Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Immigration advocates

The Challenged Pro-Immigration Forces

Something is clearly askew when unions, progressives, and liberals find themselves being credibly labeled as instruments for Corporate America’s cheap labor agenda.

Pro-immigration groups come to the widening immigration debate severely handicapped by their own associations, their apparent stance of defending “foreigners” against “natives,” and the difficulty they have in answering the charges that they are essentially an open borders lobby.

This charge is so powerful because it affirms the widely shared sense that a nation and its people have the right to control national borders. When immigration advocates respond to the open borders charge with arguments that don’t acknowledge the need for limits—whether to protect the U.S. workforce from oversupply, to ensure sustainable environmental development, to prevent an unsupportable demand for social services, or to manage the pace of social and cultural integration—they leave themselves vulnerable to restrictionist critiques that they don’t believe immigration flows should be controlled.

As a result, anti-immigration—and decidedly anti-immigrant—voices have succeeded in moving the immigration policy debate increasingly to the right.

Lou Dobbs’s “Broken Borders” campaign, complemented by the rhetoric of anti-immigration groups, taps the country’s deepening sense of economic insecurity and vulnerability to internal attacks. The backlash populism of the anti-immigration forces presents new challenges for those concerned about human rights, economic justice, and the rise of the politics of hate and fear.
See the entire article at the web site listed above.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Kweisi Mfume stresses anti war stand

Mfume Stressing Antiwar Stand
Senate Hopeful Seeks Contrast With Rival for Democratic Nomination
By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 26, 2005; B01

Maryland Democrat Kweisi Mfume is making a play for the antiwar vote in his bid for the U.S. Senate with a fundraising solicitation this week that calls for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and with a major speech on the issue planned for next month.

In an e-mail solicitation, Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP leader, called the fighting in Iraq "a war without justification and apparently without end" and compared it to the Vietnam War. "It's time to get out," Mfume wrote, urging a timeframe for withdrawal.

In an interview, he said that by highlighting his views on Iraq, he is trying to draw the first in a series of contrasts with Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, another candidate for the Democratic nomination. The Baltimore area lawmaker has raised far more money than Mfume and racked up more endorsements in the race to succeed Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D), who is not seeking reelection.

Cardin voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the war but has since voted for its continued funding and has stopped short of calling for a pullout. He contends that advertising a timeline for withdrawal would put troops in danger.

"I can understand what Kweisi's doing, but I don't think there's much of a distinction here," Cardin said. "I voted against the war. . . . I have spoken out consistently that the president has mismanaged this war. We shouldn't have been there, and I've said that since day one."

Mfume argued that their differences are significant, however.

"Ben Cardin is a friend of mine, but on this central issue of the war in Iraq, we disagree," he said. "I think it's time to be talking about an exit strategy."

Joe Trippi, a political consultant advising Mfume, argued that there is also a contrast in emphasis.

Iraq is the featured issue on Mfume's campaign Web site. Cardin's Web site presents his views on eight issues, including homeland security. But it makes no mention of the Iraq war.

Mfume's push on Iraq comes at a time of growing criticism of the Bush administration from members of both major parties. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) recently called on President Bush to bring the troops home by the end of next year. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is among those who have compared the situation to Vietnam.

Thomas F. Schaller, a political scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said Mfume appears to be trying to capitalize on the public mood to attract white liberal voters in particular. Mfume starts with a political base of black voters in Baltimore, the area he represented in Congress, a base he needs to broaden to win.

Mfume's emphasis on the war is also reminiscent of the 2004 presidential candidacy of Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who rode antiwar sentiment among primary voters to become the Democratic front-runner for a long stretch. Trippi was Dean's campaign manager for much of that period.

Mfume said that his opposition to the war is deep-rooted and that his views probably will be the centerpiece of a Sept. 12 speech reintroducing himself as a Senate candidate one year before the primary.

Cardin predicted that the war would be a much larger issue in the general election. Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who has formed an exploratory committee for the Senate race, is widely expected to be the Republican nominee.

A spokesman declined to comment on Steele's views on Iraq. "The lieutenant governor is focused on his official duties and making a decision about whether or not this race makes sense for him and his family," Dan Ronayne said.

Besides Mfume and Cardin, community activist A. Robert Kaufman of Baltimore is a candidate for the Democratic nomination. Several other Democrats are considering entering the race as early as next week.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Uniting African Americans and Immigrants

Uniting African-Americans and Immigrants
By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 26 August 2005

If you listen to President George Bush, the only way Mexicans can avoid
the deadly and illegal trip across the US border is to come as guest workers -
temporary contract laborers for US industry and agriculture. The 12-14 million
immigrants already living in the US without visas, he says, must become guest
workers themselves if they want to get legal documents.

While the president's proposal is the most extreme of those before
Congress (and hasn't yet been formally introduced), all the other bills that
would reform US immigration law also have some temporary contract worker
proposal attached to them. All except one.

