Monday, March 31, 2008

Immigration's Rise

Q and A — March / April 2008

Immigration’s Rise
New proposals, rhetoric, and enforcement revive a thorny issue

By Clint Hendler

Last may, a CBS/New York Times poll found that 69 percent of Americans want to see the country’s illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported. But, the next month, NBC and The Wall Street Journal released a poll suggesting that, in their heart of hearts, 85 percent of Americans recognize that summarily removing 10 or 20 million people isn’t realistic.

Those two numbers provide a pretty good snapshot of the nation’s confused and confusing immigration debate, including its contradictions. Some folks talk tough about the rule of law, but worry about splitting families by the happenstance of citizenship. Some business owners depend on foreign workers; others are outraged that their competitors hire illegal immigrants without consequence.

These debates, and many others, will come up as Americans pick a president. John McCain made it out of his party’s primaries after being roughed up over his immigration plan, whose concepts most Americans supported. Democrats have so far parried the issue, but that probably won’t be the case in many congressional races and the general election.

Through it all, close looks will be necessary. Clint Hendler, a CJR assistant editor, spoke about the challenges and changes to the immigration beat with Dianne Solís of The Dallas Morning News. Previously, Solís worked for The Wall Street Journal, including a stint in the paper’s Mexico City bureau. In 2007, her reporting on immigration drew the attention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which named her print journalist of the year.

What’s different now from the early part of the decade?
We haven’t seen a crackdown this severe since the 1950s. In the 1950s, the U.S. government had a deportation effort that was bluntly called Operation Wetback, and the estimates of how many people were deported or self-deported then is wild in its range, from 100,000 to 1.3 million. In the last fiscal year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported or repatriated more than a quarter-million people. And those figures are separate from what the border patrol did. That’s a large increase, probably a doubling, from the numbers we had in 2001 and 2002. They’re also going after employers like never before in recent history. Since 1986, it’s been illegal to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant, but that was enforced largely by civil fines. And then it wasn’t enforced much at all. Now they’re going after employers with criminal cases.

And beyond that federal crackdown, there are many people out there who are very angry over illegal immigration—especially Mexican immigration—and the way it’s changed communities and changed culture. Because of the rise in technology, they’ve been able to really spread their gospel to others. So we have a very cantankerous and sometimes uncivil public debate going on in community meeting halls, on talk radio, on television, and in political campaigns.

In the last, say, twenty-five years, the debate has changed in its content and its divisiveness. The rhetoric is much harsher than it has been in a long, long time. I was just looking back at the history of the first immigration law in the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. What was said about the Chinese back then was really very rough and even racist. I think that at times we may be approaching that.

How does the time you spent in Mexico City affect your work?
In immigration, we frequently talk about push-pull factors. I have a real sense of what pushes people out and what they’re coming to. I’ve also seen that in many ways our labor market is fused: construction workers in Texas come from Guanajuato; crab pickers in the Carolinas come from an area called Los Mochis on Mexico’s Pacific coast. People just move—or, before the crackdown, were moving—with great fluidity.

But once I came back, and I could compare the way places had changed, I saw how pronounced it had become. In Dallas, you could hear, from the accents, that there were a lot of people from Monterrey and from Guanajuato. It had changed so dramatically and so quickly.

You write often about immigrants who face deportation and would rather stay out of the limelight. How do you explain your mission and earn their trust?
I speak Spanish and I lived in Mexico, so when I speak to somebody who comes from Guanajuato, I reassure them that I know where they came from and I’ve been there many times. If they come from Tepito, a neighborhood in Mexico City, I’ve been there many times.

try to have a discussion about both the negative consequences and the benefits of talking to me. I try to explain to them that the public needs to hear their story, their version of why they came or what kind of challenges they’re faced with.

Two or three years ago, there were people who had no problems telling me their full names—or what they said were their full names. That’s changed. People don’t want to give their last names now. We do allow people who are here without work authorization to speak using just their first name, but some don’t even want to give their first names.

There is a danger, but there are people who speak out and stand up for themselves. They have a great deal of frustration because they believe the Mexican, Salvadoran, or Honduran government isn’t speaking up for them.

Is it also harder to find employers who hire people without documents willing to speak?
Absolutely. It’s gotten harder, even just in the last three months, because of the crackdown: there were 4,900 worksite arrests by the federal government in the last fiscal year. That was more than a tripling from two years ago.

p. 2

I have to throw the net out much wider. I’m going to trade groups that have somebody who’s willing to speak to the press. But I don’t really want the executive director of a trade group. It’s always better to have a flesh-and-blood employer, who’s out there on the factory floor, in the kitchen, or in the field. Their voices are really important and powerful. They’re very frustrated right now, and they want a fix.

Do you cover non-Spanish-speaking immigrants?
Sometimes. I’ve done some political-asylum cases, with folks from Palestine who were stateless, which is an incredible concept. I’ve been following a particularly difficult case of an Albanian who doesn’t want to go back to Albania, and finding out that there’s what’s considered a fairly large Albanian community in Texas.

What are some of the themes and stories on your beat that you have an eye on or find yourself dipping back into again and again?
Both sides believe in the rule of law—except for the laws that they want to change. Those here illegally would much prefer to be here legally, but for many of them, there aren’t many legal routes, particularly if they come from Latin America. Some of those who want illegal immigrants to respect the rule of law and to self-deport also want restrictions on the current U.S. system of legal immigration. They’d even like to change birthright citizenship by either changing the Fourteenth Amendment or the Immigration and Naturalization Act. They believe this would put an end to what they call “anchor babies.”

Another important story is the rise of so-called mixed-status families. You’ve got families in which somebody’s a U.S. citizen, somebody’s a legal permanent resident, and somebody’s here illegally. It causes all kinds of problems when they’re arrested on a traffic violation and end up getting their migration status scrutinized. They have to make all kinds of contingency plans for what they’re going to do if they’re sent back suddenly. And some of the family is left behind and maybe all of the income for the family, or half the income for the family, goes out the door.

Finally, I think we’re going to see more and more of a push to get local cops to do immigration policing. There are police departments in major cities that have said that they will not ask about immigration status because they want victims or people who have seen criminal activity to come forward without fear of being hauled away. But there are other people who are extremely angry that they cannot depend on local cops to go after illegal immigrants. That’s going to be a flashpoint.

Are we in a period in which there’s outsized interest in immigration, or will this beat always be necessary?
I think that it is a story that will be with us for quite some time because of globalization and because of the nature of immigration itself—it’s very, very hard to stop. One magnet is simply family reunification: the need, the want, to be with your family. And many, many people have their families now in the U.S. It’s a hot-button issue here right now, and that’s driving the need for more coverage. It’s a big story on our presidential beat, for example. It’s a big story in our criminal-justice coverage. It’s a big story in our education coverage.

There’s a lot of sensitive language around immigration. What should the word “amnesty” mean in copy?
I think it means different things to different people, and because of that lack of clarity, it’s something that we avoid to some extent. It’s a legalization program for those here illegally. And there are people who consider the legalization programs within the McCain/Kennedy proposal as amnesty, and there are those who said it was earned legalization.

I recently went back to my old Wall Street Journal stories from ’86 on amnesty and the legalization program, and I had to smile because then people, too, were saying, “Don’t call it amnesty.”

So what did you call the ’86 program?
We started off talking about the legalization program, and then we called it amnesty, and then we called it both. And then we called it amnistía, which is the term in Spanish.

Let’s try another term. Is there a distinction between “illegal immigrant” and “undocumented immigrant”?
We use them interchangeably, but we use “illegal immigrant” more often. But many advocates think there’s a distinction. Some believe that anybody who’s here without papers is illegal, and that we should say that. And others believe that that’s a very harsh term, that no human being is illegal, and if you have illegal immigrants you must also have, by logical extension, illegal employers. Others parse it more finely and say that there are many people who legally come to the United States on a visa and then overstay that visa; so since they did not come over illegally, it’s wrong to call them illegal immigrants. Then others will say, “Well, wait a minute, they’re out of legal status now, so they’re therefore illegal.” It just goes on and on.

p. 3

On the term “undocumented,” there are employment lawyers who will say, “Let’s get real, folks; everyone has documents, they’re just false documents. Or they’re just not their documents. And you know that’s the way it is in your workforce.”

What about the word “illegal” or “illegals”?
There was a time when many people in the industry used “illegals,” as a noun, in print. We have a style rule against that. It’s an adjective. But the reality is that many of the immigrants will use that adjective as a noun to describe themselves.

You are a Mexican-American from California. Does anyone prejudge you or your reporting because of who you are?
I think that some people do. I think it depends on their life experience, how they live, if they’re very isolated, if they’re not. It’s kind of like, when I was in Mexico, people would ask me, “Well, in the land that gave us the macho, did you find being a woman a detriment?” It was both an asset and a detriment to me because for every man who didn’t want to speak to me because I was a woman, there was a man who wanted to speak to me because I was a woman. You just move on.

Does it ever come through in any of the aggressive e-mail you receive?
Sometimes it does. It’s odd—it does for reporters whose bylines are more readily identified with Latin America. Perhaps if my first name were Guadalupe rather than Dianne, it would ring more bells.


Saturday, March 29, 2008


Prepared for the conference of the National Association for Chicano and Chicano Studies, Austin, Texas, March 19-22, 2008.

By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca
Scholar in Residence, Western New Mexico University; Professor Emeritus of English, Texas State University System–Sul Ross; Founding Director of the Chicano Studies Program, University of Texas at El Paso, 1970.

