Saturday, May 31, 2008

Judge Strikes Down Immigration-Related Rental Ban

Great news! Glad to see this judge make the right decision. This really is out of the hand of local government. -Dra. Valenzela

POSTED: 3:55 pm CDT May 28, 2008
UPDATED: 7:42 am CDT May 29, 2008
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas -- A federal judge found Wednesday that Farmer's
Branch rule prohibiting apartment rentals to illegal immigrants was
unconstitutional and could not be enforced.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay concluded only the
federal government can regulate immigration. Farmers Branch didn't
defer to the federal government in immigration matters. Instead, the
city tried to create its own classification to determine which
noncitizens could rent in Farmers Branch, the judge said.
The judge found that violates the supremacy clause of the U.S.
Constitution, which allows for the federal government to preempt local
laws.

Farmers Branch's ordinance also didn't comply with the due process
clause of the 14th Amendment because it was vague.

The rule failed to provide clear guidance that immigration documents
were acceptable and didn't explain what was meant by the ordinance
phrase "eligible immigration status," the judge wrote.

"This is absolutely a victory for the entire nation, honestly," said
restaurant owner Elizabeth Villafranca, an opponent of the ordinance.

But city leaders vowed the fight isn't over yet.

"It's disappointing, absolutely disappointing," City Councilman David
Koch said. "But we are not going to be derailed by the decision."

Council members passed the ordinance last year. It would have barred
apartment rentals to illegal immigrants and required landlords to
verify legal status. The rule would have exempted minors and people 62
and older from having to prove their immigration status or citizenship.

Families made up of citizens and illegal immigrants would have been
allowed to renew an apartment lease if they met three conditions: they
were already tenants, the head of household or spouse was living
legally in the United States, and the family included only the spouse,
their minor children or parents.

In Wednesday's opinion, Lindsay also wrote that the city's attempts to
salvage the ordinance faltered because they would have required the
court to draft laws. That function is outside of the court's duties.

Residents endorsed the rule 2-to-1 in May 2007 during the nation's
first public vote on a local government measure meant to combat
illegal immigration.

But a group of apartment complex operators, residents and advocates
sued Farmers Branch. They alleged the rule was so poorly drafted that
it could allow exclusion of legal immigrants and citizens from
renting, was difficult to abide by because it didn't provide clear
guidance for apartment managers and owners and improperly tried to
turn property managers into policing agents.

Lindsay then issued a preliminary injunction blocking Farmers Branch
from enforcing the ordinance. Wednesday's decision makes the
injunction permanent.

The city hired a law firm and consulted with University of
Missouri-Kansas City law professor Kris Kobach to rework the ban and
address the challenges to it. They came up with the latest ordinance,
which council members approved in January.

It would require prospective tenants to get a rental license from the
city. Farmers Branch would ask the federal government for the
applicant's legal status before approving the rental license. The rule
was set to take effect 15 days after a ruling on the previous ordinance.

Backers believe this version will pass certain court challenges.

"Until we get a different message, I think it's pretty clear that
we're going to continue to fight for them and fight to try to regain
our country as it relates to the immigration issue," Koch said.

Wednesday's decision is not the final ruling that would allow the new
rule to become effective. Attorney's fees and other issues still have
to be resolved before a final judgment is entered.

"We're encouraged that the legal problems that Judge Lindsay found in
the old ordinance have been addressed and resolved in the new
ordinance," Michael Jung, one of the city's attorneys, said.

But Villafranca said she doesn't think the new ordinance will pass
muster, either.

"Unfortunately, I think it is going to cost the citizens of Farmers
Branch millions of dollars, and it's never going to see the light of
day," she said.

City leaders have vowed to take the issue all the way to the U.S.
Supreme Court, a fight they admit could take years.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lindsay denied Farmers Branch's request to have
the latest revamped ordinance declared constitutional.

Lindsay wrote that federal courts do not give advisory decisions to
assure governments that their statutes pass constitutional muster.

Typically challenges to the constitutionality of a local law involve a
lawsuit, but no one has sued over the ordinance that has not yet taken
effect, Lindsay said.

Around the country, some 100 cities or counties have considered,
passed or rejected similar laws, but Farmers Branch was the first in
Texas, according to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund,
which tracks the data.

Copyright 2008 by nbc5i.com The Associated Press contributed to this
report. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

MIRÁNDOLOS A ELLOS. ACTITUDES MEXICANAS FRENTE A ESTADOS UNIDOS

Demasiado interesante éste artículo que aparece en LETRAS LIBRES. Trata con actitudes de los Mexicanos hacia los EE.UU. a través de los años escrito por Enrique Krauze. Incluyo una sección del artículo. Mucho muy interesante. Vale la pena leer el artículo entero.

-Dra. Valenzuela




Pensar en ellos

Conviene detenerse en cada término de la frase. Se trata, ante todo, de “pensar”. Pensar, actividad difícil en días de emotividad desbordada. Lo que está en juego –entre muchas otras cosas– no es un problema de interés académico, sino la suerte de veinticuatro millones de mexicanos que viven “del otro lado” (nueve de ellos nacidos en México) y de cinco millones de hogares que dependen de sus millonarias remesas. En la casi totalidad de los 2,443 municipios que integran México, hay registro de personas que han emigrado. Una de cada tres personas oriundas de Zacatecas y una de cada seis de Jalisco viven ya en Estados Unidos. Se trata, en suma, de una de las olas migratorias más impresionantes de la historia. En el ámbito económico, son conocidas las cifras básicas de nuestra vinculación (el noventa por ciento del comercio, el noventa por ciento del turismo, el setenta por ciento de la inversión extranjera provienen de allá), pero en México se pasa muy rápido sobre esos números, olvidando que representan, de nueva cuenta, la actividad de millones de personas cuyas vidas dependen de que esa relación se consolide y crezca, y se vuelva cordial y fluida, fácil. O algo cercano a eso.

Se habla de “relación”, pero siempre debería hablarse de “relaciones”, porque entre los dos países existe un complejísimo entramado en cuyo análisis hay que hilar fino. Las relaciones políticas y diplomáticas son unas, las económicas y empresariales otras, las sociales o demográficas, otras más. Y cada rubro, como es obvio, admite multitud de subdivisiones. El mayor de los equívocos ocurre al amalgamar Estados Unidos con el gobierno en turno: Bush es hoy lo que ayer fueron Reagan o Nixon, y todos son supuestamente una diabólica “encarnación” hegeliana llamada “Estados Unidos”, más coloquialmente “los gringos”. Esto no es sólo una simplificación burda, sino una falsedad. El mexicano proyecta en ellos la concepción interiorizada de nuestro antiguo sistema político, el reino en el que todo lo humano y lo divino comenzaba y terminaba en el escritorio del Señor Presidente. México, entonces y ahora, era mucho más que una mera biografía del poder, pero quedó la mala costumbre de trasladar esa supeditación colectiva a la perspectiva internacional, con resultados desastrosos, porque en Estados Unidos las cosas no funcionan así. Estados Unidos –como debería ser obvio– no es una entelequia histórica ni un agregado homogéneo: es una democracia. Hace más de dos siglos que lo es.

Pero también es un imperio. “Perplejos ante su doble naturaleza histórica –escribió Octavio Paz en su libro Tiempo nublado–, hoy no saben qué camino tomar. La disyuntiva es mortal: si escogen el destino imperial, perderán su razón de ser como nación. Pero ¿cómo renunciar al poder sin ser inmediatamente destruidos por su rival, el imperio ruso?” Paz escribía estas líneas en 1984, sin sospechar que al cabo de muy pocos años la URSS resolvería por sí sola el dilema, con la más inesperada implosión de los tiempos modernos. Pero a esa sorpresa histórica siguió otra, quizá mayor: el retorno militante del islam. Con la guerra de Iraq, Estados Unidos parece haber resuelto aquella disyuntiva señalada por Paz mediante la elección de un destino imperial en el Medio Oriente que bien podría llevarlo a “perder su razón de ser como nación”. Por otro lado, los mismos argumentos sobre el imperio rival son aplicables, al menos potencialmente, al fundamentalismo islámico, implacable e inédito poder internacional cuyas diferencias con Estados Unidos (y con Occidente todo) no son sólo geopolíticas o ideológicas sino religiosas y, por ello mismo, quizá irreconciliables. Y para complicar aún más el horizonte, para tornarlo aún más incierto, la historia ha deparado una novedad adicional: el ascenso moderno del antiquísimo dragón chino. ¿Fracasará finalmente Estados Unidos en su propósito de democratizar por la fuerza el Medio Oriente? ¿Cuál será, a la postre, la actitud de Estados Unidos si China continúa su irresistible avance comercial y eventualmente lo traduce en un poderío militar avasallador?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iraq War veteran opposes army recruitment of Latinos

Iraq War veteran opposes army recruitment of Latinos

By: Cindy Von Quednow

Posted: 5/12/08

As a recently-arrived immigrant from post-war Nicaragua, Camilo Mejia
felt out of place in the United States, his third home in three years.
He decided to join the Army in order to find his place in the world.

"I was lacking social contact and I didn't feel part of anything,"
Mejia said. "I felt like it was the only option I had at the time."

Mejia became disillusioned with the military after finding out he had
signed up for eight years instead of the three he completed in active
duty; he decided to continue his studies and be a part-time soldier
with the Florida National Guard. In early 2003, four months shy of
completing his duty with the National Guard and receiving his
bachelor's degree in psychology, his unit was called to fight in
Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After being in Iraq for five months, he became one of the first public
conscientious objectors of the war; he is now the chair of a prominent
anti-war organization and the author of the memoir, "The Road from Ar
Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia."

As an immigrant, Mejia has strong opinions about the notion that
Latinos are targeted by recruiters to join the armed forces.
"(Recruiters) use the lack of benefits of Latinos and immigrants to
lure people in," he said. "The biggest problem is that they don't give
all the information, they only give the pretty information, which is
not the true picture."

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos made up 13 percent of
the enlisted military personnel in 2006, compared to 18 percent of the
civilian population, and there is an effort to increase those numbers
to 22 percent. As reported in The New York Times, the Pentagon started
an advertising campaign through the Spanish-language media to
exclusively appeal to Latinos.

