Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Confession=Progress?

It is refreshing to see that law officials were able to apprehend a suspect so quickly. One has to wonder if this is the case due to the high profile nature of the killings.

-C. Lee

ICE Cooperation With Walmart and Other Service Providers in Houston

There's no official link to this, as it's not an article, but I'd like to post a series of messages between a pastor and an organization in Houston. This was part of an e-mail that was submitted through the Detention Watch Network. I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter, which can be done by visiting their website.

-Rocío



--------------------------------

Hi all,

Please find below transcript of a conversation with a pastor in Houston TX regarding the cooperation of Wall Mart and other service providers with ICE "raids". The pastor has some very grave concerns that we would like to bring to attention and indeed ask if there is anyone on here with similar experiences/knowledge of just what is happening in Houston. Any light anyone can share would be gratefully recieved. Simply said we are trying to ascertain the rights of the individual in these cases and highlight potential violations of those rights. Any thoughts? Please contact me at (e-mail withheld).
Thanks




Pastor:

I know that mid-March a rumor was going around that Wal-Mart was cooperating with ICE and allowing them to conduct raids inside their stores.

The Sheriff that our staff spoke with said that each retail store (not just Wal-Mart) signs an agreement with the local law enforcement and allows them to enter the store to ask customers and employees for id. He said that they had conducted a raid on in local restaurants, stores, etc and the the local Wal Mart had already signed an agreement with them.

I am calling our contacts within the sheriff's department to find out if we can verify this or not. We've already had confirmation from Sheriff's in Humble that a raid was conducted at a Wal Mart there with permission from the store.

###


Name Withheld):
Thanks. I’ve been in conversation with one of our staff attorneys and checking our materials. We also found a news release on the Walmart website saying it’s all rumors.

Hoping that’s true but knowing no matter what anything can happen anywhere…here’s what we understand right now. In the non-immigration context, for people interacting with police officers, the officer would need to have "reasonable suspicion" in order to stop a person and ask for the ID. The person can walk away unless he is under arrest. However, the INA says that an *immigration* officer has the right to "interrogate any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his right to be or to remain in the United States," and to arrest the alien if the officer has reason to believe he is not lawfully in the US. This is INA 287(a) and regs in 8 CFR Part 287. The Houston police officers are probably under a 287(g) agreement with DHS (we assume) so have the authority to do a search under 287©. It would also be worthwhile to check into any particular laws in the 5th Circuit. In most states, for example, you don’t have to give an officer your name, but in California you do.

If this agreement is true, it seems like discrimination based on national origin- a civil rights issue. We’re also checking with colleagues in Detention Watch Network to see what the buzz is there. If we hear anything else we’ll let you know.

###

Pastor:

I am finding out that raids are indeed happening in grocery stores, WalMarts, restaurants, etc with a signed agreement by the management. The customers are being taken in by ICE if they can't produce proper documentation.

###

My 1/29 post discussed the implications of the 2010 Census. As the Census deadline approaches here is what some are saying about Latino participation in the 2010 Census.-Courtney

Fearful, angry Latinos might shun Census
Posted Wednesday March 31, 2010 22 minutes ago

By Esteban Israel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Latinos are the biggest minority in the United States but they could jeopardize a chance to flex their newfound political muscle as millions of them dodge a nationwide census.
Many of the millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants fear that filling in the 10-question census forms could increase their risk of deportation. Others are frustrated with President Barack Obama's slow start on immigration reforms.
A poll by the Pew Research Center showed that one-third of Hispanics have not even heard of the 2010 Census, a $14 billion effort to map the nation's population.
"I would say that more than 50 percent of the Latino community will not participate in the census," said Juan Carlos Ruiz, a Peruvian-born activist with the Latino Federation of Greater Washington.
"The problem is that by not participating we will be missing a big opportunity from a political, economic, social and even cultural point of view," said Ruiz who helped organize huge immigrant marches in 2006.
There are an estimated 50 million Hispanics in the United States. Under-representation in the census could hurt access to federal funding for their communities. An updated snapshot of the population, the census is designed in part to help the government allocate $400 billion of federal funding.
An accurate count should in theory translate into more teachers, heath facilities and infrastructure in heavily Latino neighborhoods. It should also boost Hispanics' political clout by giving largely Latino districts more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after redistricting.
DEPORTATION FEARS
In Mount Pleasant, a heavily-Latino neighborhood in Washington dotted with colorful stores, many residents are there illegally and give vague answers to strangers, their eyes constantly scanning the street.
Waiting at a corner to be picked up for a day's work at a construction site, Jose Ricardo said he didn't see the point of the census.
"I don't think I'll do it. Politicians never do anything for us," said the 35-year old Salvadorean, black woolen cap down low over his eyes.
Tens of thousands gathered last weekend near the White House to remind President Barack Obama they are still waiting for the promised immigration reform that helped draw Latinos to the polls in record numbers when he was elected in 2008.
Deportation is a constant fear for millions who are in the United States without legal papers. "Removals" of illegal workers jumped by 23.5 percent to almost 357,000 in the 2008 fiscal year, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Immigration reform, which former President George W. Bush tried but failed to deliver, could offer about 10.7 million people, 80 percent of them Latino, a path to legalization.
BOYCOTT?
Some groups are calling for a boycott of the census unless the Obama administration stops the deportations.
"We have no other choice left than taking such radical actions as this one. We are obliged by moral responsibility," said Rev. Miguel Rivera, head of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.
Rivera said 38 percent of his congregation is made up of undocumented immigrants and they are afraid the Census Bureau will pass information on to other federal agencies, despite reassurances that the information is confidential.
"For an undocumented immigrant there is no benefit ... We believe some 3.5 million members of our congregations are not going to participate in the census," he said.
Voto Latino, a non-profit encouraging civil participation among young Hispanics, calls the boycott "irresponsible".
It has recruited Hollywood stars from Jennifer Lopez to Eva Longoria for its "Be Counted" campaign and is trying to counter the boycott by offering free downloads of songs from artists like merengue star Juan Luis Guerra.
"It's very misguided logic to boycott the census because if we don't know how many immigrants there are in this country how can you ever advocate for immigration reform?," said the group's deputy director Josh Norek.
Still, Hispanics in Mount Pleasant and across the country complain about the administration's failure to push hard for immigration reform so far in a nation where tortillas outsell bread in some cities.
Obama dedicated only 12 seconds to immigration reform in his State of the Union address in January. Ruiz said it was an "insult" to the Latino community.
"There is a lot of frustration, a growing sentiment against the Obama administration for its lack of action," said Ruiz, who campaigned for Obama in 2008 and still has a "Latinos for Obama" sticker on his laptop.
The Census Bureau promises that the information it gathers will not lead to deportations. "Everybody needs to be counted. We do not ask someone's migration status, we do not ask someone's social security number. Everything is strictly confidential," said its head of publicity, Raul Cisneros.
Some in the streets of Mount Pleasant seem to be getting the message. "It's very important we get counted. If you're interested in the migration reform then you have to make yourself heard," said Alcices, a 42-year old Salvadorean construction worker who skipped the last census in 2000.
(Reporting by Esteban Israel; Editing by Kieran Murray)