Forty-five years ago when I began university teaching after some years as a high school teacher of French, there was no Chicano Stud¬ies. That is, no Chicano Studies as an organized field of study. To be sure, there were Mexican American scholars working on various aspects of Mexican Amer¬ican life and its cultural productions, scholars like Aurelio Espinosa, Juan Rael, Arturo Campa, Fray Angelico Chaves, George I. Sanchez, Americo Paredes, and others. Important as this scholarship was, it emerged amorphously, reflecting independ¬ent intellectual interests rather than a scholarship reflecting a field of study. This is not to say that some of these scholars may not have considered their work as part of a field of study conceptualized as Mexican American Studies. Despite its lack of an under-pinning, it was a field of Mexican American Studies, its constituent parts subsumed as American folklore.
This situation created a critical barrier to the public discussion and dissemination of information about the presence of Mexican Americans in the Unit¬ed States and their contributions to American society. Until 1960 and the emergence of the Chi¬cano Movement, Mexican Americans were charac¬terized by mainstream American schol¬ars–principally anthropologists and social work¬ers–in terms of the queer, the curious, and the quaint. That is, regarded as a “tribe,” Mexican Amer¬icans were categorized as just another item in the flora and fauna of Americana in precisely the same way American Indians were categorized.
The Chicano Movement–that wave of concientizaci¬on that came to bloom among Mexican Americans in the 60's transforming them into Chica¬nos– help¬ed to change American perceptions about Mexican Americans. While Mexican Americans knew much about Anglo Americans, Anglo Ameri¬cans knew little about Mexican Americans. From 1848 to 1912–the period of transition for the con¬quest generation of Mexicans who became Ameri¬cans per the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Febru¬ary 2, 1848–Mexican Americans were regarded poor¬ly by the American public. So poorly, in fact, that the territories of New Mexico and Arizona were delayed statehood until their popula¬tions were pre¬dominantly Anglo American.
In Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana described the Mexican Americans as “an idle, thriftless people” who could make nothing for them¬selves (1959: 9). And in 1852, Colonel Monroe re¬ported to Washington that “the New Mexicans are thoroughly debased and totally incapable of self-gov¬ernment, and there is no latent quality about them that can ever make them respectable. They have more Indian blood than Spanish, and in some respects are below the Pueblo Indians, for they are not as honest or as industrious” (Congressional Globe, 32nd Congress, 2nd Session, January 10, 1853, Appendix, p. 104).
Four years later, W.W.H. Davis, United States Attorney for the Territory of New Mexico, wrote a propos his experiences with Mexican Americans that “they possess the cunning and deceit of the Indian, the politeness and the spirit of revenge of the Span¬iard, and the imaginative temperament and fiery im¬pulses of the moor.” He described them as smart and quick but lacking the “stability and character and soundness of intellect that give such vast superiority to the Anglo-Saxon race over every other people.”

In 1874, General William Tecumseh Sherman quipped before a committee of the House of Repre¬sentatives that Mexico be prevailed upon to take back the territory of New Mexico (Arnold L. Rodri¬guez, “New Mexico in Transition,” New Mexico His¬torical Review, XXIV, July 1949, 186). And in 1902, Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana objected to statehood for the New Mexico Territory on the grounds that “the majority of people in New Mexico could speak only [Spanish]. . . . Illiteracy was high, and the arid conditions of the southwest imposed serious limitations on agriculture” (Robert W. Lar¬son, New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood 1846-1912, 1968: 215).
Even after 64 years as Americans, Mexican Amer¬icans were considered foreigners in their own country. Little thought was given to the fact that Mex¬ican Americans were not immigrants to the Unit¬ed States, that they were a “territorial minority” cum Americans as a booty of war, that the border had crossed them. By the 20th century, mainstream Amer¬icans had forgotten that as a consequence of the U.S.–Mexi¬co War of 1846-1848 Mexico was dismembered, giving up more than half of its terri¬tory to the United States: a territory now constituting the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Califor¬nia, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, as well as parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma, a territory larger than France, Spain, and Italy combined.
During the period of Americanization from 1912 to 1960, Mexican Americans fared little better de¬spite their efforts to become Americans. During this period, from 1913 to 1930, more than a million and a half Mexicans made their way north from Mexico to the United States, owing to the destabilization of Mexico during its civil war from 1913 to 1921. This influx of Mexicans to the United States plus the pop¬ulation of Mexicans who were part of the conquest generation came to constitute the primary population of Mexican Americans that has given rise to their present demographics in 21st century America.
We have no definitive count as to the numbers of Mexicans who came with the dismembered terri¬tory. Figures range from a low of 75,000 to 300,000. The dismembered territory was certainly not void of popula¬tion, considering the cities that were part of the annexed territory–San Antonio, El Paso, Santa Fe and the San Luis Valley of Colorado, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Pueblo, Colorado, not counting the hundreds of smaller communities dot¬ting the landscape.
The third factor in the demographic growth of Mexican Americans was the 20 year immigration compact between the United States and Mexico that brought thousands of Mexican “braceros” (laborers) into the country between 1942 and 1962. This demo¬graphic troika of Mexican Americans (conquest gen¬eration, civil war refugees, and braceros) now num¬bers some 30 million, its growth due principally¬ to fertility abetted certainly by a small but steady an¬nual ingress of immigrants since 1962.
These 30 million Mexican Americans are 66% of the American Hispanic population. That is, two out of three American Hispanics are Mexican Amer¬icans. These are not undocumented workers; they are Ameri-can citizens. But in the current wave of nati¬vist hysteria, American Hispanics including Mexican Americans are regarded as aliens whose expedient deportation is desirable in the national interest. As American citizens, Mexican Americans have been thrown into the mix with undocumented Hispanic workers not only from Mexico but throughout Latin America, under the rubric of “illegal immigrants.” This is “Why Chicano Studies?” Americans need to understand that Mexican Americans are not a new population. That they have been part of the Ameri¬can enterprise for 160 years. And this is why after almost 40 years I am still convinced about the need for Chicano Studies.

When I joined the English Department at New Mexico State University almost half a century ago, I was the only Mexican American in the department and totally clueless about Mexican American Studies, though I had stud¬ied Spanish literature, Mexican literature, and Latin American literature as well as English literature and American literature. My parents taught me about Mexico. I knew that a branch of mother’s family had settled in San Antonio, Texas, in 1731. But about Mexican Americans in general, I knew nothing ex¬cept that we had relatives in Chicago and Pitts¬burgh (whom we visited often), as well as in Texas.
In my comparative studies classes at the Univer¬sity of Pittsburgh between 1948 and 1952, I learned nothing about Mexican Americans except what I learned from the long-time Mexican American com-mu¬nities there. But none of that information spurr¬ed my curiosity to learn about the history of Mexican Americans in the United States. The apo¬dictic value system of the Unit¬ed States held me firm¬ly in its grip, reinforcing the mantra that I was an American. Later, I would ask: If I’m an American, were my an¬cestors English since our teachers and textbooks em¬phasized that a special relationship existed between the Unit¬ed States and England as the mother country. In a country of E Pluribus Unum (One out of many), the Unit¬ed States has many moth¬er countries. The Unit¬ed States is the world. Had Italians in the United States been subjected to the same kind of indoctri¬nation? Germans in the Unit¬ed States?

In 1970 I was recruited to be founding director of the Chicano Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso, first such program in the state. By this time, I had become conscien¬tized as a Chi-cano. From 1967 on, I had become identified as a Quinto Sol Writer, that is, among the first wave of Chicano writers of the Chicano Renaissance which had its beginning in 1966 with the creation of Quinto Sol Publica¬tions headed by Octavio Romano. By 1970, I had written extensively about Mexican Amer¬icans and their plight in the United States. In the Fall of 1969 I had taught the first course in Chi¬cano literature in the country. By 1970, I was finish¬ing up Back¬grounds of Mexican American Litera¬ture, first literary history in the field (University of New Mexico, 1971).
In 1969, California had organized the first Chi¬cano Studies Program in the country. In the following two years many more Chicano Studies Programs were inaugurated throughout the Hispanic Southwest. But all was not serene in Aztlan–the name Chicanos chose to identify the Hispanic South¬west, that territory dismembered from Mexico as a consequence of the U.S. War with Mexico (1846-1848) and annexed¬ by the United States per the Trea¬ty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed on February 2, 1848.
The Handbook for the organization of Chicano Studies was developed in California as El Plan de Santa Barbara (The Plan of Santa Barbara). This was the blueprint we used in developing the Chicano Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1970. Our guiding principal per the Plan de Santa Barbara was: a Chicano Studies Program not control-led by Chicanos is not a Chicano Studies Pro¬gram.
Not surprisingly, Chicano students, faculty, and community leaders pressed hard for Chicano control of the Chicano Studies Program at the University of Texas at El Paso, despite institutional and system resistance. That resistance was so obstructive, that only a student takeover of the administration build¬ing with the president as hostage in December of 1971 precipitated the necessary impetus for the institution-aliza¬tion of Chicano Studies.
Reluctantly, the intransigence of the university turned to half-hearted support for Chicano Studies. Our aim was to embed Chicano Studies courses in as many departments as we could. Our recruitment ef¬forts were effective, bringing to the UT El Paso cam¬pus Chicano luminaries like Rodolfo de la Garza in Political Science, Donald Castro in English, Hector Serrano in Theater, and Tomas Arciniega in Educa¬tion. We increased the number of Chicano faculty substantially, but still nowhere near a percentage reflecting our numbers in the American population or our numbers in El Paso–a community more than 75 percent mejicano at the time.

