Sunday, March 31, 2013

Program to track immigrants grows, drawing scrutiny

Advocates question firm’s methods, especially its use of GPS devices

By Maria Sacchetti, Boston Globe
March 17, 2013

BURLINGTON — In a weatherbeaten brick building downstairs from a dentist, the tenants in Suite 1A are carrying out the business of the Department of Homeland Security.

Behind a smoky-glass door, a private company called BI Incorporated monitors immigrants facing deportation with office visits, surprise home inspections, and even GPS devices attached to their ankles, making sure they show up for immigration court or their final departure.

The program has boomed in recent years as deportations soared, and the White House has proposed expanding such monitoring because it is less expensive and more humane than immigration detention. But advocates for immigrants, who have clamored for alternatives to jail, now say the program has morphed into a profit-driven enterprise that subjects thousands of immigrants to scrutiny usually reserved for serious criminals.

“I don’t know why they put it on me. I’ve done everything they’ve asked,” said Norma Urbina, a petite 40-year-old seamstress from Honduras who has worn a GPS ankle monitor for more than a year, though she has no criminal record. “I have four children. Where am I going to go?” [...]

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks

By Ian Urbina and Catherine Rentz, New York Times
March 23, 2013

WASHINGTON — On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new federal data.

Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.

While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting into fights. [...]

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Public Opinion, Values and Demographic Trends Align in Support of Immigration Reform

By Donald Kerwin, Huffington Post
March 22, 2013

A recently released report by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution offers the latest evidence of broad public receptivity to comprehensive immigration reform. The report, titled "Citizenship, Values and Cultural Concerns: What Americans Want from Immigration Reform," summarizes the results of an extensive survey of 4,465 U.S. adults, conducted between January 28 and February 24, 2013. By wide margins, respondents expressed support for legalization of the unauthorized, changes in the underlying legal immigration rules, and enforcement of the law. The survey found low levels of support for deportation and self-deportation policies as "the best way" to address the nation's 11 million unauthorized residents.

On the issue of legalization, 77 percent of respondents supported allowing the unauthorized to become either U.S. citizens (63 percent) or permanent legal residents (14 percent). Nearly two-thirds of Republicans favored either a path to citizenship (53 percent) or permanent legal residence (13 percent). Sixty-eight percent of respondents (up from 62 percent in 2011) believed that a combination of enforcement and a path to citizenship was the best way to solve the illegal immigration problem, versus 29 percent who supported securing U.S. borders and arresting and deporting all unauthorized immigrants. Sixty-one percent favored or strongly favored allowing unauthorized persons brought to the United States as children, who join the military or attend college, to gain legal status. [...]

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Report on the "Back of the Line"

Press Release
March 22, 2013
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt

The ‘Back of the Line’: New Migration Policy Institute Issue Brief Explains ‘The Line,’ Who Is in It, Wait Times & More
MPI Launches Issue Briefs Series Focusing on Key Issues in CIR Debate

WASHINGTON — Contrary to popular belief, there is not one “line” that leads to legal permanent residence; current immigration law provides multiple paths to permanent residency. With a bipartisan group of senators and the Obama administration advancing immigration reform frameworks that would grant legal permanent residence to eligible unauthorized immigrants only after current immigration backlogs have been cleared, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released an issue brief examining key topics associated with lines, wait times and more.

The brief, Going to the Back of the Line: A Primer on Lines, Visa Categories, and Wait Times, is the first in a new series of issue briefs that MPI will publish over the coming weeks focusing on major topics related to the immigration reform debate underway in Washington. MPI also has gathered online its key research and data resources on point to the current debate, accessible at

More than 4.4 million people had approved petitions for legal permanent residence as of November 1, 2012 but were awaiting further adjudication of their cases (generally because their priority dates had not become current), according to the State Department. That 4.4 million estimate does not represent the full extent of the number of applicants “in line” for legal permanent residence because it represents only processing by the State Department, which focuses on people outside the United States. A small share of cases, for non-citizens already living in the United States, is handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which does not publish statistics on the number of pending petitions.

