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The Weekly Diaspora: The Myth of Us Vs. Them

December 31st, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well.

HORIZmythBy Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger [original title “Weekly Diaspora: Working Together for Reform“]

As we usher the last decade into the realm of memory, it’s time to stop viewing immigration reform as an Us vs. Them issue. The metaphors and language we use are key to framing a debate because they can communicate broader truths via association. For example, a scientist might mention the porous nature of all membranes and boundaries found in nature to describe the ineffectiveness of the militarized U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporting for New America Media, Marcelo Ballvé defines two emerging policy terms—“complementarity” and “circularity”—that are being used to describe the seasonal ebb and flow of migrant labor and argue for progressive reform. The terms effectively render concepts impenetrable borders and zero sum supply of resources, which are key fighting points for those who oppose progressive immigration reform, rigid and backward in contrast.

Former Mexican foreign minister and New York University professor Jorge Castañeda argues that clamping down on the border and the flow of migrant labor disrupts a healthy and needed circulation.

Justin Akers of the Progressive compares geographically targeted unemployment rates with immigration population numbers to demonstrate a similar concept. The data “shows that unemployment is more structural than the result of a direct competition for the same jobs.” Further, Akers writes, while it would cost an estimated $200 billion to remove the undocumented population from the U.S., it would, conversely, add approximately $180 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to bring these people into the system. Yet, the unfortunately pervasive story line that the undocumented steal jobs from willing citizens, an idea championed by anti-immigrant groups, continues to “poison the well of American politics,” as Akers writes.

Making matters worse, the Obama administration “has not made much effort to advertise” its various changes to U.S. immigration policy, as Edward Alden reports for Oneworld. Granted, some of these measures seem rather commonsensical and are hardly signs of ground-shaking progress—such as not immediately jailing those seeking asylum in the U.S. from “torture or persecution abroad.” But on the other hand, the Bush years plunged us into some very irrational policies and behaviors, and undoing those should be publicly declared as progress. By keeping things quiet, the White House may be trying to keep the Right calm, but as Alden writes, the administration is “walking a narrow line.”

Other positive changes in U.S. immigration policy include the closing of the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility in Texas, which became infamous as a children’s prison, and the rescinding of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s federal authority to make immigration-related arrests.

However, as Alden reminds us, “there has been no softening of the toughest immigration enforcement campaign in recent U.S. history” and the White House has yet to adequately defend itself from the charge leveled by its own “liberal allies that it is simply continuing the Bush administration’s enforcement policies.”

The human rights struggle for U.S. immigrants is a cause with multiple facets. If only reforming the detention centers were the only thing on the reform agenda! RaceWire’s Leticia Miranda reports on the tiny, cramped, unhealthy, and often-infested single room occupancies that many immigrants from China end up in. The San Francisco Gate has a video (below) that briefly lays out the story.

Over at AlterNet, those who fight for human rights and fair treatment of immigrants voice more than one call to action. The Immigration Raids Response Network has called for a national boycott of Greyhound, accusing the bus company of working hand-in-hand with the Department of Homeland Security to racially profile Latinos. While Greyhound was “under fire” in 2005 for policies that advise profiling, this time the enforcement measures are blatant. A witness states that “Greyhound guards closed off the boarding area until passengers were checked by immigration officers and the bus was empty.” If true, this is disturbing behavior for a commercial entity to be undertaking.

And finally, also at AlterNet, Eric Ward argues that Arizona’s “Rogue Sheriff” Joe Arpaio, is “a symptom of something more sinister” that affects the rest of the national population. “What we do or don’t do will reverberate across the country,” Ward warns. The response to Arpaio’s antics has so far been confused and lukewarm. Progressive thinkers and activists must unequivocally reject Arpaio’s gross, dehumanizing, and xenophobic behavior.

It has been a turbulent decade, one in which the nation’s politics have reflected an urge to close our borders as a defensive mechanism. We need to chart a new course, one that welcomes and celebrates possibility. Our nation need not be shaped by fear, and in fact must not, if we are all to live together.


Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, The Media Consortium, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

News With Nezua | Goodbye 2009!

December 31st, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

Happy New Year, Feliz Año! Thanks to all my amig@s and compas out here, to La Frontera Times, to my current readers and friends, and to the ones I’ll soon meet and make. Peace be with you and yours.

If you prefer a dim viewing room, you can visit The XOLAGRAFIK Theater.

Weekly Diaspora: ICE Perpetuating Human Rights Abuses

December 24th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well. (To be linked at end of post.)]

DIASPiceabuse

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

Note: This week’s Diaspora is short due to the holidays. We’ll be back to full-length next week.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, apparently isn’t beholden to US or international law. In The Nation, Jacqueline Stevens reveals the “clandestine operations, akin to extraordinary renditions” carried out by ICE.

Beyond the department’s public list of detention facilities—many of which are already sites of alleged abuse—ICE is also “confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices” around the nation. According to Alison Parker, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, these secret detention centers may violate the UN’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory.

But what’s most appalling is ICE’s assertion that the department is some sort of super-police with powers of rendition. James Pendergraph, former executive director of ICE’s Office of State and Local Coordination, said in late 2008 that “if you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally, but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” The boldness with which a law official would state such an idea is confounding; the confession, if true, is criminal.

Last week, The Diaspora wrote about the introduction of the CIR ASAP immigration bill by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Freshman Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is a recent addition to the list of 87 cosponsors on the bill, as The Colorado Independent reported last Wednesday. This is a positive step forward. The bill will most likely be sponsored in the senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). CIR ASAP establishes a basic layout of progressive immigration reform, but the final bill will probably become more focused on enforcement in Schumer’s hands.

Finally, David Moberg reports on the Obama administration’s controversial use of “audits” to purge employment payrolls of undocumented workers for In These Times. While the audit method is much quieter and less likely to make headlines, it is also ineffective. Not only do audits rely upon “flawed federal databases” to judge who is documented, they also purge immigrants who are “legal.”

As the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Executive Vice-President Eliseo Medina explains, workers fired as a result of ICE probes or audits do find other, lower-paying jobs that offer even less protection to the worker. Ultimately the number of undocumented workers in the US remains the same, and the entire exercise but “a losing game of musical chairs.” Medina stresses that SEIU is not suggesting the law shouldn’t be enforced, simply that it be enforced in a way that works.


Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, The Media Consortium, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

¡Feliz Festivus!

December 23rd, 2009 § 13 comments § permalink

WHATEVER you celebrate during this Winter solstice holiday season—be it Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah (which this year was over on December 19, I believe), or the exalted Festivus, I hope you are with loved ones and feeling the joy that so often fills one’s heart after singing a few rounds of “Feliz Navidad,” and imbibing a few cups of eggnog! Peace!

A fun and festive song to begin:

One sent by an amigo:

This one cracks me up with its double bass drum section:

A classic from John Lennon:

This one I love because it was big during my youth. What I still love about this and songs like this is hearing the community of so many well-known voices in their own right coming together. Some of the lens penning the lyrics here is a bit problematic, but it’s a well-remembered song from earlier days:

Got any favorites or good additions? Drop a link! Or continue on your merry day and I hope it’s a good one…Thanks for coming around all year and today and hope I see you again soon.

News With Nezua | The White Professional Anti-Racist

December 21st, 2009 § 81 comments § permalink

As you can see, this one—though short—involved some serious production! It was a lot of fun, though. I’ve been busy with numerous things as usual, so while I am still working on the script (with some friends) for the Avenida Almasol Xmas Speshul, it isn’t done, and I’m not sure it will be done by Christmas. Oh well, we’ll try to finish it as soon as possible, and put it out when done. Meanwhile, enjoy the latest from XOLAGRAFIK studios, a short piece on the insidious and ludicrous nature of the Professional White Anti-Racist.

