Type Title
Page Economic Opportunity

The current economic crisis has highlighted once again our interconnectedness as a nation and as a people—the fact that we’re all in this together in seeking economic security and opportunity. Economic recovery policies offer a chance to ensure that our most vulnerable and historically overlooked groups and communities are included in any recovery plans. It is up to all of us to ensure that these investments help all Americans by calling for appropriate implementation and monitoring of funds. The Opportunity Agenda has created a series of tools for advocates and policymakers to use as they advocate for equal opportunity in the economic recovery process.

Communications Talking Points: Talking About the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration (2008)

This memo provides advice on talking to broad audiences on human rights at home, in light of the 60 anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Outlined here are some principles that support domestic human rights campaigns and foster a long-term strategy in furthering a pro-human rights agenda.

Communications Mapping: Health Care that Works One Pager (2006)

Read about our first online mapping project, Healthcarethatworks.org.  This tool tracks the closure of hospitals across the city of New York and shows the racial and economic makeup of the affected neighborhoods.

HCTW_1.png

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.

Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing the Sotomayor Nomination

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda and former Supreme Court law clerk, weighs in on President Obama's nomination to the Supreme Court. Speaking on MSNBC, Jenkins shares the rich experience Sonia Sotomayor can bring to the Court, and how she is a symbol of opportunity for all.

Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing the Economy

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss the economy and our new report, The State of Opportunity in America.

Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing Supreme Court Justice Picks

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss Supreme Court nominations.

Research Promoting Opportunity and Equality in America

In support of our ongoing efforts to expand opportunity in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Opportunity Agenda have published a report entitled, "Promoting Opportunity and Equality in America: A Guide to Federal Circuit Authority on Permissible Government Actions to Promote Racial and Gender Equality."

Research Fact Sheet - Ensuring Equal Opportunity in the Economic Recovery (2009)

When it comes to ensuring that the economic stimulus and recovery process promotes equal opportunity for all communities, the law is strong, but it is up to communities to uphold and enforce that law.

Research Public Opinion: State Policy Makers and Human Rights (2008)

statePolicyMakers.pngThis analysis of the interviews in California and Illinois addresses how fifty policy leaders see human rights issues at the state level.

Page Top Public Opinion Insights To Begin The New Year


Photo courtesy of Flickr/kelly88ros

By Jhanidya Bermeo 

Page Americans Still Divided and Misinformed on ACA after October Events

By Jhanidya Bermeo

Page Public Opinion Monthly - Tracking Attitudes Toward Opportunity

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

by Lisa Johns

Page Public Opinion Monthly (April 2010)

Keeping the American Dream in 2010 Alive. With or without government intervention? Public Opinion and Facts.

The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement—James Truslow Adams.

Page "Getting Job Creating Right" in Politico

"Getting job creation right," an opinion piece by Bill Lann Lee, Co-Founder of The Opportunity Agenda, and Alan Jenkins, Co-Founder and Executive Director, appeared today in Politico.

Arguing that although the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and saved many jobs, unemployment is still at its highest levels in a quarter-century and more work needs to be done. Lee and Jenkins offer three suggestions for lawmakers:

Page Promoting Health Opportunity in New York

In New York, we worked to show how health care resource decisions were impacting low-income and communities of color.  A central tool was the healthcarethatworks.org website, which shows where hospitals have closed over time in New York City.

Page Human Rights Laws and Treaties

Read our Human Rights Work and Materials

International human rights are deeply American in their history and in the values that they represent.  Read how they can help ensure opportunity for all in the United States of America. 

Blog Post Ten Headlines Tell the Tale of How Conservatives Defeated Themselves on the Shutdown

Conservative icon Grover Norquist famously voiced the right wing’s hopes and dreams for our federal government: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government,” Norquist quipped, “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Well for almost three weeks archconservatives in the House of Representatives, enabled by House Speaker John Boehner, held the federal government’s head under the water. It was the American people who, ultimately, forced Republicans to pull the plug.

Blog Post It’s Time for the Candidates to Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical to our economic recovery and future prosperity. Along with job creation, they should start with Home Opportunity—the cluster of housing, homeownership, and fair lending issues that are so central to the American promise of opportunity for all.

Blog Post Poverty, Opportunity, and the 2012 Presidential Election

 A recent forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided an in-depth discussion into the level of concern in the United States about poverty and opportunity, particularly concerning children. Spotlight on Poverty also looked at whether or not these issues will be factors in the upcoming presidential election. Overall, people believe strongly that equal opportunity for children of all races is very important; that not all children currently have full access to opportunity; and that presidential candidates’ views on poverty are very important. But, many think that neither the candidates nor the media are discussing poverty enough.

Blog Post Obama’s Wrong Note on Foreclosures

3899715321_797047dc69.jpg

As Election Day nears, President Obama is regaining his populist mojo. His State of the Union speech was mostly pitch perfect, evoking core American themes of opportunity and optimism, and calling for “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

But the President has repeatedly hit a wrong note in talking about the foreclosure crisis. Not only is his story inaccurate, but he is promoting a harmful narrative that will make it harder to fix the problem.

Blog Post Public Opinion Roundup: Equal Opportunity and Fairness

 Year after year, equal opportunity and fairness are critically important values on the minds of Americans. Surveys find a collective desire for greater economic equality, greater government involvement in employment and opportunity, and a more widespread distribution of wealth, but people don’t think that these values are reflected in the current economy.  For example, a November 2011 poll found that just over half of Americans said that a major problem in the U.S. is that “everyone does not have an equal chance in life.” The same number agreed with this statement in September 2010. More than two of three Democrats and one in two Independents agreed, but more than half of Republicans disagreed. 

 

Blog Post Heeding the Voice of the 99 Percent

OccupyWallStreet.jpg

Photo by david_shankbone

When a group of young people camped out in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street in mid-September to express their disappointment toward the way corporations have mishandled the economy, it barely made the local newspapers’ front pages. Four weeks later, and with hundreds of thousands of people joining the movement, Occupy Wall Street has captured the attention of national and international media, and it has provided a golden opportunity for lawmakers, intellectuals, unions, and President Obama to channel the participants’ efforts into their agenda.

Blog Post Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Economic Opportunity, Human Rights, and the Role of Government

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey finds that Americans are showing less pessimism about the direction of the country, and that a fundamental element that contributes to confidence in the country is economic opportunity. Additional research finds that economic opportunity and mobility is so important that a large majority believes that ensuring economic opportunity should be considered a human right.

Blog Post Social Media, Opportunity, and Time 100

EgyptFacebook.jpg

Photo by Philippe Martin

Most recently, Time magazine revealed yet another list of the world’s most influential people in the world, and this time Wael Ghonim, a Google executive from Egypt, is at the helm of this selected group thanks to his active participation during the revolts against the Hosni Mubarak regime by way of social media tools—primarily Facebook. What’s more, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made the cut for this list (his second mention in a row on this publication after being selected “Person of the Year” in 2010). Finally, Google’s CEO Larry Page was also included.

Blog Post Reclaiming Our Story

Whatever Election Day looks like this year, the day after that should be Independence Day for progressives in America.

Blog Post 30 Years of Treading Water Leaves You Awfully Tired

For those of us who can still even stomach it, the first Friday of the month—the usual day for the release of the previous month’s federal Employment Situation Summary, known informally as the jobs report—has become a fairly pathetic ritual, particularly for optimists.  We hope for some proof, any proof, that a real recovery is underway.  If jobs were shed across the board, but the unemployment rate trended lightly downward, we try to pretend that it wasn’t because still more people have pulled themselves out of the formal count by giving up looking for work entirely.  If private sector job growth and public sector job loss cancel each other out, we put on our market fundamentalist wishful thinking caps and talk about how private sector jobs are somehow more sustainable than their public sector equivalents.  And when modest job growth does occur, even when it’s below even the basic replacement rate needed to accommodate a growing workforce, well, that’s when we bring out the champagne.

Blog Post Synopsis of the DOJ's Arguments in United States v. Arizona

On Tuesday, July 6, 2010, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State of Arizona to invalidate, and stop the enforcement of, S.B. 1070 (as amended by H.B. 2162). 

Blog Post Bloomberg, Murdoch and Top CEOs Push for Immigration Reform

Joined by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Rupert Murdoch appeared on Fox News recently to discuss his support for immigration reform in America. The two are members of the recently created Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of high profile businessmen and politicians advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

Blog Post What Americans Want

Americans are known, for better of for worse, for their strong support of “capitalism” and hesitancy towards “socialism.” A recent poll by Pew Research Center confirmed this notion, although perhaps not with the intensity one would expect. When asked what their first reaction to the word “socialism” was, 59% gave a negative response and only 29% responded positively.

Blog Post Immigration Roundup: Dream Act Demonstrations Across the Nation

Three years since the U.S. Senate voted on, and rejected, the DREAM Act in 2007, young activists across the nation are creatively rallying for the Act, with the hope that this year the immigration reform act will pass.

Blog Post A Representative Sample of the People Has Spoken

While it would be unwise for any politician to govern by focus group, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll offers some support and some clear suggestions for future action for the White House.  The poll, which was conducted in early February 2010, had 1,084 respondents – certainly a small group to be determining policy for 308 million Americans – but the results do resonate. 

Blog Post Do We Need A Sesame Street Special On the Economy?

A new national poll released Friday shows that Americans are feeling more optimistic about the economy than they were in January 2010.  While this is good news, there is still work to be done.

Blog Post Bi-Weekly Public Opinion: Do we know what our government does for us?

Low awareness of role of federal agencies and Tea Party fever 

With examples from widespread frustration about tax day and the census, we can get an idea as to the confusion that many Americans have regarding the role of the government agencies and actions and their benefits and roles. According to a survey by Ipsos, 65% of American adults think that the government does not do an adequate job of communicating its agencies services and benefits.

