1.6 million immigrants separated from families: Human Rights Watch new report

  • Human
    Rights Watch
    recently published a new report, “Forced Apart: Families Separated
    and Immigrants Harmed by United States Deportation Policy”
    ImmigrationProf Blog
    !). The report
    tracks immigrants’ deportation information between 1997 and 2005 (the most
    recent year for which data are publicly available). Based on the 2000 US Census, Human Rights Watch estimates that
    approximately 1.6 million spouses and children living in the US were separated
    from their families because of these deportations. The report calls on the government for
    comprehensive immigration reform as a solution to prevent these deportations and the negative impact they have on the families of immigrants. Everyone deserves basic
    human rights, and this report highlights many of the ways in which the rights of undocumented workers
    have been violated
  • Latina
    reports on how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to pull the
    entire Defense Authorization Bill will have a negative impact on the children of immigrants.  As we reported earlier, elements of the DREAM Act had been added to the DoD Reauthorization as an amendment, and these provisions will no longer get an up or down vote in the Senate.  It is another defeat for even a small attempt at achieving humane immigration reforms.
  • AMERICABlog reports on Bush’s refusal to renew SCHIP (State
    Children’s Health Insurance Program), because “expanding the program would
    enlarge the role of the federal government at the expense of private
    insurance.”  This viewpoint reflects
    many flaws in the current administration's thinking about government: whatever the conservative base thinks, the role of government in health care
    access is not inherently negative. In
    fact, making the government more accountable for the problems in health care
    access and discrepancies in quality would improve the dismal state of health care in America.  More efficient and accountable government involvement can be represent a positive step forward for the millions of children who lack health care, particularly in a program as successful and beloved as SCHIP.

For your entertainment, two videos on immigration:

  • As posted by Immigration Equality,
    Bill O’Reilly mouths off to Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven
    on the issues of immigration and opportunity. Tiven argues for the right for members of gay and lesbian couples to
    sponsor their partners who are citizens of foreign countries, just as straight couples do.
  • Struggle Within posts a music video as a response to the
    Supreme Court schools’ decision, explaining the inequalities people of color
    face when the government hinders their educational rights.

More problems in structuring immigration reform

  • DMI Blog reports on the problems with the new face of immigration
    reform: employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers. Author Suman Raghunathan explains that these sanctions are an underhanded approach to sidestep the main issue, which is not that employers hire undocumented workers, but rather that they exploit those workers with poor labor conditions and low pay.  Raghunathan cites numerous examples of employers that
    force undocumented immigrant workers into low wages, employer harassment, and
    no labor protection, a situation that is equally bad for undocumented workers and native born workers alike.
    • Our view: Holding employers accountable is important, but let's be
      clear about the real issues and make sure the frame of this debate doesn't
      shift away from what is important – that we're all in this together: African Americans,
      immigrants, native born workers and undocumented workers. If we improve working conditions for one
      group, they will be improved for all groups. Focusing on the worker sanctions Raghunathan highlights can only divide
      us and pit one group against the other. If we want to see real change, we need to work together. For more information about immigrants and
      their contributions to the workforce, check out our immigration reform fact
  • Our friends at the Sentencing Project have released a new report: Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by
    Race and Ethnicity
    (pdf).  This report compares the
    racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration in all 50 states, including
    prison and jail populations. Highlights
    • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six (5.6) times the rate of
      whites and Latinos at nearly double (1.8) the rate of whites.
    • There is broad variation among the states
      in the ratio of black-to-white incarceration, ranging from a high of 13.6-to-1 in Iowa to a low of 1.9-to-1 in Hawaii.
    • States with the highest black-to-white
      ratio are disproportionately located in the Northeast and Midwest, including
      the leading states of Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

For more information about racial disparities in
incarceration populations, check out our Criminal Justice fact sheet or visit The Sentencing Project.

  • Facing
    reports that John Edwards' Poverty Tour stopped
    in New Orleans,
    where the Senator spoke about his plan to create "50,000 stepping stone jobs"
    in places like schools, libraries and community to help revitalize the community
    and build a "work ethic."

Without Prejudice: Entirely too much prejudice?

