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Page Public Opinion Monthly (June 2014)

What Factors Affect Americans’ Perception of Whether Crime is Increasing or Decreasing?

by Lisa Johns

Jul 2 2014
Blog Post Public Skeptical About Incarceration Policies

By Jhanidya Bermeo

With more than 1.5 million people currently in prison, the United States maintains the highest prison population of any country in the world by far. The International Centre for Prison Studies calculates that for every 100,000 individuals in the United States, 716 will be in prison. These numbers amount to a prison occupancy capacity level of 99%, with budgetary costs close to 7 billion dollars. According the Bureau of Justice Statistics, incarceration rates have been decreasing by 1% - 2% for three consecutive years since 2012. This slight decrease has been attributed to a changing legislative and public mindset in recent years, a mindset which has emphasized curbing the excessive growth of the prison system. This emphasis is thought to be due in part by state and federal level budgetary restrictions, decreasing crime rates, and a more lenient attitude towards low-level non-violent drug offenses. Though recent public opinion polls about the criminal justice system are lacking, we can draw insights from several studies conducted in the last decade, particularly on attitudes towards incarceration and non-violent drug offenses. 

To read more, visit Public Opinion Monthly page.

Oct 7 2013
Blog Post Talking Racial Profiling in the Wake of Two Landmark Developments


Mapbox.com shows density of stop-and-frisk practices in Manhattan. In the image shown above, intense activity occurs in Upper Manhattan.


Amazing things are happening on the criminal justice front. 

On Monday, August 12th, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of New Yorkers of color, calling it a "policy of indirect racial profiling" that has led to officers routinely stopping "blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white." In a lengthy and comprehensive decision, Judge Scheindlin found that New York officials demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And she concluded that "the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.” 

Aug 13 2013
Blog Post A Silver Lining in the Juvenile Justice System

Photo courtesy of the Justice Policy Institute

This article was originally published at the Justice Policy Institute

The string of shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and Oak Creek last year would make some reconsider establishing ‘stop-and-frisk’ policies in several violence-ridden U.S. cities. Most recently, an article by The Chicago Tribune’s Stephanie D. Neely on March 1, claimed that stop-and-frisk policies are needed in an attempt to curb gun violence in Chicago. According to Neely, 2,600 shooting incidents were reported to the Chicago Police Department, of which 400 resulted in homicide.

Mar 8 2013
Blog Post What Can We Learn from the Dominique Strauss-Kahn Sexual Violence Case?

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Photo by LeStudio1.com

Sexual violence and the criminal justice system

[This article originally appeared on race-talk]

This past August, over the span of a few days, the Manhattan Criminal Court issued two decisions in cases centered on sexual violence. One is the now-notorious case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK). The other, which has gone unnoticed, involves a client of the Sex Workers Project, whom we’ll call “JD.” The two cases serve as stark comparisons of how the criminal justice system does or does not help victims or complainants of sexual violence find justice, peace of mind, or financial stability.

Sep 22 2011
Blog Post A Call to End Indefinite Detention

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Photo by Mark Fischer

The right to due process under the law is a cornerstone of America’s commitment to freedom and fairness. Protections against unfair imprisonment, mistreatment by law enforcement officials, and indefinite detention—guaranteed by the 5th and 6th amendments of the Constitution—are rights that no one living in the United States would or should be expected to go without.

Jun 7 2011
Blog Post Supreme Court Decision Restores a Sense of Fairness to Criminal Immigration Proceedings

Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, many legal U.S. residents who had committed minor misdemeanors were unfairly classified as having committed "aggravated felonies" under immigration law, which subjected them to automatic deportation. The Supreme Court took note of the unfair deprivation of due process and took a strong stance in support of human rights when it corrected the deportation requirement for minor drug offenses.

Jun 17 2010
Blog Post Spotlight on the U.S.-Mexico Border

While we’re spending our federal funds on policies that threaten both human rights at the border and judicial and prosecutorial safeguards, is there room for us to reaffirm our commitment to human dignity and due process? 

May 26 2010
Blog Post The Opportunity to Change

Requiring the possibility of parole for youth in nonhomicide crimes is the right decision under the Constitution, and the right outcome for our country. It is no guarantee of release in any particular case, but, rather, a guarantee that our criminal justice systems must provide for careful review to determine whether, years later, young offenders continue to pose a threat to the community.  

May 18 2010
Blog Post The Promise of Due Process: Cameron Todd Willingham

The words "due process" might not ignite our sense of national pride in the same way as words like "liberty," "justice," or "equality," but they should.  And the promise of due process -- that every person, when faced with threats to their life, liberty, or property, will have a chance to have their side meaningfully heard and considered -- has never stood on shakier ground. 

Sep 3 2009
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's immigration blog roundup will cover immigrant detention, immigration judges, and more.

Aug 27 2009
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's immigration roundup will cover comprehensive immigration reform, detentions, and more.

Today there will be a meeting at the White House on immigration reform.  You can submit your questions for the Reform Immigration FOR America folks to ask Secretary Janet Napolitano here

Aug 20 2009
Video Jenkins Discusses a Quiet Revolution in Criminal Justice Reform

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, discusses a quiet revolution in criminal justice reform as state governments find that investing in rehabilitation programs promotes public safety and saves money.

Aug 12 2009
Blog Post The Quiet Revolution in Criminal Justice Reform

A panel of federal judges has ruled that conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons violate the constitution. Quoting Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s words from 2006, the court found that "immediate action is necessary to prevent death and harm.” The state must formulate a plan by mid-September to reduce the prison population by nearly 43,000 inmates over the next two years.

Aug 10 2009
Communications Talking Points: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This memo offers guidance for using the 2009 State of Opportunity in America report, which examines various dimensions of opportunity, including health care, wealth and income, education, and incarceration. While expanding opportunity in America remains a goal of policymakers and advocates alike, this report finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality. Our recommendations to address this reality offer concrete ideas for moving us forward together.

Apr 15 2009
Law and Policy Report: Human Rights In State Courts: An Overview and Recommendations for Legal Advocacy (2007)

Human rights are a crucial part of the United States’ legal and cultural foundation. The founders of our country declared that we are all created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights.

And the United States helped to craft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international human rights system after World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Mar 1 2009
Research Report: State of Opportunity (2006)

SoO2006_0.pngIf the promise of opportunity is a core national commitment, it is essential to measure our success in fulfilling that commitment.  This report assesses the nation’s progress toward protecting and expanding opportunity for all Americans and encourages our policymakers, through bold leadership and innovative policies, to ensure the promise of o

Feb 15 2009
Blog Post The Promise of Opportunity

Taking another look at "New Progressive Voices," a collection of essays outlining a new long-term, progressive vision for America, today we turn to our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins', contribution.

The piece paints a bleak picture.  Alan outlines many of the problems facing regular Americans today.  Many people are having trouble getting a job that pays a living wage, paying for health care, and getting their children into quality schools.  Tying this together with the present high rates of incarceration, all signs point to a general lack of opportunity in America.

In keeping with goals of this essay collection Alan's essay, "The Promise of Opportunity," strives to give concrete solutions to these communal ills.  Alan's essay suggests making "opportunity" a metric by which to consider the viability of federal programs.

As with the environmental impact statements currently required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the relevant agency would require the submission of information and collect and analyze relevant data to determine the positive and negative impacts of the proposed federally funded project. Here, however, the inquiry would focus on the ways in which the project would expand or constrict opportunity in affected geographic areas and whether the project would promote equal opportunity or deepen patterns of inequality.

While the measures of opportunity would differ in different circumstances, the inquiry would typically include whether the project would create or eliminate jobs, expand or constrict access to health care services, schools, and nutritious food stores, foster or extinguish affordable housing and small business development. At the same time, [these Opportunity Impact Statements (OIS)] would assess the equity of the project's burdens and benefits, such as whether it would serve a diversity of underserved populations, create jobs accessible to the affected regions, serve diverse linguistic and cultural communities, balance necessary health and safety burdens fairly across neighborhoods, and foster integration over segregation.

To read the full article, click here.

Sep 23 2008
Blog Post MA Courts Defends the Rights of the Prisoner

Last month the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued two decisions regarding prisoner access to health care, both of which have vast implications for prisoner rights.  Through their rulings, the court affirmed two critical American values: redemption, the belief that humans are evolving beings who warrant the chance for rehabilitation when they falter, and healthcare as a human right. The cases,  Sullivan v. Correctional Medical Servs. et al. No. 07-P-964 72, 2008 WL 2552982 (Mass. App. Jun. 27, 2008) and Kilburn v. Dept. of Corrections et al., No. 07-P-987, 2008 WL 2566382 (Mass. App. Jun. 30, 2008) concerned claims of negligence due to poor dental care provided to prisoners by private health care contractors hired by the state.  Part of the case for the prisoners' claims rested on an appeal to third-party beneficiary rights.  Third parties in contracts have the right to sue if they can prove that they are the intended beneficiaries of the contract and are reliant on the contract.  Through their rulings, Massachusetts courts suggest that prisoners have standing as third party beneficiaries and can thus sue private health care providers despite their exclusion from the contract between the state and these private contractors.

In Kilburn v. Dept. of Corrections the Court ruled that the state cannot simultaneously deny responsibility for those healthcare duties delegated to its contractors and claim that those contracts were not meant to benefit the prisoners.  The fact that the state would make this argument to begin with is reflective of the larger shortcomings of the prison-industrial complex.  By contracting out the care of prisoners to private entities, the state claims that it is not liable for inadequate care provided by these groups.  The Appeals Court of Massachusetts took a stand for the right of prisoners to proper healthcare, and more generally to fair treatment, by stressing the state's responsibility in prisoner care.  It went further to argue that inmates' lack of standing to sue as a third party beneficiary of the contract does not make the state immune from liability or free from responsibility.  Simply because prisoners do not have the means to raise claims does not absolve the state of its duties.

While the decisions do not explicitly grant prisoners third-party beneficiary rights, they mark an important
step in this direction.  They document the receptiveness of the court third-party claims in government contracts on the part of prisoners.  Moreover the rulings affirm that the state cannot divorce itself from its responsibility to prisoners. Practicing redemption means providing the conditions that allow people to develop, to rebuild, and to take full responsibility for their lives after misfortune or mistakes.  Through its decisions, the court asserted the state's own responsibility in providing these conditions for prisoners. This particular case concerns dental care, but it opens the door for an invigorated conversation about the fundamental human rights of those people behind bars, and the responsibility of the state in caring for those prisoners such that they may one day reenter society and have the opportunity to achieve their own, full potentials.

Jul 23 2008
Blog Post 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Yesterday was the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a ground-breaking document initiated and championed by the United States and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Frank Knaack of the ACLU Human Rights Program writes about the significance of the Universal Declaration in the United States and where we are today in fulfilling the promise of "the foundation of the modern human rights system":

The UDHR laid the foundation for a system of rights which are
universal, indivisible, and interdependent. The UDHR does not
differentiate between civil and political rights on one side and
economic, social, and cultural rights on the other. It realizes that in
order to properly enjoy one set of rights, you must also be able to
enjoy the other. As is often noted, one cannot properly exercise their
right to vote, think, or live if they have no food, housing, or basic
health services. It is from these principles that the modern human
rights treaty system (international human rights law) was born.

[...]

While much of the focus on the human rights record of the U.S.
government is in the context of foreign policy and the so called “war
on terror,” including the rendition, torture, and indefinite detention
of foreign nationals, and vis-à-vis its high rhetoric on spreading
freedom and democracy throughout the globe, it is of equal importance
to look at the state of human rights at home. From the government’s
inadequate response in the wake of hurricanes  Katrina and Rita;
to pervasive discrimination against racial minorities in the areas of
education, housing, and criminal justice, including death penalty; to
imposing life sentences without the possibility of parole on juveniles;
to abhorrent conditions in immigration detention facilities, it is
clear that the U.S. government has failed to abide by its international
obligations.

While the struggle for universal human rights is far from over,
there has been great improvement in the fight to bring human rights
home. More and more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and
individual activists in the U.S. are utilizing the human rights
framework in the domestic advocacy and litigation. At the latest
session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial  Discrimination
(the treaty body that monitors state compliance with the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), there were more
than 120 representatives from U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) in Geneva, Switzerland, who briefed the Committee members and
provided additional information to counter the misrepresentations and
omissions of the official U.S. government report on the state of racial
discrimination in the U.S. This information, in turn, led the Committee
to conclude that the U.S. should make sweeping reforms to policies
affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, indigenous people, and
immigrants. The Committee’s recommendations garnered domestic and
international media attention, and were followed by a three week
official visit to the U.S. by the U.N.  Special Rapporteur on Racism.
This visit by the Special Rapporteur further opened up opportunities
for domestic NGOs to utilize the international human rights framework,
as was evidenced by the successful public education and media outreach
campaigns conducted by local NGOs throughout the US during this visit.
As this shows, human rights advocacy has become an effective tool for
social justice advocates in the U.S. to use to press for change and
enhance the protection of basic human rights.

The Opportunity Agenda is dedicated to bringing human rights home.  We are proud to work with coalitions such as the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Human Right to Health Capacity Building Collaborative to build the national, state, and local will to make human rights a real and effective tool for realizing American opportunity.

U.S. Human Rights Reports and Tools from The Opportunity Agenda:

Jun 19 2008
Blog Post A Debate on Housing, Live from the New Orleans City Council
  • Louisiana news station WDSU is offering a live video feed from the New Orleans City Council meeting on the impending demolition of public housing.  In addition to those speaking at the meeting, hundreds of people are standing outside City Hall in protest of the lack of affordable housing in the region since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Present-day inequities in New Orleans are often framed with respect to human rights; the demand for affordable housing is just one aspect of ensuring that residents have the social and economic security needed to provide for their families with dignity.
  • Bloggernista has reported that Congress has lifted a nine-year ban on using public funding to support needle exchange programs in Washington, DC.  Despite the fact that syringe exchange programs have proven effective in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, this ban had held firm while the capital city has the developed the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, a true modern epidemic noted for its immense racial disparities.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted an Associated Press article entitled 'State supreme court rules counties are liable for inmates' care,' including conditions that existed prior to imprisonment. It's great to see a court ruling in favor of the responsibility of the community to provide a basis level of health care for those in custody without other options -- this is a good step towards the recognition that all Americans deserve access to health care.

Justices voted 8-0 on Tuesday in favor of HCA Health Services of
Oklahoma, the parent company of OU Medical Center. The hospital sued
Oklahoma County commissioners and Sheriff John Whetsel over $2.2
million in medical payments for treating prisoners in the jail from
February 2003 through September 2006.

The county's argument was that much of the expense was to treat
conditions that predated the prisoners' arrests, Justice Marian Opala
wrote in the court opinion.

