Sunday, July 31, 2011

Future of Chicano sculpture in El Paso city plaza stirs controversy

As downtown renovations continue in El Paso, controversy has struck the heart of the city, its central plaza. City leaders are suggesting the removal of the plaza's centerpiece statue "Los Lagartos," a fiberglass sculpture by artist Luis Jimenez, Jr. which is a sentimental favorite of local residents. That suggestion has fueled outrage from many, including many Chicano supporters in El Paso, a city that is 80% Latino.
Los Lagartos by Luis Jimenez, Jr--in El Paso, Texas
Some--including city leaders--say they fear that Jimenez’ “Los Lagartos” sculpture has deteriorated beyond repair. Fans of the sculpture, however, retort that it was commissioned as a site-specific piece and needs to be restored and remain in the heart of the city.

The Public Art Committee of the El Paso Museum's and Public Art Department recently commissioned an analysis of the sculpture. That report is expected to be available for public review in coming weeks.

A restoration of "Los Lagartos," which was installed in El Paso in 1993, is favored by the statue's supporters. That project may be comparable to the restoration of an older Jimenez' sculpture, the “Vaquero,” which resides in Moody Park in Houston. Installed in 1980, the Houston “Vaquero” is 32 years old.

In 2002 and in 2009, conservation work on the Houston "Vaquero" cleaned and repainted it to restore Jimenez' original design. The Houston "Vaquero" is one of five such cowboy sculptures that Jimenez created. One of them has been on loan to the El Paso Museum of Art and is currently installed at the museum's entrance. However, that statue is slated for removal because the owner sold it to a private collector. Another "Vaquero" by Jimenez is found in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery.
Houston's "Vaquero"--before and after restoration
Everyone seems to agree that, from the beginning, the City of El Paso has not adequately maintained the "Los Lagartos" sculpture. The El Paso's Parks and Recreation Department damaged it by using an improper cleaning solvent. The sculpture lacked a canopy to shield the fiberglass from El Paso’s notoriously hot sun. It's positioning in the plaza has left it vulnerable to those who climb on it.

The City is claiming that it's a coincidence that they were alerted to Los Lagartos' condition at the same time that Paul L. Foster and Mills Properties have submitted several proposals for redevelopment of the Plaza. However the statue's fans point out that some of the design proposals do not include Jimenez’ sculpture.

Supporters of the statue claim that the City of El Paso did not consider conservation of the statue or hire consultants to investigate that possibility until after the community responded negatively to the city's plans to remove Los Lagartos.

The removal of the sculpture hinges on the current assessment of the piece by a conservator contracted by the City of El Paso. Critics are calling for a second opinion from a conservator they support.

Recently, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and the Renwick Gallery posted on their Facebook Page an album of their employees cleaning the Vaquero sculpture at the Smithsonian. The gallery of these photos can be scene at the Facebook page of Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and the Renwick Gallery

Los Lagartos' supporters strive for a similar outcome for Los Lagartos in El Paso's city center. They have posted a petition on to unite that support.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Border Patrol's "Operation Heatwave" rescued over 20 this weekend

Border patrol agents rescued more than 20 people over the weekend, the majority a direct result of “Operation Heatwave”-- a program the Rio Grande Valley Sector initiated last week in response to the area's extremely high temperatures. This special program is an effort to save lives of immigrants in distress in the harsh brush country of Brooks County, Texas. (see map, below)

One such rescue occurred on Saturday, July 23 when the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office relayed a 911 call to agents from the Falfurrias Station.  Agents successfully located a group that was lost on a local ranch. One of those rescued needed medical attention and was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation.

That same day, in an unrelated incident, agents rescued 12 undocumented immigrants at the Falfurrias Checkpoint, who were hidden inside a stifling hot moving van. A Border Patrol K-9 detected their presence during an initial inspection at the checkpoint. Upon further inspection the people were found hidden under a mattress and behind items of furniture.

In a different incident, not immigration-related but dramatic and interesting nevertheless, an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent assigned to the agency’s headquarters office in Washington, D.C., was involved in a rescue of a young girl while vacationing at South Padre Island, Texas over the weekend.

On July 22, the agent was at the beach when he noticed a woman in the water calling for help for her children in distress. The agent immediately ran toward the children, who seemed to be struggling to stay afloat. Two others joined the rescue attempt and pulled two of the children to a sandbar. However, a third child was pulled farther out into the open water by a rip tide. That young girl was screaming for help and struggling to stay above water.

