Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Death in Texas: Profits, poverty, and immigration converge

Galindo’s father broke down, "We don’t understand how there can be so little humanity. . . . It was so cruel, and he died sick and afraid."

by Tom Barry, Boston Review
November/December 2009

County Clerk Dianne Florez noticed it first. Plumes of smoke were rising outside the small West Texas town of Pecos. “The prison is burning again,” she announced.

About a month and a half before, on December 12, 2008, inmates had rioted to protest the death of one of their own, Jesus Manuel Galindo, 32. When Galindo’s body was removed from the prison in what looked to them like a large black trash bag, they set fire to the recreational center and occupied the exercise yard overnight. Using smuggled cell phones, they told worried family members and the media about poor medical care in the prison and described the treatment of Galindo, who had been in solitary confinement since mid-November. During that time, fellow inmates and his mother, who called the prison nearly every day, had warned authorities that Galindo needed daily medication for epilepsy and was suffering from severe seizures in the “security housing unit,” which the inmates call the “hole.” [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Immigrant activist leaves sanctuary after nearly two years

by Pepe Lozano, People's Weekly World
October 20, 2009

CHICAGO - Flor Crisostomo is a well-known immigrant rights activist here who spent nearly two years in sanctuary at the Adalberto United Methodist Church on the city's northwest side. In a prepared statement released Oct. 19, Crisostomo announced she has left the church in order to begin the next phase in her struggle for immigration reform and the rights of indigenous communities.

In a written letter Crisostomo said, "I am writing today to inform my supporters and all undocumented people concerned with this struggle that I am no longer in sanctuary, but have moved to a different location."

She continues, "The decision to move was prompted by my realization that after two years my sanctuary had begun to lose its political effectiveness for the immigrant rights movement." [...]

Read the full article:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ICE Program Under Fire

by Jessica Weisberg, The Nation
October 14, 2009

A white bus pulled into Mariposa Port, the corridor between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico; and its passengers, mostly men, filed out of the vehicle and walked along the edge of the southbound highway. They had just been deported. Down the road, inside a plywood shack with a sign hanging in the doorway that reads "for migrants," Jesuit priests and few volunteers serve a warm dinner every evening at 5.

On a recent night, a hundred people came to eat; they squeezed around three long tables. Among them was a young man with gold streaks in his hair and thick black eyeliner that had smeared on his cheekbones. He went by the name Perla and explained that local police started questioning him outside a gay bar in Phoenix. They asked to see his identification card, and when he showed them one from Mexico they took him into the station. He was deported a month later. Perla attended both middle and high school in Phoenix and was anxious to get back. He tried but was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers while trudging through the Arizona desert. He planned to try again, he said, but next time he would pay a coyote, a professional smuggler. His hands trembled as he slowly picked at his dinner.

At the next table sat Jorge, a lanky 23-year-old who had been living in California and working in construction. He was driving home from a job when local police pulled him over for a broken tail light and checked his immigration status. "I had a clean record. I paid taxes," said Jorge, who had been living in the United States for ten years. "They only pulled me over because they saw a Latino." [...]

Read the full article:

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's the Border Fence Good for? Subsidizing Mexican Scrap Metal Entrepreneurs

by Yasha Levine, AlterNet
September 28, 2009

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a depressing audit of the US-Mexico border fence we’ve been trying to put up for the past three years. The report caused about 8 hours of pretend outrage and was promptly forgotten. It found that we’d already shoveled $2.4 billion to half-seal 600 miles of the border since 2005 (we still have about 100 to 200 miles to go) and we would need to spend an additional $6.5 billion over the next 20 years just plugging up holes punched in the fencing.

The Christian Science Monitor:

So far, it has been breached 3,363 times, requiring $1,300 for the average repair. . . . Despite the price tag of maintaining the border fence, authorities have not found a way to determine whether it is helping to halt illegal immigration, the GAO report says.

The only semi-relevant stats we got are the number of illegal border border-crossers being caught by the US Border Patrol, which has dropped by 25 percent in recent times. But that doesn’t tell us much. “No one knows whether the decrease in crossers is due to the recession keeping people home, the thousands of new border patrol agents or the more than 600 miles of new border fence that has been built,” says NPR. [...]

Read the full article:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Indigenous Rights Speaker in Long Island, Oct. 27-30

Ana Maria Garcia Arreola, an indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico will be speaking at five Long Island venues next week. This tour is organized by Witness for Peace and the Hagedorn Foundation, in partnership with the many local organizations that are hosting Ana Maria all over Long Island. Below is the tour schedule. Please circulate widely.

