Monday, January 30, 2012

East Haven police chief steps down after immigration rights group calls for his resignation

AP file photo from 2008 via Latino Fox News
East Haven Police Chief Leonard Gallo's announcement that he's stepping down pleases immigration rights groups like Reform Immigration FOR America (RI4A). But the immigration rights group says the history of racism in the community will not be overcome by this single act.
“This is a real victory for racial understanding and a clear indication of the power of our community. Going forward, we are committed to holding the leadership of East Haven accountable to the needs, desires and hopes of the residents. We are ready to talk, we are committed to monitoring the next steps and rhetoric of the mayor, and we are watching the police department, which must take advantage of this transition to institute new policies and a new culture.” ~ RI4A spokesman Henry Fernandez
“Everyone in East Haven must come together to work toward improving relations with the Latino community, and we intend to be heard on this issue, loud and clear,” said Latrina Kelly, interim Executive Director of JUNTA for Progressive Action. JUNTA, an RI4A member, is based in New Haven.

Fernandez and Kelly called on East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo to include strong representation of the Latino community on the search committee for a new police chief.
“Maturo said today the search process would be transparent. We would go further and demand that the Latino community should be involved in the selection process and the U.S. Department of Justice should participate as well,” Fernandez said.

RI4A sent out an online petition last Wednesday calling on Gallo to resign. The petition has garnered more than 15,000 signatures in a few days.

The petition followed RI4A’s ‘text a taco’ social media campaign initiated to blast Maturo for his quip that he “might have tacos” when asked what he would do to reach out to the Latino community in light of a federal probe into four of East Haven’s police officers charged with terrorizing Latinos. As of today, nearly 8,000 texts have been sent in solidarity for the Latino community.

RI4A is a national campaign of more than 800,000 immigration leaders and grassroots activists committed to achieving humane comprehensive immigration reform.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

24 Hours for the DREAM Act--Monday, January 30

A Facebook event rallies all pro-immigration reform activists to lobby Congress for passage of a viable DREAM Act. Organizers urge citizens to continue to agitate for the passage of this necesary bill by focusing efforts on phone calls to the federal legislature on Monday, January 30.
From the Facebook event page:

3 Reasons Why We Need To Call This Monday:

1. You need to rally behind President Obama’s call for an inclusive DREAM Act.
2. You need to keep the pressure on Congress to do their part in forwarding the bill.
3. You will not compromise and accept a military-only option DREAM Act bill.

5 Steps To Participate:

1. Call your 2 state Senators and the Congressional representative from your district.

2. E-mail your Senators and Congressional representatives.

3. Let them know that “Just like President Obama, I am a supporter of a DREAM Act that includes an education component. This bill will allow for undocumented youth to fix their status by serving this country in the armed services, go to college, in addition to allowing for them to return the investment our country has made in them. Please have the member support the dream act.” The House bill is HR 1842 and the Senate bill is S 952.

4. You can get the phone numbers and e-mails here and here. The U.S. Capitol switchboard is 202-244-3121.

5. Feel free to call other Senators and representatives. Be respectful.

6. Take 3 more minutes and call ICE and help stop the deportation of Yenelli Hernandez Serrano (A#205.012.525)

Call ICE – John Morton @ 202-732-3000

Sample Script: “Hello I am calling to ask that Yanelli Hernadez Serrano (A# 205.012.525) be allowed to stay in the U.S. where she needs treatment. Yanelli is suffering from depression, has attempted to take her own life twice and should not be deported. This is wrong.”

7. Send us an email to: Let us know how the calls went. We can use that information to know who was receptive and who wasn't, who to target, who to support.

3 More Things You Can Do To Help:

1. Invite 3 more friends to this event
2. Share this event on your profile with a personal message.
3. If you're on Twitter, Tweet it
Call Congress Monday, January 30 to promote the #DREAMAct
CALL today: 24 Hours for the #DREAMAct #DREAMers

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One woman play in El Paso highlights heroism of U.S. Catholic sisters

Sister Dorothy Stang. Photo credit: EDLC
A one-woman play in El Paso will highlight a 21st century martyr: Sister Dorothy Stang, SNdeN. On February 12, 2005, Sister Dorothy, a Catholic nun from Dayton, Ohio, was shot six times and left to die in the Amazon jungle where she had devoted herself to helping the poor. The program will benefit the work of other heroic U.S. Catholic Sisters who work among the poor in Juarez at Centro Santa Catolina, a program that boosts an economically struggling neighborhood.