The agent found a flotation device and swam out to her. As he swam back toward the beach with the young girl, several bystanders met him and carried the girl ashore. Emergency medical services personnel, already standing by, began giving first aid and transported the child to a nearby hospital.

As all these incidences from the weekend show, the Border Patrol agents are responsible for significant life-saving operations. And, as in the rescue of the child at South Padre, they put their training to use in a wide variety of circumstances, as they're called upon to respond to an unpredictable series of emergencies. I've encountered some very fine agents in my time along the border and heard reports of others I've never met.

Our nation needs to provide a dignified avenue for people --whose contributions we rely upon-- to enter our nation legally and safely. Beyond the significant ethical and moral considerations this would address, this provision would augment our national security.

Until we fix our broken immigration system, we continue to burden the Border Patrol with dangerous duties. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Boehner's budget plan a form of "class warfare," says CBPP

"House Speaker John Boehner’s new budget proposal would require deep cuts in the years immediately ahead in Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees, the repeal of health reform’s coverage expansions, or wholesale evisceration of basic assistance programs for vulnerable Americans," states Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein today. His assessment is reprinted verbatim here (I've added all my emphasis in bold.

[UPDATE 7/26/2011: This post reproduces Greenstein's original statement, based on documents Speaker Boehner issued to his caucus at the time. Greenstein updated his statement to reflect the language in the legislation as introduced and also accounts for developments that have occurred since the original statement was released. View the full updated statement: 3pp]
Robert Greenstein, President. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The plan is, thus, tantamount to a form of “class warfare.” If enacted, it could well produce the greatest increase in poverty and hardship produced by any law in modern U.S. history.
This may sound hyperbolic, but it is not. The mathematics are inexorable.
  • The Boehner plan calls for large cuts in discretionary programs of $1.2 trillion over the next ten years, and it then requires additional cuts that are large enough to produce another $1.8 trillion in savings to be enacted by the end of the year as a condition for raising the debt ceiling again at that time.
  • The Boehner plan contains no tax increases. The entire $1.8 trillion would come from budget cuts.
  • Because the first round of cuts will hit discretionary programs hard — through austere discretionary caps that Congress will struggle to meet — discretionary cuts will largely or entirely be off the table when it comes to achieving the further $1.8 trillion in budget reductions.
  • As a result, virtually all of that $1.8 trillion would come from entitlement programs. They would have to be cut more than $1.5 trillion in order to produce sufficient interest savings to achieve $1.8 trillion in total savings.
  • To secure $1.5 trillion in entitlement savings over the next ten years would require draconian policy changes. Policymakers would essentially have three choices: 1) cut Social Security and Medicare benefits heavily forcurrent retirees, something that all budget plans from both parties (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan) have ruled out; 2) repeal the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions while retaining its measures that cut Medicare payments and raise tax revenues, even though Republicans seek to repeal many of those measures as well; or 3) eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. There is no other plausible way to get $1.5 trillion in entitlement cuts in the next ten years.
  • The evidence for this conclusion is abundant.
    • The “Gang of Six” plan, with its very tough and controversial entitlement cuts, contains total entitlement reductions of $640 to $760 billion over the next ten years not counting Social Security, and $755 billion to $875 billion including Social Security. (That’s before netting out $300 billion in entitlement costs that the plan includes for a permanent fix to the scheduled cuts in Medicare physician payments that Congress regularly cancels; with these costs netted out, the Gang of Six entitlement savings come to $455 to $575 billion.)
    • The budget deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner that fell apart last Friday, which included cuts in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and Medicare benefits as well as an increase in the Medicare eligibility age, contained total entitlement cuts of $650 billion (under the last Obama offer) to $700 billion (under the last Boehner offer).
    • The Ryan budget that the House passed in April contained no savings in Social Security over the next ten years and $279 billion in Medicare cuts.
To be sure, the House-passed Ryan budget included much larger overall entitlement cuts over the next 10 years. But that was largely because it eviscerated the safety net and repealed health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan included cuts in Medicaid and health reform of a remarkable $2.2 trillion, from severely slashing Medicaid and killing health reform’s coverage expansions. The Ryan plan also included stunning cuts of $127 billion in the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and $126 billion in Pell Grants and other student financial assistance.
That House Republicans would likely seek to reach the Boehner budget’s $1.8 trillion target in substantial part by cutting programs for the poorest and most vulnerable Americans is given strong credence by the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that the House recently approved. That bill would establish global spending caps and enforce them with across-the-board budget cuts —exempting Medicare and Social Security from the across-the-board cuts while subjecting programs for the poor to the across-the-board axe. This would turn a quarter century of bipartisan budget legislation on its head; starting with the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law, all federal laws of the last 26 years that have set budget targets enforced by across-the-board cuts have exempted the core assistance programs for the poor from those cuts while including Medicare among programs subject to the cuts. This component of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill strongly suggests that, especially in the face of an approaching election, House Republicans looking for entitlement cuts would heavily target means-tested programs for people of lesser means (and less political power).
In short, the Boehner plan would force policymakers to choose among cutting the incomes and health benefits of ordinary retirees, repealing the guts of health reform and leaving an estimated 34 million more Americans uninsured, and savaging the safety net for the poor. It would do so even as it shielded all tax breaks, including the many lucrative tax breaks for the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations.
President Obama has said that, while we must reduce looming deficits, we must take a balanced approach. The Boehner proposal badly fails this test of basic decency. The President should veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Congress should find a fairer, more decent way to avoid a default.

