NY Times Magazine Outlines New Playing Field for Immigration Battle

The New York Times Magazine cover story this week outlines what's to come in the battle for immigrant's rights now that comprehensive reform has failed in Congress and Democratic leaders are predicting at least 6 years before the fight is taken up again at the national legislative level.

It’s in places like Carpentersville where we may be witnessing the
opening of a deep and profound fissure in the American landscape. Over
the past two years, more than 40 local and state governments have
passed ordinances and legislation aimed at making life miserable for
illegal immigrants in the hope that they’ll have no choice but to
return to their countries of origin. Deportation by attrition, some
call it. One of the first ordinances was passed in Hazleton, Pa., and
was meant to bar illegal immigrants from living and working there. It
served as a model for many local officials across the country,
including Sigwalt and Humpfer. On July 26, a federal judge struck down
Hazleton’s ordinance, but the town’s mayor, Lou Barletta, plans to
appeal the decision. “This battle is far from over,” he declared the
day of the ruling. States and towns have looked for other ways to crack
down on illegal immigrants. Last month, Prince William County in
northern Virginia passed a resolution trying to curb illegal
immigrants’ access to public services. Waukegan, another Illinois
town, has voted to apply for a federal program that would allow its
police to begin deportation charges against those who are here
illegally. A week after the Senate failed to pass comprehensive immigration
reform, Arizona’s governor, Janet Napolitano, signed into law an act
penalizing businesses that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. “One
of the practical effects of this failure” to enact national immigration
reform, Napolitano wrote to the Congressional leadership, “is that
Arizona, and states across the nation, must now continue to address
this escalating problem on their own.” Admittedly, the
constitutionality of many of these new laws is still in question, and
some of the state bills and local ordinances simply duplicate what’s
already in force nationally. But with Congress’s inability to reach an
agreement on an immigration bill, the debate will continue among local
officials like those in Carpentersville, where the wrangling often
seems less about illegal immigration than it does about whether new
immigrants are assimilating quickly enough, if at all. In
Carpentersville, the rancor has turned neighbor against neighbor. Once
you scrape away the acid rhetoric, though, there’s much people actually
agree on — but given the ugliness of the taunts and assertions, it’s
unlikely that will ever emerge.

This is now a local fight - with battles being fought at the city and county level.  We've already won some battles on this front, but there will be more.  This is now a street fight. It's unfortunate because it means there is less of a possibility to actually solve the problems we face and safeguard the human rights of millions of Americans and undocumented workers.  But it's also an opportunity to build our grassroots network and get stronger for when the fight goes national once again.

Oliver White Hill: 1907 - 2007

If you haven't already heard, civil rights lawyer Oliver White Hill, famous for his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education, died yesterday.

Oliver Hill, a civil rights lawyer who was at the
front of the legal effort that desegregated public schools, has died at
age 100, a family friend said.

           Mr. Hill died peacefully Sunday at his home during breakfast, said Joseph  Morrissey, a friend of the Hill family.

In 1954, he was part of a series of lawsuits against racially
segregated public schools that became the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark
Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which changed America's society
by setting the foundation for integrated education.


"He was among the vanguard in seeking equal opportunity for all
individuals, and he was steadfast in his commitment to effect change,"
said L. Douglas Wilder, who in 1989 became the nation's first elected
black governor.

Conflict or Community?

Check out Alan's latest piece over at Tom Paine.  This week Alan discusses immigration and the Hazelton ruling we reported on yesterday:

With the failure of Congress and the president to pass
immigration reform this year, states, cities and towns around the
country are moving forward with their own policies to address the
issue. Some, like the city of New Haven, Conn., and the state of
Illinois are attempting to integrate immigrants—including undocumented
immigrants—into their communities in the absence of federal solutions.
Others, like Hazelton, Pa., and Prince William County, Va., are
adopting policies that punish undocumented immigrants and, with them,
many citizens, families, small businesses and whole communities.

The better course, by far, is integrating new immigrants in ways that move everyone in the community forward.

On July 26, a federal court struck down
anti-immigrant ordinances in Hazelton as unconstitutional. The voided
provisions would, among other things, have required tenants to register
with City Hall and fined landlords who rent to people without verifying
their immigration status. The federal district court held that the
ordinances would have violated due process and are preempted by federal
immigration laws.

Prince William County
recently passed a similar ordinance that would bar undocumented
immigrants from public facilities and services like clinics, libraries
and schools, and have police inquire about the immigration status of
people whom they stop. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that 40 similar ordinances have passed in cities and towns around the country.

Read More.

