Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mexico: Exodus of migrants falls by more than half

Feb 19, 10:15 PM EST

Mexico: Exodus of migrants falls by more than half

By MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press Writer
Mexico: Exodus of migrants falls by more than half

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migration from Mexico, mainly to the United States, has fallen dramatically as fewer Mexicans leave their country to look for work abroad amid a global economic downturn, the government said Thursday.

The net outflow of Mexicans - both legal and illegal - declined by over 50 percent in the 12 months ending in August 2008, compared the same period a year earlier, said the Eduardo Sojo, president of the board of Mexico's National Statistics, Geography and Information Institute.

Sojo attributed the net drop in migration to tough economic conditions abroad motivating Mexicans to stay at home, rather than Mexicans in other countries returning to their homeland.

"There is declining tendency of people going abroad, but we have not detected, up to now, any increase in people returning to the country," Sojo said.

Sojo also said a recent survey of "leading indicators" suggests that the number of Mexicans planning to emigrate in the future is also dropping. He did not provide details of that survey.

He said the net outflow of Mexicans - those leaving the country minus those returning from abroad - dropped to 204,000 people between August 2007 and August 2008. That was down from 455,000 for the year ending in August 2007.

The number of returning Mexicans was roughly the same over the two periods, declining slightly to 450,000 by late 2008, from 478,000 in the 2007 period.

But the number leaving Mexico fell sharply to 654,000 from 933,000.

The government has said in past years that a majority who leave are undocumented migrants. Its figures are estimates based on quarterly surveys of Mexican households carried out by the institute.

A government survey also shows the number of households in Mexico that receive remittances - the money sent home by Mexicans working abroad, the vast majority in the United States - has also fallen to 1.16 million in 2008 from 1.41 million in 2005, Sojo said.

Remittances, Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income after oil, plunged 3.6 percent to $25 billion in 2008 compared to $26 billion for the previous year, according to the country's central bank.

Despite anecdotal reports of migrants returning to Mexico because of the downturn in the U.S. economy and construction sector, experts say the new statistics confirm there has been no large-scale homecoming in Mexico. An estimated 11.8 million Mexicans now live in the U.S.

"The majority of those who are there are in a family unit, they have relatives there. We know some have children who are in school, some of whom are U.S. citizens," said Agustin Escobar, an analyst with the Center for Investigations and Superior Studies in Social Anthropology. "There are a lot of reasons for them not to leave."

"They are going to look for other more temporary or more precarious jobs, or rely on their relatives ... rather than just disappear from the United States," he said.

Experts say there have been wide swings in immigration to the U.S. in the past, and that the future trends may depend on U.S. politics regarding the migration issue.

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, says increased U.S. enforcement appears to have played a role in reducing the flow of migrants, but the current U.S. economic stimulus program could cause immigration to rebound.

"This indicates the need for continued enforcement," said Mehlman. "Illegal immigrants are sane, rational people. They don't come unless they believe they are going to get work."

While some have predicted that an economic downturn in Mexico would force migrants to cross the border - even if there were few jobs available in the United States - Escobar said "there would have to be a pretty substantial worsening" in Mexico's economy for that to happen.

(This version CORRECTS title of official in graf 2)

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Early Launch for Language

Early Launch for Language
Young Children Have Advantage, but Linguists Say Lessons Benefit All
By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2009; B02

One in an occasional series comparing two takes on teaching popular subjects.

Can kids learn anything if they are exposed to a subject for only half an hour a week, with no homework?

When it comes to learning another language, educators say yes.

"The kids getting it for 30 minutes won't become fluent, but that's not the point of those programs," said Julie Sugarman, research associate at the nonprofit Center for Applied Linguistics in the District. "It's to give them exposure to the language. Just because kids aren't able to do calculus in sixth grade doesn't mean we shouldn't teach math in elementary school."

Foreign language instruction is considered more important than ever as the nation's demographics and national security issues change and the world's economies become intertwined.

Although new brain research is revealing secrets about how people acquire language, complex questions remain about what constitutes effective teaching. In the No Child Left Behind era, which has focused on basic reading and math skills, some educators say time for teaching foreign languages is scarce. That means aiming for a goal short of fluency.

Spanish teacher Lisa Vierya emphasizes basic conversational skills in the half-hour a week she has with a second-grade class at Evergreen Mill Elementary School in Loudoun County.

Vierya wheels in a big cart packed with books, word cards and other materials. From start to finish, she speaks Spanish, even when the students don't understand her.

"¿Cuál animal es?" ("What animal is this?"), she asked her students after teaching them how to say "horse," "pig" and other farm animals. The students answered correctly until one confused a horse ("caballo") with the color gray, answering "gris."

"They eventually pick it up," she said later. No homework is required, but students are encouraged to practice. First- and second-graders receive 30 minutes of instruction a week; children in grades 3 through 5 have two 30-minute classes weekly.

Assessments in fifth grade, she said, show that the program gives students a grounding in the language that allows them to converse.

"Yes, I'd like more time. But there is value in this," she said.

A different approach is used in Susanna Winebrenner's second-grade classroom at César Chávez Spanish Immersion Elementary School in Prince George's County.

There, students receive instruction in Spanish and English virtually every day; subjects taught in Spanish are Spanish language arts and social studies.

It's called partial immersion, although down the hall in the kindergarten and first-grade classes, instruction is all in Spanish.

In immersion classes, students learn subjects in the target language through a variety of techniques. They differ from traditional methods, which emphasize vocabulary and grammar and often fail to produce proficiency.

"We are teaching literacy," said Principal José A. Taboada II. " We are not talking just about learning Spanish. When you learn a second language, you are also learning how to learn other languages, and not just the spoken language -- the language of mathematics, the language of computers. Your mind opens."

Asked about the chief obstacle to learning Spanish, Evergreen Mill's Vierya cited lack of time. At César Chávez, Taboada mentioned parents who fear that their own culture will be devalued.

"At the first open house of the year," he said, "I told the parents, 'Get out of the way.' "

Both programs aim to engage students at an early age.

"The younger they are, the more comfortable they are in acquiring language," Taboada said.

But parents who fear their child will miss the chance if they don't start by third grade can stop worrying.

Sugarman, of the linguistics center, said research shows that middle- and high school students often make faster progress learning languages than younger ones who are not cognitively ready for grammar rules and similar tasks.

Young children do well with language instruction, she said, not just because their brains are sponges but also because the material is the very stuff of elementary school: greetings, numbers, seasons, weather, days of the week and so on.

"If students start younger, it is much easier to match the language level with the student's development level," Sugarman said. "In kindergarten, you do colors and numbers and 'My name is.' That's what you do in early stages of foreign language learning. Student are doing things interesting and relevant to them.

"One of the reasons foreign language is less effective in upper grades is that students aren't able to do things at their cognitive ability, so they may be bored."

New research has yet to prove how the brain handles language, but many linguists agree that children and adults learn and retain second languages differently because the brain changes over time with knowledge and experience. Children learn inductively, by example and by interacting with the environment around them, and adults tend to learn analytically and deductively.

But people at both age levels can learn to speak. What a focused, older language student probably won't be able to do is pass as a native speaker; the ability to adopt a new accent appears to be age-related, experts say.

Ultimately, experts say, the real key is not the instructional method but the instructor.

"The quality of the teacher is the single biggest factor in foreign language learning," said Catherine Ingold, director of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Sticking with it is also crucial. Research shows that becoming proficient in a second language can take four to seven years. And skills not sharpened become dull.

"If you don't use it, you lose it," said Taboada.

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Venezuela passes amendment to end term limits

Wow, pretty amazing, especially in light of previous post. -Angela

A Press Clipping from the Los Angeles Times

Venezuela passes amendment to end term limits

By Chris Kraul
February 16, 2009
Reporting from Caracas, Venezuela -- Putting aside concerns over a worsening economy, rising crime and increasing social polarization, Venezuelan voters gave President Hugo Chavez a resounding victory Sunday on a constitutional amendment that will allow him to run for reelection indefinitely.

With 94% of votes counted, the National Electoral Commission said "yes" votes outnumbered "no" by nearly 1 million, 54.3% to 45.7%.


Chavez framed the vote -- and his staying in office after his current term ends in early 2013 -- as crucial to making his socialist Bolivarian Revolution permanent. Speaking from the balcony of the presidential Miraflores Palace, Chavez told the thousands of people assembled that the vote was a victory of "truth against lies, dignity of the homeland versus those who would deny the homeland."

"This is another memorable page in our history," Chavez said. "We raise the flag of victory, popular victory."

