Friday, October 28, 2011

Colbert Report on Alabama Immigrant Farm Workers New Law

Stephen Colbert was roundly criticized by politicos last year for his tongue-in-cheek congressional testimony on the plight of illegal farm workers, but now he's getting to revel in his own prescience.
After spending a day working on an upstate New York farm as part of the Take Our Jobs project, Colbert testified about his experiences before congress, sarcastically lamenting the backbreaking nature of the work due to most soil being at ground level. The stunt was an attempt to shed light on the country's benefiting off of the labor of the very people it maligns as a scourge on our resources, but it was a point not well-taken by many of the assembled.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

What Does Assimilation Look Like - In Iowa


For a look at assimilation of immigrants in the US, we need go no further than the heartland - small town rural Iowa where the first bilingual classes in the state began, where initial fears gave way to acceptance, where businesses are now thriving rather than folding.
Downtown West Liberty, Iowa, is quintessentially Midwestern American, both quaint and historic, with brick buildings lining brick streets. A typical stroll involves walking past the bank, a renovated theater, a hair salon, restaurants and stores.
West Liberty Mayor Chad Thomas says that unlike a lot of other small Midwestern towns that are dying, West Liberty is alive.
"I see a lot of businesses that are open, and not vacant storefronts," Thomas says. "Probably half of the businesses are Hispanic-owned."
Next to Paul Revere's Pizza on 3rd Street is Tienda La Luna, and next to the American Legion Hall is the popular Acapulco Mexican Bakery.
Now at 3,700 people and counting, the eastern Iowa town is growing and thriving, Thomas says.
"If you didn't have the Hispanic population here in town, yeah, we would be much more like a lot of smaller towns, and there would be a lot more storefronts that are empty," he says.
And unlike other parts of the Midwest that are attracting Latino immigrants, the Hispanic population in West Liberty is not new.
"I mean, we're very unique in that there's folks in this community, in the Hispanic community, that are here in their fifth and sixth generation," Thomas says.
In the 2000 census, West Liberty was already well over 40 percent Latino, and has been steadily growing for decades.
The first big surge in Latino immigrants arrived in the 1930s for jobs in what was then a Louis Rich turkey processing plant.
That plant, now called West Liberty Foods, is still a draw for some newcomers. But most of the recent increase in the Hispanic population comes from growing, established families who came for the Louis Rich jobs, stayed and planted roots in this quiet, safe and friendly small town.
Jose Zacarias is among them. The 56-year-old moved to West Liberty from Mexico in 1984, working first in the turkey processing plant, a job he said was dirty, grueling and dangerous. By learning English, he was able to get better factory jobs. They were farther away, but Zacarias continued living in West Liberty.
He bought a big old farmhouse on the outskirts of West Liberty 20 years ago and raised three boys there. He called it and the two acres around him "a quiet piece of heaven" — until the new high school was built nearby a few years ago.
He considers many Anglos among his closest friends, and says the white and Hispanic communities in West Liberty get along well. But he says it wasn't always this way.
"When I arrived here in '84, they told me that such and such businessman wouldn't allow it, like for instance, the bar owners, wouldn't allow Mexican customers there, or they despise them openly, or things like that," Zacarias says.
But Zacarias and others in West Liberty say such conflicts gradually faded away, especially as Hispanics became more economically integrated into the community, and as the schools better integrated the community's children.
School with a WAITING LIST
The West Liberty school system has what was the first dual-language program in the state.
Students take all of their classes in both Spanish and English, switching from an English-language teacher in the morning to a Spanish-language teacher in the afternoon.
West Liberty Elementary School principal Nancy Gardner says the program is voluntary, with half of the spots reserved for kids who speak English primarily at home, and half for those who speak Spanish.
"And in the end, all the students then become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural," Gardner says.
The dual language program is now in its 14th year, and last spring graduated its first high school senior class of students who started as kindergartners.
The program is so successful, several Anglo families have moved to West Liberty from nearby Iowa City, Muscatine and other towns specifically to enroll their kids. The program, which now has a waiting list, is being duplicated in a handful of other Iowa school districts with growing Hispanic populations.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Washington State Leads effort on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

                                                                               Photo from

WA State Leads on Immigration Reform

Washington State has seen an extraordinary amount of public support of comprehensive immigration reform from various government officials and esteemed members of the Asian Pacific Islander community.
1. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell sent letters to President Obama stressing the importance and urgency  of passing comprehensive immigration reform, making Washington State the first to have both Senators commit to pushing for reform.

Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell   Source:
2. The Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass Resolution 31193 supporting comprehensive immigration reform. This resolution reiterates Washington State’s commitment to fully integrate immigrants into the community in a meaningful way.

3. Members of the Washington State Legislature signed a letter directed to Senators Murray and Cantwell urging them to ask Senator Shumer to introduce a bill for comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.

4. King County Executive Dow Constantine wrote letters to both Senators Murray and Cantwell urging both to work toward a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate.

5. Members of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition also sent a letter to Senators Murray and Cantwell stressing the importance of comprehensive immigration reform to the Asian American communities in Washington State.
6. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wrote letters to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as well.

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The mayor of Seattle, Washington sent the following letter to Wash State Senator Patty Murry urging support for compassionate immigration reform.

March 17, 2010

Dear Senator Murray:

        Seattle has always been a city of immigrants. Immigration has been a driving force of economic growth throughout our history, and immigrants still play a key role in our economy today. With nearly 30 percent of all Seattle children in immigrant families and more than 100,000 foreign-born residents, Seattle’s history and growth have become even more strongly tied to immigration.
        The impact of a failed immigration system is felt across Seattle, by immigrant families, service providers, businesses, city agencies and other entities. Over the years, the City of Seattle has adopted policies that promote the inclusion of immigrants, resolutions that call for comprehensive immigration reform, and ordinances ensuring that city employees and police do not ask about immigration status. But local action is not enough to fully address the many issues facing our immigrant communities.
      That is why I write to you today to ask Congress to finally pass comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible. Seattle needs immigration reform that:

  • Provides a path toward earned legalization and citizenship
  • Reforms visa programs to eliminate backlogs, keep families together, protect workers’ rights and ensure that future immigration is regulated and controlled
  • Enables immigrants to pursue higher education
  • Protects immigrants from employment abuse by enforcing immigration and labor laws and eliminating exploitation of immigrant workers
  • Prioritizes immigrant integration into our communities and country
  • Respects the due-process rights of all in the United States
  • Provides local governments with financial and technical assistance to deliver social services, health care, education, language services and civic integration

      Seattle — and the State of Washington — will be stronger when our nation tackles the tough issue of reforming our broken immigration system. I urge you to continue the leadership you have already shown on this issue and to work for introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate this March.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Pitfalls of the California Dream Act.

                        Photo from
What are the negative ramifications of the newly passed Dream Act of California, which promises a few illegal immigrants a small break in tuition costs at the state's higher education facilities?  Like most legislation, in order to get passed it usually ends up being done in piecemeal fashion - a step at a time. People usually are not ready for broad changes.  They come to accept it only by bits and pieces.  In order to have the anticipated goals achieved, the most acceptable facets, i.e. those parts which are the least politically damaging, get passed first, followed by corrections, amendments, adjustments, and expansions.  This piece of legislation is no exception as Esther Cepeda points out the shortfalls in the Janesville Gazette.
— Just hours after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act, which will allow illegal immigrant students to be eligible for state-funded financial aid at public universities and community colleges, celebratory email began circulating..... though  this new development will surely cause more ire to be directed toward California's illegal immigrants. The legislation is terribly misleading to many constituencies, especially to the newly eligible students themselves.
The text of a news release on the governor's website said the law "allows top students who are on the path to citizenship to apply for college financial aid."

First, it does not confer citizenship. Given that there is little chance that either comprehensive immigration reform or piecemeal legislation such as the federal DREAM Act will be passed anytime soon -- such bills have been routinely shot down for 10 years and the current rage over immigration won't wane until long after the economy gets on track -- the "on the path to citizenship" bit is a tremendous overstatement. But it's one that certain interest groups want to hear because it pretends there is a national political momentum behind such moves.

