Welcome! Bienvendios!

Join us as we share our views on immigrant rights and labor issues and dialogue with communities around the country about immigration reform. Please take a few minutes to read our Open Letter on immigration reform, share your thoughts, and learn how you can sign on!

Unete con nosotros mientras compartimos nuestros ideas acerca de los derechos de los inmigrantes y temas laborales y discutimos la reforma migratoria con comunidades en todo el pais. Por favor, toma algunas minutos para leer nuestra Carta Abierta de la reforma migratoria, compartir tus comentarios, y aprender como lo puedes firmar!

viernes, 1 de octubre de 2010

GIJN Will March in Solidarity at October 2nd Demonstration in Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, October 2nd, the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network will be participating in the "One Nation Working Together" march in Washington, D.C. We will be meeting at 14th and Constitution on Saturday at 10:30 am and marching in solidarity with the Black is Back and Anti-war contingents. Please feel free to join us in solidarity! Below is a letter on immigrant rights that we will be distributing at the march.

Este sabado, el 2 de octubre, el Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network estara participando en la marcha "One Nation Working Together" en Washington, D.C. Vamos a juntarnos en 14th y Constitution el sabado a las 10:30 de la manana y marcharemos en solidaridad con los grupos Black is Back y Anti-war. Sientense libres de juntarse con nosotros en solidaridad! Abajo es una carta acerca de los derechos de los inmigrantes que vamos a distribuir en la marcha.

Let’s Join Our Voices Together for Immigrant Rights

This letter was initiated by the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network, a group which was recently formed by leaders in the immigrant rights and labor movements across the country. Initial members include Isabel Garcia, David Silva Villalobos, Carlos Arango, Juan Jose Bocanegra, Nativo Lopez, David Bacon, Lisa Luinenburg, Cristobal Cavazos, John Steinbach, Daniela Ortiz-Bahamonde, George Shriver, Eduardo Quintana, Jason McGahan, Manuel Barrera, and Domingo Gonzales.

We are gathered here today to rally under the phrase “One Nation Working Together.” We are here because we all want better jobs, equal access to housing, and a good education for our children. The Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network supports the statement made by Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report, “Let’s Have a Real Protest, not a Democratic Pep Rally, on October 2nd.” (see www.blackagendareport.com) In order for our struggles for justice to be successful, the immigrant community must stand in solidarity with communities of color and with workers around the country. The anti-war movement, the movement for economic justice and workers rights’, the immigrant rights movement, and other social movements all have struggles in common and we will make our voices heard today as we stand together.

In the midst of an uncertain political climate, we are proposing a different approach to discussing the issue of immigration; one that is based on the needs and wants of the immigrant community. We need to generate a national debate based on immigration as a labor mobility and human rights issue, not as an issue of national security and enforcement. Immigrants have made vast contributions to the U.S., and they should be granted the right to live here legally and without fear. We should recognize migration as the global phenomenon it is and address the root economic causes of migration.

The principles guiding the national debate around immigration reform should consist of:

1. Build bridges between the peoples of the U.S. and Mexico instead of walls that segregate them and turn them into competitors in a struggle for survival. Take immediate action to stop the deaths along the border and end border militarization.

2. Analyze the effects of free trade agreements like NAFTA on the economies of “sender” countries. End all economic and foreign policies that leave people in “sender” countries with no choice but to migrate in order to support their families.

3. Provide a clear and easy legalization program for the millions of undocumented immigrants who have built their homes here and contributed greatly to the prosperity of the U.S. economy. All immigrants deserve the full rights accorded to U.S. citizens, not a second-class status.

4. Clear the backlogs of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been waiting to legalize their status since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Allow more families to reunite with their loved ones by expanding the definition of “family” under current immigration law.

5. Bracero-style guest worker programs and other forms of labor exploitation should be eliminated, and the labor system made to benefit workers and their families, not corporations and agribusiness. Increased labor protections for immigrant workers should also include the freedom of movement between jobs and across national borders.

6. End the criminalization of work through the use of 1-9 audits, E-verify, “silent raids,” and other tactics used to carry out mass firings of workers. All workers, immigrants included, have the right to work and seek work without the fear of retaliation.

7. Immigrants and their families have the right to live in their communities without fear. Stop the raids and deportations, end ‘enforcement first’ policies like 287(g) and Secure Communities, eliminate the privatization of the detention system, and decriminalize the status of undocumented workers. Extend equal rights to all by ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers.


The organizers of this rally have also included a call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in their demands on Washington. However, instead of a grassroots, community solution to problems that have plagued our immigration system, this phrase has been used by politicians to mean more militarization, more attacks on immigrant workers, and a long, arduous path to citizenship.

Now more than ever, we are living in a time of great uncertainty, when political, verbal, and physical attacks on immigrants are becoming increasingly common place. Immigrant workers and their families are living in a place of increasing fear, while politicians debate laws to take away birthright citizenship and detention centers are constantly filled with people waiting to be torn from their families. Recent proposals for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, such as Gutierrez’s CIR ASAP and Schumer’s REPAIR proposal, focus on increased enforcement and limited paths to citizenship, and have become political deadweights with little hope of being passed.

