Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When Black Folks were the Border-Crossers

When Black Folks were the
“Job-Taking Border-Crossers”
By C. Zepeda-Millán

While this nation was founded by migrants who came without papers (the Pilgrims), once the official United States of America was established, the first group of people to “break the law” by illegally crossing borders were blacks. During the time of slavery, run-away slaves fled their economically and physically oppressive situation (many times in order to reunify with family members who had previously escaped) by breaking the law and leaving their plantations in hopes of “illegally crossing” the North-South border known as the “Masson-Dixon line.” The first coyotes, the abolitionists, and other freedom fighters such as many Quakers, helped pay for and organize the crossings, housed and fed them, and knowingly broke the law by doing so. Much like the “Senseless-brenner Bill” (HR4437) proposes to do today, in 1850 white slave owning elites made it against the law to help or assist these runaways in any way (the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850). In fact, some of these racists went even further. Like todays border vigilantes (i.e. the Minutemen), militias were organized to patrol the Masson-Dixon line to keep migrants from crossing and to search for those who had already passed. Fortunately for many of these runaway slaves – who were brave enough to risk their lives in this potentially deadly journey – many people chose to side with dignity and humanity by helping them instead of obeying unjust and inhumane laws.

After slavery ended and reconstruction failed, many blacks “flooded” northern white cities. This “invasion” caused many poor and economically exploited whites to complain that blacks “brought down wages”, "were taking their jobs,” “willing to work for less”, and were “too racially and culturally different to assimilate.” Many whites believed that blacks should “go back to where they came from” (the South or Africa). Unfortunately, there weren’t any jobs in the South and many blacks were willing to endure this discrimination in order to feed their families and hopefully provide a better and freer life for their children. Working class whites failed to recognize that they were taking their anger out on the victims, while ignoring what prominent black scholar Manning Marable contends was the root cause of the “underdevelopment of black America” – capitalism. Today, while the root cause – neoliberalism – of the “underdevelopment of immigrant America” is also nowhere to be found in mainstream America’s debates about immigration, again the victims (immigrants), who are merely the effects of neoliberal policies and economic exploitation, are once again forced to endure disdain by both the oppressors (the corporations that profit from their labor) and other oppressed people (poor and working class blacks and whites).

In fact, while complaining about the effects of black migration, many poor whites supported Jim Crow laws, a dual wage system, lack of worker rights, and the exclusion of blacks from unions. They failed to realize that their support for these policies only served to further deepen racial and class divisions that if bridged, could provide the basis for a movement that could bring the economically exploitive system they both toiled under to its knees. Unfortunately, today many working-class black and white Americans have been bamboozled and fooled into making the same mistakes again by supporting politicians who promote policies that they perceive to take their interests into account, but that in reality actually produce the main source of their discontents. For example, many in the black community jokingly refer to former U.S. President Bill Clinton as “the first black president” – after all, he loves jazz and chose to locate his post-presidential office in the heart of Harlem. Yet this same Bill Clinton who many black elites and black masses – though by all means not all – venerate, joined with Republicans and business-Democrats to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which not only “served as a death sentence” to many of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, but also dramatically increased the poverty rate in Mexico and in effect contributed to the massive migration that we’ve seen over the last decade. In fact, while many contend that Mexico itself should be blamed for its economic woes, this train of thought negates the fact that ever since before the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (in which many black runway slaves in exile fought alongside Mexican peasants), American corporate interests has owned significant portions of economically vital Mexican industries (such as oil, mines, and railroads) and helped perpetuate the economic exploitation of the Mexican masses by supporting corrupt governments such as the 70 year dictatorship of the PRI party. Yet again, the effects (migrants) not the causes (neoliberal policies) are blamed.

Despite the fact that Latino immigrants already die on the job at a rate nearly 250% higher than the average American worker, the Kennedy/McCain Bill proposes to subject these “aliens” to today’s version of the “3/5th Clause” through the euphemism of “a temporary worker program” that does not guarantee a living wage, the same workers’ rights and protections as American born workers, and keeps them disenfranchised by not allowing them to take part in the political system which they are subject to. Though the bill claims to offer “a path to citizenship,” as long as the “legalization” of these laborers and the power of deportation are influenced by their employers, this program will amount to nothing more than indentured servitude. This isn’t too far from how some immigrants have already been treated in America. Let us not forget that the victims in the most resent cases of modern day slavery – whether they be in the fields of Florida or the sweatshops of California – were all immigrants of various races and ethnicities.

In conclusion, the analogies made throughout this article are not perfect. By no means am I trying to argue that the oppression that immigrants endure today equates to the horrors of the enslavement of Africans in America – they don’t. But in relative terms, undocumented people today are the most vulnerable and exploitable segment of the American workforce and as long as we allow them to remain so, all American workers suffer. The goal of this reflection is merely to attempt to demonstrate that the exploitation of our labor – that of black, brown, and all working class peoples – is embedded throughout American history, and that many of the same tactics and strategies used to keep these race and class divisions intact have not only been recycled over and over again, but also given different names and shapes in an attempt to mask them their true intent. We’re led to fight over shadows with our heads facing the ground, while the oppressive system casting them remains untouched.

Fortunately a window of opportunity has opened that we cannot afford to let pass us by. We are living in historical times. Resistance to the effects of global exploitation is spreading all across the globe. Harriet Tubman once noted that she had “freed hundreds of slaves,” but she “could have freed thousands more if only they knew they were slaves.” Today the burden of freeing those “thousands more” lies on us. It is up to us to carry her mantel and awaken all of today’s “unconscious slaves” to the fact that their discontent and oppressive conditions derive not from the many other exploited people that share the “slaves-quarters” with them, but from a racist and economically exploitive system. Thus, that history will judge us is a given. The only question for all Americans is whether we will be written in as siding with hate, dehumanization, nativism, and exploitation, or as standing up for love, compassion, dignity, freedom and justice for all? Our actions, or inactions, will determine the final outcome.

C. Zepeda-Millán is a PhD graduate student in the Department of Government at Cornell University studying Social Movements, Immigration, and Race & Ethnic Politics.

A Brief Historical Timeline of Black & Brown Unity Compiled by Prof. Ron Wilkins, CSDH

800 B.C. – In Mexico, Egyptian (blacks) mariners arrive and establish contact with the Olmec civilization. Complimentary beliefs and other cultural practices contribute to peaceful exchanges.

1514- In Puerto Rico, Indigenous Tainos and enslaved Africans unite and conduct the first of many uprisings against Spanish colonizers.

1546- Mexico- The first recorded conspiracy against slavery occurs in Mexico City among a coalition of enslaved Africans and Indigenous insurgents.

1552- Venezuela- 800 African slave mineworkers, strengthened by Indigenous allies, rebel.

1601- Venezuela- Indigenous peoples help blacks fight the Spanish and establish a town that lasts 200s years.

1609- Vera Cruz, Mexico- Yanga establishes the “first free pueblo” of formerly enslaved Africans in the Western Hemisphere.