Could that fairer, more decent way to avoid a default be this?

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

California's first immigration detention visitation program approved

The West County Detention Facility (WCDF) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),  approved this month a new immigration detention visitation program,  an activist group announced. The visitation program will operate as an official service to detainees at WCDF, a program-oriented facility in Richmond, California. 

Detention Dialogues, a student-led group dedicated to building a culture of respect to address the growth in immigration detention, today announced the approval of this, the first immigration detention visitation program in California. The group worked for nearly 12 months to initiate the program.

In 2010, close to 400,000 persons were held in county jails and detention centers for violating a civil (not criminal) immigration law. The detention of immigrants costs taxpayers approximately $45,000 per detainee per year. This comprises a total of $1.8 billion in this fiscal year. For the coming 2012 fiscal year budget, $157.7 million is requested.

Detained immigrants include both individuals and families, including young children. Many are asylum seekers and can languish in detention for weeks, months, and sometimes years. Whatever their circumstances may be, individuals in detention have limited access to the outside world.

“Our mission is to connect immigrants in detention to the outside world through visitation, while stimulating public awareness and meaningful dialogue about immigration detention,” said Christina Fialho, co-founder of Detention Dialogues.

While no contact visits are allowed, Detention Dialogues visitors will be able to meet with detainees on any day of the week from behind windows in a large visitation room. Additionally, detainees will be able to call Detention Dialogues at no cost using a three-digit extension provided to Detention Dialogues through the ICE detainee pro bono telephone system.

“We hope our work will inspire dialogue on our responsibility as Americans to engage with the issue of immigration detention,” said Christina Mansfield, Detention Dialogues’ other co-founder. “Our goal is to enable all motivated actors—including government, community members, nonprofits, academia, business, and philanthropy—to leverage their own distinctive roles to address the growth in immigration detention.”

WCDF is located in the Point Pinole area of Contra Costa County. The facility itself is a large coeducational adult medium-security prison, approximately 25 miles from San Francisco. Detainees are required to schedule their own visits, and scheduled visitors are welcome during the week and on weekends.

To become a visitor volunteer, interested participants must attend two trainings, one with Detention Dialogues and the other with WCDF staff. The next training set will be in August, and Detention Dialogues will accept only a limited number of volunteers. The group provides further information to potential volunteers on their website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trainer who seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity to present to ICE

Rev. Hicham Chehab
A Muslim group alleges that Rev. Hicham Chehab, head of the Chicagoland Lutheran Muslim Mission Association (CLMMA), will “give a presentation to U.S. immigration officers at the end of July.” Chehab, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has also reportedly given an “anti-terrorism course” to the Army Reserve, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports. Today CAIR called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to drop Chehab, who heads an organization that seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity.
CAIR further asked ICE to review the use of taxpayer funds for outside trainers who offer stereotypical and inaccurate information about Islam and American Muslims. When contacted by CAIR, Rev. Chehab said he “cannot give details” about the training and claimed he is not being paid for the session.
“While Pastor Chehab is free to engage in missionary activities, it would be inappropriate for him to train government officials who will inevitably interact with American Muslims,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a letter to ICE Director John Morton. “We believe training by a person with such obvious bias against Islam and Muslims would only serve to heighten concerns American Muslims have about allegations of mistreatment at our nation’s borders.”

