Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Border push for immigration reform in a human rights context

The following statement from the border's Tucson, AZ-based organization Coalición de Derechos Humanos places comprehensive immigration reform in the context of human rights. It was published to honor the International Day of the Migrant, 2012.
------------------------


Political leaders and elected officials have avoided serious discussion of immigration reform for many years. With the "comprehensive immigration reform" primarily a vague promise used to attract immigrant and Latino voters, border communities have suffered the costs of irresponsible and brutal enforcement-only policies, resulting in death and violence along border. As the costs to our communities rose, advocates for just and sensible policies were told to wait until the moment for reform was right. Now that there finally appears to be the political will to address immigration, it is critical that the voices of these border communities be central in the debate. As a Tucson-based human rights advocacy organization that has worked for more than thirty years on issues of militarization and civil rights, Coalición de Derechos Humanos has often been the one of the few voices from the border warning of the fallout of increased border militarization and neoliberal trade, drug, and other foreign policies. We work to engage the public to discuss the question of "why don't they come here legally?" with honesty and true historical perspective, and to bring this background and experience to the national debate.

Immigration is an issue that has served as a lightning rod to divide communities. It is not a "problem," as it is commonly portrayed, but rather an issue across the world-the inflow and outflow of workers, tourists, capital, etc., especially with the global economic restructuring. Since 9/11, the successful marriage of the concepts of "immigration" and "national security" has created a disconnect for the majority of the U.S. public, failing to acknowledge the complexities of immigration issues, while providing a permanent scapegoat for all societal ills. When public opinion became increasingly negative toward immigration as a result, this was then used as a justification for "enforcement-only" policies, leading to the bloated budget and alarming size of the Department of Homeland Security.

As a community-based organization that exists within sixty miles of the border, we witness the consequences of these deadly policies and the resulting border enforcement industry that has served to criminalize and stigmatize all immigrants and poison the space for debate. We receive the calls for missing migrants, help families identify human remains recovered on the Arizona border, and document the abuses that occur daily in our community. We have been denied access to national spaces that would allow our stories to be told, and have consistently been betrayed by elected officials who view border security as the ante in the negotiation around immigration, endorsing enforcement-only strategies that have created a human rights crisis in our communities.

Border communities have a unique and special role in the national discussion about immigration and border policies. Non-border organizations who do not work in solidarity with border communities cannot speak for us; our communities must be allowed to speak for ourselves. We reject the notion that those organizations which receive the most funding, or who have the closest access to centers of power can speak for us or negotiate on our behalf. We have a long history of working with allied organizations who share our values and principles on local, national and international levels, building alliances and movement for immigration and border policies that are based on a human rights framework rather than a national security framework that has been the prevailing approach to border and immigration reform strategies.

There are real and meaningful solutions to the issues in our communities, but they will require a serious analysis of the misguided acts that have created the current crisis. We propose the following to be the framework from which inclusive immigration reform can take place:

Immigration Status: Grant all people without status Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR), regardless of immigration history. The increasingly pervasive pattern of criminalization has resulted in a culture of creating "good" versus "bad" immigrants, further eroding the space for meaningful discourse. Permit those individuals presently under other non-tourist visa categories (such as H-1, H-2, etc.) the opportunity to immediately convert their visas to LPR status. Deportations of all those eligible-to-apply must be immediately halted.

Family Reunification: Process all applications for family preference visas within six months of application, and work immediately to eliminate existing backlogs. One of the largest barriers to obtaining legal status is the backlogs that are, in some cases, more than twenty years in length. These unreasonable processing times are a hindrance to a reasonable immigration process, which should be both timely and inclusive. A process must be immediately implemented to reunite families who have been separated or deported by current immigration laws. All bars to family reunification must be immediately removed, including the three and ten year bars established by 1996 legislation. All immigration rights should be equally available to same-sex permanent partners.

Labor and Cultural Rights: Employer sanctions and E-Verify, which we have systematically opposed, must be immediately repealed. All workers should be granted a Social Security number regardless of immigration status, ensuring a universal process for everyone. In order to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace, worker protection laws should be enhanced and enforced for all workers. All workers should be free to organize and join unions, and they should be able to sue over violations. Job creation and training programs should be implemented for all unemployed workers, ensuring a healthy and robust workforce. In addition, all cultures and languages must be honored and protected in the workplace.

Guest Workers and Future Flows: As guest worker programs have served to create severe inequities in the workplace, enable abuse by unscrupulous employers, and are counter to the ideals we strive to promote in this country, all guest worker programs should be ended immediately, and all current participants granted LPR status. The United States must immediately adopt the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1990. We believe that we will not have mass migration, if the US engages in fair trade and equitable foreign policies. Until then, applicants at the border should be processed for a lawful permit and granted access into the country, unless he/she is identified as a human rights violator, or a real threat to safety.

