Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Political Economy of Migration

By David Bacon
New Labor Forum, June 2007

[Note: This article previews an argument that will be made at book length in Illegal - How GlobalizationCreates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Beacon Press, Fall 2008]

Mr. Sensenbrenner's Family Business

In December 2005, Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner convinced his Republican colleagues (and to their shame, 35 Democrats) to pass one of the most repressive immigration proposals of the last hundred years. His bill, HR 4437, would have made federal felons of all 12 million undocumented immigrants in theU.S., criminalized teachers, nurses or priests who helped them, and built a 700-mile wall on the U.S.Mexico border to keep people from crossing.

Representative Sensenbrenner is more than just a leader of Congressional xenophobes, however. His family is intimately involved in creating the conditions that cause migration, and then profits from the labor it makes available. In fact, the Sensenbrenner family connections are a microcosm of the political economy of migration itself. [...]

Read the full article:

Monday, January 28, 2008

Press Release 1/28/08: Sanctuary Begins Again at Chicago Church

For Immediate Release Monday, January 28th, 2008

To: All Media
From: Adalberto United Methodist Church
Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras
Contact: Emma Lozano
Rev Walter L Coleman


“This act of civil disobedience by an undocumented mother today is a proclamation of the “State of the Latino Nation.”

Following in the footsteps of her friend Elvira Arellano, Flor Crisotomo announced today that she will refuse to report for deportation as ordered by Homeland Security and will take sanctuary in Adalberto United Methodist Church.

"I am taking a stand of civil disobedience to Make America See what they are doing. I believe with all my heart that the United States and Mexico must end the system of undocumented labor but the current policy of enforcement only is not ending this system and that is what I want America to see."

Flor’s story illustrates the roots of the current immigration crisis. Driven here because of the effects of NAFTA on her home town, she came to support her three children, her sister and her aging mother. She worked for IFCO until that company was raided in a high profile national raid in 2006, when she was arrested.

Flor explained that undocumented workers are caught between two U.S. policies. On the one hand, Homeland Security and a wave of local laws across the country are making it more and more difficult to survive openly in this country. On the other hand, the policies of NAFTA have devastated the rural economy of Mexico and as many as a million more Mexican farmers will be put out of work this year and most will seek to travel north.

“I cannot support my children if I return to Mexico because of the policies of NAFTA and yet for the 12 million it is becoming more and more difficult to survive here.”

“The government has no intention of deporting 12 million people. They say they expect us to self-deport, but we cannot leave because of what U.S. economic policies have done to destroy jobs in our home countries. That is why the current policy will not end the system of undocumented labor. It will only drive us into worse and worse jobs.”

“I will not be a symbol of fear to spread among my people. I hope that adding my grain of sand to the struggle will help to get the U.S. Congress to act to fix a broken law and an inhuman system of undocumented labor.

Speaking for Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras, Emma Lozano proclaimed Flor’s action as a statement of “the State of the Latino Nation.”

“Over half of the Latinos in this country live in fear every day that a family member, loved one or friend will be deported and yet the government has failed to respond to this crisis in our community. We will likely not even be mentioned in the President’s address tonight. The Democratic Presidential candidates have failed to take on this crisis and the Democratic Congress has refused to even put immigration on their agenda at their upcoming retreat this Wednesday. Neither Party has addressed the economic policies that are driving immigration from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Not only the undocumented, but the entire Latino community has been forced into the shadows of this country.

“The current policy of “enforcement only” is a political fraud. It is not aimed at ending the cruel system of undocumented labor which separates families on both sides of the border. It is aimed only at mobilizing hate, causing fear and driving millions further into the shadows.

“Today we are saying that we will not be invisible. Congress must act to bring our people out of the shadows. Congress must act to renegotiate NAFTA and legalize both the employers and the workers to end this system of exploitation and separation of families.”

Speaking on behalf of the little methodist church that stood off the U.S. government for a year with Elvira Arellano, Rev Walter Coleman reminded the people that “Jesus came to say that the people have eyes but they do not see. We must Make America See by our faith.”

“12 million people, their families here and their families in Mexico, are caught in a triangle of paralysis: Between the Greed of NAFTA, the Hatred of immigration enforcement and the hunger in their children’s eyes.