Nancy Murray, O.P., a sister of famed Chicago-native actor Bill Murray, wrote and will perform the title role twice in El Paso:

  • Sunday, February 12, 2012 the play will be at 3:00 pm in the Theater at Ysleta Independent School  District Administration building; 9600 Sims Drive, El Paso, TX  79925.  
  • Monday, February 13, 2012 an evening performance begins at 7:00 pm at St. Pius Church Community Parish Hall, 1050 N. Clark Road, El Paso, TX  79905.
Tickets are $15; Youth 16 years and younger $10. Order your ticket in advance by sending your name, address, and phone number along with the number of tickets, desired performance and a check payable to Centro Santa Catalina. Tickets will be held at the door upon request.

Donations are welcome from those unable to attend the play. Enclose information to receive receipt. Donations are tax deductible and will support a faith based community for spiritual, educational and economic empowerment of women who are economically poor. The area the Centro serves has been affected by drug war violence, but the U.S. sisters have maintained their presence, nevertheless.

Mail all donations and ticket reservation requests to:
1207 Alabama Street       
El Paso, TX   79930             

Call for more information: 915-564-9003 or visit the Centro Santa Catalina website where payment by Paypal is accepted.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why Latinos will matter in Florida's 2012 election

Image: Mariowire
If numbers matter in elections, nearly one and a half  million Latinos are registered to vote in Florida's presidential primary on January 31. In fact, the Florida Division of Elections says that Latinos compose 13.1% of the state's more than 11.2 million registered voters. 

Among Latino registered voters, 452,619 are registered as Republican-- representing 11.1% of all Republican registered voters. And 564,513 Latino registered voters are registered as Democrats--representing 12.4% of all Democratic registered voters.

That's a significant percentage.

And it represents an important shift.

Because, as recently as 2006, more Hispanics in Florida were registered as Republicans than as Democrats. By 2008, the balance tipped over to the Democrats. This year that trend has accelerated, with the gap—111,894 registered voters—between Hispanics who are registered as Democrats and those registered as Republicans wider now than in 2008 or 2010.

Get ready for the future. It's starting now.

[All this data, and more, is found in a new statistical profile of Latino eligible voters in Florida by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center . In addition to official voter registration data, the statistical profile provides key demographic and socioeconomic information about Florida's 2.1 million Latino eligible voters and other major groups of eligible voters in Florida based on tabulations of the Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey.]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Javier Sicilia to receive award in El Paso April 2012

Javier Sicilia, preeminent Mexican poet-turned-activist, will receive the Voice of the Voiceless award in El Paso, Texas on April 28. The award, presented by Annunciation House, will occasion a solidarity dinner and an immigration forum that day.

The dinner will be held from 6:00– 9:00 pm in Santa Lucia Parish Hall. The "Forum on Immigration" will precede it that day, 9:00am—1:00pm, at a location to be announced.

See the flier below for details. Please distribute widely. Note the correct date is April 28 [not April 21--as some original information on the event stated]:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Save Allen Okere. He will be killed if deported to Nigeria; ICE wants him out.

Allen Okere
Here on the border I meet people whose lives are in danger, people who must live in hiding. Today you have the chance to prevent this from happening to an honor roll student who attends university in Washington State.

This video is quick. And powerful.

That was Allen. Bad legal counsel could cost him his life...a life he's eager to give in service to a better world.

Tonight we learned that he has to deliver his documents to ICE tomorrow. Activists will also deliver a petition to ICE, asking that his deportation be reconsidered. 

Sign the petition. Please share it widely.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Report: U.S. Moves Toward Minority-Majority, But Racial Economic Inequalities Will Persist

Martin Luther King, Jr. Image: Library of Congress
Boston, MA In 2042, thirty years from now, the United States will be a majority minority country. However, if we continue on the same path that we've taken for the last thirty years, the economic divide between races won't be significantly reduced by 2042. In many regards, it will be considerably worse.

United for a Fair Economy’s ninth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day report, State of the Dream 2012: The Emerging Majority, assesses the state of the racial economic divide since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and uses the trends of the last thirty years to project thirty years forward to 2042.

