Monday, April 30, 2007

Latino Groups Unite Against White House anti immigrant proposals

Latino Groups Unite Against White House
Anti-Family Immigration Proposals
Uniting American families must remain a top priority of immigration policy

APRIL 30, 2007 - Last Thursday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and its coalition partners - National Council of La Raza (NCLR), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) - sent a letter to President George W. Bush expressing opposition to White House proposals to cut family-based immigration programs.

Recent reports have signaled that the Administration is urging the U.S. Senate to accept a proposal that eliminates some visa categories for United States citizens to reunite legally with their family members and ignores the traditional importance of families in resettling newcomers in the United States.

"Family reunification must continue to be a cornerstone of our immigration policy. The White House proposal erodes the strength of families and their capacity to equip newcomers with the skills and support to contribute fully to the nation," said John Trasviña, President and General Counsel of MALDEF.

"The notion that strong families are essential to strong communities isn't just a Hispanic American value, it's an American value. We need to preserve family as a basis for our immigration system," said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO.

The groups also issued their strong opposition to a proposed Administration green card plan that replaces family reunification with a point system to allocate visas. The proposal would also prohibit future temporary workers from petitioning for their family members. If enacted, it would keep families apart, impede integration into the American mainstream, and be a further incentive to enter the United States illegally.

"As the president acknowledged, healthy families are invaluable to the nation's well being. It is therefore imperative that families are not being separated due to the Administration's recent posture toward family-based immigration," said LULAC National President Rosa Rosales. "We urge the president to have a heart and remember that family values are at the core of our nation's immigration policy."

According to Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, "We are at a critical juncture in our national discussion of our immigration policy. The choices we make now will determine the future of our nation's prosperity and well-being. We urge the president to demonstrate the leadership necessary to chart a course toward comprehensive immigration reform which recognizes and reinforces the value of family reunification for all Americans."

The Latino community urges President Bush to fulfill his commitment to families in this country by supporting and strengthening family values through our nation's immigration policy.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation's leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

May 1 Marches


We invite you to join us in the May 1st, MAY DAY, marches and actions to raise our collective voices to STOP IMMIGRATION RAIDS and DEPORTATIONS, STOP the FORCED SEPARATION OF OUR FAMILIES, LEGALIZATION FOR ALL, and NO BRACERO-TYPE CONTRACT PROGRAMS.
Lastly, we adamantly oppose the Gutierrez-Flake Immigration Bill, known as the STRIVE ACT, introduced last month by Congressmen Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Our next eNewsletter will provide much more information about the STRIVE ACT by various sources which critique the legislation as deficient and dangerous to immigrants and working people.

We encourage you to download the letters we have posted for your convenience, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and circulate amongst your family, friends, and work-mates and forward these to the Democratic Party leadership.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Carlos Munoz, Graduation Speech

Dr. Carlos Munoz, Jr. UC Berkeley Chicano/Latino Graduation Speech

Carlos Munoz, Jr. Keynote Speech
Chicano/Latino Graduation
Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
May 20, 2006

It's a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you to celebrate your graduation. You have been blessed with the intelligence, the love of familia, friends, and community. Most of all, you have been blessed with the work ethic of your parents and the legacies of struggle waged by our ancestors.

You came here prepared to work hard in your studies and to survive whatever obstacles were placed in your path. It was not easy, but you have persevered. You have every right to feel extremely proud of yourself. I know your parents are. And so are those who love you.

Some of you are immigrants. Others of you, like me, are children of immigrants. In particular, children of poor working class immigrants. Like me, some of you are the first in your families to graduate from college. No doubt some of you never thought it possible to get a college education. I remember that my immigrant father simply wanted me to finish high school!

Thanks to the Chicano/Chicana Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and in particular to the student activists of that generation who struggled to open the doors to these previously all white institutions, you are here tonight. In particular, if it were not for the 1969 "Third World Strike" that was organized by Chicano/Chicana and other students of color, I and the rest of the Latino faculty and staff on this stage, would also not be here tonight.

In the process of working and studying hard to get the knowledge you now have, you have also become more critically aware of the harsh realities and tragedies that regretfully exist throughout our nation and the world at large.

You witnessed the terrorism of 9/11. And more tragically, the even more tragic response by the President and the Congress to wage a war of destruction against a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9/11. The war in Iraq has taken its toll of thousands of Iraqi innocent lives. Hundreds of lives of U.S. soldiers, including young Latino and Latina soldiers, your age, or younger, have also died and continue to die today in the streets of Iraq. They should have been here or at another university instead of the streets of Iraq where they met their death.