1693- United States- An alliance between African runaways and rebellious indigenous tribes in Florida develops and results in a considerable cooperation and intermarriages between them.

1811- Mexico- One year into the fight for independence, African- Mexican general and revolutionary priest Jose Morelos leads what is referred to as the “Erjercito Moreno” or “Dark Army” and helps fight for Mexican independence.

1820- Mexico- the pro-independence army commanded by Black general Vicente Ramon Guerrero is joined and saved by the courageous Mexican/ Indigenous leader Pedro Ascensio.

1836- United States- During the battle of the Alamo, Mexican troops fight not only to keep the US from annexing Texas, but also to abolish the dreaded practices of slavery carried by pro-slavery White settlers. This is something they didn’t have to do, but since they were Catholic and believed slavery was wrong they helped fight to stop it. Mexicans would consistently take in and help blacks slaves that would run away from the US.

1855- Mexico- Mexican authorities refused to return enslaved runaways to the US slaveholders. Aided by Mexicans in Texas, 4,000 or more runaways escape to freedom in Mexico. The US government had to send 20% of its whole army to the Mexican border to try to stop this and intimidate the Mexicans; but they continued to help.

1857- Mexico- The Mexican constitution grants freedom to enslaved Africans who escape to Mexico and refuse to acknowledge the international treaty that included extradition of persons formerly enslaved. (Mexico basically but their buts on the line and risked being attacked by the US for refusing to send former black slaves back to their owners in the US).

1862- Mexico- A sizeable French invasion force suffers a humiliating defeat at Puebla on May 5th, at the hands of Mexican defenders who were huge underdogs. The Mexican victory, celebrated as Cinco de Mayo, is a blow to slavery in the US since the US wanted France to win because the US hoped to sell France cotton from slaves if they won.

1866- Mexico- Mexican President Benito Juarez confirms an 1851 land grant giving blacks a sizeable place of refuge at Nascimiento.

1915- United States- The “Plan de San Diego” which is discovered and stopped, called for a general uprising by Mexicans in the South West to regain their stolen land (California, Texas, etc.). Clauses in the plan address Blacks, Indigenous and Asian people which would give them their freedom and autonomy.

1960- United Nations, New York- Malcolm X hosts the Cuban delegation led by Fidel Castro during their historic visit to Harlem and the United Nations.

1964- United States- Revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara meets with Malcolm X. Che also helps freedom fighters in the Congo, Africa, to help them be liberated.

1968- United States- Working solidarity is developed in California and the Southwest among the Brown Berets, Black Panthers, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other progressive youth organization.

1972- United States- Mack Lyons, Black Florida State Director for the United Farm Workers Union (started by Cesar Chavez) negotiates with Coca Cola, owner of Minute Maid oranges for a huge contract for UFW members.

1992- United States- During LA’s April 29 Rebellion (aka LA Riots), Latino and African American neighbors, recognize their common plight, demonstrate their collective rage against continuing acts of injustices, oppression and exploitation – not against each other.

1992- United States- In recognition of 500 years of resistance and following campus clashes between the two groups, Black and Latino youth in the Los Angeles area convene a successful summit to affirm, deepen, and project their long-established unity and cooperation into the future.

2003- United States- All over the country Latino and Black youth, students, parents, activist and community members continue to work together to deal with issues such as affirmative action, 3 strikes law, prison industrial complex, crime, drugs, poor schools, and to stop Republican President Bush’s war on Iraq which, like in Vietnam, will end in the killing of many of American soldiers on the “frontlines”; where browns and blacks are always overly represented.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fair and Just Immigration Reform

National Statement to Support Human and Civil Rights
for All Immigrants And to Oppose Compromise Immigration
Reform Proposals

April 2006

Fair and Just Immigration Reform for All

We stand together as immigrant, faith, social justice,
labor, peace, human and civil rights organizations and
other concerned communities to support human and civil
rights for all immigrants and to oppose the immigration
'reform' proposals presently in the U.S. Senate. We
oppose H.R. 4437, the immigration bill passed in the
House of Representatives in December, as well as all of
the compromise bills presented in the Senate.

We call upon members of Congress and the Administration
to stop masquerading these proposals as immigration
reform. We demand nothing less than immigration
policies that are fair and just, and that respect the
rights and dignity of all immigrants and other members
of our society.

The rush to reach a bipartisan accord on immigration
legislation has led to a compromise that would create
deep divisions within the immigrant community and leave
millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows of
our country. We oppose the behind-the-scenes brokering
currently playing out in the legislative process. These
trade-offs and deals are based on election-year
campaigning and demands by business lobbyists, rather
than on the best interests and voices of immigrant
communities. We say, 'No deal!'

In a re-ignited civil rights movement, millions of
immigrants, their families, neighbors and co-workers,
along with faith and labor leaders, peace and justice
advocates, have marched and rallied in cities across
the U.S. The mobilizations have served as a wake-up
call for the whole country to acknowledge the vital
role of immigrants as co-workers, neighbors and members
of our broad society. And, as details of the current
legislative compromise have become known, the voices of
immigrant communities are rejecting the proposals for a
so-called legalization program, and are denouncing the
further erosion of human and civil rights through the
enforcement and criminalization provisions. The stakes
are considerable, and affect all of us.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1986
legalization and employer sanctions law, and the 10th
anniversary of the restrictive Illegal Immigration
Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. We cannot
allow the current proposals to be enacted as this
generation's flawed immigration reform legacy.

What We Want: Fair and Just Immigration Reform

Fair and just immigration reform means:

* Genuine legalization and opportunities to adjust
status for all undocumented immigrants, including youth
and farmworkers

* Preservation of due process, including restoration of
access to the courts and meaningful judicial review for

* No indefinite detention or expansion of mandatory

* No expansion of guest worker programs

* No more wasted resources allocated to further
militarize our borders and that contribute to the
crisis of human rights and lives in the border regions

* An end to employer sanctions and electronic worker
verification systems

* The strengthening and enforcement of labor law
protections for all workers, native and foreign born

* No use of city, state or other government agencies in
the enforcement of immigration law

* No more criminalization of immigrants, or their
service providers

* Expansion of legal immigration opportunities, support
for family reunification and immediate processing of
the backlog of pending visa applications

* Elimination of harsh obstacles to immigrating,
including the HIV ban, '3 and 10 year bars,' and high
income requirements for immigrant sponsors.

The Current 'Legalization' Proposal is Unacceptable

The proposed 3-tiered temporary worker program offers
little hope for broad, inclusive legalization of
undocumented immigrants. What some are calling a 'path
to citizenship' in the last Senate bill is merely a
massive temporary worker program without worker
protections, and contains numerous hurdles that will
drastically limit the number of undocumented immigrants
who can actually legalize. Such a program would divide
communities, including mixed-status families, erode
wage and benefits standards, and place a greater burden
on safety-net services.

