Sunday, January 29, 2006

The immigration battle

from 'The New Republic'

Border War
by John B. Judis

Issue date: 01.16.06

A battered yellow school bus rumbles up a bumpy dirt road on the
outskirts of Sasabe, a small Mexican town just over the border from
Arizona. At the top of the hill, the bus winds around brick and mud
huts. Ragged children stand in the doorways, and emaciated dogs forage
for scraps. The bus passes dented pickups and old cars without wheels
and stops in a dusty clearing, where it disgorges about 40 teenagers
dressed in blue jeans and carrying small knapsacks. One boy's t-shirt
features a picture of Che Guevara. A girl's pale blue top says
adorable in sequined letters. They are subdued, almost expressionless.
They mill around, waiting for the coyotes, or smugglers, who, for a
hefty fee, will take them in pickup trucks to the border.

There, they will climb through holes in the barbed wire fence
separating Mexico from the United States. Some will not make it
through the 100-plus-degree Arizona desert on the other side (from
October 2004 to October 2005, 261 would-be migrants died in the desert
before reaching Tucson or Phoenix) and about one-third of them will be
apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol. But, over the course of a year,
almost two million will make it, sometimes after several tries, and
enter the underworld of undocumented migrants: working on farms, as
day-laborers in construction, as servants and maids, or in sweatshops
and meatpacking plants. Unable to protest mistreatment, they will be
subject to abuse and exploitation, but most of them will still fare
better than if they had stayed in their native villages.

This influx of migrants into Arizona--and the fact that many stay in
the state rather than moving north or west--has created a political
explosion. In November 2004, anti-immigration activists won a bruising
campaign to pass Proposition 200, which denies "public benefits" to
people who can't prove their citizenship, despite the opposition of
the state's congressional delegation, including Republican Senators
John McCain and Jon Kyl; Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano; and
major business groups and labor unions. Last spring, the Minuteman
Project, which George W. Bush wrote off as a group of "vigilantes,"
set up shop in Tombstone, near the border, to dramatize the failure of
the Border Patrol to prevent "illegals" from getting through.
Republican state legislators, equally hostile to McCain and
Napolitano, are trying to expand Proposition 200 and plan to make
illegal immigration the focus of the 2006 elections. "We are ground
zero" in the battle over immigration, warns former Arizona House
Majority Whip Randy Graf, who spearheaded the campaign for Proposition
200 and is now running for the Tucson-area House seat to be vacated by
Representative Jim Kolbe.

The furor over illegal immigration is sweeping the country--from
California and Washington to Virginia and Tennessee, and even up to
Vermont, New Hampshire, and Minnesota--but Arizona is indeed ground
zero, having surpassed neighboring states as the principal gateway to
the United States for illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central
America. Beltway politicians who want to clamp down on the border
claim this furor is the result, as Colorado Republican Representative
Tom Tancredo has suggested, of immigrants "taking jobs that Americans
could take." And many Americans far from the Arizona border certainly
believe that--in low-immigration West Virginia, for example, 60
percent of respondents in a recent poll agreed that "immigrants take
jobs away from Americans." But that's not what's happening in
Arizona's citrus groves or hotels or restaurants. And, in Arizona,
those who are most up in arms over illegal immigration are far more
concerned with its sociocultural than its economic effects. They are
worried about what is commonly called the "Mexicanization" of Arizona.
That kind of cultural concern extends to legal as well as illegal
immigrants--and it can't be easily fixed by legislation.

Mexicans began crossing the border to Arizona in the early twentieth
century to work in "the five Cs"--construction, copper, citrus,
cattle, and cotton--but, until recently, the great majority of illegal
immigrants came through California and Texas. In 1990, for example,
about 90 percent entered through those two states, while only about 5
percent came through Arizona. But, as the uproar over "illegals"
grew--in 1994, for example, California passed Proposition 187, denying
public benefits to undocumented workers--the Border Patrol instituted
Operation Gatekeeper in California and Operation Hold-the-Line in
Texas. These programs reduced illegal immigration to those states, but
not overall. Instead, illegal immigrants were simply diverted to
Arizona's desert border, and, between October 2004 and October 2005,
about half of the four million illegal immigrants who entered the
United States came through Arizona. According to Princeton University
sociologist Douglas Massey, about 1.5 million of them crossed the
eastern part of the Arizona border, south of Tucson, and about 470,000
entered through the area around Yuma, near the California border.

Going through the desert is far more dangerous than walking over a
bridge into a Texas or California border town or even fording the Rio
Grande. And it's more expensive, too. But Mexicans and other Latinos
are willing to pay the coyotes, because they hope to find well-paying
jobs in the United States. And, relative to where they came from, they
will. In 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),
a farm worker in Mexico could expect to make $3.60 in an eight-hour
day, while his counterpart in the United States made $66.32 in the
same period. The discrepancy has increased since the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in 1994, removing tariff
barriers on the importation of U.S. farm products and decimating small
farmers in Mexico. Says Sandra Polaski, a trade expert at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, "Small farmers who produced for
subsistence but also for the market lost their market access."
According to the USDA, Mexican farm income fell 4.3 percent per year
during the 1990s. Young men and women left in search of work, and,
while some of them found jobs in U.S. factories on the border
(maquiladoras), many of them crossed the border in search of
better-paying jobs.