Of the 4.4 million cases pending with the State Department, 97 percent were applicants for family-based visas. A majority came from just a handful of high-demand countries: Applicants from Mexico made up 30 percent of those waiting for green cards, with the Philippines, India, Vietnam and China the other top countries with approved beneficiaries on the State Department’s waiting list.

Currently, U.S. law allows approximately 226,000 green cards annually for immigrants filing through one of several family-based preference categories (there is no numerical limit for the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens or the parents of U.S. citizens over the age of 21). At this rate, it would take 19 years to clear the existing backlogs in the family-based preference categories if no additional visas are allocated, assuming that no additional petitions for family-based preference immigrants were filed during this time and that current filing trends in other visa categories remains similar.

Read the Back of the Line issue brief at:

Access MPI’s research and data resources relevant to the current immigration debate at:


The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit

Monday, March 25, 2013

Security Made Simple—in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Israel-Palestine, and The New York Times

By Joseph Nevins, Border Wars, NACLA
March 20, 2013

What does—and should—constitute security can be a complicated and controversial matter. But you wouldn’t know this if you only talked to the U.S. Border Patrol and White House staffers, or read The New York Times on March 16.

In one article, a top-of-the-fold, front-page piece entitled “Arizona Border Quiets After Gains in Security,” reporter Julia Preston effectively regurgitates the Department of Homeland Security’s press statements. She tells us what its spokespeople say—and little else—about the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. [...]

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The True Cost of Food: Immigration and Agriculture Workers

By Brad Wong, Equal Voice News
March 18, 2013

When Modesto Hernandez, 35, walks these days, he grips the curved handle of a brown metal cane to steady himself.

In 2008, Hernandez was pruning rows of raspberry canes in Whatcom County along the northern border. Red raspberries, as a commodity, are valued at $44 million in Washington state. The fields that day were covered with shin-high snow, and Hernandez was wearing rubber boots.

After he complained of losing feeling in his feet, the farmer he was working for provided no real or long-term assistance, he said. A week later, a doctor removed half of both of Hernandez’s feet.

At one point, as thoughts of survival swirled in his head, he told one person: “If you cut your feet off, I’ll put your feet in mine and I’ll go work.”

In 2008, Hernandez was one of an estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants who planted, pruned and picked crops in the United States. He helped ensure that U.S. agriculture – worth $297.2 billion as an industry – made it to homes worldwide. But Hernandez had little, if any, health and worker protection. [...]

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Day Laborers Defend Their Right to Public Space in Court

By Michelle Chen, Working in These Times
March 6, 2013

Looking to hire someone for a little landscaping work or a construction job? There might be a local agency that can offer free security services to ensure that workers will work as hard as possible for as little as you’re willing to pay: the local police department.

Across the country, the undocumented day laborers who build, paint and pave many communities are locked into a low-wage regime that is de facto enforced by state power, which can threaten to round them up just for trying to work--in the name of protecting "public safety."

Arizona was once a model for this form of anti-worker bullying. But a federal court has just struck down one of the harshest provisions of the infamous anti-immigrant law known as SB 1070, which enabled police to arrest people for soliciting work in public. [...]

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Haiti's Duvalier Needs Company in the Dock

The media, and even human rights groups and many progressives, seemed to miss an important point: Duvalier, like Ríos Montt and the Argentine generals, had accomplices and enablers who are still free to walk the streets of New York and Washington.

By David Wilson, Truthout March 21, 2013

Human Rights Watch spokesperson Reed Brody called it "historic": on February 28 former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was forced to appear before a Port-au-Prince appeals court to discuss criminal complaints filed against him by victims of his 1971-1986 regime. The occasion was significant regardless of the outcome of the now ongoing trial of Duvalier. "Whatever happens next," Brody said, "Haitians will remember the image of their former dictator having to answer questions about the repression carried out under his rule."

This was only the latest in a number of encouraging developments involving former dictators forced to confront their crimes from the 1970s and 1980s. Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala's military ruler from 1982 to 1983, faces charges in a trial that began on March 19 for the deaths of indigenous campesino civilians, while dozens of former Argentine officials are in jail or on trial for the "disappearances" of as many as 30,000 suspected leftists in the 1976-1983 "dirty war." [...]