This spring, Houston Congress member Sheila Jackson Lee introduced the
most comprehensive immigration reform proposal so far, HR 2092, "Save America
Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2005." It not only has no provision for
temporary workers - she scorns the whole idea, particularly the Bush approach,
as a "flat earth program." Jackson Lee instead proposes to legalize
undocumented people who have lived 5 years in the US, have some understanding
of English and US culture, and have no criminal record. "These are hardworking,
taxpaying individuals," she says. "My system would give them permanent legal

Bush proposes that immigrants come for three or six years, and then
leave. "But people are human," Jackson Lee explains. "They might have married,
invested, or tried to buy a house. They might have children and roots here.
It's very difficult to imagine that a person with a three-year pass would
voluntarily leave, particularly if they faced an oppressive situation where
they came from."

The Jackson Lee bill is unique for another reason. Most of its
co-sponsors are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including
California's Barbara Lee and Michigan's John Conyers. For many years, the
Caucus has been outspoken on other areas of social policy - every session, it
outlines an alternative Federal budget prioritizing social goals like
eliminating poverty, reducing military spending, and protecting social services
and benefits. This is the first time, however, that Caucus members have taken a
pro-active approach to immigration.

Jackson Lee's bill is not the only effort to find common ground between
African-Americans and immigrants. Another is a unique union proposal in the
current contract negotiations in San Francisco hotels. UNITE HERE Local 2 added
new language to its existing contract proposals on immigrant rights, and the
hotels agreed. But the Multi Employer Group didn't accept a new related
proposal asking the hotels to set up a diversity committee and hire an
ombudsman to begin increasing the percentage of African-American workers.

The proposal stems from an effort by the union to address the changing
demographics of the hotel work force. In the city's hotels, the percentage of
African-American workers is falling as employment continues to grow.
African-Americans now make up less than 6% of the San Francisco hotel work
force, a number that has declined in each of the past five years but one.

In San Francisco, this issue has a lot of history. The Sheraton Palace
Hotel was the scene of the city's most famous civil rights demonstration. In
1963, civil rights activists sat in, and were arrested, in the hotel lobby, as
they demanded that management hire Blacks into jobs in the visible
front-of-the-house locations, where the color line had kept them out. Richard
Lee Mason, an African-American banquet waiter at the St. Francis, remembers,
"African-Americans had been kept in the back of the house for far too long.
People wanted to be in the front of the house, and rightly so."

Employment prospects improved for Black workers for some years, but the
situation changed by the 1980s. Hotels hired increasing percentages of
immigrants, in a move they hoped would create a less demanding and expensive
work force.

"I suspect that because the industry had had a great struggle with
African-Americans, they thought we were too aggressive," Mason speculates. "A
lot of us had come out of the civil rights movement, and we were willing to
fight for higher wages and to make sure we were treated fairly." Steven Pitts,
an economist at the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University
of California in Berkeley, says Mason's experience was not uncommon. "This
perception by employers of African-American workers is true nationwide," he
says. "Blacks aren't perceived as compliant, and therefore when many employers
make hiring decisions, they simply don't hire them."

If the hotel industry hoped their new immigrant work force would be more
compliant, however, those hopes were not realized. Immigrants proved to be as
militant as the workers who came before - all the city's big hotels were struck
in 1980, and smaller strikes took place in the following two decades. But Black
employment fell nonetheless.

Today, this economic history shapes the political terrain of cities like
San Francisco and Los Angeles. Black workers make up only 6.4% of the present LA
hotel work force, for instance. Clyde Smith, a houseman at the Wilshire Grand,
remembers that when he was hired 35 years ago, African-Americans worked in
virtually all areas. "There are significantly less today," he says, "often only
one or two in each department, and sometimes none at all."

The union has asked companies to commit to a hiring ombudsman and a
Diversity in the Workplace Taskforce, to reach out to African-American
communities that need jobs and eliminate any hiring barriers. "Some people
would try to pit one race against another, especially Blacks against Latinos,"
Smith says. "I think we shouldn't blame any race or culture."

While demanding progress toward ending this de facto color line, the
union has proposed new protections for the job rights of the immigrants who
make up a majority of the hotel industry work force. The union proposal
strengthens an important ruling won four years ago by HERE in San Francisco,
when an arbitrator held that immigrant workers couldn't be fired just because
their Social Security numbers were in question, a problem faced by many
immigrants. Then in 2003, the union organized the Immigrant Workers Freedom
Ride, a national demonstration for immigration reform joining immigrants with
Black veterans of the original 1960s freedom rides.

Both UNITE HERE and Jackson Lee envision a new civil rights movement,
geared to a changed world of globalization. The key is prohibiting
discrimination - against immigrants because of their status and vulnerability,
and against displaced workers, by enforcing job creation and affirmative action
as national policy. Both proposals also share the same assumption that unions
and high wages are the best protection against job competition.

Jackson Lee is careful to note that she doesn't want her bill viewed as
just an African-American proposal, but her voice nevertheless carries a note of
pride in referring to her co-sponsors as "the conscience of America, the
conscience of the Congress." Bill Fletcher, president of TransAfrica Forum and
former education director of the AFL-CIO, rejects the idea that the changing
demographics of the US population are not a concern for African-Americans. He
recalls a time when even liberal politicians reacted to criticism by Black
political leaders who condemned the Vietnam War or widespread poverty in the
US, saying they should confine their concerns to civil rights in the South. "We
don't want to just react to demographic changes," he asserts. "As
African-Americans, we're saying that we have something to contribute to this
debate too."