The report finds that the past thirty years of public policy has done little to address racial economic disparities. If the current trends continue, the racial economic divide will be immense in 2042 across a wide variety of indicators. Progress toward economic parity between Black and White is slow and inconsistent and, in some cases, inequality is increasing. Latinos who account for most of the growth of the population are, in most cases, experiencing a decrease in economic well being relative to Whites.

If the current trends continue:

Income: Black and Latino median incomes will be 61 cents 45 cents, respectively, for every dollar of median White income in 2042. Blacks will have gained only 4 cents while Latinos will have lost 15 cents of median income relative to Whites from 2010 to 2042.

Poverty: In 2010, poverty rates among Blacks (25.7%) and Latinos (25.4%) were more than two and a half times the White poverty rate. By 2042, the Black and Latino poverty rates will remain 1.9 times and 2.6 times that of the White poverty rate.

Jobs: The current unemployment rates stand at 7.5 percent for Whites, 15.8 percent for Blacks and 11 percent for Latinos. In 2042, Black and Latino unemployment will be 1.8 times and 1.5 times higher than White unemployment, respectively.

Wealth: By 2042, Blacks and Latinos will both have lost ground in average wealth, holding only 19 cents and 25 cents for each dollar of White wealth. The average net worth of Black and Latino families in 2007 was 20 cents and 27 cents, respectively, for every dollar of White net worth.

Higher Education: Black adults were 60 percent as likely to have a college degree as White adults in 2010, while Latino adults were only 42 percent as likely as Whites to have a college degree. By 2042, Black will be 76 percent as likely as Whites to have earned a college degree; Latinos will have become even less likely (37 percent) than Whites to have a college degree.

Incarceration: In 2010, Blacks were a staggering 6.1 times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites. Latinos were 2.5 times more likely than Whites to be incarcerated, and this figure does not include the disproportionately Latino population being held in immigration detention centers. In 2042, Blacks will still be six times and Latinos two times as likely as Whites to be incarcerated.

It does not have to be this way

Public policy does not have to follow the course that it has been on since Reagan. The growing share of the non-White population presents an opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to build political power. In the current era of extraordinary economic inequality, the fate of the vast majority of the White population is more connected with the economic interests of Blacks and Latinos than with the ruling political elite.

Shifting from the dominant conservative public policy direction of the last thirty years that has not addressed racial equality will require a broad coalition dedicated to eliminating the racial economic divide.

The report proposes policy solutions to significantly reduce the racial divide. Foreclosure relief, federal aid to states and targeted job creation programs are needed to both combat the economic slump and to reduce racial economic disparities. Longer-term strategies including wealth-building programs, increasing taxes on the rich, strengthening safety net programs, ending the war on drugs, and humane immigration reform are needed in order to substantially reduce the racial inequality.

The racial economic divide is the legacy of centuries of White supremacy practiced as national policy. As a nation, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday, but we tolerate the perpetuation of racial inequality that he dedicated his life to fighting. 

If we don't change course, our economy won't be able to bear the swelling numbers of Blacks and Latinos out of work, in poverty and in prison. Without a powerful and sustained political movement aligned not just along the lines of race but by economic interests, Whites will still make a disproportionate share of the national income and hold an overwhelming majority of the nation’s wealth and power in 2042.

Source: United for a Fair Economy

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Slavery still exists. Obama names January 2012 "Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month"

19-year-old Carina Saunders,  trafficked and then murdered in Oklahoma in October 2011. Photo:
President Obama declared January 2012 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. You thought slavery was a thing of the past? Think again. The "Land of the Free" is not spared the curse of slavery and human trafficking. In fact, as a wealthy nation, we attract it.

Learn more: Toolkit for individuals interested in combating human trafficking

Join the Stop Trafficking newsletter list. Write to "jeansds (at) stopenslavement (dot) org"
Receive a monthly update.

