Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mexico: Lack of tax incentives discourages giving

December 1, 2011 2:30 pm
By Adam Thomson

A few years ago, when Carlos Slim was asked about philanthropy, the Mexican telecoms billionaire said he disagreed with “going around like Santa Claus”. His views seem to have changed little since then.
“Poverty doesn’t go away with charity, social services, paternalism or speeches,” the world’s richest individual told the FT in June this year.
“You can only defeat poverty with jobs and with people who create jobs.”
To judge by some studies, many of his countrymen feel the same way. Mexico may have a $1tn economy, be home to 112m people and at least 12 billionaires. But it also has some of the world’s most frugal givers.
According to a 2003 investigation by the US-based Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, private donations to the country’s not-for-profit sector are equivalent to just 0.04 per cent of gross domestic product – about 40 times lower than in the US, and the lowest in the Johns Hopkins study of 35 developed and developing countries.
Regional peers such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, which were also in the study, give considerably more on a proportional basis.
As Michael Layton of the philanthropy unit of Mexico City’s Itam university says: “The sector is really under-developed in Mexico and that makes it hard to get things moving.”
One of the problems is that few people pay taxes. With a large informal sector and plenty of loopholes in the tax code, it is little wonder that Mexico has one of the lowest takes in the region – less than 10 per cent of GDP a year excluding oil revenues.
This is a challenge for philanthropy: legislation that allows Mexicans to deduct donations from their tax bills – an approach that works in the US – is much less effective. As Mr Layton puts it, “the tax incentive is hollowed out”.
Moreover, the not-for-profit sector is small, even by Latin American standards. According to the finance ministry, there are only about 5,000 organisations that are legally registered to receive tax-free donations. Compare that with 50,000 in Ecuador, a country of 15m people.
Lourdes Sanz of the Mexican Center for Philanthropy argues that part of the reason is that national laws impose many rules on organisations that want to register with the finance ministry. For example, they have to renew their registration every year, generating paperwork.
They also have to obtain a letter of approval from one of the government’s ministries but few ministries are legally able to provide this.
Not only that, but registered organisations cannot spend more than 5 per cent of their donations on administrative costs – a level far below what most international not-for-profit organisations consider viable.
Ms Sanz concludes, “the institutional side of giving in Mexico is very weak”.
Francisco Marmolejo at the University of Arizona, an authority on higher education, says that the resulting low levels of philanthropy could spell serious problems for Mexico’s relatively young population, nowhere more so than in education.
“There is a huge demand for educational services, but governments in Latin America cannot provide adequately because of competing needs,” he says.
“Philanthropy could help fill the void, but there is not enough of it in Mexico.”
So acute is the lack of philanthropic funding for education that some universities have had to come up with novel alternatives.
For example, the Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of the country’s best known universities, has gone to the extraordinary measure of funding part of its monthly salary bill through a lottery system.
Like many things in Latin America, there is a certain lack of clarity over Mexico’s philanthropic sector.
Donations to the Catholic Church are not included in many statistics, a fact that probably underplays significantly the amount that Mexicans give away.
And donations to help people affected by natural disasters tend to be generous.
There are also several notable examples of Mexican billionaires working with regional governments on development programmes.
In spite of his public disdain for charity, Mr Slim has two foundations, with an endowment of at least $5bn.
Among other things, they fund health and education programmes throughout Mexico.
Ricardo Salinas Pliego, one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, has joined forces with the state government of Chiapas to build urban communities to provide basic services to people who once lived in rural areas.
But in a recent interview with the FT, Mr Salinas Pliego admitted that philanthropy in Mexico was not easy. “In the rest of the world, rich people will give a donation and businessmen give to charities,” he said.
“But in Mexico, the execution capacity of what we call the social sector is missing. I find it much more effective to set up the actual social organisation and then fund it with my money.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Immigration: Obama Changes the Game for Illegal Immigrants

The incalculable suffering that our policies have caused: "The Obama administration has built the fence and has tried the "send 'em all home" route, to the tune of more than three-quarters of a million deportations in 2009-2010." Unbelievably, 300,000 prosecutions are under review, filling up our for-profit prisons and jails. Glad to see that neither our non-criminals or DREAM Act students will likely get deported. We'll see what the DHS and DOJ develop, but all else equal, this is a step in the right direction.


Immigration: Obama Changes the Game for Illegal Immigrants
August 19, 2011 07:25 PM EDT

Obama has pushed immigration change to a "no takers" Congress. On May 10th, in his speech at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, he accused Republicans of demanding unrealistic crackdowns and refusing to consider policy and legal reform.

"They wanted a fence," the president said of Republicans. "Well, that fence is now basically complete. Maybe they'll need a moat. Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat." His intent was obvious... using ridicule of the Republican insistence on physical barriers and their "...send 'em all home" approach to illegal immigration.

The Obama administration has built the fence and has tried the "send 'em all home" route, to the tune of more than three-quarters of a million deportations in 2009-2010. Hispanics who expected Obama to change America's response to illegals have been appalled. They are threatening to abandon him if he can't get a reform package through Congress. In May, he began suggesting he would make immigration reform a campaign issue, and now he has.

Three hundred thousand prosecutions are under review. An interdepartmental group—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ)—will develop criteria for selection of cases to be dropped from prosecution. If there is no history of criminal activity, the person has been in the USA since he or she was a small child, and they are in school (DREAM Act students), they will likely not be prosecuted or deported. Immigrants classified as low-priority cases could receive a stay of deportation and the chance to apply for a work permit.

The president has thrown down the gauntlet, saying in effect, "Fences and barriers don't work. Arrests and deportations don't work. Criminal prosecution just fills up our jails. It's time and past time to do something that will work." He is proposing a program that concentrates on dangerous criminals and people who pose a threat to society. A substantial number of the cases now in court are not criminal cases.

Meanwhile, Border States are trying to create their own control system by building a patchwork of laws aimed at illegal aliens and those who employ them. The federal government has so far been successful in court in asserting that illegal alien control is a national problem and that federal law supersedes State law.

There is some indication that the recession has acted to slow illegal immigration, and may even have caused a substantial mini-exodus of illegal immigrants. However, it's likely that such effects are temporary, lasting only until an upturn is well confirmed, and will have little long-term effect on the issue.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Texans will train Mexicans for the drug war

Aug. 17, 2011

LAREDO — U.S. law enforcement will train local and state police officers from Mexico as part of the next phase of the two countries' joint fight against transnational drug cartels, a U.S. State Department official said Wednesday.

U.S. agencies have been training Mexican federal police on both sides of the border for several years. However, William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said it is clear that local forces face the most concentrated violence, especially in northern Mexico, and are in the most need of training.

"If we do not address these problems cooperatively today, we will be addressing them on our own front doorsteps in five years," Brownfield said.

Brownfield was in the Texas border town of Laredo on Wednesday, signing an agreement outlining how deputies from the Webb County Sheriff's Office could spend periods of three months, six months or more training their counterparts in Mexico.

It was the first such agreement the State Department has signed with a local law enforcement agency anywhere on the U.S.-Mexico border. Brownfield said more trainers are needed and the high rate of bilingual deputies with border experience made Webb County an attractive place to start such a program.

Police training has been a significant part of the Merida Initiative, which outlined the U.S. partnership with Mexico and Central America in the drug war and has committed $1.4 billion since 2008. However, the focus now shifts to historically out-gunned and ill-prepared local forces ducking bullets and facing ominous threats on a daily basis.

Mexico received $327 million for police training in fiscal 2009 from the U.S. State Department through Merida, placing it behind only Afghanistan and Iraq in total funds received for police training from the departments of State or Defense, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office in April.

Details of the proposed training programs have not been worked out, but Brownfield envisions three or four training centers in Mexico. He is holding complementary meetings with Mexican officials on this trip to begin working out the program's shape. He said he spoke with officials in Juarez on Monday and will hold similar meetings in Monterrey Thursday.

Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon states, respectively, have been two of Mexico's hardest hit by drug gang violence.

According to official figures, at least 35,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime. Other sources, including local media, say the number is closer to 40,000. The federal government has not released an update of its numbers since December.

U.S. involvement in Mexico has drawn attention there recently after Mexico's government confirmed that U.S. intelligence agents operate there, analyzing and exchanging information. The New York Times had reported that CIA agents and former U.S. military personnel are working at a Mexican military base in the fight against drug gangs.

Brownfield stressed that involvement of U.S. trainers will come only with Mexican approval and that the training centers would be under Mexican authority. He also said a longer-term vision could include pairing trainers from an agency such as the Webb County Sheriff's Office with a National Guard deployment from Texas. The National Guard has been active in the drug war on the U.S. side of the border in intelligence analysis.

The agreement signed Wednesday "sets guidelines for the Webb County Sherriff's Office to train, advise and mentor international law enforcement agencies and officers." The sheriff's office will pay the upfront costs and receive reimbursement from the State Department. Its trainers, which it will release on a voluntary basis, will not carry weapons in other countries and will have to be approved in advance by the State Department. The State Department will be responsible for screening any trainees and will give pre-deployment training to trainers.

The agreement leaves open the possibility of training on U.S. soil, but Brownfield said from a cost standpoint it made more sense to send a few trainers to Mexico than bring hundreds of trainees to the U.S.

Brownfield said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo was very active in pushing the venture. Cuellar's brother, Martin Cuellar, is Webb County sheriff.