Blog Post A Government that Reflects America's Values

According to a 2007 poll, Americans define human rights as the rights to equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, a fair criminal justice system, and freedom from torture or abuse by law enforcement. Despite the current political wrangling over how to reform it, a majority of Americans even believe that access to health care is a human right.

Blog Post A Crisis for America

Across the country, our youth – the future of our country – took to the streets today. Protestors closed college campuses and secondary schools in a national day to defend the current state of public education. With rising tuition costs, budget cuts, increased layoffs and growing class sizes, parents, students and concerned citizens are trying to get their voices heard in the education crisis.

Blog Post Do Americans Think that Government Can Become the Engine of Opportunity?

New research studies yield insights on Americans’ perceptions of government and its role in the economy, their life choices on matters such as education during the economic downturn, and their approval (or not) of the stimulus package and the direction of the economy.

Read the full analysis at Public Opinion Monthly: Tracking Attitudes toward Opportunity.
Blog Post Looking Ahead

Exactly one year ago our nation, and much of this world, was in a state of panic and turmoil. Companies and industries were shedding jobs faster than we could count. The stock market was tanking in front of our eyes. Waking up every morning to look at the headlines of the newspaper was a daunting task in fear of what a new day could bring to the American people. We needed a lifeline.

Blog Post Corporate Cash Breeds Inequality

When the founding fathers gathered to declare independence, they were responding to consolidated power in the form of the monarchy and the church.  The system that they designed to govern the United States was intentionally complex and diffuse, with checks and balances in place to prevent any single individual or group from exerting undue influence over the process.  This past Thursday, with their ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court violated these intentions, enhancing the influence of a small handful of very powerful institutions and providing them with the tools to crowd out diverse voices.

Blog Post Bi-weekly Public Opinion Roundup - Health Care, and Capitalism

As expected, there are plenty of new public opinion polls on health care and health care reform.  Though some people may already be tired of the topic, it is more important now than ever that we understand where the public stands on health care, how the trends in opinion are changing, and why.  Indirectly related to issues of healthcare is a new public opinion poll on capitalism, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Blog Post Broadcasting Opportunity

Interesting news out of Britain, as the BBC Trust issues new guidelines banning editorial content that defames human dignity. Although the move seems to confront the American ideal for freedom of speech, their efforts demonstrate the role that media leaders have in shaping public perception.

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

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

Blog Post A Voice in Society

A truly functional democracy depends on the ability of everyone to have a voice—a chance to contribute their views and perspectives, and to have them heard and respected.

That everyone be able to participate in public debate, in decisions that affect us, and to be part of the social and cultural life of that nation is essential to our ability to achieve our full potential, as individuals and together.

Blog Post Investing in Our Communities by Investing in Community Members

Our communities are more than just the physical spaces, or indeed even the relationships, that constitute them.  Rather, our communities are a reflection of the countless individual times when each and every one of us has looked beyond our parochial interests to invest time, energy, and resources into something bigger than ourselves.  Bringing food and comfort to an ailing neighbor, organizing a block party, or even stopping to pick up a single piece of litter; these are the actions that build a community. 

Blog Post Van Jones as Green Jobs Czar

Brentin Mock at The American Prospect reports on the nomination of West Coast green jobs and urban revitalization advocate Van Jones to the White House position of Green Jobs Czar. Van Jones is the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Green For All.  He is author of the New York Times Bestseller The Green Collar Economy.

Blog Post The Pentagon (Finally) Displays Some Pragmatism

Urgency has a strange way of making people more pragmatic.  In the context of a crisis, outdated prejudices become stumbling blocks and, consequently, not so deeply held.  It’s surprising, then, that it took the Pentagon so long to realize that, at a time when our military is stretched thin in two combat wars, turning applicants away from the armed forces due to immigration status was not a workable solution.

Blog Post Jared Bernstein Picked as Biden Economic Adviser

Vice President-elect, Joe Biden, has picked Jared Bernstein, founding advisory board member of The Opportunity Agenda, as his chief economic adviser.

Blog Post A Time for Sacrifice

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is getting a lot of attention for its finding that President-Elect Obama is getting a whopping 67% approval rating from the public.  But another, less noticed, finding of that poll is even more important for the Obama administration, and for the country.  When asked “would you be willing to take a five percent pay cut if it meant saving jobs at your place of work?” 64% of Americans said they would. 

Blog Post Human Rights: More American Than Apple Pie

"Human rights is not marginal to who we are; human rights defines who we are.  The United States is a country defined by human rights.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created equal’….

Blog Post A Guaranteed Right to Health: The Key to Presidential Greatness

President-elect Barack Obama has renewed our hope as Americans that the promise of opportunity is revitalized, alive and well. But in order to secure his own legacy as the first great president of the 21st Century, and one of the greats in American history, he will need a grand undertaking equivalent to Abraham Lincoln's saving of the Union or Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

Blog Post "No-Match" No Fair

Last week the Bush administration announced a renewed push to clamp down on undocumented workers.  Specifically, the rule would ask a federal judge to lift an injunction on the "no-match" rule.

The rule protects businesses from failing to respond to so-called "no match" letters sent out by the Social Security Administration stating that the number provided by an employee does not match the information in their database.  This may indicate the worker is undocumented but many are the result of clerical errors including, for example, women not updating last names after marriage.

Judge Charles R. Breyer last year warned that the plan would have "staggering" and "sever" effects on workers and businesses.  It's reasons such as this that have brought together not just traditional groups working for immigrant rights, such as the ACLU, but also the AFL-CIO, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Particularly amidst the recent sharp economic downturn, business leaders are concerned about the Bush administration's plan.  If this effort to lift the injunction against the "no-match" rule is successful, the government would ask up to 140,000 employers to check the social security numbers of 8.7 million workers.  Businesses must resolve discrepancies within 90 days or fire the workers.

Angela Amador, the Chamber's director of immigration policy is concerned about the costs of complying with this rule.  The Chamber's objections "[have] been about the cost of a badly thought out rule and the cost on legitimate businesses following all the rules and complying with it."

Groups such as the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center are concerned that the plan would lead to racial profiling, discrimination, and the firing of people based on clerical errors.  They argue the Bush administration should work instead towards fixing the flawed database.

Blog Post What's AIG got that your child doesn't?

If you've watched a news show, listened to the radio, picked up a newspaper or even just watched The Daily Show this week, you know that Wall Street is in trouble.  Years of irresponsible speculation and reckless lending policies--including the targeting of subprime mortgages in America's most vulnerable communities--have contributed to the threat of bankruptcy of some of the biggest names in banking and insurance.  Bear Sterns.  Fannie Mae.  Freddie Mac.  Lehman

Blog Post Labor Day Health Blog

In lieu of the regular Monday Health Blog Round-Up, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on our observation of Labor Day yesterday, and how the history of the holiday reflects upon our current health care crisis.

Labor Day was first conceived of in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York City, a coalition of trade unionists who later joined with the American Federation of Labor.  But it was not until twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, that Congress made Labor Day a national holiday, eventually adopted by all 50 states.  What was the catalyst for the "day off for the working man," and how is all of this related to our current health care crisis?  What follows below is a discussion of the key national values mobility, security, opportunity, and how government can (but sometimes fails to) defend the American Dream.

The catalyst, it turns out, may sound somewhat familiar.  Irresponsible speculation by banks encouraged over-development by speculators, creating an economic bubble.  When the bubble burst, thousands of businesses and hundreds of banks lost everything, resulting in a massive recession where unemployment skyrocketed and many American families wondered about how to make ends meet for the most basic of necessities.  After massive protests (some ending violently) subsumed the industrial centers of the Midwest, Congress felt a need to act, and Labor Day, in recognition of the contributions of working families, was what they came up with.

Now, Labor Day is a fine holiday; I enjoyed it myself by making a chuck roast that turned out wonderfully.  But the history that bears some worrying parallels to our current economic conditions (a downturn as result of over-speculation by banks and developers, though housing in our case rather than railroads) brings up some questions about how we view labor (with a small "l") in this country.  America is based in the core ideal that when folks work hard, not only should they be able to barely make ends meet, they should have the opportunity to advance and fully participate in the social, economic and political.  Put another way, this is the promise of Mobility, the element of the American Dream that says not only should we ensure that the lives of the next generation is better than our own, but we must make sure that our institutions allow for all of us in our own lifetimes to pursue a better life for ourselves, our families, and our community.  A poor economic environment should not be an excuse for the government to fail to stand up and protect this right; the government has, at its best moments in history, defended the American value of mobility, by creating more jobs, by helping those who have fallen on the hardest times get back on their feet, by helping communities to find new paths in new economies through government-aided infrastructure and supportive programs.

The role of the government is to appease unrest with another national holiday; it is to provide Security.  I don't mean security in the sense of having a strong national defense and valuable alliances and partners abroad, though that is important as well; this sense of security is that we, our families, and our communities are entitled, as part of the social contract of the United States, to be secure in our health, our homes, our most basic human needs that afford us our most invaluable human dignity.  And here we find the roots of the answer to the second part of my question above, as to how the history of Labor Day relates to health care.

By any measure, Congress's response to the labor protests of May 1894 was inadequate.  A holiday didn't change the fundamental inequities of the new economy; it didn't reduce unemployment (the highest estimate being 18.4%), create new jobs, or protect Americans struggling to survive despite working hard to build the new infrastructure of our country.  "The Panic of 1893" that had precipitated the events of 1894 had been preceded two decades earlier by "The Panic of 1873," and would be followed by The Great Depression of the 1930s.  In these cases, the government had seen the problem before, knew that Americans required their assistance to fulfill the dream of opportunity, security, and mobility, but failed to act.  It was only after a government that recognized the American promise to aid our neighbors and to strengthen our national community acted to create jobs and programs to assist those hardest hit to recover that the nation once again began moving in the right direction.