Opposition forces, on the other hand, said the referendum was another power grab by a leader who has slowly consolidated authority for himself. But they had no answer for Chavez's obvious bond with the dispossessed and underprivileged.

Most voters apparently agreed with Nancy Plaza, a kindergarten teacher who spoke after voting in the working-class Las Minas section of eastern Caracas. She said she voted "yes" for her "children, for the country and for the future."

"President Chavez is the first president who cared about the poor, who truly loves his country and its people," said Plaza, 60, adding that through Chavez's medical assistance program, she now gets free exams and medicine for her heart condition that used to cost a big portion of her meager income.

Over his decade in office, Chavez has been a polarizing figure, characterizing his opponents as imperialist lackeys and "squalid ones." He has stridently criticized the United States as an imperialist power sucking the lifeblood from Latin Americans. But he has established a solid base of support among the poor by using Venezuela's oil wealth to finance programs to deliver education, healthcare and cooperative ownership of businesses.

In December 2007, Chavez lost a similar plebiscite in which the abolition of presidential term limits was bundled with 68 other constitutional amendments. Analysts said his cause was helped this time by simplifying the vote to just the term limits issue and by extending its benefits to all elected officials, not just himself, thereby motivating politicians across Venezuela to get out the vote.

At a news conference Saturday, he told reporters that staying in office more than 10 years was not unusual, citing U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, France's Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, all of whom governed longer than a decade.

"He has made us feel good as persons with self-respect, irrespective of our color, age or economic class," said Mariela Vasquez, an office manager from Las Minas who said she is studying for a law degree, thanks to Chavez's Mission Sucre, which pays for adults to go to college.

Speculation turned Sunday night on how Chavez's victory would affect his domestic and foreign policy amid increasingly difficult economic conditions caused by the sharp decline in oil prices. Venezuela's budget derives more than half its revenue from crude, the price of which has fallen by more than two-thirds since July.

"He is still going to face major challenges governing Venezuela, owing to the plummeting price of oil," said Bruce Bagley, a political science professor at University of Miami.

An advisor in the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Chavez had enough cash reserves to maintain social programs and "wait out" the oil price drop. As for foreign policy, Chavez is hoping to improve relations with the United States under President Obama, he said.

At the Saturday news conference, Chavez said he was "disposed" to talk to Obama at any time and said a good forum might be the Summit of the Americas scheduled in Trinidad and Tobago in April.

Shortly before taking the oath of office, Obama told a reporter that Chavez had not been helpful in fostering hemispheric cooperation and goodwill. Other officials in the new administration have criticized him for allegedly providing haven to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and for his good relations with Iran, which the U.S. lists as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Chavez has been relatively low-key in responding to the comments, said the advisor, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

However, Bagley, the Miami professor, said: "The anti-American winds in the region have shifted and, always the opportunist, Chavez appears to be shifting with them.

"Chavez has backed away from his hard line against Obama and diplomatic ties with Washington toward a more flexible position in which he recognized potential benefits for Venezuela and Latin America from renewed conversations."

Chavez has joked that he'll stay in office until 2049, and his opponents, who see him as a power-crazed autocrat, tend to take the joke seriously.

Javier Corrales, an Amherst College professor, said Chavez's victory could devastate the opposition, which was hoping to build on the defeat of the 2007 plebiscite, as well as on victories in November by opposition gubernatorial candidates in five of 22 states.

"Chavez raised the specter of the poor losing the missions if he is not reelected . . . ," said Cynthia McClintock, a professor of political science at George Washington University. "The opposition has tried to debunk the importance of the social programs, but obviously that hasn't rung true with people."

Improving relations with Chavez would help the United States improve ties with all of Latin America, she added. "It's important for the United States to play a role . . . in which the U.S. is perceived as a positive influence."

Corrales was pessimistic that better relations would ensue, saying Chavez had "nothing to gain with better relations with the United States."

Luis Lander, a political economist at Central University of Venezuela, said Chavez was sending unmistakable signals that "he is interested in lowering the tone of the conflict with the United States."

"I don't see the two countries having good relations," he said, "but they could at least be less confrontational than they were under President Bush."

To see this article online, please visit the Los Angeles Times website

Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research

This connects, of course, to the larger issue of biogenetic corn in Mexico that is overcoming the original seeds in different parts of the country. One would think that research in this arena would be helpful to the seed companies as well.

-Angela


Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research
By ANDREW POLLACK
Published: February 19, 2009

Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry‚s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists. ...while university scientists can freely buy pesticides or conventional seeds for their research, they cannot do that with genetically engineered seeds. Instead, they must seek permission from the seed companies. And sometimes that permission is denied or the company insists on reviewing any findings before they can be published, they say.

Full text at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/business/20crop.html?ref=science

Will Obama Change US Policy Toward Latin America?

Will Obama Change US Policy Toward Latin America?
Wednesday 18 February 2009

by: Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian UK

US-Latin American relations fell to record lows during the Bush years, and there have been hopes - both North and South of the border - that President Obama would bring a fresh approach. So far, however, most signals are pointing to continuity rather than change.
President Obama started off with an unprovoked verbal assault on Venezuela. In an interview broadcast by the Spanish language television station Univision on the Sunday before his inauguration, he accused President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela of having "impeded progress in the region" and "exporting terrorist activities."
These remarks were unusually hostile and threatening even by the previous administration's standards. They are also untrue and diametrically opposed to the way the rest of the region sees Venezuela. The charge that Venezuela is "exporting terrorism" would not pass the laugh test among almost any government in Latin America. José Miguel Insulza, the Chilean Secretary General of the OAS, was speaking for almost all the countries in the hemisphere when he told the U.S. Congress last year that "there is no evidence" and that no member country, including the United States, had offered "any such proof" that Venezuela supported terrorist groups.
Nor do the other Latin American democracies see Venezuela as an obstacle to progress in the region. On the contrary, President Lula da Silva of Brazil - along with several other presidents in South America -- has repeatedly defended Chávez and his role in the region. Just a few days after Obama denounced Venezuela, Lula was in Venezuela's southern state of Zulia, where he emphasized his strategic partnership with Chávez and their common efforts at regional economic integration.
Obama's statement was no accident; whoever fed him these lines very likely intended to send a message to the Venezuelan electorate before last Sunday's referendum that Venezuela won't have decent relations with the US so long as Chávez is their elected president. (Voters decided to remove term limits for elected officials, paving the way for Chávez to run again in 2013.)

There is definitely at least a faction of the Obama administration that wants to continue the Bush policies. James Steinberg, number two to Hillary Clinton in the State Department, took a gratuitous swipe at Bolivia and Venezuela during his confirmation process, saying that the United States should provide a "counterweight to governments like those currently in power in Venezuela and Bolivia which pursue policies which do not serve the interests of their people or the region."

Another sign of continuity is that Obama has not yet replaced Bush's top State Department official for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon.

The U.S. media plays the role of enabler in this situation. Thus the Associated Press ignores the attacks from Washington and portrays Chávez's response as nothing more than an electoral ploy on his part. In fact, Chávez had been uncharacteristically restrained. He did not respond to attacks throughout the long U.S. presidential campaign, even when Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden called him a "dictator," or Obama described him as "despotic" - labels that no serious political scientist anywhere would accept for a democratically elected president of a country where the opposition dominates the media. He wrote it off as the influence of South Florida on U.S. presidential elections.
But there are few if any presidents in the world that would take repeated verbal abuse from another government without responding. Obama's advisors know that no matter what this administration does to Venezuela, the press will portray Chávez as the aggressor. So it's an easy, if cynical, political calculation for them to poison relations from the outset. What they have not yet realized is that by doing so they are alienating the majority of the region.
There is still hope for change in U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, which has become thoroughly discredited on everything from the "war on drugs," to the Cuba embargo to trade policy. But as during the Bush years, we will need relentless pressure from the South. Last September UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) strongly backed Bolivia's government against opposition violence and destabilization. This was very successful in countering Washington's tacit support for the more extremist elements of Bolivia's opposition. It showed the Bush administration that the region was not going to tolerate any attempts to legitimize an extra-legal opposition in Bolivia or to grant it special rights outside of the democratic political process.
Several presidents, including Lula, have called upon Obama to lift the embargo on Cuba, as they congratulated him on his victory. Lula also asked Obama to meet with Chávez. Hopefully these governments will continue to assert -- repeatedly, publicly, and with one voice -- that Washington's problems with Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela are Washington's problems, and not the result of anything that those governments have done. When the Obama team is convinced that a "divide and conquer" approach to the region will fail just as miserably for this administration as it did for the previous one, then we may see the beginnings of a new policy toward Latin America.
---------
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.

