Thursday, September 24, 2020

Choose Democracy : Resist Authoritarianism

 Choose Democracy : Resist Authoritarianism

Choose DemocracyWe can stop an undemocratic power grab, but only if we prepare and together, choose democracy.

Democracy is fragile. We have reason to worry that this fall we may see an undemocratic power grab — a coup. We also know that the people can defend our democracy. Nonviolent mass protests have stopped coups in other places, and we may have to do the same in this country.

Elections work because the public agrees to honor the results. Similarly, coups work only if the public honors them. When the public refuses to accept the coup as legitimate, coups fall apart. Refusal looks like millions of people using nonviolent tools to delegitimize the coup by demonstrating, resisting orders, and shutting down the country until democracy prevails.

That’s why we are committing now to choose democracy: by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of a coup.

Together, we choose democracy.

We will vote.
We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.
We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.
If we need to, we will shut down this country to protect the integrity of the democratic process


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

ICE Violates Women


The outcry over ICE and hysterectomies

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is facing allegations that women detained at one of the agency’s facilities in Ocilla, Georgia, underwent unnecessary gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies.

The allegations began with a nurse, Dawn Wooten, who filed a whistleblower complaint on Monday that cited concerns about a seemingly high number of hysterectomies performed on immigrants detained at the facility.

On Wednesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the vice chair of the House immigration subcommittee, said in a statement that she had been briefed by three attorneys representing detainees at the facility. At minimum, she said, 17 or 18 people held at the Irwin County Detention Center had been subjected to unnecessary gynecological procedures — often “with the clear intention of sterilization” and without obtaining proper consent.

“It has become painfully clear to me that the initial reports ... are likely part of a pattern of conduct,” Jayapal said. 

Many of the details of the allegations against the Georgia facility are still emerging, and both ICE and the private operator of the facility have called for skepticism of the complaint, which relies on secondhand accounts of the hysterectomies that were allegedly performed. Attorneys have since come forward with firsthand accounts of such procedures, but it is not clear to what extent ICE and the medical staff involved sought the detainees’ consent to perform those procedures or whether they were medically necessary. 

But the accusations, which echo of the ugly history of coercive sterilization in the US, have sparked widespread outrage — including calls for formal investigations. But this is far from the first time that ICE, the federal agency charged with enforcing immigration law in the US, has been accused of neglecting immigrants’ health and safety, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I don’t think this is necessarily a systemic sterilization by ICE. I think this is the kind of thing that is allowed to flourish in the course of poor oversight and terrible, inhumane conditions of confinement,” said Sarah Owings, an attorney for one of the detainees, told NBC

The complaint describes one gynecologist as a “uterus collector”

The initial disclosed complaint, filed by a nurse, Dawn Wooten, in cooperation with a coalition of immigrant rights groups led by nonprofit activist group Project South, said female detainees had been subjected to a troublingly high number of hysterectomies while in custody at the Georgia facility.

As first reported by Prism, the procedures were allegedly performed by Mahendra Amin, a gynecologist associated with Coffee Regional Medical Center and Irwin County Hospital in Georgia. In 2015, Amin and several other doctors reached a more than $500,000 civil settlement with Georgia prosecutors to resolve allegations that they submitted fraudulent claims to Medicaid and Medicare. 

Wooten is quoted in the complaint about the doctor: “We’ve questioned among ourselves, like, goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out. … That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector.” 

But the detention facility, which is operated by the private prison contractor LaSalle Corrections, continued to send patients to him. 

According to Wooten’s complaint, the detainees, many of whom have limited English skills, were allegedly sent to a gynecologist outside the facility who performed the hysterectomies, often without them fully understanding why they were getting the procedure done. One woman was told it was because she had a “thick womb” or “heavy bleeding,” even though she had never experienced heavy bleeding or been told by a doctor previously that she had a thick womb, according to the complaint. 

BuzzFeed reported that ICE informed lawmakers Tuesday that the detention center had only “referred” two detainees for hysterectomies to outside health care providers since 2018, and that the procedures had been approved by the facility clinical authority. Still, it’s possible that detainees could have received hysterectomies without being specifically referred for the procedure.