Remaining prejudice affects medical care

  • Blackprof.com cites a new study of trainee doctors in Boston which shows how one’s overt and implicit prejudice can affect treatment in ER patients.  The study combined a 20-minute computer survey designed to detect prejudice with a hypothetical question of treatment for a 50-year-old man with heart pain, either black or white. The Boston Globe reports that as doctors’ unconscious biases against blacks increased, they were less likely to give the black patient a life-saving clot-busting treatment.  This study provides yet another example showing that equal access to health care does not necessarily mean equal treatment.  Not only are African Americans disproportionately unlikely to have health insurance, the care they are given is often of a lesser standard. 
  • Continuing the trend of educational games about immigration, the Hashmi Law Firm (located in Des Moines, Iowa) created a game intended to depict the daily life struggles of immigrants living in a broken immigration system (Thanks, ImmigrationProf Blog!).  Played last Saturday, July 21, 2007, “Find a Legal Way to Immigrate” allowed players to draw cards of actual scenarios based on current laws and the resulting challenges.  The general public was invited, and The Des Moines Register reports that about 40 people watched or participated.  As an immigrants’ rights attorney, Hashmi maintains that her objective in creating this game was purely education: “to show how difficult the process is.”
  • Think Progress reports on the new smear campaign against Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko.  Financed by pharmaceutical and hospital companies, “Health Care America” staged a conference call, distributed a “fake news video” about Sicko and making ads that say “In America you wait in line to see a movie. In government-run healthcare systems, you wait to see a doctor.”  These projects attempt to show “what Michael Moore left out of his movie."

The NY Daily News Links to Our YouTube Video!

In an article about clinic and hospital closures in Brooklyn, The New York Daily News is highlighting our YouTube video!

Gloves off in fight to keep clinics open

As they campaign to keep two Central Brooklyn health clinics up and running, advocates are using everything from old-fashioned, political arm-twisting to newfangled YouTube videos.

The Central Brooklyn Health Crisis Coalition is urging local elected officials to write and call Gov. Spitzer and the state Health Department so that the St. Peter Claver and the Sister Thea Bowman Family Health clinics won't close.

The coalition is asking the public to tune in to a YouTube video, www.youtube.com/opportunityagenda, to hear from clinic patients, and to support the campaign by writing or calling state officials.

"We must keep the pressure on," said Ngozi Moses, executive director of the Brooklyn Perinatal Network and head of the coalition, which includes several community groups and the Brooklyn borough president's office.

You can watch the full video here.  And don't forget about the other new media tools we've brought to bear on the problem of hospital and clinic closures in Brooklyn.

Race, Opportunity, and the YouTube/CNN Debate

Written and researched with (great) help from Amanda Ogus. Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Monday night’s YouTube debate gave the “average Joes” of America the chance to ask the Democratic presidential candidates their own personal questions.  Between the filter of CNN’s production team, who chose which videos would air, and the stump speeches that still weeded their way into many candidates’ discourse, the debate was not as natural as it could have been, but still offered a new way for Americans to have their voices heard. 

So, how did CNN do in picking questions that deal with the tricky topic of race, and how did the candidates do in answering them?  This is important.  As some have noted, the video submissions were dominated by white men – a demographic not representative of the diversity of America.  Whatever the reason – be it lack of broadband access or lack of savvy when it comes to New Media – CNN clearly made an effort to rectify that imbalance through their selection of questioners who were of color and questioners who  asked pertinent questions about race in America. 

Yet still, there were a lot of lost opportunities.  No one addressed the issue of racial disparities in health care, or recognized that equal access (through whatever insurance or universal health plan) does not necessarily guarantee equal treatment. Much more could have been said about equal access to and quality of education - especially in light of the recent school cases.  Next to nothing was said about comprehensive immigration reform.

Overall, we give CNN a "B."  They clearly tried to showcase diverse voices - especially tricky given the racial and gender imbalance in the questions submitted - yet they still failed to adequately address many topics.


In this post, we’ve compiled those questions, as well as evaluated the responses from the top tier candidates - Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson.  Check out the full transcript on CNN, and the video coverage on
YouTube.  For a comprehensive summary of media responses on the
debates, check out Jack Muse’s coverage on Huffington Post.

Question 6

Edwards: Immediately answering “no”, Edwards explained that he would pursue other goals to create more equality, citing a recent study that in Charleston, black people were paying more than white people for mortgages at a higher rate, even when taking income into account.  Edwards reiterated that to have true equality means fighting the big companies: “we can’t trade our insiders for their insiders…what we need is someone who will take these people on…That’s the only way we’re going to bring about change.” 

Obama: Responded to the question by choosing to focus on education, also focusing on South Carolina by profiling a low-income school in Florence, SC.  Focusing on education, Obama said, is “the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.”

Question 7

Richardson:  Richardson explained that in a future crisis, the government should work to “eliminate…any red tape” and “let those who live there come back first, instead of big moneyed interests.”  While he didn’t respond directly to the “race” aspect of the question posed, he did express his disagreement to the way the administration reacted.

It should be noted that during this question, Senator Dodd spoke eloquently about economic opportunity in the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Question 8

Obama: Used this opportunity to explain how “race permeates our society.”  He details the failures of the government in denying programs to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and said that as president, “my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that’s what’s really going to solve the race problem in this country.”  Obama’s comments were the only mention of racial disparities in any candidates’ answer, and put a strong emphasis on the fact that racism still exists in many parts of society.  Trying to force “colorblind” legislation is ignoring these disparities, and only perpetuating further inequalities. 

