Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Alabama's Immigration Law will create an economic disaster

This week, portions of Alabama’s harsh new immigration law, HB 56, take effect in Alabama. While the governor of the state proclaimed that this is the toughest immigration law in the country, Alabama businesses, state agencies, and taxpayers will ultimately pay the price for this economically damaging legislation. 


In order to provide the latest economic and demographic information on immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in Alabama, the Immigration Policy Center updated its Alabama state fact sheet, New Americans in the Yellowhammer State.

Highlights of the data show that immigrants, Latinos, and Asians are a growing and important part of Alabama’s state economy as workers, taxpayers, and consumers. For example:

Immigrants are important to Alabama’s economy as workers.
Immigrants comprised 4.9% of the state’s workforce in 2010 (or 111,670 workers), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Unauthorized immigrants are important to Alabama’s economy as workers and taxpayers.            Unauthorized immigrants in Alabama paid $130.3 million in state and local taxes in 2010, according to data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. This includes:
  • $25.8 million in state income taxes.
  • $5.8 million in property taxes.
  • 98.7 million in sales taxes.
Unauthorized immigrants comprised roughly 4.2% of the state’s workforce (or 95,000 workers) in 2010, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Alabama, the state would lose $2.6 billion in economic activity, $1.1 billion in gross state product, and approximately 17,819 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.

To view the fact sheet in its entirety see: New Americans in the Yellowhammer State (IPC Fact Check, September 30, 2011)
Source: Immigration Policy Institute
Image source: Microsoft Office Images

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

VIDEO: The Invisibles--migrants you never see; stories you can't forget


It was the migrants from Central America and Mexico who attracted me to the border. A film series produced by Amnesty International follows their journey in a four part series, The Invisibles. Each segment held me enthralled. I have heard these stories so many times on the border, and I was galvanized to watch the action on the screen--frozen by the truth I was watching. Tense with excitement that others would watch and learn.

The entire series, all four parts, is found on the AI website. But the YouTube vids are also reposted here for your convenience:







Tuesday, September 27, 2011

EPA announces a new border environmental plan: Border 2020


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now accepting public comments on the draft of a new border environment plan. It's entitled "Border 2020: U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program," and the document lays the framework for a new environmental protection and improvement plan designed to replace the Border 2012 collaboration between Mexico and the US.

"As home to over 14 million people and one of the busiest cross-border trade regions in the world, protecting human health and the environment in the Border Region is essential to ensuring that the U.S. continues to be safe, healthy and economically productive," the EPA said in a statement. 



A border home garden raises healthy food to improve life quality in Palomas, Chihuahua.
Public comment on the Border 2010 plan will be accepted through November 30. So far, public meetings have been scheduled for September in Nogales, Arizona, and for October 5 in the city council chambers of Calexico, California.

For the EPA, Border 2020 represents another bi-national planning effort  under the La Paz Agreement on environmental cooperation signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Miguel de la Madrid back in 1983.



According to the environmental protection agency, a collaborative process involving the EPA and its Mexican counterpart SEMARNAT, as well as indigenous communities and tribes from the two nations and environment departments from the 10 Mexican and US border states, produced the draft for Border 2020.

The funding for Border 2012 could boost environmental projects in tiny Palomas, Chihuahua, a town I love in Mexico, through the assistance of Border Partners.

They are proposing a project for home water re-use for Gardens. This will set up graywater redirection projects at homes of gardeners to redirect water from the home sinks for garden irrigation. Gardeners will save on expense for watering their plants and conserve that precious desert resource.

These projects could also create employment opportunities in the economically struggling town. This is a win-win situation.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fact Checking the Obama Administration on Immigration: Top 3 Myths!

There is a lot of misinformation coming out of the Obama administration about immigration and Secure Communities (S-Comm).

Presente.org graciously allowed Border Explorer to repost these Top Three Myths which they researched:

MYTH: Most of the people the Obama administration is deporting are criminals.