ore than half the students at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1970 were mejica¬nos, but Mexican American visibility on campus was restricted to the maintenance workers, janitors, and gardeners. Our objectives for Chicano Studies were twofold: not only would Chicano Stud¬ies help us to enlighten both Chicanos and non-Chi¬canos about who we were, but Chicano Studies would enable us to promote our visibility beyond mainte¬nance workers, janitors, and gardeners. More¬over, Chicano Studies would provide the missing pieces of American history anent Mexican Ameri¬cans. Chicano Studies would show Americans the rich heritage of Mexican Americans and the splen¬dor of their indigenous past. This was one way to bring Chicanos into the consciousness of the Ameri¬can mainstream, though Chicano Studies was not explicit-tly a mainstream venue. Chicano Studies was the alternative to the mainstream. That was Octavio Romano’s argument in the editorial of the first issue of El Grito in 1967. Since the American mainstream rejected Chicanos, Chicanos would establish their own institutions and outlets for their cultural produc¬tions. Chicano achievement was not predicated on the approval of the mainstream. While Chicanos want¬ed to be in the mainstream they would not be brown copies of whites in the mainstream.
Now, almost forty years later, looking back on the progress and evolution of Chicano Studies I won¬der how much mainstreaming has taken place. And whether mainstreaming has been the ignis fatuus it has always been for Chicanos. In a recent edition of The American Tradition in Literature published by McGraw Hill, the 2500 page anthology did not in¬clude one American Hispanic writer (that is, an His¬panic writer who is of the United States and not from Hispanic America). Not till page 2299 do we see an Hispanic writer: Isabel Allende, the Chilean writer who now lives and writes in the United States. Not one Chicano writer appears in the McGraw Hill an¬thology which purports to be the American tradition in literature. This situation would be like including Chinua Achebe in the anthology as representative of African American writers.
Five decades later Chicanos are still invisible to the American mainstream, although a number of Chi¬cano writers have made their way into that main¬stream. Despite Chicano nationalism, there is a wave of Chicanos who desperately seek approval of the white mainstream which progressively validates Chi¬canos who most reflect its values. In the background, however, silent running, are those die-hard Chicano venues like Arte Publico Press and The Bilingual Review Press which continue to nurture the aspira¬tions of Chicano writers still marginalized by main¬stream presses.
In 1968 the absence of minority writers in an¬thologies of American literature, especially those antholo¬gies used in colleges and universities, was so exacerbated that the minority caucuses of the Na¬tional Council of Teachers of English banded to¬gether as the NCTE Task Force on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English, issuing a blistering re¬port entitled Searching for America which detailed just how bad the situation was. Along with Carlota Car-denas Dwyer and Jose Carrasco, I was a found¬ing member of that Task Force. The NCTE Report included the piece on “Chicanos and American Liter¬ature” by Jose Carrasco and me, later reprinted in The Wiley Reader.
In 1970 I sent a piece on “Chicano Poetry: Roots and Writers” to Richard Ohman then editor of Col¬lege English. He returned the manuscript with a note saying he didn’t think the article would be of much interest to the readers of College English, besides he was already considering a piece on Chicano litera¬ture for an upcoming issue of College English. The piece turned out to be an essay on Chicano literature by a non-Chicano. The following year I presented “Chica-no Poetry: Roots and Writers” at the First Na¬tional Symposium on Chicano Literature organized by Ed Simmen at Pan Amer¬ican University in Edin¬berg, Texas, and published as part of the proceedings along with the presentations of Tomas Rivera and Jose Reyna. In 1972 the piece was reprinted in South¬western Amer¬ican Literature. In the meantime, I finished my work on Backgrounds of Mexican Amer¬ican Literature (University of New Mexico, 1971), first study in the field.
By 1971 the Modern Language Association had sanctioned a Chicano Caucus, as had the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. It appeared that the Chicano voice was gaining in volume. It also appeared that conceptions of Chica¬nos were changing. Helping that change along was establishment of La Luz magazine in Denver in 1972, the first Hispanic public affairs magazine in English, organized by Dan Valdes as Publisher and me as Associate Publisher. Over the ten years of my tenure with La Luz we published dozens of pieces by Chicanos in various genres. In 1973 Washington Square Press brought out my anthology of We Are Chicanos which included many of the early lumina¬ries of the Chicano Renaissance.

hile there was headway in making the Chi¬cano presence in American society more visible, Chicano venues began to shrink as that visibility gave more prominence to Chicanos who became more attractive to mainstream purvey¬ors. By the 1990's Chicano venues for literary pro¬duction had dwindled to a handful from what had been hundreds of ephemeral “garage presses” intent on promoting the jinetes of Chicano literature. By the 1990's there had not been a dramatic integration of Chicano perspectives into the academic disci¬plines. The dozens of Chicano Studies programs (in¬cluding those that were departments) dwindled as well to a few, although today there are two doctoral programs in Chicano Studies. Nevertheless, since the 1990's there has been a retreat from using Chicano Studies as a disciplinary anchor for promulgating the story of Chicanos in America.
Chicano Studies has become a subset of His¬panic Studies and Latino Studies, seemingly more palatable terms than Chicano Stud¬ies much the way the term Latin American became a more palatable term than Mexican American when the League of United Latin Amer¬ican Citizens (LULAC) was orga¬nized in Corpus Chris¬ti, Texas, in 1929. The term Chicano has been lost in the lexicon of Hispanicity and Latinismo. More attention seems to be paid now to mem¬bers of Hispanic groups in the United States with minimal population numbers compared to the 30 million Mex¬ican Americans currently in the U.S. population (not count¬ing the purported num¬bers of undocu¬mented Mexicans in the country). Of the 45 million American Hispanics counted in the Census, two-thirds of them (66 percent) are Mexican Ameri¬cans.
The subalternization of Chicanos in Hispanic Studies emphasizes the point: Why Chicano Stud¬ies? Why? Because Chicano Studies is being cut off a medio grito, aborting its premise and promise. This does not mean, of course, that the study of Chicanos cannot go on without academic programs of Chicano Studies. But rooted in an academic setting of respect and encouragement, Chicano Studies provides the ground and lens from and through which to illumi¬nate the historical processes that have brought Chi¬canos to this point in American history. These are the same heuristic considerations that undergird other disciplines.
However, suspicions about the ideological agen¬da of Chicano Studies have wormed their way into the debate over Chicano Studies, raising questions about objectivity, questions Chicanos raised in the 660'6 and 70's about the institutional disciplines that did not include the presence of Chicanos in their pur¬view. This does not diminish the value of contin¬uing the constructing a Chicano narrative; it just in¬terposes inhibitions to that construction.
The Chicano Studies programs at the University of Texas at El Paso and at California State Univer¬sity at North¬ridge have endured because of their aca¬demic rigor and the passion of their faculty. This is not to say that other Chicano Studies programs lack rigor and a passionate faculty. Whether a Chicano Studies program should be disciplinary or interdisci¬plinary remains a question of academic inquiry. My concern is: without Chicano Studies in the academy, who will

advocate for Chicanos therein? In the cur¬rent public debate over immigration we see the grow¬ing hostility towards Chicanos who are per¬ceived as part of the undocumented hordes of Mexi¬cans invading the United States as Lou Dobbs and CNN characterize the situation.
The immigration debate avers the proposition that Americans, by and large, know little about Chi¬canos other than what they learn about them through public media. Everywhere today, Chicanos are being assailed by nativists and jingoists who see them as progeny of “black” Spaniards and savage Indians. Chicano Studies becomes, therefore, the instrument through which Americans can come to see Chicanos in their own right rather than through the normative view of mainstream Americans.
For the past 39 years I’ve taught Chicano litera¬ture to undergraduates, Master’s students, and docto¬ral candidates. Most of these students have been Chicanos. The students we also want to reach are are non-Chicanos. But they have not signed up for Chic¬ano Studies courses in numbers to suggest that we are reaching them with our story. This is also why we need to keep and strengthen Chicano Studies.
Last semester (Fall 2007) I taught on-line the introductory graduate course to Chicano Studies which is part of our Interdisciplinary Master’s Pro¬gram. All the graduate students were Chicanos. This indicates the work the Chicano Faculty Caucus has to do in promoting to all our students, especially non Chicanos, the Chicano courses in our embryonic Chicano Studies Program.
Como una hija querida, tenemos que defender Chicano Studies porque si no, perderemos nuestro futuro. That’s too important a future to lose, too ex¬acting a price to pay. This is the exact moment of history for Chicanos to rise to the occasion. Inaction begets failure. Now, more than ever we must band together in common cause. Chicano Studies deserves no less.

Copyright © 2008 by the author. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Social Justice - Ernesto Cortes Jr.

December 19, 2007

Social Justice - Ernesto Cortes Jr.
By Cheryl Dahle

Thirty years ago, you could see the power of community organizing on display almost every day in the streets of almost every major American city. It was at work in demonstrations for many causes. It took the form of marches, sit-ins, teach-ins, boycotts, and rallies. But those days of mass activism and public participation have largely faded. If you want to see the face of community organizing today, you need to go to a place like Occidental College, a small liberal-arts school in Los Angeles, and visit Professor Peter Dreier's public-policy class. The attendance at this morning's session has swollen to nearly twice its normal size. Extra chairs line the walls, and visitors -- students, as well as local activists and community organizers -- are packed on couches at the back of the room. They've all come to hear guest speaker Ernesto Cortés Jr. talk about his methods for community organizing, a vocation that has earned him a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant as well as a Heinz Award.