Most of those who make it do find jobs--92 percent of males, according
to one estimate. And, with undocumented workers adding to the normal
population increase, Arizona's Latino population has ballooned, going
from 19 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2000. Phoenix, which was once
a primarily Anglo town, has gone from 20 percent to about 34 percent
Latino. Says former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, one of the
state's prominent Republicans, "When I was in the first grade in 1960,
Phoenix was the same distance from the border. Phoenix now feels much
more like a border town than it did even ten years ago. Billboards in
Spanish, a lot of people speaking Spanish. Most of us think this is
great, but a lot don't." This transformation in Arizona society and
culture, along with the disorder created by the dramatic rise in
border-crossings, has made immigration the biggest issue in Arizona

In the 2002 gubernatorial election, when Napolitano barely edged out
Republican Representative Matt Salmon, the two candidates rarely
mentioned immigration. But, soon after Napolitano took office in 2003,
she and her chief of staff, Dennis Burke, were astonished to discover
that the state's voters were preoccupied with the issue. Says Burke,
"The first time we looked at polling, the number-one issue was
immigration, not education. Then, a year and a half ago, it got pretty
visceral. It started to permeate all issues." That was largely because
political activists and conservative Republican state legislators had
begun organizing.

In July 2003, Phoenix resident Kathy McKee established the Protect
Arizona Now Committee and got a lawyer to write what became
Proposition 200, basing it on California's Proposition 187. It was put
on the November 2004 ballot. And, although almost the entire Arizona
political establishment opposed it, the measure still garnered 56
percent. Then, last year, the state legislature passed a raft of
anti-immigrant bills, including measures to deputize local and state
police officers to enforce immigration laws and to broaden the
definition of the "public benefits" denied to illegal immigrants under
Proposition 200. Napolitano vetoed all but one of the bills but has
since backtracked in the face of growing public pressure. And Russell
Pearce, the powerful chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations
Committee--who, with Graf's departure in 2004, has become the leader
of the legislature's anti-immigrant force--is currently championing
legislation that would make English Arizona's official language and
construct a wall along the entire Arizona border.

Graf, Pearce, McKee, and the Republican legislature have clearly
tapped a growing sentiment among the state's white voters. Wes
Gullett, a political consultant and a key adviser to John McCain,
recently conducted a poll in Cochise County, south of Tucson, to test
voter concerns. "Instead of asking what are the top three issues,"
Gullett says, "we have to ask what are the top four, because the first
three are immigration. You have to ask, 'What do you care about other
than immigration?' It's crazy down there."

But what, exactly, is this craziness about? In Washington, politicians
and political organizations regularly attribute the obsession with
immigration to illegal migrants taking the jobs of native-born
Americans. Tancredo makes that claim, and so do the two leading groups
advocating restrictions on immigration, the Federation for American
Immigration Reform (FAIR), which bankrolled Proposition 200, and the
Center for Immigration Studies. That did happen in Midwestern
meatpacking plants several decades ago, and it may still be happening
in some parts of the country, but it does not seem to be the case in
Arizona, where unemployment hovers below 5 percent and where
construction, agriculture, and tourism are plagued by acute labor
shortages. Illegal immigration doesn't even seem to be having a
dramatic effect on wages, with pay for unskilled work in Arizona
regularly exceeding the minimum wage.

Unskilled workers currently make up 32 percent of Arizona's labor
force, and they are constantly in demand. Tom Nassif of Western
Growers, a trade association, recently complained that the
construction industry was "siphoning off" the migrant workers that
growers needed in the field. "Farms will not have enough workers to
harvest their crops," he warned. Meanwhile, Arizona's tourist industry
says it can't find enough workers for its hotels and restaurants.
Bobby Surber, the vice president of Sedona Center, who runs three
restaurants, two shopping plazas, and a resort, and employs 200
people, says, "Even though we pay larger than average, and full
medical and dental, we cannot find enough employees."

Of course, Arizonans could still believe, just as Americans in West
Virginia do, that illegal immigrants threaten their jobs. And
pollsters invite this response by always asking about the economic
effect of immigration and refraining from raising uncomfortable
cultural concerns. But, in interviewing Arizonans, one rarely
encounters complaints about illegal immigrants taking jobs away. One
does hear about the cost of state services for illegal immigrants.
Indeed, even the Latinos who voted for Proposition 200 were worried
about the burden that illegal immigrants were placing on schools and
hospitals. And, in border towns, crime and disorder are pressing
issues. (Some of the coyotes double as drug smugglers, and the
migrants traipse through farms and ranches.) But, among many
Arizonans, the most important issues are cultural. They fret about
"Mexicanization"--about Arizona becoming a "Third World country" or
"the next Mexifornia."

In interviews I conducted last fall, leaders of the movement to
restrict immigration usually began by expressing concerns that illegal
immigration was undermining the rule of law and allowing terrorists to
sneak across the border--concerns they seem to believe are most likely
to win over a national audience. But they invariably became most
animated, and most candid, when talking about what they see as the
unwillingness of Mexican immigrants--legal or illegal--to assimilate
into American culture.

Connie, who doesn't want her last name used for fear of retaliation
from immigration advocates, was one of the first members of the
Minutemen. She lives in Sierra Vista, a small retirement town near the
border. Barely five feet tall, with short, graying hair, she prides
herself on her feistiness. She is now in charge of patrolling the
Nacos area near the border. She says that, at night, she and her
husband station themselves on a hill in view of the fence and watch
for "illegals." She says that she became interested in the Minutemen
because the organization was upholding the rule of law and keeping out
terrorists. "We have many apprehensions of Pakistanis and Iraqis on
the border. They are coming in disguised as Hispanics and blending
in," she says. (When I ask a human rights worker in Sasabe if he had
heard of Iraqis entering the United States disguised as Latinos, he
laughs. "The [Mexican] army is very watchful about that kind of
thing," he says.)

