Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal

All of this needs to be placed in perspective. According to the Pew Hispanic Center (April 14, 2009 [cited below]), about three-quarters of those who are here illegally—equivalent to 2.3 million families—have at least one child who is a United States citizen. Interestingly, this group is also more likely to be comprised of couples with children (47%) than either U.S.-born citizens (21%) or legal immigrants (35%). Their higher birthrate equates to 73% of all of their children being U.S.- born citizens. -Angela

April 26, 2009
A Family Divided by 2 Words, Legal and Illegal

For the father, the choice was obvious: An engineer with several jobs yet little money, he saw no future for his daughter and son in their struggling country, Ecuador. Eight years ago, he paid coyotes to smuggle him into Texas, then headed to New York, where his wife and children flew in as tourists, and stayed.

But the consequences of that clear-cut decision — the immigrant’s perennial impulse to uproot for the sake of the next generation — have been anything but simple.

The daughter excelled in her Queens high school and graduated from college with honors, but at 22 is still living in this country illegally. So while her former accounting classmates hold lucrative corporate jobs and take foreign vacations, she keeps the books for a small immigrant-run business, fears venturing outside the city and cannot get a driver’s license in the country she has come to love.

Meanwhile, her 17-year-old brother, who was born in the United States during an earlier stay and is thus an American citizen, enjoys privileges his family cannot, like summers in Ecuador with his cousins. But bored and alone most afternoons, he declared last fall that he wanted to move back to the old country.

“How can he even think that?” said his mother, stunned. “We’re sacrificing ourselves so he can get a better education and a better job. After giving up everything to come here, he — the only one with papers — wants to go back?”

These four — who let a reporter and a photographer trail them only if they were not identified, for fear of being deported — are part of a growing group of what are often called mixed-status families. Nearly 2.3 million undocumented families, about three-quarters of those who are here illegally, have at least one child who is a United States citizen, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Nearly 400,000 of them have both citizen and noncitizen children.

Their ranks are fed by the unending tide of illegal immigration, and by federal laws that deny legal status to foreign-born children — who had no say in moving here — while granting citizenship to their American-born siblings.

And as their numbers rise, they are challenging the most stubborn stereotypes of 21st-century immigrants: that they fit neatly into separate groups — legal or illegal, here to stay or bent on returning home. That they are mostly men on their own, making independent choices.

In fact, most immigrants live in families, with a blend of legal statuses, opportunities and dreams. To spend time with this Queens family is to see, up close, how the growing disparities within immigrant homes are pulling their members in opposite directions and complicating efforts to plan a common future.

The four are now split between two households, and between those who expect to stay and those who would return to Ecuador — a tally that keeps shifting. The daughter, despite tireless efforts to get ahead, feels she is losing ground and worries that her brother takes his citizenship for granted. The son, despite his freedom, carries the weight of his family’s highest hopes.

Their status is also mixed in less obvious ways. The mother, 47, who gave up her fledgling career in Ecuador as a computer systems analyst and now baby-sits for a living, has not had anywhere near the same opportunities in this country as the father, also 47, who found rewarding work as a draftsman. Increasingly dissatisfied, she has tried in vain to leverage her son’s citizenship to get a green card granting her permanent residency.

Still, they are a loving family, and better off than many illegal immigrants, making a comfortable life in a city that welcomes foreigners, with or without papers. The parents are among a rising proportion of illegal immigrants with higher educations — at least one in every four are believed to have had some college — abandoning careers back home to try to vault their children into the American middle class in a single generation.

Yet as each year brings new setbacks, they hear the clock ticking and push their children harder. For all the daughter’s high ambitions, the mother never misses a chance to point out a simple solution to her career impasse: find an American husband.

One Saturday night last month, the family gathered to celebrate the daughter’s 22nd birthday in a Chinese restaurant where most of the tables were filled for a raucous wedding reception. As they waited under the swirling disco lights for dishes of pork and seafood, the parents asked the children about their plans — for school, for work, for life.

The son was characteristically vague, saying only that he wanted to attend college. The daughter, as usual, had her future worked out in fine detail: graduate school, community work, a life of service and independence.

But they could barely be heard above the dance music pounding through the restaurant. As a toast was raised to the bride and groom, the din grew louder. Dozens of guests clinked their spoons on glasses.

The mother grinned and leaned in close to the daughter. If she were to be married, “that’s how it would be,” the mother suggested. “Everybody making noise.”

The daughter looked away in silence.

A Costly Education

The girl was smart, very smart. At age 7, she was working the cash register at her parents’ small office-supply shop in Ecuador. By 9, she was absorbed in math, poring over her schoolwork long after everyone else had gone to bed.

And as she neared her 14th birthday, the father began to think the unthinkable: taking the family back to the United States to put her through college.

They had been here before. After graduating at the top of his class from the polytechnic university in Quito, he had moved to New York in 1986 — legally, on a student visa — for graduate studies in engineering at City College, intending to return home to his wife.

But when the couple learned she was pregnant with their first child, he dropped out and took a factory job — violating the terms of his visa — then arranged to have his wife and baby daughter smuggled into Texas and spirited to New York, where he felt he could best provide for them.

“I knew I was passing into illegality,” said the father, a trim, youthful man with an engineer’s matter-of-fact manner. “It was a very difficult decision to make. But I had to support them.”

In time, they moved to Miami and had the son, born an American citizen. But their hopes of a prosperous American life eluded them, and in 1992 they returned to Ambato, the agricultural hub in Ecuador where the father had grown up.

And now, as their daughter raced through Catholic school there, skipping two grades and outpacing her classmates, the father worried about the quality of schooling in Ecuador, where the economy was slipping into chaos. He resolved to give her, and her brother, the American education he never completed.

His own father — a man with a third-grade education who supported 10 children and became chief of the repair shops for Ecuador’s national railroad — blessed the move back to the United States. The old man had taught him to do whatever it took to provide for the family. “He always said you should go to bed thinking about what you were going to do tomorrow,” he said.

His wife’s father, however, had a different motto: Always keep the family together. She was crushed at the prospect of leaving hers, a close-knit clan of urban professionals who begged her to stay.

Her first American sojourn had been ego-crushing for her, a college graduate working in a mattress factory where West Indian supervisors addressed her as “muchacha.” Girl.

“Do you know what this is like?” asked the mother, a woman of quiet poise. “To be around so many uneducated people? But I had to be with my husband.”

‘I’m Going to Seattle’

They arrived in New York in 2001. The father found work with a Queens construction company owned by Chinese immigrants, taking precise measurements at work sites and turning them into computerized drawings. He makes more than he would in Ecuador, and enjoys the chance to showcase his skills and get around the city, into well-appointed offices and high rises.

The mother, meanwhile, cares for children in cramped apartments not nearly as nice as the rambling, modern house she grew up in.

The discrepancies between their lives frayed an already strained relationship; they separated four years ago. The children spend most weekdays with their father, in the narrow attic of a dark house in Elmhurst, Queens, owned by his brother, a legal resident who arrived in the 1970s. On weekends, they take the subway and a bus to the basement apartment their mother rents in another Queens neighborhood, Bayside.

All the work and shuttling around leave the family little time together. Sometimes the father takes the son to soccer games, where he and other immigrants talk about friends who have gone home or died. The mother speaks regularly with her three sisters in Ecuador by webcam, and fills her iPod with melancholy songs from her homeland. As the most adventurous of the sisters — the first to learn to drive — she feels a growing restlessness.

Coming home from a meditation class one Sunday in February, she had barely removed her coat when she jolted the children with an announcement: “I think I’m going to Seattle.” A friend in class had told her that Washington did not require a Social Security number to obtain a driver’s license.

The daughter was alarmed, fearing her mother could be arrested on the trip. But the mother pressed ahead, buying plane tickets for herself and her son. She asked the daughter to help her find a hotel.

Instead, the daughter stayed up one night talking to a friend who had gotten a Washington license, who said the mother would have to pay $3,000 for forged documents attesting to her residency and employment. First thing the next morning, the daughter called her mother. “There’s no way you can qualify,” she said. “There’s too much danger that you can be caught.”

The mother reluctantly agreed to forget the trip, and the hundreds of dollars she lost on airfare.

“My hopes are dead,” she said recently. “Right now we’re just focused on the education of the children and their future. Let them reach their goals and have their dreams.”

Firstborn, Second Class

On her days off, the daughter occasionally rewards herself with a concert or a meal out. But one afternoon in a noisy Colombian restaurant in Jackson Heights, her eyes strayed from her coffee cup to the sidewalks along Roosevelt Avenue, crowded with illegal immigrants who toil in kitchens or clean homes.

“I used to think I was different because I went to college,” said the daughter, who speaks softly and can still pass for a high school junior. “But I’m no better than anyone else. Like them, I don’t have my documents. So I’m just one among millions.”

She is also among an estimated 65,000 young people who graduate from American high schools each year without immigration papers, according to the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. Like many children brought into the country illegally by their parents, she began to understand just what that meant when she approached a high school guidance counselor about college.

“She asked me for my Social Security number,” the daughter recalled. “She said she couldn’t help me with applications without one. So I went home and asked my father for it. He told me, ‘Oh, you don’t have one.’ ”

She quickly learned the other things she would not have: the scholarships her teachers had assured her she would win, the chance to attend a college out of state, or any hope of softening the consequences of her parents’ move. It is nearly impossible for an illegal immigrant child to become a legal resident without going back to the native country, then waiting a requisite 10 years to apply.

For the daughter, that is out of the question. “All my friends are here,” she said. “All I know is here. If I returned, I’d be lost.”

Scholars who study illegal immigrant families say it is usually the older children who recognize their parents’ sacrifice and work hardest to achieve. But those are the same children most likely to have been born abroad.

Luckily for the daughter, she lives in New York, one of 10 states that allow illegal immigrants to pay resident tuition rates at public universities. With $5,000 a year from her father and a baby-sitting job, she attended a highly ranked college in the City University of New York, posting a 3.8 grade point average in accounting.

But the young woman so adept with numbers still lacked the Social Security number needed just to file an application for a job or summer internship. So as her friends — many of them children of immigrants with papers — landed $70,000-a-year jobs, she scoured college bulletin boards for a small business willing to risk hiring her for half that.

“Sometimes I felt like crying or screaming,” she said. “Some of my friends knew why I didn’t apply for corporate jobs. But other people who didn’t know would criticize and judge me. They thought I was lazy or stupid not to apply.”

