Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ariz. immigration law strains U.S.-Latin America relations

By Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

When Arizona passed a law in April allowing police to conduct roadside immigration checks, Mexican officials blasted the law as a prejudiced attack against its citizens in the state. That condemnation has spread throughout Latin America.

Ambassador Luis Gallegos of Ecuador presented the law Nov. 5 to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which sends recommendations to nations to improve rights. Gallegos said they were extremely concerned that the Arizona law would lead to widespread stereotyping of both legal and illegal immigrants. The council included it in the recommendations it sent to the U.S. State Department. Ecuador is one of 10 Latin American countries that signed on to a brief opposing the law in a federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's rule.

State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet said the law has impacted relations between the United States and Latin American countries, becoming a topic of discussion "in all our interactions" with those nations.

"The countries in Latin America are already perceiving some distance and disengagement from the U.S.," said Mauricio Cardenas, director of the Latin American Initiative at the Brookings Institution. "(The Arizona law) makes Latin America more and more interested in developing stronger relations with other parts of the world."

The law, known as S.B. 1070, requires Arizona's 15,000 police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects they've pulled over, detained or arrested if there is a "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that immigration enforcement is strictly a federal responsibility. A federal judge halted the core aspects of it, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, is appealing. Lawyers made oral arguments in the case before the 9th District Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Nov. 1.

The judges allowed Mexico to file a "friend of the court" brief arguing against the law, and nine other countries signed on. The countries argue that the law harms their citizens living and working in Arizona and could hurt "bilateral economic, immigration and security policies" between the United States and those countries.

Brewer has said the state law was necessary to combat the constant flow of illegal immigrants that has been ignored by the federal government. After the appeals court allowed the Latin American countries to weigh in on the lawsuit, she objected, saying the dispute should be resolved internally.

"I fervently believe that arguments by a foreign government have no place in a U.S. legal proceeding," she said in a statement. "Arizonans strongly believe, in a bipartisan fashion, that foreign nations should not be meddling in an internal legal dispute between the United States and one of its states."

The outcome of that lawsuit could go a long way toward determining how much of an impact the Arizona law, and similar bills that will be considered in more than a dozen state legislatures around the country, would have on U.S. relations with Latin America.

Gallegos said more laws similar to Arizona's will cause significant concern.

"My basic question is, are we going to have a more protectionist United States that is more inclined to discriminating and persecuting groups like the migrants?" Gallegos said in an interview from Geneva. "We would hope that the federal government would be wise enough to enact a law which encompasses these issues."

A senior official with the Brazilian Embassy who was not authorized to be quoted by name said that country's relationship with the United States has not been harmed because the Obama administration has not only spoken out against the law but initiated the lawsuit that halted its implementation.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, worries that Obama's stance on the law may not be enough to soothe other countries.

"I'm sure that Mexico is happy that the Obama administration is challenging these laws. But I'm not sure they're persuaded that the Obama administration is in control," Alden said. "The worry is that the states are going to start driving the bus, too."

Alden said it's the latest in a long line of slights to the region that started with the Bush administration and has continued under Obama.

He pointed to the collapse of a proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would have lowered trade barriers among Western Hemisphere countries similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Individual trade agreements between the United States and Colombia and Panama have been unable to clear Congress.

Alden said Bush and Obama have added to the "militarization" of the southwest border. The number of Customs and Border Patrol agents has increased from 9,000 to 20,000 since 2000, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Obama administration recently boasted of setting a record for the number of people deported — more than 392,000 in fiscal year 2010, according to Homeland Security.

"If you put (the Arizona law) on top of all that, it's the latest in a pretty long series," Alden said.

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Birthright Citizenship' Will Be Target of House GOP Majority

WASHINGTON — As one of its first acts, the new Congress will consider denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States.

Those children, who are now automatically granted citizenship at birth, will be one of the first targets of the Republican-led House when it convenes in January.

GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the incoming chairman of the subcommittee that oversees immigration, is expected to push a bill that would deny "birthright citizenship" to such children.

The measure, assailed by critics as unconstitutional, is an indication of how the new majority intends to flex its muscles on the volatile issue of illegal immigration.

The idea has a growing list of supporters, including Republican Reps. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove and Dan Lungren of Gold River, but it has aroused intense opposition, as well.

"I don't like it," said Chad Silva, statewide policy analyst for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. "It's been something that's been a part of America for a very long time. … For us, it sort of flies in the face of what America is about."

Republicans, Silva said, are "going in there and starting to monkey with the Constitution."

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, guarantees citizenship to anyone born or naturalized in the United States. It was intended to make sure that children of freed slaves were granted U.S. citizenship.

While opponents say King's bill would clearly be unconstitutional, backers say the 14th Amendment would not apply. The amendment states that anyone born in the United States and "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" is a citizen.

King said the amendment would not apply to the children of illegal immigrants because their parents should not be in the country anyway. He said immigration law should not create incentives for people to enter the country illegally and that it's creating an "anchor baby industry."

"Many of these illegal aliens are giving birth to children in the United States so that they can have uninhibited access to taxpayer-funded benefits and to citizenship for as many family members as possible," King said.

An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the children of undocumented immigrants, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center done last year.

The issue is dividing Republicans, too.

"We find both this rhetoric and this unconstitutional conduct reprehensible, insulting and a poor reflection upon Republicans," DeeDee Blasé, the founder of Somos Republicans, a Latino GOP organization based in the Southwestern states, said in a letter to House Republican leaders.

Silva said the Republican plan is "not the fix," adding that the citizenship of children born to immigrants was never an issue during the immigration tide at the turn of the 20th century and that it shouldn't be now.

"That's our strength," he said. "And to start splitting hairs like that will only make the immigration issue worse."

Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento called King's plan "both unconstitutional and shortsighted."

"The 14th Amendment to the Constitution grants American citizenship to anyone born on American soil," she said. "I firmly believe we must reform the current immigration system, but we need to do so comprehensively with policies that respect our nation's history, strengthen our borders, and help our economy."

McClintock outlined his position last summer in a rebuttal to a newspaper editorial: "If illegal immigration is to be rewarded with birthright citizenship, public benefits and amnesty, it becomes impossible to maintain our immigration laws and the process of assimilation that they assure," he wrote.

McClintock noted that the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, France and India have all changed their laws in recent years to require that at least one parent be a legal resident for the child to become a legal citizen.

Lungren, who served as California's attorney general from 1990 to 1998 introduced a similar bill in 2007, but it did not pass the House, which was controlled by Democrats at the time.

His bill called for defining what "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" means. Lungren proposed that the clause would apply to any person born to a parent who is a citizen, a legal alien or an alien serving in the military.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Texas Legislature Immigration curbs appear a sure thing, observers say

SOME OF IMMIGRATION BILLS FILED
More than a dozen immigration-related bills have been filed for the legislative session starting Jan. 11. More are expected.

HB 17 - Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball: Creates a Class B misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass against an immigrant who enters or remains in the state of Texas illegally. A law enforcement officer may arrest a person if the officer believes the person is not in the county legally and the officer is acting on a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing or has committed another offense.

HB 21 - Rep. Riddle: Requires state agencies to report how much they spent directly or indirectly for services to persons who were not legally in the state of Texas.

HB 22 - Rep. Riddle: Requires public schools to determine the citizenship and immigration status of each student when that child first enrolls in the school.

HB 177 - Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton: Requires applicants for a driver's license, commercial driver's license or a personal identification certificate to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or document authorizing that person to be in the United States.

HB 178 - Rep. Jackson: Requires state, county and city governments to use E-verify, an Internet-based system, to determine the eligibility of new employees. (Similar to SB 84/Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville.)