Connie insists that the Minutemen are neither "extremist" nor
"racist," but, as we ride along the border in her Ford Navigator,
Connie voices distinctly cultural and racial concerns. She says that
the illegals she sees coming across the border are the "darker"
Mexicans. Mexican President Vicente Fox, she says, "doesn't want them
in the country." She speculates that Mexicans might want to take over
Arizona: "In Mexico, they are taught this land was taken from them.
They are not taught they were paid tons of money for it. There is a
belief they want this back." (After defeating the Mexican army in
1848, the United States bought all of California and the Southwest
from Mexico for $15 million.) When I comment that California has
remained in good shape despite massive immigration, she takes
exception. "California is not a shining example," she says. "You have
the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Russians, all these people
immigrating. How many languages do you have to have on the ballot?"
Asked if she would support McCain's proposal to allow Mexicans to
enter the country legally as guest workers, Connie demurs. "Who is
going to pay for it?" she asks. "When my grandmother came from
Czechoslovakia, one thing she did was assimilate. She was proud to be
an American. Their attitude is, 'We won't assimilate.'"

That's what bothers Graf as well. "We are talking about assimilation,"
says the congressional candidate, as we sit in his East Tucson
campaign headquarters. "I don't have any problem about anyone who
wants to salute our flag and learn our language and be a citizen. What
got me into the whole issue was that I was standing in line in a
Safeway, and this woman was ahead of me, and she had an infant, and
was pregnant, and her mother was with her. She was paying for
groceries in food stamps. And, when the clerk asked for her signature,
she acted like she didn't understand English, and neither did her
mother. I found it odd that an entire family could be here on welfare
and not speak any English. On welfare!"

Graf's chief ally is Pearce, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.
Last fall, he complained to a reporter from about his
hometown: "It's not the Mesa I was raised in. They have turned it into
a Third World country," he said. By "they," Pearce means Latinos in
general. On his website, he warns, "Over 800,000 Americans fled
California last year because LA became a clone of Mexico City."
Pearce, like Connie and Graf, envisages a cultural conflict between
the white America he grew up in and an invading army of dark-skinned,
Spanish-speaking immigrants from south of the border.

Ray Borane, the longtime Democratic mayor of Douglas, a border town in
Cochise County, laments that Graf "represents the majority opinion" in
the state. That may be an exaggeration, given Napolitano's and
McCain's continued popularity, but Graf and his angry allies do
represent a significant segment of voters--perhaps one-third or
more--who are up in arms. And longtime observers of Arizona politics
confirm that a concern with Mexicanization lies at the heart of their
opposition to illegal immigration. "Nobody is afraid of jobs," says
Gullett, the McCain adviser. "We have got labor demand. That's not a
problem. There is no feeling that people are losing their jobs. There
is a tremendous fear that our community and our way of life is
changing." Dave Wagner, the former political editor of The Arizona
Republic, who is writing a book about Arizona politics, says that, in
Phoenix, "Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have their own culture and
stores. It is possible if you are Spanish-speaking to disappear into
that culture. That scares the hell out of some people." Says Woods:
"Arizona has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and a lot of
people are uncomfortable with that."

It's a discomfort that politicians like Graf and Pearce hope to take
advantage of. They want to purge the Republican Party of pro-business
conservatives like McCain, Woods, Kolbe, and Phoenix Representative
Jeff Flake, all of whom favor a guest-worker program and some form of
amnesty for undocumented workers already in the United States. Graf
ran against Kolbe, an opponent of Proposition 200, in 2004, and, in
spite of being massively outspent, got 43 percent of the vote. He's
running again, and, with Kolbe out of the race, he has a decent chance
of winning the Republican nomination. Republicans in the legislature
are also preparing a witches' brew of new anti-immigrant legislation
for the term that begins in January.

And the underlying conditions that have fueled their protest and made
Arizona ground zero are likely to persist. Arizona businesses have
relied on migrant labor for 100 years. Says Phoenix College political
scientist Pete Dimas, author of Progress and a Mexican American
Community's Struggle for Existence, "Immigrants have provided the
cheap labor on which this whole part of the country has depended." And
the demand for unskilled labor is likely to continue. According to
statistics from the Department of Labor, 13 of the 20 occupations in
Arizona that will experience the highest growth from 2002 to 2012
employ unskilled workers. Many of these jobs in food-processing or
building service are now spurned by the native-born and are filled by
illegal immigrants. And, with all of Mexico's tariffs on farm products
due to disappear under NAFTA, and with the Central American Free Trade
Agreement going into effect, the supply of unskilled labor looking
northward is likely, if anything, to mount.

As immigrants continue to cross the border, the "culture war" is
unlikely to abate. Connie is right. Mexican and Central American legal
and illegal immigrants probably won't assimilate in the way her Czech
grandmother did. European immigrants who came to the United States in
the last century had to travel over an ocean to arrive here, and many
of them came from countries undergoing political or economic
upheavals. Their identification with the homeland rarely lasted past a
generation. That's not as true of Mexican or other Latino immigrants,
who have their own claim on the culture of the West.