Trade, Drug and other Foreign Policies: U. S. foreign policies many times impact migration. Numerous studies have demonstrated the devastating impact of trade policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on communities from sending countries. Hearings on the effects of free trade agreements must be held on a federal level, with evidence collected on the ways these agreements displace people and cause mass migration. Existing agreements must be renegotiated to promote real hemispheric prosperity and equity, following the following the guidelines of the 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown. These guidelines should be the benchmark for all new trade agreements. The United States military must be prohibited from intervention or aid to support trade agreements, structural adjustment policies or market economic reforms. Likewise, our international drug policies and military policies must be assessed in their impact on migration.

Criminalization, Due Process and Detention: The increased criminalization of migrants has served to unnecessarily and unfairly prosecute, convict, and incarcerate immigrants, divide immigrant, migrant and mixed-status families, and to divert valuable resources that would otherwise be available for community needs. Industries such as private prisons and military contractors have benefitted enormously from the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has occupied our public discourse. We must repeal all programs under ICE ACCESS, including 287(g), the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities. Additionally, we must end all federal criminal prosecutions of migrants for immigration-related crimes, such as misdemeanor "illegal entry" and felony "re-entry," and grant LPR status to all current and previous detainees who have been charged. Families with children must not be separated by detention or deportation.

Federal and state laws barring benefits and other licenses, including driver's licenses, to undocumented immigrants must be repealed. The Border Patrol, ICE and other DHS officials must be prohibited from any enforcement activity or unnecessary presence in any and all sensitive locations, including schools, churches and hospitals.

State and local law enforcement must be prohibited from enforcing immigration law, and all checkpoints, immigration raids, and community sweeps must be immediately and permanently halted. All existing detention centers should be closed, and the building of future detention centers prohibited. State governments must be prohibited from criminally charging migrants for immigration-related crimes.

Border Militarization and Human Rights: Since the unprecedented reorganization in 2003, all immigration functions previously under the Department of Justice (DOJ) were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This has resulted in unchecked power and resources to increasingly erode the basic human and civil rights of all. This bloated agency, particularly CBP and ICE, is inefficient, wasteful, unaccountable, and abuses its power. This consolidation of numerous agencies has not only resulted in multiple bureaucratic burdens, but has enabled a climate of xenophobia and negative sentiment toward the immigrants in our communities to pervade our daily existence. All border and interior immigration services and enforcement functions currently under DHS must be immediately transferred back to the Department of Justice. We must reduce the budget for border enforcement and detention and redirect the funds to social services, infrastructure, healthcare, education, family reunification, processing visa backlogs and enforcing civil and worker rights. In addition, the number of Border Patrol, ICE and DHS agents must be immediately reduced, with staff diverted and trained to assist with redirected focus on processing visa applications.

The continual problem of abuse within DHS agencies has plagued local communities for decades. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of transparency and lack of an independent entity with full investigatory powers to look into allegations of abuse at the hands of agents. We must create an independent monitoring and accountability mechanism that directly engages impacted communities to hold the DHS and its agents accountable for its immigration enforcement and detention policies and initiatives. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ICE and Border Patrol agents must be specifically prohibited from assisting and cooperating with state and local law enforcement on immigration-related issues.

The militarization of the U.S.-México border has resulted in the documented deaths of at least 2,400 migrant men, women and children on the Arizona border alone. Across the border, more than 6,000 remains have been recovered. These policies of funneling migration into the deadliest and most desolate areas have created a human rights crisis, and should be denounced by the international community. They are a disgrace to the spirit with which border communities live and work together. We demand the dismantling of the wall and the "virtual" wall along the border. National Guard troops must be removed from the border, and the utilization of the military to enforce immigration and border policies prohibited. We must end the privatization of border control and security operations on the border, putting the real security of our communities before the profits of corporations.

The violation of human rights or policies that result in death or division must be immediately addressed. We must enforce existing criminal laws to prosecute private individuals, vigilante groups, law enforcement officers, and border enforcement agents for violations of the rights of migrants. By ending the deadly border enforcement strategies, we can instead protect the human rights and constitutional liberties of all immigrants and communities on the border.

CONCLUSION

Coalición de Derechos Humanos, as our name indicates, is a human rights organization. Human rights are inalienable and not subject to being negotiated in political horse-trading. We believe that in order to build a better country and world, we have to live it. We want to live in a world where people can move across borders without the risk of suffering or losing their lives, whether it is to join family, to find employment, or to be human. We want to live in a world where no human being is "illegal" and every person's language and culture are valued and protected. We want to live in a world where families can live together in economic security and free of fear from violence and hate.

In order to bring about the better world we envision, we have prepared the above statement and offer it as the place where discussion of immigration and border issues should start. It is not the role of Coalición de Derechos Humanos to negotiate away the rights of people in our community. We hope that immigrant and human rights organizations join us in this commitment.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Alleged smuggler took "money laundering" too far!?!