You have also witnessed another kind of war here at home. It is the war waged against hard working Latino undocumented immigrants and their familias who everyday contribute to the U.S. culture and the economy. At the time when Latino blood is being spilled in the battle fields of Iraq, the Republican controlled House of Representatives wants to criminalize them by making it a felony crime for entering the U.S. without papers. That is what the Sensenbrenner Bill (HR 4437) is all about.

Latino undocumented workers have courageously come out of the shadows by the millions to make clear they, like everyone else, deserves equality and human rights. Their struggle has generated a passion for social justice throughout the nation that has not happened since the 1960s when the farm worker movement led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. And the Black and Chicano Civil Rights movements, and the anti-Vietnam War made a similar impact.

I am extremely proud of those of you graduating tonight who have joined me in taking a strong stance against the injustice of the Sensenbrenner Bill HR 4437 here on this campus and who have marched in the streets of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere in solidarity with our undocumented hermanos y hermanas.

The millions of Latinos marching for immigrant

Rights in the streets of cities across this nation has

Also generated fear among those who are committed to preserving the status quo. They are the same ones who have framed Diversity as "un-American" and a source of division in our society. They are the same ones who oppose immigrant rights.

They have made Latinos the main target. For example, Samuel Huntington, a political scientist at Harvard, has argued in his writings that Latinos are the most serious threat to the White dominant culture. He fears that our nation will lose its single national language and its core WASP culture. As he put it, "In this new era, the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico."

A new Latino leadership must emerge from your ranks to take on the responsibility of developing a new politics that can build on the positives of our diversity. We need a leadership that has a vision of the future that is based on the multicultural and multiracial reality of what our nation has become. A leadership that is dedicated to the process of building bridges between all the different races and cultures.

You have proven thus far that you have the intellectual and the critical thinking capacity to become this kind of leader for the 21st century.

The task will require new vision of Democracy that must include people of all colors. We are not islands unto ourselves. Latino liberation is not possible without making possible the liberation of people of all colors, including white folks who are not part of the white supremacy structure of power.

In reality, as Latinos we represent everybody. We know we are an indigenous people. But we must also know that we are African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European. We are Christian, but we are also Muslim and Jewish. We own the original meaning of an authentic Diversity. We are America!

I have been marching for social justice, peace, and Democracy since the 1960s. And I won't stop until the day I die. I know that your generation, and those of you in this graduating class in particular, will continue marching long after I'm gone.

I want to share my Vision for an authentic Multiracial Democracy that I have kept in mind throughout my life of struggle and activism. It is my graduation gift to you to keep in mind as you develop into our nation's leaders.

My vision is that Americans of all colors, religions, sexual preferences, men and women will give birth to an authentic Multiracial Democracy.

A Democracy that will promote a true racial and ethnic diversity and equality in everyday life.
A Democracy that honors its immigrant legacies and values as equal all immigrant workers whether they are documented or undocumented.
A Democracy that will promote social justice, religious tolerance, non-violence, and peace at home and abroad.
A Democracy with a government that will include a representative of every diverse group at the table of political power on behalf of the people, not the military-prison-corporate complex.
A Democracy with a national political multiparty electoral system where candidates for election include the poor and working class, not just those who are rich or middle class. With an electoral system where every vote will in fact be counted. No more Florida's, no more Ohio's, no more Bushes.
A Democracy where human needs are prioritized and not the needs of the rich and the corporations. Where health care and education are defined as Human Rights.
A Democracy that prioritizes youth as the most important Investment for the future of our nation and builds more schools instead of prisons.

But What I have learned in my lifetime is that struggle is life and life is struggle. But most importantly, that victory is in the struggle!

Congratulations to each and every one of you. Love, Peace, and Justice to you all!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guest workers: braceros; a bad idea

Guest workers: a worn-out labor idea
Such programs are bad for immigrants and hurt U.S. workers as well.
By John J. Sweeney and Pablo Alvarado
JOHN J. SWEENEY is president of the AFL-CIO. PABLO ALVARADO is executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

April 10, 2007

CORPORATE America has made an expanded guest worker program the cornerstone of its preferred brand of immigration reform, and no wonder: It will assure a steady flow of cheap labor from essentially indentured workers too afraid of being deported to protest substandard wages, chiseled benefits and unsafe working conditions.

Such a system will create a disenfranchised underclass of workers. That is not only morally indefensible, it is economically nonsensical. We've had plenty of bad experiences with such shortsighted answers to a complicated problem.

The notorious bracero program all but enslaved immigrant agricultural and railroad workers in the years after World War II. Today we have H-2A and H-2B visa programs to remind us that "temporary" immigration employment models rest on a faulty foundation.