  • The DMI Blog analyzed a recent New York Times editorial on Arizona's new law intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants, offering praise for what it refers to as an 'example of smart immigration policy.' Author Suman Raghunathan expounds:

I am, in fact, waxing poetic on a stellar editorial in yesterday’s  Times.  This gem of a piece outlines in plain, centrist-liberal-speak why
going after employers who employ undocumented immigrants instead of
enforcing existing labor law makes for poor immigration policy.

What’s more, Arizona’s law (and believe me, there are many more in
the works across the country) will do nothing to address our nation’s
desperate need for smart and fair policies that welcome immigrant
contributions into our economy. Worse yet, it does nothing to bring
undocumented workers out of the shadows with a legalization program to
level the playing field on wages and labor conditions for all workers –
documented and undocumented, green card holders and US citizens.

Meanwhile, the Presidential election campaigns continue to work themselves into a fevered state, trying to say as little as possible on immigration policy (pick a party, any party) while sounding tough on undocumented immigrants (again, pick a punching bag, any punching bag). 

Here’s to hoping those high-falutin’ political operatives take a page from the Times’ editorial board’s playbook when they think about immigration. 

Dec 20 2007
Blog Post The Return of Redemption
  • Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'The Return of Redemption,' the piece contextualizes the recent crack sentencing ruling as well as the end of the death penalty in New Jersey as part of a larger shift in American values:

Together, these decisions reflect decades of difficult lessons:
about the folly of locking away people convicted of low-level,
non-violent offenses for decades; about how seemingly neutral policies
can have gravely discriminatory effects; and about the ineffectual,
discriminatory and dangerously inaccurate nature of the death penalty.

But information alone rarely leads to policy change, especially when
it comes to criminal justice policy. That political leaders could even
consider these changes in an election year speaks to a shift in public
values as well as public understanding. Each reform reflects a return
to the values of redemption and equality that are essential to a fair
and effective criminal justice system, and that polls and politics show are on the rise in our country.

  • RaceWire has shared a LA Times article on California's new plan for universal health care, a measure negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian
    Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). On Monday the state Assembly approved the first phase of a
    $14.4-billion plan to extend medical insurance to nearly all residents by 2010. The legislation will provide subsidies and tax
    credits for people who have trouble paying their health insurance
    premiums.
  • Pam's House Blend has posted about a student at Southern Utah University who was denied housing because he is transgender. The university, which offers separate housing for men and women, demanded that Kourt Osborn provide the following in order to live in male housing:
  • a letter from the doctor that monitors his hormone treatment;
  • a letter from his therapist saying that he has gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria; and
  • official documentation that he has had sexual reassignment surgery.

Like many transgender people, Osborn isn't interested in surgery or a clinical diagnosis of his 'disorder.' The post compares Osborn's situation with that of people of mixed racial backgrounds in decades past:

"When people do not fit into a structured, discriminatory and
binary system, the chances of discrimination against that person goes up."

Such is the case with Kourt. He is a person who does not fit into
society’s tidy binary system on gender. Because he has transgressed
society’s gender rules, the discrimination he faces on a daily basis —
including the denial of housing at a public university — is very real
and hardly ever subtle.

  • Finally, Firedoglake published a piece on media reporting (or lack thereof) on torture  in the United States. Blogger PhoenixWoman received a story in her email entitled CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured' from Britain's The Independent, which details the existence of photographic evidence proving that British citizen Binyam Mohammed has been abused while in American custody.  Mohammed's lawyers in the UK have expressed their worry that the photos will be destroyed, given the CIA's recent destruction of "hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the torture of detainees held by the US." Interestingly, while US-based CommonDreams.org has also picked up this story, Google News did not provide any matches for the article.
Dec 19 2007
Blog Post From Homeless to Harvard
  • The Angry Asian Man blog has posted a series of inspiring articles about
    a woman who is working towards a degree from Harvard University. Kimberly S.M. Woo is a single mother who was once a homeless drug addict. In the process of turning her life around she sought an education as a means of escaping poverty and creating a better life for her five-year-old daughter. Woo is a stellar example of the power of redemption as well as our potential for social mobility. Like thousands of Americans, Woo was given a second chance and has excelled; after a year working for Americorp she attended a community college in Boston for her Associate's Degree, where she earned a 4.0 GPA before transferring to Harvard.
  • This weekend saw a couple interesting articles about the politics behind skiing. Immigration News Daily has written about an Aspen Ski resort's efforts to find workers:

The Aspen Skiing Co.'s quest to find enough workers this winter led
recruiters to Puerto Rico, among other places. The company hired about
20 workers from the Caribbean island this fall to work in various
positions at its two lodging properties, The Little Nell hotel and
Snowmass Lodge and Club, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. The
Skico was forced to get creative this year when there was a snafu at
the national level with the H-2B visa program for temporary guest
workers. An exemption to the program expired Sept. 30, after Congress
failed to address comprehensive immigration reform.

And the Immigrants in USA blog did a feature called Niños on the slopes about a new Park City, Utah programs to provide local Latino children with access to the sport:

The Niños program, sponsored by St. Mary's Catholic Church, exists to
bridge the cultural divide between, generally speaking, the affluent
whites of Park City and the Latino immigrants who work in the posh
community's service industry.

"Here, in this town, skiing is
the great equalizer," explained the Rev. Bob Bussen, known as "Father
Bob," who tears down the mountain wearing his clerical collar. "If you
can ski, you're as good as anyone."

  • The All About Race blog has reported on an upsetting development in the Jena 6 case. It seems that the plea bargain the Mychal Bell accepted also included a promise to testify against the other five students facing charges:

With Bell being placed in the position of serving as the
star witness against the other teens, they are more likely to be
convicted if they refuse to follow Bell’s example and cop a plea. This
is the underbelly of an unfair judicial system. Upon entering his
guilty plea, Bell admitted that he hit the White student, knocking him
unconscious, and joining others in kicking him after he fell to the
floor. Therefore, the D.A. will be using the most culpable of the six
teens to obtain convictions against those who were less involved.
That’s the way the judicial system works – or doesn’t work.

  • The Happening Here blog has posted about a nurses' strike at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco's Mission District. We've previously mentioned
    the hospital's plans to close down in order to shift its services to a
    more affluent neighborhood.  The hospital has refused for months to
    negotiate a contract with the nurses union, who began striking last
    Thursday.
  • Lastly, the Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has advised us of a Washington Post article stating that the federal government has paid $1.3 billion in farm subsidies since 2000 to people who do not farm. While our government policies are never devoid of irony, these subsidies are a particularly painful instance of unequal treatment given the "go-it-alone" narrative of individualism that conservatives use to justify cutting back on social services. In reality, however, great societies are built by investing in the well-being of the community, which was understood well by the authors of the New Deal legislation, the GI bill and the HeadStart program.

 

Dec 17 2007
Blog Post New Jersey Set to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog has reported that the New Jersey legislature has voted to outlaw the death penalty in the
    state. The governor has already indicated his support for the measure, so it will likely be signed into law soon. New Jersey will be the first state in more than 40 years
    to abolish capital punishment. While human rights law has called for a ban on the death penalty under certain circumstances (concerning juvenile offenders, for example), the UN has yet to impose a blanket ban. However, the practice is frowned upon internationally -- it is mandated that all nations seeking to join the European Union or the Council of Europe either abolish capital punishment or institute an official moratorium on executions.
  • RaceWire has provided us with another update on the struggle to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans, quoting an AP article:

Protesters wielding bullhorns and shouting “housing is a human right”
stopped demolition at a massive public housing complex Wednesday in
this hurricane-ravaged city in dire need of homes for the poor.

More than 30 protesters blocked an excavator from entering the
fenced-off area of the B.W. Cooper complex. It was the first of what
likely will be many standoffs between protesters and demolition crews
that are tearing down hundreds of barracks-style buildings so they can
be replaced with mixed-income neighborhoods.

  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has posted about the recent case of a security officer at a New Mexico high school who has been dismissed for reporting a pregnant 18-year-old student to immigration authorities. The Roswell school district has a policy preventing school officials from concerning themselves with the immigration status of their students. However, officer Charlie Corn decided to take matters into his own hands when he realized that Karina Acosta was unable to produce a driver's license. Acosta has been deported to Mexico in her final year of school, denying her the opportunity to complete her education.
  • The Latina Lista blog has covered another story about New Mexico, a recent raid of the Proper Foods, Inc tamale plant.  This raid was exceptional in some ways:

What's pleasantly surprising is that for the first time that we've
heard, ICE made sure that all the 21 undocumented immigrants
apprehended, as they shuffled out of the kitchens from making the
tamales that will be sold by the dozens for Christmas dinners, received
their full paychecks before being bused off for deportation.

However, the piece goes on to request an end to work-site raids this year, in the spirit of compassion, good will, and community, a set of values that seem closer to our hearts and minds during the winter holidays:

Because it is the Holiday season, the last thing ICE wants to be
caricatured as is the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Maybe that explains
the sudden change of heart in advocating for these workers' wages.

Yet, with only 12 days left before Christmas, there is one thing
more that the Department of Homeland Security can do to exemplify that
it is in the "Spirit of the Season" — declare a moratorium on further
raids and deportations for the month of December.

For every adult taken into custody and deported, who knows how many children are left behind?

Critics yell that these parents should take their children with them
but if there is no home to go back to, no relatives who can take you
in, no money to rent someplace, no clothes other than what's on your
back, then what kind of parent would rip their children from the
comforts, no matter how meager, of their lives here to take them where
they literally will have nothing?

To separate parents from their children, especially at
Christmastime, is perhaps more cruel than any kind of trauma, aside
from sexual and physical abuse, afflicted on a child.

We hope Operation Tamale is the last work-site raid for 2007.

Dec 14 2007
Blog Post Americans Care Deeply About Human Rights

Today is International Human Rights Day, celebrated across the
world to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
by the United Nations in 1948. While the topic of human rights is
frequently in the news, mainstream media coverage of human rights
invariably describes violations in faraway lands: censorship in China,
repression in Myanmar. Social injustice in our country, when it enters
the public discourse, is almost never discussed in terms of fundamental
human rights.

But a new national poll conducted by The Opportunity Agenda and
sponsored by The Nation reveals that Americans care deeply about human
rights here at home. They see human rights as crucial to who we are as
a country, and they worry that we are not living up to those principles
in our national policies and practices.

  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog wrote about yesterday's Supreme Court decision on crack sentencing. The ruling, which is a victory for criminal and racial justice, allows for judges to use their discretion in imposing shorter prison sentences than the previously mandatory five-year minimum. The Our Rights, Our Future blog explains how the sentencing guidelines on crack have targeted black communities:

"The crack cocaine and powdered cocaine disparity is outrageous: the law
sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5
grams of crack cocaine or 100 times as much cocaine powder.  The effect
on communities of color is disastrous because 85 percent of those
punished for crack crimes in federal court are African American."

  • Finally, in immigration news, the Texas border town of Laredo will be setting up its annual rest stop for migrants going to Mexico for the holidays.  According to a Star-Telegram article, this year's assistance is especially important given changes in federal regulations on January 31st which will require all Americans re-entering the country to carry proof of citizenship.

"Every year, roughly 90,000 immigrants pass through Laredo on their way
home for the holidays, some coming from as far as the Midwest or
California. For the last 10 years, the city convention and visitor's
bureau has opened a rest stop with the Mexican General Consulate to
help travelers ensure they have the right documents and to help check
goods headed to Mexico to quicken entry at the border port."

Dec 11 2007
Blog Post Today is Human Rights Day
  • Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.  This year, a number of human rights organizations in the US have chosen today's date to launch their "shadow reports" intended to supplement the United States' report on International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or CERD.
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has posted about two newly-released reports. The first, by Human Rights Watch, details the Department of Homeland Security's " inadequate care and treatment of immigrant detainees with HIV/AIDS." The second, by the ACLU and other San Diego-based organizations, reveals "patterns of neglect and instances of abuse of some of the
    area's most vulnerable populations--especially Latino immigrants and
    the indigent--in the rescue and relief efforts" during and after last month's wildfires.
  • Other immigration blogs have shared a series of news articles about families being torn apart as a result of recent immigration crackdowns. Immigration News Daily posted on fears in an Oklahoma town in which the number of Latino children attending school is decreasing after the implementation of harsh new legislation targeting those transporting undocumented immigrants.  And the 'Just News' blog reposted a Dallas Morning News article about one Texas family's struggle to stay together and to provide stability and security their young children:

"Mirian Villalobos had plenty going for her. The 25-year-old had a
dimpled son, a handsome husband, a new house, and a happy suspicion she
was pregnant again.

Then, it unraveled.

On
a balmy Sept. 6 in Wilmer, outside Dallas, she was pulled over by the
police as she rode on the back of a motorcycle driven by her husband,
30-year-old Juan Espinoza. She was stopped for not wearing a helmet,
but a routine check of her record found an arrest warrant. She'd been
ordered to report for deportation in 2002.

Caught in the middle:
an infant named Kevin Isaac, born a U.S. citizen with a father in the
U.S. legally and a mother in the U.S. illegally. Ms. Villalobos was
deported.

Unable to bear the separation from her son, now 9 months old, she returned to the U.S. in November and was detained in Arizona.

On Thursday she was deported again to Honduras – without seeing her young son and now six months pregnant, her husband says.

Her
story is one echoing through many families with mixed immigration
status, as a crackdown on illegal immigrants cleaves communities."

  • The DMI Blog has written about a man slated for the death penalty in Alabama.  While Tommy Arthur's execution has been postponed while the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of lethal injection, Arthur insists that is innocent of the murder for which he has been convicted and already served twenty-five years in prison.  Alabama's governor Bob Riley, however, has refused to grant DNA testing in the case in spite of the presence of biological evidence that would confirm or disprove guilt. The Innocence Project has set up an email feature on their website to advise Governor Riley that it is absolutely critical to know the truth before condemning someone to death.
Dec 10 2007
Blog Post The US Promises to Rehabilitate Prisoners, but Continues to Confine Them at Higher Rates
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted a New York Times article stating that nearly "one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or
    on supervised release at the end of last year."  The article continues with the findings of a new Department of Justice report:

An estimated 2.38 million people were incarcerated in state and federal
facilities, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2005, while a record 5
million people were on parole or probation, an increase of 1.8 percent.
Immigration detention facilities had the greatest growth rate last
year. The number of people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement
detention facilities grew 43 percent, to 14,482 from 10,104.

The data reflect deep racial disparities in the nation’s correctional
institutions, with a record 905,600 African-American inmates in prisons
and state and local jails. In several states, incarceration rates for
blacks were more than 10 times the rate of whites. In Iowa, for
example, blacks were imprisoned at 13.6 times the rate of whites,
according to an analysis of the data by the Sentencing Project, a
research and advocacy group.

These statistics of mass incarceration and racial disparities highlight the fact that our government policies are failing to offer a second chance to citizens and immigrants alike.  Instead of spending millions of dollars to confine millions of people, we should invest in their personal development. In human
rights law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights
provides that “the penitentiary system shall comprise
treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their
reformation and social rehabilitation” -- and the United States has pledged to uphold the values in this United Nations treaty.

