We share responsiblity for each other, and the strength of our nation depends on the vibrancy and cohesiveness of our diverse population.  With a strong sense of community, we understand that opportunity is not only about personal success but about our seccess as a people.

Type Title Datesort icon
Blog Post Partner News: National Recognition for our Fellows and the Creative Change Network

Add a Peabody and a Knight Cities Challenge Award to the ever-growing list of honors received by members of the Creative Change network!

May 24 2016
Blog Post Looking Back, Looking Forward, and Seeing Hope

On April 18, more than 200 friends of The Opportunity Agenda came together at the Creative Change Awards to reconnect, laugh, reflect, learn, celebrate, conspire, and get down.

They walked away with new ideas and a renewed sense of possibility (and with their very own racism decoder rings and copies of Greg Jobin-Leeds and AgitArte’s incredible new book, When We Fight We Win). The event marked a decade of accomplishments for The Opportunity Agenda, and provided a window into the organization’s vision for the next 10 years.

Apr 26 2016
Page Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

May 29 2015
Blog Post Maternal Roots of Social Justice


I’ve been thinking about writing about faith and social justice for a while now, because I believe there’s a strong connection for many, because it is both the entry point and the sustainer of interest for many, and because I’m impatient with the “claiming” of faith by conservatives. This is not that blog post, however.


In thinking about that topic, I’ve come to the realization that my belief in social justice has an even more basic source - my mother. My mother’s reply to plaintive wails of “That’s not fair!” was simple and complicated - “What are you going to do about it?”

May 10 2015
Blog Post Baltimore - So Much More than The Wire

This guest post was co-authored by Debby Goldberg, Vice-President for Housing Policy & Special Projects at the National Fair Housing Alliance and Eva-Marie Malone, Economic Opportunity Coordinator at The Opportunity Agenda.

We all want and deserve to live in diverse, thriving communities in which our opportunities are not circumscribed by our zip code. “About a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate in zip code 21217, where the riots broke out on Monday, was 19.1% in 2011.” The unemployment rate in Roland Park, a suburban area of Baltimore, was 5.2%. Communities built on values of equality and opportunity would be the realization of the American Dream in which we all believe.

May 1 2015
Blog Post September 11, 2011


Photo by dennoit

On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the time is right to consider how we have changed as a country and how we remain the same.  It is a widely-accepted truism that we were all changed after the terrorist attacks in Washington, DC, New York, and Pennsylvania. However, even though some made use of the fear and heated emotions following the attacks to suppress human and civil rights, our bedrock principles endure, and in fact, flourish.

Sep 9 2011
Blog Post Building Community Through Equitable Access To Financial Services, Part 1: Banking In Immigrant Communities


Photo by The Urban Snapper

I worked for several years as a Sous Chef at a well known Brooklyn restaurant. During the Black Out of 2003, three of the porters (from the Mexican state of Michoacán) stayed well into the night to help clean and put perishables on ice by candle light. Toward the wee hours, as we wrapped up, I offered to write them checks for all their help, but they didn’t have bank accounts. I was new to the city, and balked at how a person could function without a checking account. But they were not alone. Ensuring fair access to financial services for immigrants - including depository banking and loan lending (in particular mortgage lending) - is key not only to our economic recovery, but also to the well-being and stability of all of our communities. Limiting or discouraging access to mainstream banking services hurts all communities regardless of income.

Jun 20 2011
Blog Post Just How Unequal is the U.S.? We Have No Idea

The last three and a half decades have seen a disturbing increase in inequality in the U.S.  The wealthiest Americans have made significant income and wealth gains, while the rest of us have treaded water at best.  And yet, as our national dream of economic security and mobility dies, we don’t even care enough to offer a eulogy.  As Willy Loman’s wife reminded us, “Attention must be paid.”

Sep 27 2010
Blog Post As Goes Cordoba House Goes America

The edges are fraying.  While xenophobia is nothing new in American life, the use of particularly rancorous and fear-inspiring rhetoric by prominent spokespeople, affiliated with mainstream institutions that have real power to shape our dialogue, is surely on the rise, and ideas that were once whispered (or grumbled under the breath, perhaps after one too many drinks) are becoming increasingly mainstream.  These ideas not only demean us all, but they are also one of the surest harbingers of those dark events in our nation’s history—the Red Scare, the Chinese Exclusion and Geary Acts, Executive Order 9066—that most fundamentally undermine our founding values.  

Aug 17 2010
Blog Post A Victory in Arizona

Instead of enforcement-only quick fixes, what we need are real workable solutions that reflect our national commitment to fair and dignified treatment, and that bring our country together.

Jul 29 2010
Blog Post What is a Recovery Without Widespread Job Growth?

At a time like this, even modest, and potentially temporary, declines in the unemployment rate deserve a round of applause.  Well, unless the decline in the unemployment rate only brings it back to where it was for the first three months of the year.  And unless the rate remains significantly higher for people who had been stranded furthest from opportunity even before the recession.  So, maybe a golf clap?

Jun 8 2010
Blog Post The Story of American Communities

A few staff members from The Opportunity Agenda headed down to the Center for Community Change headquarters at the end of last week, to help prepare for the Reform Immigration for America march.   What we saw, and participated in, was a stirring affirmation of the power of collective action, and a powerful reminder of what participatory democracy means.

Mar 26 2010
Blog Post Women Hold Up Half the Sky

In light of International Women’s Day and the 54th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, on Tuesday, March 9th, the Urban Agenda’s Human Rights Project, The National Council on Research for Women and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership joined together with The Opportunity Agenda to hold a side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Mar 12 2010
Blog Post Bi- Weekly Opinion Roundup: The Progressive Millennials and Inter- Generational Conflict

Talking about my generation, a recent survey set out to track the opinions, values, and habits of the millennial generation. Born between 1980 and 1998, this generation is more diverse, educated, progressive and less religious than the generations preceding it. Racial minorities make up 39% of Millennials, aged 18-29 (more, but similar to Generation X).

Mar 12 2010
Blog Post The Damaging Effects of Inequality

Belief in opportunity is a bedrock American value. The lure of the hope that your circumstances will be dictated by your ability and your effort is the primary motivation that brings people from the rest of the world to our shores. Central to a belief in opportunity is the ideal of equality – the thought that we all begin from the same starting line.

Feb 8 2010
Blog Post Small Banks, Big Impact

President Obama faced a remarkable political challenge in his recent State of the Union.  Beset on all sides—by populists on the left and right who are highly suspicious of him and all of institutional Washington, by an economy that can produce GDP growth but not jobs, by an increasing consensus that he has failed to connect his legislative priorities to core values since the election—he succeeded in, if nothing else, reminding us of the energy and passion that helped him build a network of committed volunteers, grassroots campaign staff, and small dollar donors.  In the speech he offered a litany of new financial policy prescriptions, including one—rolling $30 billion of TARP funds that big banks have already repaid into smaller, local banks—that has not garnered many headlines, but which represents an affirmation of the critical role that our communities play in our economic vibrancy.  

Feb 2 2010
Blog Post Cold Times in New York Town

The coldest, most bitter part of winter is upon us.  Even those of us with a warm home and a proper coat have good reason to fear that truly awful type of wind, the kind that cuts through the skin and chills to the bone. And, for those among us without, this is the time of year when life becomes a struggle for very survival.

Jan 12 2010
Blog Post Two Recessions, Two Americas

Although official unemployment in New York City is 10.1 percent, a closer look reveals an underlying complexity to the story. Rates of unemployment vary greatly across the city.

Jan 8 2010
Blog Post Pricing Students Out of School

The University of California's Regents recently announced plans to raise undergraduate fees, the functional equivalent of tuition, an eye-popping 32% for the upcoming school year.  While desperate times do call for desperate measures—and these are indeed desperate times for California’s budget—erecting economic obstacles to educational achievement will only hurt the state in the long-run.  California became a leader in high-tech industries like software and semi-conductors by fostering the type of innovation that only comes from providing economic opportunity for all, and it can doom itself to long-term economic obsolescence by making higher education a luxury good.

Nov 21 2009
Blog Post Blog Action Day: Climate Change

Today is blog Action Day. In the organizers' own words:

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.

Oct 15 2009
Communications Talking Points: African Americans and Immigration (2009)

This memo lays out recent research with African American audiences and offers ideas about talking with them about immigration reform. However, it should be noted that while there do exist some strategies for talking effectively to African American audiences in particular, the key strategy should be to stay with the overall campaign narrative of workable solutions, values, and moving forward with urgency and leadership.

Oct 1 2009
Blog Post Racial Profiling in Immigration Policy: Built into the System by 287(g)

After the arrest of respected African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., which sparked a renewed debate about racial profiling, we should remember that racial profiling is still a common occurrence appearing in different forms and without media attention. Often, even in clear instances of discrimination, not much is done about racial profiling in America.

Aug 5 2009
Blog Post Flint, MI: A Bastion of Community Values

 As the American economy claws its way back from the edge of a cliff, Michigan serves as a powerful example of just how bad things are in some places, and, indeed, how bad they could get for the rest of the country.  The state continues to have the highest unemployment of any state, and, while the auto bailouts appear to have prevented the wholesale collapse of the industry, there is no question that American automakers will cease to exist if they do not thoroughly reform themselves, which would send the state’s unemployment rate still higher.   And yet, in Flint, a city at the center of the storm, where more than a third of residents live in poverty, citizens refuse to give up on their community.

Aug 4 2009
Blog Post Immigrants Cut From Massachusetts Universal Health Care Plan

In a time of rising economic uncertainty, Massachusetts is moving away from its attempts to provide health care for all. The new state budget eliminates coverage for approximately 30,000 legal immigrants in an attempt to help close a budget deficit.

This is a mistake.

Jul 24 2009
Communications Talking Points: A Winning Narrative on Immigration (2009)

This memo offers communications advice on building support for commonsense immigration reform and other policies that integrate immigrants into U.S. society.  It is rooted in both experience and recent research conducted by The Opportunity Agenda and others.

Jun 18 2009
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.

Jun 18 2009
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's roundup covers the national Reform Immigration for America Campaign Summit, the United American Families act, a ruling reversal, and state news.

Jun 4 2009
Blog Post The Simpsons: Keeping the Border to Springfield Open

There's no television show more quintessentially American than The Simpsons. During it's twenty year long run, the show has become a mainstay of American life. A prism on our society, The Simpsons has tackled one topical issue after another and despite its superficial appearance as having lax values, many would argue otherwise. The show has even spawned several books about its religious themes.

May 20 2009
Blog Post The Aftermath in Postville

One year after the raid on a meatpacking plant netting 389 undocumented workers in Postville, Iowa, the town is dying. The plant, Agriprocessors has filed for bankruptcy, the town nears bankruptcy, and the population has declined by half.

Once a bustling small town, with two main streets, the town is trying to cope with the loss of hundreds of residents. Town revenue is down and businesses have been hit hard. Most have closed.

May 15 2009
Blog Post NY Times' David Brooks on why Republicans Need Community Values

The New York Times' right-leaning columnist David Brooks had an interesting take yesterday on why Republicans need to reconnect with the value of Community.  Read the original article at nytimes.com.

May 6 2009
Research Report: Identifying and Evaluating Equity Provisions in State Health Care Reform (2008)

This report seeks to identify state policies that promote equitable health care access and quality and to evaluate existing laws, regulations, or reform proposals in five states—Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California. 

May 1 2009
Communications Toolkit: Talking About American Opportunity (2006)

TOOLKITTOUTHOME_0.JPGThis toolkit represents the best thinking about how to use the Opportunity Frame from the communications professionals at the SPIN Project, the leaders of The Opportunity Agenda, other communications professionals engaged in defining the Opportunity Frame, and grassroots leaders from across the country working on critically important issues. 

May 1 2009
Law and Policy Report: State Courts and Human Rights (2008 Edition)

humanRightsStateCourts.pngSince the last version of this report was released in 2007, state court decisions utilizing and interpreting international human rights law have increased in both number and depth of consideration.

May 1 2009
Communications Talking Points: Talking Immigration and Economics (2009)

When addressing immigration in the current economic climate, it is clear that advocates need to support arguments with facts. It’s equally clear, however, that facts will only go so far. Research shows that people are often most motivated by their values—and if data don’t support their deeply held beliefs, audiences will reject them.  So we need to shape conversations with values, and then support our arguments with the best data available. This memo sets forth some ideas about how to do this when it comes to opportunity and inclusion for immigrants.

Apr 20 2009
Research Report: Dangerous and Unlawful: Why Our Health Care System is Failing New York Communities and How to Fix It (2007)

dangerousUnlawful.pngThis report offers new and crucial information to the Governor and the Legislature as they consider what steps to take to ensure access to quality health care for everyone in the State.

Apr 15 2009
Communications Talking Points: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

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

Apr 15 2009
Blog Post A Community-Minded Generation

Much has been made of the vitality that President Obama brings to the White House.  To be sure, this is in part the story of his relative youth—only Clinton, Grant, Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt were younger when assuming the office—but it’s also a function of his ability to convince the millennial generation (or vocalize the millennial generation’s belief) that their voices matter.  Given the size and scope of the challenges facing our nation, we need young people to see the stake that they have in their communities.    

Apr 14 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This is the 2009 State of Opportunity report.  Here you may download the final report, the final report with accompanying charts, a synopsis, and each of the indicators individually.

Read more about the report here.


Apr 1 2009
Communications Talking Points: The Role of Immigrants in Economic Recovery (2009)

This memo sets forth themes and ideas on talking about immigration during the current economic downturn.

Mar 31 2009
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. 