Many of the migrant workers who crossed the border after 1848 did so
to make money to bring back home. They retained their language and
national identity. According to Douglas Massey, Jorge Duran, and Nolan
J. Malone in Beyond Smoke and Mirrors, 23.4 million of the 28 million
undocumented workers who entered the United States between 1965 and
1985 returned to Mexico. What's changed in the last decade,
ironically, is that more extensive border enforcement has discouraged
illegal immigrants from returning to Mexico for fear that they will be
unable to get back into the United States. Still, many continue to
support extended families in Mexico, call themselves Mexicans, and
consider their primary language Spanish. They are contributing to a
bicultural America that stirs fear and resentment among some
native-born Americans and that will continue to inspire calls to close
the southern border.

Arizonans on both sides of the controversy are looking to Washington
for solutions. They know that states can't pass their own guest-worker
programs; nor can they police their own borders. But there is little
chance that the Bush administration and Republicans in
Congress--sharply divided between social conservatives and business
interests--will be able to pass legislation this year. And, even if
the House, the Senate, and the White House could agree on an approach,
it would not end the furor over immigration.

Last month, social conservatives in the House, led by Tancredo and
Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner, passed a punitive bill
that would erect new walls along the border, make illegal immigration
a felony, and require employers to weed out illegal workers by
checking their immigration status against a national database. In the
Senate, McCain and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy introduced a
bill that is backed by business and by some labor groups. It would let
migrant workers obtain renewable three-year visas and allow
undocumented workers already in the country to stay provided they pay
a fine. McCain and Kennedy probably can't get their bill through the
Senate--too many Republicans fear being tagged as proponents of
"amnesty" for illegal immigrants--but they could certainly muster
enough votes to prevent the Senate from passing a version of the House

In the past, Bush has leaned toward McCain's approach--the president
encouraged McCain after the 2004 election to seek Kennedy's support
for a bill--but he has recently attempted to appease social
conservatives, praising the House's measures to "protect our borders
and crack down on illegal entry into the United States." Bush holds
out hope for a Senate bill that would somehow combine McCain's
approach with Tancredo's. But that's unlikely to happen.

Even if Congress were to adopt one of these approaches--or a
combination of the two--it would not quiet the controversy. Punitive
approaches have either had unintended consequences (for instance,
encouraging illegal immigrants to stay in the United States rather
than return to Mexico) or have proved unenforceable. Border Patrol
spending has increased over 1,000 percent since 1986 without reducing
border-crossings. McCain and Kennedy's approach is far better,
acknowledging the inescapable reality of Latino immigration and its
net benefit to the U.S. economy. But granting amnesty to undocumented
workers, and inviting new workers in, will not satisfy Americans who
are offended by the growing presence--legal or illegal--of Latinos in
their midst. And combining the two proposals would more or less
reproduce the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which hiked
border spending, threatened employer penalties, granted amnesty to
undocumented workers, and led to almost two decades of clamor over

That furor will not abate until at least one of two conditions is met.
The first is a dramatic generational change in the cultural attitudes
of non-Latino Americans--meaning the acceptance of biculturalism in
large parts of the United States, including Arizona. Frank Pierson,
the supervising organizer of Arizona's Valley Interfaith Network, a
coalition of church and labor groups that promotes cultural
integration, wants Arizonans to adopt the biblical tradition of
showing "love for the stranger." But non-Latino Americans probably
have to reach a point where they no longer see immigrants from south
of the border as strangers at all.

The other condition is a change in the unequal economic relationship
between the United States and its neighbors to the south, which would
reduce the supply of unskilled laborers seeking jobs in the United
States. Such a change could probably only occur if the United States
were to assume the same responsibility toward Mexico and Central
America that the more prosperous nations of Western Europe did toward
Spain, Greece, and Portugal when they wanted to enter the European
Union--granting them aid, along with protection of their industries
and agriculture, over a transitional period.

But neither condition is likely to be met in the near future.
Americans are not ready to embrace the teenagers who gathered in
Sasabe as their own, and U.S. business is not ready to see Mexico and
Central America as anything other than a platform for exports and
investment. As a result, the conflict over Latino immigration will
continue. And, if what's happening on the Arizona border is any gauge,
that's not something to look forward to.
John B. Judis is a senior editor at TNR and a visiting scholar at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

John B. Judis, a senior editor for The New Republic, has been a
contributor since 1982. He received his 1963, and his M.A. in
1965 from the University of California at Berkeley. As active member
of SDS and the left of the Sixties, he taught philosophy at Berkeley
and at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Judis was a founding editor of the Socialist Revolution in 1969, now
called Socialist Review. In 1975 he started a new monthly called East
Bay Voice. He moved to Washington in 1982 as the Washington
correspondent to In These Times. Soon afterwards, he began writing for
The New Republic, and for GQ. His articles have also appeared in The
American Prospect, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post,
Foreign Affairs, The Washington Monthly, American Enterprise, Mother
Jones, and Dissent.