In fact, instead of protecting worker’s rights, recent Comprehensive Immigration Reform proposals have included tools used to conduct workplace raids, break unions, and fire workers by the thousands. E-verify is already being used by many companies to check the immigration status of new hires, but the REPAIR proposal goes even farther. It includes a plan for a nation-wide biometric ID system that would affect not just immigrant workers, but all workers. CIR proposals also allow the continued use of I-9 audits (also known as “silent raids”) and home raids, which have often targeted union organizers and funnel immigrant workers into the for-profit detention system.

At the same time, companies that have been exploiting immigrant workers often face few consequences for their abuse. Guest worker programs are offered as a solution for the “labor shortage” we face, yet politicians fail to recognize that these programs were notorious for their exploitation of immigrant workers in the past. Instead of focusing on the root causes of migration, such as economic trade policies like NAFTA, U.S. companies remain free to exploit immigrant labor.

These proposals for Comprehensive Immigration Reform have also included provisions to increase militarization of the border and to draft low-income students of color into the military. The DREAM Act would give the children of undocumented immigrants the option to either attend a university or join the military in order to “earn” their papers. Meanwhile, thousands of Latino students drop out of high school every year and will never have the opportunity to go to college at all. The poverty draft has affected communities of color for decades, and this is no exception. After the DREAM Act was recently attached to the Defense Department’s appropriations bill, student organizer Raúl Al-qaraz Ochoa wrote in a passionate letter, “Passage of the DREAM Act would definitely be a step forward in the struggle for Migrant Justice. Yet the politicians in Washington have hijacked this struggle from its original essence and turned dreams into ugly political nightmares.”


Immigrant workers provide some of the most needed services in the U.S., but are treated like second-class citizens and daily face the threat of separation from their families. Immigrant workers are facing many of the same problems and discrimination that have affected working class communities of color in the past and present. Instead of allowing politicians to divide and conquer, we must stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters as “One Nation Working Together.” We must recognize that our struggles are inextricably linked. Now is the time to engage with our communities in honest dialogue and continue to hold our elected officials accountable to the vision of justice coming from the immigrant communities that make up our nation. As we stand shoulder to shoulder today in Washington, D.C., we raise our voices together: “We shall overcome! ¡Vencerémos!”

To learn more about the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network
or to sign our Open Letter on Immigration Reform, please visit: www.grassrootsimmigrantjusticenetwork.blogspot.com.
We appreciate your support!

lunes, 30 de agosto de 2010

We March to Reclaim the Dream

*Members of the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network marched on August 28th in Washington, D.C. as part of the civil rights rally counterposed to the Glenn Beck rally held that day near the Lincoln Memorial. The GIJN issued this statement of solidarity at the march.*

As we march to today to “Reclaim the Dream,” the Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network stands in solidarity with our African American Sisters and Brothers, and other oppressed communities. Martin Luther King’s Dream has not yet been fulfilled and we continue our struggle for jobs and justice, protection of the environment, and an end to the violence of war and racism.

We welcome you, our compañeros in this March, to stand with us in solidarity with undocumented workers, and to oppose the menace of renewed racist xenophobia directed against immigrants and all communities of color. Our two communities are not separate; the immigrant community is also African, and Haitians and many Latinos share African blood. Today, most new immigrants are People of Color. Both historically and in the present, Black and Immigrant communities have faced many of the same injustices, and both continue the struggle for full economic and political rights. The threat of racism and discrimination against one of us is a threat to all of us.

Current attacks focused on the immigrant community, such as the unjust Arizona law, are a new version of the old Jim Crow, this time targeted at Brown and Indigenous People. No one knows better than the Black community how the criminal ‘justice’ system is used to oppress communities of color. The African American freedom struggle is an ongoing inspiration to many of us in the immigrant movement. We will not permit backward-looking demagogues to drive a wedge between our communities. Standing together in common struggle empowers us to resist this campaign of hatred.

The current wave of anti-immigrant racism sweeping the nation threatens to render the basic fabric of our society. In Prince William County, Virginia, 25 miles outside the nation’s capital, an anti-immigrant law similar to Arizona’s was passed three years ago. Since then, immigrants have suffered racial profiling and seen their families cruelly torn apart, decades of effective community policing policies have been irreversibly destroyed and the immigrant community lives in a state of constant fear. Unless we stand together in firm opposition to local, state and federal policies that criminalize immigrant workers, militarize our borders and destroy entire communities, the same fate awaits the entire nation.

As we march together to Reclaim the Dream, let us resolve to continue the unfinished work begun by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other freedom fighters. In the words of Rev. Al Sharpton, “It is imperative for the African American community to stand together with the Latino community and for the Latino community to stand with the Asian community. You cannot have human rights for some—we need it for all.”

The Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network works to promote community dialogue on immigrant rights issues, labor issues, and immigration reform. Immigration should be approached as an issue of human rights and labor mobility, not as an issue of national security and enforcement that serves to criminalize and divide workers. We believe that our immigration system must be based on the human rights and dignity of all people.

lunes, 26 de julio de 2010

Todos a la calle para el 29 de julio!

Este jueves el 29 de julio, la ley racista SB 1070 se va a implementar en el estado de Arizona. Grupos y organizaciones de todos partes del pais han organizando protestas, vigilias, y foros para protestar la ley este dia. Busquen el rally cerca de su area que Uds. podrian asistir. Unidos podemos resistir la ley! La lucha sigue!

miércoles, 23 de junio de 2010

Come and Join us for our Workshop at the US Social Forum in Detroit!