The Enforcement Proposals Undermine All of our Rights

Significant provisions in the current Senate proposals
would dramatically undermine a broad array of rights,
increase the criminalization of all immigrants, result
in mass deportations, and unfairly exclude millions
from eligibility for any legalization opportunity. The
expansion of expedited removal would eliminate the
right to a court hearing, while the broadened
definition of 'aggravated felony' to include many minor
offenses would result in mandatory detention and mass
deportations. The proposals also seek to reinstate
indefinite detention and increase detention facilities,
including the use of closed military bases. Encouraging
local police to enforce immigration law would not only
add an additional burden that detracts from current
responsibilities, but would discourage immigrant access
to public safety institutions.

Moreover, the increased resources to militarize the
border, which has already cost over $30 billion in the
past 12 years, has not deterred unauthorized border
crossings and instead has caused a humanitarian crisis
with the deaths of some 4,000 people in the desert.
Current border enforcement policies, laws and
practices, without provision for safe and legal entry,
have resulted in the detention and criminalization of
tens of thousands of people at a significant daily cost
to taxpayers.

The Proposals Fail to Protect Workers

The current proposals would further erode already weak
labor protections and rights for immigrants and other
workers. Immigrant workers have historically been used
as 'cheap labor' by employers and industries unwilling
to pay decent wages or to maintain reasonable working
conditions. These proposals continue in that same
shameful vein, and are designed to force and keep wages
down to compete with cheap labor suppliers globally.

Workers need more, not less, rights. A real
legalization proposal needs to be coupled with the
repeal of employer sanctions, the provision of the
landmark 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that
has led to the criminalization of immigrant workers,
and which would be deepened through an expansion of an
employment verification system. This program has done
nothing in the last twenty years but increase
discrimination and abuse of immigrant workers.

Employers have had greater leverage to threaten and
intimidate immigrant workers, break organizing efforts,
carry out unjust firings, and lower wages and work
conditions for all working people. These abuses impact
the entire American workforce, particularly the most
vulnerable toiling in low-wage jobs such as
farmworkers, day laborers and domestic workers.

No Expansion of Guest Worker Programs

A key concern is the significant expansion of guest
worker programs found in almost all Senate proposals
and supported by the Administration. We oppose these
programs both when they are tied to legalization for
undocumented immigrants already living and working
here, and as a means for managing future flows of
immigrants into the United States. The U.S. does not
have a shortage of workers; what we have is a shortage
of employers willing to pay a living wage and maintain
decent working conditions.

Guest worker programs have been condemned by labor and
immigrant communities for their long record of
violations of labor rights and standards, including
blacklists and deportations of workers who protest. In
1964, Ernesto Galarza, Cesar Chavez and other defenders
of workplace rights won the abolition of the old
Bracero guest worker program. The purpose of that
program, they said, was the creation a vulnerable
workforce in order to drive down wages and break union
organizing efforts among immigrants and non-immigrants
alike. The purpose of current proposals is the same.
Temporary, contract workers are prevented the option of
putting down roots and becoming full and equal members
of our communities.

Future migrants should not be forced to accept a
second-class status, violating our country's most basic
commitments to equality. They should be given permanent
residence status, allowing them to work and travel
freely, to exercise their labor rights, and to live as
any other member of our society.

No Compromise, No Deal on Fair and Just Immigration

In recent years, immigrant community members, including
youth and students, farmworkers and others, have
effectively organized and rallied in support of
legislative proposals to strengthen their rights and
opportunities to be equal members of this society.
Despite the loud and determined voice of immigrant
communities, advocates and supporters for fair and just
immigration reform this year, we have yet to see an
acceptable proposal from Congress. And with H.R. 4437
already passed by the House, we are very aware that any
proposal from the Senate would be subject to further
compromise in a Senate-House reconciliation process,
and would likely produce laws that would detrimentally
affect current and future immigrants for years to come.

Increased enforcement does not address the complex
issue of global migration. Employer sanctions and
beefed up border security have been in place for
decades as deterrents to migration, and yet the number
of undocumented continues to grow. The sources of
migration rest in the problems of economic and
political instability, poverty and war in migrant-
sending countries.

Despite the urgency of the immigration issue in this
country, it is clearly not just a 'domestic' issue and
our policies need to consider support for economic
stability, fair trade agreements and peace as vital to
addressing the migration of people in search of work,
survival, and safety.

We will continue to raise our voices for genuine
immigration reform that respects the rights and dignity
of all immigrants, and is fair and just. Immigrant
workers, students and families are making incredible
sacrifices to raise their voices for themselves and
future generations, in the face of recriminations and
disciplinary actions from employers and schools. As
immigrant communities continue to mobilize for their
rights, on May 1 and beyond, we will support their
right and choice to express themselves.

We pledge to increase public education efforts and the
building and mobilization of meaningful alliances, and
we will encourage and support immigrant community
leadership to advance real immigration reform. We call
upon Congress and the Administration to heed the voices
of immigrant communities demanding genuine immigration
reforms: real legalization, equitable inclusion in our
society, justice, and respect for human rights.


National Immigration Statement on Fair and Just
Immigration Reform April 2006


Please complete and email to or
fax to (510) 465-1885

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Immigration: next steps?

As you know, the 1968 student blow outs ( walk outs) in Los Angeles, along with the Chicano Moratorium, the UFW, and others changed the nature of Chicano politics and developed a generation of activists.
The question; what can we do to assist the current generation to grow from the massive and impressive immigrants rights demonstrations? How can we assist the formation of a new Chicano/Latino power movement?
What ideas do you have?

We want to understand the nature and the value of the mass mobilizations. The different understandings will shape how we adjust our organizations, strategies, and tactics
Duane Campbell

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mahoney opposes May 1 Boycott

Cardinal urges immigration supporters to avoid May 1 boycott

By CHRISTINA ALMEIDA, Associated Press Writer
Published 4:05 pm PDT Monday, April 17, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Cardinal Roger Mahony, a vocal leader of the marches against congressional attempts to crackdown on illegal immigration, does not support a planned student and worker boycott on May 1.
"Go to work. Go to school. And then join thousands of us at a major rally afterwards," Mahony said in a prepared statement.

The boycott would follow massive protests staged across the nation in recent weeks to demand reforms that help illegal immigrants stay in the country.

Immigrant students, workers and supporters are being asked to stay home as part of the boycott billed by some as "a day without an immigrant."

Many of the recent rallies have been backed by the church, organized labor and immigrant rights groups.

Some demonstrations focused on HR 4437, a House bill passed in December that would build more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border, criminalize helping undocumented immigrants and make it a felony, rather than a civil infraction, to be in the country illegally.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill removing many of the punitive House provisions and adding a way for illegal immigrants to work toward U.S. citizenship. The full Senate has yet to vote on the bill.

Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association, a leading organizer of the boycott, said he respected Mahony's opinion but it would not alter the plans.

"We applaud his steadfast opposition to HR 4437, and we expect to continue working together to defeat that legislation," Lopez said.