  • Over at The Huffington Post, Mike Garibaldi Frick has posted an interview with street artist and free speech activist Robert Lederman.  Lederman "was arrested over 40 times by the Rudy Giuliani administration for
    exercising his free speech and sued the city of New York to strike down
    permit requirements for artists in public spaces." The post discusses the way government restrictions on public spaces interfere with our constitutional rights -- and human rights -- to self-expression, a cornerstone of our democracy.

Though American democracy promotes "freedom of expression," regular
citizens are effectively blocked from creative and free speech public
space uses unless they have considerable financial or political
influence.

Opposition groups, nascent movements, students, artists and all
citizens need safe, free public space in which to communicate and
develop. Planned events, spontaneous gatherings and ongoing meeting
places that are autonomous from entrenched government and corporate
interests are vital to a free public speech. The health and well-being
of a true democracy requires free access to open public forums.

The post also includes a YouTube video of the interview with Lederman:

The Democratic Party finally released what appears to be their official strategy/talking points intended to counter the Republican immigration wedge.

The strategy in essence revolves around a few key concepts:

  • The Republicans are using the immigration issue for political gain

The Republicans had plenty of time to fix immigration and didn't

The Republicans have been unable to secure the border

The Republicans are using fear and bigotry to scapegoat immigrants

The scapegoating isn't working

Of course there's one glaring omission in this strategy …. there isn't any sort of a alternative plan proposed.

Nowhere
is there a word about what in fact the Democrats are going to do about
immigration. Not even the usual vague call for "comprehensive reform
that secures our border while providing a path to citizenship to
undocumented immigrants." And you can just forget about specifics.

In the absence of this vision, Migra Matters proposes its own strategies:

There have to be other, more complex, and comprehensive ways of controlling immigration:

  • Things like adjusting free trade agreements so they don't foster poverty in sender nations.

  • Things
    like working with foreign governments in sender nations to ensure that
    they not only respect human rights, but worker rights and economic
    justice.

  • Things like examining and reforming our
    immigration codes to make them more practical, fair, and reflective of
    economic realities.

  • Things like fixing our immigration
    bureaucracy so it can efficiently and humanely process the flow of
    immigrants in a timely and effective manner.

And these are but just a few of the things that should be talked about. There are many, many more.

 

Dec 7 2007
Blog Post Undocumented Immigrant Honored in Arizona
  • Latina Lista wrote about yesterday's ceremony in Arizona to honor Manuel Jesus Cordova Soberanes, the man who saved the eight-year-old boy who spent a night in the desert after his mother died in a car accident. Given that Cordova gave up his opportunity to find work in order to ensure the boy's safety, "U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. wants to reward Manuel for his
    selfless act of kindness with a special visa that would allow him to
    come to work in the US."  Grijalva's aide Ruben Reyes admitted the chances of having a such visa issued are slim, but spoke of the importance of recognizing Cordova's generosity:

"We think he actually brings another tone into the
discussion of immigration. Unfortunately the discussion of immigration
is (mostly) negative but with his acts of heroism it counters so many
of the other negative aspects," Reyes said. "It brings a face of
dignity, humanity and a bond that the two countries can share and he's
a shining example of that."

Author

There is no doubt Manuel is that and so much more when you compare
him to the critics of illegal immigrants in this country whose rhetoric
is violent and hate-filled.

Yet, if Rep. Grijalva really wanted to help Manuel, why not award
the man enough money to help him do something constructive in his
hometown so that he doesn't have to leave his own children again?

Grijalva already knows the chances for a special visa are next to
nil for passage. So, basically the Congressman is dangling another
false hope in front of Manuel to give the appearance of helping him
when in reality, he's not.

And in the end, Manuel will still have disappointment and poverty — along with, a certificate of heroism.

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog reposted a New York Times article on 'Brazilians Giving Up Their American Dream.'  Hundreds of middle-class Brazilians who had immigrated to the US years ago in search of social and economic security are now choosing to return to Brazil.  For undocumented Brazilians, life has become too difficult to justify the risk of staying, when they are unable to obtain driver's licenses and there is no comprehensive immigration reform in sight.  As the American dollar loses value and Brazil's economy is booming, it seems only logical to follow the job opportunities back to the Southern hemisphere.
  • Too Sense has given us an update on the Jena Six case: While it looks like the six students will all be accepting plea bargain agreements, the victim of the beating has just brought suit against "the adults accused of beating him, the families of the juveniles
    allegedly involved and the board of the school where the attack
    occurred."
  • Prometheus 6 linked to a Birmingham News article about the local school district's decision to acquire and distribute 15,000 of the new $200 XO laptops which were created to increase computer access in the developing world. According to they city's mayor Larry Langford, "We live in a digital age, so it is important that all our children
    have equal access to technology and are able to integrate it into all
    aspects of their lives...we are proud that Birmingham
    is on its way to eliminating the so-called 'digital divide' and to
    ensuring that our children have state-of-the-art tools for education." While the laptops are available for purchase in the US (for every laptop bought, another goes to a child in a developing country), this is the first reported large-scale purchase for use within the country -- and one which highlights inequalities in access to technology within our nation.
  • The Huffington Post has reported on today's Supreme Court hearing on "whether the detainees at Guantánamo have habeas corpus rights - a
    cornerstone of civilization and a principle established 800 years ago
    in England, giving prisoners the right to challenge the basis of their
    detention in court."  The ACSBlog is also covering the case, which is a matter concerning basic human rights in America.
Dec 5 2007
Blog Post Birth of a Movement

"The forum was revolutionary in at least two ways. First, it was
organized not isolated issues, but around shared values and a
progressive vision. And second, it featured real people—grassroots
leaders from around the country—sharing their stories and asking the
candidates pointed questions.

The grassroots leaders who took the stage voiced again and again the
ideas that embody Community Values—that "we are all in this together,"
that "we are all connected" and "share responsibility for each other,"
that we "love our neighbors as we love ourselves," and that it's time
to reject the "politics of isolation" and embrace the "politics of
connection."

But it was their diverse and compelling personal stories that brought that message home in vivid color."

"Poor and working people in New Orleans and across the globe are living
on property that has become valuable for corporations. Accommodating
governments are pushing the poor away and turning public property to
private. HUD is giving private developers hundreds of millions of
public dollars, scores of acres of valuable land, and thousands of
public apartments. Happy holidays for them for sure.

For the
poor, the holidays are scheduled to bring bulldozers. The demolition is
poised to start in New Orleans any day now. Attempts at demolition will
be met with just resistance. Whether that resistance is successful or
not will determine not only the future of the working poor in New
Orleans, but of working poor communities nationally and globally. If
the US government is allowed to demolish thousands of much-needed
affordable apartments of Katrina victims, what chance do others have?"

  • Rather than stand trial, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six has elected plead guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery.  Skeptical Brotha
    has explained that Bell will serve eight more months in prison, as the
    eighteen month sentence will honor the ten months he has already spent
    in jail.
  • The last couple days have seen a few stories on human trafficking in the US.  Angry Asian Man has reported on a trafficking ring just busted in Vermont, and the New York Times has written about a newly-surfaced case of modern-day slavery on Long Island.
  • Finally, a number of immigration blogs have commented on the upcoming reality TV-show called "Who Wants to Marry a US Citizen."  With a new take on reality television, programming which blends contemporary political issues with the classic dating series, the show "aims to show love knows no borders. Besides, that is what America is about: a multi-cultural nation."  The Unapologetic Mexican has cited our 'national obsession with immigration' as pointing to the need for comprehensive reform of immigration policies.
Dec 4 2007
Blog Post Heartland Forum Highlights Support for Community Values
  • As mentioned previously, this Saturday saw the Heartland Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, an opportunity to talk with candidates about 'real issues facing real people in our communities' with attention to our values and policies of interconnection. You can watch a webcast of the forum on the Center for Community Change's Movement Vision Lab blog. Additionally, The Huffington Post linked to a Des Moines Register article on the event, and Adam Bink over at Open Left liveblogged summaries of statements made by each of the participating candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, and Kucinich.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted a Texas Observer article about the challenges faced in the expansion of drug courts in Texas.  While courts geared towards rehabilitation and redemption (rather than simply inflicting prison time) are much more effective than traditional courts in helping people overcome addiction, court practices vary widely according to the judge on the stand.

"Bennett and Leon Grizzard are the two judges who oversee Travis County's drug diversion court. They steer addicts into a court-supervised treatment program instead of prison. In the past decade, drug courts like the one in Travis County have successfully handled nonviolent defendants with drug and alcohol addictions—if success is defined as increasing public safety at the least cost to the taxpayer. People who complete drug-court programs rarely tumble back into substance abuse. According to four drug-court judges surveyed, about 10 percent of program graduates commit new crimes—a recidivism rate roughly one-fifth that of traditional probation routines. That means drug courts can ease the strain on overcrowded prisons and save taxpayer money. A study of the Dallas drug court by Southern Methodist University showed that every government dollar spent on diversion courts saved taxpayers more than $9.

Though criminal justice reform groups have advocated drug courts for years, Texas until recently lagged behind the rest of the country.

...

But as drug courts become more widespread, it appears that—like the narcotics they were created to fight—the courts can be abused. State and federal governments have instituted few regulations and set up no oversight. Judges have wide latitude to decide people's fates. In the hands of the right judges, the drug court model performs marvelously. Other judges appear to have trouble reconciling their punitive role with this new therapeutic one. The U.S. Department of Justice designed a set of guidelines and best practices—but they're the criminal justice equivalent of blueprints without building codes. The guidelines suggest that judges receive ongoing training and partner with treatment programs and community groups.

Because drug courts grow mostly from the local level, there is little standardization. Texas law broadly defines a drug court, but places hardly any restrictions on what judges can do. There is no oversight specifically for the drug courts. A recent case in Houston demonstrates the potential risks behind the courts' expansion. Judge K. Michael Mayes of Montgomery County is facing a federal lawsuit by a defendant who claims his treatment in Mayes' drug court was arbitrary and violated his rights to due process."

  • Firedoglake has written a post on a bill under consideration in the Senate known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.  This Democratically-authored legislation, which has already passed the House by a large margin, has many progressives questioning its vague definition of 'ideologically-based violence,' arguing that this law would be a step towards a fascist state in which citizens can by prosecuted for 'thought crimes.' We must remember that democracy in America is dependent upon our ability to raise our voices, on our rights to free speech and fair elections.  Any law that seeks to contradict our capacity to participate fully in our communities is a violation of our human rights.
  • In a related story, the Latina Lista blog has been the subject of a recent spam attack, bad enough that the site's commenting feature has temporarily been disabled.  Offering "Anything and Everything from a Latina Perspective," the blog often discusses issues of immigration, American history and culture.
Dec 3 2007
Blog Post Framing the Immigration Debate
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has revisited a 2006 essay by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson about the language we use when discussing immigration.  Here's the abstract on the Rockridge Institute's website:

"Framing is at the center of the recent immigration debate. Simply
framing it as about “immigration” has shaped its politics, defining
what count as “problems” and constraining the debate to a narrow set of
issues. The language is telling. The linguistic framing is remarkable:
frames for illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, undocumented
workers, undocumented immigrants, guest workers, temporary workers,
amnesty, and border security. These linguistic expressions are anything
but neutral. Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and hence
constrains the solutions needed to address that problem. The purpose of
this paper is twofold. First, we will analyze the framing used in the
public debate. Second, we suggest some alternative framing to highlight
important concerns left out of the current debate. Our point is to show
that the relevant issues go far beyond what is being discussed, and
that acceptance of the current framing impoverishes the discussion."

  • In other immigration news, Burger King is under fire for its refusal to join McDonald's and Taco Bell in an agreement to pay historically-underpaid migrant workers in Florida an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked. Also, a federal court in Canada ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement, which had designated the US as a
    "safe third country" for asylum-seekers, meaning "if they make it to the
    U.S. before entering Canada can be returned there."  The court found that "the United States fails to comply with Convention on Torture or Article 33
    of the Refugee Convention and [therefore] the U.S./Canada safe third country
    agreement was flawed as there was no ongoing meaningful review mechanism."
  • The DMI Blog points to this week's New York Times coverage of the successes of a re-entry program in Brooklyn which offers counseling, drug testing, and work and training programs to former inmates.  Re-entry programs not only support the value of redemption, or the right to a second chance, but they are also effective in helping people reintegrate into the community and remain there.  According to a recent study of the comAlert program,

"ComAlert graduates are less likely be
re-arrested after leaving prison and much more likely to be employed
than either program dropouts or members of the control group.
Participants who complete the Doe Fund work-training component do even
better. They have an employment rate of about 90 percent, somewhat
higher than the ComAlert graduates generally and several times higher
than the control group."

  • Finally, Jack and Jill Politics offers further analysis of inequities in Wednesday's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, as compared with its Democratic counterpart:

Of 34 total questions aired, 24 were from white men (including 2 cartoon versions) in the GOP debate.
That's 71%. For the Dem debate, counting was a little more challenging
since one video aired combined video submissions from several people.
Still I'd estimate 22 of 38 questions aired were from white men (I did
not count the snowman as white because snow does not have an ethnicity)
or 58%.

Further, there were 8 questions shown that featured African-Americans during the Democratic debate and a measly 2 in the GOP debate. Hmm.

Also, strikingly -- astonishingly, no questions whatsoever during the GOP debate on:

Healthcare in America
Katrina
Climate Change or Environment
Darfur
Iraq Troop Withdrawal
Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Resurgence of the Taliban
Racial Profiling
Voting Machines and Voting Rights
The Failure to Capture Osama bin Laden

Nov 30 2007
Blog Post We Need Immigration Reform, Not Immigration Raids
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a New York Times article entitled 'Immigrant Workers Caught in Net Cast for Gangs.'
    A night-time raid of residences in Greenport, New York in September was
    aimed at targeting gang members, but of the eleven arrests, only one
    man was 'suspected' of gang affiliation. Local residents have
    complained about the injustice of needlessly tearing families apart:

“This is un-American,” said Ms. Finne, 41, a Greenport native, echoing
other citizens who condemned the home raids in public meetings and
letters to The Suffolk Times, a weekly newspaper. “We need to do
something about immigration, but not this.”