“Today more than half of all removals are people with criminal records.” Cecilia Muñoz, director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House (1)

FACT: According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) own numbers, 79% of deportees under Secure Communities (S-Comm) had no criminal records or had been picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations. This means thousands of innocent people have been picked up and deported. 2

The rampant racial profiling associated with Secure Communities (S-Comm) has also meant that the number of Latinos in federal prison has skyrocketed to accommodate the record-breaking deportations under this administration. 3

Under grassroots pressure, the administration issued a change in policy that would cancel the deportation of people deemed “low priority,” such as DREAM Act students and family members of US citizens. According to reports across the country, border agents, police officers and judges are not taking this directive seriously and continue to arrest DREAMers, pregnant women and others.4

MYTH: Obama administration says S-Comm does not force local police to enforce immigration law.

QUOTE: “Secure Communities does not require in any way for state and local law enforcement officials to be immigration agents. They don’t ask immigration status.” Cecilia Muñoz – director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House (5)

FACT: Governors and voters in Massachusetts, Illinois and New York tell us otherwise. In the last year all three of these states withdrew their participation in S-Comm precisely because local police officials complained that community members have been afraid to cooperate with police.

A statement from NY Governor Cuomo’s office said there was “mounting evidence” that the program, called Secure Communities, had not only failed to meet its goal of deporting the most serious immigrant criminals but was also undermining law enforcement and compromising public safety. (6)

Now President Obama is forcing these states to comply with S-Comm even though they have proven it is ineffective and have tried to opt out.

MYTH: Obama: It’s all Congress’ fault; I can’t do anything about it.

QUOTE: “Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself, but that’s not how democracy works.” President Barack Obama (7)

FACT: Ultimate responsibility for the U.S.’s broken immigration system does lie with Congress, but Congress did not tell President Obama to increase the deportations, nor did Congress tell President Obama to make the dangerous S-Comm program mandatory everywhere by 2013. We’re not asking President Obama to change the laws himself, just to stop wasting valuable resources in this time of economic crises by deporting people who only seek a better life for themselves and their families.
Sources:
1. "In the Debate Over Immigration and Deportations, the Facts Matter," The White House Blog, 8/16/11 http://1.usa.gov/r7vFpm
2. "Documents Show ICE Misled California Officials about Secure Communities," America's Voice Online, 4/18/11  http://bit.ly/nxPNdH
3. "Hispanics new majority sentenced to federal prison," Associated Press, 9/6/11 http://onforb.es/omygAa
4. "Immigration Shift Hasn't Trickled Down to Border Patrol," The Texas Tribute, 9/7/11 http://bit.ly/qFgrKA
5. "Fernando Espuelas Interview Cecilia Muñoz White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs," Espuelas.com, 8/15/11 http://bit.ly/nH3xPy
6."Cuomo Ends State’s Role in Checking Immigrants," New York Times, 6/1/11 http://nyti.ms/r4eqwi
7. "Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas," The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 5/10/11
http://1.usa.gov/pLMvtR

Friday, September 16, 2011

Marriage Outside of Racial Boundaries Increases, finds study; Immigration affects U.S. marriage


~Black and White Marriages Increased Rapidly Since 1980s, Study Finds~
“It used to be that race trumped everything, including education, when it came to marriage between blacks and whites; that is changing. For the first time, we found that highly educated blacks and whites were more likely to intermarry. That is very significant and is another sign that racial boundaries are blurring.” ~Zhenchao Qian, professor of sociology at Ohio State University
A new study of interracial marriages in the United States since the 1980s suggests that the racial boundary between blacks and whites continues to break down, although it has not disappeared yet. The study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, says that marriages between blacks and whites have continued to increase. Meanwhile, Latin and Hispanic Americans have started marrying their racial compatriots from among newly arrived immigrants.

According to Qian,  understanding changes in interracial marriages is complex because it involves two different factors. It considers first: “the marriage market of who is available to marry," said Qian. But it also involves individuals’ choices about who they would be willing to marry.