  • Racialicious reports on a new game, “Without Prejudice”, in which five
    judges must decide which contestant deserves a $25,000 prize. Hosted by psychotherapist Robi Ludwig and
    working with partners like GLAAD and National Council of La Raza, “Without
    Prejudice” asks the five contestants to be honest about their lives and the
    judges must narrow down these contestants based on any reason. The show hope to teach viewers about prejudice, and the affiliated website features a number of educational resources on the subject.  There are also discussion guides for starting
    conversations about prejudice. After the
    pilot episode premiered last night, The New York Times reports that the show is
    anything but “without prejudice": each participant seems to have his own biases
    that are hard to miss. Check it out for
    yourself on Tuesdays on the GSN.

  • The New York Times profiles younger members of the New York immigrant community, as well as its support of the DREAM Act. Many of these
    children of undocumented workers are legal citizens, born in the US.  Not all are registered to vote, but they could be a powerful voice on behalf of their parents in the U.S. and local politics. Some groups are trying to gather support there for
    the DREAM Act, a provision of which has been added as
    an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill (thanks,
    ImmigrationProf Blog!). In this
    amendment, undocumented residents of military age who arrived in the US before age 16 and could immediately enter a
    path to citizenship if they serve at least two years in the armed forces.  The Boston Globe has an update of the bill's progress.
  • In a review of over 100 studies, The Boston Globe reports that black women are less healthy because of the pressures of racial discrimination (thanks, RaceWire!).  In one study, black women who indicated that
    racism was a source of stress in their lives developed more plaque in their
    carotid arteries – an early sign of heart disease – than black women who
    didn’t. These studies could reshape
    racism as a public health problem. These
    findings come at a time of severe racial disparities in American health care. African Americans face a higher risk than any
    other racial group of dying from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and
    hypertension. These health disparities
    are exacerbated by lack of access to quality health care and health
    insurance. Higher poverty rates and
    lower wages also hinder progress in equality. Check out our fact sheet about African Americans and Opportunity.
  • DMI Blog reports on Rinku Sen’s reflection on the possible
    unity between immigrants and US.-born Blacks, Latinos, Asians and American
    Indians. She looks at the origin of the
    term “people of color”, and how it has affected identity in political
    action. In her experiences
    as an advocate working in partnership with multiracial organizations, she felt it necessary to “expand [her] identity
    in a way that tied [her] to Black people as part of their rebellion.” Sen confronts the impact the term has on our immigration debate, and asks whether immigrants fall under the definition of
    “people of color.” At the end of the day,
    she acknowledges that she cannot decide this question, but expresses that a
    positive immigrant policy will include dialogue on race and color as well as
    nationality and class.

    Our view:

    The best way to achieve fair legislature and rights for
    immigrants is to understand the common struggles we all face in achieving
    equality. “People of color” everywhere
    want the same basic rights – better education, living conditions, wages, and
    health care – and the only way to achieve anything is to recognize this common
    struggle. We’re all in this together,
    and achieving opportunity for one group will be best fought with many partners.

Lost Opportunity

Over at TomPaine.com, Alan Jenkins has a new opinion piece discussing the OECD report on Mobility in America (which we previously covered here).

both equality and mobility are at risk in our country, along with
other core elements of opportunity. And that's bad for all of us. In
discussing the OECD report, a recent New York Times editorial quotes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's argument
that while economic outcomes need not be equal, "economic opportunity
should be as widely distributed and as equal as possible." That
economic truth echoes our country's moral belief that where you start
out in life should not preordain where you end up, and that what you
look like or where you come from should not determine the benefits,
burdens or responsibilities that you bear in American society.

When those values are threatened, as they are today, it's time to
take bold steps. In a presidential election cycle, it's incumbent upon
all of us to ask what the men and woman seeking the presidency would do
to reignite opportunity for everyone.

Read the rest here.

Does socioeconomic balancing also integrate schools?

