Category Archives: Community Voices

A-Z Guide On Undocumented

20140501-091635.jpg

Shoutout to my good friend, Julio Salgado, for his awesome front-pager in the OC Weekly. I assisted with the writing, as did Gustavo Arrellano, so it is full of snark. It’s on the stands today so go grab your copy!

And since I’m at a Windcall retreat for the month, this is my absolute last post for a while!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Community Voices, Immigration

Community Voices: Pretexts

Justice for Ayyub-aI’m thinking a lot about pretexts nowadays. In the U.S., when people demand to know where you are from, what they mean is that you couldn’t possibly belong here because of your skin-color or accent. When people inquire as to how your family took your coming out as gay, they are harboring false assumptions about how brown people deal with queerness. Pretext happens when you get pulled over for your skin-color but get charged with “driving without a license” and face deportation. Heck–not having papers is a pretext. The land of the free and home of the brave is full of these sorts of pretexts, and life here is about  learning and navigating them.

 

So Justice for Ayyub is a campaign to free a man, Ayyubb, from the prison-industrial complex who got caught up in it due to pretexts. Ayyub–a Muslim man and the son of a Black Panther–was targeted by the FBI to become an informant, and when he refused to serve as a snitch, the FBI reportedly fabricated a weapons charge against Ayyub, offering him exoneration only if he became an informant to spy on the Muslim community. The ongoing trial is a pretext–what the FBI really wants from Ayyub is his cooperation.

Another pretext-the White House arranged a news leak this week that more executive action is coming, but leaked the news in advance to gauge the reaction of both immigrant rights groups and rabid right wingers. The response: quite underwhelming from the left as the changes appear to be hollow, and a nasty letter from the GOP. Message the White House gained from this: If you can’t make either side happy, perhaps you are doing the right thing. Meanwhile, the hunger strikes at the White House continue, with a Congressional briefing on May Day next week featuring Not One More Blue Ribbon Commission members on how the President can act to stop deportations.

 

The other pretext, of course, is suggestions by advocates that acting to stop deportations would kill any chances of the long-dead CIR. We used to hear the same thing when pushing for a standalone DREAM Act, and then DACA. Real reason for inaction: Lack of political will.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is just a pretext for thug life. There’s nothing else I want to say about this rogue and miserable agency.

 

Arguments against affirmative action nowadays use Asian-Americans as pretexts telling us that if we don’t rise up against the use of race in college admissions, we are doomed as affirmative action hurts Asian-Americans. The real reason for opposing affirmative action is the maintenance of white privilege, and white supremacy. Plain and simple.

 

 

 

What’s not a pretext is that I’m signing off now because an island awaits me for the next month. It isn’t paradise, but it comes close. Hasta la vista!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Community Voices

Community Voices: “The Reality Is My Family Cannot Afford An All Or Nothing Hardline on Citizenship”

This week, Jose Patino of “The Dream is Now” fame wrote great article on “What the undocumented community needs out of immigration reform” which raised a lot of eyebrows.  Friend of this blog, Cesar Vargas, Founder of DRM Action, reiterated that undocumented youth leaders are loyal to their communities, and not beholden to either party. Around the same time, the National Immigration Law Center released an excellent report, outlining how the President can use his executive powers to stop deportations.

After having a public fallout with certain undocumented leaders, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, one of the strongest advocates for immigration reform, has actually adopted their views on deportation. In a Fusion interview, he states:

“Democrats think all they need to do is to simply blame Republicans. You know what? We control the White House and we control the deportation apparatus,” he said. “We have a responsibility to act.”

Certainly, we can do more. While we await immigration reform, Santiago Leco’s recent infiltration of El Paso Detention Center, combined with a Fusion investigation, has revealed that ICE had detained at least 13 pregnant women, contrary to its own policy:

The agency’s policy says that detaining pregnant or nursing women is low on their priority list. The directive states that resources should be spent on locking up people whose cases are top priority, like those who have formerly broken immigration laws, are threats to public safety, or have been convicted of crimes.

Similarly, contrary to its own policy, the U.S. continues to detain asylum seekers, even after they have been granted credible fear.This week, a law firm contacted me about helping out with one of their clients who is currently detained in Georgia after fleeing Honduras for his life. Homeland Security agents detained Mr. Paz and his wife after they crossed the Texan border in late October 2013. The two fled Honduras after being threatened by the gang members who killed two of their adult children in 2013. Mr. Paz, who is 60 years old, applied for asylum and passed the credible fear interview, but the Department of Homeland Security is refusing to release him from custody. Instead, they have him locked up at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, hundreds of miles away from his family. Please sign his petition here.