The congressman said the benefits worked both ways. "When the teacher goes down there, the teacher will learn from the students."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Miss Ana is free: El Paso teacher released from Juárez cereso

by Daniel Borunda \ El Paso Times
Posted: 07/11/2011

An El Paso teacher was freed from a Juárez prison late Sunday after the Mexican attorney general's office announced it had dropped drug charges against her.

Protesters had marched Sunday demanding the immediate release of Ana Isela Martínez, whose freedom had been expected since a Mexican judge decided on Friday to drop all charges.

"She was freed unconditionally with all charges dropped," said Martínez's lawyer, Salvador Urbina. "We are very happy. There were more than 200 people here (outside the Cereso prison), cheering and praying."

The Mexican attorney general's office, or the PGR, on Sunday said it confirmed that Martínez was innocent and a target of a scheme that picked on commuters. The PGR also warned people who cross the international bridges regularly to be on alert.

Urbina said the PGR ratified the judge's order but Martínez's release had been delayed until the signed documents arrived in Juárez.

"Proceedings by Mexican authorities, how can I say this, are bureaucratic sometimes," Urbina said.

Martínez spent Sunday night in Juárez with her family and she planned to attend a Mass to give thanks this morning at her church, Urbina said.

Martínez lives in Juárez but has a U.S. work permit and commutes daily to work at La Fe Preparatory School in El Paso, where she is known as "Miss Ana."

Martínez had been jailed since May 26 when Mexican soldiers found marijuana in two duffel bags in her car¹s trunk on the Juárez side of the Stanton Street bridge express lane.

Soldiers found 88 pounds of marijuana, the Mexican attorney general's office said Sunday.

Martínez and her supporters have said she was innocent and did not know about the marijuana. A Mexican judge ordered her detained until trial.

Yet Martínez received a big break last week with the FBI's arrest of a suspected drug smuggler in a scheme of transporting drugs across the border in the trunks of unsuspecting commuters.

A criminal complaint stated smugglers would get a car's vehicle identification number and copies of car keys. A Juárez crew would use those keys to secretly load marijuana into a vehicle's trunk. The marijuana would then be removed in El Paso by a crew with duplicate keys.

According to the FBI document, Martínez's case was discussed by the alleged drug traffickers in recorded conversations.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at; 546-6102.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North

I knew this was happening. Just wasn't sure of the extent of it. This will certainly impact the U.S. economy over the long term. -Angela

Published: July 6, 2011

AGUA NEGRA, Mexico — The extraordinary Mexican migration that delivered millions of illegal immigrants to the United States over the past 30 years has sputtered to a trickle, and research points to a surprising cause: unheralded changes in Mexico that have made staying home more attractive.

A growing body of evidence suggests that a mix of developments — expanding economic and educational opportunities, rising border crime and shrinking families — are suppressing illegal traffic as much as economic slowdowns or immigrant crackdowns in the United States.

Here in the red-earth highlands of Jalisco, one of Mexico’s top three states for emigration over the past century, a new dynamic has emerged. For a typical rural family like the Orozcos, heading to El Norte without papers is no longer an inevitable rite of passage. Instead, their homes are filling up with returning relatives; older brothers who once crossed illegally are awaiting visas; and the youngest Orozcos are staying put.

“I’m not going to go to the States because I’m more concerned with my studies,” said Angel Orozco, 18. Indeed, at the new technological institute where he is earning a degree in industrial engineering, all the students in a recent class said they were better educated than their parents — and that they planned to stay in Mexico rather than go to the United States.

Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. “No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”

The decline in illegal immigration, from a country responsible for roughly 6 of every 10 illegal immigrants in the United States, is stark. The Mexican census recently discovered four million more people in Mexico than had been projected, which officials attributed to a sharp decline in emigration.

American census figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center also show that the illegal Mexican population in the United States has shrunk and that fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004. Although some advocates for more limited immigration argue that the Pew studies offer estimates that do not include short-term migrants, most experts agree that far fewer illegal immigrants have been arriving in recent years.

The question is why. Experts and American politicians from both parties have generally looked inward, arguing about the success or failure of the buildup of border enforcement and tougher laws limiting illegal immigrants’ rights — like those recently passed in Alabama and Arizona. Deportations have reached record highs as total border apprehensions and apprehensions of Mexicans have fallen by more than 70 percent since 2000.

But Mexican immigration has always been defined by both the push (from Mexico) and the pull (of the United States). The decision to leave home involves a comparison, a wrenching cost-benefit analysis, and just as a Mexican baby boom and economic crises kicked off the emigration waves in the 1980s and ’90s, research now shows that the easing of demographic and economic pressures is helping keep departures in check.

In simple terms, Mexican families are smaller than they had once been. The pool of likely migrants is shrinking. Despite the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, birth control efforts have pushed down the fertility rate to about 2 children per woman from 6.8 in 1970, according to government figures. So while Mexico added about one million new potential job seekers annually in the 1990s, since 2007 that figure has fallen to an average of 800,000, according to government birth records. By 2030, it is expected to drop to 300,000.

Even in larger families like the Orozcos’ — Angel is the 9th of 10 children — the migration calculation has changed. Crossing “mojado,” wet or illegally, has become more expensive and more dangerous, particularly with drug cartels dominating the border. At the same time, educational and employment opportunities have greatly expanded in Mexico. Per capita gross domestic product and family income have each jumped more than 45 percent since 2000, according to one prominent economist, Roberto Newell. Despite all the depictions of Mexico as “nearly a failed state,” he argued, “the conventional wisdom is wrong.”

A significant expansion of legal immigration — aided by American consular officials — is also under way. Congress may be debating immigration reform, but in Mexico, visas without a Congressionally mandated cap on how many people can enter have increased from 2006 to 2010, compared with the previous five years.

State Department figures show that Mexicans who have become American citizens have legally brought in 64 percent more immediate relatives, 220,500 from 2006 through 2010, compared with the figures for the previous five years. Tourist visas are also being granted at higher rates of around 89 percent, up from 67 percent, while American farmers have legally hired 75 percent more temporary workers since 2006.

Edward McKeon, the top American official for consular affairs in Mexico, said he had focused on making legal passage to the United States easier in an effort to prevent people from giving up and going illegally. He has even helped those who were previously illegal overcome bans on entering the United States.

“If people are trying to do the right thing,” Mr. McKeon said, “we need to send the signal that we’ll reward them.”
Hard Years in Jalisco

When Angel Orozco’s grandfather considered leaving Mexico in the 1920s, his family said, he wrestled with one elemental question: Will it be worth it?

At that point and for decades to come, yes was the obvious answer. In the 1920s and ’30s — when Paul S. Taylor came to Jalisco from California for his landmark study of Mexican emigration — Mexico’s central highlands promised little more than hard living. Jobs were scarce and paid poorly. Barely one of three adults could read. Families of 10, 12 and even 20 were common, and most children did not attend school.

Comparatively, the United States looked like a dreamland of technology and riches: Mr. Taylor found that the wages paid by the railroads, where most early migrants found legal work, were five times what could be earned on farms in Arandas, the municipality that includes Agua Negra.

Orozco family members still talk about the benefits of that first trip. Part of the land the extended family occupies today was purchased with American earnings from the 1920s. When Angel’s father, Antonio, went north to pick cotton in the 1950s and ’60s with the Bracero temporary worker program, which accepted more than 400,000 laborers a year at its peak, working in the United States made even more sense. The difference in wages had reached 10 to 1. Arandas was still dirt poor.

Antonio, with just a few years of schooling, was one of many who felt that with a back as strong as a wooden church door, he could best serve his family from across the border.

“I sent my father money so he could build his house,” Antonio said.

Legal status then meant little. After the Bracero program ended in 1964, Antonio said, he crossed back and forth several times without documentation. Passage was cheap. Work lasting for a few months or a year was always plentiful. So when his seven sons started to become adults in the 1990s, he encouraged them to go north as well. Around 2001, he and two of his sons were all in the United States working — part of what is now recognized as one of the largest immigration waves in American history.

But even then, illegal immigration was becoming less attractive. In the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration added fences and federal agents to what were then the main crossing corridors beyond Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez. The enforcement push, continued by President George W. Bush and President Obama, helped drive up smuggling prices from around $700 in the late 1980s to nearly $2,000 a decade later, and the costs continued to climb, according to research from the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. It also shifted traffic to more dangerous desert areas near Arizona.

Antonio said the risks hit home when his nephew Alejandro disappeared in the Sonoran Desert around 2002. A father of one and with a pregnant wife, Alejandro had been promised work by a friend. It took years for the authorities to find his body in the arid brush south of Tucson. Even now, no one knows how he died.

But for the Orozcos, border enforcement was not the major deterrent. Andrés Orozco, 28, a middle son who first crossed illegally in 2000, said that while rising smuggling costs and border crime were worries, there were always ways to avoid American agents. In fact, while the likelihood of apprehension has increased in recent years, 92 to 98 percent of those who try to cross eventually succeed, according to research by Wayne A. Cornelius and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego.
A Period of Progress

Another important factor is Mexico itself. Over the past 15 years, this country once defined by poverty and beaches has progressed politically and economically in ways rarely acknowledged by Americans debating immigration. Even far from the coasts or the manufacturing sector at the border, democracy is better established, incomes have generally risen and poverty has declined.