Remember: You can catch News With Nezua episodes first at La Frontera Times on Sundays, and if you prefer a dark room, visit the XOLAGRAFIK Theater!

Transcript for News With Nezua Video “The White Professional Anti-Racist”  by Nezua transcript by Arban

SPOKEN:[NEZUA]

Hola Gente, and welcome to News With Nezua! (Translation from Spanish, “What’s up, people, and welcome to News With Nezua!”

[Flamenco/Latin style music]

[Latin music fades into suspenseful cinematic score ]

TITLE: “Chapter 11.4: The White Professional Anti-Racist”

Lower Third Graphic: “XICANOLICIOUS COMMENTARY:  theunapologeticmexican.org

SPOKEN [NEZUA] (in serious movie trailer dramatic tone)

“2009. The era of our having elected president a black man, as well as a national realization that the cultural landscape is shifting.”

“In roughly 40 years, the white population of the United States will be a minority, for the first time since the British settlers swept into indigenous communities, and with great violence and grand purpose, established a dominant order.”

“As more and more non-white-centric voices begin speaking from their communities, and for their own experience, largely aided by the open arms of a low barrier Internet media publishing environment, a perverse new profession arises: The White Professional Anti-Racist.”

“Because for some, it is not satisfying enough to live right, not glorious enough to build, and support your own community, not lucrative enough to simply live the struggle, and as the psycho-social phenomenon known as “whiteness” surely would demand to know: why give up power, anyway?”

NEZUA APPEARS ON SCREEN AS CHARACTER “LYLE DOUCHEE-WAY”

[patriotic music]

SPOKEN [NEZUA] (in a nerdy comic voice)

“I’d like to begin by welcoming all you POC to my group, ” The Racial Equality Social Justice & Media. “

“My name is Lyle Douchee-Way, and I am a professional anti-racist. “

“As you can see…”

[holds up sign around neck that says “anti-racist”]

“everybody get a good look at that? Good!”

“I am credentialed by having many brown friends, and an overwhelming desire to see my anti-racist visions come to life…and if you behave properly, you can even help me carry those out. Wouldn’t that be satisfying, in this world of inequality? “

“Now, as I am always extremely aware of my white privilege, I’d like to kick this off by letting people of color speak.”

[goofy 60’s game show music]

“So, first we’ll go to your friend and mine, white ally, Jerry Jackalorde!”

“Did I see a hand?”

[a character in the audience waves hands manically]

“Mmmm, not sure, I don’t really see anyone…Alright then Jerry, oh wait, maybe, maybe, there’s a hand up over here, so, as I take this question…”

[lifts tiny person out of the audience]

“I would like to point everyone to the materials under your seats. On these papers you will see many fine references and informations and sources that you can refer to in your own battle for racial equality and social justice.

[turns to small person in his hand]

“Now how can I help you Pedro?”

Pedro:

“¿porque en los papeles no hay gente latina, solo gente que hablan por los latinos?”

translation: Why is it that on these papers, there are no Latino sources? Only people who speak for Latinos.

Lyle:

“Well, see first of all, being that I am always aware of my white privilege, I should first state that I understand you language, because that you and I share something of the same culture, uh, no, no, no, I’m not Mexican, no, my parents have a summer house, and I had a gardener who looked alot like you, Pedro, and, uh, I’m sorry to have to say this, but, um, I can’t answer your question, because you have abused the rules.”

“And the rules in your papers state that you may not speak over 6 seconds, and Pedro, Pedro, you are clearly into your 8th second, and we have to have order here, as everyone knows, there is no social justice without order.”

“Now, shall we return to our program? Take it away Jerry”.

[flamenco guitar]

ONE SCREEN TEXT: This week’s episode of News with Nezua was made possible by LFT lafronteratimes.com

feedback, ideas, questions, info, ad buys:

NWN[AT]NEZUA[DOT]NET

Twitter: @NewsWithNezua

NEZUA: all writing, lighting, shooting, editing, arte & scoring

a XOLAGRAFIK production

Juan Felipe Herrera Awarded PEN/Beyond Margins Award for Latest Work

December 17th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Halfoftheworldinlight

JUAN FELIPE HERRERA, celebrated and prolific Chicano poet, has been awarded the PEN/Beyond Margins award for his latest work, Half of the World in Light (available for purchase here).

Poet Juan Felipe Herrera has received nationwide attention for his recent collection of poems, which was published by the University of Arizona Press.

Herrera won an International Latino Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Praised by the New York Times as “wildly inventive,” he earned a spot on the 2008 New York Times Notable Book list.

And, now, Herreras has been named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Beyond Margins Award for his collection, “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems,” which was published last year by the UA Press.

UA News

Disclosure: JFH is my father.

Weekly Diaspora: CIR ASAP the First Step to Reform

December 17th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well. (To be linked at end of post.)]

DIASPcirasap
By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP). Rep. Gutierrez said that the bill represents “the final push for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media. Seth Hoy at AlterNet breaks down some of the bill’s key points, which include a border security provisions, family unification, a legalization component, and improved detention conditions.

The legislation is an encouraging first step forward on the path to immigration reform. But many hurdles must be overcome before an immigration bill from the House or Senate becomes law, especially in today’s tense political environment. Outright antagonism from the nativist lobby or the far Right will be no small part of the challenge, no matter how concessionary the legislation is to Republicans.

In the absence of nationally legislated reform, many border states like Texas are attempting to fill in the gap. One of these cases is a town called Del Rio, as Melissa del Bosque reports for the Texas Observer. Del Rio’s new school superintendent, Kelt Cooper, has “an overarching concern about Mexican nonresidents attending [U.S.] public schools.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, acting under Cooper’s request, recently took a headcount of children crossing the bridge that connects Ciudad Acuña in México to Del Rio, Texas. No other border to the county was inspected similarly.

At Cooper’s order, Del Rio school district employees handed out fliers to drivers with students who crossed the bridge that morning, informing parents that their children were being withdrawn from school unless they could prove U.S. citizenship. If Cooper truly cared about his student body, he’d take a lesson from another school with a large immigrant population and harness the energy available to him, rather than sowing fear and division amongst the student body.

In AlterNet, David Bacon writes about the impact of President Barack Obama’s brand of immigration enforcement, which has been sold as hard on employers, but not on workers. A key part of this approach has hinged on phasing out the aggressive and visibly disruptive SWAT-style raids that were common in the Bush era and instead warning companies that their employment rolls would be inspected. But these employee audits are just another proxy move in the absence of sound legislative that guides how this country treats immigrants.

The “softer” raids are not, in fact, harder on employers. The audits that result in the loss of hundreds of jobs at a time often take place during or close to attempts to organize a union. The workers are let go and the companies—recent examples include American Apparel and ADM Janitorial—are given immunity. These selective raids and probes cannot drive every undocumented worker away. Furthermore, if the flow of cheap labor were to dry up, the U.S. economy would collapse. These audits are but “a means for managing the flow of migrants, and making their labor available to employers at a price they want to pay.”

Daphne Eviatar reports on Thursday morning’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing for The New Mexico Independent. The hearing, “ostensibly about how [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] should improve its immigrant detention system” revealed deeply divided convictions among attendees. Immigrants today are either “dangerous criminals” who need to be locked up and deported, or “hapless men and women” who only broke the law in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. These divisions need to be settled, as the incarcerated population has doubled in the last ten years.

Even if prisons were built in every state and were designed only to hold undocumented people, the problem is not solved. The flow of migrants from South of the border must not be viewed as a vacuum. It is a symptom of the economic imbalances between the U.S. and Mexico.