There was only a slight increase in marriages between whites and Hispanics. However, marriages between U.S. born and foreign born Asians and Hispanics increased rapidly between 2000 and 2008. This is due to the increase in immigration of Hispanics and Asians into the United States resulting in a larger pool of potential marriage partners from their own racial and ethnic groups.

“With the enormous growth of the immigrant population, Asians and Hispanics now have more opportunities than ever to find a marital partner who shares the same cultural background. Such marriages reinforce their cultural identity,” said co-author Dr Daniel Lichter from Cornell University.

Even though the rate of marrages between whites and African Americans is increasing rapidly, the total of those marriages is "still a small number,” said Zhenchao Qian, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
“Our results point to better race relations in 2008 than 1980, but we still have a way to go." Zhenchao Qian
In 1980, only 5 percent of black men married a white woman, but that increased to 14 percent in 2008. Still, by comparison, 38 percent of Asian American men and Hispanic men married a white woman in 2008.

Source: Qian. Z, Lichter. D, “Changing Patterns of Interracial Marriage in a Multiracial Society”, Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2011.
Image credit: Mike Licht, Nations Capital.com via Flickr


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ask ICE not to separate a young woman from her family

A fast-growing petition campaign, initiated by a student who fought his own deportation, calls on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to halt the deportation of Jennifer Lopez, a young woman who does not meet new deportation guidelines.

In just a few hours, hundreds of people have joined a campaign on Change.org calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt the deportation of 21-year-old Jennifer Lopez, a DREAM Act-eligible woman in Palm Beach.

Photo credit: Change. org
The campaign on Change.org was launched by Manuel Guerra, a leader of the South Florida student activist group Students Working for Immigrant Rights who himself successfully won a fight against deportation after nearly 800 people signed a petition on Change.org. Guerra launched the campaign for Lopez after he heard she was placed in removal proceedings following a routine traffic stop.

Student activists say that under new guidelines issued by the Department of Homeland Security, Lopez does not meet the criteria for deportation because she
  • she has no criminal background, 
  • was brought to the country as a young child, and 
  • cares for two critically ill and handicapped siblings, both of whom are U.S. citizens. 
“I still cannot believe that despite the announcement of the new deportation policy by of the White House, we still see people like Jennifer Lopez put into deportation proceedings, after getting stopped by the police,” said Manuel Guerra, who launched the campaign on Change.org. “This shouldn't be happening anymore. I think she deserves the same chance as I do: a chance for the American Dream. We are not criminals, we are just people who want to live normal lives like anybody else.”

News of the online petition campaign’s success is likely to increase pressure on Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Within hours of the campaign’s launch, Manuel Guerra had gathered more than 200 signatures on Change.org. The activists plan to launch a social media campaign, and at the current rate of growth, the petition is expected to have more than 1,000 supporters by next week.

Border Explorer endorses the effort and hopes you will add your name to the list of petition supporters.

“It’s been inspiring to watch this campaign take off,” said Change.org Director of Organizing Jackie Mahendra. “Manuel Guerra benefited when his friends started a campaign for him on Change.org. That campaign was successful in stopping his deportation, and now he is fighting for Jennifer through the Change.org platform. The fact that the campaign has grown so quickly demonstrates that Jennifer's story is resonating with others, too.”

Jennifer Lopez is currently in deportation proceedings and is likely to receive a hearing within three weeks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

U.S. Woman pleads for husband's release from immigration detention, Needs help

Already more than 1,300 people have joined a growing campaign on Change.org calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Sergey Golubev from immigration detention. Golubev arrived in the U.S. as a child. Petitioners are asking officials to allow him to stay in the country with his family.

Golubev arrived from the former Soviet Union when he was 10 years old. He arrived on a visa that his mother, who is mentally ill, allowed to expire by not filing the proper paperwork. Golubev only found out his undocumented status as an adult and was placed in removal proceedings after contacting police to seek help for a friend who had threatened suicide.