“We have waited patiently for government to act meaningfully – but they have not. Every Sunday, this church like many others acros this land, is filled with families facing the pain of separation, the agony of unacceptable alternatives We call today for a renewal of the Sanctuary Movement that began with Elvira Arellano here in this church..

“Where governments fail the people, faith must stand apart. Let us go forward together in faith. Let us Make America See.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Necessity and Law: Getting Past "Illegality"

by Emile Schepers
People's Weekly World Online Extra, Jan. 5, 2008

The anti-immigrant movement sets great store by “legality." “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” is one of their favorite taunts.

But we know that it is very easy for any government to create new “illegals”; all it has to do is pass some law forbidding people from doing something that they have been doing out of necessity, maybe for centuries.

In medieval England, it was illegal for hungry peasants to hunt the king’s deer. Deer are deer and hunger is hunger, but add this little law and you have the right to hang half the peasantry. [...]

Read the full article:

See also a special English-Spanish supplement on immigration:
Immigration: myths vs. facts
La inmigración: hechos y mitos

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Victor Toro: Next Immigration Hearing Set for Aug. 15

The US government's efforts to deport Chilean-born New York activist Victor Toro have been delayed at least until Aug. 15. At a hearing before an immigration judge at the New York Federal Building on the morning of Jan. 18, Toro's lawyers said they were seeking political asylum for their client; Toro fled Chile in the 1970s after being imprisoned and tortured by the US-backed Pinochet regime. The judge scheduled the next hearing for Aug. 15 to allow time to review the case carefully.

Click below for coverage by the New York Spanish language daily El Diario-La Prensa on Jan. 19. (Note that while the article correctly describes the proceeding as a hearing--"audiencia"--the headline calls it a trial--"juicio." People think of a trial as a criminal proceeding, but it is important to remember that this was just an administrative hearing to determine whether the US can deport Toro. Being in the US without status is not a crime but a civil offense, like jaywalking.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

FRI 1/18: Support Victor Toro, NYC Activist Fighting Deportation

Viernes 18 ene: Apoyemos a Victor Toro, activista peleando su deportacion

La Lucha Sigue! The Struggle Continues!

[texto en espan~ol sigue al ingles]

Demonstration, Friday, January 18, 2008, at 9am
Stop the Deportation of NYC Activist Victor Toro
26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan
(at the corner of Worth Street & Lafayette St)

Victor's hearing before immigration Judge Paul Defonzo is set for January 18, 2008, at 9:00 am, at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan. Please come and support him, and help us send the message: Victor belongs here in NYC!

Victor Toro is a citizen and national of Chile who was jailed and tortured there because of his opposition to the illegitimate Pinochet government (1973-1990). For more than 23 years, Victor and his wife Nieves Ayress (also a survivor of torture by the Pinochet regime) have been living in New York City and engaging in activism in the South Bronx, where they founded Vamos a La Peña, a nonprofit community organization that has served as a space for free expression and people's power for undocumented workers and other disenfranchised community members. On July 6, 2007,Victor Toro was arrested by US Border Patrol, an agency of the US Department of Homeland Security, while on board an Amtrak train in Rochester, New York. He was released on bond on July 9 and is now seeking political asylum with the help of his legal team. His wife Nieves is a US citizen; their daughter, Rosita Toro, is a legal permanent resident.

Pickets in support of Victor Toro are held every Friday (weather permitting) from noon to 1pm at the federal building in Manhattan, northeast corner, Worth St at Lafayette St. (There will be no noon picket on Jan. 18, the day of the 9am demonstration.) For more information, contact the Victor Toro Defense Committee: 718-292-6137, 212-631-7555, 646-291-2778,,,

Please give generously to Victor's campaign: make checks payable to "LasPeñitas Inc." and mail to P.O. Box 739, Bronx, NY 10454.

Manifestacion, Viernes, 18 de enero, 2008, a las 9 AM
Alto a la Deportacion del activista neoyorkino Victor Toro
26 Federal Plaza en Manhattan (esquina de Worth Street & Lafayette St)

La audiencia de Victor ante el juez de inmigracion Paul DeFonzo es programado para el viernes 18 de enero, a las 9am, en 26 Federal Plaza en Manhattan. Por favor venga a apoyarlo, y ayudenos a enviar el mensaje: Victor pertenece a nuestras comunidades, su casa es aca en NYC!

