Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stop the ICE Raids

Congressmen Gutierrez and Baca denounce Bush, call on
ICE to stop raids

Mr. President, Stop These Raids on Our Communities

By Luis Gutierrez and Joe Baca

Chicago Tribune - August 6, 2008,0,3894335.story

As members of Congress, we have traveled to remote
corners of the world and had our eyes opened to some of
the worst human suffering imaginable - abject poverty,
meager wages, poor working conditions, paltry access to
legal counsel and a jarring lack of fairness in the

We never imagined that we would witness the same
injustices in a small American town just a five-hour
drive from Chicago.

During a visit to Postville, Iowa, last weekend, site
of the May 12 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid
of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant, we saw
firsthand how a broken Immigration system devastates a
small town.

Mothers bound to electronic bracelets were allowed
neither to work nor to return to their home countries,
leaving them without recourse to pay rent or feed their
children. Wives and children - many of them U.S.
citizens - were left to wonder where their husbands and
fathers had been taken, or where they would go next. To
this day, more than half of the wives do not know where
their husbands are.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy spoke of working 17-hour
shifts, six days a week, without overtime on the kill
floor of a meatpacking plant. Women from the
slaughterhouse spoke of male supervisors demanding sex
in return for decent hours, decent pay and decent
treatment on the job. These workers were victimized,
only to be herded like animals when ICE swept the plant
and left their employers without punishment.

There is no mistaking that these men and women are
suffering at the hands of the U.S. government and our
president. Our broken Immigration system has paved a
way to the objectification of human beings at the
expense of our labor laws, U.S. workers' safety and
basic family values.

Instead of taking a stand against the outright
victimization of workers - many of them minors, and all
of them legally entitled to labor protections - the
Bush administration decided that meatpackers posed a
greater threat to our security than suspected
terrorists or physically abusive employers.

Almost two years to the day before the administration
sent 900 ICE agents to storm Agriprocessors, President
George W. Bush appeared before the American people and
declared: "We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce
our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we
must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our
country in so many ways. These are not contradictory
goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming
society at the same time."

Postville has plainly shown that we are neither of
those things. We are not "lawful" when we interrupt
investigations spearheaded by our own Department of
Labor. We are not lawful when we implement fear tactics
and deportation-only policies simply to score cheap
political points with conservative pundits. We are not
lawful when we railroad men and women through the
judicial process, without adequate representation or a
full understanding of their rights.

We are certainly not "welcoming" when hardworking
mothers and fathers are prohibited from raising their
U.S. citizen children in the country of their birth, or
when those who work the longest hours at the most
undesirable jobs are treated like terrorists, simply
for waking up and going to work.

There is no other reasonable response than to demand
that Bush remember his words of welcome and his
commitment to law, by placing a moratorium on
Immigration raids until we have passed effective,
comprehensive reform. The nation that we love, respect
and serve is better than this. Bush stood before the
American people and proclaimed:

"An Immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive,
because all elements of this problem must be addressed
together, or none of them will be solved at all."

But headline-grabbing tactics like the Postville raid
had nothing to do with comprehensive reform. Bush has
forgotten his promise.

No one benefits when taxpayers pay $590,000 a month to
jail Postville's detainees. As a society, we fail when
our factories are less safe, when the perpetrators go
uncharged or when our laws remove infants from nursing
mothers and create broken homes for U.S. citizen

We can all agree that we need Immigration reform that
is tough on enforcement. However, any system which
fails to respect the enormous contributions immigrants
make to our workforce, that fails to reflect our proud
history of welcoming those who seek a better life and
that fails to protect all U.S. workers and our
homeland, fails the American people.

The Postville raid failed our nation on all three of
those levels. Any future raid would be equally and
profoundly inexcusable and cause yet another avoidable
blight on our history.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is chair of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Immigration Task Force
and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) is chair of the caucus.

Copyright c 2008, Chicago Tribune

Monday, August 18, 2008

Haitian Activist tours Brazil

Haitian Activist David Josue Begins Brazil Tour to Demand UN/Brazil Troops Out of Haiti


SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 18, 2008 -- Haitian human rights activist David Josue initiated today a week-long tour to Brazil, where he will speak before mass rallies and official governmental bodies in four cities to demand the immediate withdrawal of UN troops, which are under Brazilian command, from Haiti.

Brother Josue issued an Open Letter to Brazilian President Inacio "Lula" da Silva earlier this year at the Second Continental Conference Against Free Trade, Privatizations and War in Mexico City. The Brazilian delegation to this conference subsequently distributed this Open Letter widely across Brazil, winning many supporters for this stance among federal deputies in the Brazilian National Assembly and among the leadership of the main trade union federation: the CUT.