For more information, go to:

1) Panel: “The Immigrant Experience Today,” sponsored/hosted by Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare, Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Student Activities Center Auditorium, Stony Brook University. Panelists are Ana María García Arreola, indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico, “Why We Migrate: Stories of Mexico’s Displaced, “ Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, “Climate of Fear: Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, NY,” and Jaya Vasandani, Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, “Constitution on ICE: A Report on Immigration Home Raid Operations.”

2) Ana María García Arreola, indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico: “Why We Migrate: Stories of Mexico’s Displaced,” sponsored/hosted by Adelphi University’s Center for Social Innovation, Tuesday, October 27, 3-4:30 p.m., Adelphi University Campbell Lounge, Center for Recreation and Sport.

3) Ana María García Arreola, indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico: “Why We Migrate: Stories of Mexico’s Displaced,” sponsored/hosted by Long Island Teachers for Human Rights, Jobs with Justice-Long Island, and Long Island Wins, Wednesday, October 28, 3:30-5 p.m, Greenhouse in basement of Student Center, Hofstra University.

4) Ana María García Arreola, indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico: “Why We Migrate: Stories of Mexico’s Displaced,” sponsored/hosted by Shinnecock Tribal Council, OLA of Eastern Long Island, and Eastern Long Island NAACP, Wednesday, October 28, 7-9 p.m, Southampton High School Auditorium, 141 Narrow Lane, Southampton.

5) Ana María García Arreola, indigenous rights activist from Oaxaca, Mexico: “Why We Migrate: Stories of Mexico’s Displaced,” sponsored/hosted by the Social Justice Committee—Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock and Reach Out America, Friday, October 30, 7:30 p.m., Social Hall, UU Congregation at Shelter Rock, 48 Shelter Rock Road, Manhasset.

New Report Documents Trail of Human Rights Violations Against Immigrants

"Guilty by Immigration Status" assails troubling rise in racial profiling, immigrant detentions that undermine promise of reform

Oakland, CA , October 6, 2009: A new report reveals that immigration policing is causing a disturbing pattern of abuses and human rights violations that threaten the livelihood and safety of entire families, workers and communities. Guilty by Immigration Status: A report on U.S. violations of the rights of immigrant families, workers and communities in 2008 calls for restoring due process and suspending detentions and deportations, and urges a thorough investigation into immigration enforcement practices.

The report was produced by HURRICANE, the Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network, an initiative of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).

Guilty by Immigration Status details how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built up over the last eight years an "immigration control regime," whose goal is to deport everyone who can be deported. According to the report, DHS is almost exclusively promoting the criminalization of immigration status to detain and deport persons, often for minor offenses.

Catherine Tactaquin, NNIRR director, spoke to the urgent need to address the numerous problems revealed in the report: "Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Luis Gutierrez have each said they will soon announce their proposals for key immigration reforms. But unless the components of this regime are halted and dismantled, the long-held promise of immigration reform -- the lifting of millions of immigrant workers and their families out of a life of fear and exploitation -- will be severely undermined."

Record Number Jailed Solely for Immigration Status
Guilty by Immigration Status describes how DHS, along with other police, public officials and agencies, routinely trumped the civil rights and constitutional protections of a person in order to question, detain and/or jail them solely based on their actual or perceived immigration status. The report also shows that such DHS detentions are taking place in record numbers, along with the relentless militarizing and policing of the immigrant and border communities.

Laura Rivas, coordinator of the HURRICANE initiative, said, "ICE police is unaccountable for the brutal treatment they exact on people for alleged immigration offenses. We have the case of Mr. Rebhy Abdel-Malak, an Egyptian; ICE agents beat him in an Atlanta cell and forced him to sign away his rights in order to deport him. ICE agents forced a pen into his hands and made him sign a document as they sat on him!

"In Sacramento, California, ICE stormed into the home of the Sarabia family, arresting a mother and, without a warrant, her son. ICE deported them literally overnight and dumped them in the streets of Tijuana like so much refuse, without letting the family know of there whereabouts." She added, "Hundreds of persons are dying on the border, where the border control strategy deliberately funnels migrants into the desert and puts border communities under siege. It's a deadly crossing for migrants because of the extreme weather and being hunted by vigilantes."

Guilty by Immigration Status is the second annual report of HURRICANE. The findings are drawn from 141 stories of human rights abuse reported and documented by HURRICANE members and partners, including 25 interviews offering first-hand testimony from immigrant workers, families and community members directly affected by immigration enforcement policies and practices in 2008. The HURRICANE report also tracked 118 incidents of ICE immigration enforcement operations or high profile raids through extensive documentation from newspaper articles, scholarly journals, advocate reports, and interviews with affected persons, along with reporting by community groups and other institutions. [See links below to read the report and the chronologies of human rights abuses and ICE raids.]