So is the case with climate change, as Michelle Chen reports for RaceWire. Today, immigrants flee toward healthier economies and are demonized as the cause of the economic storm that howls behind them. It is no different for those displaced by “environmental destruction,” which is “reshaping the flow of labor and people as they move from one endangered livelihood to another.”

Chen advises us to accept the “fluidity of human movement,” as the consequences of remaining stuck in today’s limited immigration dialogue are dire. “Migration stems from the convergence of environmental destruction and social inequality,” writes Chen. There’s not a fence in the world that can address those forces.


Also featured at The Media Consortium, Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

News With Nezua | The Chaos Cell Known as Maricopa County Law

December 15th, 2009 § 17 comments § permalink

Topics: The Avenida Almasol Christmas Special; a season to think of others…and quilts; the Reign of Terror that renegade lawman Joe Arpaio is ruling over; a response to the University of Denver’s “Architecture for Immigration Reform; and finally, a path forward through the heart.

Also playing in a dim setting at the XOLAGRAFIK Theater, and appearing first on Sundays at La Frontera Times.

I was late getting this to Arban, so the transcript is delayed. My bad!

Crooked Cops Can Collude to Cover a Killing…

December 15th, 2009 § 9 comments § permalink

luis-ramirez-wife

Crystal Dillman, the fiancee of Luis Ramirez, is moved to tears as members of Latina show their support for the couple outside the Schuylkill County Courthouse, in Pottsville, Pa. , Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. A preliminary hearing was held for three suspects charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant who was severely beaten on July 12, in Shenandoah, Pa. Foto from RBB.

…BUT JUSTICE MAY TURN THEM OUT.

In July of 2008, Luis Ramirez was kicked to death in the street until he died by a group of whites who had been out drinking all night. Their screams and slurs while they beat him into the concrete made clear why they did what they did. Nobody was in doubt, and that’s the kind of town it is. A town where even the police collude to hide the murder of Mexicans, because it might besmirch the reputations of high school football stars if people knew they were cold blooded murderers. A town where the all-white jury finds the killers guilty of nothing more than aggravated assault.

But today we see a little justice.

Washington (CNN) — Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday. …

In June, an all-white Pennsylvania jury convicted Donchak and Piekarsky, then 19 and 17, of misdemeanor simple assault in Ramirez’s death and acquitted them of felony counts including aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and hindering apprehension. The two were sentenced to up to 23 months in the county jail. The incident divided the small, rural mining town of Shenandoah into camps for and against the youths and became a flash point for racial tensions nationwide.

Jurors found Piekarsky not guilty of third-degree murder. Prosecutors alleged he delivered a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after Ramirez was knocked to the ground in the alcohol-fueled brawl on a residential Shenandoah street.

After the verdict, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recommending the Justice Department pursue civil rights charges.

“The evidence suggests that Mr. Ramirez was targeted, beaten and killed because he was Mexican,” Rendell wrote. “Such lawlessness and violence hurts not only the victim of the attack, but also our towns and communities that are torn apart by such bigotry and intolerance.”

—CNN.com, 3 police officers among 5 people indicted in race-related beating

And we really should thank Mr. Rendell for doing so. Granted, he is probably as crooked as any other politician when it comes to raising funds and securing office, but he has helped bring about some justice in this case, and its an important one, I think.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment last week that charged Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes with conspiring to obstruct justice during the federal probe of Ramirez’s beating. The indictment, unsealed today, also charges Moyer with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI. If convicted, the officers face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges, plus five years for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer also faces five years for making false statements to the FBI.

In a second indictment, Piekarsky and Donchak are charged with a federal hate crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donchak also is charged in three additional counts with conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses. Each of the conspiracy charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while the other offenses each bring a five-year maximum sentence.

The murder of Luis Ramirez was the first to be nationally spotlighted by many human rights groups as an example of the violence that a burgeoning anti-immigrant movement has produced.

—splc, Pennsylvania Police Officers Indicted in Cover-Up of Immigrant’s Killing

Rep. Gutierrez Introduces CIR ASAP Immigration Bill

December 15th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

HORIZrepgut

BELOW ARE SOME NOTES that I took on a conference call Monday, hosted by SEIU. It was a presentation for the media, discussing Rep Gutierrez’s CIR ASAP immigration reform bill. I was liveblogging it, so I sum up sometimes, skip some sentences, paraphrase. You know how it goes.

After the liveblog notes is the full text a summary of the bill. (Note: The liveblog notes are not complete, but the best I could do coming on a little late, and then asking a question myself which distracted my notetaking.)

Finally, there will be a link posted so you can add your voice to help support this bill. We need every voice, truly.

SEIU: Remarks introducing bill. Opens up to questions.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: What is the motivation behind DHS efforts? Look tough in anticipation of debate? A “must” effort? Re: Broader Debate: What are you looking for Pres Obama to do in upcoming months?

SEIU: In terms of motivation, you’d have to ask DHS why. But this is not about looking tough, this is about solving problems. If they were able to really focus on some of these bad actor employers they would get full support from many corners and actually do something good. Put an end to some of these exploitive problems we see coming from bad actor employers.

Bottom line is that CIR is supported by “poll after poll after poll.” Churches, people, employers, businesses. We look fwd to POTUS leadership on this.

JG, Politico: A lot of talk from congress and White House saying they will be creating jobs. Do you have any concern that intense focus on the employment rate would be something to scare some legislative leaders away from CIR?

SEIU: I think that what we need to focus on is economic recovery. Making sure we create good jobs for American workers. I see CIR as part and parcel of coming up with an economic recovery program. So I hope Congress begins to understand this strategy is a good one…

Derek Cain: What makes you think Congress is at all interested in taking on such a volatile issue on an election year?

SEIU: If there is an issue with widespread support, this is it. Lot of polling shows that well over 2/3 of US people want to see CIR passed. Secondly, business is fully in support of this. SEIU and Chamber of congress dont get along on many issues. But on this one we are of one mind. I’ve met with many employers around the country who feel the same and are communicating this to Congress. Community groups, too…The only ones who dont want to see this happen are nativist orgs who will never be for anything that means making sure we have an immigration system that works and they are a small minority of the US people.

DC followup: Core of problem is legalization…I don’t think legislators wanna approach this. Do you just leave this part out?

SEIU: No, without legalization, you have no reform. The USA is disrupting workplaces, arresting gardeners, nannies, fieldworkers. Causing pain.

DC again: You are being critical of DHS in the size of their audit. I think we have a dramatic departure from the raids we used to have. Are you happy with change? With the audits?

SEIU: THey are just another side of the coin of raids. We are glad the raids have stopped, but these are resulting in the same thing. Look at American Apparel. Huge impact on the employer and workes. True, they are not arrested and placed in detention, but the workers have lost their job and if they cant find a job now, maybe they find one in the underground economy….

Wash Times, Steven Deenan: Just wanted to follow up on jobs question earlier. The unemployment rate is certainly different than it was, do you think it will have no effect ont he debate?

SEIU: Fixing this system will be good for American workers.

Susan Gamboa, AP: re audits: Seems the Obama admin is building a case so that when CIR comes up they can say “we have taken steps to make borders secure and interior enforcement” so it seems the aduts are part of this body of evidence. By criticizing it, do you hurt your own cause of passing CIR?

SEIU: No, they can accomplish the same thing. We are not saying they should not enforce the law. With limited resources you should focus on what is most important. What they are targeting are workers paying their taxes, holding jobs, thats how their names are in th system. On the other hand if you have an employer not paying overtime or min wage or taxes, they do not get punished. They are not targeting them. Enforce the laws, but enforce all of the laws!