Report find mentally ill immigrants whisked to Texas

More information the deportation of people in mental hospitals, many of them legal residents. Apparently the Obama Administration officials have issued a quota for deportations in the article below. --Lauren

By Nina Bernstein
THE NEW YORK TIMES

For lawyers offering free legal information at large immigration detention centers in remote parts of Texas, the task is difficult enough: coaching hundreds of detainees on how to represent themselves at assembly-line deportation hearings. But the lawyers soon discover a more daunting problem: Many detainees are too mentally ill or mentally disabled to understand anything.

The detainees, mostly apprehended in New York and other Northeastern cities — some from mental hospitals — have often been moved to Texas without medication or medical records, far from relatives and mental health workers who know their histories. Their mental incompetence is routinely ignored by immigration judges and deportation officers, who are under pressure to handle growing caseloads and meet government quotas.

These are among the findings of a yearlong examination of the way the nation's immigration detention system handles the mentally disabled in Texas, where 29 percent of all detainees are held while the government tries to deport them. The study, conducted by Texas Appleseed, a public interest law center, and Akin Gump , a corporate law firm, documents mistreatment at every stage of the process.

Among many examples in the 88-page report, released Tuesday, is that of a 50-year-old legal permanent resident with schizophrenia who had lived in New York since 1974. In November, a New York criminal court declared him incompetent to stand trial on a trespassing charge and ordered him to serve 90 days in a mental institution. Instead, he was transferred to the Willacy County Regional Detention Facility in South Texas, to face a deportation proceeding without counsel — so abruptly, the report said, that his family and lawyer did not know what had happened.

At the detention center, he received no medication for weeks, and in March, he was deported to the Dominican Republic.

"My mother is devastated," his sister, Janet Jiminez, said Sunday. "She says he will die out there on the streets.

"I've been a U.S. citizen for many, many years," Jiminez added. "If we have a law system, and the law system has declared that you are incompetent and should be taken to a mental hospital, why are you taken to Texas to be deported?"

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the report said, routinely ignores its discretionary authority to leave such detainees in community settings rather than lock them up, at great expense, in distant jails.

The agency is reviewing the report, a spokesman, Brian Hale, said, adding that "in cases where ICE is required by law to detain certain aliens with serious medical and mental health issues, we work to ensure the person receives sound, appropriate and timely care."

A recent government memorandum shows that agents are under intense pressure to increase detentions and deportations. In the memo, James Chaparro, the Obama administration's chief of detention and removal operations, congratulated agents for reaching the agency's goal of "150,000 criminal alien removals" for the year ending Sept. 30. But Chaparro urged them to overcome a shortfall in the goal of 400,000 deportations by making maximum use of detention slots, including an additional 3,000 this year.

The publication of the memo clearly embarrassed the administration. A spokesman, Sean Smith, said that "our focus continues to be on the criminal side" and that Chaparro was reprimanded Monday by John Morton, the chief of the immigration enforcement agency, at a meeting with immigrant advocates.

Court: Defendants entitled to immigration advice

By JESSE J. HOLLAND
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 31, 2010; 12:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Immigrants have a constitutional right to be told by their lawyers whether pleading guilty to a crime could lead to their deportation, the Supreme Court said Wednesday.

The high court's ruling extends the Constitution's Sixth Amendment guarantee of "effective assistance of counsel" in criminal cases to immigration advice, especially in cases that involve deportation.

"The severity of deportation - the equivalent of banishment or exile - only underscores how critical it is for counsel to inform her noncitizen client that he faces a risk of deportation," said Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion for the court.

The ruling came in the case of Jose Padilla, who was born in Honduras. Padilla asked the high court to throw out his 2001 guilty plea to drug charges in Kentucky, which made his deportation virtually mandatory.

Padilla, who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years as a legal permanent resident, said he asked his lawyer at the time whether a guilty plea would affect his immigration status and was told it wouldn't. Padilla's trial lawyer was wrong, and he now faces deportation.

His lawyer for the appeal told the Supreme Court that the incorrect information given Padilla was a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to "effective assistance of counsel."

The Supreme Court's majority agreed.

"It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant - whether a citizen or not - is left to the 'mercies of incompetent counsel,'" Stevens said in writing for the court.

"To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation," Stevens wrote. "Our long-standing Sixth Amendment precedents, the seriousness of the deportation as a consequence of a criminal plea, and the concomitant impact of deportation on families living lawfully in this country demand no less."

The court sent the case back to the Supreme Court of Kentucky, which will decide whether Padilla's guilty plea should be thrown out.

Stephen Kinnaird, who argued the case for Padilla to the Supreme Court, said the decision recognizes "the increased intertwining of criminal and immigration law."

"This should avert many of the tragedies that occur when lawful permanent residents are not advised that a guilty plea, even to minor criminal offenses, would result in their immediate deportation," he said.

Stevens said he doubted the decision will affect old plea bargains for immigrants. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already require their trial courts to advise defendants of possible immigration consequences of guilty pleas, Stevens said.

Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts concurred but said it was wrong to force criminal lawyers to attempt to explain what immigration consequence a criminal plea might bring. "A criminal defense attorney should not be required to provide advice on immigration law, a complex specialty that generally lies outside the scope of a criminal defense attorney's expertise," Alito said.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the immigration consequences of a guilty plea were beyond the reach of the Sixth Amendment.

"The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused a lawyer 'for his defense' against a 'criminal prosecution' - not for sound advice about the collateral consequences of conviction," Scalia said.

Though his name is the same, Padilla is not the same person as convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla.

The court also ruled in another case that a federal judge should not have thrown out a class action lawsuit against Allstate Insurance Co. over the company's refusal to pay interest accrued on overdue benefits.

The cases are Padilla v. Kentucky, 08-651 and Shady Grove Orthopedics v. Allstate, 08-1008.