Obama's presidential statement on the January 2011 declaration:

Nearly a century and a half ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation -- a document that reaffirmed the noble goals of equality and freedom for all that lie at the heart of what it means to live in America.
In the years since, we have tirelessly pursued the realization and protection of these essential principles. Yet, despite our successes, thousands of individuals living in the United States and still more abroad suffer in silence under the intolerable yoke of modern slavery.
During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we stand with all those who are held in compelled service; we recognize the people, organizations and government entities that are working to combat human trafficking; and we recommit to bringing an end to this inexcusable human rights abuse.
Human trafficking endangers the lives of millions of people around the world, and it is a crime that knows no borders.
Trafficking networks operate both domestically and transnationally, and although abuses disproportionally affect women and girls, the victims of this ongoing global tragedy are men, women and children of all ages.
Around the world, we are monitoring the progress of governments in combating trafficking while supporting programs aimed at its eradication. From forced labor and debt bondage to forced commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude, human trafficking leaves no country untouched.
With this knowledge, we rededicate ourselves to forging robust international partnerships that strengthen global anti-trafficking efforts, and to confronting traffickers here at home.
My administration continues to implement our comprehensive strategy to combat human trafficking in America.
By coordinating our response across federal agencies, we are working to protect victims of human trafficking with effective services and support, prosecute traffickers through consistent enforcement, and prevent human rights abuses by furthering public awareness and addressing the root causes of modern slavery.
The steadfast defense of human rights is an essential part of our national identity, and as long as individuals suffer the violence of slavery and human trafficking, we must continue the fight.
With the start of each year, we commemorate the anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation, which became effective on January 1, 1863, and the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln and submitted to the States for ratification on February 1, 1865.
These documents stand as testaments to the gains we have made in pursuit of freedom and justice for all, and they remind us of the work that remains to be done.
This month, I urge all Americans to educate themselves about all forms of modern slavery and the signs and consequences of human trafficking. Together, and in cooperation with our partners around the world, we can work to end this terrible injustice and protect the rights to life and liberty entrusted to us by our forebears and owed to our children.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 2012 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, culminating in the annual celebration of National Freedom Day on February 1.
I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the vital role we can play in ending modern slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.

Yes, it happens here. This has got to stop.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Obama Administration’s Immigration Proposal to Keep Families United Excites Pro-migrant Forces

WASHINGTON— The Obama Administration announced today a proposed immigration rule change that would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States while family members work to gain permanent U.S. residency. This proposal would ease the pain of prolonged separations that families must currently endure. Immigrant proponents, such as the the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) today applauded the move.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and apply for a waiver to lessen the 3-year to 10-year bar they face before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure severe prolonged separations.

See this blog for an example of one real-life couple who are exiled in Juarez [aka. "the most dangerous city on earth"] as the husband of a U.S. citizen seeks to gain his U.S. citizenship status.

The rule change would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to file their waivers in the United States. The action does not require congressional approval.

“In focusing on keeping families together, the Obama administration is moving in a positive direction to significantly ease the hardship families are going through now to obtain these waivers,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. The Center is a member of FIRM. “Families should not be torn apart because of their immigration status. The proposal cuts through unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape and focuses on family unity.”

The rule change would help families like Miguel and Lorena Reyes of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Miguel Reyes had to go back to Mexico in August 2011 to apply for his waiver. He is still waiting for it. Meanwhile, Lorena Reyes, a U.S. citizen, is working hard to maintain a normal family life for the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Ruth.

“This immigration process has been so stressful and devastating for me and my family,” said Lorena Reyes, who told her story to the Alliance for a Just Society, a member of FIRM. “Our life is on hold, our family’s future is on hold, as we wait for his visa to be approved. I am struggling financially and also suffering emotionally and so is our daughter. I want my husband to come back home now to wait for his waiver.”

Advocates hope that the policy is extended to immigrants with lawful permanent resident status. Families, they say, should not have to wait in other countries for prolonged periods of time to be reunited with their families in the United States.

Skeptics hope that the proposal is not simply an election-year grab for the Latino vote. 

Primary Source: FIRM

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Learn how to Break ICE's Hold on Your County: Stopping Deportations webinar

Image source: Facebook event page
A webinar providing information on how to stop a local community from implementing Secure Communities (S-Comm) is scheduled for Monday, January 9th, at 3:30 p.m. EST /12:30 p.m. PST. The program is produced by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. The webinar will last 1.5 hours.

The groups promise that it will be "a great kick-off call for the new year." Their objective is to keep families together and eliminate what they call "harmful, counterproductive immigration enforcement policies" in local communities.

The webinar is free. All are welcome to participate, but registration is required. To register, visit this website. Space is limited, so early registration is advised.