In his statement on Sunday, Mahony acknowledged the differences of opinion on the best way to rally support for immigrants. He also noted that May 1 celebrates the patron saint of workers.

"I would recommend that our Catholic parishes, schools and other entities devote time on May 1 to help our employees and students appreciate the dignity of work, the value of education and the important role immigrants play," said Mahony, who leads the nation's largest archdiocese.

Tod M. Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Mahony believes "participation is more effective than non-participation."

"Boycotts rarely solve the problem," Tamberg said.

The cardinal also urged employers to consider setting aside time during the day for workers to discuss immigration reform and share personal stories.

Parents should also discuss the issue at home and "persuade your students to go to school on May 1, and to remain there throughout the school day," he said.

Immigration positions

The AFL_CIO position.

The Catholic Church view:

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sacramento Immigrants' Rights Demonstration

Sacramento Joins Cities Throughout the Nation In Opposing Anti-Immigrant Legislation

By Dan Bacher
Over 10,000 immigrant rights activists marched in Sacramento on Monday, April 10 against legislation in the U.S. Senate that would make assisting an undocumented immigrant a felony. The marchers joined over a million marchers from other cities across the U.S. to stand firm against the racist scapegoating by the right wing for the economic problems caused by corporate globalization, outsourcing and Bush’s illegal war and occupation in Iraq.

A crowd of immigrant rights marchers from Davis and Yolo County united with activists and students, organized by the Campaign Against Unjust Immigration Laws, at Southside Park in Sacramento Monday. After a spirited rally with Azteca dancers and brief speeches from immigrants’ rights and civil rights organization activists, the marchers marched from the park to Capitol Malll, meeting another march at the State Capitol and stopping in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) offices on the mall.

“You’re not immigrants,” said Clifford Marshall, Jr., a member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe from northern California, one of the four Klamath Basin tribes battling to remove dams on the Klamath River to restore salmon fisheries. “This is our country, this is our land. Our nations are with you, our relations.”

“It is wrong for immigrants from Europe to say that you can’t be here, especially when you have done no wrong to my people,” he emphasized. “We’re the owners of the land and our tribe doesn’t have any immigrant laws.”

CAUIL opposes HR4437, as well as the many problematic provisions in all bills currently pending in the U.S. senate. The current Senate immigration bill expands the exercise of executive power without judicial review and expands the term “aggravated felony,” a category of conduct that results in the worst immigration consequences, including banishment from this country for life and mandatory detention until you are removed.

In a draconian provision that parallels the most repressive provisions of the Patriot Act, the bill would make providing some types of assistance to undocumented friends or family members an “aggravated felony.”

The legislation also encourages local police to enforce federal immigration law by offering to reimburse all enforcement related expenses; provides for mandatory detention and expedited removal of immigrants caught between ports of entry and mandates expedited removal, without an opportunity of a hearing, of all those caught within 100 miles of the border who can't prove they have been here for more than 14 days; and gives the Executive Branch authority to indefinitely detain immigrants who can’t be deported, overturning two Supreme Court decisions that held such power unconstitutional.

“By much of the press coverage of the immigration legislation, you would think that the Senate is sponsoring some sort of pro-immigrant bill,” said Felicia Martinez of CAUIL. “But it’s clear that this is not true if you look at the Senate’s bill’s provisions.”

The organization held a press conference in front of Senator Feinstein’s office in San Francisco on Friday at 10:30 a.m., after their attempts by phone to arrange a meeting with Feinstein or a staff member were rebuffed. Spurred by a sizable press turnout, Matthew Walker of Feinstein’s staff finally agreed to meet with them, according to Fatima Castaneda of CAUIL. Fourteen people, including high school students and organizers, met with him and delivered 2,000 letters opposed to HR 4437 and other anti-immigrant bills.

They presented a cover letter, signed by Castaneda, Steve Iverson, Victor Rivera and Sara Farnsworth of the coalition, explaining the reason behind the letters.

“The enclosed hundreds of letters have been collected in Sacramento and nearby agricultural communities,” it stated. “In addition, we are giving you a stack of postcards written by students from the Sacramento City Unified School District. After being informed about the pending legislation at a high school conference, the students wrote these very heartfelt expressions of their concern for themselves and their families’ future. They will touch your heart.”

“…These students want an opportunity to become educated and continue living and working to make this a better country. We look forward to your leadership on this issue.”

The Coalition is planning a rally and March on May 1 starting in Southside Park as part of a national day of protests and walkouts against anti-immigrant legislation. For more details, contact the Campaign Against Unjust Immigration Laws, (916) 443-3424,

The Senate "compromise" on immigration

On April 7,2006, The Senate Judiciary Committee offered a compromise proposal.
Among its elements:
1. A guest worker program – as opposed by organized labor.
2. Immigrants who have resided in the United States for five years and can demonstrate they have worked in the past could apply for a conditional immigrant visa. After the payment of a fine, six years of work, and proof that they are learning English, they can apply for permanent residency for themselves and their immediate family members.
3. Immigrants who have resided in the United States from 2-5 years would be issued work visas to enter a temporary worker program. During the first three years of the program, a worker would have to return to a port-of-entry to “touch base,” and have their visa stamped by proper authorities. 450,000 green cards a year would be added for this population and would allow them to adjust to permanent residence in 8-10 years.
Despite the provisions of Title VI, many harmful enforcement provisions are contained in the Senate compromise bill, including the following: mandatory detention of anyone apprehended along the border, including families, trafficking victims, asylum-seekers, victims of domestic violence, and unaccompanied children; and authorization of local law enforcement to assist federal authorities to enforce federal immigration laws.
The Senate will resume debate in April. If a bill passes the senate, it will need to be reconciled in joint committee with HR 4437 (Sensenbrenner). A final version would need to be approved by both Houses before being sent to the President.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Debate: The May 1 demonstrations

Calls for boycott test immigration unity
Protest movement splinters on tactic; some fear backlash

By Myung Oak Kim And Rosa Ramirez, Rocky Mountain News
April 15, 2006

The new immigrant rights movement in Colorado, which took off with
stunning success last month, is now facing its first real test over
a planned student walkout April 19 and a work boycott May 1.

Some leaders, including a growing number of student activists, favor
the aggressive tactics of walkouts and a boycott to show the
economic power of the immigrant community.

But others caution that actions that go beyond the rallies that
Denver has seen in recent weeks could backfire and strengthen calls
for get-tough laws that would penalize illegal immigrants.

All factions in the immigrant rights movement agree on the goal - to
see Congress pass immigration reform that gives people who are in
the country illegally a path toward citizenship.

But the two upcoming events have created a disagreement over
strategy, echoing a debate that's occurring among immigrant rights
groups across the country.

That's not unusual, said Rachel Einwohner, a sociology professor at
Purdue University in Indiana. She noted that the civil rights
movement splintered into factions that took different approaches.