Today a growing number of labor, immigrant rights and Black political
activists recognize the similarity between the denial of civil rights to
African-Americans and the second-class status of immigrants in the US. Jackson
Lee looks at the situation of immigrants and sees the historic discrimination
against people of color, especially Black people and women.

"I had the benefit of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, the 1964 Civil
Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the executive order signed by
Richard Nixon on affirmative action. Without them, I would never have seen the
inside of the United States Congress," she declares, while cautioning, "the
rights of minorities in this country are still a work in progress.
Nevertheless, someone recognized that the laws of America were broken as they
related to African-Americans - that we had to fix them. Now we have to fix
other laws to end discrimination against immigrants."

The Jackson Lee bill therefore prohibits discrimination based on
immigration status and makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to
threaten workers with deportation if they invoke their labor rights or worker
protection laws. It would also require the Secretary of Labor to conduct a
national workplace survey to determine the extent of the exploitation of
undocumented workers.

Jackson Lee opposes temporary worker programs because she believes they
inevitably result in second-class status, in which workers can't enforce labor
rights or use social benefits, if indeed they're entitled to them at all.
Fletcher agrees, and to those who assert that legislation expanding temporary
worker programs can also protect workers' rights, he answers: "maybe I'm from
Missouri - show me. If it's possible to protect their rights in real life, I
haven't seen it yet."

According to Jackson Lee, temporary status not only encourages abuse of
workers, but also has a high social cost. "Who pays for their housing and
healthcare?" she asks. "Do they pay into Social Security, or are they denied
benefits? What rights do they really have?"

The social cost of guest worker programs can also include the impact on
the jobs and wages of other workers. Here Jackson Lee and Fletcher are stepping
off into a political mine field, because of a widely held perception that Blacks
and immigrants, especially Latinos, compete for jobs. "Certainly you're made to
believe that," she says, "that one group hinders the other. That's absolutely
wrong, and I believe in fighting against it."

The heart of her bill makes a direct connection between immigration and
jobs. It would grant permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants who've
lived 5 years in the US, and have a basic understanding of English and US
culture. The money paid in application fees would fund a job creation and
training program for unemployed workers.

Creating jobs for the country's 9.4 million unemployed would require
more resources than this. But the bill recognizes that the issues of jobs and
immigration don't have to pit immigrants and native-born against each other.
Instead they can unite in a common pursuit of jobs, legal status and workplace
rights. And it recognizes that until immigrant workers have legal status and
the security to fight for better conditions and wages, all low-wage workers
will be harmed.

Last year, a study from the Center for Labor Market Studies at
Northeastern University demonstrated just how stark the current situation is -
and why native-born workers feel threatened. Between 2000 and 2004, jobs held
by immigrants rose by 2 million; the number of employed native-born workers
fell by 958,000, and of longtime resident immigrants by 352,000. According to
the report's authors, "the net growth in the nation's employed population
between 2000 and 2004 takes place among new immigrants, while the number of
native-born and established immigrant workers combined declines by more than
1.3 million."

Black unemployment nationally has grown at a catastrophic rate - from
10.8% to 11.8% in May alone. Nearly half (172,000) of the 360,000 people who
lost their jobs in June were African-American, although they're just 11% of the
work force. In New York City, only 51.8% of Black men from 16 to 65 had jobs in
2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Latinos it was 65.7%,
and for whites 75.7%. June's overall unemployment rate in 2003 was 6.4%.

Very little of the rise in African-American unemployment is a result of
direct displacement by immigrants. It's caused overwhelmingly by the decline in
manufacturing and cuts in public employment. In the 2001 recession alone,
300,000 of 2,000,000 Black factory workers lost their jobs to relocation and
layoffs. Changing demographics in the workplace became a fact during a period
of massive plant closings that eliminated the jobs of hundreds of thousands of
African-American and Chicano workers in unionized industries. Through the
postwar decades, those workers had broken the color line, spent their lives in
steel mills and assembly plants, and wrested a standard of living able to
support stable families and communities. In the growing service and high tech
industries of the 80s, those displaced workers were anathema. Employers often
identified their race with pro-union militancy, according to sociologist
Patricia Fernandez Kelly.

Today, corporations in those same industries argue they need workers to
fill labor shortages to come, and promote temporary workers as the answer.
Fletcher argues "if there are people in communities destroyed because the
industry that employed them is gone, and a few miles away there are labor
shortages in other industries, then displaced people should fill the void.
Instead, now we're hearing proposals for guest workers. If African-Americans
were moving from lower to higher level jobs, there would be no reason for fear,
but that's not the case."

Giving employers the ability to bring in thousands of contract laborers,
by expanding existing temporary programs or establishing new ones, allows them
to sharpen job competition in areas and industries where workers are organizing
unions, trying to raise wages, or challenging past patterns of discrimination.