Prior knowledge and understanding of the S.Comm toolkit (available online here) will facilitate a productive call. The goal of the webinar is to give participants concrete tools to launch their own campaigns to demand their city or state stop turning people over to ICE.

A movement has grown in recent years against immigration deportation programs like Secure Communities (S-Comm) that blur the roles of local police and ICE agents. Local campaigns across the country demanded an "opt out" to the federal government's disastrous Secure Communities program. This caused the Federal Government to shift strategies and move to unilaterally impose the program. 

During this time, undocumented youth across the country have waged Education Not Deportation ('END') campaigns to stop the deportation of DREAM Act eligible individuals. This similarly calls attention to the Obama Administration's deportation dragnet and draconian enforcement policies. By leveraging existing opposition to S-Comm coupled with the victories of the END campaigns, immigration advocates believe that the movement is perfectly positioned to enact a new generation of policies on the county and state levels that undermine the poli-migra and deportation machinery. Stopping ICE holds is their first goal. 

Local police do not have to honor immigration detainers, according to information the groups provide. Thus, communities can encourage local police to keep communities and families united by not participating. 

Urging local police to treat immigration detainers differently is the new 'opt out' effort.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tuscon shootings--January 8, one year later: What You Can Do.

Here in the Southwest--not many miles from Tucson, AZ, we felt the impact of the shootings on January 8, 2011 keenly. As it is for the survivors who bravely share their experiences in this video produced by Fix Gun Checks (below), it is still emotional for me to recall those days last year. This short video makes it real:

Tuscon survivor Patricia Maisch says:  "No one should have to endure the sorrow of having a loved one murdered with a gun. My hope is that positive actions can come of this tragic anniversary and that people will renew their resolve to never let this happen again."

What can you do to remember? to prevent another--or a worse--massacre?

Replace your social media avatar with the icon from  [right click. choose "Save image as"]
Several cities plan vigils for January 8. See if yours does HERE. Attend it. 
Send a message of support to victims and survivors of the massacre HERE.  
Sign the petition to prevent illegal gun sales HERE
"Like" Fix Gun Checks on Facebook to stay updated with their work.
 Donate to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group. Sign up for their email list. Subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Illegal guns make us all unsafe.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DREAM Act at the Iowa Caucuses

While the DREAM Act has been active in legislation for a decade, I suspect many Iowans don't know what the DREAM Act is. I did not--until I moved to the border five years ago. Now I've met many excellent young leaders whose potential and contributions to society are blocked until the DREAM Act is passed. Their situation hurts me personally; but, worse, it damages our nation.

So voter education about the DREAM Act will continue on the grassroots, precinct level tonight at the Iowa caucuses. Thanks to a handy proposal guide, from the National Immigration Law Center, it's easy for Iowa citizens to promote the DREAM Act in their local precinct caucus. Activists will submit proposals that endorse the DREAM Act for their fellow-citizens' consideration and approval. I received this from an Iowa activist-friend. [I'm registered to vote in Iowa, but can't participate in the caucus since I'm not there.]

The guide, which follows, succinctly explains the DREAM Act and what it will accomplish. It's available for use at both major political party caucuses. From my cursory observation of the flier, the only difference between the two proposals is in the title ["Republican" vs. "Democrat"]. I publish the Republican version here:


Proposal for 2012 Iowa Republican Platform: Immigration Dream Act

Pass the DREAM Act, also known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act.

The DREAM Act would grant "conditional nonimmigrant status" to a select group of currently unauthorized young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

The DREAM Act would enact two major changes in current law:

The DREAM Act would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent legal status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military; and

• The DREAM Act would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.

Background: An estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented immigrant children graduate from U. S. high schools only to find themselves without any options to better themselves. They have the potential to be future doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, and entrepreneurs, but they experience unique hurdles to live up to their fullest potential in this country. Through no fault of their own, their lack of legal citizenship status often prevents them from attending college or working legally. They are not eligible to: get driver's license, register to vote, attend college in some states, qualify for in-state tuition in states that allow attendance, apply for financial aid for college, or even apply for a job.

The Fall 2011 enrollment of the State of Iowa students that were categorized as "Hispanic/Latino, of any race" was 993 which is roughly 3 percent of the total student population. The census indicated that 9 percent of Iowa youth under 18 were Hispanic (Iowa State Daily, 9/20/11).