His visit has generated the kind of excitement that Michael Dell might bring to a business school or that a talk by Spike Lee might inspire among film students. And justifiably so. Cortés has been a successful community organizer longer than the students in the room have been alive. His accomplishments alone would hold the class's attention, but Cortés, who is five-foot-seven and heavyset, also has a commanding if quiet presence. His expression is unreadable, and that inscrutability gives him an air of menace, like a storm gathering. He's not averse to using his gruff manner and rumbling voice to intimidate -- whether it's to bully a politician or to incite an organizer. It's a tactic that is on display during this class.

When one woman asks him to explain how he "motivates" people to support a cause with actions as well as words, the storm rolls in. Cortés can scarcely conceal his impatience. "Perhaps I prejudge you unfairly," he begins, "but when I hear your question, what I think you're really saying is, 'How can I convince people to do what's good? How do I get them to do what's right? How do I get them to follow my agenda?' " He pauses, frowning. "That's not organizing. What I mean by organizing is getting you to recognize what's in your best interest. Getting you to recognize that you have a child, that you have a career and a life to lead, and that there are some things that are obstacles to the quality of your life. I need to get you to see how you can affect those things through relationships with other people. And it's only going to happen if you engage in some kind of struggle."

He pauses to let it all sink in. "We organize people not just around issues, but around their values," he says. "The issues fade, and people lose interest in them. But what they really care about remains: family, dignity, justice, and hope. We need power to protect what we value."

The confrontational style and almost accusatory tone of his remarks shock a few students. But Cortés did not become the most effective grassroots organizer in the nation by being predictable or polite. For almost three decades, Cortés has been the Southwest regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the largest and oldest institution for community organizing in the United States. For nearly 60 years, the IAF has trained ordinary people to band together to become a powerful political voice and to solve problems in their communities. Texas has the strongest IAF presence, with 12 IAF-affiliated organizations -- coalitions of mostly Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations, along with public schools and other interest groups. Over the past three decades, the IAF network that Cortés has helped cultivate has been responsible for more than $1 billion worth of sewers, sidewalks, parks, clinics, streetlights, and other infrastructure improvements in poor neighborhoods in San Antonio alone, with another $1 billion worth of improvements carried out along the Mexican-American border. And it has successfully pushed for the construction of tens of thousands of new housing units. The IAF network has persuaded cities, counties, and school districts in the Southwest to pass living-wage laws, has developed long-term job-training programs in that area, and has been an effective force in Texas education reform.

But Cortés's goal is not specific reform; it is to teach the powerless to participate in public life. "We used to ask whether people were fit for democracy," he explains. "Now we realize that people become fit through democracy. There is an aspect of our humanity that only emerges when we engage those around us in a debate about our own interests. Our organizations have become mini universities for participating in public life."
The Education of an Organizer

Cortés's initial ventures in community organizing came when he was a young man in the 1960s. Educated at Texas A&M, he later dropped out of a graduate program in economics at the University of Texas at Austin to help organize Mexican-American workers in Texas, his home state. He earned a reputation as a revolutionary but found that he made little progress when he went up against companies that hired strikebreakers. Then, as Cortés likes to say, he "got serious": "I was sick of losing," he says.

He moved to Chicago, where he studied with Ed Chambers at the Alinsky Institute, which was founded by Saul Alinsky, the legendary radical community organizer who also founded the IAF. For years, Alinsky had agitated for better living conditions for poor people in Chicago, and he had chronicled that work in his best-selling book "Reveille for Radicals" (1946). From people like Alinsky and Chambers (who is now executive director of the IAF), Cortés learned that there are two kinds of power: organized money and organized people. In 1974, Cortés decided that he had learned enough from Chambers to strike out on his own, so he returned to his roots in San Antonio. There, he launched a revolution that changed the city.

The first group that Cortés helped organize, Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS), forced the city to make good on a sewer-and-drainage proposal that it had passed 30 years earlier -- but had never implemented in the poor neighborhoods that the proposal was intended to help. As a result, for years, residents of San Antonio's West Side had faced annual floods, which often took lives. In 1974, shortly after winning that battle, COPS pushed the city council to allocate $100 million (money that was supposed to be spent on these neighborhoods in the first place) to improve the infrastructure of San Antonio's poor neighborhoods. The city balked, and COPS came through with a protest reminiscent of Alinsky's old Chicago tactics: Hundreds of COPS leaders lined up in a downtown bank to change hundreds of dollars into pennies -- and then stood in line again to change them back into dollars. Meanwhile, other COPS leaders were in a local department store, trying on clothes and asking to be shown other items, but not buying anything. The demonstration brought much of the downtown area to a halt. Within days, city officials agreed to a meeting -- and eventually, they handed over the money.

These days, COPS and the other 12 IAF groups in Texas rarely need high-profile antics to get public officials to respond. Politicians have seen these groups single-handedly swing elections with their intense "get out the vote" and other voter-education campaigns. What about change through electoral politics? "In this country, we no longer have politics," says Cortés. "There are auctions at which people bid for the office of the presidency. The politics that we talk about is the politics of the Greeks -- the politics of negotiation and deliberation and struggle, in which people engage in confrontation and compromise. My goal is to reclaim that political tradition."
The Organizer as Educator

In the past few decades, the IAF has diverged from the Alinsky model in significant ways. Alinsky was never a conscious mentor or teacher, and the momentum of his movement was always heavily dependent on him -- so dependent, in fact, that many people believed (incorrectly) that the IAF would flounder when he died in 1972. Cortés, however, is an adamant and passionate teacher. "We're much more thoughtful and careful about congregational development and institutional development across the board than IAF was in the past," he says. "We're asking ourselves harder, tougher questions about leadership and mentoring and how to go about achieving that." The other change that the IAF made was to expand on Alinsky's work with organized religion -- making parishes and faith-based organizations the center of the whole program. Cortés says that he's not organizing "communities"; he's organizing "institutions."

"If there's going to be a sense of community, there has to be an institutional base to that, which connects leaders and money and traditions and capacity and expertise," he explains. Cortés's methods of community building have become so successful and so well known that some of the institutions that he has traditionally relied on to help him are now seeking his help. The Catholic Church is one such institution.

Sister Maribeth Larkin's cell-phone rings insistently as she takes her seat. She's the first to arrive for a morning meeting at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Larkin, who wears a short-sleeve navy-blue dress, no makeup, and a plain, gold band on her left hand, leans over to pull the bleating phone from her leather briefcase on the floor. It's Cortés. He's supposed to be at the meeting with Larkin, who is one of the 40 or so Southwestern- region IAF organizers who train community leaders. "Ernie, where are you?" she asks. She smiles indulgently at his response: He's lost, just a few blocks away. "Head west until you hit Mariposa Street," she directs. "Which way is west? It's toward the ocean, Ernie." Then her phone loses the connection. She snaps it shut, annoyed. "Shit!" she mutters. "I hate technology."

Five minutes later, the committee files in: several priests, a nun, and two church laypeople. Larkin, a second trainer, and Cortés (when he arrives) are there to help the committee figure out how to organize a millennial celebration that will focus on diversity -- an issue that the church is struggling with as its congregations become increasingly Hispanic. Ten minutes into the meeting, Cortés arrives. He's dressed in a jacket and pants (of varying shades of gray) and a maroon tie. Once Cortés takes his seat, the others start addressing their questions to him, rather than to the whole group. He deflects each request for an opinion with a question: "What do you think?" or "What are you trying to accomplish?" By the end of the meeting, he has helped the committee to make decisions by stepping back and allowing members to lead themselves.

Larkin says that the meeting is typical of Cortés's style of leadership: He forces people to push the limits of their abilities, to do more than what is comfortable. He was the one who convinced her, 20 years ago, that it was possible for a shy, soft-spoken nun to become a briefcase-carrying, cell-phone-toting, powerful organizer. "I've never thought of myself as an assertive person," she says. "And as we started to talk about what kind of role I might take on, I saw that in public I was going to have to act in ways that I had always thought I was too shy and polite to act. But Ernie was interested in more than the limits that I placed on myself. He helped me find the self that I had to become to do this work. That's what I love about what I do -- helping others discover that in themselves."
The Organizer on Campus

Cortés plans to push the limits of community organizing as well. He envisions a nation of cities filled with ornery, invigorating public discourse fueled by IAF groups. Right now, he is working in Los Angeles to launch the kind of revolution that he helped bring about in Texas. He is in the early stages of organizing in Los Angeles, and his work is rewarding but slow. Some skeptics wonder whether Cortés's model will fall short of his lofty goals. At the end of his public-policy class, Professor Dreier asks Cortés, "Don't you think that some problems are too big for groups like yours to tackle? That some problems have to be solved on a national level, not just in LA?"

Cortés thinks for a minute. "I'm not sure I believe that," he says. "I believe that there is a lot of power here. If you could figure out how to get at the power of LA's people, then you could do a lot. We hope that within five years, we'll have 25 schools that will have been touched by our efforts -- places where the culture has changed, where teachers are excited, and where students are excited. We hope that we'll make progress on health-care issues and workers' rights. Right now, we're just trying to recruit and develop, to get the organizers, leaders, and institutions that we need to pull off that kind of massive change. And I think that we can do that.

"But who knows? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe in two years someone will ask you, 'Where's that Ernie Cortés guy?' And you'll say, 'Oh, he was run out of town.' " Then that Ernie Cortés guy smiles grandly, and there's not one person in the room who believes him.

Cheryl Dahle ( [1]) is a senior writer at Fast Company. learn more about communities organized for public service on the Web ( [2]).
Sidebar: What's Fast

Community organizer Ernesto Cortés views democracy as the single most effective way to develop people -- and to get things done -- both in society and inside companies. He offers this advice on creating coalitions and on becoming a truly democratic leader.

There are no permanent enemies or permanent allies -- only permanent interests.