She was eventually hired as a bookkeeper by a small firm that provides immigrants — the dark humor is not lost on her — with information on visas and government policy. She is paid on the books, thanks to the tax identification number the federal government provides to people without Social Security numbers, and she pays taxes — $2,000 on this year’s federal return.

Though overqualified and underpaid for the job, she rarely complains. Instead, she and her boyfriend — a college student from Mexico who is also in the country illegally — spend their free time volunteering with the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an immigrant group pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would grant legal status to high school graduates who were brought to the United States by their parents.

Her mother prefers a quicker solution: Dump the boyfriend and marry an American. “The ends justify the means,” the mother said. “I tell her, ‘Think about it with a clear head. If it doesn’t go well, you could always separate.’ ”

At first, the daughter was aghast at the notion of marrying for reasons other than love. But as another spring arrives with no change in immigration policy, she has begun to waver.

“I’m thinking, it might be worth giving it a try because this is so frustrating,” she said. “It’s actually getting to me.”

‘He’s a King’

Above a plastic heart dangling from the wall, two photographs in the mother’s apartment neatly sum up the passions of her children. The daughter stands, beaming, in cap and gown. The son, in shorts, goofs around with his cousins on a South American beach.

The son is tightly tied to Ecuador. As the only family member who can travel freely, he has spent three summers there, playing soccer and going to amusement parks with cousins, including two boys he has grown so close to that everyone calls the trio “Los Compadres.” Back in New York, he sends them messages constantly via e-mail and Facebook.

He seems far less emotionally connected to Queens, where he comes home after school to an empty apartment to do homework. His mother frets about him. “He needs the warmth of family,” she said.

But the family, here and in Ecuador, insists he stay in the United States. “As a citizen, all doors are open for him,” the mother said. “He knows there is a difference, that he can do what we cannot.”

Their hopes for him sometimes edge into impatience. As mother and daughter watched “Hairspray” one Saturday afternoon, the son dozed in his dark bedroom.

“He’s a king,” said the mother, who wishes he would take a part-time job, for the discipline and spending money. “In Ecuador, nobody works until they graduate from college. But we’re in the United States now, and a different society has different customs. He should work.”

“He wants to work,” the daughter insisted. “But my father won’t let him. He wants him to study.”

Indeed, the father has counseled him not to be lured by the quick money that leads other neighborhood boys to drop out of school to work at delis or construction sites for $500 a week. Concerned that the son’s grades have slipped, he closely follows his schoolwork, meeting often with teachers.

The daughter watches over him, too. In many mixed-status families, siblings clash: The older child, without papers, often has to work harder to succeed and resents the privileges the younger child enjoys as a citizen — especially if he seems not to be taking advantage of them, said Walter Barrientos, a founder of the Youth Leadership Council.

The daughter speaks of her brother with obvious affection. But as he remained out of earshot in the other room, she vented a mounting frustration.

She had taken him to meetings of the youth group, but he showed little interest in helping its campaign for the Dream Act. “He doesn’t see how difficult it is for us not having documents,” she said. “And he sees how it is for me — I can’t go back to Ecuador or get a better job. It’s unfortunate, when somebody close to his heart is suffering.”

She feared that as a high school junior, he was nearing graduation without a serious plan. “Knowing I couldn’t get a scholarship, that pushed me even more — it pushed me to work hard,” she said. “For him, he has all the possibilities, but he’s not thinking. It’s hard to understand what he’s thinking.”

In some ways, he is just a typical 17-year-old, stingy with words. His thinking has actually changed: Over the last few months, he has stopped talking about a return to Ecuador and started exploring the notion of studying architecture at an American college.

But he has also dropped hints that he feels the pressure many citizen children of illegal immigrants experience.

“Maybe they expect too much of me,” he confided. “But my family wanted me to come here. It’s better for me, and better for my sister.”

Half a world away, the sunny duplex apartment the family built during their last stay in Ambato sits vacant, though filled with their possessions — family photos, the son’s action figures, the daughter’s books — as if awaiting their return. Relatives beseech them to come back, even promising jobs to sweeten the offer.

The parents resist their pleas. They have not come this far, sacrificing their own careers and comforts, to miss seeing their children succeed in America.

If that day comes, both parents say they will gladly return to their homeland — even the father whose firm decision brought them all to the United States. Ecuador is the land he loves. New York is only the means to an end.

“I crashed a party I was not invited to, and one day I’ll be asked to leave,” he said. “I know. This is a place to work. Not to die.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Universities asked to establish more Center for Mexican American Studies Programs

18 April 2009
Steve Taylor

AUSTIN, April 18 - The House version of the state budget includes a
provision asking Texas’ 40 public universities to consider setting up
centers that study the history and culture of Mexican Americans.

The provision was added as an amendment by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo,
D-Dallas, during Friday evening’s marathon debate on the $178.4
billion state budget for 2010-11. Alonzo’s amendment won unanimous

“We have centers for Mexican American studies at UT-Austin,
UT-Arlington, the University of Houston and other universities and
they have been a very positive experience,” Alonzo said, in an
exclusive interview with the Guardian after his amendment was
accepted. “I would like all 40 public universities to look at setting
up such centers.”

Alonzo said such centers study the history, culture, economics and
politics of Mexican Americans. He said such centers will help the
state prepare for the rapidly changing demographics that are sweeping
the state.

By 2020, the Texas Hispanic population is expected to outnumber the
Anglo population, according to the State Demographer’s office.
Comptroller Susan Combs produced a report on the state demographer’s
projections. Between 2000 and 2040 the Hispanic population will triple
in Texas’ urban areas, from 5.9 million to 17.2 million. In rural
areas, the Hispanic population is expected to double, from 777,000 to
1.6 million, Combs reported.

In 1980, the Hispanic population of Texas was just under 3 million. By
2040, there will be 18.8 million Hispanics in Texas. This projection
indicates that the Hispanic population will grow by 530 percent from
1980 to 2040. These changes are being driven both by high immigration
rates and high birth rates, Combs reported.

“These centers for the study of Mexican American life are important
because of the big and continuous change in the demographics of the
state of Texas,” Alonzo said. “A center teaches students, all
students, the history the culture, the economics, the politics of
Mexican Americans. The rest of the state needs to know. Mexican
Americans need to know.

Alonzo pointed out that Mexican Americans have shaped the history of
Texas. He said if that were not the case, the Colorado River would be
the Red River, San Antonio would be St. Anthony, and Amarillo would be

“We were part of Mexico. After the1848 war, the decision was made that
Mexicans that live here could keep their Spanish language, their
culture, their heritage and their lands. The reality is many people
today do not know this. These centers will help with the change and
manage the change that is coming,” Alonzo said.

Alonzo then proceeded to take out his state legislator ID card. The
front of the ID was in English and the back was in Spanish.

Texas’ public universities will not be forced to introduce centers
focusing on Mexican American studies. He said in his experience
forcing universities to do things does not work.

“I just want to bring it to their attention. There have been studies
at UT-Arlington which show that students are happy to be there because
of the Center for Mexican American Studies. I have seen how well it
works. I have been part of it. I think it would be a very positive
experience for all the universities that set up a program like this,”
Alonzo said.

In 2003, Alonzo succeeded in getting every community college in Texas
that has a high or fast growing Hispanic population to set up Mexican
American Studies centers. This came about through a request from
Richland College in Dallas. “They came to me to ask if the legislature
could help set up a center. It had bipartisan support and I worked
with then-Rep. Fred Hill, R-Dallas,” he explained.

Earlier this year, Alonzo won a top award from the National
Association of Chicano Studies at the group’s state convention in San

© Copyright of the Rio Grande Guardian,, Melinda
Barrera, Publisher. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Immigrants Can Help Fix The Housing Bubble

Immigrants Can Help Fix The Housing Bubble
by Richard S. Lefrak and A. Gary Shilling
The Obama administration should seriously consider granting resident status to foreigners who buy surplus houses in this country. This makes more sense than the president's $275 billion housing bailout plan, which Americans greeted with a Bronx cheer.

The federal bailout forces taxpayers to subsidize overextended homeowners who bet on ever-rising house prices and used their abodes as ATMs, and it doesn't get to the basic problem -- the huge inventory of excess houses. We estimate that 2.4 million houses over and above normal working inventories are left over from the 1996-2005 housing bubble. That's a lot, considering the long-term average annual construction of 1.5 million single- and multi-family units.

Excess inventory is the mortal enemy of house prices, which have already fallen 27% since the peak in early 2006. We predict another 14% drop through the end of 2010 if nothing is done to eliminate the surplus.

Doing nothing to eliminate the excess inventory might well push the recession through 2010 and into a depression. Declining home values, for example, are eliminating the home equity that has funded oversized consumer spending for years.

As consumers retrench, production is cut, payrolls are slashed, and consumer confidence, incomes and spending are savaged in a self-feeding downward economic spiral. But if the government buys surplus houses and sells them at low market-clearing prices, other house prices will drop, destroying more home equity and driving many more mortgages under water. Bulldozing excess houses would be an inefficient end for perfectly habitable structures.

A better idea is to offer permanent residence status to the many foreigners who are clamoring to get into the U.S. -- if they buy houses of minimal values (not shacks). They wouldn't need to live in those houses, but in order to remove the unit from the total housing market, they couldn't rent them. Their temporary resident status granted upon purchase would become permanent after, perhaps, five years, if they still owned the houses and maintained clean records. The mere announcement of this program might well stop the ongoing collapse in house prices, especially in cities such as Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and San Francisco, where prices are down 40% -- but where many foreigners like to live.

Each year, 85,000 H-1B visas are granted for foreigners with advanced skills and education, and last year, 163,000 petitions were filed in the first five days after applications were accepted. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation estimates that as of Sept. 30, 2006, 500,040 residents of the U.S. and 59,915 individuals living abroad were waiting for employment-based visas. Many would buy homes if their immigration conditions were settled.

These people tend to be highly productive. In 2006, foreign nationals residing in the U.S. were listed as inventors on 25.6% of the patent applications filed in the U.S., up from 7.6% in 1998. A Council of Graduate Schools survey found that in the fall of 2007, 241,095 non-U.S. citizens were enrolled in graduate programs. Some 55% were in engineering and the biological and physical sciences, compared with only 16% of U.S. citizens. In 2007, more people on temporary visas received doctorates in physical sciences and engineering than U.S. citizens.

There is a high correlation between education and incomes, and in today's uncertain economic climate, many wealthy foreigners desire U.S. resident status just as a number in Hong Kong secured residences in Singapore and Canada before the British handover to China in 1997. They rapidly became over a quarter of Vancouver's population, and brought in billions of dollars to buy houses and make other investments.

