Monday, March 31, 2014

How Change Happens: The Immigration Uprising

By David Bacon, Truthout
March 27, 2014 

With Congress gridlocked and unable to pass even the deeply flawed comprehensive immigration reform, activists around the country are successfully challenging the injustices inherent in US immigration policy and enforcement.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of people inside the Tacoma (Washington) Detention Center launched a hunger strike against its private operator, GEO Group, demanding better conditions and a moratorium on deportations. Activists, who have held vigils outside the center for years, now gather every day to support those inside. A week later the strike spread to a GEO facility in Texas. According to Maru Mora Villapando of Latino Advocacy in Tacoma, in both locations the company has isolated the strikers and in Tacoma threatened to force-feed them.

This is only the most dramatic action of a wave of activity around the country, in which community and labor activists, and now deportees themselves, have refused to endure increased immigration enforcement quietly. They are mostly young, deriving much of their inspiration from the Dreamers who forced the administration two years ago to begin providing legal status to some of those who otherwise would be deported. These activists refuse to wait for Congress to enact its immigration reform proposals. In fact, many reject those proposals as fatally compromised. Instead, they're organizing actions on the ground to win rights and equality. [...]

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The ACLU’s Border Checkpoint

By Frontera NorteSur
March 21, 2014

Driving on 1-25 north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, motorists are forced to detour through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint set up to enforce immigration and drug laws. Often, a friendly agent will ask the vehicle occupant (s) to affirm U.S. citizenship status before sending the traveler on his or her way. Occasionally, agents will simply peer into a car and wave travelers on without first asking questions.

Officers can also ask more detailed questions, inquiring about the motorist’s background and comings and goings. Other times, drivers are asked to pull over for a vehicle search that might include a go-over by a dope-sniffing dog.
On Wednesday, March 19, travelers heading north on 1-25 encountered another checkpoint for the first time ever: the “Know your Rights Checkpoint” organized by the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Positioned just north of the official government checkpoint about 30 minutes from Las Cruces, staff from the ACLU’s New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, supported by community volunteers, greeted motorists at a scenic rest stop.

Under the New Mexico sun, the group hoisted signs, urged passerby to report alleged abuses and displayed literature at a table. [...]

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chicago March Sets the Stage for 90 Days Of Direct Action

*Demand the President Use His Authority to Stop the Deportations: “The road to legislation leads through the gate at the White House.”
*Begins National Petition and Action Campaign
*Congressman Gutierrez and Elvira Arellano Join Forces Again as the Human Rights Leader Returns to the Struggle in the U.S.

From Sanctuary National
March 29, 2014

Congressman Luis Gutierrez joined with Familia Latina Unida co-founder Elvira Arellano on Thursday, March 27th, in a homecoming for the now famous human rights leader. Yet the two veterans of the immigration struggle were not looking backwards. They joined with a delegation of over 300 Pastors and another 1500 community leaders outside the Federal Building to set a clear demand for the movement for the next 90 days.

“First, we want the President to use his executive authority to extend the deferments he gave the dreamers to their parents and the parents of U.S. citizen children while Congress remains paralyzed by politics.

Second, we want the President to extend emergency parole status to deported parents with U.S. citizen or dreamer children who are under threat of kidnapping and extortion so that they can return in safety to the U.S. while they pursue requests for asylum.

Gutierrez explained his recent negotiations with the President. “The president has asked for 90 days to see if the Republican Congress will finally act. If not, he has committed to the use of bold executive authority.”

Familia Latina Unida Co-Chair Emma Lozano joined Elvira Arellano in calling for 90 days of action. “We must stand against every single deportation and we must stand with every single family that has been separated to reunite them. We must organize mass civil disobedience. We must march and march and march until the streets are filled with our millions.

“We have been promised before – and we have lived with broken promises. This time we must build such a movement that this promise will be respected – and kept in full!”

The popular Congressman explained that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has a list of legally sanctioned executive orders. We will check them off one by one, beginning with the extension of the deferments with work permits to the families. While the Congressman held high hopes for Presidential action if the Congress remains paralyzed, Arellano and Lozano remain convinced that only sustained action around the specific demands could finally bring relief to millions of families. “We have suffered two million deportations. Our children are suffering. We must sand up with one voice as one united community.”