The U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with immigration issues. Thousands of African refugees to Israel joined in a peaceful protest this week against Israel’s denial of their refugee status and their continued detention. The New Yorker has more background on this issue.

A very dear friend of this blog, Attorney Madeline Stano, showed up in federal court this week to prevent discriminatory pesticide practices that allow predominantly Latino children to be exposed to high levels of harmful chemicals in California. Thanks Stano!

The polar votex came for me so I am back in the Bay Area, California. On that note, the EBIYC – East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition is now accepting scholarship applications. The due date is Monday, February 17. So check it out!

Photo Credit: greensefa

4 Comments

Filed under Community Voices, Human Rights, Immigration

New Year ShoutOuts

Friends of this blog, Julio and Jesus, gave a shoutout to all the important work done by the immigrant rights community. Julio also released his much-awaited Las Visionaries set, in dedication of all the queer women he admires (mostly writers and artists, including yours truly). Speaking of art-work, check out 22 Powerful Images By DREAMers: A Window Into Life As An Undocumented Immigrant In America featuring a lot of work by Alberto Ledesma, and Julio Salgado. Much love and peace to all of you artists, writers, musicians and visionaries!

While we are busy doing shoutouts, I would like to make a shoutout to the federal district court judge who reaffirmed the Obama administration policy granting officials the authority to search our laptops, citing a controversial premise that makes people living or traveling within 100 miles of the border eligible for a suspicion-less police check. Here is a useful infographic about your rights when you interact with a police officer. It looks simple on paper, but lets be real, when approached by a police officer or ICE agent, some of us have more privilege to assert these rights than others.

Another shoutout to climate change, which new studies show is worse than we previously thought. Hopefully, the warning bells are loud and clear that this should be a top national and global priority, starting with compensation, and relocation policies for the victims.

Mandatory immigration readingThe Deported: Life on the Wrong Side of the Border for Repatriated MexicansIN 2013, THE DREAM 30 FOUGHT TO COME HOME by David Bennion, Fewer Crossing But More Deaths at the Mexico-U.S. Border, and Whatever Happened to Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Aura Bogado at Colorlines sums up the debacle, wins and defeats better than any list.

I love writing and reading year in reviews. My favorites from 2013 include: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did in 2013, Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2013, 10 Racial Justice Wins for 2013, 10 Best iPhone Apps of 2013 and the 50 Best Free iPhone Apps.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Community Voices, Immigration

Community Voices: Stop the Deportations

I am a little late on this one, courtesy the holidays and a visit from my awesome in-laws. They treated us to some great dinners and then bought a nice gym membership for both of us. I get the message since I am not as dense as the immigration system in the U.S.

If you want to check out how convoluted and utterly ridiculous U.S. immigration can be, look no further than this story of a deported U.S. citizen, who finally has her passport back.

President Barack Obama said during a trip to New Orleans, “We should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America, and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead.” So why is the Obama Administration piloting a new, unprecedented and extraordinarily harsh effort to hunt down and deport thousands of hardworking undocumented immigrants in New Orleans?

Ju Hong, an undocumented graduate of U.C. Berkeley, interrupted President Barack Obama during his stump speech on immigration reform in San Francisco earlier this week. His “yelling” echoed across the country, and has sparked a series of articles, mostly calling on the President to use his executive authority to stop deportations:

And there are many more. Ju also wrote an open letter to the President pointing out the many contradictions between Obama’s words and actions.

The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) unveiled various images for the holiday season that should resonate with families torn apart by deportations:

NOT1MORE

Almost half of all persons facing deportation lack access to counsel and cannot afford to get counsel. The figures are worse for those who are detained. But help is on the way.  In New York, a new pilot program is finally providing support for people who find themselves in removal proceedings. Deportations to Mexico are expected to spike in 2014, such that even the Mexican government is now pouring resources into deported adults and children. These efforts need our continued support and funding.

Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) in the Bay Area has released a comprehensive guide containing 52 pages of up-to-date information about scholarships available for immigrant students who don’t have U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency as well as advice and tips for writing winning scholarship applications.

DRM Action, a political group for Dreamers, is working on breaking the current lock-jam in Congress over immigration reform, and suggests halting deportations and passing the GOP KIDS Act as alternatives to the Senate’s S.744 bill. Dreamers are also warming up to Rep. Joe Heck’s piecemeal proposal to direct the government to cancel the deportation of those who were in the United States as of Dec. 31, 2011, and who were 15 or younger when they arrived.