Mar 31 2009
Blog Post An Uneven Journey

Earlier this year, I visited my father, who lives in the Bay Area. As we drove from the Oakland airport, the conversation quickly turned to the Obama presidency. Born in 1923, my dad survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, endured vicious Jim Crow segregation and violence, participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and, this year, witnessed the inauguration of an African-American president of the United States.

Mar 24 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Update (2007)

This is the 2007 update to the State of Opportunity report.  There are two files, the full chart of indicators and a summary.


Mar 15 2009
Blog Post Healthy San Francisco Clears Another Hurdle

Access to quality health care isn't something that affects us as individuals; it impacts us as families, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  Health care is fundamental to the well-being of us as persons and equally fundamental to the well-being of communities, cities, states and the country.  It was with this understanding that the City and County of San Francisco undertook a bold and audacious effort to ensure that everyone in the City By The Bay has not just the promise of health care in the form of insurance, but actual, delivered health care.

Mar 11 2009
Blog Post When Will This Winter End?

As winter fights to make its last stand, I can't help but think of the tens of thousands of Americans sleeping this night with no shelter.  In our benchmark study on public opinion and domestic human rights (2007), you could see it in the stars, that America was in favor of a change that lifted us all up closer toward opportunity for all.  Even though a large majority of Americans were for expanding human rights (67%), issues like housing still ranked low (51%) compared to that of equal opportunity regardless of race, or quality education.  Yet having a roof over your head is

Feb 26 2009
Blog Post Change Brings Change

One of the things I love most about New York City is the eclectic range of subway musicians playing or singing their heart out for a quarter here, a quarter there.

Feb 18 2009
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.

Feb 17 2009
Blog Post A Presidents' Day Reflection On Something The Last Guy Did Right

You may have already seen C-SPAN's Survey of Presidential Leadership, released today in honor of Presidents' Day. If you have, you know that the last White House occupant, George W. Bush, did not fare very well amongst the 65 historians surveyed, coming in at number 36, making him the 7th worst president in the participants' estimation.

Feb 16 2009
Research Report: State of Opportunity (2006)

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

Feb 15 2009
Blog Post The State of Opportunity in America (2009) Released

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to announce the release of our 2009 State of Opportunity in America report. The report documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here, and finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality.

Feb 1 2009
Research Public Opinion and Media Analysis: English Language Acquisition Programs and Children of Immigrants (2008)

publicDiscourseImmigration.pngThe report examines public opinion and media coverage of two issues deeply tied to the immigrant experience, English language acquisition and the children of immigrants. The willingness of immigrants to learn English is of great interest to the public, and we have identified some openings to promote pro

Jan 29 2009
Research Fact Sheet: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast Region: Expanding Opportunity for All (2006)

This fact sheet reviews threats to opportunity in the Gulf Coast region and the nation. It also draws upon a range of research and reporting on pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina conditions to distill some key lessons from the storm.

Jan 27 2009
Research Fact Sheet: Voting and Political Expression in the Gulf (2006)

This fact sheet summarizes research on the political participation of vulnerable Gulf Coast communities after Katrina, as well as national trends in electoral participation.

Jan 27 2009
Research Fact Sheet: A Role for Government in Protecting Opportunity (2006)

This fact sheet reviews the history of disinvestment in FEMA and offers recommendations for rebuilding our national infrastructure for safety and opportunity.

Jan 27 2009
Research Fact Sheet: The State of Opportunity for Workers Restoring the Gulf (2006)

This fact sheet focuses on opportunity barriers related to employment, wages, and contracting, and highlights workplace policies that can expand opportunity for all.  

Jan 27 2009
Research Fact Sheet: Welcoming Katrina’s Victims Back Home (2006)

This fact sheet reviews evidence of housing-opportunity barriers both prior to and after the storm, and summarizes some effective policies to reduce these barriers and expand opportunity.

Jan 27 2009
Research Fact Sheet: Opportunity for Health Security Among Katrina’s Victims (2006)

This fact sheet examines the state of health care in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region prior to and after Hurricane Katrina.

Jan 27 2009
Communications Media Tool: Five Ways to Promote Community Values in Your State (2008)

During an election year, how can you promote your issue with limited resources?  This sheet offers simple ways to promote the concept of community values, but you can use it to think about how to promote a variety of causes and issues. 

Jan 15 2009
Page Mapping Social Justice

More information on our mapping projects, Health Care That Works, and Map4Change.

Dec 19 2008
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.

Dec 19 2008
Communications Toolkit: Community Values (2008)

commValuesToolkit.pngThis publication contains a balance of historical context, framing advice, resources, practical tools and strategies for moving toward a new political conversation.  

Dec 10 2008
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’….

Dec 10 2008
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.


Dec 1 2008
Research Media Analysis: Immigration On-The-Air (2008)

onTheAir.pngThe Opportunity Agenda commissioned a media analysis of broadcast news and talk radio, a gap in our previous scans which focused only on print media.

Nov 15 2008
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.

Nov 6 2008
Blog Post How Not to Blow It

It's hard to overstate the transformative moment that we're in as a nation and, particularly, as progressives. In just a few years, we've gone from the high point of conservative power to a stunning rejection of conservative federal leadership and the historic election of a progressive African-American president.

But the electoral sea change is just part of the extraordinary national moment. The financial meltdown and slide toward deep recession have crystallized Americans' anger over deteriorating economic security, stagnant mobility, growing inequality, and policies of isolation instead of connection. Americans are ready for a new social compact and a transformed relationship between the people and our government. They are calling for a new era of big ideas and different values than we've seen over most of the past three decades.

The electorate has shown an unprecedented willingness to overcome racial and ethnic barriers to take on daunting shared challenges. Young people, people of color, and low-income people turned out to register and vote in unprecedented numbers that bode well for a far more participatory and egalitarian democracy going forward.

Even before this year's remarkable events, opinion research showed a historic, progressive shift in Americans' views on issues that (not coincidentally) were barely mentioned in the election. Perhaps most striking is the shift on criminal justice and problems of addiction, where the U.S. public has moved broadly to support rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and retribution, as well as assistance and integration for people emerging from prison.

But an unprecedented opportunity for progressive values and ideas is not the same as victory for a progressive social and policy vision. The stark challenges of rising inequality, faltering security, and broken systems of health care, immigration, and criminal justice are the same on November 5 as they were on November 4. What's changed is only the chance for transformative change.

History shows that progressives could easily blow this opportunity, just as conservatives blew their transformative moments after the 1994 elections and the attacks of September 11, 2001. A few principles can help progressives move from opportunity to realization in ways that profoundly benefit our country.

Nov 5 2008
Blog Post The Great Change

The sound of change still lingers amidst the towering skyscrapers along Michigan Ave and Adams Street.  And as the wind blows words around like confetti, lifting them up with every gust coming in off the Great Lake, tired and weary travelers stir from only a few hours sleep and breathe in the air of change.  And as President-Elect Barack Obama wakes with his family, and ponders the task set before him, one thing stands clear on this day after Election Day 2008--that is: America reclaimed it's vision of opportunity.   

Nov 5 2008
Research Media Analysis: Immigration Coverage in Chinese-Language Newspapers (2008)

chineseLanguageNewspapers.pngThis report focuses on Chinese print media in the United States.

Nov 1 2008
Blog Post Framing to Win: Health Care is "a Right for Every American"

Are we "consuming" health care or realizing our "rights?"  The American public is ready for a new conversation; in fact, the conversation has already begun.  Are you speaking the right language to be a part of this new discussion?

Oct 8 2008
Blog Post The Promise of Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

To read the full article, click here.

Sep 23 2008
Blog Post Announcing "New Progressive Voices"

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to help announce, on behalf of the Progressive Ideas Network, the release of a new collection of essays outlining a new long-term vision for America.

"New Progressive Voices: Values and Policy for the 21st Century" brings together leaders from a wide array of organizations, of different backgrounds, to present a bold, progressive agenda for America's future.  Integral to the project is a commitment, not to just presenting a new direction, but also realistic approaches to solving our collective problems.

From the collection's introduction:

In recent decades, progressivism has faltered. It was conservatives who developed and moved the big ideas, while progressives triangulated, tweaked, and tinkered. Since the 1960s, progressives have been running on the fumes of the New Deal and Great Society, confining themselves largely to narrow issue silos and poll-tested phrases and positions. Content to play defense in many of the major political battles of the day, they have all too often been cowed into submission by the vitality and confidence of the other side.

Now that is changing. Instead of obsessing about what we are against, progressives have begun to think about what we're for -- to prepare once again to play our role as agents of bold ideas and political and social transformation. Finding new confidence and imagination, we have begun to renew our intellectual capital. The essays in this volume draw on that new store of capital to sketch the outlines of a progressive agenda for 21st-century America.

Our own Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, contributed an essay to the collection.  You can read "The Promise of Opportunity" here.

Sep 18 2008
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

Sep 17 2008
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.

Sep 2 2008
Research Media and Public Opinion Analysis: African Americans on Immigration (2007)

This report examines African American public opinion about immigration, and immigration coverage in African American media.

Sep 1 2008
Research Media Analysis: Immigration in Spanish Speaking and Hispanic Media (2007)

This report analyzes Spanish speaking and Hispanic media coverage of immigration issues.

Aug 15 2008
Blog Post The Ramifications of Tax Shelters for America

Our friends at the American News Project have posted a video on the usage of tax shelters by the super-rich.  "Super-Rich Tax Cheats" shines a spotlight on the $1.5 trillion currently estimated to be hidden off-shore from the IRS by the very wealthiest of Americans. 

Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) estimates the resulting lost tax revenue at approximately $100 billion.  The video puts this number into context by showing what the government spends on other programs.  This is more than the federal government spends on education and training ($89.9 billion).  It's triple what is spent on the environment and natural resources ($33.1 billion) and almost five times more than what we spend on temporary assistance for needy families, or TANF ($20.9).

Besides looking simply at people clearly breaking the law, the video also has a short segment with Warren Buffet, one of the world's wealthiest men, arguing for tax fairness.  This is key if our nation is to be stronger and we are to truly come together as a community.

You can watch the video at the Huffington Post.

Aug 7 2008
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.

Jul 31 2008
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a ground breaking executive order requiring all city agencies to provide language assistance services for people who speak Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian or French Creole.  According to The New York Times, this is the first time that all New York City agencies will be forced to follow the same standard in providing translation and language interpretation services to people who do not speak English:

Immigrant advocates and city officials say it is the most comprehensive order of its kind in the country. The mayor refused to be specific about how much the services will cost, saying only that it was a “relatively small” amount given the size of the city’s budget. He added: “This executive order will make our city more accessible, while helping us become the most inclusive municipal government in the nation.”

The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet Immigration Reform: Promoting Opportunity for All details the need for immigrants to have access to language assistance services in order to achieve their full potential. In providing immigrant groups with this access, Mayor Bloomberg has taken the entire city forward and empowered communities throughout New York.

•     Politicians have also been busy down in Washington, D.C. working to provide language assistance for immigrant families across the United States.  At noon today, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congressman Mike Honda are introducing the “Strengthening Communities through Education and Integration Act of 2008.” In addition to providing English language literacy and civics education to immigrant families who are in the process of becoming citizens, the bill:

will help immigrant communities become a more integral part of the American fabric and maximize their social and economic contributions.

Legislation like this is crucial to aiding immigrants on their way to becoming U.S. citizens, and is a necessary part of treating immigrants like full and equal members of our community.

•    The aftermath of the ICE raids in Postville, Houston, and most recently Rhode Island, is still being felt in communities across America.  However, a Washington Post article describes how it is not only workers and their families feeling this strife – now, it is employers as well:

The crackdown's relatively high costs and limited results are also fueling criticism. In an economy with more than 6 million companies and 8 million unauthorized workers, the corporate enforcement effort is still dwarfed by the high-profile raids that have sentenced thousands of illegal immigrants to prison time and deportation.

•    A story in the MetroWest Daily News calls attention to a local organization in Massachusetts, the MetroWest Immigrant Worker Center, that is defending the rights of immigrant workers in the U.S.  Immigrant workers are routinely subject to labor law violations, including the denial of compensation and overtime, as well as unnecessary injuries on job sites.  In addition, the article points out that all immigrants, including undocumented ones, have worker rights:

Contrary to what many people think, illegal workers have rights. Although in the country illegally, those who work are entitled to be paid for their labor and overtime. If they are injured on the job, they are eligible for workers' compensation coverage, said [Diego] Low, [director of the MetroWest Immigrant Worker Center] who has been advocating for immigrant workers' rights for the last 25 years.

•    A DMI Blog posting points to an extremely upsetting Associated Press report of a beating in a Pennsylvania town that left a 25 year old Mexican immigrant named Luis Ramirez dead.   

Hate crime or not, the killing has exposed long-simmering tensions in Shenandoah, a blue-collar town of 5,000 about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia that has a growing number of Hispanic residents drawn by jobs in factories and farm fields.

Jul 24 2008
Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

•    The New York Times is reporting that a recent study of the American health care system, conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, has found that while the U.S. has the most expensive health system in the world, the quality it delivers is grossly inferior to other industrialized nations’ health care.  The report highlighted the fact that many of the improvements made in the U.S. health care system over the years, such as decreasing the number of preventable deaths, dwarfed in comparison to the greater achievements other countries made:

Other countries worked hard to improve, according to the Commonwealth Fund researchers. Britain, for example, focused on steps like improving the performance of individual hospitals that had been the least successful in treating heart disease. The success is related to “really making a government priority to get top-quality care,” [Karen] Davis, [president of the Commonwealth Fund] said.