The part about "top students" is a reach as well. California is extremely liberal with student tuition assistance and, even in the case of the so-called "competitive awards," students with grade point averages as low as 2.0 -- a "C" -- can qualify for money that never has to be paid back. It was probably included to make Californians feel better about the new beneficiaries of their tax dollars.

The truth is that such grants usually make a tiny dent in the costs of attending college. Even if a student goes to a community college, there is often a huge shortfall between the Cal Grant awards and the full cost of tuition, fees, books and living or transportation expenses so as to require student loans. And illegal immigrants aren't eligible for any kind of federal student aid.
But the costs are not the biggest point of contention -- truly resourceful students usually find ways to pay for college, and California estimates that only about 1 percent of all Cal Grant funds could potentially go to undocumented students.
Consider the stark realities of the situation. The bill was sold to Californians as a benefit to the state's pained tax base, and indeed, most states know what projected revenues can be assumed for every newly minted college graduate. In Illinois, it is estimated that within six years of a student enrolling in a community college, his or her income tax payments will grow by 70 percent compared to 7 percent for a low-income taxpayer who does not attend community college. Even students who don't graduate show major increases in income tax payments.
But illegal immigrants -- even those with hard-earned college degrees -- cannot legally work in California, or anywhere else, in this country.
It is nothing short of tragic that the very people who push in-state tuition or financial aid opportunities for illegal immigrants never mention the fact that unless a wide-ranging federal amnesty program is put into place, there are no career paths for these students.
No one ever talks about the untold number who made their way through college and are now older than 35, the cutoff stated in the version of the DREAM Act that was introduced in Congress last year. But they, like other undocumented college grads who can't access legitimate jobs in their chosen field of study, are out there, just scraping by.
And does anyone really want more graduates to join the ranks of desperate jobseekers? The September unemployment numbers said the national unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, while California's rate is a painful 12.1 percent.
The California Dream Act isn't careful planning designed to give a boost to the state's illegal immigrants or benefit the general population -- and referendum papers to overturn the new law have already been filed. It is the mirror opposite of tactics other states are using to diminish illegal immigrant populations: feel-good legislation that only scores political points for politicians seeking re-election.
Obviously, this is a work in progress as many steps remain in order to make this a really workable solution.

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Senate Apologizes To Immigrants (from China) for Discrimination

Anti immigration laws are not new.  But we don't seem to learn from the past.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate has approved a resolution apologizing for the nation's past discriminatory laws that targeted Chinese immigrants, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
The resolution, passed Thursday night by unanimous consent, "cannot undo the hurt caused by past discrimination against Chinese immigrants, but it is important that we acknowledge the wrongs that were committed many years ago," said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., the lead sponsor.
A similar resolution, sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, is pending in the House. It is backed by members of both parties.
For Chu, the effort to get Congress to acknowledge the discrimination is personal; her grandfather faced the hostile laws.
"He decided to make something of his life anyway. He opened up a small Chinese restaurant in Watts, and worked day and night, and he was finally able to make ends meet," Chu said Friday. "The thousands of Chinese-Americans around this country with similar family histories will celebrate the passage of the Senate resolution."
The Chinese Exclusion Act effectively halted Chinese immigration for a decade and denied U.S. citizenship to Chinese immigrants in the country. The law was repealed in 1943 after China became a U.S. ally in World War II.
But Chu said that Congress has never apologized for the injustice.
Brown took up the issue after hearing about how another Massachusetts senator, from the 19th century, led the fight against the discriminatory laws, an aide said.
Congress has issued apologies before.
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing $1.25 billion, or $20,000 each, in reparations and a formal apology for Japanese-Americans interned during World War II. No reparations are offered in the measures apologizing for discrimination against Chinese immigrants.
In 2008, the House issued an apology to African-Americans "on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow." The Senate passed a similar resolution a year later.
In California, the Legislature in 2009 passed a resolution apologizing for the state's discrimination against Chinese immigrants.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a co-sponsor of the U.S. Senate resolution, said Friday she hopes the resolution will serve to "enlighten those who may not be aware of this regrettable chapter in our history and bring closure to the families whose loved ones live through this difficult time."