UN troops in Brazil -- known as the MINUSTAH forces (or UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti) -- have occupied Haiti since 2004. Brazil is in command of these occupation forces and also has the largest contingent of troops in Haiti -- 1,210 troops, according to the UN figures released for June 2008.

Brother Josue's letter to Lula states, in part:

"Something untoward is going on with your soldiers in Haiti. Brazilian soldiers are conducting terrifying raids on residents of poor and defenseless communities throughout Haiti, leaving in their wake a trail of blood, tears, and death. The buck stops with you, President da Silva. You are their commander in chief. ... This cannot possibly be the best that the Brazilian people have to offer. How can this happen when you are the President of Brazil? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that there comes a time when silence is betrayal. Will you and your Administration remain silent on these atrocities?" [See full text of Brother Josue's Open Letter below.]

Brother Josue will also mobilize support for the demand for the safe return of Haitian human activist Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, who disappeared in Haiti on August 12, 2007.

Brother Josue's tour has been endorsed very broadly by trade unionists, federal and state deputies of Lula's own party (the Workers Party), and by the country's main Black and community organizations.

On Tuesday, August 19, Brother Josue will speak at a hearing of the Sao Paulo State Legislative Assembly, followed by a mass public rally that includes the following speakers: Federal PT Deputies Luis Couto and Fernando Ferro; Gegé, leader of the Union of Popular Movements; Milton Barbosa, a central leader of the Unified Black Movement; Gilberto Orlandi, representative of Revolution Youth; Markos Sokol, member of the National Directorate of the Workers Party for the O Trabalho Current; Renato Simoes, representative of the National Secretariat of the Popular Movements Coalition of the Workers Party; Rafael Pinto, representative of the National Secretariat of the Workers Party's Struggle Against Racism Committee; and Claudinho, of the state committee of Struggle Against Racism.

On Wednesday, August 20, Brother Josue will speak at a Hearing at the Brazilian National Assembly's Human Rights Commission in Brasilia, followed by a public rally and press conference. A press release by the Parliamentary Fraction of the Workers Party titled, "PT Leaders Wish To Debate Violation of Rights in Haiti" announces the hearing and rally with David Josue. The press release quotes PT Federal Deputy Luis Couto who, together with PT Federal Deputy Fernando Ferro, obtained the agreement of the Brazilian Human Rights Commission to host the Hearing.

The release goes on to refer to the letter sent from David Josue to President da Silva and then mentions that on April 30 this letter was presented by a PT leadership delegation to Lula's Chief of Staff Gilberto Carvalho, who told the delegation that "Haiti is going through a very complicated situation, where the troops end up getting caught up in terrible situations." Carvalho went on to state that "Josue's letter could help the quest to establish other measures that could solve the problem."

Brother Josue's Open Letter, however, has still received no reply from Lula -- which is one of the reasons for this week-long tour to Brazil: Lula must reply to this letter; he must commit to withdrawing Brazilian troops from Haiti!

On Thursday, August 21, Brother Josue will travel to Recife, in the northern state of Pernambuco, where he will address a meeting of the Pernambuco United Trade Union Confederation (CUT), followed by a labor-community rally and press conference.

On Friday, August 22, Brother Josue will be in Salvador, Bahia, the heart of the Black movement and struggle in Brazil. He will address various events sponsored by the unions and main Black organizations.

In a press statement issued on the eve of his departure for Sao Paulo, Brazil, Brother Josue noted the following:

"The occupation of Haiti, meaning the loss of Haitian sovereignty, is presented to the world as 'humanitarian aid.' But the Haitian government has no control over the Brazilian-led UN MINUSTAH troops. The UN troops are in charge of the Haitian police (PNH), prisons, courts and jails. This is dictatorship -- not aid.

"Thousands of Haitians have been arbitrarily held in prisons without trial or hearings. The UN peacekeepers have, in their armored vehicles, created instability and enforced injustice. They mow down market women, shoot children, intimidate pedestrians, humiliate any lawful citizen they wish at will and on any whim with routine stop and searches, commit rapes and generally betray, violate and prey on the very population they were sent to protect. This cannot be called 'humanitarian aid' by any stretch.
"The Brazilian-led UN military presence has hurt, used unnecessary force and violence, abused and made Haiti more unsafe for the ordinary Haitian than ever before. This occupation must come to an end. I remain convinced that if the young citizens of Brazil who are living in the streets were subject to these atrocities, one would expect someone to speak up in their defense."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pottsville, Iowa Raids