We could benefit from such an influx. Merrill Lynch estimates that in 2007 there were 10.1 million individuals in the world, 7.1 million outside the U.S., with at least $1 million in financial assets that totaled $29 trillion. If new immigrants bought the 2.4 million excess houses at today's $184,000 median price with funds from abroad, they would bring untold billions. The immigrants would also buy consumer goods, pay taxes, and start many new businesses.

The blueprint for a program to sell surplus housing to immigrants is already in place with the EB-5 visa program. Each year, 10,000 EB-5 visas for this country are available for foreigners who each invest $1 million in a new enterprise ($500,000 in economically depressed areas) that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. After two years, the entrepreneur and his family can become permanent residents.

America's relatively open immigration policy makes this country better off than many other developed lands whose governments also must fund the pensions and health care for growing numbers of retirees. Yet there's still a huge need for more productive and skilled people, both current residents and immigrants, who will produce enough goods and services to provide for their own needs and for those in retirement. Otherwise, entitlement spending eventually will touch off intergenerational warfare.

Granting permanent resident status to foreigners who buy houses in this country will curtail a primary driver of the deepening recession and financial crises -- excess house inventories and the resulting collapse of prices. Since the people who will buy these houses will tend to have money, education, skills and entrepreneurial talents, they will be substantial assets to America in both the short and long runs.

Originally appeared in the March 17, 2009 issue of the Opinion Journal, The Wall Street Journal. Reprinted with permission.
About The Author
Richard Lefrak is chairman and CEO of LeFrak Organization, a real estate builder and developer.

A. Gary Shilling an economic consultant and investment adviser, is president of A. Gary Shilling & Co.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
Copyright © 1999-2007 American Immigration LLC, ILW.COM

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Unauthorized Immigrants More Dispersed Around the Country; Labor Force Growth Halts, but Number of U.S. Born Children Grows

Press Release / Pew Hispanic Center
April 14, 2009

The Pew Hispanic Center today released "A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States," which includes population and labor force estimates for each state, as well as national-level findings about families, education, income and other key indicators.

The report finds that unauthorized immigrants are more geographically dispersed than in the past. A group of 28 high-growth states in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain and Southeast regions are now home to 32% of the unauthorized population, more than double their 14% share in 1990. California's share declined to 22% from 42% during this same period.

Unauthorized immigrants are more likely than either U.S.-born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with a spouse and children, according to the report. A growing share of the children of unauthorized immigrants (73%) are U.S. citizens by birth. The U.S.-born and foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrants make up an estimated 6.8% of the nation's students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.

Looking at undocumented workers, the report finds that the rapid growth of the unauthorized immigrant labor force from 1990 to 2006 has halted. The new report estimates there were 8.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. labor force in March 2008, accounting for 5.4% of the work force. The 2008 labor force estimate appears slightly lower than the 2007 estimate, but the change is within the margin of error.

The unauthorized immigrant share of the labor force varies widely by state. Undocumented immigrant workers constitute roughly 10% or more of the labor force in Arizona, California and Nevada, but less than 2.5% in most Midwest and Plains states.

About three-quarters (76%) of the nation's unauthorized immigrants are Hispanic. As the Pew Hispanic Center has previously reported, 59% are from Mexico.

The new report builds on a Pew Hispanic Center analysis released last year, which estimated there were 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2008. That report said the size of the unauthorized population appears to have declined since 2007, but the difference is not statistically significant. Both reports are based on an analysis of data from the March Current Population Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, and on the 1990 and 2000 Censuses.

Other major findings:
Adult unauthorized immigrants are disproportionately likely to bepoorly educated. Among unauthorized immigrants ages 25-64, 47% have less than a high school education. By contrast, only 8% of U.S.-born residents ages 25-64 have not graduated from high school.
An analysis of college attendance finds that among unauthorized immigrants ages 18 to 24 who have graduated from high school, half (49%)are in college or have attended college. The comparable figure for U.S.-born residents is 71%.
The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born residents. In contrast to other immigrants, undocumented immigrants do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.
A third of the children of unauthorized immigrants and a fifth of adult unauthorized immigrants lives in poverty. This is nearly double the poverty rate for children of U.S.-born parents (18%) or for U.S.-born adults (10%).
More than half of adult unauthorized immigrants (59%) had no health insurance during all of 2007. Among their children, nearly half of those who are unauthorized immigrants (45%) were uninsured and 25% of those who were born in the U.S. were uninsured.

2008 Factsheet on Immigrants in the U.S. [pdf]

The Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, today released a statistical profile [2008 Factsheet on Immigrants in the U.S. [pdf]] of Mexican immigrants living in the United States. On the eve of President Obama's visit to Mexico, this profile reveals that a record 12.7 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2008, a 17-fold increase since 1970. Mexicans now account for 32% of all U.S. immigrants and more than one-in-ten of all persons born in Mexico now reside in the U.S.

No other country in the world has as many total immigrants from all countries as the United States has immigrants from Mexico alone.

More than half (55%) of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are unauthorized. Immigrants from Mexico are younger than other immigrants and less likely to be U.S. citizens. Compared with the U.S. born population, Mexican immigrants are more likely to be male, married, and live in larger households. They are less educated, more likely to be unemployed, have lower incomes and higher poverty rates.

The statistical profile is based on data from the March 2008 Current Population Survey.

1,500 Indian Farmers Commit Mass Suicide: Why We Are Complicit in these Deaths

A scary tale of neoliberal approaches to agriculture.... This is unbelievably tragic and sad.


1,500 Indian Farmers Commit Mass Suicide: Why We Are Complicit in these Deaths
By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on April 16, 2009, Printed on April 19, 2009

The headline has been hard to ignore. Across the world press, news media have announced that over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure.

The UK Independent reported:

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine.

"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."

While many may have been shocked by these deaths, farmer suicides in India, and increasingly across the world, are not new.

In the last ten years, the problem has been reaching epidemic proportions. In one region of India alone 1,300 cotton farmers took their own lives in 2006, but the culprit cannot rest solely on a falling water table.

As the Independent article continues:

Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association: "Farmers' suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death."

But there's more to the story than that. Farmer suicides can be attributed to, "something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops," the UK's Daily Mail reports.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiraling debts -- and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

And no company has been as notorious in the business as the U.S. agra-giant Monsanto. As Nancy Scola explained in a piece for AlterNet:

Here's the way it works in India. In the central region of Vidarbha, for example, Monsanto salesmen travel from village to village touting the tremendous, game-changing benefits of Bt cotton, Monsanto's genetically modified seed sold in India under the Bollgard® label. The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing "True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton." Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto's patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow.

Part of the trick to Bt cotton's remarkable promise, say the salesmen, is that Bollgard® was genetically engineered in the lab to contain bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that the company claims drastically reduces the need for pesticides. When pesticides are needed, Bt cotton plants are Roundup® Ready -- a Monsanto designation meaning that the plants can be drowned in the company's signature herbicide, none the worse for wear. (Roundup® mercilessly kills nonengineered plants.)

Sounds great, right? The catch is that Bollgard® and Roundup® cost real money. And so Vidarbha's farmers, somewhat desperate to grow the anemic profit margin that comes with raising cotton in that dry and dusty region, have rushed to both banks and local moneylenders to secure the cash needed to get on board with Monsanto. Of a $3,000 bank loan a Vidarbha farmer might take out, as much as half might go to purchasing a growing season's worth of Bt seeds.

And the same goes the next season, and the next season after that. In traditional agricultural, farmers can recycle seeds from one harvest to plant the next, or swap seeds with their neighbors at little or no cost. But when it comes to engineered seeds like Bt cotton, Monsanto owns the tiny speck of intellectual property inside each hull, and thus controls the patent. And a farmer wishing to reuse seeds from a Monsanto plant must pay to relicense them from the company each and every growing season.

The cycle of debt continues into a downward spiral. And to be sure, water problems are adding to the crisis. In this most recent instance dam construction nearby was a significant contributor. While changes in water availability may be the jumping point for some farmers in India, it has been the globalization model of agriculture hyped by companies like Monsanto and Cargill that have led farmers to the cliff in the first place.

As renown physicist and anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva (who has also fought against big dam construction) said in an interview with Democracy Now! in 2006:

A few weeks ago, I was in Punjab. 2,800 widows of farmer suicides who have lost their land, are having to bring up children as landless workers on others' land. And yet, the system does not respond to it, because there's only one response: get Monsanto out of the seed sector--they are part of this genocide -- and ensure WTO rules are not bringing down the prices of agricultural produce in the United States, in Canada, in India, and allow trade to be honest. I don't think we need to talk about free trade and fair trade. We need to talk about honest trade. Today's trade system, especially in agriculture, is dishonest, and dishonesty has become a war against farmers. It's become a genocide.

The recent mass suicide in India should be a wake up call to the rest of the world. The industrial agriculture model is literally killing our farmers.

Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Little pre-K access for Latinos

Little pre-K access for Latinos
Kids behind at start of school, advocates say

By Margaret Ramirez

Tribune reporter

April 15, 2009

Inside Casa Infantil Head Start in Logan Square, teacher Janeth Medellin called on her students to form a circle and then started singing a bilingual version of the "Good Morning" song.

"What day is today?" she asked 4-year-old Gustavo. "¿Qué día es hoy?"

When he hesitated, she touched his shoulder and said, "It's OK to answer in Spanish." With that, he shouted in English, "Monday!"

By using bilingual preschool curriculum and providing financial assistance, the Casa Infantil Head Start program is confronting one of the most debated issues in early childhood education: how to raise academic levels of low-income, Latino children.

Latino families with young children constitute a significant portion of the nation's population and future workforce, but several studies show those children are less likely to enroll in early education programs because of various barriers including language, cost, transportation and a shortage of pre-kindergarten spots in poor neighborhoods. For those and other reasons, Latino children lag well behind white children in reading and math skills when they start kindergarten.

Last month, President Barack Obama noted the stubborn gap between white students compared with Latinos and African-Americans, and said the key to raising academic achievement is investing in early childhood education programs—what he called "the first pillar" of education reform. Obama said $5 billion in stimulus funding would be used to grow Head Start programs, expand child care and do more for children with special needs. The president also called for Early Learning Challenge Grants to reward initiatives that raise the quality of pre-K programs.

"Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education despite compelling evidence of its importance," Obama said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "This isn't just about keeping an eye on our children, it's about educating them."

But debates cut different ways on the best way to improve the underfunded, fragmented early childhood education system. In Illinois, a hodgepodge of early childhood education options exist, including federally funded Head Start, state-funded Preschool for All, private schools and center-based programs operated by non-profit organizations.