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

McDonald's Guest Workers Stage a Surprise Strike

By Josh Eidelson, The Nation
March 6, 2013

Alleging unpaid wages and repeated retaliation, McDonald’s workers in central Pennsylvania launched a surprise strike at 11 this morning. The strikers are student guest workers from Latin America and Asia, brought to the United States under the controversial J-1 cultural exchange visa program. Their employer is one of the thousands of McDonald’s franchisees with whom the company contracts to run its ubiquitous stores.

“We are afraid,” striker Jorge Victor Rios told The Nation prior to the work stoppage. “But we are trying to overcome our fear.”

The McDonald’s corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The J-1 visa program is officially intended to promote educational and cultural exchange. But advocates allege that J-1, like the other guest worker programs that collectively bring hundreds of thousands of workers in and out of the United States each year, is rife with abuse. The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the organization spearheading today’s strike, charges that such programs—whose future is intimately tied up with the fate of comprehensive immigration reform—offer ample opportunities for employers to intimidate workers, suppress organizing and drive down labor standards. [...]

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Monday, March 11, 2013

More Labor Abuses Exposed in U.S., Canada

By Frontera NorteSur, Grassroots Press
February 27, 2013

Labor rights advocates in the U.S. and Canada are urging an overhaul of guestworker programs in the two countries. The calls come amid fresh allegations of systematic abuses in the contracting and employment of guestworkers in the agricultural, carnival and other industries.

A study of H-2B guestworkers in the U.S. carnival and fair industries released this month by American University’s Washington College of Law and the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante found that workers are regularly subjected to wage theft, lack of access to health care, precarious living and working conditions, misleading recruitment pitches and low pay that sometimes yields a mere buck an hour. [,,,]

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Oakland, Mercado Chain Workers Protest Alleged Sexual Harassment, Firings

By David Bacon, Truthout
February 25, 2013

Valentine's Day sometimes brings chocolates and flowers, but in Oakland, California, it brought angry women out to the Mi Pueblo supermarket in the heart of the barrio. There they tried to speak to the chain's owner, Juvenal Chavez, not about love, but about the sexual harassment of women and the firing of whistleblowers who work at the chain.

As they gathered next to the parking lot holding pink placards, Latino families in pickup trucks and beat-up cars honked and waved. Laura Robledo then stepped up to an impromptu podium and told her story. As she spoke, her teenage daughter held her protectively around the waist and stared angrily at the doorway, where managers stood waiting for trouble.

Robledo used to work at the Mi Pueblo market in San Jose. She lost her job when she complained to the company that she'd been sexually harassed by a coworker. [...]

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Senators in Immigration Talks Mull Federal IDs for All Workers

By Danny Yadron, Wall Street Journal
February 20, 2013

Key senators are exploring an immigration bill that would force every U.S. worker—citizen or not—to carry a high-tech identity card that could use fingerprints or other personal markers to prove a person's legal eligibility to work.

The idea, signaled only in vaguely worded language from senators crafting a bipartisan immigration bill, has privacy advocates and others concerned that the law would create a national identity card that, in time, could track Americans at airports, hospitals and through other facets of their lives.

The lawmakers haven't committed to the "biometric" ID card, and are wary of any element that might split the fragile coalition of Democrats, Republicans and outside organizations working toward agreement on a broad overhaul of immigration laws. [...]

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“Beyond Walls and Cages”: Liberating the Immigration Debate

Unlike most treatments of the topic, the book questions the basic concepts and considers immigration policy historically and in relation to incarceration policies and neoliberal economics. Most importantly, the contributors discuss ways to talk about these issues with a broader public.
By David L. Wilson, Upside Down World
March 5, 2013

Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis. Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, editors. University of Georgia Press, 2012.  Paperback, 344 pages, $24.95.

Immigration reform is back on the U.S. political agenda this year, and with it the mainstream’s carefully scripted “immigration debate.” Once again we hear about the need to “secure our borders” and “enforce our laws”; once again, commentators endlessly repeat the word “illegal.” Through it all we act as if terms like “border” and “illegal” express self-evident and eternal truths on which we all agree.

This year, though, the politicians seem a little worried. [...]

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