His books include The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special
Interests, and the Betrayal of Public Trust; William F. Buckley:
Patron Saint of the Conservatives, and Grand Illusion: Critics and
Champions of the American Century.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

UFW second response re: Miriam Pawel

Puzzled by Miriam Pawel’s L.A. Times series
            We are grateful to the hundreds of good people who know our work and have contacted us expressing outrage at Miriam Pawel’s recent series in the Los Angeles Times. For a few, the articles have raised concerns, and we appreciate you contacting us directly so we can answer any questions. Please email us at and we will respond.
            • Pawel’s main premise—that the United Farm Workers is “failing to organize California farm workers”—is directly contradicted by reporting from no less than 22 Los Angeles Times reporters and two columnists between April 25, 1994 (when the current UFW organizing drive began) and Sept. 23, 2005.  These stories chronicle substantial UFW organizing, election, strike and boycott activities plus new union contracts and legislative victories.
            Either all the stories by those L.A. Times reporters are wrong or Pawel’s stories are wrong. They both can’t be right. There is a long list of accomplishments and facts in that L.A. Times coverage raising serious questions about Pawel’s reporting.  Please see citations for just 48 of the 1994-2005 news articles and columns by Times writers on UFW activities by subject matter with headlines, reporters’ names and dates at
• Among other things, L.A. Times stories from 1994 to 2005 chronicle:
—A string of UFW election victories and campaigns to win contracts, with workers at 32 companies voting for the union in secret ballot elections and dozens of important UFW contract successes, including the largest strawberry, rose, winery and mushroom firms in California and the nation.
           —Fierce grower resistance to farm worker organizing.
           —The UFW’s major organizing campaign among Central Valley table grape workers last summer that produced modest pay hikes and a near win in the largest private-sector union election in the nation last year, at Giummara.
           —New laws and regulations aiding farm workers the UFW won since 1999, from seat belts in farm labor vehicles and fresh protections for farm workers cheated by farm labor contractors to an historic binding mediation law and new pesticide protections for farm workers. The UFW even convinced Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005 to issue an emergency regulation to prevent further heat deaths of farm workers and all outdoor employees.
            • If Pawel was telling the full story of the UFW and the Farm Worker Movement, her writing would have reflected it.  You decide:
            —Tuesday’s story totaled 121 column inches.  Only 5 inches contained facts or perspective provided by the UFW.
            —Monday’s article was 135.5 column inches. Just 8.5 inches were from the Farm Worker Movement.
            —Sunday’s story was 132 column inches. Only 10 inches were from the Farm Worker Movement.
We plan to take these facts and much more to the editors of the L.A. Times and demand the full story of the UFW, Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement be told. We’re never satisfied with the progress we have made. But we’re proud of what we have accomplished and remain committed to overcoming the many challenges we face. We hope you will join us. Please send your letter to the editor of the L.A. Times if you have not already done so. (A much more detailed refutation is being prepared and we will share it with you.)  

Saturday, January 14, 2006

2005: The year hatred went mainstream along the border


EDITOR'S NOTE: Christian Ramirez is the director of the American Friends
Service Commitee in San Diego, a human rights organization offering job
placement, legal advice and housing leads to undocumented people crossing
into the U.S. On Dec. 31, 2005, he was interviewed by Cliff Parker and
Carolyn Goossen, who work for New America Media, a collaboration of over
700 print, broadcast and online ethnic media organizations.


Q: Describe growing up three miles north of the U.S./Mexico Border.

Christian Ramirez: I grew up knowing that the border was a place where I
could take a nap. It wasn't until I traveled to other places that things
started to click. As a kid you ask yourself, why can't my grandma come
visit me, and why do I have to wait in line to go visit her?

Q: What does the border mean to you?

CR:I cannot imagine myself not living in a border community, where you can
be in a new place within seconds or hours depending on the border wait.
It's a place of great artistic expression, especially in Tijuana. It is a
place of violence and a place of inspiration.

You have to live here to see the many stories that go through this border.
People wishing to go north because it's their only hope, and people going
south because it's the only form of entertainment. A border is place where
all these different ways of thinking meet for an instant. You have a bunch
of Navy guys going south to get drunk, and bunch of migrants coming north
with all they have, just to find a little bit of hope. Where else in the
world can you see something like that?

Q: What are the differences you've felt along the border before and after
the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?

CR: Throughout the history of the border, we've dealt with the Dept. of
Treasury (DOT) or customs, and the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), the INS and the
U.S. Border Patrol.

With the DOT, there was always a very cold relationship, but with the DOJ,
particularly the INS, there was an openness, a willingness to sit down and
dialogue about important tactics.

When 9/11 happened, and we began to hear the discourse about the border as
a national security concern, there were long waits at the border, there was
a stronger presence of border patrols in border communities and advocates
started being detained and beat up.

The DHS has refused to speak to border communities and border residents.
This is a different border, a police state, with border patrol enjoying
more impunity than ever before.

Q: How have you responded?

CR: After the DHS came into existence, we knew we needed to invest time in
building leadership in the border areas. We felt the only way to change
policy in Washington was to create a strong base of people who were
impacted on a daily basis by immigration policies and that they would
themselves would become advocates in the long run.

Q: How would you characterize the past year in terms of the immigration

CR: In 2004, the mainstream media began covering border issues, and the
language turned to "broken border" "alien invasion." We began to see a very
violent discourse, a justified use of violence.

2005 was the high mark for this. Suddenly, in 2005, the vigilante groups,
paramilitary formations that have always existed here, became mainstream.
The groups that were once on the fringes of our society became folk heroes
for mainstream America.

This has been a year of mainstream hate and mainstream violence at the U.S.
Mexico border.

The border patrol now operates with full power, above the constitution, and
with no judicial review. Not since the McCarthy era have we seen something
like this. If it continues, it will not stop here. The Mexico-U.S. border
will not simply be an imaginary line -- it will expand to the rest of the

Q: What needs to happen in the debate on immigration?

CR: We have heard the voices from the Minutemen, from policy makers, from
presidents, but the one voice that has not spoken, and will speak, is the
border communities.

Q: What issues do the immigrant voices bring to the debate?