In Texas, fear follows Mexicans who flee drug war

In Texas, fear follows Mexicans who flee drug war
Posted: 03/29/2010 7:42 AM

FORT HANCOCK, Texas (AP) — When black SUVs trail school buses around here, no one dismisses it as routine traffic. And when three tough-looking Mexican men pace around the high school gym during a basketball game, no one assumes they're just fans.

Fear has settled over this border town of 1,700, about 50 miles southeast of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, epicenter of that country's bloody drug war. Mexican families fleeing the violence have moved here or just sent their children, and authorities and residents say gangsters have followed them across the Rio Grande to apply terrifying, though so far subtle, intimidation.

The message: We know where you are.

At schools in Fort Hancock and nearby Texas towns, new security measures and counseling for young children of murdered parents have become a troubling part of the day.

"I have friends with fathers who've been annihilated," said Israel Morales, a junior at Fort Hancock High School. "They just hug you and start crying. It just traumatizes you."

He said school doesn't always feel safe.

"I try to be stoic," Morales said. "But it still worries the heck out of me."

Mexican drug gangs have not fired a single shot in Fort Hancock, and no one has disappeared. But as drug violence continues unabated in and around Ciudad Juarez, residents of Texas border towns fear it will spread their way.

"There's been incidents of school buses followed, and threats to some of the students and threats to some of the staff," Hudspeth County Sheriff's Lt. Robert Wilson said. "It's caused us to really go on high alert."

Three mysterious men walked into the Fort Hancock High School gymnasium last month during a basketball game, setting off worries that they were drug cartel members sent to deliver a message. Parent Maria Aguilar said "a panic" swept through the gym and only subsided when they left.

"They walked in and they were laughing," Aguilar said. "They were probably like, 'We'll just scare everybody.'"

Wilson said a suspicious car was noticed following a packed school bus earlier this year. Rumors that the car belonged to cartel members were never validated, but after other suspicious cars were spotted, the department began following buses as a precaution.

"We don't know if it was to find out where a student of a certain person he was looking for gets off, or to find out where he was living," Wilson said. "We're not sure what the motivation was. But the rumor and concern was great enough."

Schools have installed security cameras and hired an armed off-duty sheriff's deputy to patrol its three campuses for the first time.

Fort Hancock is an impoverished town of rundown homes and a single diner. Fathers of many students work as farmhands in the surrounding alfalfa and cotton fields, but most are jobless.

Aguilar said her fourth-grade daughter shares playground stories of "how so-and-so got killed in Mexico this weekend," and once asked whether a classmate's mother would be next.

One Fort Hancock High student picked up for truancy told a judge he was too scared to go to class after witnessing a murder in Mexico. Police say his mother and grandfather were tortured with ice picks this week in El Pornevir, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Fort Hancock. They were in critical condition in an El Paso, Texas, hospital.

The student has resumed attending classes. School administrators say dozens of fellow students also have relatives who were killed or tortured in drug violence.

"A lot of time your family is involved," said Modesta Morales, Israel's mother. "Some of the killings that happen, it's not because of the people that were killed, it's because they're trying to reach someone. If they can't find that someone, they're going to get their brothers, their sisters, their nephews, their fathers — whoever they can to try and bring that person out."

Ten miles down the road in Fabens, fliers in the teacher's lounges ask faculty to watch for a gunman wanted for four killings in Ciudad Juarez. He's the father of two boys at the middle school.

Paul Vranish, superintendent of the Tornillo school district outside El Paso, estimates that about 10 percent of his 300 students have lost a close family member in Mexico's drug war. One Tornillo High School student was gunned down in Mexico at the start of the school year while racing back to the border, Vranish said.

Tragedy becomes so routine that students shrug off counseling.

"This is like Iraq. This is part of the landscape," Vranish said. "I'm not in any way trying to put our kids down. It's not like they don't have feelings. But like a soldier, you have to develop a certain amount of callous to continue to function."

U.S. authorities say they have seen a recent uptick in asylum claims at the port of entry in Fort Hancock, and schools here are enrolling more students. At least seven new students enrolled in Fort Hancock schools in one week in March, an increase that would normally take a year or two. Texas public schools educate children regardless of immigration status.

"They told us themselves, there's more coming," said Hudspeth County Constable J.R. Sierra, who now doubles as Fort Hancock's school officer. "They're being threatened to either leave now or suffer the consequences."

Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed 17,900 lives since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug gangs in December 2006. In Ciudad Juarez, more than 2,300 were killed last year alone. Powerful drug cartels have been battling not only authorities but each other for turf and drug routes.

Schools in northern Mexico have long had to figure out how to educate their children amid daily shootouts that have traumatized students and endangered staff. But American schools close to the border have been relatively serene.

Schools in metropolitan border areas like El Paso and San Diego have their own police forces, backed up by local law enforcement, as well as counselors on hand to help students. Impoverished towns including Fort Hancock and Tornillo have similar problems but fewer resources.

No U.S. schools have reported any violence tied to the drug war, and the vast majority of border districts feel safe. Even in San Ysidro, Calif., — right across the border from Tijuana — superintendent Manuel Paul said security isn't an issue despite being able to see clear into the violent city from any San Ysidro school.

Paul said he thinks Tijuana families are running further north from the violence.

But back in Fort Hancock, Modesta Morales said the violence has already come to them.

"Sometimes you feel helpless. They saw their dad shot, in the head," Morales said. "What do you tell a 10-year-old that sees that?"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Juarez became murder city

The newly released text Murder City by Charles Bowden seems to combine a discussion of globalization and drug trafficking. Per the discussion below, this seems like a really interesting read in light of the increase in violence. Perhaps a new text for the class? --Lauren 

Reporter Charles Bowden, author of "Murder City," talks with Kai Ryssdal about how the Mexican border town of Juarez became caught up in drug violence, and what responsibility the U.S. has to help.

KAI RYSSDAL: The Mexican drug wars got rare play in American newspapers a couple of weeks ago when workers at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez were killed. Juarez is one of the most violent cities in the world, an unwelcome distinction that Charles Bowden explores in his new book. It's called "Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields." Bowden's spent the better part of the last 15 years covering the changes in Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas. And when we spoke, I asked him when things began to change and why.

CHARLES BOWDEN: In December of 2006, the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, declared an official war against the drug cartels in Mexico, unleashed the Mexican army. Now in 2007, there were 307 murders in Juarez. In 2008, there were 1,600-plus. Last year, there were 2,600. What's happened also at the same time is the collapse of the city -- 27 percent of the houses have been abandoned, there's 116,000 abandoned houses. At least 100,000 jobs in the factories have disappeared because of the recession. Half of the adolescents in Juarez neither have a job nor attend school. What you're looking at is a kind of disintegration of a society.