POSTVILLE, IOWA - 18JULY08 - Maria Rosala Mejia Marroquin and Anacleta Tajtaj, Guatemalan immigrants, were arrested in an immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville on May 12. The raid was the largest workplace raid in a single worksite in recent history. Both were released to care for their children, but now have to wear ankle bracelets to monitor their movements. They and 46 other women cannot work or travel, and have been waiting for weeks for a hearing which would result in her deportation. Most have husbands or brothers now in Federal prison, forced to plead guilty to misusing a Social Security number, as a result of the raid. Luz Maria Hernandez works in St. Bridget's Catholic Church, trying to help the families of those arrested. The Agriprocessors meatpacking plant sits on the outskirts of Postville, a tiny town of 2000 inhabitants. New Latino businesses have taken over storefronts in Postville, but as a result of the raid, most stores and restaurants are empty now.
David Bacon
For more articles and images on immigration, see

Coming in September, 2008, from Beacon Press:
Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants

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)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Questions Journalists never ask

AUG. 4, 2008

Having recently returned from a national journalism conference, I was
reminded how most national mainstream journalists nowadays fail to ask
the most basic of questions of powerful corporate executives or
government officials. This is especially true in regards to issues of
war and peace, where many journalists and commentators seemingly
continue to act as government stenographers at best, and cheerleaders
at worst.

Since 911 of 2001, many journalists have begun to fear that being
watchdogs of freedom will brand them as disloyal and anti-American.
Here are some questions you will most likely not hear in the next few
months from mainstream journalists.

Questions for President Bush:

• If everything you warned about regarding Iraq was demonstrably
false, why should you – or anyone who has supported your policies – be
believed about anything regarding Iran or anything else for that

• If the United States is the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons
in wartime against civilian populations, where does this nation get
its moral authority on this issue?

• On Iraq, you defer to "the commanders on the ground" to make
decisions regarding war and peace. Under the U.S. Constitution, have
you not surrendered your role as Commander in Chief?

• Why have you deliberately equated "supporting the troops" with
supporting your war policies – a practice that has encouraged the
questioning the loyalty and patriotism of those that have questioned
your policies?

• Conventional wisdom holds that "the surge" has worked and has thus
vindicated you. How many Iraqis and American soldiers died during this
"surge" and has your idea of "progress" made the war legal?

Questions for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

• By taking impeachment hearings "off the table," did you not
unilaterally disarm Congress in your effort to end the Iraq War and to
hold the president accountable for starting an illegal, immoral and
unnecessary war?

• What has Congress done to ensure that the president cannot wage yet
another illegal war before his term is out?
Questions for John McCain:

• You voted to prohibit U.S. military personnel from utilizing torture
("enhanced interrogation techniques"), yet you sided with the
president to exempt the CIA from this prohibition. Doesn't this
loophole render the prohibition meaningless?

• In response to heat from your own party, you have backed away from
your own legislation calling for comprehensive immigration reform. You
now state that it will come only after the border is "secure." What is
the definition of "secure" and does it involve a timeline? Does your
change of position on the issue an example of "straight-shooting?"

• All your experience did not help you in making the decision to
support the president on illegally invading and occupying Iraq. You
now support an open-ended deployment in a volatile environment –
depending on conditions on the ground. How much are you prepared to
spend– in dollars and lives?

Questions for Barack Obama:

• One of your steadfast positions in the primaries was your opposition
to granting immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated
with the White House in spying on Americans without warrants. Why have
you now changed positions?

• The president and vice president have amassed unprecedented
executive power. Will you reverse this, including ceasing the practice
of signing statements that thwart the intent of Congress?

• You appear to believe that the Afghan War is a "just war." How long
are you prepared to stay there? How much money and how many lives are
you prepared to lose?

Questions for CNN's Lou Dobbs & Other anti-Immigrants:

• You are always quick to point out that you have nothing against
legal immigrants. However, on "the street," this disdain [and the
accompanying hate crimes] is focused on brown peoples. How do you and
the people you have stirred up, distinguish between "legal" and
"illegal" immigrants without resorting to racial profiling?

• Every evening, you tie the notion of broken borders and illegal
immigration to the future of this nation. Do you honestly believe that
your nightly obsession is contributing to a more perfect union?

Question for the mainstream media:

* You in fact do ask the tough questions – not of the strong and
powerful, but of those that question the strong and powerful. When can
we expect to see a return to the journalism that is preoccupied with
protecting freedoms as opposed to the bottom line?