Here in Jalisco, a tequila boom that accelerated through the 1990s created new jobs for farmers cutting agave and for engineers at the stills. Other businesses followed. In 2003, when David Fitzgerald, a migration expert at the University of California, San Diego, came to Arandas, he found that the wage disparity with the United States had narrowed: migrants in the north were collecting 3.7 times what they could earn at home.

That gap has recently shrunk again. The recession cut into immigrant earnings in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, even as wages have risen in Mexico, according to World Bank figures. Jalisco’s quality of life has improved in other ways, too. About a decade ago, the cluster of the Orozco ranches on Agua Negra’s outskirts received electricity and running water. New census data shows a broad expansion of such services: water and trash collection, once unheard of outside cities, are now available to more than 90 percent of Jalisco’s homes. Dirt floors can now be found in only 3 percent of the state’s houses, down from 12 percent in 1990.

Still, education represents the most meaningful change. The census shows that throughout Jalisco, the number of senior high schools or preparatory schools for students aged 15 to 18 increased to 724 in 2009, from 360 in 2000, far outpacing population growth. The Technological Institute of Arandas, where Angel studies engineering, is now one of 13 science campuses created in Jalisco since 2000 — a major reason professionals in the state, with a bachelor’s degree or higher, also more than doubled to 821,983 in 2010, up from 405,415 in 2000.

Similar changes have occurred elsewhere. In the poor southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, for instance, professional degree holders rose to 525,874 from 244,322 in 2000.

And the data from secondary schools like the one the Orozcos attended in Agua Negra suggests that the trend will continue. Thanks to a Mexican government program called “schools of quality” the campus of three buildings painted sunflower yellow has five new computers for its 71 students, along with new books.

Teachers here, in classrooms surrounded by blue agave fields, say that enrollment is down slightly because families are having fewer children, and instead of sending workers north, some families have moved to other Mexican cities — a trend also found in academic field research. Around half the students now move on to higher schooling, up from 30 percent a decade ago.

“They’re identifying more with Mexico,” said Agustín Martínez González, a teacher. “With more education, they’re more likely to accept reality here and try to make it better.”

Some experts agree. Though Mexicans with Ph.D.’s tend to leave for bigger paychecks abroad, “if you have a college degree you’re much more likely to stay in Mexico because that is surely more valuable in Mexico,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center.

If these trends — particularly Mexican economic growth — continue over the next decade, Mr. Passel said, changes in the migration dynamic may become even clearer. “At the point where the U.S. needs the workers again,” he said, “there will be fewer of them.”
Praying for Papers

The United States, of course, has not lost its magnetic appeal. Illegal traffic from Central America has not dropped as fast as it has from Mexico, and even in Jalisco town plazas are now hangouts for men in their 30s with tattoos, oversize baseball caps and a desire to work again in California or another state. Bars with American names — several have adopted Shrek — signal a back and forth that may never disappear.

But more Mexicans are now traveling legally. Several Orozco cousins have received temporary worker visas in the past few years. In March, peak migration season for Jalisco, there were 15 people from Agua Negra at the border waiting to cross.

“And 10 had visas,” said Ramón Orozco, 30, another son of Antonio who works in the town’s government office after being the first in his family to go to college. “A few years ago there would have been 100, barely any with proper documents.”

This is not unique to Agua Negra. A few towns away at the hillside shrine of St. Toribio, the patron saint of migrants, prayers no longer focus on asking God to help sons, husbands or brothers crossing the desert. “Now people are praying for papers,” said María Guadalupe, 47, a longtime volunteer.

How did this happen?

Partly, emigrants say, illegal life in the United States became harder. Laws restricting illegal immigrants’ rights or making it tougher for employers to hire them have passed in more than a dozen states since 2006. The same word-of-mouth networks that used to draw people north are now advising against the journey. “Without papers all you’re thinking about is, when are the police going to stop you or what other risks are you going to face,” said Andrés Orozco.

Andrés, a horse lover who drives a teal pickup from Texas, is one of many Orozcos now pinning their hopes on a visa. And for the first time in years, the chances have improved.

Mexican government estimates based on survey data show not just a decrease in migration overall, but also an increase in border crossings with documents. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, 38 percent of the total attempted crossings, legal and illegal, were made with documents. In 2007, only 20 percent involved such paperwork.

The Mexican data counts attempted crossings, not people, and does not differentiate between categories of visas. Nor does it mention how long people stayed, nor whether all the documents were valid.

Advocates of limited immigration worry that the issuing of more visas creates a loophole that can be abused. Between 40 and 50 percent of the illegal immigrants in the United States entered legally with visas they overstayed, as of 2005, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

More recent American population data, however, shows no overall increase in the illegal Mexican population. That suggests that most of the temporary visas issued to Mexicans — 1.1 million in 2010 — are being used legitimately even as American statistics show clearly that visa opportunities have increased.
Easing a Chaotic Process

One man, Mr. McKeon, the minister counselor who oversees all consular affairs in Mexico, has played a significant role in that expansion.

A lawyer with a white beard and a quick tongue, Mr. McKeon arrived in the summer of 2007. And after more than 30 years working in consular affairs in China, Japan and elsewhere, he quickly decided to make changes in Mexico. Working within administrative rules, State Department officials say, he re-engineered the visa program to de-emphasize the affordability standard that held that visas were to be denied to those who could not prove an income large enough to support travel to the United States.

In a country where a person can cross the border with a 25-cent toll, Mr. McKeon said, the income question was irrelevant. “You have to look at everyone individually,” he said in an interview at his office in Mexico City. “I don’t want people to say, here’s the income floor, over yes, lower no.”

This led to an almost immediate decrease in the rejection rate for tourist visas. Before he arrived, around 32 percent were turned down. Since 2008, the rate has been around 11 percent.

Mr. McKeon — praised by some immigration lawyers for bringing consistency to a chaotic process — was also instrumental in expanding the temporary visa program for agricultural workers. Called H-2A, this is one of the few visa categories without a cap.

Around 2006, as the debate over immigration became more contentious, employers concentrated in the Southeast began applying for more workers through the program. Mr. McKeon began hosting conferences with all the stakeholders and deployed new technology and additional staff members. The waiting time for several visa categories decreased, government reports show. For H-2As, Mexican workers can now receive their documents the same day that they apply.

Mr. McKeon also pushed to make the program more attractive to Mexicans who might otherwise cross the border illegally. Two years ago, he eliminated a $100 visa issuance fee that was supposed to be covered by employers but was usually paid by workers. And he insisted that his staff members change their approach with Mexicans who had previously worked illegally in the United States.

“The message used to be, if you were working illegally, lie about it or don’t even try to go legally because we won’t let you,” said one senior State Department official. “What we’re saying now is, tell us you did it illegally, be honest and we’ll help you.”

Specifically, consulate workers dealing with H-2A applicants who were once illegal — making them subject to 3- or 10-year bans depending on the length of their illegal stay — now regularly file electronic waiver applications to the United States Customs and Border Patrol. About 85 percent of these are now approved, Mr. McKeon said, so that in 2010 most of the 52,317 Mexican workers with H-2A visas had previously been in the United States illegally.

“It’s not easy to go through this process,” Mr. McKeon said, “and I think people who are willing to go through all of that and risk going back to the United States where they have to pay taxes, and withholding, I think we should look favorably on them.”

Speaking as the son of a New Jersey plumber, he added: “My bias is toward people who sweat at work because I really think that’s the backbone of our country. With limited resources, I’d rather devote our efforts to keeping out a drug kingpin than trying to find someone who works a couple of months at Cousin Hector’s body shop.”
A Divisive Topic

In the heated debate over immigration, however, this topic is inevitably divisive. Pro-immigrant groups, when told of the expansion to legal immigration, say it still may not be enough in a country where the baby boomers are retiring in droves.

Farmers still complain that the H-2A visa program is too complicated and addresses only a portion of the total demand. As of 2010, there were 1,381,896 Mexicans still waiting for their green-card applications to be accepted or rejected. And the United States currently makes only 5,000 green cards annually available worldwide for low-wage workers to immigrate permanently; in recent years, only a few of those have gone to Mexicans.

On the other side, Steven A. Camarota, a demographer at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which favors reduced immigration, said that increasing the proportion of legal entries did little good.

“If you believe there is significant job competition at the bottom end of the labor market, as I do, you’re not fixing the problem,” Mr. Camarota said. “If you are concerned about the fiscal cost of unskilled immigration and everyone comes in on temporary visas and overstays, or even if they don’t, the same problems are likely to apply.”

By his calculations, unskilled immigrants like the Orozcos have, over the years, helped push down hourly wages, especially for young, unskilled American workers. Immigrants are also more likely to rely on welfare, he said, adding to public costs.

The Orozco clan, however, may point to a different future. Angel Orozco, like many other young Mexicans, now talks about the United States not as a place to earn money, but rather as a destination for fun and spending.

Today he is just a lanky, shy freshman wearing a Daughtry T-shirt and living in a two-room apartment with only a Mexican flag and a rosary for decoration.

But his dreams are big and local. After graduating, he said, he hopes to work for a manufacturing company in Arandas, which seems likely because the director of his school says that nearly 90 percent of graduates find jobs in their field. Then, Angel said, he will be able to buy what he really wants: a shiny, new red Camaro.