HB 183 - Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton: Requires law enforcement agencies to verify with 48 hours the immigration status of someone arrested.

HB 202 - Rep. Solomons: Requires state contractors to participate in E-verify. A state agency may not award a contract for goods or services to a contractor unless the contractor and subcontractor uses the program. (Similar to HB140/Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker)

SB 126 - Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston: Requires law enforcement officers to ask about the lawful presence of any person who is lawfully stopped, detained or arrested on other grounds if the officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe the person is not here legally. The officer may arrest the person if he or she has probable cause to believe the person is not here legally. The officer must identify and report the person to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement after any arrest.

SB 124 - Sen. Patrick: Prohibits cities from adopting sanctuary policies and enabling illegal immigration. (Similar to HB 18/Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball and HB 113/Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring)

A crackdown on illegal immigration seems certain to emerge from next year's legislative session, both politicians and observers say, but what any law would entail will depend on how fatigued and acrimonious lawmakers are when the bill comes to the forefront.

"There's a high probability that something will pass," Austin political consultant Bill Miller said, "but what that something is and what it does is a whole different ball game."

Conservative grass-roots activists have clamored for reform, and Republicans dramatically widened their majority in the Texas House and maintained their dominance in the Senate in last week's elections.

Lawmakers have already filed a handful of bills targeting illegal immigration. They range from requiring government agencies to verify employees' work status to bills that are similar to a controversial provision of Arizona's immigration law — which a federal judge has temporarily blocked — allowing police to arrest someone they suspect is here illegally.

Almost all bills change significantly as they wend through the legislative process, but immigration will have more forces pushing and pulling it than others. It faces opposition from the business community and with legal challenges to Arizona's law still pending, it's unclear what states can do about illegal immigration.

It also will share the stage with other contentious issues — such as the budget deficit, redistricting and voter ID.

Many controversial bills have been killed by maneuvering on the House floor and a rule in the Senate that requires approval from two-thirds of senators to bring a bill up for debate. Republican senators, however, brushed that rule aside in 2009 in an effort to push a voter ID bill through the chamber.

Costs to businesses
The Texas GOP also expanded its House majority, limiting Democrats' options.

The business community will likely fight legislation, said Rice University political science Professor Bob Stein, especially if the economy begins to improve.

"To the guy who's running that small business, the roofer, the cementer, that's a cheap labor force that he can hire up that's non-union and he can use to make a recovery," Stein said.

Texas businesses — particularly in the hospitality, agriculture and construction industries — rely on immigrant labor, said Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business. Legislation seen as discriminatory could hurt Texas' tourism and convention business, he said.

The illegal immigration issue should be handled at the national level, he said.

Looming over any immigration legislation is the pending legal challenge of Arizona's law. A federal judge temporarily has blocked provisions of that law on the grounds that immigration enforcement is the federal government's jurisdiction. Even if the law survives that challenge, it is certain to face later challenges on the grounds that it is discriminatory, said Scot Powe, a law professor at at UT-Austin.

"You need an example of an American citizen or somebody with a green card being improperly hassled under the law to bring that challenge, and I think that challenge is an ironclad winner," Powe said.

Law enforcement burden
Gov. Rick Perry said he will not comment on the merits of legislation that has not reached his desk. Speaking in San Antonio Tuesday, Perry said he has concerns about Arizona's law because it puts new burdens on law enforcement, but said he thinks the state was well within its rights when it passed the bill.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said a bill he filed avoids putting an unnecessary burden on police.

Patrick's bill would require police to ask anyone stopped for another offense whether they are in Texas legally if they have a reasonable suspicion to believe the person is here illegally. Patrick said law enforcement agencies wanted that question to be required, instead of being optional, to avoid complaints of profiling.

His bill would give law enforcement the discretion to arrest a person - with reasonable suspicion, Patrick said.

"The focus of my bill is to identify the bad guys and to get the bad guys off the street and turned over to (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)," Patrick said.