"If you look at documents released by the Pentagon and the federal
government, they have a deliberate attempt to recruit and socialize
young Chicanos and Latinos for the military," said Rosa Furumoto,
assistant professor of Chicano/a Studies at CSUN.

Based on data released by the Department of Defense, 419
Hispanics/Latinos have died in the current war as of November 2007,
the highest number of casualties among minorities.

"They need those bodies to carry out wars which don't benefit working
or middle class people∑there is a deep level of injustice, and it's so
pervasive, especially on high school campuses," said Furumoto.
Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires school
districts receiving federal funding to grant military recruiters
access to student contact information. Those who don't comply risk
loss of funds.
"It is used as a hammer and a threat," said Furumoto, author of "No
Child Left Unrecruited: How NCLB Codifies and Perpetuated Urban School
Militarism."

She added that, based on the law, recruiters are allowed equal but not
exclusive access to schools, as some administrators seem to believe.

"There is a blurry line, if any, between school and the military,"
said Arlene Inouye, a teacher at Garfield High School in East Los
Angeles and coordinator of the Coalition Against Militarism in
Schools. "Their authoritarian model is in complete contradiction with
providing knowledge to our kids."

CAMS raises awareness of recruitment efforts and war at the high
school level. Aside from making popular anti-war works like "Addicted
to War" and "Arlington West" part of their curriculum, the
organization has emphasized the little-known "opt-out" provision of
NCLB, which allows students to keep their contact information from
military recruiters.

"It gives the option for students and parents to assert their rights
to privacy," Inouye said, adding that it does not guarantee recruiters
won't obtain the information some other way.

The notion of recruiting in high schools in an effort to attract
students seeking higher education is evident in a memo co-authored by
the secretaries of defense and education shortly after NCLB was
passed, which states, "For some students, this may be the best
opportunity they have to get a college education."

"That is a deficit view of our youth," said Furumoto in response to
the memo. "It is based on the assumption that young people don't have
the capacity to go to college and become active members of society."

The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, a military-sponsored
program offered in high schools across the nation as a physical
education or elective course, claims to do just that.

"JROTC is a building block for students. It gives them a chance to
excel where they might not have the opportunity to elsewhere," said
First Sgt. Charles A. Mujica, senior officer in charge of Monroe High
School, which was voted the best JROTC battalion in the city for its
12th consecutive year. "We teach them self-worth, acceptance and how
to become good citizens. The goal is to get these kids to college."

JROTC has 3,149 units nationwide. Sixty-one percent of Los Angeles
Unified School District schools have a JROTC program, making
California the largest district in the country.

"There are waiting lists for these programs, it is expanding rapidly
and we're put in a situation where young people, from diapers to
adulthood, are preparing to go into the military," said Furumoto.
"JROTC in high schools are socializing youth to obey, don't ask
questions or criticize authority."

"We don't go to schools, the schools come to us," said Mujica, a
third-generation Mexican- American. "Let's be honest, LAUSD is
predominately Hispanic and they are considered a minority. So are
there a lot of minorities in JROTC programs? Yes, there probably are,
but is that a wrong thing? If we segregated and not let them in, we
would be sending the wrong message∑we welcome everyone."

During the interview, Mujica's cadets were enjoying some down time
after their success in the city competition. Mujica says they have
worked with community organizations and were writing letters and
making care packages for soldiers in Iraq. "We provide them some place
to become a better person."

However, critics like Inouye say participation in JROTC increases
students' likelihood of enlisting in the military in the future. As
stated in Furumoto's article, "Approximately 39 to 43 percent of
students that successfully complete JROTC programs eventually enlist
in the military."

"I don't know how many go on to the military, because that is not my
job," said Mujica, who was an army recruiter before his almost 10-year
involvement with JROTC. "I don't want to be accused of recruiting
because I'm not here to do that, and I make sure the other officers
don't either."

In regards to immigrant students, Mujica likened JROTC to the English
as Second Language programs in an academic setting.

"We have students from all over the world, we have students that just
speak Spanish, we talk to them and work with them and take part in
peer teaching," he said. "We assimilate them and give them information
in Spanish."

Both legal and illegal immigrants within the Latino community garner
special attention from the military due to their volatile status in
this country and their willingness to change it.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, an
educative and immigration reform plan, was attached to a Department of
Defense bill in order to increase its likelihood of being signed into
law. The act, which didn't pass, would have given undocumented
students the option of obtaining permanent residency by enrolling in
an institute of higher education or enlisting in the armed forces for
two years. This was met with stark criticism from prominent Latino
leaders and organizations to anti-war activists.

In 2000, President George W. Bush signed a law promising greencard
holders fast nationalization in exchange for enlisting in the armed
forces. Consequently, 32,000 greencard soldiers were shipped to Iraq
and Afghanistan in 2003. The most publicized case was that of Jose
Antonio Gutierrez, a Guatemalan orphan who was the first Latino
soldier killed in Iraq and the first to obtain his citizenship in death.

"(Gutierrez) is a perfect example of someone who wanted to pay back to
this country ∑he paid back alright," said Furumoto. "I think it's
wrong to kill someone for citizenship∑it is a deeply moral and ethical
issue. You have to think: how far will you go? What orders would you
follow, and how would you live with yourself later?"

© Copyright 2008 Daily Sundial

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Acuerdo migratorio, única alternativa para mexicanos

Acuerdo migratorio, única alternativa para mexicanos
Edición 15021 martes 20 de mayo de 2008 Publicación de Hoy


Para los mexicanos residentes en Estados Unidos, la única alternativa viable para solucionar conflictos como la inseguridad jurídica, la confrontación social y la discriminación es un acuerdo migratorio.

De acuerdo con líderes de varias agrupaciones de mexicanos que viven en diferentes estados de la Unión Americana, la oleada antiinmigrante que se vive en entidades como Arizona y California, lejos de resolver el problema, lo avivan.

En entrevista por teléfono, Gloria Saucedo, de la Hermandad Mexicana, señaló que las medidas antiinmigrantes perjudican más de lo que benefician, pues provocan disgregación familiar y conflictos económicos en las comunidades.

Refirió que, según un estudio del Centro de Políticas de Inmigración de California, independientemente de su calidad migratoria, las personas provenientes de otros países aportan cuatro mil 500 millones de dólares anuales de impuestos a ese estado.

El vocero de la Alianza Nacional de Comunidades Latinoamericanas y Caribeñas (NALACC, por sus siglas en inglés), Jorge Mario Cabrera, desmintió a su vez las afirmaciones de las autoridades locales de Los Angeles en torno del “costo” de los indocumentados.

Recordó que recientemente el supervisor Mike Antonovich, del Distrito 5, aseveró que el condado de Los Angeles “gasta” al año 220 millones de dólares en seguridad pública, 400 millones en salud y 432 millones de dólares en ayuda a los indocumentados.

Cabrera indicó que esas cifras son falsas, pues es bien sabido que los inmigrantes, lejos de representar un gasto para la ciudad, contribuyen de manera importante con sus impuestos y el consumo local.

En tanto para Marco Amador, de la Cadena Nacional de Organizaciones de Jornaleros, la situación en Estados Unidos es grave, pues al amparo de las medidas antiinmigrantes, muchos patrones han dejado de pagar a sus trabajadores.

Las leyes que obligan a los empleadores a revisar el estatus migratorio de sus trabajadores antes de contratarlos -y que ya están vigentes en varios estados, entre ellos Arizona- se usa como pretexto para dejar de pagar sus salarios.

Esta situación provoca problemas económicos a las familias de los jornaleros, quienes dejan de recibir remesas desde Estados Unidos.

Una encuesta publicada por el Tomás Rivera Policy Institute

(TRPI), con sede en la Universidad del Sur de California en Los

Angeles, muestra la preocupación por la seguridad en el envío de

dinero.

Debido a las medidas antiinmigrantes, los mexicanos que reciben

dinero de sus familiares en Estados Unidos muestran una creciente

preocupación por la certeza de que esos recursos lleguen completos y

a tiempo.

De acuerdo con el Informe sobre la Inflación de enero-marzo de

2008 del Banco de México, “a lo largo de 2007 el ingreso de recursos

al país por remesas familiares mostró una desaceleración, la cual se

acentuó en el presente año”.

El año pasado, el monto de las remesas ascendió a 23 mil 979

millones de dólares, mientras que “en el primer trimestre de 2008,

esa entrada de recursos fue de cinco mil 350 millones de dólares, lo

que implicó una caída anual de 2.9 por ciento”.

La encuesta del TRPI levantada en 10 entidades de México revela

que, en promedio, 51 por ciento de las personas tiene preocupación de que el dinero llegue con seguridad. Pero desglosada por estado, la

cifra es grave.

Por ejemplo, en Jalisco la preocupación es compartida por 61 por

ciento de los encuestados, en Puebla por 57 por ciento, en Guanajuato

por 56 por ciento, y en el Distrito Federal y el estado de México por

39 por ciento.

Al respecto, el director del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, Carlos González Gutiérrez, señaló que hay una preocupación importante porque los mexicanos recurren cada vez más a medios

clandestinos para el envío de dinero.

A pesar de los esfuerzos de autoridades mexicanas para “bancarizar” a los migrantes, las medidas tomadas en Estados Unidos los ahuyentan de las sucursales bancarias y de las oficinas de envíos regulares de dinero, lo que genera riesgos económicos.

El director ejecutivo de NALACC, Oscar Chacón, ha señalado en

repetidas ocasiones que las redadas que se han llevado a cabo en

varios estados provocan descalabros económicos.

Los casos se han documentados en Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia,

Kentucky, Florida, Nueva York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas y Virginia Occidental, donde la expulsión de indocumentados ha dejado vacantes y desintegración de familias.

Los dirigentes consultados coinciden en que la única manera de

resolver esos conflictos, que afectan más a la de por sí debilitada

economía estadounidense, es lograr un acuerdo migratorio que

regularice el flujo de personas.

Sin embargo, el panorama es poco alentador. Dennis Bixler y

Márquez, director del Centro de Estudios Chicanos de la Universidad

de Texas en El Paso, asegura que nunca se firmará tal acuerdo.

En su opinión, ni las autoridades, ni los representantes de la

política estadounidense, es decir los diputados y senadores, tienen

el menor interés de llegar a un acuerdo migratorio con México.