In politics and in business, there are situations in which the people you care about are going to be your adversaries. I am capable of working with business leaders on issues like education and long-term training, even if those leaders completely disagree with my strategies pertaining to living wages or union organizing. In order to succeed, you have to be able to have those kinds of complex relationships. You have to realize that this is not a war. It's not about destroying people. It's about negotiating settlements.

Never do for people what they can do for themselves.

Smart leaders know that what they're trying to do is develop people's capacity to act. Mentoring has got to be about getting them to understand their own interests and to develop a habit of inquiry so that they can move from being your protégés to being people who can be your mentors.

Don't lead -- develop other leaders.

What I'm trying to do is build something that is beyond anything that I can do as one person or as one leader. So the moment that I start leading an organization myself, that's my cue to walk away -- or else I'd become just another executive director. My job is to get out of the center of things. Because if I'm the one with all of the relationships, then once I go away, the organization collapses. I'm not here to serve as a charismatic leader. I'm an organizer.

Encourage confrontation.

The best managers understand that if everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.


Source: Tomasa L. Garcia

In Search of Black Leadership

In Search of Black Leadership

On Black Leadership, Black Politics, and the U.S. Immigration Debate

Mark Sawyer

SOULS [journal] 10 (1): 42-49, 2008 / Copyright # 2008 The Trustees of Columbia University
in the City of New York / 1099-9949/02 / DOI: 10.1080/10999940801937755

Online Publication Date: 01 January 2008
To cite this Article: Sawyer, Mark (2008) 'Commentary: On Black Leadership, Black Politics, and the U.S. Immigration Debate', Souls, 10:1, 42 - 49
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/10999940801937755

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arising out of the use of this material.


Black leadership has failed to grasp what is at stake in the debate and struggle
over anti-immigration legislation. There are social, economic, and moral grounds
calling for Black people to take a stance on the side of immigrant populations.
The responsibility for Black people to be the guiding light for freedom and human
dignity is clearly revealed in the work of DuBois. The Black perspective is unique
for recognizing when people are conceptually placed outside the ''American''
people. Some Latinos have helped foster confusion by attempting to identify
Latinos as just another ''ethnic'' group to distinguish them from the Black ''racial
group.'' Among other shortcomings this conceptualization fails to recognize
''Afro-Latinos.'' The creation of a service Latino underclass threatens the wellbeing
of the whole working class and organized labor. As the Latinos expose
the hypocrisy of U.S. society, Black people must join them in righteous struggle.
Black people are the most egregious victims of that hypocrisy.

We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

In the wake of the massive mobilization of immigrants in the U.S. in the Spring of 2006, I
have looked in fascination and sometimes concern at the lack of response from Black leadership.
While for some the response to anti-immigrant legislation has been formally clear,
given the potential for racism and human rights abuses the response from Black leadership
has been extraordinarily muted. In the context of that vacuum, the media has portrayed
the feelings of African Americans as ranging from anti-immigrant to ambivalent. Many
African Americans are fearful, some are hateful, and some just do not care. Black leadership
has failed to grasp what is at stake in this debate and continues to fail to articulate a
clear message on a number of social and economic issues of relevance to the African
American community. On moral grounds, African Americans must stand by their
tradition of being the guiding light for freedom and human dignity in the U.S. and around
the world and support the legalization of the more than 12 million people in the U.S.
struggling for basic rights and desperately trying to obtain what so many Americans take
for granted: their citizenship. However, we as a community and leaders of our community
must educate ourselves and make sure the media do not allow fear to drive our choices.
But how do we fill the vacuum?

The immigration debate engages age-old questions for African Americans. Booker T.
Washington in his famous Atlanta Exposition address urged U.S. industrialists not to turn
to unknown foreigners who might take the country in unknown and negative directions,
but to work closely with the known quantity of African Americans (Washington 1995).
However, Washington and current Black leadership both have failed to understand the
ongoing nexus between conceptions of race, nation, and citizenship and the dynamics of
racial exclusion and class issues. These are especially salient in the post-civil rights era.
When Washington's counterpart (and sometimes nemesis) W.E.B. Du Bois proposed
the concept of double consciousness, it was in profound recognition of the tension between
a Black identity placed outside of the boundaries of being authentically American (Du Bois
1987). The same has been the case for Latinos and Asians, who are consistently constructed
both as racialized and colonial subjects within the U.S. Thus, while we recognize
that Latinos are not a ''race,'' not even in our non-scientific folk conception of such, we
still understand that Latinos-and especially Mexican Americans-have in many cases
what is known as racialized ethnicity (Martin Alcoff 2000; Grosfoguel 2003). That is, they
are perceived to be endowed with a set of negative and immutable characteristics that, like
African Americans, make them unassimilable and therefore unworthy of full citizenship
rights. Why then is this not seen as a civil rights issue?

Much of Black leadership, academia, and the media have accepted a hegemonic definition
of the Civil Rights Movement that focuses primarily on the social dimensions of racial
exclusion and thinks of civil rights in entirely domestic terms. This narrative ignores the
more inclusionary aspects of racial domination, i.e., the process of labor exploitation, cultural
appropriation, colonial disruptions, and forced and semi-forced migrations that have
been the hallmark of the development of Western nations in general and the U.S. in particular
(Sawyer 2006). Thinkers and activists like W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Martin
Luther King Jr., Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, James Baldwin, Ella Baker, and
others saw the process of racial oppression of African Americans in the U.S. as intimately
related to earlier processes of slavery, colonialism and the aggressiveness of U.S. foreign
policy in the region (Plummer 1996; Von Eschen 1997; Dudziak 2002; Singh 2005). African
Americans were not brought to this country simply to be the object of racial hatred, genocide,
and cultural destruction, but also in order to integrate them into a political economy
of race that allowed them to be simultaneously dehumanized and exploited for
their labor (Robinson 1991; Du Bois 1995).

There is nothing new about Mexican migration or migration from Central America and
the Caribbean, and it all follows a similar pattern. The racist and nativist rants against
Mexicans in particular but, also against Dominicans, Asians, and other migrants demonstrates
this integrative process. The employability of Latinos in America's worst jobs
demonstrates how the construction of illegality and its maintenance through the racialized
rhetoric of the perpetual and inferior colonial foreign subject, both legally and in practice
marks undocumented migrants (particularly brown, indigenous ones) for labor exploitation
and segmented participation in labor markets.

This is not to deny the psychological, and at times psycho-sexual, nature of racial animus.
However, it is to note that if we make the mistake of thinking of racial oppression as
only about creating social distance, we miss the workings of political economies of race
that seek to extract labor at an unfair price from racialized domestic and immigrant
populations. Thus, the history of U.S.-Mexico relations and programs like the Bracero
Program, as well as U.S. colonial adventures in Central America and the Caribbean,
demonstrate the link between our current immigration debate and the inextricable
connection between race, racism, and nation. If we understand U.S. racism and white
supremacy in their international forms in relation to colonialism, slavery as well as in
racial constructions of national belonging that repeat themselves in places like the
U.S., Canada, and Europe, we then understand that the struggle for rights for immigrants
and against labor and other forms of exploitation is not a struggle that is alien
or beyond the concern of African Americans. It is only if we hold a domestic and social
definition of the civil rights movement that we can turn a deaf ear on the concern for
immigrant human rights.

We also must recognize the racialized and frequently racist language that has characterized
the immigration debate in ways that should give African Americans pause. Samuel
Huntington's ''Who are We'' set off a profound debate on Latinos and immigration
(Huntington 2004). Singling out Latinos (and especially Mexican migrants), Huntington
suggested that they are unassimilable and pose a threat to the Anglo-Protestant culture
that has made America the great country it is. Pundits like Lou Dobbs and Patrick
Buchanan have taken a similar line in attacking Latinos. However, some Latino academics
and commentators and their liberal defenders have made a tremendous mistake in
response. In order to reply to Huntington, rather than denounce the obvious racism of
his attacks, they have taken to emphasizing Latinos' worthiness for citizenship by casting
them as ''ethnics'' in a process of assimilation, similar to Italians and the Irish and in negative
contrast with Blacks. These authors never challenge either Huntington's implicit construction
of a ''white'' dominant culture in America or his argument that race no longer
plays a role in the life-chances of people of color.

Authors like Richard Alba, David Hayes Bautista, and Gregory Rodriguez also take
this line and suggest that Latinos are the quintessential hardworking Americans who
are seeking to assimilate into the norms and ideals of the U.S. They emphasize that-
unlike African Americans-Latinos do not seem to be adopting a ''culture of poverty.''
The picture is clear. For these pundits Latino acceptance depends upon assimilation, racial
distancing from Blacks, and not adopting an oppositional racial consciousness similar to
Blacks. African Americans are rightly upset by these responses. However, these scholars
are wrong on both normative and analytical grounds. Clearly, they do not speak for
the entire Latino community. There is nothing ''new'' about Latino immigrants: Mexicans
in particular have been a part of the American landscape for a long time and have consistently
been racialized as both other and inferior. The virulent reactions to Mexicans and
their children by white racist and mainstream organizations speaks to their ongoing racialization
in American society. Similarly, these debates ignore the existence of Afro-Latinos
and Black migrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

Thankfully, people on the street are not adopting this stance. Unlike pundits and some
academics, the people on the street at the immigrant marches saw what they were struggling
against as racism. Their signs expressed anti-racist slogans and also challenged the
exploitation of their labor. They made the connection between the idea that current
immigration policy makes them available for labor exploitation, just as Jim Crow and
other manifestations of racism continue to make African Americans available for labor
exploitation. As African Americans have learned to use their citizenship rights to challenge
exploitation, employers have shifted to a new source of exploitable labor: undocumented

While this might lead one to believe that Latinos are ''taking African-American jobs,''
the reality is far more complicated. There is no clear economic data that suggests that Latinos
have taken African-American jobs where there have been cases of employer preferences
for Latinos. These employers have tended to use undocumented Latinos' lack of
rights in order to guarantee their exploitation. The nexus between race, class, gender,
and citizenship status reveals a complex web in which employers ''prefer'' the most exploitable
labor, not individuals whom they see as equals, co-ethnics, or co-nationals. Thus,
preference for immigrant labor should not be interpreted as a form of assimilation for
Latinos. Further, these employers do not see, nor are they creating a path for upward
mobility for Latino laborers. This is why whites in places like Orange County, California
simultaneously exploit Latino gardeners, nannies, and pool cleaners while developing
ordinances to increase deportability, deny educational access for their children, and
restrictive zoning to maintain their marginality (Lacayo 2007). In this way, Latino barrios
are far more similar to South African Bantustans than any of us might care to admit. The
sting of de facto apartheid is felt just as sharply.