The report also emphasized the inefficiencies in the U.S. health care system and the role they play in diminishing quality:

The administrative costs of the medical insurance system consume much more of the current health care dollar, about 7.5 percent, than in other countries…

Bringing those administrative costs down to the level of 5 percent or so as in Germany and Switzerland, where private insurers play a significant role, would save an estimated $50 billion a year in the United States, Ms. Davis said.

•    An article in Friday’s Washington Post discusses the potential that community health providers have to save states millions of dollars in health care costs by shifting some of their health programs’ emphasis to preventing illness.  A recent Trust for America’s Health report found that nonprofit community programs could have an enormous role in developing health initiatives such as anti-smoking laws, healthy eating and physical activity programs.  However, despite the fact that many of these programs target at risk groups in impoverished areas, they face a serious lack of funding:

The researchers found that many such programs lack funding, a chronic problem for many preventive health initiatives.

"People think preventive health care pays off 20 or 30 years from now, but this shows you get the money back almost immediately, and then the savings grow bigger and bigger," [Senator Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] said.

To learn more about the importance of community health programs, please see the previous posting on The State of Opportunity titled Local Progress in Tackling Health Disparities.

•    An opinion piece in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune calls attention to the health disparities among women with HIV.  Black women have higher rates of HIV, despite the fact that studies have shown that they do not engage in “risky sex” any more than white women do:

A black woman in a poor neighborhood, for example, who engages in the lowest levels of risky behavior is dramatically more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease than higher-risk women in communities with low rates of infection, according to public health experts…

In short, who you are, and where you live and, consequently, the sexual partners you choose, matters when it comes to HIV prevention.

Jul 21 2008
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    “The Shame of Postville, Iowa,” an editorial in Sunday’s New York Times, calls attention to an essay written by Erik Camayd-Freixas.  Mr. Camayd-Freixas is a professor and court interpreter who witnessed the aftermath of last month’s ICE raid on the Postville community.  He was disgusted when he saw the injustice in the legal system that the workers were subjected to; instead of being deported immediately, over 260 workers were charged with serious identity fraud crimes and sentenced to 6 months in prison:

What is worse, Dr. Camayd-Freixas wrote, is that the system was clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt. He said the court-appointed lawyers had little time in the raids’ hectic aftermath to meet with the workers, many of whom ended up waiving their rights and seemed not to understand the complicated charges against them.

The editorial also added:

No one is denying that the workers were on the wrong side of the law. But there is a profound difference between stealing people’s identities to rob them of money and property, and using false papers to merely get a job. It is a distinction that the Bush administration, goaded by immigration extremists, has willfully ignored. Deporting unauthorized workers is one thing; sending desperate breadwinners to prison, and their families deeper into poverty, is another.

•    Following the allegations of Guantanamo Bay-like treatment at ICE facilities, the Seattle Times has an article detailing numerous stories of abuse at an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington.  The stories are part of a 65-page Seattle University Law School report titled "Voices From Detention".  Detainees claim that they are routinely subjected to physical and verbal abuse, strip searches and manipulation:

The report's authors said conditions are consistent with those at detention centers across the country. They are calling on Congress to pass laws that protect the rights of detainees…

Detainees in the study say they were pressured to sign documents or asked to sign paperwork they didn't understand, a practice their attorneys say often leads to their unwitting deportation…

The report said one woman, after an attorney's visit, was strip-searched and told to open her legs while a female guard peeped into her private parts.

To learn more about detainee treatment at ICE facilities, see this posting on The State of Opportunity.

•    Even after weeks of people discussing the horrific effects of the Postville and Houston raids, ICE has done it again – according to The Providence Journal, ICE agents arrested dozens of maintenance workers in a raid of Rhode Island court houses on Tuesday:

The raid led to
a noisy demonstration by at least 100 people outside the Immigration
and Customs Enforcement office at 200 Dyer St. last night. Police
officers arrived as the crowd grew; at one point the police pushed a
line of demonstrators across the parking lot.

For a full summary of the stories on the Rhode Island ICE raid, go to the Citizen Orange Pro-Migrant Sanctuary Sphere posting.

•    The New York Times is also reporting that many immigrants in New York City, most of them Latino, face being disenfranchised in the November election because the federal government is taking so long to fully process their citizenship applications:

At stake are the applications of at least 55,000 people in the New York City area who have been waiting at least six months — and as long as four years — for their documents to be processed, the lawyers said.

Jul 17 2008
Blog Post Lack of Basic Care Leads to Death at Brooklyn Hospital

On June 18, 49-year-old Esmin Green was admitted to the Kings County Hospital Center psychiatric ward.  After waiting to be seen for 24 hours, she fell to the floor, began to convulse and then passed out.  Two security guards and one doctor walked into the waiting room, looked at her and then walked away.  After one hour, a nurse finally came over, kicked Ms. Green, and then proceeded to get a stretcher.  Shortly afterwards, Ms. Green was pronounced dead.  The entire incident was documented on a security camera, and is now on YouTube, thanks to the Associated Press.

Hospital officials said they fired three of the workers and suspended another three, the New York Times reported on July 7.  However, it is clear that Ms. Greene’s death is far from an isolated incident at Kings County Hospital.  The New York Civil Liberties Union, in conjunction with Mental Hygiene Legal Service and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, filed suit against the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (the agency that runs Kings County Hospital) in May 2007.  The plaintiffs claimed that patients at the hospital’s psychiatric facilities were subject to conditions of squalor and filth, as well as abuse by hospital employees.  A summary of the case can be found on the NYCLU website

Jul 16 2008
Blog Post Health Blog Roundup

Last Thursday, the American Medical Association issued an official apology for its past racism toward African American patients and physicians.  Along with the apology were the findings of a study conducted by the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, a group that the AMA and the National Medical Association (an organization representing black physicians) co-chair.  The study has found that between 1846 and the 1960s, the AMA's past transgressions included

substandard care for black patients or segregated them to black hospitals; a lack of support for black physicians and for the Civil Rights Act; and exclusion of blacks from medical schools, hospital staffs and residency programs.

The apology can be found here, and the study is available in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association. To learn more about the work of the Commission to End Health Care Disparities, go to the AMA website.

It is also worth noting that a number of doctors were opposed to the AMA's discriminatory policies in the 1960s.  A group of physicians picketed the AMA convention in Atlantic City in 1963 in order to call attention to the AMA's racist acts.  Among these physicians was Dr. Robert Smith, a leader of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Mississippi (MCHR).  The MCHR grew out of the Medical Committee for Civil Rights, and organized a number of volunteers to come down to Mississippi to provide care to black patients who were not being treated in their communities:

Though MCHR volunteers were not licensed to practice professionally in Mississippi, they could offer emergency first-aid anywhere and anytime to civil rights workers, community activists, and summer volunteers. Working without pay, they cared for wounded protesters and victims of police and Klan violence, assisted the ill, visited jailed demonstrators, and provided a medical presence in Black communities, some of which had never seen a doctor. They established and staffed health information and pre-natal programs in many Black communities. Appalled at the separate and unequal care provided to Blacks by Mississippi's segregated system, they soon involved themselves in political struggles to open up and improve Mississippi's health care system for all.

The Health Care Blog has a posting that discusses My Health Direct, the web-based solution to overcrowding in emergency departments.  The idea of My Health Direct is for hospitals to use an online appointment system to re-route their Medicaid and uninsured patients to community and safety-net clinics.  According to the blog posting, the program has been successful in increasing patients' access to primary care and improving the quality of care and treatment outcomes for those patients:

More than 12,000 health appointments have been made with the vast majority of these appointments for patients who are uninsured or enrolled in a Medicaid managed care plan. These appointments were made for patients who either presented for care with a non-emergent condition, or needed follow-up care in a primary care setting.

A utilization review of My Health Directs impact demonstrated that more than 92% of patients who received an appointment did not present to the ED again. Patients who obtained appointments were more than 4 times more likely to actually attend their appointment compared to previous referral efforts from the ED. Lastly, there was a 25% reduction in repeat non-emergent visits of those patients assisted by My Health Direct.

A recent Health Beat blog posting titled "The Realities of Rural Medicine" discusses the unequal access to health care for people who live in rural areas.  The study on rural health care, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change, found that both patients and doctors feel significant strain in living in communities that do not have enough primary care options.

The Washington Post is reporting that Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry is trying to limit the prevalence of fast food restaurants in South Central Los Angeles by placing a moratorium on new fast food locations in the area.  Perry is a representative for District 9, an overwhelmingly African American and Latino constituency that has significant health disparities in comparison to the wealthier West L.A. area:

Perry quoted research showing that although 16 percent of restaurants in prosperous West L.A. serve fast food, they account for 45 percent in South L.A. Experts see an obvious link to a health department study that found that 29 percent of South-Central children are obese, compared with 23 percent county-wide.

Jul 15 2008
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    Detention Watch Network has created a new interactive map that is now accessible on their website.  The map is a comprehensive tracking system that allows users to view the locations of detention centers, community organizations, ICE offices and immigration courts across the United States.

•    A T Don Hutto Blog posting discusses the recent American Immigration Lawyers Association position paper on alternatives to detention for immigrants.  The paper, which argues that the Department of Homeland Security should shift its focus from raids and electronic monitoring of immigrant populations to community-based, non-restrictive measures, can be accessed here.

•    Some updates on recent ICE raids: a posting on Standing FIRM links to a New York Times report that two Agriprocessor employers have been arrested.  Their arrests were connected to last month’s ICE raid in Postville, Iowa; they were the first non “rank and file” workers to be targeted. Scott Frotman, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, pointed out that the arrest of these supervisors does not show the full extent of the company’s violations of workers rights:

What about the allegations of worker abuse? Does anyone really believe that these low-level supervisors acted alone without the knowledge, or even the direction, of the Rubashkins and other senior management?

In addition, the same Times story is reporting that last week five senior managers at Action Rags USA were arrested.  Their arrests are connected to the ICE raid on the Houston Plant in late June. 

•    In response to these recent government crackdowns on employers of illegal immigrants, business owners have begun to speak out in opposition to tough anti-immigration measures.  A July 6 article that appeared in the New York Times claims that employers have begun fighting the government policies in state and local courts:

Business groups have resisted measures that would revoke the licenses of employers of illegal immigrants. They are proposing alternatives that would revise federal rules for verifying the identity documents of new hires and would expand programs to bring legal immigrant laborers.

•    A story that appeared in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle discusses the positive results of the city’s 1989 immigration sanctuary law.  The law bars local officials, including police officers, from questioning residents about their immigration status.  The Chronicle also points out that San Francisco is not alone in enacting sanctuary measures:

San Francisco is among scores of cities in California and around the country with sanctuary laws, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Several states also have such policies.

A recent posting on The State of Opportunity also called attention to a California superior court decision upholding the Los Angeles Police Department’s of neither arresting people based on their immigration status nor asking about one’s immigration status during interviews. 

Jul 10 2008
Blog Post Lifting up the 4th of July

Fireworks on the 4th of July always make me cry.  I'm not afraid to say it.  There's something about it, all the senses are activated as an idea--what once was the dream of a few revolutionaries--plays itself out in vivid colors and explosive bursts right before you.

This year, my wife and I planted ourselves on the stone path between Pier 17 and Pier 11, right in front of one of the Macy's barges, lucking out that this year they decided to move them further down the East River, making the end of Wall Street a perfect location to watch the fireworks.  What made the event more impressive was the rich diversity that surrounded us, reminding me why New York City is such a special place to experience the 4th of July. 

For many of the families around us, America was as new as it was for Abigail Adams and her family, as she watched the cannon balls fly over Boston Harbor while her husband was away.  Opportunity and freedom were new on the horizon, like the flash of powder ignited in the distance seconds before the sky explodes with life.  Hearing families share their excitement in Korean, Russian, French, Spanish and Mandarin seemed fitting, as we all huddled along the Manhattan shoreline between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of liberty.  The 4th of July is full of traditions, and I think I've found a new place to celebrate for years to come.      

Another great thing I gravitated toward this weekend was the new web site, 1,000 Voices Archive a project of the Creative Council.  This web site is a perfect mirror into the American experience, presenting videos of Americans who have been touched by communities.  It's a wonderful snapshot into the diversity of our nation, both in ethnicity and experience.  Strongly recommend it for those looking to continue celebrating this holiday weekend.  It gives a real feel of America and has a bunch of engaging tools that allow us to become involved in the America that is more than ideas and fire works.

Jul 6 2008
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•     The Kentucky Post has reported on the status of the case where the federal government prosecuted a landlord for renting apartments to illegal immigrants.  The jury found in favor of the defendant, whom the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund represented, and agreed with his argument that he did not intentionally harbor undocumented immigrants.  Immigration News Daily also reported on the case and claimed: 

The case is thought to be the first time that the government has prosecuted a landlord merely for renting to illegal immigrants.

•    The DMI Blog posting titled, “Immigration Raids Tend to Spare Employers,” questions why employers are so rarely arrested during ICE raids:

Even though Department of Homeland Security talks big about cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, federal officials explain that is easier to prove that an immigrant is here illegally than it is to build a case against the employer.

According to ICE, that it is tougher to build a criminal case proving that an employer knowingly hired an undocumented than to prove that an immigrant is here illegally.

The ICE policy of not arresting employers is somewhat ironic in the context of many federal government methods of enforcing immigration laws, and represents a striking contrast to the government's decision to prosecute the landlord in Kentucky.

•    In the past weeks, there have been a number of YouTube videos showing the effects of the ICE raid on Postville, Iowa.  One video, shown in a New American Media posting, depicts the struggles that families in the community are having in the aftermath of the raid. 