Mexican national set for execution in Texas, despite treaty concerns

Treaties and conventions between countries should be meaningful. This person set for execution wasn't told about his right to have access to Mexican consular officials. -Angela

Posted at 09:55 AM ET, 07/06/2011
Mexican national set for execution in Texas, despite treaty concerns
By Jason Ukman

The Supreme Court has until Thursday to halt the execution of a Mexican national whose case has prompted a call for a stay from the Obama administration, which says the execution could put the United States in breach of international obligations.

Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., who was found guilty of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl in 1994, is scheduled to face lethal injection Thursday in Texas. Leal, now 38, was provided with court-appointed lawyers after his arrest but was never informed that he could have access to Mexican consular officials, as is required under the United Nations’ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In 2009, the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States had failed to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention in the cases of 51 Mexicans awaiting execution, including Leal.

The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court on Friday to delay the execution, saying that if it were carried out, it would affect “foreign-policy interests of the highest order.” The Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, has also requested a reprieve for Leal based on concerns about legal representation.

The breach of international obligations would “have serious repercussions for United States foreign relations, law-enforcement and other cooperation with Mexico, and the ability of American citizens traveling abroad to have the benefits of consular assistance in the event of detention,” Solicitor General Donald B.Verrilli, Jr. wrote in an amicus brief filed with the court.

Despite the pleas, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Leal’s request for a delay.

Three years ago, Texas executed another Mexican national on death row despite international entreaties. Jose Ernesto Medellin, who also had not been informed of his right to access consular officials, was put to death following pleas for a stay by the Bush administration, which also cited U.S. treaty obligations.

In Leal’s case, even if the Supreme Court does not intervene, Texas Gov. Rick Perry could grant a 30-day stay.

By Jason Ukman | 09:55 AM ET, 07/06/2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Immigration and the Culture of Solidarity – CIP Americas

Great piece by David Bacon. Scroll to bottom to link to earlier installments.


Immigration and the Culture of Solidarity

Posted on: 20/06/2011 by David Bacon

Editor’s Note: This is the final article of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. All articles in the series were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change’s report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, click here.

ONE indispensable part of education and solidarity is greater contact between Mexican union organizers and their U.S. counterparts. The base for that contact already exists in the massive movement of people between the two countries.

Miners fired in Cananea, or electrical workers fired in Mexico City, become workers in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York. Twelve million Mexican workers in the U.S. are a natural base of support for Mexican unions. They bring with them the experience of the battles waged by their unions. They can raise money and support. Their families are still living in Mexico, and many are active in political and labor campaigns. As workers and union members in the U.S., they can help win support from U.S. unions for the battles taking place in Mexico.

This is not a new idea. It’s what the Flores Magon brothers were doing for the uprising in Cananea. It’s why the Mexican left sent activists and organizers to the Rio Grande Valley in the 1930s, and to Los Angeles in the 1970s. All these efforts had a profound impact on U.S. unions and workers. The sea change in the politics of Los Angeles in the last two decades, while it has many roots, shows the long-term results of immigrants gaining political power, and the role of politically conscious immigrant organizers in that process.

Today some U.S. unions see the potential in organizing in immigrant communities. But most unions in Mexico, in contrast to the past, don’t see this movement of people as a resource they can or should organize.

What would happen if Mexican unions began sending organizers or active workers north into the U.S.? In reality, active members are already making that move, and have been for a long time. Yet there is no organized way of looking at this. Where, for instance, will the people displaced in today’s Mexican labor struggles go? In 1998, almost 900 active blacklisted miners from Cananea had to leave after their strike that year was lost. Many came to Arizona and California. In Mexico City, 26,000 SME members took the indemnizacion and gave up claim to their jobs and unions. Many of them will inevitably be forced to go to the U.S. to look for work.

Cananea miners and Mexico City electrical workers have a wealth of experience and a history of participation in a progressive and democratic union. They can help both workers in the U.S. and those they’ve left back home, building unions in the places they go to work. But to use their experience effectively, unions on both sides of the border need to know who they are and where they’re going, and see them as potential organizers.

SOLIDARITY and the migration of people are linked. The economic crisis in Mexico is getting much worse, with no upturn in sight. With a 40% poverty rate, the government still has no program for employment beyond encouraging investment with lower wages and fewer union rights. And since the maquila sector is tied to the US market, it experiences even worse mass layoffs than other Mexican sectors, with the waves of unemployed then crossing the border just a few miles away from their homes.

Six million Mexicans left for the U.S. in the NAFTA period, a flow of people that now affects almost every family, even in the most remote parts of country. Migration has become an important safety valve for the Mexican economy and also relieves pressure on the Mexican government. It uses the tens of billions of dollars in remittances to make up for social investment cut under pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Teachers’ strikes, like the one in Oaxaca in 2006, mushroom into insurrections because there is no alternative to migration and an economic system increasingly dependent on remittances.

Economic reforms and displacement create unemployed workers – for border factories, or for U.S. agriculture and meatpacking plants. Displacement creates a reserve army of workers available to corporations as low wage labor. If demand rises, employers don’t have to raise wages. In a time of economic crisis, unemployed people are used to pressure employed workers, making them less demanding, and more fearful of losing their jobs.

Displacement and migration aren’t a byproduct of the global economy. The economic system in both Mexico and the U.S. is dependent on the labor that displacement produces. Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on a recent visit to California, “You have two economies. One economy is intensive in capital, which is the American economy. One economy is intensive in labor, which is the Mexican economy. We are two complementary economies, and that phenomenon is impossible to stop.”

To employers, migration is a labor supply system. U.S. immigration policy is not intended to keep people from crossing the border. It determines the status of people once they’re in the U.S. It is designed to supply labor to employers at a manageable cost, imposed by employers. It makes the laborers themselves vulnerable, especially those who come through guest worker programs where employers can withdraw their ability to stay in the country by firing them.

The economic pressure that produces migration has a big impact on relations between U.S. and Mexican labor. Today, for instance, governments and employers on both sides of the border tell unions that support for labor supply, or guest worker, programs is part of a beneficial relationship. Any movement for solidarity has to address this corporate pressure. A union alliance with employers on immigration policy, based on helping them use migration as a labor supply system, creates a large obstacle to any effort to defend the rights of migrants.

Instead, U.S. and Mexican unions need a common program on trade, displacement and investment, which calls for increasing the security of workers and farmers, and reducing displacement and forced migration.

ANTI-IMMIGRANT policies were part of cold war politics in the U.S. labor movement. As late as 1986, the AFL-CIO supported employer sanctions, the section of U.S. immigration law passed in 1986 that essentially made work a crime for people without papers. They argued that that if undocumented workers couldn’t support their families, they’d deport themselves.

The growth of the cross-border movement coincided with rise of the immigrant rights movement. In the 1990s, as labor activists pushed for support for unions in Mexico, they also organized to repeal sanctions. First the garment unions called for repeal, then SEIU, the California Labor Federation, and others. They argued that employers used the law to threaten and fire undocumented workers to keep them from organizing unions. Unions trying to organize and grow began to see immigrants as potential members — workers who would strike and organize. They therefore opposed the idea of pushing Mexicans back across border, because they wanted them to become active in the U.S. They saw immigrants not just as a force on the job, but in politics. As people gained legal status and then became citizens, they could also vote and elect public officials who would act in workers’ interests.

Today, unions criticize the racial profiling law SB 1070 in Arizona for the same reason — not just that it leads to discrimination, but that it’s wrong to make workers leave.

In 1999 the AFL-CIO reversed itself and called for repealing sanctions, for amnesty for the undocumented, for protecting the organizing rights of all workers, and for family reunification. The federation already had a longstanding position calling for ending guest worker programs.

Gradually, unions have seen the importance of workers with feet planted on both sides of the border. This is an important part of building a culture of solidarity. Some unions, like the UFW, have gone further and tried to develop strategic partnerships with progressive organizations in the immigrant workforce, such as the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB). It has hired Oaxacan activists, fluent in indigenous languages, as organizers, and supported indigenous Oaxacan communities in protests against police harassment in cities like Greenfield in the Salinas Valley.

OAXACAN immigrants today are an important and growing section of many immigrant communities in the U.S., especially the rural areas where people work in farm labor. The FIOB is one of many organizations among Oaxacans that people have brought with them from their home state, or have organized as migrants on their travels. Many of its founders were strike organizers and social activists in Oaxaca and the fields of north Mexico. Years ago they saw the organizing possibilities among people dispersed as a result of displacement, but whose communities now exist in many places in both Mexico and the U.S.

For over half a century, migration has been the main fact of social life in hundreds of indigenous towns spread through the hills of Oaxaca. That’s made the conditions and rights of migrants central concerns. But the FIOB and its base communities today also talk about another right, the right to stay home. Asserting this right challenges not just inequality and exploitation facing migrants, but the very reasons people migrate.

According to the 2000 census, Hispanic American Indians (the category used to count indigenous Mexican migrants) in California alone numbered 154,000 — undoubtedly a severe undercount. These men and women come from communities whose economies are totally dependent on migration. The ability to send a son or daughter across the border to the north, to work and send back money, makes the difference between eating chicken or eating salt and tortillas. Migration means not having to manhandle a wooden plough behind an ox, cutting furrows in dry soil for a corn crop that can’t be sold for what it cost to plant it. It means that dollars arrive in the mail when kids need shoes to go to school, or when a grandparent needs a doctor.