A large flow of conservative legislation, including immigration bills, will come from House Republicans and Senate Democrats should not have "a de facto veto over conservative legislation," Patrick said. The 31-seat Senate has 19 Republicans, just shy of the two-thirds required to bring a bill up for debate.

"What's the point of being in the majority as Republicans if we are going to allow a handful of Democrats to stop the will of the majority of the people?" Patrick asked.

Immigration will be "the emotional, divisive issue of the session," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Van de Putte said she does not sense any strong movement to suspend the two-thirds rule, which she noted protected Republicans in the past during big Democratic majorities.

Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, is not so sure. While he thinks a law like Arizona's would be unconstitutional and divisive, Castro said Democrats will have a hard time blocking it.

"I think Republicans are dead set on passing Arizona-style legislation," Castro said, "and I think they have the numbers to pass it."

gscharrer@express-news.net

jbuch@express-news.net

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Results Show Latino Republicans Don't Have a Latino Constituency

9 November 2010
Results Show Latino Republicans Don't Have a Latino Constituency
By Rodolfo de la Garza

It's A Free Country
Monday, November 08, 2010 - 12:00 PM

The Tea Party Republican electoral triumph resulted in changing the Latino political map. With the exception of Henry Bonilla, a Republican elected to Congress from San Antonio in 1999, it had been almost a century since Latino Republicans had won major contests in states other than Florida. In 2010, they elected two Congressmen in Texas, one in Washington and Idaho and governors in New Mexico and Nevada.
Additionally, they continued to win major contests in Florida. They elected Mel Martinez to the U.S. Senator in 2004. He resigned in 2009, and in 2010 Marcos Rubio was elected to fill Martinez's seat. Latino TPRs also retained control of three Congressional seats, which Cuban Republicans consider their fief. In total, there will be 7 Latino TPRs in Congress and one in the Senate in the 112th Congress.
Republicans have long asserted that Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it. Their claim is based on the assumption that Latino cultural values such as strong Christian beliefs and family ties translate into support for the Republican political agenda. Beginning with the Bush campaign of 2000, the Republican Party has pursued the Latino vote. Their efforts yielded little more than a substantial increase in the support Texas Latinos gave President Bush in 2004. Even there, however, he received only 40 percent of the Latino vote.
Do the 2010 results indicate that Republicans have finally broken the Democratic hold on Latino voters? How will they affect Latino-Republican relations? Will they enhance Latino political clout?
Despite the numbers, these results provide little evidence that Republican outreach to Latinos had a substantial impact. Overall, Latinos preferred Democratic candidates by a 2 to 1 margin over Republicans. More noteworthy is the pattern evident in Washington, Idaho and Nevada where Latino TPRs produced victories without winning the Latino vote. In Nevada, Brian Sandoval won the governorship despite getting only 33 percent of the Latino vote. (By comparison, 68 percent of Latinos voted for Harry Reid and helped carried him to victory.) In Washington, Jaime Herrera was elected the state's first Latina Congresswoman in a district that is 7 percent Latino where there was no incumbent.
Texas outcomes resemble this pattern. Bill Flores won in a highly conservative district that is only 20 percent Latino. Clearly, he was not elected by Latino voters. Francisco Canseco was elected from a majority Latino district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans, but had still elected a Latino Republican to Congress from 1999 to 2006. Canseco, thus, may be the only 2010 Latino TPR to have needed some Latino support to win.
Contextualizing the results of the election strongly suggest that Latino TPRs are not proof of Latinos abandoning the Democratic Party for the Republicans. These victors fully embrace the TPR agenda including its law-and-order approach to immigration reform and its opposition to using public funds to generate jobs. Research shows the Latino public strongly disagrees with these key TPR positions.
Nonetheless, these victories may be read to suggest that the TPR is not anti-Latino, even though it is hostile to an immigrant-friendly reform of immigration policy. To the contrary, the TRP tent seems open to admitting Latinos as equals so long as they are ideological soulmates. Few Latinos are likely to seek such cover, but its availability is likely to force Democrats to more fully engage issues like immigration reform that disproportionately affect Latinos.
Failing to do so will cause them to lose credibility among Latinos. Losing votes will not be far behind.