Immigration is not just a Latino issue. Thousands of American Muslims have been targeted for “voluntary interviews” since September 11, 2001–interviews unconnected to any specific criminal investigation. These interviews, predominantly by the FBI, have become increasingly coercive. In an effort to help attorneys deal with representing clients for these “voluntary interviews,” the Muslim Advocates will be hosting a webinar on December 11, 2013 at 12 PM PST / 3 PM EST.

The DREAM 9 ripple effects continue. DreamActivist has identified a long list of abuses and misappropriation of priorities at the Eloy Detention Center. These include:

  • Over 100 cases where detainees are granted Credible Fear, provide sponsorship documents, and ICE officials still refuse to release. This in direct violation of Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) Directive No.: 11002.1;
  • 3 cases of pregnant women detained in conditions detrimental to the health of their unborn babies;
  • Several instances of harassment based on the individuals religious or sexual identities;
  • Documentation only being provided in English, without access to interpreters. A majority of detainees are primary, non-English speakers;
  • Over 20 cases of individuals being held despite clearly being eligible for discretion under the Morton Memo, issued in 2011;
  • A case of a male detainee being refused proper medication;
  • Arbitrary Credible Fear rulings; instances of two individuals with identical cases (detained together) with one granted and another failed;
  • Over a dozen instances of long-term, unjust, detention resulting in the deportation of discretion eligible individualss

As such, the organization is calling for a complete review of cases at Eloy Detention Center.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Community Voices, Immigration

Community Voices: “Legalization for All”

President Obama continues to deport people, even as pro-reform advocates with significant salaries continue to fast on Capitol Hill for comprehensive immigration reform. The undocumented have been starved for many years so we’ll continue to eat what we can.

In some good news, the federal government is stopping the deportations of the spouses, children and parents of U.S. Armed Forces, paroling them under § 212(a)(6)(A)(i). This means family members of current and former U.S. armed forces personnel would no longer face deportation. To request parole, the non-citizen must submit to the director of the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the non-citizen’s place of residence:

o Completed Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (No fee required)
o Evidence of the family relationship;
o Evidence that the alien’s family member is an Active Duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces, individual in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve or an individual who previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or the Selected Reserve or the Ready Reserve such as a photocopy of both the front and back of the service member’s military identification card (DD Form 1173);
o Two identical, color, passport style photographs; and
o Evidence of any additional favorable discretionary factors that the requestor wishes considered.

This move serves as further evidence that the Obama Administration has the authority to stop deportations through administrative ways, and can expand DACA to include our family members. This news also comes at a time when the Pentagon has come out with a new discriminatory policy that family members of undocumented can no longer serve in the Marines or Navy. I suppose if U.S. citizens are not allowed to serve in the Marines or Navy, their family members cannot be paroled in the same way as the family members of the U.S. Army. This policy is irreconcilable with the Administration’s use of discretion for Army families, and put simply, unlawful discrimination.

Speaking of irreconcilable policies, ICE has deported five of the DREAM 30 in what appears to be a political ploy to deter similar efforts in the future. Nayeli Buenrostro, Erika Guzman, and Jonathan Zuniga remain detained at El Paso, Texas, even after passing their credible fear interviews. According to their attorney David Bennion:

ICE wants to push Erika and Nallely through expedited removal proceedings under difficult circumstances–I am representing them pro bono from the other side of the country–in order to deport them as soon as possible. ICE believes they can get away with this because the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has abandoned Erika, Nallely, and the rest of the Dream 30. If they are deported, it will be on the shoulders of Reps. Gutierrez and Hinojosa and the other members of Congress who stood by and watched it happen. This is a clear abuse of discretion of the kind that is unfortunately all too common under the Obama administration.

Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org, the largest Latino online advocacy organization in the country has expressed his disappointment with most of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who are getting “Dreamers” arrested and not fighting to stop the deportations of their own community members:

The arrest of the immigrant rights activists by one of the most powerful Latinos in Congress is more than just ironic. Rather, it reflects how profoundly the complex politics of immigration reform have changed. Increasingly, Democrats from President Obama on down, are the object of growing numbers of protests, marches, sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience designed to push Democrats to stop the greatest, most immediate threat to immigrant life: the detention and deportation madness that has led Democrat Obama to become what some are calling “Deporter-In-Chief” and “the worst immigration President in US history.”