Image credit: cbp.gov
**News fortified with Humor!** This week U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents here in El Paso, Texas seized $52,072 in cash that was headed south. That’s a good amount of money to find, but particularly so if it’s hidden in a box of laundry detergent! So agents suspect that the unmarked windfall may have been some “dirty” money.

The seizure was made at the Bridge of the Americas international crossing at about 5:00 a.m.when U.S. agents stopped a car headed south for Mexico. While they were searching the vehicle, they noticed a box of Surf® laundry detergent that looked like it'd been tampered with. Sure enough, when agents opened the Surf®, they discovered five vacuum sealed plastic bags of cash hidden inside.

The driver, 36-year-old Edgar Lopez Chavez, a citizen of Mexico who resides in Aurora. Colorado, was arrested by special agents and will face federal prosecution.

“Every dollar that we seize is one less dollar available for criminal organizations to further their illicit activities,” stated Hector Mancha, CBP El Paso port director while commenting on the incident.

Just so you know: anyone may carry any amount of money into or out of the U.S. But, if the money totals $10,000 or higher, you must report it or risk having it seized and/or getting arrested. And, by the way, an individual may ask for seized money to be returned. But first they have to prove that the currency was, shall we say, "clean."

However, in this case, All® the Tide® may be turning toward bad Biz® for alleged money smuggler Lopez before a Fab® Era® of Gain® comes his way. His Surf® is out!

Friday, December 7, 2012

ICE leads holiday effort to help Santa bust crime

Image by Jacob Windham from Mobile, USA (Flickr.com – image description page) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The holiday season gift-giving opens up a rich opportunity for crime to vendors of counterfeit and pirated merchandise. To help Santa --and the public-- sort out what's naughty from what's nice in the merchandise arena, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is kicking off Operation Holiday Hoax.


Operation Holiday Hoax is a joint governmental effort to spot imitation branded gifts.


A wide-sweeping project, Operation Holiday Hoax targets stores, flea markets and swap meets--any effort involved in the importation, distribution and selling of counterfeit and pirated products. Like Santa's sleigh, it will cover cities across the United States as well as in Mexico. Additionally, CBP officers will conduct inspections and seize counterfeit merchandise at U.S. ports of entry.

Since counterfeiting and piracy is a worldwide phenomenon, the U.S.-led effort is international. Working jointly with Mexico, according to IPR Center Director Lev Kubiak, demonstrates collaboration in the global cause of snuffing out counterfeit merchandise. And that, he says, helps U.S. jobs.

"Together, we will continue to deliver blow after blow to criminals worldwide making a positive impact on American jobs here at home," stated Kubiak.

Operation Holiday Hoax, led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE)Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) IPR Center, is a collaborative project partnering U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the government of Mexico.

This is the third year that the IPR Center has conducted Operation Holiday Hoax. Last year's operation rounded up more than 327,000 counterfeit and pirated items, totaling an estimated $76.8 million in manufacturer's suggested retail price worth. This bested the 2009 operation which netted more than $26 million worth of seized goods.

Last year, Mexico's parallel effort seized 23.8 million counterfeit and pirated items including 10 tons of used clothing, cigarettes, electronics, tools and DVD's. The estimated value of the seized goods was $7.1 million.

Holiday Hoax will run until Dec. 26. Perfume, holiday lights, electronics, clothing and DVDs are some of the potential gift and holiday items on which it will focus. Most of these items are ordered online during the holiday shopping season, says ICE.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How many unauthorized immigrants are in the U.S.?

U.S. Border Patrol on Mexico border 
The contentious division over the presence of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States--and the federal governments inablilty to reform U.S. immigration law--has continues to galvanize the nation. But exactly how many immigrants who do not have U.S. legal documents are present in the country? Is that number in decline--as some border reports would indicate? Or is it increasing? To approach answers to those questions, the annual estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center provide the most help, and Pew Hispanic Center released that data today.

According to this newly-released estimate, there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in March 2011. Interestingly, this number has remained stable for three years. They note, however, that the population of unauthorized immigrants in the country has sharply declined since its peak in 2007 at 12 million.

The estimate for 2011 is not different enough from totals for 2010 (11.2 million) or 2009 (11.1 million) to be statistically important. The decline that followed the 2007 population peak was important, however, because it was the first significant decrease following two decades of growth.

Why the Population Decline?

A decrease in the number of new immigrants from Mexico is the main reason for the population decline since 2007. Mexico is by far the nation in the lead in sending immigrants to the U.S.. Immigration from Mexico to the United States, however, has stopped and possibly even reversed through 2010.

When U.S. immigration from Mexico was at its peak in 2000, about 770,000 immigrants arrived from that nation annually. The majority of those immigrants arrived illegally. By 2010, the inflow had dropped to about 140,000, and, according to Pew Hispanic Center estimates, a majority of these new arrivals entered as legal or authorized immigrants.