What is clear now is that the road to passing legislation leads through the White House door of executive action. The threat of executive action is the only hope of bringing the congress to act. The reality of executive action is the only way reactionary members of the Republican caucus can be brought to the table.

“We have wasted too much time knocking at the door of Republican Congressmen. Our unified vote convinced Republican Party leaders that their party can never win the White House unless they pass immigration reform, but they cannot act without rank and file Republicans. Those rank and file Republicans will never act to pass immigration reform as long as the President is deporting 1100 people a day – as long as the President is doing what they want.

“We will focus our demand on the White House and build a national base of support for executive action in the next 90 days. That is the challenge we must meet – the challenge we will meet,” said Lozano. Congressman Gutierrez committed to be with those who marched for Presidential action – “wherever or whenever.”

Arellano spoke with passion about the families – and the children - still held in detention on the border as they tried to find safety for their U.S. citizen children from life and death threats in Mexico. Lozano asked how it was possible that the safety of Latino children could be met with such indifference by the U.S. government. “If these were anglo children under threat of kidnapping and murder in some country in the middle east this nation would call out the army. Our Latino children just don’t get the same respect from this government.”

Speaker after speaker criticized the Obama administration for the assault on the Latino family and accused the President of treating Latino families as “disposables” in the political battles between Democrats and Republicans.

“The President has the opportunity to redeem himself, to redeem his broken promises. It is up to us to hold him to his word this time.”

Pastors pointed to Elvira Arellano’s seemingly miraculous return as cause for new hope in the movement in Chicago. Yet even as the Chicago leaders celebrated their unity and determination, the Pope met with President Obama, led by the call of a young girl seeking to free her father from deportation. With the Pope’s intervention, her father was returned to his family.

“This day marks a real turning point in our struggle,” said one march participant. “Our faith leaders are walking with us now.”

After the rally in Federal Plaza, the pastors led the march to ICE headquarters where over fifty religious leaders and elected officials planted themselves in front of the doors, shutting down the offices until they were arrested. United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck, among those arrested, called on all people of faith to stand with the immigrants in this life and death fight for justice and for human dignity.

“We are united now in our demand on the President to use his executive authority – from the grassroots to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, from the storefront churches to the bishops,” said Lozano. We have 90 days to make our case with power and with the full participation of our community. It’s in our hands.”

See also: Sally Dyck, Methodist Bishop, Arrested At Chicago Immigration Reform Rally

Friday, March 21, 2014

From Tacoma to Texas, Hunger Strikers Challenge Private Immigration Detention Centers

By Candice Bernd, Truthout
March 20, 2014

A hunger strike at a private GEO Group immigration detention center in Tacoma, Washington, has spread to another GEO facility in Texas after President Obama called for a review of immigration-enforcement policies last week. But will private prison lobbying ensure beds at these facilities stay filled?

Adelina Cáceres doesn't understand why her husband, David Vásquez, who is a documented resident, remains detained at the privately run Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas, as a result of a prior charge he already served time for years ago.

"Why do they call him a criminal?" Cáceres asked as she sobbed during a phone interview with Truthout. "He already paid for it. He made a big payment. He was in jail, and he paid for that problem. He was in jail for almost a month. ... And now the law is making him go back and pay again. Why?" she asked. She continued to weep as she explained how she is struggling to feed her three children and pay the bills since Vásquez has been detained. [...]

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Activist Elvira Arellano in US After Deportation

By E.J. Tamara and Elliot Spagat, Associated Press
March 21, 2014

A Mexican woman who received widespread attention for taking refuge in a Chicago church before she was deported in 2007 was released from U.S. custody Thursday, two days after she sought permission to enter the country without legal documents.

Elvira Arellano, 38, was paroled by U.S. immigration authorities with her 5-month-old son, Emiliano, who was born in Mexico. They are among about 150 people who have sought to enter the country without legal documents at San Diego's Otay Mesa port of entry since last week in a protest of U.S. immigration policies. Many planned to claim asylum.

"We are pleased to be here with friends who have helped us," Arellano said. "We are going to continue fighting for other fathers and mothers to also be freed." [...]