The Lutheran Church Charities website indicates that it is affiliated with the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.

Awad added that CAIR’s Michigan chapter recently announced a decision by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to launch an investigation into potential civil rights violations and profiling of Muslims by personnel at the United States-Canada border.
“There is a growing concern that many of the government and law enforcement officials American Muslims come into contact with in their daily lives have been negatively influenced by inaccurate and agenda-driven portrayals of their community and their faith,” said Awad.

Earlier this week, CAIR called on the CIA not to use one of the Islamophobic counter-terror trainers who were exposed on NPR for allegedly smearing a respected Ohio Muslim.

SourceCAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. 

For further information (all sources provided by CAIR): 
SEE: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood Member Speaks to Grace Lutheran Church 
SEE: DHS to Probe CAIR-MI Complaints on Border Questioning of Muslims 

Video: Muslims Say They've Been Harassed at Border (CAIR)
Muslim Border Protest: 'We're Asking for Equal Treatment'
CNN recently aired a two-part series exposing an “ex-terrorist” trainer, Walid Shoebat, as an anti-Islam fraud.
Video: CNN Exposes Walid Shoebat's Terror Training Scam (CAIR)

  1. Part 1 –-
  2. Part 2 -- 
CAIR has in the past called on the Obama administration, Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and Congress to provide oversight for apparently widespread anti-Muslim bias in the training of law enforcement, security and military personnel nationwide.
SEE: CAIR Asks Sec. Napolitano to Probe Use of Islamophobic Trainers
Video: CAIR Decries Anti-Muslim Police Trainers

Trainers for American military personnel have included Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer, co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). SIOA has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is listed on the SPLC's Active Anti-Muslim Groups.
CAIR: Muslim-Basher Trains U.S. Military Personnel in Kentucky

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Humanitarian caravan defies U.S. embargo of Cuba

Tomorrow, more than 100 US, Canadian and European citizens will cross the US border into Mexico on route to Cuba where they will deliver 100 tons of humanitarian aid--in defiance of the US trade and travel blockade.

"Love is our License," says the group, as nothing they carry is sanctioned by the U.S. government. 
One of several buses to be donated to Cuba.
They transport everything from computers to pencils, from hammers to plumbing pipes, from medications to portable solar panels. The Caravan, after traversing the US on 13 different routes visiting 130 US and Canadian cities, today is loading donated aid items into trucks and buses in McAllen, Texas, in preparation for the July 20th border challenge.

Today all the aid and 14 brightly painted vehicles, including school buses to be donated to Cuba, are on display in McAllen, Texas.  Representatives of Pastors for Peace, caravan sponsor, explain why caravan participants are committing this act of civil disobedience and what participants will experience in Cuba. The caravan does not request a license to travel to Cuba.

The US government requirement of a license to travel to Cuba “restricts our ability to act as friends and neighbors with the people of Cuba. This violates our freedom of religious expression, political thought, association and travel. We seek to end these licenses – LOVE is our license,” according to IFCO board president Rev. Thomas E. Smith.

“The inhumane and indefensible US blockade against Cuba targets everyone in Cuba, from cancer patients who cannot obtain live-saving medications, to children whose schools have a shortage of pencils” stated IFCO's acting co-director Ellen Bernstein.  

“The effects of this cruel blockade are not only felt in Cuba, but also here in the US:  In a time when jobs and the economy are key, we are losing out on opportunities to trade with our neighbors only 90 miles away.”

Caravan participants will see Cuba for themselves, participating in an educational and cultural-sharing program that will focus on the achievements of Cuba's young people. The daily lives and experiences of Cuban youth will highlight the program, which also includes visits to organic gardens, health centers, urban and rural communities and schools. The caravan will also attend the graduation of 20 more US students from the Latin American School of Medicine, Cuba's full-scholarship program to train doctors for under-served communities.

This year's caravan travels as a tribute to the life and spirit of Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., founding director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, who for 20 years gave prophetic and visionary leadership to the organization's caravans to Cuba in defiance of the US blockade. Rev. Walker died peacefully in September 2010.

