Tag Archives: immigration

Continuing the Fight for Immigration Reform: March For America

by Latoya Peterson

On Sunday, March 21, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in a march for Immigration Reform.

The organizers over at NAKASEC (National Korean American Service and Education Consortium) penned a few pieces in honor of the march as a call to action.

Korean Americans March for America
By Minsuk Kim, Korean Resource Center Youth Organizer

Immigration stories are a cornerstone of America’s historical narrative. From grade school we learn of the Pilgrims’ trans-Atlantic journey to flee religious persecution and of “a mighty woman with a torch” who greeted European immigrants by the millions to Ellis Island. In these stories, tolerance and generosity are singularly American virtues that confer our country’s greatness.

Unfortunately, incomplete immigration stories linger in the present day, obstructed by opposition from a loud and persistent few. As a result, 11.8 million undocumented immigrants live in America’s shadows – they struggle to finance their educations as students, are exploited as workers, and are encumbered by an ever-present fear of deportation as families.

In a recent Huffington Post article, Will Perez wrote that immigration reform “is of particular concern to Latinos, since 75% of undocumented immigrants are from Latin America.” However, the problems engendered by our immigration system affect a vastly diverse immigrant population. It is estimated that 10 percent of Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are undocumented, and among the AAPI groups, Korean Americans are affected at the greatest rate, at 15 percent. Continue reading

CIR ASAP: Working Toward a Comprehensive POC Coalition

by Latoya Peterson

Alongside the Health Care bill, another major piece of legislation working its way through the United States Congress is The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009. Designed to rectify a litany of concerns facing those currently immigrating or tangled somewhere along the way in our legal system.

Nezua explains the thinking and motivation behind CIR ASAP:

On Tuesday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP). Rep. Gutierrez said that the bill represents “the final push for comprehensive immigration reform,” as Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media. Seth Hoy at AlterNet breaks down some of the bill’s key points, which include a border security provisions, family unification, a legalization component, and improved detention conditions.

The legislation is an encouraging first step forward on the path to immigration reform. But many hurdles must be overcome before an immigration bill from the House or Senate becomes law, especially in today’s tense political environment. Outright antagonism from the nativist lobby or the far Right will be no small part of the challenge, no matter how concessionary the legislation is to Republicans.

CIR ASAP is amazingly thorough, touching on border security, detention and enforcement, employment verification, visa reforms, earned legalization programs for the undocumented, details on how the reform will strengthen the US economy and workforce, and tackles the problems with integrating new Americans (with a special focus on rising fees and the naturalization process).

However, the bill has not been without controversy. Outside of the general right-wing protests against immigration, the bill has also drawn fire from GLBT activists and allies, who point out that the legislation excludes people who are not in heterosexual families, despite the focus of the bill on “reuniting families.”  As Maegan La Mamita Mala writes for Vivir Latino:

On more than one occasion I asked if GLBT families would be included in the bill and here in the official presentation we all see the answer. No. From a strategic point of view, one reason why GLBT families are excluded is because of the large support from faith organizations. When I say faith organizations, I am specifically speaking of Evangelical Christian groups and Catholic organizations, the same organizations who made sure that marriage equity did not happen in states like mine (NY) and the same organizations who supported amendments like Stupak in the health reform bill. But I have a suggestion based on recent statements from a so-called superstar in the Evangelical movement, Rick Warren (trust me I didn’t think I would ever quote him either).

Last week, Pastor Warren, who gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration and not without controversy, made a public statement opposing the Ugandan legislation that increases penalties for being gay (including prison time). Warren said that he opposed the law because it was “unjust, extreme, and in-Christian”.
Now, let us imagine an undocumented family who wants to take advantage of the proposed CIR legislation. Let’s even say they have children because plenty of LGBT families do. They cannot. Under the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), rights would be provided to the children or step-children of a foreign-born same sex partner. But UAFA language is not included in the Gutierrez bill.

The bill’s authors are fighting to mobilize our communities for support, so I listened in on last Thursday’s API Conference call hosted by Representative Mike Honda.  Nezua listened in on the SEIU call, which happened last Monday.  After the jump, I’ll add some notes from both calls, discuss some of the issues that came up concerning cross community organizing, and present the answer given with the API organizers were asked about the LGBT issue within the bill. Continue reading

Are you an authentic American?