Study Shows Sharp Rise in Latino Federal Convicts

Key question: Could this mean that immigration is getting criminalized or does this reflect changing demographics?

Angela

February 19, 2009
Study Shows Sharp Rise in Latino Federal Convicts
By SOLOMON MOORE

LOS ANGELES - The sharp growth in illegal immigration and increased
enforcement of immigration laws have dramatically altered the ethnic
composition of offenders sentenced in federal courts. In 2007, Latinos
accounted for 40 percent of all those convicted of federal crimes and
one third of all federal prison inmates, according to a new study by
the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank.

Nearly half of all Latino offenders, or about 48 percent, were
convicted of immigration crimes. Drug offenses were the second-most
prevalent charge among Latino federal convicts, according to the
report, which was made public on Wednesday.

As the annual number of federal offender s more than doubled between
1991 and 2007, the number of Latino offenders sentenced in a given
year nearly quadrupled, growing to 29,281 from 7,924. Latino convicts
now represent the largest ethnic population in the federal prison
system, although they make up only 13 percent of the United States
population.

Of Latino federal offenders, 72 percent are not United States citizens
and most were sentenced in courts from one of five states bordering
Mexico. Undocumented federal prisoners are usually deported to their
home countries after serving their sentences.

"The immigration system has essentially become criminalized at a huge
cost to the criminal justice system, to courts, to judges, to prisons,
and prosecutors, " said Lucas Guttentag, a lawyer for the American
Civil Liberties Union. "And the government has diverted the resources
of the criminal justice system from violent crimes, financial
skullduggery and other areas that have been the traditional area of
the Justice Department."

Last month The New York Times reported that federal immigration
prosecutions have increased over the last five years, doubling in the
last fiscal year to reach more than 70,000 cases. Meanwhile other
categories of federal prosecutions including gun trafficking, public
corruption, organized crime and white-collar crime have declined over
the past five years.

The federal justice system accounts for 200,000 or 8.6 percent of the
total 2.3 million inmates in federal and state prisons and city and
county jails. Nineteen percent of state prisoners and 16 percent of
jail inmates were Latinos. African-Americans make up 39 percent of
state prisoners and jail inmates while representing about 12 percent
of the total national population.

Deborah Williams, an assistant federal defender in Phoenix, sai d that
the large number of Latinos in the federal system, particularly those
who are not citizens and have limited English proficiency, have
dramatically changed federal prison culture.

"I have Anglo and Native American clients who tell me about being the
only non-Spanish speaker in their pod," Ms. Williams said. "Ten years
ago, it just wasn't that way. Everything is changing in there,
including the language, the television shows they watch and a lot of
times the guards don't speak the language. How do you safely guard
people who may not understand your orders?"

A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, Tracy Billingsley, declined
immediate comment on the Pew report.

"It's hard to understand whether we're seeing a policy change or just
a growth in the total number of immigrants coming to this country,"
said Mark Hugo Lopez, a co-author of the study, who relied on United
States Sentencing Commission statistics. The number of undocumented
immigrants in the U.S. increased from 3.9 million in 1992 to 11.9
million in 2008.

Under federal anti-illegal immigration programs like Operation
Gatekeeper, which hired thousands of immigration enforcement officials
along the southwest border, and Operation Streamline, which instituted
a "zero tolerance policy" for illegal border crossings in the same
region, immigration crimes have skyrocketed.

The large number of immigration crimes and low-level drug offenses
account for the relatively light sentences that Latinos typically
receive - about 46 months compared with 62 months for white inmates
and 91 months for African-American prisoners.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Surge in Asylum Seeking Mexicans Taxing Already Overworked Immigration System

Surge in Asylum Seeking Mexicans Taxing Already Overworked Immigration System

Thursday , February 19, 2009

By Nora Zimmett

Federal immigration officials are reporting a surge in the number of Mexicans crossing the border to seek asylum in the U.S., an increase analysts say is due to the drug violence and criminal activity that claimed a record 5,300 lives in Mexico last year.

The surge creates a huge workload for immigration officials, since American law prevents sending asylum-seekers home before they have gone through a monthslong legal process, which almost always proves fruitless. Most of the asylum-seekers wind up being found ineligible and sent back over the border.

But first they must fill out paperwork to apply for asylum. Then they are fingerprinted and go through background checks. After an applicant receives an interview notice, he is interviewed by an asylum officer from Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, to determine his eligibility. Once the asylum officer makes a decision, his supervisor must review it. Only then does an applicant receive a decision.

That process is expensive, since each case can take up to four months to resolve, and American taxpayers pay to keep the asylum-seekers in protective custody while they await a decision, which almost always isn't in their favor.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2,231 Mexicans sought asylum in the United States in fiscal 2008 – up from 1,366 in 2006, before drug violence in Mexico began to escalate. And it is not just the number of applicants that is increasing – the number of approved applications has more than doubled from 61 in 2006 to 123 in 2008.

"The issue of asylum claims is one part of a number of signs we're seeing that are the results of border violence," says Michael Friel, director of media relations at Customs and Border Protection.

Few of the Mexicans are actually eligible to be given asylum status. According to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, those seeking asylum in the United States must face persecution in their homeland based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinions.

Escaping violence from drug wars does not make a person eligible to be granted asylum in the U.S.

"Fleeing violence in a particular region of Mexico doesn't provide me a basis to claim asylum under our immigration laws," says Kathleen Walker, immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association in El Paso Texas.

The process for seeking asylum is strict; an applicant has to prove not only that he is being persecuted in his country of origin, but that he also has a "credible fear" of persecution. He must also prove that there is nowhere in his country that he can go.

"If I can go to another area of Mexico, and it's not something that is countrywide, then the element of persecution is not going to be established," Walker told FOXNews.com. "CBP has to assess whether or not this person belongs to a particular class, they have a particular political belief, or whatever it may be that one can fall into the grounds that one can be granted asylum on. Just because you're fleeing generic violence is not a grounds to seek asylum and have it granted."

But some human rights activists say the asylum-seekers deserve assistance once they're here, regardless of whether they are in fact eligible.

"People who are fleeing violence often have special needs, and before you can even consider the political issues that come with it, the first response should be how you help these people with their basic needs," says Cynthia Buiza, Director of Policy and Advocacy for CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

"If there is a need from a very vulnerable population, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, I think there's just this most basic moral, ethical responsibility to help people who have, who are in a dire situation like that."

But those working to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. disagree.

"This is going to be part of their ploy, part of their plan," says Al Garza, President of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a citizens organization whose members patrol the border to alert Border Patrol agents to illegal immigrants entering the country.

Garza believes that the Mexicans' requests for asylum are just another way for aliens jumping the fence to get into the U.S. without going through the proper channels.

"They use all these excuses that they come up with – that (seeking asylum from violence) would obviously be one of them," he said.

Immigration lawyers say they don't believe the U.S. will reach a point where it cannot afford to keep all of the asylum-seekers here, but they do agree that the immigration system will be heavily strained. Already, asylum officers are working with insufficient resources to process the number of applicants.

According to a 2005 survey by the Immigration Policy Center, 93 percent of surveyed asylum officers said they routinely worked overtime, without pay, in order to avoid a backlog of cases. Some also said that they didn't have enough time to thoroughly address each case, leading to the fear that they may have made wrong decisions in granting asylum.


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Surge in Asylum Seeking Mexicans Taxing Already Overworked Immigration System

Surge in Asylum Seeking Mexicans Taxing Already Overworked Immigration System

Thursday , February 19, 2009

By Nora Zimmett

Federal immigration officials are reporting a surge in the number of Mexicans crossing the border to seek asylum in the U.S., an increase analysts say is due to the drug violence and criminal activity that claimed a record 5,300 lives in Mexico last year.

The surge creates a huge workload for immigration officials, since American law prevents sending asylum-seekers home before they have gone through a monthslong legal process, which almost always proves fruitless. Most of the asylum-seekers wind up being found ineligible and sent back over the border.

But first they must fill out paperwork to apply for asylum. Then they are fingerprinted and go through background checks. After an applicant receives an interview notice, he is interviewed by an asylum officer from Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, to determine his eligibility. Once the asylum officer makes a decision, his supervisor must review it. Only then does an applicant receive a decision.

That process is expensive, since each case can take up to four months to resolve, and American taxpayers pay to keep the asylum-seekers in protective custody while they await a decision, which almost always isn't in their favor.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2,231 Mexicans sought asylum in the United States in fiscal 2008 – up from 1,366 in 2006, before drug violence in Mexico began to escalate. And it is not just the number of applicants that is increasing – the number of approved applications has more than doubled from 61 in 2006 to 123 in 2008.