Golubev’s wife Angela Zikherman, an American citizen who is seven months pregnant and lives in Brooklyn, launched the petition on Change.org. The Department of Homeland Security's new guidelines that state that immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and have no criminal background are not priorities for deportation inspired her petition.

“For four months I have tried to keep our lives private and help my husband in the best way I knew how, through hiring the most qualified attorney,” said Sergey’s wife Angela Zikherman, who started the petition on Change.org.

“But things are not working as planned and I am expecting the birth of our daughter in 12 short weeks. I am very worried that my husband will be deported while we wait for the courts, which is why I chose to speak up and start a petition on Change.org.”

Serge is a good person who was raised in the US for more the 21 years of his life. His family and home is right here in the United States, not in Russia. ~Angela Zikherman, wife of potential deportee

News of the online petition campaign’s success is likely to increase pressure on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Sergey Golubev. Within hours of the campaign’s launch, Angela Zikherman had recruited hundreds of supporters on Change.org, the world’s fastest growing platform for social change. She started a Facebook page that already has more than 500 “likes,” and the New York Daily News has already picked up the Golubev’s story. This blog is pleased to participate in the effort.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already tried to place Golubev on a plane three times, and each time he has refused, fearing for his life and not wanting to leave behind his pregnant wife. It is expected that within the next 30 days another attempt to deport Golubev will be made.

“What Sergey Golubev’s wife, Angela, has accomplished in just a few weeks is remarkable,” said Change.org Director of Organizing Jackie Mahendra. “With no training, on bed rest while pregnant, and armed with only a laptop, Angela Maresca has managed to recruit more than 1,300 supporters from across the country and received the attention of major news outlets. It has been inspiring to watch Angela's campaign take off.”

Live signature totals from Angela Zikherman’s campaign are available here. I hope you'll sign the petition.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Netflix launches service south of the border

Netflix is slated to launch new services in Latin America and the Caribbean. They announced last week that they will provide instant and unlimited movies and TV shows there; Netflix streams video services to computers, game consoles and Internet connected devices for a monthly fee. The Latin American service launched last week in Brazil and will open in 43 other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean by tomorrow, September 12. Brazilians, in fact, have immediate and current access to a free, one-month trial to the service in Portugese, available on the company's website.


Netflix service begins in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean tomorrow. In Mexico, the monthly subscription price for unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows over the Internet will be 99 pesos while in the Central America and the Caribbean the price will be US$7.99 per month. In the Caribbean region, Netflix will be available in English and Spanish.

I've been a huge Netflix fan. However, with their recent price increase, I'll be cutting my service package.
A decade ago, In the mountains of Chiapas in Southern Mexico, residents who lived in shacks had access to the latest Hollywood movies, via transmissions that they seemed to be able to intercept--I don't know how. I remember they saw "Gladiator" way before I did. I wonder if they still can do that. They won't need Netflix. Not that they could afford that monthly fee.
When My husband and I discussed the downgrade of our Netflix plan, we worked through some conflict about it. The deciding factor was "need vs. want" and our usage quotient. We just didn't use the streaming services enough to warrant the expenditure. We can afford it, we just don't need it.

I think that's a good criterion on which to make any financial decision.
Source: Netflix, Inc.

Friday, September 9, 2011

U.S.-Mexico Border: Ten Years After 9/11

None of the 9/11 terrorists illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, and no foreign terrorists have been apprehended on the southwestern border over the past ten years. Yet, ten years after 9/11, the U.S.-Mexico border line is where national security, homeland security and border security converge.

It is time to examine the security building on the southwestern border over the last ten years, and Policy on the Edge (PDF) is a report from the Center for International Policy that does just that. Tom Barry, director of CIP’s TransBorder Project, chronicles how the security politics of the border have shifted over the past 10 years from an initial focus on terrorism to “illegal aliens”, and then to “criminal aliens,” and most recently drug prohibition and the drug war in Mexico. I have long respected Tom Barry's perspectives, and I look to him for truth.