Nezua of The Media Consortium/TheUnapologeticMexican.Org: Thank you for taking this stance. In my experience also, most people want reform passed, to see human rights given to all people in our nation. But there is a small faction of anti-immigrant voices, orgs centered around John Tanton with white supremacist and very questionable affiliations that get the media’s ear too often, using questionable stats and facts all molded by their agenda. The independent media seems to get this, and yet the MSM does not for the most part. Do  you have any plans to counter this? Thank you.

SEIU: [I was too busy listening to his response to type while he was talking to me…ironically, I don’t remember what he said, but perhaps there was not much he could say to this. The groups like NumbersUSA, CIS, FAIR and other anti-immigration groups move too often under cover and perhaps they hadn’t thought of what to do yet. Part of my reason for bringing it up was to remind the rest of the media members on the call what we are dealing with, and introduce the facts in case some weren’t aware of John Tanton and the origins of many of these groups].

SEIU closed by reminding everyone they are not saying DHS should not enforce the law. Just that only focusing on Enforcement was not helping and was not the answer, and that they were focusing in large part on worker’s rights.

Below is the text of the CIR ASAP bill.

—–

Comprehensive Immigration Reform for
America’s Security and Prosperity
(CIR ASAP) Act of 2009

TITLE I – BORDER SECURITY, DETENTION, AND ENFORCEMENT

Subtitle A – Border Security:

Subtitle A of Title I assembles a vision of effective and accountable enforcement for the 21st century through maximizing border security by requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to form a national strategy that is consistent with the progress already made. In order to achieve these goals, oversight and accountability for the Department of Homeland Security is emphasized, especially as they pertain to fiscal appropriations and cost-benefit analyses of operations and programs.

Protecting Our Borders: This subtitle protects United States border cities and communities from violence and crime along the U.S.-Mexico border by:

  • Creating a Southern Border Security Task Force that is composed of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers
  • Requiring a security plan for land ports of entry at the borders involved in international trade
  • Expanding the programs under the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism that is in accordance to the SAFE Port Act
  • Improving the exchange of information between federal agencies on North American Security by a conducting a targeted study of security clearance standards, document integrity, immigration and visa management and coordination, terrorist watch lists and smuggling operations

Effective Enforcement: Subtitle A achieves effective enforcement by improving personnel, assets and technology. This section:

  • Supports additional training, oversight and evaluation for agents who are the first face of America at the borders
  • Ensures that Customs and Border Protection have sufficient personal equipment like body armor, weapons, and uniforms, and that Customs and Border Protection have sufficient assets such as helicopters, power boats, motor vehicles and other electronic equipment
  • Promotes standards for searches of electronic devices and appropriate training for agents in conducting such searches
  • Minimizes wasteful spending by developing and studying comprehensive uses of advanced technologies, such as aerial and automated surveillance
  • Requires an inventory prior to any increase of personnel assets and technology

Securing Ports of Entry: Our nation’s ports of entry are modernized for our economic benefit and security by conducting a study of the infrastructure and operations to identify necessary improvements and projects to enhance border security and the flow of legitimate commerce and travel. This section:

  • Improves infrastructure and recalibrates resources and training to allow for more effective screening of commercial goods and individuals so as to minimize threats to national security at ports of entry
  • Increases the number of full-time port of entry inspectors, agricultural specialists, and support staff to improve the timely and safe flow of commercial goods and individuals
  • Establishes a demonstration project to test and evaluate new port of entry technologies and also refines existing technologies and operational concepts

Combating Criminal Activity: This subtitle recognizes the role of state law enforcement at the border in combating criminal activity by creating border relief grant programs for Northern and Southern border state, local and tribal law enforcement entities. This section:

  • Enables better training and technical assistance for state and local partners that deals with narcotics-related kidnapping, drug trafficking and the interdiction of weapons and currency
  • Facilitates information-sharing and collaboration between federal and state partners
  • Suspends the Operation Streamline program pending review of the goals, impacts and cost-benefit analyses
  • Reimburses Northern and Southern border state and local prosecutors for prosecuting federally initiated drug cases
  • Provides expanded resources for Operation Armas Cruzadas and Project Gunrunner to identify, investigate, and prosecute individuals involved in the trafficking and smuggling of firearms between Mexico and the United States.

Improving Partnerships: The importance of border communities as partners and allies are recognized as key in achieving effective enforcement by prioritizing community consultation in developing enforcement policies, border protection strategies and training. This subtitle:

  • Establishes the U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement Commission and a Border Communities Liaison Office to foster and institutionalize community consultation
  • Prohibits military involvement in non-emergency border enforcement
  • Prioritizes mitigating adverse impacts to federal, tribal, state, local and private lands, waters, wildlife and habitats by promoting cross-agency development of comprehensive monitoring and mitigation of ecological and environmental impacts of border security infrastructure and activity

Combating Human Trafficking: Subtitle A requires the development and implementation of a plan to improve coordination amongst federal and state partners to address human smuggling and migrant deaths. This section calls for additional ICE agents dedicated to combating human smuggling are stationed at ports of entry, requires reporting on migrant deaths, and establishes a study of strategies used at the Southern border to address this problem.

Subtitle B – Detention:

Improving Conditions of Detention: The bill requires DHS to meet minimum requirements to ensure the humane treatment of detainees. Minimum requirements include:

  • Adequate medical and mental health screenings, evaluations, medically necessary treatment, and continuing care
  • A review process for medical treatment requests and complete and confidential medical records
  • Reasonable access to telephones, affordable rates, and privacy protections for calls
  • Protections from sexual abuse, care for victims, and reports and investigations of abuse
  • Protection from transfers that fail to consider health and access to counsel

To ensure compliance with minimum detention conditions, the bill requires rulemaking and enforcement. An independent immigration detention commission is established to investigate and report on compliance. DHS must report the death of a detainee within 48 hours, and report annually to Congress on the circumstances of all deaths in detention.

Protecting U.S. Citizens, Lawfully Present Immigrants, Vulnerable Populations, and Communities: This section increases screening and protections during immigration-related enforcement activities for U.S. citizens, Legal Permanent Residents, others lawfully present in the U.S., and vulnerable populations. Social service agencies, translators, and legal services must be available during enforcement activities. DHS will be required to:

  • Issue regulations prohibiting apprehensions at enumerated community, educational, and religious locations
  • Provide access to legal orientation programs and access to counsel during enforcement activities and for disabled individuals unable to fully participate in removal proceedings
  • Give timely notice and service of immigration charges, as well as timely bond hearings if detained more than 48 hours

This section increases protections for individuals subject to immigration detainers, limits the use of detainers to confirmed removable aliens, and requires DHS to collect data and report on detainer use. The unnecessary detention of refugees is prohibited. DHS is required to report to Congress on the impact of immigration-related enforcement activities.

Improving Secure Alternative to Detention Programs: Criteria are established to guide detention and release decisions and require release for vulnerable populations. Detention decisions must be in writing, served upon detainees, and are subject to redetermination by an immigration judge.

Protecting Family Unity: Families with children may not be separated except in exceptional circumstances where alternatives to detention are not available. Residential, non-penal facilities are developed for any necessary family detention with appropriate protections for children and parental rights. The bill includes safeguards for families and children during immigration-related enforcement actions by:

  • Improving child welfare services for children separated from parents and guardians who are in immigration detention or have been removed
  • Requiring training for federal and state personnel who interact with separated children and for staff at immigration detention facilities on parental rights, humanitarian, and due process protections
  • Ensuring protections for detained parents, guardians, and caregivers in immigration detention to promote access to children, family courts, child welfare services, and consular officials

Protecting Unaccompanied Alien Children: Training is required for DHS employees who encounter unaccompanied alien children. Upon apprehension of an unaccompanied alien child, immediate notice is required by DHS or ORR and transfer to ORR custody within 24 hours.