"People are, of course, interested in achieving justice. They're not
always going to agree on how to achieve that," she said.

Sometimes groups come back together and sometimes their split
hardens, Einwohner said, and "it can be very difficult to get the
two sides back together."

Immigrant rights took center stage at a March 25 Civic Center
demonstration that drew an estimated 50,000. Since then, there have
been a series of student walkouts and other demonstrations.

But next Wednesday, student organizers are planning to up the ante,
calling on students from at least 10 high schools and middle schools
to leave class and gather at the state Capitol for a late morning
rally, said Eddie Montoya, 19, of the youth activist group Jovenes

Students may stage another walkout May 1, when immigrants across
Colorado and the nation are being urged to skip work for the day to
protest legislation passed by the House of Representatives that
would criminalize undocumented immigrants and the people who help

The protest movement has also hit Mexico and parts of Central
America, with some groups calling for boycotts May 1 of American-
made products.

While details of the local events are still undecided, the myriad of
organizers are struggling to unify on strategy and scrambling to
keep up with calls to action sent nationwide through Spanish-
language media, the Internet and e-mail.

"In terms of a movement, what does a movement look like, we're
seeing a very unique dynamic that I think is unprecedented in U.S.
history," said Jamila Spencer, of the Colorado Catholic Conference,
part of a coalition called the Colorado Grassroots Movement for
Immigrant Justice. "That's why this May 1st thing has the potential
to be so explosive - because you can't control it."

The idea for a May 1 work boycott emerged from local groups during
coordinated rallies April 10 and then spread across the country,
said Germonique Jones, a spokeswoman for the Center for Community
Change, an activist group based in Washington, D.C.

"There's no one main group that is really behind the May 1st event,"
she said. "The May 1st event has really taken on a life of its own."

May 1 boycott

One of the most prominent calls for labor halts has come from
Eduardo Sotelo, a popular syndicated Spanish radio host of El Piolin
Por La Manana, who can be heard on Denver-area stations.Juan Jose
Gutierrez, director of the Los Angeles-based Latino Movement USA, is
traveling the country to promote the boycott.

"We are calling on people not to go to work. No school from grammar
to college and no shopping or selling," he said. "We want to create
a day without immigrants. We fully expect to have participation
across the board."

At an April 10 rally at the state Capitol, labor organizer Paul
Lopez called on immigrants "to shut down Denver" May 1, a day some
groups are calling "The Great American Boycott of 2006."

About 40 to 60 people attended meetings Wednesday and Thursday,
which were closed to the media, to discuss the May 1 events. They
have scheduled another meeting for Monday evening at Escuela
Tlatelolco, a school at Federal Boulevard and 29th Avenue.

The groups are trying to reunite after slight divisions and lack of
communication in the planning for the April 10 candlelight vigil at
Sloan's Lake to remember immigrants who died crossing the border.

Conflicting strategies

Some organizers oppose student walkouts and work stoppages, saying
such actions would create too much anger and hurt efforts to defeat
an anti-illegal immigrant initiative heading to the November ballot
in Colorado.

Others support those tactics, saying it's time for the community to
see how much immigrants contribute to the economy.

Lourdes Norton, owner of El Defensor del Hispano, a tax preparation
and notary public business on Federal Boulevard, said she's not
opening May 1st. She said 90 percent of her clients are undocumented
Hispanic immigrants: "If I open the store, I'm telling them, I don't
support you."

Romario Delgado, president of Three Brothers Concrete Inc. in Denver
said his small company will shut down on May 1.

"I already told my foreman: Nobody is going to be working," he
said. "I'm not planning on doing any business that day also. That's
the only way to support our people (and) to stand up for them."

Delgado has already informed his customers: "They don't disagree,
and they're not disappointed. They are all with us."

But not everyone is with the demonstrators. Rallies have already
generated criticism and a boycott could turn up the volume.

Rep. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, signed a letter earlier
this week asking President Bush to declare a state of emergency in
response to immigrant protests.

"It makes me more resolved to fight this issue," Schultheis said in
a recent interview. "They do not have rights of free speech in this
country, or any other rights for that matter. Those rights come to
us as a result of us being citizens of this country."

Bill Vandenberg, co-director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition,
which helped organize the March 25 Denver immigration rally, said an
alternative to a May 1 work stoppage is in the works. It would
involve volunteers going door to door that day to educate businesses
about immigration and seek their support in pushing for more
generous policies.

"We have a lot of people that want to do a lot of different things,"
he said. "Passionate opinions are present in every setting, and
that's a healthy thing."

Action 'harsh, drastic'

The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes student walkouts and work
boycotts "because those types of actions do not encourage reasonable
dialogue," Spencer said. "Instead, they heighten the rhetoric and
debate, and they help to polarize the debate, distracting us from
real public policy solutions."

"We encourage positive actions, prayer vigils and rallies in support
of comprehensive immigration reform," she said. "To do something
this harsh and this drastic can hurt community. It can undermine the
long-term goals."

As for the student walkout, Ricardo Martinez, an organizer of the
April 10 candlelight vigil at Sloan's Lake, supports it.

"We support that they will express their First Amendment rights,"
said Martinez, co-director of a local Latino activist group Padres
Unidos, which means parents united.

Eddie Montoya, of Jovenes Unidos, the youth arm of Padres Unidos,
said adult organizers of the pro-immigrant events have tried to
change the minds of students planning to skip class.

"People are still going to do it anyway," he said. "That message is
already out there, and that's what people are going to do."

In Denver Public Schools, officials told principals not to interfere
with students leaving school and to allow them to return. Students
who walk out will be considered truant.

And students predict more absences if Congress deadlocks on
immigration reform.

"If our demands are not met, then we're going to keep going,"
Montoya said. or 303-892-2361

Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Changing the Immigration Debate

Protests Turn the Tide on Immigration Debate
By Laura Carlsen

The immigration demonstrations held across the country not only marked an historic mobilization of one of the nation's most silenced sectors. They also turned the tide on a national debate that threatened the basic values and cohesion of U.S. communities.

Millions of people poured into the streets last week and their cries of protest went beyond whether or not to enact a certain piece of legislation. The fundamental demand of the marchers was for recognition within the country they call home.