Clinton: Maintained that the (presidential) race should not be about Obama’s race or her gender, but about “what is best for you and your family.”

Question 9

In a question from the Reverend Reggie Longcrier, the candidates - particularly John Edwards were asked about religion as a weapon for discrimination - particularly as a justification for slavery in the past and a tool to rob GLBT people of their civil liberties today. 

Edwards: spoke in favor of equal rights and civil rights and his determination not to let his own faith beliefs - which are not in favor of gay marriage - to dictate public policy and limit the rights of American citizens.

Obama: Spoke about equality before the state in terms of marriage and the civil rights it confers, but wants to leave actual determinations about marriage up to individual religious denominations.

Question 27

Richardson: Makes a brief mention of suppression of minority voters by the Republican Party.  No other candidate is allowed to respond.

Question 28

No one specifically mentions people of color, but this question on the minimum wage touches on themes of economic mobility and security, and is highly relevant to millions of low-income families and people of color.

Obama: He's really the only one who hits this out of the park, noting that it's almost the wrong question.  Presidential candidates tend to be rich.  They can afford to work for the minimum wage.  It's everyday people who need to be given a living wage.

Question 34

This question asks whether the candidate's health care plans would cover undocumented workers.  Only Dodd and Richardson are allowed to answer, and, while both answer yes, this was mostly a lost opportunity for a substantive discussion about two of the most important and hot issues facing our nation.

YouTube/CNN Debate Tonight

Tonight is the YouTube/CNN debate.  If you haven't heard of it yet, the debate questions will be entirely composed by the public, submitted via YouTube.  Overall, I'm a little disappointed that there was no voting system to
allow users to decide which questions get selected for air during the
debate.  It makes this much less a citizen endeavor as CNN is still
playing a huge gate-keeping role.  The promise of
this debate is that it will showcase an intelligent array of Americans
asking hardball questions that the timid networks are afraid to ask.
My sense is that the debate will actually go one of two ways:
CNN will select a rather boring slate of questions, mirroring the
questions they would have asked anyway.  If that is the case, this will
be nothing more than a new coat of paint on and old car.  The worst
case scenario will be if CNN picks mostly stale questions but sprinkles
in some of the quirkier videos, making the American public look not
only uninformed, but freakish.

The Opportunity Agenda made a few videos of our own to submit as question.  Here's our interns, Allie, Amanda, Linda and Michael (clockwise), asking questions about opportunity, economic mobility, health care equity, immigration and restoring a sense of community and the common good.  Watch the debate tonight and cross your fingers that one of these videos will be featured:

Online organizing against new BET show

  • Mirror on America reports on the controversial show set to premiere on BET next week, "Hot Ghetto
    Mess." Using viewer-submitted home videos and
    BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews, this reality show attempts to
    broadcast a side of the black community and hear people’s opinions on
    issues. “Hot Ghetto Mess” is based on a
    website with a purpose to showcase all parts of the black community, negative
    or not, in order to promote reflection on how this community is perceived. The online editor explains: “I want each and
    every person that reads these words to look at your life and ask how you can
    make yourself better, your community better or your kids better.” However, after many people expressed their
    offense to such a show, Gina McCauley, creator of the blog What About Our
    (discussing how the black female community is represented in the
    media) turned to a coalition of religious and women’s groups to protest the
    show. The coalition targets advertisers
    for the show, and two companies (State Farm Insurance and Home Depot) have
    already asked BET to pull their ad time. At the premiere, this coalition has organized “watch parties” in many
    cities across the country to record which companies purchased advertisements,
    then plans to boycott these businesses or organize demonstrations. We’ll wait and see how effective their
    strategy is, but the approach - mixing blog outreach, new media, and good old fashioned boycotts - demonstrates a creative mix of action that could make a good model for future online/offline organizing. Racial justice activists could take a page out of McCauley’s book in their
    own campaigns
  • The Washington Post reports on the resolution passed
    yesterday in Loudoun Country, VA that limits undocumented workers access to
    county services and penalizes employers who hire them (Thanks, ‘Just News’
    !). This legislation is one of many strong statewide and countywide that have passed since the Senate’s
    failure to organize a comprehensive nationwide immigration policy. Without the national government setting the
    limits, we will be faced with different localized laws that will lead to an even more chaotic system. In addition,
    laws like these which focus on employer sanctions rather than face the problem, avoid the main issue - that of the rights of workers.
  • DMI Blog reports on Massachusetts' decision to implement a new social welfare program called
    Choices.  The program allows people receiving welfare the option of receiving counseling about viable options for education and occupational advances. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research
    explains that for low-income students, higher education is the best way to
    acquire good jobs, and this positive step has a ripple affect in the students’
    families and communities.

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."

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