Pastors for Peace is a project of IFCO which has worked for racial, social, and economic justice since 1967.
For more about events and route stops, updates and photos from the road visit the website.  
You can also follow the caravan on Facebook .

Nancy Kohn explains the group's motivations in her own words:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Using judgment in enforcing immigration deportations

Every day, law enforcement officials and judges exercise discretion. This is a long standing tradition. We're used to trusting the interpretation of the law to authorized officials. We take it for granted that authorities will use their judgment in matters such as:
  • charging and sentencing decisions, 
  • weighing differing priorities and social values, and 
  • matching punishments with crimes.
Because of the use of discretion, minors are treated differently in the criminal system, and traffic violators and murderers receive different punishments. The use of judgment and proportionality is deeply ingrained and commonly accepted in our legal system [see Department of Justice]. But there is one notable exception: the enforcement of immigration law.

Today, the need for discretion and proportionality is more important than ever in our antiquated and over-burdened immigration system. It's important to ensure that the government spends its limited resources on high priority cases. And immigrants who have a strong case for remaining in the U.S. ought to be able to do that, if current law provides for an avenue of relief.

To push that agenda, a wide range of organizations, including the American Immigration Council, have been asking the Obama Administration to use its executive authority to exercise discretion in the immigration realm. In June, Director John Morton of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a memo outlining new guidance on the use of prosecutorial discretion in a wide range of circumstances. That memo signals a greater commitment to using limited resources to enforce immigration law wisely, with an understanding of the need for measured action and fairness in the immigration context. It is a good signal.

Is Lamar Smith a better patriot than you?
But, unfortunately, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-R) is indicating that the long accepted ideals of discretion and proportionality in law enforcement should not apply to immigration. Last week, Smith introduced the “Hinder the Administration’s Legal Immigration Temptation Act” (HALT) of 2011. It tries to invalidate the legal authority of the executive branch to use its discretion to improve and implement laws.

Apparently Smith believes a different administration will be worthy of such discretion. The HALT bill would sunset on January 21, 2013—the day after the next inauguration. 

However, it's important to note that the HALT Act goes beyond limiting prosecutorial discretion. It also seeks to suspend long respected forms of immigration relief including Temporary Protected Status (TPS) [which was granted by the Obama Administration to Haitians after the recent devastating earthquakes] and family unity waivers [such as those that allow U.S. citizen military members to reunite with their undocumented spouses].

What’s very disappointing in all this is that Chairman Smith has actually advocated for the use of prosecutorial discretion in the past. The New York Times recently noted:
Back in 1999, Mr. Smith was one of several members of Congress who wrote the attorney general and the head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, arguing that ‘unfair’ deportations had caused ‘unjustifiable hardship’ for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had jobs and families and close citizen relatives. ‘True hardship cases call for the exercise of discretion,’ the letter said.
So why the change in heart? Only Mr. Smith can answer that. 

As it becomes increasingly clear that large numbers of people are no longer migrating to the U.S., our focus must shift. We must now consider those immigrants who are already living, working, and raising families in America. Congress and the public need to encourage and promote the Administration's understanding that immigration agencies must prioritize enforcement activities and exercise discretion when considering deportation.

Source: American Immigration Council
Image credit: Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How the debt ceiling debate will affect U.S. immigration

The debt ceiling standoff between Democrats and Republicans in Washington DC has important implications on U.S. immigration. Political disagreement focuses on raising taxes. But the real concern, from the perspective of U.S. immigration, is actually about something with which both parties are in complete agreement. They agree on the importance of cutting discretionary spending--and in large quantities. 

With the exception of benefits processing at Customs and Immigration, most of the immigration work of the federal government comes from discretionary appropriations by Congress. If the two political parties do reach an agreement on the debt ceiling vote (and they likely will), unprecedented cuts to immigration programs are certain

The reason is simple: unless federal revenues (aka taxes) are raised--and this appears politically unlikely--large cuts to federal expenditures will be necessary. That's not just because of the looming debt ceiling vote, but also because there will be similar votes on the debt ceiling in future Congresses this decade. Because, according to Congressional Budget Office projections, the debt problem will keep getting worse, even if President Obama succeeds in getting the higher--$4 Trillion Dollar--agreement that he is seeking. (House Republicans are looking at a smaller deal, about half that size.)

The picture painted by Congressional budget staff is so dire that even the so-called "entitlements," long immune to even any discussion of cuts, are now on the table. Yes, social security, medicare and medicaid are all on the line. 