En ese sentido, advirtió que la lucha seguirá siendo larga y la

presión contra los inmigrantes dependerá de las circunstancias

políticas y económicas que se vivan cada momento.


Copyright :Diario de Mexico

Monday, May 19, 2008

THE FEDS AND TEXAS QUARREL OVER CUSTODY OF UNDOCUMENTED KIDS


Children of the State
THE FEDS AND TEXAS QUARREL OVER CUSTODY OF UNDOCUMENTED KIDS.

Melissa del Bosque | May 16, 2008 | Features

At a Texas airport, federal agents detain state child caseworkers and the undocumented children in their custody. The feds and the state bicker over care of a toddler trapped in a federal immigrant detention center. A foster child fails a mental health assessment and faces deportation as state workers beg the Department of Homeland Security to reconsider.
Across Texas, state and federal workers are clashing over children. Toughened federal rules designed to deter illegal immigration are creating unintended consequences for Texas’ Child Protective Services (CPS). Caseworkers along the Texas-Mexico border are struggling to navigate the new policies. It falls to them to care for undocumented children who have been removed from abusive families. Child welfare is a state issue. Immigration is a federal issue. State workers run the risk of five years in prison and several thousand dollars in fines from the federal government just for shepherding their young undocumented charges.

Sandra Rodriguez has watched the friction increase over the past five years. For more than a decade, Rodriguez has worked as what CPS calls a “border contact liaison.” She is responsible for trying to resolve immigration issues that arise between the state agency and federal immigration authorities. Rodriguez also oversees Region 11 for Child Protective Services and manages 54 caseworkers. Region 11 spans from Brownsville to Laredo and had 980 children in its care in the month of March 2008. She estimates that one percent of those children were undocumented.

Last year, the Border Patrol detained one of Rodriguez’s caseworkers for several hours at the McAllen airport. The woman had been transporting an undocumented teenager, an emergency removal from an abusive home. (More than 4 million people live along Texas’ border with Mexico but there are no residential treatment facilities or shelters for children who need special psychiatric care. Caseworkers must transport children who suffer extreme abuse or trauma to Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio.) Border Patrol agents took the teenager into custody despite court documents proving she was a ward of the state.

Rodriguez says she and her supervisor spent all day pleading with the feds to release their colleague and the teenager from Border Patrol custody. “We faxed every piece of court order and documentation that we had, but their decision was to take the child into custody,” she says.

The caseworker, who could have been charged with aiding an undocumented alien, was eventually released without penalties. The child in her custody, however, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and sent to federal foster care in another state.

CPS has tried—to no avail—to negotiate a blanket agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow the agency to transport undocumented children in their care through immigration checkpoints.

“I have children sleeping in my office and I can’t get them past the immigration checkpoints for the treatment they need,” Rodriguez says. “They are wards of the court and we are acting in good faith.”

The Observer contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ask about their policies regarding undocumented children in CPS care. The conversations that followed offered just a small taste of the bureaucratic tangle that children and their state custodians must unravel when negotiating with Homeland Security.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesperson for ICE, referred the Observer to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Daniel Doty, a public affairs officer with the border protection agency, said policies regarding undocumented children under CPS care are not public information and declined to discuss his agency’s relationship with Child Protective Services. Both men said they were not familiar with the McAllen case. CPS confirms that Border Patrol detained as many as three CPS caseworkers, and the children in their care last year.

For Rodriguez, what began as part-time additional duties helping CPS sort out immigration matters has become a more than full-time occupation requiring two assistants. “When this position started 12 to 13 years ago, it was on such a small scale. It was something you did to assist your colleagues,” Rodriguez says. “And then it just exploded. I would say in the last five years I noticed the increase with more questions about immigration and more calls coming in for assistance from child protective caseworkers in places like Lubbock.”

CPS documents released to the Observer show the number of undocumented children in state custody has increased, from 254 children in 2004 to 280 children in 2007.


At least 75 percent of those undocumented children come from Mexico, according to CPS documents. Texas has an agreement with Mexico regarding child welfare. Rodriguez works on a regular basis with the Mexican Consulate and the country’s child welfare agency, the Desarollo Integral de la Familia, to find missing relatives or to perform home studies to determine whether undocumented children in Texas should be placed with relatives in Mexico. Last year alone, caseworkers at the agency also cared for undocumented children from at least 23 other countries, including Vietnam, Germany, Canada, and Nigeria. Every week, Rodriguez works with foreign consulates to determine whether children in limbo should be placed in Texas’ foster care system or sent back to their home countries.

“People don’t understand that it takes a lot of time,” Rodriguez says of the extra job she is now expected to perform. “You have to keep these working relationships going with the consulates. None of us do this full time. It’s something extra we do in addition to our regular jobs.”

Rodriguez’s experience is not unique, according to Ilze Earner, an associate professor at the Hunter School of Social Work in New York who specializes in child welfare and immigration. Child welfare agencies all over the country are struggling to keep up with stepped-up enforcement against undocumented immigrants and the resulting increase in undocumented children caught in the system.

“Whenever you have an issue that crosses both of those policy streams you are going to have very complicated interpretations of whose jurisdiction it is. Neither system knows how to talk to the other,” Earner says.

One point of conflict is a new federal requirement that undocumented children in state care pass a mental health stability assessment as a precursor to obtaining residency in the United States. “A lot of our children have emotional trauma because of the abuse they have endured,” Rodriguez says. “Many of our children are under the care of a psychiatrist and the government will require a write-up from the psychiatrist regarding the child’s mental stability.”

Last year, one of her young charges failed the psychiatric evaluation. “The scary thing was they were going to deport this child to a country she’d never been to, where there was no one to receive her,” she says. “It was pretty harsh.”

Luckily, Rodriguez was able to appeal, and re-appeal, until federal immigration officials relented. “I haven’t had a child sent back yet—thank God,” she said.

Over the past three years, the Department of Homeland Security has expanded its detention facilities for children across the country. The increase in the number of undocumented immigrants detained has further contributed to conflicts over jurisdiction between the feds and state child welfare agencies. A glimpse into this ongoing struggle can be seen through e-mail exchanges over custody of a toddler housed at the federal T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas.
The facility became the focus of litigation last year over poor living conditions for the undocumented families detained there. “The children were dressed in prison garb like their parents,” says Barbara Hines, the director of the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Law Clinic, who helped on the case. “The only children who weren’t wearing prison clothing were the infants, because they couldn’t find prison uniforms small enough.”

Hines says when she first toured the facility she found the families were depressed and crying and hadn’t been outside for days. They were counted seven times a day and children spent most of their time inside prison cells. “It was basically a prison model for children,” she says.

The state has no jurisdiction over the T. Don Hutto facility because it is not licensed under any state welfare regulations, according to Hines. “CPS doesn’t have regular access to this place.”

CPS documents obtained by the Observer show that in January 2007 the agency removed a two-year-old Honduran girl from the facility, which is run by Corrections Corporation of America. At least one detainee and a residential hall monitor at the facility accused the mother of abuse, according to documents from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the umbrella agency over CPS. Witnesses said the mother, Maria, had placed a towel over her daughter Cynthia’s mouth to silence her, and had threatened to throw the child against the wall and kill her. (The Observer has changed the family’s names to protect their privacy.) The hall monitor, in documents identified as Ms. Albright, questioned Maria’s stability and said she was depressed:


“Ms. Albright informed that on December 6, Maria had to be taken to see a social worker due to having a ‘crying fit.’ Maria went from being uncontrollable to being ‘giddy.’ Ms. Albright stated Maria had been referred to see a social worker; however, the social worker can only see her once a week.”

CPS was asked to take custody of the child. Four months after receiving the child, Pamela Parker, director of Legal Policy at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, was still trying to clarify CPS’s right to legal custody of the child. Parker wrote in a letter to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official:

“It appears that ICE intended to and in fact did consent to DFPS taking custody of [Cynthia]. Without such consent, presumably this child would still be in ICE custody. To ensure there is no mistake regarding this issue, however, we request that you confirm no further consent is required…”

In an interview in April, Cynthia’s father said that Cynthia had been in CPS custody for more than a year. He and his wife had retained a lawyer and have been attending court hearings in an attempt to regain custody of their child. “We just want our daughter back, so that we can return to Honduras,” he says.

The number of Central American children in CPS care has risen recently, according to Sandra Rodriguez. She explains that many such families traveling north to look for work end up living in the border region. The interior immigration checkpoints 70 miles north prevent them from moving farther into the United States. It takes longer to communicate and reconcile paperwork with Central American consulates than with a neighboring country like Mexico.

“We don’t have Central American consulates here,” Rodriguez says of the border region. “They are either in New York or Houston. We don’t have any type of memorandum of understanding but we must notify them,” she says. “This is new territory for these consulates. There are not just adults now being smuggled, but also children being smuggled in to be reunited with their parents.”

Once CPS determines that a child will not be reunified with his or her family, the agency can apply to federal immigration authorities for Special Immigrant Juvenile status for the minor. This allows a child to become a legal permanent resident in the United States.

But states have little incentive to file the paperwork because they don’t receive any type of federal foster care reimbursement, says Christopher Nugent, an immigration lawyer with Holland & Knight in Washington, D.C. “The states are very resistant to take these children into their systems.”

If two-year-old Cynthia were to remain in state foster care, there is a chance she could reach 18 and still be undocumented and in legal limbo. No official numbers are kept, in Texas or nationwide, of how many children reach adulthood still undocumented. Statistics collected by the nonprofit Immigration Legal Resource Center show that the number of children nationwide who secure legal residency status nationwide is low. In 2000, 659 children received residency. In 2002, the last year for which data is available, only 521 children secured the status. (There are no accurate data for the number of undocumented children in state custody nationwide. According to CPS in 2007, just for the border region of Texas, there were 90 undocumented children.)


Another difficulty for state welfare agencies in securing residency for children in their custody is the rising cost of filing the paperwork. Rodriguez says the feds have increased the cost of filing by as much as 45 percent, an expense borne by the state. The slow pace and difficulty in obtaining residency puts children through extreme anxiety and depression as well, she says. Children cannot travel anywhere there might be an immigration checkpoint, and they cannot be adopted until their residency status is approved.