Several attorneys representing detainees who had been treated by Amin came forward with similar allegations on Tuesday. One attorney, Benjamin Osorio, told NBC News that Amin performed hysterectomies on two of his clients that they think may have been medically unnecessary.

Hysterectomies can be commonly used to treat noncancerous growths in the uterus that contribute to heavy periods and painful sex, as well as endometriosis, pelvic support issues, abnormal uterine bleedings, chronic pelvic pain, and gynecologic cancers. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that, depending on a patient’s condition and comfort level, they may “want to try other options first that do not involve surgery” or see if the condition improves on its own first, waiting to perform the hysterectomy until a woman no longer wants to bear children.




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Biden Blunder !


Biden pick creates furor, underscoring bitterness over Obama immigration policy

BY RAFAEL BERNAL - 09/09/20 06:00 AM EDT 1,296  Posted from The Hill,


Dime con quién andas !




Immigration advocates are livid over the Biden transition team’s addition of Cecilia Muñoz, a former Obama administration official who was the public face of that administration’s immigration policy.

Muñoz, who once served as the head of former President Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council, was named by the Biden campaign Friday as part of a group of eight new senior transition advisers.

The pick was quickly criticized by immigration reform advocates, a reaction that exhibited both ideological divides within the Democratic Party and a lingering resentment felt by many immigration advocates over the actions of the Obama administration, particularly in its first term.

“Huge mistake. Huge. Huge mistake. Worst part? We have no other option. I guess we gotta pick our opponent. That’s what it has come down to,” wrote Erika Andiola, an immigrant rights activist and advocacy director for The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

Muñoz, a policy expert who cut her teeth at UnidosUS, then known as the National Council of La Raza, before joining the Obama administration, became a lightning rod for criticism of Obama’s immigration policy.

“If Biden wins, no one from the Obama administration should be allowed to touch the immigration policy portfolio,” said Pablo Manríquez, a former Democratic National Committee spokesman who’s been overtly critical of Obama on immigration.

“Cecilia Muñoz is the one person besides [Trump White House aide] Stephen Miller who has spent years of her public service dedicated to the smooth execution of mass deportation policy at the West Wing level,” said Manríquez.

The criticism reflects in part the view that Muñoz did not advocate enough for immigration rights during internal discussions in the Obama White House. Instead, advocates say she too often defended policies that led to the deportation of more than 2 million people.

“She was the person in the White House who shielded Obama from all the flak,” said Amy Maldonado, an immigration lawyer whose clients include minors in detention.

“The whole reason she was in that room was to give a perspective they weren’t hearing, and instead she covered for them,” added Maldonado.

The criticism comes as Biden continues to underperform with Latino voters, a fact that is alarming to many Democrats.

An NBC News-Marist poll released Tuesday found Biden trailing Trump among Latino voters in Florida, 50 percent to 46 percent. In 2016, by contrast, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump among Florida Latinos by 25 points, according to exit polls. 

Biden has slowly but surely distanced himself from Obama’s more aggressive immigration policies, and Maldonado said there was no question for her about backing Biden over Trump, even if Biden brought back all of the Obama-era policies.

“Between Trump and Biden there is no choice. Children literally die in detention under this administration,” she said.

Other voices defended the Obama administration, saying it changed in the second term.

“Immigration policy under the Obama-Biden administration was not a singular thing, it evolved over time for a lot of reasons,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“While there were some bumps in the road, they showed some growth,” said Jawetz.

Muñoz has both White House experience and immigration expertise, which makes her a natural fit for Biden’s team. In 2000, she won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her work on immigration policy.

A former Capitol Hill staffer with deep knowledge of immigration deliberations during the Obama administration lauded Muñoz, saying “she was advocating for immigration reform and the president leaning in to immigration in a positive way.”

Muñoz remained publicly loyal to Obama when the then-president was referred to by some as the deporter in chief, something perceived by some in the immigration space as a betrayal.

“There were lots of moments when people thought she should resign in protest and she didn’t. She stuck with it and it earned her a lot of enemies on the pro-immigrant left,” said the former staffer.

But immigration advocates see Muñoz as a policy expert who will likely depend on the political leadership of Biden and his core team to mark a direction on immigration for the Democratic nominee.