Another important factor in the population equation is the number of Mexicans and their children who moved from the U.S. to Mexico between 2005 and 2010. That number roughly doubled from the number who had done so in the five-year period a decade before.

In early 2013, the Pew Hispanic Center plans to release an estimate of the 2012 U.S. unauthorized immigrant population.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

STEM Jobs Act a Step Backward on Immigration Reform, Warns Free Market Group


On Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429). The bill would allocate 55,000 green cards for foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities with Doctorate and Master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. But it also eliminates all 55,000 visas under the Diversity Visa Program.

The bill will actually hurt legal immigration. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) made that explicitly clear, as explained in a statement from their immigration policy analyst David Bier.

"Not only does this bill seek to make immigration reform into a zero-sum game in which each winner must be matched with a loser, it seeks to use the illusion of immigration reform to decrease immigration," stated Bier. "Its proponents know there are not enough foreign-born STEM graduates to fill demand for this new visa and have refused to allow unused visas to be reallocated to other categories."

Further:
"The bill also violates employer privacy by creating an internet list of those who hire these immigrants, making them potential targets for harassment, and it undermines immigrant self-sufficiency by barring spouses of legal residents from work while they wait for green cards."

This dangerous precedent eliminates visas for the less-educated to give them to the highly-educated. Truly free market immigration reform should expand visas for both categories of immigrants. 

The false dichotomy the STEM Jobs Act creates will only make America’s immigration system more discriminatory and restrict avenues for legal immigration. And that only inevitably leads to more of the illegal kind.

Source: Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market proponent

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Note to Republicans: The Problem Isn’t Just Immigration