U.S.-Mexico border fence at Sunland Part, NM
Despite massive expenditures and the new commitment to border security, our border policy remains unfocused and buffeted by political forces. Just this week, for example, we have Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry saying that he and the American people are “fed up” with the Obama administration’s border policies.

According to Policy on the Edge, the border security framework has fostered alarmist politics about border threats and wasteful spending. "Absent necessary strategic reflection and reform," writes Barry, "the rush to achieve border security has bred dangerous insecurities about immigration and about the integrity of our border, while giving new life to the flagging war on drugs at home and abroad."

“Like the ill-considered invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the ‘global war against terrorism,’ the post-9/11 border security buildup has drained our treasury while doing little to increase our security,” said Barry.

"Bankrupt and without strategic direction, it is time to rein in the border security bandwagon and to establish new regulatory frameworks for U.S. border policy.
~Tom Barry
Ten years after the country embarked on the border security and homeland security bandwagons -- with tens of billions of dollars spent annually to “secure the border” by the Homeland Security, Justice, and Defense Departments – it is time to review, evaluate, and change course.

The report recommends a new policy framework that charts the way forward through regulatory solutions—for immigration, drugs, gun sales, border management—that are more pragmatic, effective and cost-efficient than current policies.
Source: Center for International Policy

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Video: Checkpoint Nation? highlights racial profiling by law since 9-11



Checkpoint Nation? Building Community across Borders, a documentary video depicting the reality of racial profiling, launched today in New York. The release was timed to the 10th anniversary of September 11th and connects contemporary profiling of people of color in the U.S. with the attack of 9/11.



Several federal initiatives — such as 287(g) and Secure Communities, which give local and state police the authority to enforce federal immigration law — have intensified racial profiling of migrants and people assumed to be migrants. States are threatening and passing laws similar to Arizona’s SB1070, a law that would require Arizona residents to carry ID documents to prove their immigration status. These laws lead to increased discrimination and are increasingly enacted in states around the country.

In Checkpoint Nation?, a woman named Maria describes being stopped and harassed by Arizona police for no discernable reason while she was nine months pregnant. Immigration agents subsequently trail her into one of the most intimate moments of her life. The film is set in the U.S./Mexico border area, which sees more and more migrant deaths every year. Yet it also demonstrates how diverse groups of allies — including Muslim, Arab-, South Asian-, African-, and Latino-Americans, as well as civil rights lawyers and media activists across the nation— have found common ground in the battle against these offenses. They share their histories with one another and unite around the shared goals of justice, equality, and respect.

This preview of the documentary, featuring Maria's story, is well worth your time:


Innovative global human rights organization Breakthrough and Rights Working Group (RWG), a coalition focused on ending racial profiling and fighting other human rights violations in the U.S., announced their release of the video today. This post is based on information released by the group.

“This video captures in moving and vivid terms how some members of law enforcement abuse their power to profile and discriminate against migrants near the Arizona border,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. She continued:


“It also shows clearly that racial profiling happens in immigration enforcement, in the War on Drugs and in post-9/11 surveillance and national security policies. People from so many diverse affected communities need to connect around the issue of fairness and work together to combat injustice.”

"...when anyone's human rights are violated, it impacts everyone." ~Addy Bereiss, ACLU Arizona

Checkpoint Nation? will complement a Week of Action around the 10th anniversary of September 11th. The effort is spearheaded by RWG, a national coalition of more than 300 civil liberties, national security, immigrant rights and human rights organizations committed to restoring due process and human rights protections that have been eroded in the name of national security. The report, “Reclaiming Our Rights: Reflections on Racial Profiling in a Post-9/11 America,” will be released on September 14th.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Activists cheer as Cook County bucks Department of Homeland Security

The Cook County, Illinois Board today passed a local ordinance that will terminate the county’s cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security with respect to immigration holds. The county voted to refuse to honor immigration holds unless the federal government reimburses it for all costs associated with this additional detention. Currently, it costs the county $43,000 total per day to hold individuals involved with immigration detainers. Those detainers are not even typically supported by any evidence that the individual is deportable.