"The issue of asylum claims is one part of a number of signs we're seeing that are the results of border violence," says Michael Friel, director of media relations at Customs and Border Protection.

Few of the Mexicans are actually eligible to be given asylum status. According to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, those seeking asylum in the United States must face persecution in their homeland based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinions.

Escaping violence from drug wars does not make a person eligible to be granted asylum in the U.S.

"Fleeing violence in a particular region of Mexico doesn't provide me a basis to claim asylum under our immigration laws," says Kathleen Walker, immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association in El Paso Texas.

The process for seeking asylum is strict; an applicant has to prove not only that he is being persecuted in his country of origin, but that he also has a "credible fear" of persecution. He must also prove that there is nowhere in his country that he can go.

"If I can go to another area of Mexico, and it's not something that is countrywide, then the element of persecution is not going to be established," Walker told FOXNews.com. "CBP has to assess whether or not this person belongs to a particular class, they have a particular political belief, or whatever it may be that one can fall into the grounds that one can be granted asylum on. Just because you're fleeing generic violence is not a grounds to seek asylum and have it granted."

But some human rights activists say the asylum-seekers deserve assistance once they're here, regardless of whether they are in fact eligible.

"People who are fleeing violence often have special needs, and before you can even consider the political issues that come with it, the first response should be how you help these people with their basic needs," says Cynthia Buiza, Director of Policy and Advocacy for CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

"If there is a need from a very vulnerable population, such as the elderly, children, pregnant women, I think there's just this most basic moral, ethical responsibility to help people who have, who are in a dire situation like that."

But those working to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. disagree.

"This is going to be part of their ploy, part of their plan," says Al Garza, President of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a citizens organization whose members patrol the border to alert Border Patrol agents to illegal immigrants entering the country.

Garza believes that the Mexicans' requests for asylum are just another way for aliens jumping the fence to get into the U.S. without going through the proper channels.

"They use all these excuses that they come up with – that (seeking asylum from violence) would obviously be one of them," he said.

Immigration lawyers say they don't believe the U.S. will reach a point where it cannot afford to keep all of the asylum-seekers here, but they do agree that the immigration system will be heavily strained. Already, asylum officers are working with insufficient resources to process the number of applicants.

According to a 2005 survey by the Immigration Policy Center, 93 percent of surveyed asylum officers said they routinely worked overtime, without pay, in order to avoid a backlog of cases. Some also said that they didn't have enough time to thoroughly address each case, leading to the fear that they may have made wrong decisions in granting asylum.


Copyright 2010 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

AZ Jury Finds Vigilante Rancher liable for Attack on Immigrants

PRESS RELEASE CONTACT:
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION Estuardo Rodriguez: 202-631-2892
February 18, 2009 Marisol Perez: 210-224-5476

ARIZONA JURY FINDS VIGILANTE RANCHER LIABLE FOR
ATTACK ON IMMIGRANTS
MALDEF hails verdict as fair outcome for immigrant plaintiffs

TUCSON, AZ – Yesterday, a civil jury held that a vigilante rancher operating along the Arizona-Mexico border is liable for assaulting and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on a group of immigrants he found on public land.

The plaintiffs were resting in a wash in Douglas, Arizona when they were accosted by defendant Roger Barnett who was armed with a gun and accompanied by a large dog. Roger Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a plaintiff as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground.

The jury found in favor of the women plaintiffs and awarded damages on their claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Barnett must now pay $73,352 in damages to the victims.

This is not the first racial assault case filed against the Barnett family. The Morales family and Emma English, a family friend, are U.S. citizens who filed suit after Barnett confronted them on state land in November 2004, while they were on a family hunting trip. Armed with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, Barnett held the family at gunpoint, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them and threatened to kill them all. In September 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Barnett’s appeal and allowed to stand a jury award to the family of close to $100,000 in damages.

“A jury of ordinary people found that Roger Barnett’s conduct was extreme and outrageous and will not be tolerated,” stated David H. Urias, counsel for the plaintiffs and an associate with the law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives P.A.

“We are very pleased with the jury’s verdict. The plaintiffs in this case had the unique opportunity to testify about the horrifying actions of defendant Roger Barnett. This verdict in favor of the plaintiffs sends a strong message condemning vigilante violence against immigrants,” stated Marisol Perez, MALDEF staff attorney and counsel for the plaintiffs.

The law firms of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP and Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.L.C. participated as pro bono counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship

February 15, 2009
U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship
By JULIA PRESTON
Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.
Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.
Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.
"The American Army finds itself in a lot of different countries where cultural awareness is critical," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, which is leading the pilot program. "There will be some very talented folks in this group."
The program will begin small - limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.
About 8,000 permanent immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually, the Pentagon reports, and about 29,000 foreign-born people currently serving are not American citizens.
Although the Pentagon has had wartime authority to recruit immigrants since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, military officials have moved cautiously to lay the legal groundwork for the temporary immigrant program to avoid controversy within the ranks and among veterans over the prospect of large numbers of immigrants in the armed forces.
A preliminary Pentagon announcement of the program last year drew a stream of angry comments from officers and veterans on Military.com, a Web site they frequent.
Marty Justis, executive director of the national headquarters of the American Legion, the veterans' organization, said that while the group opposes "any great influx of immigrants" to the United States, it would not object to recruiting temporary immigrants as long as they passed tough background checks. But he said the immigrants' allegiance to the United States "must take precedence over and above any ties they may have with their native country."
The military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist, and that policy would not change, officers said. Recruiting officials pointed out that volunteers with temporary visas would have already passed a security screening and would have shown that they had no criminal record.
"The Army will gain in its strength in human capital," General Freakley said, "and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream."
In recent years, as American forces faced combat in two wars and recruiters struggled to meet their goals for the all-volunteer military, thousands of legal immigrants with temporary visas who tried to enlist were turned away because they lacked permanent green cards, recruiting officers said.
Recruiters' work became easier in the last few months as unemployment soared and more Americans sought to join the military. But the Pentagon, facing a new deployment of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, still has difficulties in attracting doctors, specialized nurses and language experts.
Several types of temporary work visas require college or advanced degrees or professional expertise, and immigrants who are working as doctors and nurses in the United States have already been certified by American medical boards.
Military figures show that only 82 percent of about 80,000 Army recruits last year had high school diplomas. According to new figures, the Army provided waivers to 18 percent of active-duty recruits in the final four months of last year, allowing them to enlist despite medical conditions or criminal records.
Military officials want to attract immigrants who have native knowledge of languages and cultures that the Pentagon considers strategically vital. The program will also be open to students and refugees.
The Army's one-year pilot program will begin in New York City to recruit about 550 temporary immigrants who speak one or more of 35 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a tongue spoken in Nigeria), Kurdish, Nepalese, Pashto, Russian and Tamil. Spanish speakers are not eligible. The Army's program will also include about 300 medical professionals to be recruited nationwide. Recruiting will start after Department of Homeland Security officials update an immigration rule in coming days.
Pentagon officials expect that the lure of accelerated citizenship will be powerful. Under a statute invoked in 2002 by the Bush administration, immigrants who serve in the military can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, and they can take the oath in as little as six months.
For foreigners who come to work or study in the United States on temporary visas, the path to citizenship is uncertain and at best agonizingly long, often lasting more than a decade. The military also waives naturalization fees, which are at least $675.
To enlist, temporary immigrants will have to prove that they have lived in the United States for two years and have not been out of the country for longer than 90 days during that time. They will have to pass an English test.
Language experts will have to serve four years of active duty, and health care professionals will serve three years of active duty or six years in the Reserves. If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship.
Commenters who vented their suspicions of the program on Military.com said it could be used by terrorists to penetrate the armed forces.
At a street corner recruiting station in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, Staff Sgt. Alejandro Campos of the Army said he had already fielded calls from temporary immigrants who heard rumors about the program.
"We're going to give people the opportunity to be part of the United States who are dying to be part of this country and they weren't able to before now," said Sergeant Campos, who was born in the Dominican Republic and became a United States citizen after he joined the Army.
Sergeant Campos said he saw how useful it was to have soldiers who were native Arabic speakers during two tours in Iraq.
"The first time around we didn't have soldier translators," he said. "But now that we have soldiers as translators, we are able to trust more, we are able to accomplish the mission with more accuracy."