The Grassroots Immigrant Justice Network will be at the US Social Forum this weekend! Cristobal Cavazos and Lisa Luinenburg, both members of the GIJN, will be presenting the workshop "We Shall Overcome: Building an Alternative, Grassroots Strategy for Immigration Reform." The workshop will be held on Friday, June 25th from 10am-12pm at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. Workshop participants will learn about current legislative proposals for comprehensive immigration reform, and will discuss a set of principals for building a truly just U.S. immigration system. If you're in Detroit, come and join us!

lunes, 21 de junio de 2010

Our Response to a Bigoted Law

Interview with Nativo Lopez by Shaun Harkin
Originally published in the Socialist Worker

May 4, 2010

With Arizona's passage of an anti-immigrant law known as SB 1070--which compels police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they "suspect" may be undocumented--Arizona is now being referred to as an "apartheid state."

Nativo López, president of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), who is facing prosecution on trumped-up voting fraud charges, spoke to Shaun Harkin about Arizona's racist law and what's ahead now for the immigrant rights movement.

REPUBLICAN GOV. Jan Brewer's decision to sign SB 1070 into law has spurred huge outrage. Even Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles says the law will lead to Nazi-style repression. What do the think the ramifications of the law will be, and how do you think we should respond?

SB 1070 IS clearly unconstitutional and will certainly be challenged by the myriad of legal organizations that advocate to protect civil and constitutional rights.

Notwithstanding clauses in the law that racial profiling would not be the basis for the main criteria to detain, "reasonable suspicion," customs, practices, prejudices and recent experience with law enforcement--particularly with Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County--indicate that this will be a big problem.

The overreaching hand of government law enforcement will give rise to an emboldened vigilante mindset, and the target will be people of color--not just Mexicans and Latinos.

I am convinced that SB 1070 has more to do with creating a distraction from the deteriorating economic situation--increased home foreclosures, the jobless economic recovery, ballooning budget deficits, layoffs of public employees and cutbacks of services. The migrant and immigrant become the easy patsy and scapegoat in this scenario.

The manipulative hand of big capital is behind this measure. Arizona is a social pilot program for other states and the nation. We know, for example, that there are 11 to 14 other states that may be contemplating similar measures.

The response from our social movements must be immediate and focused, but tempered.
The calls for a national economic boycott of Arizona and everything Arizona are more than appropriate, and the response nationally to the call has been tremendous. There must be consequences for such backward legislative action and other states need to know that they could also be similarly targeted.

A particularly choice target should be the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, due to the role of the franchise owner in bankrolling Republican sponsors of the law.
We are currently preparing a call for a campaign of non-cooperation and participation in Arizona by working people with law enforcement based on the premise that public order can only be maintained and secured through the cooperation of the populace. Such a nonviolent mass campaign of non-cooperation would undermine the authority and legitimacy of the political regime in power, and call into question its ability to govern.

While many groups will call on President Obama to intervene, I don't have confidence on that score. His enforcement-only policies have created the parameters within which SB 1070 surface and thrived.

We need to put the emphasis of resistance on the masses of working immigrants and other workers. This is of both strategic and tactical importance for us. In a perverse way, this crisis is an opportunity to expose the Obama immigration policy and gather political momentum for fair and humane immigration reform.

We must be tempered, however, in not drawing the conclusion that all white Arizonans support this law, and therefore fall into the trap of racial divisions and animosity. This is exactly what capital wants. We need to build bridges, alliances and coalitions with other forces of color, the unions and people of faith.

PRESIDENT OBAMA appeared to speak out against passage of the bill right before it was signed by Brewer. However, instead of reform and legalization, under Obama, there has been increased deportations, use of the faulty E-Verify system to check documentation and continuing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. What explains the gap between Obama's promise to bring fairness to the treatment of the undocumented and the reality of policies that increase repression?

PRESIDENT OBAMA could not have done otherwise than speak out against SB 1070. This was face-saving politics, but his policies and practices are directly responsible for this law.

Certainly this was not his intent, but it is the direct result of the expansion of 287(g) [a program that facilitates collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE], the Secure Communities Program [which targets alleged criminals] and Operation Streamline [which charges everyone caught crossing the border with low-level crimes]. All these are heavy-handed immigration enforcement measures designed to criminalize immigrants.

The removal policy in the first two years under Obama will result in 800,000 deportations, coupled with voluntary returns of 2 million Mexicans to their country of origin.

President Obama has stated in both private and public that he is the number one law enforcement executive of the nation and he intends on fulfilling that role with apt efficiency to apply the rule of law. It's interesting that he applies this to working-class immigrants, but not to the leisure class of finance capital that ruined the economy--so much for the rule of law and the new sheriff in town.

We now have demonstrable evidence that he will be a pliable instrument for finance capital, and that immigrants are an expendable commodity that must be removed during this dire economic period. However, he runs the risk of alienating the Latino electorate in the process, and may pay for his errors in the mid-term elections.