Jackson Lee's bill tries to balance these interests. For US citizens and
residents, she proposes retraining and jobs programs, while for immigrants she
proposes legalization and a ban on discrimination. Employers, she says, should
press for legalization instead of guest workers. "That would give industry a
pool of legal permanent residents or those seeking that status," she declares.
"Most work is not cyclical - restaurants don't close in the fall. They stay
open. They need people in permanent jobs, not temporary workers."

Fletcher also prizes unity across racial lines, and accuses President
Bush of playing racial and national groups off against each other to undermine
it. Bush takes his cue from large employer associations, who have been pushing
guest worker programs for years. These include the US Chamber of Commerce, the
National Retail Association (think Wal-Mart), the American Meat Institute and
the National Restaurant Association. Guest worker programs have a long record
of illegally low wages, hiring blacklists, and dangerous working conditions.
Employers particularly want to eliminate the requirement that they hire
unemployed workers before bringing in contract labor.

Immigration is not a conspiracy by employers to drive wages down.
Migration is a global phenomenon. According to Migrant Rights International,
over 130 million people today live outside the countries in which they were
born. The movement of people from developing countries to rich industrial ones
is not only happening everywhere, it is unstoppable. Poverty and war force
people to leave their homes. The deaths every year of hundreds of people trying
to cross the US/Mexico border is bitter testimony to the price paid by families
migrating north, desperate to survive.

Immigration law can't and doesn't stop people from coming, but it can
and does make people unequal here. Undocumented immigrants can't drive a car,
or collect unemployment or Social Security. The Immigration Reform and Control
Act of 1986 made the act of working itself illegal. When working becomes a
crime, workers must risk a lot to protest low wages and bad treatment, join
unions, and assert their rights.

With or without temporary programs, migration to the US and other
industrial countries is a fact of global life. The question is really whether
or not the purpose of US immigration policy should be supplying labor to
industry at a price it wants to pay.

Jackson Lee also recognizes that US foreign and trade policy often exert
great pressures on people to migrate, by spreading poverty and war. The country
should welcome the immigrants who continue to arrive, while attacking the
poverty and oppression that uproot people, she concludes: "We would do better
to build the economies of countries like Mexico, so people can live their own
dream in their own nation. If we don't help build the economy of the nations
who surround us, we will continue to have people fleeing for both economic
reasons and because they're being persecuted."

Unions have changed a great deal in the way they see immigration, and
are now part of a large national pro-legalization coalition. Fletcher
especially credits the Service Employees and the Hotel and Restaurant Employees
with changing the priority US labor gives to immigrant rights. But today, the
political strategists of those unions in Washington DC are supporting the
Kennedy/McCain bill, which would allow employers to recruit over 400,000 guest
workers each year and would strengthen employer sanctions, the provision of
immigration law that makes it a federal crime for an undocumented worker to
hold a job. Sanctions have led to the firings of thousands of immigrants in
recent years, and been a powerful tool by employers fighting unions. These
operatives argue that guest worker provisions and increased sanctions, while
violating the AFL-CIO's pro-immigrant program adopted in 1999, are necessary to
win employer support for immigration reform in a Republican-controlled Congress.

There's a disconnect, Fletcher asserts, between advocacy for immigrants
and looking at the role US policy plays in creating the poverty which makes
migration necessary. "There's very little understanding in the labor movement
about why people migrate. We don't look at the role of US foreign policy in
particular as an essential cause - the way the war in Central America forced
the migration of Salvadorans, or the Vietnam War the migration of people from
Southeast Asia. When we don't speak out on foreign policy, we don't anticipate
the human cost."

While the Jackson Lee bill doesn't address foreign or trade policy
directly, it does seek to correct some of the inequities created by an
immigration policy that often is used as an instrument of political reward or
punishment. The Congresswoman points to the huge backlog of applicants waiting
for visas in Third World countries, while many European countries can't even
fill their quotas. For Europeans, whose standard of living is often higher than
that in the US, there's very little pressure to use up their visa allotment. But
from Latin America to Africa, the poverty created by war and neoliberal economic
policies produces far more applicants than there are visas available. Jackson
Lee's approach is a diversity proposal that would take those differences into

She further seeks to help refugees from two countries, Liberia and
Haiti, whose refugee status is imperiled or denied, and whose cause the Black
Caucus has championed in the past. Liberians were allowed to come as refugees a
decade ago as their country was engulfed in civil war, and her bill seeks to
give them permanent rather than temporary refuge. Haitians are victim of a
double standard that allows Cubans to become legal residents as soon as they
step onto US soil, while the Coast Guard picks up desperate refugees from
Haiti, fleeing repression in tiny boats, before they get to the Florida beach.
If they somehow reach it, they're held behind barbed wire as illegal refugees.
"There is an inequity between those fleeing from one island and those fleeing
another," the Congresswoman comments dryly.

Jackson Lee is the granddaughter of Jamaican immigrants, and sees in
their effort to build a home in the US the same daily struggle carried on by
the many immigrants in her own Houston district. But unlike her grandparents,
today's immigrants face a system she condemns as broken, and often pay a
painful price. She cites especially post-9/11 discrimination against immigrants
from the Middle East.