According to Ms. Rivas, "The Sarabia and Abdel-Malak families are not isolated cases. We believe the Department of Homeland Security must be held accountable and the abuses investigated. DHS is putting the rights and lives of immigrant and refugee members of our communities at risk.

"The first step to ending this crisis is restoring due process rights and other constitutional protections. President Obama must suspend all detentions and deportations so that those who have violated rights and committed abuses are held accountable. Fair and humane immigration reforms can be achieved, but only by revitalizing our country's commitment to justice and equality for all persons, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status."

Read Guilty by Immigration Status at

Read the 2008 100 Stories Chronology of Abuses at

Read the 2008 chronology of ICE enforcement operations, or raids, at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Border Deaths Are Increasing

Rise Is Despite Fewer Crossers, U.S. and Mexican Groups Say
by Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post
September 30, 2009

Despite a 50 percent drop over the past two years in the number of people caught illegally entering the United States from Mexico, the number of those who died while trying to cross the border increased this year and is the highest since 2006, according to new U.S. data and a study by human rights groups in both countries.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Mexico's human rights agency allege that consistently high numbers of border deaths -- hovering around 350 to 500 a year, depending on which government's figures are used -- are a predictable but largely unrecognized result of border security policies.

"Border deaths have increased despite the economic downturn, fewer migrant crossers, and a steady drop in apprehensions," Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties in California say in a report set for release Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post. The rising fatality rates "signal an escalating humanitarian crisis that is not going away and requires more effective governmental responses," the groups say.

Read the full article:

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Great Wall of Boeing Revisited

Scathing Report on Border Security Is Issued
by Randal C. Archibold, New York Times
September 17, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Government auditors reported Thursday that the effort to secure the Mexican border with technology and fences has fallen years behind schedule, will cost billions of dollars extra in maintenance costs and has no clear means of gauging whether illegal crossings have been curtailed.

Mark Borkowski, who directs the Secure Border Initiative for the Department of Homeland Security, stood by the program as “transformational,” but did not challenge the findings. “We are as frustrated as anybody is” with the setbacks, Mr. Borkowski said in an interview. [...]

Read the full article:

Editorial: Border Fantasies
New York Times
September 21, 2009

Members of Congress who voted for the Southwest border fence as the fix for illegal immigration professed shock — shock at the news that the project is running years behind, and billions of dollars ahead, of the Bush administration’s early, rosy projections.

Auditors reported last week that the high-tech, 28-mile “virtual” section of the fence was running a mere seven years behind this month’s planned opening. Initially, designers talked of using off-the-shelf technology for the radar, cameras and other sensors, but problems cropped up. (Imagine, discovering that cameras tremble in rough weather.) “I’m trying to figure out why this is so difficult,” said Representative Michael McCaul of Texas. “These are basically cameras on a pole.” [...]

Read the full editorial:

According to both the article and the editorial, the US General Accountability Office says it could cost $6.5 billion to maintain the fence over the next 20 years. Actually, this is an estimate from a contractor. For an estimate from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, see:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Troubled "E-Verify" Program Highlights Dysfunctional Immigration System

by Michelle Chen, In These Times
September 14, 2009

Even before they became the paper tiger in the healthcare reform circus, undocumented immigrants were Washington's favorite boogeyman in the politics surrounding the federal stimulus.

To quell paranoia about Americans' hard-earned tax dollars getting misspent, the Obama administration is requiring federal contractors to use the E-verify system for screening workers' immigration status. The new mandate was drawn up by the Bush administration, but never implemented until now.

The controversial program, which lets employers cross-check workers through Social Security Administration and Homeland Security databases, will be imposed on about 169,000 contractors and subcontractors under the plan. But E-verify has attracted criticism over the years as ineffective, discriminatory, and threatening to workers' rights.

So much for combating waste, fraud and abuse. [...]

Read the full article:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Equality Is Never Having To Say You Are Sorry

by Jean Pfaelzer, The Globalist
September 7, 2009

In celebrating Labor Day, the United States honors the struggle for honorable working conditions. In this two-part series, Jean Pfaelzer — author of Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans — discusses the cruel irony of a nation apologizing for past immigrant abuses at the same time as it perpetrates new ones.

As the United States observes Labor Day this year on September 7, apologies for labor abuses, anti-labor violence, and slavery are flowing in from states like Maryland, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, California and New Jersey.