SOME 200,000 marched on Washington on March 21 to demand immigration reform and an end to criminalization of the undocumented. The mobilization effort was led by the Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) coalition. Some viewed the mobilization effort as a cynical attempt to keep the immigrant rights movement on board for the November 2010 midterm elections. However, the mobilization also came about as a result of pressure from immigrants and their supporters for pro-immigrant legislation to be passed now. How should we look at this?

RIFA IS clearly an appendage of the Democratic Party and is funded by private foundations close to this party. Its strategy is to control the national immigrants' rights movement, control the message and impose its view of immigration reform on the immigrants.

Some months prior to the march on Washington, RIFA and America's Voice were warning against mass marches. The demands from below forced their hand, especially in light of the merciless enforcement policies by Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. They could not contain the anger and the demands on the White House, so they decided to co-opt and channel it into a march that gave the appearance of advocacy and a rift with the administration.

THE MARCH in Washington appeared to promote "bipartisan" legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), yet most activists think its provisions are unacceptable. Many are more sympathetic to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) ASAP introduced by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), but worry that what they support in the legislation will be negotiated away. How should we view the present legislation being discussed, and what should we be fighting for?

THE MESSAGE from the president and Schumer was still enforcement-oriented. It was still the message that the people must accept repression and persecution in exchange for some form of torturous legalization program. The people are not accepting this line, and as things continue to develop, the shallowness and treacherous role of RIFA and America's Voice will be revealed to the masses of immigrants.

There is no "bipartisan" legislation. It is the Obama-Schumer immigration plan. Schumer has confided that his outline design was prepared with the active participation of the White House. It is a crime and revenue bill, not immigration reform. It is SB 1070 on a federal level. It is the rebirth of the Sensenbrenner Bill, only authored by a supposed liberal Democrat under the auspices of a center-right president. We must expose it for what it really is.

The Democratic Party leadership will do with immigration reform what it did with welfare reform, health care reform and, very soon, financial reform. These are all measures to safeguard the prerogatives and privileges of capital to the detriment of labor and the poor.

The immigrant rights movement should not focus its efforts solely on legislative reform, but should instead work to organize immigrants in the use of commercial law, common-law remedies, and self-organization and group actions of defense, correlative with legislative and policy initiatives.

In other words, there exist legal mechanisms to protect the physical and legal integrity of individuals in the U.S. independent of their immigration status, and we need to learn these and teach these, and organize under a different model.

The other approach--putting all of our eggs in the legislative fight--is premised on the false notion that the Democratic Party is a friend of the immigrant, and only through that route can we expect any modicum of justice.

Life has disproved this. The most recent declarations of Sens. Schumer, Harry Reid and Robert Menendez demonstrate that this party is hell-bent on forcing us to accept the idea that harsh enforcement first is the road to immigration reform. The immigrant community will reject this, and the party will pay a heavy, but well-deserved, price at the polls.

RECENTLY, SENS. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) addressed a letter to Janet Napolitano asking the Homeland Security to halt the deportations of immigrant youth eligible for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act--proposed legislation that would allow the undocumented children of immigrants who are in school or the military to attain legal status. Activists in Chicago are including, along with the DREAM Act the demand for a moratorium on E-Verify, raids and deportations in an executive order signed by President Obama. Can we win a halt to deportations, raids and E-Verify?

SEN. DURBIN'S and Lugar's letter to Napolitano is an indication of growing support for a partial solution to the dilemma faced by so many regarding their immigration status.

Should we be advocating for "comprehensive immigration reform" or for partial reform, which addresses the needs of a particular sector--in this case, those of youth and students? Agribusiness and farmworker organizations, for example, are advocating for AgJobs, a particular piece of legislation that addresses the needs of undocumented farmworkers.

This is a peculiar challenge that arises from a somber observation about the failing prospects for a comprehensive package.

Many coalitions, with the exception of RIFA and America's Voice, have been calling on Obama to take executive action since the first months of his administration to stem the enforcement-only measures, with no apparent success. He has had a deaf ear to these initiatives.

Whether we can win over Obama to take such action and generally stop the repression and persecution depends entirely on the ability of the real immigrant rights movement to expand its reach, strengthen its organization at the local level and unify its independent forces into a coordinating center in contradistinction to the Democratic Party-controlled and -funded fabrications.

I have every confidence of turning the corner on this question. There is hope where there is struggle. I absolutely oppose the thesis that any legislation is better than nothing--or another version of that: nothing is worst (peor es nada).

A movement never surrenders some of its rights for the prospect of gaining some other rights. That just doesn't happen. Every adversity is an opportunity to build organization, forge leadership, strengthen our core values, and learn how to fight, learn about ourselves and our adversaries.

ARE THERE any lessons from the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) signed into law by Republican President Ronald Reagan?

WE ARE facing entirely different times from when the 1986 legislation was signed into law. They are too numerous to enumerate for this article. It was a different Congress, a different Republican Party, even a different Democratic Party.

In reality, there were fewer organizations and coalitions; deep rifts with labor, which was a staunch advocate for employer sanctions; much sympathy with the churches; and obviously much smaller mass actions. But the economy was still in structural transition--no NAFTA--and Mexico still had a certain nationalistic current that resisted U.S. impositions.

The current movement has created its own experiences, new formations, many local and regional coalitions, new relationships with labor (although labor continues to support the new form of employer sanctions--E-verify--but uses coded language to pretend otherwise), and new church advocacy from Christian evangelical communities, not just the predominance of the Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant denominations.