Subtitle C – Enforcement:

Protecting workers: Provides temporary visas and work authorization for detained workers when they have been retaliated against by their employer for asserting their labor rights and they agree to pursue labor claims against their employer. Also expands U visas to provide for whistleblower protections with regard to worker exploitation, civil rights violations and retaliation for exercising labor rights.

Address Reporting: Clarifies address reporting requirements

Ending Discrimination: Preempts any state or local law that discriminates against an individual based on immigration status or imposes sanctions on any individual or entity based on the immigration status of its clients, employees or tenants

Repeals the 287(g) program: Repeals the 287(g) program and clarifies that the authority to enforce federal immigration law lies solely with the federal government

ICE Ombudsman: Establishes an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ombudsman

Asylum: Eliminates the arbitrary 1-year bar to applying for asylum

Restores federal jurisdiction: Restores the federal courts of their jurisdiction to review decisions and practices of DHS thereby also restoring the historic role that the courts play in reviewing agency actions

TITLE II – EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION

This section sets up an employment verification system for employers to verify each new hire’s authorization to work. The new system will eventually apply to all workers and all new hires, and will be rolled out in phases, beginning with critical infrastructure employers and large employers. The employment verification system:

  • Creates significant civil penalties for employers who do not comply with the requirements under the new system
  • Establishes serious criminal penalties for knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens
  • Debars employers who repeatedly violate these provisions from government contracts, grants, and agreements
  • Includes privacy safeguards by limiting the data that can be collected and stored in the database and requiring the agencies to develop the system with maximum security and privacy protections
  • Requires the agencies to evaluate impact of system from a privacy perspective and complete privacy impact statements
  • Prohibits creation of a national identification card
  • Includes anti-discrimination provisions. Forbids employers from using the new system to discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of nationality. Prohibits employers from terminating employment due to a tentative non-confirmation, using the system to screen employees prior to offering employment, or using the system selectively
  • Allows an individual to register with the Social Security Administration and acquire a PIN that would allow them electronic access to their file in the system, update their information, and lock their file for purposes of employment

TITLE III – VISA REFORMS

Backlog Reduction and Numerical Limit Reforms:

Reduction of existing backlogs: Permits the “recapture” of unused employment-based visas and family-sponsored visas from fiscal years 1992-2008 and allows future unused visa numbers to roll over to next fiscal year. Immediate relatives are exempted from the annual cap on the number of immigrant visas. This section increases the percentage limit of visas which may be issued yearly to a single country.

Promotion of Family Unity: To recognize family unity principles and facilitate backlog reduction, reclassifies spouses and children of lawful permanent residents as immediate relatives. The government is given greater discretionary authority to waive unlawful presence bars to reunite families upon a demonstration of hardship for applicant’s U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members.

Sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans: Exempts the sons and daughters of Filipino WWII veterans from the annual numerical limitations.

Immigrants with Advanced Skills Exempt from Visa Cap: Exempts several categories of highly skilled workers from the employment-based immigrant visa cap.

Retaining Workers Subject to the Green Card Backlog: Current nonimmigrant skilled workers whose employer has petitioned for an employment-based green card on their behalf and their dependents will be permitted to file an application for adjustment of status, regardless of whether a visa is immediately available. An applicant under this section must pay a supplemental $500 fee, to be used by DHS for backlog reduction and clearing security background check delays. The Secretary shall provide employment and travel authorization in 3-year increments while the application is pending.

Protection of Children and Families:

Relief for Orphans and Widows: Ensures that surviving spouses and children applying for adjustment of status or naturalization, including spouses and children of asylees and refugees, retain eligibility for waivers and other considerations that would have been available to them at the time of the petitioner’s death.

Reform of Cancellation of Removal: Permits immigration judges greater discretion in determining eligibility requirements for long-term lawful permanent residents seeking cancellation of removal. Eliminates prohibitions on including time spent in the United States after becoming inadmissible or being placed in removal proceedings as counting towards continuous presence requirements for cancellation of removal.

Protection for Refugees, Parolees or Asylees: Prohibits the removal of any individual who fled his or her homeland for fear of persecution before the age of twelve and was subsequently admitted into the United States as a parolee or refugee or was granted asylum in the U.S.

Enhanced Protections for Children: Revises current law to ensure that the children of fiancés of United States citizens will be protected from aging out of eligibility to adjust to conditional resident status by requiring that eligibility determinations are based on the child’s age at the time the U.S. citizen files a petition for classifying the child’s parent as a fiancé or spouse. Eliminates he requirement that stepchildren must have been under the age of 18 at the time the qualifying marriage took place in order to be classified as a child for purposes of immigration eligibility.

Limits on Removal for Parents of U.S. Citizen Children: Permits an immigration judge to decline to order the removal of the parent of U.S. citizen child if the judge determines that removal would not be in the child’s best interests and the parent is not subject to removal based on national security, terrorism or trafficking grounds.

Determinations under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998: This section amends the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998 (HRIFA) to preserve eligibility for children of applicants based on their age on the date of enactment of HRIFA and permits new applications and motions to reopen on that basis.

Affidavit of Support: Revises the eligibility requirements for sponsorship of immigrants by reducing the level of support required from 125% of poverty level to 100% of poverty level.

Return of Talent Program: Permits lawful permanent residents to temporarily return to their home country to assist in post-conflict or natural disaster reconstruction activities, for up to two years without losing credit towards time as a continuous resident of the U.S. for purposes of applying for naturalization.

Humanitarian Visa Program to Prevent Unauthorized Migration (PUM Visa):

Prevent Unauthorized Migration Visa (PUM Visa) Creates a stop-gap new visa program that will provide for safe, humanitarian migration during the three-year transition period before the implementation of recommendations made by the new Labor Commission.

  • One hundred thousand PUM visas will be made available annually, for three years, to persons from sending countries of unauthorized migration to the United States to be distributed on a percentage basis through a lottery system.
  • Individuals may apply to the lottery if they are not present in the United States at the time of filing, do not have other family or employment-based means to immigration, submit to criminal background checks, and have completed less than a 4-year college degree program.
  • Individuals awarded visas will be admitted to the United States as conditional residents and may petition to remove the condition after three years upon showing they have good moral character, pass all required background and security checks, comply with all tax requirements and other factors, including payment of a $500 fee that will be used to fund security and employment programs.

TITLE IV – EARNED LEGALIZATION PROGRAM FOR THE UNDOCUMENTED

Visa Program for Qualified Undocumented Workers: Creates a program providing conditional nonimmigrant status for undocumented immigrants (and their spouses and children) in the U.S., which is valid for six years.

Features of the Conditional Nonimmigrant Program:

  • Provides conditional nonimmigrant visa applicants with work and travel authorization and protection from removal
  • Bars related to undocumented status will be waived (security and criminal bars cannot be waived)
  • Contains provisions for administrative and judicial review of denied applications

Requirements for Conditional Nonimmigrant Status: The alien must:

  • Establish presence in the U.S. on the day of introduction, and continuously thereafter
  • At time of registration, attests to contributions to the U.S. through employment, education, military service, or other volunteer/community service (with exemptions for minors, persons with disabilities, the elderly, or other unusual circumstances)
  • Complete criminal and security background checks
  • Pay a $500 fine plus necessary application fees (fine exemption for children and certain immigrants who initially entered the U.S. before the age of 16)
  • The individual shall be ineligible to receive a visa as a result of a serious criminal conviction, persecution of another person or reasonable grounds for believing that the alien committed a particularly serious crime abroad
  • There is a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment for anyone who willfully falsifies information in an application for conditional nonimmigrant status

Adjustment of Status to LPR: Provides qualified conditional non-immigrants and their spouses and children with an opportunity to apply for lawful permanent resident status (green card) and eventual citizenship.