“They see other 16-year-olds going to a football game in Corpus and they can’t go. Or the entire foster family will go on vacation but they can’t go,” Rodriguez says. “They can’t get a driver’s license because they don’t have residency. And they can’t get a job like other 16-year-olds.”

Ilze Earner, who conducts immigration and child welfare trainings with federal and state agencies, says the two branches of government need to start a dialogue about the many complex questions surfacing around the intersection of child welfare and immigration.

For one thing, Earner says, the federal government needs to process residency paperwork faster, and make it more affordable for state welfare agencies. After all, she says, it is in the best interest of Texas to legitimize these children. “You don’t want undocumented people in your society. Not because they are bad people, but because they are off the radar and can’t participate in society,” Earner says. “You are creating a huge at-risk population.”

Despite the urgent need for more communication, there is little evidence that policymakers in Washington are moving in that direction.

“Our immigration population is growing, but we are not catching up with the need,” Rodriguez says. “Not only Texas but a lot of states in the interior of the country are now feeling the impact of the immigrant population, and they are thinking, ‘How are we going to deal with this?’”

OUR AMERICA & THE OTHER AMERICA

>COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS
>MAY 19, 2008 (Media Release Upon Receipt)
>By ROBERTO DR. CINTLI RODRIGUEZ
>OUR AMERICA & THE OTHER AMERICA
>
>Apparently, there indeed are two Americas. In one America, recognition
>is given that we live upon Indigenous lands and that we now live in a
>rich multicultural and multiracial society. In the other America, them
>are fighting words.
>
>Since the founding of this nation, the political lines in this country
>have been drawn [and racially coded] between those who adhere to
>American values versus those who adhere to un-American values -
>between those who are authentically American versus those who are
>deemed to be un or anti-American. This division, Harold Meyerson of
>the Washington Post posits in "McCain's America" (May 14, 2008), is
>what we can look forward to in the fall presidential election.
>
>True, though when it comes to immigration, no need to wait for the
>fall. Those who favor curbing immigration like to portray it as a war
>over American values and Western Civilization. Some even link it to
>the "war on terror." While some who specialize in scapegoat politics
>do not bother to code their dislike of brown peoples, many others are
>quick to emphasize that they are anti-illegal immigrant, not
>anti-immigrant. And yet many of their proposals - which call for a
>national language, while encouraging massive racial profiling - have
>little to do with illegal immigration.
>
>For example, Arizona State Rep. Russell Pearce's proposal to amend
>SB1108 would prohibit tax dollars to be spent on public schools that
>"denigrate American values and the teaching of Western Civilization."
>It would also prohibit race-based organizations (without exception) in
>public schools. Clearly, his proposal has nothing to do with "illegal
>immigration" as his primary target is the elimination of Raza Studies
>at Tucson Unified School District - a national leader in K-12
>curriculum development - and MEChA - Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De
>Aztlan. Neither of these exemplary educational organizations needs
>defending. Rather, it is those that are attempting to legislate
>censorship and thought control that need defending.
>
>Pearce's amendment states: "A public school in this state shall not
>include within the program of instruction any courses, classes or
>school sponsored activities that promote, assert as truth or feature
>as an exclusive focus any political, religious, ideological or
>cultural beliefs or values that denigrate, disparage or overtly
>encourage dissent from the values of American Democracy and Western
>Civilization, including democracy, capitalism, pluralism and religious
>toleration."
>
>Because there's no consensus on these topics, or on their definitions,
>it would be impossible to enforce such amendments. For instance, would
>teachers be able to teach that torture and the U.S. "right" to wage
>permanent war against any nation - regardless if there is a moral
>justification - constitute American values? Or would they teach that
>they are aberrations of American values? Would they teach that
>favoring corporate profits at the expense of workers and the
>environment is an American value… or an aberration?
>
>Truthfully, Americans have faced similar dilemmas since the arrival of
>Europeans to this continent, including this nation's founding. Did
>Indigenous and African peoples have souls and were they fully human?
>Were they entitled to full human rights, including the right to their
>own spiritual beliefs and cultures? Such questions led to land theft,
>genocide and forced conversions and assimilation. It also led to
>slavery, even close to 100 years after the U.S. Declaration of
>Independence. It also led to unjustified and continued U.S. military
>interventions throughout the Americas.
>
>Not forgotten is that African Americans, American Indians and women
>were deprived of full citizenship and their full humanity - including
>the right to vote - for at least the first 100 years of the republic.
>Asians and Mexicans (who also suffered massive land theft) were also
>subject to exclusion and mass repatriations. All these groups were
>subject to defacto and dejure segregation and discrimination. What is
>the American value: the right of all to be treated fully human - or
>the maintenance of that racial and gender pecking order?
>
>Taken to its logical conclusion, under Pearce's proposal - teachers
>and students wouldn't be permitted to study these topics and ask these
>questions. This points to what is wrong with education in America:
>politicians, not educators, are now in control of the classroom.
>
>The history of this nation has been well-served by a dynamic struggle
>over what constitutes "American" and human values (the two have not
>always been synonymous). Without that struggle, slavery, legalized
>segregation, discrimination and dehumanization would still be in
>effect today.
>
>Fortunately, the march of history [and human rights] is always
>forward. Apparently, not in Pearce's America.
>
>(c) Column of the Americas 2008
>
>Rodriguez can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com or Column of the
>Americas PO BOX 85476 - Tucson, AZ 85754. Columns are archived at:
>http://web.mac.com/columnoftheamericas/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

U.S.: Colleges may admit illegals

North Carolina's Attorney General's Office sounds way out of bounds here. There is NO law that says that undocumented immigrants cannot be admitted to public colleges and universities. Status is not a basis for admissions or denial. -Dra. Valenzuela

May 10, 2008 04:47 AM
U.S.: Colleges may admit illegals
Federal officials say N.C. schools aren't required to consider students' status

KRISTIN COLLINS, Staff Writer

North Carolina is free to admit illegal immigrants to public colleges and universities, federal officials said Friday.
"It is left for the school to decide whether or not to enroll" illegal immigrants, said a statement released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "The Department of Homeland Security does not require any school to determine a student's status."

The statement joined a chorus of voices -- including one from an immigration hardliner -- disputing the advice that the state Attorney General's Office offered this week to the Community College System. An advisory letter from the attorney general recommended that the colleges stop admitting illegal immigrants because a federal law appeared to require it.

"The attorney general is all by himself," said Josh Bernstein, of the National Immigration Law Center in Washington, D.C., which advocates for poor immigrants. "Nobody believes that the law says this. Nor has anyone ever brought it up, including the authors of the legislation."

Lawsuits elsewhere in the nation have challenged the policy of offering in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, but no suit has argued that it is illegal simply to allow undocumented students to seek degrees, several immigration law experts said.

The handful of illegal immigrants who attend North Carolina's 58 community colleges and 16 public universities must pay out-of-state tuition, which the schools say more than covers the cost of their instruction. Officials at the Community College System released a new estimate Friday, saying a recent survey showed that only 112 of 297,000 degree-seeking students were illegal immigrants. The University of North Carolina system says 27 of its 200,000 students are here illegally. Most of those who are college age arrived in the United States as young children, accompanying their parents.

The letter from the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper, released Wednesday, said that federal code listed post-secondary education as a benefit to which illegal immigrants are not entitled. It said that unless the state passes a law expressly allowing illegal immigrants to attend its colleges, admitting them might not stand up to a court challenge.

The letter also acknowledged that the law on the matter is "unsettled" and advised the colleges to seek advice from the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for the law's enforcement.

Clarification provided

Federal immigration officials provided clarification Friday at the request of The News & Observer. The statement says that, although illegal immigrants are in danger of deportation and possible criminal prosecution, schools are not required to use immigration status as criteria for admission. They also do not have to report students who are in the country illegally, except those who have student visas and are registered with the Student Exchange and Visitor Program.

Officials in Cooper's office responded with a brief written statement, saying that this week's letter "advises that the [Community College] System can rely on the Department of Homeland Security for guidance."

The letter has become the target of scrutiny from immigration advocates and lawyers across the country.

Several said the attorney general's advice defied their understanding of the law, including Mark Krikorian, head of a national group that advocates for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

"I've never heard anyone say that before," said Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., of the idea that federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from attending public colleges. "I've never understood that to be the case."


Next page >

kristin.collins@newsobserver.com

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Es necesario cambiar radicalmente la política alimentaria ¡YA!

El negocio de matar de hambre

GRAIN

Desde Haití hasta Camerún, pasando por Bangladesh, la gente se ha lanzado a las calles llevada por la rabia de no poder ya comprar alimentos. Hay dirigentes mundiales que reclaman más ayuda alimentaria ante el temor de una agitación política, así como más fondos y tecnología para aumentar la producción agrícola. Mientras, los países exportadores de cereales cierran sus fronteras para proteger sus mercados internos, a la vez que otros se ven forzados a comprar por el pánico a la escasez. ¿Auge de precios? No. ¿Escasez de alimentos? Tampoco. Nos encontramos en medio de un colapso estructural, consecuencia directa de tres décadas de globalización neoliberal.

Desde hace varios meses, una verdadera tormenta por el alza del costo de los alimentos en todo mundo le ha caido a familias, gobiernos y medios de comunicación. El precio del trigo aumentó 130% en el último año[1]. El del arroz se duplicó en Asia, tan solo en los últimos tres meses[2], al tiempo que alcanzó aumentos récord en el mercado de futuros de Chicago hace apenas una semana[3]. El aumento en espiral del costo del aceite comestible, de frutas y verduras, sin mencionar los lácteos y la carne, ha provocado una disminución del consumo de los mismos durante casi todo el año 2007. Desde Haití hasta Camerún, pasando por Bangladesh, la gente se ha lanzado a las calles llevada por la rabia de no poder ya comprar alimentos. Hay dirigentes mundiales que reclaman más ayuda alimentaria ante el temor de una agitación política, así como más fondos y tecnología para aumentar la producción agrícola. Mientras, los países exportadores de cereales cierran sus fronteras para proteger sus mercados internos, a la vez que otros se ven forzados a comprar por el pánico a la escasez. ¿Auge de precios? No. ¿Escasez de alimentos? Tampoco. Nos encontramos en medio de un colapso estructural, consecuencia directa de tres décadas de globalización neoliberal.