•    Standing FIRM has posted a video clip  of a story on the June 28 protest in Houston, Texas.  The protest was a response to the recent ICE raid on a plant called Action Rags USA.  Another Standing FIRM posting offers numerous details about the raid:

…agents arrested 166 of the 186 employees. ICE released 73 people who had medical problems or were sole care providers. Another 20 were released by cause they either were here legally or were born here... [Of] the remain[ing] 73 who are detained, 70 of them are women, so only 3 of them are men.

•    Citizen Orange has posted a hilarious YouTube video, courtesy of "Capitol Hill Gangsta."  Capital Hill Gangsta (aka Ray William Johnson, a college student in New York and YouTube video commentator) uses the video to dispel a number of myths about immigrants in the United States.

•    According to Monday's New York Sun, New York City Mayor Bloomberg has reinforced his pro-immigration stance by claiming that America is "committing mass suicide" by restricting immigration into the country.  According to The Sun, Bloomberg said:

There are people around the world who want to come and create here and
add jobs and excitement and innovation, and we're keeping them in
Canada and in Europe and Asia and not letting them here...

Jul 3 2008
Video Video: Brian Talks About Equality

 A well-established African American contractor talks about how, even in his success, he still confronts bias.  We are reminded that equality must be protected if we are truly a land of opportunity.

Jul 1 2008
Blog Post Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

•    Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, has written an op-ed for OurFuture.org.  The piece, titled “Challenge and Community in the Heartland,” discusses the horrific effects of the recent immigration raid on the community of Postville, Iowa:

After the Postville raid, half of the local school system’s 600 students were absent. Many businesses were shuttered and churches left empty. And many families and friends were separated. But, unlike this month’s terrible storms and twisters, the Postville raid could have happened differently, or not at all.

The raid is an example of the U.S. government officials using quick, destructive tactics to shift attention away from the fact that the federal legislature has been incapable of passing meaningful immigration reform.  Moreover, the government did not arrest any of the managers from Agriprocessors, the company that was responsible for the Postville plant, even though the Iowa Department of Labor found numerous workplace safety violations there:

A federal enforcement strategy concerned with public safety and accountability would have focused on these alleged practices which, if true, pose a real threat to economic opportunity within the state. And it would fix our broken immigration system so that immigrant workers can be realistically and fairly held accountable.

•    The Night of 1000 Conversations
is taking place tonight, June 19.  The event consists of thousands of
individuals across the U.S. getting together in their local communities
and discussing the detrimental effects of the anti-immigration actions
of the Department of Homeland Security.

•    A June 19 article that appeared in The Washington Post details how a local sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona dispatched his deputies into predominantly Hispanic communities and told them to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove he or she was a legal U.S. resident.  Mary Rose Wilcox, a local supervisor and longtime Hispanic activist said:

All he is doing is going after everybody with a brown face.  There's no doubt in my mind that this is racial profiling. None.

The inability of the federal government to enact meaningful immigration reform has forced state and local governments to address the issue.  According to the Post article, more than 240 immigration reform measures have been passed in the last year.  However, the inaction of the federal government has also allowed anti-immigrant officials like the Maricopa County sheriff to enact their own extremist policies of racial profiling without any regulation from political leaders.

To learn more about the importance of protecting immigrants’ rights, take a look at The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet, Immigrants and Opportunity.

•    A posting on Of América addresses the increasingly cruel treatment of immigrants held at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities.  The treatment of people detained at these facilities is being compared to the treatment of people detained at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay:

In the case of both the military and immigrant detention facilities, says [Amrit] Singh, [staff attorney at the ACLU,] the Bush Administration has used national security imperatives to deny many of the Freedom of Information Act requests she and her colleagues have filed in their efforts to find out things like how people are being treated in detention, under what conditions did detainees die and what kind of medical treatment they are receiving.

Jun 19 2008
Video Video: Lily Talks About Education

A Bronx elementary school teacher talks about her students and the importance of public education.

Jun 15 2008
Blog Post Six Years Later, Health Disparities by Race and Ethnicity Persist

Amidst the energy and momentum for health care reform in the United States, it is important to remember that getting an insurance card into everyone's wallet is not the same as guaranteeing equal access to quality health care.  Recent studies have shown that, in America, health is not just about having insurance or paying bills: it's also, unfortunately, about the color of your skin.

The Lancet, a journal of global medicine, published an article this last Saturday (free registration required) on persisting racial and ethnic disparities in health, six years following the groundbreaking Institute of Medicine study, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.  The Opportunity Agenda Research Director and primary editor of the 2002 IOM study, Brian Smedley, is quoted in the Lancet article:

“As the report's study director, I was pleased to see that Unequal Treatment
prompted a sober discussion in health policy, academic, and political
circles”, Brian Smedley, former senior programme officer at the US
Institute of Medicine, wrote in a blog to mark the latest issue of the
journal Health Affairs, which includes research on health
disparities. “But ultimately the report failed to prompt passage of
significant new federal legislation or spur the Department of Health
and Human Services to adopt its core recommendations. As a result,
little has been done, in my view, to systematically address the

Citing some of the papers in the latest issue of Health Affairs, called Disparities: Expanding the Focus [paid subscription required], he said that some of the most shocking health care gaps that were not documented when Unequal Treatment
was published, were found in mental and oral health care. Meanwhile,
the biggest gains in life expectancy occurred among the best-educated

Because of the failure of HHS to adopt recommendations to reduce disparities, and the stalling of major legislation in Congress to address disparities, many of the inequities identified half a dozen years ago are still prevalent.  In very real terms, this means that communities that often have the most need for quality health care are the ones that receive the least of such care. 

Jun 10 2008
Video Video: Two New Yorkers

 A third-generation Italian-American and first-generation Chinese immigrant talk about health care and a living wage.

Jun 1 2008
Video Video: Desireena Talks About Community

 A Filipina-American media producer talks about the support she receives from the gay community, and why strong, supportive communities are a key to opportunity.

May 15 2008
Blog Post "Brave New Laws" by Alan Jenkins at OurFuture.org

Check out The Opportunity Agenda Executive Director Alan Jenkins' new column, "Brave New Laws," at the Campaign for America's Future blog, Blog for Our Future.  Jenkins discusses the need for new, proactive laws that recognize what technological advances and scientific research have clearly demonstrated--that many Americans are still at risk of discrimination:

May 7 2008
Blog Post Most Connecticut Residents Agree That Undocumented Immigrants Should Have a Path to Citizenship

A Quinnipiac Poll released today shows that a plurality, and almost majority, of Connecticut residents believe that undocumented immigrants should be offered a chance to apply for citizenship, preferring this policy option over either deportation or offering temporary worker status by a rate of 2-to-1.

The poll asked, among many other questions ranging from opinions on the current presidential candidates to the state of the economy:

38. What do you think should happen to most illegal immigrants working in the United States - Should they be offered a chance to apply for citizenship, OR Should they be allowed to stay as temporary workers, OR Should they be deported to the country they came from?

47% of all respondents selected "citizenship," while only 27% and 22% selected "temporary workers" and "deported," respectively.  51% of all women and 59% of all African American residents agreed that a path to citizenship was the sound solution to addressing the status issue of undocumented immigrants.

These Connecticut residents are recognizing the importance of community, the American value of expanding opportunity for all members of our society and extending to newcomers both the rights and responsibilities that tie us together, as embodied in our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, "from many, one."  Connecticuters (yes, that's what someone from Connecticut is called; either that, or "Yankee," as of King Arthur's Court) also hold strong the fundamental American value of mobility, the central concept of the American Dream which states that the economic, educational, and personal achievement should not be limited or determined by the circumstances of a person's birth.

Mar 27 2008
Communications Talking Points: Immigration Integration (2008)

These talking points offer communications advice to policymakers, scholars, advocates and others seeking to promote immigrant integration policies at the state or local level. 

Mar 20 2008
Blog Post Lakota Secede from the US, Claiming Human Rights Violations
  • The Unapologetic Mexican has posted on the decision of the Lakota to secede from the United States. The Lakota Nation, which includes portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, has informed the State Department that it is withdrawing from all thirty-three treaties it has signed with the federal government, which it claims the US has not honored.  According to an article on The Raw Story:

Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on
the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies --
less than 44 years -- in the world.

Lakota teen suicides are 150 percent above the norm for the United
States; infant mortality is five times higher than the US average; and
unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's

The Lakota were active leaders in the process of the UN's adoption of a declaration on the rights of indigenous people this past September.

  • Yesterday's protests outside New Orleans city hall saw residents
    attacked by the police with pepper spray -- and the council voted
    unanimously to demolish 4500 affordable housing units in spite of
    public opinion to the contrary.  Feministe and Too Sense have both reported on the day's events.
  • A family in California made a recent decision to take their seventeen-year-old daughter off of life support after CIGNA health insurance refused to pay for a liver transplant, claiming it was an experimental procedure.  A protest outside of CIGNA's office caused the insurance company to relent at the last minute, but the window of opportunity had already passed for Natalee Sarkisian and her health deteriorated further, impelling her family to let go.  Stories like Natalee's illustrate how imperative it is that we replace our broken health care system with an equitable system that will support the community rather than capital gain.
  • Tennessee Guerilla Women also linked to a story about a young Icelandic woman who was detained and imprisoned while entering the US on a recent vacation with friends.  Immigration agents claimed that Eva Ósk Arnardóttir had overstayed a visa by three weeks on her last visit to the US in 1995. Agents detained and then imprisoned her without sleep or food, denied her contact with the outside world, and shuttled her around chained up in public before finally sending her back to Iceland.

To begin with, because of the recent increase in border security, he
will not be able to land anywhere in the U.S. unless he would comply
with the Department of Homeland Security rule on advance passenger
manifests for flying private airplanes (and sleighs) (72 FR 53394,
9/18/07). Next, he will have to declare the value of all the gifts that
he is giving to the kids on the "nice list." That is in addition to the
strict search and X-ray of the bags in which he is carrying the gifts.
Because of the holidays, it may take U.S. Customs and Border Protection
a while to do all of this, so he can expect a few days before getting
the gifts back to be able to deliver them. Santa will have to obtain a
visa before entry into the U.S. Because we do not have a consular post
at the North Pole, he will have to go to a third country post for his
visa. He will have to have a valid passport before he can apply for a
visa. At the consulate he will be fingerprinted and photographed. Then
he will need to go through a security background check, which may take
a long time, sometimes up to a few years, to clear.

Dec 21 2007
Blog Post A Debate on Housing, Live from the New Orleans City Council
  • Louisiana news station WDSU is offering a live video feed from the New Orleans City Council meeting on the impending demolition of public housing.  In addition to those speaking at the meeting, hundreds of people are standing outside City Hall in protest of the lack of affordable housing in the region since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Present-day inequities in New Orleans are often framed with respect to human rights; the demand for affordable housing is just one aspect of ensuring that residents have the social and economic security needed to provide for their families with dignity.
  • Bloggernista has reported that Congress has lifted a nine-year ban on using public funding to support needle exchange programs in Washington, DC.  Despite the fact that syringe exchange programs have proven effective in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, this ban had held firm while the capital city has the developed the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, a true modern epidemic noted for its immense racial disparities.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted an Associated Press article entitled 'State supreme court rules counties are liable for inmates' care,' including conditions that existed prior to imprisonment. It's great to see a court ruling in favor of the responsibility of the community to provide a basis level of health care for those in custody without other options -- this is a good step towards the recognition that all Americans deserve access to health care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 20 2007
Blog Post 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
  • Lastly, the Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has advised us of a Washington Post article stating that the federal government has paid $1.3 billion in farm subsidies since 2000 to people who do not farm. While our government policies are never devoid of irony, these subsidies are a particularly painful instance of unequal treatment given the "go-it-alone" narrative of individualism that conservatives use to justify cutting back on social services. In reality, however, great societies are built by investing in the well-being of the community, which was understood well by the authors of the New Deal legislation, the GI bill and the HeadStart program.


Dec 17 2007
Communications Sample Op-ed: Community Values - Des Moines Register (2007)

This Op-ed is an example of harnessing a media opportunity, in this case the Iowa caucuses, to frame a message.


Dec 15 2007
Blog Post New Jersey Set to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog has reported that the New Jersey legislature has voted to outlaw the death penalty in the
    state. The governor has already indicated his support for the measure, so it will likely be signed into law soon. New Jersey will be the first state in more than 40 years
    to abolish capital punishment. While human rights law has called for a ban on the death penalty under certain circumstances (concerning juvenile offenders, for example), the UN has yet to impose a blanket ban. However, the practice is frowned upon internationally -- it is mandated that all nations seeking to join the European Union or the Council of Europe either abolish capital punishment or institute an official moratorium on executions.
  • RaceWire has provided us with another update on the struggle to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans, quoting an AP article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 14 2007
Blog Post 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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  • Firedoglake has written a post on a bill under consideration in the Senate known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.  This Democratically-authored legislation, which has already passed the House by a large margin, has many progressives questioning its vague definition of 'ideologically-based violence,' arguing that this law would be a step towards a fascist state in which citizens can by prosecuted for 'thought crimes.' We must remember that democracy in America is dependent upon our ability to raise our voices, on our rights to free speech and fair elections.  Any law that seeks to contradict our capacity to participate fully in our communities is a violation of our human rights.
  • In a related story, the Latina Lista blog has been the subject of a recent spam attack, bad enough that the site's commenting feature has temporarily been disabled.  Offering "Anything and Everything from a Latina Perspective," the blog often discusses issues of immigration, American history and culture.
Dec 3 2007
Communications Media Coverage: Heartland Presidential Forum - Campaign for Community Values (2007)

Held December 2, 2007 in Des Moines, IA, the Heartland Presidential Forum kicked off the Campaign for Community Values.  The resulting press coverage included a values dimension otherwise missing in much of the caucus coverage.