Rodolfo de la Garza, a Columbia University professor of Political Science, has studied immigration, political attitudes and voting for over 30 years. He directed the first national political survey of Latinos and has authored, co-authored and edited 18 books and more than 100 scholarly articles and reports on foreign policy, immigration and political attitudes and behavior.

Predator Drones Shift from Battlefield to Border

Predator Drones Shift from Battlefield to Border
Homeland Security Patrols Mexican, Canadian Borders and Caribbean with High-Tech Aircraft Known for Hunting Terrorists
by
Bob Orr
CBS Evening News
November 9, 2010
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/09/eveningnews/main7038641.shtml

Sunday, November 7, 2010

El Paso crime rate down; Homicides noticeably drop

By Daniel Borunda \ EL PASO TIMES
Posted: 11/07/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT


El Paso is on pace this year to have its lowest number of homicides in recent history, even as murders continue uncontrolled across the border in Juárez.

With less than two months to go in 2010, crime is down 1 percent overall, officials said. The most startling drop is in homicides.

This year, there have been three homicides in El Paso, including one Saturday. That compares with 10 at this time last year, which ended with a total of 12.

"It is low," Assistant Police Chief Eric Shelton said. "Once again, it is how safe the streets are in El Paso. In general, homicides will occur in areas that are unsafe and I don't believe El Paso has an area that is dangerous."

El Paso has had a low rate of violent crime for more than a decade, but three homicides is low even for the second-safest large city in the nation. The city of El Paso has more than 620,000 residents, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated last year in its most recent population update.

One homicide has occurred in El Paso County outside the city limits, a possible drug-related shooting by masked gunmen at a home in Fabens. The case remains unsolved.

El Paso averaged 16 homicides a year in the past decade. And it has averaged four killings during November-December in the past four years.

Police and civic leaders credit community involvement, help from federal law enforcement and residents' willingness to report suspicious activity for helping fight crime.

The drop in homicides in El Paso occurred while murders are on pace to set another unwanted record in Juárez, where more than 2,500 people have died violently this year.

"The big difference between El Paso and Juárez -- and I have to present this argument all the time -- in El Paso we trust the police," El Paso Mayor John Cook said.

"If we call to report a drug dealer down the street, we don't worry that the police officer will turn around and tell the drug dealer 'Hey, the guy down the street is saying you are a drug dealer.'

"That is the reality in Mexico. You can't trust if law enforcement is on your side."

El Paso County has a population of about 751,000. Juárez's population is estimated at 1.3 million.

Besides the drop in homicides, El Paso police report declines in auto thefts, 14 percent; vehicle burglaries, 23 percent; burglaries, 5 percent; and thefts, 4 percent.

Robberies and assaults are up, 7 and 5 percent, respectively, according to data as of Oct. 16.

To curb assaults, police are keeping a closer watch on bars, including making "bar checks." Several officers will enter an establishment to check for problems, Shelton said. The practice has been criticized as heavy-handed by some bar owners and customers.

Police said they were optimistic the city will end the year with a reduction in crime, but they are cautious because home and vehicle burglaries tend to jump during the holiday season.

They will focus on trying to prevent vehicle burglaries during the holidays.

"People go from store to store shopping," Shelton said. "Unfortunately, they leave packages in plain view. It is a perfect target for a criminal. You would be surprised how many (drivers) forget to lock their vehicles."

Crime may be down, but El Paso is often having to fight out-of-town misconceptions that it is a violent city because it is next to Juárez, Cook said. "It's a continuous battle having to fight that PR issue," he said.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com; 546-6102.