CR: We are tired of counting the dead. We want a new reality. We want
family unification, to be treated with the same rights and dignities as
products. We want to have the right to drive a vehicle, so we can drive
from home to our place of employment. We want the possibility for our
children to go on to higher education if they have the ability to do it.
This is what border communities are calling for.

Q: What happens if the Sensenbrenner bill becomes law?

CR: It means that anyone without documents in this country would turn into
a federal criminal. And it means that anyone who aids and abets
undocumented people would also be criminal -- like a church that provides
shelter, clinics for women fleeing domestic violence and organizations like
us. If it passes, we will be forced to go underground.

Q: What is the main cause of death on the border?

CR: The main reason is the climatic conditions. Most people die because
they are cooked to death in the desert, or they freeze to death in the
mountains. And it happens, because the U.S. government under Clinton pushed
the migrant flows away from the urban areas and into the most remote and
inhospitable terrains along the U.S.-Mexico border. This, they said, would
deter the migrants. But they failed in their analysis.

Two million people were undocumented in 1986, and currently, the official
number is 11 million. This policy has only been successful in pushing
people to the deserts and mountains where they are going to die.

Many Americans don't know this. If they knew that innocent people were
being killed, there would be a different reaction to border policies. The
Minuteman project would not be a welcome group.

Q: And how does the year 2005 end?

CR: Today, a young man was shot by border patrol trying to cross the
border. It is a common occurrence here. This is how the year will end on
the border. Just the way it began -- with shooting, with violence, with

Arnoldo Garcia
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados
310 8th Street Suite 303
Oakland, CA 94607
Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305
Fax (510) 465-1885

Thursday, January 12, 2006

UFW leaves the AFL-CIO,0,5262207.story?coll=la-home-headlines&track=morenews
From the Los Angeles Times
United Farm Workers Breaks With AFL-CIO
From Associated Press

3:34 PM PST, January 12, 2006

WASHINGTON — The United Farm Workers union has left the AFL-CIO and will join a group of breakaway unions known as the Change to Win Coalition, in a move the UFW hopes will boost recruiting efforts, officials said today.

The UFW, with about 27,000 members, joins the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE and the Carpenters in forming the dissident Change To Win Coalition. The Laborers International Union of North America also is part of the new federation, but has not left the AFL-CIO.

"We view this as a positive step in fulfilling our twin commitments of focusing more resources on organizing and finding new ways to pursue employers that fiercely resist the right of workers to organize," said Marc Grossman, a UFW spokesman. "No employers more fiercely resist the right to organize than agriculture."

UFW already was allied with the Change to Win unions, but sent a letter two days ago informing the AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 50 unions, of its plans to leave.

"We regret to see them leave the federation because there's a lot of history there," said AFL-CIO spokeswoman Denise Mitchell. "It's a union with a proud legacy that got a lot of support from the entire movement, especially the AFL-CIO. I hope we will make history together again in the future."

The farm workers union was founded by Cesar Chavez, an agricultural worker. He died in 1993.

When the AFL-CIO formed 50 years ago, union membership was at its zenith, with one of every three private-sector workers belonging to a labor group. Now, fewer than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

The breakaway movement started last summer with the departure of the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union. The departure of a half-dozen unions has left the labor federation with more than 50 unions representing almost 9 million workers.

My response to the Miriam Pawel articles in the L.A. Times

One of the central problems of the series by Miriam Pawel, an Associate Editor of the L.A. Times is that the writer strings together a long list of crises with little acknowledgement of the internal contradictions in her own presentation.

For example. Suppose that you as reader are shocked by the purges.
Then you read;

“Ganz had helped oust Jones, but by 1978 he had grown troubled by
Chavez's reluctance to tackle key issues: Should the union focus on
the vineyards, its symbolic heart, or on the vegetable fields, where
it had built a strong base of support? Should organizers try to win
more elections and add members, or consolidate and work on
administering contracts effectively? “

So Jones had helped purge people, and then he was purged.
Ganz had helped to purge Jones, and then he “decided” to leave.

It is not just that you need a scorecard to keep up. What the writer seems to have done is to tell a tale and then select statements to support her thesis. At times the statements are almost neutral, such as those by Dolores Huerta, but they are linked by placements in paragraphs to charges of conspiracy etc.

It appears to this reader that the writer has been loose with her use of evidence.
This is a problem with anyone writing this story. Each person who you turn to for “evidence” has their own view. Indeed, many have their own view of when the crises occurred. The writer, Miriam Pawel, sees the turning point in 1977-79, around the issues of the Synanon game. Her final article on Eliseo Medina focuses on this same time.

But, there were crises and purges earlier. For a first person account of an earlier “purge” read the account by Philip Vera Cruz, once Vice President and a leader of the Pilipino in the union. His autobiography tells the tale. ( full disclosure. Philip was a friend of mine). The point is that this “purge occurred without any Synanon game.
Union life was tumultuous. There are many tales of struggle.
The author selected a few of the crisis times to focus on.

There were earlier major conflicts over a variety of issues. What we have is the view of some of the participants and usually a recording of when they left. Well, many of the same participants stayed through earlier conflicts, crises, and purges which are not mentioned. So, we have a partial story.

In particular if you look at the third article Pawel offers comments that many problems emerged from the use of The Game by Synanon founder Charles Dederich. Now, I am not going to make a case for the use of the Game. I have only read about it.
However, as I read it, it seems to be a structured form of confrontation group training which was popular in the 70’s, a particular and peculiar “therapy”. Many organizations used this approach. I was personally involved in two Colleges of Education using this approach during this time. Yes, it has many problems.
But, lets not convert it to some sinister project different than what others were doing. Synanon has its own story and I do not chose to get into that. You can look it up on the web.
Other readers who took part in the Game are invited to tell me if it was more than confrontation group therapy. There is a history of poor use of therapy models and manipulation on the left.