El sector agrícola tuvo en todo el mundo una producción récord de 2.300 millones de toneladas de granos en 2007, un 4% más que el año anterior. Desde 1961, la producción mundial de cereales se ha triplicado, mientras que la población se ha duplicado. Es cierto que las reservas están en el nivel más bajo de los últimos 30 años[4]. Pero, en resumidas cuentas, se produce suficiente cantidad de alimentos en el mundo. Sin embargo, no llega a quienes los necesitan. La gente consume directamente menos de la mitad de la producción mundial de granos. La mayor parte de esa producción se utiliza para consumo animal y cada vez más para biocombustibles a través de cadenas industriales en gran escala. De hecho, una vez atravesada la fría cortina de las estadísticas, es posible darse cuenta de que algo está fundamentalmente mal con nuestro sistema alimentario. Hemos permitido que los alimentos sean transformados de algo que alimenta a las personas y les asegura el sustento, en una simple mercancía para la especulación y los negocios. La lógica perversa de este sistema ha llegado a un punto crítico. Salta a la vista la manera en que beneficia a los inversionistas por sobre las necesidades alimenticias de la gente.

Las realidades del mercado

Los promotores de las políticas que han dado forma al actual sistema mundial alimentario –y que supuestamente son los responsables de evitar tales catástrofes– han ofrecido una serie de explicaciones sobre la crisis actual que todo el mundo ya ha escuchado una y otra vez: la sequía y otros problemas que afectan las cosechas, aumento de la demanda en China e India donde la gente aparentemente se está alimentando más y mejor, cultivos y tierras que se reconvierten masivamente hacia la producción de agrocombustibles, y demás explicaciones. Agreguen a esto la actuación de los especuladores que inflan los precios, lo cual también está siendo objeto de mayor indagación. Todos estos asuntos, obviamente, contribuyen a la actual crisis alimentaria.Pero no son totalmente responsables de su profundidad.Hay algo más importante detrás. Algo que une todos estos temas y que los popes del mundo de las finanzas y el desarrollo están manteniendo fuera de la discusión pública.

Nada de lo que dicen los nerds que formulan las políticasdebe opacar el hecho de que la actual crisis alimentaria es el resultado de la presión permanente ejercida desde la década de 1960 hacia el modelo agrícola de la “Revolución Verde”, y de la liberalización del comercio y las políticas de ajuste estructural impuestas a los países pobres por el Banco Mundial y el Fondo Monetario Internacional, desde la década de 1970. Estas recetas de políticas fueron reforzadas a mediados de la década de 1990 con el establecimiento de la Organización Mundial del Comercio y, más recientemente, a través de un fárrago de acuerdos bi-laterales de libre comercio y de inversión. Junto con todo un paquete de otras medidas, han desmantelado de manera implacable los aranceles y otros instrumentos que los países en desarrollo tenían para proteger su producción agrícola local, y los forzaron a abrir sus mercados y tierras a los agronegocios mundiales, a los especuladores y a las exportaciones de alimentos subsidiados provenientes de los países ricos. En ese proceso, las tierras fértiles fueron reconvertidas de la producción de alimentos para abastecimiento de un mercado local a la producción de commodities mundiales para la exportación o cultivos de contra estación y de alto valor para abastecer los supermercados occidentales. Hoy, aproximadamente el 70% de los llamados países en desarrollo son importadores netos de alimentos[5]. Y de las 845 millones de personas con hambre en el mundo, 80% son pequeños agricultores y agricultoras[6]. Si a esto se le agrega la readecuacióndel crédito y los mercados financieros para crear una enorme industria de la deuda, sin control sobre los inversionistas, la gravedad del problema queda clara.

La política agrícola ha perdido total el contacto con su objetivo más fundamental de alimentar a la gente. El hambre lastima y la gente está desesperada. El Programa mundial de alimentos de Naciones Unidas estima que hay unas 100 millones de personas más que no pueden comer debido al espectacular alza de precios reciente[7]. Esto tiene a los gobiernos buscando frenéticamente cómo protegerse del sistema. Los afortunados que tienen existenciaspara exportar están retirándose del mercado mundial para separar sus precios internos de los astronómicos precios internacionales. Con el caso del trigo, la prohibición de exportarlo o las restricciones aplicadas en Kazajstán, Rusia, Ucrania y Argentina, significa que un tercio del mercado mundial ha sido clausurado. La situación con el arroz es aún peor. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egipto, India y Camboya han prohibido o restringido severamente las exportaciones, dejando unas pocas fuentes de suministro para la exportación, principalmente Tailandia y Estados Unidos. Países como Bangladesh ni siquiera pueden comprar el arroz que hoy necesitan debido al alto precio del mismo. Después de que el Banco Mundial y el FMI aconsejaran durante años a los países que un mercado liberalizado les aportaría mayor eficiencia en la producción y distribución de alimentos, los países más pobres del mundo se encuentran inmersos en una intensa puja contra especuladores y comerciantes, que están viviendo una verdadera época de bonanza. Los fondos de cobertura y otras fuentes de fondos especulativos están volcando millones de dólares a los commodities, para escapar de los resbaladizos mercados de valores y de la contracción del crédito; con ello alejan aún más las existencias de alimentos del alcance de los sectores pobres[8].

De acuerdo con algunas estimaciones, los fondos de inversión controlan ahora entre el 50% y el 60% del trigo comercializado en los más grandes mercados mundiales de commodities[9]. Una empresa estima que el monto de dinero especulativo en futuros de commodities –mercados en los que los inversionistas no compran o venden un commodity tangible, como el arroz o el trigo, sino que apuestan a las variaciones del precio– fue menor a US$ 5.000 millones en 2000 y trepó a US$ 175.000 millones en 2007[10].

Esta situación no es accidental –y sus efectos son insostenibles. Miren a Haití. Pocas décadas atrás se autoabastecía de arroz. Pero las condiciones de los préstamos externos, en particular un programa del FMI de 1994, lo forzó a liberalizar su mercado. Así, desde Estados Unidos comenzó a llegar arroz barato, con el apoyo de subsidios y corrupción, y la producción local fue erradicada[11]. Ahora los precios del arroz aumentaron un 50% desde el año pasado, y el haitiano medio no puede comerlo. Por esta razón están saliendo a las calles o arriesgando sus vidas en un viaje en bote hasta los Estados Unidos. Las protestas por la crisis alimentaria también han estallado en África Occidental, desde Mauritania hasta Burkina Faso. También allí los programas de ajuste estructural y el dumping de la ayuda alimentaria destruyeron una larga historia de producción de arroz de la región, dejando a la gente a merced del mercado internacional. En Asia, el Banco Mundial aseguró reiteradamente a Filipinas, incluso hasta el año pasado, que autoabastecerse de arroz era innecesario, y que el mercado mundial se haría cargo de sus necesidades[12]. En la actualidad el gobierno se encuentra en una situación desesperada. Las reservas nacionales de arroz subsidiado están prácticamente agotadas y no puede completar sus pagos por importaciones debido a que los precios solicitados por los comerciantes son demasiado elevados.

El hambre como asesinato

Nunca como ahora ha resultado tan obvia la cruda verdad sobre quién gana y quién pierde en nuestro sistema alimentario mundial. Analicemos el elemento más básico de la producción de alimentos: la tierra. Podría decirse que el sistema alimentario industrial sufre de una drogodependencia de fertilizantes químicos. Necesita más y más para mantenerse vivo, erosionando suelos con el costo de destruir su potencial de sustentar cultivos alimenticios. Entre 1992 y 2003, la utilización de fertilizantes aumentó un 3% anual en la región Asia-Pacífico, mientras que, como resultado, el rendimiento del principal cultivo al cual se aplicaron, el arroz, sólo creció un 0,7% por año. En el contexto actual de ajustadas existencias de alimentos, la pequeña camarilla de empresas que controlan el mercado mundial de fertilizantes puede cobrar lo que quiera –y eso es exactamente lo que está haciendo. Las ganancias de Mosaic Corporation, empresa de Cargill que controla gran parte de la oferta de potasa y fosfato, aumentaron más del doble el año pasado[13]. La mayor empresa productora de potasa del mundo, Potash Crop, de Canadá, obtuvo más de mil millones de dólares de ganancias, lo que equivale a más de un 70% con relación a 2006[14]. Enfrentados al pánico de la crisis mundial, los gobiernos han comenzado a desesperarse por aumentar sus cosechas, con lo cual le han dado a esas empresas la potestad de subir aún más la apuesta. En abril de 2008, la filial comercial offshore conjunta de Mosaic y Potash aumentó los precios de la potasa en un 40% para los compradores del sudeste asiático y en un 85% para los de América Latina. India tuvo que pagar un 130% más que el año pasado. Pero fue China quien se llevó la peor parte, fustigada con un alza de un 227% en su cuenta de fertilizantes con respecto al año anterior[15].

Tabla 1. Aumento de las ganancias de algunas de las principales empresas de fertilizantes del mundo
Compañía
Beneficios 2007 (US$) en millones
Aumento con respecto a 2006
Potash Corp (Canadá)
$1.100
72%
Yara (Noruega)
$1.116
44%
Sinochem (China)
$1.100
95%
Mosaic (EEUU)
$ 708
141%
ICL (Israel)
$ 535
43%
K+ S (Alemania)
$ 420
2.8%
Si bien se está haciendo mucho dinero con los fertilizantes, para Cargill es tan solo un negocio secundario. Sus mayores ganancias provienen del comercio mundial de commodities agrícolas, el cual monopoliza en gran parte junto con algunas otras empresas gigantes. El 14 de abril de 2008, Cargill anunció que las ganancias que había obtenido del comercio de commodities en el primer trimestre de 2008 aumentaron un 86% con respecto al mismo periodo del año anterior. “La demanda de alimentos en las economías en desarrollo y de energía en todo el mundo está haciendo crecer la demanda de los productos agrícolas, a la vez que la inversión se ha enfocado en los mercados de commodities”, declaró Greg Page, presidente de Cargill y uno de sus principales ejecutivos. “Los aumentos de los precios están alcanzando nuevas marcas y los mercados son extraordinariamente volátiles. En este contexto, el equipo de Cargill ha realizado un trabajo excepcional midiendo y evaluando el riesgo de los precios y manejando el enorme volumen de granos, semillas oleaginosas y otras commodities que circulan por nuestras cadenas de suministros para clientes de todo el mundo”[16].