Although the reasons for low attendance among Hispanics in preschool programs have not been firmly established, a major factor is a lack of programs in poor neighborhoods. A recent study by the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics surveyed programs in Los Angeles and Chicago and found an overall shortage of pre-kindergarten slots in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Sylvia Puente, executive director for the Latino Policy Forum, said the shortage of preschool programs in Chicago stems from demographic shifts where neighborhoods dominated by older whites became populated by immigrants and a baby boom of younger Latino families. To discuss the issue, the Latino Policy Forum gathered leading educators, school administrators and child-care providers at National-Louis University last month.

"What has happened in the city is that you saw the older white ethnic enclaves become Latino. So, there was limited infrastructure of facilities because it was an older, aging demographic. As the Latino population has moved into those communities, there hasn't been the accompanied capital infusion to build space," Puente said.

Some Chicago child-care providers who primarily serve Latinos said many families are unaware that programs exist or don't understand the value of early childhood education. Others said enrollment requirements often become a barrier for low-income families. Celena Roldán, director of child care for Erie Neighborhood House, which serves about 400 children at four centers, said income verification for some child-care programs disqualifies immigrants who often live together in one home but don't share income.

"Sometimes you have multiple incomes going to one household because there are so many people living there and it appears the family is getting a large income. That's usually not the case," Roldán said.

Even when programs exist in impoverished neighborhoods, early childhood experts said other obstacles remain that delay learning for Latino children. Language is perhaps the most significant issue for recent immigrants, increasing the demand for bilingual teachers that surpasses the low supply.

Parental interaction also is critical, said Eugene Garcia, vice president at Arizona State University and a member of Obama's education transition team. Yet research shows that parental interaction is less likely to happen in Latino homes where both parents work full time and have not completed high school.

"We need interaction in the home," said Garcia, chair of the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics. "Latino children are behind in communicating in the complex way that schools demand."

In response, some social service agencies in Chicago have developed strategies specifically designed to encourage more parental interaction in early childhood education. Casa Central, the social service agency that runs Casa Infantil, also offers a home-based Head Start program for recent immigrants. During weekly visits, a preschool teacher comes to the home to review lessons with the child while guiding the parent on how to participate.

"The home-based program is really about showing the parent how to be their child's first educator," said Ellen Chavez, director of early childhood development programs for Casa Central, which also helps African-American, Chinese and Polish children. "Even if you don't speak English, there are things you can teach your child to prepare them for school."

Ana Solano, who immigrated from Mexico five years ago, was unaware of the importance of early childhood education until the home-based visits began for her 4-year-old daughter, Ana. She said she immediately noticed a remarkable difference between Ana and her older son, Juan Carlos, who had struggled in kindergarten. "I just thought he would pick everything up in school. With Ana, I see how much it helps and how much better off she will be," she said.

As the Obama administration prepares to release more details of its education plan, providers are hopeful it will recognize the different models needed to bolster academic achievement among Latino children. "We have limited dollars, so the focus is on quality and prioritizing," said Reyna Hernandez, research associate with the Latino Policy Forum. "We want to make sure that whatever the baseline is, that it takes into consideration these needs of Latino children."

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune

Study: More children of illegal immigrants being born in US; they face high odds of poverty

Study: More children of illegal immigrants being born in US; they face high odds of poverty


Associated Press Writer

3:55 PM PDT, April 14, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — Growing numbers of children of illegal immigrants are being born in this country, and they are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than those with American-born parents, a report says.

The study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center highlights a growing dilemma in the immigration debate: Illegal immigrants' children born in the United States are American citizens, yet they struggle in poverty and uncertainty along with parents who fear deportation, toil largely in low-wage jobs and face layoffs in an ailing economy.

The analysis by Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, estimated that 11.9 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. Of those, 8.3 million were in the labor force as of March 2008, making up 5.4 percent of the U.S. work force, primarily in lower-paying farming, construction or janitorial work.

Roughly three out of four of their children — or 4 million — were born in the U.S. In 2003, 2.7 million children of illegal immigrants, or 63 percent, were born in this country.

Overall, illegal immigrants' children account for one of every 15 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Illegal immigrants also have become more geographically dispersed, increasingly passing up typical destinations like California in favor of jobs in newly emerging Hispanic areas in Southeastern states like Georgia and North Carolina.

In 2008, California had the most illegal immigrants at 2.7 million, double its 1990 number, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Still, California's 22 percent share of the nation's illegal immigrant population was a marked drop-off from its 42 percent share in 1990.

The latest demographic snapshot comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to address the politically sensitive issue of immigration reform later this year, including a proposal to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Though their numbers have soared over the past two decades, the total number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has declined or remained flat in the last few years. Demographers attribute that to slower rates of migration into the U.S. caused in part by the recession, as well as to deportations and stepped-up immigration enforcement during the Bush administration.

Among the findings:

—One-third of the children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the rate for children of U.S.-born parents.

—Illegal immigrants' share of low-wage jobs has grown in recent years, from 10 percent of construction jobs in 2003 to 17 percent in 2008. They also make up 25 percent of workers in farming and 19 percent in building maintenance.

—The 2007 median household income of illegal immigrants was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for U.S.-born residents. In contrast to other immigrants, illegal immigrants do not earn markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

—About 47 percent of illegal immigrant households have children, compared with 21 percent for U.S.-born residents and 35 percent for legal immigrants.

—About three-quarters, or 76 percent, of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority came from Mexico (59 percent), numbering 7 million. Other regions included Asia (11 percent), Central America (11 percent), South America (7 percent), the Caribbean (4 percent) and the Middle East (2 percent).

Children of illegal immigrants hold a delicate place in the U.S. On the one hand, the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that these children — whether they were U.S. citizens or not — were entitled to a public school education. California and a few other states also provide some college tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.

At the same time, the immigrants and their families are among the poorest people in the U.S., easily exploited by employers and subject to arrest at any time. Children who are U.S. citizens cannot petition for their parents to become legal U.S. residents until they are at least 21.

Earlier this year, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general found that more than 100,000 parents of U.S. citizens were deported over the decade ending in 2007, prompting the department to say it would gather more information about families before deporting immigrants.

The Pew analysis is based on census data through March 2008. Because the Census Bureau does not ask people about their immigration status, the estimate on illegal immigrants is derived largely by subtracting the estimated legal immigrant population from the total foreign-born population.


On the Net:

Pew Hispanic Center:

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times

Study Sees More Young Citizens With Parents in the U.S. Illegally

About three-quarters of the nation's illegal immigrants are Hispanic.... -Angela

April 15, 2009
Study Sees More Young Citizens With Parents in the U.S. Illegally

The number of American citizen children who have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant has increased rapidly since 2003, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.

About four million American children have at least one parent who lacks legal immigration status, the group found. And 73 percent of all children of illegal immigrants are American citizens. In 2003, 2.7 million American children had parents without legal status. The increase stems from the relatively young age of the immigrants, who have children soon after they settle in the United States, the report said.

Children of illegal immigrants are more than twice as likely to live with two parents than children of United States citizens, according to the report. In all, about 8.8 million people in the United States are in families that include parents who are illegal immigrants and children who are American citizens.

About three-quarters of the nation's illegal immigrants are Hispanic.
> The findings are likely to be another point of contention between advocates for immigrants and groups that favor more aggressive immigration enforcement.
> In the last two years of the Bush administration, immigration authorities stepped up raids in factories and immigrant communities, and a record 349,000 immigrants were deported in 2008.
> Civil rights and advocacy groups protested that the raids were dividing families and leading to de facto deportations of children with American citizenship who went to live in their parents' home countries. Groups that advocate stricter enforcement say that illegal immigrants who have been deported have the choice of taking their American children with them or leaving them in the United States.
> In the first months of the Obama administration, the raids have slowed to a near halt. After an operation by immigration agents in February at an engine plant in Bellingham, Wash., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review to produce a new enforcement strategy, which she said would focus primarily on abusive employers instead of immigrant workers.
> The Pew report, by Jeffrey S. Passel and D'Vera Cohn, analyzed census data from March 2008. It is the first time in five years that Pew has closely examined family situations of illegal immigrants. It used a method for estimating the number of illegal immigrants that is widely accepted, including by government researchers and groups favoring reduced immigration.
> In all, 5.5 million children living in the United States have parents who are illegal immigrants, an increase of 1.2 million children since 2003, the report found. Nearly 7 percent of students in public elementary and secondary schools are children of illegal immigrants, the report said.
> About one-third of children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the 18 percent poverty rate for children of United States citizens, the report found. In 2007, the median household income for illegal immigrants was $36,000, substantially below the $50,000 median for citizens.
> The report found signs that the rapid upward mobility long associated with new immigrants had stalled for the current generation of illegal immigrants.
> "In contrast to other immigrants," the report said, "undocumented immigrants do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States."
> Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mexican Drug War: Soldiers vs. Soldiers

saturday, april 18, 2009
Mexican Drug War: Soldiers vs. Soldiers
The most severe blows against the military in the war on drugs have come from former soldiers

by Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, Proceso
translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker

The most offensive casualties the Mexican Army has suffered in the war on drug trafficking aren't the result of confrontations with hitmen. Rather, they're executions carried out by ex-brothers-in-arms, trained by the Mexican National Defense Ministry, who have joined the ranks of organized crime, or by cells protected by high-ranking officials. In less than four months, 21 soldiers have been murdered by those who at one time were "incorruptible."

The Mexican Army's most lethal enemies have come from amongst their own ranks. Concentrated in Los Zetas, the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, men who at one time were soldiers are responsible for the most severe attacks against the armed forces in their confrontation with drug trafficking cartels.

In the past three-and-a-half months, the Army's most significant and offensive casualties have occurred in Cancun, Quintana Roo; Chilpancingo, Guerrero; and Monterrey and the surrounding area in Nuevo Leon at the hands of drug traffickers who used to be members of the military or that, according to groups dedicated to drug trafficking, have formed alliances with active military personnel.

Contrary to President Felipe Calderon's discourse about the incorruptibility of Mexican soldiers, the most severe blows against the military have been planned and executed by those who were prepared and specialized, in Mexico as well as abroad, by the National Defense Ministry (Sedena in its Spanish abbreviation).

From October 3, 2008, to February 3, 2009, a total of 21 soldiers, including a retired brigadier general, were executed by Los Zetas cells that arose from the military, and by Beltran Leyva brothers' cells that are linked with military officials.

