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Words Have Consequences

"Under siege," "pro-illegal alien," "open-borders lobby," the U.S. being "overrun" by immigrants, immigrants causing a "crime wave." These are the words we hear every day in news casts, city council meetings, political advertisements, and that we see on websites, intended to cause a great panic in every community. Isolated incidents are blown up to seem like "epidemics." In a time of economic crisis, and with the changing demographics of the United States (not only due to immigration), hate groups have found a scapegoat in Hispanics, and the latest victim of their angry rhetoric is Luis Ramirez, a Hispanic recently beaten to death by a group of teenagers in Shenandoah, PA - just 20 miles from Hazelton, the first locality to attempt to pass a slew of anti-immigrant laws after the failed Comprehensive Reform Legislation bill in the U.S. Congress, and where Lou Barletta has a very directed anti-Hispanic, "anti-immigrant" campaign. The trend of hate crimes against Hispanics has been growing, and it is particularly frightening considering that the changing demographics of the U.S. is a reality - as Conor Dougherty from the Wall Street Journal reports, the Hispanic population continues to spread beyond traditional "gateway cities."

Maria Anglin, from MySanAntonio.com (yes, the news of this crime horrifies people all over the country) summarizes the job of Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and others like them.

Fear, anger and disappointment are emotions that surge within all of us. The young men charged in the attack, who said they'd been drinking, weren't unruly kids always getting into scrapes with the town cops; they're reportedly good kids who made good grades and participated in high school sports. In other words, young Americans ready to take on the future before fear, anger and disappointment turned a not-particularly-imposing immigrant into the "boogeyman."

There is a fear in America that immigrants, especially Mexicans, will change America. They want to speak Spanish whenever they please; that kind of thing stirs fears that can blossom into a full panic. It's no wonder hate crimes happen; nobody likes the boogeyman. There are those who have made high-profile careers out of fueling fear, anger and disappointment; who dole out large doses of carefully crafted hate speech, gloomy forecasts and xenophobic fear of outsiders to millions of good people itching to blame someone for everything from the price of gasoline to salmonella outbreaks to every crack-cocaine death in America.

And if it's true that immigrants, just by being in the country's classrooms, restaurants and front yards, have the power to shift the nation's values, it is also true that it doesn't take much goading by some wise guy on TV - or a parent, relative, neighbor, family friend, teacher, mentor or politician - to tilt the balance of fear, anger and disappointment in teenagers learning to find their way in the world into the realm of full-blown hate.

Packs of angry boys can be dangerous; the mob mentality that takes over can turn even the harmless kid who eats paste into a hell of a lot of trouble. Add a little underage drinking and things can get ugly really fast. But those who fan the flames of fear, anger and disappointment are much scarier.

These words are tactfully employed to instill fear in the hearts of all Americans, and then one is made to think you're not "American" if you don't feel that fear and hate. Below are a few examples of those who fuel the fire. Just THIS MORNING, CNN reported on marijuana being farmed on the border, and instead of focusing on the drug problem, or asking what the U.S. and Mexico are doing to fight the drug cartels, the CNN reporter volunteers how it "infuriates" a lot of people, "that people can cross ilegally into this country.." - which has nothing to do with the issue at hand and doesn't address the problem.

Video on the Luis Ramirez murder:

Examples of "Fear and Loathing" against Hispanics/immigrants on major networks:

Neighbors upset that Hispanics live in Prince William County, VA:

Cory Stewart, the man who pushed for local law enforcement to develop a way to identify "probable cause" for believing someone was undocumented, essentially racial profiling. 

Hispanic U.S. Citizens are questioned by police for "appearing" to be undocumented.   

And my personal favorite: being called "Mexican trash" by minutemen outside of NCLR's Annual Conference (it wasn't just me, the guy was calling "La Raza," i.e., all Hispanics, "Mexican trash"...in Spanish.

The Peruvian Quagmire

I want to share an interesting Gallup poll released today that helps shine some light on political tensions in Peru. Throughout the country, the people polled identified themselves as more socialist than capitalist in their personal beliefs (49%), while only 16% identified themselves as more capitalist in their beliefs. However, 45% of Peruvians believe their country is more capitalist than socialist. It's telling that only in the South of Peru did a majority of those polled identify themselves as socialist (57%) - this raises the question of whether there is a disconnect between the more rural South and the rest of the country's market economy. Click here for Gallup's analysis.