"Families are torn apart," Jackson Lee laments bitterly, "and we're not
adding to our security, but only to the misery of human beings who want to give
their best to this country. We have a system that's not helping anyone. It's not
helping to build the economy - it's helping to tear it down. For immigrants
here, we need an orderly system that allows them to do their jobs and build the
American economy, and allows US workers to have jobs and do likewise."

David Bacon is a west coast writer and photographer, and former factory
worker and union organizer. His book, The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the
US/Mexico Border, was published last year by the University of California
Press. His photodocumentary project on immigration, Beyond Borders,
Transnational Working Communities, is due next year from ILR Press/Cornell
University Press.

This article also appeared in the Summer 2005 print edition of The Black

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Haiti : action needed

----- Original Message -----
From: Sasha B. Kramer
Sent: Wednesday, August 17, 2005 3:12 PM
Subject: Father Jean Juste has fallen ill in jail


Father Jean Juste has been in prison since Thursday July 21 when he was assaulted by a mob, beaten, then illegally detained without receiving medical care. Many of you have had the honor of meeting Father Jean Juste when he came to California in January, others have no doubt been moved by his statements of behalf of the poor. Those of you who have will understand the depth of my sadness at having to share this most recent news. I just returned from a week in Haiti where the human rights situation is steadily deteriorating in the run up to the elections. Before leaving I was talking with some friends and someone posed the question...if you could have dinner with anyone in the world from all history who would it be? Father Jean Juste was the first to come to my mind. He has taught me how to see hope in the midst of tremendous suffering and showed me the power of courage. Please hold him in your thoughts and prayers.

Peace, Sasha


Port au Prince Haiti - Haiti National Penitentiary

Brothers and sisters around the world, allow me to thank you for what you have done for me personally, and what you have done for the poor ones I serve and stand with, for all prisoners, especially the political prisoners of Haiti.

I know that thousands of you are advocating on my behalf. People from Haiti, from the US, from Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Nicaragua and the Netherlands have sent letters and faxes to the US Embassy and the Haitian government trying to free me and to bring democracy and human rights back to Haiti.

Hundreds of churches and organizations who are helping out - I thank you. I especially thank the 29 members of US Congress who signed a letter for me. I read the letter and you are so strong and clear. Well said! I wish our church leaders were so strong and clear.

I must tell you I am not doing well physically. I was almost dead Sunday morning. I fell unconscious for some time but was rescued when some of the other prisoners took me on their backs to the dispensary. God sends me back to you! I do not know what happened. My neck hurts, my skin is very bad and I ache a lot. I need medical attention. But I am glad to be alive and join all of you in the struggle for freedom and real democracy.

My cell is 8 by 2 and is very hot and smelly. We have a bathroom in the hall that works when there is water. There are no beds. I sleep on a one inch thick mat on the floor. Yet I am very thankful to God who allows me to wake up to another life.

I now have discovered so much support for the Haitian people and me from people all over the world. I am in awe. I add my strength to those who stand all over the world for the rights of everyone whatever color, whatever creed, whatever nationality. To Cite Soleil, to Bel-Air, Veye Yo, the 10th department, the Lavalas family, to all of you around the world, to the churches especially my own St. Clare's, I say to you "Chapo Ba!" (I tip my hat!)

There is a great fraternity in jail and with the poor. In jail we pray loudly - day and night. Our spirits are uplifted when we hear about your work for Haiti, because we hear hope coming. We hear hope coming and we know our victory for human rights and respect and democracy will be total one day.

Personally, regardless of all the hardship, I am still joining my voice to the voices of all democracy lovers to demand the return of constitutional order in Haiti, the physical return of our elected president Aristide, release of all political prisoners, respect of all human rights, and if that is done then real elections can happen.

Keep up the advocacy. Keep up the peaceful demonstrations. Keep up the prayers.

Ill and in jail, I humbly add my suffering to those of Jesus to hasten peace and justice and love for everyone.


** you can read about Father Jean Juste's arrest at:

To help free Father Jean Juste there are several things you can do:

1. Contact your member of Congress and urge them to join twenty-nine of their colleagues and sign the letter calling on President Bush to take action to secure Father Jean-Juste's immediate release. In Sacramento, contact Rep. Doris Matsui:
Mail: 501 I St, Suite 12-600, Sacramento, 95814
Phone: 916-498-5600
Fax: 916-444-6117
Email (through website):

2. Sign Human Rights First's Online petition at:

3. Yesterday, Father Jean Juste's lawyer Bill Quigley delivered thousands of letters and signatures demanding freedom for Jean Juste (see below for details). Bill is looking for more letters to deliver on his next trip, you may fax them to 1-504-861-5440, or mail to c/o Professor Bill Quigley, Loyola University School of Law, Box 902, New Orleans, LA 70118.

Dear Friends:

Thanks to your help, Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans USA, a volunteer lawyer for Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti who is assisting Mario Joseph of BAI in working for the release of Fr. Jean-Juste, is hand delivering to U.S. Ambassador to Haiti:

1. 791 letters and faxes from people from 42 states and 10 countries (including Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua, South Africa) calling on the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti to do everything in his power to gain the immediate release of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste from the Haiti National Penitentiary.