And so, we finally come to health care.  There is a crisis in America, only partly due to the recent bursting of the housing and real estate bubble, but a problem that has been underlying for quite some time.  Almost 46 million Americans are uninsured, and 25 million Americans are underinsured, meaning that despite having insurance policies, they don't receive the health care that they need when they need it due to insufficient coverage.  In a system where health care is tied so closely to employment, the downturn in the economy is foreboding, signaling a possible worsening of this crisis.  And yet, in some good news last week, the percentage and number of uninsured actually dropped from 2006 and 2007, from 15.8% to 15.3%, and from 47 million uninsured to 45.7 million.  The cause?

The expansion of a the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, ensuring nearly one million more children.

A government for the people is one that responds in times of need to protect our core American Values.  Now is time for Congress to defend those values not with another holiday, but with real, practical solutions to key issues such as health care.  What we need now is something much more than another day of barbecuing.

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    An article titled “Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals” appeared in the magazine section of The New York Times on Sunday.  By telling the story of Luis Alberto Jiménez, it documents the disastrous consequences that are the result of inherent failures in the American immigration and health care systems. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician’s care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.

•    Various ICE policies have been scrutinized in a number of news articles this week.  A DMI Blog posting discusses the ICE policy of neglecting to inform local police of its decision to conduct a raid in an area.  This ICE policy is carried out completely inconsistently – sometimes ICE notifies local law enforcement, sometimes it does not.  ICE conducted its recent raid in Sante Fe, New Mexico (where it took 30 undocumented immigrants into custody) without notifying Sante Fe Mayor Cross beforehand.  According to the posting, Cross was completely opposed to the raid.  He said:

“We know what the right thing to do is. We have political leadership that wants to keep us from doing [the right thing] because the division works for them. But it doesn’t work for us. And most people know that.”

ICE's notification policy is not its only inconsistent policy.  According to the Associated Press, ICE's distribution of border patrol agents is a completely political process.  The article says that many people have suggested that ICE rewards friendly Congressmen with more border patrol agents in their district:

The 60-mile San Diego sector is at the southern end of a county with roughly 3 million people…

But the sector is already heavily reinforced: Two-thirds of the border is blocked by fences or vehicle barriers. The most populous part of the boundary has nearly 10 miles of double-layer fences with stadium lights…

San Diego is represented by Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican who has been among the most outspoken proponents of increased border security and fences.

The Huffington Post has also criticized ICE for supporting the discredited Center for Immigration Studies report that says border patrol has been the main reason immigration to the U.S. has fallen.  Many researchers have shown that the failing economy is the main reason immigration has been decreasing:

The US needs a practical, fair, and reasonable solution to immigration that includes smart enforcement measures. Political theater and gimmicks won't constrict the supply or demand for immigrant labor.

In addition, The Sanctuary is reporting that the ACLU has obtained a copy of the manual that the government distributes to attorneys who defend those who are arrested in immigration raids: 

The manual contains prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights to be used by both the judges and attorneys in expediting procedures as quickly as possible with little regard for due process.

The ACLU has made the manual publicly available.

•    Postville update: Standing FIRM has linked to a Chicago Tribune story on the allegations of child labor law violations at the Agriprocessors plant.  The government has finally begun cracking down on the company for the horrific abuse of its employees:

State officials say the types of child labor violations at the plant included minors working in prohibited occupations, exceeding allowable hours for youth to work, failure to obtain work permits, exposure to hazardous chemicals and working with prohibited tools.

•    The National Center for Lesbian Rights has become involved in a case involving a gay HIV-positive Pakistani man who is seeking asylum in the U.S. on the grounds that he will be persecuted if he returns to his country of origin.  The Center filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff to the Board of Immigration Appeals:

Under Pakistani law, being gay is punishable by death and LGBT people are forced to live in secrecy and constant fear of exposure. The Immigration Judge ignored the serious risk of persecution that S.K. faces and denied his application for asylum.

•    ABC News has called attention to a recently released report on the human rights abuses that immigrants are subject to at detention centers run by private companies.  The report, conducted by the human rights group OneAmerica and the Seattle University School of Law, concludes that people held at these detention facilities, specifically one that GEO Group, Inc. runs, are routinely harassed, verbally and physically abused and subjected to poor to non-existent health care.

This is not the first time GEO has been accused of violating the rights of inmates in its care.  In 2000, when the company was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, the U.S. Department of Justice sued them over "excessive abuse and neglect" of inmates at the Jena Juvenile Justice Center in Jena, Louisiana.

Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    Department of Homeland Security officials have come out in support of a Center for Immigration Studies report that claims that border control measures are the cause of a decrease in immigration to the U.S.  However, the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at University of California, San Diego has rebutted those claims and determined that the border patrol apprehends fewer than half of the undocumented immigrants that come into the country through the Mexico/U.S. border.  According to The Huffington Post, the Center for Immigration Studies (an anti-immigrant advocacy group) and the Department of Homeland Security failed to consider reasons other than border control measures that explain why immigration to the U.S. would naturally decline:

When citing the decrease in both apprehensions at the border and remittances sent by workers in the United States to family members in Mexico, Chertoff also failed to consider the fact that undocumented immigration naturally decreases when the U.S. economy is in recession. [Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies Dr. Wayne] Cornelius' report shows that undocumented migration clearly responds to changing U.S. economic conditions, with significant decreases during economic downturns such as the one we are in now.

Moreover, Chertoff’s border control measures are completely inconsistent with the fundamentally positive effect immigration has on American communities.  Providing opportunity for immigrants has been a core value in the U.S. since its founding.  To see more immigration myths dispelled, read The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet, Immigrants and Opportunity.

•    In one of last month’s blog roundups on The State of Opportunity, a story about a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona appeared.  That same sheriff, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is in the news once again.  An editorial in The Washington Post discusses how  “Sheriff Joe” and his officers have been continuing the “policing strategy” of locking up all Hispanic people they encounter, regardless of if they have any evidence that they are undocumented immigrants or have committed any crime.  According to Arizona Central, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has had to resort to calling for a media mobilization against Arpaio:

"He (Arpaio) has become the false messiah," Gordon said. "But when the light is shined on him, people will see that he isn't helping to fight illegal immigration and he's just making the situation worse. You've got an individual with a badge and a gun who's breaking the law and abusing his authority."

We need real solutions, ones that are brought about by comprehensive immigration reform and promote opportunity for all, not a gross miscarriage of justice carried out by a rogue officer like Arpaio.

•    Thankfully, not all police officers feel the same way Arpaio does - George Gascón, a former assistant chief in the Los Angeles Police Department, has written this op-ed for The New York Times.  In it he argues that using local police officers as a means to enforce federal immigration policy will ultimately lead to the public, particularly in communities of color, distrusting the police department:

Here in Arizona, a wedge is being driven between the local police and some immigrant groups. Some law enforcement agencies are wasting limited resources in operations to appease the public’s thirst for action against illegal immigration regardless of the legal or social consequences…

If we become a nation in which the local police are the default enforcers of a failing federal immigration policy, the years of trust that police departments have built up in immigrant communities will vanish. Some minority groups may once again view police officers as armed instruments of government oppression.

•    The effects from the ICE raid in Postville are still being felt, reminding us just how detrimental this raid was to the Iowa community and America as a whole.  The Des Moines Register is reporting that the new employees at the Agriprocessors plant have had a significant, negative effect on the local community:

The impact is evident: New laborers are changing Postville. The Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant, the site of the immigration raid, once employed men and women with families. Now, its workers are mostly young, single people with no stake in the community and nothing to lose…

The rise in crime has strained Postville's tiny police department. One night in June, the calls were so numerous that police asked the local bar to close early.

A protest rally also took place in Postville last weekend – it was documented in a video, which is now available on YouTube.

Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•    In the past week, there have been numerous reports that call attention to the disparities among those living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.  The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has linked to a CBS Evening News story on the disproportionate number of African Americans that have HIV or AIDS.  According to the story, blacks account for 49% of new HIV diagnoses, 69% of AIDS cases among ages 13 to 19 and 56% of AIDS cases among ages 20-24.  Despite these high percentages, blacks only make up 13% of the population:

"No matter how you look at it through the lens of gender or sexual orientation or age or socioeconomic class or level of education or region of the country where you live, black folks bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic in this country," Phill Wilson, founder of the Black AIDS Institute, said. Wilson added that early HIV/AIDS advocates did not send the right HIV prevention and education messages to the black community. "The mischaracterization of the epidemic in the early days ... made black folks think we didn't have to pay attention to the disease," Wilson said.

•    Rates of HIV/AIDS are not only disproportionate in African American communities – The Washington Post is reporting that Hispanics represent 22% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, despite only making up 14% of the population.  While the Post notes that HIV rates are highest among blacks, it also claims it is harder to target enough resources towards Latinos, particularly those who are immigrants, who have been diagnosed with HIV:

Blacks still have the highest HIV rates in the country, but language difficulties, cultural barriers and, in many cases, issues of legal status make the threat in the Hispanic community unique. For those who arrived illegally, in particular, fear of arrest and deportation presents a daunting obstacle to seeking diagnosis and treatment.

•    On a more positive note, the Senate passed a bill that calls for a reauthorization of federal funding for a program that supports community health centers, the Deseret News reported last Tuesday.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), allows for continued support for health centers that provide affordable and quality care for many Americans, particularly  those with low income:

Hatch said that since 2001, increased funding has enabled community health centers to treat 4 million new patients in more than 750 communities across the nation. His bill reauthorizes funding for the program for five more years.