La organización internacional de derechos humanos Breakthrough acaba de lanzar un juego llamado ICED ("Puedo eliminar la deportación", por sus siglas en inglés). El título del juego alude a las siglas de ICE: Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas, y las convierte en un verbo. Después de elegir un personaje de inmigrante, la idea es que uno puede experimentar en primera persona los obstáculos que los inmigrantes tanto legales como ilegales enfrentan día a día.

Asimismo, el juego también revela algunas de las injusticias que resultan del sistema de inmigración que actualmente tenemos en nuestro país. El objetivo es educar a todos aquellos que no han tenido la experiencia de ser inmigrantes. Una excelente idea, ya que mucha de la oposición en contra de los inmigrantes proviene de la ignorancia y de la facilidad con la que la gente se deja llevar por ciertos mitos.

A medida que uno va avanzando en el juego se encuentra con preguntas, y debe responder si algo es mito o hecho. Por ejemplo uno que me tocó a mi cuando jugué es: "de acuerdo con las leyes de inmigración, una persona de 40 años que es residente permanente puede ser deportado al descubrirse que robó materiales escolares cuando era adolescente". Difícil de creer, pero esto es un hecho. El juego nos sensibiliza a las desventajas de ser inmigrante, nos educa con respecto a la ley de inmigración y sobre todo, al ponernos en el lugar de un inmigrante, nos recuerda que el debate de inmigración se trata a fin de cuentas de un asunto de derechos humanos.

Atención Inmigrantes: Autodepórtense!

Por fin alguien encontró una solución para la inmigración ilegal. Se llama Operación Salida Programada (vea Operation Schedule Departure), la que, gracias al genio de nuestro Presidente y su administración, logrará poner un fin a la inmigración ilegal. ICE comenzará pronto con éste programa "piloto", que tendrá una duración de tres semanas, y que consiste en una oferta de autodeportación para inmigrantes ilegales en cinco ciudades en el país. Estas ciudades son Chicago, San Diego, Santa Ana, Phoenix y Charlotte.

O sea básicamente ICE les va a "permitir" a los inmigrantes ilegales que no tienen antecedentes penales, presentarse ante las autoridades y regresar a sus países de origen. ¿Y el incentivo? que no se los va a internar en un centro de detención antes de ser deportados. Ah y que tendrán hasta tres meses para irse del país.

Consideremos la ridiculez de ésta iniciativa como respuesta a las acusaciones de que los procedimientos de deportación que ICE utiliza son crueles. También consideremos lo poco realista que es ésta solución: porque 12 millones de personas (que es aproximadamente el numero de inmigrantes ilegales que hay actualmente en este pais ) - muchas de las cuales arriesgaron sus vidas para venir a aquí - están ansiosos por regresar a sus paises de origen y descartar todo lo que han trabajado tan duro para lograr. Lo único que se me ocurre que es un incentivo real es el pobre Estado de la economía en nuestro país (gracias, otra vez, Sr. Bush).

Me encanta la creatividad de esta administración (y para que no haya malentendidos, lo digo de la forma más sarcástica posible), y esta "solución" solo demuestra el tipo de agencia que ICE es: inservible.

Para más información Vea las notas de NPR aquí

y aquí

There Is Amnesty...for Unscrupulous Employers

The Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, subject of the largest raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is back in the news.  Following this week's Congressional hearings to review the situation of undocumented immigrants detained during the raid, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and several members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus spent this weekend in Postville to look into the arrests and convictions of 400 plant employees and the impact of the raid on the community as a whole.  What's shocking in this case is that documents show how DHS prompted detainees to plead guilty to a criminal offense that they had not committed - ID theft - in order to "expedite" their processing, without providing legal counsel (Administrative entities, like DHS, don't have to provide counsel).  What's also shocking and demonstrates the broken immigration system is the fact that "enforcement" seems to stop at the worker - Agriprocessors has yet to be sanctioned, punished, or fined for having violated a series of laws.  Congressman Gutierrez noted the "proportional imbalance" of the raid, because Agriprocessors, which was under investigation by the State Department of Labor even before the immigration raid for wage and hour violations, child labor and physical and sexual abuse, so far, has faced no charges, while its undocumented employees have unwittingly pleaded guilty to harsher offenses, with harsher consequences.  This is yet another example of the extent to which "enforcement" is merely a talking point for this administration - until the entire immigration system is reformed, and as long as unscrupulous employers are allowed to continue violating the law without so much as a slap on the wrist, the system will continue to be broken. 