[…]

And then there’s the tragic truth that can’t be muted with hollow calls of “Si Se Puede!” at rallies for an “immigration reform” that has no chance of passing: the overwhelming majority of the soon-to-be 2 million people deported by the administration are Mexican and Central American. Meanwhile, as the entire immigrant rights community escalates its activism in its call to end this tragedy, Hinojosa and many members of the CHC attack Republicans, get DREAMers arrested, but remain silent before President Obama’s unprecedented devastation of Latinos.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is utterly paralyzed, much like most of Congress. Earlier this week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) dropped a bombshell that he knew CIR was dead, not even on life support, in May, something we have known for a while. In light of this revelation, it is rather bizarre that Rep. Gutierrez would allow his Communications Director to misuse his government resources to launch a personal attack on an undocumented organizer for saying the same. For those who do not know, this is how the CIR lobby works–you get close to unveiling the truth about the immigration non profit industrial complex, and you get burned. Been there, done that. This is how, despite dozens of announcements about the death of CIR, the media manipulation has continued. Since the excellent pieces in The Hill (How Immigration Died Part 1 and Part 2), pro-reform groups, who stand to lose millions of dollars in funding if the reform effort appears dead, have gone on a media blitz to salvage S.744 and H.R. 15 by spreading more misinformation and lies about the prospects of the legislation.

Instead of flogging a dead horse, grassroots efforts and calls to stop the deportations are growing. Yesterday, in New Orleans, Congreso de Jornaleros (Congress of Day Laborers) held a sit-in, asking ICE to stop the raids and deportations of community members.

Congress of Day Laborers/Congreso de Jornaleros sitting-in at ICE to say #Not1More raid or deportation.

Photo Credit: Not 1 More Campaign, NDLON.

The Legalization for All campaign held a nationwide call-in day to ask that President Obama extend DACA to other undocumented residents, with over a hundred people making calls in support. Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino, agrees that the way to move forward is for Obama expand discretion and work on obtaining driver’s licenses for undocumented residents:

Among other efforts, the shorter-term strategy must focus on the discretionary power of the president elected by Latinos to ease the plight of the undocumented. Like Mr. Obama has already done with the “DREAMer” kids, (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), he can issue administrative orders to call off immigration agents and ease the rush to deport the kid’s parents.

The other thing immigrant advocates can do is put pressure on State Houses and Governor’s Mansions.

On Monday, Maryland became the 13th state to either issue or announce it will soon be issuing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants; joining Connecticut, Utah, California, North Carolina, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington State, Washington D.C., New Mexico and Vermont.

Speaking of driver’s licenses, Illinois is already rolling out licenses for undocumented residents. And after our strong push for One City, One License in the District of Colombia, Mayor Gray will sign a bill this Monday giving driver’s licenses to all undocumented residents. The Office of Latino Affairs estimates that over 20,000 residents would be eligible for a driver’s license or state identification card in D.C. In order to obtain a driver’s license or identification in D.C. starting in May, undocumented residents would need to get an individual taxpayer ID number from the IRS and establish 6 months of residency in the District. In other words, the time to move to the District of Columbia, is now. If you know people who can benefit from this, put them in touch with DreamActivist D.C. as we work on implementation efforts. 

Grassroots momentum is also translating into wins. In New Jersey, the New Jersey Dream Act Coalition (NJDAC) continued to move closer to winning tuition equity for undocumented students, with a Senate vote set for Monday. Governor Christie has indicated that he would sign the legislation, giving instate-tuition rates to all undocumented residents who have a diploma from a New Jersey high school.

Moving away from politics, it is college and graduate school applications season! As such, the Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) released their much awaited 2013-2014 guide for scholarship for undocumented students.

As always, send me your blogs and even books to feature on this blog. This week, I received The Ones Who Don’t Stay, by Paola Mendoza. I look forward to reading and reviewing it as I work on my book.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Community Voices, Immigration

Community Voices – “CIR is Full of Lies”

David Buenrostro, Adrian James, Jahel Ramos

I have maintained a personal blog for six years now. I want to be more purposeful in terms of elevating authentic voices, and directly impacted persons in their struggles for justice. I’ll try to feature a Community Voices blog every Friday to highlight and showcase writing of interest to me, and possibly my readers. Please feel free to send me articles, blogs and news I should highlight and elevate.