•    State governments were also discussing implementing health care measures this past week – in Massachusetts, the Council on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, chaired by State Senator Dianne Wilkerson and State Representative Byron Rushing, met on July 21 to discuss the recommendations of the Special Legislative Commission on Health Disparities.  According to A Healthy Blog, the Council discussed various successes and failures in the state's health care reform:

The presenters all pointed to the success of health care access
expansion in Massachusetts as an important step in disparities
elimination efforts, but also noted the need to continue working to
address quality, cultural competence, and social context problems.

•    According to The Health Care Blog, The Century Foundation has announced that it is creating a working group to establish a blueprint for Medicare reform.  Maggie Mehar, author of HealthBeat Blog, will direct the group and plans to review issues such as:

Revising Medicare’s physician fee schedule to pay more for primary care, palliative care, and co-ordination and management of chronic diseases.

Rethinking Medicare’s fee-for-service system to reward doctors for quality, not volume.

Creating an independent Comparative Effectiveness Institute that reviews head-to-head testing of drugs, devices, and procedures to ensure that they are effective.

Identifying and rewarding hospitals that provide better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction at a lower cost while helping other hospitals meet benchmarks.

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:

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. 

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.
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.

 

Blog Post President Bush Vetoes SCHIP, Again
  • The Huffington Post has linked to an article noting that President Bush has used the seventh veto of his administration in order to reject the revised version of a bill seeking to expand health insurance coverage for children.
  • Meanwhile, the New York state assembly is considering a plan to extend health care to all New Yorkers. The DMI Blog summarizes the proposed legislation:

In New York State, Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus
are pretty good programs. They allow participants to choose from a
variety of managed care plans that contract with the state to provide
coverage. Families making up to 150 percent of the poverty line pay no
premiums and there are no deductibles and few co-payments. Despite the
fact that people enrolled in these programs tend to be less healthy
than those enrolled in commercial plans, the premiums the state pays
are much lower and have remained virtually flat even as the cost of
private insurance has skyrocketed.

So why don’t we open these successful state program to every New Yorker, regardless of income?

That simple idea is the basis of New York Health Plus, a new universal health care proposal from Dick Gottfried, Chair of the NYS Assembly Health Committee.

Under Gottfried’s plan, any New Yorker could get free health
coverage from the state, and have their pick of the plans contracting
with the state. Everyone would also be free to opt out and keep paying
for their own private health care coverage. Businesses would no longer
have the burden of employee health care costs. The more than 2 million
uninsured New Yorkers would face no barriers to coverage. Gottfried
also argues that plans under New York Health Plus would have incentives
to offer higher quality care more preventive services, providing a
better choice for New Yorkers who already have insurance too.

  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has posted a piece entitled 'Another Slavery Report: Yawn?' which begins: "We have reported so much on slavery lately (here and here) that  we may have to give up on such reports as newsworthy." However, the Naples Daily News has just reported that a Florida family has been charged with forcibly holding 15 undocumented workers on their property and charging them for basic needs such as food and showers.  That these cases are increasingly reported on is further indication of the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Our broken immigration system is fostering abusive work situations that contradict the values of mobility, equality and security for which our nation stands.
  • The 'Just News' blog has posted another article on the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic. Advocates from the clinic have just filed complaints with the Office of Civil Rights and
    Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Texas
    Department of Protective Services in the case of an eight-year-old girl held at nearby Hutto detention center who was separated from her pregnant mother for four days. While keeping immigrant children in detention centers is a human rights violation in and of itself, removing the child from her mother went against ICE guildelines, according to the Houston Chronicle:

"ICE officials have previously said detaining families at the facility
is meant to help "children remain with parents, their best caregivers"
while they are processed for deportation. They also told the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services that parents would be at
the facility with their children and would be responsible for their
care, so state regulation wasn't needed."

 

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.

 

Blog Post Defending the Human Rights of Immigrants
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has written about a new coalition of lawyers from big firms who will work to defend the constitutional rights -- or human rights -- of all people:

According to NBC11.com,
dozens of attorneys from powerful law firms have united to create a
task force that will come to the aid of undocumented immigrants. 60
attorneys from 14 law firms have said they will face the government
head-on -- challenging the legality of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) raids. The list of law firms includes Dechert LLP, Wilson Sonsini, Skadden-Arps and Orrick, Herrington & Suttcliffe.
The legal plan called for the lawyers to vigorously defend the
constitutional rights of all people, including undocumented immigrants.
Andrew Thomases said Dechert LLP, which represents Yahoo, and the other
law firms would represent undocumented immigrants for free.

Mark Silverman is with the Immigrant Legal
Resource Center in San Francisco, which is working with the attorneys
involved in the task force. "We are not trying to make ICE's job
difficult," Silverman said. "We just want ICE to do their job by
conforming to the U.S. Constitution."

  • Similarly, the 'Just News' blog has shared a New York Times article about a new plan by the Manhattan District Attorney's office to create an 'Immigrant Affairs' program to "encourage immigrants who are crime victims or are aware of illegal
    activity to come forward without fear of arrest and deportation."
  • Latina Lista has blogged about a toy drive underway to provide some holiday cheer for the children living in the ICE detention center in Hutto, Texas. Students from the University of Texas Immigration Law clinic have organized the drive and will be delivering the toys this coming Saturday.

"We are hearing from three people affected by the ban:

  • Augustin Dussault, a Canadian barred from entering the country even to visit his husband in the hospital;
  • Lillian Mworeko, a Ugandan AIDS professional who cannot visit the US for training or conferences; and
  • Bernard Cazaban, a Frenchman who was kicked out of the US 15 years ago on the eve of getting his green card.

We will also be joined by Susannah Sirkin from Physicians for Human Rights, as well as our own Victoria Neilson.

  • The first thing that strikes you about the
    press conference is that we had to hold it by telephone, since the
    people most affected by the ban can’t be here, by definition.
    Susannah points out what a waste it is for the US to lead in global
    AIDS funding while continuing to perpetuate AIDS stigma. 'There is
    absolutely no public health interest served by imposing travel
    restrictions on people with HIV/AIDS . . . It cannot be transmitted by
    casual contact.' What year is it that we have to continue to point that
    out? These policies fuel the stigma that discourages people from
    seeking treatment . . .'
  • David and Augustin, the American/Canadian couple who now live in
    Canada because they cannot live together in the U.S., make the point
    that people from countries with national health insurance cannot by
    definition prove they have 'private health insurance,' which the new
    regs require."
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.
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.
Blog Post As Elections Near, We Need to Hear Candidates Debate Community Values
  • The Huffington Post offers an introduction to last night's CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates, noting that "people from across the country submitted more than 3,500 videos posing
    questions" to the candidates, of which 40 were selected to be broadcast during the debates.  The Opportunity Agenda was among those submitting questions, with four videos created for the purposes of promoting community values in our nation's political debate.  Mike Connery has written two posts about the debate over at Future Majority, the first offering a comprehensive summary of the event and the second publicizing the fact that CNN did not coordinate with YouTube at all in order to select the forty questions that were aired.  By single-handedly shaping the content of the debate, CNN was able to bypass the debate's original intention, that of providing a voice to a diverse group of Americans.
  • In other event news, the Heartland Presidential Form will be held this Saturday December 1 in Des Moines, Iowa, only weeks before the Iowa caucus.  Five of the Democratic presidential candidates will be in attendance at the forum, the focus of which will not be on specific issues but on progressive vision and values.  According to the website:

The Iowa Heartland Presidential Forum is part of a new nationwide Campaign for Community Values
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Center for Community
Change is - and hundreds of grassroots partner groups - are
coordinating this groundbreaking effort to challenge the "go it alone"
mentality that has dominated politics and build a new politics for the
common good.

'Tis the season for presidential politics, and with it, the debate over what values propel voters to the ballot box.

A
recent debate in Florida claimed to represent and display the interests
of so-called "values voters." The dissection of the nation's "moral
values" took up a good bit of ink following the 2004 elections. And
we're all familiar with the "family values" that guided policy
throughout the '80s and '90s. But in all this talk of values, why are
so many core American values consistently missing?

Instead of concentrating on people's individual moral decisions, or
their family life, we should focus on our collective values, the ways
we can move forward together and the policies that work toward the
common good. We need to reintroduce to the debate the ideals of
equality, opportunity and fairness. And we need to acknowledge that our
individual stories and circumstances add up to a national community
best positioned to solve our problems together. In short, we should be
talking about our community values.

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.

Blog Post The Katrina of Public Health
  • The Huffington Post published an opinion piece yesterday on health equity entitled The Katrina of Public Health. Author Jayne Lyn Stahl begins:

Some alarming, awe-inspiring, news today out of Washington, D.C., and
no, it's not Trent Lott's resignation. The results of a study, the
first of its kind, of HIV cases in the nation's capital are out, and
they show that AIDS has reached "epidemic" proportions in D.C. (WaPo)

In the five-year test period in question, ending in 2006, while
African-Americans comprise roughly 60 percent of the city's population,
they account for more than 80 percent of the more than 3,000 HIV cases
that have been identified. Ninety percent of women residents who tested
positive for the disease are African-American. And, nearly 40 percent
of reported cases were among heterosexuals showing, in the words of a
District administrator, that "HIV is everybody's disease" in D.C.

The presence of an epidemic of this magnitude so close to 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue can't help but make one wonder if federal policy,
or non-policy is at the nucleus of this health catastrophe. Yet, where
is the public outrage that a campaign of misinformation,
disinformation, or information/education blockade should claim the same
demographic casualties as that of Hurricane Katrina.