RYSSDAL: You make the point in your book that Ciudad today is really a post-economy city. There's nothing there but the drug trade.

BOWDEN: Well, there's something there besides the drug trade, there are still these American-owned factories. Juarez for decades was a kind of poster child for free trade, and for border factories. It pioneered the concept starting in the late '60s. The city's growth has been based off that. What it's produced are American-owned factories that pay people less than they can work on. What's it's produced -- because it's a natural pathway for commerce connecting with U.S. transportation systems -- is one of the largest drug import industries in the world. What it's also produced is the largest human migration on earth, and it is directly triggered by the North American Free Trade Agreement passed in 1994. Now that treaty was passed to stop the migration -- that we would create wealth in Mexico. Instead we've created poverty.

RYSSDAL: Even if you accept the fact that part of what's happening in Juarez is that Americans want cheap goods, and we signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement. So too did the Mexico government, didn't they?

BOWDEN: Yes, but we actually put it through a U.S. Congress, and actually talked about it. There was no discussion there. It was announced to the Mexican people. It was announced by the leadership. It was announced by an oligarchy. Mexico is famous for having the most unequal income distribution in the Western hemisphere.

RYSSDAL: What's the hope down there? Is it the Americans' job to help them get what we have?

BOWDEN: I mean, the hope is it's always darkest before the dawn. But what I think is the United States has a responsibility not to make things worse. The United States is never going to be secure by living next to a country that's starving to death. Do you think you can maintain your house in your neighborhood, and have people starving to death next door? Well, you can't.

RYSSDAL: What is it that makes you keep going down there?

BOWDEN: I think it's a window in the future. Juarez is portrayed by people as a modern city, and in many ways it is. You can go over there, and there's a Radisson and an Applebee's. But in fact as the years go by, everything is going backwards there. It's more violent. Wages and real pesos and real dollars decline. More and more people come to the city as a rural economy collapses. If you go to Juarez, you can see everything that is happening. Now, this is happening around the world. But Juarez is convenient. You just walk across the bridge, and it slaps you in the face.

RYSSDAL: Charles Bowden. His most recent book is called "Murder City" about Ciudad Juarez. Mr. Bowden, thanks a lot for your time.

BOWDEN: Well, thank you.

10 people, ages 8-21, shot dead in Mexico

These kids were on their way to get money for their school. What a tragic loss. --Lauren


By the CNN Wire Staff
March 30, 2010 2:16 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- Ten children, youths and young adults between the ages of 8 and 21 were gunned down, presumably by drug traffickers, in the northern Mexican state of Durango, the state's attorney general said Monday.

The incident happened Sunday on a road near the town of Pueblo Nuevo in southern Durango.
Attorney General Daniel Garcia Leal said that unknown gunmen who had set up a fake checkpoint on the road shot and even threw grenades at the victims, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

The victims were in a pickup truck, returning to their homes after having traveled to pick up money to support their school as part of a government social program, Garcia Leal said.
The gunmen motioned the truck to stop but the victims, out of fear of being robbed or assaulted, did not comply, the attorney general said.

No arrests had been made in the incident, which is the latest in which children have found themselves caught in the middle of the country's violent drug wars.

In January, in a case of mistaken identity, 15 people, mostly teenagers, were killed when gunmen attacked a house party in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

What's Next? Could Health Care Reform Sink Immigration Reform?

What's Next? Could Health Care Reform Sink Immigration Reform?
By Chad MacDonald, Thursday, March 25, 2010, 7:57 PM EDT - posted on NumbersUSA

Victory and success often carry complex consequences. A health care win could be prescription for Immigration Reform defeat. With 25 Million Americans out of work, Pres. Obama and Congress need to do something popular next.
OBAMA
The President was in Iowa City today selling and explaining the recently passed health care bill to the American people. He plans to make several cross-country trips between now and November to build public support for the highly controversial measure that narrowly passed the House by a 219-to-212 vote.
With the 2010 midterm elections looming and his Democratic majorities in Congress at risk, Pres. Obama must motivate a splintered Democratic base and make an appeal to independent voters who have shifted toward either the GOP or the Tea Party movement.
Every major media outlet this week has taken a stab at “What’s Next?” for the President. CNN reports, “On Friday, just two days before the all-important health care vote in the House of Representatives, 22 senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to make comprehensive energy and climate legislation a priority in the near future.” The Boston Globe leads with “President Obama and the Democrats hope to quickly tap the momentum from passage of their big health care bill to advance other initiatives on their political agenda, including curbing greenhouse gases, imposing new rules on Wall Street, and overhauling immigration laws.” And the Los Angeles Times reports “With healthcare legislation nearly complete, aides said the White House was refining its agenda for the year. The administration's next major initiative will be a renewed push for a sweeping set of financial regulations.”
Three common “What’s Next?” themes rise to the top: financial reform, energy reform, and Immigration reform. While it is hard to say which of the three issues will rise to the top of the voter’s agenda, it appears that immigration has the least chance of passing through Congress this year.
CONGRESS
Last week, Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) penned a new bi-partisan roadmap called “The right way to mend Immigration.”
Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the authors of H.R. 4321 – also known as the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act" is getting no traction on his bill. He introduced it prematurely last year at a time when Obama was on a one-way track toward health care completion. H.R. 4321 is sitting silent in the House while the newly formed “Reclaim American Jobs Caucus” is picking up steam with nearly 30 members and recruiting more every week. Reps. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) said, “The numbers are simple. At last estimate there were more than 8 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. labor force. And there are more than 15 million unemployed American citizens and legal immigrants. In my home state of California, there are 2.2 million unemployed but 1.8 million illegal immigrants in the labor force.” Immigration reform will prove so divisive that according to pollster Bill McInturff, co-founder of research firm Public Opinion Strategies, it has only a 1 percent chance of being approved before the 2010 midterm elections.
Sen. Graham added on Tuesday that the lingering divide between the two parties from health care could complicate cooperation on other issues. Congress Daily reported on Graham that, ”…if Democrats used reconciliation on the health bill he would exit talks with Democrats seeking a bipartisan deal on immigration reform and climate change bills, appeared to back away from an ultimatum, especially on energy.” While using the reconciliation process will "make it very difficult to do anything complicated and controversial," Graham said.
However, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) speaking at a House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing last week said “At best, it appears as though immigration enforcement is being shelved and the administration is attempting to enact some sort of selective amnesty under the covers of prioritization.”
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is facing the race of his life, and Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have not made any intention of moving Immigration to the front of the line. America is not ready for it.
AMERICA
With 25 Million Americans unable to find a full-time job, any blanket amnesty is out of the question. With unemployment at record highs in California, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, amnesty is out of the question. It is clear that amnesty is not popular in the United States among voters. What is popular, however, is putting food on the table and staying out of deeper and deeper credit card debt.
Last weekend more than 250,000 Americans protected their local Congressional districts against amnesty as part of the “S.T.O.P. AMNESTY in 4 DAYS!” national campaign from NumbersUSA. They visited local offices, sent faxes, delivered Congressional grade cards, made phone calls, and focused on a simple message to stop amnesty. On the other side, Reform Immigration for America and the SEIU held their own rally called the “March for America” on Sunday March 21, 2010 that drew 60,000 individuals from across the country.
http://www.numbersusa.com/content/nusablog/chadaaron/march-25-2010/whats-next-could-health-care-reform-sink-immigration-reform.html

