2009, the Berkeley City Council  (California) voted to condemn the life without parole sentences imposed on Efren as human rights violations in contravention with several international treaties. They join the 192 nations in the world who have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and universally condemned the imposition of life without parole sentences for children.  City councils in other municipalities will now begin following the model set in Berkeley.  Click here to read more about this historic resolution and read our press release. Efren appeared in the 2004 study released by the ACLU of Michigan  about life without parole sentences for youth in Michigan titled, “Second Chances,” p. 16 and appeared on the cover of the 2005 national life without parole sentences for youth study released by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International titled, “The Rest of Their Lives.”  His case was also presented to the United Nations Human Rights Commission twice. Once by the University of San Francisco School of Law Human Rights Advocates and once by the ACLU of Michigan. This site is maintained by the The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee who is working to exonerate Efren and working to generate support for his campaign for justice. Efren can not access the Internet.

If you would like to send him a message you can do so by sending us an e-mail at info@4Efren.com which we will print and forward to him for a response, or you can write him directly at:

Efren Paredes, Jr. #203116 3510 N. Elm Road Jackson MI 49201

Efrén’s family asks everyone to visit this link first and foremost if they want to help. There, you can learn how you can write a letter to Michigan Governor Granholm expressing support for Efrén’s release.

** Also, join the Facebook effort to petition the Governor to support the release of Efrén Paredes, Jr. Note: Sharing this Facebook group or this post (see widget at end of post) is appreciated.

Finally, I leave you with a poem by Efrén, himself:

“Brush Strokes” by Efrén Paredes, Jr./Tlecoz Huitzil

The world is my canvas vast and serene
I evoke pleasant memories paint indescribable scenes.
My pallette of colors an ocean of words
Some capsize in their depths never again to be heard.
Create brilliant pigments with magical names
Their presence is vibrant like portraits in frames.
Poetry is soothing it can vanish your woes
Manifesting as gifts wrapped in ribbons and bows.
Like an orchestra conductor leads beautiful choirs
My words ring like symphonies they can quench your desires.
Manifested thoughts and verbalized dreams
Carefully selected each held high in esteem.
My lyrics magnetic their compositions abound
Capture imaginations create marvelous sounds.
This is an artist’s rendition of the way I see life
A gaze through my window where possibilities are rife.

Copyright © 2007 by Efrén Paredes, Jr./Tlecoz Huitzil

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UPDATE: From here, an extract of the 2008 Public Hearing for Efrén:

A public hearing was held for Efrén Paredes, Jr. at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility on Thursday, December 4, 2008, to consider his commutation request. The hearing began at 11:00 a.m. and lasted nine hours. We were told it was the longest such hearing. …

…Five members of the Parole Board were present and two employees from the Attorney General’s Office. (In most hearings one Parole Board member and an Asst. Attorney General (AAG) preside over the hearings.)

The building was filled to capacity with members of the public. Every chair was filled and several people stood along the back and sides of the room. Efrén was brought into the hearing room and seated in front of the Parole Board chairperson and the Asst. Attorney General (AAG).

There were several members of the media present, as were prison administrators and staff that were not part of the security detail. They came to observe what many predicted would be the largest public hearing in Michigan history.

That prediction was transformed into reality. Most public hearings for prisoner commutations attract less than 10 people and last less than two hours.

Over 150 people were present to express their support for Efrén. Many of them wore “Free Efrén” T-shirts or “Free Efrén” stickers on their clothing. People traveled from Berrien County, Lansing, Detroit and various other cities, including some who came from Illinois and Indiana. Over 40 of the supporters were from the Berrien County area alone.

A contingent of Michigan State University (MSU) students arrived at the hearing in an MSU bus to support Efrén. Students from the University of Michigan and other universities were present as well.

Before Efrén entered the hearing room everyone was instructed to not communicate with him or attempt to touch him. Efrén sat with his back to the public during most of the hearing.

The Asst. Attorney General (AAG) grilled Efrén for more than four hours. The AAG made disparaging and rude remarks towards Efrén and constantly interrupted him when he was responding to questions.

The AAG’s unprofessional and unethical conduct was offensive and disturbing to many citizens present. His actions as a civil servant were worse than those of any television show attorney. Certainly not behaviors that would be tolerated in a courtroom.

There were several exchanges between Efrén and the AAG about the facts in the case. Efrén calmly and politely corrected the AAG several times about inaccuracies and information that the AAG discussed. He also asked the AAG on more than one occasion to be honest with the public about issues the AAG was misrepresenting.

The information the Asst. Attorney General (AAG) used to oppose Efrén’s release was received from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office in summary form. The AAG admitted to not having read the court transcripts or police reports, and that he was taking all his cues from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office.

The AAG used fragments of statements to illustrate his points, often not knowing what the rest of the statements were which he received his information from, or the context they were pulled from.

At one point the AAG admitted he also did not understand the court appellate process, yet unsuccessfully attempted to argue that Efrén’s appeals being denied were evidence of guilt.

