Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obama signs National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into Law Today

WASHINGTON – President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama's action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”

Under the Bush administration, similar claims of worldwide detention authority were used to hold even a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil in military custody, and many in Congress now assert that the NDAA should be used in the same way again. The ACLU believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal, including under the NDAA. In addition, the breadth of the NDAA’s detention authority violates international law because it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war.

“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today. Thankfully, we have three branches of government, and the final word belongs to the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the scope of detention authority. But Congress and the president also have a role to play in cleaning up the mess they have created because no American citizen or anyone else should live in fear of this or any future president misusing the NDAA’s detention authority.”

The bill also contains provisions making it difficult to transfer suspects out of military detention, which prompted FBI Director Robert Mueller to testify that it could jeopardize criminal investigations. It also restricts the transfers of cleared detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to foreign countries for resettlement or repatriation, making it more difficult to close Guantanamo, as President Obama pledged to do in one of his first acts in office.

Source: ACLU

El Paso gathering at international bridge denounces 19 years of NAFTA

El PASO, TX. Activists will gather on January 1 at the international bridge that unites El Paso and Juarez to note the 19th Anniversary of NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement has brought, in their words, "19 years of corporate domination over the people of the United States and Mexico." In that spirit they plan a demonstration and teach-in at the foot of the Santa Fe Bridge.

Sponsored by Occupy El Paso and members of Occupy Las Cruces, the event is planned for Jan. 1, 2012 from 3-5 PM. Various local leaders will address the group, including Alan Dicker from Occupy Las Cruces, Lorena Andrade of Mujer Obrera, local organizer Eric Murillo as well as a spokesperson from the Brown Berets. UTEP Professor Joe Heyman will address the press at 3 PM. The public is invited to participate in the gathering and teach-in.

NAFTA took effect on January 1, 1994. However now, after 18 years of "free trade" between the United States and Mexico, the economic situation is characterized by massive unemployment and underemployment, and poverty and human suffering in both countries.

Corporations benefit from NAFTA while the 99% suffer, say the groups. NAFTA has boosted the so-called corporate elite, or 1%, of both Mexico and the United States. Meanwhile the workers, middle class, peasants (campesinos) and family farmers of both Mexico and the US have lost ground.

NAFTA provides for "freedom" of capital investment, ownership of property, and trade in commodities. However, says the group, that freedom has been the prerogative of the rich! It does not provide for human freedom to move. It fails to promote autonomous, beneficial local development. It has given the 1% domination over the 99%!

Cross-border trade can be fair and just, but not under the NAFTA system. Group members say the continent needs a new North American treaty focused on human development.

For more information visit the Occupy El Paso and Occupy Las Cruces websites.

Friday, December 30, 2011

New ICE Detention Hotline: Pros and Cons

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new measures yesterday that they hope ensure that individuals being held by state or local law enforcement on immigration detainers would be notified about their potential removal from the country and be made aware of their rights.

The measures include a new detainer form and also the launch of a toll-free hotline — (855) 448-6903 — that detained individuals can call if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime.

Image source
The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services will be available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern) seven days a week. ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action.

However, Michael Wildes, a former federal prosecutor and prominent immigration attorney, blasted Federal immigration officials for the telephone hotline :

 “This hotline represents a woefully inadequate and farcical attempt at due process. It presupposes that immigrant detainees - regardless of status - will possess both the moxie and the blind faith in our government to call ICE when they feel they have been detained in violation of their civil rights. It is preposterous to assume that an agency that has deported a record number of individuals this year will now represent a haven for civil rights for immigrants when threatened by state and local enforcement.”