Laura Carlsen directs the Americas Program of the International Relations Center, online at

See new IRC commentary online at:

With printer-friendly pdf version at:

Friday, April 07, 2006

Congress must face reality

By David Bacon

OAKLAND, CA (4/6/06) - Senators will pat themselves on the back this week, for agreeing to their most pro-corporate, anti-immigrant bill in decades. Tens of thousands of people may be forced to leave the US as a result. Millions more would have to become braceros - guest workers on temporary visas - just to continue to labor in the jobs they've had for years.
More workplace enforcement will result in firing thousands of others, creating a climate fear that will make defending workplace rights and joining unions riskier than ever. And a border like an armed camp will continue costing the lives of hundreds of humble farmers and workers every year, crossing towards a shattered dream of a better life.
No wonder people have been in the streets for weeks, with even bigger demonstrations and marches yet to come. These are ordinary people, not activists, come out of working-class homes all over the country. A million in Los Angeles. Half a million in Chicago. Tens of thousands crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Hunger strikers in San Francisco. Demonstrations in states where the immigrant community has been virtually invisible until now, like North Carolina, Tennessee. Border towns like Tucson. Cities from Santa Rosa to Omaha.
Everywhere, immigrants and people who support them are condemning the draconian measures passed by the House of Representatives in December, especially the provision that would make undocumented people federal felons.
But the demonstrations have a positive demand as well, one that shames especially the Senate's slight-of-hand, where second-class guest worker programs are called 'a path to legalization," and the only way families can gain legal status for their undocumented members is to spend a decade or more working as braceros. Contrary to Senate proposals for deportations and bracero visas, people carry signs demanding amnesty. These myriad marchers - families with children and grandparents in tow - have a simple alternative.
Many unions support them. Among the most outspoken are the Teamsters in Orange County, heart of the anti-immigrant offensive, where the mayor of Costa Mesa told his police department to begin picking up immigrants who lack visas. Teamsters Local 952 says people need real legal status, not a guest worker program. A recently passed resolution condemns both Congressional proposals, because they "do nothing to remove the economic incentives that unscrupulous employers have to hire and exploit immigrant workers, and fail to really address the fact that we have 11 million undocumented workers in this country contributing to our communities."
The union "opposes any form of employer sanctions because they have historically resulted in 'employee sanctions' in the form of firings of workers for union organizing and discrimination practices on the job," and "opposes guest worker legislative proposals because such modern day 'bracero programs,' create an indentured servitude status for workers."
The AFL-CIO says the same, pointing out that if there are jobs for 400,000 braceros a year (the goal of the Senate reform bill), those immigrants should be given 400,000 green cards, or residence visas, instead, which would guarantee them equal status in their workplaces and communities. The Senate bill, the AFL-CIO says, "tears at the heart of true reform and will drive millions of hard-working immigrants further into the shadows of American society." Instead, "we should recognize immigrant workers as full members of society -- as permanent residents with full rights and full mobility that employers may not exploit."
When Senator John McCain, co-sponsor of the Senate's main guest worker plan, tried to defend it to a building trades union audience in his home state this week, he was booed. He told the construction workers that even at $50 an hour they wouldn't be willing to pick lettuce, implying that only Mexicans were willing to do farm labor. For some in the audience, McCain's remarks recalled former California Senator George Murphy, who infamously declared in the 1960s that only Mexicans would perform stoop labor because "they're built so close to the ground." Needless to say, McCain didn't actually include in his bill any wage guarantee for guestworkers, much less $50/hour (about 5 times what lettuce cutters make today.)
A concerted effort by some lobbyists is underway in Washington, however, to convince legislators that guest worker status, while unpleasant, is something immigrants themselves are prepared to accept. But outside the beltway their proposal is meeting a rising tide of rejection. In New York City, Desis Rising Up & Moving and 20 other grassroots groups formed Immigrant Communities In Action, and condemned both House and Senate bills for not halting the wave of detentions and deportations visited on Muslim communities since 9/11.
Another coalition, which includes the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, the Chinese Staff and Workers' Association, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, also rejects guestworker programs. Like the Teamsters, these groups say Congress should abolish employer sanctions instead, since they're often used to retaliate against undocumented workers who demand labor rights.
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights criticizes both the Senate and House bills because they hold "no promise of fairness in immigration policy and would undermine the rights, economic health and safety of all immigrants and their children. Congress needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with genuine, positive and fair proposals."
Are there any such proposals before Congress?
Yes, although beltway advocates have tried to smother the most progressive of those alternatives with silence. A year ago Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressional Black Caucus members introduced HR 2092, which would give permanent residence visas to undocumented people already here, and outlaw discrimination based on migrant status. Jackson Lee believes Federal policy should not pit migrants against native-born, as do guestworker programs. Her legislation would instead fund job training and creation in communities with high unemployment, so that both immigrants and non-immigrants can find work.
In the House's mad December rush to pass the Sensenbrenner bill, criminalizing the undocumented instead of legalizing them, Jackson Lee's bill couldn't even get a hearing. The Congresswoman is the ranking Democrat on the House Immigration Subcommittee. In the Senate her proposal received no more consideration, from either Democrats or Republicans. Yet her bill is the only real effort to find common ground between immigrants and the working communities of citizens and long time residents that they seek to join.
In their predictable beltway logic, guestworker advocates are counseling the huge demonstrations to feature US flags, and carry signs saying, "We are America." But covering a corporate labor scheme with patriotic rhetoric won't convince marchers to support it. Immigrants do want to be part of US society, and do want to work, but they're not likely to start holding signs saying, "I want to be a guestworker," or chanting "Braceros si! Migra no!"
Hundreds of thousands of people are saying no to Washington's repressive bills, but Congress and its coterie of beltway lobbyists clearly aren't listening. It's time for Washington to face reality. A huge outpouring of people is demanding real equality. They won't be satisfied with second-class status.


David Bacon, Photographs and Stories


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A comprehensive view of the immig. struggle

Toward A Comprehensive Immigration Policy
IRC | March 20, 2006

Americas Program, International Relations Center (IRC)

To summarize, a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system would include these components:
• Occurs in the context of a national economic policy that encourages full-employment at livable wages and with respect for basic rights to organize.
• Prioritizes the entry of political refugees.
• Legalizes the presence of the large sector of unauthorized immigrants that have established roots in U.S. society and economy.
• Leaves open the possibility for guest-worker programs that do not endanger the jobs of legal U.S. residents and guarantees respect for the rights of these temporary workers.
• Determines a sustainable level of legal immigration that benefits U.S. society and economy.
• Reduces immigration visas for family reunification to ensure that any earned legalization program does not lead to large increases in legal immigration flows.
• Deemphasizes border security, and instead places the emphasis of controlling illegal immigration on institution of a worker ID system.
• Reforms U.S. foreign policy in ways that promote broad development and job creation in “sending” countries.
• Protects the human rights (with special attention to labor rights and conditions) of all U.S. residents, whether legal or not.

Answer claims leadership in immigration struggle

This story is taken from Politics at

Boycott planned as Senate falters on immigration

By Michael Doyle -- Bee Washington Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Wednesday, April 5, 2006

WASHINGTON - Immigrant advocates called Tuesday for a nationwide boycott of jobs and schools on May 1, even as senators appeared stymied in their efforts to finish the immigration bill that's provoking controversy.
The proposed "Great American Boycott of 2006" is being organized by some of the same activists who rallied an estimated half-million demonstrators in Los Angeles on March 25. Now, in a bid to show nationwide clout, they want immigrants and supporters to avoid work, school, buying and selling on May 1.

"We realize that we have been absent from the political debate in Washington, although we are the voices of those most affected by the legislation," Juan Jose Gutierrez, director of Latino Movement USA, said at a Washington news conference.