The numbers:
- El Paso has more than 620,000 residents. Juárez about 1.3 million.
- El Paso averaged 16 homicides a year in the past decade.
- Three homicides haveoccurred in El Paso this year.
- El Paso has averaged four killings during November-December in the past four years.
- In Juárez, more than 2,500 people have died violently this year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ciudad Juarez Students Rise Up

For months Ciudad Juarez´s Plural Citizens Front and other opponents of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s so-called drug war planned an international forum on violence and militarization in their battle-weary city.

Ironically, on the first day of the October 29-31 event, a bloody incident of the kind activists were protesting marred the meeting site at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (ICB. Eyewitnesses told Frontera NorteSur that members of Mexico’s Federal Police opened fire on young people who had just participated in the 11th Walk against Death and were arriving to the campus to initiate the left-oriented forum.

The apparent targets were a small group of unarmed, masked youth affiliated with the pro-Zapatista Other Campaign which had trailed the demonstration to spray paint walls with political slogans. As the group was running from police and towards an entrance to the ICB, shots rang out. A bullet struck 19-year-old protestor and university student Jose Dario Alvarez Orrantia in the back, spilling the young man’s guts on the pavement.

“He survived by a miracle, said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, who performed emergency surgery on Alvarez. “Until now, we are very pleased to have saved Dario.”

Outraged by the shooting, students temporarily occupied the ICB administration building. “An injury to one is an injury to all,” read one banner hanging from the building.

With Dario Alvarez’s blood staining one of the ICB´S entrances, marked off by a crude crime scene blocked off with a circle of rocks and a hand-written sign, the three-day forum proceeded in a tense atmosphere. The steady wail of ambulances passing near the ICB and the thud of gunshots in the distance were an audible reminder of the violence carving the rhythm of life in the border city.

The Federal Police shooting scared away many people who had planned attending the forum, said co-organizer Gabriela Beltran, who charged the Mexican government with staging the attack to undermine the meeting.

”The forum was meant to talk precisely about these types of situations in which the state has us submerged,” Beltran said.
Corroborated by Dr. Valenzuela, local news outlets quickly reported that a handful of Federal Police officers were detained by their superiors for the Alvarez shooting, but Beltran complained that nobody knew the identities of the supposedly arrested policemen and that a serious investigation was not underway.

For Rita del Castillo, the trip to the forum was a painful stop on a long journey that’s followed the drug war from the jungles of South America to the desert mesas of the borderland.

The mother of Juan Gonzalez del Castillo, a Mexico City student killed along with three other Mexican students in an unauthorized Ecuadoran encampment of Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in March 2008, del Castillo came to the forum accompanied by the mother of another slain student to build support for their relatives’ movement aimed at bringing former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to justice.

A fifth Mexican student who was part of the group, Lucia Morett, survived the US-backed military assault but is now wanted by Interpol on terrorism-related charges filed by the Colombian government. The attack by the Colombian government also resulted in the killing of FARC negotiator Raul Reyes and nearly resulted in a war involving Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Del Castillo insisted that her son and his friends were not terrorists but students on an academic research trip.
In her first visit to Ciudad Juarez, del Castillo arrived to the ICB just in time to hear shots puncturing the early evening and then see Dario Alvarez writhing on the ground.

“As parents this also fills us with indignation, and we extend our solidarity to the young people of the university, the university community and the family members of the young man wounded here yesterday on the university campus,” del Castillo said.

The October 29 shooting took place in the context of escalating violence in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Mexico, including the slayings of four factory employees of a foreign manufacturing company in the Juarez Valley only days before the forum.

Contrary to rosy assessments of the drug war’s progress, such events demonstrate an overall deterioration of the public safety situation, said Victor Quintana, former Mexican lawmaker and adviser to the Democratic Campesino Front of Chihuahua. Condemning Alvarez´s shooting, Quintana said similar incidents cannot be allowed to happen.