“Cecilia Muñoz is one of several experienced advisors leading teams focused on establishing strong infrastructure for federal agencies dealing with domestic and economic policy. The transition team’s focus is ensuring there is a strong policy apparatus across government that can support the Biden-Harris Administration’s policies on day one,” said a Biden transition official.

Along with Muñoz’s appointment, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham(D) was announced as one of four co-chairs for the transition team, a hierarchical step above Muñoz.

Lujan Grisham led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the first two years of the Trump administration and was a vocal defender of immigrant rights and proponent of immigration reform.

Winning over Latino voters, in any event, is likely to come down to Biden himself.


Winning over Latino voters, in any event, is likely to come down to Biden himself.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Voting Power

SACRAMENTO PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE: Voting Power: The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is non-partisan  but deeply committed to moral politics and public policy.  Fo...

Monday, September 07, 2020

UFW Begins Boycott of Foster Farms


 On Monday, the United Farm Workers (UFW) held a virtual news conference —along with the Jakarta Movement Punjabi Sikh organization and Faith  in the Valley— pledging to boycott Foster Farms, the poultry processing plant in Livingston, California, after nine workers died from the novel coronavirus and 358 tested positive.

The Merced County Health Department had made several recommendations, including recommendations to conduct widespread testing, to Foster Farms during a survey back in June when the outbreak started.

According to the UFW, Foster Farms did not comprehensively follow many of the recommendations.

“United Farm Workers has tried to work as a team with Foster Farms since the early days of the pandemic. Until fairly recently, we have tried to take a collaborative approach with the company as we felt this was the fastest way for us to help protect as many workers as possible,” said Elizabeth Strater, UFW’s Director of Alternative Organizing. “As time has gone on, and especially since late July, we have been increasingly disturbed to realize that the company was not going to meet us or the workers halfway.”

A vigil for the nine workers who died was held on Thursday night.

According to an August 26 order from Merced County Health Department telling Foster Farms to close its facilities for not complying to the previous recommendations, “of the approximate 2,600 workers at the Livingston facility, 13.7 percent of the workforce has received a positive test result based on worker self-reporting.” However, this figure does not represent the extent of the outbreak in the facility because Foster Farms did not conduct universal testing.

“There are hundreds of families now affected by sickness. There are at least nine families grieving the death of people they love. Still, Foster Farms is delaying the closure of the facility and we still have not been provided clear details by Foster on the testing performed to date,” Strater said.

Martha Vera’s husband was a trucker for Foster Farms for 27 years. A few days before he passed away from COVID-19 complications, he told Martha that people were infected onsite, and that they were still working at the plant.

“I just want to say that this company, they obviously don’t care about the workers they only care about the money. I have worked there for 26 years,” Vera said during the conference. “I hope that someone can tell Foster Farms that they need to take action. How many more workers need to die before they are able to finally take action to protect employees.”

José de Piña Tovar, who has been working at Foster Farms for 15 years, said he and his wife were infected while working in the plant back in June during the conference.

“Foster Farms should have a clean plant. They need to provide the necessary equipment to protect us. I suggest that everyone working in the plant needs to be tested. At least every eight days, to ensure that we are all safe from COVID-19,” said Piña Tovar, who is still recovering from the virus.

During the conference, UFW members pledged to support a boycott if Foster Farms continues failing to provide a safe workplace, which includes complying with the county order to close the entire Livingston facility, testing all workers (including cleaning crews) with public results and weekly testing once the facility reopens, providing paid leave while the plant is closed and “quarantine pay,” supplying hazard pay, and to provide PPE equipment to all employees.

The company released a statement saying in part that “the Central Valley in California, where many of Foster Farms’ facilities are located, has been especially hard-hit. Foster Farms is initiating a comprehensive testing program across all of its California facilities beginning on August 12, at its main Livingston plant. Foster Farms tested nearly 2,900 employees and found a COVID-19 prevalence of less than 1%. We are encouraged by these results but recognize there is even more to do and will begin additional testing and sanitation this week.”

County officials ordered the facility to close on August 27, but Foster Farms delayed its closure, asking workers to come back to work the next day. It closed its main plant on September 1, but other parts of Foster Farms are still open.


Diego Jesús Bartesaghi Mena is a 2020 Latino Rebels summer correspondent. A recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he is based in Newark, NJ and tweets from @bartesaghi_mena.