With this ordinance, which is effective immediately, the Board rejects Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) unfunded mandate to fulfill our nation’s flawed federal enforcement priorities. In addition to cutting the use of immigration detainers, the ordinance also significantly curtails ICE access to individuals in Cook County custody. From now on ICE agents will have to have a criminal warrant in order to conduct investigative interviews with them.
 
Photo credit: FIRM.com Immigration detention

  In a statement today, Mary Meg McCarthy, the executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, a human rights groups headquartered in Chicago, applauded the county’s move as “courageous leadership.” She continued to say:

“The Cook County Board’s decisive action shows that ICE’s current enforcement practices are counterproductive to public safety efforts, waste taxpayer dollars, and violate individuals’ rights. We thank Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia for his stewardship of the ordinance and we call on other county boards to follow the Cook County Board’s example and reject ICE’s use of immigration detainers.”

Source: Heartland Alliance's National Immigration Justice Center

Monday, September 5, 2011

Slave workers in the South--Labor Day, notwithstanding

Parades and celebrations honoring the laborer today, as the U.S. celebrates Labor Day, overshadow the ugly reality that agricultural laborers continue to work in conditions that border on slavery.



The Coalition of Immokollee Workers in Florida are keeping the labor movement alive in a nation that is seeing unions successfully destroyed, one-by-one and even entire states at-a-time. In the mid-1990's, when I met a Catholic Sister who ministered to the field workers, I encountered this modern labor movement of farmworkers who are mobilized to demand justice. Since then I've seen the Coalition in the news, in the major media, and prominently featured at the annual SOA protest at Fort Benning, GA.

This weekend, they continue their campaign for Fairly Traded food with a 200 mile bicycle trek to Publix corporate headquarters, called "A Pilgrimage to Publix." They simply want to talk to Florida's largest corporation, but they've been stonewalled for the last two years.

Fairly traded coffee and chocolate are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. In a climate when job creation is on the discussion table, we need to also keep the focus on the quality of the jobs and the conditions of the laborers.

My brother-in-law recommends that I read Tomatoland. It has rave reviews. Fair treatment for the worker is only part of the problem with the tomato industry. By helping the worker, we're helping ourselves as well.

Best policy is to "eat fresh, eat local."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reframing immigration as the solution

Immigration is sometimes seen as a political hot potato, as a contentious national issue, or as a broken system that's badly in need of reform. In short, we perceive it as a problem. But what if we reframed our perspective? What if we looked on immigration as a solution?

An immigration reform conference at DePaul University in Chicago will do that on October 24, 2011. Entitled "Reframing Reform: Immigration as a Solution," the conference will gather figures from across the nation to consider consequences of the failure to reform the current US immigration system. Additionally, it will educate participants, enabling them to get involved in immigration law reform on a comprehensive level. 

The daylong conference, sponsored by the College of Law, will cover a variety of relevant topics, including:
  • the consequences of inaction in immigration reform on the economy, families and communities, 
  • an analysis of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration measures and 
  • state and local government responses to these measures. 

Afternoon concurrent sessions will address relevant issues:

1) Asylees and Refugees
What are the obstacles to obtaining protection-based relief? Are certain populations left out of the scope of protection?

2) What will happen to the kids? A discussion of punitive measures against children who had no choice in the decision to live in the United States

3) Detainees and their Families: The privatization of detention and detention conditions.

4) Political Economies
  • Impact of the existing system on employers and businesses
  • Costs and risks of seeking entry for those who are denied visas
  • Costs to communities here and abroad of those denied entrance or returned home
A consideration of the message--and the use of social media in communicating it--will round up the afternoon content. 

If you're unable to attend, you can still benefit from the conference. Follow them on Twitter; their account is @Reframing Reform.  Their Facebook page also provides info on relevant current events.