A project of the Center for Community Change

Black Brown and Beyond

Keeping Families Together in our Fight for Immigration Reform

This year has been a huge one for DREAMers who earlier this year were granted deferred action status. But the fight for DREAMers is not over. Although they now have the ability to stay in the U.S. without fear, their parents and other family members do not live with same sense of security.   Keeping families together is why immigration reform leaders are meeting in D.C.

Immigrant families have contributed to our economy and are an integral piece in the framework of our American society. A coalition of grassroots organizations and The Campaign for Community Change are organizing to launch the, Keeping Families Together campaign tour. The tour will stop in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., among others. Family stories will be told at campaign rallies, vigils, community dinners, and will be recorded and shared with policymakers.

Our families want citizenship, which is a real solution that upholds our nation’s values, and moves us forward together.  Our current immigration system is badly broken. What people don’t understand is that there is literally no way for some undocumented immigrants to become legal, including people who were here as young children. And unscrupulous employers can prey on workers and pay low wages. A path to citizenship will give immigrants an opportunity to become legal, pay taxes, and participate fully in American society.

So DREAMers and their families will continue to work toward comprehensive immigration reform, and the Keeping Families Together summit will help us achieve it.

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Today Obama meets with Brewer. Will leadership ensue?

By guest blogger, Elisabeth Lesser.

Today, Governor Jan Brewer will meet with President Obama regarding border security and Arizona’s SB 1070. This will be the first meeting between Governor Brewer and the President since the Governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, and the tone set tomorrow by the President will send a clear message about his priorities and agenda in the face of such blatant disregard for social justice and basic civil rights.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, released the following statement regarding the meeting:

“We don’t expect much from a governor who’s clearly more interested in winning a primary election than she is in protecting her state. She’s firmly dug her partisan heels into the Arizona sand, and will only use the meeting with the President as a platform for even more political grandstanding.”

I’d like to add that there are plenty of good reasons why Governor Brewer doesn’t inspire confidence. She stands beside Sarah Palin in the ranks of smug, uber-conservative female politicians. Asked by CNN how she would respond if the Department of Justice attempted to challenge SB 1070, Brewer responded firmly:

“We’ll meet you in court… I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

And even when confronted with proof that her reasons for enacting SB 1070, namely increased crime, are not true, she dismisses the facts and sticks to her misrepresentations.

Back to Bhargava’s statement:

“But from the President we do expect action. He should immediately cancel the 287 g and Secure Communities programs that opened the door to the racist, divisive law Brewer signed last month. By ending local law enforcement’s role in immigration law, the President will leave no doubt that immigration law is solely the federal government’s purview.  The President must also call for an immediate moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration is enacted, thus making a statement that hardworking men and women will not be separated from their families simply because Republicans have chosen to continue obstructing progress.”

Fortunately, the fight against the startlingly discriminatory Arizona law has been flooding national headlines. Yesterday, nonviolent civil disobedience in New York reached a pinnacle as 56 protesters were arrested, the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience that has led to the arrests of people in DC, LA, Chicago and Seattle. And in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the Arizona boycott. CCC pledged to join this boycott on May 6th, and you can learn more about why you too should join us here.

As we watch the immigration debate rekindle in full force and Arizona strips its residents of  adequate civil liberties, it is clear that the people of this country are up in arms, and that the federal government needs to act. Let’s hope the President has heard the united voices against SB 1070 and will finally deliver on his campaign promise to actively reform our nation’s broken immigration system, once and for all.

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No racism to see here, folks.

Some of my favorite blog commentors are back. You know the ones. You can spot them pretty easily by the ALL CAPS and the constant use of the words “illegal”, “criminal” and “amnesty”. While I take great issue with the use of each of these words within the specific context of their rhetoric, I want to focus on the first two for a few moments.

While many of the anti’s that argue the most adamantly against comprehensive immigration reform claim that there is absolutely no racism behind their stance, most of us that are working in and for the communities most affected by this legislation beg to differ.

In the past three days I have seen two different news items come across my desk that are seemingly unrelated, but I think they speak to the current environment of the immigration debate today.

The first was the story of a Dallas, TX police officer who wrote a ticket to Ernestina Mondragon for being “a non-English speaking driver”. The Dallas police department is embarrassed and has since issued an apology, saying that the officer who ticketed Mondragon was a rookie and was probably confused. However, it has since come to light that the agency has written 39 tickets for this “offense” in the last 3 years.

The second story broke today,  hotel owner Larry Whitten who forced the Latinos working in his New Mexico hotel to speak only English and “anglicize” their names. Employees who had Latino names like Martin (mar-TEEN) where told they must change them to the more familiar (mar-TIN) or from Marcos to Mark. Whitten, however, claims that his actions were not racially motivated, rather:

“It has nothing to do with racism. I’m not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don’t know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything”

Let me first set aside my frustration with the conflation of “Spanish” and “Latino”. They are, simply, not the same thing. But the ignorance doesn’t stop there.

The idea that this has “nothing to do with racism” is an all-too familiar argument that I hear regularly from people who think that I am promoting the “illegalz” takeover of all of our resources and our culture. However, going back to my original point, the use of terms like “illegal” and “criminal” and “alien” by folks like Lou Dobbs have served to criminalize and “other” the entire Latino population, no matter immigration status. Its not about immigration here, guys, its about race.

From RaceWire:

For this reason, we cannot be fooled by the claim that there are simply talking about “language.” Rather, we must see through this to the core of what is at stake — the assault on the rights of the people who speak the languages, and today we see this in the assault on immigrants of color.

We are all familiar with the Latino scapegoat that has taken such strong hold in the minds of many Americans and some of the most dominant media frames. (Ahem… Lou Dobbs). But we have to connect the dots between this and the criminalization of an entire population and culture.

A recent CNN poll conducted found that people are “more familiar with Latinos” than they used to be, whatever the hell that means. But the findings that are the most shocking, and the least talked about from the survey:

But nearly half of people we questioned said they assume that Latinos who they have never met are immigrants, and one in five believe they are illegal immigrants

So, according to this poll, for many Americans, Latino has become synonymous with the concept of “illegal”. How is that not racism?

As we work towards reform of our immigration system, its not just bad policy that we are fighting, its the increasingly dangerous forces that criminalize and dehumanize entire populations, including but NOT limited to Latino immigrants.

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