Features of the Earned Adjustment of Status Program:

  • No green cards may be issued under this program earlier than six years after the date of enactment unless existing immigrant backlogs have been cleared before that time
  • The Department of State and DHS are required to provide any requesting law enforcement entity with information furnished on an application in connection with a criminal or national security investigation or prosecution
  • New penalties for making false statements in an application for earned citizenship are created
  • Immigrants who adjust from a conditional nonimmigrant visa (including dependents) to lawful permanent resident status shall not be counted against the worldwide numerical visa caps
  • Those appealing decisions associated with the application for adjustment to permanent status have access to a defined administrative and judicial process

Special Rule for Persons Brought to the United States Before the Age of 16: In order to simplify processing of applicants under CIR ASAP, those persons ordinarily covered under the DREAM Act will apply for status through the same program outlined above, with the following special features:

  • No fines for persons who were brought to the United States before the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, and were 35 years of age or less
  • Such persons will be eligible for accelerated LPR status upon graduation from high school, and completion of two years of college, military service, or employment. Persons granted LPR status under this provision will be eligible for naturalization three years after the date LPR status is granted
  • Graduation from a U.S. high school or receipt of an equivalency degree will meet the English proficiency requirement
  • Individual states permitted to determine residency requirements for in-state tuition purposes

Requirements for Earned Adjustment: The applicant must:

  • Demonstrate contribution to the United States through employment, education, military service, or voluntary or community service, where applicable
  • Complete criminal and security background checks
  • Establish registration under the Selective Service (if applicable)
  • Meet English and civics requirements
  • Undergo a medical examination
  • Pay all taxes
  • Show admissibility to the U.S

Other Provisions in Title IV:

  • AgJOBS Act of 2009

TITLE V – STRENGTHENING AMERICA’S WORKFORCE

Title V of CIR ASAP strengthens America’s workforce by reforming the badly-flawed H-1B, H-2B and L-1 visa programs and establishes a Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets to provide researched, unbiased, accurate recommendations for future flows of workers. It also permanently reauthorizes the EB-5 visa program and establishes stricter requirements for employers and recruiters of foreign workers. Title V additionally establishes the American Worker Recruit and Match System which will match qualified individuals with job opportunities in fields that traditionally have relied on unauthorized labor. Furthermore, this title establishes the Security and Prosperity Account which directs funds raised from fines in the earned legalization program to fortify America’s workforce, integrate new Americans and safeguard our borders.

Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets: Title V establishes a new independent federal agency known as the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets. The Commission will:

  • Establish employment based-immigration policies that promote economic growth and competitiveness while minimizing job displacement, wage depression and unauthorized employment
  • Create and implement a policy-focused research agenda on the economic impact of immigration on multiple levels
  • Collect and analyze information on employment-based immigration and publish the data and analysis
  • Recommend to Congress and the President appropriate methods for determining the levels of employment-based immigration and assessing the effects of such immigration as well as the numerical levels and characteristics of procedures for future flows of workers to be admitted into the United States

Security and Prosperity Account: The Security and Prosperity Account is established in Title V to fund efforts to strengthen our workforce, including:

  • Grants to states for adult and dislocated worker employment and training activities
  • Funding for the Electronic Employment Verification System to ensure that all individuals working in the U.S. are authorized to do so
  • Funding for the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets to provide sound, researched and objective employment based immigration policy
  • Dislocated workers assistance national reserve funding
  • Establishment of AWRMS programs and funds educational purposes
  • Funding to reduce the USCIS visa backlog to ensure a timely and reliable process for all individuals applying for visas and further the integration of new Americas with programs that, for example, facilitate citizenship for legal permanent resident students and create citizenship promotion services
  • Funding for border security, detention and enforcement activities

American Worker Recruit and Match System: Title V establishes the American Worker Recruit and Match System (AWRMS), which is an internet-based program that is set up by each State Workforce Agency (SWA) to be incorporated into current Web-based job search engines. AWRMS is a searchable database that allows employers to post job opportunities in fields that have traditionally relied on unauthorized labor. In addition, individuals can post their employment profiles and AWRMS will match employers with qualified individuals.

Protecting Workers: Title V protects foreign workers from exploitation and abuse by ensuring that each prospective employee is provided a written description of the terms of their employment which may not knowingly include any misleading or false information. In addition, each employer must provide to the Secretary of Labor the identity of all recruiters working on their behalf and any possible violations committed by a recruiter. An employer will be held responsible for the actions of a recruiter and may be subject to civil penalties.

H-1B visa program: The current H-1B visa program does not adequately protect American or H-1B workers. Title V reforms the H-1B visa program to:

  • Ensure that before an employer can hire an H-1B worker, the employer must meet strict requirements for the recruitment of American workers
  • Authorize the Department of Labor (DOL) to initiate investigations into possible fraud and abuse in the absence of a formal complaint and/or the Secretary’s approval.
  • Increase penalties for violations
  • Authorize the DOL to conduct annual audits of employers that rely heavily on the H-1B program

L-1 visa program: The L-1 visa program is currently vulnerable to fraud and abuse. CIR ASAP authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to audit L-1 visa participants. Penalties will be assessed for violations of the provisions of the L-1 visa program.

H-2B visa program: The H-2B visa program is reformed to prevent the exploitation of H-2B non-immigrants and the depression of wages and other workplace abuses by exploitative employers. Reforms to the program:

  • Include stricter requirements for recruitment of American workers
  • Prevent employers from participating in the program if they have conducted a mass lay-off in the past year and includes strengthened worker protections

EB-5 Visa program: The EB-5 Visa program is permanently reauthorized within Title V with an increase in available visas to 10,000. It also allows for an expedited processing of petitions for a fee of $2,500. The definition of Targeted Employment Area (TEA) is expanded to include:

  • Rural areas,
  • High-unemployment areas
  • Counties with a 20 percent or more population decrease since 1970
  • Areas within the boundaries of state or federal economic development incentive programs
  • Areas designated as TEAs by a state agency authorized by the Governor
  • Areas designated as TEAs during the two year period before visa application

In addition, Title V requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to study and report on the current job creation counting methodology and how to promote the employment creation program to overseas investors. Lastly it creates a new category of job-producing foreigners eligible for visas: venture capitalist seeking a Founder’s visa.

TITLE VI – INTEGRATION OF NEW AMERICANS

Immigration Fees: Immigration fees have risen steeply in the past decade. Title VI will ensure that future fee increase requests receive closer scrutiny than provided by the largely perfunctory regulatory public comment process. Title VI incorporates and expands on provisions of the Citizenship Promotion Act of 2007 to make citizenship more accessible and affordable. This title:

  • Provides for greater transparency for immigration application fees and encourages a uniform process to submit fee waiver applications
  • Provides for uniform administration of the naturalization exam
  • Promotes citizenship of the elderly by adjusting the age requirements for English language exemption

Improving the Naturalization Process: The process for naturalization is lengthy and difficult to navigate. Title VI creates reforms that encourage citizenship among immigrant communities. This section requires timely response on background checks and evaluates their efficiency. In addition, this title includes a grant program for community based organizations to promote and help immigrants prepare for citizenship. These grants in support of naturalization efforts will assist legal permanent residents with:

  • English language and citizenship classes
  • Legal assistance
  • Community outreach activities
  • Assisting aliens with applications for citizenship

Integration Grant Programs:

Title VI includes a grant program for education, training and support efforts relating to the provisions of the CIR ASAP Act, including protections from immigration fraud and the availability of benefits provided by the act. Provisions ensure that to the extent possible, the nonprofit community organizations receiving grants serve geographically diverse and ethnically diverse locations.