  • Immigration News Daily and the ImmigrationProf Blog both reported on the appeals court dismissal of a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) brought by some of the 361 noncitizens arrested on immigration charges during the New Beford, Massachusetts raid. While the First Circuit court "affirmed the dismissal based on lack of subject matter
    jurisdiction based on provisions of the REAL ID Act...[it] expressed hope that ICE would learn from the case and employ
    less 'ham-handed ways' in enforcing the law in the future."
  • In a similar case, Immigration News Daily also posted a news story about a Brazilian woman who was held in jail while her two-month-old baby continued to cry and refuse baby formula in lieu of breastfeeding.  While deportation proceedings will likely continue due to the woman's expired visa, this month's new ICE guidelines on nursing mothers have ensured that
    Danielle Souza Ferreira has been released and reunited with her children for the time being.
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog wrote about an article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times which stated that "undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries
    are 50% less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use hospital emergency
    rooms in California, according to a study published Monday in the
    journal Archives of Internal Medicine." While everyone has a right to medical care without regard to immigration or citizenship status, this report does provides counter-evidence to the claim that undocumented immigrants are responsible for draining our health care system.
  • The HealthLawProf Blog highlighted another New York Times article "charmingly" titled 'In Hospice Care, Longer Lives Mean Money Lost.'  The story discusses the irony that the financial success of the hospice industry depends on the timely demise of its clientele.  We should review government policies that are discouraging to those providing crucial care for the elderly and the sick in our communities.

Hundreds of hospice
providers across the country are facing the catastrophic financial
consequence of what would otherwise seem a positive development: their
patients are living longer than expected.

Over the last eight years, the refusal of patients to die according
to actuarial schedules has led the federal government to demand that
hospices exceeding reimbursement limits repay hundreds of millions of
dollars to Medicare.

Nov 28 2007
Blog Post UN Declares Tasering a Form of Torture
  • Following a series of related deaths in North America, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake has advised us that the United Nations has declared tasering to be a form of torture.  Portugal has been urged to forgo use of its newly purchased tasers as the intense pain they inflict is in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture. We hope that this statement will encourage universal reconsideration of taser usage.
  • The 'Just News' blog has cited a New York Times article reporting that the Bush administration has elected to revise its controversial 'no-match' policy on verifying the identities of American workers.  Given that the new rules were suspended indefinitely by a federal judge in San Francisco, for their potential undue harm to citizens whose records are incorrect in the social security database, Bush and Homeland Security are working to issue new standards that will not provoke legal challenges.  In the meantime, Homeland Security has begun training firemen to search for 'hostility to Americans' while fighting housefires.
  • With respect to last week's celebration of Thanksgiving, a number of
    blogs questioned the historical construction of the holiday. Latina Lista
    notes that the Spanish had a feast with the Timucua Indians in Florida
    fifty-six years before the arrival of the Pilgrims.  The Native American Netroots blog argues that the holiday has more to do with violence than cooperation.  And Rachel's Tavern posted a piece on alternative ways of teaching children about the Thanksgiving story.
  • Finally, the ImmigrationProf blog tells the story of an undocumented man who came to the aid of a 9-year-old boy who was the lone survivor of a car accident in the Arizona desert on Thanksgiving day.  According to a local sheriff:

"He stayed with [the boy], told him that everything was going
to be all right." As temperatures dropped, he gave him a
jacket, built a bonfire and stayed with him until about 8 a.m. Friday,
when a group of hunters passed by and called authorities.

After the boy was rescued by local authorities, 26-year-old Jesus Manuel Cordova was taken into custody by the border patrol.  In a related article, the same blog notes that Hispanic journalists are urging the media to stop talking about immigration in a way that dehumanizes undocumented immigrants.  As Cordova's story shows, undocumented immigrants cannot simply be written off as criminals. Rather, they are also compassionate, generous and helpful people who are willing to make sacrifices in order to protect those in need.

Nov 26 2007
Blog Post US Military Asking Wounded Soldiers to Return Signing Bonuses
  • Mirror on America reports that the US military has been asking soldiers wounded in combat to return the signing bonuses they received upon joining the armed forces. As the military is exhausting those Americans who are willing to sign up for duty, it has begun offering up to $30,000 in signing bonuses which it has then asked to be refunded when soldiers who have lost limbs, hearing or eyesight are no longer able to serve out their commitments.  In the case where America's foreign policies are proving responsible for the destruction of its own citizens, our country should honor and respect these sacrifices with additional support from the community, not less.
  • Ezekiel Edwards at the DMI Blog has written about a client and personal friend who was able to triumph over a drug and alcohol addiction that had brought her into contact with the criminal justice system.  Edwards uses her example to illustrate the difficulties people face when they are trying to make a new start:

It took her a number of months to find any sort of work. The road to
employment is difficult enough as a poor African-American woman with
little formal education, currently taking GED classes, but with a
criminal record, it becomes outright impassable. She finally found a
part-time job working four hours a day, five days a week, at $9 an
hour. She arrived 20 minutes early every day. After six weeks, she was
fired without explanation. Now she is looking for work again.

She cannot afford her rent, and is looking for public housing, but,
again, her criminal record (all for nonviolent offenses) limits her
options. She is trying to do the right thing, trying to become
gainfully employed, trying to further her education, trying to find
affordable housing, trying to spend time with her daughter, and, most
of all, trying not to drown herself in the bottle by remaining in her
program, but society is not making it easy, or even somewhere in
between easy and frighteningly difficult, to move forward. Even after
all she has gone through, there is no relief in sight.

  • The Pro Inmigrant blog has posted about a new coalition between the American Jewish Committee and a group of Mexican-American advocates to fight discrimination and demand comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Working with the idea that Jewish Americans who have successfully assimilated can and should help today's immigrant populations, the AJC just co-sponsored a three-day workshop with Mexico's Institute for Mexicans Abroad. According to Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán, whose grandfather came to Mexico from Armenia,

"Now, more than ever, we must underscore a self-evident truth:
Migrants are not a threat to the security of the US...They are important actors in
the fabric of what makes America great."

  • Along this same theme, the ImmigrationProf Blog has linked to a new report by UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri which found that "high immigration
    cities experienced higher wage and housing price growth. Immigration
    had a positive productivity effect on natives overall, but important
    distributional effects. Highly educated natives enjoyed the largest benefits while the less educated did not gain (but did not lose much either)."
  • The 'Just News' blog quotes an AP article discussing the fact that a serious backlog in the processing of citizenship applications may prevent thousands of residents from voting in the 2008 presidential elections. Hopefully this media attention will encourage immigration authorities to expedite the process so that all Americans will have a voice in electing our national leaders.
Nov 21 2007
Blog Post Congress Approves of Giving a Second Chance, While New York Reviews Disenfranchisement Policies
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted about last week's House vote on the Second Chance Act, legislation that aims to address the needs of individuals reintegrating into the community after time spent in prison. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 347-62, and it is expected that the Senate will consider the same legislation before the end of the year.  Based in the spirit of redemption, the idea that we all deserve the support we need to make a new start,

"H.R. 1593 would provide grants to States and local areas to create or
strengthen the systems that help adults and youth transition into the
community when they are released from incarceration by providing drug
addiction and mental health treatment services, job training and
education opportunities, housing and other necessary services."

  • The same blog also covered a recent report by the Brennan Center on felony disenfranchisment in New York state which found that "87% of those currently disenfranchised in New York are Latino and African American."  The state's sentencing structure is currently under review for its early Nineteenth Century laws that still effectively deny the right to vote to people of color.
  • Also, a successful doctor and his entrepreneur wife are facing sudden deportation proceedings in Pennsylvania after a small error was found in the documents they used to apply for American citizenship. Although Pedro and Salvacion Servano have been in the US legally for twenty-five years, and have come to embody the American Dream in their family life and contributions to their community, they are currently fighting to appeal the mandate that they report to ICE the day after Thanksgiving in order to initiate deportation proceedings to the Philippines.
  • Finally, the Immigrants in USA Blog featured two articles on the value of a multilingual society. Statesman.com wrote about the tensions involved when a California school district announced its intentions to provide bilingual education to all students, and mercurynews.com published an opinion piece on the value of learning English but not losing the language of one's cultural heritage. Given that "many folks pay thousands of dollars to acquire a second language," linguistic diversity is an undeniable advantage to our community and our economy in an increasingly interconnected world.
Nov 19 2007
Blog Post Media Allowed in on Mychal Bell's Trial
  • Too Sense has given us a heads-up on the fact that although juvenile trials are generally closed to the media, the judge in Jena Six member Mychal Bell's case has agreed to grant courtroom access to a number of newspapers and television stations.  Many people are hopeful that the media presence in Louisiana will help ensure a fair and just trial, as the justice system will be accountable to millions of viewers across the country.
  • Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a plan to 'map' Muslim communities around the city with the objective of identifying terrorists. After strong critism from Muslim groups and civil rights activists, the LAPD has gone back on its decision in favor of more 'community outreach.' The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has copied an LA Times article on the most recent decision.

"Has the debate over race become a melodrama? A bad television soap
opera? A theatrical stage play with complex issues boiled down to a
script? Entertaining words thrown around simply to satisfy the 24-hour
news cycle, the blogosphere?

Are we doomed to debate racism over and over — stuck in purgatory, a
cycle of skirmishes, of shock and awe, with nothing gained, nothing
learned?

Or is there a way to change the ritual, to go deeper into our national consciousness and get off this merry-go-round?"

  • The Unapologetic Mexican reported on the 'No Borders Camp' that had recently been set up on Mexicali/Calexico border crossing.  While the protesters were attacked by the border patrol, blogger Nezua says of the 'Cross-Border Kissing Booth' that "meeting antagonism and violence and hostility with a sense of humor and
    love is probably the most satisfying way to engage negativity and
    destructive energy." The IndyBay article he quotes also goes into a discussion of border enforcement, arguing that the border patrol created a "sustained level of violence which tears apart communities, families, neighborhoods, and peoples lives."
  • Finally, the ProInmigrant blog has done a post on the delay in processing the acceptance of Iraqi refuguees currently living in Syria.  While the US has pledged to accept 12,000 Iraqi refugees within the year, only 450 were let in last month, due to slowdowns in the requisite security clearances.  In total there are 140,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria awaiting resettlement. The blog notes, "The Bush administration has conceded a moral obligation to assist Iraqi refugees, but the slow pace of admissions has sparked criticism from refugee advocates and lawmakers."
Nov 16 2007
Blog Post 'Reckless Optimism': People Really Are Able to Turn Their Lives Around
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted an interesting New York Times article
    on an innovative program providing prenatal care for homeless women in
    San Francisco. With nineteen years as a non-profit agency, and a staff
    of fifty-three people, half of whom have been homeless in the past, the
    program is a model of the core value of redemption, or the idea that we all deserve the support needed for a new start:

"The Homeless Prenatal Program has evolved from its original mission
of helping destitute women give birth to and then keep healthy babies
to become a resource dedicated to stabilizing entire families. It
offers what this particular woman excitedly described here as 'a
plethora of services' for mental health, housing and substance abuse
problems. It combines those with an array of alternative health
approaches not usually available to the poor, like yoga, massage and
chiropractic treatments.

'People call me a reckless optimist, and you have to be to do this
kind of work,' said Martha Ryan, founder and executive director of the
Homeless Prenatal Program. 'But I see enough success. I see people
really able to turn their lives around, and I see their children be
able to move forward and have a different life.'”
 

  • The Huffington Post has a great piece up by Sally Kohn of the Movement Vision Lab on the writers' strike. Speaking of the absence of the community frame in television or film media, Kohn praises the writers for joining together but contributes a larger cultural analysis of what has shaped our values of individualism:

"If you turn on your TV today or sit for a matinee at your local
cineplex, you'd wonder whether it's an entirely different crop of folks
holding the pens behind the scenes. After all, much of the shows and
movies they write promote extreme greed, competition and the notion
that we have to pull ourselves up from our individual bootstraps ---
NOT that we're all in it together, in solidarity. While most of us in
real life, like the striking writers, have learned that we can't
succeed without the help of others around us, most reality TV shows from American Idol to Survivor tell us that the only way to the top is fierce competition against one another.  Meanwhile shows like Desperate Housewives
tell us that selfishness is good and there's no such thing as too much
greed and status --- mind you, the same greed that is keeping the
Hollywood execs from sharing the wealth with writers. And in countless
movies, writers resort to racist and homophobic 'humor' that helps
further divide our country rather than unite us together."

  • The DMI Blog has written about the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Standards at New York City Jails, a multi-organizational campaign that achieved a number of victories this year as "the Board of Corrections (BOC) proposed a number of changes to the
    Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities" which cover rules and regulations for city jails. Author Ezekiel Edwards reports that while the BOC was not swayed on every issue of importance to prisoners and their families, significant progress was made in preserving and improving conditions of incarceration: "As a result of the Coalition's relentless efforts, the BOC voted
    against the 'overcrowding' policy, against putting those in need of
    protection in 23-hour solitary confinement, and against reducing
    Spanish translation services." 
  • Feministe has a new post entitled 'Housing is a Human Right' which provides information on upcoming protests against the fact that all public housing units in New Orleans are slated for demolition after a recent federal court ruling. The Facing South blog has also posted about the controvery over the formaldehyde-laced trailers provided as temporary housing -- while Gulf Area families have been living in the trailers, FEMA has cautioned its own employees against entering them.
  • Finally, Latina Lista has reported on a DailyKos post by the author of the Migra Matters blog called 'A progressive plan for immigration reform,' referring to the resource as "the most insightful, certainly most thorough and step-by-step approach into fully understanding the immigration issue." Given his opinion that immigration is the new topic du jour, author Duke1676 prefaces his summary with "I figured it might be a good time post up a diary that sums up
    everything I've learned in my past three years here posting on
    immigration issues." With some 454 comments by readers, it's worth a read.
Nov 13 2007
Blog Post Writers Guild Fighting for Fair Pay While TV Networks Threaten To Cut Jobs
  • There has been a lot of discussion on The Huffington Post about the Writers Guild of America strike that started on Monday, as TV networks and screenwriters failed to reach an agreement before the end of their previous contract. Union members are essentially demanding that networks begin to distribute profits from new media airings of their work, but have made little headway in negotiations on the issue. In a move that will endanger the financial security of many Americans, some networks are now threatening large-scale firings of their employees. According to an opinion in the LA Times:

"A day after Hollywood's writers went out on strike, the major studios
are hitting back with plans to suspend scores of long-term deals with
television production companies, jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of
rank-and-file employees whose names never appear in the credits.

Assistants, development executives and production managers will soon be
out of work, joining their better-paid bosses who opted to sacrifice
paychecks as members of the Writers Guild of America. At some studios,
the first wave of letters are going out today, hitting writer-producers
whose companies don't currently have shows in production."