The version of immigration reform that we advocate for will be harder to come by this time. The Democrats will seek to force us to accept many poison pills to finally get to a just legalization. Unity is of fundamental importance, but we need to know what we want, and have the fortitude to fight for it and persevere against the attacks not mainly from the right (those are a given), but from phony liberalism.

ACTIVISTS ARE calling for civil disobedience to escalate the struggle. Youth activists in Chicago have organized "coming out undocumented" actions. Many are looking at how the African American struggle for civil rights developed through the 1960s. What political questions and tactics should we address to strengthen the struggle now?

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE has always been a component of the immigrants' rights movement, but not on the scale experienced previously in the civil rights and labor movements.
There is no doubt that younger people who have grown up in the U.S.--now in their 20s, for example--and have become acculturated to the "American way," but are shut out from participating fully in civil society, will be increasingly open to experimenting with new forms of struggle.

It will be the U.S.'s experience of what occurred with the immigrant youth in France recently. Hermandad Mexicana Latinoameriana and the Mexican American Political Association will propose a series of mass campaigns of non-cooperation and non-participation with the current political regime in the very near future. This is now on the struggle agenda for Arizona, and we are talking with numerous organizations from that state about this.

This goes along the lines of what we are conducting relative to the U.S. census count. We are asking people to refuse to participate in the count; demonstrate their lack of confidence in the government; and make a conscious choice of resistance to the imposition of the federal government. Ironically, we have encountered more resistance to this tactic from left and agency organizations and leaders than from the workers themselves.

I have increasingly studied commercial law and common-law private remedies as avenues of redress that do not require the use of attorneys, but truly empower the individual with knowledge and the ability to defend oneself from the intrusive encroachments from those who govern and their enforcement agencies.

However difficult the task may seem, it is extremely important to emphasize training with immigrant workers--those who are involved actively in production--and encourage them towards self-organization. As simplistic as this may seem, these are the folks who are most frequently in touch with the movement of goods and services, who are the greatest victims of Obama's policies, and who have in their hands the solution to the immigration challenges of the day.

domingo, 20 de junio de 2010

Arizona is the Testing Ground

Interview with Isabel Garcia by Eric Ruder
Transcription by Karen Domínguez Burke
Originally published in the Socialist Worker

June 10, 2010

Isabel García is a longtime immigrant rights activist, a defense attorney and co-chair of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, a Tucson-based grassroots organization dedicated to defending the human and civil rights of migrants and citizens alike.

During the weekend of the national day of action against SB 1070--on the eve of a 50,000-strong march in Phoenix, she spoke with Eric Ruder about how to understand SB 1070, Arizona's new racial profiling law, and the historical and social context that produced it.

UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS and anyone with brown skin were already under assault in Arizona, so why is the political establishment pushing for SB 1070?

YOU'VE GOT to remember that SB 1070 is a culmination point. It is the crown jewel in order to launch new and different attacks. But let's not talk about the new attacks that are coming forward now because of SB 1070--let's talk about why SB 1070 occurred. I believe that SB 1070 occurred because Arizona was intentionally selected as a target. This is exactly what the right wanted.

Many people say, "Well, aren't Arizona politicians doing this because the federal government has failed to act in order to address the problem at the border?" But in truth, it's the exact opposite.

The federal government has acted--by funneling all the migrants through the state of Arizona with its Operation Gatekeeper that closed up the traditional crossing areas for 100 years. Arizona then became fertile ground for all of this to take root.

In Arizona, the federal government owns nearly all of the borderlands, unlike in Texas. Texas, like Arizona, is a very conservative state, but as soon as Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff started building walls there, the communities came unglued. There were lawsuits by white and brown and black alike. They knew that wouldn't happen in Arizona.

Knowing that the chaos and division at the border wouldn't result in the kind of fightback that it did in Texas, they weren't going to pick any other state.

Plus, in the last 10 years, we were the number-one growing state, and not because of migrants, but because of the influx of retirees--which means, of course, more conservative people.

Since 1994, U.S. border enforcement efforts have destroyed the wilderness out there, but what's more, the division and chaos have given hate groups a foothold here and poisoned the media. Everybody's been complicit.

In 1996, the media replayed video of Mexicans jumping over the border wall every single night, helping to stir up fears. The hate groups went unchecked. They committed all kinds of atrocities. They've threatened my life, they've threatened many lives, and not one thing has really happened to them.
With this fear in the air, the moment was ripe for electing anti-immigrant folks. Arizonans elected Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant sheriff of Maricopa County; Tom Horne, the anti-immigrant superintendent of public instruction; Richard Romley, the anti-immigrant county attorney of Maricopa County; and the entire gang that surrounds State Sen. Russell Pearce, who was the sponsor of SB 1070.

They were all elected on an anti-immigrant platform. They didn't run on platforms to improve education or prosecute criminals more effectively. They ran on anti-immigrant platforms.

There are several anti-immigrant laws that form the immediate legal context for SB 1070: the toughest employer sanctions in the country; a charge of "aggravated identity theft," which is a class 4 felony, for anybody using a made-up Social Security number to gain work; a state smuggling statute, even though the Feds have a federal smuggling statute.