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New Alabama Anti Immigration Law

What is happening in Alabama?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alabama's Attorney General makes claims about "Illegal Aliens"

Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange, testifying before Congress. Photo by lutherstrange.

Excerpts from the Immigration Impact by 
Oct 12, 2011

 CLAIM:     Yesterday, Alabama’s Attorney General claimed that “illegal aliens” make up a substantial portion of the state’s prison population.
   FACT:   Alabama's prison population: 31,000  --   182 of which are currently subject to deportation based on holds placed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  That is about 1/2 of one percent.

    CLAIM:     Yesterday, Alabama’s Attorney General claimed “many of these people are taking jobs away from United States citizens."
     FACT:         Alabamas unemployment rate hovers around 10%.   To say that one undocumented worker fired is one documented worker hired might be politically expedient, but the research actually shows just the opposite. Undocumented workers tend to have different skills, education, and experience levels than native-born workers. In fact, if a 1 to 1 worker replacement was the answer, why is the Governor considering using the prison population to alleviate a severe worker shortage on Alabama farms? Where are all those unemployed Americans waiting to work in the fields?

   CLAIM:     The Alabama’s Attorney General claims there are "difficulties in collecting taxes from these persons ["illegal aliens"], many of whom work off the books, means that many of them are utilizing Alabama’s public resources without paying their fair share.”
    FACT:      According to the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants in Alabama pay $25 million in income taxes, $5.8 million in property taxes, and $98 million in sales taxes, for a total contribution of more than $130 million.

 The actual costs to Alabama’s economy have yet to be determined, and no real estimates have been provided by the lawmakers behind HB56. It has always been the case that estimating the costs and contributions of unauthorized immigrants is not an exact science. But Alabama is about to make it a bit easier. No longer will losing your undocumented population be an abstract proposition. In Alabama it’s about to be a reality, and with it the economic ramifications of a mass exodus of workers, consumers, and taxpayers from an already struggling state economy.

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California Dream Act: Some Immigrants going to college may receive aid

Some immigrants in California may now qualify for regular in-state tuition to further their education even if they don't have legal documents.  But they have to prove that they are on a path to becoming legal residents.  The cost is estimated at 1% of the grant money available to all student residents in California.  These immigrant students must also go to the "end of the line."

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will help illegal immigrants qualify for Cal Grants and other state financial aid.
     AB 131 was written by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, and joins Cedillo's AB130 to complete the California Dream Act.
     "Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking," Brown said in a statement. "The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us."
     Under current state law, illegal immigrants can pay in-state tuition rates provided that they graduated from a California high school and can prove they're on the path to becoming legal residents of the United States. AB 130, which Brown signed in July, opened up private scholarship and loan money for higher education, regardless of immigration status.
     The more contentious AB 131 allows illegal immigrants to apply for California-taxpayer-funded financial aid. It requires recipients to meet the same requirements as all applicants, but they may only receive aid after all other legal residents have received their state financial aid.     The California Department of Finance estimates that 2,500 students will qualify for Cal Grants as a result of AB 131, at a cost of $14.5 million. The overall Cal Grant program is funded at $1.4 billion, according to Brown's press office.

This amounts to approx 1% of available funds.

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Alabama vs. Arizona - Which law is worse for immigrants?