  • Migra Matters has done an interesting post on the results of yesterday's election in Virginia, where the Republican party had chosen to make an immigration crackdown its biggest campaign selling point.  Curiously, the Democrats appear to have gained control of the state Senate, leading the author to advise us with respect to upcoming national elections: "If the Republicans were looking at immigrant-bashing as a silver bullet
    to stem the national tide against them, surely tonight's results in
    Virginia will should give them second thoughts."
  • The House of Representatives has begun debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure to extend federal workplace protections to those targeted for their sexual orientation.  Pam's House Blend discusses the fact that a coalition of civil and gay rights organizations announced their support yesterday for the current version of the bill which does not include the same protections for transgender individuals, thus leaving the LGBT community divided.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog featured an editorial in today's New York Times about the Second Chance Act, a bill which has had bipartisan support in Congress since 2004 but has yet to move through the legislature. The Times describes the need for the government policies to support redemption, or the idea that we all deserve a second chance:

"If past patterns hold true, more than half of
the 650,000 prisoners released this year will be back behind bars by
2010. With the prison population exploding and the price of
incarceration now topping $60 billion a year, states are rightly
focusing on ways to reduce recidivism. Congress can give these efforts
a boost by passing the Second Chance Act, which would provide crucial
help to people who have paid their debts to society....

The Second Chance Act would add to what the country knows about the
re-entry process by establishing a federal re-entry task force, along
with a national resource center to collect and disseminate information
about proven programs....  The programs necessary to help former
prisoners find a place in society do not exist in most communities.
The Second Chance Act would help to create those programs by providing
money, training, technical assistance — and a Congressional stamp of
approval."

  • Last up, blogger Sudy is working on a video project to "feature, support, and highlight the work done by feminists of color."  She's included a preview of the video on her site which has been cross-posted by Vox et Machina.

Nov 7 2007
Blog Post Crackdown Policies Are Destroying Immigrant Families and Solidarity in Our Communities
  • We've previously mentioned Oklahoma's new law which targets American citizens for 'transporting' undocumented immigrants. BlogHer reported Saturday on further implications of the law, arguing that assisting a woman in labor or the victims of a car accident in getting to the emergency room could be grounds for a felony charge. While it is highly likely that the constitutionality of this legislation will be challenged, it definitely lies contrary to the core value of community, that we are all responsible for each other's well-being and that our successes and fates are linked.
  • The 'Just News' blog posted about an LA Times article stating the US has reached an all-time high in the number of immigration detainees it is holding in prison: more than 30,000 people, over 4,000 in the state of California alone.  A similar statistic reveals that "the immigration agency's budget for bed space skyrocketed to $945 million last year, up from $641 million in fiscal year 2005." Although the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denies that overcrowding is a problem, immigrants and advocates argue that facilities and short-staffed and detainees are not given proper medical care.
  • Both Citizen Orange and Latina Lista have told the story of a man who spent five months in a detention facility only to see his health deteriorate to a critical point.  Ricardo Gomez Garcia and his wife Juana left their four children in Guatemala years ago in order to come to the US in search of work to support their family.  While here Juana gave birth to their youngest child, who at the age of four has been diagnosed with autism and requires specialized care. Earlier this year, Gomez was arrested in the New Bedford immigration raid and held in an immigration prison before being deported.  Sick but desperate with worry over his wife and young son, Gomez managed to return to New Bedford, only to die later that night.  Juana, his wife of twenty years, is now seeking community support in order send Gomez's body back to Guatemala.
  • Finally, the Alas! and reappropriate blogs have written about US Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz, who is being fired from his post for talking and complaining openly about inhumane conditions in the immigrant detention center where he worked.  Cruz has said that he observed countless "…violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes,
    and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas,
    Arizona] 'processing facility'." The blogs are also offering readers the chance to contribute to Cruz's search for affordable legal representation so he can defend himself against unfair termination of employment.
Nov 6 2007
Blog Post San Francisco Hospital Closure Will Deny Health Care Access to Underserved Communities
  • The Happening Here blog has a new post up on a newly-announced hospital closure in San Francisco's Mission District.  While a hearing will be held next week on the plan to shut down St. Luke's Hospital, author Janinsanfran notes:

"Opponents of the closure quickly discovered unearthed evidence that the impact
of CPMC's plan would be to dump most of their Black, Brown and charity
care patients. CPMC wants to build yet another North of Market Street
hospital on Cathedral Hill, while leaving the South of Market area
entirely to the care of the over-crowded, under-funded county hospital."

Decreasing access to medical care for communities of color and low-income communities is a reality in New York City as well, as illustrated by our google map mash up Health Care That Works. This process continues despite the fact that the majority of New Yorkers agree that health care is a human right.

  • Feministing has blogged about a recent Kansas City ruling on women's access to contraception, in a lawsuit in which women had alleged discrimination because AT&T refused to provide health insurance coverage for birth control for female employees. The appellate court ruled that "contraception was not 'related to' pregnancy for purposes of the law" and therefore AT&T's actions did not comprise discrimination.
  • The Facing South blog has posted about the recent introduction of the Gulf Civil Works bill in Congress, legislation aimed at addressing the problem that "there are still about 100,000 fewer jobs in the Gulf than there was pre-Katrina." In the spirit of the New Deal construction works, the program would create these jobs working on much-needed public infrastructure projects. According to Stephen Bradberry,
    head state organizer of ACORN Louisiana, the region’s largest
    association of low and middle income families,

“Communities across the Gulf Coast suffer from crumbling roads and
water systems, ill constructed flood protection, and closed police
stations, fire house, schools and hospitals...We have an opportunity
to jumpstart the recovery by empowering communities with the resources
they need to lead.”

  • Finally, Ezra Klein has written an insightful piece on Affluence vs. Security.  Discussing whether or not American living standards are getting better or worse, Klein says:

"I haven't quite worked this theory out yet, but my sense is that economic status has been cleaved free of economic security.
So the sort of goods that signal affluence -- iPods and iPhones and
laptop computers and plasma televisions -- are becoming much cheaper,
more broadly accessible, and thus more widely owned. Lots of people,
particularly young people, can thus claim economic status. The
trappings of our wealth are all around us.

Yet economic security is quite a bit further from reach. It's
impossible for me to imagine how I'll ever buy a home. Further
education for me and eventual education for my kids are far beyond what
my salary seems able to bear. And let's not get into health care. Point
being: The affluence I can easily purchase into my 20s seems liable to
crash right into the security I discover is out of reach in my 30s.

Meanwhile, from where I sit, the American Dream is a pretty weak force.
White picket fences aren't the culturally transmitted vision of
prosperity. Electronics are. Awesome stuff
is. We're seeking goods, not security. And we can buy goods. Which
makes us feel prosperous. And if you feel prosperous, if you consider
yourself affluent, you can't merge that self-conception with economic
insecurity, and thus it's hard to consider yourself part of a coalition
in need of economic reform, or more advantageous public policy. By
offering status without security, folks lose the class discontent that
would turn them into a constituency for the security. And so they don't
get it."

Do we agree that true economic security remains elusive for our younger generations? What can we do to bolster the American Dream, to promote policies that will create opportunities and stability for everyone in America?

Nov 5 2007
Blog Post ICE Detention Center Employed Undocumented Immigrants
Nov 2 2007
Blog Post Checks and Balances Preserve Our Democracy
  • Both Prometheus 6 and the ACS Blog have highlighted a recent Washington Post article that speaks of the president's intention to use executive orders as much as possible to single-handedly make government policy because he feels that the Democrat-controlled Congress is not getting anything done.  Bush is disappointed by the delay in confirming Mukasey as head of the Department of Justice, a nomination stalled by differing ideas as to what qualifies as the human right to freedom from torture.
  • In Oklahoma, a federal judge has declined the request of a coalition of immigrants rights advocates to block the enforcement of a new state immigration law.  According to Immigration News Daily, the law "will bar illegal immigrants from obtaining jobs or state assistance and make it a felony to harbor or transport illegal aliens." Once convicted of a felony, Americans lose their right to vote, making this issue just as much about preserving the voice of democracy as about immigration per se.

"Children experienced the emotional trauma of their parents' sudden
absence, often personalizing the cause of the separation and feeling
abandoned or fearful that their parents could be abruptly taken away
from them.

Mental health experts noted that children's and parents' fears and
the events surrounding the raids led to depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, separation anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in children."

In Grand Island, Nebraska, 17% of children affected experienced the loss of both parents in the raids.  Author Treviño says of ICE's lack of a standard to protect children from abandonment, "It's a fine line between being sensitive to children's well-being and
enforcing the law. But that is what marks the difference between great
nations and...countries that let fear and intimidation rule
instead of compassion and common sense."

  • The HealthLawProf Blog has cited a new report by the Economic Policy Institute which concluded that "the number of Americans lacking health insurance rose by nearly 8.6 million to 47 million from 2000 to 2006."  The study goes on to analyze the demographics and causes of the changes, finding widespread losses in coverage due to employers no longer offering insurance to their workers.  It's time we start taking these numbers seriously and work to fix our broken health care system with consideration for how best to benefit the community as a whole.
  • In today's hopeful news, Rachel's Tavern notes that Genarlow Wilson has told reporters after his release from prison that he wants to go to college to study sociology. Wilson had been given a 10-year sentence for committing a consensual sex act with a fellow teenager; his recent release was due to a redemptive Georgia Supreme Court ruling that decided his sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.  A free man, Wilson has received several offers to fund his college education, and he holds the conviction that "This situation, what I had to endure, has a lot to do with sociology.”
Nov 1 2007
Blog Post Crime is Not an Isolated Action, in New Orleans and Beyond
  • Bill Quigley at the Black Agenda Report has written a piece on the apparent meltdown of the criminal justice system in New Orleans, where violent crime rates are hovering at seven times the national average. Quigley speaks of the integral relationship between socioeconomic security and crime rates:

"Crime is not an isolated action. It is impossible to fix the crime problem if
the rest of the institutions that people rely on remain deeply broken....Only when the criminal justice system is supported by a
good public education available to all children, sufficient affordable housing
for families, accessible healthcare (especially mental healthcare), and jobs
that pay living wages, can the community expect the crime rate to go down."

  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has highlighted a community in Western Massachusetts in which those without the financial means to post a few hundred dollars in bail are held for months before their trials. While eighty-five percent of women being held have substance abuse problems, and many have families to care for, the county has opted to spend thousands of dollars each month to keep women in newly-constructed jails rather than offer treatment programs that would offer inmates a chance at rehabilitation and redemption. Author Lois Ahrens notes that "holding women and men who are too poor to make bail results in
    devastating consequences: more jail building, greater impoverishment of
    the poor, and continued criminalization of addiction and mental illness."

Jack and Jill Politics has alerted us to the fact that the Bush administration is working with the Senate to discontinue federal downpayment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Some striking statistics from the post: "From 2000 through 2006, more than 650,000 buyers got their down payments through nonprofits" working with this program, and "the move to get rid of downpayment assistance programs will bar approximately 40% of African-American homebuyers from utilizing Federal Housing Administration insured loans. Also affected are potentially 30% of Latinos."
  • We'd previously noted that the California wildfires had resulted in undocumented immigrants turning themselves in to the border patrol because they feared for their safety. A number of blogs, however, have exposed other effects of the fires on immigrant communities. The Black Agenda Report has discussed raids of the displaced people at Qualcomm stadium as well as farmers not permitting their workers to evacuate. IntraPolitics talks about how the San Diego Sheriff's department is checking for ID among people returning to their homes, and continues to the draw further comparisons between the wildfires and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina:

"The policies undertaken by law enforcement and developers in these
regions of natural disasters, in my opinion, is part of a general
scheme to displace the poor and minority property owners and renters.
The backlash against social programs designed to help people obtain
affordable housing, combined with the expected pitfalls of subprime
mortgage lending, have placed us in a crisis of vulnerable populations
losing the small allowances of economic power and self-determination
they've had."

  • 'Just News Blog' and the ImmigrationProf Blog have covered the story of 'a new low' in immigration raids: harassing a Latino community on their way to and from church services. Local law enforcement officials have been setting up roadblocks along two streets in Mount Olive, North Carolina in order to request documentation of churchgoers, many of whom are employed at the Butterball slaughterhouse two miles away.
  • Finally, in honor of the holiday, Racialicious has a very interesting post up entitled 'Reasons I Hate Halloween,' which discusses the prevalence of costumes that "reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women." Author Fatemeh Fakhraie provides a variety of examples to support her discomfort with the use of these stereotypes as 'dress-up' options.
Oct 31 2007
Blog Post DREAM Act Vote Today in Senate
  • The DREAM Act legislation which would provide undocumented students the means to stay in the country legally if they attend college or join the military is up for a vote today in the Senate. The Border Line reports that it remains unclear if enough Senators will come out in support of the bill, measure which would provide many students who arrived in the US legally as young children with access to federal funding for continue their education in hope of giving back to their communities.

As the wildfires continue to rage in Southern California, Immigration News Daily has posted that about fifty undocumented immigrants have turned themselves into border patrol agents out of fear for their safety. Various bloggers such as Prometheus 6 are starting to draw comparisons between the immense devastation of the wildfires and that of Hurricane Katrina, and how the socio-economic status of the displaced populations has affected the care and attention each received.

RaceWire has done a piece about Blackwater's new bid to get involved with security on the US-Mexico border.  Author Seth Wessler explains how problematic this situation would be, despite apparent bipartisan support in Congress:

"Given Blackwater’s 'shoot first' policy, enacted with bloody clarity in Iraq and on the streets of New Orleans after Katrina,
the plans to expand to the border region do not bode well. With
vigilante groups like the Minutemen already taking their racist,
nationalist stance to the front lines, guns in hand, the addition of
Blackwater to the scene would only mean more dead immigrants with less
accountability.

In a political climate where the rhetoric on immigration employs the
lexicon of war, the possibility of Blackwater’s entry into the border
security scene seems to fit the frame. As if it were not enough that
the United States is building a wall along
the border and the the total number of deportations has increased by
over 400% in the past ten years, the border itself may be handed over
to private firms whose interests could not be less in line with the
common good."

  • The Unapologetic Mexican has joined the ranks of those reporting on a coalition of major newspapers and television networks who are petitioning to gain access to Jena Six member Mychal Bell's sealed criminal trial.  Bell's lawyer seems to agree that the media presence may help temper further questionable rulings by District Attorney Reed Walters, and that the case has been publicized enough to date that Americans have a right to know what is going on.

The Republic of T is spreading the news about the just-announced date of next July's 'Blogging While Brown' conference.  In a blogosphere in which people of color remain the minority, it is tremendously important for bloggers of color to organize themselves in order to maximize potential to publicize issues of import such as the Jena Six case.