Victor Toro es un chileno quien fue encarcelado y torturado en ese pais por su oposicion al gobierno ilegitimo del dictador Pinochet (1973-1990). Durante mas de 23 años, Victor y su esposa Nieves Ayress (tambien sobreviviente de torturas bajo el regimen de Pinochet) han estado viviendo en la ciudad de Nueva York e involucrados en la lucha social en el Sur del Bronx, donde fundaron Vamos a La Peña, una organizacion comunitaria sin fines de lucro que ha sirvido como espacio de libre expresion y poder popular para los trabajadores indocumentados y otra gente marginada de esa comunidad. El pasado 6 de julio, 2007, Victor Toro fue arrestado por la Patrulla Fronteriza, agencia del Departamento de "Seguridad de Patria" de EEUU, mientras viajaba en un tren de Amtrak pasando por la ciudad deRochester, New York. Fue liberado bajo fianza el 9 de julio y ahora busca asilo politico con ayuda de su equipo legal. Su esposa Nieves es ciudadana estadounidense; su hija, Rosita Toro, es residente permanente legal

Piquetes en apoyo a Victor Toro se llevan a cabo cada viernes (cuando el clima permite) desde 12:00 mediodia hasta la 1pm afuera del edificio federal en Manhattan, esquina noreste, calle Worth con calle Lafayette.(El dia 18, dia de la manifestacion, no habra piquete al mediodia.) Para mas informacion: contactese con el Comite de Defensa de Victor Toro: 718-292-6137, 212-631-7555, 646-291-2778,,,

Para enviar una donacion a la campaña de Victor: escriba su cheque a nombre de "Las Peñitas Inc." y envielo al P.O. Box 739, Bronx, NY 10454.

Coauthor Guskin at Houston Conference and on Podcast Interview

From Friday, January 18 to Sunday, January 20
Jane Guskin will be in Houston attending the Conference for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, "Claiming Our Rights, Envisioning Our Future: Communities Organizing for Justice"

To contact her, email:
For conference information, go to:

Interview, January 13, 2008
With Jane Guskin on "Belinda Subraman Presents,"
Talk Radio: Musicians, writers, poets, artists and activists

Listen at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sanctuary's Human Face (from Colorlines)

Issue #42, Jan/Feb 2008
[español sigue al ingles]

Elvira Arellano met with Felipe Calderon in his salon. These household names from Michoacán, Mexico followed starkly different paths to celebrity: the latter, a Harvard graduate, had just taken the Mexican presidency with only a .58-percent margin of victory and amidst fervent dissent; the former, a cleaning lady, had just been deported from the United States after taking sanctuary to evade immigration laws.

Elvira came to Felipe seeking a diplomatic visa to return to the U.S. legally. Already praised as a peace ambassador and the “Rosita Parks” of immigrant rights, she believed she could help these two nations work out a deal on migrants, just as they had with the North American Free Trade Agreement and the drug wars. Perhaps uneasy with people who question authority, or concerned that turning a deportee into a government officer would upset the markets, Felipe politely declined. Elvira left the salon disappointed and criticized her new president to the leading newspaper, La Jornada: “He is very weak.”

Her assessment was not without basis. Elvira knew something about risk and vulnerability. A single mother, once deported and having twice crossed the border, she used to clean airplanes at O’Hare International Airport. Just before Christmas 2002, a federal sweep of 500 workers pushed her off the payroll and into the criminal courts. After three appearances before a federal judge, she pleaded guilty to document fraud (she bought fake papers to be able to work) and got three years probation. Elvira now belonged to a category almost universally condemned as “doubly illegal.” As a New York Times journalist once editorialized, “The country is polarized between those who want a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and those who want to deport them. But just about everyone agrees that the doubly illegal, immigrants with no documents and who have committed crimes, are not welcome.”

Elvira disagreed. She was in fact outraged that the criminal courts would judge her so severely and that the immigration courts would not judge her at all. Contrary to popular belief, Elvira never had an immigration hearing. Deportation was the outcome of a civil process run entirely by Homeland Security.

My colleague Subhash Kateel, a veteran organizer, once told a disbelieving congressman, “Deportation is the cruelest civil proceeding in America. Is there any other where you can be incarcerated the whole time and never get a hearing?” If there is a single feature that distinguishes today’s immigration system from the past, it is prison. Two years after NAFTA deregulated economic borders, then–President Clinton signed domestic immigration laws that made deportation and detention mandatory minimums within our physical borders.

