Category Archives: Immigration Reform

Migration reform on all fronts: Speaking, legislating, and acting for Immigration Reform as the year ends

Image by @ndlon

Colorlines began November with a mixed review of October’s movement on Immigration Reform, reporting that despite the bipartisan Senate’s “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” being stuck in the House, “Immigration Activists Continue to Fight on All Fronts.” Much was being said about paralysis, but in the streets, the prisons and the corridors of power, people were acting. Coming out of the government shutdown and coinciding with the calamitous unveiling of the Affordable Care Act web site, at times immigration seemed to float off the margins, but its advocates kept pushing it to the center stage again and again. President Obama focused his October 24 press conference on immigration reform, but for many his engagement seems “too little, too late” in the legislative front, and “too much, too often” when it comes to the deportation and incarceration of the undocumented. Continue reading

Enfranchising the Disenfranchised — A Case for Resident Voting Rights


Photo by Ho John Lee

On October 26 a Boston Globe headline immediately called my attention: “Many in East Boston Can’t Vote on Casino Referendum”. As the city prepared to elect a new mayor to replace the twenty-year incumbent Thomas Menino, the permitting of a new casino in East Boston was a far more important issue for many. For some it represented economic opportunities and for others it seemed a threat, bringing unwanted traffic and vice to the region. The stakes were very high for local residents, but, as the article reported,

census figures show that almost half of the adults in this immigrant enclave will not cast a ballot about the casino, the mayoral race, or anything else — because they cannot.

They are not US citizens.

The vote went on, the casino initiative failed, but the fact that “about 46 percent of the adults in East Boston cannot vote” on matters that directly affect their livelihood and quality of life raises very important questions about democracy and representation, at least at the very local level. Continue reading

Migration and Exile in Latin American Music

“A los mojados les dedico mi canción”, Los Tigres del Norte

On Sunday, October 20 Mexico’s La Jornada ran several stories on the US Latin@ experience. Among them was one focusing on migration songs. The piece focuses mainly on Mexican corridos, a genre which, as Américo Paredes and María Herrera-Sobek have shown in their groundbreaking works, has been a vehicle to document the experiences of migrants and borderlands inhabitants almost since the moment of the US occupation of northern Mexico. Within the limitations of a short newspaper article, it discusses a good sample of this repertoire. Inspired by it, I’d like to share some of the actual songs discussed in the article and add a new dimension to it, incorporating others about migration and exile from other Spanish-speaking traditions. The list of this kind of songs is very long and I will not do justice to all, but I offer this as a sample of the music that exists. Some of them appear as embedded videos, others as hyperlinks within the text. Continue reading

La Bestia’s tragedy, one more graphic example of our broken immigration system

La Bestia derailed

La Bestia derailed (photo by Reuters)

On Sunday, August 25 the infamous train “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) crashed in the Mexican state of Tabasco. Early media reports indicate that at least 5 people died and 35 were injured, 16 gravely, with the death toll likely to rise. Emergency workers were attempting to reach the remote site, and soon after the accident President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his condolences for those affected through his Twitter account.

While the accident is shocking and its human toll terrible, Sunday’s incident is just one in the long list of tragedies associated with this train, regularly used by undocumented Central American migrants as they attempt to make their way to the United States through Mexican territory. A recent film by Pedro Ultreras documents the terrible travel conditions and the many risks associated with a journey on “La Bestia” for passengers who literally risk life and limb in this dangerous venture. Continue reading

The #Dream9 “Publicity Stunt” to Improve the Immigration Reform Debate

#Dream9 at Nogales Border Crossing

#Dream9 at Nogales Border Crossing (from “In These Times”)

As Congress enjoys a well-deserved vacation and lobbyists of all persuasions are on high-gear pushing many causes, including different approaches to Immigration Reform, 9 DREAMers – Claudia Amaro, Mario Félix, Adriana Gil Díaz, Luis León, Lulú Martínez, Lizbeth Mateo, María Peniche, Ceferino Santiago and Marco Saavedra – have taken the immigration debate to a new front at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, a facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America, the self-proclaimed

private corrections management provider of choice for federal, state and local agencies since 1983… the fifth-largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states… hous[ing] more than 80,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities… with a total bed capacity of more than 90,000.

Dressed in caps and gowns, the nine attempted to enter the United States through the Nogales border crossing on July 22 only to be detained. Six of the nine had either been deported or forced to leave the US earlier, while three of them – Martínez, Mateo and Saavedra – purposefully left the US with the specific purpose of participating in this event.

On July 17 Lizbeth Mateo posted this video from Mexico explaining her reasons to purposefully leave the US. Continue reading

ALEC: The hand that rocks the cradle

From “stand your ground” to the “border surge”

The fundamental danger (by @aurabogado)

The fundamental danger (by @aurabogado)

George Zimmerman’s acquittal for Trayvon Martin’s murder has been considered by many, including myself, as an outrage for our legal system. How can a neighborhood vigilante who regularly profiled black males as “suspicious” be allowed to walk free after shooting to death a teenager who was walking home in his own neighborhood armed only with Skillets and iced tea? Within hours of the acquittal, the NAACP began circulating a petition requesting the Department of Justice to take on the case.

Pundits and other legal experts will continue discussing the trial, the prosecutor’s case and jury’s composition, speculating as to the causes for the verdict. Yet, behind the court proceedings lies a more disturbing element, the very existence of so called “stand your ground” laws that ultimately gave Zimmerman legal authority to execute Trayvon Martin with impunity. And crucial to our understanding of these laws is what Reuter’s Joanne Dorshow called upon the verdict “The secretive corporate outfit behind ‘Stand your ground’”: the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC.

Eye on Alec (From Moyers & Company)

From Moyers & Company

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On very skilled “unskilled” workers

Throughout the immigration reform debate one of the issues that always jared me was the distinction that legislators and activists always made between “skilled” and “unskilled” workers. The distinction was clear: “skilled” workers were those (usually) with university degrees, working in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math); “unskilled”, on the other hand, were those (often) without university degrees, working in fields such as agriculture, services and some construction. As the debate unfolded it became clear that both kinds of immigrant workers are needed in the United States for different reasons: the former to develop the technological capacity necessary to remain a post-industrial power; the latter to literally feed us, take care of our families, households, and many other aspects of our lives. Different lines of work, each with its own skill sets.

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My current worries about “comprehensive immigration reform”

For most of 2013 I have carefully, perhaps obsessively, followed the debate around comprehensive immigration reform. Beginning with the emergence of the “Gang of 8” the process has been a fascinating example of the many levers of the political process. As the Gang negotiated behind closed doors, the public engaged in a vigorous debate.  Early on Marco Rubio, the young, Cuban-American, Tea-Party senator took center stage, being the pivotal figure whose assent was indispensable to bring sufficient Republican support to a legislative proposal.
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