The nationwide boycott is also being organized through the ANSWER Coalition, whose member groups range from the Free Palestine Alliance to the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Korea Truth Coalition.

The boycott, along with nationwide rallies scheduled for Monday, represents the loudest aspect of a debate that has meandered on Capitol Hill for the past week. On Tuesday, despite some ongoing Republican compromise negotiations, increasingly irritated senators acknowledged they lack the 60 votes necessary to pass legislation.

"I'm very frustrated right now," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist conceded early Tuesday evening, adding, "We're making no progress whatsoever."

Eight hours of debate Tuesday, interrupted by frequent quorum calls, did not result in any substantive progress and yielded only one, symbolic, vote.

One hundred amendments still await action, prompting some senators - including Republican John Cornyn of Texas - to suggest that the Senate might have to postpone action until after a two-week April recess now scheduled to start Saturday. Throughout most of Tuesday, Democrats used the Senate's procedural rules to block voting on amendments.

About the writer:

The Bee's Michael Doyle can be reached at (202) 383-0006 or
Go to: Sacbee / Back to story

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee

Hello Mr. Doyle,

Your article as published today in the Sacramento Bee with the headline Boycott planned as Senate falters on immigration has a serious problem.
To say that the national boycott is being organized through the Answer Coalition is not accurate.

It is most unfortunate that you published this claim. Please do some considerable checking prior to repeating it.


Dr. Duane E. Campbell

Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004) Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Comparison of views on Immigration bills

Positions on the immigration bills:
People for the American Way
But millions of Americans have taken to the streets in recent weeks to say "no" to Frist and his right-wing base. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not a rehashing of the enforcement-only policies that have failed us for the past twenty years!
Call upon your senators now to support the Judiciary Committee's comprehensive immigration reform proposal that includes a path to earned citizenship, an accelerated family reunification program, and a guest worker program!

The Catholic Church

This bill (Senate Judiciary) was thoughtfully crafted to address the ills of the current immigration system and provides a comprehensive approach to them, including the creation of legal avenues for family and employment-based immigration and an earned legalization program to address the millions of undocumented living in the shadows of our society.

Although some have derided this bill as providing “amnesty,” it does not. To qualify for the earned legalization program, the Judiciary Committee’s bill requires careful background checks and screening to determine eligibility; it requires applicants to pay a fine; and it requires eligible applicants to get in line behind others who are awaiting visas.

A problem area is guest workers.
Both the Kennedy-Mc Cain approach ( the Judiciary bill) and the Ag Jobs bill (sponsored by the U.F.W. of United for Change) includes guest workers.
They have reasonable rules trying to make a guest worker system viable.
The advantage is this may be the only way to legalize the 11 million
already here.

The militant position is to demand legalization now. In the real
world, that is not going to fly.

The bill just passed by the Senate Judiciary committee provides for a six year "guest worker" program. After six years, and paying a fine,
such workers would be allowed to apply for Permanent Residence status.

But, Guest worker programs have in the past increased exploitation of workers.

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

• Past and current guest worker or bracero programs have been rife with abuses and exploitation; they divide families and violate the workers’ labor and human rights.

• Undocumented immigrant workers and their families deserve a just and fair legalization program. Any immigration reform must guarantee our civil, labor and human rights and make the border safe for communities and migrants.

• The Specter bill and H.R. 4437 will continue pouring billions into a failed strategy and guarantee that migrant deaths continue to mount. Since 1994, U.S. border control and immigration enforcement has deliberately pushed migrants to cross through the most dangerous desert and mountainous regions where they risk their lives. According to a study by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California, the U.S. border control strategy has only caused more migrant deaths and failed to stem unauthorized border crossings. More than 4,000 migrant deaths have been recorded over the last ten years.

• The Specter bill provides a “report and deport” program: undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. as of January 2004 may qualify for a “conditional work authorization,” keeping them in their undocumented immigration status and deportable.
They must register with the Dept. of Homeland Security and plead “guilty” to being in the U.S. unlawfully. Those who don’t report or don’t qualify can be deported. This status can last indefinitely, and sets up these vulnerable immigrant workers as “second class” members of our society.
We need to see if this last provision remains in the Judiciary Committee report.
I suspect it does. They allowed most of the enforcement provisions.

HR 4437

We need a solution, not a headline. We want effective reforms of the nation’s immigration laws, not shortsighted measures that appear tough on immigration but do not resolve the underlying problems. Only a comprehensive approach that provides a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, creates new legal channels for future flows of needed immigrants, reduces family immigration backlogs, and protects worker rights will reduce undocumented immigration and bring order to our immigration system. H.R. 4437 does not take us down the path of real immigration reform.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Immigration and talk radio

Just to listen to the other side, I listened to our local talk radio today. in Sacramento AM 1530.
The anti immigrant fervor was intense. It ranges from vigilante justice to advocacy.
These are the same folks who were able to recall Gray Davis as governor.

Duane Campbell

Monday, April 03, 2006

Guest worker issues

Guest worker provisions in the immigration bill.
This is quite complex. Labor seems divided.
Interesting the UFW supports a version in their Ag
Jobs bills. The UFW was the one union with the
strongest opposition to guest workers in the past.

A great deal depends upon the details of the bill. As
Specter's committee wrote it, guest workers would be
semi reasonable.
However, we need to recognize that laws are not
enforced in a reasonable manner.

In agriculture and in the food industries, the laws
are not enforced. So, a guest worker program could
become an oppressive bracero program such as in the
1941-1965 era.

Duane Campbell

Whose Backlash?
From the LA Weekly.
Whose Backlash?
Nuestro backlash

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 7:00 pm

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. At least in physics.
In politics, however, the equation isn’t always symmetrical. A mild push might
invite a whopping Sunday punch. Likewise, an unbridled onslaught might go
completely unanswered.

So what about this nationwide chain reaction of immigrant demonstrations, school
walkouts, a freeway blockade, and Saturday’s historic rally that brought
hundreds of thousands into the streets of Los Angeles? Will this feisty and
largely unanticipated show of force by an “illegal” underclass — replete with
flapping Mexican flags — provoke some ferocious, crushing backlash of
xenophobia and reprisal? Are we in for an amped-up repeat of 1994, when a much
smaller downtown demo of Latinos helped fuel, a few weeks later, a revanchist
white-voter turnout in favor of the rights-stealing Proposition 187?

This nightmare scenario is what some analysts are predicting. Problem is,
they’ve got it backward. The feared nativist backlash has been in full motion
now for some time — long before the humongous immigrant demonstration last
weekend. The groveling media suck-up to the minuscule Minutemen show (hundreds
of journalists shamelessly traipsing behind a few score vigilantes) a year ago
established a twisted and ugly frame for a national debate that had been
delayed way too long. The Lou Dobbsian jibber-jabber about “broken borders”
reached its crescendo last Christmas, when the House passed the outrageous
Sensenbrenner bill that would deem all so-called illegal aliens — and their
employers — felons. (Undocumented workers currently are in violation of civil,
not criminal, codes.)