From my own experience with a social change project I can say that we rejected the confrontation group approach because it assumes that all cultures respond to openness and criticism in a similar manner. It is a highly culturally specific project and the UFW was culturally diverse. That is precisely the environment which I would not use confrontation group gaming in.

The remnants of this approach still are used in areas of anti racism education and anti sexism education. In my experience, it usually does not work to build unity and solidarity.
I have written some more about this in “Beyond Diversity: the struggle for Justice and Solidarity”, posted as a pdf at
Duane Campbell

UFW responds to L.A. Times articles

UFW response:
L.A. Times attacks farm workers with lies
Please send a letter to the editor today
The Los Angeles Times is running a series of inaccurate, dishonest and untrue stories by reporter Miriam Pawel viciously attacking the Farm Worker Movement and Cesar Chavez.
We know the conditions farm workers endure on a daily basis and recognize much work remains. Despite supplying extensive, detailed information and unparalleled access over many months refuting specific inaccuracies and misleading charges, L.A. Times reporter Pawel refused to include the Farm Worker Movement’s side in her stories. These initial points will be followed by a much more detailed response.
The UFW’s commitment to organizing farm workers is unwavering. Less than 150 union members are non-farm workers. Our limited resources mean we can’t be every place the need is desperate in California. So our focus has been the Central Valley and Central Coast, the greatest concentration of farm workers in America.
Thousands of farm workers benefit daily from the United Farm Workers’ efforts:
-1. 32 election victories, most in California, since the current organizing drive began.
-1. Dozens of UFW contracts including the largest strawberry, rose, winery and mushroom firms in California and the nation plus victories in other states.
-1. Over the last decade, the UFW has dedicated up to 50% of its resources to organizing, among the highest of all unions. Donations provide key support for organizing.
-1. Ongoing UFW organizing faces stiff resistance, as evidenced by the state of California’s ruling that last summer’s election at Giumarra table grape vineyards could be thrown out because of the grower’s illegal actions.
-1. The UFW has helped tens of thousands of farm workers through recent legislative gains: the 2005 regulation to prevent heat deaths; seat belts in farm labor vehicles; remedies for workers cheated by farm labor contractors; new pesticide protections; the historic push for immigration reform could aid hundreds of thousands in farm labor.
The Farm Worker Movement is continuing the legacy of its founders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, who believed the movement had to go beyond the work place through non-profit, independently-run groups with distinct missions and staff. Annual independent financial audits give all the organizations clean bills of health.
-1. The nine-station, three-state Radio Campesina network mixes Mexican music with extensive educational programs for 300,000 daily listeners. Radio Campesina blankets the highest concentrations of farm workers in the nation.
-1. More than 1,900 of 3,500 amenity-rich affordable housing units serving about 10,000 people are in farm worker areas in the Central Valley, Arizona and Texas.
-1. Community organizing efforts where farm workers live are improving the lives of thousands in the Salinas and Central valleys and in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
-1. The Cesar E. Chavez Foundation empowers and equips tens of thousands of young people to carry on Cesar’s life and work.
It is natural for members of Cesar’s family to be inspired by his example. Less than a dozen of 400 committed movement employees are family members; just four hold policy-making positions. Many spent decades as full-time volunteers, work hard for modest pay. They all serve without compensation as board members. Arturo Rodriguez was elected UFW president directly by farm workers.
You can help! These facts and much more that didn’t appear in the L.A. Times are why we ask you to help us bring balance to these unjust stories. Please write down your own feelings and send a letter to the L.A. Times.
Sign your letter to the editor with your full name, street address and phone number, and send it today to: or Letters to the Editor, 202 West First Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90012

For more: go to

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

L.A.Times writer assaults UFW history

I author a second blog, where I deal with public schools and poor media coverage of public education.

Now, A series on the UFW has been published by the Los Angeles times written by Miriam Pawel. It has a great deal of information. It also has some strong conspiracy theories and denunciations.
It seems appropriate while recognizing the validity of some of the information to question and dispute other information. See below.,0,6620187.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Quotes and historical references are drawn from letters, board minutes, memos and statements and tape recordings made during the 1970s and 1980s. The material is housed in the UFW archives at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit.

PART ONE: The UFW betrays its legacy as farmworkers struggle.

PART TWO: The family business: Insiders benefit amid a complex web of charities.

PART THREE: The roots of today's problems go back three decades.

PART FOUR: A UFW success story — but not in the fields.

Second story:
This article is rather similar to the piece written by Marc Cooper and posted here about 3 months ago.
Major parts of the article are accurate. Some are accurate but taken out of context.
It is clearly true that farmworkers throughout California lack basics, water, housing, good wages, health care, et.
The UFW has not been able to win contracts in most of these farms. So, the conditions have not improved. It would be nice if the UFW could win these fights. They have not. They are very weak, for a number of reasons.

Lets look at some context. What % of carpenters are in unions? Non union carpenters are exploited. Is that the fault of the Carpenters Union? Non union grocery clerks are exploited. Is that the fault of the UFCW?

Many of the problems listed here are the result of a de unionized society---particularly in farm labor.

Now, beyond context: Lets look at this:

"The UFW undercut another union to sign up construction workers, poaching on the
turf of building trade unions that once were allies."