Elvira—unlike most of the workers picked up in the airport raids, and unlike most of the 2 million deported in the last decade—was not locked up physically. Nor spiritually. Where most would be afraid or ashamed, she insisted, “God is not embarrassed when one speaks for truth.” In advocates’ press conferences, she soon became the human face on the broken system.

While bearing witness, Elvira met Emma Lozano, an old-timer in Chicago politics who is as revered as she is controversial. Emma approached this young woman, raw with passion, and asked: “Do you have a job? A lawyer? A place to stay?” Emma invited her to live in a church. Elvira was cleaning homes and selling buttons about her struggle to skim by. Free housing was a godsend. And so began a relationship that pulled Elvira into a politicized community. Regular people resist political disenfranchisement daily—crossing the border, working off the books, saving money under mattresses. The standard nonprofit organization—structured to provide services or lobby people with power–is not built to seize on the power of regular people. Maria Jimenez, another veteran organizer, explains: “You see so much second- and third-floor organizing that assumes we have a first floor…the first floor is busy working and saving money.”

Elvira was positioned to bridge the chasm between everyday survival and collective efforts for change. Her first assignment was to build La Familia Latina Unida, an organization for families like hers. She brought together dozens. They exchanged information about jobs and lawyers. Her American-born son Saulito led the youth. Using the relationships of Somos Un Pueblo (Emma’s organization) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the families got a private bill sponsored by Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Senator Dick Durbin. A private bill suspends public law for a named individual or group subject to that law. If passed, a private bill would make the members of La Familia Latina Unida an exception to the laws requiring the deportation of millions.

The group raised their own funds to take buses to Washington, D.C. Elvira was there at least 20 times. She joined coalitions for immigration reform and driver’s licenses, not as a professional, but as a leader. Her analysis transformed, too. She explained: “From working at Somos Un Pueblo, I now know that legalization doesn’t solve the problem for everyone. What about the people deported, or the people with old, old crimes?” Such people have been the government’s unrelenting focus. Despite Elvira’s civic leadership, Homeland Security ordered her to surrender. Unlike carefully picked idols of other movements, the imperfect mother (single and unemployed, with a criminal record and deportation order) had little more than faith in God and Saulito when she said, “No.” America had not seen this type of civil disobedience since the 1980s sanctuary movement. It touched countless hearts.

Mine included. For several years, I have been a member of Families for Freedom, a New York group similar to Elvira’s. That spring, when million-immigrant marches overran America, we had a rare win for a grassroots body: our American-born youth moved Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano to introduce national legislation. Nationwide, 15 percent of U.S. families are composed of citizen children and immigrant parents. If passed, the Child Citizen Protection Act would allow immigration judges to consider American children before deporting their mom or dad. In a policy battle overwhelmingly defined by business interests, Emma Lozano once called the children’s bill “the best-kept secret in this whole immigration debate.” It remains pending in the House.

In the middle of our victory and work, I lost sight of a friend. On the tenth anniversary of the 1996 laws, while we were in the capitol, educating lawmakers, Jorge Emilio Cabrera was at the Homeland Security office. Cabrera was a green card holder with an old drug conviction. In 1999, the government expelled him to the Dominican Republic. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled his deportation was illegal. In 2002, while Cabrera was working for a shipping boat that docked at an American port, customs pulled him off the vessel and charged him with illegal re-entry. He spent the next four years serving time in a federal prison, appealing his case and trying to be a father to his sons, who missed him.

While Cabrera argued that he should be allowed to stay, the government said the past is the past—the old deportation could not be reversed. They were awaiting a court decision when immigration officers detained Cabrera during a standard parole visit. Once he was inside, it was impossible to get him out. The last time I talked with Cabrera, he was calling from the Dominican Republic. “You gotta get me back in…I got my kids. This guy here, he tellin’ me I can appeal.” I said, “Okay, okay. Let’s talk, but later. I gotta go.” I was headed to some important meeting. Days later, Cabrera died in a car accident, driving on a dirt road from his hometown to Santo Domingo. When a group of us crossed the sea to visit his grave, the senior Cabrera explained that Junior had just gotten a job. He left the earth with hope. Christ said that when a seed falls to the ground, it will multiply. But not of its own accord. The earth must engulf and nourish it. I felt despair, not hope, when my friend fell. Like the victim of a crime, I replayed the scene and asked repeatedly: “What did I do wrong?” Over time, the living struggles of other friends pulled me out of regret and into a search for ways to memorialize his death.