In the wake of last Tuesday’s presidential election, the entire political establishment is analyzing and dissecting the sleeping giant that awoke: the more than 12 million Latinos who voted and helped propel President Barack Obama to victory in key battleground states. Republicans are fretting—and rightly so—over their dismal support among this demographic but continue to show a lack of understanding, arguing that the reason Latinos rejected their agenda was a communication problem rather than a substance problem.
They are wrong. If Republicans want the support of the Latino community, they need to fundamentally change their party’s policy and evolve on a range of issues.
The leaders of the party and many of its rank-and-file members are right to be worried. President Obama garnered 71 percent of the Latino vote nationwide, compared to Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 27 percent. In fact, Gov. Romney’s showing among Latinos in 2012 was the worst for a Republican candidate since former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole won just 21 percent of the Latino vote in 1996. When President George W. Bush won in 2000, he received 44 percent of the Latino vote; in 2008 Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) received only 31 percent of the Latino vote. This is not a reassuring record to have with the nation’s fastest-growing demography, which is projected to double in size by 2050.
To be sure, the immigration platform that Gov. Romney embraced does explain in large measure the profound dislike Latinos have for the Republican brand. Various polls show that the majority of Latinos—more than 77 percent—support a path to legalization for our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Even more Latinos—91 percent—support the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a pathway to permanent legal status for approximately 2.1 million undocumented youth currently living in the United States.
Gov. Romney’s stance of “self-deportation,” however, is the complete opposite. And no wonder—self deportation means making one’s life so miserable here that one would choose to leave the country rather than stay.
Some Republicans argue that they simply need to change their tone and explain their policies better. But the concept of making someone’s life so unbearable that he or she will be forced to leave cannot be massaged and sugarcoated. After all, 90 percent of Latinos in the United States have an immigrant parent or grandparent, 60 percent of Latino voters know an undocumented immigrant, and one-quarter know someone who is either facing deportation or has been deported. Immigration is a very personal issue to the Latino community, and the “self-deportation” alternative Gov. Romney put forth this year offended many Latinos. It simply is a nonstarter.
But the problem goes far beyond immigration. Republicans would do well to read the various polls to understand the dissonance between their ideas and Latinos’ values and aspirations. Polls on various issues show that by and large, Latinos agree with the values President Obama embraces and his policy agenda on the issues that matter most to them: the economy, jobs, education, health care, and immigration.
Take the election-eve poll conducted by Impremedia/LatinoDecisions, for example, which found that:
  • 66 percent of Latino voters believe the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance.
  • 61 percent of Latino voters believe that the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, should stand as law.
  • 42 percent of Latino voters support a “combination of higher taxes and spending cuts” to reduce the deficit, while 35 percent said that we needed to raise taxes on the wealthy.
A national Fox News Latino poll earlier this year also showed that 62 percent of Latinos approve of the overall job President Obama did with health care, including the Affordable Care Act. On jobs and the economy, a Univision poll found that 55 percent of Latinos said the government should invest resources in federal projects to stimulate the economy. Again, these viewpoints are more in line with President Obama’s approach on the economy and tax fairness than those of Gov. Romney.
As an overall brand, Republicans don’t fare much better. According to the ImpreMedia/LatinoDecisions poll, 61 percent of Latinos say they trust the Democrats and President Obama to make the right decisions and improve the country’s economic conditions, while the same percentage said that the Democratic Party has shown more concern toward them as a community. Latino registered voters also express a strong affinity for the Democratic Party in their political party identification. According to a poll by the Pew Forum, 70 percent of Latino registered voters identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, while only 22 percent identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.
There is also yet another significant problem for Republicans within the Latino community: women. Latinas represent 6 percent of the electorate—slightly higher than Latino men—and supported President Obama by a margin of more than 10 points compared to their male counterparts: 76 percent versus 65 percent. According to LatinoDecisions polling, 78 percent of Latinas trust Democrats to make better decisions for women than Republicans. And only 20 percent of Latinas have a favorable view of Republicans in Congress.
Now let’s take a look at social issues, which Republicans argue is their saving grace when it comes to this group. While it is true that Latinos historically poll as more socially conservative, recent polling suggests that the longer they live in the United States, the more tolerant they become on social issues such as abortion and gay and transgender rights, including marriage equality.
A recent survey by Lake Research Partners shows that 74 percent of Latino registered voters agree that a woman has a right to make her own personal private decisions about abortion without politicians interfering. The same poll showed that 73 percent of Latino registered voters agree that we should not judge someone who feels they are not ready to be a parent.
On marriage equality the trend is the same: The Pew Hispanic Center last month released a poll confirming that a majority of Latinos support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Fifty-two percent of Latinos favor affording same-sex couples the rights and responsibilities of marriage, with 34 percent opposed. Six years ago Latino attitudes on the issue were virtually flipped.
Moreover, most religious Latinos support the president. A Pew Forum poll in October found that three-quarters of Latino Catholics supported President Obama’s re-election. Evangelical Latinos, who account for 15 percent of all Latino registered voters, tend to be more conservative, yet half of them still preferred President Obama to Gov. Romney in the presidential race.
Young Latinos also helped fuel the youth vote for President Obama. The president won every age group under 40, including young Latino voters (ages 18 to 29), who backed him by a margin of 74 percent to 23 percent. Among Hispanic college graduates, 62 percent voted for President Obama, while 35 percent supported Gov. Romney.
There are two ways that Republicans can show that they want to do right by this community and begin improving their record in the short term. One is by supporting a path to legalization for our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Some party leaders and press pundits on the right are already seeing the light, as is the case with talk-show host Sean Hannity, who shocked the political establishment last week by announcing that he had “evolved” on immigration, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal categorizing his party’s position on immigration and other issues as “stupid.” The Republican Party needs more of this self-evaluation and evolution if they want to be competitive with this demographic.
But a more immediate and tangible way to show Latinos that Republicans care about them is to vote the right way on the upcoming fiscal cliff. The package of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts includes deep cuts to social programs on education and training such as special education programs, work study, and Title I programs that provide federal funding to low-income school districts, as well as entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which are often a lifeline for Latinos.
Polls are a snapshot of time, and while there is no guarantee that the Democratic Party inclinations of Latinos are a long-term trend, Republicans undoubtedly have their work cut out for them.  Without fundamentally changing their policies and actually being for something rather than against everything, it is hard to tell how they will appeal to the growing Latino community.  The sleeping giant is wide awake—when the Latino community looks at the Republican agenda today, they don’t like what they see.
Vanessa Cárdenas is the Director of Progress 2050 Action at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Efforts address scourge of human trafficking

Workshop educating social workers in the Quad Cities.
This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the start of a national radio public service announcement (PSA) campaign to generate awareness about human trafficking.

The PSA aired this week, concluding today, on 24 English and 19 Spanish language radio stations in the following cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Saint Paul, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, Seattle, Tampa and Washington.

ICE's Hidden In Plain Sight campaign is part of the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign. its It's goal is to alert the public about the existence of human trafficking in communities nationwide and prompt a call to action for individuals who encounter possible victims. Additional information on human trafficking is available here.

ICE is educating the public about the plight of human trafficking victims. For this outreach effort the agency is turning to radio stations for assistance in generating awareness about human trafficking in the United States as well as for everyone to look for signs of this crime and report possible trafficking situations to safeguard victims.

If anyone knows or suspects someone is being held against their will, ICE strongly urges them to contact the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. Individuals can also view the television PSA by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DREAMer to address DNC tonight


Tonight, in a televised primetime address, DREAMer Benita Veliz will take the stage at the Democratic National Convention and briefly share her story with millions of Americans. Benita is the first undocumented person to ever speak before a national political convention.

Photo credit: Latinovations
America's Voice reports that Veliz will appear in the 9:00 pm hour (Eastern).