This is a statement of a position that is not clear about what the actual issue was.
Carpenter labor in California is largely non union, particularly in private housing. In the last two decades this work has become dominated by Mexican laborers working with contractors. (BTW; my son is in the Carpenters Union and I follow this)

The case referred to, I think, is where a group of construction laborers approached the UFW to represent them. The Carpenters Union is almost absent from the field. So, the specific complaint would be that the UFW responded to a request to organize from a group of Spanish speaking workers. Yes, it was the Carpenters usual jurisdiction.
In part four the author refers back to building housing without using union carpenters. That may be what the author is referring to.

The UFW forfeited the right to boycott supermarkets and stores, a tactic Chavez
pioneered, in order to sign up members in unrelated professions.

Again, poor writing or poor understanding. Yes, we used the boycott. And, a secondary boycott is prohibited by the NLRA.
So, I guess what she is referring to is by accepting workers in other trades ( ie. the handfull of carpenters) the UFW comes under the NLRA and would be prohibited from secondary boycotts. Well, that is a leap.
I worked for 4 years on the second boycott and supported the subsequent boycotts. The UFW accepted and wrote the California Farm Labor act ( there is no national legislation) because the boycotts were not winning.
Declaring a boycott is easy. Winning one is hard.

The essays on the fund raising of the UFW seems accurate.
As Marc Cooper asserted there are a number of fundraising venues and most are employing Chavez family or close friends.
That is, the UFW has become like many other groups ; NOW. the Sierra Club, the Republicans, the Democrats, the most of the NGO world., etc that spend a great deal of time on the fundraising.
And, the UFW has added some hiring of family members. Now, that is a shock. The part three article goes into great detail on this.

That the UFW has made little progress with the newer immigrants, most of whom are MiXTEC, often not Spanish speaking, and are currently often the majority in farm working fields is accurate.
No one has successfully organized these folks. There are a dozen or more local service centers run by volunteers and church people, but no union density at present.

I would say the writer got part of it right, blamed the UFW for the non unionization of farmworkers which is stretch, and got some of it wrong.
As another example, most newspapers including the LA times are now non union. Whose fault is that?

The writer expects the UFW to do more and be more others. That is not reasonable.
The reports on UFW political mobilizations are essentially correct.

All of labor has suffered a severe collapse. The UAW, the Steelworkers, the Teamsters and the UFW.
Since the UFW was always small and weak, the relative collapse has weakened it even more than the others.

To see the many places where the ufw is organizing and successful see their web page at

The major services for farmworkers, English classes, legal protection, housing, etc. have always been provided by social service agencies, not the UFW. For example, major services are provided by Legal Services.

So, Farmworkers reap little. And, the UFW has strayed from its roots.
That could be called adaptation.
But there is little evidence that this is a causal relationship. Both events occurred. Farmworkers reap little. Yes.

Monday, January 09, 2006

anti immigrant rallies

San Francisco Chronicle

Illegal immigration rallies attract few protesters

- By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, AP Political Writer
Saturday, January 7, 2006

(01-07) 14:22 PST Los Angeles (AP) --

Small groups of protesters rallied nationwide Saturday against illegal immigration and lax border security, demanding the government penalize employers who hire illegal workers.

The so-called "Stop the Invasion" protests were organized in 19 states, but in several cities only a smattering of opponents of illegal immigration turned out.

In Glendale, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb, about two dozen protesters waving American flags gathered outside a home-supply store, but they were surrounded and shouted down by more than 100 drum-beating supporters of immigrant rights who chanted, "Racists go home."

The two groups traded shouts and obscene gestures for more than an hour. One man was arrested for assault, police said.

"We are keeping the debate on illegal immigration in the forefront of the American consciousness," said Joseph Turner of Save Our State, which wants to shut down day labor centers set up near large home-supply stores that the group claims are magnets for illegal immigrants. The centers pair employers with people seeking temporary work, such as painting or landscaping.

In Danbury, Conn., about 50 people calling themselves the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control spent about two hours chanting and holding signs that read "Arrest Illegal Employers."

Paul Streitz, who organized the demonstrations, said members believe illegal immigrants are taking jobs from citizens while driving down property values.

"This is not a racist thing," said Daniel Anastasia, 46, a construction worker from Westchester, N.Y. "We pay taxes, they don't. I get paid what the union says. The contractor pays them cash. It's not fair to me."

In Las Vegas, John Holiday, 43, and his son, Conner, 9, held signs near a convenience store where undocumented workers are picked up by employers. The boy, who held a sign that read "Our lawmakers encourage lawbreaking," said illegal immigration has divided the country.

"Do you think the problem will be over when I grow up?" Conner asked.

In Farmingville, N.Y., where immigration-related violence erupted several times in recent years, only about a dozen protesters showed up and argued against the growing number of day laborers on eastern Long Island.

The hiring has been a source of tension among longtime residents since at least the late 1990s. In recent months, town officials have been cracking down on illegally overcrowded houses, leaving many of the day laborers scrambling to find new housing.

"Close our borders," protester Bill Pearson said. "Close down the businesses that are hiring these people."

In Framingham, Mass., near Boston, a small group protesting illegal immigration was met by a much larger group of counter-demonstrators, some of whom surrounded them and temporarily disrupted the protest.

"What they are doing is just harassing people who are out here to go to work every day, and they're doing it in a hateful manner, which is against everything this country stands for," said Manuel Olivera, pastor of the nearby New Life Presbyterian Community Church.

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