La administración y la evaluación no son tan difíciles para una compañía como Cargill, con su posición casi monopólica y un equipo mundial de analistas que tiene las dimensiones de un organismo de las Naciones Unidas. En realidad, todos los grandes comerciantes de granos están logrando ganancias récord. Bunge, otro gran comerciante de alimentos, en el último trimestre fiscal de 2007 tuvo un aumento en sus ganancias de 245 millones de dólares, o 77%, con respecto al mismo periodo el año anterior. ADM, el segundo mayor comerciante de granos del mundo, experimentó un aumento del 65% en sus ganancias de 2007, llegando a un récord de 2.200 millones de dólares. Charoen Pokphand Foods, de Tailandia, es una importante empresa asiática; para este año anuncia un aumento impresionante de sus ingresos, que calcula en 237%.

Tabla 2. Aumento de las ganancias de algunos de los principales comerciantes mundiales de granos
Compañía
Beneficios 2007 (US$)
en millones
Aumento con respecto a 2006
Cargill (Canadá)
$ 2.340
36%
ADM (EEUU)
$ 2.200
67%
ConAgra (EEUU)
$ 764
30%
Bunge (EEUU)
$ 738
49%
Noble Group (Singapur)
$ 258
92%
Marubeni (Japón)
$ 90*
43%*
No está en esta lista Louis Dreyfus (Francia), un comerciante privado de commodities agrícolas, con ventas anuales que superan los US$ 22.000 millones, que no aporta información acerca de sus ganancias.
* Los datos son solo de la sección Agri-Maine de Marubeni

Las grandes firmas mundiales procesadoras de alimentos, algunas de las cuales actúan además en la comercialización, también se están llenando los bolsillos. Las ventas mundiales de Nestlé crecieron un 7% el año pasado. “Lo veíamos venir, así que nos protegimos comprando materias primas por anticipado”, dice François-Xavier Perroud, vocero de Nestlé[17]. Los márgenes están subiendo también en Unilever. “Las presiones sobre los commodities han aumentado radicalmente, pero hemos logrado compensarlas con medidas en materia de precios adoptadas oportunamente y con los réditos permanentes que nos han dado nuestros programas de ahorro”, dice Patrick Cescau, miembro del Directorio de Unilever. “No sacrificaremos nuestros márgenes ni nuestra participación en el mercado”[18]. Las empresas de alimentos no parecen estar sacando su tajada a costa de las grandes empresas de venta al público. El rey de los supermercados del Reino Unido, Tesco, dice que sus ganancias aumentaron un 12,3% con respecto al año anterior, un récord alto. Otros almacenes importantes, como Carrefour de Francia y Wal-Mart de los Estados Unidos, dicen que las ventas de alimentos son el principal factor que contribuye al incremento de sus ganancias[19]. La división mexicana de Wal-Mart, Wal-Mex, que maneja un tercio del total de ventas de alimentos en México, informó de un aumento del 11% en sus ganancias para el primer trimestre de 2008, mientras la gente hace manifestaciones callejeras porque no puede costearse más las tortillas[20].

Parece que casi todos los actores empresariales de la cadena mundial de alimentos están ganando una fortuna con la crisis alimentaria. A las compañías de semillas y agroquímicas también les está yendo bien. Monsanto, la mayor firma de semillas del mundo, declaró que las ganancias generales aumentaron un 44% en 2007 con respecto al año anterior[21]. DuPont, la compañía mundial de semillas número dos, dijo que sus ganancias por la venta de semillas en 2007 aumentó 19% con relación a 2006, mientras que Syngenta, la empresa número uno de plaguicidas y número tres de semillas, obtuvo un 28% más de ganancias en el primer trimestre de 2008[22].

Esos récords de ganancias no tienen nada que ver con algún valor nuevo que estén produciendo esas empresas y tampoco son ganancias inesperadas recibidas de algún brusco cambio de la oferta y la demanda. Es un reflejo del poder extremo que esas intermediarias han acumulado con la globalización del sistema alimentario. Íntimamente vinculadas con la formulación de las normas de comercio que rigen el sistema alimentario actual y con un estrecho control de los mercados y de los sistemas financieros cada vez más complejos a través de los cuales opera el comercio mundial, esas empresas están en una posición perfecta para convertir la escasez de alimentos en pingües beneficios. La gente tiene que comer, cualquiera sea el costo.

La imperiosa necesidad de cambiar las políticas

El telón de fondo de esta situación perversa del mercado alimenticio es el sistema financiero mundial, que en este preciso momento se tambalea en su endeble eje. Lo que el año pasado comenzó como una crisis localizada de préstamos hipotecarios en los Estados Unidos, se ha manifestado ahora en una situación en la que se ha tomado conciencia de que los emperadores del sistema financiero mundial no tienen ropas. La economía mundial vive en base a una deuda que nadie puede pagar. Mientras los banqueros centrales y los ejecutivos de Lear Jet tratan de improvisar parches para revertir la desconfianza, el mensaje subliminal es que el sistema está en bancarrota y nadie en el poder quiere tomar las riendas. Ni el FMI, ni el Banco Mundial, y del Grupo de los 8 en junio no esperemos mucho más que el oropel de las relaciones públicas. Es el mismo tema con los alimentos: una elite ideológica ha obligado a nuestros países a abrir drásticamente los mercados y dejar que rija el libre mercado, para que unas pocas megaempresas, inversionistas y especuladores puedan hacer mucho dinero. El neoliberalismo, acompañado de la corrupción galopante que azota a nuestros países y los sistemas comerciales, ha perdido todo viso de legitimidad en tanto ha causado estragos en el centro mismo de nuestras necesidades más básicas: la capacidad de alimentarnos. El ejemplo más aberrante de cuán fuera de lugar están esos ideólogos es que muchos están comenzando a reclamar abiertamente mayor liberalización del comercio como solución a la crisis alimentaria, y llegan incluso a proponer que se cambien las normas de la OMC para impedir que los países impongan restricciones a las exportaciones de alimentos[23].

El presidente del Banco Mundial, Robert Zoellick, intentó convencer al mundo con su exhortación de establecer un “Nuevo Acuerdo” para resolver la crisis alimentaria. Pero el sonsonete de sus relaciones públicas, replicado entusiastamente por otros organismos, representa tan solo más de lo mismo: más liberalización del comercio, más tecnología y más ayuda. La crisis alimentaria actual es el producto directo de décadas del tipo de políticas que ahora debemos erradicar. Si bien es necesario aplicar medidas inmediatas para bajar los precios de los alimentos y hacer que los alimentos lleguen a quienes los necesitan, también es imperioso dar un giro radical en la política agrícola de manera que los pequeños agricultores de todo el mundo tengan acceso a la tierra y puedan vivir de lo que ella les da. Necesitamos políticas que apoyen y protejan a los agricultores, pescadores y otros sectores que producen alimentos para sus familias, para los mercados locales y para la gente de las ciudades, en lugar de un mercado de commodities internacional abstracto y un minúsculo clan de ejecutivos de empresas. Y necesitamos fortalecer y promover el uso de tecnologías basadas en el conocimiento y el control de quienes saben cómo hacer crecer los alimentos: las comunidades locales. Dicho de otra manera, necesitamos soberanía alimentaria, ya –del tipo de la que definen y dirigen los propios pequeños agricultores y pescadores.

En todo el mundo ha habido movimientos sociales que han estado luchando durante décadas para promover ese cambio de estrategia; pero en respuesta han sido desoídos y calificados de obsoletos –cuando no a menudo reprimidos violentamente-- por quienes detentan el poder. Si hay algún atisbo de esperanza en esta crisis, es que esta situación pueda revertirse. En algunos países los gobiernos ya están recurriendo a las organizaciones campesinas para trabajar con ellas en la reformulación de sus políticas agrícolas. Otros están comenzando a cuestionar el argumento fundamental de impulsar una mayor libertad de comercio. Los halcones neoliberales que están en la cima de la pirámide de la política alimentaria mundial han perdido la credibilidad que de alguna manera pudieron haber tenido alguna vez. Es hora de que salgan del camino para que las visiones de soberanía alimentaria y reforma agraria, que surgen de las bases, puedan ocupar su lugar y sacarnos de este lío infernal.


Fuente: http://www.biodiversidadla.org/content/view/full/40701

Por más información:

- FAO (Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la agricultura y la alimentación). Situación alimentaria mundial

- Financial Times. “The global food crisis”, mapa intercativo, actualizado al 21 de abril de 2008

- Confédération Paysanne, " Les révoltes de la faim dans les pays du Sud : l'aboutissement logique de choix économiques et politiques désastreux", Comunicado de prensa, 18 a abril de 2008

- “UNCTAD official blames food crisis on structural adjustment programme”, This Day, Lagos, 23 de abril de 2008, en: http://allafrica.com/stories/200804230375.html

- Sobre soberanía alimentaria: http://www.viacampesina.org y http://www.nyeleni2007.org

- Sobre agrocombustibles: número 53 de Biodiversidad, GRAIN, julio de 2007, aquí


[1] Bloomberg, citado por la BBC, Londres, 14 de abril de 2008

[2] “Action to meet Asian rice crisis”, BBC, Londres, 17 de abril de 2008

[3] Para ver informes diarios: http://www.riceonline.com. En la medida que hay muchos exportadores asiáticos de arroz fuera de juego, los países necesitados de Asia y África se están volcando al mercado de EEUU, donde los precios están por las nubes.

[4] Brian Halweil, "Grain harvest sets record, but supplies still tight", Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C. En: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5539

[5] Katarina Wahlberg, “Are we approaching a global food crisis?”, World Economy & Development en Brief, Global Policy Forum, 3 de marzo de 2008

[6] Entrevista a un experto en políticas alimentarias, Radio Francia Internacional, París, 20 de abril de 2008

[7] “ONU: inflación en alimentos básicos”, BBC, Londres, 22 de abril de 2008

[8] Sinclair Stewart y Paul Waldie, "U.S. food producers, speculators square off", Globe and Mail, Toronto, 23 de abril de 2008

[9] Ibid. “Why grocery prices are set to soar”, Globe and Mail, Toronto, 24 de abril de 2008

[10] Paul Waldie, “Why grocery prices are set to soar”, op cit

[11] Bill Quigley, “USA role in Haiti hunger riots”, Znet, US, 23 de abril de 2008, en:

[12] Banco Mundial, “Can the world market for rice be trusted”, Box 1 on p. 52 de: “Philippines: Agriculture Public Expenditure Review,” Technical Paper, Banco Mundial, Washington. D.C., 2007: En: http://go.worldbank.org/TGRSK19300

[13] Postasa y fosfatos son dos de los principales ingredientes de los fertilizantes químicos.