Of those 21 deaths, eleven were stabbed, eight were decapitated, and two were tortured to death. In contrast to the casualties that occur during confrontations with hitmen, these victims were kidnapped or rounded up and subjugated in front of numerous witnesses.

According to data published by Sedena, prior to Tuesday, February 3, the military had suffered 68 casualties, both active duty and retired military personnel, since operations against drug trafficking began in December 2006. The highest number of victims have been reported in Guerrero, Nuevo Leon, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Tamaulipas.

The military's two most recent casualties occurred in Cancun on February 3. Brigadier General Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones and his assistant, infantry Lt. Getulio Cesar Roman Zuñiga, were tortured and murdered by a group Sedana identified as Zetas, with the participation of ex-members of the army.

Retired this past January 1, Gen. Tello Quiñones was in charge of the creation of a special anti-narcotics group made up of 100 soldiers which was going to be under the direction of the mayor of Benito Juarez in Cancun, Gregorio Sanchez Martinez.

A native of Coacolman in the mountainous zone of southwest Michoacan, which is dominated by drug trafficking, the mayor who in Cancun is known as "Greg" says that National Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan Galvan appointed Tellez [sic: Tello] Quiñones.

Civilian Juan Ramirez Sanchez, Greg's nephew, was murdered along with the general and his assistant. [Greg] was questioned regarding his family's alleged ties to organized crime (Proceso 1684).

The Executioner

Tello Quiñones' death was a severe blow to the military. Not only because organized crime murdered a high-ranking soldier, but because between 2007 and 2008 the general was commander of the 21st Military Zone, headquartered in Morelia, where he participated in the anti-drug trafficking Operation Michoacan.

The intellectual author of these crimes was Octavio Almanza Morales, aka "El Gori 4," an ex-soldier who, until his capture on Monday, February 9, was the boss of the Gulf cartel's cell in Cancun.

Upon announcing his detention on February 11, Sedena's second-in-command of operations, Brigadier General Luis Arturo Oliver Cen, confirmed that El Gori 4 belonged to the military, which he joined on May 20, 1997, and was discharged on July 1, 2004.

El Gori 4's brothers Raymundo and Eduardo Almanza Morales, who were also members of the military, were Zetas with him in Cancun. According to Oliver Cen, both managed to escape the operation in which the Gulf cartel cell was detained.

According to the head of the Assistant Attorney General's Office for the Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), a department of the Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR), Marisela Morales Ibañez, the two ex-soldiers fled to Belize. Neither Sedena nor the PGR indicated what military rank the Almanza Morales brothers earned in the military. El Gori 4 didn't appear in the list of most wanted criminals the PGR has on its website.

The murder of Gen. Tello Quiñones was the first execution undertaken by Almanza Morales, who recently arrived in Cancun to substitute Javier Diaz Ramon, aka "El Java Diaz," as leader of the Zetas. Diaz Ramon was detained by the military this past December 22 in the port of Veracruz.

Octavio Almanza Morales was Sigifredo "El Canicon" Najera Talamantes' deputy in the state of Nuevo Leon. His capture, which resulted from a tip, was important for the military. Sedena identifies him as a co-conspirator in the execution of nine of the eleven soldiers murdered in Monterrey last October.

The casualties occurred between October 17-22, 2008, in acts of extreme cruelty. The military agents were attacked with sharp, pointed objects and wounded in the neck and thorax. Some of the remains were dumped in vacant lots and others stayed at the scene of the crime (Proceso 1669).

The first attack against soldiers in Monterrey, where Operation Safe Nuevo Leon began in December 2007, occurred the night of Tuesday, October 14, in a downtown bar. Three soldiers were stabbed: Eder Missael Diaz Garcia, Roberto Hernandez Santiago, and David Hernandez Martinez.

Four days later, on Saturday, February 18, the cadavers of another three soldiers and an ex-soldier appeared in different places, also stabbed.

The bodies of David Hernandez Aquino and Jose Perez Bautista in a Country La Silla park in the neighboring municipality of Guadalupe. Another one, that of Gerardo Santiago Santiago, was left next to the cantina Los Generales in the Juarez municipality. The fourth victim was Eligio Hernandez Hernandez, an ex-soldier who worked for a private security company. He was stabbed while his hands were handcuffed behind his back.

The next day, Sunday the 19th, another three soldiers turned up dead in the Las Margaritas ejido[1] in the Santiago municipality. Anastasio Hernandez, Claudio Abad Hernandez, and Hector Miguel Melchor Hernandez--who was also a private security company employee--were found with slit throats.

The violent attacks on the military in Monterrey reached a climax on October 22 with three more murders. One of the executed was the Second Sergeant of the 7th Military Zone, German Cruz Lara. According to the autopsy, his body had stab wounds in the thorax and abdomen; blows to the head, chest, shoulders, and knees; and second-degree burns on the arms and forearms, back, and abdomen.

All of these deaths occurred when the commander of the 7th Military Zone, based in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon, was Division General Javier del Real Madallanes. As of December 4, 2008, the general is the Undersecretary of Police Intelligence and Strategy in the Ministry of Public Security, responsible for the federal police's operations against organized crime.

According to Sedena, El Gori 4 participated in all of these executions. El Gori 4 was detained along with six other people as suspects in the murder of the two soldiers in Cancun.

The Decapitated

The viciousness of the murders in Monterrey was just a warning of what would occur later in Chilpancingo, Guerrero, where eight soldiers were decapitated, seven of them while they were still alive, according to the investigation dossier obtained by Proceso.

The first case occurred on December 9, when Sergeant Carlos Alberto Navarrete Moreno was murdered. His head was deposited in a bucket on the monument to the Flags, along one of the busiest streets in the city, with the message: "According to the soldiers, they are combatting organized crime. They are kidnappers. This is going to happen to them because they're whores."

The other victims were soldiers between 21 and 38 years of age assigned to the 35th Military Zone based in Chilpancingo, who were intercepted in different areas of the city--some in front of numerous witnesses--by one or more armed commandos between 8pm on the 20th and the first minutes of December 21.

In total, seven off-duty soldiers were kidnapped: Captain Ervin Hernandez Umaña, Sergeants Juan Humberto Tapia Romero and Ricardo Marcos Chino, Corporals Jose Gonzalez Mentado and Juan Muñoz Morales, as well as soldiers Julian Teresa Cruz and Catarino Martinez Morales.

The following people were murdered along with them: Simon Vences Martinez, who was assistant director of the Judicial Police during the Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu administration[2], and 22-year-old indigenous man Oligario Vazquez Quiroz, native of the Tlacopa municipality, who worked cleaning in the 41st Infantry Battalion in Chilpancingo and was about to be promoted to soldier.

The dossier of the investigation into the murder AP/BRA/SC/02/2725/2008, compiled by the Guerrero Attorney General's Office and obtained by Proceso, establishes the soldiers' cause of death: "hypovolemic shock by external hemorrhaging, produced by the detachment of the cephalic extremity consistent with a wound produced by decapitation."

The forensic report, numbered 352/2008, states that the perpetrators used a "Giggy" saw, a very thin flexible serrated metal cable used by orthopedic surgeons to cut bones during surgery. It notes that, despite being gagged, they didn't die from asphyxia due to the fact that they decapitated them ante mortem.

Their heads were dumped in a mall parking lot near the 35th Military Zone in the south of the city. Their bodies were dropped in two places in the north.

Even though Sedena has not officially blamed these crimes on any particular organization, the military repression after the incident (which the military publicly declared "an offense that that would not go unpunished") has been focused on a Beltran Leyva organization cell in the Costa Grande region, which includes the Zihuatanejo port.

Groups who oppose the [Beltran Leyva] organization have hung "narco-banners"[3] accusing Colonel Victor Manuel Gonzalez Trejo, commander of the 19th Infantry Battalion based in Petatlan, of protecting Petatlan's ex-mayor Rogaciano Alva Alvarez and Reynaldo "El Rey" Zambada, detained this past October.

It was unofficially stated at the end of January that Gonzalez Trejo was replaced by Infantry Colonel Marco Antonio Hernandez Chavez, a soldier promoted last November by Calderon. According to the same source, Gonzalez Trejo is being investigated for the accusations against him.

Colonel Gonzalez Trejo isn't the only soldier in the zone that has been accused of protecting drug traffickers. Lt. Colonel Jose Alfaro Zepeda Soto was mentioned in narco-banners hung on pedestrian bridges and public buildings in the La Union and Petatlan municipalities, also in the Costa Grande and Acapulco, Guerrero; as well as Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan.

Lt. Colonel Zepeda Soto, who is commander of mortar platoon in Zacatula in the La Union municipality, is accused of protecting Jose Angel Pineda Sanchez, aka "El Calentano."

The narco-messages, addressed to the head of Sedena, claim that Zepeda Soto and El Calentano received money from Jaime "El Hummer" Gonzalez Duran, one of the founders and leaders of Los Zetas detained in early November 2008 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The payment, they alleged, was in exchange for protection of the activities of the Gulf cartel's armed wing in Guerrero (Proceso 1678).

El Hummer also belonged to the military. He enlisted on November 15, 1991, and deserted on February 24, 1999, to join fellow ex-soldier Arturo Guzman Decenas and ex-cop Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano, other Zetas founders working for the Gulf cartel.

The Incorruptibles

Despite the fact that the deaths of soldiers in recent months are allegedly linked to the illegal activities of fellow members or ex-members in the military, Felipe Calderon stated on Tuesday, February 10, that Mexico's soldiers are incorruptible.

During the Mexican Air Force Day ceremony held in Tecamac, Mexico State, after requesting a minute of silence for the murder of Gen. Tello Quiñones in Cancun, he ventured: "General Vicente Riva Palacio rightfully said that society guards in its breast an incorruptible seed of morality and a core of men whom neither seduction nor fear can corrupt. That's how I view Mexico's soldiers." He added: "Mexico sees in the members of our institutions a reserve of those values that are the real security of our nation."

Beyond the soldiers murdered by ex-members of the military, there are various cases where soldiers have been murdered for their relationships with organized crime. The most recent occurred on Monday, February 9, when an armed commando group entered the prison in Torreon, Coahuila, to kill and then burn with gasoline three kidnappers who just hours prior had been imprisoned.

One of them was Ubaldo Gomez Fuentes, aka "El Uba," a second lieutenant who belonged to the 33rd Infantry Battalion's Military Intelligence Group. He was detained in early January in Coahuila for the kidnapping and murder of Monterrey businessman Rodolfo Alanis.