Feministing posts that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke this past weekend about the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, about how she doesn't forsee the ruling being overturned in the next few years.  She added, however, that if it were overturned, abortion would always be available to 'women of means' who could afford to travel to other states, but "would have a devastating impact on poor women."
Oct 24 2007
Blog Post Congress Fails to Override SCHIP Veto
  • A multitude of bloggers remarked on the SCHIP re-vote in which Congress was unable to override President Bush's veto on the expansion of children's health care.  In the wake of this struggle, framing expert George Lakoff has stepped with another piece on how progressives can frame the health care issue, called 'Don't Think of a Sick Child,' summarized by Open Left.
  • Also on the issue of health care, Bloggernista has alerted us to the notable absence of discussion among presidential candidates of their policies on HIV/AIDS. The post cites GMHC's Robert Bank as saying that, “It is unconscionable that the United States, which has all the
    necessary resources to end the AIDS epidemic, does not have a
    comprehensive plan to stop AIDS deaths, reduce infections, and get
    people the medical care that they need.”  Accordingly, there are two new campaigns to increase the visibility of this issue in presidential campaigns: AIDSVote and National AIDS Strategy.
  • With respect to the media, Alas!
    blog reports on a lawsuit filed in Portland, Oregon, by a man who was
    tasered by police for videotaping a raid of his neighbor's house.
    According to one of the cops, Waterhouse "refused to drop the camera
    which could be used as a weapon.”  While it is reassuring to know that
    law enforcement officials have tremendous respect for the power of the
    media, this sort of unjustified force will do nothing to promote
    cohesion and democracy in our communities.
  • News on immigration policy is a mix as usual.  On one end of the spectrum, North Carolina is assuming a new role as the leading state in a new program that will enable local corrections officers to search and verify the immigration status of everyone in jail. 
  • The Immigration Policy Center has just released a report entitled 'Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students,' demonstrating the need for a DREAM Act to allow all students in the US the opportunity to get a higher education. 
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog notes that US Appeals Court Judge Harry Pregerson is challenging sixty deportation orders on grounds that ordering a noncitizen parent out of the country also forces unlawful deportation of his or her US citizen child.  This is a tough issue, but such a move would unfairly curtail options for the children deported. 
  • In public opinion, Happening Here? published the results of a new CNN poll which states that only 30% of Americans think all undocumented immigrants should be deported.  This figure is promising and hopefully lawmakers will take it into account before enacting future 'crackdown' policies. If America is to fulfill its promise of opportunity, we must implement an integration strategy that welcomes immigrants and gives newcomers and their families an equal chance to fully contribute to and participate in society.
Oct 22 2007
Blog Post Protecting Children in Jena, Prison, School, and the Gulf Zone
  • As an update on the Jena Six case, the US Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana said at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing that the hanging of a noose does indeed qualify as a hate crime, and that had the white boys responsible been of age, they would have been tried accordingly.  The Chicago Tribune noted the Congressional Black Caucus pushed the issue that "it is illegal under the guarantees of our Constitution and our laws to
    have one standard of justice for white citizens and another harsher one
    for African- American citizens." Officials from the Justice promised that a serious investigation is underway in Jena.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog and the The New York Times reported yesterday on juveniles in prison serving life sentences, some of whom were thirteen or fourteen when their crime was committed.  America is the only country in the world that assigns life sentences for underage crimes (a policy prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), and only in 2005 did we discontinue the use of the death penalty for juveniles.  We ought to examine these policies with reflection on the human right of redemption, that we all deserve a second chance to change our behavior.
  • Migra Matters published an entertaining piece yesterday discussing Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's proposal that DNA testing be a routine part of the immigration process, in order to prove that people that claim to be related actually are blood kin.
  • The happening-here? blog wrote about a recent poll by San Jose State University that showed that the majority of Californians (59%) are in favor of a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants.  Presented with this data, author janinsanfran asks progressives "How to do we make the majority audible and effectual?" 
  • Also in California, the Governor Schwarzenegger has just signed a bill that will increase access to information about colleges, and the ways students can prepare themselves for higher education.  According to RaceWire, "the law could be used by community based education groups as leverage
    to secure more resources for counseling and other support services."  More clarity on the college application process should help increase options for California's students.
  • With one day to go until the SCHIP re-vote, the Bush administration has also refused to renew funding
    for the mental health of children in the New Orleans area, despite data
    that indicates that they among the most traumatized in the country.  As
    a result of a screening by the Louisiana Rural Trauma Services Center, part of the state university of children displaced by Hurricane Katrina and returning to the area, "31 percent reported clinically significant symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder."  This comes in spite of a health department directive to give high priority to services for hurricane victims.  Such individualist policies can only be more devastating to the Gulf community.
Oct 17 2007
Blog Post Mychal Bell Back in Jail
  • In recent news, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six is back in jail, as a Louisiana judge has decided that he violated his probation from an earlier drug offense that was not tried.  Prometheus 6 and Too Sense have both weighed in on this seemingly continual obstruction of justice.  While Bell is now in juvenile prison, as opposed to a penitentiary for adults, the punishment he's been forced to endure remains out of sync with the crimes committed, highlighting the racism that still pervades our justice system.  We hope as his case goes forward that future decisions about his fate are grounded in the American ideals of equality and redemption, that we all deserve a second chance.
  • Big news today is that the Nobel peace prize has been awarded to former Vice President Al Gore along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Pam's House Blend has a post up which discusses the fact that global warming is "more than an environmental issue - it is a question of war and peace." From Africa to Alaska, communities that have based their security upon access to dwindling natural resources are at risk of political and economic instability.
  • The mailing of the Bush administration's 141,000 "no-match" letters
    aimed at targeting workers with proper documentation was stalled yet
    again by a preliminary injunction by a federal judge in San Francisco.
    Migra Matters reports that judge Breyer
    expressed "'serious concerns' over the legality of the Bush
    proposal that would force employers to fire an estimated 1.5 million
    employees whose Social Security records contain discrepancies." The
    letters will be held until the hearing of a lawsuit brought against the
    new requirements.
  • According to the Pro Inmigrant Blog, California has just enacted a law barring landlords from inquiring about tenants' immigration status. Nancy Ahlswede, executive director of the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities, praised the legislation for its attention to "huge anti-discrimination obligations" placed upon landlords by federal housing laws.  Similar to the pending "no match" lawsuit on employment, this law is a great example of a community coming together to voice their support for fair treatment in housing practices along with a progressive approach to the integration of immigrants into our society.
Oct 12 2007
Blog Post Columbus Day Protests Highlight Human Rights in America
  • Yesterday's Columbus Day holiday did not go smoothly, as 80 Native American activists were arrested at a sit-in protest of Denver's holiday parade. While claiming "that honoring Columbus in essence celebrates the foundation of genocide, racism, and slavery in the Americas," non-violent protesters were rounded up quite violently by police.  The intense controversy over this federal holiday is another flag of just how important is it to frame American history and policy with respect to human rights, or to focus on Bringing Human Rights Home.

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog highlighted a series of articles over the weekend about different aspects of our system of incarceration, from the staggering debt that many prisoners face upon their release to the fact that many prisoners are being denied training and rehab.  In a post entitled 'What if our prison system wasn't just a reflection of society - but a force that shaped it?', writer Christopher Shea begins,

"What if America launched a new New Deal and no one noticed? And what
if, instead of lifting the unemployed out of poverty, this
multibillion-dollar project steadily drove poor communities further and
further out of the American mainstream?

That's how America should think about its growing prison system,
some leading social scientists are saying, in research that suggests
prisons have a far deeper impact on the nation than simply punishing
criminals."

These posts are definitely worth a read with attention to the way that our prison system values retribution over redemption, the idea that those who falter in their efforts or break societal rules warrant the chance for reconciliation, rehabilitation, and a new start.

  • Tennessee Guerilla Women posted a story about 2600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who just returned from 22 months of duty in Iraq to find that they were deployed one day short of the 730 days required to receive the college education benefits outlined in the GI Bill.  To knowingly deny veterans the chance to go to college is a disrespectful statement that in spite of government promises and their personal sacrifices, the soldiers must 'go it alone' and support themselves through school.  This myth that we should all 'pull ourselves up by the bootstraps' is contrary to our nation's long-held belief that our success as a country depends on the success of all, that we should be striving for the common good.  The policies of our government should be based in community values rather than punitive individualism.

An interesting post on the Immigrants in USA Blog discusses the way lack of transportation negatively affects immigrant populations.  Based on an article published in Alabama's News Courier about a lecture by sociology professor Stephanie Bohon, the piece discusses how transportation barriers "prevent [immigrants] from learning the language, learning about job or housing opportunities and having access to services."  If undocumented individuals are unable to obtain drivers licenses and there is no public transport available in their area, they are left dependent on expensive taxi fares and may choose to forgo outings such as taking their child for necessary vaccinations.

After recent crackdowns on the mobility of immigrant workers, a shortage of farm workers has left farmers threatening to leave fruit and vegetable rotting in their fields.  As a result, the Bush administration is quietly working to rewrite federal regulations on foreign labor.  This is a perfect example of how reactionary, anti-immigrant policies have not only failed to fix the problem but are making things worse for the American economy.  Immigration replenishes our country's workers, communities, and traditions.  Immigrants are central to our productivity and success, and help ensure that the US continues to be a land of wealth and opportunity.

Finally, Future Majority alerts us to a new campaign to get young Latinos to vote called Vota Por Tu Futuro (Vote 4 UR Future). A media campaign based on PSAs and in-show ads, Vote 4 UR Future is a partnership between the youth-focused TV channel Telemundo, mun2 and a coalition of political organizations such as Rock the Vote, the US Hispanic Leadership Institute, and Democracia USA. Thie campaign is a great step towards ensuring that the growing Latino population has a voice in electing our public officials.
Oct 9 2007
Blog Post Preventing Another Jena 6

Alan Jenkins' new piece at TomPaine is now live.  In this latest essay, Alan offers examples of what can be done to reduce detention and incarceration of young people while creating a more fair and effective judicial system.

Last week, thousands of marchers walked the streets of Jena,
Louisiana, protesting biased treatment of six African-American
teenagers who've come to be known as the Jena 6.
By now, their story is well known to most Americans: the nooses hung
from a "white" tree after black teens dared sit beneath it, with the
white perpetrators receiving just three days' suspension; the threats
and intimidation of black students, including by law enforcement; the
school fight in which six black teens beat a white classmate; and the
district attorney's remarkable decision to charge the black teens with
attempted murder—charges that have since been reduced, but continue to
hang over the young men's heads.

The circumstances are dramatic and, of course, recall the worst of
the Deep South's Jim Crow legacy, when the noose and lynchings went
hand in hand with abusive law enforcement. But the students' case taps
into the deep frustration that so many black people feel about a larger
criminal justice system that singles them out for harsher punishment
and incarceration.

Sep 25 2007
Blog Post More Violence, Post-Jena March
  • Despite repeated claims among residents of Jena, Louisiana that the unjust prosecution of the six boys is "not about racism," there have been various ugly repurcussions of the well-publicized rally.  More nooses have been found hanging in Alexandria, Louisiana and in North Carolina, and a Neo-Nazi group has published the addresses and telephone numbers of the Jena Six families on its website in case anyone wishes to "deliver justice."  Among progressive bloggers, reactions seem to be a mix of speechlessness and cynicism.
  • Along the veign of thought that anti-immigrant sentiment is also very much linked to racism, a lawsuit was filed last week alledging that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids in the New York area have unfairly singled out Hispanics, violating the Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches. A number of US citizens of Latin American descent have had their homes raided in the middle of the night by agents hunting for undocumented individuals.
  • In the realm of policy changes, New York State has been informed by the federal government that chemotherapy will no longer be defined as 'emergency medical care,' thus preventing immigrants without documentation from receiving cancer treatment previously funded by the government.  On the other hand, however, New York's Governor Spitzer has announced that the state DMV will begin issuing driver's licenses without regard to immigration status.
  • Finally, the Center for American Progress has recently featured a report entitled Know Your Sources: The Mainstream Press Keeps Finding Wacky Immigration “Experts.” Author Henry Fernandez offers an illustration of the mainstream media's regular failure to investigate the background of the 'immigration experts' they cite, finding that many have strong ties to well-funded white supremacist groups. Similar to the theme of preserving justice in the Louisiana court system, it is so important to understand that the issue of immigration is not one that can be fixed in a stand-alone manner. Rather, it is only one piece of a larger picture of established racial, economic, and political inequalities which deny many people the opportunities they need to be prosperous.
Sep 24 2007
Blog Post Progress in Jena, Thanks to the Black Blogosphere

CNN estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended yesterday's rally in Jena, Louisiana in support of six African-American students who were prosecuted unfairly for beating a white student after being threatened in a series of racially-motivated incidents.  It's wonderful to see that so many people went out of their way (as much as 20 hours on a bus from Los Angeles, with children in tow) to stand up for fairness and equality in our judicial system, and there was not a single arrest in the process.  In the photos of the event on Huffington Post, someone is carrying a banner that says "An Injustice ANYWHERE is an Injustice EVERYWHERE."  That's a great illustration of the value of community, the sense that our lives and well-being are interconnected.

Two big developments have come out of the march. First, the Third District court ordered District Attorney Reed Walters to hold a hearing within 72 hours to discuss Mychal Bell's release from prison.  Second, Congress announced that the House Judiciary Committee will be reviewing events in Jena, which is promising.

There has correspondingly been a good deal of discussion about the role the blogosphere and new media have played in what is now being referred to as the "21st Century Civil Rights movement," a new online movement with the ability to mobilize thousands of supporters in rapid time.  Yet at a time in which Republicans and mainstream media are taking heat for ignoring people of color, the bigger, white progressive bloggers are also getting knocked for failing to report on happenings in Jena.

Sep 21 2007
Blog Post Thousands Rally for Jena Six Day of Action

The biggest news of the day is that thousands of people have descended upon small-town Jena, Louisiana, to show their support for the group of six black high school students who have been victimized by racial injustice after beating up a white boy that taunted them with nooses.  Today's rally has caught a good deal of mainstream media attention, with a Canadian paper even referring to the event as "one of the biggest protests since the 60s."  For some video footage of the event, see CNN or the NAACP webcast at 4pm Central Time.

17-year-old Mychal Bell is unfortunately still in prison, this time because the prosecutors decided it was 'premature' to let him out after the charges against him were vacated. The judge then refused to set a date to hear the motion to release him, at very least to a juvenile facility.  The rest of the students are awaiting trial.

We sincerely hope that today's march and the corresponding events around the country will help establish that equality involves much more than suspending white students from school while sending black students to prison.

And now, a quick run-down of some immigration happenings.  It's been a high-energy couple days in this arena, too.