In this climate, it is safe to say that the budget ax will fall hard on discretionary expenditures. This means that 

  • the Executive Office for Immigration Review will face reduced resources, resulting in longer delays for immigration cases.
  • the State Department will put even fewer resources into consular processing. This will lead to increased frustrations and also damage U.S. trade
  • the Department of Labor's already-meager immigration staff will shrink. Thus, fast approvals of labor certifications for foreign workers may become a thing of the past.

Budgets for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), long sacred cows of those who favor strict immigration enforcement, will also face cuts for the first time. It might also mean that the budget impasse will finally reduce the historically high rate of deportations. 

Some of the foregoing will come to pass sooner, the rest later. The primary point is a realization that the current budget discussion is important from the immigration perspective. Results of the budget negotiations will surely leave their mark on immigration.

SOURCE: Info from Immigration Daily,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Six months past Tucson, gun violence unabated

Six months ago, ordinary citizens of Tucson like small business owner Patricia Maisch went on an ordinary morning to meet with their congresswoman at the local supermarket. But the "meet and greet" event suddenly became a tragedy that left six people dead and 13 others injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

In the days that followed January 8, the world's attention turned to Tucson in the U.S. Southwest. Soon after the shootings, President Obama said that he and our leaders would work hard to stop dangerous people from getting their hands on guns. In an op-ed to the Arizona Daily Star, President Obama called for fixing our gun laws and wrote that “none of us should be willing to remain passive in the face of violence or resigned to watching helplessly as another rampage unfolds on television.” But in the months since, the Obama administration has left this promise unfulfilled.

The six lives that were taken that January morning are now gone. And, during the last six months, more than 6,100 other Americans have been murdered with guns. But President Obama can take sensible steps right now to stop these tragic shootings in the future. 

The President doesn’t need to wait for Congress to pass new laws to do this. In fact, the White House has been meeting with stakeholders for months to develop administrative reforms that will improve public safety.

Now it’s time to put them into place. The more than 600 mayors who compose 
Mayors Against Illegal Guns 
suggest these four simple steps the President can take immediately to reduce gun violence:
  1. Enforce background-check reporting so people like the Tucson shooter can’t buy guns in the first place. 
  2. Remove federal red tape that currently obstructs U.S. investigations of illegal gun-trafficking operations. 
  3. Enact a long-planned program to track bulk sales of assault rifles along the border to help stop Mexican drug cartels from stockpiling U.S. weapons. 
  4. Improve law enforcement at gun shows where criminals and terrorists easily buy guns with no questions asked.
There’s nothing preventing the administration from taking these common sense steps to prevent gun violence. Tell President Obama it’s time to act -- add your name to their open letter:

If you add your name to the letter before Tuesday at midnight, they’ll deliver your signature to the President.

Tell President Obama it’s time to crack down on illegal guns.

Source: Mayors Against Illegal Guns

Friday, July 1, 2011

How many will die this weekend crossing Arizona desert?

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents found five people dead in the Sonoran Desert this week and rescued 36 migrants in distress. While the Fourth of July weekend signals a holiday for many U.S. citizens, the weekend will be deadly on the border. How many more will die? 

As temperatures rise, people attempting to cross the Sonoran Desert face extremely hazardous conditions. Unreliable smugglers put their lives in danger when they lead them through the harsh desert terrain. These smugglers, called "coyotes," often abandon the migrants when they are physically unable to continue. 

The Chihuahua Desert (pictured), adjacent to the Sonoran Desert
Those who cross illegally also face legal consequences if apprehended. Even those who are rescued are then held for processing and ultimately deported.

The numbers of apprehensions of undocumented immigrants are down across the U.S.-Mexico border, but the Tucson Sector Border Patrol unit still sees lots of activity. This is because increased border security has driven those desperate to enter the U.S. into the most geographically desolate--and also the most dangerous--areas to attempt the crossing.

Dehydration claims the lives of many, sometimes even taking the lives of people who the Border Patrol do locate and reach--but too late.

Border Patrol agents perform a humanitarian service in these rescue attempts. Our nation owes at least this to the workers who put their lives at risk in an attempt to join the U.S. labor force and take jobs that citizens deign to do. There is no legal way for these would-be construction workers, meat processing workers, farm workers, housekeepers, and landscape workers to enter the country.