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Twilight Zone at U.S.-Mexico border

Very tragic commentary regarding the state of the economy and society on just the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Where is Mexico heading...? -Dra. Valenzuela

Posted on Sun, Feb. 15, 2009
Twilight Zone at U.S.-Mexico border

BY TOM MILLER

TUCSON, Ariz. -- I am a border rat. I've been one since the day I hopped back and forth between countries over a fallen, rusty barbed-wire fence in the woodland along the Arizona-Mexico line some 40 years ago. Since that act of joyful anarchy, I've traveled the entire length of the frontier numerous times, dined and slept in just about every border town on both sides and chatted with folks of high and low life throughout.
There are lots of us border rats, really -- most from the U.S. side but many from Mexico as well. We share music, food and a language. Some live within a few miles of the line and know it intimately, while others, like me, are chronic visitors. For decades now, I've maintained that the entire border is a third country no more than 20 miles wide and about 2,000 miles long. We border rats can navigate this 40,000-square-mile turf far more easily than we could the interior of our own homelands. We know where the tortillas are thinnest, where the music is jazziest, where the cops are friendliest and where the crossings are easiest.

Horrific moments

But that was yesterday. Today the U.S.-Mexico border has been pancaked between a collapsed economy to the north and brutal drug thugs to the south. Most Mexican border towns have endured at least one horrific moment recently in which a ranking police officer or journalist or politico of some standing has been murdered or kidnapped in public, often with a number of innocents unfortunate to be near him -- almost always a him -- as collateral damage. Then there's that ugly wall scarring our beautiful borderland, whose repulsiveness will surely outlast its short-term effectiveness.

One result of this dreadful situation is that border towns in both countries, but far more so in Mexico, have seen their economies disappear. It used to be common for borderlanders crossing over to shop, dine, visit family and friends (on both sides), see a doctor or pharmacist (the Mexican side) or just soak in a different atmosphere. Now, from Brownsville and Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico to San Diego and Tijuana on the Pacific coast, shopkeepers on the U.S. side see only a trickle of Mexican customers.

On the Mexican side, matters are far worse. The main boulevards, which used to jump with tourists in the cafes and in shops that sold goods from the interior, are now like streets in a ghost town.

Late one afternoon during my visit to Ciudad Acuna (est. pop. 175,000), I was shoeshine man Valencio Ayala's second customer as he wrapped up his 11-hour workday. Hidalgo Street was deserted save for one elderly American couple poignantly dancing to the sunset sounds of three street musicians.

A State Department travel alert last fall warned of violence along the Mexican border and mentioned Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora, by name. One week before Christmas, when Obregon Avenue in this city of about 190,000 is usually packed with shoppers from Arizona, my wife and I took a one-hour walk through town to her dentist and saw barely a handful of Americans along the way.

As if to reinforce what lies south of the border, a U.S. Forest Service sign north of the line cautions visitors: ''Smuggling and illegal immigration may be encountered in this area.'' (Or, as California author Ruben Martinez paraphrases it, ''Don't feed the Mexicans.'') The U.S. Army has warned soldiers stationed at Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Huachuca in Arizona to stay away from the Mexican border.

Lest you think that rampant narco turf wars there are fairly recent, it was more than 10 years ago that Tom Russell, who lives outside El Paso, went to the afternoon bullfights in Juarez with a friend. Afterward, they headed to the nearby Max Fim restaurant, then impulsively decided not to have dinner there after all. Later, they learned that drug thugs had attacked the eatery, killing a rancher and five bystanders.

A month later, Russell told a magazine interviewer, he and his friend passed up a post-bullfight meal at another place, Geronimo's. As their cab pulled away, an automatic weapon began to fire at the restaurant. Six people were killed.

Border rats stay put

Russell is an acclaimed singer-songwriter, and borderland nostalgia has seldom been as evocatively expressed as it is in his song When Sinatra Played Juarez. He sings of Uncle Tommy Gabriel, a Texas border rat who once used to gallivant around Juarez. But now: 'He lives out on his pecan farm. `I don't cross the bridge,' he said, 'cause everything's gone straight to hell since Sinatra played Juarez.' ''

Whenever I go to El Paso, I ring up local friends to arrange a foray across the river. A visit to Juarez cafes, a baseball game, a nightclub or an open-air marketplace is always a high point of any El Paso trip.

My border rat companions, some of them natives of that metropolitan area, have always been game and have invariably introduced me to yet another locale to add to my list. When I called during a visit last September, though, I heard hemming and hawing. They stay in El Paso, they said; Juarez is no longer on their dance card. These are people whose judgment I trust, and a sad, uncomfortable feeling sank in.

I began to understand Uncle Tommy Gabriel: ''I don't cross the bridge,'' he said.

Tom Miller is the author of On the Border: Portraits of America's Southwestern Frontier and the editor of Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader.

©2009 The Washington Post

© 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

Border births: Midwife deliveries raise questions about citizenship

As suggested herein, there is a profound issue of betrayal for those born in the U.S. and denied citizenship and citizenship rights. -Angela

By Christopher Sherman,
Associated Press Writer

Published: Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 12:33 a.m.

ALAMO, Texas - The citizenship of hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who insist they are Americans is being called into question because they were delivered by midwives near the U.S.-Mexico border. Read rest of story here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A love separated by the law, and the U.S.-Mexican border

A sad Valentine's Day story. -Angela

A love separated by the law, and the U.S.-Mexican border
Torturous waiting » SLC man yearns for the government to clear his undocumented wife to move here.

By Jennifer W. Sanchez
The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune
Posted:02/13/2009 04:11:01 PM MST
Marc Carpenter bought his wife their first house to start their life together, but she's only seen it in photos.
After almost two years of marriage and living together, Ignacia, Marc's undocumented, Mexican-born wife, was denied a visa to legally live in the United States.
The Carpenters had to separate at the U.S.-Mexico border -- Ignacia moved to her village in Mexico and Marc returned to Utah in hopes seeing his wife in Salt Lake City within three months.
It's been a year and two days.
For Marc, "It feels like forever."
When he married "Iggy," he figured since he was a U.S. citizen, she would get legal status here.
He was wrong. She was in the country illegally when they met, and that means she has to stay in Mexico to gain permission to legally enter. That could take 10 years.
Marc, 37, says he wants Ignacia with him so they can pick out the paint and furniture for their house. The couple had vowed to learn how to snowboard this winter, but he doesn't want to do it alone. Same with Utah Jazz games or movies.
"Right now, my life is on hold," he says. "I don't want to do anything on my own."
Ignacia, 26, is living with her parents on their ranch in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. When it comes to Marc, she longs for the little things most. She misses watching TV, taking impromptu road trips and making chicken parmesan for dinner. Without him, she's lonely.
"I have my family, but it's not the same," she says during a recent phone interview.
--
Getting through the system » The couple's situation is typical among citizens and legal residents who marry undocumented immigrants, said immigration lawyer Barbara Szweda.
The reason: By law, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for more than a year, marry a U.S. citizen and apply for legal status must return to their home country for 10 years, Szweda said.
Spouses seeking to return to the U.S. can apply for hardship waivers to lift the 10-year bar. Szweda described two cases where waivers were granted: A wife requiring surgery needed her husband; a mother with a critically ill child depended on the father's support.
Paradoxically, U.S. citizens who marry undocumented immigrants who came here legally, but who have expired visas, do not have to return to their homelands when they re-apply for legal status, Szweda said.
In 2007, about 274,000 husbands and wives married to U.S. citizens were able to get legal status . They made up 26 percent of the 1 million immigrants who received legal permanent residency, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security immigration statistics.
Some immigration lawyers suggest that people who entered the U.S. illegally and have been here more than a year reconsider applying for proper documentation and wait for possible federal immigration reform, Szweda said.
"It's very difficult right now," she said.
--
A whirlwind romance : After growing up in New York City and later living in Florida, Marc moved to Utah in February 2005. He's been working as a Burger King training manager since then.
Ignacia moved from Mexico to Utah in 2002 to be with her two brothers. She worked at an Italian restaurant and paid for college classes to learn English.
In August 2005, introduced by mutual friends, the two met at a birthday party in Salt Lake City.
Marc says he immediately fell for Ignacia's "incredible smile."
Eventually, they started going to dinner and movies and talking on the phone for hours.
They shared their first kiss April 2 at a Chili's Grill & Bar. Six days later, they were married.
Their friends and relatives thought they were crazy.
Marc says his conservative parents told him he was "stupid and crazy for marrying an illegal." But since then, he says, they learned more about immigration problems and have accepted their daughter-in-law into the family.
Ignacia says she didn't tell her parents until after the wedding, which wasn't anything fancy. She wore an old brown skirt and blouse to the ceremony.
"It was so fast," she says. "But I was happy."
--
Denied, denied and waiting » About three weeks later, the newlyweds paid an attorney $4,000 to apply for legal status for Ignacia. They said they knew the paperwork would take time, but they didn't know the problems they were getting into.
And they started looking for a house.
In February 2008, the couple had to go to the U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico, for Ignacia's first appointment for a visa. She was denied but returned for a second appointment for a hardship waiver a few days later, only to be denied again.
The couple's attorney said Ignacia would be back in Utah within three months.
She's still in Mexico, and no one knows for how long.
Marc and Ignacia are waiting for a response to the appeal they filed on Ignacia's hardship waiver. Marc says that, according to Department of Homeland Security estimates, an answer could come as early as next month.
"Just because she wasn't lucky enough to be born here, we have to go through all this," he says. "We're trying to do things the right way, but the government doesn't help you."
--
Lives on hold » Within the past year, Marc has visited Ignacia in Mexico seven times. When he's gone, she's frustrated because there's nothing for her to do but help around the house.
"The days go so long for me," she says. "But when he comes, the days go so fast for me."
Ignacia wonders if it was a mistake to apply for legal status. Maybe she should have stayed as one of about 100,000 undocumented immigrants in Utah.
Marc says he grateful that his bosses have been flexible with him, but he's run out of vacation days and money.
Marc says he makes about $42,000 a year, sends Ignacia about $400 a month and pays the mortgage and bills. And he has racked up a $12,000 credit-card bill, mostly for travel to Mexico.
He recently started selling his plasma for $60 a week to make some extra cash.
"I'm broke," he says.
For now, they wait.
Marc and Ignacia spend hours a day talking on their cell-phone walkie-talkies. They watch "American Idol" and read the same books, such as the fantasy-romance novel New Moon , so they can talk about them. And they try not to dwell on the roughly 1,700 miles between them.
The worst part: the future is unknown.
"Not knowing is really hard," Marc says. "You have no idea what's going to happen with your life."
jsanchez@sltrib.com