  • U.S. Courts are continuing to strike down local ordinances aimed at persecuting undocumented immigrants, providing a formidable obstacle to crackdowns nationwide.
  • The city of San Francisco is considering issuing its own identification cards for all adults.  These cards would enable immigrants to gain access to public services such as health care and libraries.  San Francisco law forbids the use of city funds to report undocumented individuals to Customs Enforcement.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing that greencards should no longer be issued without expiration dates, but should be renewed periodically. This not a popular position among some Democrats in Congress.
  • After recent raids in schools, various school districts with high populations of immigrants are brainstorming new ways to protect the privacy of their students.  In New Mexico, some school personnel have been told to deny entry to immigration officials seeking to seize students.
  • The Human Rights Weblog has just done a feature article on Ray Ibarra, an activist who is pushing the frame of the human right to stay alive, or more specifically that no one should be dying on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Hundreds have died to this point while trying to cross, and aiding those who are most vulnerable is illegal.
Sep 20 2007
Blog Post Jena Six Update and Other Ruminations on Justice
  • As an update on the Jena Six, Vox ex Machina reports that Mychal Bell remains in a Louisiana jail after having his conviction overturned because the judge and prosecutor did not show for his bail hearing yesterday.  Given that the black blogosphere has driven the case to be high-profile enough that the New York Times has finally reported on it, it's suprising that the legal officials in question would risk demonstrating their public disregard for Bell's fate.  Also noteworthy are various protests happening tomorrow around the country in support of the six students.
  • Curiously, Sentencing Law and Policy wrote today on an article in Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger about the need for prison reform in the state, as prisons are both more crowded and more costly than ever.  What's interesting is that the people currently pushing for reform are not prisoners' rights advocates but those working to keep prisons cost-effective and efficient.
  • Statesmen.com notes that legislation has just been introduced in Congress that would not only punish 'sanctuary cities' by denying Homeland Security funding but would make being in the country without proper documentation a felony.  'Cause we could really use 12 million more prisoners.  Really makes one wonder what the prison corporation lobby looks like. Imprisonment of immigrants is a violation of the human right of mobility. To attempt to do this on such a grand scale would be unthinkable.
  • Another piece of legislation that just failed to make its way through Congress involved voting representation for the District of Columbia. I'm always a bit shocked to see the 'Taxation Without Representation' DC license plates; shouldn't we have figured this out by now, given the revolutionary zeal to rectify this back in 1776? Chris Bowers elaborates on the racial injustice implicit in the decision:

"If Republicans are ever mesmerized as to why they do so poorly with the African-American vote, here is a prime example. An all-Republican minority of 42 just filibustered to prevent a overwhelmingly poor, African-American city from having representation in the United States Congress. Apart from FEMA's response to Katrina, could they make it any clearer that they do not stand up for African-Americans? Denying D.C. voting rights is a blatant, racist, right-wing attempt to cling to power. It is undemocratic and un-American for Republicans to block this bill."

Continuing to deny Washington's political voice based on discrimination or self-interest can only prove devastating to the capitol city and to our nation as a whole. It will not help instill confidence in our leadership.

  • Let's wrap things up with some better news, however, in the health realm: Walmart has been listening to criticism of its health insurance plan, and is making some changes.  The Huffington Post highlighted a New York Times article which says that America's largest employer is lowering premiums and prescription drug copays to make its health insurance more accessible to workers. Improved health coverage for millions of Americans is undeniably a step in the right direction.
Sep 19 2007
Blog Post Tearing Immigrant Children Out of School, While Congress Returns to Immigration Issues
  • Just News and the El Paso Times have reported on a September 10 Border Patrol raid of a public school district in Otero County, New Mexico.  Eleven children were seized and subsequently deported to Mexico with their parents.  In response, many local families are choosing to keep their children from attending classes.  In Oklahoma, supporters of the tough new anti-immigrant legislation have said that reports of Latino/a children leaving school mean that the "law is working."  We started writing about the effects of immigration raids on schools last week, but just to recap: Schools should be safe places, and every child should have access to an education.  One can only imagine the terror that elementary school children face upon seeing their friends pulled out class by border agents - and preventing children from attending school is nothing but detrimental to their futures.
  • According to the Immigration Prof blog and the LA Times, Democratic Senators are gearing up to reintroduce the DREAM Act in Congress as well as new legislation to protect agricultural workers.  Although comprehensive immigration reform was not achieved over the past few months, these remain important issues that we would do well to define in a way that maximizes the potential of all, from seeking an education to one's capacity to labor.
  • It is also reported that Hispanic-owned businesses are feeling the squeeze of uncertainy produced by recent immigration raids.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written about a noticeable slowdown in spending among the Latin American community in Georgia. Local shops, restaurants, and car dealerships that cater to immigrant populations are suffering significant losses as many residents are choosing to save money.  In 2006, Latino/as spent $12.4 billion in Georgia, but sales are down 30-40% after the enactment of tougher legislation against undocumented individuals.
  • A wealth of blogs also reported on Friday's 'Jena 6' development, the overturning of Mychal Bell's conviction.  Bell was only 16 at the time of the schoolyard beating, but was tried as an adult which, according to the Associated Press, could have brought a sentence of 15 years in prison. It is still unclear whether Bell will be released or brought up on different charges, but the remaining five students are still awaiting trials in a case that has inflamed public opinion for its illustration of the racial inequalities that still permeate our justice system.
  • Also, Prometheus 6 has posted about the controversial re-zoning of the school district in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After the new zoning plan effectively sent black students to low-performing schools, parents are contesting the decision to 'resegregate,' calling upon the 'No Child Left Behind' legislation on education, which gives students the right to move out of schools that are failing.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

As with the school raids above, and the Jena 6, all children deserve equal access to a quality education, to a secure environment, and, when things go wrong, to fair courts that will remedy injustice.

Sep 17 2007
Blog Post Immigrants Boycott Western Union
  • First off, a coalition of more than 150 immigrants rights groups are advocating a boycott of Western Union for charging exorbitant fees and using innapropriate exchange rates for its wire transfers abroad.  Organizers also assert that the company reinvests very little in the immigrant communities it serves despite profits of over $1 billion per year.
  • As in the Colbert video below, the Immigrants and Politics Blog has recapped a September 5 New York Times article about farmers relocating their business to Mexico given the difficulties of finding labor within the US. Given recent crackdowns on the mobility and capacity of the migrant workforce, many US companies are struggling to find workers, and farmers often experience labor shortages during harvest time.  In response, the profiled farmer has chosen to "southsource" to Mexico.  This type of action could very well have long-term negative effects on the American economy.
  • Another story that was all over the blogosphere yesterday was that of the 20-year-old black woman in West Virginia who was abducted and held hostage while forced to suffer intense physical and sexual abuse.  Although her six white captors have been arrested and charged with a total of 108 counts of criminal conduct, federal prosecutors have decided not to consider this a hate crime despite the fact that the six alledgedly referred to the woman as a "nigger."  This decision has been quite controversial given the brutality of the incident and the fact that hate crimes laws are in effect to mandate a heavier sentence for acts motivated by exactly this sort of unthinkable discrimination.
  • Additionally, a study has been released by the Medicare Rights Center which demonstrates that "low-income people enrolled in Medicare private fee-for-service plans pay more for their health care in some counties than people enrolled in the same plans in neighboring, more affluent counties." It hardly seems fair to inflate costs for those who can barely afford to pay for medical services, or smart to force the government to subsidize medical bills at a higher rate.  Perhaps the report will force us to rethink that one.
Sep 13 2007
Blog Post 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
      sheet
      .
  • 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
    include
    • 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
    South
    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."
Jul 18 2007
Blog Post 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
    sheet
    .
  • 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.
Jul 16 2007
Blog Post Disproportionate access to people of color: Education, Trials, Immigration
  • Feminist blogs offers a great
    commentary on the Supreme Court ruling about desegregation in public
    schools. In using The New York Times
    editorial
    , the blog notes that while the nation is getting more diverse, schools
    are getting even more segregated. For
    example, in 2002 and 2003, 73% of African-American children were in schools
    that enrolled over 50% children of color, and nearly two of every five
    African-American students attended schools that were over 90% minority. Justice Breyer’s dissent points out the
    increase in segregation since the 1970s, and explains the importance in
    counter-acting this trend. In
    interpreting school districts’ decisions, it is important to realize that one
    cannot simply make the argument that laws should be colorblind.  Schools are still segregated largely because of neighborhood segregation that began when certain groups were legally excluded from certain neighborhoods, and contained to others.  When such segregation wasn't written into the law, it was often enforced by banks, real estate agents and landlords.  Further, people of color are disproportionately
    affected by poverty, job discrimination, and health care access
    .  Education is a critical component to improving everyone's access to opportunity.
  • DMI Blog emphasizes the sheer
    growth and volume of the prison population, citing last week’s prison and jail
    population statistics from the U.S. government.
      The increasing trends only
    highlight the racial disparities: almost 5% of all African American men are imprisoned,
    compared to 1% of white men, and 11% of all African American men between the ages of 24 and 35
    are behind bars. Describing this issue
    as a “human rights problem”, DMI Blog explains that prison reform needs to
    focus not only on prison upkeep but on unfair sentencing practices. Huffington Post reiterates this sentiment
    with a blog about the racial discrepancies between those who use drugs and those who are
    punished for it. Earl Ofari Hutchinson
    states that while many survey results find that whites are much more likely to
    use drugs than African Americans (or use them at least at equal rates), more than 70 % of those
    prosecuted in federal courts for drug possession and sale and given mandatory
    sentences are African American. Due to these
    unfair proceedings, the media’s representation of the drug
    problem is skewed and not realistic. Describing one solution, Jack
    and Jill Politics
    highlights an editorial in The New York Times about the
    Second Chance Act, which would provide for community and state-based
    rehabilitation programs to prevent first-time offenders from committing more
    crimes after released from prison. Jack
    and Jill Politics note the disparities in drug usage and punishment, citing
    that more than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Huffington Post argues that most economic problems that opponents of immigrants' rights blame on an influx of cheap labor would actually still exist with or without immigrants. The widening gap between the rich and the
    poor is a structural shift, and well documented in the last few decades. For example, income in the U.S. grew
    nearly twelve times more rapidly among the top 1% than the bottom 90% between
    2003 and 2004—consistent with trends since the early 1980s
    . These trends should motivate workers to come together to demand a fairer shake, not turn on each other. Continuing a
    unity approach in immigrants’ rights discussion, Intelligentaidigena
    Novajoservo
    explains the similarities between the struggles of the Native
    Americans and immigrants, especially their alienation and oppression,
    citing remarks from the ongoing U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta.  Along the same vein, the Leadership Conference on Civil Right, the
    Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and The Opportunity Agenda
    worked to create an ad showcasing the common struggles
    between African Americans and immigrants. The piece recognizes the profound job and wage crisis in the
    African American community, but, similar to the Huffington Post’s argument,
    this struggle has less to do with immigrants and more to do with governments
    failing to ensure living wages, quality education, and adequate civil rights
    protection. By seeking shared solutions,
    African Americans, among all groups, have a lot to gain. Immigration reform seeks to improve working
    and living conditions for all people in the United States.
Jul 5 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/18/07
  • Firedoglake blogs about the Employee
    Free Choice
    , a bill which aims to restore workers’ freedom in choosing a union,
    especially establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights
    when workers seek to form a union. FDL
    explains that while 60 million workers say they would join a union if they
    could, but many people are intimidated by corporate giants. By stating that this act is a “workplace
    rights issue,” a “human rights issue,” and a “civil rights issue,” FDL frames
    the issue in universal terms that appeals to the broad advantages for
    everyone. The benefits in unionizing
    workers appear in many forms. With union
    workers receiving an average wage 30% higher than the nonunion worker, creating
    greater access to membership will help lessen the growing wage
    inequalities.  Here's hoping this rights-based frame can help push the issue forward.
  • Feminist blogs comments on a piece on Salon.com which compares the rate of obesity in black women to that of white women
    (78% of black women are considered overweight), and essentially opts to blame
    black women for preferring to keep the extra pounds and purposely
    eschew advice to lose weight. Feminist blogs skewers the Salon piece, nothing the complex causes of obesity rates among black women. In 2000, low-income African-American families were 7.3 times
    more likely than poor white families to live in high poverty neighborhoods with
    limited resources
    . In addition, black
    women are more likely to lack adequate health care access. While 11.2% of white Americans were uninsured
    at any point in 2005, 19.5% of African Americans were uninsured and more likely
    to be dependent on public sources of health insurance.
    It's disappointing to see Salon reduce this alarming trend to individual behaviors.  This is not a question of individual responsibility.  It is one aspect of a larger social issue - which requires increased public awareness and collective action to reach a solution.
  • Racial_composition_2Prometheus 6 reports on the alarming disparities in the
    racial composition of the 30% of students who fail to graduate high school. In a recent Education Week report, only half of
    American Indians and black students graduated, compared with more than
    three-quarters of non-Hispanic whites and Asians. The reports uses information from the 2003-04
    school year to estimates the number of graduates in 2007.  Their analysis shows
    that while minority students make up less than half of the total public school
    population, they make up more than half of the nongraduates. In addition, Hispanic youth are four times
    more likely to drop out than are white youth
    (pdf), creating an education gap that limits opportunities for young people of color and widens other disparities - in income and health coverage, for example - later in life.
  • PrisonsSentencing Law and Policy reports on a new article from
    stateline.org about how increasing prices to maintain the overcrowded prisons
    are leading lawmakers to provide different alternatives to prisons. Some of these ideas include an expanded
    program to help prevent offenders from being incarcerated again (like diverting funds from prisons to rehabilitation centers), earlier release
    dates for low-risk inmates and sentencing revisions. State spending on prisons continues to
    increase at an alarming rate to account for the high number of incarcerated
    persons. Between 2004 and 2005, not only
    did the number of incarcerated persons increase, but so did the rate (491 per
    100,000 people in 2005 versus 486 per 100,000 in 2004
    ).
Jun 18 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/8/07
  • Racialicious reports on the discrepancies in the 2000 U.S.
    Census
    , stating that over 700,000 blacks were not counted nationwide. Committees are looking for ways to clear up
    such problems in future census counts, as mistakes skew the representative character of our government. The census has presented a number of problems for communities of color, who are frequently miscounted in a number of ways. As featured on the State of Opportunity website, the 2000 Census counts prison inmates as inhabitants of their prison
    towns, not their home towns. This miscount of the populations of those areas, results in a loss of both resources and equal representation for those communities.  An accurate census is important to
    maintaining a true democracy that suits the people’s needs.
  • Racialicious continues its coverage on the lack of the
    diversity on TV networks
    , especially in television writers. While certain prime-time shows do feature
    minority actors, on the whole, many of these characters are merely supporting
    predominantly white casts. In response
    to the new line-up of shows for the fall, Janet Murguia, president of the
    National Council of La Raza, voiced her dismay: “It seems to me that we're
    losing ground. I'm puzzled. Where there
    has been diversity, there's been success…But with a few exceptions, this is the
    least diverse lineup we've seen in recent years.”  In a study of the Writers Guild of America,
    West showed that white males disproportionately dominate film and TV jobs in Hollywood, and that
    minority writers accounted for fewer than 10% of employed television writers
    between 1999 and 2005. Without proper
    representation of the true diversity in this country, TV networks are
    showcasing a false view of the country, thus contributing to more hostilities
    and stereotypes in race relations.
  • BlogHer reports on the importance of comprehensive sex
    education and access to birth control within the frame of a “basic human right
    and a normal value.” In addition to
    explaining how much support throughout the country exists across gender and
    party lines, BlogHer’s use of language truly exemplifies the type of communication
    strategies advocates need to unite the country. By framing access to birth control as a basic human right, BlogHer
    elevates the reproductive rights struggle to a more universal issue, one to
    which many people can relate. This
    framing is a positive step for advocacy everywhere!
  • Sakaduski Marketing Blog reports on a recent study from the
    Harvard School of Public Health, which grouped people based on race, country of
    residence and a few other community characteristics and compared life expectancy
    rates in each “race country.” These
    researchers found that life expectancy rates differed dramatically between
    these eight “race countries”: Asians, northland low-income rural whites, Middle
    America, low-income whites in Appalachia and the Mississippi valley, Western Native Americans, black Middle America, southern low-income
    rural blacks, and high-risk urban blacks. For example, the gap between the high-risk urban black males and the
    Asian females was nearly 21 years. Differences
    in access to health care and health insurance, as well as the quality of care one receives, are a primary cause such disparities, severely hurting many minority groups. Without equality to health care, these eight Americas will continue to show such huge unfair discrepancies.
Jun 11 2007
Blog Post Lindsay Lohan and the Rest of Us

Over at Tom Paine, Alan Jenkins and Kirsten Levingston (of the Brennan Center) use the recent escapades of Lindsay Lohan as a teachable moment about the inequities in our criminal justice system and the importance of redemption.