Monday, March 29, 2010

Students becoming part of Mexican drug cartels

This is a video I found. It really shows how the US and Mexico are connected. The drug wars are not just Mexico's problem, they are our problem as well.
-Racheal

See Video HERE

Feds consolidating National Guard and Army Reserve in new center

Construction is under way on a new $15.5 million U.S. Army Forces Reserve Center where the city’s old Coca-Cola bottling plant once stood.
The new reserve center will combine Brownsville’s Army Reserve and Texas National Guard units, which are currently housed in separate facilities on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Once the new building is complete the old buildings will be vacated and demolished, and the land will cede to the university.
The new center will feature a 45,395-square-foot training building, 4,763 square feet of maintenance space and a 13,018-square-foot parking lot. It will also house offices, classrooms, library, weapons training simulator and physical fitness training room.
The site is approximately 12 acres west of U.S. Expressway 77-83, bordered by Los Ebanos Boulevard, Woodruff Avenue, Tulane Avenue and Frontage Road. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates construction will be complete by January 2012. The land has been empty since the old bottling plant was closed in the 1980s and demolished sometime later.
Army spokesman Maj. Jason Guerrero, project officer with the 63rd Regional Support Command, said the project is being done in accordance with recommendations from the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission of 2005 in response to the BRAC Act of 1990.
The $15.5 million cost is part of $1.5 billion for Texas military projects approved by the Senate last year. Kingsville and San Antonio are also getting new reserve centers, while Corpus Christi will get a new Army depot. Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio is getting more than $271 million in construction projects.
Guerrero said he had no information on how much the Army Corps of Engineers paid for the land in Brownsville. However, Mark Barnard, head of commercial properties for Coastal Realty in Brownsville, said it’s likely the property sold for the list price of nearly $2.4 million.
The project is part of the fifth phase of BRAC, a Department of Defense effort that began in 1988, the purpose being to close surplus military installations and consolidate assets to save money on operations and maintenance. More than 350 installations were closed between 1989 and 1995 under the BRAC initiative.
Army documents show that the Corps of Engineers considered two alternative sites to the west and northwest before settling on the Los Ebanos-expressway location. The same study projected a minor impact on traffic during the construction process and, once the center is complete, during training sessions, which usually take place on weekends.
The Army study predicts that expenditures related to construction of the new center will result in "moderate beneficial impacts" during the construction period, including "slight benefits for local and regional employment and personal income."

Retailers fear drug violence could spoil Semana Santa

As we have talked about in class, the violence and the reports on it are legitimately feared to bring economic stagnation. Here's a report on that fear.


-Racheal

McALLEN — The week between Palm Sunday and Easter are usually among the most profitable weeks in Rio Grande Valley retail, but this year shopkeepers fear Reynosa’s mounting bloodshed might forestall a "Christmas in April."
"We’re going to find out next week," Jorge Salcines, owner of downtown’s McAllen Sports, said late last week. "Nobody really knows. I think people will come. I really do."
Next to Christmas, Holy Week’s retail sales are typically the best of the year as thousands of Mexican nationals from as far away as Mexico City flood into the Rio Grande Valley. Sales in McAllen in 2008 were 14 percent higher in April than the monthly average, according to sales tax receipts with the Texas Comptroller’s Office.
Early signs are mixed. So far, traffic at the area’s international bridges has held steady despite the gun battles and hotels are nearly booked on South Padre Island.
Early indications were not as good in Hidalgo County. Hotels sat emptier than usual.
"There are no reservations," said Rocky Patel, owner of Edinburg’s Super 8 motel. "Compared to the last few years, it’s not good."
Even in 2009, the second year of the recession, the holiday’s retail sales were 8 percent above the monthly average, according to statistics from the comptroller. The sales were estimated by looking at sales tax receipts received roughly two months after the holiday.
Beyond the violence concerns, the other worry is with Mexico’s fragile economy, which, despite signs of recovery, contracted in January for the first time in five months. Job losses at maquiladoras in northern Mexico have also been high."

Read the rest of the story HERE

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deaths in Immigration Detention

For years, those who died in immigration detention went unnamed and uncounted. But behind the scenes, the deaths generated thousands of pages of government documents, including critical investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that showed officials working to stymie outside inquiry. Here are a few of the records obtained over recent months by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. They relate mostly to two of the 107 deaths in detention counted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003. To see The Times's annotations on key passages and explanations of acronyms, click on the yellow dialogue boxes that appear on selected pages. - Nina Bernstein

A link to the original documents without commentary: click here.

The Times' annotations on key passages: click here.

Mexico investigates escape of 41 inmates

Mexico investigates escape of 41 inmates

March 26, 2010 10:07 PM

THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD


Federal authorities in Mexico have taken over the investigation regarding the escape of 41 inmates from a Matamoros prison.

Special agents with Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) were sent Friday to the Matamoros Detention Center — CEDES formerly known as CERESO — to work together with Tamaulipas State Police and Mexican marines, said a PGR press release.

On Thursday between 4 and 5 a.m., 41 inmates and two guards fled from the CEDES, which is located approximately 15 miles from Brownsville in the rural community of Santa Adelaida.

On Friday morning, 50 employees of the CEDES were bused to the PGR offices on Sixth Street in Matamoros where they gave their depositions on the case.

According to State Security Secretary Jose Ives Soberón Tijerina, 38 of the escaped inmates were federal wards, while the other three were state  inmates.

The PGR said that five of the inmates had already been sentenced, while the rest were still taking part in the Mexican court system.

The two prison guards who aided the inmates in the escape are identified as Jose Angel Reyes Segovia and Agapito Uvalle Escalante. They remain at-large along with the 41 escapees.