However, this alone does not overcome concerns from the African-American community.
One major fallacy that is repeated often is the idea that Latinos have either taken
African-American jobs or are responsible for African-American unemployment. The
history of Los Angeles and other places that have received large numbers of immigrants
tells a different story. African Americans moved from the South to the North and West in
massive numbers, not in order to work as domestics, gardeners, and busboys, but to work
in a growing manufacturing sector that offered middle-class wages and opportunities for
upward mobility. Those jobs that helped build the Black middle class, have gone overseas.
They have not been ''taken'' by Mexican workers. Further, Black teachers, postal
workers, and bus drivers in the unionized public service sector have benefited from immigration.
Immigrants curbed the slide in urban populations around the country that was
causing cut-backs in city budgets and reducing public services and jobs for the Black
middle class. A recent PPIC study reveals that workers benefit from immigrant labor
in both jobs and wages. These direct effects are masked by the countervailing forces
mentioned above.

What is true is that Black and Latino workers share similar difficulties. Blacks and
Latinos are dropping out of high school at alarming rates. Far from realizing the
immigrant American dream, Latinos are fast becoming an intergenerational group of lowskilled
exploitable workers who in subsequent generations face rates of incarceration similar
to that of African Americans. To all of our detriment, Black and Latino political leadership
have not pushed a policy agenda that challenges exploitation, deportability, and mass incarceration
for Black and brown youth. Further, to the extent that wages for low-skilled workers
are declining, the prudent response is to support unionization, human and labor rights, and a
higher minimum or living wage. The recent efforts to improve the minimum wage and to support
''card check'' unionization that allows workers to overcome intimidation tactics by
employers who fear workers with rights are steps in the right directions, but how often do
African American political elites place these issues at the top of the agenda? These are the
issues that also link the concerns of African Americans and Latinos together in ways that
move beyond perceptions of group difference and=or threat. Unfortunately, there has been
a significant retreat from these issues on the agendas of national and state politics. As the
Latino high school drop-out rate approaches and tops fifty percent in many communities,
we are not seeing the next great American success story, but a group who will likely be left
behind as the new economy moves forward. Black leadership must redouble its efforts on
central issues like job development, fair wages, prison reform, sentencing reform, crime
prevention, universal health care, and quality education. These issues that are rarely on
the front of the national political agenda are essential to both African Americans and
Latinos. Further, an enforceable ''living wage'' is also in the interests of African American
and immigrant workers of all colors and consistent with values of fairness and ethical
assistance. Work should pay in America and too often for Black, brown, white, and yellow
workers, legal or undocumented, it does not.

Even if you don't agree with what I have written so far, it is clear that turning 12 million
people in the U.S. into felons will not be good for African Americans. It will redirect
scarce resources towards the capture and incarceration of such people. It will make them
more vulnerable to employer exploitation and is simply inconsistent with values of human
rights embodied by the African-American struggle. The racism inherent in such a policy
fuels a beast that again will consign African Americans to irrelevance and will cast Latinos
into further exploitation. The ordinances being passed by cities and towns to prevent
renting to the undocumented and that turn migrants into virtual fugitives invites not only
discrimination against immigrants, but discrimination against all Latinos regardless of
status. Re-legalizing racial discrimination is a profoundly dangerous road. Further, the
policies are not, as anthropologist Nicholas de Genova suggests, to actually achieve deportation
of Latino immigrants but, to produce ''deportability.'' Deportability relegates
Latino immigrants (and natives too) to a fugitive status from which they can be freely
exploited since they cannot exercise normal citizenship rights under fear of deportation.
Note that we have been here before with the Fugitive Slave Act, Plessy v. Ferguson,
and myriad aspects of Jim Crow that-while not mentioning race-were no less directed
at a particular racial group and were no less pernicious.

Perhaps our leaders do not understand how far in reverse we may go. In 2007, the Texas
state legislature began considering the possibility of challenging the current interpretation
of the 14th Amendment such that children born of undocumented immigrants would not
be considered citizens. This radical change in the U.S.'s citizenship regime strikes at a core
thread that guarantees those born in the U.S. the rights and some version of the privileges
of citizenship. Jus solis rather than jus sanguine citizenship rights have been the hallmark
of American democracy since the abolition of slavery. This is in jeopardy. We are looking
towards a citizenship regime that will create new forms of racially stratified citizenship
that will in turn condemn multiple generations of Latinos and other immigrants to
marginal status.

Further, the racialized language that casts Latinas as having ''anchor babies'' in order
to stave off deportation and attempt to guarantee their own ability to remain in the U.S.
bears a striking resemblance to the racist rhetoric that characterizes African-American
women as having children in order to obtain welfare benefits. This racialized and racist
language should be shocking to those concerned about America's racial history.
The prospect of creating new and overtly racial forms of citizenship at the local and=or
federal level is a dangerous slippery slope that is not merely about policies, but about fundamental
principles of fairness and human rights. This shocking attack on a community
and the proposals to convert millions of people living in our midsts into felons drew the
convulsive response that constituted some of the largest protests in American history.
I attended the May 1st (2006) rally in Los Angeles and the marchers saw their struggle
as one for citizenship and empowerment and against racism, as many of their signs read.
Others were in solidarity with displaced African Americans from Hurricane Katrina.
Immigrants fighting for their rights are not picking a fight with Black folks. Do we, as
African Americans, think we can go it alone and achieve our political goals in the future?
What about the fact that a good 2 million of Latinos are ''Black,'' not to mention African
and Caribbean immigrants? What have African Americans ever gained from joining with
white racists? How will it harm African-American interests to have 12 million more voters
who will likely support more social spending, unionization, and a range of other policies
that are in line with the policy preferences of African Americans and especially the poorest
among us?

By supporting this movement and fair, humane and rational immigration policies, a living
wage, unionization, and battling racism wherever it exists, African Americans can
make long-term and powerful political allies. Together, we can transform politics in this
country, rather than playing a game of divide and conquer. Like it or not, African Americans
are no longer the largest minority in the United States. That is a fact that will remain
unchanged. If we don't stand for our principles and we stand with racists, we guarantee
our own future irrelevancy and moral decline. The bottom line is that African Americans
need to help move the immigration debate and stand on principle rather than on narrow
''interests'' or ''ethnic competition.'' That means attacking racism and mobilizing around
issues that will help African Americans advance. If we can't stand with Latinos on this
issue we will all fall.

The perfect example of this lack of vision was in the ultimately successful Proposition
187 campaign in California, that attempted to strip basic rights from immigrants and garnered
a majority of African-American votes. It gave momentum to the conservative ballot
initiative movement and paved the way for Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action
initiative, now being considered in other states as a result of its wins in California,
Washington, and Michigan. There is a domino effect we need to understand. African
Americans unwittingly sowed the seeds of our own destruction by not standing with
Latinos on this issue.

On the other hand, victories by forces for democracy, rights, and citizenship can have
the same momentum. Just as the victory for civil rights by African Americans helped
create minimum wage laws, more humane and (less) racist immigration policies and other
positive reforms in the United States, this movement can have the same effect. Now that
Latinos are fighting racism and for citizenship rights, we-as African Americans-have a
stake in their winning. If they=we win, our next fights will be for unionization, expanded
voting rights, living wages, more funding to public education, and universal health care.
These are all issues that immigrants, Latinos, and African Americans share. Further, we
will also fight for affirmative action together because Latinos have been and continue
to be supportive of these policies.

Currently, the immigrant rights movements are the most vocal element shattering the
immoral right wing orthodoxy in America and fracturing the Republican Party. It is great
that Latinos are, in many ways, exposing the hypocrisy of the Republicans and their failed
policies by carrying the struggle to the streets. The power structure fears this movement,
but if we are righteous we have nothing to fear. No one imagined that such a mass mobilization
of people was possible in this era. ''Americans are too apathetic, too comfortable,
to try to change the world,'' they say. But there are those among us who see the injustice of
racism and exploitation and through their own lack of basic rights are best positioned to
remind us of how tenuous, incomplete, and threatened those rights are. We have all
lamented this apathy, but we must be ready to act when we see a movement that challenges

This is an enormous opportunity for us, both politically and analytically. As academics
we must understand the growth and diffusion of this movement and develop strategies and
tactics to understand how so many people can be mobilized so quickly. Further, we must
take advantage of the opportunity to educate members of the African-American and
Latino communities about our shared struggles for meaningful citizenship rights and
against either their denial or proffering as second-class citizenship of any kind. It is a living
struggle and we must struggle with our friends who share our values for justice and who
also struggle against racism. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ''In the end, we will
remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'' Thus, it is both
pragmatic and righteous to support legalization now for the 12 million undocumented
immigrants in the U.S. and to support a rational immigration policy that respects human
and labor rights above ethnic pride and national purity.