Rodriguez can be reached at or Column of the
Americas, PO BOX 85476 - Tucson, AZ 85754

Columns are archived at:

Friday, August 01, 2008

Haiti report

Cap Haitien, Haiti -- July 31, 2008
by Leisa Faulkner and Paul Burke

Haiti's Winds of Democracy Begin to Prevail Under Preval

As the hurricane season begins in this troubled island nation, the Haitian people dodged a different
kind of storm yesterday. In a stunning victory for Haiti's embattled but tenacious democracy,
shortly after 6:00 pm last night (July 30, 2008) a group of nearly 300 renegade soldiers dressed in
the camoflauge fatigues of Haiti's long disbanded military surrendered to government authorities
after a day of tense negotiations at the Grand Prison in Cap Haitien, the largest city on Haiti's
northern coast.

Sparking grave concern among the Haitian population, members of the old Haitian military, deposed by former President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1994, re-emerged in Cap Haitien, Mirbale and Wanamet
demanding reinstatement and fourteen years of alleged lost wages. Representatives of Haitian
President Rene Preval refused to negotiate with the disgruntled former soldiers, instead giving
them two options: surrender peacefully or be forcefully removed by the combined forces of the
Haitian National Police and MINUSTAH.

The rebel soldiers, apparently relying on President Preval's reputation for cautious deliberation,
appeared to be caught off guard by the government's decisive, uncompromising response to the
potential crisis. Facing a superior military force and convinced that Preval was prepared to use it,
they gave up. "They chose to live," summarized local Lavalas activist Lisius (Maco) Orel, an

One group of soldiers was loaded on to a yellow school bus for further questioning. Photographs we
were able to take on board showed a ragged, dejected group, reportedly ranging in age from 18 to 80.

Tensions mounted and we were warned to move away from the bus as the angry crowd of pro-government residents surrounded it. The bus left the scene without incident, however, as government troops behaved professionally and the crowd remained calm.

Prominent Cap Haitien journalist Alinx Albert Obas, director of the media outlet Radio Tele Etensil,
left negotiations long enough to grant us an interview. Obas facilitated our access to the prisoners
briefly before their departure. The prisoners looked tired and downcast; some covered their faces
from the camera, while others sat quietly or spoke on their cell phones. The National Police oversaw
the operation, as the U.N. tanks rolled past, unnecessarily at the ready in front of the Grand
Prison, where some burning of uniforms took place before a self-constrained crowd.

Former military chief Morne Michel, representing Baby Doc in Haiti, coordinated the re-emergence of
the deposed army which, not coincidentally, marked the anniversary on July 30, 2008 of the
establishment by Duvalier of the infamous Tonton Makout. Many of those wearing the old uniforms were recognized as having participated in the 2004 coup d' tat. They demanded 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, arguing that they have been deprived of lost wages since 1994 when the despised military was disbanded in order to fund social programs for the poor.

Paul Antoine Bien Aime spoke for Preval and the Internal Ministry and listened to all demands.
Former Colonel Jeudi also participated because he oversees payroll. Even though Obas spoke to us
prior to public announcement, he was very assured that neither the requested money nor the re-
instatement would be granted; and he was proven correct. Finally, at about 6 p.m., they were given
thirty minutes to decide whether or not to surrender. By 6:10, they chose to relinquish their claim,
as well as their old uniforms. They were provided adequate clothing and made their way out of the
prison and on to the waiting bus. Though somber, none appeared to have endured any physical

In a tense mix of cautious relief and frustration, some local residents agreed to speak to us about
their reactions. Recognizing some reporters to be U.S. citizens, one elderly gentleman named Brunot
Dorvil, first spoke out loudly against the United States. His message was, "Let my country go!" When
asked his opinion of President Bush, he shook his head in disapproval, but added that it is not just
one president that has caused trouble for Haiti, for two hundred years the U.S. has caused trouble.

Another man voiced the skeptical view that the event was merely a chance for the unpopular MINUSTA to create the false impression that its presence in Haiti is justified.

August Maxi, a 33 year-old auto body painter spoke out with a message of support for ousted
President Aristide: "Preval is not our real leader. Aristide is the only leader the people can hear."

Several people agreed with another man who complained that this is the second time the old army has tried to make a come back, and that the people don't have a feeling of safety. "We never know when they may come back." Just like the hurricanes.

Leisa Faulkner is an award-winning photographer and the founder of Children's Hope, a humanitarian
organization that serves the children of Haiti. She is currently pursuing graduate degrees in
development sociology and Third World political economy at UC Berkeley. Prof. Paul Burke teaches
Sociology and Labor Studies at Sacramento State University and serves as Chair of the Coalition for
Democracy in Haiti. His research focuses on U.S. foreign policy in Central America and the

Special thanks to our dear friend Lisius Orel for translating all interviews. Orel is a courageous
Lavalas activist and the co-founder of MABO (Movement Action to Benefit the Oppressed), a community service organization and orphanage in Port au Prince.