The H-2 programs bring in agricultural and other seasonal workers to pick crops, do construction and work in the seafood industry, among other jobs. Workers typically borrow large amounts of money to pay travel expenses, fees and sometimes bribes to recruiters. That means that before they even begin to work, they are indebted. They leave their families at home, and they are essentially "bound" to employers who can send them home on a whim and who do not have to prove a need to hire them in the first place.

According to a new study published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it is not unusual for a Guatemalan worker to pay more than $2,500 in fees to obtain a seasonal guest worker position, about a year's worth of income in Guatemala. And Thai workers have been known to pay as much as $10,000 for the chance to harvest crops in the orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Interest rates on the loans are sometimes as high as 20% a month. Homes and vehicles are required collateral. Handcuffed by their debt, the "guests" are forced to remain and work for employers even when their pay and working conditions are second-rate, hazardous or abusive. Hungry children inevitably checkmate protest.

Technically, these programs include some legal protections, but in reality, those protections exist mostly on paper. Government enforcement is almost nonexistent. Private attorneys refuse to take cases. And guest workers, especially the poorest, the least educated and those with the least English, end up with no choice but to put their heads down and toil, innocently undermining employment standards for all U.S. workers in the process.

This doesn't mean that there is no solution to the immigration crisis or no good way to deal with workers and families who will want to come — and who we will need to come — to the United States to work.

In 1997, the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform validated our belief that a "properly regulated system of permanent admissions serves the national interest" and warned that another temporary-worker program would be a "grievous mistake." This means that everyone who is admitted to work must immediately be on a track toward permanent residency or citizenship.

Yes, employers who can prove that they tried and failed to find U.S. workers should be able to hire foreign workers. But no, they shouldn't be able to bring them in under abusive conditions that have a negative effect on the wages and working conditions of other workers.

Yes, we should have caps set to limit the number of employment-based visas issued each year. But no, they should not be determined, as the H-2 quotas are now, by political compromise or industry lobbying. The number of employment-based visas should be set each year by the Department of Labor based on macro-economic indicators that establish the needs of particular industries.

Employers should not be allowed to recruit abroad, a practice that invites bribes, exorbitant fees and potential abuse. Instead, employers should be required to hire from applications filed by workers in their home countries through a computerized job bank.

Foreign workers should enjoy the same rights and protections as U.S. workers, including freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. Labor laws must protect all workers, regardless of immigration status. If we leave undocumented workers without any real way to enforce labor laws, as our laws do now, we are feeding employers' hunger for more and more exploitable workers, relegating them to second-class status. That hurts all workers.

Scholars have long recognized that the genius of U.S. immigration policy throughout our history has been the opportunity afforded to immigrants for full membership in society. That is the solid foundation on which a morally and economically sound policy can be built, and it is the foundation we are working together to build.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Immigrants March in Los Angeles

Thousands march in LA to protest immigration plan
By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press | April 8, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- Thousands of people marched through downtown yesterday, demanding a way for the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to become citizens and condemning President Bush's latest proposal.

Carrying signs saying "Amnesty Now," about 15,000 people danced to Mexican ranchera music and passed large American flags over their heads.

Organizers said many illegal immigrants were angry about a White House plan that would grant them work visas but require them to return home and pay thousands of dollars to become legal US residents.

"Charging that much, Bush is going to be even more expensive than the coyotes," said protester Armando Garcia, 50, referring to smugglers who transport people across the Mexican border.

Alfredo Gonzalez, 33, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, marched with his wife and daughters, 6 and 8 years old. He said he fears the immigration raids occurring across the country.

"If they kick me out, who is going to take care of my daughters? The government? I don't think so," he said. "We need full legalization and need it now."

Immigrant rights advocates say many of California's illegal immigrants feel betrayed by President Bush, who they had long considered an ally.

"People are really upset," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, president of Los Angeles-based Latino Movement USA, one of several organizers of the rally. "For years, the president spoke in no uncertain terms about supporting immigration reform. . . . Then this kind of plan comes out and people are so frustrated."

The White House's draft plan, which was recently leaked, calls for a new "Z" visa that would allow illegal immigrant workers to apply for three-year work permits. They would be renewable indefinitely, but would cost $3,500 each time.

To get a permit and become legal permanent residents, illegal immigrants would have to return to their home country, apply at a US embassy or consulate to reenter legally, and pay a $10,000 fine.

The proposal has been sharply criticized by Hispanic advocacy groups, Democrats, the Roman Catholic Church, and unions that have many immigrants in their ranks. They argue the cost of work permits and the green card application -- which could total more than $20,000 -- are prohibitive for low-wage earners.

The plan is far more conservative than the one passed by the Senate last year with bipartisan backing and support from President Bush.