“There are no jobs here, and NAFTA pushed the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” says Rufino Dominguez, former binational coordinator for the FIOB, and now head of Oaxaca’s Institute for Attention to Migrants. In the 1980s, Dominguez was a strike organizer in Sinaloa and Baja California. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.”

Without large scale political change most local communities won’t have the resources for productive projects and economic development that could provide a decent living. “We need development that makes migration a choice rather than a necessity — the right to not migrate,” explains FIOB coordinator Gaspar Rivera Salgado, a professor at UCLA. “But the right to stay home, to not migrate, has to mean more than the right to be poor, the right to go hungry and homeless. Choosing whether to stay home or leave only has meaning if each choice can provide a meaningful future.”

At the same time, because of its indigenous membership, FIOB campaigns for the rights of migrants in the U.S. who come from those communities. It calls for immigration amnesty and legalization for undocumented migrants. It campaigned successfully for translation and language rights in U.S. courtrooms, and protested immigration sweeps and deportations. The FIOB also condemns the proposals for guest worker programs. “Migrants need the right to work, but these workers don’t have labor rights or benefits,” Dominguez charges. “It’s like slavery.”

Today there is increasing interest among U.S. farm worker unions in activity in Mexico, much of it concentrating on workers recruited into H-2A guest worker programs. In the past, farm worker unions opposed the programs on principle, arguing that the workers recruited were vulnerable to extreme employer exploitation, and deportation if they struck or protested. Today unions like the UFW and FLOC argue that they can organize these workers to win contracts, better conditions, and protection for their rights. But this comes at a price. Some no longer call for the elimination of guest worker programs, which exploit far more workers than those represented by unions. And if unions recruit guest workers themselves, how can they then strike or use jobsite actions against the employers hiring them?

While farm worker unions and organizations like the FIOB disagree about guest worker programs, they do agree about the rights of workers. “Both peoples’ rights as migrants, and their right to stay home, are part of the same solution,” Rivera Salgado says. “We have to change the debate from one in which immigration is presented as a problem to a debate over rights.”

For many years the FIOB was a crucial part of the political opposition to Oaxaca’s PRI government, until the PRI was defeated in the elections of 2010. Juan Romualdo Gutierrez Cortez, a schoolteacher in Tecomaxtlahuaca, was the FIOB’s Oaxaca coordinator and a leader of Oaxaca’s teachers union, Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union, and of the Popular Association of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).

The June 2006 strike by Section 22 started a months-long uprising, led by the APPO, which sought to remove the state’s then-governor Ulises Ruiz and make a basic change in development and economic policy. The uprising was crushed by Federal armed intervention, and dozens of activists were arrested. To Leoncio Vasquez, a FIOB activist in Fresno, “the lack of human rights is a factor contributing to migration from Oaxaca and Mexico, since it closes off our ability to call for any change.”

During the conflict, teachers traveled to California from Oaxaca, and spoke at the convention of the California Federation of Teachers. Solidarity efforts between U.S. and Mexican teachers have barely started, but with the vast number of Mexican students in California schools, and with many immigrants themselves now working as teachers, the basis is growing for much closer relationships. Mexican teachers, members of Latin America’s largest union, have also organized a leftwing caucus that now controls the union structure in several states, including Oaxaca.

During the 2006 uprising, the state government issued an order for Gutierrez’ arrest, because he’d been a very visible opposition leader already for years. In the late 1990s he was elected to the Oaxaca Chamber of Deputies, in an alliance between the FIOB and Mexico’s leftwing Democratic Revolutionary Party. Following his term in office, he was imprisoned by then-Governor Jose Murat, until a binational campaign won his release. His crime was insisting on a new path of economic development that would raise rural living standards, and make migration just an option, rather than an indispensable means of survival.

Gaspar Rivera-Salgado believes that “in Mexico we’re very close to getting power in our communities on a local and state level.” He points to Gutierrez’ election as state deputy, and later as mayor of his hometown San Miguel Tlacotepec, and finally to the election of Gabino Cue as governor. The FIOB’s alliance with the PRD is controversial, however. “First, we have to organize our own base,” Rivera Salgado cautions. “But then we have to find strategic allies. Migration is part of globalization, an aspect of state policies that expel people. Creating an alternative to that requires political power. There’s no way to avoid that.”

FIOB presents an important example of another kind of binational organizing and solidarity that complements efforts by unions. It has a strong base among communities on both sides of the borders. It has a carefully worked-out program for advocating the rights of migrants and their home communities, discussed extensively among its chapters before it was adopted. And it sees the system as the problem, not just the bad actions of employers or government officials.

In Conclusion

THE interests of workers in the U.S. and Mexico are tied together. Millions of people are a bridge between the two countries, and their labor movements. A blacklisted worker in Cananea one year can become a miner in Arizona the next, or a janitor organizer in Los Angeles. Who knows better the human cost of repression in Mexico than a teacher from Oaxaca in 2006, or an electrical worker who lost his or her job and pension in 2009?

Raquel Medina, a Oaxacan teacher, spoke at the 2007 convention of the California Federation of Teachers. She did more than appeal for support for Section 22. She helped teachers from Fresno and Santa Maria understand why they hear so many children in their classrooms speaking Mixteco. She helped them see that the poverty in her home state, the repression of her union, the growing number of Oaxacan families in California, and the activity of those migrants in California’s union battles, are all related. She connected the dots of solidarity. Educators should go back to their schools and union meetings, she said, and show people the way the global economy functions today – how it affects ordinary people, and what they can do to change it.

The historic slogan of the ILWU (and of many unionists beyond its ranks) is “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Today, an updated version of it might say, “An attack on a union in Mexico is an attack on unions in the U.S.” Or it could say, “An attack on Mexican workers in Arizona is an attack on workers in Mexico.” Or it could say, “Organizing Mexican workers at carwashes in Los Angeles will help unions in Mexico, by increasing the power of those willing to fight for the mineros and SME.”

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist. His latest book is Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.

The Institute for Transnational Social Change (ITSC) is a hub for cross-border collaboration among key worker-led organizations (independent unions, worker centers, NGOs, and academics) in Mexico and the United States. The institute seeks to address the needs of a low-wage workforce that is often hard-to-reach – migrant workers, women in the garment industry, farm workers, miners, and other workers in industries dominated by highly mobile transnational corporations — and to increase opportunities for cross-border collaboration. The present report is part of a series of publications sponsored by ITSC. For more information about the ITSC, contact Gaspar Rivera-Salgado at UCLA,

To read earlier installments, click on any of the following links:

Growing Ties Between Mexican and U.S. Labor

The Rebirth of Solidarity on the Border

Labor Law Reform – A Key Battle for Mexican Unions Today

The Hidden History of Mexico/U.S. Labor Solidarity
PDF Download

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Texas Senate passes 'sanctuary cities' bill

What they couldn't get passed in regular session, SB 9 got passed in special session--a bill that legitimates discrimination and bigotry in the state of Texas and that will predictably violate constitutional rights of residents and citizens. It will have to ultimately get settled in lawsuits that will be very costly to our state that will take a few years to play out before this gets overturned. This legislation is toxic and hateful.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Jun. 15, 2011

Texas Senate passes 'sanctuary cities' bill

Dave Montgomery
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN — Embracing one of Gov. Rick Perry's top priorities, the Texas Senate voted 19-12 on party lines early Wednesday to pass a so-called sanctuary city bill despite impassioned warnings from the chamber's Hispanics that the bill will breed discrimination and make Texas "an unwelcoming place."

Senate Bill 9 would halt state aid to local governments that prohibit local officers from inquiring about immigration status. Sen. Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands, the bill's sponsor, said the bill would permit -- but not require -- officers to ask about citizenship or immigration status when they arrest or detain someone.

Under pointed questioning from Democrats, Williams defended the bill as a needed deterrent against criminal elements entering the country from Mexico and said it would help establish a coherent statewide policy.

"This is not about political parties, nor is it about race or hate or fear-mongering," he said.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, evoked memories of 9-11 in saying that the bill could help "provide some additional protection .. . from those people who are here to harm us."

But the chamber's seven Hispanics assailed the bill in an emotional round of speeches before the final vote, saying the measure would lead to racial profiling and harassment of Latinos.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the dean of the Senate, asked the Hispanic senators to stand.

"Look at these members of the Senate," Whitmire declared. "This legislation to will force them to prove that they are U.S. citizens. Members, we can do better. This is a sad day."

Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said the bill will result in "unintended consequences," resulting in expensive civil rights lawsuits because of racial profiling. He also predicted that "Texas will be viewed as an unwelcoming place" for immigrants.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, a former Marine, recalled being subjected to bigotry while growing up and warned that the bill would lead to discrimination against "anyone who looks like me."

"I shouldn't have to prove my citizenship because my skin is a little darker than yours," he said. "This bill is hurtful, it's ignorant and it's offensive."

To read the complete article, visit

© 2011 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Read more:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chamber outlines 'Steps to a 21st Century U.S.-Mexico Border'

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Chamber outlines 'Steps to a 21st Century U.S.-Mexico Border'

Posted Jun 9, 2011, 1:57 pm

Cristina Rayas
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce laid out a coordinated border plan Wednesday that calls for combined improvements in infrastructure, security, immigration policies and trade, instead of the current piecemeal approach.

The public and private investment in such a program is needed to create a 21st century U.S.-Mexico border that will allow both countries to be secure and to compete in the global economy, the report said.

"Our security and our prosperity intersect at the border," said former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, chairman of the U.S. Chamber's National Security Task Force, who unveiled the report.

"I am going to put an exclamation point around immigration reform," added Ridge, who called for cooperation across the partisan aisle in Washington.

The report said the Nogales Port of Entry, the largest gateway for fresh produce from Mexico, is a critical passage for other products and agricultural commodities moving between both countries. Action and investment in places like Nogales will be critical in improving the relationship between the two countries, the report said.

Such investment would be a "down payment" in the effort to create a "world-class border," said Patrick Kilbride, senior director, Americas, at the chamber.

The report said the Nogales West Point of Entry is currently in the middle of a $200 million expansion project. But that expansion will require as many as 200 border patrol officers more than the 300 currently staffing Nogales West, the report said.

"If it was your own business, if it was your own crossing, you would make the capital investment," said U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donahue at Wednesday's event.

The report also noted the need to give special attention to American businesses, American workers and those who wish to work in this country, to improve the current bottleneck conditions at the borders. Suggestions include a streamlined temporary-worker program, to make it less attractive for workers to enter this country illegally.

One industry greatly impacted by border policy is agriculture, a $10.3 billion industry in Arizona.

"Produce is one of the most innovative industries," said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, who was on hand for Wednesday's event in Washington. But time-sensitive produce can be bottled up at the border for as long as 10 hours, the report said.

Since farmers are now trying to serve a world marketplace, Jungmeyer said, there will always be plenty of fruits and vegetables in grocery stores. But whether that produce is mostly imported to or grown in the United States will be decided by the availability of labor.

The report is not meant as a criticism of either the U.S. or the Mexican government. Donahue credited Homeland Security with making a "Herculean effort" in this interdependent problem.

"The will is there, the intention is there... but there is more work to do," he said.

Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer welcomed the U.S. chamber's involvement.

"Given the clout of the U.S. chamber, they are going to have a bigger effect than the Arizona chamber," he said. "But that said, all state chambers have a role to communicate and expand this robust trade relationship.

"It's a win-win for both countries. And for states like Arizona, where Mexico is the largest trading partner, the positives that can come out of the report are even more profound," said Hamer.

Others said this report is repeating what they have been saying for years.

"It's great that the chamber is engaged in this, no question about that," said Nelson Balido, president of the Border Trade Alliance. "But this is nothing new. We've been telling people all along about this need to get moving."

Balido explained that nothing will give the United States a more immediate return than investing in both of its borders.

"We have to integrate security and trade. Not balance, integrate," he said. The chamber report is another tool to highlight and verify what his alliance has spent 25 years lobbying for, Balido said.

Pointing to this country's current economic straits, the chamber's report calls for U.S. and Mexican governments, businesses, and citizens to "think strategically about their common future," suggesting not enough has been done in alliance between all stakeholders.

"How we manage those borders says something about who we are as a nation," Donahue said in the preface to the report.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hispanic Population, Rising Faster Than Anticipated, A 'Huge Weapon' For Obama

A 'Huge Weapon' For Obama--or any party or politician, for that matter. One would hope that this would all be construed as an opportunity. Our leadership simply needs to embrace these indomitable, unrelenting shifts and begin working together--all of us--for a better tomorrow.


05/31/11 02:49 PM ET Updated: 05/31/11 07:40 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- The biggest political story over the past week didn't involve a bus tour, sordid tweets sent from a congressman's account or even the posturing over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Instead, it was the no-thrills release of a 16-page report by the Census bureau, which underscored a massive paradigm shift in how politics is conducted.

On May 26, the Census released what an official at the bureau described as "the latest, most up to date data on the Hispanic population in the United States." The numbers, culled from its 2010 survey, tell a remarkable -- albeit anticipated -- story: The Hispanic population is growing at a rate much faster than any other demographic.

"The new census data affirms that one of the great stories of the 21st century is the changing majority of America from a majority white country to a majority minority country," said Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of NDN, a Democratic-leaning think tank that has focused heavily on Hispanic issues. "From a national political standpoint it’s a huge development."

Currently, 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States (roughly 16 percent of its 308.7 million population), a significant increase from the 35.3 million Hispanics in the country in 2000. The 15.2 million difference accounts for more than half of U.S. population growth during that same time period.

And in some areas of the country, that ratio is even more pronounced.

In the South, for instance, the Hispanic population grew by 57 percent between 2000 and 2010, while overall population growth in the region during that same time period was only 14 percent. In the Midwest, the Hispanic population grew by 49 percent, more than 12 times the population growth of all other groups during that period. Hispanics doubled or more in population size in 912 of the United States' 3,143 counties. Only six of those counties showed negative percent change in the Hispanic population.

Gaming out the political ramifications of such a dramatic demographic shift is not an easy calculus. The Hispanic population is not monolithic; nor does it vote on singular issues, often prioritizing immigration reform below economic matters. What works as an electoral motivator in Florida may fall short in Illinois.

Operatives from both sides of the ledger agree, however, that a both Democrats and Republicans have a generation-defining opportunity at hand. But only one party seems positioned to take advantage. In 2004, 5.1 million Hispanics voted for Democratic candidates, 4.3 million for Republicans. In 2008, the ratio changed, with 7.8 million voting Democratic and 3.6 million voting Republican, according to data compiled by New Policy Institute.

"When you talk about Democratic secret weapon -- it isn't so much a secret because everyone sees it coming -- but this is the year it could come," said Carlos Odio, Deputy Director for the Latino Vote Program during Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. "No one ever expects the flood to happen, but there is so much room for growth. If Democrats and progressives really played this, it could be a huge weapon. The census reinforces that."

Hector Barajas remains acutely aware of the weapon. As a Spanish media spokesman for both George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign and John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign as well as communications director for the California Republican Party, he has watched the evolving relationship between the GOP and the Latino population from a front row seat. His post in California has particularly presented challenges, with the bulging Hispanic community forcing statewide candidates into a sharp political pull between demographic realities and conservative political pressures.

Recently, he's been making the rounds to various Republican Party entities, urging them to readjust the rhetoric and appreciate the trends, noting Obama's failure to deliver on key promises to the Hispanic community creates an opening. One part of his pitch includes a slide showing that even if all immigration into the United States came to a halt, the Hispanic population would continue to grow, with births inside the country rising at an even faster rate than net immigration.

"Every 30 seconds a Latino turns the age of 18," he told The Huffington Post. "There are about 11 million Latinos over the age of 18 who are U.S citizens and not yet registered to vote. 2.4 million of them reside in Texas, 2.2 million reside in California. Can you imagine if half of them got registered in Texas, how it would change the politics there?"

White House officials dispute those exact figures (the unregistered in Texas, they say, is about half that) but not Barajas' broader point. Demographic changes have, indeed, altered the electoral map, or at least given the campaign liberty to say that the map is more open than ever before. In recent weeks, a number of stories have referenced the Obama reelection campaign's plans to play in Texas in 2012. His Chicago campaign headquarters has a map of North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Arizona -- all growing or major Hispanic states -- tacked to the wall.

"Texas is a huge uphill battle," said Odio. "It will take a lot of outside players. I think it is doable. But it might not be a 2012 thing. It might be a 2016 thing … The tide has already shifted, and it's a gradual but accelerating process whose real impact will be seen, as with most things in campaigns, on the margins."

One of those margins is the simple conduct of the campaign itself.

As the Hispanic population grows, it also moves outside city borders. The top five fastest growing counties, in terms of Hispanic population, were Luzerne, Penn. (479 percent change); Henry, Ga. (339 percent change); Kendall, Ill. (338 percent change); Douglas, Ga. (321 percent change); and Shelby, Ala. (297 percent change). States where the Hispanic population doubled in size from 2000 to 2010 include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and South Dakota, hardly bastions of bi-coastal liberalism.

In practical political terms, such growth indicates that the structure of elections will become fundamentally different. Whereas the suburbs have served as traditional battlegrounds for national or statewide campaigns, over time, the competitiveness of those locales will change. As the minority population grows outside the cities, the pool of physical land over which the two parties will compete may shrink.

Already in Texas, Hispanic population growth has spurred a high-stakes debate over how to restructure redistricting in the state. Republicans, reading the demographic tea leaves, have tried to create a super-majority Hispanic district in the Dallas-Forth Worth area so as to confine the effect of their vote. Hispanic officials, who once salivated at the idea of a firmly held House seat, are now inclined to fight the plan.

"They see the potential to have more of these districts with 30 to 40 Hispanics then to get a supermajority one," said Moses Mercado, a Democratic operative in D.C. who advised John Kerry's presidential campaign. "The growth is unbelievable. Instead of one super district you will have four or five … The [census] numbers were above what everyone was thinking. It is extraordinary, the large growth. And you are already seeing the impact of it."

Recognizing that trend, the Republican Party has begun a broad discussion about how to stem the flooding of Hispanics away from the GOP.

Conservatives in California have used the 2010 gubernatorial defeat as a hook to debate whether the party could win back Hispanic voters by emphasizing cultural issues or if larger, tonal changes were needed as well. In Texas, the redistricting issue has overshadowed the news that local Republican lawmakers are calling for less punitive immigration laws.

Nationally, GOP officials stress that they are re-doubling the effort for Hispanic candidate recruitment. But even then, many voice concerns that if the Republican Party is to ride and not be overwhelmed by the democraphic trends, something more will be needed than superficial overtures.

"Good candidates, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, understand how they have to adapt their strategies and embrace different groups in their areas," said former Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla.

"Smart candidates will still run smart campaigns and embrace all ethnic groups," he added. "Those who don't get it will sing and dance around them, and the ethnic groups will understand they are recipients of just a little pandering."

Take a look at the census data below:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cinco de Mayo reflects best of U.S-Mexico ties |

Cinco de Mayo reflects best of U.S-Mexico ties |

Feliz 5 de Mayo, everybody!


Five ways in which Osama bin Laden changed the immigration landscape

The direct and indirect repercussions that the late Osama bin Laden’s actions in masterminding the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have had on the agencies, policies and attitudes affecting immigrants in the United States are far too many to mention in a short list. The attacks led to the dissolution of the federal immigration infrastructure at the time, to several legislative and policy changes, and to an increasingly enforcement-heavy and divisive immigration climate.

Here are a few of the major changes:

1) The end of INS, the beginning of DHS: Criticism of the decades-old Immigration and Naturalization Service, after it it was discovered that some of the 9/11 hijackers were here on visas that shouldn’t have been granted, led to the end of the INS in early 2003. The agency, which at the time governed all immigration functions from visas to border security, was replaced by the much broader Department of Homeland Security. Three sub-agencies within DHS were given authority over immigration matters: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (overseeing customs and border security, including the U.S. Border Patrol); U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, overseeing functions such as naturalization and the granting of legal residency; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is responsible for immigration enforcement in the United States, oversees immigrant detention and deportation, and is responsible for enforcement policies such as Secure Communities and 287(g).

2) The Patriot Act: Less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,” what’s referred to as the Patriot Act. This controversial piece of legislation expanded the federal government’s ability to conduct surveillance on Americans. Among other things, it allowed law enforcement agents greater ability to conduct wiretaps and to search telephone, e-mail, financial, medical and other records, as well as to conduct property searches without advising the owner. The law made it easier for law enforcement and immigration authorities to detain and deport immigrants suspected of being connected to terrorism and placed greater scrutiny on foreign students. It has long been criticized by civil rights groups, who have alleged misuse and constitutional violations and complain that Middle Eastern immigrants are singled out. Some Patriot Act provisions, including a “roving wiretap” provision, are set to expire later this month unless extended.

3) The REAL ID Act: This 2005 national security legislation that followed the Patriot Act revolved around establishing national standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards, but it also made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain asylum, and broadened the definition of terrorism-related activities that could lead to detention and deportation. There was also a border security component, most notably a provision that allowed the Department of Homeland Security to waive any laws, environmental or otherwise, and litigation standing in the way of border fence construction. A precedent was set in the fall of 2005, when then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff exercized the waiver authority in San Diego, allowing for lawsuits challenging the filling in of a deep canyon with dirt in order to build fencing to be thrown out of court. Other waivers cleared the way for additional U.S.-Mexico border fencing (much more of it, including a failed “virtual fence,” funded under the 2005 Secure Border Initiative); one REAL ID Act waiver authorized a roughly 470 mile stretch of fence. Immigrant advocates have long criticized border fencing as driving human smuggling into rougher terrain, leading to border-crossing deaths.

4) Increased immigrant detention and deportations: Under the Obama administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has carried out a record number of deportations. Behind these numbers are a series of ICE policies that kicked in after the agency’s creation in the wake of 9/11, policies that after the attacks focused on weeding out immigrants thought to pose a danger to society. Among these has been a push starting in 2003 to track down “fugitive” immigrants, people who missed an immigration hearing or ignored a deportation order. The embattled Secure Communities program, also intended to weed out people with criminal records (though many detained have lacked these) is another product of the post-9/11 focus on immigrants believed to present a security threat. In the intervening years, the number of ICE detainees has skyrocketed, as have government contracts with private detention contractors. While detention demand began ticking up in the late 1990s following policy changes, just between 2005 and 2008, the ICE detention budget tripled. In fiscal year 2010, which ended last Sept. 30, ICE deported more than 392,000 people, about half of whom had criminal records.

5) A rise in anti-Muslim attitudes: In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped to a record 481 in 2001, according to one news report. The number of hate crimes against Muslims hasn’t been as high since. However, Middle Eastern immigrants in the United States, along with other groups, have since felt targeted for numerous reasons. Among the many incidents in recent years have been a rash of protests against the building of new mosques in the United States, from the heated protests that took place in New York City near Ground Zero last year to smaller protests in places like Temecula. Earlier this year, an angry mob shouted “Go back home!,” among other things, to Muslims attending a fundraising dinner in Yorba Linda. Several non-Muslim Sikhs, who wear turbans, have also been targeted by mistake over the years, most recently two elderly men who died after being shot in March by an unknown assailant as they went for a stroll in their Sacramento suburb.

There are other ways in which the attacks of 9/11 changed life for many immigrants and their families, which we’ll explore in forthcoming posts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Boom Behind Bars

Selvin Cardenas's three months in the U.S. immigrant detention system began in the usual way, with a knock at his door. At 5 a.m. on Apr. 21, 2009, three men in suits spotted him through the window of his Houston home. "We're here for you," one of them said. "You're Selvin Cardenas. Open up the door."

Cardenas says he arrived in Miami legally from his native Honduras in 1990, at the age of 32, working aboard a ship. He moved to Houston and for nearly two decades lived there working as a pizza deliveryman, dishwasher, and truck driver. He has four kids born in the U.S., in addition to one born in Honduras, and when the agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) appeared, his instinct was to wake his children and say goodbye.

He didn't open the door, but after stalling and calling a lawyer, he decided to cooperate, in the hope that if they took him away without a fuss, they might not arrest his wife, whose immigration status was also precarious. He says the agents were civil throughout the encounter and didn't cuff him, but they did lead him outside and into an unmarked green Tahoe. They cruised around Houston for three hours looking for other potential deportees. Finding none, they drove him to ICE's Houston Contract Detention Facility.

Then, as quickly as ICE detained him, it released him. His freedom lasted about 10 seconds—the time it takes to walk from the ICE building on Greens Rd. to its neighboring building, the Houston Processing Center, a prison owned and operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CXW) (CCA). A publicly traded company, CCA is the largest private prison contractor in the U.S. ICE pays CCA about $90 a day per person to keep immigrants behind bars and to manage every aspect of detainees' lives, running its prison much as the government does. The main difference is that CCA locks people up for profit.

The private prison system runs parallel to the U.S. prisons and currently accounts for nearly 10 percent of U.S. state and federal inmates, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Those numbers rise and fall in response to specific policies, and CCA has been accused of lobbying for policies that would fill its cells—such as the increase in enforcement of regulations like the one that snagged Cardenas. Tougher policies have been good for CCA. Since the company started winning immigrant detention contracts in 2000, its stock has rebounded from about a dollar to $23.33, attracting investors such as William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, which is now its largest shareholder.

CCA has current contracts with ICE and other federal clients, as well as 19 state prison systems. Its largest competitor, the Geo Group (GEO), is slightly smaller, and together they account for more than $3 billion in gross revenues annually. The next-largest player, MTC, is privately held and does not disclose numbers, but the industry as a whole grosses just under $5 billion per year.

In Houston, ICE is paying CCA to hold about 1,000 alleged illegal immigrants while they are processed for potential deportation. CCA manages them until the moment they leave U.S. soil. If they are Mexican, it puts them in white CCA buses with tinted windows and drives them on its daily run to the Mexican border. If they're from somewhere else, it drives them across the road to the airport, marches them to an airline counter, and watches them fly away.

CCA declined interview requests but did answer some questions by e-mail and issued a written statement that outlined their strategy—to try to do what government does, but more efficiently. When the federal government or states want to build a new prison, they take as long as six years; CCA says they build theirs in 18 months, at less than half the cost. Despite their speed, they claim to meet and exceed public prison standards and point to the high marks their facilities have won from the American Correctional Assn., the main trade organization in the corrections community.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sen. Klein quotes letter calling Latino students 'gangsters' (UPDATED)

Sen. Klein quotes letter calling Latino students 'gangsters' (UPDATED)

This is downright offensive.

Charter school wait lists spark legislation

Important quotes from within:

"According to the Texas Charter Schools Association, about 120,000, or 2.5 percent, of Texas' 4.8 million public school students are enrolled in charter schools, which are public schools, usually run by nonprofits, that are subject to fewer state regulations.

A TEA report on 35 charters operational from 2006 to 2009 found that, because any nonprofit organization may submit an application to start a charter school, many "encountered substantial challenges resulting from founders' lack of experience in public education."

Fifty-five of the 289 charters granted since 1996 have ceased operation because of revocation or nonrenewal.

And at a time when a multibillion-dollar state budget shortfall has made efficiency in education the mantra, charters typically have higher administrative costs. According to the Texas Association of School Business Officials, from 2004 to 2009, an average of 11 percent of operating costs went to administration at charter schools, compared with about 6.7 percent for public schools with enrollments of less than 1,000."


Charter school wait lists spark legislation
With state oversight possibly stretched by layoffs, questions arise about increasing number of charters issued.

By Andrew Kaspar
Published: 10:23 p.m. Friday, March 18, 2011

An estimated 56,000 Texas students are on waiting lists for charter schools the kind of demand that prompts discussion and legislative proposals.