Dec 1 2007
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.

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.

Nov 29 2007
Blog Post We Need Immigration Reform, Not Immigration Raids
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a New York Times article entitled 'Immigrant Workers Caught in Net Cast for Gangs.'
    A night-time raid of residences in Greenport, New York in September was
    aimed at targeting gang members, but of the eleven arrests, only one
    man was 'suspected' of gang affiliation. Local residents have
    complained about the injustice of needlessly tearing families apart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Along this same theme, the ImmigrationProf Blog has linked to a new report by UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri which found that "high immigration
    cities experienced higher wage and housing price growth. Immigration
    had a positive productivity effect on natives overall, but important
    distributional effects. Highly educated natives enjoyed the largest benefits while the less educated did not gain (but did not lose much either)."
  • The 'Just News' blog quotes an AP article discussing the fact that a serious backlog in the processing of citizenship applications may prevent thousands of residents from voting in the 2008 presidential elections. Hopefully this media attention will encourage immigration authorities to expedite the process so that all Americans will have a voice in electing our national leaders.
Nov 21 2007
Blog Post A Real Values Debate
  • Alan Jenkins' newest piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'A Real Values Debate,' the opinion begins:

"Progressives have long been criticized for talking issues and
constituencies at the expense of vision and values. Linguist George
Lakoff has argued for years that progressives have ceded the moral high
ground to their detriment. And Thomas Frank has documented how
conservatives tell a larger story that connects with working people at
a values level, even while undermining their economic interests.

That critique has never been fully accurate. The continuing human
rights movements led by people of color, women, gay people, and
immigrants have always been rooted in the values of freedom, equality,
dignity and opportunity. As Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights has said, "there's a reason why Martin Luther King Jr.'s
greatest speech was not called 'I have a complaint.'" The modern
environmental movement, too, speaks not only of our individual
interests but also of our moral responsibility as stewards of the earth
and its inhabitants.

But it is also true that progressive political discourse has
increasingly moved away from a discussion of shared national values and
toward a patchwork of issues and narrow policy fixes. That dynamic has
certainly played out this presidential election season, with last
month's "Values Voters Summit" priming candidates' commitment to
conservative values while progressives largely haggled over the details
of policy proposals.

But that's about to change. On December 1, a coalition of Iowa social justice groups will host the Heartland Presidential Forum: Community Values in Action,
in Des Moines, Iowa. Just four weeks before the Iowa caucuses, it will
be a presidential forum focused not on specific issues, but on
progressive vision and values."

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has reposted a Crooks and Liars piece about a Washington state assisted living facility that is evicting its residents that are on Medicaid.  Unlike other states, Washington does not have a law to protect its vulnerable senior citizens against such decisions by profit-minded nursing home corporations.
  • Prometheus 6 has posted about a New York Times article on the increasing presence of international medical crews providing health services in the US to the 47 million people without medical insurance, or 15 percent of the American population. One such service known as Remote Area Medical, or RAM, works most often in "Guyana,  India,  Tanzania  and Haiti," but has been noted for their expeditions in rural Virginia, where members of the community have begun lining up at 3am in order to be seen by medical workers.
  • In election news, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is proposing a plan to make community colleges free of cost for American high school graduates, a move that would greatly increase opportunities for many of our young people.  Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has indicated his support for a 'virtual' border fence run by high tech surveillance, a policy which would not address the need for more comprehensive reform of our immigration and trade policies.

"Human rights are defined, most notably in the U.S. Bill of Rights. They

are defined because the Founding Fathers realized that if they were

not defined, they would be more likely to be abrogated or lost

entirely. The Founding Fathers understood the temptation on the part

of governments to give and remove human rights arbitrarily, because

they had experienced such things before the Revolutionary War -- in the

Stamp Act, in the quartering of British soldiers on American

households, and in illegal searches and seizures, in no taxation

without representation. They recognized that although British Law

customarily acknowledged various human rights, it was essential to

name, codify, and write them down to make it less likely that they

could be taken away."

Nov 20 2007
Blog Post Congress Approves of Giving a Second Chance, While New York Reviews Disenfranchisement Policies
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted about last week's House vote on the Second Chance Act, legislation that aims to address the needs of individuals reintegrating into the community after time spent in prison. The bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 347-62, and it is expected that the Senate will consider the same legislation before the end of the year.  Based in the spirit of redemption, the idea that we all deserve the support we need to make a new start,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The DMI Blog has written about the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Standards at New York City Jails, a multi-organizational campaign that achieved a number of victories this year as "the Board of Corrections (BOC) proposed a number of changes to the
    Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities" which cover rules and regulations for city jails. Author Ezekiel Edwards reports that while the BOC was not swayed on every issue of importance to prisoners and their families, significant progress was made in preserving and improving conditions of incarceration: "As a result of the Coalition's relentless efforts, the BOC voted
    against the 'overcrowding' policy, against putting those in need of
    protection in 23-hour solitary confinement, and against reducing
    Spanish translation services." 

  • Feministe has a new post entitled 'Housing is a Human Right' which provides information on upcoming protests against the fact that all public housing units in New Orleans are slated for demolition after a recent federal court ruling. The Facing South blog has also posted about the controvery over the formaldehyde-laced trailers provided as temporary housing -- while Gulf Area families have been living in the trailers, FEMA has cautioned its own employees against entering them.
  • Finally, Latina Lista has reported on a DailyKos post by the author of the Migra Matters blog called 'A progressive plan for immigration reform,' referring to the resource as "the most insightful, certainly most thorough and step-by-step approach into fully understanding the immigration issue." Given his opinion that immigration is the new topic du jour, author Duke1676 prefaces his summary with "I figured it might be a good time post up a diary that sums up
    everything I've learned in my past three years here posting on
    immigration issues." With some 454 comments by readers, it's worth a read.
Nov 13 2007
Blog Post All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time

"One year from now, our country will choose a new president. And
while the candidates have debated extensively on individual issues like
health care, the war, the economy, and the environment, they have
offered far less in terms of a positive, overarching vision for our
country that both addresses and transcends individual issues.

While candidates' positions on the issues of the day are crucially
important, it's equally important to take their measure on what George
H. W. Bush called "the vision thing":
the clarity of ideals, values, and principles that inspire and shape a
president's approach to a broad range of issues, including ones that no
one could have anticipated on the day he or she was elected.

A new book by The Opportunity Agenda
offers such a vision on the domestic front; one to which we hope the
presidential contenders of both parties will respond. Not surprisingly,
that vision centers on opportunity, the idea that everyone deserves a
fair chance to achieve his or her full potential. In the book "All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time,"
a dozen leading thinkers paint a picture of what opportunity means in
our society, where we are falling short, and what must be done to
instigate opportunity for all. Their vision bridges myriad
issues—education, employment, housing, criminal justice, immigration,
health care, human rights—and disciplines—public health, economics,
criminology, law, sociology, psychology, education, social work. The
authors provide a clear and hopeful path to the future, a wake-up call
to our nation's current and future leaders, and concrete solutions that
promise to carry us forward.

As I've written before in this column, opportunity is not just a set of national conditions, but a body of national values:
economic security, mobility, a voice in decisions that affect us, a
chance to start over after missteps or misfortune, and a shared sense
of responsibility for each other-as members of a common society.
Analyzing their own and others' research through the lens of those
values, the authors of All Things Being Equal warn that opportunity is
increasingly at risk for all Americans and, therefore, for our country
as a whole. They find that many communities are facing multiple
barriers to opportunity that cannot be overcome through personal effort
alone. But, most importantly, they find that we have it in our power as
a country to turn those trends around."

  • The Immigration Equality blog has posted about yesterday's confirmation of Michael Mukasey as US Attorney General, after a long struggle in the Senate Judiciary Committee over his unwillingness to label waterboarding as illegal and torturous. The blog also notes that his position on the matter is being interpreted by some as a way of insulating the Department of Justice from future lawsuits or charges against government officials for human rights violations.


The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a recent New York Times article on the Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans.  While many veterans have ended up the sort of post-traumatic stress disorder which often correlates with homelessness, it's unusual that veterans would show up in shelters as soon after deployment as have the most recent batch after duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Sexual abuse is another factor which correlates with homelessness -- the article states that "roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of
recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers
while in the military."
Finally, the Too Sense
blog posted a graph of the racial diversity in campaign staff among the top 2008 presidential candidates.  While Clinton's staff is the most
diverse, Giuliani's staff is 100% white.

Nov 9 2007
Blog Post Crackdown Policies Are Destroying Immigrant Families and Solidarity in Our Communities
  • We've previously mentioned Oklahoma's new law which targets American citizens for 'transporting' undocumented immigrants. BlogHer reported Saturday on further implications of the law, arguing that assisting a woman in labor or the victims of a car accident in getting to the emergency room could be grounds for a felony charge. While it is highly likely that the constitutionality of this legislation will be challenged, it definitely lies contrary to the core value of community, that we are all responsible for each other's well-being and that our successes and fates are linked.
  • The 'Just News' blog posted about an LA Times article stating the US has reached an all-time high in the number of immigration detainees it is holding in prison: more than 30,000 people, over 4,000 in the state of California alone.  A similar statistic reveals that "the immigration agency's budget for bed space skyrocketed to $945 million last year, up from $641 million in fiscal year 2005." Although the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denies that overcrowding is a problem, immigrants and advocates argue that facilities and short-staffed and detainees are not given proper medical care.
  • Both Citizen Orange and Latina Lista have told the story of a man who spent five months in a detention facility only to see his health deteriorate to a critical point.  Ricardo Gomez Garcia and his wife Juana left their four children in Guatemala years ago in order to come to the US in search of work to support their family.  While here Juana gave birth to their youngest child, who at the age of four has been diagnosed with autism and requires specialized care. Earlier this year, Gomez was arrested in the New Bedford immigration raid and held in an immigration prison before being deported.  Sick but desperate with worry over his wife and young son, Gomez managed to return to New Bedford, only to die later that night.  Juana, his wife of twenty years, is now seeking community support in order send Gomez's body back to Guatemala.
  • Finally, the Alas! and reappropriate blogs have written about US Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz, who is being fired from his post for talking and complaining openly about inhumane conditions in the immigrant detention center where he worked.  Cruz has said that he observed countless "…violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes,
    and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas,
    Arizona] 'processing facility'." The blogs are also offering readers the chance to contribute to Cruz's search for affordable legal representation so he can defend himself against unfair termination of employment.
Nov 6 2007
Blog Post ICE Detention Center Employed Undocumented Immigrants
Nov 2 2007
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
  • 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."
Oct 29 2007
Blog Post As Americans, We Value Supporting the Vulnerable in our Communities
  • Yesterday saw the Senate's failure to pass the DREAM Act, thus ending further attempts to pass the legislation this year.  In an era in which college costs are rising at twice the rate of inflation, undocumented students who have grown up in this country are left without the means to finance their educations or gain the legal work status that would enable them to achieve their potential or productivity. The bill was sponsored by Senator Durbin, who described the youth in question as
    "'without a country'...though the U.S. is the only home these children
    know, it is an uncertain future that the government has condemned these
    students to live." Suman Raghunathan at the DMI Blog has just written about Smart Public Policies on Immigration, concluding:

"It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that local communities are going
to have to develop their own practical approaches to immigration policy
and make sure they trickle up to the feds, who remain more obsessed
with border fencing than with figuring out how to see immigrants
(particularly undocumented ones) as important economic contributors and
vital parts of our community."

  • Congress also voted to confirm nominee Leslie Southwick as a federal judge in the fifth circuit.  A good number of bloggers have expressed disappointment over his confirmation, including Pam's House Blend and Firedoglake, and the ACSBlog linked to a New York Times article on the vote.  Many progressives had called upon Southwick's history of homophobic and even racist rulings to argue that he will be biased and unfair in a region of the United States that has a strong history of structural inequality.

  • President Bush stated yesterday that he has every intention of vetoing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), regardless of whether or not it includes the protections for transgender individuals that are under consideration in Congress.  The legislation is intended to ensure that no Americans are unfairly targeted or dismissed in the workplace on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Such an act by Bush would further contribute to a lack of security among the LGBT community as it remains unable to access basic and equal workplace protections.
  • People are starting to organize in order to help those displaced by the Southern California wildfires. BlogHer, Ezra Klein, Firedoglake, and the Angry Asian Man have all posted information on how Americans can support the members of our community whose livelihood and homes are at risk.
Oct 25 2007
Blog Post Race and Human Rights in Pop Culture
  • There have been a series of posts about costume options as Halloween approaches -- according to the Angry Asian Man, you can even be your favorite Asian stereotype, from a 'sexy giesha' to 'oriental delight.'  The (misspelled?) geisha costume is even described as 'accented with spicy oriental designs and a fancyfan.' While respect for cultural diversity is critical in ensuring the strength of our communities, the advertising around these costumes is based in prolonging not only an image of the submissive female but feeding unfavorable generalizations based on race.
  • The Consumerist has advised us that popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's has decided to cave to consumer pressure and ban all single-ingredient products originating in China. The post states, "Though the announcement - the first of its kind among major retailers -
    will not make consumers any safer, it is the most pernicious indication
    yet of consumers skepticism towards foreign goods."
  • There are two movies coming out of note to the human rights community, both to do with the cultureand techniques of detention after 9/11.  There has been a lot of buzz about Rendition, a film concerning the American practice of extraordinary rendition, or removing terrorism suspects to foreign soil to allow for 'enhanced interrogation' practices or torture.  On the humorous end, spring 2008 will see the release of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
  • Television network CW has just started a new series called Aliens in America, which tells the story of a Wisconsin family that decides to host an exchange student from Pakistan. The Louisville Courier-Journal says of the new series:

"Aliens in America" isn't preachy, and there are no overt references in
the opener to bigotry and discrimination, but the subtle undertows are
always present. The show is a fresh and new approach to
touchy topics, but it's done more for laughs than sermonizing....The comedy isn't really about Raja at all. It's about us. "Aliens in America" uses a funhouse mirror
to reflect the way too many of us see someone who doesn't look, dress
or pray like us, and it does it in an amusing and maybe even thoughtful

  • Finally, Racialicious is helping to sponsor a cool new media initiative known as 10Questions, in which people are encouraged to create, submit and vote on video questions, ten of which will be presented to the presidential candidates for their responses.  Also in the veign of playing  out racial stereotypes, a recent video was posted with the question "Should we ban American Indian Mascots?" Feel free to go throw in your two cents with a comment!
Oct 23 2007
Blog Post Life in a Diverse America

"National faith, civil rights and labor leaders today unveiled a
campaign to counter the growing anti-immigrant movement in the U.S. by
uplifting the voices of everyday Americans who have grown weary of the
division created by anti-immigrant politics. The campaign presents one
of the few organized alternatives for those Americans who may find
themselves conflicted on immigration and immigration reform, but are
thoroughly at odds with the tenor and ideological background of the
anti-immigrant movement.“

The campaign website states that:

"Campaign for a United America is made up of
Americans from all walks of life who are standing up to defend our
nation’s historic commitment to unity, equality and opportunity. We’re
working to promote a dialogue that respects the contributions of all
community members including our immigrant friends and neighbors and
explores a sensible, humane, and compassionate approach to life
together in a diverse America."