On a national level, the U. S. Senate has also just apologized for slavery.

For instance, California has passed a resolution “deeply regretting” 150 years of violence against Chinese Americans. Adding to the momentum for recognition and regret, in late August 2009, California Assemblymen Mike Eng and Kevin de Leon called for a “Day of Inclusion” to mark December 17, 1943.

On that day, the United States finally repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It was the first U.S. law that banned immigration by race. [...]

Read the full article:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Undocumented Immigrants and Health Care

by Emile Schepers, Political Affairs
September 13, 2009

The way the issue of undocumented immigrants has been wielded as a weapon in the health care debate is an indicator of how far this country has backslid on the immigration issue since the giant immigrants’ rights marches of 2006 and 2007. All we hear and see is the Republicans claiming that undocumented immigrants will, too, be covered by the Democrats’ health insurance plans, and the Democrats responding that, no, they will not be covered.

Who is standing up for sick immigrant workers and their families?

There is an unstated subtext of agreement on both sides that undocumented immigrants do not deserve, and should not have, health insurance. Even some progressive commentators, eager to defend the Obama administration’s health care reform from the attacks of the paranoid ultra-right, get a little too enthusiastic in their celebration of the fact that sick undocumented immigrants won’t be covered unless they somehow have the money to pay for private insurance out of their own pockets.

They talk and write as if not covering the undocumented were a self-evidently a good thing. [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mejia-Reyes Deportation Delayed

Novato couple to testify at son's hearing,
Oct. 22
by Ronnie Cohen, Pacific Sun (Marin County)
October 13, 2009

A Novato couple facing deportation to their native Guatemala will be allowed to stay in California until the end of the month so they can testify at their 18-year-old son's deportation hearing on Oct. 22. The attorney for Elida Perez and Salvador "Sam" Mejia-Reyes said immigration officials agreed to extend the deportation date until Nov. 2 for the couple, who have lived in Marin County for 17 years. But the attorney, Marc Van Der Hout, said the couple's best hope for being able to remain in the U.S. with their American-born 13-year-old and 4-year-old daughters was shattered when Senator Dianne Feinstein declined to write a so-called private bill to spare them deportation to the country they fled during a civil war in 1992. "We are still going to continue to make all efforts to keep the family here," Van Der Hout said. The only road open to Perez and Mejia-Reyes, however, appears to be the one back to Guatemala.

Novato family fights deportation
by Jim Welte, Contra Costa Times
October 11, 2009

The parents of a family of five are facing deportation on Tuesday. On Thursday they stand in their Novato home. Left to right are Elida Perez, Gilbert Mejia-Perez, 18, Helen Mejia-Perez, 13, Dulce Mejia-Perez, 4, and Salvador Mejia. As a boy, Gilbert Mejia-Perez of Novato went to work with his father Salvador, a carpenter. He learned the tools of the trade, but as Mejia-Perez got older, he developed higher aspirations. Instead of helping to build and remodel homes, he wanted to design them himself. Now 18 and in his first semester at Santa Rosa Junior College, Mejia-Perez is on his way to fulfilling his dream.

But barring an unforeseen reversal from immigration officials, Mejia-Perez will be pursuing that dream in Guatemala, the country he left with his parents when he was 1 year old.

Read the full article:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sign the Petition for Ibrahim Parlak

Speaking up for Ibrahim
by Citizens for Ibrahim, South Bend Tribune
October 6, 2009

The organization Citizens for Ibrahim is collecting signatures for a petition that asks President Barack Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder to drop deportation proceedings against Ibrahim Parlak.

The group first said it hoped to collect 1,000 names in 100 days. But that was too easy. It got that many names in the first week. So it has upped the target to 2,000 names. We think the new goal, too, will be readily achieved. To sign, go to the Web site

Word of Parlak's dilemma has spread far and wide. The federal government once gave Parlak asylum after he was imprisoned and tortured in Turkey for separatist activities. But in the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been bent on deporting him. Most recently, he lost an appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is contemplating his next move. [...]

Read the full article:

Free Ibrahim
by Geoffrey R. Stone, Huffington Post
October 4, 2009

Ibrahim Parlak is a Kurd who was born and raised in southeastern Turkey. As a young man, he became active in the Kurdish human rights movement both in Turkey and Europe. He was arrested in Turkey in 1988 and held incommunicado and tortured repeatedly in three different Turkish police stations.

He was then tried and convicted of "separatist activities" by one of the notorious Turkish security courts. After serving a sixteen-month sentence, he was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 1992 on the ground that he had "established a well-founded fear of persecution" if he were to return to Turkey. [...]

Read the full article: