Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arizona Introduces “Omnibus” Immigration Bill

SB 1070 should watch out. Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce has a new pet that he’s nurturing, a bill numbered SB 1611 that, if passed, would likely take SB 1070’s place as the symbol of harsh anti-immigrant legislation.

The bill, which the state senator called an “omnibus” immigration bill, the Arizona Capitol Times reported, would bar children from K-12 education if they couldn’t produce a U.S.-issued birth certificate or naturalization document. It would forbid undocumented immigrants from driving in the state or accessing public benefits. Folks who are caught driving would face a month of jail time and would have to turn over the car they’re driving.

The bill also seeks to crack down on the immigrant community’s allies by making it a Class 1 misdemeanor if a public employee failed to report violations of national immigration laws—such a violation is currently a Class 2 misdemeanor. Identity theft would result in 180 days of jail time. SB 1611 would also bar undocumented immigrants from enrolling in community colleges, entirely. It also requires Arizona businesses to use E-Verify, a federal immigration database rife with holes and flaws. Lastly, SB 1611 would require that the state attorney general sanction any business that does not make use of the database. Companies would be forced to get with the program or face suspension of their business license.

Pearce introduced the legislation Monday afternoon.

“This is clean-up,” Pearce told Capitol Media Services. SB 1611 was approved by a rules committee yesterday and is set for a hearing today.

SB 1611 joins a host of other anti-immigrant bills that Arizona immigrant rights groups are trying to fight back. Arizona is also considering legislation that would force hospitals to demand a person’s immigration papers before they could be granted non-emergency care, and is considering a separate birthright citizenship bill that would only give a new state birth certificate to those born in Arizona who had at least one green card-holding or citizen parent. The two birthright citizenship bills, SB 1308 and 1309, and SB 1405, which Border Action Network says “attempts to turn hospital workers into immigration officers,” are set to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee today at 2pm.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups including Puente, Somos America, the Arizona Advocacy Network and Border Action Network is organizing a gathering outside the Arizona State Capitol to respond to these bills.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Texas Republican: 'Intentional ambush' of ICE agent is a 'game changer' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Texas Republican: 'Intentional ambush' of ICE agent is a 'game changer' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Yes it is a game changer but who or what changed the game? The public needs and deserves more details on the slaying of this agent--his intentions, activities, whereabouts, etc..


Texas Republican: 'Intentional ambush' of ICE agent is a 'game changer' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Texas Republican: 'Intentional ambush' of ICE agent is a 'game changer' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

Yes it is a game changer but who or who changed the game? The public needs and deserves more details on the slaying of this agent--his intentions, activities, whereabouts, etc..


Friday, February 11, 2011

Join Amigos in call to release 3 year old from immigration detention

Join Amigos in call to release 3 year old from immigration detention

We urge you to join us in the bi-national effort to release the 3 year old, Heidi Frayre and her uncle Juan Manuel Frayre from immigration detention.  Addresses follow.

Honorable Secretary Napolitano:

Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez, a U.S. based organization located in the El Paso, TX, Las Cruces, NM and Juarez, Chihuahua tri-state area, join Chihuahua-based groups working to end gender violence, in denouncing the U.S. immigration detention of three year old, Heidi Frayre and her uncle, Juan Manuel Frayre, who fled Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua for their lives and are seeking political asylum in the U.S.  Heidi Frayre is currently held at the St. Michael's Home for Children operated by Catholic Charities in Houston, which holds juvenile immigrants in their custody on behalf of the U.S. Office of Refugee and Resettlement.  Juan Manuel is currently detained at the Otero Detention Center in Chaparral, New Mexico.  Heidi is the daughter of a feminicide victim in Ciudad Juarez, Rubí Frayre, one of countless women and girls murdered in this City since 1993.
Adding to this tragedy is the brutal murder of Rubi's mother and Heidi's grandmother, Marisela Escobedo killed on December 16, 2010.  Marisela was staging a 24/7 protest in front of the Chihuahua Governor's palace asking for the apprehension of Rubi's murderer, Sergio Rafael, Rubi's husband, who was earlier released from State custody.  Marisela was shot in the head at point blank range and the tragedy was documented on security cameras from the Governor's palace. Below is a detailed account of these two tragic deaths.

We respectfully request, Secretary Napolitano, that Heidi Frayre and Juan Manuel Frayre be released to relatives in El Paso, Texas, as they await information on their political asylum cases. They are not a flight risk to return to Mexico and they have family in El Paso, TX, where Juan Manuel's brother, who also sought political asylum has been released to family members in El Paso.  This family has suffered enough tragedies.

As an organization that has worked with and supported Mexican NGOs since 2001, we also ask the U.S. government to revise its immigration policy that excludes most Mexicans from receiving refugee status. We fear for the lives of the many activist women who have worked long and hard to obtain justice for the families of women like Rubí and Marisela. Several other activist women were recently killed in Ciudad Juarez like Susana Baez and Josefina Reyes who denounced Mexican military abuses and the feminicides.

Due to the failure and disregard of both the Mexican state and federal governments, Marisela was murdered for asking for justice for her daughter Rubí.

"I am not going to move from here until they detain the killer of my daughter" was the declaration of Marisela before putting in place her small campsite in front of the Cross of Nails NOT ONE MORE in Chihuahua City. She was prepared to spend Christmas and New Years in this emblematic place, where, the past November 25th, she participated in
a demonstration with the mothers of Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for our Daughters) to hang on the cross, the names of the more than 300 women who have been killed in the state of Chihuahua in 2010 alone.

Rubí was 16 year old when she was killed by Sergio Rafael in August, 2008. After her corpse was found in a lot together with the bones of pigs, the mother of Rubí, Marisela, a retired nurse, dedicated here life to seeking justice for her daughter, by becoming a human rights defender.

The same day that the Secretary of State, Francisco Blake Mora, asked citizens to "reject fear to fight the criminals", Marisela was killed in front of the doors of the Palace of Government in Chihuahua City, while she was engaged in her peaceful and indefinite protest to demand that the authorities detain the killer of her daughter Rubí.

Marisela not only rejected fear, she walked for days from the office of the prosecutor to the judicial center in Juarez to demand punishment for the killer of her daughter. She always walked with her 3 year old granddaughter Heidi in a carriage and a placard with the picture of her daughter Rubí. An oral trial freed the killer, shaming the system of justice.

Marisela, a tireless fighter, together with the lawyers of the Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (Center for Human Rights of Women) succeeded in obtaining an appeal tribunal (made up of 3 magistrates) who would overturn the decision of the judges.  She succeeded in obtaining a sentence against Sergio Rafael, the confessed murderer, condemning him finally to 50 years in prison.

"I am tired of doing their work, now let them do theirs" said Marisela. However, while the authorities never managed to find Sergio Rafael, Marisela, with her own resources, found him in Zacatecas and advised the Attorney General of Chihuahua, who alleged, that because of bureaucratic  procedures, they could not detain him.

The Attorney General of the state of Chihuahua informed the mother that, together with the Attorney General of Mexico, "they would keep seeking the killer of her daughter over the whole country." They never found him.

For two years, she traveled the country. She returned to Zacatecas, and went to Mexico City where she asked for an audience with President Calderon and with Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez. Both refused to see her. She spoke with authorities in the federal prosecutor's office who promised to search for the killer of her daughter. They never found him.

Days before being murdered, she turned up at an event where she met the Governor of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte and she took out a placard that said "justice, a privilege of
governments". The request angered the governor, as was noted by various local journalists. The governor scolded her and treated her with contempt. Later, she succeeded n getting an interview with the state attorney of Chihuahua who promised her that he would review her case.

Lucha Castro, coordinator of the Center for the Human Rights of Women declared, "at this time, we cannot ignore any line of investigation including a crime by the state because Marisela was not going to stop until they detained the killer of her daughter."
Marisela died at the doors of the Palace of Government (is this right? The Governor's Palace) and in front of the cross of nails that was placed by the group, Mujeres de Negro (Women in Black) and the mothers of the young women killed in the state of Chihuahua. Marisela was killed for asking for justice.


Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Senator Jeff Bingaman
703 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Mexican City’s Troubles Reshape Its Families

Telma Pedro Córdoba, with her children, Jesús and Lizette, heads a family in Ciudad Juárez.

Published: February 9, 2011

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Telma Pedro Córdoba could have left this blood- and bullet-marked city when she lost her husband to a drive-by shooting in 2009, or when an injury kept her mother from factory work, or when gunmen killed a neighbor in front of a friend’s 3-year-old son a few months ago.

Instead, she has stayed. Her tiny one-bedroom home, decorated with carefully done red and silver stenciling, is shared with her mother, grandmother, sister, younger brother and two children. In local slang, unlike their neighbors whose abandoned homes are now stripped of even windows, they have become a “familia anclada,” a family anchored to Ciudad Juárez.

Not long ago, the phrase hardly existed here in this city of overnight truck drivers and baby-faced factory workers from afar. But over the past several years, the forces of drug violence and recession have reshaped both the city’s character — from loose and busy to tight-knit and cautious — and its demographics.

Decades of growth have been replaced by exodus. The city has lost nearly 20 percent of its population in the past three years, or about 230,000 people, according to one academic estimate. And new government figures and interviews suggest that the men who once arrived in waves are departing in larger numbers than women.

The result is a city with more families like the Pedros: multigenerational, led by women and with several children under 14.

Demographers say the shift has accelerated in the past year not just in Chihuahua, the state where Ciudad Juárez is the biggest city. The proportion of women also grew last year in Tamaulipas, a state that is home to some of the most gruesome recent killings. There, and in Baja California, the state that includes Tijuana, the percentage of families with young children has also spiked, even as it has remained stable nationwide.

“It’s a combination of three things,” said Carlos Galindo, a demographer and adviser to Mexico’s National Population Council. “It’s harder to find a job, migration across the desert is traditionally a thing that men do, and then there’s the violence” driving many men to leave.

For Ciudad Juárez, the imbalance is not without precedent. In the 1970s and ’80s, when electronics manufacturers started the factory, or maquiladora, boom, women flooded the labor market here for low-paying jobs requiring precise handiwork, outnumbering men by five to one on some assembly lines.

Men later followed, pulling equal with women in total population and at factories. Now, though, according to government labor surveys and private sector data, women seem to be edging back into the majority and increasing their presence at maquiladoras.

It is largely a measure of perseverance, not prosperity. In interviews across this sprawling city, women described male departures, or deaths, and a life of adaptation for the families that remained.

Brenda Noriega, 31, lives in the city’s northwestern corner, on a dirt road that abuts the fence separating Ciudad Juárez from El Paso, Tex. On a recent morning, she needed both hands to count the men in her family who had returned to Durango, their home state. “Eight,” she said finally, sitting outside her small blue house with her two children, ages 12 and 13. “Eight uncles and grandfathers have gone in the past year.”

Her husband still has a job, a circumstance that explained why they stayed, she said. Indeed, for many families, work or the lack of it has been as much of a motivator for migration as violence.

The global recession has pummeled this place. From 2008 to the middle of last year, the city’s maquiladoras cut 30 percent of their work force, or about 72,000 jobs.

Some of those positions are returning. José L. Armendáriz Bailón, president of the local maquiladora association, said 20 of the largest factories were rehiring. But unemployment in the city, at 7 percent, still remains above the official national rate of about 5 percent, though either figure would be envied in the United States, and some economists contend that the Mexican average is actually higher than reported.

Either way, it remains far above what longtime residents like Ms. Pedro associate with the city. When she came to Ciudad Juárez 14 years ago from Oaxaca State, work was as common as dust. “All you had to do was walk down the street, and there’d be a job,” she said. “Walk a little farther and there’d be another job.”

Ms. Pedro, who is 30, met her husband in 1999, at the factory where they both worked. He was a security guard with light skin and broad shoulders. She was cute, calm and quick to giggle. In pictures, he towers over her, holding her close, with a smile as playful as her own.

They married quickly and had two children: Lizette, 10, and Jesús, 8. When they moved into a growing neighborhood to the south six years ago — with street names like Democracy and Patriotism — they left their doors unlocked, she said, and rarely worried about the children.

Those memories help keep her here when she thinks of her husband, shot dead in a car with fellow employees on his way home from work, or when she hears the gun battles that frequently punctuate the desert nights. Like many women at the head of familias ancladas, she said she believed that the current horrific period was an anomaly that would pass.

Prof. María del Socorro Velázquez Vargas, a sociologist at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, said some residents were also finding rays of hope in the present. Citing a rise in optimism in the university’s most recent local survey from January, she said people had been encouraged by a newfound unity among neighbors.

“People don’t have faith in government,” Professor Velázquez said, during a week when the federal police shot and killed two unarmed residents in a botched raid. “They have faith in their neighbors.”

Elected officials are investing in the kinds of social hubs long described as a necessary antidote to gangs. A candy-colored children’s museum is about to open in the main park here. Government crime statistics published in the past week show that homicides in the city fell to 98 in January, down from 166 in December and the record highs of more than 300 in October and August.

But in a city known for loose connections, what little faith there is seems to be springing from the residents’ own self-reliance: the five boulders that block an entrance to one neighborhood; the additional guard dogs bought communally by another; the bodega owners in several areas who have stayed open by disguising their stores, hiding them from extortionists by painting them white to look like houses.

Then there is the activism, often led by women, that has become increasingly creative. One group of women can be seen riding pink motorcycles into poor neighborhoods to offer assistance every Sunday.

Still, adaptation also comes in more ominous forms. There is little doubt that residents living through such carnage — with about 7,000 killed here since 2008 — are growing accustomed to blood and gore.

Crime scenes are a regular part of daily life, and so is indifference. In one recent instance, children giggled just yards from a man stabbed and left dead in a dusty alley. A day earlier, in a supermarket parking lot near a shootout that left three people dead, shoppers glanced toward the yellow police tape, then moved on as if it were a fender bender.

“I don’t think it’s strength,” said Celia Faong, 40, as she placed groceries in the back of her dented gold Chevy, near her 3-year-old son. “It’s necessity.”

She, too, is the head of a familia anclada. After her husband was killed seven months ago, she said, she stayed in Ciudad Juárez rather than return to Durango, just to the south of Chihuahua, because the laundry service she ran from home supported her children and her extended family.

It was a common Juárez story, of responsibility and economics trumping danger. Mexican men are expected to keep moving to improve their circumstances, said Mr. Galindo, the demographer, but for women, home life is knottier and harder to transport.

People like Ms. Faong and Ms. Pedro plan to stay. Even though, in Mrs. Pedro’s case, it means guarding her children with a fence of discarded wooden pallets, in a hollowed-out neighborhood where a blue plane filled with federal police officers can often be seen landing in the distance, ready to make war.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Virtual Warfare Escalates on U.S.-Mexico Border

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (IPS) - In the quiet desert community of Nomirage, located just 20 kilometres east of San Diego, the sounds of impending war creep over the silent landscape.

Armed with a 100-million-dollar budget and over 1,000 acres of desert space, Brandon Webb, ex-Navy Seal and chief executive officer of the San Diego-based firm Wind Zero Inc., is forging ahead with plans for a law-enforcement and military-training facility, which, once completed, will be capable of firing a whopping 57,000 bullets on an average day.

According to Bill Conroy, a correspondent at Narco News specialising in U.S.-Mexico border issues, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favour of the proposed garrison in late December, despite strong opposition from community groups.

Featuring mock-up urban environments, live-fire training houses, helicopter landing pads, an airstrip and a 9.8- kilometre racetrack, Wind Zero's new endeavour boasts all the elements of full-scale U.S. military centres in warzones, such as the Kirkush Training base located 112 kilometres east of Baghdad.

The facility bears a striking resemblance to a project launched by the private paramilitary contractor Blackwater in 2006, which was abandoned under torrential opposition two years ago. In an interview with the San Diego reader last week, Webb stated "There is a big conspiracy that we are a shadow for Blackwater but that's just ridiculous," adding that any similarities were purely coincidental.

However, one thing that cannot be denied, according to Conroy, is the shared interest of Blackwater, Wind Zero and one of their most powerful and affluent supporters, RAND Senior Management Systems Analyst John Birkler, in the "emerging arena of drone warfare".

Dehumanising the Immigrant 'Other'

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently operating about half a dozen Predator B (Reaper) drones primarily along the U.S. southern border with Mexico," Conroy told IPS.

"These drones do have deadly capabilities, but supposedly are now being used only for surveillance. In addition to the DHS, the U.S military also operates drones, though their uses along U.S. borders and coastal areas is less clear," he said.

Conroy added, "On top of all of this, the Mexican government is allegedly operating drones along the U.S./Mexican border. In addition, U.S. military bases all along the southern border are used as staging sites for drone operations."

Any lingering doubts about the unbridled proliferation of virtual surveillance technology are quickly dispelled by the fact that Wind Zero's new facility is fully equipped to provide instruction in operating Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Conroy writes, "The camp will feature a long airstrip and multiple heliports; a control tower and operations center; a 25,000-foot above-ground-level (AGL) air ceiling; and a location only 87 miles from a major border population center (San Diego/Tijuana) that is ground zero on the West Coast for the drug war."

For immigrants fleeing the brutal narco-violence in Mexico, which claimed over 15,000 lives in 2010 alone, the increased policing of the U.S.-Mexico border is nothing short of a nightmare.

Alex Rivera, a filmmaker whose work deals extensively with the crisis on the border, told IPS, "The image of these drones, which cost millions to deploy, flying over a desert where migrant women and children are carrying jugs through the blistering heat is reminiscent of films like 'Terminator'. In reality this image belongs not in science fiction but in the history books because it's been happening for years."

"Surveillance drones are only one dot in a constellation of technology being deployed on the border that includes heat- seeking cameras, sensors embedded in the deserts and thousands of border patrol agents," Rivera told IPS.

In fact, figures released by the DHS last year showed that the number of border personnel has increased from 10,000 in 2004 to over 21,000 in 2010.

"Border patrol has always used a kind of twin-logic that conflates the flow of drugs with the flow of people," Rivera added.

American Science and Engineering (AES) Inc., responsible for the notorious 'Z-backscatter' technology that is being widely deployed in international airports, coined the term 'organic contraband' to refer to both narcotics and human beings crossing the border.

"AES's old X-rays could only detect metal," Rivera told IPS, "but they've now been stepped up to be able to detect a bundle of marijuana, a bag of cocaine, and even human flesh."

"So if a person is being smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car – that would be considered 'organic contraband'," he added.

Organisations such as No More Deaths (No Mas Muertes) have waged an arduous battle against such dehumanising language that has given rise what they believe are inhuman laws.

"Increased surveillance technology over the last 10 years has been accompanied by a huge increase in the number of deaths at the border," Geoffrey Boyce, the media spokesperson for No More Deaths in Tucson, Arizona, told IPS.

"People are being pushed into more remote and difficult terrain," he said. "The length of a crossing has shot up from a day or two to an average six-day long crossing – and in the summertime we are talking temperatures from 100-120 degrees almost every single day."

Boyce added, "Although the government's law enforcement strategy is premised on the fact that increased difficulty at the border will reduce the number of people attempting to cross, we have seen the opposite scenario unfolding over the last decade."

Far from reducing the flow of immigration, Boyce said, surveillance has simply made the already grueling trek through the desert ever more deadly. In southern Arizona alone, No More Deaths monitors over 200 deaths every year at the border.

"This situation has been absolutely tragic and there appears to be no end in sight," Boyce told IPS.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mexico, Cradle of Corn, Finds Its Noble Grain Under Assault

GUELATAO, Mexico — Yank the husks off ears of corn grown in the mountains of southern Mexico, and you may find kernels that are red, yellow, white, blue, black or even variegated.

A detail of a native corn plant or mazorca is shown by Aldo Gonzalez. From climate change to the assault by agricultural corporations like Monsanto, native corn species are under threat. (Heriberto Rodriguez/MCT)

It's only one measure of the diversity of the 60 or so native varieties of corn in Mexico. Another is the unusual adaptation of some varieties to drought, high heat, altitude or strong winds.

Plant specialists describe the native varieties of corn in Mexico as a genetic trove that might prove valuable should extreme weather associated with global warming get out of hand. Corn, one of the most widely grown grains in the world, is a key component of the global food supply.

But experts say Mexico's native varieties are themselves under peril — from economics and genetic contamination — potentially depriving humans of a crucial resource.

Farmers are punished at the marketplace for selling native corn, and some types are dwindling from use. Perhaps more significantly, genetically modified corn is drifting southward and mingling with native varieties, potentially bringing unexpected aberrations and even possible extinction.

At stake may be more than just curious and exotic types of corn, grown in small fields alongside beans and then ground into tortillas after harvest.

"With climate change," said Aldo Gonzalez, an indigenous Zapotec engineer with long, flowing black hair who's at the forefront of protecting native varieties, "new diseases could occur, and the only place in the world where we can look for existing varieties that might be resistant is in Mexico.

"These varieties of corn might at some point save humanity."

Corn is not only a crucial crop in Mexico but also a symbol in a nation that's the birthplace of the grain. Maize likely originated from a grass-like, tasseled plant, teosinte, in southern Mexico. Scientists say humans domesticated corn 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.

In the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Mayans, gods create humans out of cornmeal, allowing the "people of corn" to flourish.

Through the centuries, varieties of corn adapted to different soils, altitudes, temperature conditions and water availability, and Gonzalez said the seed stock handed down in his village in this corner of the Sierra Juarez range in central Oaxaca state probably wouldn't grow well just a few miles distant.

"In the sierra here, there are varieties of corn that grow as high as 3,000 meters," Gonzalez said, or nearly 10,000 feet. "There are varieties that can be planted in swampy land or that you can plant in semidesert areas. They may not be very productive but they have allowed people to survive."

Native varieties of corn have fed humans for millennia in Mesoamerica.

"The elders understand the importance of various types of corn because they had their fields in different places under different conditions," said Lilia Perez Santiago, an agricultural engineer who works for a state forestry bureau.

Perez was among the activists behind a petition in 2000 to the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a panel created under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The petition claimed that genetically modified corn, altered to be pest resistant or herbicide tolerant, had drifted to southern Mexico and begun contaminating native varieties.

Four years later, the panel recommended to Mexico that it suspend modified corn imports and adopt strict labeling rules to allow the public to identify food products that contained such corn. Mexico ignored the recommendations, arguing that the ruling came into conflict with its obligations to open markets under trade pacts.

In late 2009, the government permitted a subsidiary of a U.S. conglomerate, Monsanto, to test genetically modified corn on isolated plots of about 240 acres in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas states in the north.

The head of Monsanto Mexico, Jose Manuel Madero, said at a news conference two weeks ago that the federal government demands further tests before allowing commercial farming of the genetically altered corn.

Madero said modified corn was in use in 20 countries around the world and would help Mexico raise agricultural productivity, cut its reliance on food imports and slash the use of herbicides, thereby protecting the environment.

Several scientists have joined a Mexican grass-roots campaign, known as Sin Maiz No Hay Pais, or There Is No Country Without Corn, to oppose the import or harvest of genetically changed corn.

"We have a nationwide survey that shows genetic contamination in Guanajuato, Yucatan, Veracruz and Oaxaca (states). We also know of some large-scale plantings in Chihuahua," said Elena Alvarez-Buylla Roces, a molecular geneticist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

She said lab analysis showed that some native varieties already carried altered genes.

"There is no possibility of coexistence without contamination," Alvarez-Buylla said. "One gene can make a large difference. Do we want to run the risk?"

Black-market brokers already sell genetically modified seed corn to farmers in the north of Mexico, opponents say, and bags of unmarked genetically altered corn have been found in the far south.

"The bags of corn are not secure. During transport, some bags break open and fall out. So there are many possible ways of contamination," Perez said.

The vast majority of farmers of native varieties select seeds each year to save for the next harvest, thus making what Alvarez-Buylla described as "active, dynamic genetic elements" prone to aberrations from genetic drift of altered corn.

Scientists don't know which varieties could prove useful for climate change.

"We don't really know if there is a variety with the most promise. Promise for what?" Alvarez-Buylla said, adding that future climate conditions are unknowable.

While the government maintains seed banks for native corn, Alvarez-Buylla said, "This is not a diversity that can be preserved in a laboratory."

Some farmers already are abandoning certain native varieties, unable to make a living harvesting their small plots.

"They get a price penalty for not growing uniform, large volumes of corn that the tortilla manufacturers want," said Timothy A. Wise, a rural policy expert at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Economic realities that make it increasingly unviable for farmers to grow native varieties may be as big a peril as genetic contamination, Wise said.

"If that traditional knowledge isn't passed from generation to generation and those farmers stop farming, then that seed variety is lost for economic reasons," he said.

In Mexico's cities, consumers have little taste for the native varieties of corn in their own country, offering no price advantage for the small farmers who are nurturing the nation's corn diversity.

"In urban areas," Gonzalez said, "they don't know about the varieties. All they know is that the dining room table must have tortillas on it."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pew Hispanic Center: Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As of March 2010, 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, vir- tually unchanged from a year earlier, according to new estimates from the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Re- search Center. This stability in 2010 follows a two-year decline from the peak of 12 million in 2007 to 11.1 million in 2009 that was the first significant reversal in a two-decade pattern of growth. Unauthorized immigrants were 3.7 percent of the nation's population in 2010.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the nation's work force, eight million in March 2010, also did not differ from the Pew Hispanic Center estimate for 2009. As with the population total, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the labor force had decreased in 2009 from its peak of 8.4 million in 2007. They made up 5.2 percent of the labor force.

The number of children born to at least one unauthorized-immigrant parent in 2009 was 350,000, and they made up 8 per- cent of all U.S. births, essentially the same as a year earlier. An analysis of the year of entry of unauthorized immigrants who became parents in 2009 indicates that 61 percent arrived in the U.S. before 2004, 30 percent arrived from 2004 to 2007, and 9 percent arrived from 2008 to 2010.

Other key points from the new report include:

* The decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants from its peak in 2007 appears due mainly to a decrease in the number from Mexico, which went down to 6.5 million in 2010 from seven million in 2007. Mexicans remain the largest group of unauthorized immigrants, accounting for 58 percent of the total.
* The number of unauthorized immigrants decreased from 2007 to 2010 in Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia. The combined population in three contiguous Mountain West states - Arizona, Nevada and Utah - also declined.
* In contrast to the national trend, the combined unauthorized immigrant population in three contiguous West South Central states - Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas - grew from 2007 to 2010.
* Although the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. is below 2007 levels, it has tripled since 1990, when it was 3.5 million and grown by a third since 2000, when it was 8.4 million.
The estimates are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, augmented with the Pew His- panic Center's analysis of the demographic characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population using a "residual esti- mation methodology."

Although the estimates indicate trends in the size and composition of the unauthorized-immigrant population, they are not designed to answer the question of why these changes occurred. There are many possible factors. The deep recession that began in the U.S. economy officially ended in 2009, but recovery has been slow to take hold, and unemployment re- mains high. Immigration flows have tended to decrease in previous periods of economic distress.

The period covered by this analysis also has been accompanied by changes in the level of immigration enforcement and in enforcement strategies, not only by the federal government but also at state and local levels. Immigration also is subject to pressure by demographic and economic conditions in sending countries. This analysis does not attempt to quantify the relative impact of these forces on levels of unauthorized immigration.

The report, Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010, written by Jeffrey S. Passel and D'Vera Cohn, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center's website: www.pewhispanic.org .

10 New Anti-migrant Laws in Arizona

Subject: AZ: 10 New Anti-migrant Laws Nurtured by Russell Pearce.

Despite a concession on the part of the Republican Party to the rabid anti-immigrant Senator Russell Pearce (Mesa, AZ), under which he was named President of the AZ State Senate under the condition that he would not write new anti-migrant laws like SB 1070, ten new anti-immigrants (see below and attached) have been sponsored in this year´s AZ legislative session, being the primary ones two pairs: HB 2561 and SB 1309 and HB 2562 and SB 1308. Below see five secondary ones. As President of the AZ Senate, Russell Pearce has been encouraging such laws as many of the sponsors are his Republican mentees.

From the sane side, Senator Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) has sponsored a bill that reaffirms the federal government´s role in enforcing immigration laws.

At the same time, the organization Arizonans for Better Government (ABG), with the support of the group Somos Republicans, are seeking to recall Senator Russell Pearce. ABG will need 7,756 signatures from residents in Pearce´s Mesa district by May 27. If the signatures are valid, the recall could go before voters this fall 2011.

In struggle,

Manuel de Jesús Hernández-G.
Member, Somos America-Phoenix, AZ
Chair, Rocky Rountain FOCO, NACCS


Abbreviations: HB = House Bill. SB = Senate Bill.

HB 2561 and SB 1309: Would define children as citizens of Arizona and the US if at least one of their parents was either a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent US resident and therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. PRIMARY SPONSORS: Senator Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, and Representative John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills; 27 other Republican lawmakers have signed on in support.

HB 2562 and SB 1308: Would seek permission from Congress to set up a system so states can create separate birth certificates for children who meet the new definition of a citizen and those who do not. PRIMARY SPONSORS: Senator Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, and Representative John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills; 27 other Republican lawmakers have signed on in support.

HB 2070: Would create a Homeland Security Force under the control of the governor, who could call up volunteers during emergencies or to protect ¨lives, property in this state or constitutional liberties.¨ Sponsor: Representative Judy Burger, R-Skull Valley. Status: Assigned to House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee; House Appropriations Committee.
HB 2102: Would require government-issued photo ID to obtain a fingerprint clearance card and proof of legal status and a photo ID to work in the service industry. Sponsor: Representative John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. Status: Passed by House Commerce Committee; goes to full House.

HB 2181: Would allow the governor to mobilize the National Guard to protect residents and their property from ¨unauthorized international border crossings and the related increase in deaths, crime and property damage.¨ Sponsor: Representative Carl Seel, R-Phoenix. Status: Not assigned committee.

HB 2505: Would eliminate children who cannot prove their legal status from student counts that schools use to determine state funding. Sponsor: Representative Carl Seel, R-Phoenix. Status: Assigned to House Education and Appropriations committees.

SB 1222: Would require proof of legal status to receive any public benefits, including public housing, from the state or local governments. Sponsor: Senator Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. Status: Referred to Senate Government Reform Committee.


SB 1078: Would require the state, counties and cities to enter into a written agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reimbursement of all costs before using law-enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Sponsor: Senator Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. Status: Referred to Senate Judiciary and Senate Border Security, Federalism and States´ Sovereignty committees.

RECALL OF STATE SENATOR RUSSELL PEARCE: Arizonans for Better Government, working with Somos Republicans: Group will need 7,756 signatures from residents in Pearce´s Mesa district by May 27. If the signatures are valid, the recall could go before voters this fall 2011.

Immigration reform makes cents

Immigration reform makes cents
By: Rep. Mike Honda
February 3, 2011 04:40 AM EST

House Speaker John Boehner’s recent selection of Rep. Elton Gallegly of California over Rep. Steve King of Iowa to head the Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee is one step closer to the kind of reform for which past administrations, including those of former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, had long called.

Both Republican congressmen may be opposed to the kind of reform that House Democrats call for. But Gallegly seems inclined to take a more reasoned approach. Especially if Democrats can explain the economic advantages to reform. And there are many.

Immigration brings formidable fiscal implications. Keeping immigrants here or sending them home can save or cost taxpayers dearly. Just count the ways that reform, which puts undocumented immigrants on the path to legalization, could foot our country’s finances.

First, any deportation plan for undocumented immigrants would cost our country’s gross domestic product a whopping $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years, according to a study by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Conversely, if we embrace comprehensive immigration reform, we could add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP over the next 10 years. The economy could also benefit from a temporary worker program, Hinojosa-Ojeda projected,by raising GDP by $792 billion.

Second, immigrants who become U.S. citizens consistently pursue higher-paying jobs and higher education, spend more and provide higher tax revenue. Just imagine what 12 million newly documented Americans could do for the economy.

The legalization process also brings economic benefits — like the retention of remittances. Workers send substantial portions of their salary to family members abroad, but reform could reunite families separated by our immigration system and keep monies in the U.S.

For example, total U.S. remittances to Latin America was almost $46 billion in 2008. Of that, Mexico received almost $24 billion. Reducing remittances offers obvious cash infusion for our economy, since billions of dollars now sent overseas would be spent instead on U.S. businesses — creating jobs and helping to revive our economy.

Third, by giving 2.1 million American students the opportunity to pursue higher education or military service, our government could collect $3.6 trillion over the next 40 years. The DREAM Act, which failed in the Senate in December but remains a bipartisan effort, offers a conditional six-year path to permanent, legal U.S. residence for immigrant youth who demonstrate good moral character and complete at least two years of higher education or U.S. military service.

Without the DREAM Act, about 65,000 students a year — honor-roll scholars, star athletes, talented artists and aspiring teachers — will graduate high school and then hit a roadblock. Instead of upward mobility and higher education, they will be forced to live in the shadows and work low-paying jobs.

Fourth, the Reuniting Families Act, which I plan to reintroduce this Congress, would allow all Americans to be reunited with their families — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender “permanent partners.”

The economic benefits of this policy cannot be overstated. American workers, with their families by their side, are happier, healthier and more able to succeed than those living apart from loved ones for years on end. By pooling resources, families can do together what they can’t do alone — start small businesses, provide care for the young and old, create U.S. jobs and contribute more to this country’s welfare.

Healthier communities have more expendable income and place a lower burden on government social services. This correlation is well substantiated — but it is up to us to make it a reality.

We understand that during tough economic times, the natural reaction is to close borders and look inward. Yet the irony of an anti-immigration sentiment, which fears job losses for Americans if more workers enter the U.S., is that it is fiscally prudent to legalize, insure, employ, reunite and educate our immigrants than to keep families apart.

This is a time when we must use every available resource to stimulate our economy and control government spending. To my fiscally conservative Republican colleagues, the onus is on you. Left to future Congresses, the number of undocumented immigrants will only increase and the visa waits will only get longer. Meanwhile, we will lose an opportunity to do what’s economically right.

The fiscal case is clear: reform now.

California Rep. Mike Honda serves on the Appropriations and the Budget Committees and is the Democratic senior whip.

Poll: Immigration enforcement divide

Interesting correlation. I quote from within: "There was a correlation between those who said their personal economic situation worsened in 2010 and those who expressed a fear of immigration." But there aren't any takers for the lion's share of so many of the jobs that Mexicans and other workers will take. Once can't help but deduce that while a small part of this correlation is based on reality, a very large part of this sentiment is based on the present anti-immigrant campaign that scapegoats them. This is a pattern historically that many scholars have written about.


Poll: Immigration enforcement divide
By: James Hohmann
February 3, 2011 08:26 AM ES

A poll out Thursday finds a strong partisan divide over how law enforcement should handle immigration. Democrats and Republicans disagree over whether federal authorities or local officials should take the lead on such issues, but the poll’s respondents seemed to all agree that the government currently does a poor job of handling immigration issues.

An already polarizing subject has become even hotter in the wake of an Arizona law signed in 2010 that cracks down on illegal immigration, the most controversial parts of which have been put on hold pending a court challenge from the Justice Department.

Transatlantic Trends, a project to study public opinion in Europe and North America, polled eight countries for the third year in a row about national attitudes toward immigration. The United States had the highest percentage of respondents — 67 percent — who said they would base their vote at least in part on a political party’s immigration stance, up 11 percent from last year.

Among Democrats, 66 percent think enforcement should be handled primarily by the federal government. A majority of Republicans — 53 percent — meanwhile, believe state and local authorities should take the lead.

Of the eight countries surveyed, the U.S. and Spain tied at 67 percent for the highest number of citizens who believe immigrants gain more benefits from the government than they pay in taxes.

The weak economy has swelled anti-immigrant sentiment. A narrow majority now says immigrants drive down wages for American citizens, and 56 percent think immigrants take jobs from natives. One-third of those polled said immigrants drive up crime in the U.S., up 10 percent from 2009. Half of Americans think only citizens and legal immigrants should have access to public schooling.

There was a correlation between those who said their personal economic situation worsened in 2010 and those who expressed a fear of immigration.

The study was sponsored by the influential German Marshall Fund of the United States, along with three other foundations. The German Marshall Fund is a nonpartisan public policy institution that focuses on promoting cooperation between North America and Europe.

Craig Kennedy, the fund’s president, called the findings “a wake-up call” for the governments.

“The survey shows that North Americans and Europeans have strong opinions about immigration policy, what works and what doesn’t,” he said in a statement. “But the survey also shows that the more one is exposed to immigrants, the more one feels positively towards them.”

There’s a positive long-term outlook, with 59 percent of American respondents saying immigrants are integrating well. But a racial divide exists: While 78 percent said second-generation Hispanics are integrating well, only 62 percent said the same about Muslim immigrants.

That’s still better than responses from Europe — in Germany, only 25 percent said Muslim immigrants are integrating well.

Europe faces many of its own immigration challenges, with a massive influx of immigrants of Muslims and others from the developing world. There’s additional tension about how much immigration policy leeway should be given to the European Union vis-à-vis the individual member states.

The survey was conducted by TNS Opinion, which used computer-assisted telephone interviews. About 1,000 Americans were interviewed from Nov. 10 to Nov. 21. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.

© 2011 Capitol News Company, LLC

Migrants – Victims of Crime, Not Criminals

Migrants – Victims of Crime, Not Criminals
By Emilio Godoy

MEXICO CITY, Feb 1, 2011 (IPS) - Although Central American migrants continue to face all kinds of abuses and even death on their way north through Mexico to the U.S. border, experts and activists have begun to see a slight change in approach to the issue.

"The changes consist of a new attitude towards Mexico in Central America, which has prompted the Mexican government to react," Leticia Calderón, a professor at the public 'Doctor José María Luís Mora' Research Institute, told IPS. "In addition, local authorities are reacting to the new demands."

Increasing numbers of kidnappings and murders of migrants, mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as they make their way across Mexico have spurred human rights defenders and academics to step up pressure on the authorities to take measures to guarantee respect for the rights of undocumented migrants and to clamp down on the organised crime groups involved in such activities.

An estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants from Central and South America cross Mexico every year in their attempt to reach the United States, according to estimates based on official statistics and figures from NGOs.

Along the way, they face the risk of arbitrary arrest, extortion, theft, assault, rape, kidnapping and murder, at the hands of youth gangs and organised crime, as well as corrupt police and other agents of the state.

"The issue has now been exposed; it can no longer be denied, at least," Fabienne Venet, director of the Institute of Dissemination of Studies on Migration (INEDIM), told IPS. "We want to see them adopt programmes to protect migrants. We want a response: investigation of crimes, access to justice, and protection."

Although the dangers faced in Mexico by undocumented migrants attempting to make it to the United States are not new, two high-profile incidents last year prompted an increase in efforts by activists to get the issue addressed.

The mass killing of 72 undocumented migrants, mostly Central Americans, on a remote ranch in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas in August made headlines around the world. The authorities blamed the massacre on Los Zetas, a criminal organisation that dominates the migrant kidnapping racket

And in December, some 50 migrants were kidnapped in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and have been missing since.

The route followed by the migrants runs south to north through the states of Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Tamaulipas. The Mexican government has identified 25 municipalities that are particularly dangerous for migrants along the way.

These incidents and complaints and demands voiced by the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras led the administration of conservative President Felipe Calderón to make diplomatic moves to calm the growing tension.

After the massacre in Tamaulipas, the government launched a strategy to fight the kidnapping of migrants, which has included the drawing up of a map of crime levels along the route northward, expediting investigations of kidnappings, tracing ransom payments, and providing assistance to victims.

Mexican and Honduran authorities also set up a high level security group to address issues related to immigration.

And since December, the Mexican Congress has been debating a migration bill that recognises the right of undocumented migrants to education, health care and justice.

But experts say no actual results have yet been seen. "The prevailing view of immigration as a national security issue is worrying," said Manuel Castillo, an academic at El Colegio de México, a college that specialises in the social sciences and the humanities.

"The mindset that sees migrants as criminals, rather than victims of crime, must be changed," he said.

According to the National Human Rights Commission, a government agency, some 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in 2010.

The U.S. government has shared information with authorities in Mexico, providing names, dates and ransom payments made by family members to save their relatives.

A U.S. government cable leaked by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks indicated that FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) agents freely interrogate undocumented migrants detained in Mexico, purportedly for counter-terrorism purposes.

"The changes are going to have an impact," Leticia Calderón said. "The law, which is the product of work by academics and officials, will make the government react."

Despite the magnitude of the immigration question in Mexico, no delegate from this nation is taking part in the three-day World Assembly of Migrants that opens Wednesday on the Senegalese island of Gorée.

The meeting is to adopt a World Charter on Migrants, which will proclaim freedom of movement, citizenship based on residence and not nationality, and equal rights between foreign nationals and citizens.

The Charter was first discussed at the Second World Social Forum on Migration held in Madrid in 2006 and at the First World Summit on Latin American Migrants in Morelia, Mexico in 2007.

"We need policies, more professional agents and officials, and shelters for kidnap victims," Venet said. "Strategies can be proposed at different levels of the public administration, including the regional level."

Some 400 migrants die every year trying to cross the U.S. border from Mexico, according to human rights groups. But there are no reliable estimates as to how many undocumented Latin American migrants die in Mexico on their way north. (END)

U.S.-Mexico Border Violence Is Diminishing, Napolitano Says

See post by Laura Carlsen that is critical of Napolitano.


U.S.-Mexico Border Violence Is Diminishing, Napolitano Says
By Jeff Bliss - Jan 31, 2011 11:10 AM CT

The U.S.-Mexico border is more secure than it has been in years, resulting in less violence and illegal immigration, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

U.S. border communities are not “out of control or overrun with violence,” she said today in a speech at the University of Texas at El Paso. “Illegal immigration is decreasing. Deportations are increasing. Crime rates are dropping.”

The Obama administration has been stymied by congressional Republicans and some Democrats in its efforts to propose immigration legislation to allow temporary foreign workers. Opponents say the administration should do more to stop illegal immigration before Congress considers letting more people into the country to work.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 779,000 illegal immigrants from the U.S. in the past two years, more “than ever before,” Napolitano said. More than half of the 195,000 people deported last year were convicted criminals, a 70 percent increase from the Bush administration, she said.

Napolitano also defended a decision by the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 14 to kill a Boeing Co. border security system using cameras, radar and other sensors. The program, which was known as Secure Border Initiative Net, “was consistently over budget, behind schedule and simply not delivering the return on investment,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

MexicoBlog Editorial: Napolitano in Texas: Tough Talk, Little Coherence

On Monday, Jan. 31, I crossed the border to hear Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speak at the University of Texas/El Paso. I wanted to see what she had to say after spending the weekend in a two-day fast commemorating a year since the massacre of 18 mostly young people in Villas de Salvarcar, Ciudad Juárez.

I expected a clash of realities. The Obama administration has unconditionally adopted the Calderon government position that together they are winning the drug war and all that´s needed is to stay the course. Both governments avidly support militarization, of the border and of Mexico, as the means to confront organized crime. Both governments write off human rights concerns and the bloodshed that the war on drugs has caused as a necessary cost.

Even so, I wasn't prepared for Napolitano's outright contradictions and utter lack of compassion for the tragedies being played out on both sides of the border. Not once did she mention human rights, the rise in hate crimes and discriminatory laws and practices against latinos, violations taking place in detention centers, families pulled apart, or the deaths in Mexico as a result of the U.S.-supported drug war--despite the fact that hundreds of people demonstrated that same weekend on the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso border calling for an end the violence.

Instead, she dished out praise for the Southwest Border Initiative and some tough talk to Mexico. "I say to the cartels: Do not even think about bringing your violence and tactics across the border. You will be met by an overwhelming response. And we are going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you, and that message extends to anyone considering coming across that border illegally whether a smuggler, a human trafficker or an unlawful immigrant seeking work."

Again, immigrants--many of whom leave Mexico because of the disastrous economic and employment situation created by policies like NAFTA--were lumped in with drug and human traffickers. Although Napolitano stated support for comprehensive immigration reform, she praised record deportations and announced that detention facilities would be greatly expanded as the Secure Communities program swept more immigrants into its net and into the lucrative private centers.

The Secretary interpreted the surge in organized crime violence in Mexico as "seeking to undermine the rule of law, especially in Northern Mexico" with no recognition that the surge correlates directly to the launch of the disastrous drug war model by the Calderon administration. There was no indication whatsoever of the responsibility that the United States has in causing and perpetuating this violence against Mexican citizens through the Merida Initiative, of the pain of El Paso residents whose families live the horrors of the drug war's laboratory, nor of the deep-rooted problems of impunity and corruption on both sides of the border that have created the crisis for cities like Ciudad Juarez.

Nor did she address the U.S. role in consumption, corruption and domestic drug trafficking. She mentioned efforts at controlling the flow of guns, but noted that laws leave little room for successful prosecution even when it's known where cartel guns come from. At the same time as her talk, the ATF announced a cutback in funds for the gun-runner program.

Napolitano created a huge contradiction when she at once emphasized that the border communities are among the safest in the country--a fact backed up by statistics and that goes back decades-- and in the same breath stated that "We must guard against spillover effects." The rundown of security build-up on the border made no sense in the context of the low levels of violence and yet she promised to dedicate even more resources to beefing up border security. Absent was any suggestion that instead of spending the $600 million on SWBI and additional $150 million on Operation Stonegarden, perhaps the nation could better attend to the high levels of poverty: in El Paso one out of every four residents lives in poverty and the mayor recently stated that three of every ten children go to bed hungry.

What kind of security is that?

Leading the Nation: A Texas Retrospective on Education Reform


How Immigrants Actually Reduce Crime - Newsweek

How Immigrants Actually Reduce Crime - Newsweek

Reading, Ranting, And Arithmetic
Good cops know the difference between dangerous criminals and illegal aliens, which is one reason violent crime is going down, even in Arizona.

by Christopher DickeyMay 27, 2010
Last Friday, supporters of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer posted an amusing little video on YouTube showing a Kermit-ish frog singing about the need to read and then going into a funk after screening clips of Obama administration officials admitting they opined on the recent Arizona immigration bill without having, well, read it.

Fair enough. You have to take a good look at the law to appreciate how truly sinister it really is. But Brewer and her supporters need to do their homework, too. A little basic research would have shown them that big cities with large immigrant populations are safer places to live.

The Walled-Off World - Israel to Mexico

This is not just a matter of random correlation being mistaken for causation. A new study by sociologist Tim Wadsworth of the University of Colorado at Boulder carefully evaluates the various factors behind the statistics that show a massive drop in crime during the 1990s at a time when immigration rose dramatically. In a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the June 2010 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Wadsworth argues not only that “cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in homicide and robbery,” which we knew, but that after considering all the other explanations, rising immigration “was partially responsible.”

To deny that reality and ignore its implications is likely to make life more dangerous all over America, diverting resources away from the fight against violent crime and breaking down the hard-won trust between cops and the communities where they work. Several police chiefs tried to make exactly this point Wednesday on a visit to Washington to talk about the Arizona law, due to take effect in July, and the bad precedent it sets. “This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”

This is not an ideological question, although some of the law’s supporters, including some cops, would like to turn it into one. Experience has shown that when immigrants think they’ll be nailed for immigration offenses, they stop cooperating with law enforcement. The intelligence needed to find and fight hard-core criminals, whatever their immigration status, will be harder to get. People who feel themselves singled out for discrimination will withdraw more and more into ghettos, increasingly marginalized from American life instead of integrated into it. Smart cops understand all this perfectly well.

But of course if you’re using frog puppets as part of a know-nothing campaign to convince people that immigrants bring crime to the United States like rats carrying the plague, you’re not going to want to listen to reason, and you’ll ignore facts like the just-released preliminary statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report, which appear to line up with Wadsworth’s research. What’s so striking about them, he told me in an e-mail, is not just that the FBI numbers provide anecdotal support for his analysis, but that they are “entirely inconsistent with the claims of politicians and the general public sentiment.”

Let’s start with Arizona.

Something scary is going on there, and it’s not just politics. It’s gangs that smuggle people and drugs and that sometimes settle scores among themselves by murdering and kidnapping. Most of those involved are of Mexican origin, which is why the Obama administration is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest to get more “boots on the ground” near the border. But nobody’s going to be manning a Great Wall of Arizona. The troop deployment, along with a request for a half billion dollars in new funding, aims at building what the office of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords describes as “a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.” Notice the focus is not on the illegal immigrants, who are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

That’s a distinction that raving pundits on the right have always had trouble making when they talk about an “illegal-alien crime wave.” And even some politicians who know better have been happy to stoke the fire. Thus Governor Brewer told Fox News and anyone else who’d listen, “We’ve been inundated with criminal activity. It’s just—it’s been outrageous.” Arizona’s Sen. John McCain said last month that the failure to secure the border with Mexico “has led to violence—the worst I have ever seen.” The president of the Arizona Association of Sheriffs, Paul Babeu of Pinal County, claims, “Crime is off the chart in this state.”

What the FBI chart actually shows is that the incidence of violent crime in Arizona declined dramatically in the last two years. After a spike in 2006 and 2007, the number in Phoenix dropped to 10,465 in 2008 and to 8,730 in 2009, which is lower than it was six years ago. Murders, which hit a high of 234 in 2006, dropped to 167 in 2008 and 122 in 2009. (Some lesser crimes may go unreported, especially if people are scared to talk to the cops, but police statistics only rarely miss a murder.)

The Phoenix authorities should be congratulated. But as Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris said last month, Brewer’s immigration law is just going to make his job more difficult. “It takes officers away from doing what our main core mission is, and that is to make our community safe, and instead tells us to become immigration officers and enforce routine immigration laws that I do not think we have the authority to even enforce,” Harris told the local Fox station, KSAZ. If you want to keep preventing violent crime, you do not waste your limited manpower on job-seeking “illegals.”

Did I already make that point? It bears repeating. The FBI numbers show that in the midst of the supposed crime wave, many other cities in the Southwest have had declines in crime similar to Phoenix. El Paso, Texas, just across the Rio Grande from a ferocious drug war in Juarez, where some 5,000 people have been murdered in recent years, saw almost no change in its own crime rate and remains one of the safest cities in the country, with only 12 murders last year. San Antonio saw violent crime drop from 9,699 incidents to 7,844; murders from 116 to 99. Compare that with a city like Detroit, which is a little bigger than El Paso and much smaller than San Antonio—and not exactly a magnet for job-seeking immigrants. Its murder rate went up from 323 in 2008 to 361 in 2009.

Indeed, some law-enforcement officers in Arizona’s own border towns scoff at the new law. The murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz by a suspected illegal in March, which added fuel to the furor behind the Arizona law, was the exception rather than the rule. According to The Arizona Republic, which cited the Border Patrol, “Krentz is the only American murdered by a suspected illegal immigrant in at least a decade within the agency’s Tucson sector, the busiest smuggling route among the Border Patrol’s nine coverage regions along the U.S.-Mexican border.”
Most of the immigrants are headed deeper into the country, of course, including New York City, which has seen its Mexican population rise by an astounding rate of almost 58 percent since 2000, for a total of almost 300,000 by 2007. And crime rates? New York City, with a population of 8.5 million, some 40 percent of whom were born outside the United States, is one of those jurisdictions that prohibit police officers from questioning people about their immigration status. Its murder rate plunged from 2,245 in 1990 to 471 in 2009.

So, yes, there are pretty compelling data to support the argument that immigrants as such—even presumably “illegal” immigrants—do not make cities more dangerous to live in. But what mechanism about such immigration makes cities safer? Robert J. Sampson, head of the sociology department at Harvard, has suggested that, among other things, immigrants move into neighborhoods abandoned by locals and help prevent them from turning into urban wastelands. They often have tighter family structures and mutual support networks, all of which actually serve to stabilize urban environments. As Sampson told me back in 2007, “If you want to be safe, move to an immigrant city.”

What other variables may be at work driving crime down? The ones most often cited are rising levels of incarceration, changes in drug markets, and the aging of the overall population. The authors of Freakonomics argue that the big drop in violent crime during the 1990s was a direct result of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973 and reduced by millions the pool of unwanted children who might have grown up to be criminals a generation later. Still, Wadsworth’s research and the recent FBI data reinforce the judgment that the vast majority of immigrants make our cities safer, especially when police know how to work with them, not against them. To blame all immigrants for the crimes committed by a few, and give the cops the job of chasing them for immigration offenses instead of focusing resources on catching the real bad guys, is simply nuts.

But that message just isn’t getting through. Polls continue to show that the vast majority of Americans think immigrants cause crime. Maybe what’s needed is a YouTube video of a winsome frog puppet getting us to repeat after him: “Immigrants don’t kill people, criminals do.”

Christopher Dickey is the author of six books, most recently Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force—the NYPD.


Good news from MALDEF. -Angela


SAN ANTONIO, TX – Today, MALDEF welcomed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Vicente v. Barnett, upholding an Arizona jury verdict against a vigilante rancher operating along the Arizona-Mexico border. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the jury’s decision that the vigilante was liable for assaulting a group of immigrants he found on public land. As a result of today’s ruling, the rancher will be forced to pay approximately $87,000 in damages.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the rancher, Roger Barnett, was not entitled to claim self defense, because he admitted that none of the migrants he assaulted had threatened or attacked him. The Ninth Circuit also upheld the jury’s award of punitive damages against Barnett.

"We are very pleased with the Ninth Circuit's verdict. Today's ruling sends the strong message that vigilantes will not be tolerated in Arizona" stated David Hinojosa, MALDEF's Southwest Regional Counsel and attorney in the case.

"This case was tried in Tucson in front of Chief Judge John Roll, who was tragically killed in the recent attack on U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords," stated Nina Perales, MALDEF Director of Litigation. "We are pleased to have secured some justice for our clients, and to have preserved the ruling in a case in which Chief Judge Roll served so ably and fairly," continued Perales.

Prior to Barnett's attack, the plaintiffs had been resting on the ground near Douglas, Arizona. Barnett was armed with a gun – a semi-automatic .45 – and was accompanied by a large dog. He held the group captive, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a woman as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground.

Today's ruling marks the second successful case challenging Roger Barnett's vigilante attacks along the border. In September 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a jury award of close to $100,000 in damages for a family of Latino U.S. citizens who were assaulted by Barnett on state-owned land. In that case, Barnett held the group at gunpoint with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them and threatened to kill them all, including two girls aged 9 and 11.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel stated "This decision vindicates constitutional guarantees for all. Even in Arizona, vigilantes do not have the right to harass and victimize peaceful migrants."

The law firms of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives P.A. and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP participated as pro bono counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Ninth Circuit decision can be found at:


Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.

© 2010 MALDEF
Los Angeles Regional Office
634 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014

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Free trade: As U.S. corn flows south, Mexicans stop farming

A flood of U.S. corn imports, combined with subsidies that favor agribusiness, are blamed for the loss of two million farm jobs in Mexico. | Heriberto Rodriguez/MCT

By Tim Johnson | McClatchy Newspapers

SAN JERONIMO SOLOLA, Mexico — Look around the rain-fed corn farms in Oaxaca state, and in vast areas of Mexico, and one sees few young men, just elderly people and single mothers.

"The men have gone to the United States," explained Abel Santiago Duran, a 56-year-old municipal agent, as he surveyed this empty village in Oaxaca state.

The countryside wasn't supposed to hollow out in this way when the North American Free Trade Agreement linked Mexico, Canada and the U.S. in 1994. Mexico, hoping its factories would absorb displaced farmers, said it would "export goods, not people."

But in hindsight, the agricultural elements of the pact were brutal on Mexico's corn farmers. A flood of U.S. corn imports, combined with subsidies that favor agribusiness, are blamed for the loss of 2 million farm jobs in Mexico. The trade pact worsened illegal migration, some experts say, particularly in areas where small farmers barely eke out a living.

That is the case in the rolling hills of western Oaxaca state, ancestral lands of indigenous Mixtecs who till small plots of corn, beans and squash between stands of jacarandas, junipers and eucalyptus. Eagles soar in the brilliant blue skies. Clumps of prickly pear and organ cactus attest to the sporadic nature of rainfall.

When a visitor arrives, the gray-haired men on the veranda of the village hall talk about the exodus of young men.

"When they hit 18 and finish secondary school, they leave for the United States or other states of Mexico," Duran said.

His cousin, Jesus Duran, said young men see little future as corn farmers and observe with dismay how the government aims subsidies at medium and big farms, leaving only a trickle for small family farms.

"If you go to the offices over there and ask for help," Duran said, nodding to the local agriculture agency, "they say there isn't any to give."

Mexican negotiators who signed the NAFTA agreement hoped that small corn farmers thrown out of work by rising imports of cheap U.S. corn would be absorbed into jobs in the fruit and vegetable export industry or in manufacturing.

"That turned out to be incorrect. The numbers of people displaced from family farming were much, much higher than the number of new wage jobs," said Jonathan Fox, an expert on rural Mexico at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Then U.S. corn imports crested like a rain-swollen river, increasing from 7 percent of Mexican consumption to around 34 percent, mostly for animal feed and for industrial uses as cornstarch.

"It's been roughly a tripling, quadrupling, quintupling of U.S. corn exports to Mexico, depending on the year," said Timothy A. Wise, the director of research and policy at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. "Is that a river? Yeah, that's a lot of corn."

Fox and Wise are among the collaborators on a study, "Subsidizing Inequality: Mexican corn policy since NAFTA," released last autumn.

Representatives of small farmers say Mexico's policymakers tossed the dice that trade-spurred growth would take care of rural disruptions — and lost.

"The great failure of this supposition is that there wasn't economic growth that would absorb these people," said Victor Suarez, the executive director of the National Association of Rural Producers, which represents 60,000 small farmers. "The result has left rural areas increasingly populated by the elderly and women."

Faced with deepening poverty, rural migrants have tried to escape regions of Mexico that never used to be sources of emigration.

"In Chiapas, there was hardly any migration before NAFTA," Suarez said, referring to Mexico's southernmost state. "Farm laborers were even brought in from Guatemala. Now, more than 50,000 rural people from Chiapas go each year to the United States."

Corn imports from the U.S. are only one component of what scholars say is a complex picture. In fact, Mexican corn production has risen since the trade pact, driven by domestic agribusiness and supported by subsidies biased to favor large producers that by one estimate surpassed $20 billion in the past two decades.

The Mexican government also has cash-transfer subsidies, known as ProCampo, for small farmers who are considered the free-trade pact's losers. But they reach only a portion of small corn growers, a quarter of whom are indigenous.

Some rural farmers no longer have enough corn to sell, sinking into subsistence living for themselves and their families.

"Of my generation," said 33-year-old Baldemar Mendoza, a Zapotec small corn farmer in the Sierra Juarez area of Oaxaca, "many people want nothing to do with farming because it doesn't pay. With all the changes in the weather, there is no certainty that your harvest will be good."

Unless the central government tweaks subsidies to make more small family farms economically viable, the result may be sustained migrant flows, experts said.

"The government didn't so much pull the plug on corn. The government pulled the plug on family farmers who grow corn because the big guys who grew corn got massive subsidies and protection from imports," Fox said.

Under the free-trade umbrella, several Mexican agro-industrial companies have become muscular global conglomerates.

"Before NAFTA, Grupo Bimbo was a big company. Now it is the largest industrial user of wheat in the world," Suarez said, referring to the world's No. 1 bread maker. "Maseca was a big company. Now it is a global company with a strong position in cornmeal worldwide."

Their powerful position in the market has kept prices high for consumers, while in the countryside, the social fabric frays as families disperse to find jobs.

The impact, Fox said, "unravels rural communities, separates families and makes it difficult for young people to see a future in their communities of origin."

Josefa Soriano, 74, doesn't need an explanation of what's happening. She sees it with her own eyes. As a rural exodus unfolds, families keep fewer of the animals such as goats, cattle and burros that provided manure for fields. Such livestock must have caretakers.

"You have no choice but to buy fertilizer now," she said. "If you don't fertilize, nothing grows, not even fodder."

As she ambled through the settlement, Soriano offered a running commentary on those who have migrated.

"The village is almost without people," Soriano said. "Many houses are empty. The fathers and the sons have gone."

She turned to a visitor and said, "If the young people always leave, what do you think will happen to us?"

At Trial of Cuban Exile, a Rebuffed Venezuela Sits Quietly on the Sidelines

This is a surreal accounting of an attempt by the Venezuelan government to extradite Luis Posada Carriles who masterminded the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner while a U.S. court is attending to his telling lies about his immigration status. Amazing.



Published: January 30, 2011

EL PASO - Perhaps the most frustrated person in the courtroom the last two weeks at the perjury trial of Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban militant and former C.I.A. operative, was the sad-eyed lawyer who represents Venezuela.

For five years, the lawyer, José Pertierra, has been seeking the extradition of Mr. Posada to stand trial in Venezuela in the bombing of a Cuban passenger jet in 1976, which killed everyone on board.

But the State Department and the Justice Department have never presented the request to a federal judge.

Instead, the Justice Department is prosecuting Mr. Posada for having lied during two immigration hearings more than five years ago.

"It's odd to be sitting in a federal court building and listening to testimony not about the extradition of Posada to face murder charges, but instead to listen to testimony about him lying on immigration forms," Mr. Pertierra said.

To prove that Mr. Posada committed perjury, prosecutors plan to bring up evidence about bombings at Havana tourist spots in 1997.

They say Mr. Posada took credit for those attacks in 1998, then later, under oath, denied that he had organized them.

But the trial is unlikely to shed light on his alleged role in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 on Oct. 6, 1976.

The midair explosion killed 73 people, including teenagers from Cuba's national fencing team.

A government informer, Carlos Abascal, testifying over five days last week, said he had traveled with Mr. Posada on a shrimp boat from the Yucatán Peninsula to Miami in 2005, where it landed at a waterfront restaurant, letting the old Cuban exile sneak into the United States.

One part of the indictment charges Mr. Posada with lying under oath when he said he crossed through Mexico and entered the country in Brownsville, Tex.

A defense lawyer, Arturo V. Hernandez, attacked Mr. Abascal's credibility, interrogating him about his history of mental problems and showing records that documented schizophrenic episodes and hallucinations.

Venezuela has been demanding the extradition of Mr. Posada since he popped up in Miami, but the United States has so far rebuffed the request.

Last June, the United States said in a diplomatic note that Venezuela had not presented enough evidence to show that the police had "probable cause" to arrest Mr. Posada for the bombing, Mr. Pertierra said.
Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on why the United States had not acted on the extradition request.

A spokesman for the State Department, Charles Luoma-Overstreet, declined to comment on the diplomatic note.

The United States' position on Mr. Posada's extradition was complicated in 2006, when an immigration judge in El Paso ruled that Mr. Posada should be deported but could not be sent back to Venezuela because he would probably face torture there.

American officials say that the immigration judge's ruling and the perjury trial have tied their hands, but Venezuela has argued that neither should keep a federal judge from hearing the extradition case.

No other country has offered to take Mr. Posada, who is 82, and he has lived in legal limbo in Miami for years.

His movements are tracked by federal immigration agents; he wears an ankle monitor. Mr. Posada was never convicted in the airplane bombing.

He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 just a few months before a judge reached a verdict for the other three men accused in the plot.

He has long insisted that he had nothing to do with it.

But the police in Trinidad and Venezuela said they found evidence tying Mr. Posada to the plot. That evidence is buttressed by declassified documents from the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. showing that American agents received information that Mr. Posada was involved in the bombing, along with a known anti-Castro terrorist, Orlando Bosch Ávila. "U.S. intelligence consistently pointed to Bosch and Posada as the masterminds," said Peter Kornbluh, an analyst with the National Security Archive who has assembled most of the declassified documents regarding Mr. Posada's career. Both Mr. Bosch and Mr. Posada were arrested in Venezuela after the airplane went down. Mr. Posada escaped disguised as a priest. Mr. Bosch was acquitted in 1987 and, though he had no visa, migrated to the United States. Like Mr. Posada, he was held by immigration authorities until President George Bush gave him an administrative pardon in 1990.

The case against Mr. Posada in Venezuela rests largely on the statements of the two men arrested in Trinidad a day after the bombing, Hernán Ricardo Lozano and Freddy Lugo. Both were employed by Mr. Posada at his private security company in Caracas, an office through which many anti-Castro Cubans passed, according to F.B.I. records. After nearly two weeks of questioning, Mr. Ricardo confessed to the police in Trinidad that he and Mr. Lugo had planted the bomb, disguising it as a tube of toothpaste. The two men had boarded the plane in Port of Spain, checked their luggage and then got off on a stop in Barbados. After the plane went down, 16 minutes after takeoff, they took another flight back to Trinidad, where they were arrested the next day on a tip from the Venezuelan police. Both implicated Mr. Posada in the plot in their statements to the police, though they did not plainly say he had planned it. Mr. Ricardo admitted that he worked for Mr. Posada. Mr. Lugo said that after the bombing, Mr. Ricardo tried to call Mr. Posada at his office and left a message with a secretary, giving the number of the hotel where they were staying. In his confession, Mr. Ricardo said he had actually spoken to Orlando Bosch. He said Mr. Bosch was upset and told him: "Friend, we have problems here in Caracas. You never blow up a plane while it is in the air."

The Venezuelan police also raided Mr. Posada's offices and discovered, among other things, a scouting list of sites for terrorist attacks in his desk. The list was in Mr. Ricardo's handwriting and included targets that had been hit by anti-Castro terrorists that summer. None of this surprised American intelligence agents, according to declassified C.I.A. and F.B.I. documents. Mr. Posada was well known to both agencies. In the 1960s, he had been trained in explosives by the C.I.A. and had worked for the agency from 1965 until 1974, with a single year's hiatus, the documents show. He continued to peddle unsolicited information to American agents in return for help with visas until his arrest in Venezuela two years later. The most damning report the American intelligence services had about Mr. Posada came from a Miami-Dade County police officer, Raul Diaz, who had traveled to Venezuela in late October, according to a declassified November 1976 F.B.I. report. Seeking information about bombings in Miami, Mr. Diaz had met with a Venezuelan counterintelligence agent, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, and asked him to testify. Mr. Morales said no, but he told Mr. Diaz that he had information about the bombing of the Cuban airliner. He said he had been present at two meetings in Caracas during which the bombing had been planned, one in the Hotel Anauco and another in his own apartment. Mr. Posada had attended both meetings. There were other less concrete but still tantalizing connections drawn between Mr. Posada and the airplane bombing in American intelligence cables. In mid-September, when Mr. Bosch arrived in Caracas, Mr. Posada met him at the airport, according to a declassified C.I.A. report from October 1976. Shortly after Mr. Bosch's arrival, a $1,100-a-plate fund-raiser for him was held in the home of an exiled Cuban physician. Mr. Posada attended. The C.I.A. source said Mr. Bosch had mentioned boastfully that his organization was planning a new attack. The report continued: "A few days following the fund-raising dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, 'We are going to hit a Cuban airplane' and that 'Orlando has the details.' "

Birthright Citizenship Looms as Next Immigration Battle

January 4, 2011
Birthright Citizenship Looms as Next Immigration Battle

NOGALES, Ariz. — Of the 50 or so women bused to this border town on a recent morning to be deported back to Mexico, Inez Vasquez stood out. Eight months pregnant, she had tried to trudge north in her fragile state, even carrying scissors with her in case she gave birth in the desert and had to cut the umbilical cord.

“All I want is a better life,” she said after the Border Patrol found her hiding in bushes on the Arizona side of the border with her husband, her young son and her very pronounced abdomen.

The next big immigration battle centers on illegal immigrants’ offspring, who are granted automatic citizenship like all other babies born on American soil. Arguing for an end to the policy, which is rooted in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, immigration hard-liners describe a wave of migrants like Ms. Vasquez stepping across the border in the advanced stages of pregnancy to have what are dismissively called “anchor babies.”

The reality at this stretch of the border is more complex, with hospitals reporting some immigrants arriving to give birth in the United States but many of them frequent border crossers with valid visas who have crossed the border legally to take advantage of better medical care. Some are even attracted by an electronic billboard on the Mexican side that advertises the services of an American doctor and says bluntly, “Do you want to have your baby in the U.S.?”

Women like Ms. Vasquez, who was preparing for a desert delivery, are rare.

Still, Arizona — whose tough law granting the police the power to detain illegal immigrants is tied up in the courts — may again take the lead in what is essentially an effort to redefine what it means to be an American. This time, though, Arizona lawmakers intend to join with legislators from other states to force the issue before the Supreme Court.

This coalition of lawmakers will unveil its exact plans on Wednesday in Washington, but people involved in drafting the legislation say they have decided against the painstaking process of amending the Constitution. Since the federal government decides who is to be deemed a citizen, the lawmakers are considering instead a move to create two kinds of birth certificates in their states, one for the children of citizens and another for the children of illegal immigrants.

The theory is that this could spark a flurry of lawsuits that might resolve the legal conflict in their favor.

“This is not a far-out, extremist position,” said John Kavanagh, one of the Arizona legislators who is leading an effort that has been called just that. “Only a handful of countries in the world grant citizenship based on the GPS location of the birth.”

Most scholars of the Constitution consider the states’ effort to restrict birth certificates patently unconstitutional. “This is political theater, not a serious effort to create a legal test,” said Gabriel J. Chin, a law professor at the University of Arizona whose grandfather immigrated to the United States from China at a time when ethnic Chinese were excluded from the country. “It strikes me as unwise, un-American and unconstitutional.”

The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, was a repudiation of the Supreme Court’s 1857 ruling, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that people of African descent could never be American citizens. The amendment said citizenship applied to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

In 1898, the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, interpreted the citizenship provision as applying to a child born in the United States to a Chinese immigrant couple.

Still, some conservatives contend that the issue is unsettled. Kris Kobach, the incoming secretary of state in Kansas and a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has helped draft many of the tough immigration regulations across the country, argued that the approach the states were planning would hold up to scrutiny.

“I can’t really say much more without showing my hand,” Mr. Kobach said in an e-mail. “But, yes, I am confident that the law will stand up in court.”

The legal theories are lost on Laura Gomez, 24, who crossed into Arizona from Mexico five years ago while expecting and is now pregnant with her second child. But like many other pregnant women in Arizona who are without papers, she has been following the issue with anxiety.

“It doesn’t seem fair to just change the rules like that,” Ms. Gomez said.

Despite being called “anchor babies,” the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States cannot actually prevent deportation of their parents. It is not until they reach the age of 21 that the children are able to file paperwork to sponsor their parents for legal immigration status. The parents remain vulnerable until that point.

Maria Ledezma knows as much. Just off a bus that deported her from Phoenix to the Mexico border town of Nogales, she was sobbing as she explained the series of events that led her to be separated from her three daughters, ages 4, 7 and 9, all American citizens.

“I never imagined being here,” said Ms. Ledezma, 25, who was brought to Phoenix from Mexico as a toddler. “I’ll bet right now that my girls are asking, ‘Where’s Mom?’ ”

Blended families like hers are a reality across the United States. A studyreleased in August by the Pew Hispanic Center found that about 340,000 children were born to illegal immigrants in the United States in 2008 and became instant citizens.

In April, Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, one of those pushing for Congressional action on the issue, stirred controversy when he suggested that children born in the United States to illegal immigrants should be deported with their parents until the birthright citizenship policy was changed.

“And we’re not being mean,” Mr. Hunter told a Tea Party rally in Southern California. “We’re just saying it takes more than walking across the border to become an American citizen. It’s what’s in our souls.”

Immigrant advocates say intolerance is driving the measure. “They call themselves patriots, but they pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they support,” said Lydia Guzman, a Latino activist in Phoenix. “They’re fear-mongerers. They’re clowns.”

Like many states, Arizona is suffering a severe budget crisis, prompting even some lawmakers who have supported immigration restrictions in the past to question whether it is the right time for another divisive immigration bill. They say the state’s fiscal issues need to be resolved before Arizona jumps back into a controversial immigration debate.

“I was born and raised in New York,” responded Mr. Kavanagh, who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the Arizona House. “I can ride a subway, drink coffee, read the newspaper and make sure my pockets are not picked all at the same time.”

Scholars who have studied migration say it is the desire for better-paying jobs, not a passport for their children, that is the main motivator for people to leave their homes for the United States.

Even Ms. Vasquez, who was preparing for a desert delivery, agrees with that. While she preferred to have her child be born in the United States, she said, it was the prospect of a better economic future, with or without papers, that had prompted her and her family to cross when they did. “I’ll try again — but once the baby’s born,” she said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 4, 2011

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the year that the Supreme Court, in United States v. Wong Kim Ark, applied the citizenship provision to a child born in the United States to Chinese immigrants; it was 1898.