Stahl continues to cite the government policies that have contributed to DC's epidemic, public health negligence compounded by the absence of needle exchange programs in the area:

On this administration's watch, more than $100 million in grants have
been allocated for abstinence-only education programs. The president
pressured the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to eliminate,
from its Web site, anything that might promote the efficacy of using
condoms to prevent STDs, and AIDS. Roughly 90 percent of the $15
billion set aside for fighting HIV globally has been made available to
domestic groups for use in their ongoing worldwide campaign to promote
abstinence, and to discourage the use of condoms in the fight against
HIV/AIDS.

  • The Republic of T has highlighted a recent decision by Florida's Palm Beach Community College to provide health insurance coverage for employees' pets but not their domestic partners.  With the rationale that “Your pet is a member of your family — his quality of life is important to you,” the college trustees have provided employees with a 5 percent discount and
    group rates on a range of health insurance plans for their pets, covering "wellness care, vaccinations, X-rays,
    surgery and hospitalization (although pre-existing conditions may not
    be covered)." Yet in August the college opted not to extend the same affordable benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, despite the fact that it would not have cost them anything to do so.
  • Immigration News Daily discussed a new trend in which foreign consulates have begun providing health care services for immigrants in the US without medical insurance. Both the Salvador and Mexican consulates in Washington, DC are offering medical services, and are expanding the health programming around the country in collaboration with the Hispanic Institute for Blindness Prevention.
  • Immigration News Daily has also reported on a new initiative by Latino organizations in the US to register one million new Latino voters before the 2008 elections.  The coalition is hoping that current affairs such as the health care, education, the Iraq war and immigration will drive many voters to the polls for the first time.
  • Latina Lista has posted about Mexican TV network Azteca America's decision to produce and include English classes in its US programming.  The Spanish-language network does not intend to imply support for an English-only America but to recognize the benefits of a multilingual society. According to Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Fundación Azteca America and the Azteca America network:

Spanish-language television is often a first-stop and
point-of-reference for information for recently arrived immigrants. Our
community looks to us for guidance on immigration, legal changes, and
natural disasters, to name a few examples.

There’s no doubt that our community can better assimilate
themselves and increase their economic and political power with
increased linguistic skills.

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.

Blog Post WITNESS Launches 'The Hub' For Human Rights Media
  • In exciting new media news, human rights organization WITNESS has just launched The Hub, a global platform for human rights media and action or "a YouTube for human rights."  According to the website:

"The Hub is a grassroots-driven, participatory media website that
enables anyone anywhere in the world with access to the internet to
upload, share, discuss and take action around human rights-related
media and resources. Through the Hub, organizations, networks and
groups around the world are able to bring their human rights stories
and campaigns to global attention.

The Hub has three main areas: See It – where you can view and interact with human rights media uploaded by the Hub community; Share It – where you can create and join groups or discussions that coincide with your interests or expertise; and Take Action – where you can get involved to make a difference,  and activate other users around your campaigns and events.

The Hub is a project of WITNESS.
WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the
world to human rights violations. We empower people to transform
personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting
public engagement and policy change."

  • Another favorite bit of news this week is that the FBI has apparently been tracking sales of Middle Eastern food in San Francisco grocery stores in hopes that it will lead to terrorist communities. So far there have been no reports of falafel consumption leading to arrests.
  • Immigration News Daily has written about a study just released by the University of Florida which claims that news laws intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants are actually having the opposite effect.  Based on interviews with a community of Brazilian immigrants, the report has concluded that "restrictions to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States
    are having the perverse effect of encouraging those who are already
    here to stay by any means necessary." It is time for the US to abandon these policies of isolation in order to engage in comprehensive immigration reform that will create a fair and just system to provide everyone in America the opportunities needed to achieve their full potential.
  • The 'Just News' and ImmigrationProf blogs both touched upon a case in Arizona in which an undocumented high school student was found in posession of marijuana, his school called the cops who then called the border patrol, and the student's entire family was deported.  After significant protest by fellow students, "the Tucson police has changed its policy: no longer will they call the
    Border Patrol to schools or churches, though they will share
    information." In addition, immigration law  professor Kevin Johnson discusses official agency policies surrounding arrests at school:

"The Border Patrol has a policy saying that Border Patrol agents, who
work for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, must have written approval
from a supervisor before conducting any enforcement-related activity at
schools or places of worship. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—which falls under a different
branch of the U.S. Homeland Security Department than Border Patrol—has
a policy that 'arresting fugitives at schools, hospitals, or places of
worship is strongly discouraged, unless the alien poses an immediate
threat to national security or the community.'"

It's reassuring that the Tucson community has been able to bring about the procedural changes they felt were necessary to ensure that their schools will be a safe and secure learning environment.

  • Bloggernista posted about yesterday's vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed the House by a vote of 235-184.  While this vote is important and historic for its extension of fair workplace practices to lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities, Pam's House Blend guest author Autumn Sandeen has declared that she is "not celebrating" given the bill's failure to include 'real or perceived gender identity' in the list of protected identities.
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.

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.”
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.
Blog Post Human Rights and New Media in America
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has written a post featuring the new Guantánamo Testimonials Project,
    a project of
    the University of California, Davis Center for the Study of Human
    Rights in the Americas (CSHRA). The goal of the project is to collect and make available testimonies
    of detainees' experiences at Guantánamo and includes statements by "prisoners, FBI Agents, interrogators, prosecution
    and defense lawyers, military physicians, a chaplain, a marine, a CIA
    asset, and others. "
  • Yesterday saw an article in The Huffington Post entitled Dangerous Toys are a Human Rights Issue.  Author David Nassar discusses the connections between this controversial issue and a lack of protections for workers:

"These dangerous toys aren't putting just our children at risk:
they also endanger the lives of the factory workers who make them.

The
same forces that make manufacturers cut corners on paint and plastic
also make manufacturers cut corners on labor costs. Working long hours
in appalling conditions - often with toxic chemicals and no protection
- laborers in China bear the true cost of America's low price toys.
Stores like Wal-Mart demand bottom dollar costs, but the costs come
back not only to us and our children, but to entire communities
overseas. Today's news stories regarding children making clothing for
the Gap, Inc. in India's factories are another harsh reminder of that
truth.

Last week's Congressional hearing on toy safety and working
conditions in China's factories highlighted the fact that without
ensuring the safety of employees in supplier factories, it is
challenging at best to ensure the safety of the products that come out
of those factories and ultimately the safety of our children."

  • Regarding education policy, the last few days have seen discussion of high schools functioning as 'dropout factories' (with one in ten American high schools seeing less than 60% of their original class finishing school) and the importance of the federal Head Start preschool program in increasing graduation rates (while also cutting crime rates). Others have discussed new legislation to help control college costs for American youth, while high-achieving immigrants in favor of the DREAM Act have expressed worries such as "I always worried that immigration (officers) would come if I didn't excel." It is important to continue these dialogues concerning the human rights issues of where we as a nation can do better in ensuring that our young people have the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential.

Finally, the DMI Blog has posted on an innovative new media project of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, their just-launched website TheMiddleClass.org. The website is meant to function as "a dynamic site that will update throughout the year as members of Congress vote on legislation of significance to the current and aspiring middle class." Speaking of its democratizing role of holding politicians accountable to the voice of their constituents by reporting on legislation in an interactive fashion, the site says:

"For each bill, we begin with a brief description of the legislation,
information about its status in the legislative process, and an
analysis of its impact on the middle class. But themiddleclass.org also
provides more extensive context: you’ll find informative online video
about each piece of legislation, quotations from experts speaking out
on the issue, and hard-hitting numbers from DMI’s Injustice Index. We
look beyond the bill to what more could be done to address the issues
as stake. And we provide links to further resources.

We also provide information on how each member of the U.S. Senate
and House of Representatives voted on the legislation. You can look at
how every member voted on a particular bill, or how your own
representative voted. You can search for legislation by issue area or
keyword and look for legislators by name, state, or entering your zip
code. And you can check out the grades we assign each member of
Congress based on their votes."

Blog Post Spitzer Reaches Agreement with Federal Government on Licenses for Immigrants
  • After announcing his intention to provide driver's licenses without respect to immigration status, New York's Governor Spitzer reached an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to offer a tiered licensing system that will exclude licenses for undocumented immigrants from operating within the confines of the Real ID Act intended to curb terrorism, essentially ensuring that the licenses can not be used for official purposes such as identification at the airport. Angry that Spitzer's reversed decision will "push immigrants further into the shadows," a coalition of immigrants rights advocates held a protest yesterday outside the governor's New York City office.
  • Consideration of the DREAM Act in Congress seems to have had some unintended consequences on an immigrant family: Angry Asian Man reports on the recent arrest of the family of Vietnamese college graduate Tam Tran.  Tran had testified before a House subcommittee in May, urging representatives to support a path to citizenship for immigrant students, and was quoted by USA Today earlier this month.  Three days later, her parents and brother were arrested and charged "with being fugitives from
    justice, even though the Trans have been reporting to immigration
    officials annually to obtain work permits." It's unfortunate that Tran's family is paying the price for her having spoken for what she believed in, that our nation can do a better job supporting the potential of all its young people.
  • Also related to legislation introduced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Culture Kitchen notifies us of the pending Child Soldier Prevention Act, a measure to end military and other support to nations that employ children in their armed forces. According to Ishmael Beah who spoke at the University of Buffalo, "9 of the 20 countries with known child soldiers in combat have received military aid from the United States." Beah's newest work, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs Of A Boy Soldier explores the prevalent issue of child soldiers which runs contrary to basic human rights doctrines such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that decrees a secure and peaceful existence for all children.
  • The DMI Blog has written about a new program to increase graduation rates, in which high school students take college courses while finishing high school. A recent report by the  Community College Research Center (CCRC) concludes that "Students who participate in dual enrollment – or those who take
    college courses for credit while still in high school – are nearly 10
    percent more likely to pursue a bachelor’s degree." A New York Times article about the report notes that “the study…also found that low-income students benefited more from such programs than other students did” and that New York state is planning to implement the dual enrollment program. Author Maureen Lane is hopeful that implementation of the program will provide "an
    opportunity to break barriers to college for poor and low-income
    students."
  • Marian's Blog has highlighted an upcoming documentary by Martin Luther King III entitled "Poverty in America." Airing on American Life TV on November 14-15th, the documentary provides King a method of asserting his belief that "We can build a society where everyone gets a fair chance
    to succeed, despite the circumstances of their birth. That's what my
    father fought for, and that's what I'll fight for."
Blog Post A Human Right to Health
  • First up, Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Talking about A Human Right to Health, Jenkins begins:

News coverage of President Bush's recent speech
to the United Nations General Assembly has focused on his announcement
of economic and political sanctions against Myanmar. But the real news
about the president's speech is that he chose as a central theme the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
which he described as "a landmark achievement in the history of human
liberty." In particular, the president focused on Article 25 of the
Declaration, which provides in part that "everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself
and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event
of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack
of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

The president's focus on Article 25 was remarkable for at least two
reasons. First, although the United States played an important role in
crafting the Universal Declaration almost 60 years ago, our government
has, since the time of the Cold War, distanced itself from the economic
and social rights embodied in Article 25, at times denying that they
are rights at all. And second, less than two weeks after delivering the
speech, Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded the popular
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more of
America's 9 million uninsured kids.