The AAG stated that U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan judge who denied Efrén’s habeas corpus petition, Gerald Rosen, was not a “prosecutor’s judge.”

Efrén informed the AAG that in his 20 years of imprisonment he has spoken to many attorneys, and done extensive legal research, and he has never read a single prisoner appeal that Judge Rosen granted.

The AAG stated he was not aware of this information. It was one of several moments the AAG admitted his lack of knowledge about matters he was arguing.

The AAG asked Efrén why he did not raise certain issues on appeal. Efrén conveyed to him that he was only 15-years-old at the time of his arrest and had to rely on his attorney to file appellate issues. Efrén also stated he did not know how to navigate through the criminal justice system. Unfortunately for Efrén, he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

Despite the rigorous interrogation-style tactics launched against him, Efrén remained poised during the entire hearing. He never allowed the AAG to evoke anger or hostility in him at any time. Efrén responded to all questions posed to him and presented compelling arguments to support his defense.

No members of the community where the crime was originally tried were present opposing Efrén’s release, other than the victim’s family members, police officers or members of the prosecutor’s office. There were, however, dozens of members of many communities present in support of Efrén’s commutation request being granted.

Twelve people spoke in opposition to Efrén’s release. They included family members of the victim, one friend of the victim, three Berrien County Sherriff, three city police chiefs, the Berrien County Prosecutor and his Chief Asst. Prosecutor.

The prosecutor’s office argued that there was public outrage opposing Efrén’s release. (Efrén was tried and convicted amid a barrage of adverse media publicity which disseminated false, misleading and erroneous information about his case. Police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct were in large part the reason he was wrongly convicted.) Besides victim family members, a few friends of the family, and the police and prosecutors, no other members of the community were present to validate the claim of opposition. In total those opposing Efrén’s release present numbered fewer than 20 people.

The Berrien County Prosecutor, Art Cotter, spoke to the Parole Board and recited lyrics from a rap song found in Efrén’s school locker at the time of his arrest. The lyrics were from a rap song by multi-platinum artists NWA from their album “Straight Outta Compton.” Cotter contended that possession of the lyrics was reflection of Efrén’s mindset — implying he had a propensity for violence.

Efrén’s youngest brother, Hans Koppenhoefer, Jr., later spoke and countered by stating that when he was in high school he knew someone who had a steno book full of rap lyrics much worse than the ones that Cotter read.

Hans went on to state that the same person is now employed as a police officer in Berrien County.

Dozens of people requested to speak on Efrén’s behalf at the hearing. Efrén limited the number to twenty people which included three immediate family members, clergy, community leaders, organization board members, a psychologist, MSU students, two of his employment supervisors at Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund, 1320 AM Lansing radio show host Jack Ebling, and wrongful convictions expert, Paul Ciolino.

Efrén’s supporters presented compelling reasons why he should be released besides the fact of his innocence. They talked about all the positive things he has done while imprisoned for himself and others, how he could be a productive member of society if released, his employment opportunities, available home placement, and overwhelming support.

They also argued why Efrén’s sentence is a violation of the Convention On the Rights of the Child (CRC) and constitutes a human rights violation. The CRC prohibits the imposition of the death penalty or life without parole sentences for children.

Paul Ciolino, world-renowned wrongful convictions expert and Chicago-based private investigator, told the Parole Board that Efrén’s case is a classic wrongful conviction case. He reaffirmed the AAG’s position that criminals change their mind all the time. Ciolino told the Parole Board that the criminals who accused Efrén of being the perpetrator of the crime have changed their stories many times.

Efrén’s defense has remained consistent for 20 years and he has maintained his innocence. Ciolino told the Parole Board he has reviewed hundreds of wrongful conviction cases and exonerated 20 innocent men, including cases with much more alleged evidence than in Efrén’s case.

The previous day at a press conference Ciolino told the media that the conduct of the criminals in Efrén’s case is consistent with the actions of criminals — they pursue deals with the police and prosecutor and do anything they can to escape punishment. Efrén, however, has never done that or wavered about his innocence.

The AAG also argued that Efrén has only served 20 years and “20 years is not a lot of time.” Efrén responded that he totally disagreed. He went on to say that he was arrested at age 15 and is now 35-years-old. Efrén has spent more time in prison than he did a free boy in society. (In a post-hearing conversation with members of The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee Efrén stated, “20 years is a lot of time by anyone’s standard — I have no idea what the AAG’s concept of time is.”)

Once Efrén’s supporters concluded speaking the Parole Board chairperson, Barbara Sampson, told Efrén what some of the terms of his parole would be, if he is released. She also told him that if the Parole Board does not release him she urged him to continue on the path he has been on, doing the same positive work he has been doing.

Ms. Sampson commended Efrén for all his accomplishments and the large amount of support he had present at the hearing. She told him, however, if the Parole Board releases him, it will not be because of all the support he had present at the hearing.

Efrén was informed, if he is released it would occur because of his accomplishments, that he has served sufficient time, and he is not a danger to society. It was stated that the Parole Board could not take into consideration Efrén’s innocence because he has been convicted and is guilty under the eyes of the law.

