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Bloggers demand more than sound bites and platitudes

Recently both leading presidential candidates have increased their outreach to Latino voters with appearances at various events sponsored by prominent Latino organizations. Not surprisingly, the topics of immigration and immigration reform have played a central role in this outreach effort.

As an issue where both candidates feel they exhibit some strength with Latino voters, they have both attempted to utilize this perceived strength to make inroads into what most believe will be a crucial voting block this coming November.

But what we have received from both candidates thus far are vague promises and pleasant platitudes about “A Nation of Immigrants.”

This is a complex issue, and as the history of failed efforts at reform clearly shows, it will take more than quick sound bites and quotes from Emma Lazarus to solve the problems with our failed current immigration system. In order to enact meaningful immigration reform that is practical, rational, fair and most of all humane, tough questions must be answered and problems dealt with.

“These are lives we’re talking about … Human beings”

“Death By Detention”-  Breakthrough Video

In the wake of numerous press reports detailing the deaths of 83 people in ICE custody since its inception five years ago, countless cases of sick or mentally ill immigration detainees denied even the most basic care they require, the illegal detention of legal residents and citizens, expedited criminal hearings of those apprehended in immigration raids without providing basic legal representation or judicial review, and the illegal drugging of both detainees and  deportees, there have been growing calls for the reform of the immigration detention system.  

A Tale of Two Borders

“I’ve said from the beginning that we can’t reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can’t control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports.”Lou Dobbs

We’ve heard that statement in various forms a millions times, repeated ad infinitum by various politicians and talking heads since Frank Luntz first advised anti-immigrant Republicans to stress that “”A country that can’t control its own borders can’t control its own destiny” to sell an anti-immigrant agenda to the American public.

But it has always gone without saying that the border that needed to be controlled has been the one to the south.  Rarely, if ever, has the northern border been mentioned in most border security screeds.  

We Saw the Face of a New America

On May 1st 2006, millions took to the streets in cities and communities throughout the nation to finally have their voices heard.

Out from the shadows came the forgotten, the marginalized, the nameless, faceless, mass of humanity who toil daily in thankless jobs with little reward or recognition.

Those who had labored invisibly for years as they quietly provided a nation with prosperity of which they could never partake, took to the streets to say “no more”.  We will no longer be marginalized … We will no longer be demonized … We will not be criminalize ….We Are America.

That day, as pundits and politicians tried to grasp the seismic shift taking place, attempting to read the tea leaves of public opinion and formulate positions that would serve them politically, two men had the courage to do not what was safe or politically expedient …but rather, what was right.  

One was an elder statesman, a lion in winter, who had long fought the great battles of his generation, battles for justice, and battles for equality.  ….The other was a young man, just starting his political journey. A young man with a vision of the future based on hopes and dreams for a new America… An America that finally lived up to the principles and precepts on which it was founded. Those two men were Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Barack Obama….The only two sitting Senators to take to the streets in solidarity with those who had too long been invisible.

Of Manassas and Guernica, tomorrow’s battle in Virginia

On April 26, 1937, twenty-four bombers of the German Luftwaffe “Condor Legion” with the help of a subordinate Italian expeditionary force, dropped forty tons of bombs, on the town of Guernica in the Basque Country of Spain.  Up to 1,600 people were killed and three quarters of the city’s buildings were reported completely destroyed. The raid, called Operation Rügen, is generally viewed as the Luftwaffe’s first test of the tactics of terror-bombing that would become the hallmark of the Nazi blitzkrieg as it swept through Europe two years later.

Just as Franco’s Spain was used as a testing ground for the tactics, men and machines that would later wreak havoc on a global scale, tomorrow in Virginia, we will be witness to a test of a new blitzkrieg of sorts. The Republican Party will be testing, on a statewide basis, its latest strategy and weaponry for the coming 2008 election cycle… the immigration wedge. 

Tomorrow is Election Day. Here in Virginia, 140 state legislative seats are at stake.

Our airwaves have been dominated in recent days with campaign ads. Interestingly, just about all of them mention immigration, and none of them accuse the opponent of being too harsh….

Tomorrow will be an interesting test case on the power of the immigration issue…

If Republicans exceed expectations – and things have looked pretty gloomy for the state GOP in recent cycles – and the issue of illegal immigration is key, you will hear a lot about that issue from coast to coast next year.

National Review

Looking to the Root Causes of Migration: NAFTA

Over the last few years, over 1000 migrants have perished making the hazardous journey through the desert to make new lives in “el Norte.” Some were small coffee growers from Vera Cruz, chicken farmers from Jalisco, or vegetable growers from Guadalajara. Others were indigenous subsistence farmers from the Chiapas highlands no longer able to eek out a living. Still others were Guatemalan migrant workers who could not find work on either side of Mexico’s border and jumped on El Tren de Muerte (The Death Train) in Tapachula for the first leg of their journey, boarding alongside Salvadorans escaping decades of political upheaval and Hondurans escaping crushing poverty.