Did you know?

Here are the four main ways to immigrate into the U.S.

Family » Applying for a visa through a relative (including spouses) who is a citizen or a legal resident.

Employment » Many visas are for professionals who have special skills and are under-represented in the United States.

Asylum » It's a form of protection for people who are fearful of living in their native country.

Lottery: » A Diversity Lottery of 55,000 visas is available for people who live in countries that are under-represented in the U.S.; millions and millions apply.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and immigration attorney Barbara Szweda

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The challenges of a “giant, young Hispanic population”

The challenges of a “giant, young Hispanic population”

By Juan Castillo | Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 12:00 PM

In sports, coaches are fond of saying that statistics are for losers. In government, numbers carry considerable weight, often driving policy-making decisions. Whether the wealth of data to emerge from City Demographer Ryan Robinson’s analysis of socioeconomic indicators for Hispanics in Austin will lead to new government policies remains to be seen. But even Robinson, who cranks out numbers for a living, thinks some of the findings are stunning. Like this one: Hispanic youths now comprise 50 percent of all persons younger than 18 in Austin. That Austin’s soaring Hispanic population is young has been known for some time, but the new census estimates that form the basis of Robinson’s analysis convey a greater sense of urgency. “If you have a giant, young Hispanic population here, you need to educate them, prepare them to be fully integrated into the workforce and to participate economically,” Robinson said. “If you don’t, you’re selling the city as a whole short.”



Robinson prepared his 35-page analysis for the city’s new Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative, which will explore whether socioeconomic gaps exist for Latinos in Austin, and what if anything the city can do.


http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/shared-blogs/austin/somosaustin/upload/2009/01/in_sports_coaches_are_fond/Hispanic_Quality_of_Life_Analysis.pdf

A RADICAL VISION FOR TODAY'S LABOR MOVEMENT

A RADICAL VISION FOR TODAY'S LABOR MOVEMENT
The Importance of Internationalism and Civil Rights
By David Bacon

Monthly Review, February 2009

During the Cold War, many of the people with a radical vision of the world were driven out of our labor movement. Today, as unions search for answers about how to begin growing again, and regain the power workers need to defend themselves, the question of social vision has become very important. What is our vision in labor? What are the issues that we confront today that form a more radical vision for our era?

The labor movement worked hard to elect Barack Obama president, and a new Democratic majority in Congress, creating new possibilities for gaining labor law reform, universal healthcare, immigration reform and ending the Iraq war. But to win even these reforms, promised by the Obama campaign, unions will have to do more than simply support the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Labor's ability to move forward depends on finding a new and deeper relationship with its own members, and their willingness to fight for even a limited set of demands. Our history tells us that when workers have been inspired by a vision of real social change the labor movement grows in numbers, bargaining strength, and political power.

At the heart of any radical vision for our era is globalization - the way unions approach the operation of capitalism on an international scale. In the discussion that led to the creation of the Change to Win federation, the Service Employees made a proposal about how unions should conduct their international relationships. It called on unions to find partners in other countries, even to organize those unions, in order to face common employers. AFL - CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka said the same thing in New York ten years earlier, when the Sweeney administration was elected. At the time it represented a big change from the Cold War - that unions would cooperate with anyone willing to fight against our common employers. It rejected by implication the anticommunist ideology that put us on the side of employers and U.S. foreign policy, and shamed us before the world.

This idea is an example of pragmatic solidarity, and a good first step out of that Cold War past. But it is no longer radical enough to confront the new challenges of globalization - the huge displacement and migration of millions of people, the enormous gulf in the standard of living dividing developed from developing countries, and the wars fought to impose this system of global economic inequality. What's missing is a response from the labor movement to U.S. foreign policy. International solidarity involves more than multinational corporations. Corporate globalization and military intervention are intertwined, and in the labor movement there's hardly any discussion of their relationship. In the aftermath of 9/11 this led some unions into support for the "war on terror," and eventually even into support for the Iraq invasion. Unless unions can begin to see military intervention and corporate globalization as part of the same system, many will support the war in Afghanistan, as a new and popular Democratic president calls for increased intervention.
Unions in the rest of the world are not simply asking us whether we will stand with them against General Electric, General Motors, or Mitsubishi. They want to know: What is your stand about aggressive wars, military intervention and coups d'état? If we have nothing to say about these things, we will not have the trust and credibility we need to build new relationships of solidarity.

U.S. corporations operating in countries like Mexico and El Salvador are, in some ways, opportunistic. They take advantage of an existing economic system, and make it function to produce profits. They exploit the difference in wages from country to country, and require concessions from governments for setting up factories. But what causes the poverty in El Salvador that they exploit to their advantage? What drives a worker into a factory that, in the United States, we call a sweatshop? What role does U.S. policy play in creating that system of poverty?

Unions need the kind of discussion in which workers try to answer these questions. Labor education is more than technical training in techniques for grievance handling and collective bargaining. It has to be about politics, in the broadest and most radical sense. When unions don't work with their members to develop a framework to answer these questions they become ineffective in fighting about the issues of peace and war, globalization, and their consequences, such as immigration.

When the AFL - CIO campaigned in Washington against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, labor lobbyists went up to Capitol Hill to mobilize pressure on Congress. Some unions went to their local affiliates and asked members to make phone calls and write letters. But what was missing was education at the base. Had unions educated and mobilized their members against the Contra war in Nicaragua, and the counterinsurgency wars in El Salvador and Guatemala (and certainly many activists tried to do that), U.S. workers would have understood CAFTA much more clearly over a decade later. But because there's so little effort to create a conscious, educated union membership, it will be hard to get members to act when labor's Washington lobbyists need them to defeat new trade agreements, in the upcoming battles over the Colombian and South Korean FTAs.
The root of this problem is a kind of American pragmatism that disparages education. We need to demand more from those who make the decisions and control the purse strings in our unions.
Since grinding poverty in much of the world is an incentive for moving production, defending the standard of living of workers around the world is as necessary as defending our own. The logic of inclusion in a global labor movement must apply as much to a worker in Iraq as it does to the nonunion worker down the street. The debate over the Iraq war at the AFL - CIO convention in 2005 highlighted more than the effects of the war at home. It proposed that even in the face of U.S. military intervention, U.S. and Iraqi workers belong to the same global labor movement, and have to find common ground in opposing those policies that brought the war about.