By Guest Contributor Madhuri, originally published at Restore Fairness

“Police officers giving drivers $204 tickets for not speaking English? It sounds like a rejected Monty Python sketch. Except the grim reality is that it has happened at least 39 times in Dallas since January 2007….All but one of the drivers were Hispanic.”

Reporting on the issue, a New York Times editorial asks the question – is racism alive and kicking in America? If this were a one off incident, it could be an aberration. But 39 times makes it a growing pattern of injustice.

So how does one question who or who is not an American? Does it have to do with language, race, ethnicity, how long one has been in the United States – or is it about the more legal aspect of possessing citizenship.

Recently, an incredible achievement by Meb Keflezighi’s, winner of Men’s NYC Marathon, kicked off a number of doubts about whether this is truly an “American” achievement, or one imported in from outside.

“Meb Keflezighi, who won yesterday in New York, is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he’s not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies.”

Comments from a CNBC Sports Business Reporter who half apologized in a post the next morning.

“Frankly I didn’t account for the fact that virtually all of Keflezighi’s running experience came as a U.S. citizen. I never said he didn’t deserve to be called American.”

Keflezighi came to the United States when he was 12 from war torn Eritrea. Is that enough time for him to be an American? Ironically the last American to win the marathon was also born in another country – Cuba. Alberto Salazar’s comments from a New York Times article are insightful.

What if Meb’s parents had moved to this country a year before he was born? At what point is someone truly American? Only if your family traces itself back to 1800, will it count?

Continue reading

When Systems of Oppression Intersect: Mental Health and the Immigration System

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

Angry Asian Man reports on the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a 35 year-old Chinese illegal immigrant diagnosed with a mental illness who has been stuck in immigration limbo for over a year. From the New York Times:


[Jiang] has spent more than a year in jail, often in solitary confinement, sinking deeper into the mental illness that makes it impossible for her either to fight deportation or to obtain the travel documents needed to make it happen, according to a pending habeas corpus petition that seeks her release. It contends that she is suicidal, emaciated and deprived of proper medical treatment.

More distressing is the report of her first court appearance in the NYT, which led to her deportation order:

Twice the immigration judge asked the woman’s name. Twice she gave it: Xiu Ping Jiang. But he chided her, a Chinese New Yorker, for answering his question before the court interpreter had translated it into Mandarin.

“Ma’am, we’re going to do this one more time, and then I’m going to treat you as though you were not here,” the immigration judge, Rex J. Ford, warned the woman last year at her first hearing in Pompano Beach, Fla. He threatened to issue an order of deportation that would say she had failed to show up.

She was a waitress with no criminal record, no lawyer and a history of attempted suicide. Her reply to the judge’s threat, captured by the court transcript, was in imperfect English. “Sir, I not — cannot go home,” she said, referring to China, which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at 20. “If I die, I die America.”

The judge moved on. “The respondent, after proper notice, has failed to appear,” he said for the record. And as she declared, “I’m going to die now,” he entered an order deporting her to China, and sent her back to the Glades County immigration jail.

As Angry Asian Man says:

The situation illustrates the vulnerability of the mentally ill in the immigration system. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeps putting increasingly strict enforcement measures in place, more and more people with mental illness are being put into detention — and no one is really looking out for them.

In a bizarre twist, the only reason Jiang’s case is getting attention is because she happens to have the same name as the ex-wife of Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese American who shot 13 people in April at a Binghamton immigration services center. In looking for Wong’s ex-wife, reporters stumbled across Jiang.

Yet Jiang is by a long stretch not the first (or I imagine) the last immigrant of colour with a health issue to be forgotten within the double prejudice of a system that is both xenophobic and ableist. Continue reading

City Councilman Promoted Violent Anti-Immigrant Video Game

by Guest Contributor Cara, originally published at The Curvature

comic 3

I just came across a post at Sociological Images about an outrageously racist flash video game called Border Patrol. They note that in the game, “you try to keep three types of Mexicans from crossing the border: drug dealers, Mexican nationalists, and ‘breeders.’” Video game site Kotaku — which thankfully also calls the video game racist — gives a highly similar description. As you’ll notice in the image above, which is of a heavily pregnant and barefoot caricatured woman crossing the border, she is also on her way to the welfare office.