The United States and Colombia - Consolidating Achievements

The op-ed in today's New York Times written by Secretary Gates and the Columbian Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, reflects the spirit of shared responsibility and mutual respect that has led to dramatic progress in improving security in Colombia.  The two leaders met today to discuss the U.S.-Colombia security relationship - just one day after NDN hosted Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco at a Latin American Policy Initiative to hear her perspective on the historic liberation of several hostages held by the FARC, Colombia's growing economy, and the proposed CTPA. 

It's important that the administration take stock of the fact that Colombia's gains are America's gains.  During her presentation, the Ambassador pointed out that over the last 10 years Colombia has been on a path to eradicate drug production, which - in combination with economic and legal reforms - has led Colombia out of a "vicious cycle" of drugs, insecurity, and poverty, into a "virtuous cycle" of security, investment, and economic growth.  The remarkable transformation in Colombia's security situation is largely the result of a partnership between the U.S. and Colombia.  The U.S. understands the benefits to be gained from having a strong, prosperous, and secure ally in Colombia, and has thus committed resources to help consolidate Colombia's hard-won freedom from violence and its economic prosperity.  One can only hope that the next administration will remain invested in the security and prosperity of the Latin American region, continuing the partnership with Colombia and extending similar commitments in the rest of the region - recognizing that any instability in the region has repercussions in the U.S., and by the same token, the gains of its neighbors are the gains of the U.S.  

Underground America

La semana pasada asistí a un evento auspiciado por la coalición CAIR (Derechos de Inmigrantes del Area de la Capital, por sus siglas en ingles). Los panelistas discutieron el contenido de un libro llamado "Underground America", una recolección de historias de inmigrantes indocumentados en los Estados Unidos.

Les recomiendo que lean éste libro, ya que presenta el problema de inmigración desde una perspectiva más humana, describiendo la vulnerabilidad a los que los inmigrantes se exponen al dejar su pais de origen, y los abusos a los que son sujetos como directa consecuencia de la misma. Underground America reune las voces que muchas veces son silenciadas, personas que han venido a nuestro pais esperando mejorar su vida y que terminaron siendo victimas de injusticias.

¿Por que es que vienen a este pais? ¿Que es lo que buscan y de que se alejan? ¿En que condiciones viven? ¿Que obstaculos encuentran en el camino? Creo que en el debate de inmigración a veces nos olvidamos de que- despues de todo, estamos hablando de seres humanos y de que todos tenemos derecho a buscar el bienestar de nuestra familia.

Parte del problema de inmigración es que mucha gente no sabe lo deficiente que es el sistema de inmigración que tenemos en éste país, y estan maliformados, convencidos de que existen una manera de "hacer las cosas bien", de cumplir con la ley y al mismo tiempo de poder aspirar a un buen futuro.

Este libro expone los problemas del este sistema deficiente, pero principalmente nos familiariza con las horribles consecuencias que significa para los inmigrantes, los cuales- a diferencia de como son generalmente representados en los medios de comunicación en éste país- no son una clase diferente de personas, son como usted y como yo, y aspiran a las mismas cosas a la que usted y yo aspiramos: ser felices, tener un futuro mejor, poder trabajar.

NDN to Host Ambassador of Colombia Tomorrow

NDN will host the next in its series of Latin American Policy Initiative forums tomorrow, Tuesday, July 22, at 9:30 a.m. The guest for tomorrow's forum is the Honorable Carolina Barco, Colombian Ambassador to the United States, who will talk about issues of importance to Colombia. A 45-minute panel will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A session.

Tomorrow's policy forum follows this weekend's mass protests against kidnappings by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the recent dramatic rescue of several of those hostages, and will serve as an opportunity to speak to the Ambassador prior to President Bush's remarks in honor of Colombian Independence Day, scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at the White House.

LAPI Forum with Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco
Tuesday, July 22
9:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
Reserve Officers
Association Building
5th Floor
One Constitution Ave., NE

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