Benita is an suitably inspiring young woman. She immigrated to Texas from Mexico when she was just eight years old. After graduating high school two years early as class valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar, she went on to attend St. Mary’s University on a full scholarship.

But despite her accomplishments, Benita Veliz was almost deported after neglecting to make a complete stop at a stop sign. But Benita fought back. She organized. With the help of her community, she convinced officials at the Department of Homeland Security to reverse their decision and allow her to remain in the country she considers home.

Benita Veliz's presence on the stage tonight is a testament to the real political power of the DREAMers. A decade of mobilization and working together has nearly accomplished the passage of a DREAM Act. This national appearance of a youth who is undocumented and unafraid is a step toward that passage.

You can tune in at 9 PM tonight (EDT) this evening at this link to watch Benita.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Immigrants: Blood of our blood dream, of our nation--Wisconsin Sikh Temple message

Amardeep Kaleka, son of the Sikh Temple president who died trying to save his community from the attack by white supremacist Wade Page, created this beautiful video/poem and posted it last night. He asks us all to share the link as far and wide as we possibly can. After all the awful theater of these last nights in Tampa, this shows again where the real font of humanity and hope truly lies. "This is our country; this is our blood, and this is our dream."

http://vimeo.com/48582791#

Amardeep's message:

"Thank you all for your support. In this great hour of need - we appreciate the sentiments and empathy. When people have been hugging me and sharing their beautiful touch, I keep whispering, 'let's make this a better place'. This would be appropriate to say here on this wall. As a team, we can end violence and hate. At some point - good people have to stand up and shepherd this civilization to a better, more open and broad minded situation. You guys are those angels - you are the good people! And for that - my family and I thank you! Hope to see you soon face to face.

"Please share and share and share..."

~reprinted with deep gratitude to my Facebook friend, Wisconsonite Margaret Swedish

Photo credit: from "We Are Sikhs"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Arms Trafficking Conduct Code Gains El Paso County Commission Approval

Image source:  Caravan4Peace CaravanaXLaPaz 
The Caravan for Peace announced today the El Paso County Commissioners passed the Arms Trafficking Code of Conduct resolution with a 4-1 vote. The resolution resonates with the themes of the Caravan for Peace, which are:

  1. drug war policies
  2. arms trafficking
  3. money laundering
  4. U.S. foreign aid policy, and 
  5. immigration.

The caravan members--all surviving victims of drug war violence--and their supporters will present the resolution to the El Paso City Council for similar approval tomorrow. Insiders reported last week that Rep. Susie Byrd already was in agreement with the resolution.

Text of the resolution seeking El Paso City Council approval: 
RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children have been killed in Mexico, almost 11,000 of them in our sister city of Ciudad Juárez, during the past five years; and

WHEREAS, the people of El Paso and the surrounding region recognize our personal, practical, and economic connections with Ciudad Juárez and the country of Mexico; and

WHEREAS, it is strongly in our interest to reduce death, violence, and human rights violations on both sides of the border; and

WHEREAS, trafficked arms and munitions from the United States to Mexico is deeply involved in killings; and

WHEREAS, the trade in illegalized drugs is a driver of criminal profits, corruption, impunity, and violence, with negative effects on the border region; and

WHEREAS, money is the lifeblood of the criminal system in both countries and causes corruption in our home region; and

WHEREAS, human rights and human security in Mexican law enforcement and the military are key to building and sustain a peaceful and secure society in Mexico; and

WHEREAS, accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation are fundamental U.S. values that provide an enduring basis for a safe and prosperous border region, in particular when applied to migration enforcement and immigration policy:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MAYOR AND THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF EL PASO:

That the City Council endorses the following five principles for members of the U.S. public and U.S. public policy:

(1)   Adhere to existing U.S. laws regulating gun and munitions sales, particularly with respect to trafficking to Mexico, and endorse the attached Code of Conduct for the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership; 

(2)   Spur discussion about current drug policy and alternatives to it;

(3)   Improve tools against money laundering;

(4)   Prioritize human rights and human security in U.S. cooperation with and assistance to Mexican law enforcement and the military; and

(5)   Prioritize accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation in U.S. migration enforcement and immigration policy.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


RESPONSIBLE FIREARMS RETAILER PARTNERSHIP:
A 10-POINT VOLUNTARY CODE

The 10 points of the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership are:

1.         Videotaping the Point of Sale for All Firearms Transactions. Participating retailers will videotape the point-of-sale of all firearms transactions and maintain videos for 6 months to deter illegal purchases and monitor employees.

2.         Computerized Prime Gun Trace Log and Alert System. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will develop a computerized system that participating retailers will implement over time to log crime gun traces relating to the retailer. Once the program is in place, if a customer who has a prior trace at that retailer attempts to purchase a firearm, the sale will be electronically flagged. The retailer would have discretion to proceed with the sale or stop the sale.