But you may also notice something else. Looking at the image, there are bullet holes in the sign that says “Welcome to the United States” (with a picture of a flag that seems to indicate an anti-Semitic message that the country is run by Jews — am I missing something?). The woman in the game also looks like her head is in the cross hairs of a gun.

That’s right, in this game we’re not “stopping” Mexican immigrants from crossing the border without documentation by, oh, calling the police. Or by using another horrific and degrading option like catching them in a net to send them back over the border.

No, players are shooting them dead. Continue reading

Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

“I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

Law of the Land: ABC’s Homeland Security Reality Show Isn’t Very Real

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

Arnold Shapiro, the executive producer of ABC’s Homeland Security USA, states in a Washington Post article that, “It [the show] doesn’t have a political point of view.” The show aims to depict the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security as they do their jobs at the airport, the border, and/or the post office.

I didn’t believe Mr. Shapiro when I read the article, and I don’t believe him after watching the show. Terms like “terrorist” and “illegal” (in reference to immigrants) were tossed around all over the place: these terms are laden with racist and political overtones, especially in the border and airport security contexts of the program.

My confirmation that the show had a political bent was when a group of young men and one woman were stopped at the U.S.-Canada border. The border patrol stated that the driver was a Canadian citizen, but that his parents were Iranian citizens. It was stated as if it were proof of his alleged guilt: the officer mentioned his parents’ citizenships along with his possession of a fake ID and his untruthful answers to officers’ questions about his travel itinerary. Last time I checked, citizenship (one’s own or that of one’s family/acquaintances) wasn’t evidence of wrongdoing. But this show (and its politics) makes it automatic evidence of guilt and in doing so promotes xenophobia.

The other pieces of evidence? All passengers were brown. Now, they didn’t come out and say it, but I knows racial profiling when I sees it. In fact, every suspect featured in this television show was brown: Latino, Middle Eastern, South Asian… Even the innocent people. Mr. Shapiro must be unaware of the politics (and maaaaaajor racism) behind racial profiling.

I don’t have an issue with aiming to promote and appreciate the work that the men and women of the DHS have to do. I appreciate and understand that what they do to protect this country is difficult, dangerous, and sometimes horrific.

I have an issue with the fact that the other side isn’t presented or addressed: the fact that some officers commit human and civil rights violations when dealing with both citizens and non-citizens (immigrants, tourists, etc.); the trauma that innocent (and even the non-innocent) face during such violations; and the fact that racial profiling and xenophobia are terrible and unfair realities (if not policy) in DHS operations.

Last week’s “Flying While Muslim” (and brown) incident is proof that our security systems aren’t 100% efficient. No system is. But to attempt to lionize the DHS–through highlighting all the hard and thankless work that the men and women “on the ground” do–is misleading. And not-so-sneakily political.

(Photo Credit: ABC)

Pelosi Suggests Permanent U.S. Slave Class

by Guest Contributor Nezua, originally published at The Unapologetic Mexican

AS SADDENED AND CYNICAL as I have become about humankind in my life, I still nurture a belief in the human heart and the sense of Right. I still feel that in most cases of wrong being done, all it takes is thinking, feeling people getting the real facts of a situation. And the facts of this situation are shocking and revolting to a thinking mind and feeling heart.

Buried in the final paragraphs of this article*, the Democratic Speaker of the House offers the LA Times a shocking idea: That millions of immigrants now in the USA—who are currently a deeply-enmeshed part of our commerce and communities—might be relegated to a permanent status of neither citizenship or deportee. What is left after you strike those two possibilities? As Duke said, an indentured class.

The estimated 12 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally “are part of the U.S. economy. We cannot send them all home, and we cannot send them all to jail, so we have to address it,” Pelosi said.

Any solution would have to be bipartisan, she said, so it may require sacrificing some of Democrats’ past priorities, such as giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

“Maybe there never is a path to citizenship if you came here illegally,” Pelosi said. “I would hope that there could be, but maybe there isn’t.”

Pelosi says Congress unlikely to approve tax rebate before President Bush leaves office

DREAMactivist points out right away that many New Americans (migrants/immigrants) were in fact brought here. So what does Pelosi’s quote mean in that context? If the immigrant in question didn’t “Come here illegally,” but is a child who was brought here illegally? Does Nancy Pelosi believe that the child should then be relegated to detention? An indentured status? Permanent US Guest Worker in the Land of the Free? Continue reading