That plan would have allowed many of the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, work, and apply to become legal residents after learning English, pay small fines and back taxes, and clear a background check.

Many conservatives in the Senate opposed that plan, and it failed to gain traction in the then Republican-controlled House, which at the end of 2005 passed the punitive immigration bill that angered immigrant communities and led to massive protests.

In Arizona last week, authorities found at least 80 suspected illegal immigrants in a house west of Phoenix and arrested two suspected smugglers, a police official said.

Authorities shot tear gas into the house Friday, forcing one of the suspected smugglers out. They found the other suspect hiding in the attic, Peoria police spokesman Mike Tellef said.

He said authorities became aware of the drop house after a Michigan resident called US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying one of their relatives had called because the smugglers were demanding more money.

The immigrants were in the custody of ICE. Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the agency, did not confirm how ICE became aware of the drop house and declined to release further information.

© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Monday, April 02, 2007

Labor activists murdered in Columbia

Baltimore Sun April 2, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Carmen Cecilia Santana Romana, a 28-year-
old mother of three and a national trade union officer,
was shot dead in her home in Antioquia, Colombia, on
Feb. 7. Her murder came as little surprise; the most
dangerous country in the world for trade unionists is
Colombia, which will become Washington's newest free
trade partner unless Congress stops the deal.

Some Democrats may be eager to show that they are not
obstructionists on trade by cutting a deal with the
Bush administration to "fix" the U.S.-Colombia Free
Trade Agreement and passing the revised accord. But
that's the wrong approach with Colombia. Congress
should reject the pact outright.

In Colombia, trade unionists who are not murdered are
often threatened, attacked or kidnapped. The
overwhelming majority of cases are unsolved; many are
never investigated, and the perpetrators go unpunished,
ready to strike again. The government says 58 unionists
were murdered in Colombia in 2006, up from 40 the year
before. Labor groups report even higher totals: 77
murdered in 2006, up from 70 in 2005.

Colombia is a violent country, but its trade unionists
are not random casualties. They are especially targeted
when exercising their rights to organize and bargain
collectively, moments of great potential for change.

Change threatens Colombia's two main guerrilla groups
and its Mafia-like paramilitaries, often linked to the
anti-union violence. Change also threatens the
government, which has proved more likely to be
infiltrated by paramilitaries than to pursue them and
more likely to grant them concessions than to impose

Despite $4 billion in U.S. support through Plan
Colombia, the Colombian government has yet to take a
tough stand against paramilitaries. Since paramilitary
demobilization began four years ago, Colombia has doled
out the benefits of the process while imposing few of
the burdens. Demobilized paramilitary leaders were
supposed to stop illegal activity, but paramilitaries
are still involved in violence and drug trafficking.
And leaders can continue masterminding crimes from
prison on unrestricted cell phones.

Paramilitary influence may well reach into the
country's highest circles of power. On Feb. 22, the
Colombian intelligence agency's head from 2002 to 2005
was arrested on charges of conspiring with
paramilitaries, including in the killing of union
leaders and academics. The Colombian Supreme Court has
ordered the arrest of nine congressmen from President
Alvaro Uribe's coalition for their links with
paramilitaries. More than a dozen other politicians are
also under investigation. Mr. Uribe is spinning these
developments as evidence of his willingness to clean
house, yet they resulted from independent
investigations by judicial institutions and the media.

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, signed in
November 2006 and awaiting congressional consideration,
would reward Colombia with prized access to American
markets even as its workers' rights are brutally

The vital labor rights fixes that congressional
Democrats proposed last week for all pending and future
free trade accords would not come close to addressing
Colombia's problems.

Its human rights problems go far beyond its weak labor
laws and their poor enforcement. They cannot be solved
through corrections to the trade agreement. Human
Rights Watch, which normally takes no position on free
trade per se, opposes any free trade accord with
Colombia because of its egregious record on human

Before Colombia enjoys a free trade agreement with the
United States, it must take a hard line on
paramilitarism by initiating serious investigations and
prosecutions of cases of violence and threats against
trade unionists and by protecting potential witnesses.

The U.S. government should fund the human rights unit
of the Colombian attorney general's office to help meet
these goals, conditioned upon continued "measurable
progress" toward their fulfillment. But it should not
reward the country with a free trade agreement.

If the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement enters into
force, U.S. producers will compete directly against
Colombian producers whose workers often cannot exercise
basic rights without risking their lives. The United
States will also have demonstrated a double standard in
its "war on terror," rewarding with much-coveted trade
benefits a country that stands by while its narco-
terrorist paramilitaries crush fundamental human
rights. ______

Carol Pier is a senior researcher on labor rights and
trade at Human Rights Watch. Her e-mail is