2. Copy of letter signed by 29 U.S. Representatives to the U.S. Congress written to President Bush and the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti calling for the release of Fr. Jean-Juste. The letter is signed by Representatives: Maxine Waters, Jan Schakowsky, Barbara Lee, John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Barney Frank, Lynn Woolsey, Sherrod Brown, Maurice Hichey, Sheila jackson-Lee, Corinne Brown, Earl Blumenauer, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Edophus Brown, Melvin L. Watt, Tammy Baldwin, Kendrick B. Meek, Raul Grijalva, Donna Christensen, Al Green, Julia Carson, Carolyn
Kilpatrick, Gregory Meeks, Dennis Kucinich, Donald Payne, James P. McGovern, Robert Wexler, Major R. Owens, and Bob Filner.

3. Over 1200 names and emails of people calling for the release of Fr. Jean-Juste compiled by the US national human rights group, Human Rights First.

This is a total of over 2020 people as of 6 pm Sunday August 14, 2005. Many other letters and faxes and emails are known to be directed to the U.S. Ambassador and Haitian authorities calling for the immediate release of Fr. Jean-Juste as a result of the designation of Fr. Jean-Juste as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International.

The 791 people whose letters and faxes are being delivered are from a very broad range of university, legal, medical, religious, community, and private organizations including:

Adelante Youth Center
Adrian Dominican Sisters
Agenda for Children
American University
791 more

Farmworker History Project

I mentioned that a project was collecting the personal histories of staff of the UFW.
the histories are now on line.

Great material. Great histories.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Important Voting Rights march

Over 10,000 Take to the Streets in Support of the Voting Rights Act
By Alysia Fischer, PDA Policy Director

August 6, 2005--August in Atlanta is hot and muggy, but that didn't stop over 10,000 marchers determined to voice their support for the strengthening and reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). The event was organized by Rainbow/PUSH, and the crowd was made up of various civil rights organizations, labor unions and peace and justice groups. Marchers and rally speakers spoke of the need to reauthorize the VRA, and addressed other concerns such as the failing economy and the need to end the occupation of Iraq. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) was proud to play a part in this historic event as a co-sponsor.

The Voting Rights Act, created under pressure from the Civil Rights movement, has been called the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever adopted by the United States Congress. President Johnson issued the call for this legislation following the unprovoked attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7th 1965. Five months later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This Act ended the use of a variety of disenfranchisement schemes, including literacy tests, poll taxes and constant moving of polling sites in many southern states. It made racially gerrymandered districting plans in those states subject to scrutiny and rejection. Where necessary, it authorized the Attorney General to appoint federal voting examiners and observers.

Later additions to the Voting Rights Act in 1975 made certain that Hispanic voters had access to ballots in Spanish. What makes the Voting Rights Act so important is that it put restraints on states and counties where discrimination was historically proven to affect the vote. Removal of these restraints significantly increased the numbers of African Americans registered to vote, and the 1975 addition has also increased the percentage of Hispanic voters. In Alabama, for example, in 1965 less than 20% of the African American population was registered to vote, contrasted with almost 70% of the White population. By 1988, almost 70% of African Americans in Alabama were registered to vote, compared with 75% of Whites.

The speakers in Atlanta on August 6th recognized that the Voting Rights Act is not simply an historical document, it is still important and necessary. They reflected the broad range of Americans working in the struggle to ensure that all Americans have access to the vote. In addition to luminaries from the civil rights movement, nine members of congress were in attendance. Members of the Congressional Black Congress, including Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) were joined by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) in their call for reauthorization of the VRA.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) both spoke in support of reauthorization at the rally, and their presence indicates the Democratic Party is taking both the Voting Rights Act and the South seriously. It is our hope that paying attention to the disenfranchisement of southern voters is an indicator that the Democratic Party will be putting more time and resources into these states. PDA Advisory Board Member John Bonifaz gave a rousing speech in support of strengthening our democracy near the close of the afternoon.

What you can do to help:

Sign the Rainbow/PUSH petition in support of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

People of Color Conference

United, We Can Win
Come to Reflect, Consider and Plan

Peoples of Color have necessarily led the fight for liberation in this
country. Our struggle continues against the ravages of capitalism,
imperialism, patriarchy and white supremacy.

Millions of people are unemployed and without health care while
billions of dollars go to war and welfare for the rich. Vigilante
groups hunt down immigrants and government agencies harass and detain
immigrants without cause or charges. Prisons are built at a record
rate while public schools crumble. Our communities are far more likely
to be exposed to industrial pollution and poison than are white

If you are a person of African, American Indian, Arab, Asian or Latino
descent you should join us at the Sonya Haynes Stone Black Cultural
Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, November 18-20, 2005. Revolutionary people
of color will gather in Chapel Hill to discuss strategies to end a
prison system that places millions behind bars as a workforce for
capitalist exploitation. We will gather to reflect on our
participation in the movement to end US imperialist war. We will come
together from around the country to move the struggle to another
level, to analyze together and seek strategies to overcome the systems
of oppression that plague us. We understand the economic and social
oppressions we face are linked and that we can only overcome them by
linking the struggles against them together.