The generation of antiwar, solidarity activists who were young marchers and war veterans during Vietnam, and rank-and-file militants during the Central American interventions, today are leading unions. Some of them may have forgotten those roots, but many have not. They're tired of seeing their movement remain quiet when the U.S. military is used to prop up an economic system they're fighting at home. The labor movement may be awash in internal dissention, but it has grown surprisingly united in opposition to the Iraq war. U.S. Labor Against the War, which started as a collection of small groups in a handful of unions, has today become a coalition of unions representing over a million members, and represents the thinking of an overwhelming majority. Its resolutions, passed in convention after convention, are the product of grassroots action at the bottom of the U.S. labor movement, not a directive from the top.

Iraqis themselves provided U.S. workers with a new way of looking at the occupation. Iraqi unemployment has been at 70 percent since it started. Order 30, issued by occupation czar Paul Bremer in September 2003 (and still in force), lowered the base wage in public enterprises, where most permanently employed Iraqis work, to thirty-five dollars a month, and ended subsidies for food and housing. Law 150, issued by Saddam Hussein in 1987 to prohibit unions and collective bargaining in the public sector, was continued under the occupation. The current Iraqi government still forbids the Oil Ministry to formally recognize the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), seizes union bank accounts, and won't allow unions to function normally.

Iraqi unions see these moves as a way to soften up workers to ensure they don't resist the privatization of the country's economy, particularly its oil. Iraqi unions, especially the IFOU, are the backbone of the country's popular movement against oil privatization, without which the multinational oil giants would have taken control of the industry long ago. In Iraq, as in most developing countries, privatization defies the tradition of social solidarity. Iraq needs its oil revenues to rebuild the country, creating a public sector that can put people to work and ensure a self - sustaining national economy.

So U.S. labor's call for rapid withdrawal should mean more than just bringing U.S. soldiers home. It should put American workers on the side of Iraqis, as they resist the transformation of their country for the benefit of a wealthy global elite. This is a transformation happening in country after country. Iraq is a place where U.S. workers can see it clearly, if the labor movement would give them the information and material they need. They certainly won't get it from the mainstream press, but they could get this education from their unions.

That education would help workers understand the political and economic objectives of war and intervention. It would help them understand the huge displacement of people caused by the effort to maintain this unjust system. And that, in turn, would help them understand why we see waves of those displaced people moving around the world, including coming to the U.S.

Opposing the war means fighting for the self-interest of our members, and being able to identify that self-interest with the interest of workers in Iraq. The same money that pays for the corrupt contracts with KBR and Blackwater is money that doesn't get spent on schools here at home. We won't have the money for a New Deal-style economic recovery under President Obama, much less a full-employment economy, without peace. It's that simple. And to imagine that we can produce millions of jobs at home, and keep people in their foreclosed homes, while fighting yet another war in Afghanistan, is a dangerous illusion.

Union members are not ignorant. They think about the issues of war and jobs all the time. They are becoming more sophisticated, and better at understanding the way global issues from war to trade affect the lives of people in the streets of U.S. cities. A more radical program of labor education would not be swimming against the tide, but with it.

At the same time, however, educating union members alone is not enough. A radical vision should address workers far beyond the formal ranks of organized labor. The percentage of union members is declining, and the organization union members need to put their understanding into practice is getting smaller. Deeper political awareness alone will not create a larger labor movement.

Just after the Second World War, unions represented 35 percent of U.S. workers. It's no coincidence that the McCarthy era, when the Cold War came to dominate the politics of unions, was the beginning of the decline. By 1975, after the Vietnam War, union membership had dropped to 26 percent. Today only 12 percent of all workers, and 8 percent in the private sector, are union members. Declining numbers translate into a decline in political power and economic leverage. California (with one-sixth of all union members), Hawaii and New York have higher union density than any other states. But even here, labor is facing a war for political survival.

While the percentage of organized workers has declined, unions have made important progress in finding alternative strategic ideas to the old business unionism. If these ideas are developed and extended, they provide an important base for making unions stronger and embedding them more deeply in working-class communities. But it's a huge job. Raising the percentage of organized workers in the United States from just 12 to 13 percent means organizing over a million people, and our goal should be to double that percentage. Only a social movement can organize people on this scale.

Gaining a fairer process for winning union recognition and collective bargaining agreements, and real penalties on employers for anti - union firings, puts the Employee Free Choice Act deservedly at the center of labor's political agenda. But a legal process alone will not create strong unions. Only a movement among workers themselves, in which rank-and-file members play a much more active role, can build unions that will survive an employer offensive, and that can fight effectively for social reforms, from single-payer health care to true legalization and equality for immigrants.
In addition to labor law reform and structural reforms to make unions more effective, the labor movement needs a program that will inspire people to organize on their own. Unions need to lose their fear of radical demands, and reject the constant argument that any proposal that can't get through Congress next year is not worth fighting for. One big part of that program is peace. Another is reordering economic priorities.

Today working-class people have to fight just to keep their homes. For the last several decades, many were driven out of cities to lower-cost suburbs, often disproportionately workers of color. Now the families forced into unpayable loans in order to buy houses are losing them to the banks. This certainly calls for a return to the direct action of an earlier era. If we don't mobilize to keep our members in their homes, what good are we? But beyond direct action, unions and central labor councils need to have a concrete program for economic development, housing and jobs. That would start to give us something we lack, a compelling vision, and a militant movement in the streets demanding action.

That's where millions of people have been for three May Days in a row now, in the largest street outpourings since the 1930s. To its credit, the labor movement helped raise the expectations of immigrants when the AFL-CIO passed a resolution in Los Angeles in 1999, putting forward a radical new program - amnesty for the undocumented, ending employer sanctions, reunification of families, and protecting the rights of all people, especially the right to organize. The marches and movements of immigrant workers of the last decade demonstrate convincingly the power of this radical political vision.

Congress, however, moved in a different direction, criminalizing work and migration, and proposing huge guest worker programs. While the Congressional bills failed, states passed laws that were even worse. Mississippi made it a state felony for an undocumented worker to hold a job, with prison terms of up to five years. And the Bush administration simply began implementing by executive order the enforcement and guest worker measures it couldn't get through Congress. In the wave of raids that followed, hundreds of workers, including union members, have gone to federal prison on bogus criminal charges of identity theft, for inventing a Social Security number. And when non-union workers have stood up for a union or a higher wage, raids have been used to terrorize them.

It is time for the labor movement to fight to stop this wave of anti-worker repression, and propose a freedom agenda for immigrants that will give people rights and an equal status with other workers on the job, and with their neighbors in their own communities. Instead of holding its finger to the political wind, labor has to convince a new administration that passing that program is not only politically possible, but also politically necessary to hold and expand Obama's own electoral base.

Instead of an alliance with employers based on Washington political calculations, winning immigrant rights requires an alliance between unions, immigrants, and other communities of color. The common ground for building that alliance is linking immigrant rights to a real jobs program and full employment economy, with affirmative action that can come to grips with the devastation in communities of color, especially African-American communities. And without challenging the war, the resources for building that alliance will be lost on guns and more intervention.

The labor movement must inspire people with a broader vision of what is possible. Workers' standard of living is declining, and they often have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage, and going to the doctor. There's something fundamentally wrong with the priorities of this society. Workers know it, and unions have to be courageous enough to say it.

Working families need a decent wage, but they also need the promise of a better world. For as long as we've had unions, workers have shown they'll struggle for the future of their children and their communities, even when their own future seems in doubt. But it takes a radical social vision to inspire that wave of commitment, idealism, and activity.

It's happened before. The 1920s were filled with company unions, violence, strikebreakers, and the open shop. A decade later, those obstacles were swept away. An upsurge of millions in the 1930s, radicalized by the depression and left-wing politics, forced corporate acceptance of the labor movement for the first time in the country's history. Changes taking place in our unions and communities today can be the beginning of something as large and profound. With more radicalism and imagination, the obstacles we face can become historical relics as quickly as did those of that earlier era.

For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org

Just out from Beacon Press:
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants
http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2002

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)
http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_detail.taf?ti_id=4575

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)
http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9989.html

__________________________________

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories
http://dbacon.igc.org

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chained Immigrants Paraded By Arizona Sheriff

By Casey Sanchez On February 4, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

Hatewatch / February 4, 2009

This afternoon in Maricopa County, Ariz., more than 200 Latino immigrants were chained, dressed in prison stripes and forced to march down a public street from a county jail to a detainment camp in a desert industrial zone outside Phoenix.

Along the way they were filmed by television news crews and guarded by at least 50 Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) deputies, wearing body armor and combat fatigues, armed with shotguns and automatic rifles. At least two canine units were present; a Sheriff's Department helicopter hovered overhead.