  • On the same topic, the vote to potentially override President Bush's veto of the SCHIP legislation has been scheduled for October 18th.  In the meantime, the biggest thing happening in SCHIP news is the right-wing smear campaign against 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who assisted Democrats in delivering a radio address about the president's opposition to the bill.  After the family spoke about the big difference SCHIP has made in their lives, when Graeme and his sister were involved in a terrible car accident, conservatives have not only attempted to invalidate them by depicting them as rich kids pampered by the government, but they have posted the address and contact information of the Frost family online.  It's too bad that this family is having their major life decisions deconstructed in order to illustrate that they are not deserving of public assistance.  We're all deserving of affordable health care, and our government should be enacting policies that benefit the community as a whole rather than just private insurers.

Matthew Schwieger has a piece in the Huffington Post about 'the new class-based affirmative action.'  The New York Times has published a series of articles about new inititatives in California which are geared to increasing diversity without taking race into consideration, though that has been prohibited by the state's Proposition 209.  Schools such as Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill have similar programs in place, in an effort to rectify the "stunningly meager number of low-income students enrolled at selective colleges." Given that "nearly 85% of Americans favor preferences based on socioeconomic status," this model may be successful in increasing opportunity for underprivileged youth. In discussing the importance of a college education, Schwieger cites Columbia professor Andres Delbanco, who notes that higher education is a "primary engine of social mobility."

Columbia University Teacher's College unfortunately had a noose-hanging of its own yesterday, as rope was found in front of the office of professor Madonna Constantine, a black psychologist and educator known for her contributions on addressing racism.  Too Sense has written an insightful post discussing whether or not people were surprised by the incident, arguing that "the idea that somehow the graduate school would be exempt from issues of race when it lies on the fault line between gentrifying Harlem and the Upper West Side is really hopelessly naive."  Author dnA continues:

"Surprise is really a failure to accept our own role in allowing racism
to continue by ignoring it, or believing it can simply be erased by
time or proximity, rather than asking hard questions both about
ourselves and the world around us."

  • In a post on Racialicious last Friday, Latoya Peterson does actually take the time to unpack her thoughts on gentrification in Washington, DC.  Defining gentrification as the premeditated process of displacing poor women and people of color by the raising of rents, the piece quotes a USA Today article which claims that the city's residents will be primarily white by 2015. Peterson further acknowledges her own hesitance to settle in an area with less amenities and security, courageously admitting that "as much as I may disagree with gentrification on principle, I complicity agree with it by my neighborhood selection practices." She does, however, offer us the example of progressive housing policies in her native Montgomery County that "require developers to include
    affordable housing in any new residential developments that they
    construct" in order to create socioeconomically mixed
    neighborhoods and schools.  Such policies are commendable for their support of the value of community, the idea that the strength of our nation lies in our diversity.
Blog Post On Immigration and SCHIP
  • Immigration Equality notified us of today's hearing in the House Immigration Subcommittee on health conditions in ICE detention centers.  Following recent deaths in the centers, the organization spoke and asked questions about the treatment of HIV-positive and LGBT detainees, who are often held without medicine and other necessary support by prison corporations who have no accountability for the lives of the detained.
  • An Arizona Appeals Court has ruled that it is legal to hold immigrants without bail.  At issue was Arizona's new Proposition 100, which mandates that undocumented immigrants charged with felonies are not eligible for bail.  Despite the contention that the measure denies the constitutional right of due process to those immigrants being held, the court upheld the legislation, arguing that its intention is to ensure that defendents are present for their trials.
  • Immigration raids are intensifying to the point that 1327 people were apprehended in Los Angeles in the past two weeks.  Although the ICE agents were on a hunt for immigrants with criminal records or those who had been previously deported, 146 of the arrests were "collateral" in that people were encountered in the process of the raids who were not able to prove their legal status.
  • CNN has just reported on a sailor in the US Navy whose wife is facing deportation proceedings.  Eduardo Gonzalez's story is a wrenching one, another narrative of families torn apart, even families who have made significant personal sacrifices for the good of our country. Latina Lista has written a great post questioning the "experts" that CNN has interviewed in their article.  Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, is quoted by CNN as saying:

"What you're talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that's just outrageous," he said. "What we're talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. ... There's no justification for that kind of policy."

Author Treviño complains that the CNN article is "a perfect vehicle for Krikorian to deliver to a wide audience his brand of immigration reform," continuing,

For CNN and other news media, there must be more vigilance exercised in using and quoting sources when writing articles about featuring immigration issues. The use of Krikorian as an "expert" and others like him, just because they may be associated with an organization with the term "immigration" in its title, misleads the public into thinking that what is being presented are factual statements devoid of influence.

Unfortunately, the average public who are busy with their lives and don't take the time to really analyze what they read or hear, absorb the information — and repeat it. The overriding fallacy that exists among people is that if it is printed or broadcast, a story must be true.

This is a great illustration of the need to examine mainstream (and all) media for bias and the frames at use. Because many Americans don't consume the news media with a critical lens, it is crucial that we continue to counter Krikorian's depiction of disrespect for an ever-changing body of law, along with unfair access to what he views as limited resources, essentially the privileges that many Americans have been granted.  We can change the terms of the immigration debate to reflect the human right to mobility, migration in order to maximize our potential, be it geographic or related to social class.  We're all familiar with the 'rags to riches' paradigm; it's one our most prized American narratives.  Like Gonzalez and his wife and son, many immigrants have risked coming to US because they hope to succeed.

And, finally, there has been a ton of impassioned discussion about President Bush's veto of the SCHIP legislation on funding for children's health care.  Here's a selection:

Blog Post Bush Vetoes, Spitzer Sues over Children's Health
  • This just in: President Bush has indeed vetoed the SCHIP legislation that recently passed through Congress seeking to expand funding for children's health care.  While the Senate had passed the bill with enough of a margin to override a veto, the House fell short. Representatives will be reconsidering their votes as our nation continutes to reflect on the values of individualism or community support. These values have tangible effects on the health of millions of children.
  • Yesterday, New York's Governor Eliot Sptizer announced that he is filing suit against the Bush administration over its new eligibility rules for children insured through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  The new guidelines refuse federal funding for states to insure children whose parents earn more than 250% of the povery line, which will force some states to cancel the enrollment of children already in the program. A number of states are on board with Spitzer, including New Hampshire, and New Jersey has filed a similar suit. Spitzer has posted his argument on the Huffington Post, saying of Bush's casual commentary that everyone has access to health care in the emergency room that "this politics of 'not my problem'...has led to the health crisis we have today."
  • Also on the SCHIP debate, Families USA has just released a new ad campaign entitled "Bush vs. Kids," showing a series of children talking about how nice and sweet they think the president is, overlayed with text about how Bush is doing his best to cut health care for 10 million children.