[14] David Ebner, “Saskatchewan: A lot more than wheat,” Globe and Mail, Toronto, 11 de abril de 2008

[15] John Partridge y Andy Hoffman, “China deal sends Potash soaring,” Globe and Mail, Toronto, 17 de abril de 2008

[16] “Cargill income up sharply in third quarter” World Grain, Kansas, 14 de abril de 2008

[17] “Tightening belts”, The Economist, Londres, 10 de abril de 2008

[18] Jonathan Sibun, “Unilever profits surge despite price pressures”, The Telegraph, Londres, 3 de noviembre de 2007, y, “Get set for more price hikes: Unilever chief”, Business Standard, India, 16 de marzo de 2008.

[19] Foo Yun Chee, “Major European retailers post higher profits for 2007”, Reuters, 6 de marzo de 2008

[20] Associated Press, “Wal-Mart de Mexico's 1Q profits rise 11 percent on higher sales, cost controls”, 8 de abril de 2008

[21] Monsanto Company, Informe anual, 2007.

[22] DuPont, Informe anual 2007, y “Syngenta anuncia cifra negocio en progresión 28 por ciento primer trimestre”, EFE, 22 de abril de 2008

[23] Isabel Reynolds, “WTO should pressure food exporters – Mandelson”, Reuters, 23 de abril de 2008



http://alainet.org/active/23996

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Juan Crow in Georgia

Very good, thoughtful comparison. -Dra. Valenzuela

by Roberto Lovato

May 8, 2008

From the living room of the battered trailer she and her mother call home, Mancha described what happened when she came out of the shower that morning. "My mother went out, and I was alone," she said. "I was getting ready for school, getting dressed, when I heard this noise. I thought it was my mother coming back." She went on in the Tex-Mex Spanish-inflected Georgia accent now heard throughout Dixie: "Some people were slamming car doors outside the trailer. I heard footsteps and then a loud boom and then somebody screaming, asking if we were 'illegals,' 'Mexicans.' These big men were standing in my living room holding guns. One man blocked my doorway. Another guy grabbed a gun on his side. I freaked out. 'Oh, my God!' I yelled."As more than twenty Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents surrounded the trailer, said Mancha, agents inside interrogated her. They asked her where her mother was; they wanted to know if her mother was "Mexican" and whether she had "papers" or a green card. They told her they were looking for "illegals."


After about five minutes of interrogation, the agents-who, according to the women's lawyer, Mary Bauer of the Southern Poverty Law Center, showed no warrants and had neither probable cause nor consent to enter the home-simply left. They left in all likelihood because Mancha and her mother didn't fit the profile of the workers at the nearby Crider poultry plant, who had been targeted by the raid in nearby Stilwell. They were the wrong kind of "Mexicans"; they were US citizens.


Though she had experienced discrimination before the raid-in the fields, in the supermarket and in school-Mancha, who testified before Congress in February, never imagined such an incident would befall her, since she and her mother had migrated from Texas to Reidsville. Best known for harvesting poultry and agricultural products, Reidsville, a farm town about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta, is also known for harvesting Klan culture behind the walls of the state's oldest and largest prison. But its most famous former inmate is Jim Crow slayer and dreamer Martin Luther King Jr. His example inspires Mancha's new dream: lawyering "for the poor."


The toll this increasingly oppressive climate has taken on Mancha represents but a small part of its effects on noncitizen immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, and other Latinos. Mancha and the younger children of the mostly immigrant Latinos in Georgia are learning and internalizing that they are different from white-and black-children not just because they have the wrong skin color but also because many of their parents lack the right papers. They are growing up in a racial and political climate in which Latinos' subordinate status in Georgia and in the Deep South bears more than a passing resemblance to that of African-Americans who were living under Jim Crow. Call it Juan Crow: the matrix of laws, social customs, economic institutions and symbolic systems enabling the physical and psychic isolation needed to control and exploit undocumented immigrants. Listening to the effects of Juan Crow on immigrants and citizens like Mancha ("I can't sleep sometimes because of nightmares," she says. "My arms still twitch. I see ICE agents and men in uniform, and it still scares me") reminds me of the trauma I heard among the men, women and children controlled and exploited by state violence in wartime El Salvador. Juan Crow has roots in the US South, but it stirs traumas bred in the hemispheric South.


In fact, the surge in Latino migration (the Southeast is home to the fastest-growing Latino population in the United States) is moving many of the institutions and actors responsible for enforcing Jim Crow to resurrect and reconfigure themselves in line with new demographics. Along with the almost daily arrests, raids and home invasions by federal, state and other authorities, newly resurgent civilian groups like the Ku Klux Klan, in addition to more than 144 new "nativist extremist" groups and 300 anti-immigrant organizations born in the past three years, mostly based in the South, are harassing immigrants as a way to grow their ranks.



Meanwhile, a legal regime of distinctions between the rights of undocumented immigrants and citizens has emerged and is being continually refined and expanded. A 2006 Georgia law denies undocumented immigrants driver's licenses. Federal laws that allowed local and state authorities to pursue blacks under the Fugitive Slave Act appear to be the model for the Bush Administration's Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS) program, which allows states to deputize law enforcement officials to chase, detain, arrest and jail the undocumented. Georgia's lowest-paid workers, the undocumented, now occupy a separate, unequal and clandestine place that has made it increasingly difficult for them to work, rent homes or attend school.


The pre- and post-Reconstruction regional economic system centered on the stately Southern mansions that once graced Atlanta's storied Peachtree Street has given way to a more global finance-driven system centered on the cold, anonymous skyscrapers that loom over Peachtree today. And in a more hopeful sign, some veterans of the civil rights struggle against Jim Crow are joining Latino immigrants in what will likely be one of the major movements of the twenty-first century.


These and other facets of immigrant life in Georgia, the Deep South and the entire country are but a small part of the labyrinthine institutional and cultural arrangements defining the strange career of Juan Crow.


The immigrant condition in Georgia worsened in the wake of the failed immigration reform proposal last year. The national immigration debate had the effect of further legitimizing and emboldening the most extreme elements of the anti-immigrant movement in places like Georgia. Since the advent of what he terms "Georgiafornia," for example, D.A. King, a former marine and contributor to the anti-immigrant hate site VDARE, has leapfrogged into the national limelight to become one of the major advocates for deportation and security-only "immigration reform." Strengthened by the defeat of national reform, King, State Senator Chip Rogers and a growing galaxy of formerly fringe groups succeeded in getting some of the country's most draconian anti-immigrant laws passed. These new racial codes are disguised by the national security-infused bureaucratic language of laws with names like the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act (GSICA).


Their efforts were egged on by the Bush Administration's implementation of the ACCESS program last August. ACCESS provided new excuses for state and local officials to pursue the undocumented in states like Georgia. In tandem with the federal government, King and Rogers led the push to pass GSICA, which requires law enforcement officers to investigate the citizenship status of anyone charged with a felony or driving under the influence. GSICA and federal efforts laid the foundation on which the other legal and social structures of Juan Crow grow.


Georgia's estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants must think twice before seeking emergency support at hospitals or clinics because of laws that require them to prove their legal status before receiving many state benefits. "No-match letter" regulations requiring all employers to confirm the Social Security numbers of their employees have been issued by the Social Security Administration and have resulted in firings and growing fear among immigrants. But even without the no-match letters, undocumented immigrants in Georgia have many reasons to fear going to work. If they work at a company with more than 500 employees, for example (and most undocumented immigrants are employed in meatpacking, agricultural, carpet and other industries with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of workers), they must worry about laws that punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and mandate that firms with state contracts check the immigration status of their employees. Similar laws denying or restricting housing, education, transportation and other aspects of immigrant life are also being instituted across Georgia.



For a firsthand look at how the interplay of state and federal policies fuels Juan Crow, one need go no further than the immigrant-heavy area surrounding Buford Highway in DeKalb County, near Atlanta. During the weekend of October 18, 2007, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and other advocacy groups from across the state reported sharp increases in arrests of immigrants in the area. "This weekend alone we received more than 200 phone calls from people telling horrible stories of arrests," said GLAHR executive director Adelina Nicholls of Mexico City. "There are hundreds of Latinos who've been hunted down like animals, taken to jail, and they don't even know why or whether or not they'll be released," said Nicholls more recently.


Nicholls and other advocates are working feverishly in response to the exponential increase in official and extra-official profiling of immigrants. Last year there were forty-four reported armed robberies of DeKalb County-area Latino immigrants in August alone. One especially outrageous incident took place just west of Atlanta, in the rural town of Carrollton, last June. Emelina Ramirez, a Honduran immigrant, called local police to report that her roommates were attacking her, punching and kicking her in the stomach. Ramirez was pregnant. Locals say that when police got to Ramirez's apartment, officers handcuffed her, took her to jail and then ran her fingerprints through a federal database. After discovering that she was undocumented, they contacted federal authorities as stipulated under ACCESS and GSICA. Ramirez was then deported.


Nicholls says she and GLAHR staff exist in a perpetual state of exhaustion after having to expand their DeKalb County work to deal with cases like Ramirez's. Adding to their load is the situation in nearby Cobb County, where the local jail has 500 adults captured on streets, at work and in their homes. All of these people, says Nicholls, are awaiting deportation.


Beneath the growing fear and intensifying racial tensions of Georgia lies the new, more globalized economic system that sustains Juan Crow. At the core of the economy in Dixie are the financial dealings taking place in the shiny towers of Peachtree Street, buildings constructed atop the ashes of plantation houses.