Elvira, through her sacrifice, sowed a path. Slowly in New York a few religious leaders began talking about providing sanctuary. Most of our members believe deeply in God and belong to churches and mosques. Houses of worship seemed to us to be natural allies. We became a peculiar asset to them too, grounding the ministers’ conversations with a very technical understanding of the legal maze (we lived it) and families already campaigning against their deportation (just like Elvira).

Sanctuary is not a social service. It is not legal representation on steroids. It is risky and time-intensive, especially for the person taking it. When we presented sanctuary to members at a monthly meeting, it was a moot point for most—their loved ones are locked up. But two men, from China and Haiti, rose to it. Thus began our sanctuary campaigns. The greatest lesson they have shown me so far is that faith—not self-interest—moves our people. The very fact that our rank-and-file keeps taking action, despite growing and militant raids, is proof that hate produces far more than fear in us.

Elvira’s decision to leave sanctuary may have been the least self-interested and boldest of her actions. Many said it was downright unstrategic. After fasting for two weeks, she gave a press conference and launched a tour in cities that were joining the new sanctuary movement that she inspired. Set to culminate in the capitol, the tour never made it past point one. Unmarked vehicles surrounded her very public entourage in Los Angeles, the nation’s premiere “sanctuary city.” After giving her a moment to say goodbye to Saulito, agents hauled her off. She was back in Mexico within days.

Though the government could have locked her up for several years, they did not. Luissana Santibanez, a college student who began visiting detained women and children after her own mother was deported, suggests, “They knew with her inside, all hell would have broken loose. Hunger strikes. She would have been organizing prisoners.” In the haste to get rid of Elvira, officials even violated the Vienna Convention, which required them to inform the Mexican government of her arrest and obtain permission to send her back.

Many laws went out the window in Elvira’s case. Her opponents were outraged, not just because she was a lawbreaker. She believed, truly, that she and her son deserved rights. Back in Mexico, Elvira continues to demand and believe. And in the U.S., for those of us who remain, her very complicated story lingers as a parable of what makes life worth living.

Aarti Shahani is a co-founder and board member of Families for Freedom.


La Cara Humana del Santuario, por Aarti Shahani
Issue #42, Jan/Feb 2008

Desde Michoacán, México, dos caminos muy diferentes han llevado hacia la fama a nuestros conocidos personajes y a una misma cita con la historia. Por un lado, el camino de Felipe Calderón, graduado de Harvard, Presidente de México, electo con un discutido margen mínimo (solo 0,58% de los votos), por consiguiente, bajo una franca y activa oposición en su propio país. Por otro lado, el camino de Elvira Arellano, humilde y representativa trabajadora de los servicios de limpieza, quien fue deportada de los Estados Unidos aún después de acudir a la figura de santuario para evadir la aplicación de las leyes de inmigración, tras un breve alejamiento de su albergue en una iglesia de Chicago.

La reunión entre Elvira y Felipe, se encaminó esencialmente hacia la búsqueda de una visa diplomática para hacer posible su regreso a los Estados Unidos, legalmente. Elvira, ya reconocida embajadora de la paz y vista como una Rosita Parks a favor de los derechos de los inmigrantes, piensa que podría ayudar a estos dos grandes países a alcanzar un acuerdo en el tema de inmigración, de igual manera como se consiguió concretar el Tratado de Libre Comercio o el acuerdo de lucha Contra las Drogas.

Tal vez por la inquietud de los dos gobiernos con el cuestionamiento de la autoridad o la preocupación de convertir a una deportada en representante oficial del gobierno, y por el impacto que esto pueda producir sobre los mercados, Felipe Calderón decidió no aceptar esta figura. Elvira se fue decepcionada de la reunión y criticó al Presidente en varios diarios nacionales de México, tal como en La Jornada, diciendo “…él es muy débil.”