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Killing With Impunity on the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Global Color Line

Joseph Nevins, Border Wars, NACLA
February 26, 2014

Around 6:40am on Tuesday, Feb. 19, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed Jesus Flores-Cruz, a 41-year-old Mexican national, four miles east of the Otay Mesa port of entry in southern San Diego. Employing what has become an all-too-familiar explanation, authorities asserted that Mr. Flores Cruz, an unauthorized migrant, pelted th2432
e agent with rocks. Reportedly fearing for his well-being, the agent, Daniel Basinger, shot his pistol twice, fatally wounding the alleged attacker.

Two days later, Human Rights Watch released a report on a U.S. drone attack on an 11-vehicle convoy—a wedding procession—in Yemen on Dec, 12, 2013. The attacked killed 11 men and wounded 15 other people (one of whom was the bride), six of them seriously. Both Yemeni and U.S. officials have stated that the dead were members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a claim upon which the Human Rights Watch report casts serious doubt.

While these killings happened many thousands of miles apart, they share much. Both grow out of the seemingly boundless pursuit for what Washington defines as national security. [...]

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Support the Hunger Strikers in the Tacoma Detention Center!

From the Dignity Campaign
March 9, 2014

On Friday, March 7th, 1200 people held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, one of the largest immigration prisons in the country, began a hunger strike and work stoppage. They are putting their bodies on the line to protest the on-going deportations overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the inhumane conditions at the for-profit detention center owned and operated by the GEO Corporation.

Inspired in part by the February 24 #Not1More deportation action at the detention center, the hunger strikers timed their action to begin on Friday. On Fridays, the people facing imminent deportation are separated and processed for deportation, weekly events that contribute to the nearly 2,000,000 deported during the Obama administration. The hunger strikers join a nation-wide movement of resistance against unprecedented levels of detention and deportation.

Apart from calling attention to the unrelenting deportations, the hunger strikers demands include
· Improved food quality
· Improved treatment (including medical treatment)
· Increased pay for work in the facility (the current pay is $1.00/day)
· An end to exorbitant commissary prices
· Fundamental fairness and justice

People in the detention center are risking their health by not eating and withstanding potential backlash for participating in the hunger strike. Sign below and share widely to support the hunger strikers and their demands. Not one more deportation!

To: Natalie Asher, Washington Field Office Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
CC: Daniel Ragsdale, Deputy Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
John M. Hurley, Senior Vice President, GEO Corrections and Detention

I support the hunger strikers at the Northwest Detention Center and their demands. I am alarmed and disturbed by the ongoing deportations and the conditions facing those held at the Northwest Detention Center awaiting deportation.

I urge you to initiate accountable negotiations with the hunger strikers and/or their chosen representatives. I urge you to take action to implement the demands immediately, and in good faith. I also want your guarantee that hunger strikers will not face retaliation.

Maru Mora Villalpando
Latino Advocacy

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Crackdown Proposed to Prevent Illegal Immigrants From Obtaining Medicare

By Robert Pear, New York Times
March 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning new steps to prevent people in the country illegally from obtaining Medicare after finding that tens of thousands were improperly receiving benefits.

In President Obama’s budget for 2015, to be unveiled on Tuesday, and in new regulations, the administration proposes to remove illegal immigrants from the Medicare rolls and explicitly require citizenship or lawful presence in the United States as a condition of getting Medicare.

Under a 1996 law, the administration said, immigrants are generally ineligible to receive federal benefits if they are “unlawfully present in the United States.” But, officials said, many illegal immigrants have received benefits because the Medicare agency did not update its rules or policies to carry out the restrictions imposed by Congress. [...]

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Immigrant detainees on hunger strike in Washington state

By Jonathan Kaminsky, Reuters, via Chicago Tribune
March 8, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wa. (Reuters) - Hundreds of detainees at an immigration holding center in Tacoma have gone on hunger strike to demand better conditions at the facility and an end to U.S. deportations, their attorney said on Saturday.

While advocates for the strikers put their numbers at 1,200, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement that, on Friday evening, meals had been refused by 750 of a total 1,300 inmates at the Northwest Detention Center, operated by the GEO Group. [...]

Read the full story:,0,3339062.story