ICE deported 10.3 percent more people in 2011 than in 2008, the last full year of the George W. Bush administration, and double the total for 2001. While the administrations claims it is deporting criminal offenders, a closer look reveals that, because the administration is using an expansive definition of criminal, the deportation list includes tens of thousands of petty offenders, according to information in the Orange County Register.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Increased Deportations Affect Obama's Latino Support

--Most Latinos Oppose Obama's Policy, Yet He Keeps a Big Lead over 2012 GOP Rivals--

As deportations rise to record levels, Latinos disapprove by a ratio of more than two-to-one (59% versus 27%) of the way the Obama administration is handling deportations of unauthorized immigrants. This information from a new national survey of Latino adults was released today by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Deportations under President Obama rose to an annual average of nearly 400,000 since 2009. This is about 30% higher than the annual average during the second term of the Bush administration and is about double the annual average during George W. Bush's first term.

More than eight-in-ten (81%) of the nation's estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants are of Hispanic origin, according to Pew Hispanic Center estimates. Hispanics accounted for an even larger share of deportees in 2010----97%.

Not all Latinos are aware that the Obama administration has stepped up deportations of unauthorized immigrants.
  • A plurality (41%) says that the Obama administration is deporting more unauthorized immigrants than the Bush administration. 
  • Slightly more than a third (36%) say the two administrations have deported about the same number of immigrants. 
  • And one-in-ten (10%) Latinos say the Obama administration has deported fewer unauthorized immigrants than the Bush administration.
Disapproval of Obama's policy is most widespread among those who are aware that deportations have risen during his tenure. Among this group, more than three-quarters (77%) disapprove of the way his administration is handling the issue of deportations. Among those who are not aware that an increase has occurred, slightly more than half disapprove.

The 2012 Presidential Election and Latinos

The Pew Hispanic survey also reveals that, heading into the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama and the Democratic Party continue to enjoy strong support from Latino registered voters.

In a hypothetical match-up against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama wins 68% to 23% among Latino registered voters. And in a match-up against Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Obama wins the Latino vote 69% to 23%. These results closely match the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, when Obama carried the Latino vote over Republican John McCain by 67% to 31%.

Even among those who disapprove of the way Obama is handling the issue of deportations, a majority support his reelection over either of these two potential Republican challengers. Obama would carry this group by 57% to 34% against Romney and 61% to 31% against Perry.

The survey also shows that identification with the Democratic Party among Hispanic registered voters remains strong. Two-thirds (67%) of Hispanic registered voters say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 20% say the same about the Republican Party.

And when asked which party has more concern for Hispanics, 45% of Hispanic registered voters say it's the Democratic Party, while 12% say it's the Republican Party. The share that identifies the Republican Party as the better party for Hispanics is up six percentage points since 2010.

Obama's Job Rating among Hispanics

Despite Obama's strong showing among Latinos when compared with potential 2012 Republican rivals, he has suffered a decline in his overall approval rating as president. 
  • Today 49% of Latinos approve of the job he is doing, down from 58% in 2010. 
Among the general public, Obama's approval trend has been more stable during the past year. His current rating----46%----is still somewhat lower among the general public than among Latinos, but this gap has narrowed significantly in the past year.

Among Latinos who disapprove of the Obama administration's deportation policy, just 36% approve of the president's overall job performance while 54% disapprove.

These and many other findings are from a new national survey of 1,220 Hispanic adults ages 18 and older conducted by landline and cellular telephone, in English and Spanish, from November 9 through December 7, 2011.
SourcePew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Immigrants create jobs for U.S. workers, new study shows

Image credit: Jerusalem Post

Findings from a nationwide study released today offer new evidence that immigrants create jobs for U.S. citizen workers. Immigrants with specific skill types do not compete with native workers, but complement them and improve their employment outlook, says the report. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Partnership for a New American Economy released results examining the impact of immigration on the American economy based on a multi-year statistical analysis. 

The report entitled “Immigrants and American Jobs” by economist and professor Madeleine Zavodny investigates the relationship between the foreign-born workforce and the employment rate for native U.S. workers. It focuses on two critical groups: foreign-born adults with advanced degrees and foreign workers here on temporary-employment visas. In both cases, more foreign-born workers means more jobs for U.S. natives.  As many as 262 more native-born workers are employed for every 100 foreign-born workers with advanced U.S. degrees who work in science, technology, engineering, or math (“STEM”) fields. 