State lawmakers will soon begin considering bills that would chip away at those lists by authorizing more charter schools. But given the need for stringent oversight of these occasionally failed education enterprises, some question whether expansion is appropriate at a time when the Texas Education Agency — public education's chief regulatory body — has laid off about 10 percent of its staff.

State law caps the number of charters the State Board of Education may grant at 215, and there are currently 210 active charters.

House and Senate committees will take up bills related to raising that cap as early as Tuesday. The most ambitious would allow up to 100 new charters per year, with no total limit. A more moderate proposal would allow 10 new charters annually.

The number of campuses would presumably multiply by a number greater than whatever new cap the Legislature might ultimately authorize: Because charter holders may run networks of schools, those 210 open-enrollment charters currently encompass 520 campuses.

House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands , said he believes some upward adjustment of the cap will pass this session.

"There's a market for them," Eissler said. "We've got charter schools that have long waiting lists, and it's a very market-driven mode of education, which is promising."

According to the Texas Charter Schools Association, about 120,000, or 2.5 percent, of Texas' 4.8 million public school students are enrolled in charter schools, which are public schools, usually run by nonprofits, that are subject to fewer state regulations. In a kind of trade-off, although charters receive some public funds, they are not eligible to receive money from local property taxes or most state money for facilities.

Advocates promote charter schools as educational innovators for students who find their local public school inadequate. Many charters are tailored to a specific demographic or specialized academic program.

Detractors point to the think-outside-the-box philosophy of charters, which can bring nontraditional players to the education table and occasionally results in a trial-and-error approach that subjects students to the consequences of those errors.

Founders' credentials

The TEA is charged with monitoring and intervention when any public school fails to meet expectations. But spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe has said more agency layoffs could come this summer, raising concerns about the agency's ability to effectively monitor a new generation of charters.

"If a law passes to increase (the cap), then we do what we can to make it happen," said Suzanne Marchman, another TEA representative.

Lindsay Gustafson, public affairs director for the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said her organization is not unequivocally against lifting the cap but opposes the proposition at this time, given the state's budget woes and TEA staff reductions.

"They're already strapped, in looking at charters — oversight of charters and any time that they take to close charters is pretty significant," Gustafson said. "It's not an easy thing to do."

A TEA report on 35 charters operational from 2006 to 2009 found that, because any nonprofit organization may submit an application to start a charter school, many "encountered substantial challenges resulting from founders' lack of experience in public education."

The Texas Charter Schools Association was founded in 2008 to be an advocate for the Texas charter movement and to serve as a resource for charter operators, from the application process through day-to-day school administration.

"We've launched the first-ever comprehensive set of model policies for charter schools in the state," said David Dunn, the organization's executive director. The goal is to give charter operators the blueprint they need to run schools that are both effective and in compliance with state and federal laws, Dunn said. Raising the cap is one of his association's "top priorities" this session.

Rankings compared

First introduced to Texas in 1995, charter schools have received significant attention in recent years; the 2010 documentary "Waiting for Superman" — highlighting wait-listed children's agonizing experiences with the lottery system by which students are admitted to many charters — featured the highly successful KIPP charter school network, founded in Houston. President Barack Obama's Race to the Top education initiative encourages pro-charter reform.

But compared with regular school districts, a higher proportion of charter schools ranks as "academically unacceptable" — the lowest rating possible — under the state's accountability measures. In 2010, 11.1 percent of charters received the designation, compared with 1.4 percent of regular public school districts. Schools or districts that receive this rating for multiple years are subject to various sanctions, including potential closure.

At the same time, nearly one-quarter of all charters have the state's top rating of exemplary, compared with 18.5 percent of regular districts.

The TEA's latest round of accreditation will result in the revocation of four charters, and 16 of the 22 districts newly designated as warned or on probation are charters. The annual accreditation process is based on a district's academic performance and financial health, among other criteria. All four charters slated for closure are appealing. Fifty-five of the 289 charters granted since 1996 have ceased operation because of revocation or nonrenewal.

And at a time when a multibillion-dollar state budget shortfall has made efficiency in education the mantra, charters typically have higher administrative costs. According to the Texas Association of School Business Officials, from 2004 to 2009, an average of 11 percent of operating costs went to administration at charter schools, compared with about 6.7 percent for public schools with enrollments of less than 1,000.

In Austin, two charters illustrate the promise and pitfalls of such schools.

There is NYOS, a two-campus charter that has operated for 12 years and was ranked the fourth-best public high school in Austin last year by a Houston-based research group. And then there is SAILL, opened in 2007 and shuttered in 2009 as financial mismanagement led to one superintendent's ouster and the resignation of the entire board of directors.

Regardless of the challenges the state's charter movement has faced, students continue to migrate to the schools. Charters have made a net gain of more than 67,000 midyear transfers since 2000, according to TEA data.

As of the fall, 743 students were hoping their number might be called at NYOS, and at least 56,000 Texas children will watch the charter cap debate with a vested interest in the outcome.

Find this article at:

Arizona's Shock Doctrine? Children Call Out Legislators on Immigration Bills Defeat

Russell Pearce doesn't always get his way thank God. What a mean-spirited person.


The Huffington Post
MARCH 19, 2011

Arizona's Shock Doctrine? Children Call Out Legislators on Immigration Bills Defeat
by Jeff Biggers

Call it Arizona's Shock Doctrine.

And the children are the shock troops.

They dressed as firefighters, doctors, lawyers, police officers, pilots and scientists. They carried signs, including a 30-foot banner of colorful hand prints. They marched along the Arizona Capitol grounds, singing "This Little Light of Mine."

On the eve of the Arizona state legislature's historic vote today on a blockbuster array of radical new immigration bills, including a controversial legislative challenge to a US Supreme Court ruling for K-12 education access for undocumented students and 14th amendment birth rights, children from Tucson to Flagstaff held a symbolic sit-in on the Capitol lawn with a reminder that no one would suffer more from the draconian bills than state's youngest.

In a stunning defeat to Senate President Russell Pearce, every immigration bill was voted down by his own senate today, even though Pearce defiantly declared immigration was a state issue, not a federal one.

And for Pearce, he may have lost the battle, but the war over immigration in Arizona will continue to flourish. Despite the fact that Arizona has the lowest crime rates in 40 years, Gov. Jan Brewer has joined Pearce in turning immigration troubles into Arizona's own shock doctrine vehicle for their radical agenda.

"It took me a while on 1070, too," Pearce scolded his fellow senators, referring to last year's controversial immigration bill that is currently in the courts. "I introduced it in 05, 06, 07, 08, 09 and 2010 before we had a governor that would sign it. And we've become the envy of this nation with 25 states writing legislation modeled after 1070."

Pearce learned a lesson today, though.

"Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students," Arizona native and labor leader Cesar Chavez once reminded the nation. "What better books can there be than the book of humanity?"

On the heels of an unforgiving year of outrageous state rebellion, children in Arizona have had to create their own book of humanity -- if only to defend their state's diverse heritage and basic human rights.

As part of the Repeal Coalition campaign in Arizona, a volunteer grassroots organization that is calling for the end to all hateful, anti-immigrant legislation and for the Repeal of SB1070 and other anti-immigrant laws, the children and youth opened a stunning new chapter in the on-going saga of an Arizona state legislature gone wild.

Last year's anti-immigrant bill earned Arizona's right-wing legislature the reputation as the "meth lab of democracy."

Just ask the kids: One banner simply asked, "Russell Pearce: Why do You Hate Arizona's Youth?"

Even some of Arizona's most conservative CEOs and Chamber of Commerce stalwarts wrote the legislature last week that they "strongly believe it is unwise for the Legislature to pass any additional immigration legislation, including any measures leaving the determination of citizenship to the state."

For Arizona Republic columnist E. J. Montini, the upcoming vote amounts to a "legislators wage war on children."

And not just undocumented children. Already ranked at the bottom of funding per pupil nationwide, Arizona's legislators singled out education for the deepest cuts in their budget yesterday, including a 26 percent reduction in university funding and a 7 percent reduction in K-12.

Catch your breath: Here's a brief rundown of the immigration bills from the Arizona Republic that failed in the Senate today:

- Senate Bill 1222 would require public-housing operators to evict anyone who allows an illegal immigrant to live with them, as well as require proof of legal status to receive any public benefits.

- SB 1012 would allow the Arizona Department of Public Safety to conduct fingerprint-background checks on only individuals who can prove that they are U.S. citizens or legally eligible to work in the state. The state-issued fingerprint-clearance cards are required for a variety of jobs and work permits.

- Senate Concurrent Resolution 1035 would ask voters to change the state Constitution to prohibit any state official or agency from using a language other than English for official communications. Individuals could ask that communications be conducted in a second language, but the state doesn't have to adhere to the request.

The full Senate is also expected to vote in the coming days or weeks on broader immigration-related measures, including SB 1611, which makes several changes to immigration law, including preventing children not born in the U.S. from attending school, prohibiting illegal immigrants from driving or buying a car, and denying illegal immigrants the ability to obtain a marriage license in Arizona.

Other pending bills include SB 1405, which would require hospitals to check the legal status of a patient if he or she was unable to show proof of health insurance, and SB 1308 and SB 1309 - the "birthright citizenship" measures.

"These bills will be back again next year," one state senator warned.

The final showdown in Arizona has yet to come.