As a result of the breakout, Soberón Tijerina fired the CEDES director Jaime Cano Gallardo and the state director for the detention centers, Orlando Sauceda Pinta.

"They (the officials) are subject to an investigation," Soberón Tijerina said.

According to the PGR, many of the gunmen arrested in recent firefights between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel were being held in the Matamoros CEDES under federal charges.

As of press time Friday it couldn’t be confirmed if the escapees belonged to any of the criminal organizations, however, U.S. law enforcement agencies were placed on alert, officials said.

"Through proper staffing and coordination we remain vigilant in maintaining a strong operational posture while still providing safe and legitimate trade and travel at our port of entry," said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Eddie Perez. "As Secretary Janet Napolitano conveyed directly to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mexico has the full support of the Department of Homeland Security in cracking down on powerful transnational drug cartels. Our two nations have a shared responsibility to keep the pressure on and continue to protect our citizens on both sides of the border."

Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said his staff has been holding regular meetings with the Border Security Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, in order to fine tune their contingency plans to prevent any violence spillover.

"We have coordinated our agencies to respond to any given threat," Lucio said. "As part of our contingency plan, our SWAT team can respond to any situation within 15 minutes. "

Brownsville police spokesman Sgt. Jimmy Manrrique said the department works closely with their Mexican counterparts and are monitoring the situation in order to respond to any threat.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Thursday that as a response to the ongoing drug violence in Mexico, they are coordinating intelligence and manpower with 43 sheriff’s departments and 39 police departments.

The effort is designed to increase their patrol on the border areas and act as a deterrent for any spillover, McCraw said.

DPS has also deployed 15 state of the art helicopters with night vision throughout the border.

Legal-Marijuana Advocates Focus on a New Green

It was interesting seeing this post on the violence in Juarez on legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana Juarez this morning in the NYTimes. It's supported by advocates as a measure to generate revenue for the state while allowing cities or local governments to opt out, Only those over 21 could buy it and smoking around minors or in public would not be allowed.

I didn't realize that marijuana was already legal in 14 states.

It would generate b/2 10 and 20 million dollars in revenue for California.

Subliminally, the combined message seems to convey that making marijuana legal would help reduce the violence in Mexico. Truth is, however, no explicit linkage is made. MJ advocates, among others, are aging baby boomers who seek its medicinal properties and who likely used it in the 60s and 70s.

We need a fuller public discussion of this, particularly if it could mean that for Mexico, the killings would end or subside once the profit margin is impacted. For now, I think they're parallel conversations.

The specific article on Juarez is titled, "Officers on Border team up to Quell Violence" and may be read here.


-Angela

Thursday, March 25, 2010

U.S. border crisis. Imperialist Human Rights violations of the poor prompt ICE raids protest

As the world marks International Human Rights Day, Mexicans and Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. due to life-threatening persecution face persecution in the U.S. where xenophobia, militarization, and disinformation about decades of U.S. corporate-based, imperialist foreign policy result in ICE raids, prompting LA human rights defenders to protest in the streets.

People are marching in downtown Los Angeles to say, "Imperialism is a Human Rights violation," and "Stop the ICE Raids."

Globalization and Xenophobia

Latin American immigration to the U.S. is driven by globalization including trade agreements and U.S. military trained terrorists. American anti-immigration behavior towards Latin Americans has historically been driven by xenophobia and economic crises. (John Higham, Strangers in the land; Patterns of American Nativism, 1860- 1925, cited by Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Giving testimony to the atrocities": Coalición de Derechos Humanos/ Arizona Border Rights Project, University of Texas, San Antonio) Today, media backed disinformation, a non-lethal weapon of war, adds to the toxic brew creating racism against people of color.

Approximately 11 million undocumented ("illegal") immigrants reside in the U.S, The Pew Hispanic Center reported that in 2005, 57% were from Mexico and 24% from other Latin American countries, mainly Central America. Now, Mexicans account for 61%. (Thomas Frank, Illegal immigrant population declines, USA Today, February 2009)

Raising standard of living promised by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank was to have reduced the economic incentive for border crossings. Instead, in NAFTA's first year, 1994, an economic crisis in Mexico devalued the Mexican peso, decreased Mexican wages, and increased all poverty-related crises. More efficient U.S. agricultural operations and NAFTA tariff elimination caused Mexican: 1) corn prices to fall 70% between 1994 and 2001, and 2) farm job decrease from 8.1 million to 6.8 million in 2002.

At least 45,000 Central American hungry, desperate unaccompanied children seek asylum by attempting crossing the dangerous U.S. southern border every year, many now sex slaves in brothels according to Manuel Capellin, director in Honduras of the humanitarian organization, House Alliance.

Read the rest of the article on the Examiner here.

Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas)

I heard about this PBS documentary and wanted to pass along the link to the online video. Online viewing expires next Tuesday, so try to watch it before then! Otherwise, check PBS to find out the next time they will air it on TV.

-Rocío



Monika Navarro's two uncles, both U.S. military vets who had lived in Southern California for more than four decades, were deported to Mexico, a country they barely remembered. Navarro plumbs the depths of her family history to discover what became of them, and what would become of those left behind.


Duration: (55:09)
Premiere Date: 03/22/2010
Episode Expires: Tue 30 Mar 2010
TV Rating: TV-PG

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adhere to rule of law on immigration policy

I think that Congressman Smith's view that people escaping the rule of law from countries that lack it will normally carry this forward in a new context is untenable, not supported in evidence, and very harmful in its blanket characterization. Immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than the general population. They also come to the U.S. to work. There will always be exceptions but this is the case on the whole.

Angela


By Lamar Smith

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

One of the most important conservative principles is the dedication to the rule of law — that ideal that a nation's laws are necessary for the protection and preservation of its citizens' freedoms. Perhaps nowhere is this conservative ideal more directly under attack than with regard to immigration policy in America.

The attack on the rule of law approaches from three fronts: by the Obama administration, which ignores its responsibility to enforce the nation's laws; by open-borders advocates who push for an all-out moratorium on the enforcement of the laws; and by both the administration and advocates who favor amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants through "comprehensive immigration reform."

The great irony is that American freedoms and the rule of law are often the very reason that many illegal immigrants try to come here. They are literally running from nations historically characterized by an absence of the rule of law and towards the freedom that America offers. And while we can sympathize with their desire for freedom, we cannot allow them to break down the very institutions that make America free and a beacon to immigrants from around the world.

So how should conservatives deal with this three-headed monster? And how will our individual commitment to conservative values impact the broader future of conservatism in America?