We look forward to watching this media work as it unfolds and tells stories of real people in two opposing camps, 'Voices for a United America' and 'Voices of Intolerance.'

  • Immigration Equality posted that the San Pedro immigration detention facility where Victoria Arrellano died has lost its government accreditation.  Whether or not this means the facility will be shut down is unclear.  The organization notes, "Our fear is that DHS is treating the symptom and not the problem" of an immigration system which is built to hold people in inhumane living conditions for indefinite periods of time.  The entire way we approach immigration needs to be restructured with respect for the human right of mobility, the idea that we should all have the capacity to cross borders or social class lines in our drive for great opportunities.
  • As the SCHIP legislation vetoed by President Bush goes back to Congress for another vote today, Firedoglake has written that three members of the House have already announced a change in opinion in favor of expanding funding for children's health care.  Two more votes are needed to pass the bill that will provide health insurance for ten million American children whose families live closest to the poverty line.
  • In affirmative action news, the Mirror on America blog has reported that, in November 2008, five more states will be considering measures to ban the use of racial, ethnic, or gender preferences by public colleges and other state and local agencies.  Well-known affirmative action critic Ward Connerly has pushed for referenda in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, in which voters will voice their opinion on policies meant to level the playing field for minorities.  Given that all five states have populations that are more than three-quarters white and lack large-scale minority advocacy groups, the approval of such bans seems likely.
Oct 18 2007
Blog Post Protecting Children in Jena, Prison, School, and the Gulf Zone
  • As an update on the Jena Six case, the US Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana said at yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing that the hanging of a noose does indeed qualify as a hate crime, and that had the white boys responsible been of age, they would have been tried accordingly.  The Chicago Tribune noted the Congressional Black Caucus pushed the issue that "it is illegal under the guarantees of our Constitution and our laws to
    have one standard of justice for white citizens and another harsher one
    for African- American citizens." Officials from the Justice promised that a serious investigation is underway in Jena.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog and the The New York Times reported yesterday on juveniles in prison serving life sentences, some of whom were thirteen or fourteen when their crime was committed.  America is the only country in the world that assigns life sentences for underage crimes (a policy prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), and only in 2005 did we discontinue the use of the death penalty for juveniles.  We ought to examine these policies with reflection on the human right of redemption, that we all deserve a second chance to change our behavior.
  • Migra Matters published an entertaining piece yesterday discussing Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's proposal that DNA testing be a routine part of the immigration process, in order to prove that people that claim to be related actually are blood kin.
  • The happening-here? blog wrote about a recent poll by San Jose State University that showed that the majority of Californians (59%) are in favor of a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants.  Presented with this data, author janinsanfran asks progressives "How to do we make the majority audible and effectual?" 
  • Also in California, the Governor Schwarzenegger has just signed a bill that will increase access to information about colleges, and the ways students can prepare themselves for higher education.  According to RaceWire, "the law could be used by community based education groups as leverage
    to secure more resources for counseling and other support services."  More clarity on the college application process should help increase options for California's students.
  • With one day to go until the SCHIP re-vote, the Bush administration has also refused to renew funding
    for the mental health of children in the New Orleans area, despite data
    that indicates that they among the most traumatized in the country.  As
    a result of a screening by the Louisiana Rural Trauma Services Center, part of the state university of children displaced by Hurricane Katrina and returning to the area, "31 percent reported clinically significant symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder."  This comes in spite of a health department directive to give high priority to services for hurricane victims.  Such individualist policies can only be more devastating to the Gulf community.
Oct 17 2007
Blog Post Immigration Increases Opportunity For All
  • In the wake of the California DREAM Act veto, a couple interesting stories have come to light concerning higher education.  The first involves a scholarship fund set up by Catalino Tapia, a gardener who settled in Redwood City after immigrating from Mexico.  Tapia was so proud to see his son attend law school that he formed a non-profit organization with other gardeners that gave away nine $1500 scholarships last year.  Tapia proves he understands the importance of community values: “I believe the education of our young people isn't just the responsibility of their parents, especially in the Latino community where some parents work two or three jobs…It's our obligation as community leaders, because young people sometimes wander without guidance."
  • Second, a student at Texas A&M University who came to the US on a visa when he was five years old has been ordered to leave the country – but the immigration authorities are going to let him finish his engineering degree in December before deporting him to Guatemala. Having signed a form that made them ineligible for citizenship, the family is all facing deportation – although the mother has also been granted an extension so their one US citizen daughter can finish the school year.  While it is upsetting to see a family’s chance at citizenship get hung up on a technicality, it is reassuring to see that ICE is taking their educational status and options into account for the time being.
  • With respect to the impending construction of a fence along the US-Mexico border, the Pro Inmigrant blog has noted that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff may decide to use his power to trump a recent federal court ruling halting the building process in Arizona. Latina Lista reports, however, that some communities in Texas may be able to call upon Spanish colonial law to avoid ceding the land demanded by the Homeland Security department. In the town of Granjeno alone, plans dictate that the fence would cut through properties owned by 34 families, demonstrating that the fence would have a negative impact on Americans as well, in addition to its environmental impact and general inability to fix an immigration system already broken and unfair.
  • In another milestone in the ongoing battle over immigration policy, Migra Matters has featured a recent report by the University or Arizona confirming the economic benefits of all kinds of immigration.  The author summarizes the study: “We can now add Arizona to the long list of states in which recent studies prove that the current influx of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, have contributed far more in taxes than they receive in government services.”  As a nation, we’ve found much strength not only in the vibrant workforce that immigration has enabled but also in the richness and diversity of our community. Future federal and state policies should reflect our support and gratitude for the benefits that immigration brings us all.
Oct 16 2007
Blog Post California dashes DREAMs yet again
  • There has recently been commentary that the state of California's immigration policies are all over the place - just last week the governor signed an anti-discrimination law to protect landlords and tenants.  It's fresh news, however, that Schwarzenegger has vetoed the California DREAM Act for the second time, a measure which would have increased access for undocumented students to get a college education.  In the same swoop, the governor also vetoed gay marriage in California for the second time, while signing the California Student Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
  • There has been much talk on the recent trial of a nurse and several guards from a Florida boot camp for adolescents who beat a 14-year-old black boy who claimed he was too tired to exercise and then died the following day; their acquittal on murder charges has fed recent discussions on the nature of these youth boot camps where at-risk children are regularly neglected and abused.  Forcing troubled youth to undergo starvation can only add to their sense of social abandonment and will not work to increase opportunities available to them to succeed.
  • The Facing South blog has published commentary on last Friday's New York Times piece on the impact of immigration raids on the Smithfield Foods' North Carolina slaughterhouse.  Asking the question "Who Benefits?," author Chris Kromm concludes that businesses suffer from a lack of a stable workforce, and that, "Immigration raids do nothing to improve this situation for workers. In
    reality, the costly raids end up separating families and tearing up
    communities -- all for a short-term solution to the long-term problem
    of immigration reform."  Especially because raids are failing to solve our broken immigration system, we need to start approaching the issue of immigration policy reform with consideration for what is best for the community at large.
  • Ending on a lighter note, the Immigrants in USA blog has posted on a Boston Globe article highlighting various Massachusetts employers that are offering English classes for their workers, catering to a high demand for the service.  This is a great example of the way businesses can effectively invest in their workforce and the community as a whole, as increasing communications skills will have ramifications across the board for marginalized populations.
Oct 15 2007
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.
Oct 10 2007
Blog Post Columbus Day Protests Highlight Human Rights in America

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

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

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

  • Tennessee Guerilla Women posted a story about 2600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who just returned from 22 months of duty in Iraq to find that they were deployed one day short of the 730 days required to receive the college education benefits outlined in the GI Bill.  To knowingly deny veterans the chance to go to college is a disrespectful statement that in spite of government promises and their personal sacrifices, the soldiers must 'go it alone' and support themselves through school.  This myth that we should all 'pull ourselves up by the bootstraps' is contrary to our nation's long-held belief that our success as a country depends on the success of all, that we should be striving for the common good.  The policies of our government should be based in community values rather than punitive individualism.
  • An interesting post on the Immigrants in USA Blog discusses the way lack of transportation negatively affects immigrant populations.  Based on an article published in Alabama's News Courier about a lecture by sociology professor Stephanie Bohon, the piece discusses how transportation barriers "prevent [immigrants] from learning the language, learning about job or housing opportunities and having access to services."  If undocumented individuals are unable to obtain drivers licenses and there is no public transport available in their area, they are left dependent on expensive taxi fares and may choose to forgo outings such as taking their child for necessary vaccinations.
  • After recent crackdowns on the mobility of immigrant workers, a shortage of farm workers has left farmers threatening to leave fruit and vegetable rotting in their fields.  As a result, the Bush administration is quietly working to rewrite federal regulations on foreign labor.  This is a perfect example of how reactionary, anti-immigrant policies have not only failed to fix the problem but are making things worse for the American economy.  Immigration replenishes our country's workers, communities, and traditions.  Immigrants are central to our productivity and success, and help ensure that the US continues to be a land of wealth and opportunity.
  • Finally, Future Majority alerts us to a new campaign to get young Latinos to vote called Vota Por Tu Futuro (Vote 4 UR Future). A media campaign based on PSAs and in-show
    ads, Vote 4 UR Future is a partnership between the youth-focused TV channel Telemundo, mun2 and a coalition of political organizations such as Rock the Vote, the US
    Hispanic Leadership Institute, and Democracia USA. Thie campaign is a great step towards ensuring that the growing Latino population has a voice in electing our public officials.
Oct 9 2007
Blog Post 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.
Oct 3 2007
Blog Post Webcasts of Clinton Global Initiative Talk of the Need to Increase Opportunity
  • This Friday saw the end of the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Conference in New York.  The CGI is "a non-partisan catalyst for action bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges," from issues of education and health to global warming. Webcasts of the event have been have been posted on the site, and Blogher has published a number of posts about the meeting, the most recent of which discussed the importance of maternal health and education.  Here's a striking example of the discussion from the event:

"Gene Sperling talked about education being the silent crisis because there is no moment when the CNN camera captures a kid dying from lack of education. Every year of education for a mother increases the chance of her child living by 10%. When a woman has five years of education, her children are 50% more likely to see their fifth birthday."

Also debuted at the conference was YouTube's new video-sharing site for non-profit organizations.

  • Another exciting new media creation is the interactive web timeline on the America at a Crossroads site.  The timeline is related to the PBS series meant to explore "the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world — including the war on terrorism; the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the experience of American troops serving abroad; the struggle for balance within the Muslim world; and global perspectives on America’s role overseas." There are four separate timelines that correspond to a world map and offer pop-ups of information on key historical events.  A similar example of the capacity of an interactive timeline is found on the Reclaim Civil Rights website, which even has video embedded in the presentation.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced last week the launch of a new photo-database meant to enhance the E-Verify system for matching names and social security numbers of foreign workers in the US. 
  • Various blogs have commented recently on the new citizenship exam going into effect a year from today. The New York Times published an article discussing changes in the test, which has been criticized as abstract, irrelevant, lacking in any information about Latin Americans, and demanding a level of knowledge of American history and politics well above that of the average citizen. The ImmigrationProf Blog questions how this test relates to the literacy tests for the native-born voting population that were outlawed in the 1960s.
  • Finally, in other current events, 17-year-old Jena Six member Mychal Bell was released from prison last week on $45,000 bail.  In an unexpected display of generosity from the community, bail was posted by Dr. Stephen Ayers of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who offered his support upon hearing about the case because he felt that the District Attorney's treatment of Bell was innapropriately harsh.
Oct 1 2007
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.
Sep 25 2007
Blog Post Progress in Jena, Thanks to the Black Blogosphere

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

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

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

Sep 21 2007
Blog Post Financial Aid for Undocumented Students in Arizona

Let's start the week off with a couple things done well.

