Thursday, January 26, 2012

Increasing Reliance on Guest Worker Programs

By David Bacon, Americas Program
January 14, 2012

Over the last 25 years, guest worker programs have increasingly become a vehicle for channeling the migration that has stemmed from free market reforms. Increasing numbers of guest workers are recruited each year for labor in the U.S. from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean under the H1-B, H2-A and H2-B programs. Recruiters promise high wages and charge thousands of dollars for visas, fees and transportation. By the time they leave home, the debts of guest workers are crushing.

In 2007 the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report, Close to Slavery, documenting the treatment of guest workers. No one gets overtime, regardless of the law. Companies charge for tools, food and housing. Guest workers are routinely cheated. Recent protests have exposed the exploitation of guest workers recruited from India to work in the Mississippi shipyard of Signal International. They paid $15-20,000 for each visa, lived in barracks in the yard, and had to get up at 3.30 to use the bathroom because there weren’t enough for everyone. The company cut the wages, held six workers prisoner for deportation, and fired their leader, Joseph Jacobs. In 2006 Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, was murdered when the union tried to set up an office in Mexico to end the corruption and abuse by guest worker contractors. [...]

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

100 Years After Lawrence Strike, the Cry for ‘Bread & Roses’ Still Resonates

Arrayed against American Woolen and its heavily armed defenders was a rainbow coalition of recently arrived immigrants—low-paid workers from 30 countries, who spoke 45 different languages.

By Steve Early, In These Times
January 10, 2012

LAWRENCE, MASS.--One hundred years ago this month, thousands of angry textile workers abandoned their looms and poured into the frigid streets of Lawrence, Mass. Like Occupy Wall Street in our own gilded age, this unexpected grassroots protest cast a dramatic spotlight on the problem of social and economic inequality. In all of American labor history, there are few better examples of the synergy between radical activism and indigenous militancy.

The work stoppage now celebrated as the “Bread and Roses Strike” was triggered, ironically, by a Progressive-era reform that backfired. Well-meaning state legislators had just reduced the maximum allowable working hours for women and children from 56 to 54 hours per week. When this reduction went into effect, workers quickly discovered that their pay had been cut proportionately, and their jobs speeded up by the American Woolen Company and other firms. [...]

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who’s afraid of “The Tempest”?

Arizona's ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare

By Jeff Biggers,
January 12, 2012

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies. [...]

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Struggle for Immigrants’ Rights Highlights Split Within Organized Labor

By Michelle Chen, In These Times
January 11, 2012

ICE officers' union resists reform measures to controversial Secure Communities program, while AFl-CIO wants to end it

Trying to please all at once and disappointing everyone, the White House has long played a game of good-cop-bad-cop on immigration, promising reforms while clinging to some of the cruelest deportation policies.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s delicate waltz around immigration highlights complex frictions within the labor movement on immigration policy—revealing contrasts between immigration enforcement employees and the AFL-CIO leadership. [...]

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Film: Harvest of Loneliness

Award winning documentary by Gilbert Gonzalez, Adrian Salinas and Vivian Price on the guest worker program of 1942-1964.

Hidden within historical accounts of US workers and immigrants is the story of millions of Mexican men and women who experienced the bracero program, a ‘guest worker’ program designed to supply workers to agriculture and undermine farm worker unionization. The documentary features the men speaking of their experiences, and the wives and families left behind in Mexican villages emptied of men from l942-1964.

“Guest worker programs” for non-agricultural sectors are now part of the arsenal of proposed US immigration reforms. But what are these programs and how do they actually operate? “Harvest of Loneliness” explores how the bracero program originated, how it was implemented, and its effects on unions, workers and the economy.

Cinelatino Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary at the 2010 Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival. Voted Best Educational Documentary at the 2010 Amsterdam International Film Festival.

Watch the trailer:

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New York Developers Take Advantage of Financing-for-Visas Program

Rules Stretched as Green Cards Go to Investors

By Patrick McGeehan and Kirk Semple, New York Times
December 18, 2011

Affluent foreigners are rushing to take advantage of a federal immigration program that offers them the chance to obtain a green card in return for investing in construction projects in the United States. With credit tight, the program has unexpectedly turned into a mainstay for the financing of these projects in New York, California, Texas and other states.

The number of foreign applicants, each of whom must invest at least $500,000 in a project, has nearly quadrupled in the last two years, to more than 3,800 in the 2011 fiscal year, officials said. [...]

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Friday, January 20, 2012

A Border of Cruelty

A new report ties migrants’ deaths to U.S. policies and abusive federal agents.
By Patrick Glennon, In These Times
October 19, 2011

Earlier this month, authorities recovered the bodies of two Mexican nationals off the coast of San Diego county. One was discovered adrift near Imperial Beach, just across the border from Tijuana. The man’s two companions, who successfully reached shore, remarked to Border Patrol agents that the deceased was a “weak swimmer.” The other drowning victim was found on a boat that had held a dozen other migrants Border Patrol agents chased and apprehended.