Ezequiel Flores contributed to this report from Chilpancingo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

U.S. Stymied as Guns Flow to Mexican Cartels

April 15, 2009
U.S. Stymied as Guns Flow to Mexican Cartels

HOUSTON — John Phillip Hernandez, a 24-year-old unemployed machinist who lived with his parents, walked into a giant sporting goods store here in July 2006, and plunked $2,600 in cash on a glass display counter. A few minutes later, Mr. Hernandez walked out with three military-style rifles.

One of those rifles was recovered seven months later in Acapulco, Mexico, where it had been used by drug cartel gunmen to attack the offices of the Guerrero State attorney general, court documents say. Four police officers and three secretaries were killed.

Although Mr. Hernandez was arrested last year as part of a gun-smuggling ring, most of the 22 others in the ring are still at large. Before their operation was discovered, the smugglers had transported what court documents described as at least 339 high-powered weapons to Mexico over a year and a half, federal agents said.

“There is no telling how long that group was operating before we caught on to them,” said J. Dewey Webb, the agent in charge of the Houston division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Noting there are about 1,500 licensed gun dealers in the Houston area, Mr. Webb added, “You can come to Houston and go to a different gun store every day for several months and never alert any one.”

The case highlights a major obstacle facing the United States as it tries to meet a demand from Mexico to curb the flow of arms from the states to drug cartels. The federal system for tracking gun sales, crafted over the years to avoid infringements on Second Amendment rights, makes it difficult to spot suspicious trends quickly and to identify people buying for smugglers, law enforcement officials say.

As a result, in some states along the Southwest border where firearms are lightly regulated, gun smugglers can evade detection for months or years. In Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, dealers can sell an unlimited number of rifles to anyone with a driver’s license and a clean criminal record without reporting the sales to the government.

At gun shows in these states, there is even less regulation. Private sellers, unlike licensed dealers, are not obligated to record the buyer’s name, much less report the sale to the A.T.F.

Mexican officials have repeatedly asked the United States to clamp down on the flow of weapons and are likely to bring it up again with President Obama when he visits Mexico on Thursday.

Sending straw buyers into American stores, cartels have stocked up on semiautomatic AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, converting some to machine guns, investigators in both countries say. They have also bought .50 caliber rifles capable of stopping a car and Belgian pistols able to fire rifle rounds that will penetrate body armor.

Federal agents say about 90 percent of the 12,000 pistols and rifles the Mexican authorities recovered from drug dealers last year and asked to be traced came from dealers in the United States, most of them in Texas and Arizona.

The Mexican foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, in talking with reporters recently, accused the United States of violating its international treaty obligations by allowing guns to flow into the hands of organized crime groups in Mexico.

But law enforcement officials on this side of the border say the legal hurdles to making cases against smugglers remain high.

“Guns are legal to possess in this country,” said William J. Hoover, the assistant director for operations of the federal firearms agency. “If you stop me between the dealer and the border, I am still legal, because I can possess those guns.”

To be sure, the A.T.F. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have stepped up their efforts to stop smuggling over the last two years. Last year, some 200 indictments were handed up against straw buyers and gun smugglers, breaking up at least a dozen trafficking rings.

In the last six months, federal agents have also begun stopping more cars they have reason to believe are carrying guns before they cross into Mexico, seizing about 1,000 weapons.

A review of cases over the last two years shows a pattern: the drug cartels hire people in need of cash with no criminal records to buy guns from legal sources, often just one or two at a time.

Once the smugglers have amassed a cache of weapons, they drive them across the border in small batches, stuffed inside spare tires, fastened to undercarriages with zip ties or bubble-wrapped and tucked into vehicle panels. In some cases, the drug traffickers and gun smugglers are linked.

On a recent evening in Reynosa, a border town, a Mexican army patrol found an abandoned farmhouse that had been used by drug traffickers. Hidden deep in the brush outside was a plastic barrel filled with guns. The authorities believe that the traffickers were taking drugs to the United States and using the money to return with guns.

The cartels also employ spies to keep track of the sporadic efforts of the Mexican military to search cars, law enforcement authorities say. Because there is no computerized national gun registry, agents say, tracking guns relies on a paper trail. Agents must contact the manufacturer or importer with a make and a serial number and work their way down the supply chain by telephone or on foot.

At the retail level, records of gun sales remain in the hands of the dealers. Agents can request to see them only if a gun is recovered in a crime or during periodic audits. By law, those audits can be done only once a year, and, in practice, most dealers face such a review once every three to six years, because auditors are stretched thin.

The record keeping is not always perfect. In trying to track guns confiscated in Mexico last year, agents found that one in five of the guns could not be traced because the dealers had no record of the sale or had gone out of business and the records had been lost.

Even when the original legal buyer is located, a gun owner in many states, can legally say “I lost it” or “I sold it to someone I do not know.”

Dealers are not obligated to tell the authorities about multiple sales of rifles like the AK-47, as they must do with pistols.

In Texas and Arizona, where most of the guns recovered in Mexico come from, there is even less regulation on private sales. Individuals may sell guns at gun shows or even through classified advertisements without running a criminal background check or even recording the buyer’s name. “If you wanted to create a system that is basically legal but designed to facilitate gun trafficking, you couldn’t have a better system than you have here,” said Tom Diaz, a researcher with the Violence Policy Center in Washington.

But Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and chief executive of the National Rifle Association, said tightening gun laws in the United States would penalize only people who enjoy marksmanship and hunting, or who buy firearms for self-defense, without solving Mexico’s problem.

With billions in profits from illegal drugs, the cartels can easily obtain weapons on the black market in other countries, Mr. LaPierre and many gun dealers argue. “The cartels have the money to get guns wherever they want,” said Charles Fredien, the owner of Chuck’s Gun in Brownsville, Tex., on the border “They have grenades, don’t they? They don’t buy grenades here.” No one knows how large the cross-border trade in arms is. In 2008, the Mexican government seized more than 20,000 weapons from suspected drug dealers.

Since Congress lifted the ban on assault rifles in 2004, more and more of the weapons recovered in Mexico have been military-style rifles like the AK-47s or the AR-15, the authorities in both countries say.

Some local law enforcement officials argue that the A.T.F., which has about 2,500 special agents watching 78,000 gun dealers nationwide, is overwhelmed.

“The gun issue is the single one thing we can address, and we are not seeing it,” said Victor Rodriguez, the chief of police in McAllen, Tex., a border town that has 19 gun dealers.

Although some investigations, like that of the Hernandez ring, spring from gun traces and audits, investigators say the system is set up in such a way that they must rely heavily on tips from gun dealers about suspicious sales.

Mr. Hernandez, who pleaded guilty in the case, is to be sentenced this week.

Lawrence Keane, the general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said most gun dealers were law-abiding and reported suspicious sales to the authorities.

“The dealers are an important source of information to them and very cooperative with the A.T.F.,” Mr. Keane said.

The gun industry has joined with federal authorities to educate dealers about how to spot buyers who might be making illegal purchases for someone else, mounting a public relations campaign to warn people that they could face up to 10 years in prison if they bought a firearm for someone illegally.

Jim Pruett, the owner of Guns and Ammo in Houston, said that every month or two he spotted a suspicious buyer.

Recently, employees said, a young woman came in and tried to buy an AK-47, in cash, and knew nothing about the weapon. Mr. Pruett read her the riot act, they said, informing her she faced 10 years in prison if she was buying for someone else. She left quickly.

“We hammer them,” Mr. Pruett said. “We are not obligated to do that, but if you suspect it, you can.”

Still, federal investigators say some dealers are tempted to look the other way when given a strong financial incentive. Others have been intimidated by drug dealers.

When dealers do tip off the authorities to suspicious sales, they often call the A.T.F. after a sale has been made, federal agents say. Take the case of the owner of a small company in Tucson that specializes in military-style rifles. The owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals from drug gangs, mostly sells the semiautomatic .223 caliber rifles known as AR-15s, a civilian rifle similar to the military M-16.

On May 18, 2008, a man bought two military-style rifles from him at a gun show on the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Two days later, the man showed up at the dealer’s home with a friend and bought eight more rifles for more than $5,000 in cash.

“When somebody walks in and says, ‘I need eight of these,’ it becomes apparent what’s happening,” the dealer said.

Despite the dealer’s help, members of the ring managed to smuggle at least 112 weapons, bought at a half dozen locations, into Mexico before they were arrested in February, A.T.F. agents said.

But much of the smuggling is not so obvious, dealers said. In Brownsville, for instance, one convicted smuggler, Emmanuel Ramirez, recruited 10 people with no criminal records, including young women, then sent them into big-box sporting goods stores to buy two pistols each.

Although federal agents say licensed dealers are the source of most guns going to Mexico, some come from private sellers at gun shows, where even noncitizens can buy guns. Dozens of shows are held each year across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

At a recent show in Pharr, Tex., another border town, a college freshman with a wispy beard arrived with two AR-15 rifles strapped to his body, spidery black guns designed for combat, tricked out with features that soldiers prize: collapsible stocks, pistol grips, extra long magazines.

The student, who asked to be identified only as Shane, was asking $1,900 for one of his rifles. As for paper work, he wanted only a handwritten receipt with the buyer’s name and address. He was not worried, he said, about the gun’s falling into the hands of drug cartels in Mexico.

“They are going to get their guns either way,” he said. “The only thing that a ban is going to stop is good people being able to get a gun.”

At the show, hundreds of people wandered among booths that displayed antique revolvers, bolt-action deer rifles and ornate shotguns side by side with military-style rifles and magazines for AK-47s, laser sights and scopes.

Bruce A. Schluderman from Round Rock, Tex., was doing a brisk business in Russian rifles from World War II as well as brand-new AR-15s.

As a licensed dealer, Mr. Schluderman had to call the F.B.I. to run a criminal background check on every buyer. But nearby people were selling their private collections.

“I have had people that failed background checks, and yet they are carrying guns out of here that they bought from someone else,” Mr. Schluderman said.

New U.S. Border Official

WASHINGTON — The United States is going to have a “border czar” again.

Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, will announce on Wednesday in El Paso that the job will go to Alan D. Bersin, a former federal prosecutor who held a similar position in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, according to a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security.

The Obama administration has pledged to crack down on violence linked to drug cartels along the United States-Mexico border. Mr. Bersin will focus on that effort and on illegal immigration.