The massive show of force was pure stagecraft for a blatant and dehumanizing publicity stunt orchestrated by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The MCSO gave no indication that any of the immigrant prisoners were particularly violent or presented a grave danger to the public.
According to a MCSO [1] press release, 220 immigrants were transferred to a "Tent City" surrounded by electrified fencing. "This is a population of criminals more adept perhaps at escape," Arpaio stated in the press release. "But this is a fence they won't want to scale because they risk receiving a shock - literally."

The press release further detailed how the immigrants will be treated like any other prisoners, "with two exceptions." First, "Arpaio wants them to be instructed in American immigration laws, as a way to help them understand that the violation of these laws has serious consequences not only to them but to society as a whole." Second, immigrants who violate jail rules will be put on a desert chain gang. "This chain gang will work to clean the areas [of the nearby desert] which have been impacted by human trafficking trade," the release stated.


Humiliating prisoners by putting them on parade began in Imperial Rome. In modern times it's been widely denounced as a barbarous practice. In March 2003, after the Iraqi government paraded five captured U.S. soldiers in front of television cameras, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [2] protested that it was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The Phoenix New Times [3] pointed out that Arpaio's immigrant parade was scheduled for the same day that MCSO Captain Joel Fox was scheduled to appear in court to appeal a $315,000 fine levied against him for channeling an illegal $105,000 campaign donation to the Republican Party in the name of a shadowy entity called the "Sheriff's Command Association."

"Which event do you think average news consumers will remember on Thursday - an administrative hearing concerning a convoluted tale of campaign finance laws, or the image of 200 Mexicans in stripes marching in chains down a public street?" asked the New Times. "Yeah, we thought so, too."
Arpaio is [4] lionized by Minutemen vigilantes and other [5] nativist extremists for his controversial "287(g)" arrangement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which empowers the MCSO, a local agency, to enforce federal immigration law.

Many Latinos taken into custody in recent months by [6] MCSO 287(g) squads have been pulled over for minor traffic violations, such as a broken headlight or an improper lane change, and then arrested when they're unable to produce proof of citizenship or a valid visa. The operations, several of which have been concentrated in predominately Latino neighborhoods and conducted in some cases by MCSO officers wearing [7] black ski masks, have drawn [8] widespread accusations of racial profiling.

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, an outspoken critic of Arpaio's immigrant-bashing antics, [9] told the Associated Press that today's parade was "one of the most inhumane things I've ever heard."

"[Arpaio's] trying to justify this as a 'budget savings,' and I'm just appalled. It's just another publicity stunt," Wilcox said. "I don't think you can segregate people that way, and we're going to get all kinds of violations against us."

Arpaio’s America


Editorial

Arpaio’s America

It has come to this: In Phoenix on Wednesday, more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. They were inmates being sent to await deportation in a new immigrant detention camp minutes from the center of America’s fifth-largest city.

The judge, jury and exhibitioner of this degrading spectacle was the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, the publicity-obsessed star of a Fox reality show and the self-appointed scourge of illegal immigrants. Though he frequently and proudly insists that he answers to no one, except at election time, the sheriff is not an isolated rogue. As a participant in the federal policing program called 287(g), he is an official partner of the United States government in its warped crackdown on illegal immigration.

The immigration enforcement regime left by the Bush Administration is out of control. It is up to President Obama and the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, to rein it in and clean it up. This applies not just to off-the-rails deputies like Sheriff Arpaio, but to the federal enforcement agencies themselves.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol have been shown in recent news accounts to be botching their jobs. Border Patrol agents in California have accused supervisors of setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, and a recent Migration Policy Institute study showed that a much-touted campaign of raids against criminal fugitives was a failure. It netted mostly the maids and laborers who are no reasonable person’s idea of a national threat.

The burden of action is particularly high on Ms. Napolitano, who as Arizona’s governor handled Sheriff Arpaio with a gingerly caution that looked to some of his critics and victims as calculated and timid.

Ms. Napolitano, who is known as a serious and moderate voice on immigration, recently directed her agency to review its enforcement efforts, including looking at ways to expand the 287(g) program. Sheriff Arpaio is a powerful argument for doing just the opposite.

Now that she has left Arizona politics behind, Ms. Napolitano is free to prove this is not Arpaio’s America, where the mob rules and immigrants are subject to ritual humiliation. The country should expect no less.

Para ver el artículo original del New York Times haga clic aquí.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mexico on the Brink

Ve tambien el nuevo blog de John Ackerman <http://www.johnackerman.blogspot.com/

Saludos cordiales,

John Ackerman

Mexico on the brink: Incompetent, corrupt political leadership and increasing levels of violence may turn Mexico into a narco-state


Friday 30 January 2009 18.00 GMT

Violent deaths were as common in Mexico <http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2009/01/obama_needs_to_watch_mexico_ca.html> as in Iraq in 2008. Almost 6,000 people were shot, decapitated or otherwise "disappeared" and over 700 kidnapped in the escalating battle between drug traffickers. The carnage is particularly severe in border cities like Juárez, where the death toll has reached 1,607. On Mexico's independence day, men apparently linked to drug cartels threw a pair of grenades into a festive crowd, killing eight <http://www.ajc.com/services/content/printedition/2008/09/28/mexico.html> and maiming dozens.

In its last days in office, the Bush administration came to the drastic conclusion that Mexico may soon become a failed state <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123206674721488169.html> . The Joint Forces Command has compared Mexico to Pakistan, arguing that both may be on the verge of a "rapid and sudden collapse <http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2008/JOE2008.pdf> " [pdf]. General Barry McCaffrey, a former Army chief under Bush, organised a high level, semi-secret strategy meeting in December where he presented a report that claims that "Mexico is on the edge of the abyss — it could become a narco-state in the coming decade".

Paradoxically, these grim prognostications are frequently accompanied by a blind faith in Mexico´s president Felipe Calderón. Columnists and news reports view the increase in violence as an indication of the effectiveness of the government's strategy, which has provoked gangs to fight amongst themselves and to take revenge on the government. The US Congress has supported Calderón with its Merida Initiative <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mérida_Initiative> of June 2008. This committed $1.4bn of military assistance to Mexico and Central America, on the theory that high-tech helicopters and listening devices can solve the problem.

Both the exaggerated claims about the possible collapse of the Mexican state and the naïve confidence in the Calderón administration are mistaken. The Mexican drug cartels have no interest in taking over the government. Mexico is fundamentally different from Colombia or Afghanistan, where politics and ideology are at the centre of the agenda. Mexican drug traffickers are not terrorists or radical leftists, but savvy (and heavily armed) businessmen who corrupt government officials in order to maintain a positive "investment climate".

The rising tide of violence is a response to the failures of the Calderón administration. It has relied on empty public displays of force, without developing sophisticated intelligence and strategic planning against the drug cartels. Calderón has ordered the military onto the streets. He has paraded suspected criminals before television screens. He has created an abstract national pact, which fails to include specific benchmarks or indicators of success.

This grandstanding has been entirely ineffective. According to a recent independent study, only 17% of suspects arrested for drug offences were actually brought to court in 2008. Only a third of these were actually convicted. Calderón's strategy has also led to serious human rights violations. Both Human Rights Watch and Mexico's Human Rights Ombudsman have strongly criticised the Mexican government <http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/02/12/mexico-effective-action-needed-human-rights-body> for the systematic violation of basic civil rights.

Perhaps the most important problem is the endemic corruption of Mexico's public security apparatus. A series of high level officials have been accused of receiving substantial bribes from drug traffickers. This includes the recent head of the special office for combating organised crime, and the last two chiefs of the Interpol office in Mexico. Nevertheless, no one has been convicted and most of the alleged criminals probably will walk free since the cases are based exclusively on the declarations of "protected witnesses" without corroboration by independent investigations.

The US is also directly responsible <http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1203/p08s01-comv.html> for violence in Mexico. Drug users in the US provide the money to corrupt government officials in Mexico, while the drug cartels purchase almost all of their weapons north of the Rio Grande. The treatment of addicts and stricter gun control in the US would be an important part of the solution.

If the Obama administration is serious about turning the page on its relations with Latin America, it should reassess <http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/mexico/stories/011209dnintmexicodrugs.147efc8.html> President Bush's unthinking support of the Calderón administration. Obama should recognise that there are many more effective allies in Mexican civil society - such as watchdog groups, journalists and scholars - and reach out to them in an effort to consolidate democracy in North America. It also wouldn't hurt to take radical measures to stem the southward flow of weapons and reduce drug consumption in the US.

John Ackerman is a professor at the Institute for Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a columnist for Proceso magazine and La Jornada newspaper and editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review.



Link to article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jan/30/mexico-drug-trade-us <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jan/30/mexico-drug-trade-us>