Now in a contest to see which state can drive the hispanics out the quickest, Alabama is winning.  See who is leaving and why.  Are they all illegals, or undocumented ( sin papeles )?  Are they working hard or are they lazy?  Will this open up new jobs for unemployed citizens - putting Americans back to work?  What is the effect on our economy? on individuals caught up in the histeria?
Pedro and his wife, both of whom are undocumented immigrants, decided to put all their belongings in the car and leave with their son for Arizona. Even with its SB 1070 immigration law, they expect Arizona to treat them better than Alabama under its law HB 56.
In a housing complex full of small homes in the city of Florence, two hours from Birmingham, relatives and friends said goodbye to Pedro and his family as they packed and checked the brakes of their car in preparation for the long ride.
Pedro, a construction worker from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, lived in Alabama for seven years. "If it weren't for the law, I'd stay here, but I have a brother there (in Arizona) who says that everything's okay now and there are plenty of jobs," he said.
Life in Alabama is impossible, he told me, and he wasn't confident that the attempts to block the law through the courts would succeed. And even if it did, the immigrant community faces too hostile an environment here to stay, he added.
"You can't drive anywhere; you can't go out because all it takes is seeing a policeman to scare you", Pedro said.
This strategy of wearing down the immigrant community through draconian laws like HB 56 -attrition through enforcement-- is exactly the point for those who have written and endorsed these laws.
Pedro's story echoed those we heard from other immigrants gathered at his house. Some wonder if they should follow his path out of the state or weather the storm here and see if anything changes.
The mosaic of situations reflects how HB 56 has affected everyone, with and without documents alike.
Some undocumented immigrants have native-born U.S. citizen children. Some have undocumented children, some of whom were brought to Alabama as babies. That describes Lizbeth, Pedro's niece, a 19-year-old "Dreamer" (a student who would be eligible for the DREAM Act) who was brought here when she was 2 months old. She married an undocumented young man, and had a baby. Some couples are mixed-status as well--such as Katie, a young woman who was born in Alabama, and her partner, Freddy, an undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of eleven. They have three children--all of them native-born citizens--and another on the way. And so on.
The person who'd arrived most recently of those we talked to had been in Alabama for five years. Others have been here for ten, eleven, thirteen, sixteen, twenty. Some are renters; some own their own homes. Everyone has a job: in hotels, cleaning offices and stores, in food processing plants, in the fields doing farm labor, in construction.
But for those without documents HB 56 turns driving to work into Russian roulette. "You're playing it every time, but you have to go to work because it's your responsibility to do it. For my wife and my baby girl, because Pampers don't buy themselves," said Lizbeth's husband, who works in a sawmill.
"Every morning, I have to leave thinking that I've left my sleeping child, and this could be the last time I get to see her," he said
Pedro's sister embodies many immigrants' fear of doing basic tasks, like buying food or going to the doctor. "Yesterday made about four weeks since I last went to the store. My children are eating only corn flakes and fruit because I'm afraid to go out. The day before yesterday the children came down with a bad case of the flu, but I couldn't take them to see the pediatrician, because I'm afraid to go out," she said.
Lizbeth said that "if it's my turn to get taken away, well, it's my turn." "I work all day cleaning stores with my mother. I drive her. I leave my daughter with my aunt, and all I can think of is that if they arrest me, and if I can't come back to see her, it would break my heart. This law is tearing a lot of families apart. We're not here to hurt anyone. We need help to get rid of this law because it's not doing anything good for Alabama, it's hurting the economy," she added.
Katie, the Alabama native, believes that the law is racist. If immigrants are working, "let them work and take care of their families, don't close the door on them." She had a message for the politicians who support the law: "You're so awful! Hispanics are helping out a lot here in Alabama." "And I have a message for Obama. Please, help Hispanics. They helped you."
Lizbeth's husband said that "if the governor says he signed the law to open up jobs for Americans who could do the work immigrants have been doing, why has the economy started slumping so quickly? We're seeing a labor shortage all over the place and no one is coming out to shop in stores because everyone's leaving."
He works at the mill from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., for $7.25 an hour. "I can't tell you how many Hispanics have lost fingers or hands. I also worked as a roofer, on houses that were sometimes 2, 3 stories. It's dangerous work, and in the summer, when the shingles are hot, it's very hard. If Americans can do the jobs that we've done, how come nobody's showing up to take the jobs we've left in the chicken farms and the fields?" he asked.