On her El Paso trip, Ms. Napolitano will also discuss stepped-up inspections to keep weapons from crossing into Mexico and the use of federal stimulus money to thwart smugglers’ bringing immigrants into the country illegally.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 16, 2009
An article on Wednesday about the flow of guns from the United States to Mexico misidentified, in some editions, the professional affiliation of Tom Diaz, who said that the system to regulate gun sales facilitates gun trafficking. He is a researcher with the Violence Policy Center, not the Violence Project.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Saturday, April 11, 2009


By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

OAKLAND, CA (4/4/09) -- In a little less than a month, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people will fill the streets in city after city, town after town, across the US. This year May Day marches of immigrant workers will make an important demand on the Obama administration: End the draconian enforcement policies of the Bush administration. Establish a new immigration policy based on human rights and recognition of the crucial economic and social contributions of immigrants to US society.
This year's marches will continue the recovery in the US of the celebration of May Day, the day that celebrates worldwide the contributions of working people. That recovery started on May 1, 2006, when over a million people filled the streets of Los Angeles, with hundreds of thousands more in Chicago, New York and cities and towns throughout the United States. Again on May Day in 2007 and 2008, immigrants and their supporters demonstrated and marched, from coast to coast.
One sign found in almost every march said it all: "We are Workers, not Criminals!" The sign stated an obvious truth. Millions of people have come to the United States to work, not to break its laws. Some have come with visas, and others without them. But they are all contributors to the society they've found here.
The protests are a result of years of organizing, the legacy of Bert Corona, immigrant rights pioneer and founder of many national Latino organizations. He trained thousands of immigrant activists, taught the value of political independence, and believed that immigrants themselves must conduct a struggle for their rights. Most of the leaders of the radical wing of today's immigrant rights movement were his students.
In part, the May Day protests respond to a wave of draconian measures that have criminalized immigration status and work itself for undocumented people. In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act made it a crime, for the first time in US history, to hire people without papers. Defenders argued that if people could not legally work they would leave. Life was not so simple.
Undocumented people are part of the communities they live in. They cannot simply go, nor should they. They seek the same goals of equality and opportunity that working people in the US have historically fought for. In addition, for most immigrants there are no jobs to return to in the countries from which they've come. After Congress passed The North American Free Trade Agreement, six million displaced Mexicans came to the US as a result of the massive displacement the treaty caused. Free trade and free market policies have similarly displaced millions more in poor countries around the world.
Instead of recognizing this reality, the US government has attempted to make holding a job a criminal act. Some states and local communities, seeing a green light from the Department of Homeland Security, have passed measures that go even further. Mississippi passed a bill making it a felony for an undocumented worker to hold a job, with jail time of 1-10 years, fines of up to $10,000, and no bail for anyone arrested. Employers get immunity.
Last summer, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff proposed a rule requiring employers to fire any worker who couldn't correct a mismatch between the Social Security number given to their employer and the SSA database. The regulation assumes those workers have no valid immigration visa, and therefore no valid Social Security number.
With 12 million people living in the US without legal immigration status, the regulation would have led to massive firings, bringing many industries and businesses to a halt. Citizens and legal visa holders would have been swept up as well, since the Social Security database is often inaccurate. While the courts enjoined this particular regulation, the idea of using Social Security numbers to identify and fire millions of workers is still very much alive in Washington, DC.
Under Chertoff, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted sweeping workplace raids, arresting and deporting thousands of workers. Many were charged with an additional crime - identity theft - because they used a Social Security number belonging to someone else to get a job. Yet workers using those numbers actually deposit money into Social Security funds, and will never collect benefits their contributions paid for. The new Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the big raids need to be reexamined, but she continues to support measures to drive undocumented workers from their jobs, and to keep employers from hiring them.
During her term as governor, the Arizona legislature passed a law requiring employers to verify the immigration status of every worker through a federal database called E-Verify, even more full of errors than Social Security. They must fire workers whose names get flagged. This is now becoming the model for Federal enforcement.
Many of these punitive measures surfaced in proposals for "comprehensive immigration reform" that were debated in Congress in 2006 and 2007. The comprehensive bills combined criminalization of work for the undocumented with huge guest worker programs. While those proposals failed in Congress, the Bush administration implemented some of their most draconian provisions by administrative action. Many fear that new proposals for immigration reform being formulated by Congress and the administration will continue these efforts to criminalize work.
In reality, the labor of 12 million undocumented workers is indispensable to the economy, just as is the labor of 26 million people with visas, and the many millions of workers who were born in the U.S. The wealth created by undocumented workers is never called illegal. No one dreams of taking that wealth from the employers who profited from it. Yet the people who produce this wealth are called exactly that - illegal.
All workers need jobs and a way to support their families, not just some. And in a country with schools behind the rest of the industrialized world, with bridges that fall into rivers and people living in tent cities for lack of housing, there is clearly no shortage of work to be done. If the trillion dollars showered on banks were used instead to put people to work, there would be plenty of jobs and a better quality of life for everyone.
Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, says, "Washington legislators and lobbyists fear a new civil rights movement in the streets, because it rejects their compromises and makes demands that go beyond what they have defined as 'politically possible.'"
The price of trying to push people out of the US who've come here for survival is increased vulnerability for undocumented workers, which ultimately results in cheaper labor and fewer rights for everyone. Under Bush, that was the government's goal -- cheap labor for large employers, enforced by deportations, firings and guest worker programs. This is what millions of people want to change. And the Obama administration was elected because it promised "change we can believe in."
In past May Day marches many participants have put forward an alternative set of demands, which includes tying legalization for 12 million undocumented people in the US with jobs programs for communities with high unemployment. All workers need the right to organize to raise wages and gain workplace rights, including the 12 million people for whom work is a crime. More green cards, especially visas based on family reunification, would enable people to cross the border legally, instead of dying in the desert. Ending guest worker programs would help stop the use of our immigration system as a supply of cheap labor for employers. And on the border, communities want human rights, not more guns, walls, soldiers and prisons for immigrants.
This May Day, immigrants will again send this powerful message. Their marches have already rescued from obscurity our own holiday, which began in the struggle for the eight-hour day in Chicago over a century ago. Today they are giving May Day a new meaning, putting forward ideas that will not only benefit immigrant communities, but all working families.

For more articles and images on immigration, see

Just out from Beacon Press:
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

Obama Flinches on Immigration

Obama Flinches on Immigration

March 24, 2009
NY Times Editorial

In a little-noticed act of political faintheartedness, the Obama administration has pulled back from nominating Thomas Saenz, a highly regarded civil-rights lawyer and counsel to the mayor of Los Angeles, to run the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Mr. Saenz, the former top litigator in Los Angeles for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or Maldef, was privately offered the job in January. The floating of his name led to fierce outbursts from anti-immigrant groups and blogs, which detest him for being so good at what he does.

He was a leader of the successful fight to block California’s Proposition 187, an unconstitutional effort to deny social services and schooling to illegal immigrants. He has defended Latino day laborers who were targets of misguided local crackdowns, from illegal police stings to unconstitutional anti-solicitation ordinances. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily slimed Mr. Saenz by calling him “an open-borders extremist” and said Maldef wanted to give California back to Mexico.

None of it was true, but it was apparently too much for the White House. Mr. Saenz was ditched in favor of Maryland’s labor secretary, Thomas Perez, who has a solid record but is not as closely tied to immigrant rights.

Immigrant advocates are stuck with the sinking feeling that Mr. Obama’s supposed enthusiasm for immigration reform will wilt under pressure and heat. Representative Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, found it sadly unsurprising that a lawyer could be rejected for the nation’s top civil-rights job because he had stood up for civil rights. “In what other position do you find that your life experience, your educational knowledge and commitment to an issue actually hurts you?” he asked.

Mr. Obama may have avoided a nasty fight this time. But if he is ever going to win the battle to put 12 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, he will to have to confront and dismantle the core restrictionist argument: that being an illegal immigrant is an unpardonable crime, one that strips away fundamental protections and forgives all manner of indecent treatment.

The Constitution’s bedrock protections do not apply to just the native-born. The suffering that illegal immigrants endure — from raids to workplace exploitation to mistreatment in detention — is a civil-rights crisis. It cannot be left to fester while we wait for the big immigration bill that may or may not arrive under this president.

Mr. Saenz would have been an ideal candidate to reaffirm values that have been lost in the poisoned immigration debate, had Mr. Obama dared to nominate him.

Anything But Mexican Revisted and Never Trust a Gringo by Rudy Acuña

Rough Draft
Anything But Mexican Revisted
Rodolfo F. Acuña
The 32nd Congressional District race is hard to watch. I have been active in politics for nearly fifty years. Unless you have lived through this period, it is impossible to appreciate how painful the struggle for political representation has been. Edward R. Roybal was not elected to the Los Angeles City Council until 1949 where he served until 1962 when he was elected to Congress. It was not until 1985 that Mexican Americans again won representation in the city council.
All through this period liberal Democratic Party leaders gerrymandered Mexican Americans – splitting up communities in the eastside. The left leaning California Democratic Council during the sixties justified keeping Mexicans without representation – excusing that it kept progressives such Rep. George Brown, Jr. in office. Brown was not a Mexican, they said, but he was against the Vietnam War. It was an “Anything But Mexican” mindset that a few Mexican Americans bought into.
Slowly this was turned around by the grace of the Voter Right Act and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund. It was one office at a time. The reasons were obvious; the basis of equality was political representation. No one can deny that there was a qualitative difference with Richard Alatorre’s election to the city council in 1985. Almost overnight the number of city workers triples --- which was important in maintaining stable families by providing livable wages and healthcare.
Our justification for working for Mexican American candidates was that through life experiences they knew the needs of the unrepresented Mexican American communities, and that role models were needed for Latino youth – confronted with the problems usual to the poor. It was an argument that many of us used to support Barrack Obama over formidable candidates such as Hillary Clinton.
These early victories paved the way for politicos such as the late California Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh who in his short years became a giant in promoting Latino interests in higher education. Marco always listened and understood the necessity for all Mexican origin people having a higher education. It was not their battle it was his.
In recent years, the community has returned or reverted to the 1960 mindset, forgetting the sacrifices of the past when George Brown represented an eastside district, and the disenfranchisement of the Latino mass was justified because he was against the war --- like there were no Mexicans against the war.
In this decade Latino elected officials conflicted with MALDEF that wanted one of more additional Latino congressional seats. The reason for the bargain was that it would protect the Democratic Party majority. I could understand this if the Latino community lacked effective and progressive leadership that was insensitive to other communities.
But I ask myself, wasn’t this why we as a community pushed to have Mexican American city council persons, county supervisors, and mayors? Is the present representation enough? Is it more deserving and entitled to speak for all Latinos?
Let’s get real, “In a 2005 editorial that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, UC Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau described an atmosphere of "alienation, mistrust, and division" that permeates UC campuses as a result of dwindling numbers of underrepresented minority students.”
Who has been hurt by Proposition 209 (1996)? Not whites and not Asians. This is something that Marco Firebaugh understood.
Watching the 32nd Congressional District race is painful because I know the Mexican American candidate. In my opinion one of the priority issues of the next decade will be immigration. Today there are thousands of undocumented students who have been here since they were toddlers. The few that make it through college do it the old fashion way – they earn it. But once they graduate, they cannot find employment because they lack a green card.
I know Gil Cedillo. You would be hard put to name a Latino politico who has worked harder for those without papers. I know that he will not bargain away the interests of these students because he has taken on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and defended the rights of immigrant and working families.
In the next decade, the community will need a congressional representative who prioritizes the interests of people who cannot vote. In the early 1960s Dr. Ernesto Galarza told me that it was not that labor leaders and politicos did not care about farm workers; the problem was that farm workers ranked low on their priority list. So their interests were never addressed because they were bargained away before they could get to them.
I already mentioned the college level where most blacks and Latinos attend community college; at the state college level they are about 20 percent; more than 50 percent lower at the community colleges. The funding reflects this caste; the UC’s getting twice as much per student as the state university that in turn get twice as much as the community colleges.
In the forty-five years I have been in high education there have been few legislators of any color who understood this. Even when there were only fifty students of Mexican decent at San Fernando Valley State College (1960) politicos excused the gap. Gil Cedillo ranks just below Marco Firebaugh in his commitment and his accessibility.
Just like the number of Mexican American elected officials, the gains we have made in higher education came piece by piece – one trench at a time.
This is taking anything away from the Asian or Chinese communities. They have made tremendous strides; they today rank higher in numbers than the white student population at the UC’s. But having been born and raised in Los Angeles I know that the great majority of residents of the 32nd are working class Latinos.
I am no politico. Just a poor professor earning about half the salary of my elected brethren. But I have been fortunate to have lived through the struggles of yesterday. I know that our elected officials became elected officials because there were poor Mexicans and then Latinos to justify them; just like I have written twenty-one books because there are brown skinned people in need. If the poor weren’t there I would be just another hack reading my notes to spoiled kids – drinking my Merlot.
Read Acuña at