“Migrants are turning to the Pacific Ocean to cross the border illegally, as entering by land has turned more arduous and dangerous,” the AP reported.

Indeed, the danger of crossing by land has reached unprecedented levels. In 1990, fewer than 200 people died trying to enter the United States. The number rose to nearly 500 in 2005, although the annual number of deaths has been lower since then. [...]

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Download the report from No More Deaths:

Dispatch From Detention: A Rare Look Inside Our ‘Humane’ Immigration Jails

by Seth Freed Wessler, ColorLines
January 4, 2012

Sam Kitching, a soft-spoken, round old man dressed in civilian clothes who works for the Sheriff’s department at the Baker County Jail put his hand on my shoulder and, addressing me as “young man,” said, “It’s very important that you be careful in there. They might have AIDS and might try to grab your hand and push something into it.”

“AIDS?” I ask.

“They could,” he said. “These men can be dangerous.”

A younger man dressed in a tight, dark green Sheriff’s uniform unlatched the door into one of the pods that holds several dozen federal immigration detainees. [...]

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

NYC, 1/14/11: Fundraiser for Victor Toro

Cultural Event and Forum on the Case of Victor Toro

Saturday, January 14, 6:30 pm
The Solidarity Center
55 West 17th Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY
(Take F to 14th Street, 4/5/6, N, Q to Union Square)

Come hear Victor Toro speak on the Occupy Wall Street movement & current immigration policy. Victor’s lawyers will give an update on the case, which is at a critical stage. Victor is facing deportation to Chile after being racially profiled on an Amtrak train in 2007. Supporters say he has earned the right to stay in the U.S. with his family.

Performing: Huasipungo
Special raffle to help raise funds for Victor’s defense committee: delicious Chilean wine and a Victor Toro poster

More information: , 718.292.6137

More on Victor’s case:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Undocumented' play reveals immigrants' hidden lives

CNN'a "In America" Blog
December 23, 2011

Kat Chua wrote the play "Undocumented," about the experiences of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It was inspired by a project she worked on as a student at New York University - and her own story. Chua was born in the Philippines, and brought to New York at age 8.

Although the play's characters think the DREAM Act could change their futures, the play isn't really about the legislation, Chua said.

"It's not about one solution fixing everything," she said. "It's about the fact that there is a population of the country, of this world, that isn't represented, that is trying to obtain rights."

Watch the full video report:

For more information:

Monday, January 9, 2012

How US Policies Fueled Mexico's Great Migration

[NAFTA, Smithfield, swine flu, worker exploitation and unauthorized immigration from Mexico--the sort of connections never made in the official US "immigration debate."--Ed]

By David Bacon, The Nation
January 4, 2012

Roberto Ortega tried to make a living slaughtering pigs in Veracruz, Mexico. “In my town, Las Choapas, after I killed a pig, I would cut it up to sell the meat,” he recalls. But in the late 1990s, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened up Mexican markets to massive pork imports from US companies like Smithfield Foods, Ortega and other small-scale butchers in Mexico were devastated by the drop in prices. “Whatever I could do to make money, I did,” Ortega explains. “But I could never make enough for us to survive.” In 1999 he came to the United States, where he again slaughtered pigs for a living. This time, though, he did it as a worker in the world’s largest pork slaughterhouse, in Tar Heel, North Carolina. [...]

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Deportation of U.S. Teen to Colombia Latest Failure of Immigration System

Democracy Now!
January 6, 2012

The family of a Dallas teenager Jakadrien Turner is demanding answers after she was deported to Colombia, despite the fact that she is a U.S. citizen and speaks no Spanish. Turner, a 15-year-old African-American runaway, was living in Houston when she was arrested for shoplifting and gave police a fake name that belonged to a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from Colombia with warrants for her arrest. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) reportedly discovered Turner’s fingerprints did not match those of the Colombian national, but deported her anyway.

"The country has no idea that we have got a rogue police force. That rogue police force is called ICE," says Ralph Isenberg, a Dallas businessman who has become an advocate for immigrants. [...]

Video and transcript at:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tweak in Rule to Ease a Path to Green Card

By Julia Preston, New York Times
January 6, 2012

Obama administration officials announced on Friday they are proposing a fix to a Catch-22 in immigration law that could spare hundreds of thousands of American citizens from prolonged separations from illegal immigrant spouses and children.

Although the regulatory tweak appears small, lawyers said it would mean that many Americans will no longer be separated for months or years from family members pursuing legal residency. Even more citizens could be encouraged to come forward to bring illegal immigrant relatives into the system, they said.

The move was greeted with unusually broad praise from immigration lawyers and immigrant and Latino groups, which have been critical of the high rate of deportations under President Obama. Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, called it a “welcome rational solution to a simple problem” that will mean “thousands upon thousands of families will remain together.” [...]

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