Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona immigration law ignores migrant deaths

Margaret Regan knows the Arizona border tensions up close. The Tucson journalist has written on migration from Mexico over the past decade and has poured her experience into “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands,” published by Beacon Press in February. The book focuses on Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl whose death during her crossing underscores the danger and chaos in the region. Regan believes Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration overlooks a serious problem: the rising number of migrant deaths.

By Margaret Regan

When Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law on Friday, she declared that federal policy had left the state dealing with “an unacceptable situation."

That’s about the only thing she got right when she unleashed a law that gives the police unprecedented powers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Brewer misidentified the real problem. To her, what’s unacceptable is that as many as 600,000 illegal immigrants are living in Arizona. What she should really be worried about is the deaths of some 2,000 border crossers in the Arizona desert in the past 10 years.

Since the year 2000, the state has been ground zero for immigration. Migrants from Mexico and Central America used to take safer routes through big cities like El Paso and San Diego, but the federal government cracked down on those urban crossings in the mid-90s. After that, migration shifted to the dangerous open terrain in between -- that is, to Arizona.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Georgia: Making a Scapegoat of Immigrants

from The Huffington Post

by John Carlos Frey

Georgia state lawmakers are discriminating against immigrants through proposed legislation SB 67 that would restrict driver's license exams to be issued in English only. Currently the state offers the exam in 13 different languages but according to State Senator Jack Murphy, the chief proponent of the legislation, restricting the privilege to English-only drivers is a matter of safety. The senator believes that foreign language drivers pose a danger because they cannot read English language road signs. If Georgia offered driving tests only in English it would eliminate the perceived problem.

I say perceived because I could find no evidence that non-English speakers are a danger. Even in legislative hearings, as the bill was being debated, there was no testimony by road safety experts to prove that English-only drivers would improve safety. Not only was there no evidence the bill would make Georgia roads safer, the proposed bill offers driver's licenses for illiterate drivers. Fifteen percent of driver's licenses in Georgia are issued to people who cannot read at all. According to Senator Murphy, they qualify as safer drivers than the non-English literate immigrants. If the bill passes, U.S. citizens and legal residents who are not proficient in English will be prohibited from driving.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Report says immigration reform critical to border security

By JARED JANES, The Monitor

A recent report by the Center for American Progress criticizes the Department of Homeland Security for repeated failures in its major border security and surveillance program.

The report by the Washington D.C.-based think tank highlights cost overruns and extensive delays in the Secure Border Initiative, the DHS plan developed to control the nation’s borders and stem illegal immigration through more Border Patrol agents, the border wall and use of technology to create a ‘virtual fence.’

But the report also includes recommendations on what can be done to improve border security, including passage of comprehensive immigration reform, greater collaboration with Mexico and outreach to border communities. It says the concept of fences, cameras and sensors can work if they are successfully integrated together.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on border, maritime and global counterterrorism, said the report indicates that a comprehensive approach is needed to address security concerns along the Southwest border.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Arizona A State With Hate

Arizona state legislators are once again positioning themselves to be the most hate-based state in the union. Arizona State Senator Russell K. Pearce (R) is a perfect example of hate mongering and overt racism. I realize that terms like "hate monger" and "racist" are strong accusations but I can find no better terms to describe the current attempt to curb illegal immigration in the state of Arizona.

From Senator Pearce's own website:

"Republicans and Democrats in DC are terrified to oppose illegal immigration out of fear that they will be labeled racist. This assertion is ridiculous. There is nothing racist about upholding the law."

Senator Pearce's proposed legislation (SB1070) has nothing to do with upholding the law and everything to do with racial discrimination. According to Jennifer Allen, executive director of Arizona based Border Action Network who is working to defeat the bill, local law enforcement must make the eradication of undocumented immigrants a priority over other public safety responsibilities. Without any form of training, local law enforcement will be given authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe they are undocumented. Who do you think they will suspect? This construct sets up a blatant system for racial profiling. The nearly 2 million Latinos in the state of Arizona will become prime suspects solely based on ethnicity. The bill's discriminatory tactics include attacks on day laborers and individuals that hire them as well as anyone who may transport, know, harbor, shield or protect undocumented immigrants. The bill represents nothing short of a witch-hunt with impunity. It sets up a system of law enforcement abuse that will drive immigrants, legal or not, deeper into the shadows of society.

When I was a child, I was out for a walk with my mother in a rural part of south San Diego County. We lived within walking distance of the U.S. Mexico border. This particular morning, like many others, I ran ahead to investigate the seasonal creek several hundred yards away. When I came back to meet up with my mother she was nowhere in sight. I looked everywhere and quickly ran home to tell my father. My family spent 24 hours searching for her -- calling everyone we knew including law enforcement. The next morning we received a telephone call from Tijuana, MX. My mother had been picked up by U.S. Border Patrol and deported. When I ran ahead of her, a Border Patrol agent suspected my mother was in the U.S. illegally. She tried to convince the officer that she was "legal" but he didn't believe her. My mother had deep brown skin and spoke poor English but had lived in the U.S. as a legal resident for 25 years. She had raised four children but was deported because of her ethnicity. It was a horrible case of racial profiling that scarred my mother and family for life.

State Senator Russell Pearce has been pushing racially motivated, anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona for years. He is endorsed by and has direct associations with known white supremacistsBuffalo Rick Galeener and J.T. Ready amongst others. Rick Galeener was cited for publicly urinating in front of a Latino mother and her child. 2010-04-05-JTandRK.jpg
J.T. Ready has publicly campaigned for Senator Pearce and has close ties to Neo-Nazi organizations. J.T. Ready has publicly stated, "I firmly believe in having a minefield across the border, this is 100% effective." Senator Pearce did not return calls to comment on these associations nor has he denounced them publicly. Both Galeener and Ready have been monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League and are classified as nativists, extremists and white supremacists but Senator Pearce remains silent.

Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network has collected and sent over 20,000 postcards to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer opposing the legislation, yet the governor continues to support the bill. The bill is opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and dozens of Latino organizations and civil rights groups, yet the bill continues to make progress in the legislature. Scholars, lawyers, and fellow legislators believe Pearce's push to rid the state of undocumented immigrants violates basic civil rights and constitutional law, yet the bill has strong Republican support. Hate crimes against Latinos are up 40 percent, yet John McCain and his primary challenger JD Hayworth claim they are tough on undocumented immigrants and neither of them have the courage to denounce the racially motivated legislation.

If Arizona lawmakers were interested in resolving the complex dilemma of immigration they would address poverty, trade imbalances, work visas, corporate greed and family reunification. Instead, leaders of the great state of Arizona have grabbed their pitch forks and nooses and are continuing to scapegoat the voiceless and vulnerable for cheap political victories. Hate begets hate and hate solves nothing.