Rough Draft

Never Trust a Gringo


Rodofo F. Acuña

Dr. Julian Nava who was almost always polite once pointed out that a
Mexican American would never be appointed as president of a large
metropolitan California State University; most large Mexican American
and Latino populations. Administrators and faculty members feared that
the president would build their own constituency. Witness Nava’s bid for
the California State Los Angeles presidency and Tomás Arciniega’s
21-year stint as president of California State University Bakersfield.
Arciniega was passed over in favor of a vice-president with much less
experience when he applied for the Cal State Fullerton job. In Nava’s
case, he had recently been an ambassador to Mexico, and he was promised
support from the Chancellor as well as individual Trustees.

I have come to the conclusion that fear of a large Mexican American
population is just part of the explanation as to why Latinos and
Mexicans in particular are feared but respected. When growing up in Los
Angeles after World War II, anti-Semiticism was rampant and more than
one Jewish friend warned me to “Never trust a goy.” (Never trust a
non-Jew or white person). Jews were still ethnic then, and were not
considered white. An oppressed people always display ethnic pride – it
is a way to survive. However, the case of Mexicans has always differed
from other racial and ethnic minorities; Euro-Americans – no matter how
uneducated or pinche their existence – feel at liberty to judge and tell
Mexican Americans how to act.

This ranges from throwing tantrums over their displaying the Mexican
flag at rallies, to their speaking Spanish or their presence at
institutions of higher learning. I have been admonished by colleagues
for warning “Never trust a gringo,” it is racist, according to them,
although they use the term illegal alien with impunity. At California
State University where I teach 4.9 percent of the faculty are Spanish
surnamed and over here-quarters of the departments don’t have a single
Mexican American tenured professor. When we approached the provost and
the Department of Human Resources to verify these statistics, we were
told that CSUN did not breakdown Hispanic groups by country of origin –
it was guess work at best. Even the provost who is sympathetic tried to
divert our probe which reached a dead end without institutional support.
“Mexicans don’t count!”

Further there is no institutional loyalty. Because I am constantly
questioning, the administration has made me pay the price. One year when
I was up for merit pay increase – everyone thought I was a sure thing
for the maximum increase of five steps. I had two books and five
articles that year. As it came out, I received a one step increase. When
I asked around I was told in confidence that the president had told the
provost that she would never give me the maximum increase because she
did not like me. The Chicano students had jammed her and that I stood
by. That I had told her controlling students was not part of my job
description. Instead she supported one of her lackeys for the five
steps; he did not have the equivalent of a book review to his credit –
hr knew how to kiss you know what.

The treatment of the department has been similar. CSUN is first in line
to trumpet that it has the largest Chicana/o Studies department in the
nation. It is a Spanish speaking Serving Institution which logo it
attaches to every grant proposal. CSUN got over a million dollars for a
library grant based on the Chicano student population, the Chicana/o
studies department, and the Chicano collections that it has yet to
process. The institution ignores that it has curtailed the Educational
Opportunities Program – splintering it in parts. It has systematically
used Chicana/o Studies to subsidize the growth of other departments that
are hurting for enrollment. It has cut the department’s prime time
classes to give other departments a better chance to draw students. When
Chicano Studies asked for support from the dean and the provost for
development of online classes it was refused. When we laid out a plan to
extend Chicano Studies classes to high school students, we were
discouraged; our ideas were then given to engineering. Simply we wanted
to offer via the internet college level course credit to Chicano high
school students.

Without belaboring the theme and laying out documentation, I submit the
following memo of March 18, 2009 to the provost:

Rudy Saves wrote:

I do not want to complain, whine, or for you to mention it to your
publicity unit. However, in Mexican society -- in my generation of
Mexican Americans -- words like honor and respect had meaning. I
previously mentioned the slight over the Choice Award. I did not mind
the slight but the slight of hand – I resent that functionaries with
half my IQ would think that I would believe that it was unintentional
and that they could get away with it.* Another incident happened a year
ago when I was invited by the history department to be the Whitsett
Scholar Lecturer. My first inclination was to turn down the invitation
-- there is been bad blood between me and the history department since
1968 when it turned me down for a job. The then chair stated as reasons
1) I could not objectively teach Latin American history because my
parents were Mexican, 2) that I would vote with the radical faction of
history, and 3) that it already had a Mexican (Julian Nava) in the
department. So be it, the next year I came in as a full professor with
my own department. Over the years there were turf battles and
affirmative action issues. Last year history proposed -- with Jorge
acting as an intermediary -- if I would be willing to give the lecture.
[They did not want to be turned down]. Jorge spoke to me and convinced
me to say ok – the rationale was that there were younger historians who
wanted relations and perhaps it was time that we let bygones be bygones.
Moreover, we had a common cause with history in re: the move to blur the
disciplines by Religious Studies, and Beth Say's inane proposal to label
everything ”studies" so humanities could raid the social science's
general education offerings. The event went off well. However, about two
weeks later I noticed that there were other Whitsett Scholar lectures --
it seemed odd since to my knowledge this was not so in the past and this
was not what the agreement had been. I brought it to Jorge's attention
who spoke to his friends in Behavioral Science, they assured him that
this was not the case. This week the issue was resurrected and the
announcements came out for this year's honoree. My very good friend
George Sanchez was chosen. (I won't be able to attend, it is my
daughter's birthday). They listed the past honorees, I was not among
them. So far the answer that we have gotten is that I was not "the"
Whitsett Scholar but "a" Whitsett Scholar. Come on Harry, we are talking
about an academic award -- not a blow job. My feeling is that you cannot
expect more of gringos; Jorge feels as if he was lied to. The truth is
that it is an issue of respect -- the institution ////nos ven la cara de
pendejo// (it sees in us the face of a fool (collectively). Again, this
is not to complain, I have enough going with my new website, getting my
history of Chicano studies ready and the rewrite of the seventh edition
of //Occupied America//. I don't whine but I have never been anyone's punk.

Rudy Acuña
*It is customary for professors who receive awards to be mentioned in
the website newsletter. It amounts to kudos for the department. This
past year I had a book and a three volume anthology published -- they
were not mentioned. I also received the
Outstanding Academic Title by CHOICE Magazine, /Corridors of Migration:
The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933, /2009/ /; the National
Hispanic Institute, Lifetime Achievement Award, Austin, Texas , 2008;
keynoted , Texas Foco, National Association for Chicana Chicano Studies,
2008; an award from the Community Coalition South Central Los Angeles ,
9th Annual Gala Dinner, Activist-scholar award, 2008; The
Labor/Community Strategy Center Lifetime Achievement Award, May 2007 (a
major labor organization); the Center for the Study of Political
Graphics (CSPG), Historian of the Lions Award at our 18th Anniversary
Dinner in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 13, 2007. None of them were
mentioned although the university was informed. At least three requests
have come in to involve me in minor community events; however, they were
dissuaded by the director of alumni affairs. The truth be told, the head
of the alumni division has been confronted for calling me a communist in

The truth be told, I like /Blazing Saddles/ misquote of Gold Hat in the
1948 film /The Treasure of the Sierra Madre/ (1948). "Badges? We don't
need no stinking badges!" I really don’t care if they recognize me. I
don’t need their badges! However, I know that this plays into the habit
of society of dismissing Mexicans – they can get away with it. When I
was teaching at San Fernando Junior High the teachers were told, “If a
Jewish parent complains, take care of it right away. If a white parent
complains, take care of it. Negro parents rarely complain, and don’t
worry about Mexican parents, they never complain.” In order to break
this culture of Mexicans don’t count, we have to fight back.

Like my mother said, /ni les pido agua/. However, this is wrong. I
worked damn hard for a doctorate, working sixty hours a week ande
carrying a full load. They gave whites scholarships but dismissed me.
Yet I have contributed more than 99 percent of the professors at CSUN
and demand to be treated the same. We have to speak up! The same
standard applied to us has to be applied to Jewish-Americans, Armenians,
Italian-American and Irish-Americans. If they don’t want us to wave
Mexican flags then abolish St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day marches.
If they call us illegal, remind them that they stole half Mexico’s land
and the lack of arable land and water is one of the reasons people come
here. Remind them that Central Americans did not come here en masse
until we blew up their countries. And remind Glen Spencer of Citizens
Together, the ranting David Horowitz, and Dick Cheney that their
patriotism is predicated on other people losing their lives – they never
went. Remind them that Mexico has drug cartels because the U.S. market
for drugs. Remember treat others like they treat you.

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