  • Prometheus 6 links to a New York Times article
    about the
    success (or lack thereof) in using socioeconomic status as an indirect
    method to integrate public schools. School officials in the San
    Francisco public schools have found that the district is actually
    resegregating by using the type of plan many districts may try in light
    of the
    recent Supreme Court ruling. As many as
    40 districts around the country are already trying these plans. The
    article compares successes in many of
    these districts across the country.  After realizing the failure of
    using income to integrate schools,
    David Campos, the general counsel to the school district, is looking
    for loopholes through Justice Kennedy's statement if methods not based
    on race fail. For
    more updates on the status of the country’s integration attempts, check out the
    NAACP Legal Defense Fund page, as well as The Opportunity Agenda’s talking points.
  • Immigrants in the USA Blog posts a column from The
    Bakersfield Californian
    with a different perspective on the DREAM Act, a
    legislative bill which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented
    immigrant students, thus making them eligible to receive in-state financial aid
    from colleges.  Author Leonel Martinez
    argues that children should not be punished for their parents’ decision to immigrate.
  • Many immigrants are from poor
    families, and, he believes, should have access to college, which could make
    them greater contributors to society. The
    controversy over this act mirrors the “hysteria” thirty years ago in the
    controversy surrounding the Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision. In this ruling, the Supreme
    Court declared unconstitutional a Texas statute which charged certain families $1000 per year for school tuition,
    effectively preventing undocumented children from attending school. This article offers
    background on the case, comparing that situation to the atmosphere around
    immigration decisions today.
  • Ezra Klein writes about the hypocrisy in our criminal “justice”
    system by pointing out that while incarceration does separate dangerous individuals
    from society, in separating the millions of non-violent offenders, the system
    only reinforces their identity as criminals, and renders them unfit for many
    jobs. Klein cites economic studies which
    show that prison makes many inmates more violent. As incarceration rates in America skyrocket, more attention needs to be focused on rehabilitation –
    preparing inmates for society.  For more
    information about criminal justice, check out our fact
  • Immigration Equality Blog reports on another downloadable
    video game
    attempting to teach players about a societal issue: “ICED! I Can End
    Deportation!” Recently featured in the
    LA Times This 3D game teaches players about the unjust nature of U.S. immigration policy by following the day-to-day life of an immigrant teen as
    he/she encounters obstacles like being chased by immigration officers and
    answering myth & fact quizzes about current immigration policies. The point of the game is to avoid detention,
    which separates one from his/her family and forces unjust conditions. Check out
    our previous coverage of Games for Change.
  • In the Huffington Post, David Sirota responds to New York
    Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan
    to expand health coverage to nearly three million
    more residents in an attempt to ultimately provide universal health
    insurance. While expanding access to a
    greater population is a good first step, it fails to ensure that all insured people are getting the same quality of care.  Access is a problem, but so are racial disparities in quality of care, and
    comprehensive health care reform needs to address these equity issues to ensure that the vulnerable populations aren’t left
    behind.  Check out healthcarethatworks.org for an example of quality care and access.

Opportunity in America

The New York Times is running an editorial today about Opportunity in America  - specifically how a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development dismantles the myth of economic mobility in America.  Americans famously put faith in the idea that - existing inequality aside - anyone in America can strike it rich or pull themselves up out of poverty by their bootstraps. 

Recent research surveyed by the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development, a governmental think tank for the rich
nations, found that mobility in the United States is lower than in
other industrial countries. One study found that mobility between
generations — people doing better or worse than their parents — is
weaker in America than in Denmark, Austria, Norway, Finland, Canada,
Sweden, Germany, Spain and France. In America, there is more than a 40
percent chance that if a father is in the bottom fifth of the earnings’
distribution, his son will end up there, too. In Denmark, the
equivalent odds are under 25 percent, and they are less than 30 percent
in Britain.

America’s sluggish mobility is ultimately
unsurprising. Wealthy parents not only pass on that wealth in
inheritances, they can pay for better education, nutrition and health
care for their children. The poor cannot afford this investment in
their children’s development — and the government doesn’t provide
nearly enough help. In a speech earlier this year, the Federal Reserve
chairman, Ben Bernanke, argued that while the inequality of rewards
fuels the economy by making people exert themselves, opportunity should
be “as widely distributed and as equal as possible.” The problem is
that the have-nots don’t have many opportunities either.

Kudos to the Times for attempting to explode the myth of mobility in America, which has been in decline for some time.  Not only are the rich getting richer, but as we saw with the lack of response to Hurricane Katrina, the government of late has not been doing its part to help people who suffer misfortune to start over, let alone help those born into poverty overcome their situation.  As Al Franken noted in his excellent speech announcing his Senate candidacy - it's great to talk about lifting yourself up by your bootstraps, but first you need the boots.  Government is here to provide those boots to help all of us achieve our full potential in life, regardless of the circumstances of our birth, our race or in income level.