Join those of us dedicated to an economy in the hands of the people, a
society with quality health care for all, publicly funded education
from cradle to grave. We are committed to the fight to end white
supremacy, bigotry, patriarchy, sexism and homophobia. Our struggles
are connected, so we need to be connected.

The Stone Center gathering will create a space for analysis and
reflection. What is the role of revolutionaries in each of our
communities? How should we relate to each other across community lines
and across organizational lines? How do we build multinational
revolutionary organizations?

And, on another level, what is the relationship between imperialism,
class exploitation, white supremacy and patriarchy? What kind of
revolutionaries must we become to effectively challenge all the
systems of oppression including the corrupting manifestations of
patriarchy, racism, and class privilege within the revolutionary left?
What kind of revolutionary organizations do we have? What kind of
revolutionary movement must we build to win? How do we use what we
have to execute strategies to win? These are some of the questions we
will explore.

If you are a person of color who believes in the struggle for a just
world, then come to the Stone Center, November 18-20, 2005. Register

"The revolution has not yet triumphed. In your hands still are the
will and the power to save it. But, if unfortunately you do not . the
heroes of all times will stir in their graves to ask, what have you
done with the blood of your people?"--Emiliano Zapata

[Borrador de la traducción -- draft translation]

Unidos Venceremos
Vengan a reflexionar, analizar y planificar

Por necesidad los pueblos oprimidos por el racismo han encabezado las
luchas por la liberación en este país. Nuestra lucha contra los
estragos que causan el capitalismo, el imperialismo, el patriarcado y
la supremacía blanca continúa.

Hay millones de desempleados y sin acceso a la atención médica
mientras que miles de millones de dólares se despilfarran en la guerra
y regalías para los ricos. Escuadrones parapoliciales se dedican a la
caza de inmigrantes mientras que las agencias del gobierno los
hostigan y detienen sin causa ni acusación. La construcción de
cárceles bate todos los récords mientras que las escuelas se
desmoronan. Nuestras comunidades sufren mucho mas de la contaminación
y los venenos industriales que las comunidades del hombre blanco.

Si usted es una persona de ascendencia Africana, Indígena, Árabe,
Asiática o Latina, debe unirse con nosotros del 18 al 20 de noviembre
en el Centro Cultural Negro "Sonya Hayes Stone" en la Universidad de
Carolina del Norte en Chapel Hill. Revolucionarios de los pueblos
oprimidos van a reunirse en Chapel Hill para analizar estrategias
contra un sistema que coloca a millones de personas en cárcel como
fuerza de trabajo explotada por los capitalistas. Nos reuniremos para
reflexionar sobre nuestra participación en el movimiento en contra de
la guerra imperialista. Nos uniremos de todo el país para llevar la
lucha a un nivel superior, para juntos analizar y buscar estrategias
en contra de los sistemas de opresión que nos acosan. Entendemos que
las opresiones económicas y sociales que encaramos están entrelazadas
y que sólo las podremos superar al entrelazar las luchas en su contra.

Súmate a los que estamos dedicados a una economía en las manos del
pueblo, a una sociedad con atención médica de primera para todos, con
educación gratuita de la infancia hasta la vejez. Estamos
comprometidos con la lucha para acabar con la supremacía blanca, los
perjuicios, el patriarcado, el machismo, y la homofobia. Nuestras
luchas están entrelazadas; necesitamos vincularnos entre sí.

La reunión en el centro Stone creará un espacio para análisis y
reflexión. ¿Cuál es el papel de los revolucionarios en cada una de
nuestras comunidades? ¿Como deberíamos de relacionarnos entre sí,
cruzando líneas comunitarias y organizativas? ¿Cómo deben construirse
organizaciones revolucionarias multinacionales?

Y, a otro nivel, cual es la relación entre el imperialismo, la
explotación de clase, la supremacía blanca, y el patriarcado. ¿Qué
tipo de revolucionarios debemos ser para impugnar eficazmente todos
los sistemas de opresión, incluyendo las manifestaciones viciadas del
patriarcado, el racismo y el privilegio de clase dentro de la
izquierda revolucionaria?

¿Qué tipo de organizaciones revolucionarias tenemos? ¿Que clase de
movimiento revolucionario debemos forjar para triunfar? ¿Cómo podemos
usar lo que tenemos para ejecutar estrategias vencedoras? Estos son
algunos de los interrogantes que vamos a explorar.

Si usted es una persona de los pueblos oprimidos que está comprometida
con la lucha por un mundo justo, venga al Centro Stone del 18 al 20 de
noviembre del 2005. Se pueden inscribir en nuestro sitio web,


"La Revolución aún no ha triunfado. En sus manos están la voluntad y
el poder para salvarla. Pero si desafortunadamente no lo hacen ... los
héroes de todas las épocas se conmoverán en sus tumbas para preguntar
¿qué han hecho con la sangre del pueblo?"

-Emiliano Zapata.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

Check out Surprise Tribute:

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

Venezuela Indigenous get land titles
Chavez Gives Land Titles to the Indigenous

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 9, 2005; 10:02 PM

KARI'NA LA ISLA, Venezuela -- Six of Venezuela's indigenous communities
received title to their ancestral lands on Tuesday in a ceremony that
Venezuela's president said reversed centuries of injustice.