The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the United States and have graduated from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our current immigration laws. If the DREAM Act were to pass, it would allow undocumented immigrant youth in Iowa and across the nation to qualify for in-state tuition, federal loans, Pell Grants and scholarships, and eligibility for the armed services. This is would provide a larger percentage of our nation’s youth a means to obtain legal residency. If enacted, the DREAM Act would have a life-changing impact on the students who qualify, dramatically increasing their average future earnings—and consequently the amount of taxes they would pay—while significantly reducing criminal justice and social services costs to taxpayers.


■ Path to legal residency: Who would qualify?

Under the DREAM Act, most students who came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger at least five years before the date of the bill’s enactment and who have maintained good moral character since entering the U.S. would qualify for conditional permanent resident status upon acceptance to college, graduation from a U.S. high school, or being awarded a GED in the U.S. Students would not qualify for this relief if they had committed crimes, were a security risk, or were inadmissible or removable on certain other grounds.

■ Conditional permanent resident status

Conditional permanent resident status would be similar to lawful permanent resident status, except that it would be awarded for a limited duration—six years under normal circumstances—instead of indefinitely.

Students with conditional permanent resident status would be able to work, drive, go to school, and otherwise participate normally in day-to-day activities on the same terms as other Americans, except that generally they would not be able to travel abroad for lengthy periods and they would not be eligible for Pell Grants or certain other federal financial aid grants. They would, however, be eligible for federal work study and student loans, and states would not be restricted from providing their own financial aid to these students. Time spent by young people in conditional permanent resident status would count towards the residency requirements for naturalization.

■ Requirements to lift the condition and obtain regular lawful permanent resident status
At the end of the conditional period, unrestricted lawful permanent resident status would be granted if, during the conditional period, the immigrant had maintained good moral character, avoided lengthy trips abroad, and met at least one of the following criteria:

• Graduated from a two-year college or certain vocational colleges, or studied for at least two years toward a B.A. or higher degree, or

• Served in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years.

■ In-state tuition: Restore state option

The DREAM Act would also repeal section 505 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), which currently discourages states from providing in-state tuition or other higher education benefits without regard to immigration status. Under section 505, states that provide a higher education benefit based on residency to undocumented immigrants must provide the same benefit to U.S. citizens in the same circumstances, regardless of their state of residence.

Since section 505 became law, twelve states have enacted laws permitting anyone, including undocumented immigrants, who attended and graduated from high school in the state to pay the in-state rate at public colleges and universities. The twelve states are California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. These states all pay the section 505 penalty by providing the same in-state discount rate to current residents of other states who previously went to high school and graduated in the state. The DREAM Act would repeal this penalty. This would not require states to provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, but rather would restore this decision to the states without encumbrance.

Source: National Immigration Law Center

Monday, January 2, 2012

NAFTA [Jan. 1, 1994] & Immigration Reform--What happened?

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, launched on January 1, 1994. With the dawning of 2012, we mark its anniversary again.  NAFTA was initially sold as a way to create new jobs in the U.S. and Canada and help Mexico modernize its economy. Thereby, as the reasoning ran, it would prevent undocumented immigration to the U.S.

In truth, however, the agreement opened up Mexico's economy to restructuring for the benefit of U.S. companies--at the expense of ordinary people in Mexico. This unleashed a flood of economic refugees from Mexico who ran for their lives to the U.S. in search of work to survive. Many of them--literally millions--had been farmers whose livelihoods were lost by highly-subsidized U.S. corn and food products that flooded the Mexican markets, undercutting local ag efforts.

U.S. workers did no better; NAFTA lowered wages in the U.S.. Manufacturing jobs left the nation. Thus, NAFTA helped create the economic disaster which gave birth to the "Occupy" movement. Here, then, the border's "Occupy" movement joined in solidarity with the 99% of Mexico on January 1 in denouncing NAFTA, as a program which has enriched the corporate elite and undercut the rest. Symbolically, the group gathered at the international bridge--the border that delineates the two nations--for a teach-in and demonstration. The group of about 40 protesters attracted the attention of passers-by and local as well as international traffic.

Professor Joe Heyman of UTEP addressed the press at the event as Occupy El Paso and Occupy Las Cruces, along with other local activist groups, met to denounce the effects of NAFTA. This excerpt of remarks, made in response to a question regarding how NAFTA affected immigration reform, reflects the spirit of the event.