Black leadership must now stand on principle. These principles must guide Black leadership
even if in some local contexts Latino labor may mean short-term harm to vulnerable
Black workers. The basic bedrock principles of racially equality and universal rights
have been too hard-fought for African Americans to throw them away over a few minimum
wage jobs. This is the trade-off that must be discussed in moral terms and in terms
that articulate what has been our strongest high ground as African Americans.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Border fence opponents join 9-day march against wall in South Texas

Dozens of protesters have taken a stand against the fence as part of the March Against the Border Wall, a nine-day journey from Roma to Brownsville, Texas. The march, which crosses three counties, ends Sunday.
His cry serves as a punctuation point here, where drug-related violence across the border has become all too real.

Border fence opponents join 9-day march against wall in South Texas
More than 200 join 9-day march against border barrier
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, March 15, 2008
By DIANNE SOLÍS / The Dallas Morning News

MISSION, Texas – As the group nears a campground after the day's 12-mile march against a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a red-cheeked man yells out of his vehicle: "Stop the drugs! Build the fence!"

But all along the three-county route of the march, voices against the fence have dominated the discussion. Ranchers and river entrepreneurs, school administrators and students oppose the fence and question whether it's a better deterrent of illegal migration and illicit drugs than beefed-up Border Patrol forces and high-tech blockades.

Pushed by growing public concern over illegal immigration and a perceived lack of border security, Congress voted in September 2006 to build the fence. The vote was framed as a security-first springboard toward President Bush's proposed overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, which later failed.

Many here say that security help is needed but that fencing won't trip up the drug traffickers and other illegal crossers.

Yes, illegal immigration causes multiple frictions, reasons 14-year-old Carolynn Perez, who along with her mother, Rosalinda Perez, joined the nine-day protest march over the three southernmost counties of the nearly 2,000-mile border.

But a wall – even an 18-foot one – is something a migrant will just learn to climb, says the great-great-granddaughter of a Spanish settler.

The protest, which drew more than 200 people for different legs of the trip, ends Sunday in Brownsville.

While opposition to the fence is strong here, some off the march route favor it.

"I am for securing the border so that they can provide some security to Americans," says Moses Sorola, a 74-year-old bookkeeper in Brownsville. "If that is a fence, fine. If that is whole line of soldiers at the border, fine."

The Mexican government needs to begin providing good jobs for its people so that they stop migrating to Texas, Mr. Sorola says.

The U.S. government wants to build 670 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico by December.

Texas has the longest stretch of border and the greatest concentration of private property owners. The U.S. Homeland Security Department has filed dozens of lawsuits against landowners – including the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District and the University of Texas at Brownsville – seeking access to land to conduct surveys. The suits have led to animosity and activism.

"I fault us in Texas for not speaking out when they built the first walls in California," says Matt Webster, one of Carolynn's high school teachers, referring to fencing that went up at Pacific Ocean beaches in the early 1990s.

Along the Rio Grande in Mission, Johnny Hart runs the Riverside Club, nestled in a curve of the river.

"Build a wall," he says, pausing to breathe, "around Washington, D.C."

Then a smirk crosses his sunburned face and he laughs at his joke.

"That's Mexico there," says Mr. Hart, pointing out his window to the river, where he gives boat tours. "It's like two countries and it's like one. ... Mexico to me is like Oklahoma. ... We don't look at it as a foreign country."

Surveying challenges
For many years, many looked at this region next to Mexico as a "third country," with its own language of Spanglish and sayings like "sientate down" and "vamos shopping."

But when the federal government made attempts to begin surveying land – meeting challenges with eminent domain threats at the river's midpoint in Eagle Pass – folks here took notice. And they're not giving up.

In McAllen, Mayor Richard Cortez, a business accountant, said he wasn't happy when he first heard the U.S. government wanted to survey land.

"We were not consulted," he says. "We are Americans, and we are part of this country.

"We get criticized by the pro-fence people. But I tell them come to see the reality of the border. A fence won't stop terrorists who come here with legal documents. It won't stop illegals without any documents."

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner says the agency will meet its December deadline for 670 miles of fencing "whether natural, manmade fencing or technology of some type."

Congress mandated additional fencing and barriers, under the Secure Fence Act. Some 70 miles of "tactical infrastructure" is proposed for the southernmost portion of the border – Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron counties, home to nearly 1.2 million people, mostly Hispanics.

But it's premature to say that, by December, tactical barriers will extend the length of the Texas border, the spokeswoman said, because of the litigation.

"In Texas, the negotiations are ongoing and the Border Patrol still needs to gain access to land," Ms. Keehner says.

Ms. Keehner notes that the majority of landowners in Texas have allowed access to their property.

More than two dozen property owners will have hearings in two federal courts this Monday and Wednesday.

Eloisa Tamez, who owns three acres at El Calaboz, just west of Brownsville, is among those fighting. Her land is part of the San Pedro de Carricitos land grant, established by Spain in 1747. Officials did not follow an adequate process of consultation and negotiation in planning the border fencing, said Mrs. Tamez, the 73-year-old director of the nursing program at UT-Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

And a federal judge has supported part of her plea for further negotiation.

"We were never significant enough for the United States, and now they want to section off a part of the United States behind a wall," Mrs. Tamez says. "Washington now knows that we are different down here."

The Homeland Security spokeswoman, Ms. Keehner, says much consultation has taken place, including individual efforts by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a Harvard-trained lawyer.

In Hidalgo County, for example, "they came up with a workable solution that they wanted some combination of levees and fencing," Ms. Keehner notes.

"They came to us with a viable, workable solution. But the secretary has also said that this is not an opportunity for endless debate."

'They'll get it'
Johnny Shuford of Rio Grande City grows yellow and red onions on 40 of his 240 acres at the Rio Grande. Before his land was part of the U.S., it was "Porcion 79" of a Spanish land grant, which gave him water rights to irrigate from the Great River.

But at 85 years old, he knows that fighting the U.S. government is difficult.

So when they asked to survey his land, he offered no resistance, though "I am against it," he said from his home office, curled U.S. flags behind him.

"It's the U.S. government, and if they want it, they'll get it."

In Brownsville, 82-year-old Fred Perez, Carolynn's grandfather, worries that the fence will cut him off from the family cemetery. Mr. Perez's grandfather, Juan M. Perez, who came to Brownsville from Spain, founded the cemetery

Today, he finds the family plot, near flowering aloe vera and mesquite trees, and narrates the family history for his granddaughter.

His mother, Dolores Perez, died in childbirth when he was just 9 years old. It was her 12th pregnancy.

"This is my father, Cirilo Perez," he says, running his hand over the granite tombstone. "He died in 1947, and I had just come out of the Navy."

He pauses.

"I feel bad," he says. "How are we going to put flowers on my parents' graves?"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arkansas Woman, Left in Cell, Goes 4 Days With No Food or Water

March 12, 2008

Arkansas Woman, Left in Cell, Goes 4 Days With No Food or Water


A woman was locked for four days in a tiny holding cell in a northern Arkansas courthouse, forgotten by the authorities and left without food or water, the local Sheriff's Department said Tuesday.

The woman, Adriana Torres-Flores, 38, a longtime illegal immigrant from Mexico, slept on the floor with only a shoe for a pillow, and with nothing to drink except her own urine, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. There was no bathroom in the cell.

A bailiff had apparently forgotten that he placed Ms. Torres-Flores, a mother of three, in the cell last Thursday, and simply left her in the empty courthouse, in Fayetteville, over the weekend, said the chief deputy of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, Jay Cantrell. A snowstorm meant that there were far fewer people than usual working at the courthouse on Friday.

"He just flat forgot about her," Mr. Cantrell said, adding that the bailiff, Jarrod Hankins, had been placed on administrative leave, having been on the job a few months. "It was just a horrible mistake," Mr. Cantrell said.
When the bailiff opened the door of the cell on Monday, Ms. Torres-Flores was lying on the floor, the deputy said. The cell typically holds prisoners for no more than an hour, measures 9 feet by 10 feet and contains only a metal table with benches that swing out from it. It has a steel door and concrete walls.

"From what I understand - it sounds horrible to say - it was an oversight," said Nathan Lewis, Ms. Torres-Flores's lawyer. "No one is walking around there Friday, and she just got left in there over the weekend."

"There's no water, there's no food," Mr. Lewis added. "She basically said it was really bad."

She was taken to a hospital and treated, and is now recovering at home, Mr. Lewis said, "very worn out from the whole ordeal."

Ms. Torres-Flores has been in the United States for 19 years, and her children were born here, though she is in the country illegally, said her immigration lawyer, Roy Petty. Mr. Petty said she had been among numerous people arrested at a flea market on charges related to the sale of pirated DVDs and CDs.

She went to court Thursday for a hearing on a plea agreement over the charges, but decided to plead not guilty. She was then placed in the holding cell for transfer to the county jail, since the new plea was contrary to the terms of her original release on bond. Instead, she was forgotten.

"Everybody is backing away from it as fast as they can," Mr. Petty said. "Frankly, that's how they treat Hispanics down here. They treat Hispanics like cattle, like less than human."

Mr. Cantrell, the deputy, said there would be an investigation. "There was no malicious intent," he said. "The whole thing is terrible."

In Little Rock, Rita Sklar, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Arkansas, said the organization was very concerned.
"There certainly have been a lot of problems in that corner of the state, in terms of police treatment of Latinos and bigoted statements by government officials," Ms. Sklar said. "We're looking into the general problem in northwest Arkansas of racial profiling and abuse of power."