Journalist Gabriel Thompson wrote the book Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing The Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do, in which he recounts his experiences doing the harsh labor immigrants take on for little money and under precarious conditions.
Thompson worked in a chicken processing plant in Russellville, Alabama, near Florence. In a recent article for ColorLines on HB 56 and how immigration had benefited Russellville, he wrote that "When I relocated to Russellville in 2008, I found that, as a citizen, it was exceedingly easy to 'steal' a job back...As I soon learned, the hard part wasn't getting the job; the hard part was keeping the job. During a single shift I could be asked to tear apart more than 7,000 chicken breasts by hand or carry and dump 30 tons of meat onto an assembly line."
Thompson wrote that immigration had helped Russellville in various ways, including stimulating the economy as consumers and business owners. The same can be said for other parts of the state.
Read more from this source: The Huffington Post

Monday, October 10, 2011

Becoming Legal: An Immigrant's Path to Citizenship

A short course on immigration in the USA:

1.  Anti-immigrant sentiment is nothing new nor limited to our current affairs or just the U.S.:  all over the world immigrants are shunned and the outside ethnic group is always seen as inferior.  Just a few which come to mind:  Shiite and Sunni,  Japanese and Chinese, Kurds and Turks, Slavs and Croats, Romanians in Spain ( the Spanish gov. recently was offering them money to go back to Romania, if they promised to stay there for 5 yrs ! ), Catholic Irish vs. English Protestants, the Algerians in France etc.  In the US we have historically found groups that were easy to discriminate against:  Native Americans, Italians, Germans, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, and now Latinos.
    2. There is always an element of "otherness" commonly based on religion or skin color or language in the "outside" group.
    3.  Those in a position of influence ( talk show hosts, politicians, religious leaders, and in some cases even teachers) tend to take sides.  Those who exacerbate the dislike of the scapegoat, usually focus on the "otherness" and try to foment fear of the unknown.  Most people naturally have certain fears of that which is outside their comfort zone, their realm of familiarity.  So, this is an easy way to persuade the populace of the demons in "those people."   We hear terms like "the axis of evil," and "They are either for us, or against us." or "They are taking away our jobs."  This is a common one in our current financially stressful world.
    4.  With the passage of time, at least in the US, our "social mind-set" or popular image softens toward many of our formerly disliked groups.  Think of the changes we have seen in attitudes in our lifetime toward, say, African Americans, Japanese, and the Vietnamese.  These changes come slowly, with influence makers and moms in sneakers speaking out. 
    5.  Seeing the above pattern repeat itself several times in our lives, we now are much more skeptical of accepting the initial demagoguery.
    6.  Based on our own experiences and observations, we have found the hispanics we have met here in the US and Latin America, mostly genuine, generous, hard-working people, who are trying to make the best of their lives.  The newly emigrated are leaving poverty, violence and corruption, looking for a new beginning, a second chance.  When we recently read in an internet forum a comment from a woman who described herself as a conservative, born again Christian who thought that all Mexicans should be deported, what came to mind was that the essence of both Christianity and immigration is a second chance, a new beginning, an opportunity to start fresh.  She obviously saw life differently from us.
    7.  Attempts to force immigrants out of our communities have repeatedly proven unworkable.  The resulting economic impact is disastrous to those on both sides of the tracks.  The citizen farmers and small business owners find themselves without customers and workers.  The immigrants, both legal and illegal, have their lives and families thrown into chaos.  For some, this may be the goal.  For us, it is unfathomable.
    8.  So, indeed, we would favor changing our laws to provide a path to citizenship.  Perhaps fines may be a part of the equation, but few will be able to pay them.  If it is found that back taxes are owed, certainly employers would be required to pay their portions, along with penalties and interest.  We think that it will be nearly impossible to find small business employers who have relied in the past on undocumented workers, now willing to step up and pay these back taxes, fines and interest.  Hence, "making up for the past" is a difficult part of the solution.  Criminal records should be examined and not allowed for violent crimes.  Service to the country (USA) in the form of work in the Peace Corps, Americorps etc would be a good thing.  Basic English proficiency should be required, as well as knowledge of our governmental system.  We see this not as amnesty.  Rather it represents a means of earning a way into our system.  In the early days of our country, many people earned their way in - as indentured servants.  When they could not pay for their passage across the ocean, they "borrowed" the money from a landowner already living in this country, then worked for that owner for five to seven years without pay.  Hence, working to achieve legal status and citizenship in the US is nothing new.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Anti-Latino Racism Slams CNN National News Desk Editor