  • The University of Arizona has created a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students who have graduated from Arizona high schools.  The $1.8 million fund has helped approximately 150-200 students manage the costs of the higher out-of-state tuition mandated by the state's new Proposition 300.  We commend the university for its commitment to increasing access to education for groups with limited options.
  • Racewire put up an excellent post last Friday headlining the story of a man being deported to Mexico after his son died fighting in Iraq. Given that 33,449 non-citizens have served in the American armed forces, this is not an uncommon occurrence, albeit a disrespectful one. Many immigrants join the military with hopes of increasing opportunity for themselves and their families. As such it is particularly upsetting to see that this family is being denied the ability to stay together after the trauma of losing their son to the war.
  • Also mentioned in the above post is a statement by the Social Security administration that they may not be able to distribute everyone's checks this month due to a backlog.  They have blamed this backup on a federal judge's temporary bar on the agency sending out the 141,000 "no match" letters they have prepared to advise employers of discrepancies in the social security records of their workers. It seems a dirty media scare tactic to imply that someone's grandma might not be able to eat this month because of a struggle over new measures to identify undocumented workers.
  • Immigration Equality has put up a couple blog posts about Victoria Arrelano,
    a 23-year-old transgender woman who recently died in an immigrant
    detention center because she was denied her HIV medications.  In a rare
    display of community support, 55 of her fellow detainees filed a
    petition to get her health care and even chanted 'hospital!' until she
    got some medical attention.
  • Also in the blogs was Sunday night's Spanish language debate for Democratic presidential candidates, a discussion heavily weighted towards candidates' views on immigration policies. Although Spanish-language TV network Univision has received a good deal of criticism over the way the debate was run, this particular debate drew 49% more 25-54 year-old viewers than the English-language debates have so far.  On the other end, all Republican candidates except for McCain have declined to participate in a Spanish-language debate.
  • In uglier news, there has been another noose-sighting at the University of Maryland campus at College Park, hung from a tree outside the black cultural studies center.  Investigations are underway but many are assuming there to be some linkage between this incident and the 'Jena 6' convictions pending in Louisiana.
  • RachelsTavern.com has posted about a newly-released article that found that the black/white racial gap in life expectancy has narrowed.  That the gap exists at all is a flag of social inequality, but the study would indicate that, on a national level, we're on the right path.
  • Finally, Ezra Klein has a recent piece about increasing health insurance premiums, which have gone up 87% since 2000.  In a discussion of implications of rising costs on employer-controlled and individual medical insurance (basically, less people are choosing to insure themselves), Klein notes that "between 8 and 18 percent of applicants are denied health coverage outright due to preexisting conditions," and entitles his post "I'll Take Medicare, Thanks."  Seems a rational choice, all things considered.
Sep 11 2007
Blog Post Possible class-action lawsuit over May 1 LA police violence
  • Yesterday, 164 more claims were filed against the City of Los Angeles to do with injuries or emotional damage caused by the violent police breakup of the May 1 immigration rally in MacArthur Park. In total, 10 lawsuits have been filed over the incident and 258 legal claims have been submitted; civil rights attorneys have begun expressing interest in pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the city.

The term 'sanctuary cities' has also been thrown around blogs and the news this week, largely connected with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's threat to withhold government funding from cities that refuse to comply with its Basic Pilot program to require employers to verify the work authorization of their employees.  As is happening in Arizona, this program is being contested on a national level by a coalition of civil rights organizations such as the ACLU on grounds that it "will threaten jobs of U.S. citizens and other legally authorized
workers simply because of errors in the government's inaccurate social
security earnings databases."

There was a very informative piece posted yesterday about conditions in the prisons and detention centers of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.  Apparently three people have died in detention in the last six weeks, including one pregnant woman, as detainees are regularly denied medical care.  Hundreds have also suffered from food poisoning, at two different sites.  Despite regular violations of their human rights, immigrants and asylees held there have little recourse.  And even though the ICE system is the second largest jailer in the world, there are few regulations and little accountability placed upon them.  This is the sort of situation where a little legislation could go a long way in protecting the members of our community that have been silenced.

Prometheus6 and rikyrah both cited a NY Times article yesterday to do with a mentally-retarded black man in Mississippi who is actually being retried for rape after DNA evidence indicated that he is not guilty.  Given that he's already spent 15 years in prison, this overt racial discrimination and obstruction of justice is pretty hard to swallow.

Finally, there is a good deal of discussion in Congress at the moment about the reauthorization of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance program, which was designed in 1997 to provide health care for children whose families weren't eligible for Medicare but who are still unable to afford private insurance.  The legislation must be reauthorized by September 30 if the program is to continue, but there is tremendous contention regarding how and how much to fund the program.  President Bush is even promising to veto legislation on grounds that increased access to SCHIP will encourage people to enroll rather than work to insure themselves privately - again, here is another example of the "go-it-alone" narrative that has been so useful in eroding our sense of responsibility to the greater community.

Sep 7 2007
Blog Post "Sanctuary Cities"
  • Over at the LA Times, Ron Brownstein is talking about "Sanctuary Cities" and our immigration policy.  It's only in the last two weeks that I've begun to notice the term "Sanctuary Cities" creaping into the public discourse.  The term seems to be the anti-immigrant movements' frame of choice, designed to not only focus on actual immigration laws, but to act as a club for Republican Presidential candidates to beat up Democrats.  The way it is being deployed by folks like Romney and Tancredo, Sanctuary Cities = Progressive Urban Centers = Democrats.  Am I reading too much into that?
  • Progressive Blogger Digby is moonlighting over at The Big Con and opens her new gig with a must read piece about Race and the response to Katrina 2 years ago.
  • If you haven't read it yet, Time Magazine recently profiled some high school students who used FaceBook and MySpace to organize on behalf of their friends, whose parents are undocumented workers facing deportation.
  • The American Immigration Law Foundation has an interesting piece about local ordinances seeking to curb immigration in the face of the Federal Government's failure to pass a comprehensive reform bill:

    Regardless of why anti-immigrant ordinances are metastasizing across
    the country, the ordinances themselves, and the arguments of their
    supporters, are based on false assumptions. Take Culpeper County, where
    champions of the resolution complain that new immigrants aren't
    "assimilating." Missing from this complaint is an understanding of the
    fact that "assimilation" (or integration) occurs over the course of
    generations, not within a few years of a person's life. While most of
    our immigrant forefathers probably achieved at least a basic mastery of
    English after several years in the United States, like Latino
    immigrants now, they certainly did not become linguistically or
    culturally "American" in any meaningful sense within their lifetimes.
    And neither will today's immigrants. But their children and
    grandchildren will, just as we did.

Aug 22 2007
Blog Post Alien Absconders and the Downside of Diversity

Two thoroughly ridiculous, yet important, pieces to check out today:

  • The New York Times reports on plans by President Bush to crack-down on undocumented workers.  It's yet another consequence of the failure to pass comprehensive reform - we're now stuck with piecemeal "solutions" that often reflect the desire to punish immigrants without offering any real, workable solutions to our broken immigration system.  On the language tip, I hope that the Right makes a habit of switching from their typical "illegal alien" to John Cornyn's neologism: "alien absconder," which sound both non threatening and highly ridiculous.  I'd laugh if the consequences weren't so high for so many.
  • In another story thoroughly deserving of some serious pushback from progressives, Robert Putnam, famous for his description of "the decline of social capital" in his book Bowling Alone, has released the results of a new study, and the findings are likely to result in an unfortunate PR boon to conservatives. In the study, Putnam describes what he calls "the downside of diversity."  Shorter version: mixed race communities have lower social capital.  People vote less, trust their neighbors less, etc.  The conservative response will be simple: "We told you so." (Putnam is already getting accolades from the likes of David Duke).

    Here's the thing - the findings aren't quite so easily interpreted.  Here's why:

    • Even if true, diversity is still offers it's own positive values (which Putnam does mention).  The findings only underscore the need for us to work harder to overcome our prejudices and erase the negative aspects that are in fact to be expected in a country still struggling with race.
    • The findings  essentially boil down to this - stable neigborhoods (dominated by one race/ethnic group) have tighter social bonds while neighborhoods in transition don't.  That's not surprising, and when the neighborhoods stabilize again (one hopes in a diverse mix), social capital will again rise.
    • Putnam is only sampling Americans, who have a long history of racial tension.  These findings may not hold in other places with less divisive racial history.
Aug 10 2007
Blog Post Forming Diverse Coalitions: Interview with James Rucker of Color of Change

Speaking of diversity in the blogosphere, Baratunde Thurston of Jack and Jill Politics sat down with James Rucker, the executive director of Color of Change, at the Yearly Kos Convention.  The two talked about the growing black blogosphere, and the diverse coalition that formed to oppose the Congressional Black Caucus/Fox News debates.  Also discussed is the possibility of forming a similar coalition around the Jena 6 in Louisiana. Here's a video of their conversation.

Aug 8 2007
Blog Post Huge Discussion on Diversity in the Blogosphere

I noted yesterday that there was a stark lack of diversity at this past weekend's Yearly Kos convention.  Others noticed as well - the mainstream media, and the bloggers who conceived and attended the convention.  For the past day or two, that lack of diversity has been a driving topic on some of the more influential blogs - mostly at the relatively new site Open Left.  Here's a rundown on who's talking about what.

If you are a progressive advocate, blogger, or other whose work might fall under that nebulous label of "diversity," these are conversations you should be following and inserting yourself into.

First read Jennifer Ancona's post about one of the panels at Yearly Kos: The Changing Dynamic of Diversity in Progressive Politics.  The panel featured Adam Luna of the Center for Community Change, Cheryl Contee, Tanya Tarr, and Eric Baylor.  The post summed up the need for a more diverse progressive movement and a Democratic Party willing to "address issues of race head-on," yet only the usual suspects showed up in the comments to Jennifer's post.

Second, check out a series by Chris Bowers, one of the founders of Open Left in which the diversity of the movement (or lack thereof) plays a crucial part. 

Bowers argues that the progressive movement has stalled in the last two years (compared to the three prior years).  Sure, he's talking about the online progressive movement and the change within the Democratic Party - not what many social justice folks might label the progressive movement - but that gets exactly to Chris's point.  Without the diversity of that broader movement, this one (online and electoral) piece has stalled out after three years of rapid growth.

Bower's co-blogger Matt Stoller then jumped into the debate with a demand that conversations about blogospheric diversity contain actual facts about the internal politics of various racial and ethnic coalitions.

Bowers again responded, with one of the demographic analyses for which he's known.  His conclusion - yeah, things could be more diverse, but let's not get into a fight about not-diverse-enough vs. things are fine.  Let's work to have a productive conversation and bring more voices into the discussion.

I couldn't agree more, and if you aren't already in these discussions, go throw in your two cents.

Aug 7 2007
Blog Post Remaining prejudice affects medical care
  • Blackprof.com cites a new study of trainee doctors in Boston which shows how one’s overt and implicit prejudice can affect treatment in ER patients.  The study combined a 20-minute computer survey designed to detect prejudice with a hypothetical question of treatment for a 50-year-old man with heart pain, either black or white. The Boston Globe reports that as doctors’ unconscious biases against blacks increased, they were less likely to give the black patient a life-saving clot-busting treatment.  This study provides yet another example showing that equal access to health care does not necessarily mean equal treatment.  Not only are African Americans disproportionately unlikely to have health insurance, the care they are given is often of a lesser standard. 
  • Continuing the trend of educational games about immigration, the Hashmi Law Firm (located in Des Moines, Iowa) created a game intended to depict the daily life struggles of immigrants living in a broken immigration system (Thanks, ImmigrationProf Blog!).  Played last Saturday, July 21, 2007, “Find a Legal Way to Immigrate” allowed players to draw cards of actual scenarios based on current laws and the resulting challenges.  The general public was invited, and The Des Moines Register reports that about 40 people watched or participated.  As an immigrants’ rights attorney, Hashmi maintains that her objective in creating this game was purely education: “to show how difficult the process is.”
  • Think Progress reports on the new smear campaign against Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko.  Financed by pharmaceutical and hospital companies, “Health Care America” staged a conference call, distributed a “fake news video” about Sicko and making ads that say “In America you wait in line to see a movie. In government-run healthcare systems, you wait to see a doctor.”  These projects attempt to show “what Michael Moore left out of his movie."
Jul 25 2007
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.

Jul 18 2007
Blog Post How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?


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

Jul 12 2007
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

Jul 5 2007
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
  • 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.

Jun 27 2007
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.
Jun 11 2007
Blog Post Opportunity in Images: Take Two

Earlier this year, we teamed up with students in the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School University here in New York.  As part of a media production class, we became the "client" and the students became graphic designers, tasked with creating images representing the core values of community, equality, and human rights apply to one of three initiatives: Immigration reform, health care equity, and the 2008 election.

Here's a sample of some of the great work they produced.  These images are creative commons licensed (Attribution), and the name of the designer can be found in the description.  We encourage everyone to Remix and Reuse them in your own work.  You can find the full set of images here.

Fernanda-OAGraphic-Larger OA_Buttons_2008Elections_ OA1 OA_Healthcare_1_notext_Braudaway

This is the second time we've worked with students at the New School on creating images illustrative of our Opportunity FrameYou can find past work here.

May 14 2007
Blog Post Many Voices, One Community

I was very happy to see this article in the New York Times on Tuesday. I'm so proud that we're seeing gains in representation of the Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) community among elected officials. It is especially crucial that APIA voices be heard in California, where APIA residents constitute the second-largest minority group. These gains are impressive steps toward building a truly representative government, but minorities remain vastly underrepresented in government and other sectors. What stood out most to me was the following:

Should the number of Asian-American elected officials continue to grow, the issues many of them have pursued — bilingual language assistance, equitable admissions standards at state universities and affordable health care — will become increasingly visible.