Lets start off with the hot topic. Luis Serrano, a member of the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) from Los Angeles, penned an article earlier this week where he reveals some immigration reform lies:

Lie #1:  “We can pass just and humane immigration reform.” Key words: just and humane. It’s important to know that historically when immigration bills enter the Senate, then the House, they don’t get better, they gain bad amendments like a hippie volkswagen bus gets stickers. The context is that the bills we’ve seen enter the legislative arena, already come heavily compromised. You can see the result with the SAFE act (Strengthened and Fortified Enforcement Act) which would make post Immigration Reform undocumented presence in the U.S. a crime punishable with jail time and long term detention imprisonment. Also, amendments on border militarization would devastate border communities, as Christian Ramirez, director of San Diego’s Southern Border Communities Coalition told The New York Times, “This amendment makes border communities a sacrificial lamb, in exchange for the road to citizenship.” There’s nothing humane or just about this.

Both Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), who have been part of pushing immigration reform legislation in the House in previous years, have announced that comprehensive immigration reform is dead for the year as the House will embark on piecemeal reform. For a real unbiased assessment of the situation, I would advise people to read Tania Unzueta’s article from last year on How I stopped believing in CIR and learned to love ‘piecemeal’ legislation. Jaisal Noor over at TruthOut did an interview with David Bacon on how Immigration reform requires dismantling NAFTA and protecting migrant’s rights.

There is a new multi-million dollar push by beltway organizations and New York foundations to target 9 Congressional Republicans in an effort to pass S. 744 or H.R. 15 – the immigration reform proposals, making it crystal clear that the push for immigration reform this year was always a cynical electoral ploy to win seats for Democrats, and not do anything for immigrant communities.

While people wait for reforms, Customs and Border Protections (CBP) continues to maintain that they will shoot to kill anyone who throws stones at them. Since 2010, the CBP has killed at least 8 people who threw rocks at them, including a young 14-year-old Mexican boy.

Revered MIT linguist, Noam Chomsky, chimes in on how the U.S.-Mexico border is cruel by design:

Border crossings themselves are the acts of desperate people. You have to go miles through the desert with no water. It’s long treks in the heat during the day and freezing cold at night—and there are armed militias roaming around trying to hunt people down. I know personally a Guatemalan-Mayan woman who crossed the border half a dozen times while pregnant. Finally, she made it on the seventh try. I think she was seven or eight months pregnant and was rescued by solidarity workers who brought her to Boston. There are plenty of other cases like that—terrible cases. Families that are torn apart. Basically, these people don’t want to be here. They want to be back home, but conditions there have been made so awful that they can’t survive.  They are torn from their families, they can’t see their children; they can’t see their grandparents. They live and die apart. It’s a terrible situation

Jesús Iñiguez responds to Gaby Pacheco’s controversial post on The Huffington Post, In God We Trust Immigration Reform, in which she claimed to have apologized for breaking the law while lobbying in Congress:

Perhaps she didn’t realize it at the moment, but with two words, Gaby effectively rendered the whole “Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic” movement as primitive, savage and backward, full of people incapable of understanding their place in this bureaucratic system that she believes is too big to fail, reformed or not. I mean, why on earth would you be apologetic for having a political mis-identity pressed onto you by something entirely external from you? We didn’t choose to be undocumented. There are too many complex factors to consider when talking about this whole immigration debacle, and chalking it up to the will of God is just a new way of accepting the whole notion of modernized Manifest Destiny as the architect of this situation of ours. All the God talk effectively muzzles us from addressing the large scale pillaging that’s been happening all around us for centuries by other God-fearing and adhering folks.

After winning the fight for driver’s licenses in California and Washington D.C., local organizations are energized to carry on the fight at those levels. The New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) will be renewing its push for the New York DREAM Act soon, as more organizations and organizers turn to state and local battles with nothing happening on the federal level. The New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers are organizing a campaign to stop ICE raids in their community, and stop the deportations of their loved ones. To that end, they have asked organizations to sign on to stop the deportation of New Orleans parents and laborers who are caught up in ICE raids.

So how we do move forward on the national level? Legalization For All has been blogging for a while now about pushing for an expansion to the DACA program:

There is a growing demand in the Chicano, Mexicano, Central American and Latino communities for the president to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to all undocumented. Why is the government deporting people who might be eligible to legalize under a future immigration reform bill? Ultimately, what is needed is legalization for all undocumented. But with no legalization law on the horizon, partial steps such as Deferred Action would help the undocumented. They would be able to work legally and would not be subject to ICE raids. Deferred Action also doesn’t have all of the bad elements of the Senate CIR bill, which would further militarize the border, increase workplace repression, reduce family reunification and end the diversity visa program that brings in about half the immigrants from Africa.

That sounds like a plan.

What I’m reading this week: The Dreamers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate by Walter Nicholls and Reform Without Justice by Alonso Gonzales. I’ll review them both soon.

4 Comments

Filed under Community Voices, Immigration