Why should anyone feign surprise when an entire population that cleans our
offices, cuts our lawns, serves our food, makes our beds, tends to our
children, and pays taxes but gets no refunds, finds it expedient to mobilize
politically against its wholesale criminalization? It’s asking a lot, don’t you
think, for workers to remain silent and impassive as their arrest and
deportation are actively being contemplated in Congress? The only surprise is
that it has taken this long to materialize.

Our contemporary Cassandras, those who in 1962 would have lectured Dr. King that
he was only stirring up Mr. Charlie by pushing his Negroes too far too fast,
might recall that the white backlash of 1994 was immediately followed by a
counterbacklash. An enraged and energized Latino constituency accelerated its
entrance into citizenship and onto the voter rolls, and within four years it
steamrollered the California GOP — a flattening from which state Republicans
have still not recovered.

So while the grumbling Archie Bunkers might get their ya-yas all worked up by
the Mexican flags unfurled in Saturday’s demo, the smarter among Republican
strategists look upon the size of those protests with some pause and
trepidation (if not with a calculator in hand). Many of those in the rally were
legal, or have legal relatives, or, if illegal, might soon be legal. And they
could hardly be counted on to vote for a party that would continue denying
their existence. There’s a reason why George W. Bush isn’t replicating the
despicable demagogy of Pete Wilson. At least he, if not all of his fellow
Republicans, has assimilated the lessons of Prop. 187.

I don’t think that the sudden upsurge in marches and demos in any direct way
encouraged a handful of key Republican senators to join with Democrats on
Monday in approving a sweeping and liberalized comprehensive immigration-reform
measure (which still faces an uphill battle on the full Senate floor). What’s
astounding is that the protests weren’t used as an excuse to not do so. How
could they when, at virtually the same moment the protesters overflowed
downtown, the president’s own radio address broadly endorsed the two principal
demands of the demonstrators: expanded legal immigration and some channel or
another through which the 12 million illegals already here can come into legal

The only argument we — as a nation of immigrants — can make against the current
migratory wave is that our grandparents and parents came here legally, so why
don’t Jose and Maria do the same? Well, the America of 2006 is not the America
that my family came to in 1915 (and when they came, they also pushed aside
better-paid, longer-term residents and citizens). Our work force is vastly
older and immensely better educated and skilled than even 50 years ago. The
industrial revolution, which was roaring ahead a century ago, has given way,
unfortunately, to a service economy. Barring Mexicans from coming across the
border is not going to magically reopen shuttered car and tractor factories. On
the contrary, if you could even plausibly tamp down the inflow, you would only
increase the out-migration of American business. When a 2,000-mile border
separates two nations with as much as a 20-to-1 wage gap, what do you think is
going to happen?

Our national economy easily absorbs and desperately needs about a million and a
half immigrant workers per year to grow and compete. We let a million of them
come in legally. The other half-million we make run and dart across the border
at great peril. Our reality has outstripped our laws — and our way of framing
the issue. In the end, it will make little difference who prevails in this
year’s congressional debate, as nothing will change on the ground — backlash or
not. It’s a lot like debating the tides.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Organizing student walkouts on the www

Or if you're a Mexican-American teenager, it's an easy way to
subvert the man and surprise America.

Student Protests Echo the '60s, but With a High-Tech Buzz
Youths used a popular website to organize their walkouts. And some
did know what a 'sit-in' was.
By Scott Gold, Times Staff Writer
March 31, 2006

Shuffling her feet in her Garden Grove home last weekend, Mariela
Muniz stared into the carpet and suffered, as teenagers do, the
silent deliberation of her parents. Soon, her father nodded and her
mother uttered the words she'd been waiting to hear: "Lo puedes

"You can do it."

The next morning, the 15-year-old sophomore at Garden Grove High
School — with the permission of her parents, both of whom are
factory workers and Mexican immigrants who became U.S. citizens
after entering the country illegally — skipped school for the first
time in her life.

Following in the footsteps of those who led the first of the student
walkouts March 24 and the adults who organized last Saturday's
massive protest against proposed immigration legislation, Muniz
became one of a few dozen students in Southern California who helped
spearhead a national exhibition of civil unrest, one of the largest
and most boisterous since the civil rights movement four decades
ago. By the end of today — in Fresno, in Monterey Park, in San
Diego — more than 40,000 students in California will have walked out
of their schools to protest the proposed reforms.

There is little question that some students took advantage of the
protests to ditch school. Some acknowledged they had little idea
what all the fuss was about. Others took the opportunity to throw
bottles at police and to shut down freeways. Law enforcement
officials criticized them for diverting resources from more pressing
needs, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told them to go
back to school.

But for the small group of students who instigated the walkouts,
most of whom hadn't been politically active but were well-connected
on campus and online, it was a transformative week.

Using modern technology — mostly their communal pages on the
enormously popular MySpace website — they pulled off an event with
surprising speed and dexterity. Planned in mere hours on little
sleep, lacking any formal organization, the protests were chaotic
and decentralized and organic.


They had heard about the March 24 walkouts at several high schools
in Los Angeles, and decided to launch a protest of their own. On
Sunday afternoon, they posted a bulletin on MySpace — since
discovered by school administrators, who were not pleased —
announcing that anyone wishing to participate should stand up at the
8 a.m. tardy bell Monday and "meet in front of the school."

In the scattered, rapid-fire text typical of students' MySpace
missives, the bulletin continued: "dOnt b scared…. All these politic
officials are trying to make their dreams come true by destroying
ours, AND THEY WILL, unless we do something about it!!"

On the Internet site, which serves as a free-of-charge, virtual
gathering place, users can send bulletins to all of their
MySpace "friends." The lists can include dozens of people and the
bulletins can be passed along in seconds.

It didn't take long before most of Garden Grove High's roughly 2,200
students knew what was coming, without the knowledge or involvement
of teachers or parents.

Soon, the bulletin crossed over an invisible but critical line
between teens who were friends but attended different schools.
Students began posting their telephone numbers, and soon dozens more
pledges to participate were obtained through phone calls and instant
text messages.

Still, when the tardy bell rang Monday morning, Muniz had no idea
what to expect. Teenagers can talk a big game. But would they follow

She waited in front of the school. Soon, the doors opened, and
scores of students — most of them Latino, but a handful of whites,
African Americans and Asian Americans too — joined her. They marched
through Garden Grove and Anaheim, picking up students at several
other schools as planned through MySpace bulletins. By 1 p.m., they
had covered 10 miles. An estimated 1,500 students had walked out.
Muniz was a truant — and, to her friends, a hero.

School administrators have since informed her that she'll have to
perform community service as penance. Back at her home, a humble
ranch-style house with family photographs on the wall and avocados
on the dining room table, she said it was worth it.

"Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in," she
said. "We did. And it worked."