USCIS Grant Program: Title VI establishes a grant program within USCIS that provides funding to community-based organizations, including community-based legal service organizations, as appropriate, to develop and implement programs to assist eligible applicants for naturalization. Grants provided for in Title VI will be funded through fees and fines deposited in the Security and Prosperity Account.

Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistant Grant Program: Title VI establishes the Initial Entry, Adjustment and Citizenship Assistance Grant Program. IEACA grants will be awarded to community-based organizations for the design and implementation of programs to provide the following services:

  • Assistance and instruction, including legal assistance, to aliens making initial application for conditional nonimmigrant or conditional nonimmigrant dependent classification
  • Assistance and instruction, including legal assistance, to aliens seeking to adjust their status
  • Assistance and instruction to applicants on the rights and responsibilities of US citizenship and English language proficiency

Improving Naturalization for Legal Permanent Residents: Facilitates citizenship among Legal Permanent Resident students that want to naturalize. Legal Permanent Resident students will be deemed to have satisfied the language and civics requirements for naturalization if they are able to demonstrate they graduated high school after completing grades 6 through 12 in the United States and the curriculum reflects knowledge of U.S. history, Government, and civics.

Strengthening Communities: Title VI strengthens and unites communities by creating incentives for English language acquisition programs. Creates tax credits for teachers in limited English proficient schools. Provides employers with a tax credit for qualified English language education programs. Authorizes states to form State New American Councils comprised of 15-19 individuals from state and local government, business and community organizations.

Celebrating Citizenship: Title VI celebrates the citizenship of new Americans and encourages these individuals to integrate into their communities. It provides for the availability of funds to the Director of USCIS or to approved public or private nonprofit entities to support public ceremonies for administering oaths of allegiance to naturalizing legal immigrants. Independence Day naturalization ceremonies include appropriate outreach, ceremonial, and celebratory activities. This program shall be funded through fees and fines deposited in the Security and Prosperity Account.


Please take action and add your voice to let Congress and the White House know there is support for this bill!

Weekly Diaspora: Unemployment Feeding Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

December 10th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well. (To be linked at end of post.)]

DIASPDec10

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

The nation’s 10% unemployment rate is feeding anti-immigrant sentiment, as Marcelo Ballvé reports for New America Media. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) critiqued President Barack Obama’s recent jobs summit as “fatally flawed” because President Obama did not discuss wresting millions of jobs away from undocumented families. Smith’s argument is flawed.

A “known Capitol Hill immigration hardliner,” Smith asks us to assume that for every job the U.S. could theoretically “take back” from an undocumented worker, an eager U.S. citizen would flock to fill it. But, as Ballvé reports, “several studies suggest that among Americans and legal residents, it’s mainly those lacking a high school diploma who are competing directly with undocumented immigrants for jobs (and by most estimates, that’s less than one out of every 10 U.S. workers).”

Smith’s reasoning is a leap that only a hardliner could make, and is simply not borne out by any reliable data or experience.

In fact, a soon-to-be released book called Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do by journalist and SEIU researcher Gabriel Thompson tells the opposite story, as In These Times reports. Thompson went undercover to work alongside migrant workers for one year. The work was so strenuous that Thompson used painkillers to make it through. But he gained a crucial perspective: Despite the detached and abstract imaginings of Republican politicians, these are jobs that “even most unemployed and destitute ‘Americans’ are not necessarily willing or able to take … even if the pay is decent.”

Immigrants are pushed into these shadow realms by laws such as HB 2008, which is currently sending waves of “panic” through the undocumented community in Arizona, as IPS North America reports. Passed on November 24, HB 2008 “requires state, city and any government employee in Arizona to report to immigration authorities any undocumented immigrants who request a public benefit.” Government workers who fail to make such a report are subject to four months in jail.

Laws aimed at immigrants are ultimately divisive. We see this time and time again, from the 287(g) agreement, which deputizes police with federal immigration enforcement duties and powers, to a matter as simple as picking up a free toy for a disadvantaged child on Christmas. The result? Scenarios in which parents don’t take their children to the doctor because they fear deportation. Who can morally defend such laws?

Perhaps speaking of morality in our legal and political process is idealistic or naïve. In a time and place when the term “Sanctuary City” is used as a slur, it’s hard to tell which way is up. Melissa del Bosque reports on Houston Mayor Bill White’s gubernatorial run for the Texas Observer. White, a Democrat, barely announced his candidacy before the “volley” of metaphorical “napalm” began.

The Texas Republican Party is accusing White of turning Houston into a “Sanctuary City.” According to del Bosque, this particular political battle will morph into a flurry of competition between the Left and Right to “throw immigrants under the bus” in the climb for political power.

Finally, Wiretap Mag reports on an old tradition that is still vibrant: Art and activism joining hands to wake up, shake up, empower and teach people about a current struggle for justice. Geoffrey Dobbins reports on the unique voices that came together to record My America, a benefit CD for a film about the struggles of undocumented immigrant youth in the U.S.

Dobbins writes that the ultimate goal of the CD and film is to “get Congress to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM). The DREAM Act would provide a path for these young people to gain legal status.”

A soundtrack for change sounds nice. Turn it up.


Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

News With Nezua | Avenida Almasol

December 9th, 2009 § 5 comments § permalink

INTRODUCING Naco and Nico! And a new cartoon called Avenida Almasol, which takes place in a ‘hood where magical thoughts, connections, and adventures are always around the bend. We will meet a few other characters soon, maybe even the notorious Figga Five. For now, it’s just us and these two ponderous cats kickin’ down la calle. This early, early morning, Naco and Nico are dealing with the fact that a good friend is joining the military just as the US prepares to ship out 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

News With Nezua vids appear first on Sundays at La Frontera Times, the following Wednesday here at UMX (at which point anyone is free and welcome to spread the word and the Word Was Embed), and can also be found in a dark room for your uninterrupted and cozy enjoyment at the XOLAGRAFIK Theater.

While this cartoon won’t replace my vlogging, it will appear regularly (as regularly as I can make time to draw it/write it/etc), and I have plans to develop it, so you can meet the whole crew that lives in the barrio. They are a fun n feisty and sometimes fractious group, and you may recognize favorite bloggers from time to time as they voice characters, ala the Simpsons’ guest appearances. Some cats will be regularly featured, such as next episode’s appearance—a streetwise Asian homie who sells mota for a living, sometimes tends the sick, and dresses a little like Genghis Khan.

Watch this lil show, it’s got some ambitions! We are playing around with the idea of bringing to the iPhone platform, and other than that, it’s just a lot of fun. :)

A note: “Almasol” is a word that combines the Spanish “Alma” (soul) and “Sol” (sun), and I did not come up with it, but borrowed it from my sister, who bears the name.

Transcribed by Arban:

[slider]

SPOKEN:[NEZUA]

Hola Gente, and welcome to News With Nezua! (Translation from Spanish, “What’s up, people, and welcome to News With Nezua!”

[Flamenco/Latin style music.]

SUNG:

Guerrero!”,Ole!”

[Latin music fades]

TITLE: “Introducing Naco and Nico in Avenida Almasol”

SPOKEN [NEZUA] (narration in soft, reverb drenched tones)

“Somewhere in the heart of America the sun is about to rise. Two vatos are exploring the misty dawn, let’s see what’s going on, down on Avenida Almasol”

ANIMATION: [Naco and Nico strolling down the avenue in the misty dawn light]

[laid back West Coast hip hop]

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Yo, did you hear about Figga Five?