President Hugo Chavez said he hoped the government would be able to turn
over titles to 15 other indigenous communities by the end of the year.

"What we're recognizing is the original ownership of these lands," Chavez
said during the ceremony. "Now no one will be able to come and trample over
you in the future."

He was joined by Kari'na Indians wearing traditional dress, face paint and
strings of colored beads.

But Chavez warned that the process of granting legal ownership must respect
Venezuela's "territorial unity," and he urged other indigenous groups not to
ask for "infinite expanses of territory."

"Don't ask me to give you the state's rights to exploit mines, to exploit
oil," Chavez said. "Before all else comes national unity."

The documents recognize land ownership by six indigenous communities with
some 4,000 people and territory covering 314,000 acres in the eastern states
of Anzoategui and Monagas.

One woman from the Kari'na community thanked Chavez, saying: "He has been
the first president who has kept his word to a people who have been stripped
of their lands."

An estimated 300,000 Venezuelans belong to 28 indigenous groups, many living
in the country's sparsely populated southeast.

South American countries have made various efforts to grant indigenous
groups legal ownership and control over their traditional territories.

In neighboring Colombia, indigenous groups in officially recognized
communities can administer justice, receive state funds and have their own

Brazil has set aside more than 12 percent of its territory for indigenous
communities, and in Peru various laws declare the rights of indigenous
groups to ancestral territory in the Amazon.

But problems have arisen in some countries as miners and loggers have moved
onto Indian lands. And in various countries, a key debate has revolved
around the state's rights to what lies underground, such as oil and mineral

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

Thursday, August 04, 2005

U.S. Social forum to be in Atlanta

The World Social Forum (WSF) model is spreading around the world and a wide range of grassroots organizations and networks have just announced the location of the first ever U.S. Social Forum (USSF) Atlanta, GA. In January 2005 the WSF drew over 150,000 people to Porto Alegre, Brazil and this year with a decentralized model of regional forums it is expected to draw even more participants. 20,000 participants are expected to convene during the summer of 2006 in Atlanta to build a broader national movement for social justice around the world; the exact dates are yet to be determined.

The USSF Planning Committee decided on the site on June 30th after an extensive criteria-setting and selection process that looked at more than a dozen cities across the U.S. In the final round of selections, full proposals from San Francisco, Albuquerque, and Atlanta (including support from local mayors and city councils) were considered before Atlanta was chosen to be the host of the first USSF. All three proposals exhibited inspiring commitments towards building a national progressive movement for social and economic justice.

Atlanta organizers were thrilled that their city was selected. “The U.S. South and especially Atlanta welcomes the opportunity to host the first U.S. Social Forum at this critical juncture in the development of our movement for social and economic justice” said Jerome Scott of Project South, one of the lead organizations on the Atlanta host committee.

The planning group chose Atlanta because of its, and the U.S. South’s, significance as the site of past and ongoing struggles for social and economic justice. The South has been the site of the most determined and consistent fights for black freedom, indigenous self-determination, and working class emancipation. The South has also been a historically exploited region that has restricted unions and deterred environmental regulations, while creating a legal system that defended capitalism’s right to exploit working people.

In an endorsement letter for Atlanta’s proposal, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin writes, “As the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King III, Atlanta has a very proud history of promoting and celebrating human rights. It is a history we continue to appreciate and build upon for the future. Serving as the host city for the US Social Forum is a continuation of our legacy.”

Currently, the region is home to new immigrant-groups from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Many of these new immigrants are political or economic refugees whose situation is the result of corporate globalization and who seek to find common ground in order to build a powerful movement for social and economic justice. Planners hope that holding the USSF in Atlanta will give space for the bottom-up movement building that has been emerging throughout the region and that it will, in turn, significantly impact the rest of the country.

“The US Social Forum is an important space for the people most affected by neo-liberal policies in the U.S. to share and learn from each other's struggles. Another world is possible and we must begin to envision it now” said Scott.


USSF Planning Committee: 50 Years Is Enough Network, American Friends Service Committee, Commission for Religion in Appalachia, Community Voices Heard, DARE, RI, Grassroots Global Justice, Indigenous Environmental Network, Indigenous Women’s Network, Jobs With Justice, Just Transition Alliance, Labor/Community Strategy Center, Listen, Inc., National Center for Human Rights Education, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Native American Representatives for youth and Alaska, Native Social and Civic Justice, Northwest Social Forum Representatives, NYC AIDS Housing Network, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Project South, Service Employees international Union (SEIU) Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Southwest Workers Union, Tennessee Economic Renewal Network, United Students Against Sweatshops.

Voting Rights Act

Wednesday, August 3, 2005: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

August 6, 2005 marks the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). While the VRA has been extremely successful in ending discriminatory practices like literacy tests and poll taxes work remains to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity. Learn what’s next for the Voting Rights Act, how you can plug in to local events celebrating its 40th anniversary and how you can get involved in the fight to ensure that voting rights are secured for everyone.