Lining Peachtree today are SunTrust, Bank of America and other titans of global finance with major operations in downtown Atlanta. Along with the financial players of Charlotte, North Carolina, the companies occupying the towers on Peachtree are among the prime movers behind the transformation and restructuring of the Georgia economy-and of its race relations. On Peachtree you can find US banks and financial firms investing in companies doing business in post-NAFTA Latin America, where nonunion labor and miserably low wages drive immigration to Georgia and other states. The investment portfolios of many of these companies have grown fat with high-yield investments in the poultry, meatpacking, rug, tourism and other Georgia industries employing undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. The need to keep down the wages of these undocumented workers is fulfilled with the legal, political and psychological discipline of Juan Crow. Along with the most visible legacy of Jim Crow-Georgia's massive and growing population of black prisoners, housed in Reidsville and other, mostly rural prisons-the Peachtree State's undocumented immigrants find themselves at the bottom of the South's new political and economic order.


By keeping down wages of the undocumented and documented workforce, Juan Crow doesn't just pit undocumented Latino workers against black and white workers. It also makes possible every investor's dream of merging Third World wages with First World amenities. Promotional brochures put out by the state's Department of Economic Development, for example, tout Georgia's "below average" wages and its status as a "right to work" (nonunion) state. Georgia's infrastructure, its proximity to US markets and its incentives-nonunion labor, low wages, government subsidies, cheap land-allow the state to position itself as an attractive investment opportunity for foreign companies. While the fortunes of Ford, GM and other US companies have declined in the South, the fortunes of foreign automakers here are rising. Companies like Korean car manufacturer Kia, which plans to open a $1.2 billion plant by 2009, see in Georgia and other Southern states a new pool of cheap labor. Of the $5.7 billion of total new investment in Georgia in 2006, more than 36 percent was from international companies-companies that were also responsible for nearly half of the 24,660 jobs created by government-supported foreign ventures that year.



Also critical to the economic strategies formulated in the towers on Peachtree Street is another Latin-centered component: free trade with Latin America. "We are the gateway to the Americas," boasted Kenneth Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Stewart was among the more than 1,000 people, including three US Cabinet members and finance ministers, trade representatives, investors, corporate executives and politicians from thirty-three countries in the hemisphere, who attended the sold-out Americas Competitiveness Forum at the Marriott on Peachtree Street last June. As an organizer of the event, the gregarious Stewart, like many of the region's economic leaders, considers hosting the forum a critical part of Atlanta's bid to become the secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas organization. Local elites support building a $10 million, privately financed FTAA headquarters complex, possibly in the area near Peachtree and the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.


Before being rapidly gentrified by the white-collar employees working in the Peachtree towers, Sweet Auburn, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., was one of the cradles of the African-American freedom struggle. Echoing the connection frequently made here between increased globalization and commerce and improved race relations, Stewart told me that free trade "will benefit citizens of Georgia and the citizens of Mexico and other Latin American countries." But when I asked him about the increased racial tensions, including the murders of some immigrants in Georgia, and about the growing repression of noncitizen Mexican workers, Stewart abruptly ended the interview.


For her part, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin-among the most recent in a long line of African-American Atlanta mayors that includes former Martin Luther King colleague and Wal-Mart consultant Andrew Young (who has an office in a Peachtree high-rise)-also linked local freedom struggles with global free trade. Before the Americas Competitiveness Forum, she and other regional elites distributed splashy brochures promoting the city's FTAA bid. Included in the brochure was a picture of the headstone of King's grave, which bears the inscription Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I'm Free at last. The brochure promoting "the city too busy to hate" also paints a positive, global Kumbaya picture of the plight of Georgia's migrants: "With its attractive quality of life and rapidly expanding job market, Metro Atlanta draws thousands of newcomers every year and has growing Latin, Asian and African American communities."


"This is the home of Dr. King," said Franklin in her welcome speech at the packed forum. "It is in the spirit of peace, it is in the spirit of collaboration and it is in the spirit of fairness that we attack this issue of [economic] competitiveness," she told her audience in King-like cadences. But had Franklin taken her foreign visitors on the short stroll from their hotel to Sweet Auburn, they would not have found the racial harmony described in the glossy brochures and spirited speeches.


Documented and undocumented Latinos dealing with the economic and political effects of Juan Crow in Georgia (and across the country) find themselves unwitting actors in a centuries-old racial drama, which they must alter if Juan Crow is to be defeated. The major difference today is that Latinos also find themselves having to navigate a racial and political topography that is no longer black and white. Young Latinos, in particular, attend schools that teach them about Jim Crow while giving them a daily dose of Juan Crow.


High school senior Ernesto Chávez (a pseudonym) does not look forward to becoming one of the few undocumented students in Georgia to go to a university like Kennesaw State, which requires them to carry student IDs with special color coding, or to a college that denies them aid and forces them to pay exorbitant, nearly impossible-to-pay out-of-state tuition. He has already learned enough about Jim Crow-and Juan Crow-in high school.


Chávez, who sports a buzz cut and wears baggy clothes, said that when he studied Jim Crow in school, he identified strongly with the heroic generation of African-American youth who rebelled against it. "They couldn't ride in the same trains, they couldn't drink from the same fountains," he said during an interview in a classroom at Miller Grove High School in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia. "I felt mad when I read about that, even though they weren't my people," said the soft-spoken Mexican, who is part of the small but growing minority of Latinos at Miller Grove (African-American students make up about 93 percent of the student body).



Chávez said he came to know the limits of his physical, social and psychic mobility, thanks to the Georgia law that requires people to show proof of citizenship or legal status in order to obtain a driver's license. "It's hard to describe what it feels like to be 'illegal' here in Georgia. It's like you can't move," he said, his voice cracking slightly. "It feels scary because you know that when you go out to a public place, you might never know if you're going to come back. I'm really scared because my mother drives without a license. She's scared too."


Chávez and other Latino students also expressed their shock and dismay at being discriminated against by some of the descendants of those discriminated against by Jim Crow.


"When I first got here, I was confused. I went to a mostly white school in Gwinnett County and started noticing the fifth-grade kids saying things to me, racial stuff, asking me questions like, 'Are you illegal?'" said Chávez as he fidgeted nervously in one of those ubiquitous and visibly uncomfortable school desks. "But when I was in seventh grade, I went to Richards Middle School, where it wasn't the white people saying things, it was black people. They didn't like Mexican kids. They would call us 'Mexican border hoppers,' 'wetbacks' and all these things. Every time they'd see me, they yelled at me, threatened to beat me up after school for no reason at all." Asked how it felt, he said, "It's like, now since they have rights, they can discriminate [against] others."


Chávez's family, along with many immigrant families in Georgia, will be watching closely to see how the state's justice system deals with the still-pending 2005 case of six Mexican farmworkers killed execution-style in their trailers, which were parked near the cotton and peanut farms they toiled on in Tifton. Pretrial motions began last July in the case, in which prosecutors allege that four African-American men bludgeoned five of the immigrants to death with aluminum baseball bats and shot one in the head while robbing them in their trailer home. Though the face of anti-immigrant racism in the Juan Crow South is still overwhelmingly identified as white by the immigrants I interviewed, some immigrants also see a black face on anti-immigrant hate.


Politically, a growing divide has emerged between pro- and anti-immigrant blacks in Georgia. The African-American face of Juan Crow is embodied by State Senator and probable Democratic Atlanta mayoral candidate Kasim Reed (he's also considering a gubernatorial bid). Reed proposed a five-year prison sentence for anyone caught trying to secure employment with a false ID. Local Latino and African-American activists have criticized Reed for what Bruce Dixon of the online Black Agenda Report called his "morally bankrupt attempt to outflank Republicans on the right."


Activists like Janvieve Williams of the US Human Rights Network, based in Atlanta, counter the anti-immigrant tide by elevating the tone of the debate and shifting the terms to human rights. As an Afro-Panamanian immigrant, Williams says she feels discrimination from many whites in Georgia, but she also experiences discrimination from mestizo immigrants. Her perception of anti-immigrant sentiments among African-Americans adds another layer to the complex racial dynamics unleashed by Juan Crow. "I'm caught between African-Americans who don't want to understand immigration and immigrants and Latinos who use words like 'moreno,' 'negritos,' 'los negros' and other terms that are not good," says Williams.


But rather than see her Afro-Latino identity and her Latin American political experience as a barrier between communities, Williams-who co-hosts Radio Diaspora, a weekly Afro-Latino program that helped promote the 50,000-plus immigrants' rights marches in 2006-uses Latin American media and organizing experience to cross linguistic and political borders. "We need to move from civil rights to human rights. We need to start using the language and tools of human rights around the issue of immigration. It's an international issue that needs an international framework," says Williams, whose organization co-sponsored the visit to Atlanta last May by the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. Williams's organization brought together many groups who shared stories of Juan Crow with the special rapporteur, who took his report to the UN General Assembly.



In the same way that the concept of civil rights grew as a response to Jim Crow, the human rights framework advocated by Williams and other immigrants' rights activists in the South and across the country challenges traditional approaches to race and rights. "Some civil rights leaders here don't think human rights affects us in the United States," says Williams. "A lot of the [civil rights] elders of that movement are not linked to the human rights movement, and that also gets in the way of working together."


Not all of Georgia's civil rights elders fit thirtysomething Williams's description. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr., says he did not perceive the threat that some whites and African-American Georgians felt from the massive immigrant marches of 2006; instead he sees in the millions marching in Atlanta and across the country "instruments of God's will to change this country." Reverend Lowery, who now leads the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda, has spoken eloquently and vociferously against what he considers "wicked" immigration policies and has attended pro-immigrant rallies. He believes that massive immigration to the United States came about because of the workings within the tall buildings like those in spitting distance of his office in the historic Atlanta Life building on Auburn Avenue. "We've globalized money, we've globalized trade and commerce, but we haven't globalized fairness toward work and labor. The solution to the 'problem' of immigration and other problems is globalization of justice," he said.


Speaking of the relationship between American blacks and Latino immigrants, Lowery said, "There are many differences between our experience and that of immigrant Latinos-but there is a family resemblance between Jim Crow and what is being experienced by immigrants. Both met economic oppression. Both met racial and ethnic hostility.


"But the most important thing to remember," said Lowery, as if casting out the demons of Juan and Jim Crow, "is that, though we may have come over on different ships, we're all in the same damn boat now."