The smuggling statute should have been challenged and struck down on the constitutional basis that federal laws preempt state laws, but without political pressure, this didn't happen. It boggles the mind, really. How could a state have an anti-smuggling law challenging smuggling from another country into the state?

So we have an anti-smuggling statute, and it doesn't even target the smugglers. They arrest the people who are being smuggled. They get them to admit, "Yeah, I was going to pay a coyote [the human smugglers who help border crossers for a price] another $2,000 when I got to Phoenix." Once you admit that, you are considered a smuggler yourself, because it's conspiracy to commit smuggling.

In 2004, voters approved a ballot measure that tried to deny public services--like California's Proposition 187 did--but the courts limited its reach. Still, it impacted all of us because now, in order to vote, we have to show proof of citizenship. We are the first state ever in the history of the U.S. to demand proof of citizenship in order to vote.

The politicians know full well that there is no evidence of even one undocumented immigrant voting. So that tells you that the purpose of the law is to target us, Latino citizens and voters, so we don't vote. And also, again, to stir up the idea that our system--economic and political--is being taken advantage of by undocumented workers.

Then in 2006, voters overwhelmingly approved four anti-immigrant measures. Two of them violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Eighth Amendment guarantees bail and sits at the base of our concept of "innocent until proven guilty." This is a good theory, and what gives it life is the idea that you're out and about until you have a trial by a jury of your peers to determine whether you are guilty or not. That's innocent until proven guilty. Arizona's Proposition 100 eliminated bail for anybody who is undocumented and charged with a crime. In other words, the accusation of criminal conduct is sufficient to deny bail, so "innocent until proven guilty" is turned on its head.

We also violated the Constitution by passing Proposition 102, which bars undocumented from being able to obtain punitive damages in any court.

If a wooden beam falls on me on a construction site as a result of negligence or other criminal conduct, not only do I get my medical bills paid for, but I am also paid for what I lost at work. Together, those are called compensatory damages. But if my lawyer finds out that the producer of these beams has done this in 25 states, that's what sets the stage for punitive damages, which are intended to punish the wrongdoer as a deterrent to future violations.

Now, were immigrants suing for tort? Absolutely not! I personally know many undocumented immigrants who have been injured and refused to make any claim--not workers compensation or anything.

Also in 2006, voters passed Proposition 300, which eliminates in-state tuition for undocumented workers, even for kids born, raised and educated here, who want to go to college. The same proposition eliminated any adult education, including English classes, for parents. And finally, there was Proposition 103 that declared English the state's official language.

This set of laws has poisoned the atmosphere, and so is it so surprising that four years later SB 1070 is passed? Absolutely not. This is what they've wanted all along. They knew that passage of this bill would not only give them the tools to really clamp down on all of us, but further poison the whole social structure.
What's more, 1070 is not supposed to go into effect until July 29, but we already have dozens and dozens and dozens of calls about this law already being implemented--not only by law enforcement agencies, but also by regular people at the gym or the supermarket talking about the "wetbacks" and "it's about time."
These themes have entered the social discourse here, and to our detriment. Arizona has become the laboratory. And the idea is to export all of these measures after they've been tested here. That's why the Department of Homeland Security gave the University of Arizona $16.5 million to fund the National Center for Border Security and Immigration from 2007 to 2013.

RACIAL PROFILING at checkpoints along roads near the border has been standard operating procedure for some time now. Is SB 1070 aimed at bringing this kind of harassment and intimidation into the state's urban areas?

ABSOLUTELY. THE intention is to take it into the interior.

Remember, we have been saying that the purpose of all of this, beginning back in 1994, was to take it beyond the border. In December 2006, Julie Meyers, then head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, carried out the first massive raids at the Swift meatpacking plants in Denver. Since then, they've carried out raids in Laurel, Miss., and Postville, Iowa, but the first one was there.

What were her first words at the press conference? "This is to signal that enforcement will not remain at the border," she said.

We have been saying all this since 1994, and if you unearth and read their documents, they knew that this was what they wanted, but they lied to the American public. For 15 years, activists have been talking about this, but it really hasn't been in the public discourse. The fact that it doesn't take root is a whole other issue that has to do with our own immigrant rights organizations stabbing us in the back because they have conceded enforcement.

All these immigrant rights groups are getting millions and millions of dollars in foundation monies, but what has it accomplished? They have merely helped the authorities to carry out this massive repression on all of us. Imagine that--our own side has agreed to this!

And they demonized Derechos Humanos and others who agree with us when we were opposing the STRIVE Act of 2007, with its restrictions on a path to citizenship, guest-worker program and border militarization provisions.

These groups were really kissing up to politicians and unions and foundations, and they hid their involvement. And now we're demanding accountability. Because now, they are all on the same bandwagon, saying, "Oh, let's stop the militarization of the border."

But all along, they've been saying, "We have to have smart enforcement, Isabel, we have to have enforcement, Isabel, otherwise we'll never get legalization." We've been having the same discussion for five years, and we've spent millions of dollars. Have we gotten one single visa out of this? Nothing.
The American public is still as ignorant as ever. The polls show support for SB 1070, even though they are worded to produce that result. But even if you stated all the facts, and then you ask the American public, "Do you still believe we should have a crackdown?" they would say yes. Because they have been fed lies for all these years.