Nick Valencia is a national news desk editor and former head of the CNN Spanish Desk.  He's a third-generation American citizen recently confronted by racist comments coming from a hate filled woman in Georgia:

Atlanta (CNN) -- "Go home!" she yelled at me. "Why don't you go back home to Mexico before you ruin this country like you ruined your own!"
I was standing in a crowd at the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, where I live. A few minutes earlier I'd met a group of five people who'd been standing in front of me -- here from Mexico City -- and I had begun speaking Spanish with them.
Atlanta has a growing Latino community, and I am actively involved. Whenever I get the chance to speak to someone in Spanish here, I introduce myself. My new acquaintances and I were talking about what a great time we were having and how remarkable the city of Atlanta was for bringing back the festival to Piedmont Park.
And that's when I heard the yelling woman next to me. As if "go home" wasn't clear enough, the woman -- a 20-something Caucasian -- repeated the words in Spanish.
I froze. I didn't quite know what to say, and I didn't want to believe she was talking to me or the group of people I had just met.
Nick Valencia
Nick Valencia
As a third-generation Mexican-American growing up in Los Angeles, I had never encountered such overt racism. In fact, because my family was long since assimilated, among my Latino friends I was always considered the "pocho" or "white boy" of the group. (As I write this, a part of me knows somewhere in L.A., a friend of mine will be proud to know someone actually considered me Mexican enough to yell "go home" at me.)
My Mexican friends remind me that I am American first, Mexican second and that my English is better than my Spanish.
"Yes," I tell them. "But I can never walk into a room and be white."
Evidently, to some the brown color of my skin means I'm not even American. My friends and family tell me what I experienced that night is a microcosm of what is happening to Latinos across the country. You don't have to look hard to find it. In news stories, in political discourse, on talk radio, in everyday conversation it seems it has become OK to treat Latinos in a negative and antagonistic way -- whether they are new immigrants or longtime Americans. The anti-immigration legislation sweeping across the United States has made this plain. People in my Latino networks say they've noticed the change. And now I understand what they mean.
Like many Americans whose grandparents or parents came here from somewhere else, I live at the intersection of my two cultures. I eat tacos, but I love cheeseburgers. I go salsa dancing, and listen to rock n' roll. I speak Spanish and English, and depending on the crowd, sometimes Spanglish. I love my country and my cultural community. My duality is my reality, just like the 50 million other Latinos in the United States.
I have been luckier than many. Before this incident, the closest I'd ever come to blatant racism was in junior high. I was in the jazz band and played first trumpet. One day our jazz band teacher invited in his predecessor, a local legend who had made Eagle Rock High School's jazz program famous in the 1980s.
The visiting instructor pointed me out and asked me to play him 16 bars of music. I did, but he quickly interrupted.
"Stop, stop, stop. I don't want to hear any of that mariachi music. This is jazz."
I didn't think anything of it. Instead I felt terrible that the legend standing in front of me didn't think I was good enough. I went home that night, and like every night, at 6:30 p.m. my family sat down for dinner to talk about our day.
"How was your day, Nicky?" my dad asked.
So I told him. Outraged, the next day he went to my principal and filed a formal complaint. The legend didn't come back to visit the jazz program again. Weeks later we received a letter in the mail from him apologizing for his insensitive comments. My family saved the letter.
My father was hypersensitive to ethnic identity and deeply proud of his Latino heritage. The son of a naturalized immigrant from El Salvador and a Mexican mother from Texas, he grew up in Los Angeles during a time of racial tension. When I was young he would tell me stories of the race riots in his high school, violence against people of color, and awful accounts of the struggle he had to make it as a Mexican-American teen in the 1960s.
He died when I was 17 years old, but one of the phrases he implanted in my mind before he passed was a statement activist Cesar Chavez made famous:
"Si se puede" -- "Yes you can."
And now, here I was, at 28, with this stranger yelling at me to "leave." I stood there in the middle of a damp crowd on a late Atlanta evening, not comprehending, the wind still and the vibrations of Coldplay's "Yellow" filling the space in the air.
I didn't say a thing.
I didn't have to.
The crowd around us looked in amazement at this woman. Some of them spoke up to her, telling her she was wrong to talk to us like that. The group of people from Mexico City looked at her in disgust and, realizing from the look on my face that I must not be accustomed to what I was hearing, they turned toward me to offer support.
One of them, a young man, grabbed my hand and raised it high in the air.
"Estamos aqui," he said, which translates to "We are here."
It was the "Si se puede" moment.
The woman continued to taunt us for some minutes, but when we did not reciprocate her hatred, she stopped.
The band played a few more songs before ending the set, and the crowd dispersed across the park into the Saturday evening.
As I walked away, the woman and I locked eyes.
"I don't think you understand who you said that to," I told her. Thinking to myself, I am as American as you are.
"What," she said laughing. "Are you some kind of celebrity or something?"
No. But like the Mexicans I was standing with, I am a human being. And I am home.
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Repeal of New Immigration Law in Alabama