Impulsan proyecto duro de migración

Maribel Hastings
Corresponsal de La Opinión

12 de marzo de 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C.— La minoría republicana de la Cámara Baja, con el apoyo de varios demócratas, presentó ayer una petición para forzar al liderazgo cameral a llevar al pleno un proyecto migratorio demócrata enfocado en la aplicación de leyes aunque no queda claro si reunirán las 218 firmas requeridas para obligar la discusión de la medida.

Se trata del proyecto del congresista demócrata de Carolina del Norte, Heath Shuler, (HR4088-SAVE Act), que, entre otras cosas, requiere la verificación de identidad de todos los trabajadores mediante el sistema E-Verify, aumenta en más de ocho mil la cifra de patrulleros fronterizos por cinco años, y se sustenta en la aplicación de leyes al interior del país para agilizar el hallazgo y la deportación de indocumentados.

Una fuente dijo que la mayoría demócrata no cree que se reunirán las 218 firmas. De los 435 integrantes de la Cámara Baja, 198 son republicanos.

El proyecto en sí mismo tiene el apoyo de 48 demócratas y 93 republicanos.

Roy Blunt, uno de los líderes republicanos (Whip), cree que de momento, unos cien republicanos podrían firmar la petición (discharge petition), pero que esa cifra podría aumentar. Y que llegarían a los 218 si los casi 50 demócratas que apoyan el plan de Shuler, firman la petición.

El portavoz de Shuler, Andrew Whalen, dijo a La Opinión que el congresista ya firmó la petición, pero que desconoce cuántos otros demócratas lo harán.

La petición fue sometida por la congresista republicana de Virginia, Thelma Drake.

El apoyo de algunos demócratas a la petición supone un reto al liderazgo de la mayoría demócrata por tratarse de una herramienta generalmente empleada por la minoría.

Pero es año electoral y los republicanos no son los únicos interesados en demostrarle a sus representados que han ejercido mano dura contra la inmigración indocumentada o que cuando menos lo han intentado.

Entre esos demócratas hay congresistas como Shuler que fueron electos en 2006 en distritos conservadores de inclinación republicana y de hecho, ganaron esos comicios prometiendo mano dura contra los indocumentados.

Whalen indicó a La Opinión que "el congresista habría preferido que el proyecto llegara al pleno por los mecanismos regulares, pero al mismo tiempo piensa que la medida merece ser discutida en este Congreso".

Sobre el argumento de que Shuler, como otros demócratas y republicanos, sólo quieren sacar ventaja política del tema migratorio en año electoral, Whalen afirmó que "estamos en total desacuerdo con ese argumento".

"Esto no está políticamente motivado. Se trata de asegurar las fronteras y de garantizar que quienes trabajan en Estados Unidos estén autorizados para hacerlo", agregó Whalen.

Al menos en un principio, uno de los coauspiciadores del plan de Shuler es el congresista demócrata de Texas, Ciro Rodríguez.

La petición pretende además poner en jaque al liderazgo demócrata cameral que ha evadido el tema migratorio a toda costa.

Primero argumentaron que el Senado tenía que actuar y el fracaso de la reforma integral en la Cámara Alta les concedió armas para decir que no había apoyo para el tema.

Empero, algunos congresistas demócratas hispanos, como Luis Gutiérrez, de Illinois, han mantenido la presión para cuando menos debatir alguna propuesta o lograr algún tipo de protección temporal para los indocumentados mientras se retoma el debate de la reforma amplia en un nuevo Congreso.

De hecho, la bancada latina dice que si procede el proyecto de Shuler debería incluir un alivio migratorio para los indocumentados.

Es evidente que hay sectores republicanos y demócratas que quieren sacarle partido al tema migratorio en año electoral, aunque analistas coinciden en que es un asunto que no gana elecciones.

La semana pasada un grupo de senadores republicanos anunció que intentará avanzar más de 15 medidas enfocadas en seguridad.

Los dos precandidatos presidenciales demócratas, Barack Obama y Hillary Clinton, apoyan la reforma migratoria integral, aunque Clinton, contrario a Obama, se opone a las licencias de conducir para indocumentados.

John McCain, el seguro nominado presidencial republicano, fue coautor de un proyecto de reforma integral, pero ahora dice que primero debe garantizarse la seguridad absoluta de las fronteras y deportar a unos dos millones de indocumentados con historial criminal.

ONG dice que 4 mil inmigrantes han fallecido en frontera México-EU

Martes 11 de marzo (19:48 hrs.)
La cifra supone 15 veces más muertes en poco más de una década que el muro de Berlín en sus 28 años de existencia

El Financiero en línea

México, 11 de marzo.- Unas 4,000 personas han muerto en los últimos doce años al intentar cruzar la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos, según los cálculos de la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos (FIDH).

Esta cifra supone 15 veces más muertes en poco más de una década que el muro de Berlín en sus 28 años de existencia, aseguró la FIDH en un informe sobre los derechos humanos en esta región fronteriza que en los próximos días presentará a los gobiernos de Estados Unidos y México.

Según la Federación, que engloba a 155 Organizaciones No Gubernamentales (ONG), desde la firma del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN), en 1994, Estados Unidos ha triplicado el número de guardias fronterizos para controlar la inmigración irregular y ha incrementado la construcción de barreras.

La FIDH estimó que en los últimos 14 años el Gobierno estadounidense ha invertido 30,000 millones de dólares en "asegurar" su frontera meridional.

Pese a las barreras y vigilancia, el número de trabajadores indocumentados que cruzan a Estados Unidos se duplicó entre 1994 y 2003 hasta alcanzar un promedio anual de 500,000 personas que se mantiene en la actualidad.

En 2006 los inmigrantes mexicanos en Estados Unidos enviaron a sus familias 20,000 millones de dólares en remesas, dinero que benefició a uno de cada 10 hogares del México rural.

La FIDH también denunció numerosas violaciones a los derechos humanos de los inmigrantes.

En 2006 las autoridades estadounidenses expulsaron a 858,000 extranjeros, 514,000 de ellos mexicanos, mientras que las autoridades mexicanas interceptaron y deportaron a 178,000 centroamericanos ese mismo año.

El organismo señaló que en México es habitual que los agentes extorsionen a los inmigrantes centroamericanos que cruzan la frontera sur, en tanto que en Estados Unidos se han registrado numerosos casos de brutalidad, violencia verbal e intimidación por los agentes fronterizos hacia los inmigrantes.

Por este motivo, la FIDH recomienda a ambos países que emprendan una reforma de su legislación migratoria con el objetivo de evitar la violación a los derechos humanos de los inmigrantes indocumentados. (Con información de EFE/GCE)

© 2005 Copyright. El Financiero S.A. de C.V. / El Financiero Comercial S.A. de C.V.

ONG denuncian redadas que violan la ley de migración de EU

ONG denuncian redadas que violan la ley de migración de EU
Luis Carlos Cano
El Universal

Miércoles 12 de marzo de 2008

Detienen de forma arbitraria en Texas y Nuevo México, dicen en informe

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Chih.— Alguaciles del departamento del sheriff del poblado de Chaparral, perteneciente al condado de Otero, Nuevo México, fueron acusados por activistas de organizaciones Defensoras de derechos humanos de migrantes y residentes de la comunidad, de estar violando la ley migratoria, al colocar retenes y realizar redadas ilegales para buscar personas indocumentadas.
Explican que la mayoría de la población de Chaparral, ubicado cerca de la frontera con Juárez, es de origen hispano y contra ellos van encaminadas las revisiones sin importarles que sean ciudadanos estadounidenses nacidos en esa población.

Los activistas que defienden a los indocumentados expresaron que la mañana de este martes fueron colocados retenes desde las nueve horas en calles como la Norte, Jerónimo, East Lisa y McCombs, a donde llegaron elementos de la Patrulla Fronteriza para llevarse a los indocumentados retenidos por el sheriff de manera ilegal.

La señora Yolanda Montes Varela al presentar la denuncia pública dijo que “vimos a las 10 de la mañana el retén de policía y sheriffes, quienes colocaron señales para que cualquier vehículo que cruzara hiciera el alto para revisarlos y cuando tenían al menos siete personas detenidas, llegó la Patrulla Fronteriza para subirlos a sus unidades”.

Añadió que “el personal del sheriff está invadiendo la privacidad de la gente, ya que no tienen la autorización de detenerlos para revisarles sus documentos porque ellos no han cometido delitos”.

Sobre estas redadas, Norberto Sánchez, vocero del condado de Otero, a donde pertenece Chaparral, no quiso dar una versión sobre las redadas y retenes.

La red fronteriza de los derechos humanos que encabeza el activista estadounidense Fernando García, informó que durante 2007 documentaron mas de 57 quejas contra elementos de la policía de El Paso, Texas y sureste de Nuevo México que han violado leyes migratorias al detener indocumentados sin estar autorizados.

Expresó que “del total de quejas que han logrado recabar, 33 de ellas son contra los alguaciles de los departamentos del sheriff en los condados de Otero, Doña Ana y El Paso, al igual que contra la policía que se han distinguido por aplicar leyes migratorias, facultad que es exclusiva del gobierno federal y sus dependencias como la Patrulla Fronteriza.

Un caso concreto que alarma a los defensores de los derechos de los migrantes son estas redadas en El Chaparral.

Durante la presentación del informe sobre violaciones a los derechos humanos y por considerar que se está aplicando una política antimigrante y discriminatoria en la frontera de Texas y Nuevo México.

© Queda expresamente prohibida la republicación o redistribución, parcial o total, de todos los contenidos de EL UNIVERSAL