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“No, what?”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Yo, he joining the military…soldier, shipping out…”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Word?”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Simón”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Por que, bro? He gonna go fight the Taliban? Right? He gonna go drop some democracy down on gente?”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Simón, democracy, like in Iraq, like in Nicaragua, like in Vietnam, like in Equador.”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“So, what’s it about man?”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“They trying to run a pipeline, minimize Russian influence on the Caspian Sea, bro…and in Central Asia, sí? The US government been hungry for an Afghanistan pipeline for years, man. Talibans was opposed. Now we peelin’ the Taliban away from Afghanistan and Pakistan, man. It’s all about the pipeline, carnál. Thirty thousand more sons and daughters for the pipeline.”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Yeah, I heard that. Thirty thousand more soldiers to the middle east, and Señor Presidente can’t even take his butt over to visit his own tía, man.”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Yeah, that’s messed up, son. Aunt can’t even get around, no green card. Su sobrino es el jefe [translation from Spanish: her nephew is the boss] …and she can’t get no help.”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Damn, hope Figga Five don’t get his ass shot off. Why you say he’s joining up, fool?”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Shoot, you know, fool. Homie want to go to college, tu sabes. [translation from Spanish: you understand, you know how it goes] Be presidente.

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Yeah, be president. So he can diss his tía, and ship thirty thousand other fools of to war.”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“Yo, its a crazy world, son. Whatcha gonna do?”

SPOKEN [NICO]:

“Straight up. That’s the nature of power.”

SPOKEN [NACO]:

“No fool, that, is the nature of power.”

[Naco and Nico gaze into the brilliant sunrise]

TEXT ON SCREEN: NEZUA: All writing, directing, voices, editing, arte & scoring

Some background art courtesy of VIGILARTE.NET

[ LATIN MUSIC]

[FADE TO BLACK]

[/slider]

EVO-lution!

December 8th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

THE GUEST FROM DC spins things a bit, and positions the landslide win as positive because of alleged anti-cocaine programs promised by Morales. She also explains Morales’ policies’ popularity as a formulaically-minded “2/3 of the nation is poor and 1/3 is very poor” fashion, concluding that this is why his social programs are popular…as if being a leader who takes seriously the health of the entire electorate is not in and of itself commendable and endearing of a leader. The point of view seems to assume that if the country were, overall, a bit less obviously poverty-stricken (like the USA?) it need not worry itself with the impoverished. Also troublesome is the presentation of Morales’ programs as very astutely “targeted,” “highly visible” and thus “popular.”

While the flash-bout of US-centric punditry results in some positive words about the collective rising power of Latin America, I can’t help but conclude that some mindsets preclude the absorption of truth, even when in front of them, instead choosing cynical and somewhat condescending political frames.

To my way of thinking, anyone representing—on TV or otherwise—the economic, social, spiritual, and moral implosion that is today’s USA should aspire to a bit more humility when discussing the successes found in movements outside our borders. They might see things that could help them. Or us.

Borderlands, Breathing

December 4th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

Take a trip through this video to remember why it is so important that we begin thinking beyond the barrier.

In January 2009, the International League of Conservation Photographers sent a team of world-renowned photographers, with writers, filmmakers and scientists to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico to document the wildlife, ecology, and effect of immigration and the border wall on this landscape. The 17-member team spent almost a month traveling the nearly-2000-mile border and captured more than 10,000 images of the region and the impact of the wall. Since then, the images have been used in media outreach and in an exhibit that has been shown in the halls of Congress and around the country. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness of the peril that border infrastructure places on the long-term survival of myriad species that live in the borderlands. This area is a shared conservation treasure of international importance that harbors some of the most biodiverse landscapes on the continent. Many species here are found nowhere else in the US, and nowhere else in Mexico and some are found nowhere else on Earth.

Learn more about the iLCP Borderlands RAVE here: ilcp.com/?cid=93
For more on the iLCP: ilcp.com/
Sombrero tip to: Chris

Weekly Diaspora: Quiet Raids, Slippery ICE and Grinches

December 3rd, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

[For those new to the Unapologetic Mexican Blog (UMX), The Weekly Diaspora is a (paid) article I write for The Media Consortium. It is a column that runs on a few other sites, as well. (To be linked at end of post.)]

DIASPgrinch

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is shifting its focus to silent or “quiet” raids, as Erin Rosa reports for Campus Progress. In quiet raids, ICE conducts “audits” of staff at pre-selected organizations and gives employers a chance to fire all workers who cannot produce documents of citizenship.

The Bush administration favored dramatic, SWAT-like raids, but the Obama administration is taking a non-confrontational route. As Rosa reports, ICE has announced the latest wave of audits ahead of time, though specific business are not being named “due to the ongoing, law enforcement sensitive nature” of the audits. During a phone briefing, ICE chief John Morton explained that the “over 1,000″ new audits are designed to “create a ‘culture of consequences.'” Undoubtedly, the economic consequence of tens of thousands more people losing their income will be as dramatic as a door kicked open in the middle of the night, and it will affect all of us.

While job loss is undesirable, at least the audits are not aggressive or violent like some raids. Also, undocumented workers could find another job post-audit. The Obama administration’s claims that audits take the burden of raids from workers is defensible in that case, though reports of employers that are fined for having undocumented staff members are hard to find.

However, the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of jailing “unadjusted” refugees after a year is indefensible. As Emily Creighton reports for AlterNet, the U.S. has a long-running and proud history of providing a safe haven for those seeking refuge from persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.” And yet ICE is incarcerating refugees who have not adjusted to permanent resident status after one year of residency in the U.S. The problem is, permanent resident status is only obtained after a lot of paperwork, vaccinations, and other hurdles have been completed. The process “can take over a year” in and of itself.

A depressed economy and perceived cultural shifts in the U.S. demographic are bringing out the very best and worst of our society. In RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that the immigration debate today “looks more like a balance sheet” and reflects “the economic anxieties besieging politicians and voters.” Chen does an excellent job underlining a recurring problem: As long as immigration reform is treated like a “number-crunching” exercise, nothing gets fixed. “Without a human rights-based counterpoint to the demand-supply rhetoric,” Chen writes, “lawmakers would be all too willing to cede immigration policy to the corporate gatekeepers of the private sector, while faithfully preserving the structure of inequity.” We can do better than this. “These are numbers, not people.”

Ironically, many immigrants pay into the health care system through payroll taxes, but cannot benefit from them, as EunSook Lee, reports for New America Media. “It is unreasonable and saddening that under the current health reform proposals, the people who really need it will not get it,” writes Lee. “Communities across America are waking up … and Congress needs to take notice.”

Another case of the most vulnerable being targeted unfairly comes, unfortunately, in a place we’d hope never to find it. In the Texas Observer, Melissa del Bosque reports on how the Salvation Army is trading Christmas cheer for anti-immigrant politics. The Salvation Army “and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department” are holding an annual toy drive, but checking immigration status before giving any toys to needy families! “Apparently,” writes del Bosque,”even Santa isn’t immune to the anti-immigrant hysteria brewing in the nation.” Perhaps in the world that the Salvation Army envisions, we will encourage children to leave legal documents for Santa on Christmas Eve, rather than cookies and milk. [update: very vocal pro-migrant protests have caused Salvation Army to rescind this policy.]

Ending on a lighter note, Joshua Holland reports on how the mercurial Lou Dobbs now favors “the very legalization process for unauthorized immigrants that he’s long derided as a brain-dead ‘amnesty’ policy pushed by pernicious liberal elites in order to keep down the wages of good, hardworking Americans.” Dobbs is now championing what he once dubbed “shamnesty.” It is such a jarring reality that Holland muses on whether Dobbs “really is an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Luis Miguel Salvador Aguila Dominguez” as the Onion facetiously reported.


Also featured at Huffington Post, America’s Voice, FDL, Talking Points Memo, Open Salon, DailyKos, Sanctuary, Open Left, Rabble, RaceWire, In These Times Blog, NAM Ethnoblog

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