  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has gotten a lot of media attention lately, between the launch of his new memoir and an interview on CBS '60 Minutes.'  The only African American member of the Supreme Court, Thomas has been controversial for his opposition to affirmative action policies and other progressive social reforms as well as his alleged sexual harassment of former employee Anita Hill.  Blogger Keith Boykin refers to Thomas as the "most dangerous black man in America," not dangerous to white America but to African Americans for his "record of disregard for the poor and minorities."
  • A federal judge in San Francisco again extended the ban against the mailing of the "no-match" letters by the Social Security administration.  President Bush and the Department of Homeland Security have mandated that employers receiving the 141,000 letters about discrencies in 8.7 million worker records sort out the mismatches within 90 days, fire their employees, or risk prosecution for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. The judge has indicated that he is disinclined to allow the letters to be sent, arguing that known inaccuracies in the federal database would cause irreparable harm to American businesses and to workers.
  • As the 2010 census approaches, people are beginning to discuss its effects on and the effects of undocumented immigrants.  On one hand, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stated that it has no intention of discontinuing raids during the census in the interest of obtaining more accurate records.  More recently, the there has been talk on the issue of whether or not to include undocumented workers in the count as it affects the reallotment of representation in the US House of Representatives.  Different states would gain or lose a voice in each case, although the means of defining how many are undocumented will likely be challenging given immigrants' general fear and distrust of government officials.
  • Lastly, Culture Kitchen has published a thought-provoking piece entitled Why I Hate Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from September 15th through October 15th. Latina blogger Liza outlines her dislike of the word 'hispanic' and the way it leads people to make unfounded assumptions about the history, culture and linguistic background of Latin Americans.
Blog Post 'Sanctuary' Challenged in Illinois, While Senate Considers FEC Nominee
  • In the ongoing dilemma surrounding 'sanctuary cities', the Department of Homeland Security is now suing the state of Illinois over a new state law that bans employers from using the Social Security administration's no-match database until the agency can certify that it is 99% accurate.  The Bush administration contends that the state law preempts the new federal law meant to increase pressure on undocumented workers.
  • Regarding the progress of SCHIP reauthorization, the bill has passed in the House, but without the margin necessary to override a veto by President Bush.  It will next move on to the Senate for consideration.  Blogger Lane Hudson on the Huffington Post has referred to SCHIP legislation as a "defining issue that neither side can afford to lose." If the program is not reauthorized, 6 million children already enrolled will lose health insurance coverage.
  • Facing South reports that the Supreme Court has announced that they will consider a case on the constitutionality of lethal injection in Tennessee.  The ruling could problematize the 'three-drug cocktail' that thirty-seven US states use to administer the death penalty, on grounds that improper administration of anaesthesia could result in an excruciatingly painful death. We hope that the Supreme Court considers the American value of redemption in their analysis of the process of lethal injection. If nothing else, it is helpful to reiterate judicial support for the constitutional ban against 'cruel and unusual punishment.'
  • An appeals court also ruled yesterday to overturn a lower ruling which prevented holding military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the New York Times, "the ruling allows military prosecutors to address a legal flaw that had ground the prosecutions to a halt."  There are some 340 detainees waiting an indefinite period to exercise their right to a fair trial.
  • Finally, big news today is the Senate committee hearing on the confirmation of Hans Von Spakovsky, who has been nominated as chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  A coalition of civil rights groups such as Think Progress are vehemently opposed to the nominee, is said to have “used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.” We trust that the committee will remember how important it is that all American voters have a voice in electing our governing officials.
Blog Post The Battle Over SCHIP Continues
  • There has been a lot of heated discussion in blogs such as Ezra Klein and the HealthLawProf about the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, or SCHIP.  Congress is working to reauthorize the program before it expires on September 30, and after much deliberation the Senate and House have finally agreed upon a bill.  President Bush has been threatening to veto the program, however, on grounds that he thinks people will choose to be dependent on government assistance rather than obtain private insurance.  Bush's self-sufficiency frame provides us with the opposite of the progressive "it takes a village" mentality, wherein it is our task as a nation to care for the weaker members of our community. Many progressives are also questioning an imbalance of priorities which leads us to invest much more in weaponry than in the health of America's children.
  • In an astounding case of irrational and excessive force by Customs and Border agents, preeminent musicologist Nalini Ghuman was denied entry to the US last year on her way back to California, where she is a university professor at Mills College in Oakland.  A British citizen of Welsh and Indian parents with a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, Ghuman had her passport and valid visa torn up and has not been allowed to return since.  According to Ivan Katz:

Matters are made even worse -- if possible -- by the inadequate response of the United States government to the appalling treatment of Professor Ghuman. University professors and presidents can get no answer. Senators can get no answer. Our own embassy in London cannot get answers. National security, don't you know. The embassy in London seems to have concluded that this mess was the result of "mistaken identity" but no one in Washington will 'fess up to the error', and until that happens "nothing can be done."

The appalling treatment of Professor Ghuman takes the immigration debate well above questions of legality.  The border agents should be investigated thoroughly for denying Ghuman the opportunity to return to her job based solely upon their xenophobic impression of a person of color. And we should all examine the ways in which our society continues to discriminate against groups of people based on false prejudice. 

  • As two further examples of racial discrimination, the DMI Blog wrote about a study just released that indicates that white convicts are just as likely to be hired as blacks without criminal records.  That's a pretty alarming summary. Second, the Huffington Post cites a study which shows that black students in New Jersey are 60 times more likely to be expelled for behavioral issues than white students, while in Minnesota, black students are six times more likely than white students to be suspended for the same.  While it may seem that isolated episodes of unfair hiring or punishment (or any scuffle at the border) may not be so tied in with the big picture of racial (in)equality, that is just not the case.  In human rights discourse, however, we all deserve health care, we all deserve gainful employment, and we all deserve schooling and justice. Any barriers to the success of all should be broken down.
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.

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

For your entertainment, two videos on immigration:

  • As posted by Immigration Equality,
    Bill O’Reilly mouths off to Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven
    on the issues of immigration and opportunity. Tiven argues for the right for members of gay and lesbian couples to
    sponsor their partners who are citizens of foreign countries, just as straight couples do.
  • Struggle Within posts a music video as a response to the
    Supreme Court schools’ decision, explaining the inequalities people of color
    face when the government hinders their educational rights.
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."
Blog Post Without Prejudice: Entirely too much prejudice?
  • Racialicious reports on a new game, “Without Prejudice”, in which five
    judges must decide which contestant deserves a $25,000 prize. Hosted by psychotherapist Robi Ludwig and
    working with partners like GLAAD and National Council of La Raza, “Without
    Prejudice” asks the five contestants to be honest about their lives and the
    judges must narrow down these contestants based on any reason. The show hope to teach viewers about prejudice, and the affiliated website features a number of educational resources on the subject.  There are also discussion guides for starting
    conversations about prejudice. After the
    pilot episode premiered last night, The New York Times reports that the show is
    anything but “without prejudice": each participant seems to have his own biases
    that are hard to miss. Check it out for
    yourself on Tuesdays on the GSN.

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

    Our view:

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

Timecover_2

  • Huffington Post offers side-by-side assessments of the U.S.
    Presidential Candidates’ health plans in easy-to-read charts.
  • As a new progressive blog opens its doors, Jack and Jill
    Politics
    ask some pertinent questions about race and religion in the
    blogosphere, and how blogggers who cover these topics can become more
    influential online and even make up for the shortcomings of "the Old
    Left.” Quoting eteraz’s Open Left Diary,
    Jack and Jill posts “The ultimate question is: race-conscious or race-blind;
    religion-conscious or religion-blind (referring only to those communities whose
    religion is already politicized); focus on under-represented people via
    minority-rights or economic-rights.”
  • To add to our previous posting on opinions following the Supreme Court schools decision, here are two more op-eds. NNPA Columnist George Curry reflects on the gains (or lack thereof) this country has made in desegregation since the 1954 Brown decision. Curry explains that this Supreme Court decision is just the latest in reversals of desegregation efforts.
  • Ron Walters takes Curry’s points one step farther in this Louisiana Weekly column, stating that the country has now returned to the
    “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.
Blog Post Repercussions in States' Immigration Bills/June Report Card for New Orleans
  • As the immigration debate moves from a Federal to a
    states-based forum, different outlets are investigating the impact of various state-level bills. ‘Just News’ blog
    reports on the effects of new legislature in Arizona and Georgia. An article from the Arizona Republic
    interviews undocumented immigrants after the governor signed a bill recognized
    as the “toughest of its kind in the country” which could put companies out of
    business for hiring them. Many
    immigrants are considering migrating to another state, leaving behind labor
    shortages and housing market problems. An article on Governing.com describes the effects of Georgia’s new
    immigration law which force state and local government agencies to verify the
    legal residency of benefit employees.  It’s
    too soon to tell what such migration will do to these states enacting harsher
    laws. What is clear is that when the Federal government avoids creating a definite nation-wide policy, the differences in states' laws will likely cause many unforeseen problems in the economy.
  • The Center for Social Inclusion released their monthly “New
    Orleans Recovery Report Card” for June
    (pdf), an advocacy tool for monitoring
    rebuilding progress, assigns a grade for the 13 New Orleans planning districts
    based on performance in five categories: economy, utilities, health, housing,
    and public education. June’s report card continues the trend with not much improvement, especially in the categories of
    health and public education, both of which receiving grades of “F” overall.

                    Other details include:

    • As of this Report Card, 33% of childcare facilities have reopened in New Orleans, with six new childcare facilities reopening in June. The Lower 9th Ward, Venetian Islands, and New Aurora/English Turn still have no child care.
    • A report by PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, shows
      the Gulf Opportunity Zone Rental Housing Restoration Program, a $2 billion
      piece of the failed Road Home Program, will only replace 40% of the 82,000
      rental units damaged or destroyed in the 2005 hurricane season.
    • In a long-awaited flood-risk assessment for New Orleans, the federal government said the
      City is better prepared than before Katrina, but would still face severe
      flooding in the case of a 100-year storm or a major hurricane. Katrina was a
      400-year storm.