3.         Purchaser Declaration. For sales flagged by the trace alert system, participating retailers will ask purchasers to fill out a declaration indicating that they meet the legal requirement to purchase the firearm.

4.         Deterring Fake IDs. Participating retailers will only accept valid federal- or state-issued picture IDs as primary identification. Retailers will utilize additional ID checking mechanisms.

5.         Consistent Visible Signage. Participating retailers will post signage created by the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership to alert customers of their legal responsibilities at the point-of-sale.

6.         Employee Background Checks. Participating retailers will conduct criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.

7.         Employee Responsibility Training. Participating retailers will participate in an employee responsibility training program focused on deterring illegal purchasers. The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership will create an online training system based on Wal-Mart´s training program.

8.         Inventory Checking. Participating retailers will conduct daily and quarterly audits. Guidelines will be based on Wal-Mart´s existing audit procedures.

9.         No Sales Without Background Check Results. Participating retailers would prohibit sales based on "default proceeds," which are permitted by law when background check has not returned a result within 3 days.

10.       Securing Firearms. Participating retailers will maintain firearms kept in customer accessible areas in locked cases or locked racks.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

El Paso poised to receive caravan of survivors from Mexico drug war

Image credit: Caravan for Peace
The caravan of Mexican survivors of the drug war violence for will arrive in El Paso on August 20. The public are invited to welcome the group in the city's central plaza San Jacinto (111 E Mills Ave) at 9 pm.

El Paso activists have arranged a full schedule for the caravan visitors during their El Paso stop while on a national tour taking them across the U.S..

The group will gather on August 21 for a City Council meeting at 9 am. They will present an arms trafficking Code of Conduct, a resolution that will increase transparency and accountability for arms sales in El Paso.

At 7 pm the group will reconvene at San Jacinto Plaza (111 E Mills Ave) to sign the Arms Trafficking Code of Conduct. From there, they plan to march to Annunciation House (1003 San Antonio). The exterior of the building, a shelter for those fleeing drug violence and seeking asylum in the U.S., will be completely lighted by the projection of names of victims of the violence in Mexico.

Javier Sicilia, who can rightly claim to be the poet laureate of Mexico, is prominently at the leadership of the caravan of survivors of the Mexico drug war violence. The murder of Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco, propelled him into the international spotlight as an activist for peace as he became an icon of the suffering of thousands of Mexican nationals. Sicilia vowed to stop writing poetry until justice is achieved, not only for his son, but also for the nameless and faceless victims of violence in his native country.

Mexico has suffered 60,000 deaths, 10,000 disappearances and 160,000 internal refugees in the last six years. The caravan counts this as the true cost of the War on Drugs. With a 98% rate of impunity, Mexicans struggle to seek even common justice.

El Paso acrivists anticipate a rich encounter on the border between caravan participants and the El Paso community. Sicilia has called on local residents to echo the caravan's call for justice with peace and dignity as a “counterpart in an exercise of civilian diplomacy that can return peace, justice and dignity to the victims of this war." Sicila continued: "We hope we will be able to count on your valuable participation as an ally and partner in this historic event.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Caravan for Peace in Mexico drug war arrives in Tucson today

The "Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity" stopped in Tucson today on its voyage across the United States, as it works to create a bi-national movement against the drug war that has left more than 60,000 dead in Mexico over the last five years.

Two events in Tucson welcomed the caravan and gave community members the opportunity to participate:
  1. A 2:30 p.m gathering at Federal Courthouse which then moved to Pancho Villa Park for a 3 p.m. press conference and 
  2. a Community Forum from 6pm to 9pm at Southside Presbyterian Church at 317 W. 23rd Street.
The event gave Tucson residents who are concerned with the interrelationship between U.S. policy and drug violence a focal point around which to rally.
Javier Sicilia addresses press in Tijuana, Mexico
at onset of caravan. Photo credit: Erin Siegal.
.

Led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, the goal of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity is to engage in citizen diplomacy, to put an end to the war on drugs, and to start a healing process following the national emergency that has devastated Mexico. Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed and more than 10,000 have disappeared in violence resulting largely from the failure of drug prohibition. But the United States' war on drugs has produced painful consequences here as well, especially the mass incarceration of people for non-violent offenses - overwhelmingly people of color.

More than 100 individuals - primarily families of victims from Mexico - will share personal stories of the fallout from the war in that country, while building ties with Tucsonans who have also been deeply impacted by the United States' failed drug policies. A press conference accompanied by a rally at the United States federal building in Tucson will take place at 3:00pm. At 6:00pm a community forum will take place during which families and victims of the two countries' failed drug policies will speak out.

"Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible," Sicilia said. "We will travel across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war - and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both our countries."


Sicilia emerged as a leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) after his son Juan Francisco was killed in senseless prohibition-related violence last year. Since then, the MPJD has led caravans across Mexico to collect stories of the destruction caused by U.S. and Mexican policy.