It stood out because these issues are issues that so many Californians (and people in every other state) care about. People all over care about equal access for limited-English speakers, to a high-quality education, and to affordable health care. Communities far and wide share many of the same concerns. More importantly, we all share the same drive for improvement and solutions. More diverse voices highlight the fact that we have more in common than we think. I believe that the best and more comprehensive solutions to these common concerns will also come from incorporating everyone's voices in the process.

Also this week, Congressman Mike Honda issued a statement titled the "State of APIA Community" that has some really interesting information. I first found the statement through New America Media. This brief overview of the APIA community is a great tool, especially since it can be hard to find detailed statistics about this community. For example:

In education, APIA students are still underserved, and 24.7% of the APIA population is linguistically isolated. When disaggregated, the percentages are even greater in the Southeast Asian community: 45% of Vietnamese Americans, 31.8% of Cambodian and Laotian Americans, and 35.1% of Hmong Americans are linguistically isolated.

It's important that we pay attention to disparities within the larger numbers. Disaggregating data the way it is done here will ensure that all people are being considered. Looking at averages across communities can be dangerous because it becomes easy to neglect the most vulnerable.

Mar 1 2007
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?

Feb 23 2007
Blog Post Separate and Unequal Transport

Doors of Opportunity (no text)At the end of December, three advocacy groups in San Francisco released MTC, Where Are Our Buses?, a report about disparities in transportation funding which adversely affect people of color and low-income populations.  Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) have labeled the Bay Area's transit system "Separate and Unequal," and provide compelling evidence to support their claim.

Released on the 50-year anniversary of the civil rights campaign to integrate bus service in Montgomery, Alabama, the report details recent funding and route decisions made by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and how they have impacted the local population.  At issue are the differences in subsidies provided to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Caltrain (both of which service primarily white suburbs), and AC Transit buses to the East Bay area (a region in which 80% of the residents are people of color).  According to a press release by Urban Habitat, the report "details both the sizeable funding disparities per passenger, and the resulting disparities in transit service as BART and Caltrain services have more than doubled, while AC Transit service has contracted by 30%."  Further, the report provides data that "public dollars subsidize the trips of BART and Caltrain commuters, who are disproportionately white, at three to five times higher levels than the trips of AC Transit’s mostly minority ridership."

The report also discusses local efforts to hold the MTC accountable, from a class-action law suit filed in federal court, alleging racial discrimination, to the MTC Minority Citizens’ Advisory Committee’s (MCAC) which has issued a series of recommendations on improving environmental justice.  So far, the MTC has yet to institute any changes in its policy.

According to AJ Napolis of Urban Habitat, "At stake is not only the access of low-income bus riders and their families to economic and educational opportunities, but the vitality of our communities," citing a study that a cut in transport funding can cost a community ten times more in travel costs and lost income.

Feb 8 2007
Blog Post The State of Opportunity - An Update

Over at TomPaine.com, our Executive Director Alan Jenkins has a column about Bush's State of the Union and the State of Opportunity in America:

During his State of the Union speech last month,
President Bush used the word “opportunity” nine times, to talk about
our nation’s economy, public schools, immigration policy, energy needs
and health care system. The president is correct in suggesting that how
opportunity fares is a crucial measure of our nation’s condition. So
just what is the state of opportunity in America?

Read the full column.

Feb 7 2007
Research Brochure: About The Opportunity Agenda (2008)

Read about The Opportunity Agenda in our new brochure.


Jan 20 2007
Blog Post God Grew Tired of Us

Next time you head to the movies you must check the powerful and inspiring film, God Grew Tired Of Us.   It will be released in NYC and around the country this week.  It explores American opportunity through a unique lens, following the lives of Sudanese refugees from the war in Southern Sudan to resettlement in the United States.  It highlights how these men try to retain their culture while seizing opportunity in America -- earning a living, going to school, and providing for families back home.  It investigates American culture and the American dream, and explores the pros and cons of life in the Unites States.   

Here’s a trailer for the movie:  and a summary from the website:  “Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, GOD GREW TIRED OF US explores the indomitable spirit of three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who leave their homeland, triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversities and move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind.  Orphaned by a tumultuous civil war and traveling barefoot across the sub-Saharan desert, John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach and Panther Blor were among the 25,000 “Lost Boys” (ages 3 to 13) who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. Named by a journalist after Peter Pan’s posse of orphans who protected and provided for each other, the “Lost Boys” traveled together for five years and against all odds crossed into the UN’s refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. A journey’s end for some, it was only the beginning for John, Daniel and Panther, who along with 3800 other young survivors, were selected to re-settle in the United States.”

For another interesting take on opportunity (and the barriers to it) in America and the Lost Boys, the book What is the What by David Eggers is a must read.  It is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, and at 400+ pages, the book provides a nuanced account of the history of the Lost Boys and life after resettlement in America.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the conflict in Sudan and join efforts to help out, The International Crisis Group website has a short list of recommendations, including writing to your elected representatives and writing to media urging more coverage of the situation.

Jan 8 2007
Blog Post Images of Opportunity

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

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

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

Redemption is in our Nature

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

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

Community Graphic

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

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

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

Nov 30 2006
Blog Post Schools of Many Colors

Our Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, just posted the first of what will be many columns on TomPaine.com   His first column addresses school desegregation cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. 

Go give it a read.

Oct 26 2006
Blog Post Weekend Reading

A few items are sitting in my inbox that I didn't have time to get to this week.  Take them home and read at your leisure this weekend:

  1. The Big Dog is watching. Bill Clinton gave a speech about "the common good" at Georgetown University that seems to draw heavily on two of our core opportunity values: Redemption, or the idea that people change over time and that we all make mistakes and deserve a chance to start over; and Community, or the idea that we're all in this together.  Raw Story has the details, YouTube has the video.
  2. Michigan voters appear to have mixed views about a "proposed ban on race and gender preferences in government hiring, contracting and university admissions."  41% of likely voters favor the ban and 44% oppose it.

Have a great weekend, we'll be back on Monday.

Oct 20 2006
Blog Post School Colors

Gr2006101800124_1Falling into the category of really, really bad educational ideas, I encountered a bizarre article in the Washington Post about a new practice at a Montgomery County high school.

In an utterly misguided attempt to "create new communities" among a divided student population, the administration decided to classify students by "color." These colors are worn as a badge on student clothing and on an optional lanyard carried by students.

The color categories are ostensibly academic (and non-peformance related)
in nature, yet they single out groups such as Freshman and English as a
second langauage students - likely targets of abuse from other students:

At least three freshmen reported various forms of hazing: One was
jumped at a bus stop; another was encircled by a menacing mob of
upperclassmen; the third victim would not relate his sufferings in
detail, Gainous said.

We all remember high school.  Cliques and bullies and popularity contests run rampant.  It's the nature of teenagers to self-select and exclude others that are different.  Do we really need to exacerbate these tendencies in a student body that is already socially, economically, and academically divided?

Students say the system amplifies differences that already divide teenagers of different academic and socioeconomic stripes.

the staff of the Silver Chips student newspaper opined in an editorial,
"Self-segregation is already an issue in the student body, and the
formal distribution of color-coded IDs has essentially
institutionalized the phenomenon."

Obvious historical analogies aside, tactics that divide us and emphasize our differences instead of our commonalities take us further away from our values as a Americans.  Is this really the type of lesson we want to be teaching our children? The students seem to intuitively get this.  It's confounding that the administrators don't.

Oct 19 2006
Blog Post A Decade of Reform

Everyone deserves a chance to start over after missteps or misfortune - whether that means having a chance to rebuild after a disaster like Katrina, or being able to participate in the civic life of our country after serving time in the corrections system.   Our nation is strongest when each person has a stake in society and a voice to participate in the decisions that effect us.  So it was encouraging to read the latest report
(pdf) from The Sentencing Project noting that the movement to restore the voting rights of felons is gaining momentum.

According to the report, the last decade has seen more than 600,000 ex-felons regain their franchise, and 16 states implement policy reforms to lower restrictions on the right of felons to vote.  This year alone, 73 bills on felony disenfranchisement
were introduced in 22 states.  An astounding 85% of these bills sought to
expand voting rights.

That's the good news.  Here's the bad:

  • U.S. disenfranchisement laws remain among the world's most
    severe despite public opinion polls showing 80% support for restoring
    the vote to those who have completed their sentences.
  • More than 5 million Americans still will be banned from voting
    this Election Day.

Here's the ugly:

  • An estimated 1 in 12 African Americans is disenfranchised, a rate nearly five times the rate of non-African Americans.

This is an issue that effects us all.Restoring the voting rights of felon's is an important step that we as a nation need to take if we want to turn our justice system away from the punitive model in force today and embrace a redemptive model in line with much of our values as Americans.  We've still got a long way to go, but its nice to see that the momentum is on our side.

Read the full report (pdf), which includes a breakdown of state-based policy reform.

Oct 13 2006
Blog Post Schools and the Court: Creating Inclusive Communities

Yesterday the Supreme Court  announced that it will consider a number of cases this term questioning the efforts schools in Seattle and Louisville to promote diverse student populations. 

The cases will be heard in December, and are likely to garner quite a bit of attention, so it's important to take a minute to remember why the efforts of these communities are consistent with the Constitution and our values as Americans, and deserving of the public's support.

In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court recognized that the purpose of the Equal Protection Clause is to bring us together as a nation of diverse peoples, and that promoting diverse education is a compelling government interest.  That is what these teachers, parents, and education leaders are doing - providing a vision of unity and cooperation for their children that we can all be proud of.

Opponents will argue for the narrow interests of a few students and parents over the common good.  They'll invoke inflammatory terms like quotas and racial preferences, and so many other straw men meant to distract attention and draw down support from the real issue: that we are all in this together, and these programs, which bring our children together, ultimatley make us stronger as a nation.

Years of experience show that many communities can't achieve inclusive, diverse schools without making that an explicit goal and working towards it intentionally.  And research shows that public schools in America are rapidly resegregating.  By choosing inclusion instead of separation, these schools are working to buck that trend and build the kind of community that we all want to live in: a community of cohesive, well-educated and prosperous young people prepared for the future.  That's a goal that every American should support.

Oct 4 2006
Blog Post Recovery in New Orleans: A Compromised Promise

Today's Guest Blogger is Father Vien thé Nguyen, pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church in East New Orleans.

One cannot describe America without illustrating
this country with the ideas of “free” or “opportunity.”  The reality of
this picture lies largely in the promise that our government will keep
us safe, listen to our concerns and provide us a fair chance to move
forward.  When that promise is fulfilled, we all rise together.  When
it’s broken, the entire country suffers.  So what do we, as the people,
do when the fulfillment of that promise is not on the right path?

Right now, we are suffering.  This is especially
apparent here in New Orleans where we are attempting to recover from
one of the country’s worst disasters.  After experiencing a
disappointing response effort that left many people behind and rarely
sought the input of the people affected most, I will admit that I have
lost some faith and trust in the government.  Ultimately, the success
of our rebuilding effort depends on repairing our partnership with our
government, at all levels, and in reinvesting in its ability to serve
us well and protect our safety and opportunity.

As a member of the Vietnamese community in New
Orleans, the promise of opportunity is particularly important to
me—especially for a person who has escaped deliberate communism to the
land of the free.  It drew us all to this country.  We took advantage
of the resources available, and because of it, our community has grown
and thrived for over 30 years.  We have built homes, businesses,
churches and a full sense of community.  We’re proud to call the city
of New Orleans and this country home.

After Hurricane Katrina, we were one of the first
communities to return.  Our leaders came back, took stock, and
determined the needs of the community.  As a result of this work, we
are making great strides toward recovery.  In the East New Orleans
community, over three quarters of our businesses have reopened.  Our
church offered rent-free land for 199 FEMA trailers that are filled
with residents anxious to return and rebuild their lives.  We are on
our way.

However, the efforts of the business and faith
sector have not been matched by the government.  We need the
government’s full partnership to address the barriers to our
community’s full restoration.  For instance, while we enthusiastically
welcomed the arrival of our FEMA trailers, only 65 of 200 interested
households have been approved for occupancy.  Also, almost a year
later, FEMA still has not assigned a site manager for maintenance
care.  At the same time, not enough schools have reopened to
accommodate our children’s need to stay on track educationally. Our
water pumps and the entire infrastructure of East New Orleans still
need to be repaired as well. There is plenty of work to be done.

Despite the return of more than half of the Vietnamese-American
original population and many others, no hospitals are open in East New
Orleans, making it unsafe for many elderly or ill community members to
return.  Meanwhile, the health issues that plague the city were
recently exacerbated here with the opening of a landfill at the edge of
our community to accommodate debris from the clean-up; we were silenced
in the decision of the opening of the landfill.  In addition to
threatening our air quality and groundwater, the potentially toxic
contents of the dumpsite could also seep into the canals that feed our

While these disappointments have certainly given me pause, I know that
we can be successful in restoring the promise of the land of
opportunity.  Recent events have shown us how badly we all suffer when
that promise is compromised.   When the government doesn’t listen to
us, doesn’t step forward when it’s needed, and when years of
disinvestment in its infrastructures cause the kind of failures we’re
witnessing today, the consequences are dire.

America’s history shows that when we ensure a
voice for everyone in public decisions and invest in effective
government systems that serve all communities fairly, everyone
benefits.  In our case, that means more transparent and inclusive
decision-making, amplified public resources and staffing, and a more
equitable distribution of the burdens and benefits of the rebuilding

Impediments of the past year have made clear how
important it is to invest in our government, to work on our
partnership, to consistently strengthen our democracy so that, when
another Katrina comes along, we can all rise and move forward together.

Sep 1 2006
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