According to Ms. Sampson, the purpose of the public hearing was not to examine guilt or innocence, though the AAG spent several hours extensively discussing Efrén’s case. Ms. Sampson stated that the purpose of the hearing was to determine Efrén’s readiness to return to society.

The AAG then opposed Efrén’s release and added that because Efrén has been convicted and he refuses to admit to the crime it makes him a SOCIOPATH, and he would pose a DANGER TO SOCIETY if released.

Efrén was subsequently allowed to make concluding remarks to the Parole Board stating why he feels he is deserving of release. He delivered a powerful and moving appeal to the Parole Board for the opportunity to reclaim his life and experience life as a free citizen for the first time in his adult life.

He assured the Parole Board he would comply with all conditions of parole and do whatever was asked of him, including not returning to Berrien County for any reason. Efrén also told the Parole Board he harbored no ill feelings toward the people who put him in prison. He said he understood that anger and bitterness are destructive to the human spirit and he did not wish to live like that.

Efrén said he was focused on the future and moving forward with his life. He stated that every moment he spends thinking about the past is a moment he cannot think looking to the future. Efrén added that he rejects the notion that people are inherently incorrigible and that he engenders the concept of redemption. He asked the Parole Board to consider this as well.

Finally, Efrén told the Parole Board that he has accomplished more than many prisoners that have been paroled, and feels he is equally deserving of the opportunity for release in the interest of fairness and equality.

The Day I Was Almost Human

July 17th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

“Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.” — Sen. Jeff Sessions, (R) Alabama

snake_1THIS IS, SADLY, VERY TRUE. And that’s why on my way to the store today, I tried to kill a small bird. But let me start at the beginning.

You see, I was cooking up some breakfast in my kitchen, and a wasp stung me in the process! Whoa. Well, needless to say, I swatted it, but before I could lower my feelings of wasp-prejudice, an ant ran into view on the counter.

Well, since I am incapable of feeling two empathies or prejudices at once, I automatically was filled with a teeming understanding of what the ant must endure in this world, and as I crushed the wasp without remorse, I found myself musing upon the hard work ethic and admirable social skills of Ants.

Thus, my walk down the street after breakfast was predisposed to an anti-empathy that would, by necessity, attach to some non-ant entity. After all, empathy for one party is always prejudice against another. As everyone knows! So it went, and when I found a small bird on my path dragging a limp leg behind it, I found myself utterly and inconsolably prejudiced against it. I simply had no choice in the matter.

“Dumb stupid bird!” I thought, seething with a prejudice that flared within me like ten Alabama suns.

I threw a rock at the lame bird, but missed. Imagine my surprise when I reached down for a second stone, and accidentally grabbed a snake! Ugh! And worse than that, I couldn’t let go! O, If only I possessed the ability to base my feelings and thoughts on wisdom and understanding of the world and myself, instead of being a zero-sum human kneejerk reaction. But no, that is not how life works. There is Empathy and there is Prejudice, and never the twain shall meet, just as this life is nothing more than an ever-predictable dichotomized arc with no grays or overlap to keep things flexible and unknowable and fresh.

Yup. So there I was with the snake in my hand.

As I had used up my prejudice for the moment, I had no choice but to feel empathy for the snake that was, at the moment, sinking its curved fangs deep into the flesh of my hand. I quickly grew dizzy and nauseated under the beaming sun. All I could think to myself was that the skin of the snake was rather smooth and gee, it sure must be hard to keep cool on a summer’s day when you can’t even cool yourself through perspiration.

And that is how I came to understand Jeff Sessions (R) Alabama.

The Detention Industry is Cruel and Un-American

July 16th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

THE INSIDIOUS AND DEPRAVED AND VAMPIRIC NATURE of the detention industry is something I write about a lot here, and have for a while. I harp on it, and I underline it when the immigration conversation gets too happy happy joy joy on itself by throwing parties just because the White House mentions immigration in a meeting and organizations send out press releases that Errrthang Gonna Be Okay Nao. (Needless to say, I’m well-loved for this type of reaction.) Hey, I’m happy for the small things, but I find it despicable that the US deems it morally plausible to take working families and turn them into fodder for the Prison Industrial complex’s shiny, new, ICE-caked arm. The results of the persecution keep tumbling in, and they are not pretty. Latino convicts are now the largest ethnic population in the federal prison system, and all due to the criminalization of immigration that Bush brought upon us and that Obama, so far, has yet to dismantle or substantially reshape. Further, the criminalization of this issues has led to a malaise of philosophy, a smear upon the lens of those of us who speak spanish or have spanish names or who might otherwise look or sound “undocumented” and thus, criminal. Violence and race-based murder are the predictable results of this type of vilification. So when activists (especially those not in the cross-hairs due to being non-Latin@) pshaw those concerns…I honestly feel it is a hostile statement they make.

That’s why this video of a one-minute speech by (non-Latino) Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) on the need to reform the Detention Industry brings me some degree of pleasure. It’s great to hear this basic sentiment, and from the mouths of politicians speaking on the record. More of this!

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