At the same time, the system is unequal in its administration. Although
African Americans and whites use illegal substances at about the same
rates, African Americans are far more likely to be incarcerated for
drug offences. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of African Americans
incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses increased by over 80
percent to 145,000, a number that is 2.5 times higher than that for
whites. Affluent whites like Ms. Lohan are far more likely to be let go
with a warning, to avoid prison time, or to avoid criminal scrutiny at
all. Their substance abuse problems lead them to places like Promises,
not the penitentiary. Race and class, then, play a powerful role in
determining the consequences of unlawful behavior.

Read the rest here.

Jun 6 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/5/07
  • Ezra Klein reports on a few different immigration issues,
    including the results from the recent Washington Post poll indicating a clear
    majority in favor of a few aspects of the immigration bill debated in Congress
    right now on both sides of the aisle. Klein debates the point that guest workers would harm
    American workers, stating that there would only be small downward effects on
    native wages, if any. Klein has a point, but for those looking to build support for comprehensive reform, it is more important to think
    of native workers and immigrants as a united force, sharing many common
    aspirations for their families. By
    stratifying the types of jobs each group can and “should” do, the greater
    purpose of becoming a community is left behind in favor of pointing
    fingers. 
  • Migra Matters
    continues the discussion on immigration by explaining the current state of
    affairs in Congress, stating that it appears as though the bill will not be
    struck down. For those looking for a good breakdown, Miagra Matters
    highlights the 14 current amendments proposed and how they would affect the final legislation.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog cites a New York Times
    article
    about racial bias that occurs in jury selection. While it is illegal to turn away
    a possible juror based only on race, many lawyers use other excuses to reject
    black jurors. In a report of 390 felony
    jury trials from 1994 to 2002, the district attorney’s office turned away three
    times as many eligible black jurors as white ones. In these cases, while the racism is not
    explicit, the institutional racism still exists, but to a less obvious
    degree. This kind of racism results in a
    lack of public commitment to address social policies for equality, and
    obfuscates this important problem
  • Racialicious references an ABC News article arguing that
    children’s school settings impact their own racial exclusion. The report referenced a study of students of
    different ethnic and racial backgrounds and found that children with friends
    from different background were much more likely to say it is wrong to exclude
    someone because of their own race. In
    addition, in a follow-up analysis of white students, children in “mixed
    ethnicity” schools were much less likely to use racial stereotypes about
    children with different backgrounds. The
    study corroborated the explanations of the many Amicus briefs
    submitted in support of the school integration cases for the Supreme Court
    rulings in Seattle and Louisville, which can be found on the NAACP Legal Defense Fund website. These Amicus briefs consist of arguments from a plethora of
    organizations explaining why exclusion and school segregation is harmful for
    children, with arguments from such institutions such as the American
    Psychological Association, Anti-Defamation League, Historians, and the LA
    School District. The detrimental effects
    of segregation on school-aged children has been well-documented, and only with
    the Supreme Court’s decision to let the communities deal with integrating their
    districts themselves can we truly move toward equality.
Jun 6 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up: 6/1/07
  • Ally Work reports on an article from Lip Magazine which breaks down the ways in which white supremacists exploit tragedy to further their own causes.  Besides using any crime committed by a non-White as a race crime attempted to bring down the majority, many of these groups believe that the media purposely ignores black-on-white killings.  In reality, the media over-represents blacks as offenders, relative to their share of crimes committed. The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites findings from the General Social Survey that significant majorities of African Americans are more prone to violence than whites.  When Americans continue to endorse these racist attitudes, the goals of equal access through renewed social policy become compromised.
  • Prometheus 6 reports on a New York Times article exposing the rapid growths of minorities in school rolls, especially Hispanics.  This number has peaked at 42% of public school enrollment from 22% thirty years ago.  These figures reflect the changes in the greater composition of the country, where great ethnic shifts are taking place in all regions.  Despite rising enrollment, large test score gaps exist between whites and minority groups.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites that while 87% of U.S. adults have obtained a high school diploma or the equivalent, the high school degree attainment among Hispanic adults is only just above 60%.  Schools need to provide the proper resources to close this immense gap.  As a way to combat the prejudice that students from lower socioeconomic status may face, some higher education institutions are courting low-income students with offers of grants and tuition wavers, recognizing that their test scores and performance is only in reflection to their resources. This New York Times article highlights the ways in which Amherst seeks to make their class more diverse, not only racially, but also across class differences.
  • The Huffington Post reports on the disadvantages of living with such large discrepancies between the top of the wealth index and the bottom, even if you find yourself in the better half.  Citing his new book, The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Daniel Brook explains how the more unbalanced a society is, the more the top will need to pay to keep it afloat.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) cites the increases in class divide in the past three decades, in which the wages for the top 5 percent of wage earners grew by 31%, but the wages for the bottom 10% of workers slightly declined.  With these severe trends, it becomes that much more challenging for social mobility and equal opportunity to all members of society.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reports on the recent increases in California spending on prison budget, extrapolating that in five years, this budget will supersede spending on the state universities.  The author attributes the disorganization in California’s prison department and unprecedented numbers of incarcerations to unclear goals for the function of prisons, either a way to remove criminals from society or rehabilitate them.  These figures in California parallel those found on the national level.  The State of Opportunity in America (pdf) found that in mid-2004, more than 21.13 million people were incarcerated, a number higher than other nations and unprecedented in our history.  Without proper rehabilitation programs, these rates will continue to increase, forcing our law-makers to spend high percentages of budget money to sustain the populations when the money could be used better elsewhere.
Jun 4 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-up: 5/31/07
  • Racialicious
    reports on the current lack of minority representation on TV shows,
    especially in light of the recent Emmy nominations.  The achievements of people of color on TV have rarely been recognized by the Emmys (seven winners since 1986), and there continues to be only a
    marginal percentage of actors, writers, and senior-level producers in
    the TV industry.    TV coverage may not seem like
    the most important racial injustice to fight, yet
    seeing one’s own group represented in mainstream America (or not) can have a profound impact on how we view race in America.  When certain groups are rarely depicted in
    prominent TV shows and popular culture, the producers are sending a
    message of how America should look, ignoring the diversity that
    strengthens this country.  This imbalance in media  is even more apparent on major cable and network news.  Media Matters
    conducted a study calculating the ethnicities of the guests on four
    prominent Sunday talk shows.  Not surprisingly, they found a major bias in favor of white guests
    versus any other minority constituency analyzed.  What does that say about whose opinion counts as an authority in our society?
  • Racialicious
    also reports on the wave in lawsuits filed around the country by
    low-paid workers, especially immigrants in large cosmopolitan cities
    like New York City.  These successes exemplify the potential gains of
    immigrants and other low-wage workers when united.  While some may try to pit immigrants against African Americans and low wage workers, by joining forces to tackle our common problems, we can make greater headway and all rise together.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog
    reports on the problems of the criminal justice system, using the
    situation in Massachusetts where having a Criminal Offender Record
    Information file can limit one’s occupational opportunities, housing
    offers and loan grants, even if the charges were later dropped or the
    person was found not guilty.  Even when modernizing the criminal
    justice system, governments need to consider the implications of a
    criminal record and provide educational and vocational resources to
    give the person the opportunity to change.
May 31 2007
Blog Post Finding Redemption in Popular Culture

In his bi-weekly column over at Tom Paine, Alan Jenkins finds the value of redemption, and lessons we can all learn about forgiveness and justice, in his analysis of Spider Man 3.

May 9 2007
Blog Post Images of Opportunity

The Doors of Opportunity IIHere are The Opportunity Agenda, we are fortunate to have a strong partnership with the New School University in New York, where we teach a class on media and social justice, and work with some great professors who use our organization as a case study in their classes.  Most recently,
Professor Kit Laybourne used our organization as the "client" in his media production class.

Students in the class were tasked with producing an image that was representative of:

  1. an issue area in which The Opportunity Agenda was active; and/or

Redemption is in our Nature

one of the 6 Core Opportunity Values that we use as the basis of our framing. 

Students tasked with producing two images.  One of which contained text and could function as an iconic image on our blog or website when we cover a particular issue or message around a particular core value.  The second image was designed specifically for use by others.  It was to contain no text, and was meant to be a "blank canvass" that other nonprofit organizations or social justice activists could use to remix and reuse the images for their own work.  To that end, all images were to be original photos taken by the students, original graphic illustrations, or images found under a suitable creative commons license

Community Graphic

The results are in, and we're really please with the results.  I've created a Flickr set of the images and tagged the photos with a number of common tags - non profit, creative commons, etc.

I'd invite you take a look at the work the students produced, pass the
photos around, and use them in your own work.  If anyone has questions
about our process, usage rights, or recommendations on how we might take this to the
next level, please let me know.

All the images can be viewed here, on our Flickr page.

Nov 30 2006
Blog Post More for Maryland Opportunity Bus Tour

I don't have time to fully blog this, but wanted to point people to The More for Maryland Opportunity Bus Tour.

The More for Maryland Campaign is facilitated by the Safe and Sound
Campaign. It is an effort to get the attention of our elected officials
that are running for office to pay attention to one simple truth; when
you have opportunity, life turns out better. It is very possible to use
our state budget and our local budget to fund opportunity for our
citizens. In so doing, people grow up safe and healthy and productive
citizens in our society, says Hathaway Ferebee, executive director of
Baltimore Safe and Sound Campaign.

It's an interesting program to raise awareness about a campaign to allocate tax dollars in a way that creates more opportunity for Maryland citizens - particularly in the context of foster care and drug treatment programs.  We profiled an early version of this program in February.

Oct 30 2006
Blog Post Two Videos

   

Two videos for you today.  The first is a travelogue of the "Hear Me Now Gulf Coast Listening Tour" by Diana Nikkah.  We sent Diana on tour to record the experiences of those affected by Hurricane Katrina and their struggle to rebuild their lives.  The short film was recently screened at the Impact Festival in New York City. 

This video - and more - is also available on our YouTube Channel - Opportunity TV.  Give it a visit, and let us know about any opportunity-related or socially conscious videos you're watching.

The second video is a trailer for the documentary American Blackout, which chronicles the tactics of voter disenfranchisement employed during the 2000 presidential election.  If the trailer piques your interest, Color of Change has lots of action links around the movie.  You can host a house party to screen the movie, sign-up as a video "poll-watcher" for the upcoming election, and more.

Oct 18 2006
Blog Post Daily Blog Roundup

Spencer Overton at the BlackProf blog  has an update on the Georgia voter ID law. Professor Overton links to an NPR interview he did on the subject yesterday, as well as a forthcoming article on voter identification.

Sara Solon at DMI Blog also tackles the supposed menace of "voter fraud," writing about how such ID laws are disenfrachising all sorts of folks - and not just poor, rural voters or people of color.  As a bonus, she also links to Bronx Defender (And DMI fellow) Ezekial Edwards' interiew on WBAI about how the the census count of prisoners is distorting our democracy in other ways.  Longtime Opportunity Agenda readers will remember that we covered this issue in the spring with an article by Kirsten Levingston of the Brennan Center.

Ezra Klein has a must-read about changes in Wal-Mart's employee health coverage, and what it means generally for the health security of working Americans.  You should read the whole piece, but here's a quote:

Among the most striking findings outlined in Wal-Mart’s 2007 benefits booklet is the substantial health care cost a low-paid Wal-Mart worker would be forced to pay under the so-called ‘Value’ plan. A typical individual Wal-Mart worker who enrolls in the Value Plan will face high upfront costs because of a series of high deductibles, including a minimum $1,000 deductible for individual coverage, a $1,000 in-patient deductible per visit, a $500 out-patient surgical deductible per visit, a $300 pharmacy deductible, and a maximum out of pocket expense of $5,000 for an individual per year.

In total, when factoring the maximum out-of-pocket expense and the cost of the yearly premium ($598 a year for an individual under the Value Plan), a typical full-time worker (defined by Wal-Mart as 34 hours) who earns 10.11 an hour or $17,874 a year, would have pay nearly 30 percent of their total income for health care costs alone.

Incredibly, the health care cost burden actually worsens should an uninsured Wal-Mart worker enroll their family under the Value Plan. Again, because of multiple deductibles for each family member, and when factoring in the cost of the medical premium ($780) and maximum out-of-pocket expense ($10,000), a Wal-Mart worker whose family is insured under the “Value Plan” could pay as much as 60 percent of their total income towards health care costs under Wal-Mart’s most “affordable “health care” plan.

The Insure Blog has some information about the "doughnut hole" - the gap in medicare coverage that many seniors now face. The blog notes that a study by Wolters Klewar Health estimates that 16% of seniors who fall into the hole will discontinue therapy due to the costs.  And for some treatements, that figure may climb as high as 33%.

For more on healthcare, The Century Foundation is hosting this week's edition of The Health Wonk Review, a summary of the best of the health blogosphere.

On a cultural note, Jack Turner of Jack and Jill Politics alerts us to the unfortunate news that Aaron Mcgruder's Boondocks comic strip may have come to an end.  Fortunately the reason is that Boondocks was renewed for a second season on the Cartoon Network and a Boondocks movie might be in the works.  The first blog I ever wrote was about the Washington Post's boneheaded suspension of  Boondocks.  It's unfortunate that the second time I blog about Boondocks may be to chronicle its permanent end.  At least this time McGruder is going out on his own terms and taking his brilliant cartoon to the next level.

Also take a look at Black Prof Spencer Overton's analysis of racial diversity in Grey's Anatomy.

Finally, economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute proposes a $3000 solution to Treasury Secretary Paulson's $64,000 question: why are Americans unhappy with the current state of the economy?

Sep 27 2006
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