The report also looks at the fiscal impact of the foreign-born. It finds that, on average, all immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits, with the finding particularly true for highly educated immigrants. 

Coupling these two findings, the data shows that policy reforms designed to accommodate more of these categories of immigrants would boost employment, while making a positive contribution to government budgets.

Congressman Tim Griffin (R-AR), member of the House Judiciary Committee, stated that the report yielded important evidence for reforming immigration policy with a focus on skilled immigrants.

“We have a shortage of STEM graduates with advanced degrees here in the United States, which hinders American job creators’ ability to grow their businesses and hire additional employees,” said Congressman Griffin. “Many highly skilled immigrants study in the U.S. but are forced to return home after graduation, where they work to strengthen their home nation’s economy to compete against ours. I am working on legislation that will change the system so that we can keep the best and the brightest, which will strengthen our economy and create jobs here in America.”  

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, co-chair of the Partnership for a New American Economy also underlined the findings significance: “At a time when job creation should be our highest priority, the study released today casts light on some of the greatest potential areas for growth, at no cost to taxpayers. It’s time for Washington to restart the conversation on immigration reform – and to center it on our economic needs.”

Madeleine Zavodny, economics professor at Agnes ScottCollege and author of the report for notes that the data’s relevance transcends the field of economics and offers insight for legislators who, she says “need to know what’s at stake in immigration policy.”

The report calls for specific legislative proposals that could create jobs for U.S. workers:
  • Give priority for foreign workers who earn advanced degrees from U.S. universities, especially those who work in STEM fields.
  • Increase the number of green cards (permanent visas) for highly educated workers.
  • Make available more temporary visas for both skilled and less-skilled workers.

Currently only 15 percent of green cards are reserved for employment needs. Factoring in a foreign-born worker’s spouses and children, the real percentage is closer to seven, according to information released by Partnership for a New American Economy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gathering outside Mexican consulate notes murder of activist Marisela Escobedo

El Paso, Texas// Members of the public and border activists for human rights from a number of organizations will join here Friday for commemorative activities on the first anniversary of the assassination of noted Mexican activist Marisela Escobedo. The event will be led by Escobedo's son, Juan Manuel Fraire Escobedo.

Marisela Escobedo was killed at the doorsteps of the Chihuahua Governor´s Palace on December 16, 2010 as she was demanding justice for her daughter Rubí Fraire Escobedo, a victim of femicide. The man who confessed to killing Rubi was later released by the Chihuahua judicial system. Marisela's assassination was caught on tape. The "hit," apparently professionally orchestrated, occurred in under two minutes:

Juan Manuel Fraire Escobedo and his family, now forced to exile, will hold a press conference and lead a series of activities in front of the Mexican Consulate in El Paso to demand justice from the Mexican authorities for the deaths of both Rubi Fraire and Marisela Escobedo. He will announce the continuation of Marisela´s campaign to protest the injustice done to them by the Mexican government and judicial system.

The event in El Paso, is one of many to take place in Mexico, including Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico city, and in the United States, as well as in other countries in Europe where Marisela Escobedo’s fight for dignity and justice was widely known. This advance information about the Juarez event is circulating on Facebook:

It calls for a march beginning at 5 PM and ending with a candlelight vigil at 7 PM in honor of the deceased.

Activists' activities at Mexican Consulate in El Paso, located at 910 E. San Antonio Avenue, will occur from  10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday, December 16.

The following local human rights organizations will participate in this event: Mexicanos en el Exilio, Border Network for Human Rights, Miners Without Borders, Peace and Justice Without Borders, Annunciation House, Centro de Trabajadores Agrícolas Sin Fronteras, Border Peace Presence, among others.

Primary Source: Law Offices of Carlos Spector

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lomas del Poleo: Plight of the 99th percentile before the avarice of the top 1%

The documentary Colonia Perdita/Lost Colonia recounts the fate of the residents of Lomas del Poleo in their own words. Their neighborhood, located about 10 miles away (maybe less) teaches me that even the power of law cannot protect the vulnerable from the avarice of the top 1%.