 


                    Check out
Blog Post From commercials to detention reform: Immigration from All Sides
  • DMI Blog reports on a new support
    campaign for immigration, Long Island WINS, seeking to elucidate the shared
    interests of immigrants and middle class Long Islanders. Last week, they launched a multitude of
    intriguing T.V. commercials explaining the economic and cultural contributions
    immigrants make to the island.  These ads
    highlight the important message that immigrants only want what everyone in the
    country wants: the opportunity to pursue the American Dream and participate
    fully in our society. Immigrants
    revitalize communities like these Long Island ones by reviving commerce and provided needed products, in addition to tax and
    net contributions. For example,
    immigrants in California gave an estimated $4.5 billion in state taxes and an additional $30 billion in federal taxes in 1999-2000.
  • Immigrants in the USA Blog
    emphasizes a main idea of the Long Island WINS campaign: everyone benefits from
    working together. This Democrat & Chronicle story highlights
    the triumphs of the Rochester City School District in graduating many seniors who struggled
    with language barriers and cultural disparities. The school helps the students in the
    63-language population by providing resources like teachers with specialized
    language skills and connecting parents with community agencies. These success stories demonstrate the
    importance of providing immigrants with an adequate integration strategy.  Funding for adult basic education and English
    classes has not kept pace with the growing demand
    , and such resources are vital
    to proper integration.
  • ‘Just News’
    reports on a New York Times article continuing this conversation about the high
    rate of immigrants dying in custody after being detained. Because no government body is charged with documenting deaths in immigrant detention, the details and extent of the
    sub par conditions are hard to find. Latina Lista references the same article in explaining how immigrant
    detention is the fastest growing form of incarceration in the United States.  For example, over 27,000 immigrants are
    detained on any given day in almost 200 prison-like facilities all over the
    country.
  • Happening-here blog explains some effective ways to counter anti-immigration ways to frame an argument. The blog proposed fighting for a human
    security state (where the government fights for our freedom rather than
    constricting our rights), working toward all forms of racial equity, and
    encouraging globalization in understanding the ways in which we can all provide
    important resources for each other. An
    important facet of the immigration struggle is highlighting the ways in which
    all groups can benefit from fair immigrant rights. For more information about this shared
    interest, check out this article.
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/20/07: Part 2
  • Firedoglake reports on Dreams Across America train which we've posted about before here and
    here
    . The Dreams Across America train
    represents the melting pot of cultures America holds. Over the next week or so, we're going to feature some of our favorite "Dreamers" and exhibit their videos here on our site.  Our first featured dreamer is Yun Sook Kim Navarre,
    born in South Korea but
    adopted by a Detroit family. Yun Sook recognizes the strength of America's diversity and discusses her desire for better rights and less discrimination for her young daughter.
  • Pro Inmigrant reports on the controversial usage of the word
    “amnesty” for the immigration legislation, claiming that opponents of the bill
    use the word like a weapon. Pro
    Inmigrant points out the fallacy of calling this program “amnesty,” and urges
    all politicians to focus on a better compromise – and better wording.  We suggest "Pathway to Citizenship".
  • Racialicious reports on the Center for Migrant Rights, a
    small non-profit based in Mexico, and its efforts to educate Mexican workers about US labor laws, government agencies and
    previous civil rights struggles. Providing free legal aid to guest workers seeking compensation for
    injuries or missed pay, the Center started these workshops as a preventive
    effort in Mexico, as many workers in America are hard to reach because of fear of authorities. Many guest workers do not know the extent of
    their rights in the workforce, and much legislation aims at taking away rights
    they deserve. Among others, the 1996
    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
    barred many
    documented and undocumented immigrants from basic federal programs that provide
    economic security.
  • The Connecticut newspaper,
    The Advocate, reports on the lack of progress in racially integrating Hartford and suburban
    schools. A review conducted by
    researchers at Trinity College shows that magnet schools have not attracted as
    many white suburban children into the city, resulting in only 9 percent of
    Hartford’s students (primarily black and Hispanic) attend schools that have
    enough white students to qualify as “racially integrated.” Following approval by the court and General
    Assembly, the state plans to spend millions of dollars over the next five years
    to subsidize programs that would foster immigration, like magnet and charter
    schools. This review is timely in light
    of the Supreme Court decision on school integration cases in Louisville and Seattle expected
    any day. Nationwide, the NAACP (pdf) found that nearly
    three-quarters of black and Latino students attend predominantly minority
    schools, and most white students attend schools where only one out of five
    students are from different racial groups. Without proper community programs, the already increasing levels of
    segregation will continue to rise, creating more barriers between us and failing to prepare our children to work in an increasingly diverse workforce and world.
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/11/07

We wanted to first give a shoutout to Racialicious, which is fast becoming one of our favorite blogs for their great reporting and abundance of good links to reporting on issues of racial justice.

  • Immigrants in the USA Blog reports on the Board of
    Alderman’s Connecticut decision
    to administer identification cards for undocumented
    workers in New Haven. The cards were issued primarily to allow undocumented workers to open bank accounts, as current habits of carrying
    large sums of money on their person make undocumented workers targets for crime.  The decision to help protect undocumented workers is a positive step taken that underlines the empathy needed by government officials to help
    undocumented workers succeed in society. Too often, their plight is overlooked, but with creative solutions such
    as this one, all people will be given the opportunity to prosper.
  • Racialicious reports on a recent George Washington
    University School of Medicine study
    showing that white children were more likely than children of color to be admitted to a hospital for medical conditions that could be
    treated at home, highlighting yet again that disparities exist not only in access to care, but in the quality of care that one receives based on one's race.
  • NytimesincomeThe New York Times featured an interesting reflection on the
    wealth inequalities and increasing gap between the rich and poor. Counter to many economists’ predictions, the amount of wealth going to the rich and super rich is increasing at an unprecedented rate. According to the Congressional Budget
    Office’s dat
    a, in 2004, while households in the lowest quintile of the country
    were making 2 percent more than they were in 1979, the top quartile had increased their income by
    63%. These figures parallel the State of Opportunity in America study (pdf), which also adds that much of the discrepancies can be explained by race.  White households gained more in real income
    than African-American and Hispanic households between 1974 to 2004.
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.
Blog Post Revisiting The President’s Budget

Early last week, Mike blogged about the President’s budget. In particular, we saw that the budget endangered the sustainability and success of public health care programs like SCHIP and Medicaid. Families USA has created some more specific analyses of the proposed budget’s impact on these programs. They offer very straightforward notes on the proposed expenditures and expected savings. Check them out if you have trouble speaking “budgetese” like I do.

A story in today’s Washington Post shows just how crucial an adequate budget is. Not only is it imperative that SCHIP receives enough money to continue covering kids, but the program also needs the funds now. In just a few weeks, families across the country could lose the resources to keep their kids healthy due to budget shortfalls.

“The situation is most severe in Georgia, where officials plan to stop enrolling kids in the state's PeachCare program starting March 11 because of a $131 million shortage.”

Georgia isn’t alone:

“An Associated Press survey found that at least 14 states could face a shortfall of children's health insurance funds before the next federal fiscal year begins in October.


Besides Georgia, the other states are Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Alaska.”

If we’re honestly aiming for shared responsibility, particularly when it comes to health care, then the government and our elected leaders need to hold up their share. Parents are upholding their share by enrolling and seeking care for their children. State governments are upholding their share by being flexible and expanding the program as they see fit. I think SCHIP is a success in part because it allows state governments to adjust the program to respond to their constituents. A budget that limits the states’ authority to do so (as the President’s budget proposes) will only hurt more families. A congress that doesn’t act quickly on the budget will do the same. Who isn’t taking responsibility for their share now?

Blog Post Remembering Japanese Internment

Sixty-five years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the wartime removal and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans.  This single act has had endless ramifications on the lives of Japanese-Americans and is undeniably one of the worst chapters in American history.

In the decades leading up to World War II, there was a good deal of institutionalized discrimination against Japanese people in the United States. Japanese immigrants could not legally naturalize.  Children born in the US were granted citizenship, but immigrants themselves were unable to become citizens. Further, the ability of Japanese immigrants (non-citizens) to own property in the US was revoked entirely.  It had been legal, previously.

When the Japanese military forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, pandemonium and fear broke loose.  American media coverage painted the Japanese to be a threat of unprecedented scale, quoting blatantly racist remarks by military leaders such as the assertion that the Japanese were going to 'overtake' the West Coast with help from the local Japanese population. The US was also at war with Germany and Italy, but somehow only the Japanese were thought to be a danger to national security.

On February 19, 1942, FDR ordered that everyone of Japanese descent living on the West Coast be 'evacuated.' These 110,000 people were given a certain number of days to liquidate their possessions, which essentially meant selling everything they owned, land included, to their non-Japanese neighbors for dirt-cheap prices.  Once transferred to the camps, many families occupied what were formerly horse stables, a frightening gauge of the dehumanization to which they were subjected.

When the camps were finally closed in 1944, evacuees were sent home with three items: train fare, $25 each, and a pamphlet advising them on how to readjust to society. Many families have never recovered the economic gains they had made before the war. Much of what they had put into storage before heading to the camps was long gone. There were a good number of college-educated Japanese professionals in the camps, who had an extraordinarily difficult time finding employment after their stays in the camps. Similarly, Japanese students struggled to be admitted to universities.  Many went eastward for greater opportunities

While the US government made an official apology for its actions in the 1980s, its attempts at reparations have been insufficient compared to the damage done to so many of its own citizens and their families.

While it is true that no one was tortured or killed in the 'internment camps' (not to be confused with 'concentration camps'), it’s worth a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with this situation in mind. While the UDHR was adopted in 1948, after the camps opened and closed, it has become a standard reference point for assessing human rights violations – and it provides a clear illustration of how many basic human rights were violated by the incarceration order.

For further resources, see NAATA’s educational website.

Blog Post Government: Providing the Boots to Bootstrappers Everywhere

Comedian Al Franken announced his candidacy for the  United States Senate yesterday (like all new candidates) via a YouTube video.  Whatever you may think about the Air America host and x-Saturday Night Live writer, you can't argue with his language.  Franken's announcement is an embodiment of the power of the Opportunity Frame  over the conservative frame of individual responsibility.

This comes through most vividly when Franken is describing his wife's family's climb out of poverty, and how government programs such as Social Security Survivor Benefits and Pell Grants gave them the tools they needed to lift themselves up. 

Best quote:

Conservatives say that people need to lift themselves up by their bootstraps, and I agree.  That's a great idea.  But first you've got to have the boots.  And the government gave my wife's family the boots.  That's what progressives like me believe the government is there for.

It's very reminiscent of the messages we produced during the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  Government is there to help provide the basic tools that we need to secure opportunity for ourselves and our families.  To provide the resources to start over when misfortune befalls us.  It's a great message, grounded in our notion of America as a land of opportunity, where everyone has a fair chance to succeed, and its a great speech by Franken.  You can watch the whole speech below.

Syndicate content