It's not just the white community. In November 2006, about 47 percent of Hispanic voters also voted for those four anti-immigrant measures, which shows you the real need for a focus on political education.
ON THE other hand, the polls also tend to show a generation gap. When you talk about people under 30, there's an openness toward people from other countries, people from Mexico and all over the world. It's quite stark how set the older generations is in its beliefs.

AND IT'S amazing that they're so nativist against their neighbor, while they are giving a pass to Wall Street and Big Oil. They've allowed themselves to be pitted against each other instead of really looking at who are the real culprits.

But the generational aspect I think is absolutely true, and thank goodness for that, because our young people now have grown up, not only in a more diverse situation, but in a global society. They have become aware that what happens in Africa will affect us here. They know that global climate change is going to impact all of us.

It's the only thing that gives me hope really--especially if young people, college-age and other students, decide to listen to immigrant youth. If they come together with the immigrant youth, nothing can stop us from achieving more justice than we are seeing, both at the border as well as in sending countries, because nobody wants to talk about that either.

The response of all these national organizations to anything that happens at the border--the deaths at the border, the shootings at the border--is to say, "Oh, that's why we need comprehensive immigration reform."

But that won't solve the problem. Because migrants leave Mexico because of the devastation of Mexico's agriculture sector. Six million corn farmers can't make a living anymore because NAFTA allowed U.S. agribusiness--with its billions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies--to run poor Mexican corn farmers out of business.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, when he was about to submit his immigration reform bill, held a conference call to discuss it, and on his very first phone call, they didn't allow me to ask this question: "Even if your program allowed for the legalization of all undocumented people here--12 million, 13 million, however many there are--will the deaths continue at the border?"

It's easy to see why they refused to take my question, because the answer is, of course, yes. Again, we see Democrats and Republicans upping the ante to see who can be more anti-immigrant than the other, which is what is behind this stupid REPAIR bill that Schumer and Feinstein have now drawn up.

APPARENTLY, ATTORNEY General Eric Holder has met with several police chiefs who are not so keen about SB 1070. What do you think the prospects are for a legal challenge by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against SB 1070?

WHO KNOWS if it will be a DOJ lawsuit, MALDEF [Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] and the ACLU, or someone else, but there will be movement. Unfortunately, I think that even if they decide to do what we are asking them to--to not cooperate, not to take anybody into custody, not help them determine the lawful status of a person--even if they did all of that, guess what they're going to do?
The Obama administration has already announced that it's sending 1,200 new National Guard troops and another half billion dollars. Where will this get us? Already, in mid-April, the Obama administration carried out a massive raid of our communities here. It was unprecedented.

More than 800 agents from several law enforcement agencies--U.S. Marshals, DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], Pima County sheriffs, Maricopa County sheriffs, the Tucson police department--were involved. Their pretext was arresting smugglers? Give me a break.

Not only do I believe they did it to scare our community into accepting whatever it is that they say, but more importantly, I think that was an example of an operation that they want to do across the country.
How do you best institute collaboration federal, state and local of law enforcement? You stage an exercise, a joint operation. Again, Arizona is the testing ground.

WHAT DOES the movement need to do?

OUR MOVEMENT needs to wake up and start with the fundamentals. And that means telling the truth. We can no longer accept politicians and other national immigrant rights organizations feeding us the same bunk. We can't allow them to continue to say, "Yes, we need security, but give us legalization."
What we need to do is demand a total reframing of the issue. We need to say immigration has nothing to do with national security or law enforcement. It is a social, political and economic phenomenon.
We know why people are migrating. Why did 6 million people leave Mexico since 1994? We began building walls way back then, seven years before any terrorist attack, but now people think we are building the walls because of that [Sept. 11, 2001, attack] . But we built walls and passed NAFTA in the very same year--1994.

We knew full well that workers were going to flee to escape sheer poverty. When are we going to have that discussion? How dare anybody tell us, "Oh, we need to stop the flow of immigrants at the border." Then you should get up to Congress immediately and start talking about what we are going to do to address the root cause immediately. How are we going to undo NAFTA?

How are we going to undo the drug war? We are creating a national security situation in Mexico, and I believe we are going to have hundreds and thousands of political refugees. And then we pretend we had nothing to do with it---that's it's all these migrants, it's stupid, corrupt, violent Mexico, and that the U.S. has nothing to do with it. It's maddening.

This country is filled with people ignorant of the history of migration and immigration policy. That's why anything that is racist like, "What don't you get about illegal?" has an immediate appeal--because we're talking about years and years of conditioning a public to respond to that.

Because we are living in an ocean of not only fear but ignorance, it's difficult for our slogan of "No human being is illegal" to catch on. We've not been able to provide the background information in the media, which they own and which respects their interests more than ours.

In Texas, they are changing textbooks, as if they don't already distort U.S. history. Now they are excluding even more references to the struggles of brown, Indian and Black people. That's the same here with this piece of legislation.

We are in terrible shape, and until we take that challenge--to really become educated and then be able to educate the public--it does us no good to pat ourselves on the back and say, "Yeah, we got out the vote." What vote? The voters who voted on the propositions in 2006?