Bringing together victims of the drug war from both countries, the Caravan aims to expose the root causes of violence in Mexico, to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S., and to inspire U.S. civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity on both sides of the border.

The Caravan will trek over 6,000 miles through more than 25 cities and communities in ten states-including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, El Paso, Houston, Montgomery, New Orleans, Chicago and New York City - before arriving in Washington, D.C., on September 10. The Caravan will officially conclude on September 12 by calling for an International Day of Action for Peace in Mexico. You can learn more at: www.caravanforpeace.org.

Nearly 100 U.S. organizations* are a part of the Caravan initiative, including the Tucson-area groups Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, AZ Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, Alianza Indígena sin Fronteras, American Friends Service Committee of Tucson, Occupy Tucson, Border Action Network, Corazón de Tucson, No More Deaths, St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church, Arizona Worker Rights Center, Southside Workers' Center, Restoration Project, Tierra y Libertad, as well as national organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), National Latino Congress, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Border Angels / Angeles de la Frontera, CIP-Americas Program, Presente.org, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Veterans for Peace, Witness for Peace, L.A. Community Legal Center, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, School of the Americas Watch, and Global Exchange.

Also participating are: Alianza Cívica, Sin Fronteras, INEDIM, Fuerzas Unidas por los Desaparecidos en México, Asociación Popular de Familiares de Migrantes (APOFAM), FUNDEM; Red por los Derechos de la Infancia, CuPIDH, Espolea, Reverdecer, Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la cultura de Diálogo, Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, Alarbo, Servicios para la Paz, Serapaz; and Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (Cencos), and many more.
* Supporting organizations do not necessarily endorse all of the Caravan's policy positions.

Other internet resources:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Caravan for Peace in the Mexico Drug War Launches Tour across United States



Survivors of the dead in the Mexican drug war, an internal conflict that has claimed dozens of thousands of lives, have launched a caravan across the United States to call for an end of the violence. Led by Mexican activist, the noted poet Javier Sicilia--himself the father of a beloved son claimed by death in a brutal and senseless slaying--the caravan will draw attention to the real survivors and the real victims.

Erin Siegal, author and journalist experienced with Central American issues, generously shared with this blog some of her powerful images from the launch of the caravan. From the press conference in Tijuana to the crossing into San Diego, Siegal is present and traveling with the caravan, committed to communicating this important witness to the (perhaps largely unaware?) public in the U.S. The slideshow of images tops this post. Enlarge it for best viewing.

The caravan's objective is to raise awareness to the root causes of the violence in Mexico and to point out that both nations are involved in those causes. They demand the damages caused by the current militarized "security" approach to the situation cease. The caravan calls instead for new policies that promote peace, justice, and human dignity on both sides of the border.

The caravan is scheduled to arrive August 20 in El Paso.

This short video produced by TijuanaPress.com communicates Sicilia's remarks to the press at the event:


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chris Hedges' conversation with Bill Moyers--Tears cut two ways



 I've never cried at a "talking heads" show before watching this one. Now I have. My tears are of lament for the dead end into which we've wandered. But they were also tears of joy at hearing the truth proclaimed so clearly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top 6 Lies about the U.S.-Mexico Border



Charles Bowden is a modern day prophet who knows and tells the truth about Mexico. A long-term border resident, he is currently one of my favorite people on earth--someone I've only met in person once.

Listen to this presentation, given in May 2011 at Utah Valley University.

The lies?

1) Mexico is currently experiencing a drug cartel war.

but U.S. drug availability and price are unaffected?

2) The Mexican army under the Merida Initiative is fighting the drug organizations.

but can we topple this drug industry? do we even want to?

3) The Mexican government wants to wipe out the drug industry.

but it's really a war for drugs!

4) The U.S.-Mexico border wall is a matter of U.S. national security.

it can't cure poverty or corruption.

5) Violence spills across the U.S.-Mexico border.

but crime is steadily decreasing in U.S. border communities.

6) 90% of the guns seized in Mexico originate from the United States.

but the Mexican government hides much information regarding gun data. No one really knows.

Why the lies? They make life easy and don't require anything from us.





Friday, June 15, 2012

Finally! Napolitano Announces: Deferred Removal Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities

WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

“Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner,” said Secretary Napolitano. “But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”

DHS continues to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a national security or public safety risk, including immigrants convicted of crimes, violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. Today’s action further enhances the Department’s ability to focus on these priority removals.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:
  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.
Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.

While this guidance takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should visit USCIS’s website, ICE’s website, or DHS’s website. Beginning Monday, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the forthcoming process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
For more information on the Administration policy reforms to date, please see this fact sheet.

Border Explorer thinks that this is a great first step in the right direction. We need sensible priorities, ASAP.

Source: DHS