Elvira no está sin bases para esta afirmación, ya sabe mucho sobre riesgo y vulnerabilidad desde su situación. Ella además es madre soltera, había sido antes deportada y cruzado la frontera dos veces, y acostumbraba limpiar aviones en el aeropuerto Internacional O’Hare. En 2002, poco antes de las fiestas navideñas, los agentes federales barrieron con 500 trabajadores, la removieron de la nómina salarial hacia la corte criminal. Después de tres comparecencias ante un juez federal, ella se declaró culpable de fraude de documentación, aceptando tres años de libertad vigilada.

Elvira ahora pertenece a una categoría condenada casi a nivel universal, al ser clasificada como “doble ilegal”. Un reportero del New York Times editorializó una vez, “el país está polarizado entre aquellos que quieren un camino hacia la ciudadanía para inmigrantes ilegales y aquellos que quieren que los deporten. Pero casi todos están de acuerdo en que el doble ilegal, es decir, inmigrantes sin documentos legales, quienes han cometido crímenes, no son bienvenidos.”

Elvira continúa en franco desacuerdo. En realidad ella estaba muy molesta porque las cortes criminales la juzgaran tan severamente y porque las cortes de inmigración ni siquiera la juzgaran. Contrario a la creencia popular, Elvira nunca tuvo una audiencia de inmigración. La deportación fue el resultado de un proceso civil enteramente en manos del procurador de justicia del Departamento de Seguridad Interna (Homeland Security).

Mi colega Subhash Kateel le dijo una vez a un congresista incrédulo “la deportación es la forma más cruel de audiencias civiles en América. ¿Hay algún otro proceso donde Usted podría ser encarcelado todo el tiempo y nunca tener una audiencia?” Si existe alguna diferencia entre el sistema de inmigración de hoy y del pasado es la prisión. Dos años después de la aprobación del Tratado de Libre Comercio (NAFTA por sus siglas en inglés), el cual eliminó barreras económicas, Clinton firmó leyes de inmigración doméstica que hicieron de la deportación y de la detención mandatos mínimos dentro de las fronteras del país.

Elvira – a diferencia de la mayoría de los trabajadores que han sido detenidos en redadas en los aeropuertos y de la gran mayoría de los dos millones de deportados en la última década- no fue encarcelada física o espiritualmente. En situaciones donde la mayoría sentiría miedo o vergüenza ella reafirmó “Dios no tiene pena cuando uno habla la verdad.” Muy pronto ella se convirtió en la cara humana de las conferencias de prensa sobre el sistema disfuncional de inmigración.

Mientras servía como testigo, Elvira conoció a Emma Lozano, una veterana en la política de Chicago, quien se aproximó a esta joven mujer con entusiasmo y le preguntó “¿Tienes un empleo? ¿Un abogado(a)? ¿Un lugar donde vivir?” Emma la invitó a vivir en una iglesia. Elvira limpiaba casas y vendía botones distintivos sobre su lucha para ocuparse. La vivienda gratis fue un regalo de Dios. Y así se inicio una relación que llevó a Elvira al centro de una comunidad politizada. Es gente común que resiste el abandono a diario cruzando la frontera, trabajando sin estar formalmente empleados, ahorrando su dinero bajo el sofá. Las agencias sin ánimo de lucro están encaminadas a proveer servicios sociales y a dirigirse a personas en los círculos del poder y no están creadas o preparadas para liderar el poder de la gente común y corriente.

Elvira fue ubicada como puente entre el sobrevivir diario y los esfuerzos colectivos por el cambio. Su primera tarea fue construir la organización La Familia Latina Unida, una organización para familias como la suya. Durante ese tiempo ella pudo reunir a docenas de familias. Estas familias intercambiaban información sobre empleos y abogados. Su hijo Saulito, nacido en este país, lideró a los más jóvenes.

Usando las relaciones de la entidad Pueblo Sin Fronteras, la organización de Emma y la coalición Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, las familias han obtenido una propuesta legislativa privada, patrocinada por el congresista Luis Gutiérrez y el senador Dick Durbin. Una acción legislativa privada suspendería la ley pública para la persona como individuo o para un grupo nominal sujeto a esa ley. Si la legislación se aprueba, miembros de La Familia Latina Unida serían la excepción a las leyes que requieren la deportación de millones de personas.