There is so much ignorance, fear and outright lies about immigration. It's truly a concerted effort to hide the truth from us. Look at SB 2281, the Arizona bill banning ethnic studies. That's exactly what it is---they don't want the American public to know the truth.

jueves, 27 de mayo de 2010

Hundreds of Union Janitors Fired Under Pressure From Feds

By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed http://www.truthout.org/hundreds-union-janitors-fired-under-pressure-from-feds59210
Friday 07 May 2010

San Francisco, California - Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco's major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future.

ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. "They've been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years," said Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees Local 87. "They've built homes. They've provided for their families. They've sent their kids to college. They're not new workers. They didn't just get here a year ago."

Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has told ABM that they have flagged the personnel records of those workers. Weeks ago, ICE agents sifted through Social Security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.

ABM is one of the largest building service companies in the country, and it appears that union janitorial companies are the targets of the Obama administration's immigration enforcement program. "Homeland Security is going after employers that are union," Miranda charged. "They're going after employers that give benefits and are paying above the average."

Last October, 1,200 janitors working for ABM were fired in similar circumstances in Minneapolis. In November, over 100 janitors working for Seattle Building Maintenance lost their jobs. Minneapolis janitors belong to SEIU Local 26, Seattle janitors to Local 6 and San Francisco janitors to Local 87.

President Obama said sanctions enforcement targets employers "who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages - and oftentimes mistreat those workers." An ICE Worksite Enforcement Advisory claimed, "unscrupulous employers are likely to pay illegal workers substandard wages or force them to endure intolerable working conditions."

Curing intolerable conditions by firing or deporting workers who endure them doesn't help the workers or change the conditions, however. And despite Obama's contention that sanctions enforcement will punish those employers who exploit immigrants, employers are rewarded for cooperating with ICE by being immunized from prosecution. Javier Murillo, president of SEIU Local 26, said, "The promise made during the audit is that if the company cooperates and complies, they won't be fined. So this kind of enforcement really only hurts workers."

ICE Director John Morton said the agency is auditing the records of 1,654 companies nationwide. "What kind of economic recovery goes with firing thousands of workers?" Miranda asked. "Why don't they target employers who are not paying taxes, who are not obeying safety or labor laws?"

The San Francisco janitors are now faced with an agonizing dilemma. Should they turn themselves in to Homeland Security, which might charge them with providing a bad Social Security number to their employer, and even hold them for deportation? For workers with families, homes and deep roots in a community, it's not possible to just walk away and disappear. "I have a lot of members who are single mothers whose children were born here," Miranda said. "I have a member whose child has leukemia. What are they supposed to do? Leave their children here and go back to Mexico and wait? And wait for what?"

Miranda's question reflects not just the dilemma facing individual workers, but of 12 million undocumented people living in the United States. Since 2005, successive congress members, senators and administrations have dangled the prospect of gaining legal status in front of those who lack it. In exchange, their various schemes for immigration reform have proposed huge new guest worker programs, and a big increase in exactly the kind of enforcement now directed at 475 San Francisco janitors.

While the potential criminalization of undocumented people in Arizona continues to draw headlines, the actual punishment of workers because of their immigration status has become an increasingly bitter fact of life across the country.

President Obama, condemning Arizona's law that would make being undocumented a state crime, said it would "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." But then he announced his support for legislation with guest worker programs and increased enforcement.

The country is no closer to legalization of the undocumented than it was ten years ago. But the enforcement provisions of the comprehensive immigration reform bills debated in Congress over the last five years have already been implemented on the ground. The Bush administration conducted a high-profile series of raids in which it sent heavily-armed agents into meatpacking plants and factories, held workers for deportation and sent hundreds to federal prison for using bad Social Security numbers.

After Barack Obama was elected president, immigration authorities said they'd follow a softer policy, using an electronic system to find undocumented people in workplaces. People working with bad Social Security numbers would be fired.

Ironically the Bush administration proposed a regulation that would have required employers to fire any worker who provided an employer with a Social Security number that didn't match the SSA database. That regulation was then stopped in court by unions, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center. The Obama administration, however, is implementing what amounts to the same requirement, with the same consequence of thousands of fired workers.

Union leaders like Miranda see a conflict between the rhetoric used by the president and other Washington, DC, politicians and lobbyists in condemning the Arizona law, and the immigration proposals they make in Congress. "There's a huge contradiction here," she said. "You can't tell one state that what they're doing is criminalizing people, and at the same time go after employers paying more than a living wage and the workers who have fought for that wage."

Renee Saucedo, attorney for La Raza Centro Legal and former director of the San Francisco Day Labor Program, is even more critical. "Those bills in Congress, which are presented as ones that will help some people get legal status, will actually make things much worse," she charged. "We'll see many more firings like the janitors here, and more punishments for people who are just working and trying to support their families."

Increasingly, however, the Washington proposals have even less promise of legalization, and more emphasis on punishment. The newest Democratic Party scheme virtually abandons the legalization program promised by the "bipartisan" Schumer/Graham proposal, saying that heavy enforcement at the border and in the workplace must come before any consideration of giving 12 million people legal status.

"We have to look at the whole picture," Saucedo urged. "So long as we have trade agreements like NAFTA that create poverty in countries like Mexico, people will continue to come here, no matter how many walls we build. Instead of turning people into guest workers, as these bills in Washington would do, while firing and even jailing those who don't have papers, we need to help people get legal status, and repeal the laws that are making work a crime."

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

See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

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

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