First, we need to dispense with the false notion that enforcing immigration laws will somehow drive immigrant voters — including Hispanics — away from conservative candidates.

In fact, Hispanics, who make up the largest portion of legal immigrants to America, share many of our conservative values. According to a Pew/Kaiser poll, Hispanic voters are more conservative than non-Hispanics. More than whites, they disapprove of abortion, homosexuality and divorce. Hispanics — both native-born and legal immigrants — also share the fundamental values of patriotism, rule of law, freedom, family, support for small businesses and jobs, and education.

Second, conservatives must be assertive with the facts. We cannot allow liberal open-borders advocates to insult America by suggesting that U.S. immigration policy is anything but generous. The United States has a wonderful tradition of welcoming newcomers, admitting more than 1 million legal immigrants a year, far more than any other country. About 38 million immigrants now live in the U.S. They form the highest percentage of our population in almost a century.

Not only does America benefit immigrants, but immigrants benefit America. Immigrants are laborers, educators, entrepreneurs, athletes, inventors, scientists, CEOs and politicians. There is a difference, though, between those who respect America's laws and wait in line to enter the U.S. the right way, and those who break our laws by entering the U.S. illegally.

The good news for conservatives is that through adherence to the rule of law, we will do right by citizens and legal immigrants.

In the face of suggestions that we are somehow callous if we do not throw our nation's laws out and grant amnesty, we must remember that it is the immigrant communities who are hit the hardest by those who enter illegally. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, low-skilled workers lose an average of $1,800 a year because of competition with illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants depress their wages and take their jobs, just like they do the wages and jobs of American workers.

Whether for discrete economic reasons or for deeper a commitment to our nation's founding principles, the proper approach to immigration policy is a conservative one.

It is by adherence to the founding principles — including the rule of law — that we will continue to be a strong, vibrant America. If we abandon our principles because defending them seems too difficult, we risk making America indistinguishable from the nations that too many immigrants want to leave.

• Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee

2 slain Mexican students memorialized by friends, family and Facebook

More about the Monterrey Tech students killed when narcos and soldiers battled on campus. I can't imagine the fear in the students there who, I can imagine, seemed a bit sheltered on a university campus. Many American universities, including UT Austin, have connections and study abroad programs in Monterrey so it will be interesting to see implications of the violence now on campus. --Lauren

By Arthur Brice, CNN
A photo on a Facebook page shows them dressed in black suits, white shirts and stylish ties. They're at some sort of dinner and they look straight into the camera, their young faces full of hope and promise and that assuredness reserved for those for whom the future stretches endlessly.

That future ended Friday for Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Arredondo Verdugo, shot to death in a firefight between Mexican army soldiers and gangsters who had sought refuge on a university campus.

The two mechanical engineering graduate students at the Technological Institute of Higher Learning of Monterrey were good young men, part of the hope for Mexico's future. They were bright students who had avoided the violent drug war that has ripped Mexico apart for the past three years, a massacre that has devoured more than 16,000 of the nation's lifeblood.

Mercado, 23, and Arredondo, 24, were scholarship recipients about to graduate with degrees in manufacturing systems. They had been working late at the school library Thursday night, friends told local media, and knocked off well after midnight.

They stepped out into the night air and into a violent firefight. Mexican soldiers were chasing criminals who had fled onto the campus after firing on an army patrol, the Interior Ministry said.

Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont said Monday the students were caught in the crossfire.

Initially, authorities had identified the two dead men as drug gang members. University officials had also said Friday after the campus shooting that all students were safe.

That account changed Saturday, when Mercado's mother tried to call him after finding out about the shootout. When she couldn't reach him, she traveled to Monterrey, where she identified her son's body, said the campus rector, Rafael Rangel Sostman.

On Sunday, authorities at the highest level of the Mexican government admitted their mistake.

"The Mexican government expresses its most deeply felt condolences to the families," the Interior Ministry said in a release on its Web page.

The federal government will intensify its investigation to find out what happened, Mont said.

The school's rector blamed himself for the mix-up in identities.

"I offer a public apology and take responsibility for having given information that ended up not being correct," Rangel said. "I want to offer my most deeply felt condolences to the family of our two students and offer them our support in this difficult situation."

On Monday, Mercado was laid to rest in his native Saltillo in Coahuila state. Arredondo will be buried in Los Cabos, in the state of Baja California.

Separated in death, the two young men seemed inseparable in life.

Link the full article

CNN Video in Juarez

Click the link above for a 3 minute video of a CNN reporter in Juarez. It speaks some to the fear and silence of the people. --Lauren

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WE NEED A BETTER ALTERNATIVE

WE NEED A BETTER ALTERNATIVE
By David Bacon
TruthOut, 3/22/10


OAKLAND, CA (3/19/09) - Senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham announced Thursday their plan for immigration reform. Unfortunately, it is a retread, recycling the same bad ideas that led to the defeat of reform efforts over the last five years. In some ways, their proposal is even worse.
Schumer and Graham dramatize the lack of new ideas among Washington powerbrokers. Real immigration reform requires a real alternative. We need a different framework that embodies the goals of immigrants and working people, not the political calculations of a reluctant Congress.
What's wrong with the Schumer/Graham proposal?
1. It ignores trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, which produce profits for U.S. corporations, but increase poverty in Mexico and Central America. Since NAFTA went into effect, income in Mexico dropped, while millions of workers lost jobs and farmers their land. As a result, six million Mexicans had to leave home and migrate north, looking for work.
If we do not change U.S. trade policy, millions of displaced people will continue to come, no matter how many walls we build.
2. People working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned under their proposal, and raids will increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low. Every worker will have to show a national ID card, (an idea too extreme even for the Bush administration). A problematic ID would mean getting fired, and maybe jailed.
This will not stop people from coming to the U.S. But it will produce more immigration raids, firings, and a much larger detention system. Last year over 350,000 people went through privately-run prisons for undocumented immigrants. That number will go up.
3. Schumer and Graham treat the flow of people coming north as a labor supply for employers. They propose new guest worker programs, where workers would have few rights, and no leverage to organize for better conditions. Current programs are already called "Close to Slavery" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
4. Schumer and Graham's legalization scheme imposes barriers making ineligible many of the 12 million people who need legal status. Their idea for "going to the back of the line" would have people wait many years for it.
Getting in the back of the line is like having to sit in the back of the bus. In 1986, even President Reagan, hardly a liberal, signed a plan in which people gained legal status quickly and easily. Many are now citizens and vote, run for office, lead our unions, teach in our schools, and have made great contributions to our country.
Schumer and Graham treat legalization as a carrot, to force acceptance of a program in which the main beneficiaries are large corporations, not immigrants, nor other workers.
Instead, we need reform that unites people and protects everyone's rights and jobs, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. We need to use our ideals of rights and equality to guide us.
For several years, immigrant rights groups, community organizations and unions have called for reform based on those ideals. It's time to put those ideas into a bill that can bring our country together, not divide it.
A human rights immigration bill would:
1. Stop trade agreements that create poverty and forced migration.
2. Give people a quick and easy path to legal status and citizenship.
3. End the visa backlogs, so there's no "get in the back" line.
4. Protect the right of all workers in their jobs - against discrimination, or getting fired for demanding rights or for not having papers.
5. Bring civil rights and peace to border communities.
6. Dismantle the immigration prisons, end detention, and stop the raids.
7. Allow people to come to the U.S. with green cards - visas that afford people rights, that are not tied to employment and recruitment by labor brokers.
8. Use reasonable legalization fees to finance job programs in communities with high unemployment.
9. End guest worker programs.
Those who say no alternative is possible might remember the "go slow" advice given to young students going to jail in the South in the early 60s. If they'd heeded it, we'd still be waiting for a Voting Rights Act.
Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the students in SNCC, and Chicano civil rights leaders like Cesar Chavez, Bert Corona, Dolores Huerta and Ernesto Galarza, asked the country a simple question: Do we believe in equality or not?
That's still the choice.