State Senator Beasley from Alabama has introduced legislation to repeal the newly enacted laws against illegal immigrants.  He claims most representatives did not understand the negative effects that the law would have on citizens of Alabama.

MONTGOMERY -- Alabama Sen. Billy Beasley has filed a bill to repeal Alabama's sweeping immigration law, saying it is causing severe workforce shortages and problems in state courthouses and schools.
"The people in the agriculture community are not happy with it because they can't get workers. The folks in the courthouses are not happy with it. The folks in the school business are not happy with it," said the Democrat from Clayton.
Beasley said three other Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of the proposed repeal, and he hopes more legislators will support the measure.
"I think there is a large contingent of folks who didn't realize what it was going to do," Beasley said.
However, Sen. Scott Beason, who sponsored the immigration law in the Senate, said he will fight attempts to undo or weaken the law.
"I can't imagine that anyone would want to repeal the bill," said Beason, R-Gardendale.
Beasley voted against the bill when it was before Alabama lawmakers. He said the new law has caused a "world of fear" for people in the Hispanic community.
"It's kind of a mean-spirited law," Beasley said.
Beasley said the law has caused workforce shortages in many industries, as legal and illegal immigrants leave the state. He said it also is causing long lines at courthouse and is putting an unfunded mandate on county jails to hold suspected illegal immigrants.
The Clayton senator said he also was doubtful the law would open up jobs for Alabamians because many people don't want the labor-intensive jobs the immigrants are performing.
But Beason said he believes the law is working.
"It's doing what it is supposed to be doing overall," Beason said.
He said the immigration law appeared to be moving an illegal workforce out of the state, and an adjustment period is to be expected. He pointed out the law has been in effect only six days.
He said he believes getting rid of illegal workers will create jobs for Alabamians. "Apparently a lot of people were working an illegal workforce," Beason said.
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Alabama Law: Crops rot in the field

Nueva ley de inmigración de Alabama.  Es el más severa de los EEUU.  Los partidarios dicen que la norma debe producir más trabajo para los ciudadanos mientras que las voces criticas aseguran que saca los derechos civiles. Pero la cosecha se pudre en los campos y los agricultores no pueden encontrar trabajadores suficientes para cosechar, porque la mayoría de los trabajadores - legales y sin papeles - han salido los trabajos y han huido.  Tambien, los administradores de cárceles se preocupan que no tienen espacio ni capacidad para detener más personas.

New immigration law in Alabama.  It's the most severe in the US.  Supporters say that the rule should produce more work for citizens while critics claim that it robs some of civil rights.  But food is rotting in the fields and farmers are unable to find sufficient workers to harvest their crops, since most of the workers have left their jobs and departed from the area.  Jail administrators are also concerned since they don't have the capacity to hold detainees.