Occupying the ICB campus during the weekend which immediately preceded Mexico’s Days of the Dead holidays, Dario Alvarez’s fellow students strategized their response to the police shooting of their friend.

In an exercise of direct democracy rarely seen in Mexico or the US, the students met in popular assemblies to carefully analyze, debate and decide possible courses of action.

A solemn mood characterized the meetings, shaped by the historical knowledge of the impact students as have had at other times in Mexican history, such as the 1968 student mobilization that culminated in the October 2 government slaughter of protesters in Mexico City.

“We are for the transformation of the world,” one student told his assembled classmates. “Another world is possible, and we are beginning it here in Ciudad Juarez.

Within hours of Alvarez’s shooting, messages of outside support were coming to Ciudad Juarez students. In short order, the event was acquiring national political ramifications. Speeches at the forum urging the cut off of US security assistance to Mexico and a sweeping redirection in the drug war gained resonance.

Locally, much of the political class and media downplayed, ignored and even distorted the October 29 incident. However, a group of prominent Ciudad Juarez academics and citizen activists authored an opinion piece for the October 31 edition of the city´s daily Norte newspaper.

Slamming human rights violations and the killing of young people in different parts of Mexico, the column posed a question:
“How much blood of innocent civilians, of the children and of the young, will have to run until the government comprehends that its public safety strategy and little war against organized crime is a noisy disaster?”

The statement was signed by Alfredo Nateras, Carlos Cruz, Julia Monarrez, Irma Saucedo, Luciana Ramos, and Lucia Melgar.
On November 2 and 3, Ciudad Juarez students and their allies once again took to the streets. According to local media reports, the first march drew at least 1,500 people.

The demonstrators demanded justice for Dario Alvarez and other youthful victims of violence, the demilitarization of Ciudad Juarez and the withdrawal of the Federal Police from the city.

Reportedly greeted by generous honks of support from passing motorists, the mass protest represented “a university movement that hasn’t occurred in Ciudad Juarez since the beginning or middle of the 1980s,” declared the web site of the Arrobajuarez.com news service.

Meanwhile, on many fronts, struggling civil society organizations wage a fight for peace and reconstruction in Ciudad Juarez. Once the poster child for the booming global economy of the late 20th century, Ciudad Juarez now hosts a “broken society,” said university student and health promoter Perla Davila. “Everyone” has been affected one way or another by the carnage that’s left about 7,000 people murdered since the beginning of 2008, Davila contended.

A psychology major, Davila works for a new non-profit organization, SABIC, which employs traditional herbal healing, alternative medicine and therapy to assist victims of violence. In its first year of operation, SABIC has attended about 5,000 people in ten community centers scattered across Ciudad Juarez, Davila told Frontera NorteSur.

Juarenses, she said, are sunk in a “tremendous stress” that shows no signs of letting up. The shooting of Jose Dario Alvarez Orrantia, Davila maintained, only adds to the official disdain of her troubled city and its embattled residents.

Said Davila: “We are trying to find an exit…nobody has a manual on how to survive a social war, on how to survive the war of a government that doesn’t want to listen, that doesn’t want to see what it is causing-especially in the young part of society.”
Additional sources: Diario de Juarez November 3, 2010. Arrobajuarez.com, November 3, 2010. Norte, October 31, 2010.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S. -Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

For a free electronic subscription email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Deporting Elena’s Father


Illustration: Roxanna Bikadoroff

By Melissa Bollow Tempel

All over the United States, formal collaboration between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement under ICE ACCESS programs has deputized local law enforcement agents to enforce federal immigration law. Although no such agreements currently exist in the state of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office has been collaborating with ICE. The result has been a significant increase (46 percent from 2007 to 2008) in the number of detained and then deported immigrants picked up on minor traffic violations in the county. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors heard testimony on this issue at their July 2010 meeting. Unfortunately, they sided with the sheriff’s department and decided not to pursue an intensive investigation. Local community organizations continue to advocate for an end to this collaboration.