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

Secretary Clinton's Pledge of Support to Mexico

This BBC article provides a concise yet detailed description of U.S. and Mexico efforts to regain some level of control in the war on the border. It is refreshing to see that the U.S. seems to finally be increasing the level of attention paid to the issue as evidenced by the presence of the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and the Chairmen of Joint Chiefs. Secretary Clinton’s mention of the U.S.’s primary role in providing the demand that fuels the drug trade was a welcomed relief. In addition to increased funding, it will be interesting to see what additional resources the federal government provides and the impact that results. Perhaps the most astounding aspect of the article is the mention of the 18,000 people that have perished since 2006 due to the drug war. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8582497.stm

(CNN) Students risk dreams -- and deportation -- in walk for recognition

This was on the front page of CNN.com. It seems HD4321 is cutting through the fog of healthcare (as important as that is) and through Biden's F-bomb (as frivolous as that is), and coming to the media's attention once again.


This story follows the same students from South-eastern US matching to Washington on. what they call, the March of Dreams. At the link (below and from the title) the article provides a video, profiles of the students and an interactive map.


-- Igor


Students risk dreams -- and deportation -- in walk for recognition

By Elizabeth M. Nunez, CNN
March 23, 2010 12:23 p.m. EDT

Editor's note: Elizabeth M. Nunez is a production assistant with CNN's "In America."
(CNN) -- When he first arrived in the United States, 14-year-old Felipe Matos liked to go to the supermarket after school just to walk the aisles.
"There was so much food! I would just look at the milk -- there's like 50 types of milk!"
Miami, Florida, was a world apart from the poor neighborhood in Brazil where he was raised by a single mother and older sister. Now 24, he recalls "lacking everything" at home in Duque de Caxias, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
There was no running toilet, and most of the time not enough food to go around. "I would be the only one at home allowed to drink a cup of milk," he says.
When his mother fell ill and could no longer work as a maid to support her family, she sent Felipe to Florida to live with a sister.
"It was one of the saddest days of my life. I was so scared. I got in the plane crying a lot and people didn't know what was happening because I only spoke Portuguese."
Felipe's story is like that of many children and teenagers who are brought or sent to the United States. Their families hope to escape hardship, persecution or poverty. The children study hard and excel in school.


Then, just as the dream of getting a college education or a job is within grasp, they learn that they face deportation. As undocumented adults, they can attend college but are ineligible for financial aid. They must pay the steep tuition costs charged to foreign students.
The stellar future of a promising student becomes the uncertain one of an undocumented immigrant.
The greatest opportunity for young people like Felipe lies in the passage of the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the Dream Act. In a 2009 report, The College Board estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate each year from high school. The legislation would enable those who arrived in the United States before 16 and have lived here at least five consecutive years to obtain residency.


Felipe entered the country on a tourist visa and enrolled in middle school.
"My sister said to me, 'This is a country of opportunities. If you work hard, you will make it. Our mother worked hard so the only thing I ask is that you do well in school and make her proud.' And that's what I did."
He spoke no English and stayed up nights translating textbooks and memorizing the lessons. He wrote plays that won regional competitions and graduated with honors.
But high school graduation seemed to signal the end of the road. Without money for tuition and ineligible for financial aid, he got a job and started saving for college. When a friend told him about Miami-Dade College's honors program, he applied and was able to afford tuition with a scholarship and help from his family.
By the time he graduated with an associate degree in international affairs, Felipe had been elected student government president and was recognized as one of 20 New Century Scholars nationwide. He got accepted to American University, Tulane, Duke and Florida International University, but could attend none without financial aid.
St. Thomas University, a Catholic college in Miami, awarded him a scholarship.
He hoped to become a teacher "because I believe that the way out of poverty is getting an education." But that dream ended when he learned he would need a Social Security number to teach. He then chose to study law but discovered his undocumented status would prevent him from taking the bar exam.
"I asked them, 'tell me something that I can study so that I can have a degree.' I chose economics so that I can at least work in development."
One of many dreams
At Miami-Dade, Felipe had learned he was not alone in his plight. He joined Students Working for Equal Rights and met its founder, Gaby Pacheco.
Pacheco came to the U.S. from Ecuador at 7. With three degrees in education, the 25-year-old wants to teach autistic children. But first she must resolve her undocumented status.
Juan Rodriguez is a 20-year-old Colombian who after 13 years in the U.S. became a resident in 2008. Carlos Roa, 22, was a toddler when his sister brought him from Venezuela. He harbored hopes of joining the military.
With these three members of the student activist group, Felipe joined in demonstrating against the detention of classmates and friends. But with little attention from authorities, they decided to stop waiting and start walking -- all the way to Capitol Hill -- to draw attention to their situation. They began the 1,500-mile journey from Miami on January 1.
Traveling in an unmarked RV donated by the Florida Immigration Coalition, the four get out every day to walk from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
They stop to speak about discrimination but mostly they want to hear others' stories. At times, more than 100 people have joined them in the walk. They've traversed Ku Klux Klan territory, sat with immigrant day laborers, received donations, food, places to stay and support in the unlikeliest places.
Follow their journey at http://www.trail2010.org/.


MUCH MORE HERE