But let's also not forget that economic mobility isn't the only measurement by which we judge the accessibility of opportunity in America. Opportunity is comprised of a number of other qualities - security (for instance, the ability to know that a medical emergency won't bankrupt your family); voice (the ability to have a say in our government and the decisions that impact our lives), community (the recognition that we are all in this together and have a moral obligation to help each other succeed in life), as well as redemption and equality.  These are the Core Values that, together, constitute true opportunity.

In 2006, we released a report measuring Opportunity in America along all of these indicators - not just mobility.  Just a few months ago we updated that report. In that update we found:

  • Equality in America is stagnant.  The gender gap in wages continue to persist, as does significant racial discrimination in the housing market, in health care and elsewhere.
  • Redemption is also stagnant.  Violent crimes have declined, but felons are still denied their voting rights after serving their sentences and the United States continues to set new records for incarceration rates.
  • Security is declining.  Poverty remains as persistent a problem as ever in 2007.  Health insurance coverage is down, with nearly 1 in 7 Americans lacking coverage and there is still a significant lack of affordable housing in America. 

These are just a few of the over 70 indicators measured in our full report (pdf), but they point to an even greater crisis in opportunity than that identified by the New York Times editorial or the OECD Report.  For more information on the state of opportunity in America - and for solutions to the crisis of opportunity we now face - read our report: The State of Opportunity in America and its 2007 update.

Author of "The Political Brain" Reframes Immigration

Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding Political Affairs, has a piece in AlterNet explaining how - like President Johnson did for Civil Rights in 1965 - progressives could have reframed the  immigration debate:

Throughout the debate on immigration, polls have shown that most
Americans are not the raging xenophobes leaders on both sides of the
aisle feared and many on the right courted and ignited. Most Americans
just want an alternative story to "amnesty for dark-skinned lawbreakers
who steal our jobs and want to say the Pledge of Allegiance in
Spanish." They want a narrative that has the ring of truth -- but
comprehensive truth about comprehensive reform.

To be compelling,
and to defuse the morality tale on immigration of the right and
righteous, our story needs to begin with the most important truth, for
which we needed no reminder this week from London and Glasgow, that the
protection of our borders and safety is the first task of government.
It then needs to steal the thunder from the right that readily
reverberates through the middle by adding to the incantation, "If
they're going to live in our country, they need to learn to speak our
language," the simple, progressive, and quintessentially American
phrase, "because if they don't, their children will never know the
American Dream, and we will have done nothing for them but to relegate
them to second-class citizenship."

Immigrants have lower crime rates


Immigration Prof Blog reports on a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research disproving the myth that immigrants have higher crime rates.  The study found that immigrants have much lower incarceration rates than the native border: one-fifth the rate of natives.  Evidence also shows that deportation does not drive the results.  In investigating the reasons, the authors espouse that the process of migration selects individuals who are less likely to commit crimes and are more responsive to response to deterrent effects than the average native-born.

How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?


  • Huffington Post offers side-by-side assessments of the U.S.
    Presidential Candidates’ health plans in easy-to-read charts.
  • As a new progressive blog opens its doors, Jack and Jill
    ask some pertinent questions about race and religion in the
    blogosphere, and how blogggers who cover these topics can become more
    influential online and even make up for the shortcomings of "the Old
    Left.” Quoting eteraz’s Open Left Diary,
    Jack and Jill posts “The ultimate question is: race-conscious or race-blind;
    religion-conscious or religion-blind (referring only to those communities whose
    religion is already politicized); focus on under-represented people via
    minority-rights or economic-rights.”
  • To add to our previous posting on opinions following the Supreme Court schools decision, here are two more op-eds. NNPA Columnist George Curry reflects on the gains (or lack thereof) this country has made in desegregation since the 1954 Brown decision. Curry explains that this Supreme Court decision is just the latest in reversals of desegregation efforts.
  • Ron Walters takes Curry’s points one step farther in this Louisiana Weekly column, stating that the country has now returned to the
    “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

Keep Central Brooklyn Health Clinics Open

Readers will remember that The Opportunity Agenda did a lot of work around hospital closures in New York City this past winter.  It's important to remember, though, that it's not only hospitals that are closing; it's also community clinics that many low income communities and communities of color rely on for medical care.  Recently, the Charles Drew Family Clinic in central Brooklyn closed down.  In this video, local residents explain how this closure will affect the community in their own words:

And remember to check out our Google Map Mashup showing how hospital closures in NYC over the last 30 years have disproportionately affected low income communities and communities of color:


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