Years ago, some of the poorest of the poor found remote desert land upon which they could legally settle, construct homes, small farms and gardens. They literally built a life for themselves atop a dry and rocky mesa outside Juarez.

Little did anyone envision NAFTA, maquiladoras (international factories) and the tyranny of unjust trade practices that would push the poor further down while raising up the rich of North America.

The wasteland of Lomas del Poleo, now lying directly on the path of a proposed international highway, exponentially grew in value overnight. And, just as suddenly, one of the richest families in all of Mexico "realized" that they owned that land.

As in the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk, these economic giants ruthlessly robbed the peasants of everything, stopping at nothing to accomplish the depopulation of Lomas del Poleo. (Really. I'm not exaggerating.)

This short documentary broadcasts the voices of those who experience the fate of the 99th percentile--crushed under the boot of the 1%.

FEATURE VIDEO: Colonia Perdida / Lost Colonia from Notes from the Margins on Vimeo.

Their story is our story. The wise will recognize it. The foolish will pursue more entertaining topics and activities until they themselves--or their children--fall and are crushed by the avarice of the 1%.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Framed Photos of religious images from the Border benefit human rights

The sale of these professional-quality photographs will support the efforts of poor people of Lomas del Poleo who are fighting to defend their homes from a wealthy developer who claims he owns their land. This is a clear case of injustice and human rights at risk--documented by Amnesty International.

Choose from seven images of statues in El Paso, Texas. These 8 X 10 inch photos are matted in white with your choice of black or brown frame. Price: $25 each, or 2 for $45.

Simply email with your order by December 17 for Christmas delivery.

Image choices: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pieta, St. Francis of Assisi, Kateri Tekakwitha, Jesus and the Children and Juan Diego.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Barrio Azteca Gang Associates Plead Guilty in El Paso to Racketeering Conspiracy

WASHINGTON—Two associates of the Barrio Azteca (BA) gang pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, as FBI, DEA and the Justice Department officials announced today.

Yesterday, Fabian Rodriguez, 35, aka “Shamoo,” of El Paso, Texas, and today Mexican national Juan Manuel Viscaino Amaro, 41, aka “Porky,” pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert J. Garney in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, to racketeering conspiracy.

According to court documents, Rodriguez and Amaro were associates of the BA. The group began in the late 1980s as a violent prison gang and has expanded into a transnational criminal organization. The BA is primarily based in West Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and throughout state and federal prisons in the United States and Mexico. The gang has a militaristic command structure and includes captains, lieutenants, sergeants, soldiers and associates such as Rodriguez and Amaro. This works to maintain power and enrich its members and associates through drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, violence, threats of violence and murder.
El Paso/Juarez--site of Barrio Azteca activity
Members and associates of the BA have engaged in a host of criminal activity committed since Jan. 1, 2003, say court documents. These include drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, kidnapping, and murder. The group was involved in the March 13, 2010, murders in Juarez of U.S. consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband Arthur Redelf and Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a U.S. Consulate employee.

The BA makes money by importing heroin, cocaine, and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. Gang members and associates also allegedly charge a “street tax” or “cuota” on businesses and criminals operating in their turf. These profits support gang members in prison by funneling money into prison commissary accounts of gang leaders and pay for defense lawyers or fines. The “cuota” profits are also allegedly reinvested into the organization to purchase drugs, guns and ammunition.

During the plea hearings, Rodriguez and Amaro admitted to working with the BA in buying and selling illegal drugs on the streets of El Paso. They also admitted that the gang extorted money from drug dealers operating on the gang’s turf.

According to Rodriguez’s plea agreement, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under Amaro’s plea agreement, if approved by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone, he will receive a 12-year prison term. Sentencing dates for the defendants haven't been scheduled.

Thirty-five members and associates of the BA gang, including Rodriguez, Amaro and 11 others who have pleaded guilty, were charged in a third superseding indictment unsealed in March 2011 with various counts of racketeering, murder, drug offenses, money laundering and obstruction of justice. That trial is set to begin April 6, 2012.

Source: FBI release