Between 6 and 7 million people have taken the arduous journey north, many within the last ten years, most of them coming from poor agriultural areas that are no longer able to support their populations. Yet, with all the debate about reforming US immigration policy and securing the borders, we have not heard one solid proposal to address the root causes of this massive migration.

The question of why so many must leave their homes and families to simply survive is rarely mentioned, but remains the missing piece in the comprehensive immigration reform puzzle.

Welcome to the police state

Being of a certain age, much of my early worldview was shaped by childhood indoctrination about authoritarian states, I guess you could call me part of the “Duck and Cover” generation.  Taught from an early age about the evils of communism and fascism, we were often told that one of the greatest differences between free societies like our own, and evil totalitarian states, was that here in America one was safe to voice political views or dissent without fear of government retribution. We had no Siberian exile, Gulags, or internment camps. The police did not burst into your home in the middle of the night and arrest you on trumped up charges simply for voicing opinions contradictory to government policy.

Yet given today’s current situation, it is no longer quite so easy to draw such simplistic comparisons.

Under the current administration, no thinking person can honestly say that they don’t feel the slow grip of government overreach extending into the fabric of everyday life. An uneasiness has settled across the nation, somehow instinctively knowing that we are teetering on a precipice from which at any moment we could be sent spiraling down into the depths of  a fascist nightmare straight out of the a futuristic novel.

First they wanted your papers… now they want your DNA

Ok, I know America’s all filled up, and that bombing Mecca would solve all our foreign policy problems. I even know that Miami is like a third world country and that the only way to solve all this nation’s problems is to build a giant wall and outlaw the Spanish language.

But now even by his own absolutely insane standards, Colorado Congressman, and Republican Presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo, may have actually stepped over the rather broad line that separates wingnuttery from sheer lunacy.

On the same day the diminutive, Coloradoan, tough-guy registered as the first Republican Presidential candidate in the New Hampshire primary,  he introduced a bill in Congress that would require all foreigners  seeking visas to visit family members in the US to supply DNA samples to prove their family ties.

Of course their citizen, or legal-resident family members would also be required to supply a corresponding sample to it check against.

New study shows undocumented immigrants good for Arizona economy

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 to the economy and tax base than they receive in government services.

Joining studies from California, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Washington DC, and Long Island, NY, a new report from Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at The University of Arizona looks at the contributions and costs of Arizona’s immigrant population and finds not only an overall net gain for the state, but that the loss of this population would likely cause long term economic problems.

Living in Limbo

Sometime in the next few weeks the Senate will once again take up legislation regarding immigration reform. This time it will be the DREAM Act sponsored by Sen.Dick Durbin(D-Il). The legislation would allow hundreds of thousands of students who were brought here as children by their undocumented parents to go on and complete their education and eventually earn the right to become legal residents and citizens.

This piece of legislation is so important right now because the right-wing, flush from their victory in stalling any form of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, have decided to make defeating the DREAM Act their top priority. They feel that they are in a position now where they do not need to give an inch on any reforms, and would view the passage of DREAM as a major defeat.

Unfortunately it is the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids that are being effected by this Washington gamesmanship. With that in mind, I’m more than willing to risk the appearance of monotony, and discuss another group of young people who anxiously await the passage of DREAM …those who have already graduated from college …because their futures depend on it now.

We Have a Dream

Each year approximately 2.8 million students graduate from US High Schools. Some will go on to college, join the military, or take other paths in life, hopefully all becoming productive members of society. But for approximately 65,000 of them, these opportunities will never be available. Not because they lack motivation, or achievement, but because of the undocumented status passed on to them by their parents.

Lacking legal status and social security numbers, these students, raised and schooled in the US, cannot apply to college, get jobs other than those at the bottom of the economic ladder, or otherwise follow their dreams. They grew up on American soil, worked hard and succeeded in spite of all odds, and want nothing more than to be recognized as individuals and not just the holders of a status they had no part in acquiring.

In Washington, politicians have debated the fate of these kids for more than seven years, holding lives and futures in their hands while vying for political advantage. But lost in the debate are the voices of the children – voices that should be heard. 

A Tale of Two Suburbs

This past week we witnessed the responses of two local law enforcement agencies to increasing political pressure to rely upon them to enforce federal immigration policy:

In Irving Texas, a suburb in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, 2000 protester marched this week to highlight that city’s participation in a Federal program that has caused deportations to increase 500% from that city in the last year alone.

In Nassau County NY, a suburb in Metro NYC, the county’s highest ranking police official announced this week that his department would no longer assist federal authorities with the apprehension of undocumented immigrants.

Across the country, municipalities large and small are now being forced to examine exactly what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to enforcing federal immigration policy.

In a heated political climate where incendiary speech and inflammatory rhetoric often pass for public discourse, too many local leaders have chosen to make political hay by claiming it is now their responsibility to take on the burden of enforcing Federal law.

Others have taken a much wiser approach.

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