La organización recaudó sus propios fondos para tomar autobuses hacia Washington, D.C. Elvira estuvo ahí por los menos 20 veces. Ella hizo parte de coaliciones de apoyo a reformas migratorias y a licencias de manejo, no como profesional sino como líder. Su propio análisis también fue transformado, como ella explicó “después de trabajar en Pueblo Sin Fronteras, yo entiendo que la legalización no resuelve el problema para todos. ¿Y qué se dice de las personas ya deportadas o de las personas con antecedentes criminales de hace muchos años?”

Estas son las personas en foco sistemático para el gobierno. A pesar del liderazgo cívico de Elvira, el Departamento de Seguridad Interna (Homeland Security) le ordenó que se rindiera. Esta madre soltera e imperfecta -sin empleo, con record criminal y una orden de deportación- tenía un poco más de fe en Dios, cuando Saulito dijo “NO”. América no había visto éste tipo de desobediencia civil desde los 80s con el movimiento santuario. Su desobediencia civil pudo tocar muchos corazones, el mío incluido.

Por varios años yo he sido miembro de Familias por la Libertad (Families for Freedom) una organización en New York similar a la de Elvira. En esa primavera, cuando millones de inmigrantes marcharon y tomaron al país, nosotros tuvimos un triunfo excepcional como organismo de base: nuestros jóvenes nacidos aquí conmovieron al congresista de Bronx José Serrano para presentar legislación nacional. A nivel nacional el 15% de las familias están integradas por hijos ciudadanos con padres inmigrantes. Si la legislación Child Citizen Protection Act es aprobada, esto permitirá a los jueces de inmigración que consideren a los hijos ciudadanos antes de deportar a Mamá o a Papá. Durante la batalla de políticas, la cual fue abrumadoramente definida por intereses comerciales, Emma Lozano llamó a la legislación “el secreto mejor guardado dentro de todo este debate sobre inmigración.” Esta legislación continúa pendiente en el congreso.

En medio de nuestra victoria y el trabajo, perdí de vista a un amigo. En el décimo aniversario de las leyes de 1996, mientras educábamos a los legisladores, Jorge Emilio Cabrera estaba en la oficina de seguridad interna (Homeland Security Office). Cabrera tenía su tarjeta de residente con un antecedente de drogas muy antiguo, del cual fue convicto. En 1999 el gobierno lo expulsó del país a la República Dominicana. En el 2001 el juez dictaminó que su deportación era ilegal. En 2002, mientras Cabrera trabajaba para una compañía de barcos de envíos que se detenían en puertos de Estados Unidos; una vez la aduana lo removió de la embarcación y lo declararon culpable con cargos de re-entrar al país ilegalmente. Cabrera pasó cuatro años en una cárcel federal apelando su caso y tratando de ser padre para su hijo, quien lo extrañaba mucho.

Mientras Cabrera presentaba argumentos para poder permanecer en el país, el gobierno discutía que la anterior orden de deportación no podría ser revertida. Ellos esperaban la decisión de la corte cuando oficiales de inmigración detienen a Cabrera durante un proceso rutinario. Una vez en detención, era imposible sacarlo de ahí.

La ultima vez que hable con Cabrera, él estaba en la República Dominicana llamando por teléfono “tienes que ayudarme a regresar…yo tengo a mis niños. Esta persona aquí me dice que puedo apelar.” Yo le dije “esta bien, esta bien. Debemos hablar del tema más tarde me tengo que ir” Me dirigí a una reunión importante.

Unos días después Cabrera había muerto en un accidente de automóvil manejando en un camino destapado desde su pueblo a Santo Domingo. Cuando un grupo de nosotros cruzamos el mar para visitar su sepultura, el padre de Cabrera nos explicó que su hijo había obtenido un trabajo, por lo cual dejó nuestro mundo con esperanza.

Jesucristo dijo que cuando una semilla cae al suelo se multiplica. Pero no por si sola. La tierra la debe absorber y nutrirla. Yo sentí desesperación, no esperanza, cuando mi amigo calló. Como víctima de un crimen, yo recordaba la escena y preguntaba repetidamente: ¿que fue lo que hicemal? Al paso del tiempo, las luchas de otros amigos me sacaron del arrepentimiento y busqué formas de honrar su memoria después de su muerte.

A través del sacrificio de Elvira pude crear otro camino. Poco a poco líderes religiosos iniciaron el diálogo por la necesidad de un santuario en New York. Muchos de nuestros miembros creen en Dios profundamente y pertenecen a iglesias y a mezquitas. Los centros de devoción parecían aliados naturales. Nosotros llegamos a ser valiosos activos también para ellos, apoyando las conversaciones de los ministros, con una comprensión técnica sobre el tema legal y facilitando la conexión con familias que hacían campaña contra las deportaciones.