Rethinking Schools Editorial Associate Melissa Bollow Tempel gave the following testimony at the meeting:

I am a bilingual teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools. Over the years, I have seen many students deal with deportation. People ask me, “How does deportation affect children?” The question I’d like to pose today is “How doesn’t deportation affect children?”

This year I had a student in my 1st-grade class. I’ll call her Elena. She was a natural leader in the classroom and spoke both English and Spanish fluently. She was well liked by her classmates and a natural leader, always organizing games on the playground during recess. Elena’s father was a model dad, the kind who worked hard and spent his free time with his family and his church. Every day he’d pick up his children from school. When Elena saw him approaching the school she’d yell, “Papi!” and run to him. They’d share a big hug and then he’d take her hand and the hand of her little sister and they’d walk home together. He helped Elena complete her homework—she is a very bright little girl—and read to her.

Elena’s mother came to my classroom one morning and asked me if I could write a letter of support to the judge who would try her husband’s deportation case. She told me that Elena’s father, the father of her four children, had gone to work and never returned. She learned later that ICE had taken him into custody. Although she is a U.S. citizen, he was not allowed to return home while awaiting his trial. Of course, I wrote the letter for her, as did the teachers of Elena’s siblings, but it did no good. Elena didn’t see her father again and eventually he was deported. My own daughter was in 1st grade this year and I couldn’t even allow myself to think about the severe impact that losing her father would have had on her.

This brings me to how deportation affects my students. Elena’s mother was forced to send her children to her sister’s house on the other side of town to sleep every night because her husband had cared for the girls while she worked third shift in a factory. Elena’s bright smile and eagerness to learn faded and she became somber, tired, and withdrawn. She stopped participating in class and often asked to stay inside instead of playing with her friends during recess. Elena stopped doing her homework because her father was not there to help her, and her mother had no time between household chores, cooking, and getting the children ready to drop off at their aunt’s house every night. Her mother told me that she slept only three hours during the day while her baby was sleeping. She’d be so tired that she would oversleep and miss the pickup time at the end of the school day. We’d have to call to wake her up.

Mondays were the worst. Elena would come to school after spending some quality time with her mother and family; I’d take one look at her face and know it was going to be a hard morning. On those days I’d let her eat breakfast in the hallway with me while my teaching partner stayed with the rest of the class. Elena would sit on my lap and cry—sob, really—and tell me that she missed her father, that she wanted to talk to him, to see him. Sometimes it would make her feel better to write him letters. She would end them with “Are you coming home?” and draw two little boxes—one for him to check “yes” and one for him to check “no.” Even more heartbreaking were the letters that ended the same way but with a different question: “Do you still love me?”

This summer I have spent some time with Elena and her siblings, trying to give her mother a break. Mostly I’m there because I know that Elena’s having a difficult time with yet another change in her life, the transition from the school to the summer, and she’s lost the regular support of her teachers for the summer.

Elena’s mom told me that they will probably move in with her sister, which means that Elena will have to change schools. Her new school doesn’t have bilingual classes. She’ll have to make new friends and her mother will have to start over, building a support network in the community for her children and herself.

I’m using Elena as an example because this is not a unique story. It has many similarities to the experiences of all my students who have dealt with the deportation of a parent. There is absolutely no way that Elena and the three other children in my class who lost a loved one to deportation were not deeply affected, emotionally and academically. Our students are hurting. Some of them were born here, making them “legal,” and they hope to carry out their family’s dream of a better life. That dream starts with education.

These children face so many obstacles: living in poverty, lacking medical and dental care, and living in homes that landlords don’t bother to repair because they know their tenants won’t report them. Deporting children’s parents creates just another obstacle for them, but this is the one that is the most difficult to overcome.

Melissa Bollow Tempel (melissa@rethinkingschools.org) teaches in the Milwaukee Public Schools