El santuario no es un servicio social. No es una representación legal sobre uso de esteroides. Es arriesgado y toma tiempo intensivo, especialmente para la persona en refugio. Cuando nosotros presentamos el tema del santuario a los miembros de una reunión mensual era un tema sin importancia para la mayoría: sus seres queridos estaban encarcelados. Pero dos hombres, uno de China y otro de Haití se incorporaron para manifestar su apoyo. Así inició nuestra campaña por el santuario. La gran lección que ellos han mostrado es que la fé -no intereses personales- mueve a nuestra gente. Nuestras filas continúan sus acciones sin importar el aumento de las redadas, lo cual prueba que el odio produce algo más que miedo en nosotros.

La decisión de Elvira de dejar a un lado el santuario pudo haber sido la menos individual/personal y mas bien un acto valeroso por su parte. Muchos dicen que fue la peor estrategia. Después de tener huelga de hambre por dos semanas ella tuvo una conferencia de prensa y lanzó una serie de visitas a varias ciudades donde muchos empezaron a formar parte del Nuevo Movimiento Santuario, el cual ella inspiraba. Su visita tenía la intención de terminar en la capital del país pero nunca pasó de la primera ciudad. Vehículos sin identificación rodeaban su grupo en Los Ángeles, la ciudad premiere del país como “ciudad santuario.” Después de darle un momento para despedirse de Saulito, los agentes se la llevaron. En unos pocos días ella estaba en México.

Aunque el gobierno podía encarcelarla por varios años no lo hicieron. Luissana Santibáñez, estudiante de colegio quien inicio la visitar a mujeres detenidas y a niños después que su propia madre fue deportada, sugiere: “ellos sabían que con ella en la cárcel todo hubiera sido caos y huelgas de hambre. Ella pudo haber organizado a las personas encarceladas”. En la prisa por deshacerse de Elvira los oficiales violaron la convención de Ginebra, la cual requiere que ellos debían informar al gobierno Mexicano sobre su arresto y obtener permiso para su regreso a ese país.

Muchas leyes fueron desconocidas en el caso de Elvira. Sus oponentes estaban furiosos no solo por el hecho de haber violado las leyes de inmigración sino porque ella y su hijo verdaderamente creían que tenían derechos. En México ella continúa exigiendo y creyendo. En los Estados Unidos, para quienes aquí permanecemos su muy complicada historia continúa como una parábola sobre por lo que vale la pena vivir la vida.

Aarti Shahani es miembro de Familias por la Libertad en Nueva York.

Monday, January 7, 2008

INB 1/6/08: Ex-Detainee Wins Settlement

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1 - January 6, 2008

1. Ex-Detainee Wins Settlement
2. Oregon Imposes New License Rule

In a Dec. 17 press release, Colorado's Park County announced it would pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought in February 2005 by Moises Carranza-Reyes, who was held in federal immigration custody at the county's Fairplay jail for seven days in 2003. According to the suit, Carranza-Reyes, now 31, was held in a filthy, freezing jail pod designed for 18 people, but holding 60. He was issued a "foul-smelling," dirty uniform and forced to sleep on the floor on a mattress soiled with vomit and feces between two inmates who were so sick that he had to feed them, his lawyers said. Carranza-Reyes soon came down with a strep infection and began complaining of aches and chills. Four days later, medical staff finally took him to the Denver Health Medical Center; by then he had developed pneumonia and his legs were black with gangrene. The infection led to a heart attack and coma; doctors reportedly gave Carranza-Reyes a 2% chance of survival. He ultimately recovered, but his gangrenous left leg had to be amputated and part of a lung removed.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Study finds immigrants' use of healthcare system lower than expected

By Mary Engel
Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2007

"The current policy discourse that undocumented immigrants are a burden on the public because they overuse public resources is not borne out with data, for either primary care or emergency department care," said Alexander N. Ortega, an associate professor at UCLA's School of Public Health and the study's lead author. "In fact, they seem to be underutilizing the system, given their health needs." [...]

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See also:
Illegal immigrants not US health care burden--study

Reuters, Nov 26, 2007

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